The Blanket


A journal of protest & dissent



The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.
- Hubert H. Humphrey



The Responsibility of the Socialist Party

Sean O'Torain


In the days running up to the election Ruari Quinn leader of the Labor Party claimed Sinn Fein was similiar to the extreme right parties that have developed across Europe. This incorrect statement showed the fear of the Labor Party leader that Sinn Fein can develop and take much of his party’s traditional support. The election results show that this is a justifiable fear. However, the main responsibility for this must be placed on the shoulders of people like Ruari Quinn himself and former Labor Party leader Dick Spring. By shifting the party to the right over the past two decades they opened the door to Sinn Fein’s growth in working class neighbourhoods. In the early 1980’s members of the Labor Party’s Militant Group of which I was the founding member warned that this would happen. The Labor leaders are now reaping what they have sown.

However Ruari Quinn and Dick Spring are not the only ones who helped open the door for Sinn Fein. After its expulsion from the Labor Party the Militant Group evolved into the Socialist Party. Its good work on the water charges campaign and other issues affecting working people resulted in it winning the Dail seat with Joe Higgins in Dublin West. This was an important breakthrough and gave the Party a national platform. Unfortunately the Socialist Party did not use this platform to build a new left working class party. From its position in the Dail and with its base around the country it could have moved to bring together the many left and working class activists and socialists into a new left workers party in which the right of different political currents to put forward their views would have been respected. In this way a new left workers party with the beginnings of a mass base could have been developed throughout the country. There would have been the prospect of filling the vacuum now being filled by Sinn Fein.

I am glad to see that Joe Higgins has been re-elected in Dublin West. I hope that the Socialist Party will now move, even though belatedly, to campaign through a series of conferences and campaigns throughout the country to build a new left workers party. This does not mean that the members of the Socialist Party has to dissolve into this new party. Like other currents and groups it can maintain its own identity in the new party. There are many many thousands of workers and young people who want a left alternative to the existing major parties but are not prepared to join the Socialist Party. They see it as too narrow, as just a reincarnation of the old Militant Group. The Socialist Party has the platform and the responsibility to offer a lead on this question. The move to the right and the opportunism of the Labor Party should not be complemented by sectarianism on the part of the Socialist Party. Working people need a new left party.







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