Ireland: Fianna Fáil poll results illustrate Labour’s crisis

The latest Red C poll is the third such poll that indicates that Fianna Fáil has recovered its strength in the polls. At 26% support FF is within 2 points of Fine Gael. The recovery in the FF vote should be a wakeup call to Labour Party members that coalition government and collaboration with Fine Gael’s austerity programme cannot solve the problems of working people in the state.

Why was it that Labour did so well in the 2011 election? Was it because working people were desperate for Eamon Gilmore to do a deal with Enda Kenny that would mean years of austerity, pay cuts and attacks on Social Welfare? Not at all, the electoral surge that Labour experienced, particularly in Dublin was a reflection of working people looking for an alternative to the economic crisis.

It is a disgrace that the Labour leadership have squandered the opportunity with which they were presented. Instead of arguing for a clear socialist programme they have tied themselves to the coat tails of Fine Gael and the ruling class. It is no surprise that they have struggled in the polls, a situation which will only get worse as the economic crisis continues to undermine them. The renegotiation of the Croke Park Deal will place them on the other side of the barricades from the trade union members also. Something has to give.

Friday’s protest in Dundalk illustrates the cleft stick the Labour leadership are caught in. The Labour ministers particularly Brendan Howlin and Joan Burton hold all the worst cards in the pack. They are blamed for the austerity while playing second fiddle to Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny.

The swing to Labour before the last election reflected also the free fall in support for FF and the Greens. We’ve explained before that the major upturn of activity in the Trade Union movement in opposition to the pension levy and against the austerity pushed the coalition onto the back foot.  After the Croke Park deal was struck the focus turned to the political front, just at the time that the extent of the AIB bailout became clear. It was the pressure from below that was decisive in forcing the FF/Green coalition out of office.  At one point the polls indicated that it was even mathematically (if not politically) possible that a coalition could have been formed with Labour, the ULA and Sinn Féin.

The ongoing economic crisis and the austerity have reduced the support for FG and Labour to the extent that it is possible that FF may become the biggest party in the state once again. The economic situation within the Eurozone is still bleak as Martin Wolf of the London Financial Times said recently:

“Those who believe the eurozone’s trials are now behind it must assume either an extraordinary economic turnround or a willingness of those trapped in deep recessions to soldier on, year after grim year. Neither assumption seems at all plausible. Neither assumption seems at all plausible. Moreover, prospects for desirable longer-term reforms – a banking union and enhanced risk sharing – look quite remote. Far more likely is a union founded on one-sided, contractionary adjustment. Will the parties live happily ever after or will this union continue to be characterised by irreconcilable differences? The answer seems evident, at least to me. If so, this unhappy story cannot yet be over.” (Financial Times 19/2/2013

Labour’s rank and file have a clear option, go down with the sinking ship or fight for a Socialist alternative. The Campaign for Labour Policies the small opposition current that has developed is a positive sign, but the key to developing a left lies in the trade union movement and among the youth at this stage. Labour's left is still isolated and weak, the campaign to break from the coalition needs to be linked to the demand for a socialist programme.

What of the United Left Alliance, which was touted as an alternative to the left of Labour? To all intents and purposes the ULA has been reduced to a rump. The SWP have moved back towards the People Before Profit Alliance, while the WUAG and the Socialist Party have departed altogether. Fightback welcomed the possibility of a genuine alternative to the left of Labour, but it seems that factional rivalry has scuppered any chances of the ULA developing into a new party.

Unfortunately there are no short cuts. The key task for active socialists and Marxists in Ireland lies in fighting for a socialist programme, in the unions, among the youth, in the ULA and also in calling for Labour to break the coalition and stand up for the people it represents. Without a political struggle there can only be more austerity, more cuts and more misery.

Source: Fightback (Ireland)