There is no doubt that apathy has been a major problem among the working class for decades. Trade unions are far less active than they used to be, and the number of working days lost to strike action has collapsed since the early 1990s. The Industrial Relations Act (1990) in this state placed big restrictions on the right to strike, but it was nevertheless accepted by the trade union leadership, who sought a less adversarial relationship with employers and the capitalist state.
Unions became more compliant, and workers’ voice at the negotiation table was ignored. This new status quo was given the misleading name of “social partnership.”
Thousands of workers in unionised sectors have become infected with a petty-bourgeois outlook, one that views trade union membership as an insurance policy or a last resort, not as organs of solidarity and struggle.
Increasing numbers of voters (particularly from working-class areas) are pinning their hopes on Sinn Féin and the party’s promise of fixing all our ills once it gets into government, a prospect that is likely after the next general election, though it is not a foregone conclusion.
Communists need to point out the deep flaws in Sinn Féin’s utopian promises. It is time for the “pouring of vinegar and bile into the sweet water of revolutionary-democratic phraseology” (in the words of an early Bolshevik). The last number of years have shown that as Sinn Féin prepare for government they are keen to present themselves as a respectable outfit that can placate transnationals and foreign capital, a “safe pair of hands.” They talk incessantly about fixing the housing crisis, but even a cursory inspection of their policies makes it clear that watery concepts like “affordable housing” and a “path to home ownership” take precedence over universal public housing and ending the financialisation of the basic human right to shelter.
The most striking aspect of Sinn Féin’s march to the centre is their about-turn on the European Union. They have gone from being the largest party that opposed both Lisbon referendums to one that is silent on the undermining of the state’s neutrality (which is, of course, a consequence of the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty). They are no longer bothered by the undemocratic nature of the European Union, which only serves the interests of the member-states’ ruling classes.
Marx and Engels, writing in the Communist Manifesto in 1848, referred to their adversaries who warned of a spectre haunting Europe: the spectre of communism. One hundred and twenty years later, in her seminal work Silent Spring, Rachel Carson suggested that a much grimmer spectre was haunting modern industrial society, that of the “gods of profit and production,” along with the so-called right of capitalism to make a profit, regardless of the costs.
Lockdown rules during covid banned large gatherings, and this sat uneasily with the constitutional right to freedom of assembly (and, hence, to protest). We should learn from the experience of lockdown and should be more suspicious of wide-ranging limitations on democratic rights in the future. We are a revolutionary party and should recognise that it suits the state not to have protesters expressing opposition to the agenda of the Government of the day. We have let the advent of covid get in our way with the ban on protests, and maybe we went along too easily with that “Social Contract”; but to the future.
Humanity is facing catastrophic challenges as our Earth system is dying and ordinary people are forced into destitution to pay for basic utilities as a result of capitalism’s latest crisis. Workers cannot find homes to live in, thanks to political decisions made by a political class beholden to the whims of the construction industry and landlords.
Faced with these huge challenges, the Communist Party of Ireland must fulfil its role as the vanguard party of the working class. We need to be more militant and make our presence known in popular struggles, backed up by the strategy contained in the political resolution of our most recent national congress in September of last year. The hammer and sickle should be a recognisable symbol at protests up and down the country. We have been too comfortable for too long at making excuses for not promoting our party’s message, for fear of annoying other political forces engaged in similar campaigns or being compared to ultra-leftists, a misguided notion. We are a revolutionary party and we must show leadership. No excuse should be acceptable for being inactive. There is little point in being a member of the CPI if one is sitting on one’s hands.
We owe to our forebears, past members of our party, and the next generation to ensure that we leave behind something better than that which we inherited.
Let’s make 2023 the year when the CPI becomes militant in pursuit of its goal, guided by the theory we have developed. Arise, comrades!