This pamphlet is intended as a basic primer on the Connolly Youth Movement for new members and those with an interest in our activities and views. It exists to provide an overview of our core beliefs, as well as a breakdown of our everyday practice and brief look at our background. We hope that newcomers will find this to be a helpful aid in figuring out whether the CYM is the right group for them. Young people are largely discouraged from taking a critical interest in politics, and reading political analysis is the first step to engaging with and improving our society.
What is the CYM?
The Connolly Youth Movement was founded by young political activists in 1970, many of whom were involved in the Trade Union movement and the Civil Rights movement in the Six Counties. The organisation played a role in and left a lasting impact in the North by providing non-sectarian pressure to provide social rights for all individuals. It is named after James Connolly, a martyr of the 1916 Rising and a devoted socialist who blazed a path for those who struggled after him with the first Workers’ army in Europe – the Irish Citizens’ Army.
In more recent times, the Connolly Youth Movement has been involved in a number of campaigns including Work Must Pay and Right2Water, Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Justice for the Craigavon Two Campaign, Home Sweet Home and is firmly behind the Repeal the Eight campaign.
Who is the CYM for and how is it run?
The Connolly Youth Movement is open to all individuals between the ages of 16 and 30. It is a democratic activist-based organisation divided into several regional branches. It is active mainly among young workers and students. We think capitalism isolates and disempowers young people, and our intent is to provide them with a place to discuss inequality in their communities and plan strategies to oppose it and defeat it through collective action.
Branches are active on a local level and every member has an equal say in the actions of the branch. A congress convenes once yearly where a National Executive Committee is elected and plans and focus on a national level is discussed and decided upon.
What are our political views?
We believe that our society has basic flaws that cause poverty, unemployment, homelessness. We see these problems as occurring as a result of one main feature – the profit motive.We can trace the eviction of vulnerable people to the desire of landlords for profit. We see unemployment as a natural outcome of businesses existing solely for profit.
We believe concrete solutions to these problems can be reached by people working together, but that we cannot access these solutions because of the inbuilt need for activity to create profit. The state in many ways exists to facilitate and ensure profit is returned, as can be seen in the bail-out of private companies with public funds. This system wasn’t designed by one man or any group, but was something we were all born into. We were raised to believe it was the natural order.
Our society suffers from corruption and nepotism, as the long chain of brown envelopes left behind in the wake of the boom can confirm. In effect, the absurd principle of our society is that the most selfish of men, for the most selfish reasons, will act in the best interest of everyone. The clear result of this bias towards profit over need is emigration, dead-end jobs and hopelessness for the many. Capitalism has failed most of our people, and that is why we favour socialism.
What is Socialism?
The average Irish person will work from the age of 18 until they are 65, with occasional unemployment. Most people will spend almost half of their waking life in the workplace or doing jobs for their employers. Even though most Western countries pride themselves on being democratic, people have practically no say where they work, how they work or what their work is used for – they need to sell their time to survive, without any share in the profits. The only people with a say in how industries should exist are the profiteers – the shareholders – and even if there isn’t a need for their product, they can create that need using advertising.
Socialists see this as a fundamentally undemocratic situation, and the relationship between workers and their employers as being rooted in inequality. The vast majority of big business owners and profiteers also inherit their wealth from their parents, so their beneficial position is no reflection of personal skill or hard work (If you work at a large company like EMC or Abtran, when was the last time you saw the CEO come in and join you for a shift?).
Socialists see the CEO and the shareholder as unnecessary – we believe the people together can decide how the economy is run through mass participation and elected representation in the state and trade unions, and participate in work that improves our situation and that of the whole community instead of enriching private investors and banking firms. We think democracy and freedom shouldn’t end at the gates to the workplace and that replacing profit with need can create systems that work for people rather than against them.
Socialism, to give a wordy definition, is when the workers own the “means of production” and control the power of the state. The means of production are the things we use to produce items and services and distribute them to those who need them, like factories and shopping centers. Socialism is a system where the employees, through electing their foremen and managers, decide their conditions and have a say in what their work is used for. Government planners survey the economy and create new workplaces where there is a demand – this eliminates ‘false demand’ where capitalists make people feel insecure about their lives through advertising, and then sell them the remedy to these artificial needs. Housing and employment will be guaranteed. In Capitalism, each new technological improvement replaces workers with machine to create unemployment. While the remaining workers continue their shifts on the same miserable wages. profits increase. With the elimination of profit, every new technological innovation will lower each worker’s hours, giving them time to spend with their family and friends while still contributing to society. In ancient slave society, a master had to feed and house his slave to ensure their reusability. Now everyone is replaceable in an hour. Now with precarious, no-contract work, once the job is finished and paid for, every person is left to fend for themselves, reduced to an unstable livelihood with disastrous consequences on mental health, which is proven to be linked to one’s environment. We want an economy where modern technology enriches, rather than impoverishes.
What is Marxism?
Socialism, to analyse society in order to accomplish this goal, utilizes Marxism. Marxism is an outlook, or way of looking at the world, based on the writings of German philosopher Karl Marx. Marx thought all political life grew out of economic life – that is to say, that politics changed itself to fit around how goods were made, rather than goods being made according to a political system. With this in mind, Marx thought that bad government and hardship was the result of in-built laws of the current type of economy, not just evil men. Marx saw the world being divided not into separate nations, cultures or powers, but between two antagonistic groups that exist in every country – the owners and the propertyless. Socialism is the resolution of the contradiction between those two groups, to deliver power and true democracy to the people.
What is the role of the Connolly Youth Movement in building Socialism?
On and off campus, we are gripped in a battles of ideas against the huge youth wings of the establishment parties. We want to be able to instill class consciousness in the up and coming generation of students and young workers so that when the issues with housing, work, homelessness do occur, they can understand them not as stand alone issues but as symptoms of the systemic crisis in how we organize society. We look at the long term picture and see ourselves as looking to win over the youth to Marxism.
What does being a member of the Connolly Youth Movement mean?
Our political aspirations and objectives have to reflect our resources and ability to fulfill them.
First and foremost being a member of the CYM means accepting that our actions will usually be short, strategic interventions, rather than long and drawn out campaigns. Realism is at the root of our policy, work and consideration. We need to be able to know our limitations in order to act on our abilities. There is really no point in having huge goals aspirational objectives which we know we cannot achieve and only serves to demoralize our own membership and our supporters.
Secondly, being a member of the Connolly Youth Movement means being able to engage in discourse and having your views challenged. We do not hold uniform opinions on the matters of the world, we do not all read the same books. But we are obligated to come to conclusions on certain political issues and we do, but only through endless scrutiny, criticism and analysis.
Thirdly, it is important to have a series of concrete ideas that we can refer back to. But those ideas are completely meaningless if we cannot act on them and they will forever stay inside the rooms we meet in and the forums we communicate on. We need to be able to translate those ideas into clear concepts for other people, but most importantly help those ideas materialize into direct action against capital and the ruling class.
This all sounds very vague when put like that, but let’s give it a more defining feature. Participating in local community groups that organize against certain policies (housing, bin charges, water meters) is a method of not only actually meeting new people, but also in projecting a Marxist analysis into these campaigns and helping instill a sense of class consciousness with others. Our ultimate goal and objective is not to take over, or run these groups but to win the battle of ideas among them. That our struggle and any struggle must be in the form of a broader one against capitalism.
Another more specific example is something such as marching/partaking with Palestinian Solidarity activists. We must stand in opposition to imperialism and neo-colonialism because there are issues that we need to talk about here, at home. Ireland is in the unique position of facing multidimensional imperialism from a different series of forces.
- British Occupation of 6 counties of Ireland.
- The European Union’s micromanagement of Irish Foreign, Defence and Economic affairs.
- Multinational corporations in Ireland exert influence on the State, largely by threatening to leave if their demands are not met. As a result, they pay little to no tax and continue to artificially increase the price of living by paying slightly above average wages.
What kind of campaigns is the CYM involved in?
The Connolly Youth Movement has been instrumental also in highlighting the rolling out of the labour activation schemes through a broad based campaign called ‘Work Must Pay’. We went outside businesses that advertised this scheme and organized demonstrations, calling on all passer byers to boycott the business until it took down it’s advertisement of JobsBridge. This tactic was highly successful in almost all situations, it also helped to bring us in direct contact with concerned citizens and other people who’ve had the unfortunate experience of being placed on one of these schemes!
In 2018, after the end of the Jobsbridge campaign with the scheme being replaced, the Connolly Youth Movement launched its next major campaign – Scabtran. This is an effort by existing and former employees of the company Abtran, which hires over 2500 workers, including ones on government contracts, in the equivalent of a modern day workhouse with appalling conditions. The process is ongoing, but unionisation and improvement of conditions is the goal, and results in publicity have been achieved already.
As well as this, the Connolly Youth Movement has occupied and renovated derelict houses to turn them into homes and centres of political activity for young people. This has set an example for a new form of activism not practiced by others parties in Ireland – confronting capitalism neither legislatively as the reformists do, vocally as the ultra-leftists do, but physically, hitting the capitalists where it hurts by turning their profit-making facilities over for use by the people.
In short, there’s no point in us promising we can change the world when we do not have the political power, unity or consciousness to do so, but there is a point in creating a path as to how we can go about getting to a point where we the balance of power is in favour of the working class.
In 2018, Connolly Youth Movement activists are involved across varying platforms and groups, depending on the city that they live in but we all understand that our work must be two pronged and guided by a basic understanding of the issue. Action for the sake of action is meaningless, not only to us, but also to the people who we try to communicate the issues and solutions to.