United Left Alliance of Ireland - Values and Actions
United Left Alliance of Ireland – values and actions
On 25th of June next the United Left Alliance (ULA) in Ireland is to hold a national forum in Dublin to discuss the ‘crisis’ in Ireland and map out its own future on the political landscape of the country. The ULA is a new entity in Ireland formed in November 2010 from small political groups and individuals of the ‘left’, namely, the Socialist party with Joe Higgins and Clare Daly, the People Before Profit party with leading lights Richard Boyd-Barrett and Joan Collins, The Independent Socialist Group of Sligo and The Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Group with Seamus Healy.
The alliance was formed on the basis of like-minded socialists who were opposed to the onus of Ireland’s multi-billion debt crisis being foisted on the general population of Ireland by the imposition of increased taxes and charges and huge cuts in public expenditure. The immediate objective of the alliance was to have candidates elected to parliament to form a ‘coherent and principled’ opposition. This was successfully achieved in the February 2011 elections to the 31st Dail (Irish Parliament) with five candidates securing seats and gaining important speaking time rights in order to voice their opposition and proposals.
The proposals of the ULA have been outlined in their pre and post-election literature and speeches. As is understandable they are wide ranging and of a general format in expressing firm opposition to the policies and actions of the new government and expressing their alternatives. Those alternatives are essentially the introduction of democratic socialist government and policies through the ULA becoming a new mass working class party.
The arrival of the ULA on the political scene in Ireland is to be welcomed and applauded as fresh input into the debate on the economy, a debate which has been all too one sided, and as the offer of an alternative to those who say there is no other way to solve the country’s problems except through the current EU/IMF bailout with its stringent conditions.
The June 25th forum is an invite to people to hear and discuss in more detail what alternatives are being proposed. This will be done through a number of workshops throughout the day under the title of ‘The Left Response to the Crisis’. A central feature of the day outside the time allotted to the workshops is entitled ‘The ULA: What kind of Party do we need?’ This is indeed the most important aspect of the day.
It is important on two counts, not only because the ULA needs to chart its own development into a political party but also because there is a need to envision the kind of Irish society of which it wants to be a part. The rhetoric so far is along traditional and broad based calls for democratic government, public ownership of vital financial and amenity resources, equality and fairness for all and a sustainable solution to the ‘crisis’ which is not based on the capitalist market system. The ULA also pledges to support people and communities affected by the consequences of the crisis by involvement at local level.
The general thrust of the ULA concerns and promises is indeed encouraging. However it must be extremely cautious in the next stage of its growth. What kind of party is needed is in fact dependent on what kind of society is wanted. At this point we enter the most important realm of values and actions.
Without clearly enunciated values it is not possible to start building a new kind of society. Values are what determine actions – actions take their cue from values, and those actions determine the kind of society that people live in. There are many values that people hold and in personal lives some values take priority over others which then dictate how an individual lives and relates to others and what kind of person that individual may be. On a wider social level the dominant values of society dictate the kind of society we have and how that society relates on an international level.
It is vital to realise that whatever we choose to do or accept, our actions are motivated by values. When considering a course of action it is extremely important to ask what values are held by those calling us to action and on what values am I being asked to base my actions. For example, reflecting on the past, it is necessary to ask what values prompted many to over commit themselves during the so called ‘Celtic tiger’ years and what values were motivating those people who led so many into such a critical situation.
Looking to the present and future we must again not ignore the values motivating those calling for particular actions. For each individual it is vital to ask which values that I hold are being called on to motivate me to support one course of action or another? What than are the values being espoused by the ULA? To what values within me are they appealing?
Research has shown that throughout the world in many different countries and communities there are two basic types of values – those which prompt me to look after myself and my personal interests, (self-serving values), and those which prompt me to look at the bigger picture and resolve the issues confronting me in a more fundamental way with the interests of all at heart, (‘bigger than self’ values).
The danger for the ULA lies in its rhetoric concerning the crisis – in many ways it appears to be appealing to the more selfish values of people who may view the ULA as a means of getting them out of their immediate troubles but have no wish to identify with the ULA after that. The rhetoric also talks in tribal terms identifying ‘the other’ as the source of problems rather than reaching out to all to make their party inclusive rather than exclusive.
The objective for the ULA on the 25th of this month is to clarify their values for society to live by, the mechanics of that society, that is the actions taken to live out those values will arise as a result of the implementation of those same values. The kind of party which the ULA wants to form should also manifest those same values in the way it functions.
When these values are defined then it will be possible to talk about the kind of party needed and the kind of society wanted. It is up to individuals to decide whether they share the same values or prefer to prioritise others. If the basic values are vague the way forward will be vague and the actions adopted will be weak and fail as many have done so in the past, or if the chosen values are not kept to the fore and adhered to then a course of action contrary to those values will be taken. The transformation of society is not a quick fix to any crisis – though such crises must be addressed – the long term success of any venture is very much dependent on a clear understanding of the values being espoused, an understanding by party activists and by the general public, so that actions are firmly based and rational in the context of those values.
I sincerely hope the ULA and its supporters can form a party based on values such as inclusivity, equity, compassion, democracy and of course sustainability for the environment and all of the human race as part of that environment – in short, ‘bigger than self’ values. A statement and elucidation of values is basic to the way forward for both society and the party as an intrinsic member of that society. With the values clarified it is the role of the party to bring those values to the fore in the consciousness of the people with their active cooperation and awareness so that all may participate in a transformed society functioning for the benefit of all.
Colin Bradshaw: Member of PPS-IE (Project for a Participatory Society in Ireland in association with PPS-UK), a provisional Irish chapter of the International Organisation for a Participatory Society/Socialism (IOPS). For further information visit http://ppsuk.org.uk
For further information on IOPS visit http://www.zcommunications.org/znet and click on IOPS on left of page.