April 2012        

Resistance is growing—Now for a No vote


While the economic indicators show that the crisis of the system is deepening, the anti-people policies of governments—and not just of the Irish Government but governments throughout the European Union—are not intended to work in the interests of the people but in the interests of the monopoly corporations and finance houses.
     They are not really intended to be bad-tasting medicine to cure our economic illness. To say they are “not working” is to say they are intended to work for our ultimate benefit some time in the future. They were never intended to solve our problems; but they are not succeeding for them either.
     Austerity and its effects are taking billions out of the pockets of workers throughout the European union, coupled with the billions taken out of the economy by the savage cuts in public spending, forcing millions of working people into poverty. Tens of thousands of small businesses have failed.
     Whatever recovery they may manage to create will be a jobless one and will do nothing for the millions in poverty or the millions unemployed and the working poor.
     The Government has been placing its hopes on increasing exports, which it hopes will in turn create a spin-off in local jobs in the the provision of services to the transnational sector of the economy. But what we are witnessing in fact is a growth in profitability for transnational corporations based here.
     The recently published Survey on Income and Living Conditions for 2010 shows starkly the effect of Government policies on working people. Nationally, income fell by an average of 12 per cent. For the lowest 10 per cent of income-earners the drop was more than 20 per cent.
      The Survey on Income and Living Conditions shows that income inequality (the ratio between the income of the top 20 per cent to the bottom 20 per cent) grew sharply in 2010, from 4.3 to 5.5.
     With the 2011 budget, and future budgets, geared to make greater cuts in welfare payments, inequality and poverty will grow, and the numbers of the working poor will expand. The universal social charge and other tax measures are taking more and more money out of working people’s pockets. The rich are getting richer, and the gap will only grow larger. Inequality will spread, as will poverty, into sections of society that have not experienced it before.
     Other statistics clearly show that the economy of this state is in deep trouble. The number of recorded redundancy notices in December 2011—nearly 7,000—is an increase of nearly 70 per cent over the previous eleven months. Investment fell by nearly 11 per cent.
     The recent trade delegations to the United States and China, headed by Enda Kenny and his cohort of ministers, was for selling this state as a low-wage economy, with a work force with few rights and a gateway to the EU. The Irish establishment clearly believe they can contain the situation and will be able to face down any possible social unrest, while emigration will perform its historical role as the main safety valve.
     But the first signs of resistance have emerged around the country. The coming together of people in opposition to the septic-tank, water and household charges has been one of the most significant developments since the present crisis erupted.
     Clearly, rural radicalism is a live and potent force when harnessed behind clear demands. This important radicalisation shows that the power base of Fianna Fáil in rural Ireland is now disintegrating.
     The latest figure for those who registered for the household charge shows that opposition is most intense in rural areas, with Dublin and other cities and towns showing greater numbers registering to pay. The fact that more than half the people refused to register, despite immense pressure from the state and the establishment mass media, with their demand for people to “put on the green jersey,” is a very important first step in the building of a coherent people’s resistance. Of those who registered, many did so reluctantly, and for many different reasons.
     It is important to remember that more than half the housing stock was built during the “Celtic Tiger” years, and two-thirds of those properties were bought by investors. It appears also that a large number of multiple house-owners have registered five or more properties. On the final day for registering, one individual registered 190 housing units.
     The coming months will be critical for holding this broad alliance together, as the Government will attempt to split it and to divide and rule.
     The state will be hoping that, as the anti-registration campaign fades from public view, with the careful manipulation of public opinion and even the possible closure of more local services, more and more people will register.
     The challenge for the left is to develop a coherent alternative political and economic way forward for our people—a strategy that must challenge the stifling grip of the European Union and the straitjacket of capitalism itself.
[EMC]

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