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Mobilising the Irish Working Class- Agitate, Educate Organise!
The question on the lips of many people who have attended the recent anti- austerity protests in Ireland is ‘where are the masses?’ Some who have taken to the streets have been disappointed by the numbers turning out, comparing Irish protests to those in Greece or Turkey and have begun to ask ‘why aren’t the Irish people fighting back?’
Others including some supposedly seasoned left wing activists, disillusioned by the perceived lack of working class militancy, have begun to spread the false idea that the people ‘deserve what they get’ for their lack of revolutionary action. This is a wrong idea that can have dangerous consequences on the morale of revolutionaries.
The mass boycott of the Household Charge throughout 2012, although spontaneous in nature, shows the revolutionary potential of the popular masses once organised. That boycott should serve as an inspiration to any activist who has become disillusioned it shows that the revolutionary potential of the working class, although yet unharnessed is ripening in Ireland.
When we look at the current situation from a Marxist- Leninist perspective there is clear answer as to why the Irish working class have not yet mobilised. It’s simple, the Irish working class have not mobilised because they are not organised. Without the effective mass organisation of the working class at workplace and community level, its power cannot be successfully utilised.
The ruling elite in the twenty six counties has spent a considerable amount of its time, energy and resources ensuring the Irish working class remain unorganised. Through its championing of so-called ‘social partnerships’ the state has bought off the leaderships of our trade unions, the very people who are meant to represent the interests of workers. Over 20 years of social partnership has dramatically strengthened the hand of the ruling elite and lulled the working class into a dormant and unorganised state.
Political parties from Labour to Sinn Féin have repeatedly sold out the working class leading to general political apathy in working class communities. The various factions of Trotskyite groups are the latest opportunists in Ireland whose only aim is to climb to power on the backs of the working class only to continue with the system as before.
Successive austerity budgets combined with attacks on wages, working conditions, social welfare and public services have generated anger, but when combined with the factors outlined above have given rise to an unfortunate idea amongst the working class that ‘nothing can be done’ ‘they are all the same’ or ‘we can’t do anything to change things’. This is a very dangerous idea, one that lets our exploiters get away with their oppression. A key task for socialist republicans is to target such apathy and raise the level of class consciousness in communities across Ireland.
As anyone who has even looked casually at the teachings of Marxism- Leninism or revolutionary theory knows, change is a constant, everything is in flux. While it might seem sometimes that nothing can be changed, a revolutionary knows that change is the only thing that can be guaranteed. This is a strong argument for confronting apathy amongst the masses and must become one of our key weapons in the struggle to mobilise the power of the Irish working class.
But how can this be achieved?
The great socialist republican leader, James Connolly had a fool proof three step programme for mobilising the masses, which can be summed up in his well-known phrase ‘AGITATE, EDUCATE, ORGANISE!’. To build genuine links with the masses and to be in the position to mobilise them as a political and revolutionary force, socialist republicans must Connolly’s strategy into practice.
To win the support of the popular masses of this country, socialist republicans must become the engine driving the fight in the everyday struggles of the people. Genuine socialist republicans have no interest aside from the freedom of the working class and this is their guiding and motivating force. Socialist republicans are the most advanced section of the working class in Ireland and have the revolutionary tradition and experience necessary to lead the struggle for national liberation.
In our community or the workplace socialist republicans must be constantly agitating around the issues that are affecting the working class from wages and conditions to housing healthcare, education the defence of public services and the fight against austerity. At all times socialist republicans must link the local every day struggles of their class to the struggle for national liberation and socialism. Through linking the local struggles to the national and constant agitation we can highlight the contradictions and limits of the current system to the masses
By constant daily agitation on the issues that concern the working class, we can win the support of the masses to our vision of a free independent socialist republic in Ireland. Through agitation we can show the masses that ‘through socialism alone can the salvation of Ireland come’.
Mass education is an important tool in the arsenal of the socialist republican. Through education we can show the working class who really holds the power in this world, teach them their true strength, confront political apathy and aim to make the masses aware of their historical role in the coming revolution.
It is the duty of every socialist republican to carry out daily efforts at mass education and revolutionary propaganda. Such propaganda should highlight the failings of the joint systems of capitalism and imperialism and explain the merits of socialism to the lives of the masses.
Leaflets, posters, newspapers the internet and social media can all become revolutionary tools in the hands of socialist republicans. Door to door work, explaining the republican position in working class communities is of the utmost importance. A key task for socialist republicans is to put the words of the great republican Thomas Davis into practice- ‘educate that you may be free’.
The class conscience of the masses can be raised through a combination of constant agitation and education. Now it is important to get the working class organised. The fight for a socialist republic will have to be organised on every road in every community in Ireland. It is only through the popular involvement and active support of a broad section of the masses that the struggle for national liberation can be successful in Ireland.
Socialist republicans must position themselves to be able to organise the popular masses into a mass movement for socialism in Ireland. Such a movement will involve residents and community groups, cultural organisations, political parties, revolutionary trade unions, unemployment and campaign groups all under the democratic leadership of a vanguard socialist republican party.
Through such a revolutionary movement, with the active support of working class communities, British imperialism and domestic capitalism can be successfully challenged and the long struggle for national liberation and socialism in Ireland can be victorious.
Seamus Costello proved in modern times that Connolly’s three step approach to mobilising the working class can be utilised with awesome success. By putting the ‘Agitate, Educate, Organise’ strategy into practice, Costello built a strong republican base in county Wicklow and won a relatively significant amount people to the socialist republican vision.
So what steps might socialist republicans take to implement the ‘Agitate Educate Organise Strategy’ today?
1. First and foremost socialist republicans need to organise themselves into a vanguard party. The vanguard is the most advanced section of the working class, the section that understands its historic task and the force that must guide the revolution to victory. Socialist Republicans are the natural vanguard in Ireland and already have genuine organic links with the masses.
Of the parties in existence today, éirígí would seem to be the most likely to become a revolutionary vanguard. éirígí carries out good, constant, almost daily work attempting to implement the ‘Agitate, Educate, Organise’ strategy although they are a young party and have yet to gain a foothold across much of the country. For éirígí to become the vanguard needed by the Irish working class their will need to be a realignment of socialist republican and progressive forces behind the party, and although in its early stages there is evidence to suggest this is a distinct possibility. éirígí represents the most important development in the hope to build a genuine revolutionary movement in this generation.
2. As Connolly and Costello showed us, Socialist Republicans must set about organising strong bases for the revolutionary movement. Their task is to win the support of the masses to the socialist republic through championing the everyday struggles of the people in the community and the workplace. Daily agitation and educational work must be carried out by socialist republican cadres across Ireland.
3. Socialist republicans must become involved in the mass organisations of the people. Where the trade unions have been corrupted beyond repair new revolutionary and militant trade unions must be formed. Taking account of the conditions in Ireland these trade unions must be active in both the workplace and in communities. Community trade unionism will be a key factor in mobilising the power of the Irish Working class.
Socialist republicans must also be active in other mass organisations such as single issue campaign groups and cultural organisations, constantly putting forward the republican message and being the most militant fighters in the everyday struggles of the people.
4. Alternative socialist republican media highlighting the struggles of the people and explaining the republican analysis must be given a priority. Such work is of the utmost importance to combat the strangle hold the corporate media currently has on the Irish working class. Newspapers, blogs, websites and social media must all be utilised to take the republican message directly to the masses.
5. The most important step that socialist republicans can take is to begin daily agtitation, educational and organisational work in the workplace and the community. Through such work we can combat political apathy and show the masses that change is not just a genuine possibility but an inevitability. As the most militant and best organised fighters for social change, socialist republicans can win the support, trust and active involvement of the working class. It is only through consistent organisational work at a local and national level, building a mass movement for socialism up from the ground that the Irish working class can be genuinely mobilised.
Implementation of the above five steps would greatly strengthen the revolutionary movement in Ireland. Only through the genuine combination of the class and national struggle can the cause of national liberation and socialism in Ireland be