The defining features of revolutionary conduct are defined by the balance of class forces in capitalist society, eg which class has the upper hand in the confrontations that ensue and which class has the capacity to maintain its hegemony over all structures, economic and political. We have in Ireland in 2018 a variety of features which characterise the supremacy of the ruling class.
A housing crisis in which Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, the Labour Party and Sinn Fein have displayed their inability to confront the transformation of housing in Ireland into a commodity; a commodity that has a value greater than human life, a commodity, that can be traded, sold and exchanged irrespective of how much impact it has on the inhabitant. This sadly, is not just a reflection of the dominance of the ruling class over the working class, but also the weakness of the working class and our disorganisation.
Education follows a similar pattern to housing. From third level to primary, measures are being taken to tighten the reins and accessibility for workers. Grants are becoming more difficult, attendance from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds is dropping and private schools are being built, ironically at the expense of the tax payer. The ruling class does not need an educated and thoughtful workforce, it requires an obedient one.
Our health system and subsequently our health, an integral part of our lives is slowly but surely being subcontracted out to private businesses and companies. After all, this is what our EU masters demand from their bootlicker blueshirts! Instead of being treated as something that is necessary for life, the provision of healthcare has become a sector that can be profited from. What is the sole motivator of a business in any field? To profit! What is it willing to do? Anything! Our home helps, who for so long have provided a necessary service to the elderly and the sick are having their working conditions trashed aside so that privately subcontracted companies can turn a generous state sponsored profit.
Yet never mind our industries nor national resources, neither of which we rarely see or hear from anywhere. Where are our state owned factories that used to furnish people living in Ireland with goods and decent employment? Where is the revenue from the much acclaimed gas and oil fields that seem to getting found off the Western coast? Where is it all if not in the pocket of the ruling class!
When the tricolour was raised over Dublin castle, we merely changed the accent of the landlord that impoverished the tenant. We merely changed the pin which national emblem the employer wore on their pin and on which day and what flag we saluted. As it so happens, for the dispossessed and the poor, we changed nothing. The furnishings of state power, long sought after by the downtrodden Irish people were once again kept in the hands of a few vested interests. The industrialists continue to crush the workers into the earth while the banks tidily turned their profit.
What has changed since then? What has changed? Efforts to galvanize Republicanism under the goals of Connolly’s Socialism have been made and at every turn they have not amounted to anything more than a handful of dissenters. Connolly’s message has not been popularized nor spread. His fire for an Ireland reborn from the ashes of imperialism and colonialism has not yet been set alight!
Irish conditions demonstrate very clearly that the workers have never been in control in a way which Connolly envisioned. We have never truly‘re-conquered’ Ireland from the clutches of a parasitic class that continues to strip workers of their wealth. We work, we toil, we rise, we sleep, we die – yet truly we possess no means to control our own destinies, we are all fettered to the reigning economic model of capitalism.
Yet every generation of young people that grows up as victims of the horrendous and successful austerity or as witnesses of vicious imperialist aggression are politicized. They are politicized by the lived experience imbued by them. Austerity has created a generation of people who are rising up to the task of resistance and our numbers are swelling. It is with irony that we relish this opportunity to create a formidable force while being at one of our weakest moments ever.
The Unions by and large are toothless, meek and inept and run by professional careerists who have made their salaries and positions possible through constantly cutting deals. The reinvigoration of militant union activity and the recruitment of the next generation into formidable, class conscious expressions of working class power is the only way in which we can alter the balance of class power in Ireland and Irish society.
Elections, electioneering, the formation of ‘new’ political parties that appeal to more people is a nonsensical waste of time, resources and energy that distracts good political activists with legitimate criticisms of capitalism from the development of a revolutionary movement that can overturn the dominant and reigning mode of production under capitalism.
The power of the working class can be measured in a variety of ways, but union density is, I would argue and stand by one of the most important necessary features. A trade union, i.e a representation of certain workers, or all workers, in a sector, industry or factory is the natural collection point and resolution centre of class antagonisms. It is the vehicle which helps workers socialize but also to galvanize the issues they are facing. It is the vehicle which allows for the continued development of class consciousness, from a strike, which is the ultimate weapon a worker possesses, to more!
Where does this leave our revolutionary comrades in the Connolly Youth Movement? What does the state of affairs in Irish society mean for us and how must we act? While there are issues which continue to explode onto the lives of the workers in Ireland, ‘the cause of Labour remains the cause of Ireland’. If we hold that to be true, then certainly we must ingratiate ourselves with the workers in Ireland, native or not. The demographics may have changed since 1916, yet the power of the employer? It remains the same.
Young people of a revolutionary mind-set must look back at not only the Bolsheviks but many other highly successful Communist Parties who with iron discipline set about organizing millions of workers across various industries. We are no different. We too, can give focus and orientation on the organisations of industries, workers and sectors and through involving ourselves the contemporary struggles of young workers today, build a pronounced, developed Communist Movement capable of delivering massive blows to Capitalism.
Union density continues to be one of the greatest curses and one of the greatest blessings young Communists have. It is a time for us to agitate, educate and organise among a largely depoliticized workforce. As Joe Hill wisely said: Don’t mourn, organise!