Categorising Ireland’s left

As Ireland approaches the first anniversary of the opening of the 31st Dáil, it is worth reflecting on the results of the historic election that brought it about. This time last year there was much talk of a new, significant left-wing force. There are now 62 “left-wing” Teachtaí Dála. The question must be asked: has the rise of the Irish left been a good thing?

This new Irish left can be divided into three categories: the “protest left”, the “uncommitted left”, and the “delusionary left”. Each of these sub-groups, almost as bad as the other, demonstrate important aspects of the Irish left-wing.
Firstly, the “protest left” manages to overcome the paradox of being a so-called “force for change” while also being the most conservative grouping in the country. It comprises a motley collection of characters, who attempt to turn complaining into an art form.
They claim to represent ordinary people while never actually considering what ordinary people may or may not want. Instead they oppose any change that the government seeks to enforce purely based on the fact that the government is composed of politicians and all politicians are a force for evil.

They see political debate as an opportunity to shout down the opposition in the fervent belief that she or he who speaks louder wins. It represents anger not ideas. It is a conglomeration of dissatisfied punters who fail to appreciate nuances and hate the system, expecting other people to solve its problems.

The “uncommitted left” are still coming to terms with their political affiliations. They are affiliated to social democracy because they feel it’s the right course of action based on their dislike of elements of neo-liberalism. They are wedded to the word equality but they cannot distinguish which form of equality (outcome, opportunity, income, legal, geographical etc.) that they are actually talking about. They quite like the idea of the welfare state although openly accept that there is a limit to the amount of taxation people will willingly accept to support it.

In short they struggle to promote a leftish ideology while deep down they secretly admit that the creation of a left-wing utopia is near impossible in a globalized, Western democracy, dependent on exports and competitiveness.
The third grouping is in many ways the most ridiculous and at the same time most dangerous. They are committed to high levels of centralisation, and state power, as well as high taxation, import tariffs, equality of outcome and income, huge amounts of borrowing and large scale nationalisation.

Furthermore, they sincerely believe that the current crisis can only be solved by default, propagating the idea that there is an alternative to current austerity. What makes them dangerous is that they stubbornly believe in what they are saying, and they seek to spread this message widely.
In reality such a course of action would condemn Ireland to isolation in the bond markets for decades, meaning that we would be unable to fund ourselves. Huge numbers of job losses would accrue due to a flight of foreign direct investment and a collapse in competitiveness. Finally, stagnation would occur as people would end up dependent on a huge and inefficient state for employment and services.
The problem with the Irish left is that they have no respect for the individual. They despise leaders but they still expect the state to be dominant in the provision of jobs and services. Any service or charity work inspired out of private initiative is viewed with pity or suspicion as, in their view, this is a job that the state should be doing anyway. They refuse to accept that voluntary action by groups of willing individuals is in fact inspiring and should be emulated as widely as possible instead of depending on an inefficient and bureaucratic state.

In my view, this ultimately stems from a negative view of humanity. It is inconceivable that human beings could act outside the boundaries of self interest, so instead the state should force them. Furthermore, the Irish left seems obsessed with a tyrannical vision of equality that seeks to punish anyone who enjoys success.

For them, inspiration and individuality should be discouraged in an ultra PC environment, which will reduce people to numbers on a page. Minority views will always mean that the views of the majority will be cancelled out as any sense of majoritarianism is viewed as oppression. In this manner the politics of the left is in fact the politics of division.

While mentions of class warfare are no longer evident, it still provides the basis for a left that claims to support the will of the people but which actually fights only for the will of a small number of them, be it union bosses, the less well off, inefficient civil servants etc.

Any notion of a unified society is alien to them – for the left to survive there must always be an enemy to fight.

For a response to this article by Manus Lenihan, click here.