One hundred years ago, British Imperialism, having failed to militarily defeat the Irish independence movement, came to an understanding with the Irish bourgeoisie, which had, in the words of the Executive Committee of the Communist International,
“sacrificed the friends of the long and successful struggle and received in return the right to exploit the Irish workers together with the English bourgeoisie.”
British Imperialism would not allow an independent Irish republic to exist because to do so would sound the death knell of the Empire. Ireland has never broken free from the grip of Imperialism, and since the 1950s the Irish ruling class has geared economic policy towards dependence on foreign capital, which penetrates the economic and social fabric of society. The Communist Party of Ireland has identified the triple lock of imperialism, the EU, UK and US, as the obstacles to Irish sovereignty and socialism.
In the 100 years since the defeat of the Irish revolution the world has changed, but the nature of Imperialism has not. It is stepping up its efforts to assert its domination economically, ideologically, politically, militarily and culturally so as to shore up the increasing threat of a multipolar world, with the rise of China and other countries unwilling to be forced into the hegemony of the United States, which has been the dominant feature of global politics for the past three decades. Working people continue to experience a global counter-offensive by monopoly capitalism as imperialism continues to force back and reclaim economic, political and social gains won by the working class in developed capitalist countries following the October Revolution.
Since the last global economic crash, and the onset of the global pandemic, there has been an increasing concentration and monopolisation of capital and wealth and worsening social inequality, with the gap between rich and poor constantly expanding. More and more the greatest share of wealth generated by labour is being acquired by the owners of capital. The continued and growing domination by monopoly finance capital and the expansion of the wealth gap, together with the sharpening contradiction between the social character of production and the private ownership of the means of production, have meant that these contradictions are constantly being exposed; yet the hegemony of the capitalist class and imperialist countries remains intact. The deepening control and financialisation of the economy results in ever-greater short-term speculation to ensure greater profit returns, coupled with growing state and personal indebtedness, truly exposing the increasingly parasitic nature of the system. Tax havens, corruption and all sorts of criminal activities that are inherent in capitalism continue to grow.
The drive to privatise, facilitated and promoted by national governments, including the Irish state, and the outsourcing of public services, are carried out in order to secure the dominance of private capital and to open up new avenues for speculative capital investment, resulting in the transfer of public resources to private or corporate interests. This concentration of growth in speculative activities, particularly in the finance sector, and the declining rate of profit within the system, have also led to more intense privatisation, monopolisation, mergers, and acquisitions.
Ireland has a housing crises and successive governments have facilitated increased penetration of the housing market by international finance capital. Far from improving the situation these vulture funds buy up most new housing developments which they lease back to local authorities or put on the private rental market. This has forced up price houses and led to extortionist rents.
In line with European Commission policy, the government refuses to impose rent controls and social control of housing. The EU Commission opposes such controls because they are a barrier the penetration of the housing market by finance capital.
Capitalism and imperialism are forcing billions of people daily to endure blighted lives and unfulfilled dreams. Economic, political, social and cultural alienation is a growing feature of people’s lived experience. People conditioned within the capitalist mode of production are driven to accepting the ruthless routine of consumption and competition with all human beings. This growing tendency of alienation to many of the instruments of ruling-class control in the political, social and cultural spheres is an indication of a growing weakness of the hegemonic ideas or ideology of the ruling class. More and more people no longer take part in elections for what they recognise as assemblies that do not reflect or meet their needs and interests but rather reflect, facilitate and secure the needs of the elite: the ruling class and business interests.
Being in office does not mean being in power. Real political power lies with those who have economic power; in the United States this means the military-industrial complex, in alliance with the corporate media, which exercises political control through the institutions of the state, such as the military.
The US is stepping up the strategy of surrounding China militarily and using economic sanctions and restrictions to prevent China pushing aside America’s global economic dominance. Along with an increase in Cold War rhetoric and economic sanctions there is a growing militarisation of the South China Sea, linked to the ideological campaign against China, designed to create the necessary fear as part of the conditions for a further military build-up and military aggression against China. This military build-up is not alone a danger to world peace but is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases and thus to the growing environmental crisis that humanity faces.
Over 50 years ago, the Irish ruling class applied to join the then EEC. The Communist Party of Ireland opposed this development, correctly describing the EEC as an alliance of monopoly-capitalist forces for furthering their class interests. Its structures and treaties are designed to block any path towards socialism, or even social democracy. It cannot, therefore, be reformed and must be challenged and defeated if we are to achieve meaningful democracy and build socialism.
As it has developed, the European Union has assumed more and more powers, removing large areas of economic, financial and social decision-making from the member-states and away from democratic accountability—even in its limited parliamentary form—thereby preventing the people from influencing or changing policies they oppose at the national level. It has removed crucial decisions about economic and social policies from the member-state level, thereby limiting the potential effects of working-class struggle. Economic and social policy is defined and presented as a mere technical question, devoid of any class, political or economic interests.
Following the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009 the militarisation of the European Union has accelerated, with EU states no longer content with dependence on the United States and NATO. The increased powers for EU institutions to push for centralised foreign and security policy mean that Irish defence policy is being shaped by decisions taken on the Continent. A position of Irish state neutrality has been undone by a servile collaborationist Irish establishment. EU-directed military projects, such as battle groups and PESCO, subjugate the Irish Department of Defence to the geopolitical interests of the core EU states.
The deepening contradictions and the crisis within the European Union continue to grow. One expression of this was Brexit, another the divisions that emerged over how best to deal with the impact of the covid pandemic. However, the big capitalist powers of Europe, particularly Germany, continue to organise to promote and strengthen the European Union as an imperialist bloc under its control while working with the US strategy of encircling Russia and confronting China. Both Russia and China are considered strategic economic and military adversaries. This approach informs and shapes the thinking of the European Union as expressed in its PESCO strategy, which is to project its own strategic economic and military interests globally as well as ensuring the capacity for domestic compliance to the economic and political strategy within member-states. For these reasons the potential for inter-imperialist rivalries and tensions exists.
There is a growing campaign by politicians and media throughout the EU to further develop the EU as an aggressive military alliance. Irish politicians, media and senior military figures continue to claim that Ireland needs to join a proposed EU Army to protect “European Values” and our “vital interests”. Contrast these views with the words with which the Communist Party of Ireland rejected the Treaty imposed by Britain in 1921,
“Ireland is asked to be an ally of the most hateful tyranny that history has produced. Thinly disguised as partners we are asked to become lackeys of the Empire …and ruthlessly suppress every spark of freedom that exists”.
The Communist Party of Ireland has long identified the EU as a threat to Irish democracy and sovereignty. It is a growing threat to world peace.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc as a counterbalance, the countries of the world have endured more than three decades of uninterrupted unipolar political hegemony, with the US at the head, backed by Britain, the EU and Japan, in an era of perpetual war. Countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa have had to endure this rule in some of the harshest and cruellest forms imaginable, employing the most violent mercenary and right-wing, fascist and extremist forces, through either economic starvation or the bombing and destruction of entire cities and infrastructure, causing untold hardship for the citizens of those countries.
Now is not the time to be hesitant about supporting countries that are trying to break with imperialism. Now is not the time to make moral or intellectual judgements on the purity of anti-imperialist struggles or socialist projects that are under way in many regions around the globe. Our duty and our goal is to bring an end to the barbaric capitalist system, and we must give support to those countries that are being targeted by imperialism. If these movements are given the political and economic space to develop in sovereignty, without fear of interference, sanctions, blockades, embargoes, or invasion, then it opens up the opportunity for more socialist projects to be ignited. The Communist Party of Ireland affirms the sovereign right of all to self-determination without interference and supports the broad UN-based order of sovereign states underpinned by international law.