13th International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
Athens, December 9-11, 2011
SOCIALISM IS THE FUTURE!
The international situation and the experience of the communists 20 years after the counterrevolution in the USSR. The tasks for the development of the class struggle in conditions of capitalist crisis, imperialist wars, of the current popular struggles and uprisings, for working class-popular rights, the strengthening of proletarian internationalism and the anti-imperialist front, for the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of socialism.
Contribution by the Workers’ Party of Ireland
Delivered by G. Grainger
I wish to convey the best wishes of the Workers’ Party of Ireland to the Communist Party of Greece and to the fraternal parties gathered here. I also wish to thank the KKE for the organisation of this meeting and for providing the excellent working conditions we have experienced.
The struggle against anti-people measures, as in Greece and across Europe, is a vital struggle for Irish workers. The present Irish government has, without protest, accepted the overarching political and economic framework forced on Ireland in November 2010 by the EU/ECB/IMF troika. In the last few days the Irish government has introduced another “austerity” budget. The budget announced by the social democrat Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, imposes even greater misery on working people and their families. The Irish coalition government of the right and social democrats has demonstrated its obsession with slash and burn economics; a fanatical commitment to protecting the wealthy and high earners in the country and a callous disregard for workers and the weakest in society, the elderly, those in need of medical care, and young people. In Northern Ireland too the local administration is in the process of implementing anti-people cuts in public expenditure in concert with the Conservative – Liberal Democratic coalition at Westminster.
In its pre-budget briefings the Irish government, in common with its European counterparts, made very clear where the cutbacks will apply and on whom the burden of economic hardship will fall. Unemployment figures demonstrate a steady increase and it is now clear that despite high emigration the unemployment register figures will soon reach 500,000. The October monthly returns show a decline in the domestic economy with the key indicators of income tax and VAT showing a decline in real terms.
“Household debt” is at an all-time high, with thousands of families unable to meet their weekly bills and many facing the real prospect of losing their homes. Despite this the Irish government plans to heap more misery on this sector with multiple stealth taxes, including increases in VAT, adding up to as much as €600 annually per household.
Yet the government continues to repay billions of euros to non-guaranteed bondholders of Anglo Irish Bank with borrowed money the Irish working class is expected to repay while resolutely refusing to even discuss a wealth tax, to introduce a third tax band for high earners, and resisting any increase in the 12.5% corporate tax rate.
Teaching jobs are being axed while the €100 million annual subsidy to private fee paying schools continues. Frontline services in Irish public hospitals are being eroded on a daily basis yet the tax subsidy to private hospitals and private health insurance continues. The state refuses to build any public housing but subsidises private landlords by more that half a billion euro per year. Licences to exploit Irish gas and oil reserves are being handed out for free to multinational companies at a time of record prices and world shortages.
The economic analysis and political philosophy of the Irish government, and of the major capitalist powers, is fatally flawed and therefore the solutions they propose cannot succeed.
The kernel of the situation is that the present crisis is not a banking crisis, or a credit crisis, or a financial crisis. It is a fundamental crisis of capitalism. The capitalist system, based on greed and exploitation, is undergoing a cataclysmic crisis.
Capitalism, and in particular modern transnational finance capital, has always regarded the state as its own plaything, there to smooth the path to profit and prevent any protest by the oppressed. In the relentless pursuit of profit the role of the state in providing necessary infrastructure and social services has been eroded as the false mantra of “the private sector can do it better” was deliberately disseminated by a willing and subservient media and academia.
The most obvious feature of the present crisis is that it is the private sector which has failed. Internationally banks have seen the most spectacular collapses as their foundations of massive private debt and fly-by-night investment products proved unsustainable. Time and again, from Ireland to Greece and to the USA, millions of working people, retired workers, and those dependent on social payments have suffered grievously so that banks may be rescued, refloated, or recapitalised.
The role of the state in capitalist society, as epitomised in Ireland, has changed significantly. The state now has a role in banking. Its role is to rescue native banks and bankers from their own mistakes, rescue bondholders from their mistakes; and guarantee the gambles of the huge multinational banking corporations in the core EU economies against their mistakes in relation to Ireland. Banks which assiduously guarded their privatised profits have now persuaded the state to socialise their losses. The state has become a rehabilitation centre for international banking. However, despite the dependent state of bankers vis a vis government the bankers are still dictating policy. The obscenity of inflated salaries and undeserved bonuses continues. Despite new high profile personnel in some public positions the culture of light-touch regulation continues. The financial labyrinth of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) is largely, and deliberately, designed as a closed book to the Irish people.
There are a number of self-serving myths which are being circulated ad nauseum by capitalist apologists and media. These myths are designed to provide the veneer of respectability by which the ECB/IMF Chicago School of Economics programme is implemented and enforced.
The first self-serving myth is that “we are all in this together”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The gap between rich and poor, nationally and internationally, is rising. The income differential between senior management and staff is steadily increasing. The percentage of company gross profits taken as private profit as against the percentage used in wages or reinvested has increased over the last generation and has accelerated since the onset of the latest capitalist recession.
Alongside the poverty and unemployment there is enormous wealth, some discretely hidden and some ostentatiously displayed. This wealth is not taxed and every attempt to tax wealth in Ireland has been staunchly opposed.
The second myth is that our economic ills are caused by a “bloated public sector” and that the indiscriminate slashing of this sector is the solution to our problems. This myth is based on the tactic of divide and conquer, to set worker against worker and ultimately to divert the attention of all workers from their common enemy, capitalism. It also permits governments to savagely attack public expenditure. The reality is that public services are neither overstaffed nor overpaid. Indeed the contrary is the case. This myth is also used to justify the mass privatisation of publicly owned assets.
The third myth is TINA - “there is no alternative”. Patently this is false. There is always an alternative - when the economic system in place is not working and has never worked, when it is based on injustice, inequality, exploitation and oppression there has to be an alternative.
The present strategy of European governments, as dictated by the EU/ECB/IMF troika and the decisions of the G20, is to protect the rich; defend the banks; penalise workers for the failure of capitalism; and use international military superiority to maintain control of their neo-colonial empires.
The role of the state in capitalist society is to act as the executive committee of the bourgeoisie. We salute the courageous and correct stand taken by the Greek people, the workers and youth, PAME and the Communist Party of Greece, who are resisting the anti-people measures of the bourgeois class in Greece, its governments, the EU, the IMF and the ECB. We owe Greek workers and their militant organisations our continuing solidarity. We must learn from the experience of the Greek working class and their revolutionary organisations, and from other instances of mass resistance in other countries, and from our own experience of struggle.
The history of humankind is one of steady ascent through the stages of social, economic and cultural progress. The driving force of modern history is the struggle between classes and the conflict of their interests. The history of capitalism is the history of the contradiction between the social nature of production and the private capitalist form of appropriation. The interests of the capitalist class and the working class are irreconcilable. Imperialism, which Lenin characterised as the monopoly stage of capitalism, has plunged humanity into world war and multiple regional conflicts.
It is the task of workers to oppose imperialism and to take power into their own
hands to bring about the transition from capitalism to socialism. Building socialism necessarily implies the destruction of the capitalist system. Socialism is the negation of capitalism and the elimination of capitalism is a vital and necessary step in constructing a new society and ending poverty, disease, misery, inequality, exploitation and oppression throughout the world.
The October Revolution was a landmark in world history. In contrast to all earlier revolutions, the Great October Socialist Revolution transferred power to the working class, broke down the machinery of the bourgeois state and established the world’s first workers’ state. The object of the October Revolution was to abolish all forms of exploitation and oppression and to construct a new society based on socialist ideas. The Bolshevik Revolution was at the core of a political phenomenon the reverberations of which were felt across the world.
The victory of the workers converted the socialist vision into an everyday reality. For the first time in history the revolutionary ideas of Marx and Engels were translated into practice and this, in turn, laid the basis for the creative and innovative development of the socialist project.
Having won the civil war and defeated foreign intervention and counter-revolutionary plots the new Soviet state advanced in the face of hostile capitalist encirclement and unrelenting ideological attack. The nationalisation of the means of production, the creation of a powerful industrial state, the victory over fascism, the multiple achievements in social, economic, cultural and scientific fields and the improvement in the material conditions of working people were among the many accomplishments of the revolution and marked a significant step for the Soviet people and established a way of life based on social justice, collectivisation, comradely solidarity and mutual assistance. The progress in the socialist countries, the support for genuine national liberation struggles and for peace and international security based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of states clearly established socialism as the necessary pre-condition for the solution of the problems facing humanity and set out the boundless possibilities for the socialist project.
The counter-revolution in the USSR and its consequences, although profoundly disturbing, did not represent the end of history. Neither did it invalidate the revolutionary principles of Marxism and Leninism. After the counter-revolution in the former socialist countries, the ideologists and apologists for capitalism
declared socialism and class struggle to be obsolete and the world was re-opened for further capitalist penetration.
It is important to learn from the experiences of socialist construction. It is particularly important to do so at a time when the vision, symbols and practical experiences of socialism are subjected to increasing hostile anti-communist propaganda and attack and in conditions where communist and workers parties are confronted by restrictions on their political activities. The situation in Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Spain, Turkey and in Ireland with the continued attempts of the US to extradite Comrade Sean Garland, a member of our Central Executive Committee, demonstrates a continuing attempt to attack and criminalise the work and ideology of the Communist and Workers parties and their youth organisations.
The Workers’ Party of Ireland condemned in the strongest possible terms the attacks on Libya, under the command and control of NATO, USA, France, Britain, Italy and the EU. These attacks had no legitimacy, no humanitarian objective, and were solely related to the overarching desire of the imperialist powers to totally control the region, either directly or by proxy. By involving opposition forces in the Middle East into its plans, imperialism hopes to establish compliant regimes across the region. We continue to demand an end to imperialist aggression and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the question of the political development and the economic orientation of Syria remain matters for the Syrian people to be addressed peacefully and democratically the imperialist forces continue in their attempt to divide the people of Syria and intervene in the interests of imperialism and its allies in the region.
NATO is an aggressive military alliance and the projects of the EU and NATO are inextricably intertwined. We must resolutely expose the ongoing plans to transform the European Union into a political and military bloc, demand the dissolution of NATO, and oppose imperialism, colonialism and all other forms of aggression, domination and exploitation.
We support the continued efforts of the two communities in Cyprus to build a peaceful, common future in a united, sovereign, demilitarized federal Cyprus. We must continue to protest against the unjust imprisonment of the “Cuban Five,” to demand the release of those remaining in prison and that René González be permitted to return to Cuba.
We support the Communist Party of Cuba and the Cuban people in their fight against the continuing criminal economic blockade and imperialist threats. We salute the efforts of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, in resisting imperialist domination and creating the basis for sovereign development. We express our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and with their Bolivarian revolutionary process. We support the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Korean people in their struggle to preserve their independence and sovereignty and for the reunification of the country and peace on the Korean peninsula.
The proclamation of the State of Palestine is a vital step towards a just and equitable solution and deserves the support and solidarity of all progressive and peace loving people throughout world. We renew our heartfelt solidarity with the Palestinian people. Any solution must address the full national rights of Palestinians living in the areas occupied in 1967 and the rights of Palestinians inside the 1948 borders and in the Diaspora. A just solution must implement and address the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their properties in Israel and end the construction of Jewish-only settlements that expropriate Palestinian land and resources and which progressively confine Palestinians to enclaves within their own land - a solution that relies on the implementation of United Nations resolutions which provide for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied Palestinian territories, the Golan heights and the other Arab territories under occupation, that demands the release of all Palestinian political prisoners, that recognises the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and recognises an independent, sovereign viable Palestinian state with full membership of the UN with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Comrades, socialism, as the mechanism for the rational social organisation of society for the benefit of the people remains the real alternative to capitalism. Socialism means peace, equality, a revolution in social relations, international solidarity, a new international order, the transformation of the world.
The October Revolution invested the international workers’ movement with a revolutionary consciousness and objective, the task of educating, organising and mobilising the mass of the working people in the struggle against capital and constructing a new society. That remains our goal. The struggle continues. Socialism is the future.