Blair: a social democrat who came to terms with the end of communism…

As Gordon Brown takes a ball passed to him on the run by one T. Blair, Eoghan Harris offers some (presumably unwelcome) advice to an impoverished Irish left.

…unlike most of the British and Irish media I do not believe that his political career largely came to dust. Blinded by Iraq, the media tell us that Blair was poor on policy, adding, as an afterthought, that he was good at winning elections.

As if winning elections were easy. As if it did not matter that Kinnock lost to Thatcher. Look, if winning elections was that easy why was the Labour Party not electable for most of my lifetime, and when elected, why were they so easily evicted?

The truth is that Tony Blair was the first British social democrat to truly come to terms with the collapse of Communism and the consequent sidelining of socialism. He alone came up with the answer which secured state power for social democracy. To adapt Disraeli, he found the Tories bathing and stole their pinstriped suits. Three times. Give him a gold medal.

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  • Frank Sinistra

    I can’t see the advice. And surely Harris would not advise the left to change policy but just switch party again and again moving further right with each move like he did.

  • Dewi

    What a lovely way with words Mr Harris has.

  • Mick Fealty


    Fair comment. I was probably a tad too heavy on my own editorialising. Still, the absence of an intellectual opposite to market capitalism is something that the Irish left might draw down from.

  • Blair was never an adherent of modern-day socialism, like Anthony Crosland; helped get rid of it way before the Soviet Union collapsed by going along with the conspiracy against Harold Wilson, and the murder conspiracy of Crosland – what made the election of a real labor politician
    next to impossible; was blinded by the whole criminal agenda of the New American Century; and should be going off to The Hague and to a prison cell rather than Bush’s vice-gerent to the Middle East to clean up its mess.

    The guy is a scum bag no matter how many times we are told the opposite by his various spin doctors.

  • The Dubliner

    Harris has a fair point: killing-off the UK’s mainstream loony-left by showing them that crackpot socialists don’t get elected (and nice middle-class social democrats do) was a worthwhile legacy in itself. It’s always amusing to see former proud sociailists falling over themselves in their scramble to the right once they relaise where the votes are.

    Still, by their deeds shall ye know them… and Blair is damned by his actions on Iraq: a grinning amoral sociopath who lies and murders on an epic scale with absolute impunity. Never trust a politician who lists King Herod as one of his heroes!

  • Dewi

    Dub – concur absolutely
    “a grinning amoral sociopath who lies and murders on an epic scale with absolute impunity”
    If Brown has any fibre he’ll be working day and night on exit strategy.

  • Still, the absence of an intellectual opposite to market capitalism is something that the Irish left might draw down from.

    Posted by Mick Fealty


    Of course the left has a position against neo liberal capitalism as you well know, it is just that people like you refuse to give space to anything that portrays the left in a positive light.

    Just because a former leftist like Harris rolled on to his back opened his legs and cried fuck me boss,
    in no way means we all are going to follow his example, not even for your amusement. Especially as this means were we to follow Blairs example, raining missiles etc down on women and children and occupying other peoples countries bayonet in hand.

    Better not to be elected if that is the entrance fee, in any case, politics is a long game as any Irishman should know. As to your insulting words about an ‘impoverished Irish left’ I would just say this.

    When ever an injustice occurs, whether it be racism, attacks on traveller’s or newcomers, the war in Iraq and the use of Shannon, the environment, or police misconduct and countless other issues the mainstream parties will not go near. You will find a militant from the Left helping out as best they can, whether they be an indie, from the Greens, SF, SP, éirígí, SWP, IRSP, LP left, etc,etc.

  • Mick Fealty


    Blair had control of foreign policy not Brown. In truth the former hitched his FP wagon to the US very early on (ie, when the Dems had the Whitehouse) in his term of government. It is unlikely that Brown will seek to extract himself till the Dems take back the Whitehouse: which is ’08 at the earliest.

    That said, British troop levels are getting low in Iraq. Afghanistan looks like a much more problematic area in the medium to long term.

    If you are an Irish citizen none of this may matter to you. But from a British perspective, Blair’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan may prove to be as intractable to many of his successors as Callaghan’s 1969 decision to put troops into Belfast and Derry: for better or for worse.

  • Mick Fealty


    If you tot up the status of the left in the Dail it is certainly ‘impoverished’…

  • Dewi

    But Mick I think Brown is proactive – will seek a solution rather than just follow Bush. As for Afghanistan I just don’t understand why anyone thinks they can win a war there….

  • kensei

    “Still, the absence of an intellectual opposite to market capitalism is something that the Irish left might draw down from.”

    Er, why do you need one? There has always been a strain of thought on the Left that recognises the utility of markets and seeks to harness them; they just aren’t the be able and end all of the story as it is on the Right. There was a commitment to the “mixed” economy.

  • kensei

    Which was your point :”>. My brain is screwed today. Time for bed.

  • Garibaldy

    Mick Hall,

    I think the fact that your list starts with independents and the Greens demonstrates the lamentable state of the Irish Left much better than anything else. There simply is no longer a serious left force articulating an alternative vision of Irish society. Labour, Greens, PSF – all three would give their right arms (or already have) to get into government with FF. At best, they represent a weak social democracy.

    The admirable work and enthusiasm of activists does not hide the weakness of the left. In fact many of those very activists are trapped in irrelevance by their own infantile ideas and approach to politics – exemplified by éirígí thinking the way to make socialism relevant was to hand out copies of the 1916 proclamation.

    The left needs to stop fighting the battles of the past – even Iraq has become for most people something at best in the bacjground as the pathetic turnout for anti-war demos across the island demonstrates. It needs to refocus, and to make itself relevant by the power of its ideas and the cogency of its proposed policies as well as the commitment of its activists. Taxation, health services, environment, house prices, accountability – properly thought out and costed policies are essential to win popular support. Unfortunately the old activist politics are no longer sufficient, and the left needs to move with the times.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Harris may not have offered his prescription in this article but he has done before, advocating a new social democratic party based on a merger between Fine Gael and Labour. Were political logic to outweigh tribalism he might be on to something.

  • Aquifer

    Our working class are in asia, making cheap exports that keep our inflation down. Real redistribution means rising prices. Who will vote for that?

  • The Dubliner

    Mick Fealty, I think that you intended to address your post to Dewi and not I. I agree that the problem that Bush and Blair created in Iraq will be “intractable” in terms of de-militarisation – but not for the UK. They will cut their losses and run as soon as they devise an exit strategy (i.e. spin the disgrace as being other than abandoning the country to a full-scale tribal warfare). Unlike Northern Ireland, Iraq’s people are not predominantly white European Christians, so they won’t lose any votes among those who are. The intractability will be visited upon the next 5 or 6 generations of Iraqis who have to swin in the bloodbath and the economic ruin of their once wealthy and unified country (thanks to Bush and Blair bombing them back to the Mesopotamian age).

    Mick Hall, political parties that don’t understand the basics of wealth creation are no longer electable in an Ireland run by free market economics. We can all go around identifying ourselves with lots of trendy causes, protesting terrible wrongs, demanding care for the elderly, etc, and thereby win the kudos of plenty. But folks understand that everything has to be paid for and that means creating wealth (not borrowing it as Labour Party did the last time it was in coalition with Fine Gael in Ireland, doubling the national debt, sending unemployment to 19%, and pushing interest rates to stratospheric levels). That was real a period of real misery for a huge chunk of Ireland’s population – but you fail to include it among the left’s ‘accomplishments.’ On the other hand, a party that understands wealth creation, FF, has introduced economic policies that have helped make Ireland’s citizens among the wealthiest in the world and benefited everyone one. One of those benefits has been a policy to increase the old age pension by 50% over the next 5 years. We have Ireland’s dynamic wealth creators to thank for that – they are the ones whose enterprise makes it all possible through taxation. Perhaps its time you lefties stopped biting the hands that feed you?

  • redhaze


    “In fact many of those very activists are trapped in irrelevance by their own infantile ideas and approach to politics – exemplified by éirígí thinking the way to make socialism relevant was to hand out copies of the 1916 proclamation.”

    This demonstrates a very poor understanding of why this was conducted. Very poor indeed.

    It was not done in some attempt to make socialism relevant.

    It was an ambitious attempt by a very small group of people to encourage others to ‘Reclaim the Republic’.

    This was an attempt to have people reevaluate a historical document which is very close to the hearts of most Irish people. However, people were urged to study it again and decide if we are living in an Ireland which was true to the ideals that most people claim to represent.

    The folks in eirigi also took a novel approach to this, which the less discernable would have missed.

    The Proclamations were printed in various languages to respect the changing nature of the population and in order that the most welcome recent additions to Irish society could have some understanding of the Ireland that we are supposed to inhabit.

    For instance, the families facing deportation depsite the fact that their children were born Irish would have been surprised to note that the Dublin Administration had decided against cherishing all of its children equally.

  • red haze,

    Im with you on this, I feel it was a very innovative idea, although it may well have gone over the heads of some comrades. I feel what Garibaldy is missing is he is looking at the distribution of the proclamation in isolation. The proclamation was part of the work that éirígí are doing and gave them an opportunity to follow through etc.

    Although it might on the surface not seem like it, the distribution of the proclamation was an example of thinking outside the box as to ways to contact potential recruits etc.


  • Frank Sinistra

    I also thought it was a good idea from a new group laying down their marker.

    To state a century old document central to the founding ideals of the Republic can and should have relevance in modern Ireland and to remind people Republicanism is at heart socialist and egalitarian is a clear demonstration of where their thinking is at.

    To encourage people to look at what the nation is based on and examine how closely it matches that, or how far away we now are from that ideal is one of the areas the left and Republicans in Ireland should be working.

    Here’s the proclamation, here’s what you were promised. Now, how does what you have measure up?

  • Garibaldy

    Redhaze, as far as I can see from éirigí’s own propaganda on things like Indymedia and their website, they claim that reclaiming the republic is about socialism. So I’ll not split hairs over a phrase when I’m looking at what they proclaim their ethos to be.

    As for distributing this as an innovative policy. Clearly the south bears no resemblance to the society outlined in the Proclamation, and that is worth saying. However, put yourself in the place of the target audience, which is my point. It’s hardly going to answer the main issues you deal with day in, day out, and the reality is that the cast majority will have wondered why it was arriving in their door.

    Any group that claims to be part of the left must make itself relevant to current conditions if it is to garner support, and address the issues that do matter to people more than those that the ideologues of various groups think should matter the most.

  • Frank Sinistra


    éirígí didn’t distribute the Proclamation with no additional comment. It was part of a booklet. It asked questions relevant to 2006 in relation to the vision of the 1916 Proclamation:

    Do we the people have ownership of Ireland?

    Has Britain withdrawn from our country?

    Are all the children of the nation cherished equally, or do those with money and power get preferential treatment?

    What is the unfinished business to be completed before the Republic envisioned in the Proclamation can be established?

    It was also part of a wider project, Reclaim the Republic, which asked amongst other things ‘what does the Proclamation mean to me?’.

    For a small and new grouping it was a decent marker of where they intend to go and how they hope to frame discussion. Republicanism and Socialism at the heart of their thinking just as was envisaged at the birth of the nation.

    Baby steps and all that but in the right direction.

  • Garibaldy


    Thanks for the info. The versions I saw on the net had no booklet and the indymedia stuff spoke only of laminated copies.

    Perhaps while they are at it éirigí might ask how the organisation from which they sprang cherished all the children of the nation equally or sought workers’ unity while carrying out numerous sectarian killings.

  • Frank Sinistra


    When I look at them I ask about their policies not the policies of others.

    Just as I don’t judge other parties on where some of their members came from or linkages eg. I don’t judge Labour or the SDLP based on Workers Party or OIRA policies, the DUP on UDA polices, the UUP on UVF/OV policies or FG/FF on civil war politics. They all have members that came from these groups and many that don’t or linkages to them.

    The thing that matters is where they stand not the positions of others.

  • Perhaps while they are at it éirigí might ask how the organization from which they sprang cherished all the children of the nation equally or sought workers’ unity while carrying out numerous sectarian killings.


    I do not mean to be offensive, but in the paragraph above I feel you are displaying all that is wrong with the left. We all make a great display of welcoming left unity, but when it coms down to it in practice we revert to our own subjective prejudices about other left organizations to find a justification why it is impossible to work with them electorally. The outcome being, as Mick F pointed out the small number of leftist TD’s in the Dail.

    In a recent post to my blog, I suggested that perhaps comrades who are members of radical political parties, should consider exactly what their organizations raison d’être for existing is and what they hope to achieve by putting themselves before the

  • Frank Sinistra


    Completely agree. If the left was to box clever elections could be very different experiences.

    Going through the last results the numbers would give 4 guaranteed additional TDs and a likelihood of 11 more on top of that.

    The voters of the broad left, Labour, Green, SF and SP could deliver 45 TDs if they cooperated instead of cutting each other’s throats or cosying up to the right and righter.

    Instead of the left being dead in Ireland as MickF would have us believe it is just hopelessly mismanaged.

    45 TDs is deliverable based on the voting power of fractured left, god only knows what they would really deliver if working together.

    Though the leadership is not their in any party to draw together the collective voting bases.

  • Garibaldy


    My judgments are based on the actions and current policies of éirigí. The total absence as far as I can see of any mention of a programme to forge working class unity in the north and the language they use about the north do not make me think that the members of éirigí have any programme for achieving the fundamental republican and socialist goal of the unity of the Irish people.


    I am indeed guilty of misbehaving. But sometimes I just can’t ignore the splinters in other people’s eyes. The north isn’t quite the same as disagreeing over, say, the proper application of democratic centralism due to the lives lost, and divisions reinforced.

    As for elections in the south. I think that many of the votes for the Greens and PSF (more proportionally possibly for PSF) are not left-wing votes, but populist and often rightist ones, so they give a false impression of the extent of support for left politics. I expect the SP to wither to a large extent now Higgins has lost his seat. With his seat and the money it brought in, they punched well above their weight but will now struggle to do so. Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

    I’d like to see more electoral cooperation that would deliver more seats but the problem is forging an agreed programme. Even a relatively strong social democratic programme is too much for many in Labour and PSF, and especially in their leaderships.

    So not sure where that leaves the Irish left. But I’m convinced that expecting anything from the Greens or PSF is deluding ourselves.