February 2016        

New challenges and new opportunities for working people

The current election campaign and the election of a new Dáil present new challenges and opportunities for the working people of Ireland.
     Working people have experienced prolonged attacks on their living standards, on social welfare benefits, pensions, and public services, as well as the imposition of water charges.
     Since the emergence of the present stage in the deepening structural crisis of the system in 2008, the ruling class, both at the national level and throughout the EU and globally, have used this crisis to drive forward their agenda of pushing working people back and reclaiming concessions they were forced to make and that were won by workers over many decades.
     We have seen a significant growth in precarious employment in various branches of the economy. While new workers in the public sector enter at lower rates of pay and with worse conditions, they are also finding promotional avenues closed off and additional restrictions and barriers imposed. The limitation on trade union rights because of anti-union laws imposed on workers has restricted trade unions in defending their members.
     Working people have seen the age of retirement going up, while young workers experience endless schemes of either low-pay or no-pay jobs. The gap between rich and poor is growing, not only at the national level but even more starkly at the global level.
     The economic and political strategy of “austerity” has worked. It was designed to benefit the rich: it had nothing to do with the people’s needs or interests; it was for transferring wealth from Irish working people upwards to the rich. At the same time Ireland, as a peripheral state and debtor-country within the EU, has experienced vast amounts of wealth being transferred outwards to the core countries, with billions being taken from working people’s pockets and given to banks and finance houses while corporate executives bolster their profits and lavish life-styles.
     Working people need to look long and hard at what is being presented to them in the manifestos and election materials dropping in their doors. What do they really mean? Who stands to benefit the most, and who will lose the most? What do the plethora of political parties, the alliances and the hundreds of candidates presenting themselves as independents really stand for?
     Do the policies of those asking for your vote advance the demand for national independence, for greater political and economic sovereignty, for the weakening of the power of capital over workers? Are they in favour of the people being sovereign and of all economic, political, cultural and social decisions resting fully with the people? Do they accept that the needs of the people are primary and that economic activity must be a servant of the people?
     A useful guide by which to judge those seeking your vote is the political positions outlined by the Right2Change movement. With these principles as a guide, it’s clear that the three main parties—Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and Fianna Fáil—are subservient to the Troika, to the policies being imposed by the European Union and to international corporations and their interests. These parties will continue to place the Irish working people in a subservient position; so a vote for any of them is a vote for continuing with the same subservient policies and for permanent austerity.
     Even some within Right2Change need to be questioned and not taken at face value. Some backward and reactionary forces have latched on to Right2Water and Right2Change to mask their reactionary politics, as well as opportunist forces only too willing to steal the people’s anger and steer it into a cul de sac, into the swamp of electoral politics.
     Working people should vote for parties and independents that have a record of working in the interests of working people, fighting to defend workers’ rights, that have a clear and unambiguous opposition to the European Union and that will oppose TTIP.
     Where the CPI is standing we ask for your support, based on our record of opposition to the odious bank debt and our demand, from the very start, for the repudiation of this debt; on our principled and unambiguous opposition to the European Union over many decades; on our opposition to water charges and our political support for the central demand of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the people’s ownership of water as well as all our natural resources.
     Elections are in the main a barometer of where the class is and its understanding of events around them. A purely electoral strategy at the expense of the mobilising of working people in defence of their interests will deliver little. We need to think beyond elections and to see what type of society we want and what our class needs are. We need to build working-class organisations, from community structures to our trade unions. Having strong working-class organisations is an expression of the potential of our own political power.
     Do not be distracted by the degree of political opportunism and political sectarianism that pervades much of the left. The interests of such groups are not the same as the interests of our class.
     The fetters imposed on us by external political and economic forces can be challenged and broken only by a working class that is organised and determined and has a clear understanding of where it needs to go—by a people with pride in our history of struggle and resistance against imperialism, proud of our culture and language. For a decent society to exist we need an Ireland built on the principles of solidarity, equality, sharing, and caring, to bring the working-class principle of “an injury to one is the concern of all” into the very heart of our society—a country where we have national independence and political and economic sovereignty.
     The resistance and mass mobilisation against water charges has given us a picture of what is possible when we are organised. We need to go further and begin to shape our own destiny. Working people must take real ownership of our country.

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