24 August 2013
At its meeting on Saturday 24 August the National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland evaluated the continuing economic crisis and its effect on working people, north and south.
Despite much talk by the Irish government and the establishment media about “recovery,” projecting rising property prices as the first “green shoots of recovery,” the small growth in house prices is more an indication of a growth in speculation. The much-talked-about growth in exports as a means of exporting our way out of debt is proving as illusory as ever. With the ratio of debt to GDP worsening, this can only lead to further cuts in public spending as the government struggles to meet EU targets regarding the debt.
The forthcoming budget will be more of the same, with further cuts in public spending, while the Labour Party and its supporters within the trade union leadership will squeal a little about this or that unjust aspect of the budget but will grin and bear it. What is clear is that government spending will be further cut well into the foreseeable future, with more and more areas of spending, such as state pensions and other benefits, being further attacked.
In the Dublin Lock-out of 1913, the centenary of which we commemorate this year, the employers locked out more than twenty thousand workers, the majority of them members of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, to break the “new trade unionism” that it represented. Despite great poverty, hunger, an increasing child mortality rate, and the brutality of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the Dublin working class stood its ground and resisted.
While it is important to mark and celebrate the history of our class and its decisive battles, we need to go beyond commemoration. There is now a need for a “new trade unionism” for today. The Irish working class needs to draw lessons from the past in order to help it understand the present and to shape our future. There is an urgent need for a complete rethink of the path down which the present generation of trade union leaders has propelled the movement, a course that can only lead to the further demoralisation and marginalising of the trade union movement.
The labour movement needs to rid itself of its subservient attitude and approach. We need to emulate and take inspiration from the heroism and courage of those men, women and children of 1913. What they had then and we lack but badly need today is leadership, with a clear strategy for defending the working class and all it has struggled for and won, which is now being whittled away.
In the North the economic and social crisis is being used to accentuate existing sectarian divisions. The DUP and UUP vie with each other to see who can dive deeper into the septic pool of sectarianism. The recent attacks on the mayor of Belfast and the call for the blowing up of the Sinn Féin leadership show sectarianism plummeting to new depths. What the crisis has exposed is that these parties have no answers or solutions to the plight of the Protestant section of the working class. As the budget restraints from London tighten, unionism finds it increasingly difficult to dispense a shrinking largesse with which to control and manipulate the Protestant working class. The effects of the crisis, job losses, cuts in services and benefits and cuts in wages are being used to stoke sectarian tensions in order to deflect attention away from their own bankruptcy.
Rejectionist republicans and Sinn Féin have also been coat-trailing, trying to exploit moments of sectarian tension and pressure for their own short-term objectives. The recent display by a colour party in Co. Tyrone is not in the interests of building unity among working people. Retreating into past failed methods and positions is not the way forward. The real alternative is to campaign to protect jobs, to oppose cuts in the health service and other public services, which are being chipped away and dismantled, and to actively engage in campaigns that can ease and neutralise sectarian tensions.
Sectarianism is a dead end for our people that must be resisted by all means. While recognising that building the unity of our people is very difficult, with obstacles and road-blocks constantly thrown in the way, we have to work and strive to bring this about.
The CPI calls on workers not to be fooled by the bigots, who have nothing to offer except more of the same. Throughout our country the working class are experiencing the full brunt of the crisis of the system. The unionists in the North wish to deflect workers away from the real nature of their poverty, alienation and frustrations towards a belief that someone else is getting a better deal at their expense. In the South the trade union leadership and the Labour Party are happy to commemorate the 1913 Lock-out, yet a hundred years later workers are still without the right to be represented by a trade union.
Our message is clear. Don’t just commemorate: organise.