Ireland: Cowen calls the election - Vote Labour and fight for socialist policies

Amid scenes of confusion embattled Taoiseach Brian Cowen has finally hauled up the white flag and announced an election for March 11th.

His intention to get the finance bill passed through the Dáil was in serious trouble yesterday morning after his attempt to organise a cabinet reshuffle threatened to be the final straw for the Green Party, who despite supporting the government through thick and thin over the past period have suddenly developed a survival instinct.

The road to the polls will doubtless be strewn with Fianna Fáil ministers and leadership hopefuls falling over themselves to say that they were merely following orders or that they had harboured grave concerns over government policy. Not that that will wash in the tens of thousands of households in Ireland where families are struggling to get by on the dole, neither will it be much comfort to those packing their things and trying to find somewhere to emigrate to with more prospects than at home.

Brian Cowen and his party have been on borrowed time ever since the crash in the economy and the beginning of their austerity programme. Pension levies, budget cuts and attacks on public sector workers have been a constant theme of the last period and the “Soldiers of Destiny” have rightly got the blame.

The debacle over the EU/IMF bailout was more or less the final nail in the coffin for the party. But while the issue of sovereignty was highlighted at the time, it revealed the government as completely at the mercy of the international speculators and the banks. Connolly wrote prophetically that:

“If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the Green Flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the socialist republic, your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule through her capitalists, her landlords, financiers, and through the whole array of commercial and industrial institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs. England would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that freedom whose cause you betrayed.”

It would be hard to find another quotation that sums up the weakness of the Irish bourgeois. In modern times you could add US Imperialism and the speculators to the list of capitalists, landlords and financiers. But the point Connolly was making is still utterly valid today. Irish capitalism and its representatives in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have no answers for working people.

The election should see the Fianna Fáil wiped out in large areas of the country. It should also see a big increase in support for Labour. But that is not a foregone conclusion. Over the last period the anger of working class people seemed to be being translated into a big surge in support for Labour, but recently support for Fine Gael has increased making a Fine Gael/Labour Coalition the most likely winners of the ballot. A few months ago there was a possibility that Labour might have been able to form a coalition with SF and some independent support.

Eamon Gilmore has consistently received high levels of support in the polls as Labour leader. But personal popularity is not enough to be decisive in a general election. Gilmore has consistently side stepped big issues like the Croke Park agreement, the scale of the cuts in the public sector and the question of nationalisation of the banks among others. The net result of this is that Labour has failed to express clearly the scale of the problems and the anger experienced by workers in the state.

Armed with a clear socialist programme, such as Connolly and Larkin advocated, Labour could easily sweep to power with a clear majority and a mandate for decisive socialist measures. Coalition with Fine Gael will not solve the problems that workers face. In fact the new government will experience contradictory pressures, on the one hand from the bosses and on the other from working people demanding a solution to their problems.

The current examples of Venezuela and Bolivia in Latin America and historic examples like the British Labour government of 1945 demonstrate that workers will support a radical programme if they are confident that the leadership are prepared to carry it through. The scale of the crisis in Ireland requires a bold socialist policy including nationalisation of the banks and financial institutions, the land and the big industries.

Labour must fight for a socialist programme and to sweep away the utterly discredited government of Cowen and Lenihan. The next few years will see huge pressures on all classes in Irish society. It’s never been easier to argue for socialist ideas. The fight will go on under a Fine Gael/Labour coalition also. Gilmore and the Labour leadership must represent the working class in the same way that the leaders of FF and FG represent the bosses.

The election will also see a variety of candidates standing to the left of Labour. While it’s possible that one or more candidates might be elected to the Dáil the priority has to be to maximise the vote against both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who represent the two right-wing parties of the Irish bosses. We would argue that the most important task has to be to arm the Labour Party and the unions with a clear socialist programme. There are no short cuts to winning the mass of working people to the ideas of socialism. As such we urge our readers to Vote Labour, but to fight for socialist policies also.

Source: Fightback (Ireland)