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Connolly Sunday, 2017

Oration by Jimmy Doran

Chairperson, Dublin District, Communist Party of Ireland

14 May 2017

Comrades and friends,
     Once again we gather in Arbour Hill to commemorate a giant of Irish labour, James Connolly. We are here as an expression of our continued opposition to British imperialism and partition and to reaffirm our commitment to the struggle for national unity, political and economic independence, and national sovereignty.
     We must remember his politics, learn from them, and use this knowledge to advance our struggle today and into the future.
     We have spent the last week celebrating the centenary of the Russian Revolution as part of the James Connolly Festival, and it’s no coincidence that the working class are under sustained attack since the defeat and betrayal of socialism in the Soviet Union. The capitalist class have tightened the screw on workers all over the world, because now they don’t have to compete with the Soviet Union and the huge gains achieved by workers under socialism.
     Lots of political parties and groups claim James Connolly as their inspiration. James Connolly was a socialist—a Marxist, an anti-imperialist, an internationalist, and a trade union organiser. James Connolly would have had no hand, act or part in the 1990 Industrial Relations Act, or “social partnership.” He certainly would have nothing to do with the prosecution of children for peaceful protest. Connolly was always on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressor.
     He would be down on the runway in Shannon with the anti-war movement, defending our neutrality and stopping the American war machine turning Shannon into an aircraft carrier for their genocidal wars.
     He would have no truck with the imperialism of the European Union, and he would laugh at the deluded suggestion of using Brexit and membership of the European Union as a means of uniting the country by surrendering our national sovereignty and democracy to the imperialism of the European Union.
     James Connolly fought and died for a socialist republic, not for the gombeen partitioned country with a divided people that the counter-revolution installed.
     There is one thing in common between these two parts of Ireland. The unelected power of private business determines the course of both economies through investment and production decisions. This gives them total power over government, no matter what party or jurisdiction we are talking about.
     What unites the people is our labour power, our class. Without the workers, capital is powerless. We have to set about reorganising the economy so it is no longer dependent on private capital.
     War has been declared on the working class all round the world under this neo-liberal globalised economy that we now live in. Let’s call it what it is: it is imperialism. And under this imperialism 83 per cent of all goods manufactured in the world are now manufactured in the global south, in sweatshops for slave wages, with little regard for health and safety and total disregard for the environment.
     As result of this super-exploitation of workers in the poorest areas of the planet half a trillion dollars is shipped back to the richest countries from the profits earned on the backs of these exploited workers every year.
     Let’s put that in perspective. It’s the equivalent of 15,000 tonnes of gold being shipped back from the colonies to the motherland every year. That is twice as much gold in one year as was plundered in the entire 350 years since Columbus set sail. Neither slavery nor genocidal clearances of indigenous people nor the worst excesses of colonialism could achieve a wealth transfer of this magnitude. What military force could not achieve in the last couple of centuries, market forces are doing on a massive scale every year, and they called this foreign direct investment. Foreign direct imperialism—the plunder of the poorest peoples of the world goes on unabated.
     So how does foreign direct investment operate in Ireland? It is the preferred option of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Labour Party. Sinn Féin are quite fond of it too. In order to attract FDI into Ireland they fall backwards over each other with grants, tax breaks, a supposed 12½ per cent corporation tax—despite the average being paid of 2.2 per cent. In the case of Apple, our government has refused €13 billion in taxes from them.
     The government believes that these companies employ so many workers that there’s no real need to tax the companies’ profits, due to the amount of income tax paid by the employees. They feel this is enough of a benefit to the state. This is why we hear Noonan, Bruton and a plethora of right-wing politicians and economists constantly going on about the need to increase competitiveness and broaden the tax base.
     What they mean is reducing wages and corporation and employment taxes on one hand and on the other hand increasing the tax taken from wages, either directly by PAYE or indirectly through VAT, or property tax, bin charges, or cuts to public services. This is the “broadening of the tax base.” This brings in citizens who don’t earn enough money to pay tax on their income into the tax net by taxing them indirectly, thus cutting their income—whether it is prescription charges, dental charges, or cuts to our services, whether it is increasing classroom size, cutting hospital beds, cutting the blind pension, or increasing the retirement age—these are all done to facilitate the low-tax regime for business.
     This affects the most vulnerable of our citizens on low incomes the most. Of course they look after themselves, with tax loopholes and incentive schemes for the wealthy and the constant paring back of the top level of tax. So when the Labour Party state that they didn’t cut social welfare rates and protected the minimum wage rate it is a lie, because they did this by broadening the tax base. Smoke and mirrors, comrades—smoke, mirrors, and spin.
     A permanent pensionable job is now a thing of the past. Work is all short-term rolling contracts, part-time, minimum or zero-hour contracts, and of course bogus self-employment. When you don’t know how much you are likely to earn from week to week, from day to day or hour to hour it is impossible to plan your life ahead. This uncertainty is intolerable, and there’s no doubt that soaring levels of depression and suicide among our people are added to by precarious employment.
     All the wealth that is created is created by workers’ toil. Decency and dignity in employment is a human right. This is wage slavery.
     Half the people earn less than €28,000 a year. Average rent in Dublin is €300 a week—that is, €15,600 a year. That is over half the gross pay of half the population. When taxes and stoppages are deducted it leaves very, very little left to live on.
     Recovery? What recovery? Recovery for who? Recovery for the employers, whose soaring profits are barely taxed, and the rackrenting landlords who have increased rents by 66 per cent in six years.
     Homelessness is at an all-time high of over 7,000 citizens, including 2,500 children.
     According to the 2016 census, home ownership is at its lowest level since 1971.
     Overcrowding has increased for the first time in fifty years.
     Private renting is the predominant type of housing in our cities today. There are now more flats in Dublin than there are houses, for the first time ever.
     The state’s answer to the problem is to hand over eight hundred sites—approximately five thousand acres of publicly owned land—to private developers to build houses.
     Private developers cannot be trusted. Priory Hall, Longboat Quay, property bubbles and crashes are examples of what happens when the building of homes is handed over to the private sector.
     In the 1930s, after several tenements collapsed, killing over a hundred citizens, the government was forced to act. The answer was then, as it should be now, a massive public house-building programme, from planning to completion. Surveys consistently show that publicly built houses cost up to 40 per cent less to build than private housing.
     People who own their own homes should be encouraged to sell them to the state as they retire. This will help them in their retirement and add extra homes to the public-property pool when they pass on and no longer need them. This is the way to give decency, dignity and certainty to our citizens in housing. Public housing—not social housing.
     Enda Kenny said he would end the scandal of waiting lists and trolleys. He also said he would make Ireland the best little country in the world to do business in. These two statements are totally contradictory: you either run the country in the interests of the people or in the interests of big business. You cannot do both. The ruling class choose business interests, their interests, every time.
     When the banks required €64 billion because of reckless trading by them and big business, the government chose to borrow this money, in our name, thus putting private banking debt on the backs of our citizens. It was the largest transfer of wealth from the people to the rich in modern times. This was a choice. They prioritised the banks over the people.
     On the May Day rally in Dublin recently there was a chant “Cuba has no waiting lists—that’s because it’s socialist.”
     The reason there are no waiting lists in Cuba is that the Cuban Communist Party prioritises the citizens and the environment above everything else. It is a policy decision. Cuba provides state creches for all the children of the country. Ireland provides a monthly payment and abandons the care of children to the private sector, whose priority is profit, not child care. That’s the difference. These are choices and priorities that either cause a problem or solve the issue.
     As Connolly said, government in a capitalist society is but a committee to organise the affairs of the rich.
     Allied Irish Bank is now owned by the state and should be kept in state ownership as a National Development Bank. That’s a priority decision in the interests of the citizens. The government have other ideas. Who will this benefit—you and me or big business? The state wants to sell off Allied Irish Bank for a one-off short-term gain. If we retain the bank as a National Development Bank its investments will be made in the interests of the common good. It will take a lot of the decisions on where the state is to invest out of the hands of private capital and will set the standard for other banks.
     The bank made a profit last year of over a billion euros. It makes no sense to sell it. Choices once again: business gets priority over the people.
     War has been declared on the working class. We’ve lost a few battles, but at long last we’re beginning to win a few now. The war is not over: it will not be over till we achieve socialism. Our greatest weapon of all is ourselves, the working class, working together in unity to build socialism. We have our labour power; without us capital will not grow. Every scrap of surplus value is created by you and me.
     They only get away with the system because people are prepared to look the other way. It’s time we stopped looking the other way.
     We have to free ourselves from the controls implanted in us by society.
     The media and the state only tell us what they want us to know. It’s time we exposed the lies. Workers have realised that austerity does work, and it works very well for those that designed it: the ruling class.
     Workers are growing in confidence. They are now prepared to go out on strike, and stay out until a victory is achieved, in both the public and private sector. From Dublin Bus to Luas, from teachers to Tesco, they continue to fight, despite being threatened with the use of scab labour in the case of Luas and teachers and job losses in Bus Éireann, and being ridiculed in the media for the “outrageous pay demands that will bankrupt the country.”
     Workers know well who bankrupted the country. It was neither teachers nor bus-drivers: it was the bankers and profiteers as the capitalist monster began to devour itself with greed in its never-ending search for new markets and ever-increasing profits.
     We must not forget the tens of thousands of Irish citizens who marched, refused to pay water charges and blocked the installation of water meters to stop the government privatising the natural resource that is our water.
     From the start of the water campaign the Communist Party of Ireland called on the state to hold a referendum to enshrine public ownership and management of our water in the Constitution.
     The state is not happy. As I say, war has been declared on the working class. The ex-leader of the Labour Party Joan Burton is trying to get peaceful protest outlawed through the courts by having children and elected representatives charged with her kidnap during a peaceful protest in Jobstown. She is even willing to perjure herself to do so. If she is successful it will have massive implications for protests in the future, whether it be protest marches or picket lines of striking workers. Once again, social democrats have been exposed as the last pillar that props up capitalism. They are but traitors to the working class.
     So, comrades, it’s all about choices and priorities—dignity and decency.
     The ruling class tell us at every opportunity in the media and speeches, and drum it into our young people in schools and colleges, that there is no alternative.
     What would James Connolly say? James Connolly would say that if humanity is to survive and flourish in Ireland and the world, there is no alternative to the common good. There is no alternative to public housing. There is no alternative to public health care. There is no alternative to peace. There is no alternative to ending world poverty. There is no alternative to this environment. There is no alternative to decency and dignity for our people.
     There is no alternative. It’s socialism or barbarism.
     We only want the earth!

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