So, the 2016 General Election is underway.
We could spend our time reading the bones of electoral history since 1922 to try to foresee the future, or we could scatter those bones to make a different future.
That is what the Right2Change initiative allows us to do. But it only allows us to do that if we fully buy into what that initiative is about, what its potential can be in effecting radical ideological change, and how voters can be brought to engage with its promises and to vote accordingly. But we cannot expect voters to believe that this initiative can work if we don’t believe it ourselves.
Right2Change is not a badge of convenience. Those who have signed up to it – have pledged to it – cannot be half-in and half-out when it comes to its central theme of a set of easily understood policy principles.
They are principles, not mere aspirations. And a pledge is not a promise you make at election-time, to discard later.
No person, group or party that self-describes as progressive, socialist or republican and is part of Right2Change can have any reservations about the fundamental rights of those who live here to water, jobs and decent work, housing, health, debt justice, education, democratic reform, equality, a sustainable environment, and ownership of national resources including public works and services. All should willingly agree on those basic rights, or else redefine themselves and withdraw any pledge made – which includes a commitment to work to create a progressive government with those same principles as its policy priorities.
Those individuals, groups or parties that have refused the second part of the pledge for their own reasons are at least being honest about where they stand. They are not, of their own volition, part of the Right2Change movement. That is unfortunate, but lets move on.
Individuals, groups or parties that have signed up to the full package, the policy principles and the intent to form a progressive government should that be possible, now need to fully engage in selling two ideas to the voters; that the combined numbers of Right2Change candidates are capable, if supported, of producing 79+ TDs and that such a progressive government will work in their best interests by creating a fair society based on equality, democracy and justice.
To support the first of those ideas there must be a sense of solidarity among Right2Change candidates. The practice of using the Right2Change banner or logo, and of referring to Right2Change and to the principles, is an important part of that idea. It is not hard to see that that practice is not universally applied. That must change.
To support the second of those ideas, the past springs to our aid. We need to constantly refer to the grave damage that has been done to society in general, and to so many individuals and families, most notably by the outgoing government and its Fianna Fáil led predecessor. While we must use our economic arguments well, it is with the suffering and the waste of human resources and the hollowing out of society that the great mass of people will empathise.
There can be very few among us who have not had some close encounter with the ravages of austerity and neoliberalism – from the suicide epidemic to the housing crisis or health service failures, emigration, under and un-employment, poor wages and salaries, poor child-care services, lack of care for the elderly, sub-standard education for all but the rich, and the list goes on and on.
We will not win votes from hardcore supporters of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, and other status-quo parties, so let’s not waste time and energy on those. But they are not the majority, and it is to the majority that we must make our appeal.
Right2Change supporters need to enter into the fray in a positive mood. Of course, we might not be successful on this occasion. But if not, we will have introduced a set of enlightened principles into the debate, and we will have shown the people that there is not just one ideological position at play.
If we don’t succeed in putting in place a progressive government then we can put in place the best opposition the people have ever seen, with an increased possibility of success next time out. Putting that opposition in place depends on the commitment and integrity of all Right2Change parties, groups and individuals to the policy principles and the urgency of creating real change and holding power to account, which must rule out a coalition of convenience for the sake of short-term power on the part of any Right2Change party or individual.
We do not know the inner workings of the minds of the mass of people coming out of a period of so much oppression and so much suffering and so much destruction. No opinion poll or focus-group can mine that sort of information. But we can work to show that there is another way that is eminently viable and that it will benefit the great mass of the people.
Things will be different, yes. But they will be far better.
But only by voting Right2Change.