19th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties
St Petersburg, November 2017
National Chairperson, Communist Party of Ireland
I am proud to be here today representing the Communist Party of Ireland at this important meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties on the theme “The 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution: The ideals of the Communist Movement, revitalising the struggle against imperialistic wars, for peace and socialism.”
One hundred years ago the world of emperors, kings, aristocrats, capitalists and landowners was shaken to its core by the Bolshevik Revolution. For the first time in world history, the ordinary masses of the people, led by the working class, had cried “Enough!” and determined to seize power to end war and build a new world for themselves and their children. That fateful choice of the working people of the then Russian Empire, led by the Bolshevik Party, has reverberated down the years, opening up the possibility for all peoples of a world that previously they could only dream of.
The Soviet people, at tremendous cost to themselves, created a new world, a world of social justice, of peace and harmony between nations, of equality between men and women, of literacy, education and culture for all. This was done in the face of unremitting imperialist aggression and subversion aimed at destroying the young Soviet state of workers and peasants, culminating in the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany and its allies in June 1941.
25 million Soviet citizens gave their lives in the war to defeat fascism and still, despite such grievous loss and destruction, rebuilt their battered country and again became a beacon of hope and solidarity for the poor and oppressed throughout the world. For that, all the world’s peoples owe a huge debt of gratitude, which can never be repaid.
The defeat of socialism in the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries was a bitter and grievous blow to working people the world over and to the struggle for peace. Today imperialism, emboldened by those victories, launches new wars of aggression to impose its writ. Globally it works to undermine and subvert those countries which dare to pursue a path towards socialism or those which do not bend the knee to the diktats of imperialism.
Since the 18th International Meeting in Hanoi last year, imperialism has continued its drive to control the world through regional wars. More recently the US threats of “total destruction” towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the propaganda campaign against Iran, illustrate the point. The hypocrisy of the US, British and other governments that are condemning the DPRK for testing nuclear weapons—while themselves retaining vast arsenals of nuclear weapons—is exposed. Whilst we are opposed to nuclear weaponry, it is patently obvious that if the DPRK did not have them, the jackboots of the United States and its so-called “allied forces” would be tramping all over them.
Palestine remains brutalised and denied its rights of nationhood by the actions of Israel, supported by the United States. Meanwhile the human rights record of Israel and other US-supported regimes, such as the corrupt and bloodstained Saudi sheikdom, are never called into question.
Despite some alleviation in relations under Obama, Cuba remains under the yoke of the US economic blockade. Trump has started to reverse the work of Obama and openly calls for regime change. Solidarity work to support Cuba through these increasingly difficult times should remain vital for our party.
There is a clear relationship between global environmental destruction and modern state-monopoly capitalism. Capitalism is creating the environmental crisis, with its continuous need for growth, its short-term and selfish use of resources, and its unplanned and anarchic nature.
Writing in 1940, Dona Torr said: “The intensified rivalries of the great Powers in the epoch of imperialism increases the competitive growth of armaments. Arms production, the most lucrative branch of heavy industry, becomes a national and international force and itself acts as an incentive to war. ‘War,’ said Lenin, ‘is terribly profitable.’” This statement, as true now as it was then, epitomises the capitalist armaments industry.
Catalonia: The CPI notes the position of our comrades of the Communist Party of Spain and the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain on this issue. Notwithstanding the brutal Spanish State police force’s actions against the Catalan people wishing to vote on the issue of independence, there is a question mark over the granting of Catalan independence. Whether in a centralised Spanish state or an independent Catalonia, workers would still be subject to the same exploitation under capitalism as they are now. There is a danger that the secession of rich regions within imperialist centres can actually strengthen the dominant bourgeois class in the EU. Spanish communists call for a federal Spain, based on social rights for all and solidarity between the peoples, with the right of national self-determination guaranteed in the constitution.
In every country the struggle against imperialism and capitalism takes different forms, whilst remaining in essence the same all over the world. The Irish state has increasingly aligned itself with the aggressive policies of both the EU and the United States. US military planes use Shannon Airport in the transporting of military personnel and weapons to war zones and also to facilitate rendition flights of prisoners to torture centres. Irish troops are involved in NATO’s “Partnership for Peace,” and a token number of Irish police personnel are retained in Afghanistan. The Irish army buys weapons from the Zionist state of Israel. This all flies directly in the face of the country’s stated policy of military neutrality. Irish neutrality, never officially abandoned, has become a fiction. Part of the challenge for democratic forces in Ireland must be to mobilise the people to defeat these illegal moves by the Irish government and restore Ireland’s long-standing and honourable role as a neutral state.
In Ireland, as in every capitalist country in the world, political life is shaped and ultimately determined by the realities of class struggle. On the one hand we have to fight to defend the working and living standards of the people, and, on the other, we have to drive forward the ideological battle and raise the political consciousness of the working class and people to show that only a complete change will bring about the kind of society needed, to the benefit of the whole human race.
The fact that Ireland is under two jurisdictions holds back the struggle to unite our class and our country. The six north-eastern counties comprise the statelet of Northern Ireland, which is still under British rule and where for generations state-sponsored sectarianism and discrimination were used to divide working people against their own best interests. Although formal legal equality has been achieved, the heritage of those divisions, exacerbated by a thirty-year military campaign, remains. Our working class is deeply divided; the main political parties are defined by their attitude towards the “constitutional position,” i.e. whether Northern Ireland should remain in the UK or seek a new future as part of a united Ireland.
Most specifically, in Ireland we are involved in the fight to prevent social facilities becoming privatised. In the North we face all the welfare cuts that are imposed by the British government. In the Republic of Ireland austerity created by European polices and capitalist enterprise is creating homelessness and poverty. Nevertheless the fight to prevent the privatisation of water in Ireland has produced a force for change that is creating a campaign for social housing.
The demand for women to have reproductive rights, North and South, is one that is gaining mass support. At the present time a woman can only have an abortion if her life is at risk, and in the Republic of Ireland the 8th Amendment of the Constitution enshrines the baby’s life above that of the mother. This is a mediaeval reaction by reactionary forces.
Some two thousand women travel from both parts of Ireland each year to have an abortion in Britain. This is a class issue, as many working-class women cannot afford the money to travel and to pay for a private clinic. Though women’s organisations lead the way in this campaign, the demand to change the law, North and South, is a demand that is now supported by the trade union movement and other progressive forces.
Another human rights issue is related to gay rights. The CPI encourages lesbian and gay groups to see the fight for equality as part of the larger struggle for democracy and socialism; for it is only a complete change in society that can give greater social equality. As an internationalist party, the CPI does not limit these calls to the citizens of the island of Ireland but to all peoples of the earth. All progressive parties and governments should commit themselves to these fundamental human rights.
Massive demonstrations have taken place on all these issues, but we have to know how to harness these forces for a revolutionary change.
Northern Ireland: Since 2007, Sinn Féin have shared power with the Democratic Unionist Party. However, this power-sharing is always of a precarious nature, and the DUP have set down 86 (out of 115) petitions of concern over a five-year period to avoid legislation that they do not support. The DUP have opposed the Irish Language Act and have prevented the enactment of a Bill of Rights. In addition to this they refuse to support legislation that would allow women to have abortion in Northern Ireland. In the Stormont Assembly only the Green Party and People Before Profit support women’s right to free, legal and safe abortion.
The British referendum to leave the European Union (Brexit) produced a particular reaction in Ireland, especially the North, where the trade union and labour movement was opposed to leaving the European Union and where the Communist Party and other left forces were categorised as racist and grouped together with the right-wing forces. Whilst Sinn Féin is described as a “left party” by some, their recent policies have exposed a major difficulty in their understanding of the imperialist nature of the European Union. Sinn Féin’s stated objective of building a broad coalition across civil society, including trade unions, women’s group and community organisations, to oppose austerity measures leads to a direct confrontation with the European institutions.
In conclusion: How do we revitalise our struggle? How do we win people away from reactionary politics and for a complete change in the system? We have to rebuild the revolutionary movements in our countries, and consolidate national independence, and we have to continue to restore international solidarity. It is essential to be with communists throughout the world to share our experiences and to strengthen our struggle and, more importantly, to decide new actions and new ideas in the fight for a different, better world.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and express our gratitude to all those comrades responsible for the hospitality and work that has gone into this gathering. It is truly a privilege to be here on this historic occasion. Long live the world communist movement! Long live the fight for world peace and socialism!