Ireland

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.