January 2012        

Party news

2011—a year of struggle


Although we have to accept that the response of working people to the increasing burden being levelled on them did not seem in proportion to the increasing damage in 2011, there were indications of a fight-back.
     Much of this, as expected, was on immediate issues affecting people’s own social or economic circumstances. How else, as we have one of the weakest non-militant labour movements in western Europe, as well as the participation of the Labour Party in a Blueshirt Government, and as the ICTU’s ineffectiveness demonstrates.
     There were favourable shifts, though small, that indicate potential for building a people’s resistance. These included the Dublin Trades Council’s and the community sector’s Spectacle of Defiance and Hope marches against the budget, the election of the United Left Alliance and progressive independent TDs, and the spread of the Occupy movement in cities around the country.
     What was the role of the Communist Party in this, the greatest crisis of capitalism ever faced by the Irish state? Our first task was to identify the nature of this crisis, to publish this analysis, then to draw up a strategy that would point the way for political struggle based on people’s struggles to effect change.
     The fault was not just greedy bankers and corrupt politicians but the nature of capitalism itself; and while realising that socialism is the only long-term answer, transformative changes have to be won by these struggles to begin this process.
     We published this analysis in the pamphlet An Economy for the Common Good. When our ruling-class elite sought to solve this crisis by making working people and the poor pay the debts owed to domestic and European banking monopolies for generations to come, the CPI showed how the EU and the IMF were the mechanism for its enforcement. Finance capital was the new god, and the imperial EU its main policeman.
     Cut-backs, closures, repossessions, unemployment and emigration were the order of the day, and acquiescence to the EU dictates was the pacifier. Of course Éamon Gilmore and Joan Burton would say rather that it is “economic reality.”
     Maintaining that all these burdens were linked to the odious debt, the CPI launched the Repudiate the Debt Campaign with a series of imaginative public events. We welcomed and co-operated with spontaneous campaigns like Ballyhea, Shirts Off Our Back in Clonmel, Charleville, Kerry, the Debt Audit, and Occupy Dame Street. The trade unions TEEU and Mandate endorsed the demand of the Repudiate the Debt Campaign, while some other left groups have shied away from using the word “repudiate,” as if the CPI has copyright on it!
     As our independence and decision-making powers and the power of our legislative processes are now totally outside our control, the debt question will lie at the heart of Irish politics for a generation. Any progressive movement that attempts to ignore, play down or slink away from it will cheapen the political debate and confuse left progress.
     In 2011 the CPI, despite its limited resources, also published an important pamphlet on The Challenge for Trade Unionism; and, arising from the well-attended launch, a Trade Union Left Forum was set up.
     The general secretaries of three major trade unions have supported the initiative, and a rolling programme of discussions and events is being discussed.
     Other publications by the party during the year included Repudiate the Debt: For a Better Future; The Equality Delusion; The Making of an Irish Communist Leader: The Life and Times of Michael O’Riordan, 1938–1947, by Michael Quinn; and The European Union: New Developments in Imperialism by Jorge Cadima.
     Connolly Books kept to its tradition of being the largest left-wing book venue in the country and was the venue for some crowded book launches, including Conor McCabe’s Sins of the Father, Tommy McKearney’s The Provisional IRA, and Ronnie Kasrils’ The Unlikely Secret Agent.
     The CPI is an all-Ireland party, and members exchange visits to public events in each area. Of note in 2011 was the commemoration in Belfast of the heroic Madge Davison, full-time worker for NICRA, among many other things.
     The CPI maintains relations with overseas working-class organisations, particularly communist parties. This involved sending guest speakers to the Portuguese and British parties as well as attending the recent international meeting of communist parties in Athens. In return we invited a speaker from the Portuguese party to give our annual James Connolly Memorial Lecture and hosted a representative of the militant Greek trade union federation PAME at a public meeting in Dublin.
     Support for Cuba, in particular for the five Cuban prisoners in the United States, was high on our list of priorities, as it will always be.
     In November we celebrated ninety years of communist organisation in Ireland. Following a brilliant lecture by Charlie McGuire, biographer of Roddy Connolly and Seán McLaughlin—founders of the first Communist Party of Ireland in 1921—we had a celebration in songs and music.
     Communists in those three generations, with friends and allies in the broad left (whom we have always reached out to), were involved in every social, trade union and political movement, north and south. They were often very difficult times for them as they faced repression, blacklisting, and personal sacrifice. They did this because they educated themselves in Marxism, were class activists, and believed that humans deserve a better society.
     What better way to acknowledge this than by joining the CPI or the Connolly Youth Movement and continuing their work!
[TR]

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