This is an extract from a pamphlet written by an Irish Labour Party member of the European Parliament in 1983, as posted by the Irish Left Online Document Archive on the Cedar Lounge Revolution blog. Having concluded that the Labour Party policy of coalition with the conservative Fine Gael party was hurting it electorally and preventing its development into a socialist party with real influence in Irish society, the author sets out the stages by which political independence could be achieved, culminating with what I think is a particularly profound and accurate description of current circumstances:
“This alternative would be on offer in a situation where the existing economic system would be seen to be a failure bigger even than today’s. On the assumption that emigration will not emerge again to any significant extent, then the long term will be characterised by unemployment levels way beyond anything we have experienced. For example, anyone made redundant over the age of forty will have virtually no chance of re-employment. Some young people will reach their mid twenties without ever having worked.
Furthermore, social problems will intensify because the social services will not expand in real terms; benefits may actually decline. The public sector and the semi-state bodies will be run down so reducing job prospects while accentuating inequalities in housing, educational access and the health services.
Given this as a scenario the long term strategy is to make Labour the focal point around which democratic opposition to the system can be organised. The various protest movements, whether they be the unemployed or the homeless, will need a political home and we would provide it for them. Similarly, we would consciously set out to capture the liberal vote which was enticed away from us by Garret Fitzgerald but which may, even now, be on its way back.
But above all the aim over this period would be to capture the youth vote. There are two reasons for this, First of all the huge increase in the vote under 30 years makes it electorally imperative and, secondly, this is the segment of the population which will be most affected by the failure of modern capitalism. Our policies must be primarily tailored to meet their needs and ambitions. If we must sacrifice some traditional support in doing so, then let us do so willingly. We must shake off the constraints of middle aged politics and become the party of young people.
Equally important over the long term would be the design of policies - socialist policies - appealing to our strong sense of national identity. The Achilles heel of Irish society is that we have attempted to develop our economy on the basis of a dependent capitalism. It has not worked. It has not reduced unemployment. But it has reduced national control over our own destiny and diminished our sovereignty. Dependent capitalism has also helped destroy our sense of self respect and initiative.
Socialism, with its emphasis on the role of the state, as the embodiment of the people, is the answer to the dependent capitalist model. It fits in easily with the search for a separate identity, which, I believe, will grow stronger in Europe of the next quarter of the century. There is a growing and welcome reaction against big business, multi-national corporations and super-power politics. There is renewed interest in regional cultures and languages. There is a revulsion against giganticism and a belief that small is beautiful. The profit motive is being replaced as the central ethic in western societies by an emphasis on leisure and self development.
There is therefore a vast potential for new socialist ideas, practices and institutions because socialism alone can provide the philosophy to create a democratic society using advanced technology but fostering and protecting the rights of self expression and personal development.
We are at the beginning of an era which could be entitled the “end of alienation”. I have no doubt that this is the great philosophic search of our time; the end of alienation, the creation of community. Socialism was designed as a response to these deepest impulses in human beings. It is now ready to offer the answers demanded by the new century.”
Damn. Where is this kind of thinking in the USA’s political mainstream? Sigh.