1 September 2012
The National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland at its meeting on 1 September discussed the difficult economic conditions and the hardship being imposed by the ruling class as they attempt to make the people pay for the deepening crisis of the system.
The trade union movement in the South has shown little energy or political drive in resisting both the commercialisation of services and the privatisation of public companies, still fixated, as it is, on the belief that the system is recoverable and, with the Labour Party in government, that they can have some say—through “social partnership” by the back door—in government policy and decision-making or in ameliorating the worst aspects of Blueshirt policies.
The statement by the minister for health, James Reilly, that the wages of workers employed in the health service and under the Croke Park Agreement must now be cut in order to make greater savings in the health service is a clear challenge to the trade union movement, which will not be stopped by the flawed hope that the Labour Party will protect workers’ interests at the government table. Experience has shown that the Labour Party will wring its hands in righteous indignation but carry on cutting services. Reilly’s comments are just the opening shots in what will clearly be renewed attacks from this coalition government.
The discussion now under way within the ICTU in regard to the commission on the future of the trade union movement will only be relevant to or have any meaning for the tens of thousands of organised workers if it honestly looks at the effect that the dead hand of class collaboration has had on the movement. The debate about the future of the trade union movement cannot be confined to the top echelons but must engage with the grass roots of the movement. The problems facing our labour movement are not solely structural but are, at their very roots, political. To continue with the same approach and political ideas and values of the past and expect a different result is the road to oblivion. The workers’ movement needs to become more radical in its defence of workers’ interests or it will become redundant for the future of Irish workers.
Without a rejuvenated and revitalised trade union movement, broken free of the dead hand of social democracy, resistance will be scattered and ineffective.
The crisis of the system continues to affect the daily lives of all working people, north and south. Our people are experiencing almost daily announcements of company closures, cuts in spending on education, and the closing of wards and beds in hospitals. Community resources are slashed. The “Programme for Ireland” imposed by the external troika and eagerly implemented by the internal troika is laying waste the economic and social development that took decades of struggle by working people to build.
The system continues to make the people pay for this crisis, which is merely the current phase of the general crisis of capitalism as an economic system. It now has all the hallmarks of a crisis that can only get deeper as the major global capitalist economies slip back further into recession and depression without a discernible period of development in between.
Workers, not only in Ireland but throughout the European Union, are experiencing an outright assault on their rights and working conditions, but they have not yet realised that the post-war settlement has been ruled null and void by monopoly capitalism.
The recent declaration from the European Union that lays out the path for the Republic to follow in the forthcoming budget and future budgets confirms its reactionary nature and its role as guardian of the interests of European monopoly capitalism. It has called for deeper cuts in social welfare and pensions; in particular, it has singled out unemployment benefit, especially for the long-term unemployed, and reinforces the priority given to debt repayment
The British government’s policies are directed at a similar approach, which will also have a significant impact on working people in Northern Ireland. This will further expose the dependence relationship and show where real power lies. This can provide opportunities for continuing to challenge the political ideology that only adds to and reinforces this dependence and marginalisation, which the people of Northern Ireland experience daily from the centres of power that wreak havoc on their families and their communities.
The continued use of repression and preventive detention must be condemned and rejected as a return to old, failed methods of control. The release of Marian Price and others who are subject to preventive detention should take place now.
Nor is a continuation or a return to armed violence by small groups a solution to the people’s problems. This also is a return to a failed strategy, one that will inevitably lead to further suffering, imprisonment, death and destruction as well as to its manipulation by the forces of the state and imperialism to serve their ends. In the South the government continues to follow the failed strategies imposed by its predecessor, under directions from the EU-ECB-IMF troika, giving priority to the repayment of debt over economic and social development. The commercialisation of public services and the privatisation of public companies continues apace. The government is now stepping up the push to privatise more state companies, which will be bought up by foreign capital interests, further tightening their grip on the country and the dependence relationship that flows from that intervention. The greater part of the capital deriving from the sale of these people’s assets will go to pay off debt.
The CPI reaffirms its belief that there are no solutions to the people’s problems within the system of capitalism. The need to build the people’s resistance grows daily. The essential elements of that resistance must be:
(1) repudiation of the socialised corporate debt;
(2) active and public opposition to the privatisation of public companies;
(3) opposition to the commercialisation of public services;
(4) public ownership of all natural resources;
(5) the development of an all-Ireland economic and social strategy.