Ireland

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.

It might have started out as a strategy, but the ICTU leadership’s profound belief that they can wrest some concessions out of Cowen and Lenihan would be better described as an illusion or perhaps a death wish. We’ve pointed out many times that in a slump social partnership is like the partnership between a cat and a mouse. But at least in Tom and Jerry the mouse was a master of tactics.

The Green Party has voted overwhelmingly to support the new proposals that their leadership has negotiated with Fianna Fáil. As we explained recently the reality is that the new programme offers nothing substantially different from what was on offer before, merely a few tiny reforms to the programme that FF set earlier. Its a cold plate of lame duck with wilted greens.

With all the mainstream parties and top business people campaigning for a Yes vote with huge resources at their disposal, and with most of the trade union leaders also backing the campaign, it is not surprising that the Irish bourgeois managed to overturn the result of the previous referendum. This vote, however, cannot hide the growing class polarisation taking place in the country.

Following a wide scale and carefully orchestrated police operation aimed at disrupting ‘dissident republican’ activity and two nights of rioting in Lurgan, it would appear that the north of Ireland’s social peace has not been in such a fragile state since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement eleven years ago.

The NAMA legislation will be introduced into the Dáil this week. Numerous experts and organisations have been involved in trying to cobble together what is effectively a toxic dump to store the bad debts and poisonous relics of the “good old days”, days that is, which are well and truly gone. The economy is in crisis and the government is in deep trouble.

Karl Marx once observed that by means of Bourgeois Democracy the ruling class establishes an executive committee drawn from its own ranks that ruled in the interest of private property. During “normal” times the flotsam and jetsam of politics passes by without provoking much interest, but from time to time; particularly in times of acute economic and political crisis, the class nature of society is made absolutely clear. The next few weeks in the Oireachtas will reflect the crisis and the bourgeois response to it.

The resignation of two Fianna Fáil TDs from the party whip and the trickle of resignations of Sinn Féin councillors over the past period are both indications of the underlying issues and factors in Irish politics at the present time. Although the two parties face very different scenarios the uniting factor is the deep crisis in the Irish economy and the political situation that flows from it. The mass organisations of the working class, the trade unions and the Labour Party are also under strain, workers are looking for a way out of the current impasse