The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Socialists, Leadership And The Working Class

Davy Carlin

I reprint here for The Blanket an article I submitted to Fourthwrite back in 2001 as I believe some of its points are increasingly relevant and will tie in with a forthcoming article ‘A New United Front?'.

While the questions on the 1980/81 hunger strikes and other discussions and debates saw such a diversity of ideas, it also raised important questions. One such question was from a speaker on the nature of leadership which was raised at a discussion organised by Fourthwrite. Part of a reply was that the working class should take the lead without any real form of leadership. While this sounds good, it is not practical if socialists are to achieve their goal, for the ruling class have got the institutions, mechanism and structures to keep ruling class ideas in prominence, thus advocating that there is no alternative. With that in mind some believe it is acceptable, others like socialists do not, but most hold mistrust and question its fundamental politic.

So while our working class history has shown at times to be revolutionary, a huge distance exists between what our collective class is capable of and what is actually done. Therefore the working class need to be conscious of their ability and to learn from the hidden history of that power. To do this socialists need to learn, understand and relate to the working class and that history. This is progressed by taking an organised lead within the working class, leading union rank and files, activism within our districts and initiating campaigns with wider forces within our class. This however raises another question. Does leadership lead to a minority making unaccountable decisions over the majority? Such criticism has been levelled at Sinn Fein among others. In reality such a scenario need not arise but if it does it is through the product of a particular politic and direction embedded within that party. For a party whose politics are based on ending the state will function differently from those who are concerned only with the replacing of the state with a different flag, leaving the levers of economic power in the ruling class hands may it be state or free market capitalism. That is why revolutionary socialists push to take a leading role in the workers movement. So accountability, democratic centralism and disciplined organisation are crucial while leading the fight within the working class potentially enabling initially minimum numbers acting together having maximum effect.

A second question raised at one of the discussions was in relation to the assembly, bringing real change for the working class. It should be noted that nationalism and parliamentarian republicanism while wanting to break the union with Britain are not about breaking the economic status quo with neo-liberalism and free market economics. It seems that “economic stick” once orange that used to beat us is starting to turn a paler shade of green. Through the different debates and points aired I found the politics in some ways understandable but quite internal and with no analysis of international movements and the working class. In my view the new movement against global capital from Seattle to Prague, with possibly the largest mobilisation against their institutions that Europe has ever seen happening in Genoa in July, which shall include many scores from Belfast, it would be a mistake for socialists not to understand and to relate to the significance of such. Finally as one woman asked at a meeting, what about the revolution then?

Again the answer is to be found in both the Irish and international working class. Revolution cannot be imposed or done on behalf of the working class but only through the act and participation of such. In my lifetime I believe that I will see a revolutionary situation in Ireland. There will be those who argue for reform, it is for the revolutionary socialist tradition to give lead to our class and move to revolution and our collective economic emancipation. To that end such a party needs to be built, for our history can lead us to our future.



Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

16 February 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Plan "B" for Tony Blair and Northern Ireland
Paul Fitzsimmons


Evidence, What Evidence?
Michael Youlton


Choices to be Made
Larry Kirwan


Talking Through His Cassock
Bert Ward


Letter to Uncle
Jimmy Sands


Long Kesh Meets Peterhouse
Anthony McIntyre


Socialists, Leadership and the Working Class
Davy Carlin


14 February 2003


Anti War March Tomorrow
Davy Carlin


A Tale of Two Writers
Anthony McIntyre


Phil Berrigan is Dead
Larry Kirwan


8 Mile Worth the Trip
Mick Hall


A Letter of Protest
Orlaith Dillon


London Arrests Update




The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to: