June 2016        

Deepen the struggle, deepen the resistance

Eoghan O’Neill

The people have voted, the Government has been formed, and of course it’s back to business as usual. The anger and aspirations that were expressed in the election campaigns, and in the results, have not been enough to force any sort of meaningful change in Government policy.
     Yes, the Government has conceded on some issues, mainly water charges; but these are only temporary, given the fact that recently Dáil Éireann voted not to dissolve Irish Water.
     Some see that the fact that none of the long-established parties won an absolute majority means that the people have struck an almighty blow at the heart of the establishment, that come the next election the left will gain even more ground and may possibly be able to form some type of Government.
     Patience, of course, is a virtue, and playing the long game seems to be what the left has always believed in too. But what evidence is there that even if the left is to gain ground electorally it would take it from the two big establishment parties—or, put another way, what would prevent some formation of the establishment parties and their allies being able to form another Government?
     Fianna Fáil have played a very clever game and are lining themselves up just enough on the opposition side so that if Fine Gael were to lose even more votes at the next election, whether the Government lasts the full term or not, Fianna Fáil would be back in business as a serious contender for leading a Government, leaving the lost decade behind them.
     The only real possibility in the immediate future of a Government of the opposition would have to involve Sinn Féin. I would definitely not be the only person to have reservations about how far left Sinn Féin would go, and in fact all the signs are that behind the left rhetoric they have no vision, nor do they bring forward a programme for a socialist republic.
     Certainly you have sincere and committed members within its ranks who fight for the working class and for socialism. However, the lesson of SYRIZA is an important one: that without an alternative programme for government that breaks with the imperialist Triad of the EU, the United States and Britain and the capitalist mode of production and private ownership of the means of production, your alternative would be baseless and the Government would not be able to withstand the threats of the Triad, leading to its eventual capitulation and the restoration of the policies of austerity and privatisation.
     It’s a bleak outlook, which could quickly lead to the disillusionment of those who are in resistance to the Triad policies being implemented by national governments. If we want to create an alternative scenario, or even bring about a belief in another alternative, then we must learn lessons from the recent election. This relates to the involvement of Right2Change in the elections.
     Lesson 1: “Governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class.”
     Lesson 2: “The day has passed for patching up the capitalist system: it must go.”
     Lesson 3: “Unless you set about the organisation of the socialist republic your efforts would be in vain.”
     Of course these lessons were taught more than a hundred years ago, and they are probably James Connolly’s most quoted statements; yet still we have not learnt.
     Right2Water and Right2Change are the embodiment of a large working-class resistance, the first in a very long time. They are made up of three essential elements seeking to bring about social change: communities, trade unions, and political parties. They put forward a ten-point policy document, to be used as a minimum requirement for a unifying platform in the 2016 general election.
     The document itself should be used as a way to gauge where our class is in terms of being conscious of their place in society. The policies clearly show that the majority of people within the three pillars, though the aspirations are noble, are still thinking and acting within the confines of the system, within the rules and regulations of the EU and maintaining ties with American and British imperialism, without seriously examining the industrial, social and foreign policies related to the Triad.
     The Right2Change document puts forward the general aspirations of working people but is devoid of any real critical analysis of the political economy, of the position or the role Ireland plays in the global imperialist economy: in essence, it lacks class-consciousness, and therefore there is a real lack of class-consciousness within the three pillars.
     This is a much more worrying sign for the future than the fact that Fianna Fáil continues to gain ground electorally. In fact there must be a correlation between the two, so that as long as class-consciousness is weak Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will continue to re-emerge, grow, and govern.
     It is pointless to merely give out about the policy document: after all, it is only a measure of where our class is now, and it would be pointless also just to give out about that. That is why it is vital that people today learn the lessons laid out by Connolly more than a hundred years ago. If the system we live under today, i.e. capitalism, can only give us governments for managing the affairs of the capitalist class, then indeed the system must go, and so we must set about the organising of a socialist republic.
     This means that those involved in Right2Water and Right2Change must rethink strategies and priorities. The election overtook the movement, with the result that there was a temporary cessation of water bills. Can we call this a victory, or has it been a victory of the establishment in disarming a social movement that was growing in strength and confidence?
     Our most vital and immediate task is to build up class-consciousness, and this can be done only through political education.
     The unions that are committed to this task need to devote resources to education and a large-scale political education programme for their members and for communities. By all accounts the courses run by Trademark in Belfast, which have been organised up and down the country, have had a great response from people who have attended them. This needs to be expanded and invested in.
     The CPI will play its part, in running its own classes on working-class politics over the summer, and will expand on this during the autumn and winter months.
     There is more power in education than in elections. It allows people to join the dots for themselves, so bringing a focus and a reason to political and social action, no matter what the issue. Many of the aspirations will remain the same; however, what needs to change is the way we as a movement, or a society, bring about the changes and the alternatives that are needed, and permanent changes rather than temporary.
     It is now time to deepen the struggle and deepen the resistance.

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