From Socialist Voice, September 2009

Putting Humpty-Dumpty together again

Much has been written in the mass media, books are churned off the presses and many words spoken on radio and television about the crisis now engulfing the capitalist world. There is uniformity among the experts, the commentators and the ruling class that the solution to the crisis lies in attacking workers. Their strategy is to attempt to put Humpty-Dumpty together again by slashing workers’ rights and wages and sacrificing public services to bring this about.
     With regard to our own country, we Irish communists believe that what is missing from the debate is an analysis and an understanding of the crisis from a worker’s viewpoint, the necessity to present a Marxist understanding of the inherent crisis-ridden nature of the system itself, that this crisis is structural and systemic.
     An Economy for the Common Good: Strategy for a New Direction is the result of research carried out by the CPI’s Economics Committee. Their task was to bring together a number of important questions that many workers have raised and to provide answers.
     But this is only the beginning. We will now bring our ideas into the labour movement and the wider public arena, to engage workers, the unemployed, the self-employed, small and medium farmers, small business people, and those not directly connected to the crisis but who are bearing some of the pain. We are not bringing a finished solution, written on tablets of stone: instead we want to share our views, to engage in the widest debate among our people.
     We appeal to all those who believe in a more socially just Ireland to engage in this essential debate. We appeal to all democratic and patriotic forces that now is the time for unity, that there is a need for the labour movement to rise to the challenge that the ruling class has thrown down.
     Our class needs leadership. Our country needs a new direction. Our people demand honesty and demand to be listened to.
     We have explained the economic crisis in terms of its systemic nature: that capitalism is inherently unstable, unjust, and exploitative, that the drive for maximum private profit is its central thrust, and its central weakness.
     We do not believe that this crisis was brought about by a few rogue bankers or developers: they simply followed the logic of capitalism, to make maximum profit, regardless of the cost to working people or to the environment.

“Sharing the pain”: the big lie

What is now taking place is a massive attack on working people’s pay, working conditions and pensions and on social services such as health and education. There is a co-ordinated campaign to sell the big lie that we are all in this together and that we all must share the pain. This is simply untrue.
     NAMA is for the redistribution of wealth—from working people to the wealthy, to protect the class interests whom they are beholden to and serve, while the McCarthy Report provides the fig-leaf for the Government to cover its tracks as it prepares to launch further attacks on working people, the unemployed, pensioners, the sick, and children.
     Working people are paying a heavy price for a crisis they did not create. Today we have 440,000 unemployed. As we sit here people are waiting in hospital queues around the country as the health service buckles under the strain. Our children will be sitting in overcrowded, rat-infested and poorly resourced classrooms.

NAMA: welfare for the rich

What is taking place is a massive redistribution of wealth away from working people, the self-employed, and small and medium farmers. All the establishment parties hide behind the McCarthy Report, which has provided them with the cover from which to launch a savage attack on the living standards of the people.
     Today we are witnessing growing attacks not only on workers’ living standards but also on workers’ rights and their ability to defend themselves and their jobs. We witness the growing use of the courts to break workers’ resistance, to restrict their ability to mount effective struggle to defend their jobs. Examples include the dockers in Peel Ports at the Marine Terminal in Dublin, Coca-Cola, Thomas Cook, and Mr Binman.
     Employers are resorting more and more to the courts to restrict workers’ ability to fight back. Resistance is sporadic and diffuse.
     There is an absolute and urgent need for the labour movement to respond in an organised, co-ordinated way and to rise to the challenges we face. There is clearly a wilingness among workers to stand and fight; what is missing is the leadership to give it direction.
     We are calling for the establishment of a state bank, linked to a state economic development corporation. We are not concerned about protecting the interests of capital but protecting the interests of working people, to harness and concentrate capital under democratic control, to develop state-owned and democratically controlled industries based on the skill and resources of our country and our people. This is diametrically opposite to what is being proposed in NAMA, which is a strategy to protect private owners and controllers of capital.
     The slash-and-burn approach of this Government is the Irish version of the “shock doctrine” treatment. All the establishment parties are agreed about who should pay the price: they only differ on the means for extracting that price. They all want to put the Irish Humpty-Dumpty together again, whatever the cost to our people and our country. Their policies are designed to make workers pay, to ensure that those who are on top now will still be on top when or if this crisis ends. They want to sustain and maintain the old Ireland of inequality, of mass emigration, of poor-quality services, to ensure that the children of the well-heeled will still get to university. They will not be in the hospital queues: they will be sitting in plush lounges to see their private consultants. Their children will not be attending overcrowded classes but will have smaller class sizes and well-equipped facilities.
     A few short years ago the refrain from the serried ranks of economists and learned professors of economics, all singing in harmony with establishment politicians, was that “there is no alternative,” that capitalism has won and in fact has put behind it the cycle of slump and boom. That particular false illusion has been slain. What was frozen has become unfrozen. People are beginning to search for solutions and to look anew for alternatives. This pamphlet is a contribution to that debate.

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