20th International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties, Athens, 23-25 November 2018
“The contemporary working class and its alliance. The tasks of its political vanguard – the Communist and Worker’s Parties – in the struggle against exploitation and imperialist wars, for the rights of the workers and of the peoples, for peace, for socialism”
Contribution of the Workers Party of Ireland
The Workers Party of Ireland extends greetings to the parties present in Greece for the 20th International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties and extends its thanks the Communist Party of Greece for hosting this meeting and providing the facilities for our work. I also bring congratulations from the Central Executive Committee of the WPI to the KKE on the 100th anniversary of its founding and to the Greek Communist Youth, KNE, celebrating50 years since it was founded in the struggle against the dictatorship.
This year we have celebrated the birth of Karl Marx. The transformative impact of his ideas has been felt not only in politics, economics, history, philosophy and revolutionary theory and practice but also in sociology, geography, anthropology and literature. He has been the subject of thousands of books and papers and he has inspired revolutions which he had described as “the locomotives of history”.
One year ago we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, one of the greatest events in human history, an occasion of historic global significance,the impact of which reverberated around the world.
Lenin made a colossal contribution to Marxist thought, developing and enriching the theory and practice of socialist revolution. He insisted on the necessity of class struggle and workers’ power but he also recognised the importance of social alliances as an essential part of the revolutionary struggle and integrating the day-to-day struggles of the working class with revolutionary strategy. Within the framework of the struggle against the monopolies, the working class, led by their vanguard party, fights to defend the gains and achievements of the working class. In contemporary capitalism the everyday demands of the working class must be integrated with and directed against the capitalist system and the bourgeois state. Lenin stressed the importance for communists of creating unbreakable ties with the mass of the workers, the capacity to agitate unceasingly among them and the vital need to respond to their demands while maintaining and promoting a consistently revolutionary and openly Marxist programme.
It was in the context of building this relationship with the masses and winning over the majority of the workers that he elucidated the errors of refusing to participate in bourgeois parliaments or work in trade unions.Both Marx and Engels were active participants in the labour movement of their time. Marx, particularly in his attack on Proudhon in 1847, berated those who disparaged the gains of the labour movement and his instructions for the delegates of the General Council for the Geneva Congress emphasise the importance of the role of trade unions and the struggle of the labour movement.
Addressing himself to the German “Lefts” Lenin stated: “We cannot but regard as equally ridiculous and childish nonsense the pompous, very learned, and frightfully revolutionary disquisitions of the German Lefts to the effect that Communists cannot and should not work in reactionary trade unions, that it is permissible to turn down such work …”
The task of the communists within the trade union movement and in the bourgeois parliaments is to use every opportunity to raise class consciousness, to enable workers to develop a sense of their power as a class, to underline and emphasise the nature, basis and importance of class struggle, facilitating the organisation of mass campaigns and simultaneously demanding measures to improve conditions for working people and defending the labour movement’s achievements and gains.
Today the international communist movement is faced with many problems and challenges. Those problems and challenges can only be confronted through the work of a genuinely revolutionary party, a party imbued with an unshakeable ideological orientation,with the correct political theory, strategy and tactics and sustained and enduring connection with the broadest masses of the working people.
The revolutionary party must stand with working people in their day-to-day struggles to defend their hard-won rights and freedoms and to secure better working and living conditions, including permanent and stable work, with full social insurance, working and wage protection, full occupational, health and safety measures and full trade union rights; social protection for the sick, disabled, pensioners and the unemployed; obligatory public, universal social protection; the satisfaction of health, education, welfare and housing needs, including a quality public, universal and free system of health and medical care; free, compulsory public, secular education; a reduction in the retirement age (while abolishing a default retirement age), the payment of adequate pensions; democratic rights and trade union freedoms; an end to privatisation of public assets; the maintenance of strategic sectors of the economy by the state including energy, communications, education, transportation etc.; environmental protection etc.
However, it is the task of the communists to set each struggle in its political context which exposes the class character of society, raises class consciousness and articulates in a concrete and understandable way that socialism is the alternative.
Across Ireland workers face constant attacks on their rights, including the bogus designation of workers as “self-employed” to deprive them of their rights. There is a serious housing crisis. The cost of housing in Ireland takes up an increasing amount of workers’’ income from 12% of average weekly household expenditure in 2004-2005 to 19.6% in 2015-2016. Precarious work and low pay is pervasive. There has been a 25% increase in the number of workers who are in temporary employment between 2008 and 2016. The destruction of the manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland has led to the loss of thousands of skilled jobs in Gallahers, Michelin and Bombardier with the announcement of a further job loss of 490 jobs in Bombardier in recent days. The failure to address pressing social issues has resulted in increased levels of poverty, including an increase in fuel poverty, and a growing crisis in housing, education, health and social care. Despite serious concerns in Britain around the misery caused by Universal Credit, the roll-out process of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland has commenced with no action taken to suspend it. Public infrastructure projects have not been delivered. Meanwhile suicide rates in Northern Ireland more than doubled between 2005 and 2013.
The history of imperialism demonstrates that intervention, the subjugation of peoples and nations and the exploitation of their resources has profound consequences and exists for no other purpose than the dominance of the monopolies and the preservation of the capitalist system. Delivering humanity and the world from the threat of war, exploitation and oppression has always been and remains both an integral objective and vital task for communists. The Soviet Union and the socialist states, before the capitalist restoration, had been a powerful force for liberation and social progress. NATO’s wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya have left hundreds of thousands dead and injured; destroyed these countries’ infrastructure and destroyed the lives of millions of ordinary working people.The arms race continues with devastating consequences and lives, health, the environment, flora and fauna are despoiled and destroyed.
In recent days French President, Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, reiterated the call for a “European Army”. In November 2016 Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, demanded closer military and security cooperation between EU member states. In June 2017, within days of revealing a multi-billion-euro plan to help fund European defence research, Juncker said it was time to integrate militaries and defence industries. In September 2017 he set out his plans for an EU-wide army. These plans to explicitly create a European army follow a long strategy for the militarisation of the EU.
Article 42(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) mandates member states to militarise and invest more funds into military spending: “Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy, to contribute to the objectives defined by the Council … Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities.”
In 2017 the Council of Ministers established Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) under Arts.42 and 46 TEU. These commit the participating Member States to” the principle of a single set of forces;” to increasing their military spending to reach specific monitored target levels, and to providing troops for EU combat missions.
NATO’s 2018 Summit Declaration characterises the EU as a “unique and essential partner for NATO,” and describes a “strategic partnership” between the two organisations while agreeing that capabilities developed under PESCO be available to NATO and be “complementary and interoperable”. These are dangerous developments for world peace demanding the attention and joint action of the international communist movement. Last weekend, in Dublin, Ireland, many international peace organisations, including the World Peace Council and Ireland’s Peace and Neutrality Alliance (which hosted the Conference) participated in the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases. The struggle for peace and against capitalist exploitation and imperialist war remains a central task.
Under current conditions the working class in many countries is confronted with the rise in bourgeois nationalism which is utilised to divide workers on ethnic, national or religious grounds, weaken the workers’ movement, distract workers from the class struggle and obstruct and delay the advance towards socialism. These dangers must be confronted. Lenin made clear that bourgeois ideology must never be permitted to obscure proletarian consciousness and made clear that the working class should be the last to make a fetish of the national question and that, in place of all forms of nationalism, Marxism advances internationalism. The unity of the working class and the question of raising class consciousness so that workers identify with their class interests rather than sectional or communal concerns are essential prerequisites for successful class struggle and socialism.
The task of the communist and workers’ parties, through all their activities and reinforced by the principles of Marxism-Leninism,is to engage fully in the struggle of the working class, to raise class consciousness and to create a strategy for anti-monopoly/anti-capitalist struggle in preparation for a rupture with the capitalist system, to end exploitation and oppression and to advance towards the construction of socialism and communism.
Member of the Central Executive Committee