From Socialist Voice, January 2011

Will an election change anything?

As the old year passes and we begin a new one the air is filled with the ramblings of commentators who believe we have hit the bottom and that there is only way to go: upwards. Certainly 2010 will be remembered as the year in which the European Union and European Central Bank publicly and officially took control of our country, with the International Monetary Fund joining them to look after the interests of American finance capital.
     The people await the possibility of an early election to inflict a heavy beating on Fianna Fáil, with the Green Party facing wipe-out and a return to their nice middle-class organic gardens. Their opportunism and lack of any real anti-capitalist politics lie exposed and shattered around them. The tyranny of that particular middle-class opportunism that is the bedrock of the Green Party will take some time to re-emerge.
     While there is certainly a deep economic crisis engulfing our country, North and South, the structural weaknesses and the dependence relations of these two failed economic entities show that any efforts to cobble together some solutions confined to the two individual entities will surely fail, as they have done in the past.
     Will elections in March, as many believe, really change anything? The three main establishment parties—Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Labour Party—are all committed to making the people pay for the crisis. All three are wedded to the strategy imposed by the EU-ECB and the IMF. Fine Gael and Labour will talk about “revisiting” the agreements with the EU and the IMF; but this is mere window-dressing and pure electoralism, pretending to be different in substance from Fianna Fáil.
     They most certainly will go through the motions of meeting the EU and the IMF, and may even get a couple of paragraphs reworded; but the substance and the core political ideas and values underpinning the agreement will remain.
     The trade union leadership’s non-response to the EU-ECB and IMF deal and the subsequent budget was a new low point, while some huffing and puffing took place around the reduction of one euro in the minimum wage. The wider picture of the growing assault on registered employment agreements etc. was ignored.
     For decades they have not only allowed the Government to do their thinking but have allowed the EU to provide not just a view on the Irish economy but also their world view. This is not just a problem of the present generation of trade union leaders but is a strategy and political approach that go back to the foundation of this state.
     It was not just that “Labour must wait” but rather that they were willing volunteers for waiting. Since the 1930s Fianna Fáil has asserted huge influence inside public-sector unions, while the Labour Party in the main controlled the two big general unions, the WUI and ITGWU. It was in the interests of both these parties and of the state to have an acquiescent trade union movement. They could hide behind the flag of “No politics” inside the trade union movement and shutting off the use of union buildings to alternative political forces.
     Likewise today, they are waiting in the vain hope that if the Labour Party gets into government it might do something different, thereby letting them off the hook. Even poor old Gilmore has given up the ghost of wanting to become the first Labour Taoiseach, so loudly proclaimed in early 2010, reduced now to guaranteeing to make up the numbers for a new Fine Gael Government.
     As we face a new year the solutions to our people’s and our country’s problems will not be found in the political parties that look like forming the next Government. It is the independent mobilisation of the people to resist the cuts and to defend what they have that will be the building blocks of future radical political change.

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