July 2011        

The game is not over

Apathy is the bedrock upon which our Irish capitalist system is grounded. Citizens throughout Ireland are faced with the spectre of the “Troika” (the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) holding a financial version of the sword of Damocles over our people for generations to come.
     The “Troika” promises blood, sweat and tears for the Irish people, plunging us into deeper recession, increasing unemployment, and dooming Irish workers, their families and particularly our young people to a future of poverty and destitution. Our Government meanwhile embarrassingly holds out the cloth cap, begging—please—for some more while the country capitulates, driven to destruction by Sarkozy and Merkel on the rollercoaster ride to the chateau of despair.
     Where are the voices of hope and defiance? Perhaps they feel weighed down by slogans and rhetoric coming from a labour movement devoid of real leadership in times of national crisis. Instead of leading a working-class revolt that might incur great hardship for many but ultimately restore faith in the movement, the leadership adopts a “responsible” position of acknowledging the need for reducing public deficits in order to honour the debts owed to predatory banks and financial funds.
     They pitifully plead for an extension of time to help get our finances in order. This in reality legitimises the “people’s debt” and legitimises the logic of the bankers, our weak Government, and the wealthy elite.
     Apathy is rife throughout the trade union movement. Many are uncomfortable with the need to change towards real, disciplined, strategic campaigning and organising of the people. Many excellent and capable leaders are stymied by the political malaise that engulfs the movement. Union activists and many workers realise that the movement needs to regroup to defend the interests of workers and people, of democracy and of sovereignty. The trade unions need to restore themselves to the position they should never have departed from.
     It can be legitimately argued that Ireland’s political and wealthy elite operate an apartheid-type system, not based on race but on access to riches. According to a recent EU survey, Ireland remains the third-wealthiest country in the EU, while our schools remain overcrowded and under-resourced and our health system remains in tatters and is only easily accessible for those with the money to pay.
     Meanwhile Richard Bruton continues on his right-wing crusade to crucify the lowest-paid workers by dismantling our joint labour committees, which set wages for many of the lowest-paid workers in our country. Tell a chef on €9.80 an hour, a contract cleaner on €9.80 an hour or a retail worker on €9.50 an hour that they live in the third-wealthiest country in the EU, and that Bruton wants to make them pay for the folly of others!
     Bruton has no economic basis for his decisions, but, despite independent expert advice to the contrary, he continues with his shameless and provocative attack on hard-working families throughout Ireland. Bruton must be hoping that the old lethargy in the trade union movement stays long enough for him to get his evil way.
     The solution to Ir
eland’s debt problems lies not in any cosy consensus with the corporate class, the governments and the institutions of capital. The wave of revolution that rose up in Tunisia and then Egypt is reaching every continent and every country. How far will it go? Perhaps it is stretching credibility somewhat to suggest that it may have washed up on the shores of Dún Laoghaire or Malin Head, but certainly the huge majority of workers, the majority of Irish people, must come, and be brought to, the conclusion that in order for Ireland to have a future we must demand a real and genuine break with the institutions of capital, the European Union, the IMF and the governments that subject themselves to them.
     It is not too late. The game is not over. Ireland can be rationally rebuilt, free from exploitation and oppression, so long as the trade union movement begins to grow some guts and stands up to really fight back against the attacks on our rights and on our future.
     Apathy is not only the preserve of the working class and the trade union movement. We might find when we fight back that the bully wasn’t so big after all!

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