Comrades and friends, the past year has been a difficult one for most workers and their families as well as those who are unemployed. Despite the self-congratulations from government ministers and their media apologists, about how much better-off people are both in Northern Ireland as well as in the Republic, the gap between the income of the ordinary people and that of the super-rich has actually grown wider and wider. It is abundantly clear that whatever kind of recovery has taken place, it has not been one shared equally. Of that there is little doubt.
We are also told repeatedly by government ministers in both governments on the island that there have been growths in the numbers actually employed. That is only partly true, however.
Yes indeed new jobs have become available, but there are very important and serious questions surrounding the nature and type of these jobs. Many, the majority in fact, are not well paid at all and even less are they secure, with the result that more and more people are being exposed to quite casual, highly insecure types of employment. Ones which makes their ability to actually make any kinds of long-term planning virtually impossible because their incomes are so low. So low that they they can neither afford to rent suitable long term rental accommodation let alone get mortgages to purchase ones, and they find themselves trapped in precarious jobs and as a consequence locked into in the netherworld of a virtual day-to-day existence.
That this is permitted to happen both in Northern Ireland as well as in the Republic is not at all surprising, of course.
In both jurisdictions the governments are wholeheartedly and energetically committed to the neo-liberal, pro-capital agenda of big-business interests that causes this precariousness. Whatever little spates and spats may occur from time to time between some of their individual ministers, it never deters them from their dedication to furthering the interests of capitalism; as always that remains undiminished.
That two such right wing, pro-capital governments can continue to exist in Ireland of course is disturbing. What should be even more disturbing of course is that so many people allow themselves to be conned so repeatedly by those same conservative parties in election after election, both north and south of the border. And that of course is a major problem that we on the left have to address.
For us in the the Workers’ Party, as well as for our friends and supporters, the fact that we exist is itself both an expression of a determination to both challenge the status quo as well as seeking to radically and irrevocably change it for ever. In fact to overturn it in its entirety is our ambition! But that cannot be done simply by saying it or wishing for it. It needs to be worked at and worked at relentlessly, diligently as well as with passion and commitment. And it is the task we must set for ourselves in the coming year.
Despite what the governments say about growth there is massive unease In Irish society just as there is throughout the entire capitalist world. Ordinary workers and their families are coming under ever increasing pressures simply to maintain an existence themselves, let alone look forward with confidence to what ever future might lie ahead. Indeed for many people there is a very real dread about what that future will actually hold for them. These are very real, very prescient fears and we need to not only respond but also to give clear and unambiguous leadership to all working people at this time.
Whatever the two right wing governments may say, for all their cant about ‘new opportunities’ and back to growth, the underlying realities are starkly different and that silent majority of people who are suffering as a consequence must be convinced that we as a Party do represent a real and meaningful way to help end their misery, that the Workers’ Party will lead them to a new and better life, one that goes well beyond mere existence itself and that gives them meaning and hope.That is the task we must set ourselves for the incoming year and beyond. We must then re-double our efforts and work within and among all working class communities. We must seek ways to urgently mobilise them in highly organised, disciplined campaigns of not just mere resistance but positive ones demanding real and meaningful change. We must give leadership where it currently is lacking or ineffective, and we must do it now.
Whatever our reflections then on the year gone by, it should at least remind us of the urgency, the necessity of that task that faces us. If there is one clear lesson we can draw from the history of resistance to exploitation and oppression it is this-change will only happen when we seek to make it happen. That, then, is the task we must set ourselves to the coming year.