Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and it’s worth fighting for’.
I’ve never agreed more in my entire life than I do now. When I was very little, I did not understand poverty, crime, inter-ethnic tensions, the IMF or any of that. I merely lived day to day. When I look back at Estonia post-USSR, I understand. The collapse of a political and economic bloc that was interconnected in an immense network led to a collapse in society, forcing huge displacement for various reasons. We left Estonia in short due to how dire the situation was for people who were in the lower income bracket, i.e the working class. There was no opportunities unless you were a criminal and no path to liberation unless you were already wealthy or had taken part in the ‘privatisation’ which in my mind is no different than being a criminal. This looms over me and my family, it will always loom over us. It is a testament to what happens under what’s called ‘shock therapy’, it is what many Latin American countries also suffered and it is what Ukraine is also suffering.
My path to Marxism (which is certainly not over!) has not been unique. In fact it has been as mundane as any other. When everything is laid bare for a logical thinking person to see, it is undeniable. A series of views linked to Socialism and co-operative democracy, accountability, justice were developed from readings of Lenin, though without any real guidance it was difficult to understand It did not help either that the majority of my cultural views were Slavic in nature, therefore homophobia and a tinge of discrimination persisted. I had no exposure to anything else and these I confess ignorant views were never really ‘challenged’, they simply festered and remained.
Looking back now it’s embarrassing but as people, as activists, as Marxists we are here to learn and I have learned. My time in UCC in Ireland contributed little to nothing to the formation of a political ideology. I found the overwhelmingly tide of liberalism and the lack of any strong Marxist ideas incredibly off-putting. Like many others, I like to think that the way I process the world is in a firmly logical way. Therefore for instance when discussing imperialism or international politics, or even the concept of democracy a double standard constantly prevailed. This idea that one bloc of nations is good and has never committed a deed that would undermine it morally and that another bloc of nations is inherently evil and that taking any action against it in the form of war, propaganda, discrimination is perfectly acceptable. This hypocrisy, in my mind was a direct result of ‘liberal’ values. Values that are not bound to anything ideologically but the current populism of the country, along with a deep rooted ignorance for any critical analysis. Let me tell you; liberalism is rife in universities and it is poorly challenged by young Marxists and Communists. In University I found nothing that helped solidify my views, only confuse them and reinforce ignorant homophobic views and misogynistic trends. I couldn’t understand how people were yelling about ‘equality’ while championing the bombing of Libya, or how their views on Israel were or their approach to the homeless crisis. How can you talk about equality when you are a lapdog for war?
How can you moan about the rights of homosexuals when you’re in a political party that throws people onto the street and into the cold? How can you be a forward thinking supporter of social equality if the world is sliding into the biggest economic imbalance in the history of humanity? These are all questions that grew in my mind and genuinely almost constantly made me despair. There was a turning point though. Out of curiosity, I wrote an e-mail. I wrote it to the Communist Party of Ireland when I saw that there was a local candidate (Michael O’Donnell). Truth be told I didn’t even know Ireland had a Communist Party, I knew nothing of their noble history nor their struggle in so many battles. Having met with one of their members I found a connection and in many ways a guide and a mentor. The hypocrisies of liberal society were explained to me in a dialectical fashion while the contradictions espoused by students were undermined with logic based arguments Fundamentally, the confused political ideas in my head were set straight. I understood that the term equality cannot discriminate on any basis and that those who held this contradiction in UCC who I was exposed too were like me only exposed to a ‘liberal’ bourgeois education. Equality was far reaching and unquestionable available to all and it most certainly included class After this meeting I took a three week ‘break’ from work, from life and from Ireland. I spoke to many people in many different countries and visited post-Communist states much like Estonia. I returned at the end of September 2014 and opted to volunteer in the Independent Workers Union in Cork City without any financial payment. I received no financial reward for this and my only income was an occasional bit of part time work. Never have I had my eyes opened so much to the realities of and class contradictions in society.
I was not ‘indoctrinated’ nor was I convinced, I simply partook in dealing with cases people brought forward from their place of employment. It shocked, stunned and moved me to see how disgustingly vicious companies were towards their employees. I learned that it did not matter what company it was either – we had cases from everywhere. Charities, small stores, supermarkets, hotels, everywhere and anywhere. From taking in these cases it was also very easy to see how the labour legislation was completely geared towards benefiting companies, especially in a historical context. Everything designed by the state, whether under a Fianna Faíl administration or Fine Gael one was to undermine and subjugate the workers not benefit them. The joint labour committees were founded to ensure that multinational companies would have less of a challenge when settling here and the creation of a solely Irish based congress of trade unions was to weaken the connection of the working class throughout the Irish-Welsh-English-Scottish proletariat. The more cases I partook in, the more hearings I went too, the more I understood.
The state, which is supposedly governed by a political party elected to represent the interests of the working class is completely on the side of international finance. As James Connolly simply put it: ’Yes, friends, governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class’ So when you ask me why I am a Communist, let my answer be this. Socialism is certainly not the answer to every problem, but it is an answer to many of our problems. If you begin to solve the fundamental ones, you’ll find solutions to the other ones. Socialism for me means the restoration of democracy, it means the bringing back of decision making power into the hands of the people, it means that society, whether nationally or internationally will work only on the basis of looking after everybody. Socialism is not simply a political idea, it is a cultural idea. It is an entire development of a mentality that rejects the fetishism of individuality and endorses collectivity. Socialism in many ways is what one can define when they speak about their family, except in a far broader context and devoted to the working class.
I have refused to settle for compromises with capital. I have refused to step into the shoes of simply reforming the capitalist system. We, as Communists must work on exposing, undermining and eventually overthrowing and replacing it.