Higgins, of course, is a genuine and committed socialist. Were the Lispole native ever to be given the chance he would seize of the assets of big companies and rich people in the name of redistribution to the workers. He’ll never get the chance, however, and a desire to assist his class warfare did not persuade his voters to support him in last Friday’s election.
I know plenty of people who voted for Higgins, not because they believe in his solution to problems but because they admire his honesty. With Higgins what you hear is what you get. He does not flinch from telling you what he thinks and answers every question directly. People admire his genuine concern for the underdog and the ordinary and his desire to serve them. They felt that his commitment deserved reward. But that doesn’t mean that they would back him if he was ever to get near to power: he was elected to be a dissenting voice and an entertaining irritant to those who control the levers.
Of course he would say that ‘we’ don’t like going to extremes when he’s ensconced as a right-wing radio presenter and columnist. But to the extent that one can discern extremes in politics, in light of what people have learned in recent weeks, one would have to ask the question as to whether the incarceration of poor children and their use as slave labour by state-sponsored institutions exemplifies a particular political ideology. The answer is: of course it does. And is such an ideology extreme? By any sane standards, of course it is.
So the structure of the state was built on the basis of intimidation by and subservience to religious orders, who were contracted the job of so doing by the ruling class, and who took the opportunity to exhort all the faithful to pray for the conversion of Russia and to live in fear of the satanic communists and their class warfare. Therefore when Irish workers say, speaking for themselves, that ‘We just don’t like going to extremes’, you have to take into account the fear of physical violence, shame and destitution that still hounds them. Most of the time, people who say things like this simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. They can’t see that the neo-liberal ideology to which they are so deeply in thrall, never more so than when they listen to the priestly caste of economists and financial commentators on the TV and radio every night, is extreme, is class warfare.
But when other Irish people say, speaking for others, that ‘we just don’t like going to extremes’, one hears what Marx described as ‘the didactic patronage of well-wishing bourgeois-doctrinaires, pouring forth their ignorant platitudes and sectarian crotchets in the oracular tone of scientific infallibility’.