Ireland: Cowen and Kenny survive confidence votes… Labour needs to offer a socialist alternative

The leaders of the two main bourgeois parties in Ireland have reached an impasse. The reason is clear: the economy is in crisis and Labour has overtaken FG in the polls.

Brian Cowen survived a confidence vote in the Dail on Wednesday by five votes and on Thursday afternoon it was announced that Enda Kenny had won a confidence vote sparked by dissatisfaction on the FG front bench by a similar (supposedly secret) margin. But why is it that the leaders of the two long established bourgeois parties in the state have reached such an impasse at the same time? The answer is clear: the economy is in crisis and Labour has overtaken FG in the polls.

It is fairly clear why Brian Cowen is in trouble. The collapse in the banks, the attacks on the public sector workers’ wages, the pension levy, An Bord Snip and the general crisis in the economy stack up as a fairly clear indictment of the “thoroughbreds” in the FF/Green coalition. On top of that, the very fact that the government has moved heaven and earth to prevent the three by-elections taking place reveals that even if the TD’s have a feint majority with confidence in the Taoiseach, then the same can’t be said of the man himself.

But why is Enda Kenny in trouble? The trigger for the confidence vote lies in the poor showing of the FG in the recent opinion polls. Labour was reported to be ahead on 32 % with FG on 28% and the FF on 17% in the Irish Times/IPSOS-MRBI poll released on 10th June. It should come as no surprise to Irish workers that the polls were the trigger for the confidence vote for Kenny. After all, there seem to be no fundamental political differences between Kenny and Bruton who was sacked by the Fine Gael leader earlier this week.

Indeed we would argue that there is ultimately no radical political difference between the political programme of Fine Gael and that of Fianna Fáil. These are two right-wing pro-bourgeois parties who are no friends of the Irish working class at all. It should be clear to active workers that the FG don’t have a solution to the capitalist crisis that is playing out in Ireland and internationally, other than to attack the working class. What is more important from our point of view is: what are the factors that have pushed Labour into first place in the polls?

The rise of Labour in the opinion polls has been dramatic, but even as long ago as last year’s Euro and Council elections it was clear that there has been a swing to the left among the working class, particularly in Dublin. See Ireland after the elections: historical opportunity for the left

for our analysis at the time. We explained then that the swing to Labour was a reflection of the crisis. That process has continued since, reflecting the conclusions workers are drawing from the events in the state and internationally.

We have consistently argued that when the workers move politically they turn in the first instance towards their traditional organisations; that is clearly what has happened. The conclusion of the Croke Park deal last week is likely to reinforce that process. The trade union leaders have temporarily managed to reach an accord with the state. We feel that will inevitably break down on the basis of the instability in the economy here and internationally and the political pressure on the FF to attack the working class. Workers will be forced to move onto the political front.

Eamon Gilmore has been swimming with the stream for some time now; he has been buoyed up by the swing to Labour. But in all this time he has consistently failed to offer a clear class position. He has tacked to the left of the Fine Gael and has attempted to reflect some of the anger from below, even calling for the temporary nationalisation of the banks, but when a clear call has been needed he has refused to commit himself, as in the case of the Croke Park Deal.

We have consistently argued that Labour needs a socialist programme if it is to win the confidence of the majority of workers as we explained in this recent article: Gilmore rides high in the polls, but Labour needs a socialist programme.

The crisis in the state demonstrates the bankruptcy of capitalism in this island and internationally. Neither Kenny nor Bruton can offer an alternative; they are too closely tied in with the bourgeois, which is determined to make the working class pay for the crisis. Labour needs to challenge not only the politics of Cowen and Lenihan, but the handful of bankers and capitalists that pull their strings. To do this Labour needs to provide a socialist alternative to the bankruptcy of capitalism. We need a majority Labour Government with a socialist programme; a coalition with Fine Gael would tie the party to the apron strings of Enda Kenny’s motley crew.

Defend wages, jobs and services!
No coalition with Fine Gael!
For a majority Labour Government with a socialist programme!

Source: Fightback (Ireland)