The Irish Elections

“The main problem now confronting the people is to discover by what defect in our system it has come about that the nation, while never better equipped in knowledge and machinery to produce all its needs, is forced to see so much of that knowledge wasted and the machinery lying idle, while thousands of willing workers are unemployed and in need of the necessaries of life.”

Thus spoke Senator James Hickey, Chairman, at the Irish Labour Party’s annual conference in Athlone, less than a year ago. At the time, Labour was the second largest party in a Coalition Government, which had been pledged to discover and remedy this defect along with all the other problems of the Irish working-class, who had elected them. They failed to do this and as a consequence. must now try to fill the opposition benches, with depleted ranks, while the task of administering Irish capitalism passes to Mr. De Valera and his colleagues in the Fianna Fail party Speaking at an earlier Labour Party conference, shortly after being elected to power, Mr. B. Corish (A Labour Minister) said: “Workers could look forward to the day when the spectre of emigration would have become a bad memory . . . it remained one of the fundamental aims of the Labour Party to see that every person who was willing to work would find decent employment in his own country.” (Dublin Evening Mail, 30/9/49). Yet, in a statement issued on the 26th January of this year, explaining why he could no longer support the Government, Mr. S. McBride, ex-Minister for External Affairs pointed out that the unemployment figure was now 100,000 and that in the five year period 1951-6, over 200,000 people had been forced to emigrate. So much for Labour Party promises. In Dublin, where unemployment is most acute, the unemployed put up a candidate of their own and succeeded in capturing a seat at the expense of the party who claimed to have the solution to their problems! Work hard, they were told, and prosperity is yours. “If our national income becomes stagnant, if we refuse to work hard and produce more, social security becomes merely a delusion and a deception, said John Costello, the Prime Minister, in 1948, but the man who was Minister for Social Welfare (plus the portfolio of Deputy Prime Minister), Wm. Norton (Leader of the Labour Party) had told the workers ten years before, that “Under our’ present social system, greater productivity means a lower wage for the worker and higher profits for the owner of industry.” (Labour News, Dublin, 29/1 /38). Though Costello could claim in the Dail (20/7/49) that the 1948 volume of production for all industries was 28% above the 1938 volume and the United Nations Statistical Bulletin issued on 6 November, 1947, included Eire among the countries showing monthly production averages higher than 1937, the International Labour Office in its cost of living findings for February, 1947, picked out Eire for special mention among four countries where “real wages have actually dropped below 1937 levels.” Little wonder that the tide has again turned in favour of “Dev.”

If however the working class of Ireland believe that their problems can be solved by Fianna Fail, they are in for a rude awakening; for the record of that party is a record of service to the only class which can be served under capitalism—the capitalist class. It was they who introduced the most repressive anti-working class legislation in the history of the State. The Wages (Standstill) Order, the Trade Union Bill, the Industrial Relations Bill (which set up the now notorious Labour Court), all measures designed to hinder the efficacy of trade-union action, in the interest of Irish employers. After sixteen years of Fianna Fail rule, the Medical Superintendent of the Dublin Fever Hospital stated that: “Until the Dublin wage-earners and their wives and children were decently housed and fed, more beds in sanatoria and tuberculosis hospitals would be needed.” (Irish Independent, 24/6/49). That was Fianna Fail before; may we expect a change now? The answer is an unqualified “ NO ” and to prove that he is consistent in his concern for the class he represents, Mr. De Valera’s first statement after his election success was— yes, you guessed it—a clarion call for harder work! “One great, combined and sustained effort and the task will be done.” (Irish Times, 8/3/57). And the “task?” To put a very shaky native capitalist class back on its feet again, while Irish workers continue to live in poverty and go to Mass on Sundays.

There is, however, one bright spot in this otherwise murky picture; the tiny (as yet) Socialist Party in Ireland, continues, with the limited means at its disposal, to point out to Irish workers the message of Socialism, that until the machinery referred to in the first paragraph is commonly held by ALL, it will continue to lie idle, however willing a non-owning class may be to use it. This wonderful world can be OURS when enough of us really want it AND KNOW HOW TO GET IT.


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