Saturday, November 22, 2014

CPI Statement

CPI welcomes decision of SIPTU Executive to support campaign against water charges

The Communist Party of Ireland welcomes and expresses its solidarity with the decision of the National Executive Council of SIPTU to oppose water charges. This is an important development and one that can only strengthen the campaign being waged by working-class communities and the Right2Water Campaign, under trade union leadership, to oppose these charges.
This change in SIPTU policy is the result of growing opposition within SIPTU itself from the rank and file, who are deeply unhappy with their union’s stance up to now. Many thousands of SIPTU members have been active in the anti-charges campaign.
Working people have seen through the smokescreen and the cosmetic changes trumpeted by this bankrupt Government.
We now need to build for the rally on 10 December at Dáil Éireann to show the Government that resistance is growing and not weakening, and that the Government’s strategy of demonising communities, and its efforts to split those opposed to water charges into “reasonable” people on the one hand and “political extremists” on the other, is not working.
The CPI calls on the rest of the labour movement to become involved in this important struggle and to support communities that have been opposing these charges.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WFDY on Students' Struggle

17th of November, is a day which marks the constant struggle of the student movement all over the world for democracy, freedom and social justice, for the right to Education. It reminds to us the heroic resistance of Students in Prague against Fascism in 1939 as well as the heroic sacrifice of students during the anti-imperialist popular uprising of Polytechnic in Athens 1973
The International Student's Day, is celebrated in honor of the students who were victims of the Nazis in Czechoslovakia when on November 17, 1939, the occupying armies invaded in the dormitory of the University of Prague killing 9 students while other 1200 students were sent to the fascist concentration camps.
It's been 75 years since the sacrifice of students in Prague and 41 years since the sacrifice of the students of the Athens Polytechnic University. The heroic struggle of students for freedom, democracy and social justice as well as the fight against fascism and imperialism, remains extremely topical in our days.
Commission of Europe and North America of WFDY, note that:
·         Today, the global student movement achievements in many countries are under attack by the monopolies and the capitalist governments whose policies promote the sell-off of the public and free education. Students all around the world are facing an institutionalized attack to the right of Education
·         In several countries, what was considered a right to Education has become a privilege for some, while at the same time class barriers are put in every aspect of the Educational structure. At the same time the field of Education is considered to be a profitable market for the monopolies, therefore it becomes commerce.
·         The context of the offered education is directed in the creation of cheap labor force, in the preservation of the capitalist system. The European Union together with the USA are in the frontline of this direction and their aggressiveness is followed by countries all around the World. IMF and World Bank are used as tools to promote these policies.
·         The ideology offensive keeps being aggravated, with the falsification and distortion of the historical truth, namely with the erasing of the achievements of the workers' and peoples' struggle and with the most aggressive anti-communist propaganda. At the same time, the anti-scientific content of education is promoted together with the attempt to spread individualistic values among the youth.
·         The connection of the education to the needs of capital is enforced by the implementation of policies which promote the privatization of the higher education. Such a policy is the implementation of the Bologna Process carried by the EU.
Taking into consideration all the above, the Commission of Europe and North America of WFDY, declare that:
·         The youth and the students will not become a bystander as the monopolies deprive them from their rights and throw them into misery, preparing them for unemployment and as cheap labor force.
·         We will not stand the attempts to turn Education into commerce. We will resist the antiscientific and undemocratic methods of teaching that result in the distortion of history and the reproduction of the system itself.
·         Our goals for Free and Public Education for all go hand in hand with our struggle for peace, solidarity and the overthrow of imperialism. It is the system that gives birth to exploitation, oppression and withdrawal of rights, but it is the youth that through its struggle will achieve the permanent and universal conquest of their rights.
·         WFDY salutes all the students' struggles in every country against such attacks, for the right to a Free and Public Education for all, as an important contribution to the anti-imperialist struggle of the youth, and we appeal to the students' struggle reinforcement!
In this framework, the Commission of Europe and North America of the World Federation of Democratic Youth decides to launch the “Week of Action on the Students Struggles”. We have chosen the 17th of November, the International Students Day, as the starting point of this activity.

Peaceful, Organised and Militant - CYM Statement

Its unfortunate that when a vast majority of people are so determined to see this Right 2 Water campaign being a peaceful, organised, militant and dignified stance against the privatisation and commodification of water that some elements will use alternative ways to show their anger.

This past weekend has shown how strong an enemy we are up against. All it takes is one or two incidents for the media and the spin doctors to go into high gear and with all their might try and smear this legitimate campaign.

The CYM believe that now more than ever discipline must be maintained at all demonstrations and those that want to provoke more destructive courses should be met with a peaceful resistance to their methods.

The State and the media are in a weakened position and they are reduced to blowing out of all proportion minor events and stunts that are inevitable in the current political climate. We must not give them the fodder in which they can use to load their weapons.

The CYM can understand the anger of many people, but this is a time for clear thinking and clear strategies. We owe it to the thousands and thousands of youth that have left this country and the many thousands more living in poverty and in debt.

People have taken 6 endless years of austerity and for some they are at breaking point. When our Government politicians peer out of their castles to 'walk among the ordinary folk' and are shocked by how negatively people react to them, they like a scared child run to their protectorate and with the loudest speaker vilify the very same people whom they have impoverished. The government, the state and the media are so out of touch with the material reality of millions of Irish people, that they may want to continue the 'End of Austerity' fairytale, but clearly ordinary working people are ready to end the nightmare. All power to the people."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What was everyday life like in the USSR?

Originally posted here

Last Thursday the Young Communist League (15th Arrondissement, Paris) organized its first movie night since September. "Living in Rostov" is a documentary made by the French Communist Party in the 1970s. Neither a caricature nor Manichaeism, it is a remarkable record of the conditions of Soviet life.
The YCL was surprised and honored to host the historian Roger Keeran to dissect it.

To spend time on a documentary on the USSR from the Brezhnev era -- here, in France, in 2014? Is it nostalgia, or folklore? Not at all! In this capitalist society here in Paris people have seen exorbitant rents the debts that crush us, the education sacrificed, women's rights violated, layoffs.

What a surprise for the twenty young people present - a third of whom came for the first time - to see that these issues did not arise in the USSR, that the Soviets, not without contradictions, had access to another freedom than that which we know here.

in 1974, "To Live in Rostov" was to live in an industrial city of 800,000 inhabitants, structured around the machine tools factory Rostselmash which then employed 22,000 workers (nowadays barely half of that!).

It was a Soviet city like any other, in what was in 1974 the second largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $ 1500 billion, higher than in Japan, France, the United Kingdom, 10% of global GDP, and half of the GDP of the United States.

What did it mean to live in a non-capitalist society, the USSR?

1. - It meant  democracy at the factory. The workers decided about the organization of work.  This goes against the dominant ideology, but actually, the workers in the USSR worked at their own pace but conscientuously. Nothing was imposed on them concerning the pace of work without their prior agreement, without debate, without the help of mechanization. As many of them recall it, they ended the day with "little or no fatigue." This was heresy at the time of triumphant Taylorism-Fordism in France, which was criticized in the May 1968 events!

2 - It meant retirement at age 60, and a day of rest on Sunday.  It meant  two historical conquests now breaking down in France. Workers retiring at age 60 for men, 55 for women, or even earlier, for strenuous jobs. The workweek of 41 hours (it was 40 hours in France in 1974) was also the rule, to guarantee rest on Sunday as well as the famous 8-hour day, a historic attainment of the labor movement.

3 - It meant culture for all, the democratization of knowledge:  Imagine our surprise to find that the workers at the plant read, read a lot: from the verse of Heinrich Heine, and Balzac's novels, and verse and prose of Victor Hugo. How many French workers in France today read literary works of this quality? Libraries, cultural centers, study centers were present in every neighborhood, every factory. On Sunday, they were filled with workers relaxing, like young children, thirsty for reading more than for television.

4 - It meant lower rents, rents which did not impede life.  In 1974 housing was no longer a problem in the USSR. As in France in the 1950s, 1960s, housing  had been an urgent question. It was decided to build large complexes of apartment buildings which addressed, as best they could, this emergency.  Result: The relative weight of rent in the salary of a worker in the USSR amounted to, on average, 5%. In Paris now, for us, it is between 20% and 50% in general!

5 - They were loans at zero percent interest. In the 1970s, the Soviets had wide access to household appliances, their color TV, their cars, their houses. The difference here is the financing. No greedy banks, the state as guarantor whose loans were at a zero percent rate of interest, a payment schedule.

6 – Instruction was available to all, with priority to all-round education. This was not only high-quality education from kindergarten to college level, which produced illustrious scientists. It was a people’s education, reflecting the social welfare.

For example, the early childhood /motherhood bond was ensured in the same structures ("educational combines") without the breaks of framework that people know today (this is a very recent thinking in France!) which can be traumatic for the child.  Another example, evening classes set up for workers who want to learn, to get skills training. They were widespread in every factory, with a credential of national value. What a surprise for us here, when they have destroyed our occupational training!

7 - It meant real gender equality, defending women's activity in society. Even today, gender equality is a battle in France. In the USSR, gender equality was a reality , first in the salary. And in specific rights, we often forget that the Soviet Union was the first country to give the right to abortion! This genuine equality, was lived, not only in the laws, but in reality. Men actually helped women in their household tasks, as women were also involved in the production process.

8 - It meant the care for small children, and the possibility of being both a mother and a working woman. For a woman to be active, there must be time and energy for her to devote to activity. The Soviet state guaranteed it especially for young women who got maternity leave longer  than what was in force in France at the time, and access to affordable nurseries open 24 hours, 7 days a week, with no waiting list.  Still, what a contrast with France, where waiting lists are becoming an urgent problem (especially in Paris), where privatization has become synonymous with outrageous costs, where maternity leave as a fundamental right is questioned.

9 - It meant the complete satisfaction of material goods. Still another piece of the dominant ideology: in 1974 people said that the USSR was the second largest economy in the world. Like any country, it had its contradictions. However, stakeholders lived in assured material comfort, at least in the satisfaction of all basic needs: food, clothing, appliances, shelter. From the 1960s there starts the great turning to meeting cultural aspirations, centered on culture, art, education, and recreation in the broad sense. In Rostov, workers had access to courses in classical dance, to theater performances, to chess clubs, scientific conferences national and even international level. Not only would they go to them in huge numbers but they participated as amateurs and fans.

10 - It meant an "economic miracle" after the destruction of 1945. People have spoken of the Japanese economic miracle, the German economic miracle, but what about the Soviet economic miracle? In a country one third of which was destroyed, which had lost 25 million human beings, in 15 years became the second power in the world and met all the needs of its population.  In the documentary, the memory of war is traumatic: the buildings razed, relatives dead, the city sacked by Nazi barbarism. The cry of "Never again!" and "No to war" was not abstract, but a reality lived in the flesh of each person.

11 - Unemployment in the USSR did not exist, there was no fear of the future. You can finish with this, but unemployment did not exist in the USSR …since 1927. Each enterprise restructuring forced the state to reclassify workers to find employment in another enterprise, or in another sector related to their skills, or even to offer them re-training.

A debate was kindled by a young Russian Communist, a young expert on the Russian world and our friend the American historian Roger Keeran, noted author of the book "Socialism Betrayed", explaining the causes of the collapse of socialism in 1991. The exchange offered a wealth of information.  Roger Keeran won over everyone with his first sentence: "I am not here to teach but to learn" (Je ne suis pas ici pour professer, mais pour apprendre). Such humility is that of an honest researcher, a true communist.

Relevant questions emerged from the new faces present, who were visibly challenged by the film.

Why did the Soviets did not resist in 1991, if they were so well off?
Few people know this but in March 1991, 65 percent of the Soviet people voted for the USSR in a referendum when Communist Party leaders already thinking of liquidating the Party and the State. Six months later, Gorbachev and Yeltsin scorned the popular will and dissolved the USSR!

But this brings us to a critical reflection. The party was identified with the state; it did not effectively play its role as organizer of the masses (including resistance), nor did it nourish the ideological debate, nor serve as an antidote to the underlying pro-capitalist ideologies. This shortcoming had cruel consequences in 1991. Faced with Communist leaders who were turncoats, who despised the popular will, the Soviet workers found themselves helpless against counter-revolution.

This does not address the question of democracy in the USSR. All the same, wasn't there was a kind of comfortable inaction, an illusion of safety without action, in the USSR?
Absolutely, but not in terms of "bourgeois democracy". There was a democratic deficit in the organization of the party and the state. It was a policy for the people, but without the people. Certainly, mass education, culture for all, the right to decide in the workplace, social laws, these are fundamental democratic elements. But the lack of democratic debate in the party and the state was evident. That encouraged passivity, even among the leaders, and the kinds of duplicity and manipulation that can be found in a Gorbachev.

What comparison can be made with life in the United States at the same time?
Roger Keeran comes from the birthplace of the American auto industry - Flint, Michigan, also known as home of Michael Moore - from a working class family, he tells us.
It's simple, an American worker had an undeniable material comfort. But he did not read, did not go to the museum, the theater, ballet. Access to culture, education was a stark poverty, especially among workers, among minorities.  Roger recalled that UNESCO had classified the USSR as #1 by far for two things: (1) the Soviets were those who read the most, and they were subscribers on average to 4 newspapers; (2) they were the ones who were most went to museums, the theater, to cultural venues.

What enabled the Soviet regime after 1917 to produce such a society?
Huge question. It should first be noted that Lenin - unlike all other politicians - kept his promises: land to the peasants, peace for workers. This, despite the opposition of Trotsky or Bukharin. Afterwards, the Soviet Union gave a high priority to education, to culture for all. In an era when Russia was economically battered, it turned Tsarist Russia, with its 80% illiteracy, into a country free of illiteracy by 1930. It  also met the basic demands of the most humble: the workers, peasants, women, national minorities. This is the social base which allowed the USSR to hold on for 70 years, to fall only by the action of leaders who had switched sides.

What happened after 1991? What do the Russians think of the Soviet era?
It was a disaster for the Russians, Ukrainians and others. Production fell by 50%, prices jumped, sometimes by a factor of 10 or 100 (such as transit fares!). We went from a Russia with zero poor to Russia counting 70 million poor! The Russians have discovered many things they did not know before: insecurity, unemployment, lack of medical coverage, commodified human relations.  Between 1991 and 2014, Russia lost several million people. The mortality rate has climbed, life expectancy has fallen. According to the British medical journal Lancet, at least 2 million Russians died as a direct result of the privatization of the Russian healthcare system. Not surprisingly, the Russians are now nostalgic for the Soviet era. Two-thirds of them regret the loss of the USSR and its socialist model based on collective ownership and central planning. In 2014 as in 1991, Russian leaders do not care about the will of the people!

The twenty youth present were delighted by this meeting of rare quality. They thanked our friend Roger for his accurate analysis, humility and availability. We promised to lead the fight here and now, for a different non-capitalist society, but not opposed to the one experienced in the USSR!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Magnificent turn-out by an awakened people

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland

1 November 2014

The Communist Party of Ireland expresses its solidarity and its admiration for the magnificent turn-out out around the country today [1 November].  Nearly 200,000 people across the country participated in local demonstrations, many people  taking to the streets for the first time.  The trade union led  Right2Water Campaign has unified and rallied the people.

The people are speaking as one in their demand for the scrapping of the proposed water charges. Working people are clearly saying they have had enough of austerity, enough of the spin and lies of the Government and the major parties, enough of the cuts and charges. They are sick of watching house prices and rents skyrocketing beyond their reach. They are sick of watching the elite grow ever richer while workers’ wages are cut to pieces and their families are stretched to breaking-point.

Speaking at the Right2Water Campaign rally in Cabra, Dublin, the general secretary of the CPI, Eugene McCartan, called for maximum unity of all those opposed to water charges. “The people have awakened to their own power and strength in numbers,” he said, “and will not be deflected."

“Only an amendment to the Constitution that guarantees to the people their ownership of water can prevent this or any future Government commodifying and privatising water.”

The CPI believes that it is now time for the rest of the trade union movement to stand up, not only to oppose these charges but to defend their members’ interests and those of all workers, and to cut themselves free of the cosy behind-the-scenes deals with a bankrupt Government and a discredited Labour Party.
The trade union movement now needs to catch up with its members and the wider working class. They have to become radical or they will become as redundant as the Labour Party will be after the next general election.