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Last week’s anti-immigrant riot in Dublin shows the urgency of developing an extra-parliamentary left that can mobilise resistance, argues William Skjold

On Thursday lunch time, 21 November, there was a knife attack outside a school in the city centre. Five people were seriously hurt and have been hospitalised, including three young children, a teacher and the attacker. A five-year-old girl and the teacher remain in a critical condition.

We still don’t know of any motives behind the attack. The suspect, a man in his 40s is an Irish citizen who has lived in the state for twenty years, the police are not looking for anyone else. However, it was the rumour that he is an Algerian migrant that sparked a right-wing riot that evening. The fact that it was a passing Brazilian Deliveroo driver who intervened and stopped the attack makes the argument that immigrants are bad a little awkward.

The rioters burnt down a hotel that was providing emergency accommodation to refugees, then clashes with police broke out. The burning of a tram, multiple buses and police vehicles ensued, alongside smashing and looting of businesses in the area, then finally a refugee centre in north Dublin was destroyed.

Historically, Irish nationalism has been a broadly left-wing force fighting British colonialism. The latest trend of Irish ultra-nationalism is a lot closer to what we see in other parts of Europe, i.e. deeply racist and anti-immigration. Indeed, many of the rioters were waving the Irish flag and were heard shouting racist slogans.

The anti-immigration right, specifically in Dublin, has been growing bolder, and the left in Ireland has been warning of this trend for years now. The agitators appear to be using WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal to organise on the fly.

In September, 200 right-wing protesters managed to blockade the parliament for a few hours. They made a mock gallows and effigies of the police commissioner and the minister for children, equality, disability, integration and youth, Roderic O’Gorman, who appears to have received special attention for being both Green and gay. The protest turned even uglier when racist abuse was hurled at members of the public, and two women had bags of urine thrown at them. Earlier this year, we also saw far-right protesters burning tents belonging to homeless asylum seekers in an apparently spontaneous act.

Recently, multi-millionaire MMA fighter Conor McGregor has become a vocal champion of the anti-immigration lobby. Taking to Twitter following the attack on Thursday, he blamed the coalition government for their inaction on what he described as ‘lax border controls with gravy train benefits and pitiful mental health services’. And following the riots, he tweeted ‘You reap what you sow’.

The current government, a coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, have dismissed the rioters as a small number of mindless thugs. In Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s press conference, he talked about the shame that they had brought to Ireland and their families, and said that the Irish people are ‘afraid of you, afraid of your anger and your rage, and how you blame others for your problems.’ However, these problems are clearly precipitated by a government that has overseen a wildly inflated housing market that is now in chaos, dwindling access to health services, and a cost-of-living crisis and anti-union legislation that has meant stagnating wages have driven a large section of the community into poverty. It is no wonder that young people are looking for someone to blame.

The Irish left

The dominant left-wing force in Ireland is People Before Profit (PBP), who are primarily an electoral force, but also organise demonstrations. This gives them a hold over the movements, and means they advocate for electoral politics, but only having a few seats in parliament, they have very little influence.

This is a very dangerous situation whereby left wingers have few answers to the growing number of genuine fears and pains of working-class Irish people, who have been consistently let down by the bourgeois-democratic process since the formation of the republic. It also means that there isn’t a force outside mainstream politics that can field any kind of anti-fascist resistance in the streets to protect oppressed minorities.

There isn’t a very large, organised extra-parliamentary left here, and it shows. Protests for Palestine were called off over the weekend, and although an anti-racism protest was held at Monday lunch time, with a good message from trade unionists, there needed to be a swifter and larger mobilisation. Some small Marxist groups are growing rapidly in the current situation and wish to put forward a bold revolutionary message in the movements and ramp up recruitment.

PBP have condemned the riots, and argued against left-right equivalency – an idea they blame in part for the rise of the far-right. They argue for better provisions for the working class let down by capitalism, but have nothing to say on calls for greater police powers, recruitment and equipment, such as the two water-cannon tanks being brought in from the north. This is wholly insufficient, and although they boast a left-wing voice in the mainstream political institutions, they have far too large a hold over the social movements.

Without a solid revolutionary left-wing alternative, right-wing forces can capture the moment when riotous frustrations boil over onto the streets. The question is socialism or barbarism, and we urgently need revolutionary organisation to help build serious movements of resistance.

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