In Ireland unemployment is rising at the fastest rate since the records began in 1967. It’s now standing at 295,000, having grown by120,987 in the last year. The only thing growing faster than that is opposition to the Israeli onslaught against Gaza. The dole figure now stands at 8.3%. Since December 2007 male unemployment has gone up by 83% and female by 50% (although this is likely to be a big underestimate). Among young people under 25 it’s gone up 24%. Estimates from the state training agency FÁS indicate that unemployment will reach 12% this year.
Among recent victims of the crash are the 1,900 workers at the Dell computer factory in Limerick, which is the biggest exporter in the country.
How are the bosses going to react?
The latest report from the National Competitiveness Council gives an idea how they are thinking:
“Like so many other reports on Ireland's present economic situation, it makes for grim reading in its analysis of the sharp decline in competitiveness of recent years and its portrayal of the enormous challenges that the country must surmount in order to recover lost ground.” (Irish Times 9/1/09)
"When the global economy recovers, there is no guarantee that the Irish economy will automatically return to either the high growth rates of the past or the more moderate growth rates of other developed countries. While the experience of some large national economies has been that declining sectors [e.g. the auto industry in Detroit, coal and steel in the UK midlands] are replaced with new industries [e.g. software in San José, financial services in London], the experience of smaller, regional economies like Ireland has often been very different. When key sectors in regional economies go into decline, there is no guarantee that they will be replaced by other economic activities that offer the same opportunities for productivity growth and wealth creation. Many regions have entered a prolonged period of decline following a negative shock to their export base." (NCC Report)
The Irish Times thinks there are two solutions:
“One is the cost structure, where we know we have a big problem and require a corresponding amount of painful surgery to resolve. The council points out that our price competitiveness has deteriorated by 32 per cent since 2000, a phenomenon obscured for most of this period by the construction boom. Turning this around is not just a matter of reducing labour costs, an issue on which the council as a social partnership body is understandably coy, but also means taking a scalpel to utility prices and professional fees.”
They also talk about increasing investment in infrastructure and education, but they have very little idea about where to get the money from, they suggest “a recurring property tax” but in reality there is no way that imposing a new tax will do anything than further cut the market and make the present situation worse.
In other words this means attacks on workers living standards, but also attacks on the middle class. Taking on all your opponents at once is a recipe for a big explosion sooner or later, but the Irish bourgeoisie have no choice. The crisis in the Irish economy is cutting profits and threatening the nice lifestyles of the rich, the helicopters and the select golf clubs. Sooner or later they’ll come for their pound of flesh. The labour movement needs to be prepared. The only way we can defeat the bourgeoisie is through militant struggle.
January 12, 2009