European Communist Meeting
Brussels, 11th April 2018

“Work in the working class and its labour movement, as a necessary prerequisite
for a clash with the EU, the overthrow of capitalist barbarism and the construction of socialism”

Contribution by the Workers Party of Ireland


Recent decades have witnessed a major assault against the trade union movement and the rights
of workers. However, trade unions remain mass organisations, and they potentially offer both
a site of resistance to attacks on the working class, and a vehicle for raising class consciousness
and for progressive interventions in political life. Trade unions also present a forum for
protecting and advancing the interests of the working class, both in individual workplaces and
at a broader level.

In Ireland during the 1960s, the capitalist class made so-called “industrial order” a significant
issue of public policy. While the trade unions successfully resisted the introduction of
legislation to facilitate intervention in trade union activity at that time, during the 1970s
employers and the bourgeois parties complained of rising strike levels and “unofficial strikes”.
The early 1980s witnessed the beginning of a sustained attack on trade unions and collective
bargaining. In Britain, successive Conservative governments enacted a raft of legislation
designed to systematically weaken the power of unions and workers and in Ireland, a new
political party, the Progressive Democrats, adopted and espoused similar policies with the
object of marginalising and eradicating trade unions.

The introduction of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 in Ireland represented a major inroad into
trade union autonomy and reflected a growing trend of intervention in the organisation of a
trade union’s internal affairs. This legislation has been used to attack and obstruct industrial
action by workers.

The political line of the European Union and its capitalist member states has inflicted immense
suffering on workers and their families and committed itself under the mantra of
“competitiveness” and “flexibility”, to an all-out attack on workers and their rights; a
programme of capitalist restructuring and a further engineering of the internal market for the
benefit of transnational capital. The judgments of the European Court of Justice in the Laval,
Viking and similar cases have further undermined workers’ rights by attacking the right to
strike and wage agreement. The strategy of Maastricht, “Lisbon” and “EU 2020” all serve to
increase “competitiveness” and profitability for capital and serve the interests of the monopoly

The capitalist system, built on exploitation and oppression, promotes a regime in which low pay
and precarious employment are predominant; where workers are often expected to work
“for free”; where hard won work-place rights are dismantled; where public assets are privatised
for private profit; where wages have been falling in real terms; where the bargaining power of
labour is diminished; where the gender pay gap continues and where restrictions are placed on
trade union freedom.

The decline in wages and the worsening of terms and conditions is a systemic issue stemming
from the nature of capitalism and the relentless drive for profit. Workplaces offer the
opportunity to connect our analysis of capitalism and the need to build a socialist alternative
directly with each worker’s own experience, reminding individual workers that the problems
they face are those that affect all workers, and that the solution lies in the hands of working
class. In these circumstances, the workplace must be a centre of activity for communists.
Campaigning work and agitation is vital to the building of a revolutionary party and to gaining
a foothold in working class communities. The key to success is unremitting, hard work. For
our Party, as a Marxist-Leninist Party, this means constant engagement with the working class
and their organisations, heightening the presence and profile of the Party at all levels. The class
confrontation extends to every public sphere.

Our Party has over many decades developed strong links to and within the trade union
movement. The Workers Party of Ireland seeks to build a Party composed of the most class conscious
elements among the working class and capable of effecting the creation of a socialist
society. Our political and ideological work must reflect our belief that Socialism is the
Alternative, and be rooted in a strategy for bringing about the abolition of the capitalist system
and the socialist transformation of society.

It is essential then that communists play an active part in workers’ political life and political
discourse, agitate against and resist attacks on the working class and its achievements, raising
class consciousness and increasing the space for communist politics within the labour
movement. Our task is to connect with the workers, engage with them, bring our politics to
them, facilitate and support their struggles while constantly placing those struggles in the clear
context of our class analysis and the necessity for socialism as the only guarantee of an end to

Lenin stated: “If you want to help the “masses” and win the sympathy and support of the
“masses”, you should not fear difficulties … but must absolutely work wherever the masses
are to be found. You must be capable of any sacrifice, of overcoming the greatest obstacles, in
order to carry on agitation and propaganda systematically, perseveringly, persistently and
patiently in those institutions, societies and associations—even the most reactionary—in which
proletarian or semi-proletarian masses are to be found.”

Capitalism relies on the unemployed as a reserve army of labour to drive wages down, render
employment precarious, and to deny workers the opportunity for effective collective action. It
also condemns the long-term unemployed to a life of poverty, drudgery and misery which all
too often brings with it physical and mental health problems, as well as other social problems
such as crime. Communities where mass and long-term unemployment are prevalent are
neglected by bourgeois and social democratic parties, and all-too-often seen as problems to be
dealt with by the coercive apparatus of the state. The unemployed and those in precarious, low paid
work, often suffering most from the capitalist system, are among those who will benefit
most from its abolition. We need to mobilise them if we are to establish working-class political

The rupture with capitalism and its institutions and the struggle to construct a socialist society
requires the communists to immerse themselves in the working class, its labour movement and
struggles. Without such work success is impossible. The communist’s ideal, as Lenin made
clear in What is to be done? is not “the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people,
who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it
appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; … who is able to take
advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist
convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world historic
significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.”

This remains our task.