Address by Seán Edwards, member of the National Executive Committee of the CPI, to an international gathering of communist and workers’ parties jointly organised by the Communist Party of Turkey and the Communist Party of Greece. The Communist Party of Turkey has been illegal for jost of its eighty years of existence and has lost thousands of members, either forced into exile or tortured and murdered by the different regimes that have ruled Turkey. This is a major step from under decades of repression, though the legal status of the CPT is still very uncertain. Our party is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Turkish comrades.

The title of this conference represents a formidable task. I will not attempt a comprehensive discourse but merely present some notes on particular points.

US and European imperialists have never been so powerful as today. There does not exist any major progressive power to oppose their hegemony politically, economically, or even culturally. Their military strength is overwhelming. The IMF and World Bank dictate economic policy to the poor countries, while the rich don the garb of charitable concern while administering miserly and conditional relief of an unjust and unpayable debt.

The recent G8 summit brought little relief to the unpayable debt burden. They have extracted a very high price from those countries that had their debt cancelled. The structural adjustment programmes are exacerbating already difficult social and economic conditions in many countries. Despite the mass mobilisations before the summit and the lead-in to the recent UN General Assembly, the problem of the unpayable debt remains. This has shattered many illusions generated by Tony Blair and other political leaders, and the courtiers and flatterers who surround them.

Transnational corporations move their capital freely throughout the world, seeking the cheapest labour and raw materials, dictating terms to governments. Mammoth media corporations control the news and debase the culture as never before.

Yet in spite of their military, political, economic and cultural hegemony they are unable to solve their own contradictions. The enforcement of neo-liberal economic dogma creates enormous suffering for working people in the metropolitan countries, and even more so in the poor two-thirds of the world; but it is far from bringing the ruling class the stability and mastery it seeks.

The European Constitution was part of the drive towards the application and consolidation of neo-liberalism within the European Union itself. The European Union always was, and continues to be, an imperialist project. The ruling elites have suffered a strategic defeat resulting from the French and Dutch “no” votes and the rejection of the EU Constitution. This has exposed the divisions at the heart of the whole EU project, between those who wish to push for greater political concentration and a highly centralised structure and those who wish to see a less centralised one.

The EU elites are all agreed on one thing at least, and that is the strategic necessity to roll back the gains won by European workers over the last six decades. The Bolkestein Directive may be removed, but its content is not off the agenda. It is at the very core of the economic strategy of European monopoly capitalism.

In addition, the European Union not only continues to impose neo-liberalism upon its own member-states but also dictates privatisation and the opening up of markets to the poorer countries, with precisely the same fervour and determination as the United States; only the rhetoric is different. Within Europe, the European Union has backed every government that strove to dismantle the system of social security and public health and education that had been gained by the struggles of the working class.

The French and Dutch voters correctly saw the proposed constitution as a threat to their conditions and inflicted the first really serious defeat on the European centralisers and empire-builders.

There now exists a possibility to push back, to regain ground lost. It is our responsibility as communist parties to give a clear lead in this struggle. Obviously we must not refuse to work with forces who do not share our understanding of the European Union as an imperialist entity, as they also campaigned for a “no” vote.

Our party sees the formation of the European Left Party as unfortunate, as it means swearing allegiance to the European Union itself (in Ireland we had a phrase for it: “taking the soup”), following the mirage of a “social Europe.” This is essentially a social-democratic position. At a time when the leadership of all the social-democratic parties have adopted openly neo-liberal policies, moving into the position they have recently vacated does not constitute an advance.

Undoubtedly social-democratic ideas are still extremely powerful in the European working class, for they did in fact bring important gains in living standards and quality of life. It is up to us to build on the level of class-consciousness this represents in order to move forward.

The United States, unable to control Iraq, is threatening Iran and Syria, as if widening the war would solve its problems. There was a recent incident involving two British undercover SAS soldiers disguised as Iraqi civilians in a car laden with explosives heading towards a josque, who were captured by the Iraqi police and then subsequently broken out of jail by the British military. These events raise many questions about the role of both the United States and the occupation forces in provoking civil war within Iraq. They know they cannot defeat the resistance, so an Iraq riven by sectarianism appears to be their fall-back position, creating a very weakened and divided Iraq subservient to its needs.

The Bush-Cheney government’s reckless pursuit of military solutions and its unprecedented level of corruption is such that it refused even to keep the flood defences of New Orleans in repair. The ensuing catastrophe exposed the cynicism, cruelty and racism of that government. It also provided an opportunity for the Halliburton Company.

The United States is no longer able to control Latin America, in spite of its huge investment in Plan Colombia and the suffering this is imposing on the people of that country. Now every country on the continent is in revolt against US hegemony. The popular struggle for the control of natural resources and the reassertion of national sovereignty is becoming more intense, and many of the traditional parties of the oligarchies have been routed. The Bolivarian revolution has affirmed the independence of Venezuela. It has rallied the continent, broken the isolation of Cuba, and put socialism back on the agenda.

However, the imperialist offensive continues. In Haïti a coup d’état on the Venezuelan model was carried out and a puppet government installed. This time France and the United States were acting together, with the participation of Canada, and consequently they were able to manipulate the United Nations. To their shame, many Latin American countries, led by Brazil, were recruited to help. Haïti has suffered a reign of terror in the past year and a half, and UN forces, instead of protecting the people, have participated in the repression, and continue to do so. The people of Haïti need and deserve our solidarity. I would like to add that what appears now to be an easy victory for French and American imperialism could turn out to be a major defeat.

In relation to Ireland I would like to make a number of comments.

Our party welcomed the recent developments within Irish republicanism in its decision to decommission its arms and to engage in purely political forms of struggle. We do not see this as a surrender but rather as the maturing of the political forces within that tradition in Ireland.

It is our view that an end to armed resistance does not mean the end of struggle but rather the possible adoption of new forms of political struggle, placing the people and their needs and aspirations at the heart of the struggle. We recognise that Sinn Féin is under extreme pressure to conform to the accepted constraints of Irish bourgeois politics, and that the Irish and British governments would like to see it disarmed politically as well.

The Irish political elite are completely committed to the European Union and are willing junior partners in this emerging imperialist power. The Irish bourgeoisie of a century ago had the same ambition with respect to the British Empire (the result of which was their supporting the British in the imperialist First World War). They will attempt to limit the scope and extent to which political struggle develops on an all-Ireland basis.

We believe that it is only in the context of an all-Ireland strategy, which we favour and are committed to, that real and lasting change can be delivered. There is now increasing pressure upon all political parties, trade unions and social organisations to conform to and work within the very narrow political parameters of the establishment. We see it as our duty to draw on the anti-imperialist traditions of our people and their struggle for national liberation and to place squarely in front of all those who stand for national freedom the legacy bequeathed to us by Ireland’s forejost revolutionary thinker, James Connolly, that “only the Irish working class remain as the incorruptible inheritors of the fight for Irish freedom.”

All the parties represented here face new situations of extreme complexity. This requires of us great clarity of thought and of exposition and the creative application of Marxism-Leninism. This is why these meetings are of such prime importance to us: to learn from each other and to lay the basis of joint action where that is possible.

I want to express my party’s deep gratitude to the Greek and Turkish comrades for making this possible and for their wonderful hospitality.