Ireland

It was announced last week on Thursday [September 30, 2010] that the cost of bailing out AIB has reached €29.5 billion, which might in fact be €34 billion; and that the total cost of the bailout could be €46 billion, some 32% of Gross Domestic Product. The implications of this are a recipe for class struggle and massive turbulence within the state.

The last few days have seen a flurry of activity, the AIB bill has been presented, the polls show Labour miles ahead of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The economy is faltering and there is a four year budget plan on the way, although it is unlikely to be delivered to Leinster House via a cement lorry. But what are the prospects for the main parties and how do the trade union struggles over the last two years fit into the equation?

Capitalism is in a deep crisis and the bourgeois are planning austerity programmes that could last for a generation. The crisis in the north took longer to hit, but that’s all changed. The Tories have already telegraphed the likely cuts in the north and the CBI has weighed in with its “advice” on how to deal with the crisis. But what would their proposals mean?

As part of his campaign for General Secretary of UNITE Jerry Hicks will be addressing a series of public meetings and visiting a number of workplaces across Ireland this week (beginning the 27th September).

There are storm clouds on the horizon for the economy in the North. While the recession took longer to bite than in the south this only reflects the weakness of capitalism and the predominance of public sector employment. There are now as many people who are economically inactive (26%) than work in “private industry”. But the crisis has now caught up with a vengeance and it is only going to get worse.

Symptoms are the physical signs of an underlying problem. At the moment the Irish economy has a series of symptoms which would send the average doctor fleeing to the hills. But according to the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, everything is stable and the economy is fine thank you very much. Of course Mr Lenihan’s analysis was designed for the press and to settle the nerves of the international speculators.

A ban on trade union donations to the Labour Party will not benefit anyone other than the enemies of the working class and the organised working class in particular.

The Green Party leader John Gormley has announced that the ban is to be introduced, alongside a ban on corporate donations, so much for the Green Party’s veneer of radicalism. This “radicalism” has become very stale and particularly mouldy also. Of course the proposed legislation is designed to appear even handed.

Recently we reported on the vote of the public sector unions to back the Croke Park Deal. We argued that despite the apparent victory of the ideas of “Social Partnership” as espoused by Peter McLoone and David Begg; under the present conditions it would be extremely difficult for any deal to be brokered that was worth the paper it was written on.

There’s been a steady procession of attacks on the public sector over the last couple of years. Wage cuts, levies and a deluge of propaganda. We’ve made the point elsewhere that the FF and the Greens are in a cul de sac, they are most likely going to be slaughtered in the next general election. So by all accounts they have nothing to lose. They have launched a one sided civil war against the working class at the behest of the bourgeois, the home grown variety of course, but also the multi nationals based in London and New York.

The Saville report, almost 40 years since the events, has declared that those killed by British paratroopers were indeed innocent, something the people of Derry had known all along. Now there is an attempt to distance the British authorities from those tragic events and put the blame solely on this or that officer or soldier. Gerry Ruddy comments on why those events took place, the results that flowed from them and the lessons that need to be learnt.

The strategy of British imperialism in the north of Ireland has changed; the emphasis has been to reach some sort of “truth and reconciliation”. That explains why 38 years on the Saville report has declared the victims to be innocent. But today the contradictions in the north are increasing and the cul-de-sac of the Stormont assembly represents no solution for workers from either a catholic or protestant background.

In this article, originally published in The Red Plough, Gerry Ruddy looks at the role of the working class in Irish politics: “Despite the influences of social democracy and reformism, despite the dominance of nationalist and unionist ideology, the working classes in Ireland still have tremendous revolutionary potential. That potential can be unleashed but only when both objective and subjective factors combine.”

The outcome of the ballots among the ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions) affiliated unions over the Croke Park deal will be finally clear by next week when the SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional & Technical Union) and IMPACT (public and services union) ballot results are counted. A huge amount of pro deal propaganda has been brought to bear on the membership of the public sector unions, backed up by the trade union leadership who have been desperate to present the deal as the saviour of the Irish working class.

The isolation of electoral politics in the north of Ireland from that in Britain meant that the general election campaign and result were of a very different nature to the campaign elsewhere. The sectarian divide once again raised its ugly head as the dominant factor in politics in the north. Yet the result also highlighted discontent within the working class; Peter Robinson’s defeat in East Belfast demonstrated not just disgust at the actions of Peter and Iris Robinson but also with the expenses scandal and the degeneration of parliamentary politics.

The vote in the Dáil to force a by election in Donegal South West was defeated on the casting vote of the Ceann Comhairle on Wednesday night (5th May). Although the vote was tied as a result (apparently an accidental result) of the failure of two FF TD’s to vote for their own side, it shows how wafer thin the position of the ruling coalition has become. This is a particularly bad situation for a government that seems hell bent on taking on the working class and holding the fort for the bourgeois.

The Draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill is generating opposition from workers in the North because of its implications for trade union and political demonstrations organised by the trade union movement and protests against the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as community protests such as anti-racist demonstrations.

The next few weeks will be very important for the trade union movement in Ireland; either the Public Service Agreement will be rejected and the trade union leaders will be forced into organising action, or the government will get away with yet another attack on living standards and working conditions.

The ICTU leaders recently consulted their members over the “Public Service Agreement”. Most of the public sector unions have been rejecting the deal, which reveals that the workers are prepared to fight. But are the leaders up to the task?

A short report on last weekend’s commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising. This year the International Marxist Tendency was present at two of the commemorations in the north, and this report gives an assessment of the state of the republican movement at this juncture.

We are making available to our readers the editorial statement of the first printed issue of Fightback (Ireland), published just before Easter. As it states, “Neither social partnership in the south nor the TUV and ‘dissident’ republican terrorism in the north provides a way out. Connolly explained long ago that only the Irish working class stood alone as the incorruptible inheritor of the struggle for Irish freedom.”

This article which was written almost 70 years ago is interesting for a number of reasons, but we feel that it gives a clear exposition of the attitude that the Worker’s International League – to which the IMT trace our history, took towards the Republican movement.

We are delighted to announce the publication of Fightback: the magazine of the International Marxist Tendency in Ireland. The first edition of the magazine comes in two editions for the North and the South – they have different front and back pages and industrial material. This edition is full colour and has 20 pages.

Right across the British Isles public services are under attack. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have called two days of strikes against cuts in redundancy pay. The British Government has put a cap on redundancy and hope to save over £500 million. The union fears it is the beginning of both massive redundancies in the public service and also creeping privatisation of those same public services.

There is a lot of talk about normalising the statelet in the North of Ireland. But what has been “normal” here for the past century has been precisely civil unrest, sectarian violence and armed resistance to British rule. The way out of this impasse is to be found in directing discontent towards the road of class struggle.

While many active trade unionists across the country will be pleased to hear that IMPACT and SIPTU among others are planning to escalate the wave of partial actions across the public sector, and that they will be pushing for escalation at the ICTU meeting on March 8th; at the same time they will be acutely aware of the need to demonstrate to their members that the action is having an affect on the government. We welcome Jack O’Connor’s remarks that workers need to be prepared to escalate the action, but we also recognise that the responsibility for coordinating the action and providing a national focus to the campaign lies firmly in the hands of the ICTU leaders.

We are publishing here a speech given by Phil Mitchinson at the 2005 International Marxist school in Barcelona. Dealing with the history of the centuries old struggle for freedom in Ireland, and the part played in that history by republicanism and socialism, as well as the political developments that have led to the current impasse. 

While the public sector workers might not be all out on the streets or on all out strike, it would be a big mistake to think that the government is out of the woods on the question of the wage cuts and the attacks on the public sector. 70,000 SIPTU workers joined the work to rule yesterday and the CPSU have escalated their action and are balloting for full strike action. The workers are digging in for what could be a long haul. At the same time however the employers are threatening to stop deductions of union dues and stopping facility time for union business.

Long discussions into the small hours, shuttle diplomacy and the combined weight of Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen and still the deadlock continues over the devolution of policing and justice in the north. The process is meant to have been agreed years ago, but the deep contradictions in the north mean that every issue and every syllable has to be fought over. The “peace process”, far from solving the problems of the working class has enshrined sectarian division and entombed the leadership of Sinn Féin and the DUP in Stormont, presiding over the minutiae of what is more or less an overblown County Council.

The trade union campaign against the wage cuts announced in Lenihan’s December budget will begin to escalate over the next few weeks as different groups of workers across the public sector take action in what is being portrayed as an ongoing campaign of selective action. Today the air traffic controllers are coming out, which will have a dramatic and very public effect on air travel. It’s likely that the workers concerned in the various selective actions will receive strike fund support in many cases and as such the campaign could continue for a considerable time. But what is the underlying situation and what are the issues for the movement?

The scandal involving the wife of the First Minister has revealed the utter hypocrisy of the politicians who run Stormont. While they are perfectly prepared to impose draconian spending cuts on welfare, they line their own pockets. The workers of the North require a fighting working class political representation and not the present bunch of parasites.

This article originally appeared in "The Red Plough" an independent Email journal of Republican Marxist opinion. It takes a clear position against the arguments of the capitalist press around the strikes on the 24th of November. In particular it deals with the question of "the national interest". The bosses are always keen to try and mask the class nature of society and here Gerry Ruddy points out the contradictions in their arguments and offers a class alternative.

The last year has marked a huge turning point in the Irish economy and most importantly a huge shift in the relations between the classes in Ireland. While the Celtic Tiger had been on life support for a while, 2009 saw a huge crisis that has had massive economic consequences and political change that will play out for a whole period. This year represented a shift from one historical period to another; a whole new perspective has opened up for Irish society, not just in the 26 counties, but increasingly across the whole island as the impact of the capitalist crisis begins to be felt to its full extent in the north.

The decision of the Garda Representative Association to ballot for strike action shows two things. In the first place it shows the scope of the opposition to the pay cuts outlined by Brian Lenihan in the budget released yesterday. On the other hand it shows the deep discontent that exists in Irish society.

So, the Gards are voting for strikes and the Turkeys are voting for Christmas. That's right, the “Soldiers of Destiny” will be voting for the Budget today, Wednesday. They'll be voting to cut Child Benefit, cutting Social Welfare, cutting services to old people, the sick and the children. The same children that they claim to be defending form the terrors of the clerical abuse. Its not so long ago that people were flooding back here to take advantage of the Celtic Tiger. But in the Ireland of today the only people taking advantage of anyone else are the bankers and the big bosses.

After the recent decision of the INLA to renounce the armed struggle and its call on its members to take the political road, an analysis of this important turn from a Marxist point of view by Gerry Ruddy was published in The Red Plough. We believe it puts the Marxist case very clearly and make it available here for our readers.

The talks between the government and ICTU have collapsed following pressure from the FF back benches. Apparently they had been pressured from “the private sector” to oppose plans for unpaid leave proposed by the union leaderships. Make no bones about it. What this really means is that the Irish bourgeoisie and the multinationals are putting on the pressure and demanding that the public sector takes huge cuts. It raises the temperature in what is already a charged situation.

The Ryan and Murphy reports have exposed the extent of the abuse carried out against children by Catholic priests in the Dublin Diocese between 1975 and 2004. It is also clear that such abuses have occurred in practically all parishes of the Roman Catholic Church in the whole island.

Thursday's planned public sector strike has been suspended after the government and the union leaders announced that a breakthrough had been made. The "agreement" means that some of the cost of wages would be offset by the workers taking "unpaid leave". As we pointed out on more than one occasion recently, the political and economic situation in the state is such that any agreement that has been reached on the basis of "social partnership" will inevitably mean cuts in worker's wages and increased work load and pressure on already stretched services. Effectively it means that the public sector is being put on short time.

Well over 250,000 Irish workers in the public sector were on strike on the 24th of this month. There would have been many more, but the unions guaranteed emergency cover including flood relief in the west, the midlands and the Shannon area and in Cork City. It’s a feature of every major strike, not just here, but throughout the world, that the well fed representatives of the bourgeois and particularly the mean spirited and greedy petty bourgeois attempt to criticise and attack the worker's movement.

Today Irish public sector workers are taking militant strike action. Some sections of the trade union leadership view this as a way of letting off steam. What is needed is the opposite. This day should be part of the campaign for a one day general strike, to bring out the full force of the Irish labour movement. This is the only way of stopping the attacks on the working class.

We might be out of the World Cup, but the Irish working class is at the forefront of the struggle against the bosses crisis. It’ll take much more than a dodgy hand ball to take the heat out of this situation. Earlier today yet another major union voted massively to join the public sector strikes on November 24th. SIPTU’s 70,000 members voted by 85% in favour of participating in what is becoming more or less a de facto Public Sector General Strike.

65,000 teachers in the primary and secondary education, further education and third level institutions have voted to back the strike action on 24th November. The action covering both academic and non academic staff means that effectively the entire education sector will be shut down for the day. The four unions involved INTO, TUI, ASTI and IFUT which organises two thirds of university teachers have all returned huge votes in favour of strike action.

Monday saw the beginning of negotiations between the government and Trade Union officials on the implementations of €4 billion worth of budget cuts in the public sector. €1.3billion of this burden is set to fall on public sector wages. (RTÉ November 9) This follows on from the ICTU demonstrations of over 100,000 across Ireland on Friday in opposition to cuts, and precedes the upcoming public sector strike on November 24th. It is all too clear that the past politics of social partnership can only lead to diminished service, job losses and attacks on pay and conditions.

Tens of thousands of people: public sector and private sector workers and their families, unemployed workers, pensioners and students thronged the streets of eight cities in the south on Friday, November 6; while 10 further demonstrations took place in the north also. 70,000 marched into Merrion Square in Dublin, 20,000 in Cork, 10,000 in Waterford, 6,000 in Galway, 5,000 in Sligo, 5,000 in Limerick, 4,000 in Tullamore and 1,500 in Dundalk. Not bad for a Friday with a grim weather forecast.

Friday’s day of protests by the Public Sector Trade Unions is a hugely important day for the Trade Union and Labour Movement. It could mark a significant step in the struggle to turn back the Fianna Fáil and Green Party’s assault on the Public Sector and on the working class in general. But what is the background to the current impasse and can Cowen and Lenihan face down the massive opposition that will manifest itself throughout the country later this week?

Members of the trade union IMPACT have voted 86% to 14% for strike action on a 69% ballot. This marks a dramatic shift over the past 7 months. But that’s hardly a surprise given the imposition of the levy, the slash and burn budget and the threats of cuts and redundancies and the general economic chaos and political crisis that threatens public sector workers.

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