A Fianna Fail/Fine Gael coalition? – A socialist-republican response

Mass protests against austerity are forcing the southern ruling elite to rethink politics and unite; our side needs to match them

Mass protests against austerity are forcing the southern ruling elite to rethink politics and unite; our side needs to match them

Turbulent times often bring about new political alignments.  This is certainly very true of Ireland.

In the north the turbulent times of the armed conflict brought about a coalition between the Paisleyite DUP and Sinn Fein.  In the south, the turbulent times produced by the economic meltdown and the implementation by Fianna Fail and then Fine Gael/Labour of Troika-imposed austerity has shaken up politics too.  The result has been the rise of Sinn Fein and, to a more modest extent, the Trotskyist left.

The ruling class in the south are now faced with something of a dilemma.  Do they agree to bring Sinn Fein in entirely and make them part of the establishment circle because they’ll need them in government to ensure stability and carrying the austerity programme through to its conclusion?  Or do they throw their weight into bringing together Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, the two traditional parties of the 26-county ruling elite?

Although political differences between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail narrowed a long time ago – after they came to power in 1932 the Soldiers of Destiny pretty quickly showed themselves to be the Soldiers of Neo-colonialism, a safe pair of hands on the levers of power in the Free State – bourgeois politics and its rewards always encourages some kind of bitter rivalry between dominant parties.  Neither wants to share the fruits of office with another large party, because it substantially diminishes their own share of the goodies.

However, if the goodies themselves are threatened, changes of tactics come on the agenda.

And so we now have some talk of a grand coalition of the two main corrupt parties of southern neo-colonialism.

Two prominent Fine Gael figures – Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Health Minister Leo Varadkar – have both raised the possibility of such a coalition coming out of the next general election, especially if Labour is decimated.  Coveney opined, “I think there’s a lot of good people in Fianna Fáil. I think I could work with them. People who support Fianna Fáil, in some ways probably have a lot in common with people who support Fine Gael.”  As he rightly noted, there is no significant ideological gap between the two parties.

This kind of coalition would probably present more problems for Fianna Fail than Fine Gael.  A by no means small chunk of Fianna Fail supporters still see themselves as some kind of republicans and loath the Fine Gael ‘Blueshirts’.  The rise of Sinn Fein has given such people an alternative if they get sufficiently alienated to start thinking about deserting the Soldiers of Destiny.

If Fianna Fail and the Shinners had the numbers to form a government, the problem for Fianna Fail is that they would be in coalition with a fairly substantial party to whom they could still bleed members and supporters.  Of course, for the Sinn Fein leadership the long anti-republican record of Fianna Fail in practice, their long history of corruption and their implementation of vicious austerity in the wake of the collapse of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ presents no problems.  Indeed, the Adams’ strategy depends on being in government on both sides of Britain’s border.

While Fianna Fail faces a serious threat from Sinn Fein on its republican and moderately flank, the Shinners in power and implementing economic policies which could only disappoint their predominantly working class constituency, face a small threat from the Trotskyist left, which has half a dozen TDs and about 30 councillors, and is concentrated in the greater Dublin area.

The main problem with the Trotskyist left is that its key components are what Connolly called ‘gas and water socialists’.  They have no comprehension of the crucial role of the national question in terms of revolutionary politics on the island and they have no real understanding of the revolutionary core of Irish republicanism – the ‘lower orders’ (Marx) movement which has, again and again, led the struggle for national, social and economic liberation.

This places even greater responsibility on those of us who adhere to Marx and, in the Irish context, to Connolly, ie socialist-republicans, to get our act together.  The need for socialist-republican unity is not because it is a ‘nice idea’; it’s actually a pressing need of the struggle itself.  The interests of the working class call out for the unity of revolutionaries in Ireland around a programme that represents a 21st century equivalent to, and development of, Connolly.

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Posted on January 21, 2015, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, Anti-household and anti-water tax, éirígí, British state repression (general), Corruption, Democratic rights - general, Economy and workers' resistance, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Irish politics today, IRSP, James Connolly, Partition, Provos - then and now, Republican Network for Unity, Social conditions, Toadyism. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on A Fianna Fail/Fine Gael coalition? – A socialist-republican response.

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