Challenge is proud to feature a guest contribution from the Connolly Youth Movement, the YCL’s sister communist youth organisation in Ireland and a fellow member of the World Federation of Democratic Youth.
“Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world”
As a member of the ‘new Irish’ group of people who migrated, settled and now live here, I have a good comparison to make with how Ireland has been treated in the last 11 years, and how my place of birth, Estonia, was ravaged by the re-introduction of capitalism. In practice and scale, the two countries are wildly different, but in method and ideology, the attacks on their infrastructure and services are identical.
Like many Eastern Europeans, we migrated due to the complete decimation of services, the work was precarious, the hours long, the wages low and the potential ability to have a semi-decent living standard, low. Sounds like a familiar painting, doesn’t it? I joined the Communist Party in September 2014, I saw that Michael O’Donnell was a candidate in the local elections. The purpose of his candidacy was to demonstrate that the Communist Party still existed, that it had political views that were well developed and that they should be heard. I sat down for an informal conversation that lasted about three hours and knew that my place was in the Communist Party.
Since then, it has been one long inquisitive learning curve and I have no doubt that many of my comrades and peers feel the exact same way about their membership. It is a journey where we begin to piece together, frame by frame what it means to live in the capitalist nightmare. In Ireland, this capitalist reality has placed a heavy burden on the youth, creating suffering, untold misery and hardship. Why? Ireland is a colony for the colonialism, capitalism and imperialism of the EU, the British State and the American Chamber of Commerce.
In the beginning, it was the Norman feudal system which decimated Ireland. Then, it was the English led plantations and the mass cleansing of people to Connaught. Then, it was the establishment of Orangeism, accompanied by a linguistic and cultural repression. Ireland was a testing ground for all the worst evils of British Imperialism conducted all over the world. The Ulster and Munster plantations served as experiments on how best to conquer and settle a land. The very artificial division of the peasantry and the urban proletariat on spurious grounds of religion. The forced partition of the country and continued military occupation.
England built many fortunes from the fields, mines and seas of Ireland. England murdered the Irish people and ruined millions of lives, all so that the coal barons, factory owners and absentee landlords could live like proverbial Kings. Mock Independence in 1922, under the threat of “immediate and terrible war” brought no social or economic changes. A change of flag, but no change of economic organisation of society.
“If you strike us down now, we shall rise again and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland, you cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom then our children will win it by a better deed”.
The date continues to remain contested, but we are doing good investigative work to properly establish the date when the Connolly Youth Movement was founded. The most up to date information we have suggests it was 1965. The movement was founded in the run up to the 50th celebration of the Easter Rising. A documentary titled ‘Rocky Road to Dublin depicts an Ireland gripped by contradictory and ruthless Catholic theocracy in 1966, a far and distant vision from the 1916 Republic that was declared.
The documentary poses the question: What do you do with your revolution,when you have it? A most pertinent question, and one that I am sure communists all over the world deal with all of the time. The CYM was founded to rebuild, rejuvenate and popularize the ideas of James Connolly. The time period the CYM found itself in was different to that of the era of Connolly, different in the fact that the works of Connolly had been translated into many languages courtesy of the Soviet Union, that Connolly and 1916 stood as examples to the Bolshevik Party and their understanding of anti-imperialist struggle and that the new allies of Republicanism in Ireland, could be found in Bucharest, Budapest, Berlin and Moscow.
Connolly’s central thesis for Ireland was that National Liberation could not occur with nominal political independence that maintained the capitalist mode of production. Simply put, what was the point of struggling for ‘independence’ if social evils like poverty, homelessness, joblessness and emigration would continue? Asking those questions in 1916, 1966 and 2016, again and again, we get the same answer. In Ireland, the interests of capital rule our lives and yield the same results.
A product of those results, and a product of all oppression, is organised and disorganised resistance. Spontaneous acts of resistance come from angry working class farmers and workers, organised actions are harder to come by. That is precisely where the role of a Communist Republican organisation becomes relevant. We adopt the organising methods of successful organisations and synthesize them to be suitable in our context. In our case, we are specifically referring to the Bolshevik Party, whose methods included cadre building, democratic centralism and assessing the world as dialectical materialists. These are the most effective and relevant ideological tactics for the Communist movement, and we have assumed them and subsequently adapted them to Irish conditions.
Connolly fused the social and national question, Fintan Lalor fused them before him and Wolfe Tone before him. Today, we do the same. Our constitution states that Socialism Republicanism is the expression of Marxism Leninism in Ireland, — Socialism with Irish Characteristics.
In knowing what precisely we are struggling for, we are able to formulate a coherent strategy and present it to our peers. The result of this is that the Connolly Youth Movement has against all odds undergone a huge resurgence as a political organisation in the last five years. Despite the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union, and despite the break in activity from 1991-2002, we survived and returned to the scene.
How? One could write a multi-volume book on how this came into being, but I will summarize it in two points.
- There is a world wide trend among the working class youth and students to alternative methods of organising society. The widespread access to information via the internet and smartphones has assisted in a rapid politicization and radicalization of young people.
- Austerity has challenged the ideas taught in school and university about capitalism. If capitalism works, then why do our friends and workmates suffer?
The net result is that with some hard graft, a few members of the Connolly Youth, patiently and steadily, rebuilt an organisation into triple digits over the course of five years. Our youth recognise their own class interest through crises, wars, climate change and COVID-19 and yearn for an alternative. We have been able to articulate one.
“If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the socialist republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs”.
Young working class people and students are not stupid and are aware that there are significant problems in Ireland. One expression of our collective anger was the youthquake of young people voting for Sinn Fein. When polled, voters said that the two main issues were health and housing. Rightfully so. While voting for Sinn Fein may not in itself be a revolutionary deed or begin a revolution, it’s a snapshot of how people feel about the current political climate. Earlier on, in 2017, a poll was conducted among 20,000 young people and roughly half indicated that if a rising was to begin against the state, they would participate in it. Again, not something that we unfortunately can take literally, but certainly something we can measure as an indicator of the upset young people are facing.
To the incoming austerity package, the CYM have one message: FUCK THAT. We are not going to be driven from our communities, forced to migrate and have our services cut again. We have zero interest in shouldering the burden while watching tax exiles, vulture funds and developers parties. We will not accept austerity. Our increased numbers allow us to scale our actions and be bolder, more militant and match and be able to defend ourselves properly in the face of social murder and state oppression.
The CYM is organised in all major urban centers in Ireland and we will carry out localized and national actions, with a focus on:
- Businesses that benefit from austerity measures
- Politicians who introduce austerity measures
- Direct or indirect lackeys of the above two
Our strategies are plentiful, our will for civil disobedience and the bending or even breaking of laws is present and our numbers are strong. The henchmen of capital are planning to bring us austerity and social murder.
We will defend ourselves.
Connolly Youth Movement