Crisis and Class Struggle in Ireland after the General Election
Statement by Supporters of the RCIT in Britain, 22.3.2016, https://rcitbritain.wordpress.com/
The result of the recent Irish General election was inconclusive. The results show that the major capitalist party Fianna Gael and its coalition party in government, the Irish Labour Party, are no longer the government. Ireland has a proportional system of government very different from Britain’s (first past the post system). Fianna Gael has 50 seats in the new Parliament (the Dael) and Fianna Fáil, the other capitalist party, has 44. Sinn Fein, a petty-bourgeois nationalist party, got 23 seats. The Labour Party (seen as a party of Austerity) did badly and returned only 7 TD’s (MP’s). The left-wing anti-austerity electoral alliance – consisting basically of the Anti-Austerity Alliance (mainly Socialist Party supporters in Ireland) and People before Profit (mainly Socialist Workers Party supporters in Ireland) – returned 6 TD’s. Some more radical leftist TD’s were elected as independents.
The working class, the youth and the oppressed masses gave their answer to the previous Fianna Gael / Labour coalition, a government of big business and capitalism. The biggest issue facing the Irish masses was water charges where both the SWP and the Socialist Party – two pseudo-Trotskyist organizations – had organised a campaign for non-payment of water charges.
Sinn Fein and five major trade unions supported the Right2 Water / Right to Change policy which unlike the centrists does not call for non-payment. Both campaigns have led to extreme opposition to the government’s policies and have reached proportions similar to the non-payment of the poll tax against Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s.
The election result with no clear mandate has meant that there is no government at the moment. Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and leader of Fianna Gael, the biggest party have not reached any agreement with either Fianna Fail or Sinn Fein to form a Coalition partner. Social inequality and indebtness prominent in Portugal and Spain and other Euro zone countries has produced the same crisis in Ireland. In Spain there is still no stable government and negotiations are continuing between PODEMOS an anti-austerity party as well as traditional parties to form a government.
It is clear that the opportunities for revolutionary change exist in Ireland. Unfortunately the centrists show an incapacity to recognise what these opportunities are. Both the SWP and the Socialist Party tag behind the trade union bureaucracy who can offer no solution and for years have been inactive supporting the reformist policies of the discredited Labour party. What these centrists fail to understand is that the trade union bureaucracy are part of the capitalist state, they are the agents of capitalism in the workers movement and must all costs, as Lenin and Trotsky advocated, be expelled and driven out of the movement. (1)
Brutal Austerity Offensive against the Irish Working Class and Poor
Ireland historically has been oppressed and exploited as a colony by British imperialism in the past and which today continues to exist as a semi-colonial country subjugated by the imperialist powers – Britain and the EU. This has been confirmed once more in the last years when it suffered – similar to Greece – a brutal austerity offensive under the dictate of financial sharks as well as Brussels and carried out by the Irish government.
As a result, Ireland, like all the Eurozone countries, is beset with extreme poverty, homelessness and social inequality. Over €30bn (£21bn) in austerity measures were introduced – public spending cuts and tax increases (mostly the former), over 15% of GDP. However, two-thirds of austerity went to destroy Irish social and economic life, with unemployment, poverty, liquidations, suicides, etc.
The consequences for Irish workers and poor have been dramatic. The proportion of people in consistent poverty has soared by 100%, according to the Irish think tank Social Justice Ireland. Almost 1.4 million Irish residents, or 30% of Ireland’s population, were forced to endure “enforced deprivation” throughout 2013, according to the state’s Central Statistics Office. Among them there are over 440,000 children and more than 90,000 pensioners. (2)
This demonstrates once again that capitalism as a crisis-prone system is a barrier to human and social progress and condemns ordinary people to poverty and misery. It also demonstrates that the European Union is an imperialist super-state which enforces barbaric austerity programs on the working class and in particular on economically weak, semi-colonial countries like Ireland or Greece.
The National Question: An Unresolved Issue
Related to this is the still unresolved national question. Ireland was divided by imperialist Britain in 1922 after Westminster could no longer continue with the colonial occupation of the whole island given the mass resistance of the Irish people. Today, the six counties in the north of the island remain occupied by the British. The Irish national liberation movement has been fighting for the complete elimination of the occupation and the reunification of the island. The RCIT Britain supports this struggle but emphases that the national struggle must be combined with a socialist perspective for the creation of a sovereign United 32-County Irish Workers’ Republic.
Unfortunately all of the centrists have ignored the national question and the incarceration by the British and Irish state of Irish republican prisoners. There is no mention of the important anti-imperialist struggle being conducted by republicans who rejected the betrayal of the leaderships of Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) when they signed the Good Friday agreement with the Blair Government in 1998. There are still a number of Irish political prisoners who are being humiliated, beaten and receiving some of the harshest sentences by both the British and Irish states. Beatings and other forms of torture are inflicted by prison officers. (3) There was no mention of these practices by either the Anti-Austerity Alliance or by People before Profit during their election campaigns.
The RCIT in Britain calls for a united front with all the forces fighting social inequality and austerity in Ireland. We put forward the following proposals to unite all sections of the oppressed and working poor in the struggle against austerity.
* Stop the austerity offensive!
* For non-payment of water charges! Organise local committees of action to defend tenants and householders threatened with prosecution and imprisonment!
* Cancel all household debts! Occupy empty housing oppose all evictions!
* Legalise the right to strike to withdraw your Labour!
* Oppose all imperialist wars! Free all political prisoners in Ireland!
* For a Workers Government based upon Councils of action and armed popular militias!
* For a United 32-County Irish Workers’ Republic!
* For a United Socialist States of Europe!
In order to enhance the struggle for such a perspective it is crucial to build a revolutionary party in Britain and Ireland as part of a revolutionary workers International, the Fifth International. The RCIT in Britain and Ireland is dedicated to this task. If you agree with our perspective join us.
(1) Unfortunately this is also forgotten, once more, by the comrades of Red Flag in their article on Ireland. (See “The Changing Face of Irish Politics”; in: The Red Flag No. 3 (March 2016), http://www.redflagonline.org/2016/03/the-changing-face-of-irish-politics/
(2) On the austerity offensive see e.g. OXFAM: The True Cost of Austerity and Inequality, Ireland Case Study, September 2013; Patrick Honohan (Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland): Debt and austerity: post-crisis lessons from Ireland, 17 November 2015, London School of Economics and Political Science; Michael Taft: Ireland is no model for Greece, 10 July 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/world/economics-blog/2015/jul/10/ireland-no-model-greece-troika-austerity; Russia Today: ‘A social obscenity’: 30 percent of Ireland’s population living in ‘enforced deprivation’, 21 Jan, 2015 https://www.rt.com/news/224851-ireland-poverty-crisis-debt/
(3) As a side note we remark that these police men and guards are, in the eyes of the centrist Socialist Party, “workers in Uniform” which they support and invite onto their platforms.