From Socialist Voice, May 2011

Build the people’s resistance!

Prof. Morgan Kelly’s pronouncements have come as a revelation to a lot of people who have been confused or who bought the the line from the establishment over the years in relation to debt and the options open to the Irish people. The readers of Socialist Voice, however, or anyone who has read the two recent publications by the Communist Party of Ireland, An Economy for the Common Good and the recently published Repudiate the Debt, would know that the CPI has been virtually a lone voice on the left arguing the central role of the European Union in imposing harsh measures on our people.
     We have long argued and spoken of the deep contradictions lying at the very heart of the European Union: the smothering of democracy and the growing concentration not just of political but of economic power, most clearly seen in the project to establish a unified currency in the form of the euro.
     The powerful economic and political forces at the heart of the European Union, in alliance with a subservient Irish establishment, continue to impose solutions to the debt crisis that secure the interests of European monopoly capital at the expense of the people.
     They are taking full advantage of the crisis to push forward clear strategic goals and demands, which involve rolling back the advances made by workers over many decades and that workers had thought were secured. Their push to end registered employment agreements and joint labour committees is a clear case in point. They wish to have the minimum wage as the only baseline for wages.
     It is in the interests of both the Irish business class and the European Union to secure the destruction of these agreements and established terms and conditions. This is a process that is under way throughout the European Union and will gain renewed momentum when they push through the Competitiveness Pact, which has been delayed because of the collapse of the Portuguese government.
     This state has now become the guardian of the interests of the EU. The power of the state and the resources of the state will be used to ensure that we as a people are made to pay the debt that the last Government took responsibility for from private corporations and private banks, both Irish and European, and made it the responsibility of the people to pay.
     The media have been attempting to pressure anyone who challenges the economic orthodoxy to come forward with suggestions for how we can meet current spending and pay the teachers and nurses. This is to force critics onto their safe ground and into the trenches they have so carefully constructed, to keep any debate in the narrow channels that they prescribe.
     It is not the duty of the left to come forward with solutions to capitalism’s problems. It is our job to present solutions to people’s problems. Two entirely different sets of values and solutions are required. If we follow their position we fall into the trap of “better, fairer cuts,” or tinker with the system to allow it time to overcome its present difficulties at the expense of the people—to create some form of better, fairer capitalism.
     The left needs to take a more strategic approach to this question, which has the potential to open up deep fissures within the system itself at both the national and the European level. The Achilles heel of monopoly capital at this time is the deepening debt crisis. That is their strategic weakness; therefore the question is, How do we develop political struggles and pressure that turn the people in another direction?
     It is clear that slogans alone have not cut the mustard. Marches up to and outside the Dáil have declined in numbers to where the speakers outnumber those attending. The single transferable speech has nothing to offer but slogans and rhetoric
     How we build the people’s hopes and morale are crucial questions, both in the demands that the left make and the methods of struggle. The battle of ideas and power and energy and the independent mobilisation of the people both weaken the dominant ideology.
     Communists have called for the building of a movement of civil disobedience throughout the country. This is aimed at building the confidence of the people that struggle can have an effect and make a difference.
     Experience from the mass civil disobedience campaign in the north of Ireland, linked as it was to a clear set of demands argued for by the civil rights movement, was one of the crucial factors that broke the back of unionism. It gave people a sense of power and ownership of the direction and pace of the struggle. It lifted a people who for decades had been beaten down and demoralised.
     We need to learn the lesson of history. It is our belief that we need to start off with actions that encourage people to step forward at the local level first. People will feel confidence only when they are secure in the belief that those who bring them out are not political adventurers or political opportunists.
     This will be a step-by-step struggle, in every village, town, and city, grassroots-led. We’ve had enough of testosterone-led politics; we’ve had enough of conspiratorial groups attempting to exploit the situation for narrow ends.
     What has bedevilled left politics has been adventurist political demands and actions, opportunism, and reducing the people’s struggle to electoralism. What is needed is a more disciplined working-class approach, the approach that resulted in workers building their trade unions, engaging in long and bitter disputes, incurring great hardship, experiencing even hunger. They secured rights and built their unions against all the odds.
     That is why neither workers nor the left can walk away from the trade union movement. The property, the buildings, the resources of today’s trade unions do not belong to those who control them now. They are the product of the sacrifice of past generations. We owe it to them to reforge a new fighting trade union movement. Trade unions can play a central role and use their resources to mobilise and give strength and direction to the struggle for repudiating the debt.
     We haven’t got all the answers to the questions posed by the conditions that we struggle in. But struggle brings forward answers to questions as the balance of forces changes. We will not have change without struggle: that is what life’s experience has taught working people.
     “Empowering the people” has been reduced to an empty slogan. We have to start giving real meaning and substance to what is absolutely essential in building people’s power.
     The future is shaped by today’s struggles. What is today the belief of a few needs to become the aspiration of the many in order to transform Irish society, north and south.
[EMC]

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