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Men of the Left think they’re different: Abortion and the Anti-Austerity Alliance

The amazing women’s rights and anti-capitalist activist Selma James spoke at the Anarchist Bookfair in Dublin this weekend. Bualadh bos to the WSM for getting her over. She gave inspiring talks on a range of issues, and during her contribution on Care, Social Reproduction and Austerity the conversation flowed towards the reality of activism that women’s issues are often side-lined by the left and seen as not important enough to pay attention to or campaign on.

Selma’s comment that “Men of the left think they’re different because they’re of the left, but they’re not was met with a lot of women nodding their heads in agreement in the audience, and a couple of men shifting in their seats looking a little uncomfortable. Presumably some of them were thinking the usual Not all men are like that though!” that women on the left are compelled to listen to whenever any kind of discussion emerges on sexism on the left and what to do about it. The women activists gave each other knowing looks. It’s ridiculous that this is still something women on the left have to deal with, but we do, and the results of that mind-set range from the irritating to the absolute enraging.

One such example of more enraging is the emergence that the Socialist Party front group Anti-Austerity Alliance’s election candidate in Tullamore, Mr. Thomas Carty is completely and absolutely anti-choice on the issue of abortion. It’s unclear how forcing a woman to bring to term a pregnancy against her will is in line with an anti-austerity agenda so the AAA have some questions to answer.

Of course, this isn’t a new thing. The Socialist Party have in the past courted a candidate in Omagh, Johnny McLaughlin, who turned out to be anti-choice in a most hysterical manner, so they should be aware of the ramifications of this.

There are a few potential scenarios at play here:

a)    The AAA sat down and asked Mr. Carty what his position was on abortion, and he lied and said he was pro-choice ( which is unlikely considering his anti-choice views are plastered all over facebook).

b)    The AAA sat down and asked Mr. Carty what his position was on abortion and he said he was anti-choice and they viewed it as not being all that important because electoral opportunism requires bums on seats.

c)    Nobody in the AAA asked what his view was on it because the idea that 4,500 women spending up to £2,000 each every year travelling for a medical procedure overseas never entered their heads as being relevant to an anti-austerity programme.

It’s more likely that this is incompetence rather than conspiracy, and option C would probably be the bookie’s favourite.

And if that is the case it’s more than fair to ask why did nobody in the AAA think that this was a relevant question? There are more anti-choice candidates than Thomas Carty in the AAA ranks, so now that it’s been raised what will they do about it? It would be difficult to see them retaining a candidate who had been vocally racist in the past so why is supporting an anti-woman policy being treated differently? And Mr. Carty’s belief that a position as a ‘Boob Adjuster’ would be the best job ever (what? And not an AAA councillor leading the r-r-r-revolution? Shock indeed.) which is probably quite telling of his views on women hasn’t even been touched upon.

This kind of attitude is something that you would expect from political organisations of the right. It is not unreasonable to expect more from those who not only style themselves as the vanguard of the left, but as advocates for women.

Two fairly prominent members of the Socialist Party in Dublin were asked what the story with this was earlier on today in a facebook thread. At the time of writing, this legitimate question has been met with silence.


When Peter Hadden of the Socialist Party was questioned on the Johnny McLaughlin debacle twelve years ago he replied;

“Abortion, while an important issue, is not a make or break question for our party.”

This attitude hasn’t changed and for many on the left, something that affects more than 50% of the population’s right to do what they want with their own bodies isn’t a make or break issue. You could be forgiven for asking what impact a policy has to have before it becomes a make or break issue. Perhaps something that affected a few more men?

Selma was right, men on the left think they are different, but they’re really not.



Edit to update at 20.46: A member of the SP who may or may not be a party spokesperson commented on the facebook thread mentioned above to state that Thomas Carty was never ratified as an AAA candidate saying that,”The fact stands that at the national meeting on Sunday in which his candidacy was being decided upon, that the national AAA meeting did not endorse his candidature for the reasons outlined. So no, he was never officially ratified as an AAA candidate. Incidentally, I am not an activist within the AAA myself. It’s an entity that’s broader than the Socialist Party, with two of the seven members of its steering committee, I think, being Socialist Party activists.” 

Thomas Carty was listed as an AAA candidate on the official AAA website up to this afternoon but has since been removed. No official statement from the AAA has been issued as yet.  

Edit to update 15th April: The AAA issued a statement late last night saying : 


14 April 2014

The national Steering Group of the Anti-Austerity Alliance would like to clarify that Thomas Carty, Tullamore, is not endorsed as an AAA candidate. 

The Steering Group unanimously agreed today that Thomas has attitudes which wouldn’t be compatible with being a candidate for the AAA. The AAA is a progressive organisation which fights for the rights of both women and men; rejects divisions based on gender; and takes equal treatment of women seriously.

Thomas was put forward as a candidate by a grouping in Tullamore very recently and had not previously attended national AAA meetings. When issues were brought to the attention of the national AAA meeting yesterday, they were investigated by the steering group who unanimously agree that Thomas should not be endorsed as a candidate.

From the seven members of the steering group, Anti Austerity Alliance.

Still doesn’t explain how he ended up on their official website before that and with lovely funky AAA graphics all over his social media accounts with his face on them. Oh well. 

34 responses »

  1. It should be noted that author of this piece is a member of the pro-life organisation that is Sinn Féin.

    • Hi Laura, thanks for commenting. Just for clarification, yes I am a member of SF who have a position of allowing for abortion in certain circumstances. Obviously I would like to see this policy go further. This will not come as a shock to anyone who knows me or has ever read anything I have ever written or more to the point anyone who is a member of SF.
      This of course, does not prevent me from asking the obvious questions here. I want to be really clear on this so you understand, I am a member of SF and not a spokesperson.

      • Kind of leaves you with a credibility problem though does it not? Who are you to criticize the AAA when you’re comfortable being a member of a party full of anti-choice men? Or is that ok because Sinn Fein pay your wages?

        • I have been involved with pro-choice campaigning for almost 14 years and been a spokesperson of one pro-choice organisation and founder of another. If you read the comment above (slowly if you need to, perhaps twice?) you’ll see I’m very clear on my position. My credibility on reproductive justice isn’t at issue here.

          But I guess it’s easier to attack an author for their political background than actually address what they say when it suits SP/AAA members – unsurprisingly, women who leave that outfit are treated in exactly the same manner.

          The fact is, SF are very clear on their position, the AAA are less so.

      • If you’re confusing me with Laura Fitzgerald you’re mistaken, just so you know.

    • Sinn Féin’s position on abortion is shit, and should be called out at every opportunity. The Socialist Party have never hesitated to do so in the past. They won’t have much credibility to do so in the future.

      • Okay, so you’re questioning the pro-choice SP’s credibility in criticising the pro-life position of Sinn Fein, because a prospective candidate for the broad Anti Austerity Alliance (not the SP) turned out to be a pro-lifer. Given the fact that when this man’s views became known, it was SP members in particular who argued that he should not be endorsed by the AAA as a candidate, will you accept then that the SP’s credibility is in tact?

        But let’s follow your logic for a minute. If a person or an organisation’s credibility on the issue of abortion is compromised by being associated, even vaguely, with candidates who have disgusting pro-life views (as you mistakenly suggested in the case of the SP), then surely Stephanie Lord’s credibility is in a sorry state? Because despite her pro-choice activism – which you were willing to forget about in the case of the SP – she is a member of a pro-life organisation(!) and presumably works to strengthen that organisation’s influence – which comes at the expense of women and the campaign for abortion rights, whether she likes it or not.

        Peadar Toibin’s views on abortion are worse than Tomas Carthy’s, and Pearse Doherty’s are not much better. These are prominent elected representatives of the party Stephanie is a member of, never mind the countless reactionary candidates that Sinn Fein will stand in the elections, North and South. So you must agree, if you are to be consistent and not a hypocrite, that Stephanie won’t have much credibility to call out the position of other pro-life organisations in the future?

        And she obviously has no credibility in criticising the SP or the AAA.

  2. I agree with all of the sentiments expressed in this article. I am a male SF member who is 100% pro-choice, but you have inadvertently highlighted a huge problem with the left. The right is far more inclusive than the left. Look at the right, they will take any sort of voter. Whereas the left, the side I hold to, always seeks to differentiate amongst its members. We should all be united in the common goal of effecting social change. I agree that being pro-choice is extremely important, but infighting is the reason that leftist parties find it so hard to gain office.

    • Calling for ‘unity’ with those who support the repression of women is as ludicrous as asking for us to have unity with radical capitalists who agree with us on other issues. Women are half of society. It’s not sectarian to demand we don’t allow misogyny into the fold- it’s demanding a Left that meets basic minimum standards.

      • LOL at how a MAN (going by the name, please feel free to correct me) thinks that my bodily autonomy is a distraction from the “real issues.”

        And yet you wonder why women want none of leftist structures.

        • Infighting solves nothing. Politics involves compromise. You can idealise all you want but I’d rather achieve half of something than all of nothing.

        • Which is easy to say when you will never be pregnant. To be honest, if you think that liberation is something that should be compromised and austerity should be, you are neither a feminist nor an ally to women on the left.

    • Really Eoin, you want to compromise with my bodily autonomy? Not good enough. How about we compromise with your bodily autonomy instead? I will not be voting for any candidate who does not support women’s right to make their own choices. This is a matter for a woman and her doctor to decide. Why not compromise on the side of choice instead? Why choose to support control of women as the compromise?

      • I think anti-choice people are abhorrent Lisa as I said. I don’t want to compromise with your bodily autonomy, funnily enough. And if you want to compromise mine I would also oppose that idea. Funny how angry you’re getting with someone who agrees with you as opposed to directing your anger towards those who actively oppose women’s choice. That’s why we will never have a fully liberal/leftist government. Because people like us are sat here behind keyboards fighting amongst ourselves. Ideally, society should be 100% pro-choice, let me make that point very clear.

  3. Wow, talk about a straw man argument.

    I didn’t attack you, nor did I question your pro-choice activism.

    What I did question was your credibility when it comes to having a pop at other political groups and and their less than progressive male activists. You’re wandering about your glass house carrying a very big stone.

    I’m no fan of the SP but for a Shinner to talk about their members leaving disaffected makes me laugh, your party hemorrhages decent members who it then goes on to denigrate. Leo Green ring any bells?

    • Hardly. You questioned my credibility and I consider that to be an attack. I wonder do you spend as much time anonymously wandering the internet criticising women members of the SP when they level criticisms at SF? I doubt it.

      The fact that you’ve even raised Leo Green’s name makes me laugh. As I have said repeatedly, I am not a spokesperson. But while we’re on the subject, for one, he’s still actually a member of SF (as has been stated by spokespersons and continually stated in the media) and secondly it completely reinforces the point I’m trying to make about when an issue becomes important on the left.

      I raise a legitimate question about one organisation’s failure to ask a candidate their position on an issue, and you attempt to reply by pointing out a male member resigned from his employment in a different political party.

      Jesus wept.

  4. Women of the left think they’re the same, but they’re not. They’re the same as women everywhere.

  5. “the Socialist Party front group Anti-Austerity Alliance”

    Yeah, this above sentence completely shows that you’re not interested in discussing this issue, you just want to have a go. There’s a serious issue to discuss here but most of your criticism flows from this false claim so it’s not much good.

    Why are you in Sinn Fein? At the time of writing, this legitimate question has been met with no serious answer. You’re arguing that people on the left should never associate with people who are in any way anti-choice. But you’re a member of Sinn Fein. And meanwhile you’re trying to sling muck at accomplished pro-choice activists who are NOT members of any anti-choice organisation.

    Can we have a real discussion about how to approach this thorny issue, not a thundering denunciation that backfires a hundredfold on you.

    • Give me a break, if I’d written “the Socialist Party associated group Anti Austerity Alliance” you’d still be whining. Anonymously, of course.

      You’ve completely missed the point. And either didn’t bother to read my previous replies, or worse, you didn’t understand them.

      • I read your explanations, understood them fine, and failed to find an explanation of why you demand that rosa and socialist party members never ever even vaguely associate with anti-choice people, a standard to which you patently don’t hold yourself.

        If you’d written “the Socialist Party-associated group Anti-Austerity Alliance” it would have changed the whole meaning and tone of the article. In the scenario you outline where you say “associated” and I continue to “whine”, you tell the truth. Whereas in reality, you told a lie. There is a distinction between a front group and an alliance.

        “(anonymously of course)”

        And no, I’m not commenting anonymously, sapteuq is my real name…
        😀 Yes, I’m commenting anonymously, I noticed, and we all reserve the right to do so. I’m not using anonymity to say anything nasty, I’m just posing some political questions.

        • At no point did I say that SP members or Rosa or AAA or whoever shouldn’t ever “vaguely associate with anti-choice people.” The actual point of the piece, which everyone is using my political membership to conveniently overlook, is that women’s issues are routinely overlooked by the left. But sure don’t let that stand in the way at having a go. If I’m not allowed have an opinion on the SP/AAA, then no one in the AAA should be allowed criticise government parties on *women’s* issues because they’ve done absolutely zilch on it. Of course you’ll disagree with that because that point just wouldn’t suit your narrative now would it?

          Regarding the distinction between ‘alliance’ and ‘front-group,’ well it’s all a bit “you say potato, I say potato, let’s call the whole thing off ” isn’t it. Because there aren’t many people outside of the AAA who buy the line that they are wholly separate. It’s no coincidence that all the sitting councillors who are AAA candidates are SP members.

          To be honest, at this stage I don’t give a toss if the AAA’s Secret Squirrel Committee is stacked with SP members, because it doesn’t matter – women’s issues are routinely overlooked by them regardless of their structures.

          You’re entitled to comment anonymously. It’s just in the context I find it to be quite spineless, but whatever.

  6. Pingback: Anti-Austerity Alliance purge candidate over views on abortion - Page 2

  7. Jolly Red Giant

    I am not interested in getting involved in the ‘he said / she said’ type of discussion on this blog – but I would like to very briefly address this comment –

    I don’t think the SP did much on women’s issues until Clare Daly’s arrival to the Dáil in 2011. Then things took a turn for the better, credit where it’s due. And I still to this day, think she’s a desperate loss to them. Joe Higgins did sweet FA on it in the Dáil up to the 2007 or in the European Parliament afterwards.

    This comment demonstrates that Stephanie knows little about the work of the Socialist Party on women’s issues consistently over the years. Specifically addressing the ridiculous comment about Joe Higgins and his work in the Dail – for years in the Dail (from 1997-2007) Joe Higgins worked tirelessly with Lawyers for Choice in order to bring a private members bill before the Dail on the issue of the X-Case and abortion rights. During that 10 year period Joe Higgins was given one opportunity to bring forward a private members bill (it was far more restrictive at the time than now) and the Socialist Party took a conscious decision that the opportunity for a private members bill would be used to raise abortion rights.The bill was drafted and tabled on the order paper and unfortunately the Dail was dissolved just before the bill was due to be taken. The bill submitted by Joe Higgins in 2007 formed the basis for the private members bill proposed by Clare Daly in 2012.

    • JGG, whatever Joe might have been doing behind the scenes about abortion, you really cannot fault non-SP members for being unaware of it when almost nothing was ever stated about it in a public forum. Joe did not make the most of the platform he had in the Dáil to raise the issue, that’s simply a fact.

      It surprised me to hear that he had actually placed a bill on the Order Paper as I don’t remember this at all, so I’ve looked on the Oireachtas website where Order Papers are archived. No such bill appears in the final week before the Dáil was dissolved in 2007. Perhaps he had every intention to do so and didn’t manage before time ran out, but again, you cannot fault people who aren’t SP members for not knowing about this.

    • @Jolly Red Giant – The Standing Orders of the Dáil didn’t preclude anyone from publishing more than one Bill on an issue during that time (although there is a 6 month rule that applies). While there was a division of time in the technical group, Joe Higgins would have had ample opportunity to raise these issues during Private Members Time which he received on a periodic basis.

      To allege that he only had one opportunity to table that Bill and for it to be taken but quelle horreur the Dáil dissolved, demonstrates that you not only know very little about the Dáil itself actually operates but what your own representative in there had the opportunity to do, but didn’t. The fact it took him ten years to even get a Bill on an order paper is very telling, let alone a parliamentary debate on it is telling.

      • Jolly Red Giant

        Clearly you have little knowledge of the operation of the Dail and the frequency of opportunity for opposition TDs to propose Private Members Motions up to quite recently. The rules of the Dail were changed in 2011 to significantly increase the opportunity for opposition TDs to propose Private Memebrs Motions.

        Between 1997 – 2007 Caoimhghin O Caolain had ONE Private Members Motion, proposed in November 2005 on ‘Irish Unification’

        During the same period Joe Higgins proposed ONE Private Members Motion in January 2007 on cancer services in Ireland following the death of Susie Long. The opportunity to propose this motion was directly as a result of the members of the technical group agreeing allowing time for the motion to be proposed (outside of the normal lottery rotation for Private Members Motions). Joe Higgins (in a 10 year period) had zero opportunity to propose a Private Members Motion on abortion rights – he was not given an opportunity between 1997-2002 (neither did O Caolain) and his slot on the rotation was due when the Dail was dissolved in 2007. On numerous occasions in the Dail between 1997-2007 Joe Higgins raise serious issues relating to the treatment of women in Irish society, including the enslavement of women in the sex ‘industry’, the provision of refuges for women subjected to domestic violence and the provision of frontline services for women subjected to violence, cuts in maternity services, the treatment of women in domestic service and the care ‘industry’ including low pay, etc. The rules of the Dail restricted the opportunity to raise issues and consequently Joe Higgins spent significantly more time campaigning on women’s rights outside the Dail.

        The comment you made about Joe Higgins is utterly unfounded and a political sectarian swipe against a political activist who has spent four decades campaigning for women’s rights (including abortion rights). And to be honest – given the antics of SF ministers in the North – the comments here from you are more than a little disingenuous.

        Wendy – just because something is not on the order paper does not mean it wasn’t in the pipeline.

        • I didn’t say it wasn’t in the pipeline. But Stephanie is correct that he could have placed it on the order paper at any time whether or not there was an opportunity to raise it in the Dáil. This was the case before the 2011 change to standing orders as well as after it (indeed, you’ll see from that link that there were numerous private members’ bills and motions from individual TDs, including one by Joe on the conflict in Sri Lanka).

          I’d also point out that Joe, as leader of the “independents” within the Technical Group from 2002-2007, had more opportunities than most to raise issues in the Dáil. He took Leaders’ Questions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays every third week, in rotation with the Greens and SF. I cannot recall a single occasion on which he used that opportunity to raise abortion; if he ever did, he certainly didn’t use it much.

        • JRG – I must have been asleep for the thirteen years I was a member of the Socialist Party. I respect Joe as a principled and committed ca,paigner for workers rights but I certainly don’t recall him or the party putting any significant effort into the fight for abortion rights. It wasn’t in the “what we stand for” section of the paper, wasn’t in election material and we weren’t part of any of the choice campaigns that had been going on. I’d go as far to say it was a non-issue for the party up until the political wind changed over the last two or three years.

        • @JRG – I can assure you I know far more about standing orders than I care to discuss here. Standing Orders changed in 2011, and again this year. TDs could table more than a single private members motion in their time – they just wouldn’t all appear on the Order Paper together.

          By your logic, a TD could only ever table ONE motion during a Dáil session. Utter nonsense.

          You’re missing the point I was making about motions – and that was, it’s open to a TD to put a motion down, they just might not necessarily get PM time on it if their only time available is through a TG or they are outside of the scope of that. Still Standing Order 32s existed in that time but to I’m unaware of Higgins ever using that to request a Ministerial debate on the issue. He had Leader’s Questions in the Dáil every month. And as Wendy pointed out, you can’t expect non-SP member to know something was in the ‘pipeline.’

          And to be fair, I have said previously before Clare Daly did a huge amount on women’s issues during her time in the SP.

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