A World of growing Inequality – A world in crisis
- Marking over 100 years of communist organisation in Ireland advancing the cause of a 32-county socialist republic, resisting native capitalism and foreign imperialism, this political resolution has two central goals:
- to provide a Marxist-Leninist framework with which to understand the structures and dynamics of contemporary Irish and international class struggle; and
- to promote a Unity Programme as a strategic platform which at this time can draw together the varied struggles in which communists are engaged alongside other working-class and progressive activists.
- The global pandemic of Coronavirus disease exposed the enormous scale of exploitation and human degradation imposed globally upon the working people, peasants and the poor by monopoly capitalism, by imperialism. The pandemic crisis was borne most heavily by those who could least afford it, those who had few if any resources and little if any access to medical services. It exposed the real nature and ruthlessness of global capitalism/imperialism.
- The imperialist system of exploitation and oppression is a global capital conveyor belt in which wealth and poverty are inextricably linked and increasingly polarised. Wealth is extracted from the earth and the labouring masses—the source of all wealth—to enrich a tiny minority, operating on a global scale. Increased poverty and exploitation under the capitalist mode of production, and all its detrimental effects, will inevitably first hit hardest the poor in the poorest regions of the planet. The human costs have been devastating, almost incalculable, with women and children suffering the most.
- Since the last global economic crash of 2007/10, and since the onset of the global pandemic, we have witnessed the increasing concentration and monopolisation of capital and wealth and worsening social inequality, with the gap between rich and poor constantly expanding. The 2021 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report indicates that millionaires account for 1 per cent of the global population, for the first time in history. The world gained 5.2 million new millionaires in 2020 alone. The number of billionaires grows, while billions of workers, peasants and the poor experience continued falls in their incomes, rising inflation and deepening of poverty throughout the world where the capitalist mode of production dominates.
- From the Credit Suisse report it can also be seen that the bottom 50 per cent of adults for global distribution of wealth together accounted for less than 1 per cent of total global wealth at the end of 2020. In contrast, the richest top 10 per cent of adults own 82 per cent of global wealth, while the top wealthy individuals alone have nearly half (45 per cent) of all household assets. In reality, the bottom 50 per cent of the world’s population—4 billion people—possess no wealth and have very limited access, if any, to public infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, housing, and transport.
- These ratios have hardly changed in twenty years. More and more the greater share of wealth generated by labour is being acquired by the owners of capital. The world’s billionaires own 60 per cent of all wealth, and between 2009 and 2018 the number of billionaires it took to equal the wealth of the world’s poorest 50 per cent fell from 380 to 26 individuals. According to the Oxfam World Wealth Report, eight men now own the same wealth as half the world.
- The continued and growing domination by monopoly finance capital and the expansion of the wealth gap, together with the sharpening contradiction between the social character of production and the private appropriation of the means of production, have meant that these contradictions are constantly being exposed; The growing control and financialisation of the economy results in ever-greater short-term speculation to ensure greater profit returns, coupled with growing state and personal indebtedness, exposing the increasingly parasitic nature of the system. Tax havens, corruption and all sorts of criminal activities that are inherent in capitalism continue to grow.
- The drive to privatise, facilitated and promoted by national governments, and the outsourcing of public services are carried out in order to secure the dominance of private capital and to open up new avenues for speculative capital investment, resulting in the transfer of public resources to private or corporate interests. The growth of speculation, particularly in the finance sector, tends to lead to increased levels of privatisation, monopolisation, mergers, and acquisitions.
- Capitalism is forcing billions of people daily to endure blighted lives and unfulfilled dreams. Economic, political, social and cultural alienation is becoming a growing feature of people’s experience. People conditioned within the capitalist mode of production are driven from accepting the ruthless routine of consumption and competition with all human beings, thus growing the crisis in the ideological consensus cultivated by the ruling class that “there is no alternative”. However, in the absence of strong progressive leadership this has also led to a significant growth of the far Right and openly fascist forces.
- We witness the growth in extreme religions, as well as the imposition of the most backward mechanisms of controls placed on women’s rights and their role in society—all useful tools in the divide-and-rule strategies of capitalism globally. We experience a growing use of violence against women and the rise of misogynistic views resulting from the growing involvement and leadership by women in many struggles where workers are resisting attacks on their livelihood, on their families and communities. Women are to the fore in many of these critical struggles.
- The capitalist mode of production is incapable of providing a civilised humane just society as it is built upon exploitation and oppression. Not alone does the system experience almost permanent economic crisis, but there are growing signs of political, social, cultural and moral decay. More and more people no longer engage in elections for what they see as assemblies that do not reflect or meet their needs and interests, but rather reflect, facilitate and secure the needs of those of the elite: the ruling class and business interests.
- This increasing alienation is leading to a growth in the abuse of drugs, giving rise to drug cartels and organised crime—a growing source of capital accumulation, leading to a close working relationship between the state and criminal cartels in many parts of the world, which imperialism and the national state apparatus are using to restrict and control the people’s demands and their capacity to organise for radical change.
Exploitation and Super-Exploitation
- The modern global capitalist system is based on the three forms of exploitation of the surplus value of labour: absolute surplus value (increasing working hours and the number of workers); relative surplus value (increasing use of technology and productivity, which decreases the value of labour); and super-exploitation (driving wages below the value of labour power, the level needed for the social reproduction of labour). The capitalist class exploits labour through these different methods.
- The use by the capitalists of outsourcing, whereby companies in the global south are contracted by large transnational companies of the global north, will inevitably further intensify competition, increasing the ranks of the unemployed and the increasing spread of precarious working conditions in developed countries.
- Not alone were workers, peasants and the poor hardest hit by the pandemic, but imperialism, led by the United States along with the European Union, continues to impose great hardship, to defend and promote the interests of transnational corporations and continue unabated with the savage exploitation of workers and the over-exploitation of global natural resources to enrich the shareholders and owners of capital. This excessive exploitation of the natural world is the most important contributing factor in the global environment catastrophe that humanity now faces.
- The capitalist mode of production moulds and shapes everyone and everything into malleable forms in its efforts to create a global market of uncritical consumers. The expropriation of intimate personal and behavioural data by transnational corporations, such as Google and Facebook (Meta), has given rise to an intensified form of this process, where workers have been pummelled with marketing slogans, television commercials and scientifically tuned advertising is deployed to influence consumer habits, while the real material interests of the working-class remain unfulfilled.
- The scale, extent and centrality of the super-exploitation of women has yet to be fully recognised by the global workers’ movement. The unpaid care work done by women is estimated to be worth nearly $10.8 trillion a year; that is three times the size of the high-tech industry. Inequality is built into and is central to the system of exploitation. The majority of women have less income and fewer assets than men.
- While liberal feminism proclaims the struggle for emancipation complete when there is the same access for women to wealth through inheritance, investment, and the exploitation of others. This is not our struggle nor our goal.
- Women make up the greatest proportion of the world’s poorest households, and that proportion is growing. Women are more likely to be found in poorly paid and precarious employment, and are the source of huge profits, with cheap or free labour. They are also supporting the state and monopoly capitalism with billions of hours of unpaid or underpaid care work, a huge but unrecognised contribution to society.
- The demand for the socialisation of the labour of the individual in both spheres of workplace and in the home is the only path to true emancipation. Laundry, cooking, childcare, and other important and necessary work referred to as the drudgery of home life should be valued, respected, and shared on a collective scale.
- Nearly a billion people are still living in extreme poverty. Hundreds of millions of people are just one lost pay packet or one hospital bill or failed harvest away from swelling the ranks of the extreme poor. Capitalism sells the dream that having money and following the capitalist illusion we can all make it to the top, while the reality for the world’s poor is more illness and an earlier death. People in poor and working-class communities can expect to die ten or twenty years earlier than people in wealthy areas. In developing countries, a child in a poor family is twice as likely to die before the age of five than one in a rich family. This is the reality experienced by workers in Ireland and by billions of workers under real existing capitalism.
- At the same time, billions face poverty, hunger, mass unemployment, and super-exploitation. A new phase of the scientific and technological revolution is taking place, which may well lead to the displacement of millions of workers and existing jobs. Machines are introduced and adopted for tasks that now require abstract brain functions (artificial intelligence), together with other developments in such areas as information and communication technologies, robotics, the “internet of things”, 3D printing, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, and synthetic biology.
- The scientific and technological revolution and the huge advances are not being used and will not be used under capitalism to liberate humanity, but rather to further enslave workers and to intensify the exploitation of both labour and global natural resources. In the hands of monopoly capitalism, science is for creating ever-great profits, weakening workers’ organisations, and intensifying exploitation.
- Capitalism and the capitalist mode of production have become an obstacle and a brake on human progress. Scientific and technological advances that have the potential for human liberation if used for the benefit of workers and peoples are restricted by capitalist relations as a weapon for intensifying exploitation in production, for maximising profit, and for developing new and powerful military weaponry of mass repression and control.
War and Peace
- US Imperialism is stepping up its efforts to assert its domination economically, ideologically, politically, militarily and with the rise of China and other countries unwilling to be forced into the “uni-polar” hegemony of the United States, which has been the dominant feature of global politics for the past three decades. Working people continue to experience a global counter-offensive by monopoly capitalism, as imperialism continues to force back and reclaim economic, political and social gains won by the working-class in developed capitalist countries following the 1917 October Revolution in Russia.
- The victory of the counter-revolutionary forces and the overthrowing of socialism, particularly in the Soviet Union, continues to produce a bitter harvest for workers. The Soviet Union was one of the main bulwarks against imperialism’s aggressive military and political strategies, acting as a guarantor of workers’ rights and a global benchmark that the capitalist class had to contend with.
- With the overthrow of Soviet power, we have seen a massive growth in military spending by imperialist countries, in particular by the Unites States; the US military-industrial complex has gone into overdrive to safeguard its interests. The United States has spent $6.4 trillion on foreign military action and wars since 2001. The war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) alone cost more than $2.2 trillion. The United States, as the leading global imperialist power, has increased its military budget from $200 billion in 2001 to more than $750 billion per year, while millions of its citizens live in abject poverty and its infrastructure is in decay.
- The United States maintains more than eight hundred military bases around the world, while increasingly the focus of those bases is being directed eastwards, with close to four hundred military bases in the Indo-Pacific region to encircle China.
- According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spends more on its armed forces than the next eleven countries combined, with expenditure for 2020 reaching $778 billion. Total global spending on military forces rose to $2 trillion in 2020. Since the end of the first “Cold War” the United States has launched or participated in six major conflicts: the Gulf War (1991); the war against Yugoslavia (1999); Afghanistan War (2001); Iraqi War (2003); Libyan War (2011); and Syrian War (2011).
- Wars and the threat of wars are an inherent part of imperialism, for in order to dominate and control markets they need the material means to do so, which means military and economic power combined with a dependent and subservient national elite. Since the 1950s and the beginnings of the Cold War the United States has continued to use various military interventions, threats and strategic pressure points in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region in order to sustain and consolidate its dominant global economic and political power.
- The United States and its NATO allies in Europe have advocated and promoted NATO’s eastward expansion, with the goal of including all the central and eastern European countries in NATO’s sphere of influence and control in order to corral and contain Russia’s strategic space. The strategy of “colour revolutions” continues to be played out, with material and monetary backing for the most reactionary chauvinistic and fascist forces, through so-called “independent” non-governmental organisations such as the primarily US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, being central to that strategy. The invasion by Russia of Ukraine, identified as a likely risk of this intensification of inter imperialist rivalry for many years, has now come to pass.
- The European Union has also stepped up its own military and strategic approach with the establishment of “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (PESCO), which the Irish government has joined, resulting in a permanent commitment to maintaining this state’s military capacity in line with that of NATO and increasing its budgetary spending on the military annually. Irish military personnel also participate in NATO headquarters in the Hague and continue to allow the use of Shannon Airport by the US military, as well as Irish military involvement in various military adventures in Africa, under the guise of “peacekeeping”, to prop up French colonial interests; the Irish political and military establishment are fully committed to the political and military strategy of the European Union and of NATO.
- In the Middle East, the United States and the European Union have given unquestioning support to the Zionist government of Israel and to the most backward religious regimes in the region. This is to block the emergence of progressive left forces and to stop them gaining or growing in influence, as part of their strategy of defeating and marginalising such forces.
- They obscure their interventions to protect capitalism and their interests by describing it in such language as defending “freedoms”, the “rule of law”, upholding “human rights”, or providing “humanitarian aid”; terms that are used to create a pretext for their military interventions. In Asia, the United States has sharpened tensions on the Korean peninsula and has also implemented its “Indo-Pacific strategy”, aimed at containing the growing economic and political power of China.
Global Balance of Forces
- Since the dismantling of socialism in eastern Europe, the United States has sought to create a uni-polar world where any threat or any sovereign move by a country to forge an independent path outside the influence of US hegemony has been met with interference, sanctions and, where necessary, military intervention. It economically punishes non-compliance, and ultimately enforces its will through either direct military action or supporting, financing and arming their domestic allies.
- Since the crash in 2007/10, and with the success of China, both in growth and in being able to insulate itself from the effects of the financial crash, the balance of forces has begun to shift towards a more multi-polar world, where the dominance and hegemony of the United States and its NATO allies is beginning to wane. China, with the general support of Russia and Iran, is not toeing the line in what the United States calls a “rules-based international order” (i.e. rules based on what Washington dictates). Instead, China is advocating a broad, UN-based order of sovereign states underpinned by international law.
- Since the defeat of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, as a counter-balance, the peoples of the world have endured more than three decades of unchallenged domination by imperialism with the United States at the head, backed by Western Europe and Japan. In Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, peoples have had to endure political, economic and military domination,employing the most violent mercenary and right-wing, fascist and extremist forces, through either economic starvation or the bombing and destruction of entire cities and infrastructure, causing untold hardship for the citizens.
- Our duty and our goal is to bring an end to the barbaric capitalist system, and we must give support to those peoples that are being targeted by US imperialism. The CPI affirms the sovereign right of nations to self-determination without external interference and supports a broad UN-based order of sovereign states underpinned by international law.
Capitalist Mode of Production is the cause of Global Environmental Crisis
“Let us not flatter ourselves over much on our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us.”Friedrich Engels
- Global emissions of carbon dioxide are now likely to reach their highest level in human history, equalling or surpassing the record set in 2018, according to forecasts published by the International Energy Agency. Despite decades of international agreements—the Rio Earth Summit (1992); the Kyoto Protocol (1997); the Copenhagen and Cancún Agreements (2009 and 2010); Paris Agreement (2015); and Glasgow (2021)—capitalist governments have come up with no other solution than steering humanity on a track of environmental and civilisation destruction.
- Its development was driven by genocide, slavery, plunder, and innumerable wars. The wealth of nature was regarded as a free gift, but always at an unacknowledged cost. The damage done to the environment has reached a critical stage. The global warming and other environmental damage caused by monopoly capitalism threatens to make large parts of the earth uninhabitable. Such are the changes caused to the environment that the post-war period has been recognised as a new geological era, given the name Anthropocene, meaning “human generated”.
- The over-accumulation that is a feature of contemporary capitalism has led to a catastrophic overuse of natural resources, with finite limitations of these resources. The capitalist system is driven by its hunger for short-term profit. While capitalism is the root cause of the environmental crisis, it has lost control of the situation. It presupposes the continual exploitation not only of workers and primary producers but also of the natural resources of the world. The liberal and “green” understanding of the environment, with no relation to the resistance to capitalism and human exploitation, is inadequate and certain to fail.
- It is within this context that the workers’ movement needs to place the current pandemic, and all future pandemics. Such events can be seen as an unforeseen environmental repercussion in response to monopoly capitalism, globalisation, and the takeover of monopoly agribusiness and the transformation of vast land areas around the globe. The consequences can be seen in the destruction on an unprecedented scale of whole ecosystems, primarily in the global south, this has led in the growth of large masses of urban populations and massive feedlots containing monocultures of domesticated animals, as part of the international food chain. This has served to dislocate untold numbers of species, generating new epidemiological susceptibility—conditions ripe for the transfer of pathogens to human populations, transmitted along the global trade routes of capital.
- The Irish state has set itself the target of weaning the economy off fossil fuels by 2050, generating electricity from wind and sunshine. The dream is that capitalism, which created the crisis, can somehow carry on expanding and find some technological miracle to avert the catastrophe, without any social or environmental change in the system. Technological solutions are limited by the laws of physics, but they are also subject to the laws of capitalism: the pursuit of constant growth and constant profit accumulation. It is clear is that continued exponential economic growth is no longer possible, and capitalism that is not growing is in crisis; so, there is no capitalist solution to the problem of climate change. Capitalism created the problem, and it is not capable of solving it.
- The super-exploitation of the natural world is central to the activity and planning of capitalists. It is not true to say the whole of humanity is guilty of the worldwide onslaught on the environment. The destructive emission of greenhouse gases, the massive clearing of forests, the depletion of fossil fuels and the major pollution caused by the use of weapons of war have been essential to capitalist over-production; and imperialism cannot limit these trends seriously without weakening itself.
- Concern for and the protection of the continuing existence of life on earth depends on an appropriate relationship between humanity and nature. This is not possible when the creation of profit is raised to the status of the dominant law of society. Capitalism has taken on a momentum that makes it impossible for it to take anything else into consideration.
- The environment cannot be rationally dealt with as a single issue; nevertheless, action is so urgent at this stage of the twenty-first century that we must support all necessary alliances to halt the degradation of the planet. Waste is integral to capitalism: waste of material, waste of labour, waste of natural resources and waste of whole regions of the world, and, it may be added, waste of opportunities for human development.
Ireland in Crisis
- Since the 25th National Congress in 2017 the working-class of Ireland has experienced further attacks on their living standards. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the deep underlying inequalities throughout the country, north and south.
- The pandemic exposed the widespread nature of low pay, precarious employment, precarious shelter, and chronic overcrowding. It exposed the two-tier health service, the gross underfunding of the public health service, and the priority given to promoting private health insurance and private health services. It laid bare the deep exploitative nature of the capitalist system and in particular the parasitic nature of the Irish capitalist class as well as continued British misrule. It also exposed the imperialist nature of the European Union.
- The response of the Irish ruling class, the European Union and monopoly capitalism globally was twofold: (a) epidemiological; and (b) economic. Their priority was to protect the interests of capital, despite the possible risks to health and the possible collapse of the underfunded public health system. The answer to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic was massive state borrowing and the mass sacking of workers. The solution to the debt crisis has always been to make the workers and the poor pay for the growing national debt through “austerity” and the privatisation of public goods, services, lands, and infrastructure.
- Language shift and the destruction of the Gaeltacht is a direct result of colonialism and imperialism and has led to the assimilation of Irish society into the Anglo-American hegemonic entity. The promotion of the Irish language is objectively an essential part of resistance to imperialist domination.
The Structure of International Capital in Ireland: The triple lock of imperialism
- The British state remains a major centre of power of imperialism in Ireland. Though the antagonism between British imperialism and the Irish people is played down by the establishment, it remains a long-lasting and threatening one. The struggle for an independent Irish state was born in defiance of the British ruling class but ended in a compromise with it. The Northern provincial state entity was directly a creation of British monopoly-capitalist interests in Ireland and remains so today.
- British policy over the centuries has been to stunt and disfigure the Irish economy, creating an uneven and dependent relationship. This has been reflected in an evolving role for Ireland within the empire, with massive transfers of capital, livestock, other food resources and, in more recent centuries, labour resources from Ireland to the imperial centre, as well as cannon fodder for Britain’s many colonial wars of conquest. British imperialism will always be concerned about revolutionary and democratic change in Ireland and will act to throttle any progressive change. The British state still dominates and supervises the internal “political settlement” to suit its own needs and interests.
- Since partition, all economic decisions have been determined by the needs and interests of the British state and capitalist interests. The British state imposed governmental institutions that it controlled, both directly and indirectly, using economic levers that it wielded over the local government, which lacked its own currency, had limited taxation powers, and had no say over trade agreements. The North of Ireland was and remains a peripheral economy within the British state, dependent upon that state. This was and is a colonial relationship.
- The British state has used a number of options to secure its interests, in the first instance by establishing a sectarian regional government with limited powers. When those institutions proved incapable of holding the situation, it reverted to direct rule from London and now to a form of internal settlement. All have proved incapable of working in the interests of the people as a whole.
- Given the history of the North of Ireland, many economic and social reforms arose out of the internal needs and changes that were required in Britain and reflected the balance of forces, accommodating the demands made by the British labour movement. These gains are being eroded as the ruling class exploits the opportunities presented by the weakness of the labour movement and progressive forces generally.
- The Belfast Agreement of 1998 opened up a political space for dialogue and provided a platform for achieving equality and parity of esteem. In the economic and social areas the limitations are clear, and the power of the British state remains intact. There is an urgent need to advance beyond this agreement lest it perpetuate the sectarian divisions that need to be overcome.
- The Stormont House Agreement of December 2014 is the latest reflection of the strategic interests and the primacy of the British state. The Northern Ireland Executive, dominated by the DUP and Sinn Féin, has failed to come forward with any progressive economic or social policies, but instead accepts two of the principal tenets of British government policy in imposing public-private partnerships and the private finance initiative (PPP-PFI) and continuing the policy of privatisation. Both parties can argue that these were not their decisions: the lack of fiscal powers leaves them unaccountable.
- Ireland, north and south, class struggle and the struggle against imperialist hegemony and control are inextricably linked. Greater democracy and greater accountability of elected representatives and institutions is still a central question. Securing greater fiscal power for the Northern Assembly can provide for greater economic, social and political cooperation on an all-Ireland basis and provide the focus for national united working-class action, which can also help in challenging and ultimately defeating entrenched sectarianism.
- After nearly half a century of membership of the EEC and then the European Union, Britain finally left on 1st January 2021. From the beginning of the exit negotiations the British state was confronted by a number of contending interests. A popular majority voted to leave, for a variety of different reasons, while significant sections of big business wanted to retain as much access as possible to the EU single market. In the end, Britain got the “special relationship” with the European Union that it had identified a number of years ago and the “Northern Ireland Protocol.”
- The British-imposed border in Ireland was used as a pawn in negotiations with the European Union to secure its interests, the needs of the Irish people being well down the list of priorities. Those negotiations confirm the life experience of many colonised and dominated peoples and nations: that imperialism has only interests to pursue and only temporary friends.
- The Northern Ireland Protocol agreed between the European Union and the British state has now placed the economic border between the two down the middle of the Irish Sea, while the political border remains as before. The Six Counties will constitutionally remain within the British state while staying within the EU single market, though Britain is outside it.
- This development is a definite weakening of the east–west economic power relations, and economic ties between the Six Counties and Britain that has the potential to grow over time, and the potential to develop greater all-Ireland economic and social policies, even within conditions of EU control.
The European Union
- The European Union is essentially an alliance of monopoly-capitalist forces to further their class interests. Its structures and treaties are designed to block any path towards socialism. It cannot be reformed and must be challenged and defeated if we are to achieve real, profound changes, opening the road to socialist revolution.
- In response to the very real “threat” of socialism and to prevent the advance of the left in Europe after the Second World War, integration was necessary in order to reconstruct Western Europe in the interests of protecting monopoly capital. The US also availed of the weakness of European capital to extend its influence through the Marshall Plan, as it had through Lend Lease in the course of the War. The subsequent treaties all consolidated the power of the central EU institutions relative to the constituent states and have extended the power of business interests at the expense of the working-class. The common EU currency was also set up, for political reasons, as a part of this process.
- As it has developed, the European Union has assumed more and more powers, diverting large areas of economic, financial and social decision-making from the member states to the unelected Commission, thus seeking to limit the effects of working-class and popular struggles at the level of the member state. Economic and social policy is defined and presented as a mere technical question, devoid of any class, political or economic interest, thus separating economy and politics and concealing the class forces at work.
- The EU integration process and the transfer of powers is designed to limit the sovereignty and political independence of member states, so as to curtail independent economic and political action. This involves the transfer of budgetary powers to the EU Commission, the acceptance of supervision by European finance capital through the institutions of the EU Central Bank, and expanding the anti-democratic, technocratic rule of the EU Commission, which institutes policies that are in the interests of European monopoly capital.
- This does not mean that European monopoly capital has merged to such a degree that its “allegiance” has been entirely transferred from its “own state” to an artificially created multinational superstate. It sees its interests and its power as best secured through cooperation at the European and the global level.
- The Irish government will accept and impose the orders of the European Union, willingly or otherwise. The transfer by the Irish state of parts of its sovereign power to the European Union was a class decision, made by the Irish ruling class. This reflected its alliance with international monopoly capital, which secures its dominant class position in Ireland.
- Since the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon, the militarisation of the European Union has also accelerated, with EU states no longer content with dependence on the United States and NATO. The increased powers for EU institutions to push for centralised foreign and security policy mean that Irish defence policy is being shaped by decisions taken in Brussels. Irish state neutrality is being undermined by a servile collaborationist Irish establishment. EU-directed military strategy of developing and building battle groups and PESCO, subjugate the Irish Department of Defence to the geopolitical interests of the core EU states and thereby NATO.
- Following Brexit, the European Union has paid lip service to the Belfast Agreement and the special consideration required regarding Brexit on people living in the Six Counties. However, in reality, the European Union has no interest in “protecting the Belfast Agreement” or ensuring that the British border in Ireland remains frictionless.
- For the European Union, the Six Counties are merely a bargaining chip. The EU Commission does not take decisions according to the needs of the people. Its whole approach in the negotiations with the British is/was done to ensure the integrity of the EU single market and the capitalist freedoms it affords big businesses.
- The deepening contradictions and the crisis within the European Union continue togrow. One expression of this was Brexit and the withdrawal of Britain from membership. Another is the response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine which opened up new divisions as the EU struggled to find a common approach, particularly in relation to energy supply.
- The big capitalist powers of Europe, particularly Germany and France, continue to organise to promote and strengthen the European Union as an imperialist bloc under their control while at the same time working in cooperation, through NATO, with the US strategy of encircling Russia and confronting China.
- This process is not without contradictions as the US is using the crisis in the Ukraine to reassert its clear domination by pursuing a strategy to break EU energy relations with Russia and replace them with energy dependency on US reserves and that of its key energy supplier allies in the Middle East. This strategy is to bring Germany and France to heel. This can only lead, at a later stage, to pressures and tensions between the two blocs.
- Both should be considered strategic economic and military adversaries. This approach informs and shapes the thinking of the European Union in regard the development of the EU military capacity, as expressed in its PESCO strategy, which is to project its own strategic economic and military interests globally, as well as ensuring the capacity for domestic compliance to the economic and political strategy within member states. For these reasons, the potential for inter-imperialist rivalries and tensions exists.
- The pandemic of Coronavirus disease provided the means and the opportunity for strengthening the control of Brussels over member states. The Growth and Stability Pact was “suspended” and the European Union removed limits on the purchases of government debt by the EU Central Bank, which is acting de facto as a lender of last resort. Thereby mutualising member state borrowing and leading to further control over fiscal policies. It will give the ECB and the EU Commission even more leverage and control, further centralising power and the undermining democracy at the level of member state.
- This is a further undermining of, and a profound attack on, national democracy. No matter who the people vote for, economic, social and budgetary priorities will be decided in the interests of big business. This is a victory for the ruling classes throughout the European Union, as their strategy is to remove budgetary strategy from possible influence or pressure from national class struggles, making national decision-making a mere rubber-stamp process in the interests of European big business, of big capital and the big powers within the European Union.
The influence of United States
- Since 2002 Shannon Airport has functioned as a virtual US air base and has facilitated the transit of American troops, weapons and prisoners on Irish soil. The Irish state is unwilling to curtail or end the American military use of Shannon Airport, instead it continues to accommodate the US government. It has also failed in its human rights obligations to implement monitoring or inspection of those US aircraft involved in the transport of prisoners. Instead, it has assisted a US policy of continuous war and the atrocities it commits in connection with this, presenting a serious breach of Irish neutrality.
- US transnational corporations influence the fiscal policy of the Irish state, but they do not run it. This over dependency on Foreign Direct Investment has and continues to distort the economy in the Republic, using it as an export platform and a tax haven. In addition, the “imperial rent” in the form of corporation taxes extracted from global corporations distorts the budgetary strength of the state. Transnational corporations have no loyalty to a nation and therefore cannot be the basis for sustainable economic development. Their goal is profit, making use of the proximity of and access to the EU market, and their presence in Ireland is conditional on the influence they hold over the Irish ruling class and its state.
- These TNC assert influence over the state mainly from their contribution to maintaining employment and their implicit threat to leave if optimal conditions are not maintained to suit their interests; the Irish bourgeoisie is not strong enough by itself to maintain its rule, and therefore an alliance with external capital is necessary. This dependent relationship is reflected in the number of Irish-owned businesses is more than 275,000, whereas foreign-owned enterprises amount to a little over 6,000. However, the turnover and gross value added of transnational corporations is almost double that of all Irish-owned companies, revealing the utter dependence of the Irish economy on those transnational corporations.
- A major threat hangs over Ireland’s whole economic development policy, which is centred on low tax and low regulation to attract US and other transnational corporations to set up in Ireland. Recently the Irish State agreed to sign on for a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15 per cent. Part of the agreement will also force companies to pay taxes where their goods and services are sold rather than where the company has its head office. How this will impact Ireland’s current economic development policy remains to be seen. What is need is an alternative economic and development strategy to break that dependency.
The Nature of the Irish State
- The Irish state is dependent on and subservient to the triple-lock of imperialism: Britain, the European Union, and the United States. Its institutions, such as the courts, uphold the laws generated at the EU level, they uphold the rights of transnational corporations in relation to their tax contributions and their labour contracts, and they abide by British policy in the North of Ireland.
- Since the early 1970s the capitalist class, both nationally and globally, has been engaged in a systematic strategy to find new avenues for investing surplus capital. In fact, it sees privatisation and commercialisation of public services as crucial areas for investment, looking for new ways to accumulate more capital, i.e. profits. This has resulted in the widespread privatisation and commercialisation of publicly owned companies and public services, including health, education, and housing. It is also a strategy to push back the post-war gains made by the working-class.
- Over the course of the pandemic the state “commandeered” private hospitals; but this was to protect capitalism from its contradictions—underfunding public hospitals and commodification and privatising of medical services. The COVID-19 pandemic clearly identified the need for a fully funded free national public health service. The state paid exorbitant rent on the bed facilities to the owners of the hospitals. This process has and is taking place in the Six Counties, where the dismantling the public health system has been ongoing for many decades resulting in the worst medical outcomes of any other areas within the British state jurisdiction.
- The dominant ideology peddles the myth that the people’s needs for housing, health services, education and many other public services can best be met by private companies and corporations, that the “market” is best placed to provide effective services, and that supply and demand should be used for allocating and determining price, quality and availability of these basic human needs.
- The current coalition government, like previous governments in the Republic and the Six Counties, no matter the combination of political parties that make them up, is committed to financial deregulation and financialisation. The most recent housing strategies “Housing for All” (RoI) and “Housing Supply Strategy” (NI) both effectively reinforce and give priority to the private provision of shelter. It a strategy to ensure that both private and corporate landlords’ interests are not challenged but can only grow. This practice of the state subsidising private owners has been well oiled, as we see with the practice in the housing market of state money being paid to private landlords.
- The interests of builders, speculators, property developers, local landlords and global property investment landlords remain primary. This is clearly seen in the housing crisis and the growing indebtedness and financialisation required for low and middle-income families to be able to obtain basic goods and services, such as housing. Increasing indebtedness through the commodification of housing, as of other aspects of the welfare state, force more and more working families into precarious private rental sector.
- Housing policy in the Republic has always tended towards private ownership which has helped to cement the interests of the ruling class. Rising house prices helped to manufacture consent among middle-class workers over decades for a housing system based on profit rather than need. As the recent figures show, this consent is dwindling as it becomes increasingly clear to working people whose interests a housing system based on private ownership serves; it serves the landlords and the bankers, not working people.
- The priority given to the private housing sector and the almost complete abandonment of the building and provision of public housing by both the Irish government and the Northern Executive results in part from the demonising of public housing as a “failure”, categorising areas with a concentration of social and public housing as the cause of problems rather than an acknowledgement that inequalities, poverty and lack of social infrastructure and the economic system itself are the source of these problems. This is also reflected in the ongoing strategy to undermine the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, one of the important democratic victories from the NICRA struggle.
- This emphasis on the private ownership of housing, with more and more working individuals and families being forced into the private or corporate rental sector, is leading to a growing concentration of wealth and monopolisation. Rather than a state-supported widening of access to affordable rental accommodation, neoliberalism has resulted in a concentration of property ownership among wealthier households, which draw on existing housing wealth and may acquire additional properties as landlords, as well as growing international capital control.
- The Republic today needs to obtain 78 per cent of all real-estate capital from internationally backed institutional investors, with the remaining 22 per cent, or €1.2 billion, to come from domestic sources. This dependence on foreign capital will be further heightened following the departure of both Ulster Bank and KBC from the Republic’s financial sector.
- €4.2 billion in capital was pumped into the commercial and residential property market by foreign private finance providers each year between 2017 and 2019. This amounts to almost 78 per cent of the total private funding in each of those years, when approximately 13,000 residential units were built.
- It is forecast that, as housing output climbs to the required annual level of at least 30,000 units in the coming years, the capital requirement to pay for that construction will more than double to €11 billion a year, with some estimates that possibly 86 per cent of that capital investment, or €9.5 billion, will come from international investors, thereby strengthening the core position of global finance capital in the provision of shelter.
- This financialisation is not confined to the Republic but is also a growing trend in the Six Counties and across member states of the European Union. Institutional investment in Europe’s residential market reached a new record in 2020, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of total acquisition. This is a huge jump from a rate of 10 per cent in 2015.
- The same commodification strategy has been applied to the provision of health services. The systematic and deliberate underfinancing of the public health services over many decades, resulting in the closure of wards and hospitals, the reduction in bed capacity, and longer waiting lists and operation lists, has had a devastating effect on the health of working people. Through this process of giving priority to private health services, both the Irish and the British government have forced more and more people to provide their own private health insurance, thereby creating a growing market for private medicine. It has also resulted in a growing proportion of the public health budget being channelled into the growing private medical sector.
- The provision of health services is also experiencing growing and deepening penetration by private capital, both domestic and foreign, in both the Republic and the Six Counties, where the people have benefited from the establishment in 1946 of the British National Health Service, which remains one of the greatest advances made by the working-class in Britain. The strategy by both the Irish and British governments equates to state-sponsored inequalities in access, funding and provision of hospital care.
- The Irish governments response to the crisis in healthcare was to come forward with it new “Sláintecare” strategy, for a properly funded public health system where access is universal, delivered through progressive, multifaceted reform implementation of the current healthcare provision. The removal of private practice from public hospitals. Experience has shown working people that their lives a littered with un-implemented reports on healthcare, housing, free education. The ruling elites have no interests in challenging their own class interests.
- Equally, the NHS has come increasingly under attack in the last number of decades. The British ruling class, acknowledging the popularity of the NHS among the mass of the people, rather than attempting to abolish it openly beganto systematically hollow it out by means of cut- backs, privatisation, and the subcontracting of important services. We see this in the growing influence of private medical corporations in the Six Counties, such as Ulster Independent Clinic and Kingsbridge Private Hospital. The Six Counties are used as a testing ground for the cuts and privatisation and underfunding resulting in waiting lists 100 times longer than in Britain.
- In the face of this gradual erosion of the NHS, a defensive posture can only serve to delay the inevitable dismantling of this historic advance. The primary decisions on the NHS will continue to be made in a London parliament that is committed to destroying the system of universal health services. This lack of power over decisions around NHS is a clear example that demonstrates the need for the self-determination of the Irish people.
- While we may be able to delay this and even to make local gains, such as preventing the closure of a particular hospital, the writing is on the wall unless we can adopt a new strategy on this question. But while defence is important, it is not enough in the face of a denial of basic rights and the systematic dismantling of our health services. We need a strategy that is both defensive and offensive, not reliant on help from a London parliament that is the main culprit in the destruction of public health services in the Six Counties. The responsibility of this destruction must be exposed and challenged in order to unite our class against our common enemy.
- In the Republic the situation is in many respects worse. The post-war gains in the area of public health were much more modest and failed to secure anything comparable to the National Health Service in Britain and the Six Counties. In 1957 the government established the Voluntary Health Insurance (VHI) Board, a subsidised state-sponsored company that provided health insurance to those who could afford it. This policy decision resulted in the creation of a two-tier health service, which remains in operation today.
- Medical services in the Republic operate as an increasingly divergent two-tier system, with public services being run down while other services continue to lurch towards an US-style system. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the gross inequality in the provision of health services. It exposed a situation where most of the middle-classes are happily moving towards private health insurance, even as the prices for such coverage continue to rise at an exorbitant rate.
- The introduction by the Department of Finance of tax relief for private hospitals, a direct result of lobbying by private interests, has had enormous ramifications for public hospitals, encouraging private profit-making operators into the system.
- The only positive advance in the last few decades in the Republic has been the securing of women’s right to choose in the “Repeal the Eighth” referendum, which will now allow for the provision of abortion. In the 1920s the Irish people overthrew one oppressor, only to hand over the shackles to another. The influence of the Catholic Church and some self-interested medical professionals on public health policy has had a deep impact hostile to the provision of public medical services.
Class struggle and anti-Imperialism are not separate struggles
- The Communist Party of Ireland continues to lead the way in identifying the class nature of struggle and bringing forward a scientific and historical analysis of Irish society. Learning and applying the ideas and experiences of Lenin and Connolly, we reiterate our belief in the inter-connectedness of the struggles for socialism and national independence or national liberation. Both arenas of struggle are dependent upon the advancement of both. This approach remains a prerequisite to the development of class politics and the building of socialism.
- We recognise the historic role of Irish Republicanism in unifying progressive forces in opposition to British imperialism. We therefore identify Republicanism as a progressive tendency containing the potential of developing a class analysis. The CPI rightly identifies imperialism as the key impediment to national liberation and the occupation of Ireland as critical in retarding the development of class politics.
- We share a common view with Republicanism in identifying British imperialism in Ireland as violent, sectarian, repressive and fundamentally undemocratic, based as it is on the continued repression of the democratic wishes of the Irish people. Opposition to or acceptance of colonial power has been and continues to be the defining line between reform and revolution in Irish politics.
- Although Republicanism has played a crucial role in Irish history in articulating the demands and needs of Irish people, organising resistance and providing a broad front in opposition to imperial rule, it remains to be seen whether Republicanism can continue to carry that role into the 21st Century, as imperialism refines its tactics and learns how to manoeuvre its enemies.
- The central weakness of Republicanism has been and is that it lacks a clear understanding of class struggle as the driver of Irish politics and its centrality to radical social change. Republicanism has been based on class coalition and lacking a clear analysis of the nature of struggle under a capitalist mode of production. Republicanism was shaped more by an agrarian, fenian tradition, rather than by class struggle.
- One of the central weaknesses historically of Republicanism is that it has failed to grasp that separation from Britain will not necessarily be followed by a progressive reorganisation of society. As Communists, we are clear that imperialism is a function of capitalism and all struggles under capitalism are class struggles.
- The over-emphasis on British imperialism as the key source of oppression has led Republicanism to enter all class alliances with Irish bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoise elements in the hope of ending British rule. This lack of development as an ideology has led Republicanism into crisis after crisis, and an inability to achieve the demand of national independence.
The Struggle against Partition
- A hundred years ago (1921) the Irish revolution was defeated by a coalition of British imperial forces, sectarian reactionaries, and the most parasitic dependent elements of the Nationalist bourgeoise, both within and without the Republican movement, resulting in the partitioning of the country and the establishment of two states in orbit of British empire.
- After almost 30 years of bitter armed struggle against imperialism, this process has been repeated with Britain creating a grand coalition, incorporating Sinn Féin, the Irish government and Unionism in a series of agreements consolidating and updating British authority in Ireland and decimating Republicanism.
- All these arrangements conspire to continue the dependent and peripheral nature of the Northern economy and the denial of the people’s capacity to change or influence fundamental economic and social policy. The only lasting democratic solution to the political conflict in Ireland is the ending of British rule and the creation of democratic structure based on universal suffrage of the Irish people.
- The Communist Party of Ireland, while welcoming the ‘Peace Process’ in the hope that it would end unnecessary deaths, holds that this process in Ireland is in fact a pacification counter insurgency process driven by the needs of imperialism rather than those of Irish working-class. This process has allowed imperialism to renegotiate itself out of the defence of a failed state and its anachronistic support of sectarian ascendency into a new accommodation with class allies in Ireland, the US and EU more in keeping with the 21st Century.
- The Communist Party of Ireland has come to the understanding that the ‘Peace Process’ is essentially a British, US and EU peace process prefaced on the false denial of the imperialist role of Britain in Ireland and of imperialism itself. British imperialist peace was and is predicated on acceptance of the following:
- The imperial right to rule in Ireland.
- The legitimacy of Northern Ireland as a governing entity.
- The acceptance of all its armed and unarmed forces.
- The end of armed struggle by Republicans.
- The acceptance of constitutionalism as the only legitimate path to pursue of national unity.
- The acceptance of British defined consent and British imposed limits to Irish democracy.
- The Good Friday realignment/ renegotiation of British imperialism in Ireland does, on the face of it, point to a consideration of the possibility of a unified Ireland and much allusion to the potential of a Border Poll providing the mechanism whereby this can happen. It is clear that any decision to hold a border poll remains with the British Secretary of State and any decision around the results of a poll again is firmly in the gift of the British alone.
- Workers, north and south, cannot afford a passive strategy which would allow others to decide our fate. We need to bring forward demands and develop strategies that put working-class interests to the fore. We need to educate, agitate and organise to build for unity, peace and socialism through working-class unity and effort. Raising demands and developing struggles on an all-Ireland basis, where possible, to turn an aspiration for a United Ireland into concrete forms of social and political campaigns.
- The institutions and processes established under the Good Friday Agreement represent a high point in British imperial achievement, in not only gaining national and international acceptance of its racial and sectarian narrative about Ireland, but in recruiting large sections of the Republican movement to that acceptance.
- The Communist Party of Ireland recognises that Stormont is in fact an institutionalisation of sectarianism, where Nationalist is pitted against Unionist, in the futile pursuit of gaining dominance over each other within a set of institutions designed and incorporated to deny any control of their respective lives. This is evidenced in continued battles over the most basic human liberties, i.e. language, abortion or trade union rights, access to social services etc. Stormont has shown itself to be unworkable, collapsing six times since its inception and leaving citizens without a functioning government for over 35% of the time since devolution began.
- We recognise that the role of Stormont is to provide a democratic façade to the continued denial of democracy in Ireland. The dynamic of this process is to reinforce sectarianism as respective forces vie to win domination over each other. The purpose is the exoneration of Britain from the process. Executive power remains firmly with the British ruling class.
- Economically, imperial underdevelopment continues apace with the moribund coalition of DUP and Sinn Féin overseeing the implementation of British cuts in the form of neoliberal austerity.
- The incorporation of Sinn Féin as co-administrators of the Six-County entity has led to the demotion of Unionism in its role as sole administrator of British rule. This has resulted in a crisis of identity as the ascendant protectors of the Union. The recent elections in May 2022 to the Belfast Assembly has created new difficulties for Unionism. With Sinn Féin now the largest party in the Assembly, it is entitled to become the First Minister. “Northern Ireland” was established to maintain and sustain a Unionist majority but given the change in demographics that is now not the case. The outcome of those Assembly elections has been a serious physiological blow to Unionism and may open different sets of possibilities.
- The CPI is unwavering in its commitment to building a socialist united Ireland. We emphasise that “Northern Ireland” is a failed state and call for a British Declaration to withdraw allowing Irish people to decide their own destiny by establishing a national democratic state. This can only be secured by a national democratic revolutionary transformative strategy.
- The British withdrawal from the European Union creates both opportunities and adds to complexities of imperialism in Ireland. The struggle around the “Northern Ireland Protocol” is best characterised as part of the inter-imperialist struggle between the EU and Britain with regard to the latter’s future trading relationship and access to markets with that bloc. The discussions around the “Northern Ireland Protocol” are a reflection of the manoeuvring between these two power blocs, both using them as pawns on the imperial chess board.
- Brexit has shattered previously shared positions and interests. The divergence of British and European imperialist interests has led the southern bourgeoisie to align with Europe and sections of Unionism with Britain, while British capitalism renegotiates its future relationship with the European Union.
- The arrangements contained within the “Protocol” that have been put in place allowing the north to remain in the EU free trade zone while being part of the UK have opened up significant political and logistic problems and contradictions for both imperial powers.
- The recent elections to the Belfast Assembly reflected the growing impact and the outworking of the Brexit vote. Its growing impact on sections of Unionism, in particular business and farming. That impact was best reflected in the continued decline in the Ulster Unionist Party (a party that has traditionally represented the interests of Unionist business owners and big farmers), haemorrhaging votes to the pro-EU Alliance Party. Brexit has contributed to the further fracturing of Unionism.
- The contradiction of holding Executive power while ceding economic sovereignty provides a major challenge to the British Union and similarly the contradiction of having economic control of the North without the Executive power to protect its borders opens major challenges for the European customs union.
- Unionism has been severely weakened but this should not be represented as a democratic success, but the ultimate coup in the outrunning of imperialism, with Republicanism now vying with Unionism for the role of chief administrator of British rule, while the new dispensation leaves workers in the North of Ireland vying with each other on an increasingly sectarian basis for their share of the crumbs.
- While Brexit has exposed Britain’s disregard for “Northern Ireland”, in that it has effectively ceded economic control to the EU and drawn a border down the Irish sea, the battle between these two competing capitalist unions is likely to see the North used as a pawn in the bigger negotiations around trade agreements, tariffs, market access and penalties. Both the EU and Britain will use Ireland to assert their own internal interests. Ireland as a whole is economically marginal to the interest of either Britain or the EU.
- The British-imposed border in Ireland was/is being used as a pawn in negotiations with the EU to secure imperialist interests, the needs of the Irish people being well down the list of priorities. The negotiations following Brexit between the British state and the EU where about securing Britain’s future relationship with the EU and not about the Irish people.
- The negotiations around the “Protocol” reflect the rivalry between two contending imperial blocs regarding markets and access to those markets. Those negotiations confirm the life experience of many colonised and dominated peoples and nations: that imperialism has only interests to pursue and only temporary friends.
- Unionism’s growing alienation from the British ruling class and its declining economic influence present opportunities to raise social and political demands that have the potential to appeal to class loyalties across the sectarian boundaries fostered and nurtured by imperialism in the north-east of our country.
- A declining industrial base and the impact of demilitarisation have weakened Unionism’s ability to deliver jobs and influence to its political base. This has added to the alienation felt by many working-class Unionists. Alienation, bitterness, and a sense of loss felt by those communities have been channelled through the Brexit Protocol.
- British imperialism is shifting its alliance away from Unionism to developing its influence with the Irish state and the ruling bourgeois elite. Despite the trade ruptures caused by Brexit, British imperialism’s primary ally in Ireland today is the Irish bourgeoisie. This relationship is a significant factor in the current instability of the Northern state.
- The Irish state also has a significant international network of influence that is of assistance to the British state. The ruling elements are linked to and dependent upon the Irish bourgeoisie’s connections to global capital.
- The introduction of the Irish Sea border was originally accepted within the Unionist establishment, selling it that it would be good for business to have access to both the EU and the British markets, as well as an opportunity to attract inward investment. The DUP and wider Unionism have suffered defeats on many fronts. Firstly, they have no allies within the Brexit talks having burnt all their bridges with the Dublin administration and the EU, and also spending all the political capital they had with the British government. In response, they have turned to pandering to the calls from Unionist paramilitaries to have the protocol scrapped. To whip the largest number into line it becomes necessary to generate a sense of panic.
- Secondly, the DUP attempted to flex its muscle at the Stormont Executive table to frustrate the commissioning of abortion services and the introduction of Irish language rights legislation in the North, which the British government brought in over their heads and without their consent. This is the first time this has happened since imperialism offered devolution to Scotland, Wales and the Northern counties in 1998.
- Unionism, as a political ideology, has long been used to exercise authoritarian power over, rather than governing with the consent of, its critics and political opponents, and this situation has caused confusion and an anxious search for answers. Unionism is no longer the monolithic entity it once was.
- Democratic forces need to engage with and attempt to reach out to convince unionists, and particularly working-class unionists, that it is in their self-interest to influence positively how the development of a potential united Ireland takes place and where it leads and in whose interests.
Unionism, Partition & Sectarianism
- The British ruling class, with Irish unionists playing a subordinate role, partitioned Ireland 100 years ago, according to the needs and interests of imperialism and its profoundly reactionary agenda.
- Partition failed the economic and political needs of working people of Ireland when it was imposed in 1921 and continues to fail working people’s interests today, while the beneficiaries have been British imperialism, transnational capital and its parasitic Irish and Unionist bourgeois allies.
- Partition ensured a century of reaction in our divided country and has allowed two parasitic and dependent ruling groups to govern two failed political and economic entities, operated in alliance with the imperial powers of Britain, the European Union, and the United States. It is they who decide the destiny of our people.
- The lingering presence of a reactionary “Orange” ideology within sections of the working-class is undeniable, but this ideology does not operate on some intangible level of the structure of the Northern state or indeed of the superstructure of the British imperial state; it requires material sustenance and depends on determined agency.
- Unionism faces deep structural problems, which are reflected in, rather than caused by, the manoeuvring of its political representatives. For over 100 years, the Unionist elite has manipulated a form of reactionary “Orange” populism in order to subvert far more progressive and developing currents amongst sections of the working-class that it influences and shapes. The declining capacity of the Unionist bourgeoisie to deliver on the material aspect of this contract, with a resultant long-term decline in living standards among the Unionist working-class, is a notable feature of the political contradictions within Unionism.
- Unionism has now lost its traditional exclusive control over the political administration of the Six Counties. It has lost exclusive control of the local forces of repression that it controlled since the foundation of the Northern Statelet. The instruments of repression can no longer be divided out exclusively to its political base.
- Challenging sectarianism and imperialism are inseparable and interconnected struggles. Sectarianism has been used to divide the working-class in its daily struggles. It needs to be challenged consistently and continually, as every weakening of sectarianism is an advance. Its final elimination is possible only in a wider democratic settlement through the democratic reintegration of the national territory, which would be a necessary step in freeing the Irish people from the legacy of dependence and the continuing subordination to imperialist interests.
- The institutionalised sectarianism imposed by the 1998 Agreement and subsequent amendments has mitigated against an emerging progressive politics capable of using what limited powers the Executive and the Assembly have in order to forge unity in a struggle to defend jobs, wages, and the public sector.
- Greater and more profound democracy is the only means whereby the potential challenge to the triple marginalisation imposed by imperialism can be maximised. The lack of democracy and accountability in the economic and social spheres is still the central weakness of British control in the North.
- Any radical way forward for our country and people must actively engage with and involve the people of the North of Ireland in building the forces for securing a national transformative strategy, harnessing all our people’s talents and natural resources.
- The Stormont Administration has shown little enthusiasm for the establishment of a Civic Forum, to provide a genuine platform for ensuring that the diverse voices of civil society are heard and to counteract the narrowness of the dominant sectarian politics. The “Compact Civic Panel” proposed in the Fresh Start Agreement (2015) is not fit for that purpose; there is a need for trade union, social, community and cultural organisations to demand a Civic Forum that is an independent representative of the diversity of civil society.
- A Civic Forum could have the potential to act as a progenitor of ‘Civic Assemblies’ to address the most urgent needs of the working-class. Civic Assemblies will address issues such as the urgent need for an all-Ireland National Health Service, an all-Ireland Public Housing Authority, an all-Ireland Workers’ Rights Convention, an all-Ireland Environmental Protection Agency, and other policy initiatives that will bring class issues and socialism to the fore in the discussions around a “border poll” and “united Ireland”.
A Unity Programme: A pathway forward – Building working-class resistance
- All political forces are viable with regard to building a united movement that can, firstly, defend democratic and workers’ rights and in the long-run lead the path to a unity of the people for a socialist united Ireland. In the meantime, we have to turn the fight for short-term, everyday demands into transformative demands that prepare the ground for a united Ireland. The major issues relating to living and working conditions include:
- the housing crisis and the need for a programme for dealing with homelessness and for providing state-funded public housing;
- an all-Ireland public health service for the whole of Ireland;
- the abolition of all undemocratic anti-trade union and anti-worker laws, such as the Industrial Relations Act (1990), and increased rights for worker for the whole of Ireland;
- an employment and economic programme that addresses the needs of the country, north and south; and
- a clear all-Ireland programme for an environmentally sustainable economy.
- Policies for developing struggle and resistance are a pressing issue facing not only the Irish people but working people everywhere. Capitalism’s increasing lack of democracy and its efforts to narrow and corral the people’s options is a strategic weakness. This challenges us to put before the working-class a clear understanding of the limitations of bourgeois democracy, where workers and citizens have no real democratic control, to present the alternative of real participatory democracy, where there is full social control over politics, society, and the economy.
- Democracy, which is centred on working people, is the fertile ground that we have to cultivate and develop. It requires the democratic control of capital, democratic control and ownership over the means of production.
- The struggle for and the defence of democracy can open up new avenues and alliances with new forces and potential allies. This is not to defend the kind of democracy that growing numbers of people are alienated from, that produces the “Tweedledum and Tweedledee” political parties, but rather by exposing its limitations and its class nature. It is by constantly raising the questions of “Who runs society? For whom is it run?” and challenging injustice at every level.
- National sovereignty is also a central question of democracy, one that has the potential to open up democratic struggles, to undermine and expose the fact that ruling class forces have always and will always put their class interests and their relationship with imperialism before the interests of the people, most importantly those of working people. The struggle around sovereignty is central to advancing democratic economic ownership and political control of all economic and wealth producing activity.
- The trade union movement is the collective organisation of workers in their workplaces. It is the point at which the struggle for control over the production and distribution of wealth is most direct and acute. Employers wants to maximise profits through increasing productivity, working time, work intensity and minimising pay and staff. Workers want to increase their pay and reduce their working time. This clash plays out constantly in workplaces across Ireland.
- Workers have formed trade unions to strengthen their hand in this struggle, initially, focusing on control over the supply of labour through skills. Workers of all skills and grades then organised collectively and shaped their conditions through the withdrawal, actual or threat of, of their labour. Over time, institutions, laws and regulations have shaped and sought to control this struggle to minimise the interruption to profits and create a more “orderly” structure of industrial relations. These are the conditions that the labour movement now find itself in. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is simply ignoring the history of working-class movements.
- The trade union movement is at a significant crossroads, where it can choose to struggle, fight, grow and raise the expectations and consciousness of our class and with our class, or it can choose to be further incorporated into the structures of the state representing only an elite of public and private sector workers increasingly distanced from working people and increasingly irrelevant to the struggle for equality, unity and a better Ireland.
- Capital has implemented an effective strategy across Europe, and Ireland, of incorporating the trade union movement into the apparatus of the state. Previously described as “social partnership”, this same approach now raises its head under the banner of “social dialogue”. The strategy of capital and capitalist is to minimise class conflict, class mobilisation, disruption to capital’s reproduction and manage the expectations and demands of workers, within a safe and controlling framework.
- In the Republic of Ireland we see clear indications from leading elements of the establishment, making efforts to lure the trade union movement in by attending Congress conferences, establishing the LEAF dialogue process and most recently through the establishment of a review process of industrial relations and collective bargaining. The trade union movement needs to have a clear position on what it wants and seek the mobilisations of members behind concrete demands.
- To date, the leadership of ICTU has failed to mobilise workers around a clear vision of what change will help revitalise the trade union movement. The opportunity to share the industrial relations framework of the state should be taken conscious of the dangers and threats it poses but focused on demands that strengthen labours position on the island.
- Elements within ICTU believe a return to a cosiness with government with a reconfigured partnership process is what is best for working people. This only offers more management of labour by capital and the state and dampens the voice of working people. While the ‘No Going Back’ document calls for a new Trade Union Rights Act no effort to popularise or struggle to win this has been made and a preponderance to look to Europe for imposed solutions dominates official thinking in the trade union movement.
- In the Northern Assembly, trade union law is a devolved matter, and while the draconian measures of the 2016 Trade Union Act from Britain were not implemented in the North, it appears that Ministers are seeking a similar approach to the Republic of Ireland and are manoeuvring to secure a more conciliatory and corporative approach to control over labour than the Conservative government in Westminster.
- The Assembly instituted dialogue with trade unions over COVID-19 measures via the Northern Ireland Engagement Forum, which resulted in safety measures for workplaces during COVID-19. The ICTU clearly desires this forum and engagement with the Assembly to continue, correctly, viewing the devolution of power in this area as vital but, to date, without a clear strategy to strengthen the hand of labour in the Six Counties.
- While there is nothing inherently wrong with negotiations with governments, or its chosen civil servants, on key topics by the trade union movement, it is best done from a position of strengthening the movement through struggle and collective action. Negotiation with the government is of course necessary for many public sector workers and to shape legislation.
- Centralised bargaining may deliver some gains for workers. However, as evidenced by the ‘partnership’ period there are significant pitfalls and dangers to the trade union movement in over emphasising this form of bargaining. Raising expectations of workers and mobilising our class to win on demands is much more important.
- Workers need to build a fighting trade union movement. One committed above all else to organising our class in their workplaces. One that puts workers in struggle above meetings with government and employers. One that is willing to lead and take risks rather than prioritise processes and institutions. One that listens more to workers than to employers or government.
- The trade union movement needs to listen, organise, educate and agitate our class and needs to support workers in struggle. But this will never be delivered on a plate to us. We need to fight as a class, as trade union members and as a Party for this kind of fighting trade union movement. Central to this is the battle of ideas in the trade union movement is a central arena of struggle.
- Alliances need to be built and to learn alongside to strengthen workers within the movement and to disseminate clear ideas and a vision of what the movement can be. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown the necessity of trade unions and the struggle over working time, for decent wages and over safety at work have re-emerged as critical issues. Communists must lead the way in inspiring workers to struggle and fight for better and safer workplaces. Communists must reach out to progressive trade unionists and build alliances with those seeking to organise and empower workers.
- The battle for ideas must be accompanied with a battle to democratise the movement in a meaningful way. Workers need more of a say over the demands, strategy, tactics and what is acceptable in agreements and proposals. Communists need to push for worker participation in their trade unions and for holding trade union officials and leaders to account. Workers must be at the centre of all decision-making in the trade union movement.
- Trade unions must trust and empower their membership to act not patronise and keep at arm’s length. Too often trade union officials abandon workers, selectively choose what they hear and take unilateral decisions without any serious democratic participation of members. Workers need to organise and demand much more democratic accountability from trade union leaderships, elected reps and union staff. There is a challenge to overcome apathy and individualism.
- While trade unions are often, and remain, the best and first line of defence against the exploitation, alienation and oppression of capital in the workplace at this point in struggle for socialism we need the trade union movement to be much more. While trade unions have the potential to be schools of socialism, they are not by definition this. To turn trade unions into mass political education centres of experience and ideas they, and workers, must actually fight capital.
- Communists must show leadership to build a fighting trade union movement. If trade unions are purely a line of defence operating through industrial relations processes and forums removed from workers not only are they not schools of socialism they actually exacerbate and perpetuate the culture of consumer servicing that capital tries to turns workers and citizens into.
- It is through struggle that we feel both the oppressive force of capital but also the liberating potential of our collective strength and action. This is the school Marx referred to and envisaged. Trade unions must seek to move away from a transactional relationship with members towards being the democratic expression of working-class interest and solidarity at work.
- The Trade Union Left Forum was established to bring like-minded progressive activists (reps, shop stewards, members, officials, organisers) from across trade unions to share ideas and experiences so that a left movement within the trade union movement could emerge. It must reinvigorate this focus, to build alliances and connections to other groups of workers and show leadership in the dissemination of a vision of class-conscious trade unionism.
- It should use its online presence to educate on our ideals of a fighting trade union movement. At this point the TULF can show leadership in articulating a clear vision of workers’ right to organise and right to strike that is missing from union debates. Key to this is the repeal of the 1990 Industrial Relations Act but the TULF needs to develop broader demands and approaches.
- The Communist Party welcomes the campaign Trade Unionists for a new United Ireland. The prospect and potential of unity of our island is real. It is important that organised labour is part of this debate and struggle as this will shape the type of Ireland that emerges.
- The trade union movement remains vital to the struggle for socialism but the role it will play depends on our active involvement in it and the influence that the working-class can have over it.
Building beyond the fragments of identity
- Historical experience has shown that the primary tactic of imperialism and of the ruling class is to sow confusion, division and disunity among working people to endeavour to deflect the working-class away from the central fault line—the class and exploitative nature of capitalist society. The ruling classes have a vast array of institutions and think-tanks that promote individualistic solutions, pessimism and individual identity, a “look after yourself” mentality. That there is no alternative to capitalism.
- The ruling class is more than happy to promulgate racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, sectarianism and any and all forms of bigotry as means of dividing the working-class. The simple reason is this: a divided class cannot fight a united struggle. We need to steadfastly oppose all forms of prejudice and bigotry, and affirm the central role of the working-class, a class of all colours, creeds, sexualities and gender identities, in the revolutionary struggle.
- The LGBT+ community does not stand apart from the working-class. We recognise that the LGBT+ community is greatly, and sometimes more acutely affected by class issues such as access to healthcare, mental healthcare, housing, public safety, and employment, and we will support the community on these issues.
- Individualism is promoted above collective interests and a false belief that contemporary capitalism has transcended class division, leaving only individual consumers with personal rights and interests. We must strive to build bridges of solidarity between all members of the working-class, emphasising our shared interests and our common position of exploitation within the capitalist mode of production, opposing bigotry as divisive and reactionary in all of its forms.
- The primary task of the communist and the workers’ movements is to end the system of exploitation and division inherent within the capitalist system. Its objective is to bring our class, the working-class, to state power. That the working-class and its interest must constitute the national interests.
- Personal freedoms are dependent upon the collective rights of all, upon collective freedoms. Our actions and struggles of today matter; they shape all our tomorrows. We need to challenge the deepening political, social and cultural alienation that many people are now experiencing, as promoted by contemporary bourgeois ideologues and apologists. We assert that our world can be transformed: we can end exploitation, we can save our planet, but only by the collective action of the people, led by the working-class.
- We need to bring unity to our class and challenge those trends and divisive strategies and assert the primacy of class and class struggle and the struggle against imperialism and national oppression. To assert that the unbreakable relationship between the struggle for national and social emancipation are inseparable. We need to better understand the class content of the national struggle and the national content of in the class struggle.
- With regard to national reunification. By presenting concrete demands like that of an all-Ireland universal free public health care the CPI can begin to engage all communities in the North on class issues and promote a real unity of the Irish working-class nationally, not based on idealist conceptions but on the real material conditions in this case on health services.
- The protection and extension of the state provision of medical services in a united Ireland would allow the CPI and the left generally to begin building solidarity among the working-class of the North of Ireland. This opportunity should not be underestimated.
- In a partitioned Ireland, health services will continue to die a slow death on both sides of the border. Irish unification, much like Brexit, will destroy structural barriers to the left and allow us to build better and more democratic way forward.
- Defensive strategies on the health service have only resulted in the continued deterioration and hollowing out of previous working-class victories. Only by adopting an offensive strategy can we halt and then reverse the attacks of the ruling class. Irish unification, by forcing the issue of the health service, by bringing the question to public scrutiny, by providing an opportunity for radical reform, by uniting the Irish working class, will open up new avenues of struggle to allow the working-class to make advances on this issue.
- The struggle to defend both public health services from further attacks needs to be linked to the demand for an all-Ireland universal free public health service. This demand has the potential to unite the working-class nationally, to weaken the dominant partitionist mentality, and to turn the aspiration for national unity into a concrete material struggle.
Advancing the Struggle towards Unity, Independence, and Socialism: Developing our Transformative Strategy
- In the struggle to bring an end to the barbaric capitalist system we must evaluate the position of class forces. These actions are required for making a decision on how best to develop our strategy in the months and years of struggle that lie ahead. These are strategic rather than political questions that we must begin to answer. With the existing balance of forces the working-class is at a low level of class consciousness.
- For socialism to become a reality and not merely an aspiration, this is where the working-class collectively needs to be. However, it is not where the collective class consciousness is at the present time. Understanding the weakness of the working-class movement, we must also analyse and identify weaknesses within the capitalist class.
- Recognising the current balance of forces, we are confronted with the major task of building up working-class power, organisation, campaigning, and, above all else, class consciousness. It is on this basis that within this political resolution we propose the establishment of a “Unity Programme”—a minimum programme for gaining maximum support within the wider working-class, anti- capitalist and anti-imperialist movements. The following outlines the first potential areas of focus within a Unity Programme.
- Currently workers across Ireland face and number of economic and social problems the key ones are health, housing precarious work and low pay. The private provision of both health services and housing has tended to offer a successful example of this, where privileged segments of the working-class have been pacified by being provided with a means for them to purchase their way out of collective social problems wrought by a lack of investment in public health and housing.
- As the crisis of housing and health continue to deepen, and these issues increasingly find common ground because of the pandemic and the intensity of the housing crisis, they present points of potential unity through which the logic of capital accumulation can be counterpoised against a “common good”.
- Government policies have not only failed to resolve the crises in both health and housing, but have served the interests of investors and landlords, both foreign and domestic. These policies do not serve the interests of the working-class, who at a basic minimum, should have affordable access to good quality homes and a high standard of medical services.
- The third area of focus will be the growing realisation that capitalism and the state will not be able to solve the crisis of the environment, climate change, and the breakdown of the planetary system. Social problems require social solutions, and the environmental emergency will require a concentrated, coordinated and planned economy to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable from the changes to the climate.
- What is needed is a new national industrial strategy that is built upon sustainability, the rational use of our natural resources and the application of the benefits of scientific and technological revolution to benefit working people, and most importantly, is in harmony with the natural world. Capitalism has created the growing environment crisis it cannot solve as its primary motivation is the creation of profit, the reproduction of capital.
- The structure of indigenous or domestic capital depends in a large part on the role of international capital within the Irish economy. Areas of vulnerability that can be central to weakening the power of capital is in the struggle for workers’ rights and increasing wages and levels of labour organisation—a deepening of class consciousness. These are the bread-and-butter issues of workers and organised labour, and therefore the workplace is a central arena of class struggle.
- The work of Communists and the Communist Party must be integrated in the wider organised labour movement so as to inject class consciousness, linking the individual issues to the nature of the economic system itself that is capitalism.
- The domination by transnational capital raises the issue of the triple lock of imperialism in Ireland. The concept of the triple lock emphasise that Ireland is dominated by and dependent upon three separate imperialist powers, which have used this country in different ways to pursue their particular interests:
- the US in the industrial field, through our dependence on transnational corporations;
- the European Union in relation to monetary policy, regulation and legal matters that lock us, like other peripheral countries, into a neoliberal chain of dependence that benefits mostly the core capitalist countries in the EU – Germany and France; and
- Britain, in direct occupation through the institution of partition.
- In reality, imperialist interests, just like domestic capital, overlap in both complementary and conflicting ways. For example, Britain also exerts economic and legal influence, and its role cannot be reduced solely to the issue of partition. We can summarise that these are the primary contradictions presented by each of the three imperialist forces; each exerts political and economic influence to varying degrees, which in turn influence the political, economic, social and cultural development of Ireland.
- Regarding the EU, the CPI reaffirms its opposition to this bloc and Ireland continued membership. That it will continue to challenge the EU not from a bases of nationalism but to highlight the detrimental aspects of membership to national democracy, sovereignty and accountability. Democracy and accountability of the Irish people are central to this ideological struggle.
- In relation to US imperialism, the dependence and distortion of the Irish economy by Foreign Direct Investment, and in particular US transnationals, must continue to be challenged and exposed along with its links to the aggressive global politics. Neutrality is not about doing nothing, but to be active in the struggle to end war and bring global peace, economic and social justice. Such demands as:
- Socially and economically sustainable investment, job security.
- Increased corporation tax along with its collection.
- Irish neutrality linked to the cause of world peace and de-militarisation, especially in relation to the use of Shannon Airport as a stop-over base for the US military.
- Putting neutrality into the Irish Constitution.
- Opposing the Irish states involvement in EU militarism for instance PESCO.
- The growing debate and support for a border poll on national reunification is an opportunity to significantly intensify the struggle for national independence. The importance is not the border poll itself, reliant as it is on its advocates within the corridors of power within Brussels and Washington pressuring both London and Dublin, but the popular campaigning that it can act as a focal point for.
- The border poll presents the possibility of building platform to raise demands and build alliances around a programme for all-Ireland solutions to the intensifying problems of health and social care, housing, secure and well-paid jobs, the climate crisis.
- Such a programme would enhance democratic rights and promote economic and social planning. Making the case and mobilising support for re-unification on this basis is not only the path to unity but the path beyond it into a new Ireland.
A Unity Programme: Weakening the structure of capitalism
- With this in mind, the CPI commits to developing a detailed a Unity Programme—a minimum programme with the goal of gaining maximum support. This Unity Programme will be developed with the support of all progressive allies who are willing to build a united front, where each party or group can maintain its autonomy but remains committed to working towards the fulfilment of shared strategic objectives and pursuing the material basis for a united Ireland in a planned, democratic and participative manner.
- At its core, this Unity Programme must be anchored by the daily struggles of workers, cognisant of the environmental emergency on our doorstep and reflective of the aspirations and calls for ending partition and British rule in Ireland.
- The CPI proposes that this programme be based on these three fundamental elements, which seek to unite all progressive and democratic forces in order to meet the challenges and mounting attacks on the environment, on our democracy and sovereignty and ultimately on our future and those of generations to come.
The Unity Programme: A Guiding Framework
All-Ireland Environmental Plan
- This is the lynchpin of the Unity Programme, whereby the reality of environmental destruction and climate change must be central to our vision for a united Ireland. It is a united and strategic approach for a rapid transition to an environmentally sustainable economy, with particular emphasis on the agriculture, energy and the construction sectors of the economy, as well as public ownership of all natural resources.
- Such as strategy should focus campaigns from energy to food production, waste and water management, imports and exports, building and construction of housing, industry and agriculture in urban and rural areas. A plan for transitioning our production, distribution, consumption and waste economy to become environmentally sustainable, a democratic economy.
All-Ireland Universal Public Services Plan
- Rather than being seduced by the false lure of a Universal Basic Income, public funding and expanding ownership to create universal health, transport, housing, education, welfare and infrastructure systems, with the purpose of securing the necessities and basic needs for all would be the basis of an economy for the common good. This plan can begin with focused campaigns around key areas such as health and housing, with an emphasis on the ending of private companies operating and profiting from the provision of these key service industries within the economy.
An all-Ireland Industrial and Financial Plan
- If we are to transition to a sustainable economy, then it must be backed up by an industrial and finance policy for the proper regional and national development of the whole country. We need an alternative social and economic strategy to include:
- The establishment of a National Development Bank would be key in facilitating the supply of finance and loans for regional and national development projects, creating and expanding indigenous publicly owned enterprises.
- Any all-Ireland industrial policy that is centred upon workers must coincide with the establishment of a new ‘Bill of Rights’ for workers, a campaign that has already gained momentum.
- Proper planning and retraining workers displaced in the process of transitioning to an environmentally sustainable economy. This requires a reorientation of finance and industry towards meeting needs of citizens and move our economy away from the triple lock dependency.
- Such Unity Programme should be concentrated on a single point of weakness—British imperialism. The broad campaign (a united Ireland) can act as a central goal, and supporting campaigns are to be oriented towards that central goal.
- What this will require is a fundamental shift from economic markets with capitalist class relations dictating government policy, towards economic planning intervening and replacing private markets in the provision of services, infrastructure projects, essential industries and financing in a just transition towards a sustainable democratic 32-County Republic. This strategy can lay down in real material terms the essential foundations, tools and practice in the further advancement towards a planned socialist economy.
- Such a Unity Programme can lay the basis for creating the foundations of a planned socialist economy. One can objectively work towards the establishment of a 32-County Socialist Republic. It has the potential to unite the widest democratic forces in pursuit of the necessary national democratic radical transformation.
- The strength of this Unity Programme, or any other similar initiatives, will not be determined by the number of political parties willing to work towards a united front in a top-down framework. The success of a Unity Programme, of creating a united front, must be built from the ground up, from grassroots movements, from the workers’ movement both urban and rural, from the environmental movement, from the trade union movement, from the myriad of community activists and campaigns driven to action by the deteriorating material conditions created by the contradictions and antagonisms of the capitalist mode of production. It offers real, material objectives and campaigns for working people and ultimately seeks to shift the balance of forces away from capital towards labour.
- The objective of the CPI today however, is to highlight our analysis, be active on the ground in daily struggles, outline our strategy and present a programme that is in line with the hopes and aspirations of working people and families across the whole breath and width of country, from Cork to Derry, Dublin to Galway, and which will open new opportunities to advance the goal of a United Socialist Republic of Ireland.
- The goal is not a united Ireland: instead, a united Ireland is a prerequisite and part of a process of working towards establishing a socialist mode of production. Broad support for a Unity Programme in this way will help to further challenge the existing structure of Irish capitalism and open new opportunities for our ultimate goal—a United Socialist Republic of Ireland.