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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
When It's Time for Change, No One Is Irreplaceable

Mick Hall • 1 November 2006

Witnessing the somersaults Gerry Adams is putting the membership of SF through to get them to accept and take responsibility for the writ of the PSNI in the northeast of Ireland —all in aid of gaining admittance to a will of a wisp mockney parliament at Stormont— got me thinking about the Left and the Gods that failed us once they came anywhere near the vicinity of real power. Sadly, the history of progressive political movements the world over are littered with such beings. Yet far from analyzing why the Left has had more than its share of Quislings, we tend to shrug our shoulders and continue to meander down much the same road without a thought to past disappointments.

Only last week we had the pitiful spectacle of the once much respected Sandinista General, Daniel Ortega, instructing his fellow Sandinistas who sit in the Nicaraguan Parliament to vote to outlaw article 165, which had been untouched since the 19th century, and allowed for therapeutic abortion. His argument for doing so (off the record) was that there was a Presidential election due (in which he is a candidate) and if the Sandinistas did not do the Catholic Church's bidding over this issue, come the ballot he would find himself up against not only the Right, but also the Catholic Church.

Perhaps. But despite Ortega cringing before reaction and disposing of a woman's right to choose as if it were a dirty handkerchief, it seems to have had little impact on the head of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, Cardinal Obando y Bravo, who continued to support the candidate of the Right and advised his flock to do likewise. Indeed, by this act alone the hopeful El Presidente must be suffering from a bout of amnesia; throughout the Sandinistas' war against the US backed Somoza dynasty, in which Senor Ortega played an important role, the Official Catholic Church stood four square with the dictatorship.

To the south of Nicaragua, Lula has just been re-elected President of Brazil, despite many on the Left having deserted his cause due to scandals over back handers and allegations of corruption. If anything, for Lula to become mired in scandals of this type has been one of the bitterest pills many Leftists have had to swallow, as they felt he and his Workers Party offered a real alternative to Neo-Conservative economics, and right-wing Social Democracy. The WP seemed to be the prototype for a new kind of politics, which was inclusive and built from the ground up. Yet almost as soon as Lula entered the Presidential Palace he put into practice the same old economic policies that benefited the wealthy at the expense of the economically poor. The same type of bag-men, brown envelopes in hand, appear to have been lining up at the side door of President Lula's office, much as they did when his predecessor was in power. True, Lula threw a few morsels to the least well off economically —and they are not to be scoffed at— but, far from breaking the mould, it was more of the same. If Lula were to have been defeated by the Right in the recent Presidential Elections, there would have been very little to show for his five years as President, as few lasting improvements in Heath Care, Social Services, House Building etc have been made during his period in office. This lack of any positive legacy is a common characteristic of these Leftist gods that failed.

Incidentally, if there is one common trait between the behaviour of Gerry Adams, Daniel Ortega and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, it is longevity, as they have all been at the head of their respective party for over two decades. During these years they have all gradually come to believe that if they cut and trim the politics that brought them to prominence in the first place, it will in some way make them more attractive to the section of the electorate that opposed them on their way up, and by so doing allow them to maintain power by warding off attacks from the Right or the political and economic establishment.

Undoubtedly some truth in this —the votes cast speak for themselves. The flaw in this argument as far as the Left is concerned is surely, if these men are prepared to trim their policies to suit their political opponents —and do so against the wishes of the majority of their party's membership— what makes them stand time and again for public office? It cannot be the ideals they held as young men when they first became politically active, as they have cut and trimmed these to the bone from the party program, or will ignore them when they gain power.

If it is not to build a better future for those from whence they came, what is their motivating factor? It is very difficult not to conclude that for these men, Office is all and in this they are little different from those they oppose electorally on the Right. Worse, in fact, as at least the likes of Haughey, Thatcher, Regan and GW Bush made no secret of the fact that they wished to attain public office for reasons of personal ambition, to enrich the middle classes, and act as catalysts for the expansion of multi-national capital.

If the above is true and these people are little more than opportunists, then what does that say about our judgement as political activists? Why time and again do we not only give our support at the ballot box to such people, but also work our backsides off to try and get them elected? Is there any explanation for this very uncomfortable phenomenon, which can only be described as a betrayal, or is such political degeneration of Leftist politicians an integral part of the process of participating at the highest level within bourgeois democracies? Thus, anyone who stays at the helm of a progressive political party that gains a degree of mass support at the ballot box, will in time become corrupted by the very system they set out to change or smash?

Human nature being what it is, and the ego being such a fragile thing susceptible to all sorts of enticements, I feel the truth lies with the aforementioned corrupting influence of the system. But this does not make it an insoluble problem for the Left. Longevity of leadership needs to be tackled. Almost anyone, no matter how well intentioned when they first come into office, if they stay at the top of the greasy pole for more than four or five years is doomed to end up reflecting in practice all they hoped to change, not least because they will be thinking about their next election and cut their political cloth accordingly. Thus it is imperative that when electing leaders of Leftist (and Irish Republican) political parties a timeline is set for their period in office; the same should be true of all the senior party posts.

If we look at socialist and Republican political parties in the UK and Ireland, far too many of them have had the same leadership core in place for a decade or more. Indeed, one of the more nonsensical facts to come out of the Irish Peace Process is that the two largest parties within the north of Ireland have had the same leaders throughout much of the troubles. Is it any wonder the public have little real confidence in these people? I cannot think of a single other walk of life where something similar would be tolerated.

If the bourgeois parties wish to engage in such foolishness that is for them. But the Left and Irish Republican parties must get to grips with this problem and set a timeline for office holders. We are always being told these days that no one can expect a job for life, not something I would normally agree with. But as far as politicians are concerned, it should become set in stone.

After all, I cannot name a single politician who turned out to be irreplaceable, not even amongst the best of them. The finest examples of politicians who felt they were irreplaceable were Eamon de Valera and Winston Churchill, and many of those they governed thought the same. Yet once they left office, their nations were all the better for them leaving, despite both men having served their countries well in their time.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

7 November 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

When It's Time for Change, No One Is Irreplaceable
Mick Hall

Date Fixed For Flawed Landmark Case
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

Souper Sinn Fein
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Dr John Coulter

St Andrews Agreement & 'the Left'
Davy Carlin

Shotgun Wedding
John Kennedy

...and to create the space for a diversity of views...
Noel Dolan

'Undo the Great Betrayal, Free the Occupied 26'
Dr John Coulter

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Anthony McIntyre

Power & Powerlessness
Patricia Campbell

The Constantine Institute
Terry O'Neill

Mary Robinson Spotlights Human Rights Abuses in Darfur
William Hughes

Fearless Speech
Anthony McIntyre

30 October 2006

Granny Josie
Anthony McIntyre

Guardians of Perjury
Martin Galvin

Writing on the Wall
John Kennedy

The Litmus Test of Republicanism
Charlie Clarke

Monkey Business
Anthony McIntyre

Northern Invasion
Dr John Coulter

Eamon McGuire: The Life of an Undercover IRA Activist
William Hughes

Deal Will Underline Delusions
David Adams

Blood in the Water
Dr John Coulter

Muslims = Terrorists
M. Shahid Alam

Nothing Could Be More Offensive!
Maryam Namazie



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