Report Back: Does Ireland need a new left party

On Saturday the 2nd of November, Left Forum organised a panel of speakers and a discussion forum on the subject “Does Ireland need a new left party?”. The conference was recorded by DCTV, which will be closing soon because of lack of funding. We will attempt to have the complete set talks as well as the discussion from the floor on youtube as soon as possible so the full depth of the discussion can be conveyed. I won’t attempt therefore to simplify the positions put forward here.

The talks included Paul Murphy from the Socialist Party, Richard Boyd Barrett from the Socialist Workers Party, Paddy Healy from the WUA, Tom Redmond from the Communist Party, Joan Collins from the United Left and Gavin Mendel-Gleason of Left Forum. Sinn Féin sent apologies for not being able to send a speaker at the last minute. Unfortunately the Workers’ Party had some problems, which lead to the speaker not coming, although they sent a statement on the topic.

As was to be expected, many who attended would like to see a mass socialist party. The big difference among the speakers, both from the podium and the floor, was about how to get there.

Around half of the attendees stayed after the talks in order to discuss in groups what the left could productively do to cooperate now. This was the most interesting part of the day and there was a fair bit of commonality in the thinking of the various groups.

While there was a wide range of opinions, it’s fair to say that most people think a new socialist party is necessary. However, few see that as likely to arise too quickly.

One suggestion was made that people could cooperate in the local elections to try to create a more coordinated campaign. An indicative vote was held at the end to see if people thought it was a good idea for Left Forum to endorse candidates running in the local elections who where not doing so competitively and the vast majority were clearly in favour.

The majority of the organisers of Left Forum, in addition to its aim of providing debates and educationals, would also like to create a space to facilitate further cooperation.

In order to make the forum as open and transparent, and to encourage as much participation as possible, we would like to call an organisational meeting of Left Forum. This meeting would provide a membership basis for the forum, such that we can elect an accountable steering committee, which would be charged with facilitating cooperation.

In the absence of a party, Left Forum should serve as a sort of nerve centre for discussions about the local elections as well as the various public campaigns in which people are currently involved.

The organisational meeting of Left Forum is being called for the 23rd of November from 2pm-4pm. Everyone interested in building a larger left wing movement in Ireland is invited to attend.

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Upcoming Events

We have a number of upcoming events to which we hope you can come. Read through the list to see if there is anything you are interested in attending. We look forward to seeing you!

Does Ireland need a new left party?

new_leftA debate organised by Left Forum
Saturday 2nd November 2013 in Teachers Club, Parnell Square, Dublin

10:30 Registration
10:45 Panel of speakers representing diverse points of view on this question
Chair: Alan Myler (WP)
Speakers: Gavin Mendel-Gleason (LF), Eoin O Broin (SF), Paul Murphy (SP), Cian O Callaghan (I), John Lowry (WP), Joan Collins (UL), Tom Redmond (CPI), Seamus Healy (WUA), Mark Hoskins (WSM), Richard Boyd Barrett (SWP)
12:00 Q & A / points of view from the floor / indicative vote
1:15 Lunch
2:30 World cafe discussion groups
3:30 Plenary
Chair: Helena Sheehan (LF)
5:00 Conclusion
To be televised by DCTV

Dublin Left Forum invites you to a talk:

The Greek Crisis: Will it bring barbarism or socialism

DCU Dublin invites you to a talk on Greece by Helena Sheehan and Aggelos Panayiotopoulos on the 26th of Oct in the Teachers Club at 11am.

DCU Left Forum invite you to 2 events marking the centenary of 1913:

1913 Unifinished Business

A recently formed activist group calling itself 1913 Unfinished Business will lead a discussion of the lockout and its legacy and the state of class strugge today.
Thursday 17 October 2013 1-2pm in C115 at DCU
https://www.facebook.com/events/219962614831011/

Who fears to speak of 1913?

Labour historian, Dr Niamh Puirseil, will analyse the various perspectives on the lockout coming into play in the commemorations of its centenary.
Tuesday 12 November 2012 1-2pm in CG86 at DCU
https://www.facebook.com/events/168869509975694/

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Meeting to discuss the creation of political discussion groups

The Left Forum is encouraging the setting up of groups for political discussion and education. We are having a meeting on Saturday 5th to discuss setting up a Dublin group. If you’re in Dublin and interested, please come along.

The meeting will take place on 5th October from 11am-1pm in Loom Studios, 40 Dominick Street Upper.

http://loomstudiosdublin.wordpress.com/studios/

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Report from the First Left Forum

The first Left Forum took place on the 18th of May 2013. The aim was to create a space for discussion on left wing politics in Ireland and to facilitate more unified work and discussion between left wing activists and those interested in left politics.

The day was broken up into a deliberative session, using global café format, where the state of the Irish left and its short to medium term prospects was discussed in small groups. After lunch a plenary session heard reports back from the groups and opened up a discussion, while finally to working groups on political education and left/alternative media were convened. Below is a brief repot of the day’s events.

Deliberative and Plenary Sessions

About 70 people attended the various sessions. The attendance included seasoned activists and trade unionists, members of various political parties (Workers Party, Communist Party, Labour Party, Workers Solidarity Movement, United Left, Irish Socialist Network,), as well as quite a few people who belong to no parties, some of them new to left politics. About 50 people attended the morning deliberative sessions, where small groups were convened and discussions were had around the following questions:

1) Who is the left?
2) What can the left realistically hope to achieve in the short, medium and long term?
3) How and where might we achieve these aims?
4) What sort of left organisations can help us achieve our goals?

Conveners summarised the morning deliberations and then discussion was opened to the floor. It is impossible to go through all of the issues discussed in the deliberations and plenary here, but some broad areas can be identified. Most defined the left in a broad manner. Some felt the left at times acted in an exclusive manner. Many expressed the need for more left co-operation, some going as far to express the idea of an anti-austerity alliance, others expressing the need for the left to put forward an alternative vision and not solely to be a defensive movement. A disappointment with the disintegration of the ULA was also expressed by some and others maintained a wariness of similar projects in the future. On the other hand, some expressed the need for a unified working class party. In the long term, the issue of socialist transformation was discussed, including a lack of confidence in the current socialist movement. A suggestion was made by a prominent trade unionist representative for a broad manifesto to be drawn up, on which various groups, unions and political parties could agree.

Finally, it was agreed to convene another forum in the autumn. Meanwhile, the current organizing committee would co-opt new members to facilitate this and to keep the whole process on track. It was also agreed the autumn forum would decide on ongoing and democratic structures and strategies. During the summer, the working groups set up in the next session would set to work.


Then the forum was broken into two parallel discussions: one on left media and one on political education

Left Media Session

About 25 attended the left media session, including people involved with Look Left, Rabble, Liberty, Dublin Community Television and various websites and blogs. There were also some researchers in attendance from Dublin City University, NUI Maynooth, NUI Cork and Trinity College. A number of people not yet involved in alternative/community media also attended. The meeting was very much grounded in what could be achievable in the short to medium term with a realisation of available resources.

Much of the discussion centred around the idea of an ‘aggregator’ or ‘clearing house’ website, which might collate the work being published by the various groups and publications onto a centralised website, which might attract a wider audience. The Journal.ie and Broadsheet.ie were cited as examples from the mainstream. There was much discussion on the practicalities of such a venture and the possibilities for funding and staff.

A second area of discussion was one of the need for space, especially as relevant to production of an aggregator site. It was reported that Look Left is in the process of obtaining office space. A third area of discussion, also related to space, was for the possibility of organising training in various areas of media production. A final area of discussion focused on the need to take part in a ‘a site of struggle’ approach to public service broadcasting, intervening in discussions around RTE and the new broadcasting bill as well as the use of state assets, such as the mast network and the UHF spectrum.


The meeting agreed to establish three working groups, one into researching the possibilities of an ‘aggregator’ website, one to look at the area of training and a third to advance the aim of intervening in discussions around RTE and other state assets. The three groups will be reporting back with proposals.

Some participants will be meeting again during the Ourmedia alternative/community media conference being held in Dublin on the 24th and 25th of June.

Political Education Session

About twenty people attended the political education system, made up of researchers, lecturers, teachers, trade unionists and interested people. There appeared to be a general consensus that the ongoing political development of workers, rank-and-file trade unionists and political activists is of central importance. It was pointed out that a number of groups have emerged since the beginning of the crisis, which are in one way or another, geared towards facilitating working-class education and general consciousness raising. It was suggested that the Left Forum should do everything it can to support these initiatives as well as creating our own. Among those mentioned were: 1913 Unfinished Business; Irish Student Left Online; several Marxist/Left reading groups; Look Left Forum; Look Left Magazine; Irish Left Review; Provisional University/We are the University; SWP Marxism weekend; Unlock NAMA; Anglo Not Our Debt; PRAXIS (community and working class self-education); DCTV/Dole TV/Live Register; Trade Union TV

There was some concern about our collective failure to make the best of the resources available. There was some discussion on how to establish an effective network, an educational infrastructure, to ensure that workers/activists around the country know what speakers/facilitators are available and appropriate for their purposes, including those visiting Ireland for short periods. It was suggested that a further meeting be organised to decide on issues/topics around which worker/activist education could be organised, and perhaps drawing up a list of very useful and informative speakers to participate in lecture series and/or workshops in different parts of the country.

There was some debate on what kind of educational form should be prioritised: lectures, debates, workshops, consciousness raising circles, etc. The consensus was that all such forms had a role to play. Heads nodded when one said that we should ‘just do it’ and in the process find appropriate ways of doing political education.


Some felt that political education should be geared geared towards policy analysis and development, whereas others felt that broader vision should shape it. It was hoped that the end goal might be to increase the capacity of the left to provide more convincing analyses and interventions in issues and struggles.

It was suggested that a space needs to be created where we can move from all of the things that we are ‘against’, and work out in more detail what the left is actually ‘for’. The idea of linking the development of a working-class educational infrastructure to the development of a ‘worker’s charter’, to a set of goals, relevant to the working-class in the post-boom period, that all of the left might be persuaded to sign up to, was also floated.

Another suggestion was to hold an organisational conference (next August in Limerick) to work through the problems of worker/activist education, political development, confidence, consciousness and solidarity. The idea would be to work out what has to be done (on an island-wide basis), and what is possible.

Coverall Conclusion

There was general and enthusiastic agreement that Left Forum should continue as an ongoing process and that our focus should be on creating and projecting an alternative narrative of what Ireland might be,.

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Left Forum Registration

Dear friends,

We’re looking forward to seeing you all at the first Left Forum at 11am on May 18th at the Teacher’s Club on Parnell St, Dublin.

Please register online to confirm your attendance: Left Forum Registration. We’re charging 5 euro to pay for room booking, childcare and refreshments. If you’d like to confirm attendance but don’t have a payment method, you can email us to book your slot.

Also, if you have an idea for a specific  discussion you’d be interested in hosting or attending, please respond as soon as possible.

The Left Forum is a party-independent initiative aiming to establish greater cooperation among the Left in Ireland. As we wrote in our initial call-out:

“We have had five years of crisis, five years where no alternative has been able to win support despite the obvious failures of the current political and economic regime, with serious human and environmental consequences.

Can we do better? Can the Left win widespread support for our ideas and build an alternative society? Can we make socialism more than a nice idea? The Left Forum invites you to contribute your views on the state of progressive politics and to discuss how we can do better.”

We’re hoping to have a day of honest and productive discussion on both broad and narrow issues so we can develop insights and make practical conclusions.

The full timetable is attached and the afternoon will have meetings planned on topics such as Left Media, Student Organising, Housing activism and Progressive Policy ideas, with more to follow. Again, please let us know if there’s a topic that you’d like to organise a discussion on.

We look forward to seeing you all then,

Left Forum Organisers


 

Final Agenda for the First Left Forum

The Left Forum will be divided into three main parts. The first section, the deliberative section, will see the agenda discussed in small groups of approximately six to ten attendees which will be chaired by a convenor. At the lunch break the convenors will meet to discuss if there seems to be a consensus from the discussions that can be formed into a document.

The second part of the process will take place after lunch which will be a plenary session involving all present. If possible the document will be presented, amended by attendees and voted on. If not possible a vote will be taken on whether to continue the process.

The third part of the forum will see a number of focused discussion groups around specific areas for example economics, trade unions and left media. This will be an opportunity to build networks of activists and those interested in the topics and develop ways that attendees may work together in the future. If agreed the convenors of the focused sessions will carry the work forward. Attendees are free to propose topics for focus discussions either in advance or at the forum.

Timetable

11.00am- 11.15am – Registration and seating.

11.15am – 11.30am – Brief Introduction and explanation of the process.

Deliberative Section

11.30am – 1.00pm – Deliberation on questions below using tables of 10 randomly assigned participants. Chaired by convenor with more detailed agenda.

Deliberative Agenda

1 Who is the Left?
2 What can the Left realistically hope to achieve in the short, medium and long term?
3 How and where do we achieve these aims?
4 What sort of left organisations can help us achieve our goals

1.00pm-2.00pm – Lunch. Convenors meet, discuss outcome of deliberation discussions prepare document for plenary session

Plenary Section

2.00pm – 3.00 pm – Plenary session – document shown numbered on projected screen. Attendees have opportunity to discuss document in single town hall style meeting, offer amendments etc. If agreed vote on the document, if not vote to continue process.

3.00pm- 3.15pm – Coffee break and organise tables of pre-arranged focused discussions i.e trade unions, education, media, – also allow space for anyone to set up table for any other issue they wish to discuss.

Focused Discussions

4.15pm-5.30pm – Focused Discussions –The focus of these discussions are to get people together, and may be of a more practical nature. And hope to establish networks for future work together. Each discussion group if decided will elect a convenor to carry on the process after the event.

Focus Discussions will take place on the following areas:
Left/Alternative/Community Media; Youth Issues; Housing; Economics and Policy; Education
(more may follow at a later date)

5.30pm Closing remarks, based on outcomes of deliberation and focused discussions (If a document has been agreed from deliberation and plenary). There can be brief report back from focused discussions convenors.

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Dr Melvin Leiman: A History of Political Economy

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DCU Left Forum are sponsoring a lecture on the history of political economy by Dr Melvin Leiman, professor emeritus of Binghamton University (SUNY) and author of The Political Economy of Racism, next Monday at DCU at 1pm.

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Proposed Agenda for the first Left Forum

The Left Forum will be divided into three main parts. The first section, the deliberative section, will see the agenda discussed in small groups of approximately ten attendees which will be chaired by a convenor. At the lunch break the convenors will meet to discuss if there seems to be a consensus from the discussions that can be formed into a document. The second part of the process will take place after lunch which will be a plenary session involving all present. If possible the document will be presented, amended by attendees and voted on. If not possible a vote will be taken on whether to continue the process. The third part of the forum will see a number of focused discussion groups around specific areas for example economics, trade unions and left media. This will be an opportunity to build networks of activists and those interested in the topics and develop ways that attendees may work together in the future. If agreed the convenors of the focused sessions will carry the work forward. Attendees are free to propose topics for focus discussions either in advance or at the forum.

Proposed Timetable

11.00am- 11.15am – Registration and seating.

11.15am – 11.30am – Brief Introduction and explanation of the process.

11.30am – 1.30pm – Deliberation on questions below using tables of 10 randomly assigned participants. Chaired by convenor with more detailed agenda.

1.30pm-2.30pm – Lunch. Convenors meet, discuss outcome of deliberation discussions prepare document for plenary session

2.30pm – 3.30 pm – Plenary session – document shown numbered on projected screen. Attendees have opportunity to discuss document in single town hall style meeting, offer amendments etc. If agreed vote on the document, if not vote to continue process.

3.30pm- 3.45pm – Coffee break and organise tables of pre-arranged focused discussions i.e trade unions, education, media, – also allow space for anyone to set up table for any other issue they wish to discuss.

4.00pm-5.30pm – Focused Discussions – thus far suggestions of trade unions, media, education, economics. The focus of these discussions are to get people together, and may be of a more practical nature. Each discussion group if decided will elect a convenor to carry on the process after the event.

5.30pm Closing remarks, based on outcomes of deliberation and focused discussions (If a document has been agreed from deliberation and plenary). There can be brief report back from focused discussions convenors.

Proposed Deliberative Agenda

1 Who is the Left?
2 What can the Left realistically hope to achieve in the short, medium and long term?
3 How and where do we achieve these aims?
4 What sort of left organisations can help us achieve our goals?

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