January–February 2015        

Political statement

At its first meeting of 2015 the National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland discussed and evaluated the political and economic situation as experienced by working people, north and south.
     It is clear that the imposition of “austerity” is still the central plank of both the British and the Irish governments as well as a requirement of the European Union. It is the means of continuing to attack and undermine workers’ conditions and of ensuring the survival of the monopoly-capitalist system itself.
     The party expresses its solidarity and support for the campaign of industrial action beginning on 13 March by the public-sector trade unions in the North of Ireland in opposition to the implementation of the “austerity” budget by the Stormont Executive.
     There is an absolute necessity for the unity of all working people, trade unionists and community organisations in rallying alongside public-sector workers in a fight that is in everyone’s interests. Workers are being presented with false choices, choices aimed at creating divisions between those in the public sector and those in the private sector and between those employed and the unemployed.
     This is a struggle to defend jobs, pensions, wages, and public services. It is not a struggle that can be left to working people in the North but requires the solidarity and support of workers throughout Ireland. The party calls on workers to organise actions of solidarity on 13 March.
     The loss of nearly a thousand jobs in Gallaher’s factory is yet another significant blow to an already precarious economy and reflects the global nature of capital and its strategy of pitching workers against each other in its drive to maximise profits. The recent pension dispute at NI Water shows how, despite years of setbacks and a low level of industrial struggle, it is possible to win important gains for workers. NI Water workers have significant leverage, but all too often we have seen advantages squandered or multi-union disputes end in recriminations. We now have an example of a trade union dispute that took on political arguments and, crucially, was organised and strategic. By challenging the Northern Ireland Assembly’s restrictions on pay and its policy on public-sector pensions, and combating an anti-union media agenda, the Water Group of Trade Unions have shown that austerity can be resisted. This could not have been better timed as we approach public-sector strikes on 13 March.
     The Stormont House Heads of Agreement are an agreement for further attacks on working people, for further job losses and the privatisation of public assets, such as Belfast Harbour—an agreement enthusiastically championed by the various brands of unionism and the SDLP, with a weak defence by Sinn Féin with its highlighting of the establishment of a “hardship fund” as the basis for accepting it. The agreement has the imprimatur not only of the parties in the Assembly but also of the British and Irish governments, all united in making the people pay.
     The demand for a reduction in corporation tax can only benefit transnational corporations and will not lead to the projected growth in jobs that the parties in the Assembly claim. Experience shows that it will lead to a downward spiral, with the Northern Ireland Executive pitching workers, north and south, against each other and with big business the ultimate beneficiary.
     The Stormont House Agreement will reinforce the controlling hand of the British state and the dependent relationship that is already a central feature of the current political settlement, locking an already weakened and dependent economy into a straitjacket, with the belt-tightening mechanisms in the hands of the British state.
     Despite the hype from the government in the Republic, the economic “recovery” is more spin than substance. It has more to do with the forthcoming general election than with real changes in the harsh economic and social reality experienced daily by working people. Recent figures reveal the stark reality experienced by working people and their families: 12 per cent of children experience consistent poverty; 37 per cent of young people—400,000 people—experience deprivation; 1.4 million people, or nearly a third of the population, suffer deprivation, being unable to afford basic necessities. This deprivation is most acute among lone parents, the unemployed, the long-term ill, and the disabled. A quarter of the population are unable to heat their homes.
     The CPI reaffirms its support for the Right2Water campaign, under trade union leadership, and calls on local communities to continue to resist water charges. There is a clear need to maintain the broadest unity of all those opposed to these regressive charges. The proposal of a constitutional amendment to enshrine in the Constitution of Ireland the public ownership and control of water can be an important issue in the forthcoming general election and could provide an effective focal point for campaigning by communities throughout the country linked to non-payment and those who are preventing meters being installed.
     The CPI also affirms its view that water charges, the growth in poverty, declining wages and poor working conditions cannot be separated from the massive socialised corporate debt and the general economic and social strategy of the government, a strategy actively promoted by the European Union.
     The recently announced strategy by the EU Central Bank on quantitative easing is designed to maintain share prices and buttress the euro as it steadily declines against the dollar. It will have limited economic effect, as the euro-zone banking industry is already dependent on ECB lending to the tune of approximately €1 trillion, with interest rates of virtually nil.
     The ruling classes throughout the European Union have no strategy for dealing with the growing indebtedness of the peripheral countries but will continue to extract massive flows of capital from these countries to European and global finance houses. The present strategy of the monopoly bankers, a strategy whereby wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, has not created the desired growth in the economy, nor has it reduced unemployment or growing mass poverty. They offer the people little hope but rather what is on offer is more despair, hopelessness, a future of more of the same.
     The CPI expresses its solidarity with the Greek working class and the Communist Party of Greece as they enter a new phase in the resistance to the European Union. What is needed now as never before is closer co-operation between communist parties throughout Europe and all workers’ organisations that wish to resist the European Union. There is an urgent need to build united resistance and to campaign on areas of common understanding. We need to build workers’ unity and resistance outside the controlling structure and institutions of the European Union itself.
     The CPI again draws attention to how the European Union continues to facilitate transnational corporations by negotiating two far-reaching trade agreements, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States—treaties drafted by and for big corporations. These treaties will give further impetus to the drive to the bottom and will carve in stone the power of global monopoly capitalism over the people.
     These developments further underline the need for the Irish trade union movement to become more political and more radical in defence not only of its members but of the wider working class, or to become redundant.
     Workers’ resistance and workers’ consciousness have been growing but need to be built on and not sidelined or channelled into purely electoral politics. Building the people’s resistance is still the only way that independent working-class political and economic interests can be sustained.

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