As Peoples Dispatch continues the conversation with Jimmy Doran, a member of the National Executive Committee and a trade unions spokesperson from the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI), we talk about the CPI’s position on the European Union, how perceive some of the major political parties in Ireland, and the progressive and radical legacy of Irish nationalism.
Peoples Dispatch (PD): What is the CPI’s position on the European Union in general, and the Irish Republic’s membership in the EU in particular?
Jimmy Doran (JD): The Communist Party of Ireland has always opposed and continues to oppose membership of the EU and the EU itself. The European Union was constructed in order to stop the spread of socialism across Europe after the Second World War. Capitalism had to make temporary compromises with the citizens of Europe, after the war, to facilitate the rebuilding and reconstruction to benefit their class interest, the industries and the business of Europe. In order to do this capital was forced into making temporary social democratic compromises to citizens around Europe.
With the counter revolution in the Soviet Union and socialist European states, the European Union no longer had a rival system to compete with; so the gloves have been taken off and the screw has been tightened on workers and social democratic compromises. Universally accessible public rights such as housing, health, education, transport and others are being slashed to the core. Wages and the share of wealth have plummeted as inequality and deprivation have soared. Everything is up for sale and all the state-owned companies and services are being privatized. Competition rules have been brought in under EU laws to ban nationalization in the future. Capitalism has developed into its highest form of imperialism as Europe also shifted its manufacturing industries to the Global South, where 83% of all goods are now manufactured in sweatshops for slave wages with no concern for the local environment or the health and safety of the workers producing the goods. These are shipped home to the fortress of Europe where massive profits are made on the backs of workers in the Global South. What is now being taken in profit is much larger than what was plundered from these countries under colonial rule and military force. What colonialism failed to do with their armies, finance capital achieved manifold every year.
Some on the ‘left’ believe that the European Union can be reformed. This is impossible. It must be dismantled and smashed in order for humanity to thrive. A system that profits out of the misery of people and the destruction of the environment cannot be sustained in order to keep a tiny elite in unimagined luxury. You can save capitalism or save humanity, you cannot save both.
PD: What is your response to the EU’s position on Venezuela?
JD: The support for the coup attempt in Venezuela is predictable as the EU is part of the international imperialist hegemony. They talk about democracy when Nicolas Maduro got 67.8% of the vote from 31.7% of all registered voters. While, Emmanuel Macron only got 24.1% out of 11.69% of all registered voters.
This has nothing to do with democracy. It is all about the resources of Venezuela. It is an imperialist coup.
PD: How does your party look at the policies of some of the major parties in Ireland, like Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Sinn Féin in the areas of workers rights, social welfare, big business etc?
JD: Fine Gael is the party that created the counter revolution in the 1920s and agreed to the partition of Ireland. They abandoned the fight for the Republic declared in 1916 and the democratic program for government agreed in the First Dáil in 1919. They are a right wing party following a neoliberal agenda who are totally subservient to the European Union and capitalism. They want a low tax, unregulated private business economy. They are anti-union and anti-worker and want to squeeze labour power. They will at every opportunity privatize any of the state-owned companies that exist now. They facilitate American military flights into our airports on the way to pour death and destruction in their imperial wars around the world. They are backing the introduction of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the planned EU army.
Their business model for job creation is foreign direct investment. They give international big business grants to set up in Ireland. They have a 12.5% corporation tax on the profits of these multinationals. Often these companies don’t even pay this very low rate of tax. It averages at around 4% paid and a lot less in some cases. We have seen this in the case of Google and Apple corporations. They believe that the tax paid by the workers employed by these companies is benefit enough to the state so there is no need to look for further compensation from them.
At the start of this present phase of Fine Gael government the then leader, Enda Kenny, said in his inaugural speech that he would “make Ireland the best little country in the world to do business in.” He has certainly lived up to this promise, as is evident from the bailout of the banks to the refusal to take EUR 13 billion in taxes owed by Apple. Unfortunately, this is the only promise they kept as they have imposed austerity on this country and its people, for the last decade, which has led to a huge increase in poverty and homelessness, put the health service in crisis, and growing inequality that cuts into incomes. The social contract between citizens and the state is all but gone.
The other half of the establishment is the Fianna Fáil party and they are basically two sides to the one coin they differ little in policy but slightly in methods.
Sinn Féin on the other hand are a social democratic party who want to have a nicer form of capitalism. When the war in the six counties ended with the Good Friday Agreement, so did all their socialist rhetoric and aspirations. They are a reformist party and consistently move towards the right, as they wish to reform the political system in Ireland and Europe. Originally, they demanded a socialist republic and were against the European Union. That was until they entered government in the North and the Parliament in the South. There are still some good people in Sinn Fein who believe that it is a left wing party at heart, and that it’s only a matter of time till they go back to their roots. Unfortunately, history has a habit of repeating itself, and just like Fianna Fáil in the past, they have consistently moved to the right. A lot of people now refer to them as ‘Fianna Fáil Nua’ or New Fianna Fáil. The system cannot be reformed, it must be smashed. A change in government will not solve the problems of the working class.
PD: The political history of Ireland is rich with instances for progressive interventions like participation of the in International Brigades, during the Spanish Civil War, and the internationalism of James Connolly. Do you think the these political parties are taking forward the legacy of such progressive interventions? What are the interventions made by the Communist Party of Ireland in taking forward that legacy?
JD: James Connolly once said, “if you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic, your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”
Unfortunately, James Connolly’s statement has been proven correct, by all who have been in government since the foundation of this state. A geographical part of the country may be “independent and free”, but that is only a partial territorial freedom. The people will only be free when we have unification of our country and people, along with economic independence. If we change the colour of a flag or the names of the parties that rule over us, or their country of origin it will not change anything for the citizens when the country is still ruled in the interests of the owners of capital.
We have consistently struggled to bring about a class consciousness to society and develop and build socialism in Ireland. We believe that the only solution to the situation in the six counties in the North and twenty six counties in Irish Republic is socialism. The British imperialism had implanted artificial antagonisms and division to keep our citizens at each other’s throats, in order to rule the country. We have to get out from these shackles. Then, and only then, can you have a united Ireland.
The working class of Dublin, Galway, Belfast and Ballymena have the same enemy, crony capitalism. Anytime the working class unite in struggles in the north, the ruling class have always stoked the sectarian fires to divide a united working class, because that is what they fear most. When the workers of this country and around the world unite it will be the end of capitalism and the liberation of humanity. Capitalists, whether foreign or home-grown, shall be driven from our shores. Unity of our people is our strongest weapon and will lead to their defeat and true Independence. Independence is not a geographical thing it is a political thing. We will never be free without economic independence. Such a state of affairs cannot be reformed, instead it must be smashed.
In the North, particularly on the ‘left’ and in the trade union movement, they always stay well away from the national question, as it is seen as sectarian. As Seán Murray, a previous general secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland, once said “you can ignore the national question but it will not ignore you.”
We must strive to unite the working class in all parts of this Island and throw off the shackles of capitalism once and for all. We must build a united independent, 32 county, worker’s republic in Ireland, that governs in the interest of all its citizens and not in the interest of a tiny elite class of capitalists.