A response to the IS majority and platform statement – part 1
Irish NEC Majority
17 January 2019
The rapid escalation of the current dispute in the CWI is a source of huge concern for comrades internationally, both because of the content of some of the argumentation as well as concern as to where the dispute will lead.
We encourage all comrades throughout the International to read and consider the material and fully participate in the discussions and the debates. However, comrades can also immediately make their voices heard in their sections and beyond, by contacting the elected leading bodies in their sections and of the International, to help ensure that there is a democratic and reasoned debate conducted in a way that is consistent with trying to achieve principled agreement and maintain the unity of the CWI.
This document is from the NEC Majority in Ireland and is being issued in two parts. this is Part 1. It is primarily a response to the Platform of the international faction that was issued just before Xmas. It is being issued in the context of the statement from the Faction on 12 January and Peter Taaffe’s document, ‘In defence of a Working-class orientation for the CWI’ from 15 January. It is also issued in the context of the launching of a faction in the Irish section, and is relevant to all of these.
Objective Roots of the Dispute
In the Platform statement, paragraphs 3 to 5, the IS Majority led faction puts forward its view as to why this crisis has erupted at this time. there are some important points contained which we would agree with, but the explanation is only partial and their conclusion is one-sided and incorrect.
Vague points are made about, “contradictory political situation”, “extremely polarised situation”, “new era”. However, it is clear that developments haven’t worked out as we all would have liked, or thought they would in the early phases of the great Recession. The Platform says that the working class has not yet put itself at the head of the opposition that exists, with a conscious socialist programme, and correctly points to the incapability of the “new radical left forces”.
In this context, the IS Majority is saying that the Irish section, and now a number of other sections, the comrades in Belgium, Sweden, Greece and the US to name a few, are looking for opportunist shortcuts.
It’s a statement of fact that while the general crisis of capitalism continues to deepen, an organised movement lead by the working class and based on a clear socialist position hasn’t emerged. An important element in this, which the comrades don’t mention in their paragraphs 3 to 5, is the role of the trade union bureaucracy, which has been a crucial factor in many countries.
Not About Shortcuts
The issue isn’t that the comrades in the different countries are looking for shortcuts or easier ways forward. There is no real, substantial or actual evidence given that backs up this accusation. The work of the Irish section in regard to women and abortion is put centre stage as exhibit a. We invite the comrades to read the IS document on women and identity politics and our response, which answers all these accusations. We answer the latest attacks on this area of work in the Platform statement in detail in the section on the abortion referendum in this document.
the nub of this situation is more that perspectives have turned out to be more complex than the CWI forecast and this has knocked the IS Majority, and it is stepping back to safer ground and returning to basics, rather than properly engaging with the objective situation as it is.
By its nature, with a mentality of holding the line and conserving, it is always more difficult to see new developments that are unfolding. This can be the case even though they may represent important opportunities and even ways of propelling the working class forward and assisting in overcoming the stalemate or delay in our perspectives itself. Just to state, in no way are we saying that all the leading comrades who have joined the faction, precipitously in our view, have the same mentality as the IS Majority or the same caution or suspicion of the women’s movement.
Being Open to New Movements from Below
We believe the movements of women around the world, a strong feature of many being the active involvement of working class and poor women, are a clear example of a development that can be very important for our perspectives and for the building of the CWI. In Point 13 of the Platform the IS Majority says it is “fully convinced of the importance of these movements”. This is a statement that the IS Majority has been forced to make because the comrades were roundly criticised for their lack of focus on the women’s movements at the recent IEC.
In our view, the IS Majority is basing its position on the complications and negatives in the situation. It is not seeing the positives, that fresher layers and movements are springing forward, in part an attempt from below to overcome the lack of leadership, but also because these issues are of vital importance reflecting important shifts in attitudes in society generally, but particularly amongst young people. Or if it does see them, the IS Majority tends to treat them with undue caution or suspicion. This completely contradicts the confident and bold approach that the CWI has always brought to new situations, as was the case in the early 1990s.
a key difference between the IS Majority and the numerous sections it is now criticising and attacking on a daily basis, is that it is the sections of the CWI intervening on the ground that are trying to move the work of the international forward by being open to engage the issues and movements that are developing – on a principled basis and with eyes wide open – determined to strengthen the forces and base for Marxism.
IS Majority and Faction in Ireland Interlinked
the faction in Ireland may not affiliate to the international faction, and may even publicly express some differences with it, but its formation and position is completely interlinked and affected by the IS Majority. A leading member of the international faction was in Dublin discussing with the comrades at the same time that the comrades announced their intention to establish a faction.
Events also link the faction in Ireland with the IS Majority. Comrades from the faction have had a political connection with the IS before the controversy around the [breach] and the investigation, and worked closely with the IS Majority during it and since.
Politically, there also seems to be important crossovers. We believe comrades in the Irish faction and the IS Majority share differences with the Irish section in regard to Sinn Fein, the National Question in Ireland and on perspectives.
Some comrades here were disappointed that the water charges victory didn’t result in a more decisive breakthrough for us and didn’t lead to the emergence of a broader left working class force. this is connected to the overall situation the IS Majority has pointed to. Since then, the idea of the Party utilising united front methods and tactics, particularly in relation to Sinn Fein, has come to prominence. We will have to see what emerges in the debate in Ireland, but the lack of a clear way forward can create a pressure towards on comrades for a broader orientation and to an orientation towards other existing political forces.
We deal with Sinn Fein, the National Question and the idea of elements of united front tactics in other the documentation, which we have just issued. We feel it is important to reassert here that it is precisely on the basis of the likes of the water charges and the Repeal movement, the emergence of young people in struggle and the potential significance of the nurses’ strike, that disappointments can be overcome and that there will be major opportunities for us and for a broader left working class breakthrough, but we need to keep the focus on the fresher sections that are being radicalised, such as workers, women and the young, rather than existing political forces.
We have reason to hope that the debate in Ireland will be political and constructive. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the approach of the IS Majority, and that is reflected in the Platform statement of the faction.
In Point 38 it says. “In any polemic or debate there should be an effort to avoid exaggerations or excesses, but they are inevitable.” So in one line the comrades say something and then completely contradict it, and so free themselves from responsibility to conduct the debate properly. There are over 70 specific criticisms of the Irish section in the Platform statement that is just 39 paragraphs in total.
There are gross exaggerations and distortions. there are also unclear but negative insinuations. For example Point 23 says, “Comrades from the Irish leadership explained their disagreement with the position adopted by the Spanish section on the crisis and the revolutionary movement that developed in Catalonia.” We have no idea what this refers to (and the rest of the paragraph does not clarify it either), as no Irish comrade spoke on Catalonia at the IEC in 2017. So we can’t respond, but at the same time a question mark has been raised over our position.
It is because there are so many criticisms and distortions by comrades in authoritative positions that we have to respond in some length. In this first part of our response, we will deal with ROSA’s referendum campaign and the Irish sections approach and record in the trade unions. We encourage comrades to take a constructive but also a critical approach in the debate. If you read or hear accusations against the Irish section or other sections, it is very important to read the answers of the comrades themselves and discuss the issues, before drawing conclusions.
ROSA and the Referendum Campaign
Many differences with the Irish NEC Majority are listed in the faction’s Platform. These include differences on Sinn Fein, and the National Question in Ireland. Other material will attempt to tease out these questions, as they go to the very heart of the tasks facing the Party in Ireland, and are also a formative part of the history of the CWI. Hopefully, there can be agreement through discussion.
however, it is clear that the main issue that has propelled the IS Majority to challenge the Irish section is their alarm about our work on women and abortion and the danger that other sections will be influenced by it, and that even more ROSA-type initiatives will be taken.
the IS document on women says that the Irish section has taken a decisive turn away from the working class towards petty-bourgeois feminism, as well as away from the trade-union movement. We will deal with the issue of the trade-union movement in regard to abortion in a moment, and later more generally. First, very briefly regarding abandoning the working class, which frankly, is a fanciful notion.
Is This What Abandoning the Working Class Looks Like?
this idea is not reflected in the programme we defend, or by the fact that we were the cutting edge of the anti-austerity working-class movement in Ireland between 2012 and 2016. It’s completely contradicted by the fact that we were fundamental to the defeating of one of the most serious attacks on the democratic rights of the working class in many years in the Jobstown trial in 2017. It is belied by the class character of the Party itself and the orientation and content of its activities.
It is also completely challenged by the subject matter we choose to write about in the three books we have produced in recent years, Let Us Rise on the 1913 Dublin Lock-Out, Ireland’s Lost Revolution and Common history, Common Struggle. the last two are detailed examinations of the two key periods in the history of the Irish working class. Before the water-charges struggle, working-class people often complained that other working- class people wouldn’t fight. We helped change the consciousness and raise the confidence of working-class people, explaining the key role of the working class, most recently by pointing out that working-class women were the beating heart of the abortion movement.
Women’s Movement – A Defining Issue?
There is a myth that the work we have done with ROSA has taken up the bulk of the time and resources of the Party. The opposite is the case.
We turned to this work six years ago. We felt there was a societal shift in attitudes, reflected in particular in Ireland on the issue of abortion after the death of Savita Halappanavar in late 2012. Initiating this work, based on a Marxist approach to women’s oppression; we have fought the ideas of identity politics and postmodernism, more generally.
However, in the years of ROSA we fought local and Europeans; won two Dail By-Elections in 2014; won three 3 TDs in the general election in 2016; played a leading role in the water charges struggle and defeated the serious attack on the right to protest in the Jobstown trial. It was only from the start of 2018 until the referendum on 24 May, that abortion work was the overall priority for the party in the South. ROSA has just one comrade as a designated organiser, working part-time.
IS Perspectives and Approach to Abortion in Ireland
In their two documents, “Women’s oppression and Identity Politics” (1) and the faction “Platform” (2), which are overwhelmingly about the Irish section, and comments at the NC in Dublin November (3), the IS Majority and the IS-led faction have said: “What measures were necessary, when intervening into the struggle for abortion rights, to win the best layers to the CWI…Central to this is arguing that the organised working class [trade union movement] could play a potentially decisive role in fighting for the right to abortion…” (1) (Point 31) “…important to have had a concerted campaign to put demands on the trade-union leaders to organise campaigns and action for the right to abortion…” (1) (Point 32) “We need to intervene with a view to using the methods of the working class in struggle” (2) (Point 15) “that there was no concrete, consistent demands made on the trade unions to mobilise the working class in defence of that right in Ireland” (2) (Point 19) “…use the Repeal campaign to try to help a process of engagement of the rank-and-file in the trade unions, in order to try to work towards changing them…” – JB at the Irish NC in November.
We don’t have any problem with comrades making suggestions or criticisms. However, none of the comrades made any suggestions or proposals to the Irish comrades before or during this historic campaign. No one was in touch to ensure that the information and the facts that were given were correct (which they often have not been). We also want to register that we won abortion rights! And when we say we, we mean that without the political approach adopted by the SP, the form of abortion that has just introduced in Ireland would be extremely limited instead of abortion on request, up to 12 weeks.
If a section of the CWI achieved an historic breakthrough for the working class, usually comrades would want to learn from the lessons of how they did it. We can only give a flavour of that, unfortunately, as we have to spend most of our space here responding to imbalanced and contrived criticisms. Most of the issues have already been dealt with in our document to the IS, “a Response to the IS”, but we need to touch on some issues.
Mixing up General Programme with Perspectives & Tactics
The IS Majority is mixing up general political programme with perspectives. Their suggestions and proposals are not based on an actual assessment of the situation and of the different interrelation of factors in Ireland. There is no mention of such considerations.
This is a dogmatic and abstract approach, and if it is adopted generally in the CWI, it will mean that we will miss major opportunities.
The referendum poll on 24 May to get rid of the ban on abortion was the final act in a struggle that was kick-started by the death of Savita Halappanavar five and a half years earlier.
The political establishment decided if there was to be a referendum, there would have to be agreement beforehand regarding the form of abortion that would follow, in order for the referendum to be carried. as the referendum was the last piece, in many ways the more crucial time was the build up to when the Citizens’ assembly began deciding its recommendations regarding the type of abortion for the all-Party Parliamentary Committee (April 2017), and 3 from then, to when that committee made its final proposal to the government (December 2017).
We didn’t choose the terrain of this battle, nor the conditions that existed after Savita’s death. The establishment couldn’t afford any more deaths like Savita’s and that meant that a referendum would come on the agenda; it was only a matter of when. Unlike all other forces, we were confident that ‘Yes’ could win. However, the main issue was whether there was an opportunity to get prochoice legislation, as opposed to very limited abortion access. As it turned out, late 2016 and through 2017 was the period when the pressure for clear pro-choice legislation and policy was needed most.
Should we have given “Political Priority” to the Unions in Abortion Struggle?
Points one, two, four and five above from the IS Majority argue that we should have pursued a line that the trade unions could play a potentially decisive role in maximising this political pressure and achieving abortion rights in Ireland, and that we should have, as well as everything else, directed activists to the unions and use the struggle for abortion to actually begin the struggle to change the unions as well. at November’s NC meeting in Dublin, HS (Sum up) said we should have given “political priority” to the unions in this work.
In an abstract way, one can see how organisations with hundreds of thousands of members could play a decisive role in the struggle for abortion rights. And of course it is very important to point to the potential of the trade unions and the role they can play, and we do that consistently, we don’t talk down the unions. But abstractions are worthless in a concrete struggle. In Ireland, but also many other countries, we or the working class, are in a position to in time turn the trade unions to such struggles in any given situation.
SIPTU, the biggest union in the South, only publicly called for a ‘Yes’ vote to get rid of the ban at the very start of May, 2018. Prior to that, their position was that they were only in favour of a referendum! They didn’t mount any actual campaign.
FÓRSA, the second biggest union, maneuvered to get a motion from a comrade calling for the union to support a yes position, was taken off their conference agenda 6 days before the referendum, refusing to even take a position on the ban.
UNITE, the third biggest union, was the only union that had a pro-choice position. Comrade SF officially represented UNITE at the 500 strong ROSA rally to launch its campaign in Dublin. However, SF, both before and after that rally, tried but couldn’t get UNITE to play a role in postering for the broad campaign, as well as union stalls and press work. In reality, the union affiliation to the together for Yes campaign was used as an excuse and justification not to do independent action.
How Abortion was Actually Won
To pretend that the unions, the “organised working class”, could have been turned to this struggle is a serious failure of analysis. There isn’t really an active layer in the trade unions that could be mobilised, nor are there mechanisms or structures that any such “rank and file” could use to exert serious pressure on the leadership. Union branch meetings are rare, and some unions (SITPU) don’t have branches any more. In the conditions that existed, the trade union movement could not be levered into the active pro-choice stance necessary, and to pursue that as the perspective and a focus for action, would actually have been a misdirection of activists.
In addition, Point three, from the list above about using methods of working-class struggle, we believe is a dismissal of ROSA’s emphasis on direct action with abortion pills. In fact, our work with abortion pills proved central to achieving abortion rights.
The broad working class, and working-class young women, in particular, exerted huge pressure, reflected in the pro-choice recommendations of the Citizens’ assembly in April 2017. However, by December the dramatic impact of the increased use of abortion pills was being fully felt and it was that, that tipped the balance on the Parliamentary Committee. Abortion pills meant that, in effect, abortion up to 12 weeks already existed in Ireland. this new reality created the pressure but also the opportunity for the Parliamentary Committee to buck their traditional conservatism and agree abortion up to 12 weeks on request. We elevated abortion pills from being a personal choice into a political by our direct action that challenged the laws of the land and the state.
We are active in the unions and believe in the fight to reclaim them. However, in this real struggle where we had limited resources, we needed to choose our approach and tactics carefully. We did take some initiatives regarding the unions (see list below), but the active element capable of generating the political pressure and extending the awareness and use of abortion pills couldn’t have been generated from the unions. Instead we got people directly active with ROSA and through this created new campaign activists. this was the best way to maximise political pressure and to get a clear pro-choice message out. It also created a fresh and young periphery around us, who we are still intervening with.
We accepted at the IEC that we could have mentioned the potential role of the trade unions more in our material. In fact, anyone who got active with ROSA would have absolutely been educated about the role of the working class and the need for working-class organisation, and about capitalism and socialism, generally.
Union-related Initiatives that ROSA took: In a number of unions, we sought to get motions passed in support of a Yes vote, including challenging whether political motions were permissible. We organised a major press conference- covered widely in the media- on the theme that abortion was a workplace issue, with campaign and union speakers. ROSA wrote an article on abortion pills for a special newsletter produced by some union activists. Ruth wrote officially to the broad ‘Yes’ campaign, saying there weren’t working-class voices for the ‘Yes’ side in the media debates. ROSA in the North organised an ‘abortion Pill Bus’, which went to the NIPSA union conference, where a ROSA speaker got a standing ovation. Trans comrades organised Dublin’s first Trans Pride march in July and got numerous trade union banners on the march.
More ROSA and Party Opportunism?
In regard to the ROSA leaflet produced for the weeks of the referendum campaign itself, the Platform points 10/11 say, “the primary ROSA leaflet was completely devoid of any mention of socialism, capitalism or even the working class. It did not include any of ROSA’s anti capitalist and anti-austerity demands, which ROSA formally stands for…the tendency to downplay class and socialist demands is evident in the Irish comrades’ material when they engage in mass campaigning.”
From this one leaflet, the IS comrades quickly decided that we are guilty of gross opportunism and have degenerated to reformism. They go on to say that we “limit [ourselves] to reflect existing consciousness and to adapt to ideas which could be advocated by the new reformist left.”
This is now an old accusation from the IS, just put in a new document, even though it has already been answered in our document, ‘a Response to the IS’, from November 2018.
The Reality of ROSA’s Campaign:
Apart from protests, meetings and rallies, the prime activities in advance of the referendum campaign in the city centres were days of action with stalls, including mass street-leafleting. These activities were revamped during the referendum campaign itself, but were fundamentally similar to before, often in the same locations but more frequent. For months on the earlier activities we had given out ROSA leaflets that dealt with the issue of abortion in the context of the socialist alternative to austerity and capitalism.
So the picture painted above that in the referendum campaign we suddenly entered a new mass arena and as a result of that politically pulled back is wrong. Yes, we did produce a new leaflet, but the fact that the IS Majority / Faction do not realise why, is very revealing.
The reason is simple, the actual referendum campaign had begun, and any military general will tell you that there are different phases in struggles. April/May was when the greatest number began to switch on to the referendum and decide how to vote.
The faction quote clearly implies that inevitably and always when addressing the greatest audience, that it is most necessary to elaborate the fullest political programme. Of course sometimes that should be the case, and often is, for example manifestos in election are distributed into every household. But sometimes it is permissible and correct to have a specific and campaign focused mass leaflet. The faction position on this we think also defies the reality of the work of many sections over many years when fighting in broad mass specific issues.
During the referendum campaign it was essential to deal comprehensively with the issues and questions that came up. This was a burning necessity as the official campaign was refusing to engage with the doubts or fears of some, or really raise pro-choice arguments. We produced ROSA’s 12 Questions and 12 answers leaflet to answer the questions for people generally, but also as a model to help coach would-be activists in how to answer the questions of friends and family. The leaflet was part of ROSA’s specific time4Choice referendum campaign, and people were encouraged to take leaflets for distribution or to download it and use it themselves.
IS Majority – Arguments to Fit Certain Conclusions
to see opportunism and reformism in this raises a question about whether the IS Majority thinks the CWI should only intervene from the outside but not really get involved and try to lead struggles for women’s rights?
Producing this leaflet was a reflection of the serious approach we took to this struggle and our role within it. Having played a decisive role in winning the commitment to pro-choice legislation, it was obviously vital to fight fully for a Yes in the referendum. However, in no way was this a minimalist approach taken by us on ROSA activities. We dealt with the key concrete issues, but all the ROSA activities were very strong, politically.
Again, not every leaflet will or needs to elaborate our full political position. In 1911 Lenin said, “the art of any propagandist and agitator consists in the ability to find the best means of influencing any given audience, by presenting a definite truth, in such a way as to make it most convincing, most easy to digest, most graphic, and most strongly impressive” – from The Slogans and Organisation of Social-Democratic Inside and Outside the Duma.
This was a very important leaflet at that time and it performed an essential function. It was a guide to the issues in the referendum, but positively introduced people to ROSA as a socialist feminist movement.
The other main mass activities at that time was door-knocking / canvassing in residential areas. a version of this leaflet, along with other material, including the Party paper, the Socialist, were used on these. We got many names and contacts for the Party from this canvassing; a clear indication that comrades were raising broader political points in their discussions.
A Rigid Outlook?
The IS comrades take a narrow and rigid view of an extremely dynamic campaign; reducing everything down to one leaflet. On the activities and the stalls, there were also the other ROSA leaflets, ROSA newsletters, along with pamphlets and material that gave broader and more developed political positions. These included ROSA’s 15- point programme, which was produced in the form of an a4 leaflet. Some of the demands included:
“Reverse all cuts to domestic violence and rape crisis services. Reverse all cuts to Lone Parent allowance and Maternity Benefit…”
“For a massive state investment in a public housebuilding project…”
“Equal and decent pay…ban zero-hour contracts…Free education and childcare are vital to give women real choice”
“Feminising the ruling elite is not real change. Build a socialist-feminist movement to challenge all oppression and inequality…”
To single out the Questions and answer leaflet but divorcing it from:
What was going on in the living and dynamic campaign and the necessary role it played;
The other material that was being used on the activities and
The political approach that the comrades were using when engaging with people
It does a disservice to this debate which should be about coming to an accurate and balanced assessment of the work and political positions, but unfortunately, the IS is engaged in a fault-finding exercise. Unfortunately how disconnected from Ireland and formulaic their approach is, is indicated by point 19 in the Platform, “there were no concrete demands made on the trade unions to mobilise the working class in defence of that right.” the comrades say,“in defence of that right” but what does that mean in Ireland where that right didn’t exist yet – how could it be defended. The whole battle was to win the right. In their hurry to bang out another dig at the section, had the comrades forgotten that they were meant to be addressing that actual situation in Ireland?
Crucially, combined with their other abstract criticisms, this raises the question as to whether the IS Majority is retreating to the type of dogmatic position that it fought a battle against nearly 30 years ago.
Other CWI Mass Campaigns
At the high point of the water charges movement, as part of the AAA’s We Won’t Pay campaign in 2015, we produced similar style questions and answer leaflets about non-payment. These leaflets were not in the name of the Party, they were part of a broader entity, like ROSA’s leaflet. They didn’t put forward a developed programme regarding capitalism and socialism. The IS comrades haven’t criticised that material, though undoubtedly they are aware of it. Is that because that struggle related to a more explicitly economic issue? Are the comrades developing rigid demarcation between so-called economic and social issues?
Likewise, the comrades in Britain produced not one, but many such specific purpose leaflets under the auspice of the anti Poll tax Federation, during the height of the anti-Poll tax Campaign in Britain. And such material was completely correct.
Far from Perfect but Principled
The idea that the Party is opportunist and has buckled when involved in mass activity is not at all indicated by the work of ROSA in the victorious abortion struggle. In fact the biggest, mass audience that we had around that time was on 31 March when 8,000 turned up to a demonstration that we organised around the Belfast Rape trial.
Here is the conclusion of the Ruth C’s speech that day: “Now, I’m a TD, I’m a socialist. I’m a member of the Socialist Party. I believe none of these things are possible in a system that’s profit driven. How can capitalism provide equality when the whole of if it rests on inequality? How can a system that says it’s fine for 5 men to control the same wealth as half the planet provide equality? Inequality is the DNA of capitalism and its doing very nicely promoting rigid gender roles, promoting racism and promoting division between people. We have to look for something different – because capitalism is honing the exploitation of women to a new, higher level than ever before. That’s why the Suffragettes-women who fought for rights over the years- linked up with the labour and trade union movement. Now, this week we’ve started a movement to challenge misogyny. Let’s challenge the very foundation on which it’s based and [fight] for a new society, a socialist society where wealth is shared and a totally different culture is created.”
The protest that Ruth and the comrades that work in the Dáil organised with the thong in November, went viral and achieved unprecedented coverage globally. Those comrades who criticise the class, trade union and political approach adopted by us should look at the speech Ruth gave in the Dáil and on the street. Ruth brilliantly links sexual harassment to the workplaces, to the unions and to capitalism and the need for socialism.
At the protest on 14 November she said, “this system benefits so much from rigid gender roles, why else would you be able to have a two-tier pay system where women are paid 14% less on average…who would do all the unpaid work that women are expected to do in society… the system would absolutely fall apart and that is why capitalism foments it and that is why the feminism that is taking hold throughout the world should be socialist feminism”.
ROSA, the Party, the Working Class and the Unions
The call that Ruth and the comrades issued on the wave of this publicity globally was precisely for a class-struggle approach, for walkouts against sexual harassment, violence and inequality on IWD 2019. And here we are in discussions with some trade union branches and organisers north and south, including UNITE hospitality, ELT, construction, financial sector and teachers to see if we can turn this call into real action, which would be a huge step forward for the struggle for women’s rights and for the trade union movement.
Some of the leaders of sections that have a strong record regarding the global women’s movement have joined the IS-led faction, but that can’t camouflage the imbalanced hesitation and suspicion which IS comrades seem to have adopted to the women’s movement. Below are some quotes that we think raise serious questions as to whether the IS Majority understate the impact of oppression under capitalism on working-class women, the potential of the movements and the legitimate impatience and anger that women feel; as well as understating the ability of the working class, generally, including young and older men, to be affected positively by these issues. Any words in bold italics are our emphasis.
What is the Position of the IS?
(text in bold is our emphasis)
“at least in the economically-advanced countries, capitalist propaganda peddled the ideas of ‘post feminism’ – suggesting women were on the verge of winning equality. While this was never true, there was a grain of truth in it in many countries,” – Point 18 Women’s oppression and Identity Politics
“before the economic crisis – young working-class women were, in general, more confident of their prospects than young working-class men.” – Point 19 Women’s oppression and Identity Politics
“however, in our view it is not the case that movements relating to women’s oppression will be central to struggle in every country in the next period.” – Point 22 Women’s oppression and Identity Politics
“the main characteristic of movements of this kind is that they are multi-class in nature”. – point 14 in faction’s Platform
“We must support the legitimate rights and demands of women, LGBTQI and trans people”. – point 13 in faction’s Platform
“We also support the legitimate demands of the LGBTQ+ movement, so long as they do not conflict with the rights of others, and can be resolved by democratic discussion.” – PT In defence of Working-class orientation
“we need to try to use language that doesn’t alienate or put off in any way working class men or at least, you know, make them feel uncomfortable in some way about involvement.” – JB at the Irish NC in November 2018
“What we are saying is that, will that layer feel that it’s the place for them to get involved, basically, in our Party on the basis of the points we are getting across in the campaigning work we are doing. We have got to reach out to older white male workers as well as other sections of the working class.” – JB at the Irish NC in November 2018
“to give lists of women, LGBTQ, workers, and I’m not saying it’s never right to do that, but it can give the impression that actually if you’re a straight man that this party is not for you”. – HS intro at Irish NC in November 2018
“there would still be a big layer of young people who would be proud of the fact that they play football or rugby or go down the pub and would wrongly read that toxic masculinity being about them doing those things.” – HS sum-up at Irish NC in November 2018
At the IEC, NM said he regretted not insisting that the comrades in the North should mention the apology of one of the Belfast Rape trial rugby players in an article they were writing; an apology that was generally understood as being completely disingenuous from an individual who had instructed his legal team to take an aggressive approach against the complainant and had engaged in despicable behaviour.
We feel if we had adopted the outlook indicated above, as well as the abstract approach documented earlier of the IS, we wouldn’t have organised the hugely significant protests against victim blaming, and it is likely that now there wouldn’t be abortion on request up to 12 weeks free through the health service.
The Party, the Class & the Unions
Over the years an issue that the IS has raised with us on a few occasions is that we should establish a trade union activists group, like the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) in Britain. We did make some attempts at this when it was raised, and on other occasions we simply didn’t feel the conditions existed to try such an initiative. Now the Irish section, or its southern region, is said to have taken a decision to turn away from the trade unions. It has been said this was done in reaction to the sell-out role of the leaders, nearly as if it was an emotional reaction. None of this is correct.
To the question, whose trade union leaders are worse, a response is often that they are bad everywhere. However, it would be wrong to think that the position in the trade unions is essentially the same in every country. There are unique conditions and before decisions can be made regarding what approach is adopted, the specific circumstances need to be assessed.
While the IS has much experience; in the brief exchanges over recent years regarding the unions here, the situation in Britain has been a regular reference point. of course, there are similarities and some unions are both British / Irish based. However, in a more fundamental way there is a different history and evolution of the trade unions here, particularly in recent decades.
How the Unions Evolved
There were very significant class-battles in Britain in the mid-1980s; the Miners, Wapping etc. In the main, apart from some occupations from below in the early 1980s, the trade union leaders in the South of Ireland gave in without a fight, agreeing to become involved in social partnership agreements with the bosses, and the government/ state in 1987. Social Partnership was dropped by the bosses eight years ago after 23 years, but it still frames the outlook of the union bureaucracy. Union density was over 60% in the early 80s, today it is less than 30%. Some estimates say it’s less than 15% in the private sector.
Another central factor is the 17-year boom before the crisis hit, which had a real impact on practically every aspect of Irish society, including on consciousness. Some key trade union leaders went so far as to speak acceptingly about the capability of neo-liberal capitalism.
The economic crash brought vicious attacks on the working class, creating huge anger. Yet, while they organised some limited, tokenistic action and called some mass demonstrations to let off steam, the union leadership was successful in resisting the pressure and no serious action or struggle was waged during the crash or since. to correct the imbalanced view of the IS Majority regarding our position, the problem wasn’t just the sell-out of the leaders, it was also the combination between the emptying out of an active layer, who haven’t been replaced, as well as the absence of union structures / mechanisms through which the leaders could be challenged.
The effects of the “Social Partnership” cannot be underestimated. For decades, the shop steward layer and local structures withered because their role was reduced to dealing solely with local problems and had no role regarding wages, no local negotiations. This was compounded by the fact that leaders and officials in the main, had an attitude that job losses could not be fought, and thus focused on getting better redundancy deals and tokenism over getting “task forces” to look into retraining and looking for new buyers or investment.
With fifty trade unions, there is a definite push towards amalgamations- with some orientating to just two unions; one public sector and one private sector. As one trade union official comrade put it, the leadership are “content with managing a decline”. There have been some limited initiatives at recruitment, but generally the union leaders have more of a political orientation towards parties and getting legal safeguards, and bringing cases to the Workplace Relations Commission than a real industrial policy based on organising and fighting.
Approach Based on the Circumstances
In the discussion at the NC in Dublin in November, HS used the discussion on women to make a number of points on the trade unions here. She argued that given the anger against austerity, that some rank and file grouping could have been brought together when the trade unions sold-out in 2010.
From afar this can seem correct or at least plausible and actually in our perspectives document in 2010, we specifically discussed plans for launching an initiative. However, that proved an underestimation of the ability of the bureaucracy to successfully execute a sell-out with a mass demonstration in Dublin in November 2010. People were left bewildered and then shock set in.
Yes, there was anger combined with elements of demoralisation, but as mentioned, there wasn’t a pre-existing active or activist layer around which to organise, and the mood quickly collapsed. We tested the situation again a bit later, organising a one-day meeting geared towards workers with the idea of establishing a group in october 2011, but it wasn’t a success.
Point 19 of the Platform statement says that we drew “the conclusion that the mass anger against austerity would not be reflected through the trade unions”. What we said, based on what happened in 2010, was that it was unlikely that the anger would be reflected in union action for a period.
In autumn 2011 we began preparing to launch the Campaign against household & Water taxes (CAHWT) right throughout the country, an undertaking beyond anything we had done before. We felt it was possible that the working class could suffer a bad defeat, one without a struggle if we didn’t try to give a lead.
Point 19 also implies we took a decision to turn away from the trade unions. That isn’t true.
What we did was to positively link policies sign posted as part of the EU/IMF bailout for household, property and water charges, to the anger that couldn’t find expression in the unions and we concluded that the charges could possibly create the conditions for something unprecedented; an independent movement of the working class, if a strong lead were given. This materialised, with 30,000 people attending meetings around the country, and it also propelled us from one to three TDs in 2014.
Comrades are aware of the role we played in the water charges struggle that erupted from below between 2014 and 2016, but this earlier work was pioneering and helped create the basis for that future upsurge.
A subsequent academic study on the water charges commented, “April 2012 saw the largest anti-austerity protest, and the foundations for the water charges campaign, when half the population refused to pay the household charge. this protest is not given sufficient recognition as it contradicted the narrative that the Irish passively consented to austerity as the necessary ‘medicine’ for recovery in contrast to the Greeks, Spanish and others. The socialists, Left independents, community independents, anti-debt activists, and community groups led the ‘Campaign against the household and Water taxes’. Tens of thousands of people participated in protest marches and local actions. This movement contributed to the largest expression of resistance and opposition from the Irish people to austerity prior to the water charge movement. There was a mass boycott of the charge initially when 49 per cent of the 1.6 million households liable for the charge refused to pay it by the deadline of April 2012. Indeed, by September 2012, there was still a 40% non-payment rate, nationally. The transfer of power to the Revenue Commissioners to collect the charge meant the campaign was defeated as people had no choice but to pay it.”
The figures given here actually underestimate, there was still 52% non-payment at the end of 2012 because of the campaign we organised.
A Turn to the Working Class – Not Away from the Unions
In his document ‘In defence of a Working-class orientation’, PT puts forward another IS Majority gross exaggeration, “they have admitted, they have effectively abandoned systematic work in the trade unions for a period”. We never admitted any such thing. We did not turn away from the working class or the unions for a “period”. We saw the possibility of conducting a specific working class struggle that would involve thousands of trade unionists. In fact, in the campaign and movement that we helped create, we were attempting to turn workers into activists on the immediate issues but also with a perspective that this struggle would help establish the basis for a new active layer in the unions.
Based on a correct perspective on the position of the union leadership at the time, we took a path that defeated water charges, knocked back austerity and gave a vital impetus to the transport strikes of 2016 and 2017.
Just briefly on the reference in Point 19, that we equated the situation in Ireland with the bourgeoisified Labour Party in Britain; implying we are saying the trade unions in Ireland are bourgeoisified. That is a complete misrepresentation.
The Open Turn and the debate around it, was raised in the NC debate in Dublin in November, in response to a sustained but ill-informed attack on our approach to the unions by HS. However, the point being made was that having come up against an obstacle, the comrades in Britain found a way forward by open work outside of Labour. At the time the comrades had not concluded that Labour had become completely bourgeoisified. In fact, the open turn was posed as a detour; something temporary.
On that basis, the point was made that the Party building an independent movement around the charges and austerity could be likened to a detour away from the obstacles in the unions, but with a view to bringing the focus back into the unions to help try to transform them. The strikes mentioned above, and us using our increased authority, gained from the struggles, have enhanced our union and strike interventions since, and therefore, illustrate that there has been a dividend for this work.
Our approach to the trade unions in the South has been based on our considered perspectives. We have discussed and reviewed the situation in the unions regularly. Operating under extreme pressure of carrying the water charges movement to victory; winning parliamentary positions with a view to affecting broader consciousness; winning on Jobstown and then winning the historic reform of abortion rights, while all the time trying to strengthen the Party by increasing our focus on youth work. In this mix of priorities, our plans to put the trade union work on a better and more systematic basis have been somewhat frustrated. That is a much more accurate summation of the situation than the exaggerated claims of the IS Majority.
More Discussion Needed
If we had no orientation or focus on the trade union movement, we wouldn’t feature it in our perspectives documents and discussions. In 2015 we produced a specific document on our trade union work in the North. There are also large sections in both our 2017 and 2018 of the southern perspectives documents specifically dedicated to dealing with the trade union movement. Long before our supposed abandonment of the unions was made an issue, we said:
From 2017: “While the overall situation has been changed, how much this has been reflected by new activists stepping into consistent activity in union structures is so far at an early stage. It may be the case that workers initially focus on trying to exert an influence over their own conditions, their own workplace or section, rather than on transforming the union or the union movement, generally. Beginning the challenge to really transform the unions would be complicated if there was a new deal. However, it would be given a boost if there isn’t one. as mentioned, a struggle around a ballot for a new deal could also be a very important mechanism of bringing activists forward in the battle to transform the unions.”
From 2018: “the trade union bureaucracies had to become more mindful of the mood but they have held onto overall control. The balance of forces shifted to newer and fresher activists in most of the specific situations where militant industrial action took place recently, though even in these instances, the bureaucracy will try claw the situation back.
The bureaucracy does not constitute a fundamental block to the ranks getting organised and to struggle. Fighting them is an essential additional task facing all union members who want to improve their conditions. In some instances the bureaucracy can be forced to act, in others, workers and activists may be forced to operate outside of formal structures in order to push the situation forward.
The Party must bring to fruition its plans to put trade union and workplace work on a systematic basis – using the TD positions and the platform of the Dáil; branch interventions into local workplaces; central party initiatives at targeted workplaces and attempts to try to connect to fresher and young workers.”
We don’t have a dedicated full timer at the moment, undoubtedly that will be become part of the discussion of this work in the next period. However, there are a number of comrades with responsibilities in this area of work, and a lot of work is done. Industrial and trade union related issues are discussed among a layer of comrades, including regularly as part of the Dáil work. Mick B in particular has been able to develop a profile as a workers’ representative, making connections with important sections of workers, particularly in the transport sector.
Already Shifting the Balance to the Workplaces & Unions
Flowing from the perspectives discussion at conference in March 2018, at the end of the summer, we held an aggregate in Dublin, and branch meetings elsewhere, focusing on branches identifying workplaces for a planned monthly intervention and comrades intervening in their own workplaces and unions. This work has to be brought together and monitored.
The IS comrades in criticising our approach to the trade unions, draw a fundamental distinction between the Party, North and South. This is in line with their tendency to overstate the separateness because we are operating in two states. There is a national leadership in the Party and if there was a decisive shift away from the unions among the majority of the leadership, that would tend to reflect itself in the North as well. However, in 2015, comrades from the South were strong advocates of standing a candidate for the NIPSA general secretary.
Industrial Disputes and our Interventions
Through our branches and public representatives and using leaflets, the Party paper, Solidarity bulletins, comrades as Party members and Solidarity activists have intervened into all the industrial disputes that have taken place. Below is a non-exhaustive list summarising the disputes in question:
2018 Lloyds Pharmacy dispute (MANDATE retail union) – interventions in 20 branches of the chain, with six bulletins in the course of an on/off four month struggle. Obtained a dozen industrial contacts.
2018 Ryanair (IALPA pilots’ union branch of FORSA public sector union) we visited the pickets each day and produced 3 bulletins. Have contact with the main lay activist and with the IALPA official.
2018 UNITE archaeologists dispute. We’ve a comrade involved. Visited pickets.
2018 Irish Life Insurance pensions dispute UNITE. Cllr MO’B and PM TD addressed picket line rally on behalf of the party
Numerous building worker disputes including Rhatigans, Lucan in 2014 which, in part, inspired our draft bill outlawing bogus self-employment practices which we worked in concert with a comrade who’s a UNITE organiser.
Bus Eireann,(SIPTU general union & NBRU transport union) multiple disputes but a lot of work going into their 3-week dispute in 2017. 55 Industrial contacts including the key activist who is now a Solidarity candidate in the local elections and a Party contact. this contact played a key role in getting unofficial solidarity action from Dublin Bus workers, which had a major impact. We produced seven bulletins. MB was invited to the NBRU conference. We covered all the depots where we are established but also paid two visits to Waterford to meet bus worker militants, there. About a dozen of the strikers came to our Jobstown rally and helped with on-street activity in the run-up to the trial. We are in ongoing contact with depots in Dublin and have been subsequently in contact with drivers in Drogheda and Waterford about roster issues, which may form the basis of another dispute.
Irish Rail (SIPTU and NBRU) there was a strike of short duration in late 2017. Bulletins were produced and about 12 industrial contacts obtained
2017 Crane operators (UNITE) dispute. Comrade tF was the lead organiser. again, they came to Jobstown events and we are still in contact with the main strike leader.
Trade Union Friends of Jobstown was an important plank of our solidarity work with fringe meetings, a press conference; fundraising and conference interventions; motions to branches and conferences and over a hundred activists and officials co-signing a statement including a number general secretaries. Delegations of prominent trade unionists came to the courts on a number of days.
Dublin Bus strike 2016 (SIPTU and NBRU) We covered all garages with special bulletins and obtained about 10 industrial contacts. We held a public meeting in Dublin with a shop steward from donnybrook garage
ASTI teachers Strike October 2016, visited numerous picket lines and raised it in the Dail
Luas (tram service SIPTU) 2016 – We produced bulletins. We worked closely with the two main militant shop stewards who led the defiance of the SIPTU official who tried to settle the dispute on bad terms.
We tried to progress the above mentioned transport dispute interventions with an unsuccessful public transport workers forum in late 2017.
We’ve produced special leaflets for each of the public- service ballots before and throughout the crisis, involving comrades handing them in to public-sector workplaces in city centres and their branch areas. We’ve had special caucuses of our public service comrades in SIPTU, TUI, ASTI, INTO, CPSU etc. our comrades have participated in the broad left/activist groups where they exist i.e. in the teachers’ unions and have initiated them in the CPSU
We intervened in retail disputes with leaflets at Dunnes Stores and Tesco (twice) and Argos
We have had an orientation to the ranks of the armed forces. We sought the same rights for soldiers, sailors and air crew that the police now have. Met the general Secretary of PDFORRA several times and the Wives & Partners of defence Forces (an informal campaign of the families of defence forces). The Sunday Business Post carried an article reporting department of defence disquiet at Mick Barry’s standing in the eyes of armed forces personnel on their appalling pay and conditions.
We have taken up the case of undocumented non- EU migrant fishermen multiple times
During the 8-week greyhound Refuse strike (SIPTU) 2014 we were incorporated onto the strike committee, raised money and recruited out of it to the Party. There are about 20 former and current greyhound workers we are still in contact with, including the current shop steward
These interventions and visits to picket lines were conducted by a broad range of comrades and were discussed in branches. In the key disputes comrades met, shared and discussed the feedback.
Besides the interventions listed above, we have assisted many individuals and small groups of often unorganised workers involved in workplace struggles or disciplinary issues who have approached our public representatives or contacted the Party. We have represented sacked workers at Employment appeal tribunals and Equality tribunals on a number of occasions. Worker issues and strikes and disputes have been raised frequently by the TDs in the Dáil and this has affected our ability to make connections, and to pressurise and place demands on unions to fight for their members.
Misrepresented on the Trade Union Issue
In her introduction at the NC meeting in Dublin on the topic of “a Marxist challenge to Identity Politics”, regarding the Irish comrades and the trade unions, HS said:
“Now comrades could say they’re too bureaucratised, they’re finished, the trade unions in Ireland. I don’t think the comrades are saying that but you have the legitimate right to say it if you want to. But see, even if you did say that then the conclusion is you’ve got to build new unions because the idea that a revolutionary party doesn’t bother with struggles in the workplace for a historical period, and I might be exaggerating the point you are making, but I don’t think that tendency is acceptable.”
Trying to count the misrepresentations in this one paragraph is difficult. There is one qualification between three references to scenarios of comrades here saying the unions are “finished”. That is a very poor method of debate.
HS also talks of the Party saying it isn’t going to bother or hasn’t bothered with struggles in the workplace for a historical period. She concedes she may be exaggerating, and presumably on that basis reduces it down to a “tendency” not to bother. IS comrades seem so intent on finding fundamental fault that they seem prepared to just stretch and exaggerate at will.
In Point 18 of the Platform, the comrades say a Marxist orientation to the trade unions means placing demands on them and attempting to build rank-and-file opposition groups. It’s important to strive to move the situation forward as much as is possible but we also can’t be too prescriptive. We favour such initiatives whenever there is a basis for them and it’s appropriate, but the conditions in some union situations can be complex.
For example, in Ireland the bureaucracy of the FÓRSA union have just used excuses to close down the union’s youth committee, a clear factor being their fear of the potential impact of our young comrades, something that was reported in the capitalist press. We need to consider how to respond to this situation. On the other hand, we have already identified the importance and the potential in the transport sector. It is vital that this is pursued with urgency to the fullest.
Issues and Perspectives
Comrades may have genuine questions or some issues regarding our approach to the unions. At the same time it is clear that there are real issues in the unions regarding the role of the bureaucracy in many countries.
Certainly, if in some countries our perspective was that it was likely that there would be struggles through the unions, but then in reality when there has been serious austerity and attacks on workers’ rights, the pressure hasn’t forced the unions to act in a serious way, then the original perspective should be reviewed. We are not fully aware of the perspective of the comrades in different European countries like Belgium, England/Wales, Sweden, Germany etc, but it would be worthwhile to discuss what the situation and trends in the unions are in a more general and developed way. What factors are at play and how would we characterise the inter-play between the bureaucracy and the active rank-and-file – if there is a significant one – and what are the perspectives?
On a number of occasions, the Platform statement correctly states that the working class hasn’t yet developed a socialist consciousness or put itself at the head of the struggles in society. Obviously that isn’t a straightforward process and we need to be patient. It is important to resist a temptation to imply that the coming crisis will automatically and decisively break the barrier that the bureaucracy constitutes in some countries. that sort of a process could potentially develop, but we should also consider what role we can play and what assistance we can be given to help realise these vital goals i.e. struggle, but also the development of socialist consciousness.
Explosions from Below
In Ireland, over a three / four year period we have experienced two movements – water charges and abortion. Neither were manufactured (by the union officialdom). They erupted from below and weren’t conducted through the unions. More working-class revolts such as these are likely and as well as focusing and preparing within the unions, we have to be open and flexible, tactically, as at this stage it’s not predetermined what path such movements may take in some countries.
Point 13 in the Platform says we need a “scientific, Marxist analysis of these movements”. For the record, we take as read the ‘ABC’ of Marxism that feminism is an all-class movement. However, in our view IS comrades have understated the actual extent of the working-class base in the abortion movement. However at the same time, Point 16 in the Platform recognises some of the points that we have made in the debates, namely that new sections of the working class are emerging and that there is a process of proletarianisation taking place. And in an article posted on the CWI website just before the new year PT referred to the movement as the “magnificent prochoice revolt of the Irish working class”.
We welcome this characterisation as being more accurate than the ones that were used in the debates; however, it also clearly undermines the central plank of the criticism of the Irish section in the IS’s ‘Women’s oppression and Identity Politics’. How could the Party and ROSA’s abortion campaign constitute a turn away from the working class if that movement was a “magnificent pro-choice revolt of the Irish working class”?
Likewise, we feel the content and exact meaning of the Points 20 to 22 in the Platform, aren’t very clear. the centrality of class is being asserted, which we agree with wholeheartedly. Then however, some positive but qualified points are made regarding youth work. This raises the question as to whether the comrades think that youth work is potentially a challenge to the class programme, character and work of the Party?
Reject False Choices and False Counterposing
Point 22 says, “We do not agree, as some comrades argued at the Irish NC, that students in higher education have the same consciousness as the working class. While in many countries more students from a working-class background are in higher education, their role in the struggle will never be comparable to the role of young workers in the workplaces, who develop a collective consciousness as a class.”
Comrades from Ireland didn’t say college students from working-class backgrounds have the same consciousness as the working class. Certainly the comrades welcomed that the class character of those in third level has altered, and reacted against the logic of the argument being put forward by IS, that such students cease being part of the broad working class when they walk through the door of the college.
No one is one hundred percent this or that, but the quote above is rigid and again overstates the negative, and falsely counter-poses these questions in an unhelpful way. Of course, every person is affected by their material conditions and colleges and universities are bastions of bourgeois ideology. But many young people can retain important aspects of class attitudes and consciousness while in college. In fact, many such students will actually get jobs while in college. One recent survey said 68% of students work while studying. Many students from working class backgrounds, will become workers when they leave college, as do some from middle-class backgrounds. So we need to be careful of overly rigid definitions.
They Who have the Youth have the Future
Comrades may feel that we are seeing something that isn’t there; that there isn’t a counter-posing of a worker/trade union orientation to youth work. However, in her lead-off in Dublin in November HS said:
“The essence of our concern is that the comrades have turned too far towards a section of young people, in particular, who are radicalised at this particular point in time. If that isn’t corrected – and that does not mean turning away from them, but broadening who we are orientating towards – there is a danger that we could find ourselves pointing in the wrong direction when future mass struggles develop on other issues as well.”
The Party in the South prioritised abortion and Repeal work, mainly but not exclusively directed towards young women for six months, and the IS Majority asserts that we’ve gone too far, and that this constitutes a serious danger. Their qualification, “that does not mean turning away from them” means little, because obviously, if you orientate elsewhere, that is a shift away from what you were doing. But in any case, in our view the qualification is an attempt to make a fundamentally negative pronouncement on youth-focused women’s work more palatable.
We were not intending to continue the same balance of work, and in fact we shifted it a number of months ago. However, flowing from Repeal, we have been strengthened in regards to our youth composition and most certainly plan to do more youth work on a systematic basis.
It is absolutely crucial that all our young comrades are grounded in the class standpoint of Marxism and the International, including the critical role of the organised working class. We should approach that task with diligence but also confidence in the strength of our arguments. Even though the Platform comments that the CWI work is based on workers and young people, the reality is that our collective focus, orientation and drive on youth work is significantly less than what it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Our struggle to grow in recent years should also be considered in that context.
It is vital that there are no false choices or false counter-posing of industrial/trade union work to youth work. again in her introduction in Dublin, when dealing with the abortion and Brexit referendums, HS said, “it’s not some innate capacity of youth to idealistically influence the older generation that meant they were able to convince their parents and grandparents to vote for Repeal.” actually in Ireland it has been our experience that young people getting involved in struggle and politics does inspire older layers, and it’s been one of the roles that youth have played historically in the revolutionary struggle.
The Link Between Youth and Workers
In Ireland, we always also saw the youth work as a key means of building the industrial base of the Party and creating a strong cadre in the workplaces. That was through our young comrades bringing our youth campaigns and politics to the shop stewards and workplaces and appealing for support etc. But also our youth work gave us many of the key comrades who have played vital roles in our trade union work over the years. Many of those who first joined as youth, students or school students had already received some essential training before they went into the workforce, which allowed them to excel as builders and fighters for the ideas and methods of the CWI.
In fact, many of the young comrades in the North who are now doing excellent work through UNITE to organise precarious workers came towards the Party because of the campaigning work we have done on issues such as marriage equality, abortion rights and the work done under the banner of ROSA both North and South.
Likewise, our re-establishing of a teachers’ caucus has been boosted by our work of recent years, with a number of the comrades having been recruited from water charges and Jobstown Not guilty (JNG) work. A grouping of young comrades are operating in FÓRSA based on joining the public / civil service over the last couple of years.
Our preparations to intervene into the nurses and midwives strike due at the end of January is being significantly boosted by the fact that we made important connections with nurses and midwives via ROSA’s referendum campaign, which belies the implication that our ROSA work was directed towards petit-bourgeois layers. The whole of the Party sees the potential significance of this dispute and is turning to it enthusiastically. We had an exceptional response of support for the strike on Party days of action in the second weekend of January.