Tag Archives: paul murphy

Quiet Activism in Urban Ireland.

Working class Dublin communities marching against a heroin epidemic behind the banner of CPAD (1980s)

With Labour wiped-out and the Irish political establishment now gloating over the end of the Irish left, there’s a slow awakening taking place in the working class communities of Ireland, that to those in the known gives hope to the rise of a new community based activism and socialism, the rise of a new Irish left.

This community activism can be seen in the slow but gradual rise of parties like the People Before Profit Alliance and the Socialist Party/Anti-Austerity Alliance, a collection of community rights groups and socialist parties, organizing and educating on a grassroots level which is slowly opening the minds of the section of Irish society that has long been neglected by the social, political and economic class.

As Labour runs around trying to figure out what has happened to their vote, on the ground in some of the country’s most deprived areas left-wing politicians, community activists, youth workers etc. are on an all-out political education of their communities. If you go anywhere in the poor areas of Dublin such as Ballymun, Tallaght, Ballyfermot, Rialto etc. and even beyond the capital, you will see weekly and monthly notices posted on lampposts and walls all with the same message “Tonight at 8pm in the local community centre so and so will be speaking about community resistance to water charges, welfare cuts etc.” and this tactic is working as more and more people, especially the youth of these deprived areas begin to attend the meetings and suddenly realise they can change things in their community for the better through direct action.

This idea of community direct action is not new to these communities, it is not as if they don’t know how to do it, all you have to do is look back over the past 30-40 years of Dublin history and you will see, beginning in the early 1980’s, the communities began their organisation and self-instigated struggle to better their communities, the first example of this self-instigated community activism came in the form of the Concerned Parents Against Drugs, a community instigated movement that first began in the deprived inner city flat complexes but quickly began to grow in the city to areas such as Dun Laoghaire, the goal of CPAD was not political but was to end the rampant heroin epidemic that was sweeping through their working class areas of Dublin and killing their children, these communities instigated their own activity because the government refused to help, on the basis which Tony Gregory was constantly told in the Dail “The level of heroin seizures in the city is low according to the Gardaí therefore the problem is under control”

Long story short, the CPAD was mostly led by women and children and it was highly successful in ridding the communities of the heroin scourge, however its success was quickly brought to an end when the Irish political establishment in collaboration with the Irish media went on a campaign to smear the movement as “Sinn Fein controlled” and “vigilantes”, a complete and utter fabrication on behalf of the establishment but a successful fabrication as it was used to imprison some of the movements members and bring an end to ever growing CPAD.

Taking a break from her recent local and European election campaigning where she was re-elected to the Dublin City Council, Councillor Brid Smith of People Before Profit told me that although there is some connection to the past community activism of the 80’s most of its members are young people born of a newer generation with fresh ideas “Most of our activists would be younger or newer to politics and were not around for the CPAD in the 80’s, although some were, the activists around PBPA are mostly brand new to activism and politics. Personally, I am a veteran along with many others that I know. But I do think it is important to get new activists on board all the time. They bring fresh ideas, energy and methods to the movement. That said, having the experience of organising and building movements is also extremely valuable and helps those who are new to the movement”.

With the Heroin problem now properly under control, thanks to direct community actions, these residents continued to go about attending monthly meetings in their community centres and with the help of social workers, youth works and left politicians they organised and began campaigning for housing rights and other rights in the form of groups like, Community Action Network Community & Workers Action Group, Rialto Rights in Action, Dolphin House Alliance and many other grassroots community organisation.

Seeing the success of these movements others began to organise and now this idea of community direct action has spread around Ireland, it has gained the support of many influential politicians, councillors, and most importantly the locals, and all this grassroots activism is now emerging in the form of support for People Before Profit and the Socialist Party, with some going to Sinn Fein.

However the main support, especially in Dublin, is with People Before Profit, as they more than the others can trace their roots right back to those first forms of community activism, and unlike the Socialist Part or the Worker Party in the 1980’s, PBP is self-instigated from within the community, its members are vital and highly respected members of their community, youth workers, anti-drugs campaigners etc. and Brid told me of the benefits of have members who are vital to their communities “Our members base in their communities is essential. We would not be able to build movements by living in a bubble but must be on the ground and living through the experiences with our communities.

This tactic of organising communities from within and influencing them to act for themselves is growing slowly but surely, as PBP and other socialist parties gradually increase their vote, as we witness over the past five days in the Local and European elections.

If I am right then the General Election of 2016 will see another huge voter surge in the direction of SF/LEFT/IND. Although councillor Brid Smith is reluctant to predict the future she does agree that a swing to the left is most likely “It is always difficult to predict what will happen in the near future but if the election results with a big swing to the radical left and anti-establishment parties such as ourselves, the Socialist Party and Sinn Fein, if this is barometer of how people feel about getting change, then I do think there will be more political awakenings and lots of struggle to change our society. This will ultimately see a surge in support for PBPA and other radical groups”.

In finishing; Anarchist philosopher and one of the main organisers of the Occupy movement, David Graeber, once said “Protesting is like begging the powers that be to dig a well, direct action is digging the well and then daring power to stop you” and this is what is happening, Irish people are not on the streets protesting because they’re in their communities slowly but surely organising, educating and building a quiet revolution through the form of community direct action.

 

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