12th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties
Tshwane, December 2010


Address by Seán Edwards

National Executive Committee, Communist Party of Ireland
5 December 2010

  It is a wonderful occasion for us to be holding this meeting in South Africa, once the land of apartheid, which was an insult to all humanity. We applaud the heroic struggle of its people and the noble role of the SACP in that struggle. None of the problems of South Africa today can take away from the historic importance of the defeat of apartheid.
     Many of the parties represented here today were involved in solidarity with the anti-apartheid struggle. It follows that we have an obligation to oppose today’s apartheid suffered by the people of Palestine.
     Let us declare our solidarity with the oppressed people of Haïti, who have never been forgiven for being the slaves who liberated themselves, whose president, kidnapped and deposed by the United States and France, now lives in exile here in South Africa.
     We reaffirm our solidarity with Cuba, which keeps the flame of socialism and freedom burning right beside the centre of imperialism. Remember that it was Cuban soldiers who inflicted the first defeat on the apartheid regime, from which it never recovered. We should use this gathering to reaffirm our solidarity with each other and with all who struggle against imperialism, for human rights and dignity, for liberation, and for socialism.

The crisis in Ireland and in Europe

The world economic crisis is in its third year, and no solution has been found. The solution sought involves saving finance capital and imposing hardship on the working people through the socialisation of the privately accumulated debt of banks and developers and the redistribution of wealth from working people to the state and banking institutions across Europe.
     Many economists advocate Keynesian methods to stimulate demand, to get the “real” economy moving again; but the governments remain committed to neo-liberal solutions, pouring money into the black hole of the banking system, without ever finding enough money.
     Neither do the Keynesians have a solution, because they ignore the fact that the “real economy” itself has suffered a crisis of overproduction and over-accumulation for decades. Indeed it is this crisis in the real economy and the need for investment opportunities for accumulated capital that gave rise to the spectacular growth of finance capital over the last thirty years, and with this came the bubbles and bursts of which this is only the latest.
     The Irish crisis resembles the world crisis in miniature—though it is not miniature to us—and its possible repercussions worry our masters in Brussels and Frankfurt. When the bankers approached the Government in September 2008, seeking help with their liquidity problems, our political leaders agreed immediately—after all, they were friends—and guaranteed all deposits and bonds.
     The CPI from the first day of the crisis advocated that the banks be allowed to fail and that a national development bank be established in their place, enabling an independent economic policy, based primarily on our own natural resources. We also advocated that the state reclaim ownership of these resources, including our oil and gas, handed over to multinational oil companies, and our sea fisheries, given away to the EU. These policies would necessitate the return of fiscal powers from the EU.
     The state has done the opposite, assuming the banks’ debts but failing to save the banks, and leading the country to economic catastrophe. At every stage it sought and gained EU approval for its actions, in effect acting in the interests of the dominant powers of the EU, and not in the interests of the Irish people.
     It soon became clear that all three major banks were on the verge of bankruptcy. All available resources were marshalled to save the Irish banks, and draconian cuts were made in health, education, and social services. But the hole was too big, and they could not save the Irish banks, nor even their own skins.
     With their mendacity and incompetence exposed, the Government is on the brink of collapse, and the hidden hand of the EU Commission and the European Central Bank is forced to come out into the open and, along with the IMF, openly take control of the Irish economy. These institutions are managing our economy in detail, checking up on the implementation of their policies every month.
     This has come as a great shock to the Irish people, to suddenly see our hard-won independence taken away.
     Up to now there has been very little resistance to the Government’s attacks on working people—thanks largely to the weakness of the trade union leadership, who, tamed by decades of “social partnership,” sought to avoid any confrontation with the Government. Nevertheless a march called for 27 November, occurring after the officials of the EU and IMF had arrived, attracted 100,000 people. The traditional fighting spirit of the Irish working class may yet be mobilised. The Greek and Portuguese workers have shown us the way.
     The problem has moved from saving the Irish banks to saving the major German, British and French banks. The political decisions of the EU have been directed precisely to that end, in dealing with financial crises in Latvia, Greece, Ireland, or Portugal. The measures taken involve bleeding the working people to pay the debts accumulated by their bankers or their governments, and bringing the governance of their countries firmly under the control of the EU institutions.
     In its external relations the EU, like the USA, has consistently sought to impose these economic policies on poorer countries, with disastrous results. Now we can see more clearly that within the EU, the centre dominates and exploits the periphery in a form of internal neo-colonialism. This is an inevitable development of the EU and part of its reason for existence. It is also a potential political weakness, especially as the peripheral nations begin to reassert themselves.
     The dominant powers within the EU are by no means assured of achieving their aims: they may not succeed even in saving their own banks, or subduing the working class. The EU’s fellow imperial power, its ally and rival, the USA, also called in the IMF to consolidate its dominance in its back yard, Latin America, dictating terms to compliant governments in, for example, Venezuela and Bolivia. This was at a time when the imperialists were at their most confident and sure of being able to enforce their will. It met a resistance that has become a continent-wide struggle and has inflicted major defeats on US imperialism.

The Communist Movement

We have to acknowledge that the world economic crisis caught the communist parties and the left in general unprepared, although we predicted it. It is not the working class but the capitalist class which has taken advantage of the crisis to advance its aims. Cutting wages and dismantling social services are things it wants to do anyway. As Warren Buffet said in 2006, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
     The working class is now waging an increasingly fierce defensive struggle against an intensified attack in Greece, Portugal, France, and Spain. Our Greek and Portuguese comrades have shown what a difference a strong, determined and principled Communist Party can make. However, to prove Warren Buffet wrong, to actually go from defence to the offensive, we have to build up our strength and build the unity of popular and anti-imperialist forces, and we can only do that through struggle.
     Some of these forces are a long way from being socialist but find themselves in opposition to the state or to big business and confronting the predatory nature of capitalism, of imperialism. We can see that the crisis is deepening, and we can expect to see more and more people and forces coming into conflict with the state and monopoly capital.
     The anti-working-class offensive is narrowing the opportunities for reformism and class collaboration. Communists are saying to working-class forces such as trade unions that their choice is either to resist or surrender, as social partnership deals are no longer on offer. The social-democratic parties advocate surrender, as do many of the trade union leaderships associated with them. The Irish Labour Party actually accepts the intervention of the EU/IMF management team and promises, when in government, to implement its policies. Social democrats have often proved better than the conservative parties at implementing neo-liberal policies.
     The EU/IMF assault on working people is also an assault on national democracy and sovereignty. As James Connolly stated long ago, “Only the Irish working class remains as the incorruptible inheritors of the fight for freedom in Ireland”; and it is up to the working class, not only in Ireland, to act in defence of the national interests, not as nationalists but as internationalists.
     There are many different interests coming into conflict with monopoly capitalism. Some of these are very far indeed from being socialist, let alone communist, but are activated by the present situation. This poses challenges to us as communists, trying to build a united campaign and involve more of the people in their struggle, in defence of living standards, in defence of democracy, national sovereignty and ultimately for socialism, which, as we have to show them, is the only solution, the only way forward for mankind.
 

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