Dublin riots fanned by far right – Only united workers’ movement can stop reaction and show way forward

View taken, last Thursday, from the West side of Lower O'Connell Street, central Dublin, facing south. The flames from a burning Dublin bus and a burning car can be seen in the background (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Last Thursday’s knife attack against young children and a creche worker outside a Dublin city centre primary school horrified people across the country and beyond. But for the bravery of those people, who included a Brazilian courier, who overpowered and disarmed the attacker, this attack could have been far worse. The motive for the knife attack is not known at this point.

Our sympathies go to all those affected by this shocking event. That very young children and a creche worker could be subject to such terrifying violence has rightly horrified people. A young girl remains in a critical condition in hospital. We hope she makes a full recovery. We also stand in full solidarity with all childcare workers who must now feel real anxiety in the aftermath of the violent events on Thursday.

The attack was followed by a night of violence, rioting and looting not seen in Dublin for decades. It is clear this violence was organised and orchestrated by the far right and fascist elements who have emerged this year. While others opportunistically took advantage of the chaos to loot shops.

After a year in which these forces have been given free reign by the Gardaí [Irish police] to carry out harassment, intimidation, and physical attacks, Thursday’s events mark a radical and dangerous escalation.

The workers’ movement, however, must keep its head at this point. The coalition government, led by its right wing Fine Gael component, will undoubtedly agitate to launch a Garda crackdown and attempt to pass more repressive legislation, such as fastracking ‘Body Cam’ legislation. In the heat of the moment, this may well garner significant public support, but it will do nothing to tackle the far right, to protect refugees and asylum seekers or to make migrant workers and their families feel safer.

The brutal truth is that last night’s event marks the culmination of a long process of normalising the far right’s perspectives. Those on the streets on Thursday in Dublin are one element of a much wider social process. Their violent anti-migrant rhetoric is repeated in ‘respectable’ media outlets and in the Dáil [Irish parliament] and Seanad [Irish senate]. A media which seems wholly incapable of even understanding the present reality, are consistently failing to hold to account politicians – which include TDs [members of the Irish parliament] and Senators – who use far right and outright fascist language and talking points.

What happened in Dublin will almost certainly add to the growing sense of chaos, uncertainty and confusion in society. The far right will take advantage of this and will make advances because of it. There is no going back to the comfortable consensus of just a few years ago. The far right and fascist elements are a political factor in Ireland now and that cannot be wished away. They must be confronted by the workers’ movement.

Trade union response

Those involved in Thursday’s riot were clearly not bothered about attacking workers doing their jobs. Luas drivers, Dublin Bus drivers, Arnott’s workers, ambulance and fire service workers were all subjected to assaults, intimidation and threats. Trade unions must make clear that this is unacceptable. Workers should immediately refuse to carry out their jobs should the far right continue to target them. The issue of strike action and walkouts to stop the far right must be posed. One day general strikes should be called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), as a show of force. The ICTU call for workers to assemble in Dublin on Monday 27 November should be broadened to across the country.

Alongside the everyday hostility of capitalists and the state, the trade union movement now faces a growing and dangerous enemy in the far right, one, as we saw on Thursday, not afraid to use violence against workers. Wherever these movements have gained positions of power, they have always attacked the labour movement and sought to shut down trade unions. These political forces are also vehicles for misogyny and attacks on hard won women’s rights.

Many workplaces are now multicultural, many trade unions are multicultural with migrant workers playing important roles. Most trade union members are women. The agenda of the far right poses a direct threat to our movement. The state has shown this year it is not willing to tackle the far right. Should violence against workers from this quarter escalate then organised workers’ defence committees should be formed. This has precedent in the history of Irish trade unionism, with James Connolly founding the Irish Citizen Army to defend Dublin workers against violence from Dublin bosses.

Where to now?

Last Thursday’s events signal a rupture in Southern Irish society. But it is part of a wider European and global process. This week alone far right candidates have triumphed in elections in Argentina and the Netherlands. Capitalism is degenerating. The far right are rising everywhere as people seek a way out of the crushing oppression of capitalism. Massive wealth is being created, but going to a tiny, tiny minority of people. Life continues to worsen for the vast majority. The planet warms by the year, while the rich jet-set party like there’s no tomorrow. These contradictions of capitalism are grinding open political space for the far right and fascism to grow and flourish.

A society organised on socialist principles would ensure everyone is decently housed, can reach their full potential, can access free healthcare, has a decent well-paid job, can access high quality public transport, can participate in a sustainable society and more. Far right bully boys rampaging on the streets are a symptom of capitalism’s decay. The only way to stop them is to build for a socialist future.

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November 2023