On the European Day of Action, 29 September, the Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) distributed a leaflet in Dublin, which we re-publish here.
Yesterday the right wing Fianna Fail/Green coalition government in southern Ireland announced it will transfer billions to bail out Irish banks. The bailout is the equivalent of 10,000 euro for every Irish citizen. It will take government debt to 100% of GDP. The ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy – largely based on property bubbles – has seen its national income shrink by 17% in three years, which is the deepest contraction of any Western European country since the 1930s Depression. When the boom turned to bust, the government carried through IMF advice and made savage spending cuts to workers’ living standards. Jobless is now officially running at 13.6%. But the government’s austerity measures did not stop the economic decline and now another downturn has started.
Irish workers are furious at being expected to fund the latest bailouts, while they face big wages cuts and job losses. But what is needed to turn this widespread anger into decisive action to stop renewed attacks against workers and youth?
On 29 September, the Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) distributed the following leaflet to workers taking protest action as part of the ETUC day of action across Europe against cuts.
ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions) – We need real action not rooten deals
The economic crisis is not going away. The government’s policies are making it worse. The so-called opposition say cuts are needed and the ICTU has not defended workers from the impact of the recession.
ICTU general secretary, David Begg rails against the government’s economic policy claiming that it “is steering Ireland towards disaster”. That the austerity programme is having a deflationary impact on the economy and will prolong the recession not shorten it. However, apart from stating the obvious, David Begg and the ICTU leaders don’t have a strategy to defeat the government’s attacks on working people.
“Fight cuts – Save Jobs – Protect services – People power” these are all empty words in the mouths of union leaders who have done nothing practical to fight the cuts or save jobs.
In fact they have done the opposite. Senior pro-partnership union leaders are facilitating the austerity programme because of their support for the Croke Park Deal. This rotten deal will cost tens of thousands of jobs, decimate terms and conditions and cut services.
General strikes – Spain, France and Greece
There is a general strike in Spain today. In the last two weeks millions, of French workers have gone on strike and participated in demonstrations against Sarkozy’s austerity programme. In Greece there have been four general strikes in the last year.
This is the type of radical action we need in Ireland – not rotten deals or empty rhetoric from David Begg and Jack O’Connor.
The power of working class people to challenge the government and the employers was shown in the mass demonstrations of 2009 and the one day public sector strike. We need more major mobilisations of workers and the unemployed, but they need to be effective and purposeful.
The aim of protests and strikes should not be to get the union leaders back into the “social partnership” process – they should be focused on stopping the government and the private sector employers’ attacks. A campaign of determined industrial action by public and private sector workers linked to mass demonstrations could stop the cuts and bring down the government.
The Socialist Party is calling on trade union members to get motions passed in their union branches calling on their executives to campaign for the ICTU to name the day for a one day general strike before the budget as the first step in a campaign of real action.
A strike of this magnitude would shake the government and the political establishment and would be a signal that working class people are not going to sit back any longer and see our public services slashed, accept mass unemployment, extra taxes and pay cuts to bail out the rich who caused the crisis.
Build a left opposition in the unions
Disillusionment at the establishment political parties and the right wing trade union leaders has never been so great. But we can only turn the situation around by taking positive action to change it.
We need new leaderships within all of our trade unions. Union members need to come together and campaign to replace the current incompetents who are overpaid, unaccountable and who have shown they are unwilling to fight to defend working class people. Trade union officials should be elected on a regular basis, subject to recall by the membership and paid the average wage of the members they represent.
Collectively we need to build opposition movements within every union around a programme for action based on greater democracy that hands control of the unions back to the members. Union activists from different unions should also link up in a united campaign to build opposition within the unions and workplaces against the government and the bosses.
No more money for Anglo and the banks
€40 billion may be the final bill for the reckless actions of the thieves at Anglo Irish. €90 billion in total is what it may cost taxpayers to bail out the banks. The Socialist Party is opposed to the bailout of the super-rich – let the bondholders take their losses and instead use the money to create jobs through a massive programme of public works. We need more public services, not less.
The damage inflicted on Irish society by this crisis is not because of a “discredited value system”, as SIPTU president, Jack O’Connor claims. This has happened because of the inevitable failure of the capitalist market system which put profits and the greed of the bankers, the developers and speculators above the needs and interests of the majority of people in society. It is the capitalist system which is discredited and it must be replaced to guarantee a better life for all.
Socialist Party calls for:
* Public sector unions to withdraw immediately from the Croke Park Deal. For a co-ordinated campaign by public sector workers to stop the government’s counter-reform programme and to defend services
* No return to failed “social partnership”
* Real trade union action to defend jobs, fight the cuts and protect public services.
* For a one day general strike by private and public sector workers to stop the budget cuts, the bank bailouts and to get rid of this failed government.
* Build opposition activist groups in every union to challenge the current failed leaders and build a radical alternative.