The Workers' Party was represented at the recent meeting of European Communist and Workers' Parties which was held in Brussels on 1 / 2 October 2012. The party was represented there by Gerry Grainger, Chair of the International Affairs Department of the Workers' Party of Ireland. Below is the text of his address to the conference which had as its theme "The stance of the Communist and Workers' Parties in relation to the Capitalist Crisis: Assimilation or Rupture?"
In Ireland, in common with the rest of Europe, the crisis is now impacting on all areas of life – employment; social protection; health; education; and the provision of public services. The consequences of this crisis have dealt a devastating blow to working people and the crisis is also being used by capital to expand the power of the capitalist class through the agenda of privatisation. Increasingly, important sectors of education, healthcare, energy, transport, communications and state infrastructure are being transferred from state ownership to private control. Inequality and child poverty has increased. The Irish government is planning to close 40 community nursing units for the elderly. Schools are being closed, hospital services curtailed or ended and public and private sector pensions are under attack.
The Government has also introduced a punitive annual Household Charge which faces a campaign of popular resistance. Students who already face massive cuts to the education system are now confronted with the prospect of local authorities threatening to withhold payment of student grants to children whose parents have not paid the Household Charge in a despicable act which will demonise young people and families already struggling as a result of the cutbacks. Since 2007/2008 there has been a major collapse in employment. Long term unemployment is growing in Ireland. Unemployment is officially at 14.8% and some 16.8% of young people under 25 are now underemployed or unemployed. A recent study has revealed that successive Irish governments have handed over a minimum of almost 21 billion barrels of oil equivalent to transnational oil corporations. The study has estimated that at today’s prices 21 billion barrels of oil equivalent is worth approximately €1,600 billion. While this is merely the price for crude oil, it dwarfs by a factor of almost 25:1 the money “borrowed” from the EU/ECB/IMF Troika. After refining and use in downstream petro-chemical industries that base of €1,600 billion is multiplied into several trillion Euros.
This report makes clear that the long-standing theft of Ireland’s natural resources, its oil and gas reserves, continues. Ireland has immense natural resources which, if harnessed for the benefit of the Irish people, could provide jobs, fuel security, and industrial development and yet the parties which have formed successive governments, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour steadfastly refuse to take this step and opt instead to serve the interests of the monopolies. The Irish government has also appointed the Competition Authority to undertake a review of the role of Ireland’s state ports in what is clearly an attempt to privatise the most lucrative part of Ireland’s major state port companies. At a time when Irish workers and vulnerable sections of Irish society are haunted by fear of further savage cutbacks to basic services which will put their very lives in danger these parties demonstrate their class nature and their philosophy that private profit trumps the needs of the Irish people.
Bourgeois ideology has established almost total dominance in public discourse and debate in Ireland, not only in the mass media but in the universities and schools, in the trade unions and, of course, in the so-called Labour Party. It has reinforced values and beliefs which are the total antithesis of the common good and which seeks to suggest that the economic crisis is simply a temporary aberration as a result of individual greed which can be fixed by a stronger, better, cleaner capitalism. And workers are threatened and intimidated, first sold the lies that “we are all in this together” and that “there is no alternative to austerity” and then left in fear that if the working class do not accept the present economic policies that something else, even more terrible, will befall them - that the present economic system, bad as it may be, is preferable to what may happen if we do something different, that banks are too big to be allowed to fail, the euro too essential to be replaced by something different, and the European Union too important not to succeed. Every day in the mass media these are the unrelenting messages to which workers are subjected.
This was exactly the tactic used in the referendum on the Fiscal Treaty. The adoption of the Treaty means further and permanent austerity measures which will not only subvert the democratic rights, sovereignty and independence of the Irish people but sentence even more of our young people to forced emigration, and increased poverty for those who remain. The European Union remains an irredeemably capitalist project.
It is impossible to understand the crisis or articulate a response without understanding the character of the crisis and setting out a clear class analysis. A false critique of the crisis will facilitate the promulgation of neo-Keynesian “solutions” which fail to acknowledge that capitalism is the problem, not the solution. Capitalist production cannot cease accumulating without disrupting the foundation on which it rests. Capitalist accumulation reflects the concentration and centralisation of production and capital together with the growing exploitation of millions of workers throughout the world. The private ownership of the means of production, private capitalist appropriation and the contradictions of capital formation block the general development of the productive powers of society. Contradictions, crises, social convulsions all demonstrate the incompatibility of social productive development with capitalist relations of production. Capitalism is inherently unequal, exploitative, wasteful and fundamentally undemocratic concentrating instead on consumption, competition, profit and the accumulation of capital. Capitalist production relations and a society organized around production for the accumulation of profit patently does not work, however it is managed.
Structural changes in capitalism lead to crises, imperialism and war. Imperialism, and US imperialism in particular, has threatened, threatens and continues to threaten the progressive, political, economic and cultural development of the vast majority of the human race. US threats of military action against Iran, the Turkish provocations against Syria, the increased military aid by the Obama administration to Israel (a power which already possesses nuclear weapons and has a long history of military aggression against its neighbours), the escalating external pressure on Syria and the growing attacks by criminal terrorist elements demonstrate the dangerous role of the imperialist powers and the attempt by the monopolies and multi-national corporations to seize control of the energy resources of the region. We must demand full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria; an immediate end to all overt and covert financial and military assistance to the so-called Free Syrian Army and other armed terrorist groups and insist that there be no intervention by imperialism against Syria and Iran.
As Marx and Engels pointed out the driving force of modern history is the struggle between classes and the conflict of their interests. It the task of the communist and workers’ parties to make clear to workers that the crisis is systemic, that it did not arise by mismanagement or accident and we must strive to raise class consciousness and to place the peoples struggles manifestly and openly in the arena of class struggle.
We must assert without equivocation that the interests of the capitalist class and the working class are mutually antagonistic and irreconcilable. It is the task of workers in the class struggle to bring about the transition from capitalism to socialism and in order to do this the working class must take power into its hands.
Political struggle is impossible without an ideological struggle. Building a socialist society means abolishing private ownership of the means of production and the exploiter class. A socialist society is built on workers’ power and the construction of a socialist society necessarily involves a revolutionary transformation in which there is a transition of state power from the bourgeoisie to the workers.
In the present circumstances we must be alert to the dangers from reformism and opportunism. The ambition of the social democrats, even those more radical elements which have emerged in several countries in response to the crisis, is at best to stabilise and to manage the crisis.
It is clear both from historical experience of the social democrats in power and their words and actions that they are unprepared to take any step which threatens to change the economic system under which we live and are, indeed, wholly committed to the preservation of capitalist society. No social democratic party is prepared to take a single step to abolish the dominant position of monopoly capital. They have long abandoned any pretence at nationalisation and are easily persuaded along the route of the privatisation of the public sector. Promises to improve, regulate and better manage capitalism, while entirely baseless, must be exposed and a clear alternative characterisation of the crisis provided which highlights the systemic nature of the crisis and the relationship between the power of the monopolies and the state.
Now is the time, against a background of the deepening crisis of capitalism and the increasing intensification of contradictions in capitalist society and where the working class has a vested interest in destroying the old economic order, to mount a counterattack and to advance the arguments for the economic, social, cultural and political advantages of an alternative social system and to reassert the dynamic of socialism as a viable alternative world vision in which the working class possesses absolute power and where the goal is the construction of a society where the “free development of each is the condition of the free development of all”.
There can be no revolutionary change without a revolutionary ideology. This requires the existence of a disciplined and effective Marxist-Leninist party capable of generating revolutionary class consciousness, confronting and exposing opportunism and reformism and demonstrating that there is only one answer to the crisis and that socialism is the answer.
International Secretary and Member of the Central Executive Committee
Workers’ Party of Ireland