November 2013        

There is an alternative

Part 2

Party politics now constitutes a profession for managing the affairs of big business, both foreign and domestic. If business is interfered with or pulls out of the country because of government policy, or increased corporation taxes or repudiating an odious debt, for example, the capitalist economy may falter, ultimately leading to the removal of that party from power. This is why substitute parties in parliamentary democracies will find it, and have found it, virtually impossible to remain principled in the long run on ideological terms. To do so leads to their demise.
     There really is only one viable long-term solution, and that is for the working class and its allies to stand together, organise together and build together with the ultimate goal of bringing the main means of production—the land, the factories, the banks, and natural resources—into common ownership, so that they can plan and fund from industry the policies that would provide for an expanded public-service system, social welfare, housing, health, education, and jobs. That is the alternative.
     Whether this can be done through parliamentary means is questionable, because to take control of power would also require the ownership, control and management of certain industries through working bodies of people’s assemblies. In real and immediate terms this could be the growth and expansion of worker co-operatives (the Mondragón Corporation in Spain as an excellent example) and the state enterprise sector, nationalisation, and reclaiming important natural resources, such as our oil, gas and fishing grounds and, in cases of failing businesses and factories, for worker-led take-overs and occupations wherever viable.
     South American countries, including Argentina, Venezuela, and Bolivia, have successfully been doing this over the last decade or so. This requires protection and subsidies from the state in the form of fundamental government policy changes to enable growth in production and innovation.
     Governing this process could see an expansion of town and county councils, which would be represented at the central government level. All levels could then be engaged in planning the economy in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, in such a way as to provide the local and national services people need for enjoying a healthy life. These working bodies could quite easily eliminate the need for parliamentary democracy and the talking-shop of professional politics and instead lead to a much deeper and more participative democracy.
     It would be utopian and naïve to think that this type of organising would go unopposed, or even that after five years of the biggest crisis of capitalism since the great depression it would be supported by a majority of people in this country. There are huge obstacles to overcome and enormous tasks ahead, but we have to begin somewhere in bringing people around to the idea of this alternative.
     In sum, we need to urge unions, communities and individuals to agree or at least debate some basic demands. (1) The odious corporate debt needs to be rejected or repudiated. (2) We need investment and growth in state enterprises to provide long-term jobs. (3) We need to reclaim our resources—oil, gas, mines, and seas—to get essential revenue. (4) We need sovereign control of our banks, together with monetary and fiscal policy. (5) We need to lessen our dependence on foreign investment and transnational corporations and build up an indigenous industrial base. (6) We need a progressive tax system and controls on capital.
     The strength and power of monopoly capitalism, be it in the form of the United States, the EU, Britain, or the Irish big bourgeoisie, will block any parliamentary party that is not well organised, well disciplined, ideologically class-oriented and made up of the working class and its allies from breaking the cartel and taking power.
     Central to this is a critique of the EU as a base and institution of imperialism. Without such a critique the ability to withstand the cartel is unattainable. Sinn Féin, the Green Party and the left parliamentary bloc (Socialist Party and SWP mainly) are devoid of such a critique. They may be critical of the EU, but as an imperialist bloc they have very little if anything to say. Hanging on to the hope that the EU can be reformed into either a social-democratic or socialist bloc has misled our people for too long and has been a haemorrhage in solidifying any tangible anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement here in Ireland.
     It is now time for rethinking our nation’s long-held belief in the EU. We need to invert our notion of democracy from a representative to a participatory model. It is time we explored and implemented new ways of organising and producing in the industrial field.
     Finally, it is past time that we brought a new wave of revolutionary socialist thinking to our people and for our people to take up the mantle of the class struggle.

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