June 2012        

A hollow victory

The government has secured a hollow victory in the referendum on the “Fiscal Stability Treaty.” While they secured 60 per cent of the votes cast, through intimidation and bullying by the state and its masters in Frankfurt and Brussels, along with sections of the mass media, the No vote was sustained.
     Roughly 70 per cent of the people either voted No or simply stayed at home. Many of those who didn’t vote believed that little would be achieved by voting at all, or were of the opinion that the government would only re-run the vote again until they got the required outcome.
     What the low turn-out coupled with the No vote shows is that there is a deep disenchantment with establishment politics and a belief that nothing can be changed by voting.
     This is both a positive and a negative factor. It is positive in that there is obviously the beginning of a fissure opening up between those who control the political levers and the people. Their influence is beginning to weaken, which will in turn lead to the mechanism of control—the establishment political institutions—also weakening. It is negative in that progressive forces have not filled the political vacuum.
     Throughout the debate the people chosen by the mass media to represent the No side followed in the main the narrative laid down by the establishment, constantly falling into the traps laid down about “Where will we get the money?” and that the EU is our saviour—while the left kept drawing on Hollande’s win in France as an indication of some sort of new departure for the EU, both positions keeping the debate and solutions within the confines of the EU itself.
     Membership of the euro was not raised, and the socialised corporate debt was raised only as an afterthought. The anger of the people in relation to the debt was not used as a battering ram against the EU itself and its central role in the imposition of this massive odious debt to save German and French banks and the euro itself as well as the establishment, which supports the imposition of the debt burden. It was a golden opportunity to call for repudiation of the debt.
     What has also become clear is that some of the present No forces are on their way towards abandoning any criticism of the EU, with their constant refrain of “our European partners” as possible participation in a future government beckons.
     When you begin to use the language of the establishment you usually end up thinking and acting like them—this at a time when the ground is becoming more fertile for more robust challenges to the EU.
     There is a significant section of the working class who simply disagree with the EU, no matter what, and our continued membership.
     The result also shows that social divisions are growing. Those affected most by the cuts so far voted No, while the urban middle classes and the rural wealthy, who have been least affected by government policies so far, voted Yes.
     The working class came out in their hundreds of thousands to vote No, as did many small business people, self-employed, family farmers, and the unemployed—all refusing to bend the knee. They stood up for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country.
     Even many of those who voted Yes did so out of fear about what the future holds.

Social democracy deeper into the swamp

Those who look to some return of social-democratic governments in the EU countries will be sorely disappointed. What is taking place in the EU countries is a realignment of social democracy with the needs of monopoly capitalism.
     Hollande will deliver little more than superficial changes. The Irish Labour Party has adjusted quickly to the needs of imperialism, as it has always done. But what awaits that party at the next election is the same fate that befell the Green Party and Fianna Fáil: wipe-out.
     A question now arises about the future of the Labour Party and whether it has any progressive potential left. The left within that party have serious questioning to do about what to do next.

Trade union leadership on the wrong side again

This is equally true of leading sections of the trade union movement, those who actively campaigned for a Yes vote as well as those who sat silent, refusing to oppose the Labour Party line. They will become increasingly irrelevant, as the new situation will require greater leadership and more radical solutions than those they are capable of understanding, never mind providing.
     No sooner had a Yes been secured than the ventriloquist’s dummy for the government, Colm McCarthy, launched the opening broadside against the Croke Park Agreement, that cherished comfort-blanket beloved of those same trade union leaders who actively campaigned for a Yes vote.
     The government will surely come after the public sector, their pensions, and their terms and conditions. There will be few rocks left for the social democrats to crawl under, as their members will be in the front line; and the quiet words of comfort in the corridors of Leinster House for those who co-operated in getting a Yes vote will ring very hollow indeed.

New attacks on workers on the way

The crisis of the system is deepening all around us. Under the pretext of solutions to the crisis, the EU will launch a renewed offensive against workers, with their honeyed phrases, “growth and stability,” “intelligent austerity,” “making the EU more competitive,” “growth and employment,” “structural reforms”—all code words for their real target: the destruction of the social gains made by workers over the last five decades.
     These are political cosmetics to mask their real intentions. They are not what social democrats, such as the Labour Party and certain trade union leaders, like to describe as a progressive way out of the crisis.
     Social welfare will shrink, working conditions will deteriorate, and flexible working will grow. Permanent jobs will come under renewed attack, and workers will experience more intense exploitation, with lower wages, longer hours, fewer holidays, and speed-up in productivity. The bloated profits of the big corporations will grow. There can never be a “progressive” or “social” Europe.
     The European rulers have no answers to the crisis of their system. They sit like passengers on a stalled train, shaking it from side to side and telling us that it is moving. Yet the EU project remains stuck in growing mass unemployment, growing mass poverty, and shrinking social and labour rights.
     The Fiscal Treaty can’t even produce a solution for the ruling forces, never mind for the people’s problems. One solution cannot suit contending and antagonistic forces. The socialised corporate debt will not go away, and this government is incapable of doing anything about it, except to hold on to the coat-tails of Germany in the hope of a few crumbs of relief.

Austerity will continue to work

Austerity will continue to work according to plan, the conveyor belt for transferring wealth from the people to the big monopolies throughout the European Union.
     The European Stability Mechanism Treaty has yet to be passed in the Dáil, and meanwhile the case taken by Thomas Pringle TD comes up on 19 June. If he secures a victory we will face another referendum very soon afterwards; so all is not lost. The forces drawn into the No campaign need to turn their sights towards making people aware of the anti-democratic substance of this treaty.
     There is now a significant platform on which to build a real people’s resistance to this government and the EU. That will not be achievable if we argue in the terms and within the narrative laid down by the establishment
     The forces are building for a new direction for our country, to replace fear with hope, to turn anger into energy for building a different country: an Ireland of equality.

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