Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Ideas and Ideologies ..Davy Carlin

As an activist I have been involved in many campaigns over the last few years. From Anti Sectarianism, to Anti War, Anti Globalisation, to Anti Racism, Anti Privatisation to Anti Poverty and in each I have witnessed various movements, some mass, others less so. Nevertheless within each of them I had both seen and played an active part with others in initiating the coming together of not only peoples, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter but of diverse organisations, groups and individual activists. Yet with all of these having been termed as being ‘Anti’ and against, what exactly then are we for.

Having participated in the above local campaigns and movements as well as partaking in the International protests from Genoa to Geneva. I have therefore developed a real flavour not only of the Movement, but of the Movements within the Movement. For others and me we had embraced the concept of think globally and act locally in a real and practical way through initiating and building local mass movements, as part of the wider International Movement. It is part of a developing and of a new activism that had embraced millions on the streets internationally and with it having thrown up new and old questions about the world. And through doing so, so then came discussion and debate on how we go about creating either a ‘better world’ within the present system, or indeed seeking fundamental change from the existing system. Yet despite many of the various local movements being against specific issues of concerns. They of course are not overtly socialist, although socialists had been to the fore in many of them. They are in fact broad campaigns and movements on that initial specific issue of concern that make up the movement.

Similarly the global movement in large part, in comparison with local specific movements is replicated but on a much larger scale. And therefore similarly within it, it holds the same diversity of ideas and ideologies mixed within. With that I had found that whether it was on a local issue or being on an International protest abroad, I have found engagement with others a vital component in the movement. And with that I have found within the movements at the local level that many of the participant activist’s ideas of what they are against being quite straight forward for them. This on each specific issue, although many do then begin to link them up as to the overall Global problem. It though becomes more difficult, not as much with those that hold an ideology and seeing that bigger linked picture. But in fact it is when each ‘differing ideological tradition’ sees each as a ‘competitor’ within the movement rather than a collective part of the movement.

As a Revolutionary Socialist I believe finding initial common ground and not immediate differences is where we should start. And I have found that in doing so we can, at least in part, start to move forward. Of course such points of difference need to be discussed, but should be done in that course of common struggle. This is easier done on specific local issues, but in the overall movement and the discussions on possible alliances it is more difficult. Decades of difference emerge within differing ideologies, not only on historical perspectives but similarly on past tactical and strategical perceived and real wrong doings. This where on many occasions all such ideologies are guilty as the ‘competition’ between such groups allow then little room for manoeuvre to acknowledge and admit wrongdoing. Such organisations I believe therefore have three choices. Firstly not to work in various aspects of common struggle with a differing organisation until all historical and present issues are addressed, if ever. Secondly to state that they will never work with such organisations in various areas due to that organisations history. At times in various ways ‘he who shall cast the first stone’ comes to mind. While thirdly to work from a common bond on specifics while discussing and debating issues of difference.

Yet this new movement I believe means such organisations need to then adapt, both in their organisational structure and more importantly in mindset as so to advance. Those that do not will and have greeted the present climate in a pessimistic light, while others who attempt to adapt, will tend to see the more favourable opportunities opening up. Of course with the economic situation, and a number of worker defeats, everything has not been rosy. Nevertheless specific movements some mass with others less so we have seen having sprung up, that have not been seen in decades. Such opportunities for the left, for Socialists, organised in party structure or not can only be advantageous. Yet the understanding of the actuality of the movements means a re defining of elements of organisation {within such groups} as so to actually engage with the movement.

This means an opening up to the movement access for discussion and debate for those involved within the movement, as a starting point. The Socialist Workers Party paper in Ireland has seemingly taken an initiative on this front, and this should be welcomed. It also means for some, beginning to attempt fraternal debate amongst those within the movements, party aligned or not. Due to the diversity of the movements those seeking ‘control’ of such will be shown up much more clearly in light than they had not seen to the same extent previous. Therefore the formation of the potential of any form of alliance should not see the undemocratic methods of old used. Of course all such organisations hold their own agendas within any such alliances. Yet if organisations have problems with others then it should be discussed fraternally, as an alliance and not pre decided by a un - elected minority. In addition minority organisations and individuals should have full say in important decisions, again without such decisions being pre implemented.

Such alliances on specific issues have to date delivered some successes. With that we have seen some other alliances now trying to bring together a range of issues and concerns for electoral - campaigning purposes. These in Britain and in Ireland where such alliances have already been set up, or are in discussion and debate to initiate. Again many of the concerns raised above had been raised in some such initiations. And unfortunately to date such concerns has as previous been articulated solely as the voices of sectarians, or that of other differing party aligned individuals. This for party interest. While this is the case to some extent, many were and are in fact genuine activists within the movement raising such concerns. Therein lays the need to adapt and work within the new movement as a new movement in a new time, with a new generation eager to learn

If not I believe such alliances cannot and will not reach their full potential but be simply a case of doing simply to do. So such potential alliances need to provide not only a democratic vehicle but also a fully participatory democratic voice for its activists and supporters. In doing so the alliance on whatever issue{s} will move forward in strength. There are many individuals, left and Socialists activists who are grafting away as there are small left and Socialist parties and organisations doing similar. Each of us can only do so much individually. Collectively though as has been shown in recent times we can begin in small ways to begin to effect some change. Change though needs to begin in many such organisations to no longer work of old as to attempt to work amongst the new

Therefore the initiation of the new paper Street Seen for me was and is a vitally important initiative within that context, this for two reasons. Firstly its initial reasoning for coming into existence, homelessness, is a growing issue in our society. Therefore any such support that can be given should be. Yet in doing that we could also attempt to extend that support into raising the issue of and supporting those that find them selves in the wider poverty trap. Secondly I believe that the Street Seen paper can be an additional vehicle for those who have found little space afforded to their voice and so being provided an avenue for that voice. Many of the left and Socialist papers are in fact closed doors, although some are seemingly attempting to take the positive and vital step of opening them up to debate and discussion. Such online sites from the Blanket to Indymedia have long since been set up on that basis. For the Street Seen network this can and is being helped via established grassroots activists, writers, networks, websites, trade unionists, and organisations that are also lending support to its different initiatives. In fact the diversity of the movement coming together and lending support to aspects of it.

Whether Ideas or Ideologies if we are participants within the movements we are all then indeed part of the movements. With that each of us can continue to attempt to win others to our understanding, yet this is made easier in that course of common struggle. This can be made even easier if such is initiated on the basis of democratic and accountable participation. And in doing so some barriers may slowly even begin to come down. And who knows previous competitors may even begin to find some sense of mutual respect and a collective sense of a possible shared alliance with others.

I posed the question from the onset ‘well what are we for’. Well I believe such collective answers can only be found through open, fully participatory and democratic debate, organisational methods and structures. Of course many will know what they are for as per their tradition. But that process of debate can, will and has found common ground and seeing extensive ‘collective understanding and actions’ while still acknowledging differences. Therefore such debate should not be feared, censored or isolated within the movement; in fact it should be a vital component of it. And if that were the case I believe we can then begin to pull in many of those parted and separate fingers of the left, Socialist organisations, parties, groups and individuals together into the clenching of a Fist For Change. It will take time, yet in this time, who knows, anything is possible if we set our minds to it.

I finish on this point of initiating campaigns and developing them into movements. Another important issue in the North is that of the water charges and again the debate and discussions on how they can be defeated is ongoing. Presently in the North there are a number of differing campaigns some party aligned, others not. With that, I have followed their campaigns and have spoken to some of their activists while being fully aware of what to expect of others. Although there is a broader trade union alliance lead by ICTU very little has been done on the ground by that said alliance. My experience of ICTU has shown that they have to be either moved into action from below. Or for campaigns to develop the situation where the ICTU feel that they cannot afford not to be involved.

After the murder of Daniel McColgan ,the young postal worker, the ICTU from a response from below where then moved to call rallies. Similarly as was done in the Anti War and Anti Racism Movements with their participation again gained, although at times some to a lesser extent that others. However both the Communities against the water tax campaign and the N. Ireland Anti poverty Network also of the alliance have been doing some work on the ground. As has the Socialist Party initiated campaign, the ISN campaign and others, all of which is to be welcomed. Yet to begin to develop such campaigns and more especially those that call for a mass non payment campaign this is going to be a long haul with hard graft on the ground.

With that, it is important that if one is to put their time and energy into such a campaign that they direct that activism at the campaign best suited for them. So after following the campaigns and speaking to activists, while having that experience of attempting to work with others in other campaigns. I have as an individual activist decided to throw my shoulder behind the Communities against the Water charges campaign, for the long haul. The CAWC non party aligned initiation has done some good work and it was the initial heard voice of the Anti Water Charges Campaign. Although I have heard less in the media of them than others it though is the campaign, I believe, that can move this issue forward into a movement. Therefore I will also be urging others for their involvement, while publicising both the issue and the campaign

Although I have been extremely busy to date, with working on my book {snippets of it to go up on the Blanket in time} as well as writing and engaging on websites and via papers etc. I nevertheless have been actively involved in a number of campaigns and projects. Yet one has to draw a line somewhere so therefore the ARN, Street Seen and the IPSC are the issues I as an individual activist am to prioritise in the coming year. Along with now my coming CAWT involvement, all of which I believe are for the long haul for me personally. Of course getting to the G8 protest and support to the Anti War Movements I will do. Yet therein it shows the diversity of the movement with many many more local issues that people are campaigning on and for.

So as stated whether it is held ideas or ideologues we are all involved in the movement. How such campaigns and movements develop and progress, it is for we the people to democratically discuss and debate. I believe that there are exciting and important times ahead and if we are to go forward we need to do so by engaging with the new.

Davy Carlin


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