11 IMCWP - Intervention by CP of Ireland

11 IMCWP, Intervention by CP of Ireland

Communist Party of Ireland, Monday, 18 January 2010

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie,  mailto:cpoi@eircom.net

National Executive Committee, Communist Party of Ireland

 20 November 2009


First of all I would like to express our Party’s thanks to our hosts, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, for organising this Conference. The struggles of the peoples of India and Ireland have been intertwined for many years by our common struggle for independence from British Imperialism. Almost 90 years ago when British Imperialism and its Irish allies imposed partition and ultimately Civil War on the Irish people, one of the first working class fighters in Britain who leapt to the defence of the Irish Republic was the outstanding Communist Member of Parliament Shapurji Saklatvala.

Comrade Saklatvala, the first Communist elected to parliament in Britain, not only used his maiden speech in Westminster to defend the Irish republic, he also subsequently attended a conference of the Irish Trade Union Congress in Ireland and throughout his life was a staunch friend of Ireland and of the revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements in the then British colonies of India, Egypt and South Africa and actively involved himself in the struggles of the workers of those countries. He was also, of course, a great friend and defender of the young Soviet state. It is appropriate here, in the land of this great revolutionary’s birth, that Irish Communists can acknowledge with gratitude his contribution to our struggle.

Comrades, the political and economic landscape is undergoing significant changes and at an accelerated pace over the last few years. The absolute hegemony of the United States, as proclaimed by the authors of the “Project for a New American Century,” is now seen to be unattainable.

The trend towards a multipolar world continues to gather pace as groups of countries and regional blocs emerge and gather momentum in opposition to the two big imperialist blocs, the United States and the European Union. Most notable has been the development of ALBA, a group of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America which, inspired by the example of revolutionary Cuba, is setting about the development of an alternative model of economic development and co-operation which is progressive and anti-imperialist.

But in Europe the opposite is the case. Across the globe, in all the capitalist countries, working people are being forced to pay a heavy price for the current crisis of capitalism, a price paid in millions of unemployed, increased taxes, home repossessions, growing poverty, and attacks on their health and educational services. The main front of this monopoly capitalist offensive in Europe is the growing concentration of power in the hands of the /emerging imperialist superstate of the EU./ The forcing on the Irish people of a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty by a supine Irish ruling class at the behest of the European Commission and the governments representative of European monopoly interests, exposed the subservient relationship between the Irish ruling class and the European Union. That class has lost all potential for independent action, and is a willing tool of both European and American imperialism.

The Lisbon Treaty is the latest stage of a strategy adopted many decades ago. The EU itself is part of the Cold War architecture of Western Europe, set up as a bulwark against the advance of socialism. With the defeat of socialism in Europe, monopoly capitalism no longer feels the need to hide behind the fig leaf of “Social Europe”. For all the pipe dreams and illusions of the social democrats and some so-called Left forces in Western Europe, neo-liberalism is woven into the very fabric of its institutions and procedures and, with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, is now elevated to the level of constitutional law. Despite all the talk about a Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Lisbon Treaty makes human rights and workers’ rights subject to market forces and the primacy of the market.

The European Union itself, with the adoption of the Treaty, will be reconstituted and will be superior in law to its constituent members, that is, the member-states. More and more policy areas, previously requiring unanimity, will be decided by “weighted majority” voting, which ensures that power is heavily loaded in favour of the big states.

For example, Germany will have 18 per cent of the votes, while Ireland will have 0.8 per cent. It is also structured in such a way that there is a built-in blocking minority (based on population size). Thus three of the larger countries would have enough votes to block any measures they oppose.

The European Union will also be able to speak at WTO talks and in other international institutions with one voice, giving greater weight to the forces of imperialism at the global level. What this means in effect is that any independent foreign and security policy is ended for the small member-states. Neutral Ireland will be dragged further into the military build-up of the European Union and also of NATO. At a time of massive cuts in public spending we will be obliged to spend more on our military forces to keep them up to date and comparable to those of other EU member-states—that is, compatible with NATO. We will also have to contribute to the growing arms industry in the form of the European Defence Agency.

The European Union has been extremely clever in how it has developed over the last few decades. At each stage of the process the people have been presented with a fait accompli. Everything is presented as inevitable and the only possible way forward. Even changes of name, from European Economic Community to European Communities to European Union, as well as its flag and anthem, were all brought into use, making the people accustomed to them, before they had been legally established.

What is being constructed, step by step, is a superstate, with institutions above and beyond democratic control and accountability./ During the referendum campaign millions of euros flowed in from Brussels to its many front organisations. Manipulation on a scale we have not witnessed before was the order of the day. This is a lesson they learnt very effectively from all the colour-coded so-called “revolutions” in Eastern Europe. Sports stars, entertainers, TV and radio personalities, never previously known to have any political opinion worthy of note, were all trundled out as part of a hugely expensive propaganda campaign to assure us that “civic society” supported a Yes vote. The mass media abandoned all pretence of balanced reporting and threw their full weight behind the Yes side.

Such bodies as the American-Irish Chamber of Commerce—the mouthpiece of American transnationals based in Ireland—called for a Yes vote. The giant US computer chip manufacturer Intel spent €500,000 campaigning for a Yes vote. The viciously anti-trade union company Ryanair committed €500,000 to the Yes campaign and provided free flights from Brussels to Dublin for any employees of the European Union who were prepared to go to Dublin to work on the Yes campaign. They also offered free flights to the estimated 30,000 Irish people who live in Germany to come home and vote Yes.

The Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation, the body that represents the big employers, sent a letter to each of its member organisations for them to distribute among all their employees, making the case that workers had no choice but to vote Yes. In all, it has been estimated that the Yes side spent at least €10 million in the course of the campaign, more than ten times the amount which the No side, with no corporate or official funding, was able to muster.

The EU Commission itself interfered almost daily in the Irish referendum, with constant statements challenging the No campaign. It organised a series of public “information” meetings; not on the Lisbon Treaty but on how good the European Union has been for Ireland. This dovetailed into the strategy of the Government in turning the referendum into a vote on membership of the European Union rather than on the contents of the Treaty. The Commission also placed advertisements in newspapers and had large advertisements on hoardings throughout the country.


Our people were bullied into voting, not on the Lisbon Treaty and its contents, but for or against our continued membership of the European Union. The economic collapse was used to frighten people into believing that there was no alternative and that if we voted No we would be punished and Ireland would become a pariah state in Europe, with the withdrawal of foreign capital leading to even greater job losses.

The referendum campaign was a period of intense class struggle. With the exception of Sinn Féin, all the major political parties supported the Yes campaign. The People’s Movement, a broad organisation, which includes communists, greens, individual members of the Labour Party and Sinn Féin and many independent activists, was the main focus of our Party’s work during the referendum campaign. It campaigned in defence of workers’ rights, of national sovereignty and democracy. While the national leadership of the trade union movement supported the Yes campaign this was not supported by the majority of their members and in fact two major trade unions called for a No vote.

Despite all the bullying and lies, the working class, small and medium farmers, and the fishing communities mainly voted No. Slightly more than

55 per cent of the people eligible to vote took part, with 35 per cent of these voting No. Combined with the more than 40 per cent who did not bother to vote at all, this No vote indicates a massive level of alienation by mainly working people from a political system and a society which they believe no longer represents their interests.

We would like to thank all those parties who signed the joint appeal issued by our Party and our Greek Party comrades in support of the No campaign. This was an important initiative, as it showed that working-class forces across Europe, both inside and outside the European Union, understood the issues at stake and their importance to the future struggles of the working class. It was a good restatement of the principle of working-class solidarity and opposed the lie propagated by the EU and supported by Social Democracy that all sensible working-class forces had succumbed to the EU steamroller and its sham democracy.


Whilst the Lisbon Treaty has been the main focus of our Party’s work over the recent past, it is not the only manifestation of imperialism affecting the working people in Ireland. Imperialism has left us a complex and difficult legacy, with a partitioned country and a deep fissure of sectarianism running through the working class in Northern Ireland, which is still officially part of the British state. Our Party comrades, North and South, contend daily with these complex issues and seek to unite workers in struggle based on their common class interests.

With the deepening of the current world capitalist crisis, exacerbated by a profound crisis within the Irish banking system, the economy of the Republic of Ireland is now in a very precarious state, with unemployment running at 12 per cent and forecast to rise to 17 per cent. Despite the extraordinary economic growth during the boom years of the so-called “Celtic Tiger” there has been a huge growth in inequality. It has been estimated that a quarter of all children live below the official poverty line.

A similar story is repeated in the North as job losses are announced daily. While the collapse is not on the same scale as that facing the South, the economy in the North has not escaped the crisis of capitalism that is having such a heavy impact in the Republic. The Northern economy was tailored to meet the needs of the imperial centre during the height of the British Empire, and the decline of its traditional industries mirrors the decline of the British Empire. As the capitalist crisis develops and deepens in Britain the present levels of subvention from the British exchequer will come under growing pressure.

This relationship of dependence reflects how, in the political, economic and social spheres, the people of the North of Ireland are marginalised in three ways: the potential to change or influence the economic and social policies of the British government remains negligible; they cannot change or influence the policies imposed by Brussels, and they cannot influence the policies of the Irish Government.

None of the neo-liberal economic models or the mentality behind them can offer anything to the people of the North. What is needed is maximum unity of all radical forces in pursuing an agenda that will strengthen and deepen democracy as a counterweight to sectarianism, develop demands that challenge the limitations of the existing institutions and push for greater all-Ireland economic and social development and community reconciliation.

What the current crisis has exposed is that our people are made more vulnerable to the effects of the current crisis of capitalism by the policies pursued by both the Irish and British governments. The whole of Ireland faces marginalisation within the European Union while being tied to it and controlled by it. Only a united working class can challenge our new imperial masters and reassert the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland. The development of an alternative all-Ireland economic and social strategy has the potential to provide greater stability and protection to all our people. This would contribute to strengthening the unity of the working class, and weaken the influence of pro-imperialist ideas.

At the moment the main focus of struggle in Ireland against the consequences of the capitalist crisis is the forthcoming government budget in early December and the massive cuts in social expenditure and public-sector wages which it will entail.

The trade union movement is the major instrument that the working class has with which to defend its interests against the onslaught that has been launched against it by employers, governments, and the EU. Its strength has been sapped by decades of class collaboration and “social partnership,” and it is consequently ill equipped to organise an effective resistance. However, some union leaders are now learning the realities of a class-divided society and realising which class elements control the state, the Government and the mass media. Others are being pushed into action by the anger of their members and their insistence that their leaders stand up against the establishment onslaught.

Two weeks ago tens of thousands of workers took to the streets of the main urban centres around the state to protest against proposed Government cutbacks in public-sector pay and in welfare and pension payments. Last week thousands of essential services workers—firefighters, ambulance crews, nurses, prison officers, even police—marched in protest through Dublin against the Government’s and employers’ demand for pay and job cuts. On Tuesday the 24th a one-day general strike will take place in the public services. Support for the strike call has been unprecedented, typically being supported by margins of 80/20 in ballots of members in the main public-sector unions and this week even senior civil servants, for the first time, have voted 60/40 in favour of the strike action. The class offensive launched by big business and the state is at last meeting with a response.

The challenge facing our Party is to give political content to this response and show clearly to workers that “social partnership” has not served and cannot serve their interests but has in fact disarmed them in the face of the class enemy. Only a class-conscious militant and vigilant trade union movement can defend and advance the interests of working people.

We must develop an alternative economic and social strategy for the trade union movement and the Left. As part of this strategy our Party has recently produced a pamphlet, /An Economy for the Common Good,/ which was launched by the leader of Ireland’s biggest trade union, SIPTU, and which is receiving a very positive response from many trade union and community activists around the country.

Following on from the Lisbon Treaty campaign we must continue to champion the defence of national democracy and sovereignty, linking both to class relations and anti-imperialism. Without a clear understanding of the nature of imperialism in Europe and the strategies it pursues to ensure its hegemony over the working people of the continent, no effective struggle for socialism is possible.

In these tasks we will seek to develop maximum unity and co-operation of workers’ organisations across the EU, most importantly, outside and independent of the structures and institutions of the EU.

We will also continue in the spirit of internationalism and anti-imperialism to work at national and international level • to promote solidarity with heroic Cuba, whose principled and consistent challenge to imperialism continues to inspire us • to campaign for a cultural and economic boycott of Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinian people • to oppose the imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan • to build solidarity with the progressive anti-imperialist forces in Latin America and to frustrate the efforts of the USA to reassert its hegemony over the continent.

Thank you, comrades.