Tag Archives: socialist

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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How RIGHT is the Irish Establishment?

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I’ve been thinking long and hard “How do I start this article?, How do I start to explain what I see as a deep rooted cronyist arrogant, ignorant, insular, conservative, right wing domination of not only the Irish media class but the political, social and economic class.

How do I tell the self-important power elite in Irish society that they are so immersed in their own selfish rush for self-enrichment that they either; haven’t the intelligence or don’t want to comprehend the bigger global socio-economic and political picture. How can I say it all in the least insulting way possible? In an article that’ll get published?”

Then it hit me; there is no real, non-confrontational way to serve the truth to people unwilling to hear it, there’s no easy way to tell a privileged elite that their whole world is an illusion created off the exploitation of the masses, they see life as nothing more than an opportunity to indulge in our individualistic material wealth, the live in a bubble where they can’t look beyond the box of right-wing capitalism and where proven facts of socio and political philosophy is non-existent, and should be scorned upon, they have this almost religious view that god created capitalism and then created man to serve it. So how do I tell them of a world view that calls into question the whole concept of material wealth therefore calling in to question all meaning and purpose that currently consumes their materialist dominated lifestyle?

Allow me to explain why I finally decided to write this article, with the Local and European elections taking over every outlet the past week I have been active on twitter engaging in a few civil and educated exchanges, mostly with right wing members of Ireland’s political, media and academic world, such as Constantin Gurdgiev, RTE Deputy Director-General Kevin Bakhurst, Sunday Independent hatchet woman Eilis O’Hanlon and Thatcherite and political bigamist John McGuirk and others.

The best by far was Constantin as he engaged in a civil educated exchange before blocking me once I got the upper hand, RTE Deputy DG Kevin Bakhurst also blocked me on twitter for expressing my disapproval at his running of RTE and in particular his running of the Prime Time Debates, which he is director, and which have been the centre of recent controversy regarding political bias, especially in regards to their almost complete coverage blackout afforded to the campaigns of left leaning parties such as the Socialist Party, People Before Profit, many independents and others, a public expression of RTE’s contempt for the views of ordinary working people in Ireland who live outside the middle/upper class Dublincentric bubble and instead live in the flats of the capital, the wild west of the neglected housing estates of Tallaght and the neglected and demonised estates of Limerick and Cork.

Also Mr. Bakhurst is the deputy DG of our country’s state broadcaster, paid for, and employed by and on behalf of, the people. In my opinion this kind of censorship is completely unacceptable from a man in such a position of power, the state media is a very very important tool in the democratic functioning of a just and fair society, and to put himself in a position of such power means he must be prepared to accept some harsh public criticism.

Another couple of spats that I had which publicly exposes the astonishing arrogance and ignorance of the Irish established right was with Ireland’s smearing, patronising, Denis O’Brien mouthpiece Eilis O’Hanlon, who done her well known tactic of lowering a debate to nothing more that patronising childish petulance.

More importantly I had a spat with Ireland’s former right-wing neo-con golden boy and Political PR consultant John McGuirk

To those of you who do not know Mr. McGuirk he is an ex Trinity student who engaged in student politics before moving on to right-wing politics with Fianna Fail, before being expelled from FF and then joining Fine Gael, before leaving FG and joining the Greens, before leaving the Greens and joining Libertas  before leaving Libertas and having a very public and legal dispute with the former Libertas candidate whose campaign he was in charge of, In short he is a self-confessed right-wing Reagan conservative who supports privatising everything in the public sector except for “the police and army”.

In normal everyday life I wouldn’t give arrogant, egotistic, pompous, self-promoters like McGuirk the time of day but when someone as incompetent and as politically and socially misinformed as John McGuirk is taking as a serious authoritative political figure who we, the Irish public, should listen to, and watch on Vincent Brown, and allow influence our abortion and EU policy by his sleazy email smears, McCarthyist lists and involvement at the top of Irish politics, then something serious has gone wrong in our collective social judgement, we have misinterpreted the meaning of a rational, educated, open, caring, cultured, civilised and modern people.

McGuirk told me he supported Thatcherite privatisation so I began to question him in-depth about social effects etc.- as is the way in an intelligent meaningful debate of political and philosophical ideas- but McGuirk backed by 12-14 twitter followers quickly resorted to the ignorance and arrogance that I have come to expect from supporters of the mainstream Irish political consensus, resorting to childish uncivilised unintelligent patronising of not only myself but all people from working class communities, and all people who subscribe to alternative views.

This arrogance that exists in Irish political culture is highly insulting to people across Ireland who work daily on a grassroots level to help and advance the living standards of the most vulnerable, but unlike John McGuirk and many others they don’t go in search of the spotlight, they aren’t craving attention and political power- however irrelevant that power may be- they just do their work to help others and are given no credit or recognition and do not ask for it.

The thousands of youth workers around the country or the PBP councillors in inner city Dublin first hand witness the daily struggles of the most vulnerable in the country, and they don’t need some right-wing, self-serving, opportunistic careerist mouthpiece who knows nothing of working peoples struggles to come along with a cushy Trinity College degree and tell them that they’re all completely wrong and that thatcherite economic/social policies is their gateway to heaven, what has John McGuirk or people like him got to offer to the poorest of Ireland’s communities? These communities have spent decades learning and mastering community activism, a well-documented activism, so I don’t think the right wing Irish establishment has any credible right to lecture these ordinary people on how politics and society works, using spin-doctors like McGuirk and others to make it look like one big ball of confusion that takes seven masters degrees and €100,000 a year salary to figure out..

The Irish media as a whole is no different. The vast majority of the main media outlets in the country knowingly toe the established conservative right-wing view, all rushing to report the daily increase and fall in house prices but unable to report on the growing homeless situation, or the growing lack of adequate social housing or youth facilities, and those who dare try mention such topics are either ignored, can’t get published or called mad, and even the established left in Ireland’s media are at times patronising to those they claim to represent, for example Vincent Brown is a well-known and appreciated voice of the most vulnerable but he also frequently dismisses the views and alternative ideas of people he considers too left wing, the same people that usually spend their day to day life’s working and living directly within the most vulnerable areas and fighting community battles at a grassroots level.

This rot in the Irish journalistic world that forces independent thinkers to conform to an established status-quo is a result of a few things but the two main reasons are firstly the cronyism of Irish society in general, because we’re such a small population and everyone knows everyone we are too frightened to step on toes and speak some honest home truths to those in offices of social, economic and political power, mainly in fear of damaging future prospects.

The second main reason for the lack of journalistic dissent is, the education system! Most journalists come through colleges and I can first hand testify to the incompetent ways we teach the field of journalism, in college we were always thought one basic conformist house style “find your story, get your OBJECTIVE angle and write it” we’re never told to analyse it in-depth, never told to critically and subjectively review power and its effects on society through a wider philosophical social context. That in my journalistic opinion is a complete failure of the Irish media to uphold our commitment to society and the cause of truth and justice.

It’s about time Irish journalism grew a set and spoke out, it’s time working class Irish society demands more representation in the mass media, it’s time alternative views and ideas are giving the same relevance as accepted views, otherwise we’ll be nothing but tools engulfed by our arrogant idea that everything in Irish society is all rosy and that we’re some kind of haven of equality, justice and tolerance.

Most importantly it’s time we stopped hiding behind the long held lie that class does not exist in this country, class is as relevant in Ireland today as it has always been and neglecting the reality for the past century hasn’t cured the problem.

To finish on what I see as the origins of the establishment arrogance, in my view its origins lie in the Irish political classes core characteristic- the incapability to comprehend that social class exists, and their failure to recognise this results in them failing to recognise that beyond their middle and upper class Fianna Fail/Fine Gael bubble is a vast section of less privileged, less heard Irish people who are, quietly and without the help of the government, acting for themselves, whether the authorities, media and Irish right-wing like it or not.

As a result of this self-instigated community activism working people are quietly starting to vote more for the far left in the form of candidates from parties such as People Before Profit, The United Left Alliance, The Socialist Party and others, parties who work constantly on a grassroots level and understand the concerns of the people who live beyond the establishment Dublin bubble. The job these councillors and TD’s such as Brid Smith, Joan Collins, Joe Higgins, Ming Flanagan etc. do is being seen and judged positively by their constituents and it is the right-wings incapability to accept this political activism of working people that shows their complete arrogance when it comes to how they view their own positions in society and how they view the people in which they serve, the ordinary Irish people.

These local elections are just the start, if my experience of working class communities is correct then there will be a big surge in support for the Irish far left come the next general election and because of the right wings incapability to realise this and understand the people they are sure to lose big time as their cosy façade comes crashing down.