Tussles in Brussels, where next for Ireland?

The Greek working class has moved decisively into action. The last few days in Greece have demonstrated that faced with an approaching economic calamity the workers are prepared to fight to defend their living standards and their jobs also. However, the bankers and the various competing European powers have no option but to fight for their own interests and will fight to the last gasp. The scene is set for further conflict in the euro zone between the increasingly divergent interests of the European states and between the classes in each of the European countries.

At the present moment the European leaders are discussing an increase in the available EU bailout funds from a mere €440 Billion to a €1 Trillion. Of course this needs paying for and of course the working class will be forced to pay.

The world situation is more disturbed and unstable than at any time since the 1930’s. However, the balance of class forces on a world scale has moved decisively in favour of the working class since then. In the past the bourgeois could call on the peasantry and the petit bourgeois layers of society as a reservoir for reaction. The post war boom undermined the social base of the ruling class and has immensely strengthened the working class internationally.

On the 15th October mass demonstrations took place internationally and especially in Spain and Italy. In Spain In Defence of Marxism reported:

The numbers of those involved in what was known as the "15O" protests were impressive: half a million in Madrid, 300,000 or 400,000 in Barcelona, 50,000 in Seville, 40,000 in Málaga, 30,000 in Granada, 20,000 in Mallorca, 20,000 in Vigo, 15,000 in Mieres (Asturias), 30,000 in Zaragoza, 10,000 in Bilbao, 35,000 in Valencia, 15,000 in Murcia, 15,000 in Tarragona, and a long list of more than 80 different towns and cities all over Spain which saw demonstrations. IDOM 15O massive demonstrations in Spain

Half a million marched in Rome and this week there have been enormous demonstrations throughout Greece against the austerity.

The question is however, in what way will the most recent manifestation of the Euro crisis be reflected in Ireland and can we anticipate an upturn in the class struggle?

Watching Enda Kenny on the world stage it’s clear that he is a fine representative of the Irish national capitalist class. He is weak, ineffectual and remote from the centre of power in Europe. Fine Gael offers nothing radically different to what passed before under Cowen and Lenihan.

Even though the government seems to be on target to hit the targets that the Troika set them, there are no guarantees. The banking system is in a perilous state. Many of the European banks are exposed to sovereign debt and should Greece default the Irish banks like the rest of the European banks will be further exposed. The structure of the bond markets and the predatory nature of the speculators mean that Ireland is only a few steps from the back of the queue and in the bond markets for sure, the devil will take the hindmost.

The selloff of state assets and the ongoing restructures and other so called reforms are of course means to try and squeeze as much money as possible from the public sector. Within the public services there is a lot of anger and opposition to the governments programme, the government know that. Brendan Howlin was playing his cards close to his chest last week.

MINISTER FOR Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has refused to be drawn on whether the Government will opt for a €4 billion adjustment in the December budget.

He said the Fiscal Advisory Council’s recommendation on the figure would be listened to, together with all the other factors the Government had to take into account.

The commitment was to reduce the deficit to 8.6 per cent of GDP next year.

“The exact quantum of the adjustment to reach that target is currently being determined,” he added.

“We need to have a firm determination of the growth rates and the final accounts, in terms of taxation and revenue to the State, before we make a final determination on that.” Irish Times 14th October 2011

Upping the ante in the public sector would open up a new situation for Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan and Eamon Gilmore. The immediate pressures on the state finances have been ameliorated by the bailout.  Fine Gael and Labour have benefitted also from not being tainted with the hatred for Fianna Fáil, but sooner or later normal conditions will reassert themselves. The trade union leaders are arguing for a different approach:

IRELAND NEEDS a growth plan and not further austerity, the EU-IMF-ECB “troika” was told yesterday in Dublin by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

“We desperately need a plan for jobs and growth, an innovative strategy that will help to kick-start an economy that is effectively flat-lining,” Ictu general secretary David Begg said prior to a meeting with troika officials.

“The troika officials cannot ignore the evidence and it is no longer sufficient to administer prescriptions for cuts and ignore the consequences of those cuts. Irish Times 20/10/11

Given what is happening in the rest of Europe the only way that the trade unions will win a demand of this character is on the basis of mobilising the members and fighting for it. What would be entirely wrong would be to rely on exactly the same policy of “social partnership” that proved so ineffectual in the face of the pension levy, the emergency budgets and the cuts in the public sector.

The Croke Park Agreement was sold to trade union members as a means of defending themselves against the prospect of further wage cuts and to date it has held up by that score. However, FF never managed to get very far at all with the public sector reforms. But that is not a sign of the strength of the principle of social partnership. It has more to do with the complete political paralysis of the Cowen and Lenihan government at the end of the last Dáil.

The ongoing economic storms in Europe will impact not only upon the Greek workers who are right in the front line, but upon every country and the whole of the European working class. Under conditions of crisis the relative stability of the last months will pass over to a period of rapid change of sharp turns and sudden changes. There are no guarantees. The prospect of a new recession, the so called “double dip” will serve to undermine the current social and political equilibrium. As Trotsky explained in 1920 every attempt that the bourgeois use to stabilise the situation will undermine the equilibrium and force the working class into struggle.

The economic crisis generated enormous opposition from the Irish working class. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the pensions levy and again at the end of 2009. The movement shifted onto the political front. Now the conditions are developing for an upturn in the class struggle. The role of the trade union and labour leaders will come under increasing scrutiny.

What is lacking in Ireland and in Europe also is a clear sighted Marxist Leadership in the mass workers organisations. All of the political conditions are there for an international struggle for socialism. It’s our job to build the Marxist movement inside outside and around the mass organisations. Irelands left has been fragmented and divided for decades. It will grow and develop to the extent that it manages to influence the workers organisations. The only people after all who can liberate the Irish working class are the workers themselves.

Source: Fightback (Ireland)