James Connolly had an awful lot to say about moderates. “Our demands most moderate are, we only want the earth” was his doctrine, and it is something which is just as important to recognise and repeat today as it was in the slums of Edinburgh, of New York, and of Dublin over 100 years ago. With today’s society a world apart from Marx’s Manifesto of 1848, the truth is that, quite often, the left has abandoned this doctrine in pursuit of other, more focus group friendly mantras.
In recent years, however, with the rise of left populism across the northern hemisphere, we have seen the rise of the ‘new centre’ – rather than an ideological centre, we see a majoritarian centre. The majoritarian centre supports nationalising key state assets, increasing the minimum wage, stronger public services, a strong state role in building social housing, real climate action, and in a fairer society for the marginalised. If the traditional left is to recover in Europe, we must regain ownership of these key policies. The British Labour Party has been quite successful in championing these values, and the Irish Labour Party has made significant headroom in bring policies such as these to the forefront of our manifesto. The only caveat to this is that, actually, none of these issues are genuinely radical. It is not radical to believe that 95% of people should control 95% of the wealth. It is not radical to believe that anyone who pays in to our society and to our tax system should expect a welfare state, from the cradle to the grave. It is certainly not radical to believe that this planet requires systemic change if the human race is to survive over the next century.
It is very clear, that when it comes to crises caused by capitalism, that the solution is not regulation around the edges. It is not radical to believe that people should receive the education they need, that they should receive a living wage, proper representation in the workplace, affordable and adequate housing, proper healthcare which is free at point of use. If the left can’t aspire to meet these basic needs for all, then it is clear that we have lost our vision. The issue for traditional socialist parties, is that that we must adapt and, as well as fighting to avert the climate catastrophe, we must also keep fighting for economic and social equality, which is now needed more than ever – this is where the new ‘green left’ will fall. Now is not a time for compromise, it is a time to be forceful in our principles and in our red lines. For people who feel completely left behind and failed by this new Ireland and the new economic consensus, that is the left alternative, and that is the only way to regain the public’s trust. That is not a set, well defined project, but one that will take several electoral cycles, leaders, and figureheads to accomplish.