Comrades and Friends,
In 1913 an open act of class warfare known as the Dublin Lockout
was perpetrated upon the working people of this country. Yet 100 years later we stand here refusing to be defeated, coming
here to commemorate the Easter Rising and reaffirming our commitment to the establishment of a democratic, secular, socialist
state on the island of Ireland – a Republic. We are
here today in another period of intense class conflict. Once again the capitalists are waging class war on the workers. And once again the re-conquest of Ireland
“must mean the social as well as the political independence from servitude of
every man, woman and child in Ireland.”
We must end oppression. Socialism – the assumption of political, social and economic power by the working class –
is the only means to establish real freedom and genuine equality. We must identify who the oppressors are in today’s
world; the means they use to exploit us; and the methods by which we can overcome them. This is the task that revolutionaries
have set themselves since the days of the French Revolution and the United Irishmen; it is the task that the men and women
of 1916 set themselves; and it is the task that we in the Workers’ Party have set ourselves. That, comrades, is why
we are here today.
William Martin Murphy’s name echoes in infamy 100 years after the Lockout.
But his was not a lone voice. His cohorts constituted the Dublin
employers’ federation who had the open support of nationalist and unionist politicians, of clerics of all denominations,
and a compliant media. Crucially they were backed by a government based in London
that unleashed the forces of the state against the workers. In 100 years, who will be remembered as the oppressors of today?
Future generations will recall the native bourgeoisie backed by governments based in Dublin
and Belfast as well as in London,
by nationalist and unionist politicians, by multitudinous clerics, by a compliant media, and by the forces of international
capitalism as represented by the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank –
What are the means which they have used to oppress? Since the recent crisis
of capitalism began this vast array of forces has used austerity and sectarianism, neo-liberalism, and religion to save capitalism from its own contradictions, and to protect the profits of speculators. We
have been told that cuts and privatisation are a collective act of ‘tightening our belt’. But what does the interest of Warren Buffet in the privatisation of our natural resources say about whether this is
a good or a bad deal for the Irish working class? David Cameron, George Osborne and their LibDem lapdogs insist that the way
to establish economic recovery in the UK
is through more cuts. Meanwhile, the folks on the hill in the Stormont Executive think the only answer to the massive economic
problems faced by the people of Northern Ireland is to cut corporation
tax, to become more like the Republic or Cyprus.
But austerity isn’t working. The result of austerity has been huge unemployment, a return
to mass emigration, and the destruction of living standards through inflation, attacks on public services, and cuts to wages
and conditions for those still in work. Never content with such levels of oppression, capitalism continues to exploit
the situation with further privatisation. It is not
working in the Republic, in the UK, in Greece,
in Portugal, in Spain,
in Italy; it is not working anywhere.
Austerity is a complete failure.
Or is it? We need to ask ourselves the question, what is austerity
Austerity is not natural. It is the cold and calculated response
of the bourgeoisie to the collapse of the neo-liberal model first elaborated by Friedman, Pinochet, Regan and Thatcher. Capitalism’s
ideologues in economics faculties, departments of finance, and media outlets explain this away, and try to convince us that
this is the natural way for the economy to work. It is not.
Austerity means class war: class war waged by the rich against
the poor. Austerity’s job is to protect the interests of international financial capital, and it has been working a
treat. While the overwhelming majority of the population has been hit by falling incomes, the world’s richest have been
getting richer. And they’ve been splashing the cash, with record sales for super-yachts in 2012. There have been plenty
of bailouts, but it is not the people that have been bailed out. It is the speculators, the global golden circle, ably assisted
by their hirelings in various governments. And when the governments have not done exactly as desired, the international bourgeoisie
have, in true Brechtian style, disbanded the government and appointed a new one.
We have stated on many occasions that the right wing forces
have managed to imbed their ideology amongst the people. While many see and recognise that they and their communities are
suffering badly they do not see a viable alternative. They have been infected by the Thatcherite disease of ‘there is
The practical manifestation of that reality can be seen in
the outcome of last Wednesday’s Meath East bye-election. The two traditional right-wing parties received over 71% of
the vote. Add in Direct Democracy Ireland to the equation and the right-wing received almost 78% of the vote. It is appropriate
that we congratulate comrade Seamus McDonagh and the Party locally and regionally for the campaign which they conducted. Seamus
is from the county and lives in the constituency; he is an activist in many campaigns and particularly so in the CAHWT; within
our resources an excellent campaign was mounted; uniquely there has been the very welcome sight of socialist and progressive
TDs endorsing Seamus’s campaign in Meath East. As always we must analyse our own performance and result, but the over-riding
questions for anybody seeking changes are: why did 62% of the registered electorate not vote? and how do we end the FF /FG
In 1848 Marx and Engels identified that the modern state under capitalism acts as the executive committee
of the bourgeoisie. This is still obvious today. What difference to the tweedledum and tweedledee politics visible since the
inception of the Irish state has the supposed watering down by coalition partners made? Next to none. In his own day, James Connolly mocked the bourgeois nationalists and economists who claimed that the decline
of the Irish economy in the 1800s was a consequence of the act of union, of moving parliamentary power from Dublin
to London. He pointed out that this was to fail to understand
how economics shaped reality. Similarly, any idea that merely by ending partition the economic
circumstances of the working class will miraculously change is a fantasy. As long as the major parties of the Dáil and the
Assembly are infected with the neo-liberal consensus, the same exploitation and oppression will still exist, and the class
power of the bourgeoisie will remain untouched. There is no reason to suppose that any coalition with Mary Lou McDonald as
Tánaiste will be any more of an alternative than that with Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.
If the neo-liberal policies of austerity have been one means of harassing the
Irish working class, then sectarianism has been another. This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of
Wolfe Tone, the founder of the revolutionary tradition in which we stand. And we are still fighting the same struggle for
the unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter that he did. This single fact is the greatest indictment of how both unionism
and nationalism have failed, and continue to fail. Both are reliant on continuing sectarian division. Both are obstacles on
the road to socialism that must be overcome.
Unionism and nationalism have wasted the great potential of the Belfast Agreement.
A strong bill of rights and the civic forum would have contributed greatly to creating the culture of active citizenship necessary
to overcoming our divisions and developing an awareness of what we have in common. The Assembly parties acted quickly to kill
off the civic forum, and the bill of rights is as far away as it ever was. The so-called Cohesion, Sharing and Integration
strategy offered by the big two at Stormont is a sick joke. The state must use its power to encourage integration in our society
– in education and housing in particular – not use its resources to keep our people divided on a “separate
but equal” basis.
At Stormont, the nationalist and unionist parties work hand
in glove. However, to maintain their position they need to keep sectarianism simmering, and to give the impression that they
are standing up to the other side. Hence at a local level, we see anything and everything turned into sectarian squabbles:
flags, playgrounds, even children packing shopping bags for charity. We have seen recently how dangerous this encouraging
of low-level sectarianism is. The situation is made all the more dangerous by the on-going campaigns of dissidents who arrogantly
and undemocratically assert their right to kill in the name of the people of Ireland when they know all too well that the
people of Ireland reject and despise them.
While all this continues, attacks are made by the Stormont
Executive on public services and on the living standards of the working class. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive – one of the major successes of the campaign
for civil rights and an example of how effective state action can be – is being abolished without a peep from the parties
that claim to be interested in human rights. The Housing Executive is not without its problems, but if there is one thing
the current crisis has taught us it is that leaving housing provision in the hands of the private sector is a recipe for disaster.
The bedroom tax will be administered by Stormont. Two-thirds
of Housing Executive tenants and 62% of working-age housing benefit recipients will be hit. Doubtless there will be some hand-ringing
for public consumption, but the effects are potentially devastating. Who at Stormont is speaking for the working class in
all this? No-one. We in the Workers’ Party must do so.
“The worker is the slave of capitalist society, the
female worker is the slave of that slave.” With these words, Connolly got to the core of the oppression of women in
the Ireland of his day. The publication
of the report into the Magdalene Laundries reminds us of how shamefully working class women have been treated in Ireland. The place of women in Ireland
was brutally illustrated by the tragic and shameful death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway.
The time has come to put an end once and for all to the tragedy of Ireland’s
refusal, north and south, to legislate for choice. We reaffirm our commitment to a woman’s right to choose, alongside
a commitment to end the continued discrimination against women in employment, whether through lower pay or the social conditions
and attitudes that make women more likely to end up in part-time and low-paid employment.
Comrades, the oppressors are known to us and so are the means they use to exploit. But what are the
methods to defeat them?
The alternative to neo-liberalism is democracy. As
austerity continues over the years ahead, and as things get worse for ordinary workers, those genuinely left people within
the major Dáil and Stormont parties, in other parties, in trade unions, in the community sector, and voluntary groups will
be faced with a question. Where do you stand? The balance of forces both north and south means that Left cooperation is essential.
There have been many positive examples of this in recent times both north and south, most recently as already noted, with
Left and progressive TDs endorsing Seamus McDonagh’s campaign in Meath East.
LookLeft is playing a vital role not only in getting our Party’s message across
to larger numbers of people, but in also fostering cooperation within the left. It is vital that every party member and supporter
does what he or she can to help develop the profile and impact of LookLeft. We
have put our money where our mouth is, and the Workers’ Party will continue to work for greater cooperation on the left,
north and south.
The alternative to both sectarianism and sexism is secularism. We welcome the establishment of the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast
and recognise that the struggle against sexism in all its forms must remain a fundamental part of the struggle to build class
consciousness and the conditions for the revolutionary transformation of Irish society. Intimately linked with the struggle
for women’s liberation is the campaign for a secular Ireland,
north and south. Much of what stands in the way of equality and social progress stems from religious beliefs being enshrined
in law. Secularism is crucial to transforming our society in both the short- and the long-term.
When the failings of neo-liberalism can no longer
When the political bankruptcy of the political elites north
and south is stripped bare for all to see,
When the oppression of the working class by capitalism is
Socialism is the alternative.
We honour the men and women of 1916 and our own deceased comrades not just in these moments of commemoration,
but through creating a viable alternative to the oppressive, stultifying, exploiting politics of neo-liberalism – through
the creation of a real future for ourselves and the future generations.
Connolly summed up his policy in a simple sentence. “Educate that you may
be free”. We have set ourselves no small task – achieving full freedom for the working class. We know the method – educate, agitate, organise. We must take this to our communities, our workplaces, our schools, our colleges, our trade unions – everywhere. Only then can we bring
about the revolutionary transformation of our society. This is the road to a democratic, secular, and socialist Republic.
Sunday, 31st March 2013