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24th National Congress

September 2010

Messages of solidarity from fraternal parties
Resolution on women
International solidarity statement
  Build the People’s Resistance—Build the People’s Alternative: Documents of the 24th National Congress of the Communist Party of Ireland, 2010, available from Connolly Books: €3 (£2.50).

Political resolution

“The supremacy of finance capital over all other forms of capital means the predominance of the rentier and of the financial oligarchy.” (Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.)

The crisis in the global imperialist system

The world remains politically, economically and militarily dominated by the imperial power of the United States, and to a lesser extent of the European Union, its ally and rival. Nevertheless there are increas­ing chal­lenges to its hegemony, as groups of countries and regional blocs emerge and gather momentum in oppo­sition to the two big imperialist blocs, while Japan’s dominance in the Far East has been eclipsed by China. The current global economic crisis of monopoly capitalism is accentuating this grow­ing tendency towards a multi-polar world as the political and economic landscape undergoes sig­nifi­cant changes. The abso­lute hegemony of the United States, as proclaimed by the authors of the “Project for a New Ameri­can Century,” is now seen to be unattainable.
     The most progressive of these regional blocks is ALBA, a group of countries in Latin America that is attempt­ing to bring unity and integration in a progressive, anti-imperialist direction. Other countries—such as China, Russia, and Iran—while showing resistance to imperialist bullying, and attempting to co-ordinate their international position in their own immediate short-term national or regional self-interest, in the long term remain inconsistent and unprincipled in their opposition to the imperialist interests of the United States and the European Union.
     The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, while a welcome change from the Bush regime, nevertheless reflects the needs and interests of US imperialism at this time. His election does not reflect some qualitative change in the structure or nature of US imperialism. His forced with­drawal from Iraq marks a major defeat for imperialist interests in the region, while his expansion of the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan, coupled with his continued support for the client state of Israel, exposes his imperialist credentials.
     Across the globe, in all the developed capitalist countries, working people are being forced to pay a heavy price for the current crisis, a price paid in millions of jobs lost and the growing masses of long-term unemployed and under-employed, increased taxes, both direct and indirect, on working people, home repossessions, growing poverty, and attacks on their health and educational services. There is clearly a generalised offensive against working people across the globe and most intensely within the developed capitalist countries, with monopoly capital attempting to take full advantage of the crisis to fur­ther drive down wages, terms, and conditions. The ruling class are very clearly imposing a massive trans­fer of wealth from working people to the wealthy and their institutions in a bid to save their class domination.
     The policies that aggravated the already difficult contradictions within the system itself and that have con­tributed greatly to the global extent of the crisis are being applied to get the system out of its present mess and to ensure the interests of the rich and powerful individuals and corporate interests, both in Ireland and in other developed countries. These policies can and will only accentuate the grow­ing contra­dictions. These policies are dictated by global corporate interests and by international imperialism.
     The current crisis of the global imperialist system can be understood only as part of a general crisis of capital­ism and is part of the inherent slumps and booms that capitalism experiences on a regular basis. The periods between booms and slumps continue to decrease, with the boom getting shorter and the slumps growing and deepening. The current crisis is deep and profound: monopoly capitalism, or imperial­ism, is attempting to shift the burden of the crisis onto the backs of working people and their com­munities as well as the poor of the developing countries.
     The economic crisis now shaking the world economy has its origins in the intrinsic nature of the capital­ist system. It was not caused by a few greedy bankers, nor by fraudulent financial dealings. These interpre­tations are ruses and mystifications; these are the symptoms, not the cause, of the finan­cial crisis. They are ruses in order to cover up and avoid exposing the real nature of the system itself.
     The world system of monopoly capitalism is now in the midst of one of the deepest global crises since the 1930s. Capitalism has always experienced crisis, as this is part of its inherent contradiction. It is caused by overproduction relative to market demand, or what can be profitably sold; under-con­sump­tion of the goods available creates a crisis of over-accumulation. There have been many crises and slumps: 1974/75, 1980/82, 1991/93, 2001/02. In the last number of decades regions or specific countries have experienced crises, such as Mexico in 1982, Japan in 1990, Sweden in 1992, the Asian finan­cial crisis in 1997, the “dot-com” bust in 2000, the telecoms crisis in 2001, and the Argentine collapse in 2001.
     The current crisis is different, in that it is centred on the most advanced countries in the heartland of capital­ist economies: in the United States, the European Union, and Japan. The current crisis goes to the very heart of the financial system itself, and its impact has been felt globally, with immediate and profound global consequences. It is different because it is exposing the general crisis in the so-called “real economy” that monopoly capitalism has been suffering for decades but that has been covered up by bubbles in finance, insurance, and real estate. The cracks that have been there for decades are now fully exposed.
     The extent of this current crisis is due to what is called globalisation and the interconnectedness of the global economy resulting in part from the scientific and technological revolution but mainly from the abso­lute dominance of finance. This is a distinct feature of the current crisis and marks it out as differ­ent from the 1930s, with the loss of tens of millions of jobs, the collapse of banks and finance house, the repos­session of homes, and the liquidation of businesses, both large and small. It is also lead­ing to the further concentration, monopolisation and control of capital in the hands of fewer and fewer cor­por­ations or indi­viduals. This current crisis is born of the growing financialisation of the developed capital­ist economies.
     This financialisation of the economy is the product of the vast amounts of capital having insufficient invest­ment opportunities in the productive economy. This is due to the constant monopolisation of pro­duc­tion and the growing power and dominance of finance capital, as greater profits were to be made in specu­lative investment than in reinvesting profits in manufacturing. It was a case of diminish­ing returns. This process has been ongoing for a number of decades, as the main economies have in many cases stag­nated and the rate of profit has been falling.
     This then created the necessary conditions for the growth in speculative investment products, like deriva­tives, hedge funds, and other short-term financial products where the profit yields were immense—far greater than could be gained from pure manufacturing, given the constant potential of over-production and market saturation that exists in manufacturing.
     Another feature marks this current crisis as different from the 1930s. Then the main centres of monopoly capitalism—the United States, Britain, and Europe—still retained a significant manu­factur­ing base. Now China and increasingly India have become the workshops of the world, with major global manu­factures shifting significant primary as well as high-end production to these and other low-wage economies, with poor working conditions and few if any workers’ rights. This process is part of the constant drive by monopoly corporations to maximise profits.

Keynesianism has outlived its usefulness

The “Bretton Woods system” agreed after the Second World War, apart from marking the dominance of the United States in global economic affairs, was inspired by the attachment of Keynesian econ­omics to a degree of national economic regulation. After growth and reconstruction during the 1950s and 60s this “regu­lated capitalism” gradually became an obstacle to the free movement of capital seeking profit globally.
     Investing in production in the saturated markets of the United States and Western Europe was not sufficiently profitable. Continually conceding greater pay to organised workers in the West, in order that they could continue to purchase the goods they produced, was not a long-term option: it ate into long-term corporate profits.
     By the mid-1970s the interests of global business were best served by a removal of governmental restric­tions on its activity, a weakening of trade unions throughout the developed world, and a return to com­pletely deregulated global markets. Milton Friedman, the architect of this strategy, defeated Keynesian­ism academically, and the policies he advocated were implemented with gusto by the likes of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and by the fascist dictatorship in Chile after 1973.
     This abandoning of Keynesianism by monopoly capitalism was coupled with a major assault on the social and economic gains of the working class and the eventual collapse of social democracy. The social-democratic parties, led by such as Blair, Mitterrand, and Schröder, implemented these policies even more effectively, proving themselves once again more loyal to imperialism than to the working class, on whose votes they depend.
     This policy became known as neo-liberalism, which essentially sought as free a hand as possible for capi­tal throughout the global economy. The market would determine everything, with the state relegated to policing and to waging wars, ensuring the dominance of important markets by the West. State industry and services were privatised, opening up another source of profit. Rich profits, guaran­teed by the state, were available in providing services. These policies are now being pursued with even more vigour as the state seeks to avoid impending bankruptcy by pursuing capital and investment at any and all costs, with a particular disregard for working people and the services they rely upon.

Militarisation and state-monopoly capitalism

The social retreat of the state was accompanied by a growth in military expenditure, especially in the United States, whose military budget dwarfed all others, constituting an enormous economic burden. The financing of global military expenditure paralleled the growth of global finance. Because of the politi­cal influence of the military-industrial lobby, governmental expenditure has been continuously cranked up.
     The arms industry stokes the belligerence of the United States and shores up aggressive states, such as Israel. The profits from military contracts, especially in connection with recent wars in Iraq and Afghani­stan, are phenomenal. The European Union, succumbing to the pressure from the arms industry, is following the same path.
     The media monopolies, such as the Murdoch empire, have been powerful protagonists of these policies. They reinforce the ideological foundations of capitalism on a daily basis, shaping and mould­ing public opinion to the needs and interests of monopoly capitalism. Capitalism needs to reproduce itself not just economically but socially and culturally in order to maintain its political hegemony. Presi­dent Dwight Eisenhower famously referred to the existence of the military-industrial complex; now it is an axis of the military, industry, finance, and the media.
     Monopoly capitalism needs to constantly expand and intensify its exploitation of labour power in order to expand the reproduction of capital itself. This is carried on in a number of ways:
• forcing workers to work longer hours for lower wages
• increased productivity by the introduction of new technology
• the privatisation of public assets and services
• moving production to lower-wage economies, such as China and India.
     All these factors are driven by the pursuit of higher profits and lowering the costs to capital. This con­tributes to the spiralling contradictions that we are witnessing with the constant driving down of wages—lower­ing the cost of labour—which reduces the capacity of workers to consume what they produce. Workers are forced to avail of credit to consume these products that they are constantly urged to aspire to. At the same time it also reduces the opportunities for capital to be invested in productive activities. Specu­lative investment becomes the only way to use the accumulated profit.
     This crisis of over-accumulation drives the need to destroy the means of production, with factory closures, liquidations, takeovers, and the closing down of competitors. This in turn leads to greater con­cen­tration of capital in the hands of fewer and even larger manufacturing, financial and banking monopolies and wealthy individuals.

Global environmental crisis

Not alone are we facing a prolonged economic crisis but we are also facing a global environmental crisis. We are clearly reaching the biological and physical limits of capitalism itself.
     Capitalism is predicated on ever-expanding growth and the mistaken belief that natural resources are limit­less, and therefore their exploitation is limitless. This is an illusion. There are clearly limits to produc­tion and therefore to reproduction because of the very nature of the finite resources available. Capitalism itself is dependent upon and is addicted to carbons.
     Our planet is heading towards catastrophe, with the rapid depletion of non-renewable resources—peak oil—combined with the threat posed by global warming, which can only lead to the destruction of the physical environment that sustains life itself. Endless and limitless growth in capitalist terms is, simply, neither possible nor sustainable. Humanity is facing a stark choice: saving itself or saving monopoly capitalism.
     Because of the impact of destructive agricultural policies, many of which have been imposed upon the develop­ing countries by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the EU, coupled with the impact of climate change, the world is facing a serious shortage of water, food, and energy. If there is no real change in these destruc­tive industrial and agricultural practices, and if a more rational use and organisation of the world’s resources does not emerge that would halt the catastrophic changes that are now imminent, the lives of billions of people will be gravely affected.
     The needs of monopoly capitalism—imperialism and its global and regional institutions—are driving us onto the rocks of destruction. The policies and the constant demand for more and greater profits by the monopolies can also lead to an escalation of resource wars on a far greater scale than we are already wit­ness­ing. There are clearly growing dangers of the possible use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction as nations and peoples are forced to defend their interests against the predatory nature of imperialism.
     Unless we move from the production of goods and services based upon exchange value to one based upon use value, the possibility of reversing the environmental crisis will be very limited, if not impossible.

New forms of neo-colonialism

There are currently new attempts by imperialist forces to ideologically rehabilitate the history, role and impact of colonialism. This is being pursued by Western academia and by establishment poli­ticians. The goal is to ensure the acquiescence of the populace in the developed world in the renewed plunder and wars being pursued in the developing countries. Imperialism constantly reshapes and re-forms its relation­ships with national ruling classes. It constantly re-shapes the dependence and inter­dependence of national ruling classes to serve the needs and interests of imperialism.
     These inherent tendencies are still characteristic of modern capitalism. In spite of the ending of direct colonial rule, the economic grip of the great capitalist powers has been maintained by the impo­sition of neo-colonial relations, through such international institutions as the World Bank, the Inter­national Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organisation. This constantly changing approach leads to new forms of colonialism by states and corporations in the dominant developed countries.
     The world’s poorer countries were forced to open up to foreign investment, enabling transnational corpor­ations to establish operations in countries with low wages. Industry in the United States and west­ern Europe moved to India, Bangladesh, and China, facilitating a “race to the bottom,” seeking ever-lower labour costs in a boom driven by an intensive exploitation of workers, where workers’ rights are mini­mal in those emerging economies.
     One current expression of this approach is the buying of land in Africa, Asia, and South America, either directly through transnational companies or by bilateral agreements with corrupt and un­principled governments, whose class position and interests are determined by their interdependence with the needs and interests that they share with monopoly capitalism.
     They are constantly forced to choose between the interests of imperialism and the needs and interests of their own people. This new land grab, which is driven not to promote development but rather to grow food crops for export to the developed capitalist countries, is leading to the displacement of hun­dreds of thousands of indigenous peoples and peasant farmers.
     The European Union uses its “economic partnership agreements” to secure its economic, social, cultural and military interests in its dealings with countries of the majority world. The banks and the huge transnational corporations dispose of far greater wealth and wield greater power than the bankers and businessmen of Lenin’s day, but the nature of the domination, the exploitation and the drive to war, remain very much as he described them.

The European Union:
Its strategy of centralised power and decision-making

The forcing on the Irish people of a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty by a supine Irish ruling class at the behest of the European Commission and the governments representative of European monopoly interests exposed once again the subservient and dependent relationship between the Irish ruling class and the European Union. The Irish state has lost all potential for independent action and has become a compliant tool of both European and American imperialism. There is little if any pro­gres­sive potential left in the Irish ruling class.
     The struggle against the Lisbon Treaty exposed a number of important facts:
(a) that the state is not neutral in the political, economic, social or cultural life of society;
(b) that it is an illusion that governments do not represent the dominant class interests;
(c) that the mass media are the principal means of ensuring that the interests of the ruling class are secured and that its ideology is reproduced daily;
(d) that government under the conditions of private ownership of the means of production is purely a com­mittee to look after the affairs of the ruling elite, the owners of wealth and power.
     As the CPI has pointed out over many decades, a view reinforced daily by experience, the integration strategy of the European Union is the emasculation of the national democracy and sovereignty of the member-states, making them subservient to the interests of European monopoly capitalism and the emerging EU superstate.
     The interests and influence of the peoples of the member-states are constantly marginalised and removed from the process, and we increasingly experience rule by diktat. In a process that has been described as “political engineering,” the people of the EU member-states are presented with a fait accompli, reinforced by the necessary propaganda and the manipulation of their fears and worries in order to engineer the required result, as was so evident here in Ireland during the imposed re-run vote on the Lisbon Treaty.
     In Ireland we experience this process constantly, with the endless repetition of the assertion that we have no alternative. We are compelled to go along with the political engineering that is central to the EU integration process and with the consolidation of power in the hands of the big states, in the interests of trans­national capital.
     The current economic crisis is being used to further integrate and consolidate the power of the EU Com­mission and the European Central Bank with the decision that all national budgets must be pre-approved and cleared by the ECOFIN and the Commission before they can be presented to the people of the member-states. The threat of fines and the withholding of regional support grants are used to bully the people as the compliant governments of the member-states push ahead in their own self-interest to closer integration. Member-state governments, in alliance with the EU Commission, con­spire to under­mine democracy and accountability.
     The Irish people are being forced to pay back the debts incurred by the Irish banks that borrowed heavily from German and French finance houses. EU policy towards Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and other member-states is to ensure that all these debts are paid in full and will be paid for in mas­sive cuts in public spending. Also exposed is the central role of German finance capital in the whole pro­cess. The subservience of the Government to the EU means that they cannot always look after their friends. Seán Quinn of Quinn Insurance, for example, matters not at all to the European Central Bank.

Neo-liberalism inherent within the process

Neo-liberalism is woven into the very fabric of all the treaties, from the Treaty of Rome to the Lisbon Treaty, foisted on the member-states of the original EEC and subsequently the European Union. The pro­cess has been designed to prevent any alternative economic policies being pursued by the member-states; it is to remove the democratic right of people to decide their own economic and social policies and priorities and, most importantly, to remove these areas from influence by national class struggles.
     This is most starkly seen when we examine the role of the European Central Bank. It is above any pos­sible democratic accountability. Its central mandate is price stability. It is run by and for the banks; and the present financial crisis shows most clearly the consequences of giving a free hand to bankers. This fiscal freedom is to ensure that fiscal policies are free from mass political pressure but open to the power and lobbying of finance capital. Its role and purpose is to subvert class struggle at the regional and the national level. Given the uneven development and the unequal balance within and between member-states, the European Central Bank invariably takes its lead from the dominant economic and politi­cally power­ful countries and especially Germany.
     In addition we have experienced the policy of the dominant powers exploiting the weaknesses and in­equalities between countries that are less developed so as to create a culture of dependence and inter­dependence. This strategy of undermining national sovereignty and democracy is also imposed on countries in the global south and is reflected in the negotiations for the EU “economic partnership agree­ments,” also pursued in the past at WTO talks; and there are clear signs that these policies will con­tinue for the foreseeable future. The strategy is to break down the capacity of nations and in par­ticu­lar of national working-class formations to resist the power of transnational capital.

Workers’ rights versus the market

Over the past few years workers throughout the European Union have seen their rights and social gains come under growing pressure from the consequences of the adoption of EU treaties in regard to the establish­ment of the “internal market.” Workers from Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Germany and Luxem­bourg have seen their terms and conditions and hard-won social provisions being under­mined. Workers posted from other EU member-states have been denied the same wages, terms and con­ditions as workers in the host member-state.
     The European Court of Justice has used the provisions of the treaties to make judgements that have had and will continue to have a profound impact on the rights of workers throughout the European Union. The most recent judgement against the government of Luxembourg was a full assault on such social provision and entitlements as sickness pay, control of the length of the working week, holiday pay, and overtime payments. Posted workers who are employed on a contract in Luxembourg will not be able to avail of those provisions as local workers can.
     Much of the trade union establishment in the member-states, including the ICTU, dominated in the main by social democrats, continues to peddle the unfounded belief that the European Union is the main guarantor of workers’ rights and interests. They dress up directives such as the Working Time Direc­tive and Flexicurity Directive as protecting and enhancing workers’ rights when in fact they are direct attacks on the gains made by workers over many decades.
     These directives have been imposed without any democratic discussion or debate. There is no oppor­tunity to amend or change them. It is estimated that 80 per cent of all laws that affect our lives are now made by the European Union; and 60 per cent of these are merely rubber-stamped, without ever being discussed or debated by any democratic body.
     It is only the European Commission that can propose laws: the European Parliament has limited powers to make suggestions and proposals. Its present structures and the deliberate move away from the notion of a “union of equals,” where all the countries would have an equal say and vote, to “weighted majority” means that power is heavily weighted in favour of the bigger states or, to put it another way, against the smaller states.
     The big states, particularly Germany and France acting together, decide fundamental policy. While there has been increased provision for national parliamentary supervision of directives coming from the Euro­pean Commission, it remains the fact that national parliaments and governments in their present form represent the interests of each ruling class. Workers’ rights are doubly circumscribed. The bar in secur­ing and advancing workers’ rights has been raised very high, as these rights will be bench­marked against the needs and interests of the market, both national and European.
     There is a pan-European assault on the working class of the member-states, which requires a pan-Euro­pean resistance. This will not come from the heavily compromised European Trade Union Con­feder­ation or any of the institutions of the European Union but must be built from the ground up. The ques­tion facing working people and other economic and social groupings is resisting the assimi­lation process being imposed. There can be no “democratic European Union,” no alternative EU built from within the structure and strictures of the European Union. There can be no “socialist” European Union. It can and will only lead to reaction.
     The central fault line at the heart of the EU process is the assault on and undermining of sovereignty and democ­racy. It is along this fault line that the workers’ movement must apply the maximum pressure to break the power of the big monopoly banks and corporations as the only way that their needs and interests can be defended and advanced.
     The process of European integration now under way, dominated as it is by the interests of monopoly capital­ism, is fraught with danger. The construction of a federal superstate in which political, econ­omic and social rights are reduced and are secondary to the interests and needs of the market has within it the seeds for the construction of a totalitarian corporate state. It poses grave dangers to the rights of work­ing people, a grave danger to democracy and sovereignty. These anti-democratic and pro-big-business values are embodied in the constitutional law of the European Union itself.

The two political and economic entities have failed our people

The two political entities within Ireland have failed to meet the economic, social and political needs of our people. Partition laid the basis for what we experience today. The two areas share similar features of heavy penetration by transnational capital. All economic and political decisions are geared to meet­ing the needs of those corporations. This relationship of dependence has had an impact on working people’s under­standing and has shaped how many see any possible alternative way forward.
     The adoption of neo-liberal policies and the ideology underpinning them over the last number of decades in the Republic flows from the needs of international capital, imposed by the state itself and championed by all the establishment political parties—Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and the Green Party—as well as the establishment’s mass media.
     This strategy laid the emphasis on deregulation, boasting of being the most open economy in the world, the privatisation of publicly owned companies, such as Irish Sugar, Telecom Éireann, and Aer Lingus, the imposition of service charges for refuse collection, water supply, and other public services, and support for private medical and health care over that of the public health service. The emphasis became one of appointing regulators rather than of public ownership and control.
     The Irish ruling class, small though it is, is now tightly integrated in and dependent upon its relation­ship with the dominant forces within the European Union and the United States. It is a para­sitic class, consisting of builders, speculators, banking and financial elites—some of whom live outside the state—and those dependent upon transnational capital. This ruling clique has abandoned the aim of the develop­ment of a national manufacturing base or a national integrated economy.
     The material base of unionism in Northern Ireland was once centred on and reliant upon the needs of the British empire, in such areas as shipbuilding, aircraft manufacture, engineering, rope and the linen industry, which have now all but disappeared or been taken over by transnational capital. This leaves it economically much weaker and even more dependent on the political interests of British imperial­ism in the first place but also on the European Union, in spite of its show of opposition to it. It has little if any independent political or economic manoeuvrability.
     The unionist bourgeoisie in Northern Ireland, with its complete subservience to the policies and interests of British imperialism, has used and fostered discrimination and sectarian division to main­tain control and has constructed political solutions that reinforce the marginalisation of working people. Their ability to follow through with such policies is severely restricted today.
     With the deep crisis and the prioritisation of bailing out British finance capital and the banking system, the socialisation of the banking debt onto the backs of British workers has left the British state deeply in debt. This was clearly a massive transfer of wealth from working people to financial cor­por­ations. This indebtedness can only be resolved by massive cuts in public spending. The impact on Northern Ireland will be a massive reduction in the subvention from the British exchequer to Northern Ireland. This is a dramatic shift of social wealth from the people in Northern Ireland to British finance capital.
     Equally, the politics and economic development of the South over the last five decades have been shaped by this growing dependence on foreign direct investment. The economy of the South is now in a very precarious state, with unemployment running at 14 per cent, which may well rise to 17 per cent within a short period, with mass emigration once again becoming a reality for tens of thousands of people.

The collapse of the “Celtic Tiger”and its aftermath

The Irish ruling class feasted greedily on the backs of working people, including hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, during the economic boom of the last decade or more. A report by Bank of Ireland in 2008 revealed that 1 per cent of the population hold a third of the wealth, with assets of €100 billion in 2006 (excluding the value of housing). Including house property, the richest 1 per cent hold 20 per cent of the wealth, the richest 2 per cent hold 30 per cent, and the richest 5 per cent hold 40 per cent. There were 33,000 Irish millionaires in 2006, of whom 3,000 had between €5 and €30 million and 330 had more than €30 million. In the last three years of the boom (2004–07) alone, the richest 400 people in Ireland added €41 billion to their combined personal wealth.
     The small number of interconnected business people control most of Ireland’s leading companies and banks. A network of only thirty-nine people held directorships in 33 of the 40 top private companies and state-owned bodies between 2005 and 2007. Between them these thirty-nine held a total of 93 director­ships. The 40 companies employed 310,000 people and had a combined turnover of nearly €80 billion between 2005 and 2007. These comprised both private companies and state-owned bodies, including AIB, Smurfit, Anglo-Irish Bank, Ryanair, and Aer Lingus.
     The total number of directors involved in managing these companies was 572. On average their pay rose by more than 40 per cent between 2005 and 2007, while combined inflation for these two years ran at just over 9 per cent.
     Bank lending grew to 200 per cent of national income by 2008 (twice the level of other industrialised countries), lending 40 per cent more in real terms solely to property developers than to everyone in 2000. Where did this availability of credit come from? Irish banks were able to borrow at low rates, sub­stantially from German and French banks and other international sources. Up to 1997 the banks were almost wholly funded by deposits, but by 2008 more than half bank lending came from inter­national sources and inter-bank lending.

The tiger was unsustainable from its inception

During the “boom” period we witnessed a growth in inequality. Poverty, both real and relative, has grown faster, resulting from the economic crisis. The proportion of households at risk of poverty (below 60 per cent of national median income) is 18½ per cent, or 17 in rankings for EU member-states (July 2010).
     Poverty, inequality, poor access to third-level education, poor school buildings, overcrowded class­rooms and waiting times to get a hospital bed did not disappear during the period of the “Tiger” boom. In fact statistics show that inequality grew significantly during that period. The wealthy minority grew even more wealthy, and vast sums of money left the country to be invested abroad in speculative property dealings.
     Reports by the Revenue Commissioners show most clearly the burden carried by working people in regard to taxation and the extent of manipulation of the tax system by the wealthy. In 2008, according to Bank of Ireland, about 40,000 people in Ireland shared personal assets of €100 billion, yet there are fewer than 8,000 households with a declared taxable income of more than €275,000—clearly tax avoid­ance on a massive scale.
     Over the “Celtic Tiger” years, from 1995 to 2007, the personal wealth of the richest 1 per cent of the popu­lation grew by €75 billion. In 2006 alone Irish people invested €8 billion in overseas property; in 2007 the figure was €11 billion. €41 billion was invested in commercial property in the period 2001–06; much of that money was invested in commercial property outside Ireland.
     The strategy of increasing reliance on transnational corporations to bring development and jobs is now being exposed as too narrow a base on which to build a balanced, evenly spread and sustainable economy. It has led to the neglect of the small and medium-sized indigenous companies that are central to the building of an indigenous broad industrial base.
     The International Financial Services Centre became nothing more than a conduit for money-laundering, tax avoidance, and tax evasion. In 2002 Ireland was the largest location for declared pre-tax profits for American firms, and in 2005 the IFSC accounted for 75 per cent of all foreign investment in Ireland. By 2008 the IFSC was dealing with €1 trillion per year. It had 25,000 employees and contributed €1.2 billion in taxes to the Irish state. For this small contri­bution the Government ensured that regulators operated what the IDA called “a flexible and business-focused tax and regulatory system.” Even with the present turmoil in financial markets, Ireland is still one of the leading global fund jurisdictions, with in excess of $2 trillion in assets under admini­stra­tion in over 10,000 funds, creating huge paper assets with almost no substance.
     In the late 1990s the Government allowed the financial arms of trans­national corporations—an example of greater profits accruing from financial speculation than from re-investing in manufacturing—to set themselves up as banks. By 2007 four hundred of these banks operated from the Financial Services Centre, their sole purpose to ensure that the parent corporation paid as little tax as it could get away with. These declared “profits” gave a huge false bump to the revenue of the state. This allowed the state to cut taxes in lieu of real increases in workers’ wages, which in turn boosted the profits of transnational corpor­ations with manufacturing facilities in Ireland.
     The consequences of this were not just to retard the building of a more rounded industrial base, best suited to harnessing the natural and human resources of Ireland, north and south: it also affected the nature of the dominant economic forces that control the state itself. This has resulted in the control of economic, political and thereby state power by the most parasitic elements of the Irish bourgeoisie, the financial and property speculators, who have used state power in their own interests to align themselves with the Euro­pean Union and the United States simultaneously.
     Many working families, denied access to the possibility of securing public housing, were forced into the private market and obliged to take out mortgages over forty years, which their grandchildren may well end up paying for. Social development was shaped not by what was socially necessary and in the best interests of a more socially cohesive society but by property speculators and builders, by the drive to maximise profits, through their grip on Government policy and the endemic corruption of the politi­cal system.
     Many companies, including those doing well, are using the crash as an opportunity to attack trade unions and to cut workers’ wages. As in the past, emigration and mass unemployment are the means of disciplining workers into accepting low wages and poor terms and conditions. As in all periods of crisis within capitalism, no matter how long or how short the crisis may be, many businesses will go under; those that remain will dominate the market, and the trend to monopolisation will be intensified, not diminished.
     The present Government, made up of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party with the support of independents, is attempting to place the burden of solving the crisis on the backs of working people. The impo­sition of levies and new taxes is a clear attempt to make working people pay.

The Irish shock doctrine

The publication of the McCarthy Report (2009) outlined clearly the strategy that the Irish ruling class needed to follow. This was another in a long line of reports from groups of “experts” that the Govern­ment and the main opposition parties set up and then proceed to hide behind, proclaiming, “It is these committees of experts that propose this strategy; this is the only way forward.” This approach is an attempt to remove economic and social policy from the national political debate, to present them as objec­tive and above contending class interests, having no self-interest in the outcome of their proposals.
     Under the guise of the McCarthy Report the Government has mounted a major assault on public services, with cuts in health, edu­ca­tion, and social welfare, the potential loss of thousands of public-sector jobs, and the removal of billions from the economy. McCarthy has now been engaged to do an inventory of the value of the public and state-sponsored sector, as a prelude to wholesale privatisation.
     Unemployment will continue to grow as the economy continues to contract, with the likelihood of 600,000 unemployed by the end of 2010. At the height of the boom, in 2007, the construction industry was worth €38 billion, or 24 per cent of GNP. At the height of the construction bubble, employment directly in the industry was approximately 255,000; in late 2008 it had fallen to a little over 100,000, coupled with a massive surplus of houses and apartments built in inappropriate locations, such as small provincial towns.
     Taking the years 2000–08, national capital stock increased by 157 per cent in real terms, from €222 billion to €477 billion. While this was one of the highest in the EU area, it was hous­ing that accounted for the bulk of the increase: €184 billion, or 72 per cent of the total.
     Housing is of course socially necessary; but from the point of view of a country’s national wealth it is an unproductive asset, in that once built a house does nothing in the way of contributing anything further to the national stock. Once housing is excluded from the figures the actual productive capital stock (which in contrast has the potential to, and in fact does, contribute to the national wealth) rose by only €70 billion, to €174 billion.
     A significant portion of that—€20 billion—went into retail, transport, and storage. As the Davy Report identifies, these are principally foreign-owned. Furthermore, they are of little long-term conse­quence for the development of the economy to justify such a significant channelling of the national income.
     Of the remaining €50 billion, the state and public enterprise investment made up €33½ billion, princi­pally in such areas as roads. Most notable, however, was the fact that the productive stock of the private sector rose by a mere 26 per cent in the same eight years, to €17 billion. So the state itself has been the backbone of investment and in sustaining the system itself.

Socialisation of debt: making working people pay the price

The National Asset Management Agency is the vehicle that the government has put in place to take the bad debts of the banks, thereby socialising the debts of the ruling class. It has taken or will take control of up to €90 billion of bad loans, shifting corporate debt onto the backs of workers, coupled with billions of public money being poured into those same banks to recapitalise them.
     This is in fact allowing the private capital interests to walk away from all debts and start with a clean sheet. This is a transfer of wealth on an unprecedented scale in the history of the Irish state. The Govern­ment is sacrificing the future of the country and lumbering future generations of workers and their children with massive debts in order to maintain the political and economic status quo.
     As the total figure for all participating banks may be close to €90 billion, the combined figure for the two main banks, Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks, is in the region of €60 billion. Most has been borrowed from German and French banks and other international finance houses.
     NAMA is now taking charge not alone of worthless land banks around our towns and cities but property from Dublin to Shanghai. There is also no guarantee that, even after the removal of these bad debts and the recapitalisation of the banks, small firms will have access to new loans to keep their businesses afloat. This is all designed primarily to keep international finance houses on side.
     Clearly the contradiction between a state body owning a vast network of properties whose real value they hope to recoup over a ten-year period is predicated on a rise in the property market, which was one of the factors that contributed to the current crisis. The Government’s solution can only con­tribute to sowing further seeds of speculation and may in fact possibly undermine its own banking strategy.
     This is simply throwing good money after bad, with banks still tottering on the brink and all the tax­payers’ money flowing out to meet the banks’ and financial institutions’ international debtors—once again German and French banks. After the billions of euros have been pumped into these banks they will be sold off to venture capitalists, which will cause even greater destabilisation of the financial strategy of the state itself.
     This is a strategy designed and proposed by the European Central Bank and the European Com­mis­sion. When Joaquín Almunia, the EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, came to Dublin after the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty he publicly demanded that the Government hurry up with the NAMA legislation, clearly demonstrating who is in charge.

The Government’s strategy is to make workers pay for the crisis

The Government’s strategy is centred around massive cuts in public spending, reducing it by €15 billion over the next five years. The Government is borrowing nearly €50 million a week to fill in the hole in revenue to meet current spending targets. This strategy is driven by the narrow neo-liberal mind­set of the Depart­ment of Finance, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank. The ECB has given the Government a derogation from the criteria of the Growth and Stability Pact up to 2013. It is within these narrow strictures that we must understand the strategy of cutting public spend­ing and sacking thousands of public-sector workers.
     The consequences for workers will be catastrophic, with a massive shift of wealth from workers to very wealthy individuals and corporations, both nationally and internationally. Workers lose every way.
• The state will have to pay higher interest on its borrowings internationally, as its credit rating is going down.
• More and more state revenue will be spent trying to service these borrowings.
• More and more public services will be cut.
• Thousands more jobs will be lost, in both the public and the private sector.
     This is a case of Irish working people taking all the pain. The much-talked-about “sharing the pain” is nothing more than a ruse to cover a major attack on workers and their families, while the rich and power­ful minority class remains firmly entrenched and retains control over the reins of economic priorities and thereby political power, using the state to impose its economic and social priorities.
     There is a determined and well-orchestrated campaign in the establishment media, in the news­papers and on radio and television, to insist that there is no other way forward. All the establishment parties—Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and the Green Party—support the general line, as laid down by the Department of Finance and the European Central Bank.
     The class struggle is very intense, if one-sided, and is taking place both on an ideological level and in the sustained attacks by the state on workers’ wages, terms and conditions and against those on welfare, pensioners, children, and the sick. The leadership of the ICTU has been exposed as never before to be hope­lessly lost and confused. In promoting the Croke Park Agreement between the ICTU public-sector unions and the state it was argued that any prolonged industrial action would damage the Government’s econ­omic strategy and its ability to sell government bonds.
     The people and institutions that bear a heavy responsibility for the present financial crisis—as distinct from the general crisis of global capitalism—will be the net beneficiaries of this strategy. The establish­ment wants to reduce the living standards of workers.
     The Government and the employers’ organisations, using the mass media, are using the crisis to achieve a number of strategic goals:
• to undermine existing wage levels,
• to radically reverse the terms and conditions of workers in both the public and the private sector,
• to undermine and if possible to break and divide the trade union movement, using public-sector against private-sector workers,
• to reduce and reverse the advances made in relation to the provision of public services,
• to manipulate public opinion to accept that an assault on state benefits is necessary,
• to reduce the national minimum wage, and
• to make savage cuts in social welfare.
     What is clear is that we have to resist each and every attempt by this Government and the rich cabal of the Golden Circle in their efforts to make workers pay for the present and growing crisis. The defence of the public sector is the defence of gains hard fought for by generations of workers.
     In spite of the weak­nesses displayed by the leadership of the trade union movement, with class collaboration exempli­fied by “social partnership,” the membership of the trade union movement as well as pensioners and com­munity organisations have shown strength and solidarity through demonstrations and strikes in oppo­sition to cuts in social services and jobs.
     A similar story is repeated in the North as job losses are announced daily. While the collapse is not so far on the same scale as that facing the South, the Northern economy has not escaped the crisis of capi­tal­ism that is having such a heavy impact on the South.
     The Northern economy has also been affected by the collapse of the “Celtic Tiger,” as the flows of capi­tal south to north and vice versa reached record heights, particularly in relation to speculative invest­ment in property and construction. While the standard mantra in relation to the North’s economy was that the public sector is too large, now, amid global crisis, the same commentators are consol­ing them­selves with the assertion that the North will be less affected by world events because of its larger public sector.
     What both parts of our country and what our people experience in common is that economic develop­ment was not geared to the development of a sustainable economy but rather, in the case of the North, has been tailored to meet the needs of the imperial centre during the height of the British Empire; and the decline of the Northern economy equally mirrors the decline of the British Empire. North and south, the dominant political forces threw open economic development to the interests of trans­national capital in the late 1950s and early 60s, both parts becoming over-dependent on foreign direct investment.
     As the crisis develops and deepens in Britain, the policies being pursued by the present coalition govern­ment will have an immediate impact here, as the British exchequer subvention is cut and the Northern economy will not be immune from the general crisis.
     This dependent relationship reflects how, in the political, economic and social spheres, the people of Northern Ireland are marginalised in three ways: the potential to change or influence the economic and social policies of the British government remains negligible; they cannot change or influence the policies imposed by Brussels; and they cannot influence the policies of the Irish Government.

General observations

• The Irish ruling class is using state power to defend its interests.
• The Irish state is an active proponent of class struggle in the interest of the elite.
• The openness of the economy is one of its strategic weaknesses.
• The Government and the establishment political parties have abandoned the idea of building an indepen­dent, sustainable economy.
• We are heavily exposed to the strategies of global finance capital, in the form of the International Finances Services Centre.
• Present and future generations of working people will be made to pay for the massive debt now incurred by the state to bail out the ruling class.
• The native bourgeoisie in both parts of the country is materially very weak. It is this weakness that obliges it to attach itself to the imperial powers.

Developing an all-Ireland perspective in the interests of the people

The Irish political establishment is happy to park the national demand for unity. It wants to manage the political, economic and social arrangements of the whole island in partnership with the British state and to guide future developments in a direction that secures the interests of a weakened but still strategically impor­tant British imperialism and the increasingly dominant European Union throughout the entire country.
     While the institutions set up under the Belfast Agreement remain in place, both the Executive and the Assembly have withstood much criticism and pressure from within Unionism, which accepted them with extreme reluctance in the first place. Clearly there are political and democratic limitations inherent in the nature of these political structures, which can create difficulties for progressive forces; never­theless they can provide an opportunity, which was not there before, to present alternatives to the people. We need a strategy for overcoming these difficulties and for advancing democracy beyond the existing structures.
     Recognising the inadequacies of the Belfast Agreement, we never­theless demand its full imple­men­tation, especially in regard to a Bill of Rights and full com­mit­ment to equality laws. We also call for the re-establishment of a Civic Forum. The “Security” pro­posals in the Belfast Agreement call for a “return to normal security arrangements, the removal of security installations and the reductions in numbers and role of the armed forces.” This will lead the way to our demand for full demilitarisation, including the closure of British army barracks. The CPI believes that the return to “normal security” should also mean the clos­ing down of all British army military intelligence units, and we are particu­larly concerned that new units have been built. However, the reforming of the RUC as the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the setting up of the Community Policing Partnerships go some way to meet the demands that the CPI made when we called for the “security forces” to be fundamentally democratised, to be made answer­able to the people, and to be representative of the whole community.
     Given the current conditions in the North, we once again state that we reject paramilitary vio­lence, from whatever quarter it comes. There is a clear need to remove the threat of the gun and bombs from the political scene and to develop class action and political dialogue. The peace process is an ongoing situ­ation that demands critical support and active participation to make the most of the opportunities it provides to oppose sectarianism and create unity of the working class.
     Elements within loyalist paramilitaries continue to threaten society with the use of violence and intimidation—not only against the Catholic community but against minority ethnic communities, immi­grants, and the Protestant community. While much of this is the side product of the gangster­ism that these organisations have degenerated into, communists also recognise these organisations and their actions as an expression of a vicious and reactionary unionism that provides potential for the develop­ment of fascist ideology and organisation and oppose them as such.
     There is also continuing violence by some republican paramilitary organisations. Such displays of para­military force do not advance the political goals that these various strands of republicanism claim to champion, any more than they did the Provisional IRA before the peace process. Their actions give the British Government continuing cover for the maintenance and use of repressive and undemocratic measures. They fan the flames of sectarianism and narrow the concept of republi­can­ism, rejecting the class basis of the national question.
     The crisis facing our people, north and south, is grave and requires vigilance against a descent into politi­cal or revolutionary adventurism of the right or the left. It is a time for clear thinking, for the develop­ment of clear strategies that can win the confidence of the people and that will bring unity and strength. What is needed is maximum unity of the working class and progressive forces in pursuing an agenda that will strengthen and deepen democracy as a counterweight to sectarian­ism, to develop demands that challenge the limitations of the existing institutions, and to push for greater all-Ireland econ­omic and social development and community reconciliation.
     The impact on our people of the deep systemic crisis of capitalism requires us to examine it more deeply so as to shape our strategic political and economic approach. The over-reliance on transnational corpor­ations in the Republic, the control that the London exchequer has on economic and social decision-making in Northern Ireland and the straitjacket of the EU underline the need for a more strategic all-Ireland approach to political, economic and social development. The solutions being imposed by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, constrained as it is by British Govern­ment policy, are at the expense of working people. None of the neo-liberal economic models or the mentality behind them can offer anything to our people, north or south.
     Clearly there is a need for more democratically controlled cross-border bodies. Planning by govern­ment bodies, north and south, should be on an all-Ireland basis in scope and nature. Regional struc­tures with­out regard to the border are needed. If we are to look at potential areas for development, there­fore, the models would have to be on an all-Ireland scale. Among the features of such a strategy would be
(a) the need to dramatically increase investment in research and development;
(b) exploring all-Ireland networks to facilitate the development of manufacturing industry;
(c) greater planning and integration to obtain optimum gains from the scale of exports from the Repub­lic and from industrial enterprises in the North;
(d) public procurement, whereby any investment package must be tailored to the maximum advan­tage of the greatest number of people, in recognition of the integral connection between economic dynam­ism and economic justice;
(e) a genuinely integrated all-Ireland transport system, with appropriate rail and road corridors, not only to facilitate economic progress but to ensure the provision of full and accessible services in such areas as health;
(f) investment in the environment and environmentally responsible projects;
(g) the maximum democratic control over capital and its targeted use for sustainable economic and social development;
(h) public democratic control over all natural resources for their development in a sustainable way; and
(i) the state to play a central developmental role in economic and social policies.
     The clear emergence of an all-Ireland politics and economy is a necessary condition for secular democ­racy throughout the country. In the North we need to set about drawing together all pro­gres­sive, anti-imperialist and working-class forces—
(a) to advocate and build a united Ireland,
(b) to struggle for maximum all-Ireland economic and social development and political co-operation,
(c) to pursue a vigorous and continuous anti-sectarian campaign,
(d) to actively work for community reconciliation,
(e) for full demilitarisation, including the closure of British army barracks,
(f) for the establishment of the Civic Forum, and
(g) for the implementation of the Bill of Rights.
     The implementation of these demands would greatly help the fight against sectarianism, a necessary con­dition for further social advance. The continued cultivation and use of religious sectarianism is a blight on society and has no other purpose than to divide the working class and prolong the union with Britain. The defeat of sectarianism requires not just appropriate economic and social policies but also demo­cratic space. It can only be completely overcome and eradicated as a political weapon in a national-demo­cratic state and a secular society. There is clearly also a need to combat racism and to streng­then and support organisations and campaigns campaigning against it.

A strategy for advance

While the achievement of a united Irish socialist republic is the central goal of the CPI, we recognise that if we are to move beyond slogans and the repetitive chanting that “social­ism is the answer” we need to develop a strategy that builds the forces for change that will become the building blocks, the foundation stones of a future socialist Ireland. People’s consciousness is developed and enriched by struggle and thereby becoming aware of the potential for an alternative way forward when the old order is not capable of delivering what they require.
     As an anti-imperialist and Marxist-Leninist party we see the strategic importance of weakening the influ­ence and control of imperialism over the whole country. In the Republic it is in the first place the Euro­pean Union, as well as the United States, while in the North the British state still has great reserves of influence through its local allies within the various strands of unionism.
     Of the key political allies of imperialism in Ireland, the Southern bourgeoisie has been severely weakened by the economic crisis, and the once-dominant political and economic hegemony of union­ism in Northern Ireland is no longer the central factor, while both are reduced to a dependence on British and EU imperialism. While the ruling class and the establishments north and south may be weaker economically, it is clear that ideologically their ideas, values and world view are under little if any pres­sure at this current stage.
     The working class also remains politically weak and poorly organised and still to a large extent un­aware of its own interests as a class. It is still greatly influenced by social democracy, and important sections of the trade union movement are deeply mired in the ideological swamp of social partnership.
     If the defeat of imperialist influence and control is an absolute necessity for economic and social advance, then this necessitates working-class forces taking an all-Ireland approach. A national-demo­cratic transformative strategy is one that unites both the national and social goals of the working class and its potential allies.

The defence of working people’s interests

The immediate tasks of the CPI are the defence of working people’s interests and the promotion and defence of national-democratic objectives, while its ultimate objective remains the achievement of a united socialist Irish republic. The working class is central to securing and achiev­ing social emancipation and for the completion of the national-democratic phase of the struggle. We wish to see state power and sovereignty rest with and for working people.
     As an internationalist party we have a special responsibility to promote solidarity with peoples through­out the world who are struggling against imperialism, for national independence and social­ism, and to oppose warmongering and militarism wherever they appear. We welcome the initiatives by com­munist parties to rebuild the international communist move­ment as a bulwark against imperialism and for peace and socialism.

What are the potential forces for change?

We need to set about drawing together all anti-imperialist and progressive forces—
(a) to struggle for maximum all-Ireland economic and social development and political co-operation,
(b) to be anti-sectarian, and anti-racist,
(c) to be actively working for community reconciliation.
     Through this work we will be establishing a base from which to advocate and build a united Ireland.
     In the South the deep cuts in public spending and attacks on working people, pensioners and the sick can only spread further disillusionment and anger. This requires us to work with and continue to build broad-based local resistance. It also requires us to step up our work within the trade union move­ment to bring to it our alternative political-economic strategy, rather than just a collection of econ­omic demands, which in many cases reinforces the deep reformism that is inherent within the trade unions.
     The experience of these coalitions either in relation to campaigning against the impact of the policies being imposed by the EU or those built around the referendums on the Lisbon Treaty has proved to be politi­cally effective, but they require the investment of personnel and resources. They raised important national-democratic demands and exposed the duplicity of the political establishment and key sectors of the trade union movement. They refuted the arguments in relation to the supposed benefits that Irish workers have derived from the country’s alignment with the interests of European monopoly corpor­ations and from abandoning key areas of national sovereignty. This cam­paign found an audi­ence within the trade union movement.
     The trade union movement is the major instrument that the working class has with which to defend its interests against the onslaught that has been launched against it by employers, governments, and the Euro­pean Union. In spite of the weak­nesses displayed by some of the leadership of the trade union move­ment, with class collabor­ation exemplified by “social partnership,” the membership of the trade union movement has continued to show strength and solidarity through demonstrations, occupations and strikes in opposition to cuts in social services and jobs.
     Also, the mobilisation of local communities to resist cuts in local hospitals or school services shows that a broad popular basis can be built. A key force in many areas was the community development organi­sations. They were the first to be hit with the massive cuts in government funding. Clearly, the weak­ness was that the state used its funding in an attempt to neutralise their campaigning potential and to disarm any potential resistance. That experience cannot be unlearned but can provide the possible basis for building a wide coalition around their demands.
     Some of these coalitions also show the extent of the disillusionment that exists among various social group­ings and individuals who once supported and to some degree benefited from the relationships they had with the establishment parties and the political system. Increasingly, sectors both north and south that believed up to now that they had a “stake in the system” find themselves, their business, jobs and pensions being sacrificed to bail out banks, to serve the wheeling and dealing of a wealthy minority, to sus­tain the system.
     There are two radical currents with long and deep historical roots in Irish history and culture: the labour and the republican. These are the two traditions that the CPI is rooted in and draws its inspiration and experience from. Both are necessary to us; neither on its own can point the way forward.
     The coming period will throw up new demands and open up new contradictions that com­mun­ists and other radical and progressive forces need to understand in order to push forward important strategic demands. The forthcoming savage cuts in Northern Ireland will have a major impact on the sup­port base among working people of the two main coalition parties and present an opportunity to open up a debate across the political divide. The demand for it will create greater political space to raise our central strategic political-economic demand, that of building a more sustainable all-Ireland economy. This is linking the social and the national.
     It will be difficult but absolutely necessary to fight for such an alternative strategy. It is part of the battle of ideas within society that we have to engage in and to win. We may find a more sympathetic hear­ing among certain forces and hostility among others, but that is the challenge that we as com­mun­ists must rise to. Our belief in a socialist future is not widely accepted; that does not make us abandon it or tone it down.
     What the crisis has exposed is the class role of the state, and the class nature of politics. The aim of national political and economic sovereignty is a key element in the struggle for a more socially just Ireland and a necessary step towards building socialism. A profound democratic transformation has the potential to weaken the ruling-class structures and their methods of control.
     We need to build upon our alternative political-economic strategy contained in An Economy for the Common Good. The nature of the system is increasingly being exposed by itself, as is the limited nature of democracy in our society. What is clear is that the Irish people, north and south, need to be offered an alterna­tive vision for our country, that a different Ireland is possible, that mass emigration, poverty, in­equality and discrimination can be ended and consigned to history along with the economic and political system that produces them.
     We need, as an urgent contribution to building the forces for change, to present to the Irish people a People’s Democratic Programme for the 21st century—a 21st-century vision of a new Ireland, putting aside past division, a programme that will inspire, to give working people hope; a new Ireland where the aspir­ations and dreams of working people for economic and social justice determine government priorities, a new Ireland where the people are sovereign.
     We need to propose a strategy that will bring working people into state power.

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