After such dizzying highs based on artificial gains, the new lows brought on the Irish people have stunned, shocked and angered many. A long forgotten spirit has begun to return to the hearts and minds of people around Ireland, the spirit to resist.
Consciousness for the injustices of the world and local society does not appear and it is the rare person that wakes up in the morning and suddenly determines that they are going to tackle economic and social inequality. It is a process, an arduous process, comparable to how one learns a ‘hard lesson’ individually. In this case, it is millions of people being offered the opportunity to learn a hard lesson on the actuality of their position in society.
As the tight grip of austerity clamps itself around the throats of the working class, a will to live emerges. The sensation of being choked forces you to act – here, for those who have not cared, nor ever been politicized, the choking sensation prompts a rapid reaction. This rapid reaction is first of all emotional but it soon turns into something else. Imagine waking up in the morning and realizing that the place you have in your own society is not what you imagined and instead of the free individual you thought you were, you’re just meaningless number, a cog in the machine, an industrial foot soldier.
It makes thousands angry and urges them onward to take action. Ireland’s history is rich with resistance movements. Connolly writes in ‘Labour in Irish History’ that;
‘Politically, Ireland has been under the control of England for the past 700 years, during the greater part of which time the country has been the scene of constant wars against her rule upon the part of the native Irish. Until the year 1649, these wars were complicated by the fact that they were directed against both the political and social order recognized by the English invader”.
As he notes however, once the unique Clan system was dismembered it became easier to control one layer of Irish society versus the other. One which comprised collaborators and those who sought to self-enrich while the other made up the majority, so in today’s terms, you and I.
Why do I mention this here and why is it important? The British Empire was at the forefront of finance capital when Ireland gained political bourgeois independence but like in the US, certain key British trademarks remained. In the US, the spirit of imperialism and colonialism on the basis of ‘superior civilization’ remained well endowed with the people which is why wars against other peoples were justified and often very popular. In Ireland, the class divide between the labourer and the landlord, the industrial worker and the capitalist was also inherited and the state took on a very important role becoming a “committee of the rich to manage the affairs of the poor”.
The real crisis for the worker in Ireland remained, much like the real crisis for the workers in Ireland remains today. The establishment parties which comprise Fianna Faíl, Fine Gael and the Labour Party are not ‘betraying’ the people because they have never been committed to the people. Since the foundation of each party and indeed the state each party has sought to preserve native capitalist interests and later on, multinational capitalist interests.
If we are to compare contemporary Ireland to the Ireland of 1913, stark comparisons can be made. In the place of the banks of Britain, there are the banks of the dysfunctional European Union. The big industrialists, bankers and bourgeois dogs have remained, except now that the struggle for national liberation has been declared to be won they no longer need to have a pretence of supporting the working class in any shape or form.
But the struggle for national liberation has not been won. All the citizens of Europe are now bound together in a superstate that far surpasses the British Empire. It’s banks are more powerful, it’s control over national political machines is almighty and it’s agents are everywhere. National liberation as envisaged by Connolly will only come through not a simple raising of the flag, not a simple written declaration that the island of Ireland is now a republic but by a defeat of finance capital and a rejection of capitalism.
The spirit that is born among the working class of Ireland therefore is the true ‘repository of the hopes of the future’ and should be treated as such. The fight that we embrace ourselves upon must not be ‘against the beneficiaries of the social system of the day’ but against the social system system itself.
The revolutionary spirit that has been born ought not be wasted on changing who the landlords of Ireland will be nor who their ‘management committee’ will be but the very way we govern our society.
Alex K. Homits