A century ago a group of nearly two hundred unemployed workers, under the leadership of the Council of Unemployed, seized the Rotunda in Dublin, raised the Red Flag, and issued a “Manifesto to the Citizens of Dublin” demanding action on the growing number of unemployed in the city.
This was part of the attempt by the Communist Party of Ireland, which had been founded in late 1921, to raise the connection between the social and national struggles.
The CPI was the first party to oppose the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. It proposed instead a programme of demands that would identify the struggle for a National Democratic Republic with the social demands and material needs of workers and small farmers. Across Ireland many “Workers Soviets” were established occupying factories demanding higher wages and better conditions.
The Treaty failed to bring about an independent Irish Republic. Instead it created the partitioning of Ireland, as required by the British state to secure and retain economic, political, military and cultural interests and control over the people of Ireland.
Our people, from Derry to Kerry, have experienced a century of poverty, unemployment, mass emigration, discrimination, gross inequality, poor housing, and poor health and education services. Partition institutionalised sectarianism and discrimination, using religious bigotry as a weapon of division—a century of institutionalised corruption, cronyism, and patronage, with obscene wealth for a tiny minority while the majority struggle to make ends meet. The women of Ireland in particular have borne an even greater burden of discrimination and oppression.
It’s long past time for trying to patch up this failed political settlement, this failed economic system: it’s time for a real democratic Ireland, where working people control their own lives, where real and meaningful democracy is extended to the economy as well as to the political, social and cultural spheres.
This is the challenge that the left still faces.
A programme for national unity
National unity, national independence and sovereignty are not abstract aspirations but are the necessary tools for bringing about real change, for ending imperialist interference and control. They are the political tools required to bring about a radical transformation of the lives of working people.
We need a radical transformative strategy—
- to build a way forward to end partition.
- to end mass homelessness
- to end the scourge of landlordism, by both local and absentee landlords (vulture funds)
- to provide public housing for everyone who needs it
- to end poor wages and precarious employment
- to bring about real equality between women and men
- to end the two tier-health and education systems
- to give security to working people in their old age
- to give workers real rights
- to establish a healthy and vibrant culture and truly revive and develop the Irish language
- to bring about the ownership by the people of all natural resources
- to place all wealth under the ownership and control of those who produce it: working people.
One hundred years ago, working people asserted their own independent demands to tackle growing unemployment and widespread poverty. We continue to face the same challenges today, now with the addition of the global environmental crisis.