February 2012        

Progress of the Trade Union Left Forum

The Trade Union Left Forum, set up in September 2011, has continued its work. It has clarified its objective to be a forum for trade unionists on the left in which to meet and discuss current problems and the future of trade unionism. It is understood that the working class has a central role in shaping Irish society, apart from defending the immediate living standards of its members. As a catalyst for change, it accepts that an analysis of the factors instrumental in governing society has to be done from a class viewpoint.
     The Forum aims, therefore, to examine issues not from the point of view of a sectional interest but from the wider viewpoint of the whole movement about what would benefit social change. It realises that, while the social composition of the working class has changed dramatically since Connolly and Larkin’s day, and while union membership and density have altered significantly, the trade union movement has to reclaim its role as a pivotal force in the shaping of our future.
     At the January meeting the discussion was based on the issue of the privatisation of state assets and natural resources. The introduction was given by Colin Whitston of the National College of Ireland, who dealt with the role of the Irish state in forging a development role for the economy resulting from paradoxical historical conditions.
     The same state was now seeking to dismantle these efforts, in deregulation and sell-off, a process that not alone would hinder any economic alternative for a future progressive government but strikes at the heart of democracy and independence.
     In a second contribution, Jimmy Nolan of the TEEU gave a striking account of how, in the recent past, successive governments have been undermining the role and function of the ESB. For neo-conservatives, here and in the European Union, the problem was that a state company was too successful and did not suit their model. For the wider public it shows that public utilities should be not only defended but extended to meet all our energy requirements, including oil and gas.
     Arising from the discussion it was decided to publish the contributions as a pamphlet, and to push the issues in trade union decision-making bodies. It was also decided to set up a web site and to publicise the Trade Union Left Forum in union journals.
     The next meeting will discuss the structural causes of the crisis of capitalism and the resultant debt and austerity. The speakers will be Gareth Murphy of the IBOA on the origins and development of the crisis and a speaker from Mandate on how the crisis manifests itself in Ireland and the effect on working people and their communities.
     The Trade Union Left Forum is an open space where active trade unionists are welcome to put forward ideas, topics for discussion, and suggestions for activities related to the discussions.

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