November 2015        

The right to change

The Right2Water struggle, which began in the communities and has now developed into a powerful national force, has pushed the government back, and still retains the potential to defeat water charges and secure a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the public ownership of water.
     This demand must remain our primary focus, and it can be won, regardless of electoral outcomes.
     Right2Water has helped rebuild the confidence of workers. It has shown that together we have the power to bring change in favour of our class. It can only be a positive development and in the long run will bear fruit for both community and industrial struggles. It has begun to break down barriers and the isolation of struggles that are the shared responsibility of us all.
     Working people and their trade unions need a victory, a victory that will embolden them to go further and demand a better life. The struggle for water is best placed at the present time to bring about that victory.
     One of the central features of political life today is opportunism: activities engaged in for selfish party-political or sectional gain. This has bedevilled our struggles and has contributed to the demoralising and marginalising of workers, causing them to spurn political action over the decades, which has become a more acute problem in recent years.
     While we fully support the value and the thrust of Right2Change, we feel it needs to go further. The challenges facing our people require a much more radical response in such areas as the debt, the EU, and the euro: an alternative economic, social and political strategy, a radical transformative strategy, centred on a mobilised, politically conscious and organised workers’ movement; a radical strategy that must have at its core the organised labour movement.
     Our view is that we need a twin-track strategy—not only an electoral strategy but, most importantly, one that continues to mobilise and politicise the working class, both in the community and in the unions.
     It is essential to maintain the original campaign against the installation of water meters and the commodification and privatisation of water until we are victorious in defeating this or any other government’s plans. The only way to be sure of this is to amend the Constitution of Ireland and have the people’s ownership of water enshrined in it.
     The three “pillars” of the movement—the communities, the unions, and the political groups—need to work more closely and make use of their strengths to be of maximum benefit to the movement. Each pillar should complement the others rather than being antagonistic to each other.
     Solidarity, unity and discipline are needed if we are to build and develop a movement of resistance and change. All groups within each pillar should be open to criticism in a comradely fashion and should be critical of events and tactics that affect the movement as a whole. Individuals, groups, unions or parties that, for opportunist reasons, damage or undermine the movement should be held accountable.
     The trade union pillar has done most of the financing up to now. A central fund needs to be set up to raise the essential funds for helping with the expense of co-ordinating a national progressive movement, not leaving it to just one pillar. Some will have greater ability to contribute than others, but all should contribute. All fund-raising and funds should remain public and accountable.
     There is a great need for an expanded scheme of schools and workshops in the communities, which could cover such topics as politics, economics, trade union work, PR expertise etc. from a working-class standpoint. All resources and expertise should be offered to help implement this fundamental aspect of the movement.
     United action and mobilisations can be expensive and difficult to co-ordinate, so there should be a limit to the number of demonstrations staged each year, based on the level of development of the movement; and they should not be the main focus of the movement but should be used as a solidifying tactic.
     No formal structures need be adopted, as with such an ad hoc group it would be premature and at this stage would do more harm than good. There may be grounds, however, for forming a more structural basis for the three pillar groups to meet and co-ordinate national plans. The contributions of all groups, unions and parties that agree to the policy document should be recorded and made accessible.
     An equality of footing needs to be further established between the three pillars as the movement grows. The domination of one pillar over the others will inevitably lead to tension and division, whereas the integration of the three pillars can be beneficial to all.
     We need the people of Ireland to endorse the movement. Without having the backing of the mainstream media, we have to create and be creative in how we distribute our message of equality, democracy and social justice to reach the widest range of people throughout the country.
     The change we seek will be realised only by a mobilised and confident working people with a principled leadership, rooted in the popular struggle. Only in that way can we claim the legacy bequeathed to us by the heroes of our movement, such as James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Winifred Carney, and Rosie Hackett.
     The CPI will continue to support the Right2Water and Right2Change initiative and to encourage others to do so. The Irish working class has waited too long to come into its own. We have always been forced to wait in line to take what is given as charity rather than demanding as a right what we, our children and our grandchildren need for a decent and dignified life.
     We have all seen our people grow in enthusiasm and political understanding in the course of this great struggle. It shows what is possible when our movement has a clear understanding of itself and has its own goals and demands. Only such an understanding has the potential to bring real change; it is the only guarantor of real change.

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