There were Lord of the Rings references aplenty earlier this month as participants of all shapes and persuasions—representing organisations often refusing to openly collaborate—were ferried to the postcard setting of Inis Oírr. In between ancient ruins and tourist traps, the media platform Left Bloc, with support from Trademark (Belfast) and others, held its premiere weekend of workshops and talks tackling the big bad, seeking to wipe out the world of men: Capitalism.
Bernadette McAliskey was the first champion to speak. Having fought at the Bogside and in the House of Commons, on reflection it was the battle between “50 separate parties of 50 members apiece” all rowing over whether the USSR (or China) was “state-capitalist or a degenerated workers’ state” that she considered not worth her energy. In the face of climate collapse, she demanded better. Her advice to those groups: “Grow up.”
The former insurgent commander Victoria Sandino continued this mood with a retelling of the horrors committed against working-class people by the US-backed Colombian state and far-right militias. She thanked Irish people for their continued financial aid and guidance in peace talks that led to her Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) making the transition to a legal political party—a reformation that has produced mixed results.
Thankfully, the event organisers came with an understanding that at any left-wing lecture there are numerous more self-proclaimed professors in the crowd than there are on stage. A Q&A section led by female participants at the end of the talk by the journalist and author Sarah Jaffe resulted in an empowering discussion of care workers, unpaid domestic labour, and unionising homemakers.
After all, even “general strikes” typically exclude half the working population.
Following his talk in Connolly Books in the previous days, Vijay Prashad consolidated the weekend, in full Ted Talk prowess, with an emotive scolding of western hypocrisy on Ukrainian refugees and European leftist critiques of non-white socialist projects: “college students obsessed with a post-colonial mindset when we still live under colonialism.” In explicit contrast to McAliskey’s opening remarks, he passionately thanked his Communist Party, which formed him and taught him discipline, which, he claimed, was a prerequisite for real progress.
A closing remark put the future of Left Bloc to the floor by a leading organiser, Dave Gibney: Can this entity build a fellowship across party and trade union lines or should it remain a political education platform? Time will tell.