January 2017        

Make 2017 a year of hope, a year of resistance!

Eugene McCartan

Are we now at the beginning of a growing and deepening political crisis of the system?
     There are growing signs that the old order is under increased strains and pressures as working people feel the impact of austerity and a growing feeling that there is no end in sight.
     People’s living standards have gone backwards, personal debt has grown, work is being speeded up, young people increasingly find themselves locked in dead-end, precarious employment. People are working harder and longer, pensions are in decline, there is a growing number of cases of pension theft by corporate raiders, and the age of retirement is on the way up. Working life is becoming harder and harder and is taking a heavy toll.
     The lives of working people never appear on our television screens, and their difficulties find little coverage in the mass media. Yet resistance is growing, both in Ireland and throughout the European Union. That resistance is expressed in industrial struggles and resistance as well as politically through the ballot box.
     People are increasingly disillusioned with the daily diet of non-news and fake news churned out by RTE and the corporate media, most of which are owned and controlled by a few individuals. The world presented on our television screens and through the newspapers appears to be stumbling from one political crisis to another, crises supposedly created either by irresponsible voters within the British state voting to leave the EU or “deplorables” who voted for Trump.
     The same shallow analysis applies to developments throughout the EU, where people are either infected by anti-liberal ideas or vote for populist right-wing parties led by demagogues. The perpetual wars of the United States and its allies are waged for “humanitarian” purposes, and the war propaganda is repeated as “news.”
     Working people throughout Europe have responded to the pressures on them and in their experience of the economic crisis—and have reacted in different, even contradictory, ways, voting to the left or the right of the established parties. Millions have voted for SYRIZA in Greece, for Podemos in Spain, for Corbyn in Britain, or for the Five Star Movement in Italy, in search of a left alternative.
     In France we can see the rise of Marine Le Pen and the growth in the forces of the right in the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Germany, and elsewhere, while in the United States millions of workers, disillusioned with the Democratic Party and its failed and broken promises and experiencing their living standards rapidly declining, plumped for Trump, more out of desperation than anything else.
     The system is facing a deepening crisis of disillusionment among growing sections of society, not only among workers but also among small business owners and growing sections of the middle and professional classes, who have seen their interests and needs being sacrificed. The system was acceptable so long as someone else was paying the price. As the crisis deepens, wider sections of society are feeling that their material position is increasingly precarious.
     Into this confused swamp appear forces that articulate the deep frustrations and alienation felt by working people, small business owners, and the lower professional elements, presenting themselves as both anti-establishment and pro-establishment at the same time. None of the forces that claim to speak for the people—not Trump, Farage, nor Le Pen—have expressed any anti-capitalist analysis of the problems the people face as problems of the system.
     For decades, relative class peace in the developed capitalist states was bought by the strength of organised workers, winning concessions and small advances, coupled with the existence of the socialist bloc of countries, in particular the Soviet Union. Social-democratic ideas and values (Socialist and Labour Parties) found fertile ground in societies where the hard edge of capitalism appeared to be smoothed over and gains made.
     The same parties accepted and even implemented the colonial and neo-colonial super-exploitation of the global south, which made these concessions possible. Even corporations willingly put on the veneer of presenting their “charters of corporate responsibility.”
     This contributed to a weakening and blurring of class understanding. If this were not the case, the ideas of the ruling ideas would not be as strong as they are among a very significant portion of the population.
     Working people experienced a major crash of the system in 2007–08. The crisis was not just a financial one but was combined with a slump in production and an over-accumulation of capital: too much money and insufficient avenues for productive investment and instead further wasteful financial speculation. Consumption was fuelled by unsustainable personal debt.
     The crisis was not a one-off but rather is just one more crisis within a system prone to crises, which are becoming ever more frequent and profound. Even before the crash, people throughout the capitalist world were experiencing austerity and savage attacks on their wages and conditions and on welfare benefits.
     In the more developed capitalist societies, thanks to the historical legacy of savage anti-communism, illusions and shallow anti-establishment rhetoric held sway, fostered by social democracy and liberalism, as well as the state itself promoting the idea that there was simply no alternative to capitalism but capitalism. Individual rights were promoted as superior to collective rights.
     These and other factors contributed to the fragmentation of organised politics and the growing fragmentation of society, politics being reduced to a matter of identity politics or single issues and most importantly the constant refrain that our societies had passed beyond class.
     Trade unions were a particular target. Always under attack both from within and externally, they became just another “service” for workers to avail of if they so wished, not an instrument with which to organise, mobilise and harness the combined strength of workers, to articulate a different understanding of how a better society could be organised.
     Membership declined, resulting in a decline in influence, coupled with the de-industralisation and the shipping abroad by monopoly capitalism of millions of jobs to low-wage and heavily exploited work forces in the global south, as well as China, together with the victory of the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union. (Socialism did not collapse: it was overthrown from within.)
     If the left is to advance and give expression to the concerns of working people we need to seek to present a way forward that challenges the pillars holding up the system. Within the EU this will require the left to abandon the illusion that the EU can be reformed from within and instead to confront the very nature of the EU itself and the corporate interests that it serves.
     Here in Ireland we need a strategy that can offer a way forward, a strategy that combines extra-parliamentary struggles (primarily) and electoral campaigns. Having merely an electoral strategy and not a clear political programme for building the people’s strength can only end in failure.
     The water charges campaign and the housing campaign show the possibility of advance: that people can organise and mobilise to defend their interests. Both these movements have caused serious worries to the establishment, and have given confidence to working people.
     The CPI believes that we need a transformative strategy that will strengthen the power of labour (workers) and weaken the power of capital (imperialism), an all-Ireland strategy in both form and content, a strategy based on the empowerment of workers that is both profoundly democratic and environmentally and economically sustainable.
     We have reached the point where capitalism and imperialism are now the major obstacle to human survival itself. Socialist and anti-imperialist forces have to overcome their disorganisation and confusion if they are to present a credible programme for change to working people, to chart a way out of the crisis facing humanity—to confront not just the crisis of capitalism but capitalism itself.

Home page  >  Socialist Voice  >  January 2017  >  Make 2017 a year of hope, a year of resistance!
Baile  >  Socialist Voice  >  Eanáir 2017  >  Make 2017 a year of hope, a year of resistance!