Electoral Politics and the 2019 Vote.

On the 24th of May, Ireland held its Local and European elections. It would be an accurate assessment to say that the working class by and large did not turn out to vote. It would be a further accurate assessment to say that several parties subscribed to socialism did not make any significant gains and in some cases, lost their seats and the investment they made on the campaign. The discussion that precluded the election and that has followed it is now more interesting than ever before, for it is now framed in a conclusive result. What is that result?

The political parties of the left that invested themselves fully into the electoral battle demonstrated a few important lessons. Lessons that we now need to take away and draw upon as we consider the social forces in Ireland. What are they? What is the role of the State and its configuration? What is the impact that vulgar and opportunist participation in electoral politics yields?

Let me make the first and perhaps the most important contention of this essay. The left does not represent the working class. Perhaps it claims to do so, perhaps it says it advocates on behalf of it, but it is not representative of the working class.

While this question rummages about in your mind let’s delve into the factors that contribute to that conclusion. Wealth inequality in Ireland has continued to increase since the bailout of the odious debt in 2008. In the backdrop of ruthless austerity, a number of political parties have rode waves of rebellion and have received respectable votes. From 2009 to 2019 there have been elections of TD’s and councillors from various tendencies and organisations. They have participated in a variety of struggles and campaigns, mostly revolving around immediate short term issues in their locality or national ones.

The water charges movement is the one that eclipses the multitude of issues that took place and the mass participation of it diverted the electorate to select politicians who they presumed to be most vocal and active on their issue. This is how political advocacy works, people vote for their interest – often than not, it is their personal interest. The electoral formula as we understand it is styled in the following way: Vote for X to Achieve Y.

The result is that the left has locked itself in the same competition while trying to siphon its time and energy elsewhere. Inevitably it is drawn into managing the electoral fiefdom it has carved out and participating in advocacy for the constituents that approach it with their issues. The issues therefore, despite being symptomatic of capitalism are individualized and resolved individually through peer to peer or one on one solutions. This is a structural issue within Ireland that inevitably subsumes those who participate in it, especially the political parties that are not consciously aware of it or engage with it. They’ve lost the contest by participating in the rules and regulations set down by the capitalist class.

The 2019 election result speaks volumes of the absence of any serious organising done by the left wing parties and a total inability to systematically attack capital and change Ireland. Using elections to recruit very clearly and obviously does not work in the absence of any actual real work. The greatest shift in wealth inequality has occurred among those who own property – and those who don’t. You could say that this is the sharpest point of contradiction in Irish society, within the realm of housing. As rent goes up, evictions carry on and landlords big and small run amuck life becomes more difficult. Importantly, the decline of the union movement and decrease of days lost to industrial action continues to reflect worsening pay and conditions in the workplace.

The conclusion that must be drawn from these conditions is that capital and capitalists are on the offensive against all of us. Their offensive differentiates itself from forcible land clearings under Oliver Cromwell and is done through the legal system. It is done with the assistance of the police forces North and South. It is done through legislation and nicely written letters. It is an offensive of the State, as an instrument of monopoly capitalism in Ireland against the working class.

The left, or more specifically the multiplicity of left wing parties have not prevented any of these conditions from deteriorating. They’ve made short interventions as elected officials, supported by a limited amount of activists and have assisted individuals, but they’ve not actually prevented the general cycle of this. All the resources provided via State funding in millions of euros and huge pay packets, as well as fund-raising has equally not been diverted into creating alternative structures of political or economic power.

Only in certain once off examples has this occurred, but for the most part, political positions for a small caste of paid party members has been created in a multitude of parties. What good is this for the working class? How will this advance the proletarian line?

The fact of the matter is that none of the left wing parties have advanced the political or economic power of their class. They have remained sects, experiencing temporal moments of success that have essentially been lost. The question therefore is raised – how is the proletarian line advanced and how is it best developed?

On May 10th, Lenin delivered a speech at the Petrograd Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik) titled ‘THE IMMEDIATE SITUATION’. In this speech he outlined the necessity to begin formulations that will seize power from the bourgeoise government to the newly developed proletariat institutions, namely the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates and exercise the authority to prepare for the construction of socialism. The class represented at this Soviet was the working class – therein lies the question. What structures are representative of the working class today in Ireland that the Communist Party and Youth should be interwoven into?

I say none. The weakness of the Trade Union movement is visible for all to see, it represents a very small grouping of workers and often neglects the rest. There is no ‘mass’ working class organisation today in Ireland and this begs the question. If the formulation that was required in Russia was one that placed a central role in the Soviets of various delegates – are similar but not identical institutions required in Ireland?

One cannot rush and state in the affirmative or the negative. Conditions are not symmetrical and cannot be copied, but they can be learnt from. In fact I would say that the pursuit Connolly undertook in organising the ITGWU was simply a different step in the historical struggle for working class emancipation. Ireland was a country that had no organised working class – therefore the logical thing was to do what? Organise, organise and organise.

If we are to seize and make advances during and throughout the crises of capitalism, we have to forecast our plans and preparations in such a way that does not simply revolve around ultra left slogans and short term actions. The question in fact we have to sit here and ask ourselves is: what is the role of our movement in preparing for the transfer and seizure of political and then economic power? What are our immediate tasks and who are our short term allies and long term allies?

It is the view of the Connolly Youth Movement, as highlighted by our programme and our practical day to day work that our class and primarily our youth are angry and hyper exploited. Yet despite all of this, are aimless in the reclamation of a dignified existence. In fact, many are concluding that under capitalism they cannot obtain a dignified existence.

The task of the Connolly Youth Movement remains difficult and painful but never the less absolutely necessary. We need to organise the youth as the vanguard of change for their generation and the next, with the theoretical scythe that is Marxism Leninism. On a practical level, it is our task as Communists to mitigate, intervene and advance the interests of young people. If they are under attack in the workplace, it is the Communist youth who should be their ally. If they are under attack in the homeplace, it is the Communist youth who should be their ally.

Interlocking short term strategic interventions with a long term continued growth and consolidation of broad anti-capitalist organisations is in fact the most pressing task at hand, for without it – we will come nowhere near liberating our class.

We reject the concept of over investment in dead end social democracy, eurocommunism and total oppportunism as espoused by the disorganisd left in Ireland.

We embrace the struggle of the popular strata and the people. When our struggle is well organised, then will come a day to tactfully place forward comrades to voice and popularize the on-going political struggle. Political candidates are there to articulate the struggles of the working class organisations that actually engage in that struggle. The role of Communists? To organise and educate and assist our class to rise with us!  To use the resources of the State against itself and go about the formation of those very institutions that will undermine and ultimately replace the political power of the bourgeoisie. 

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