November 2012        

Austerity is working!

The government and the mass media are now in the final stages of manufacturing the consent necessary for what the people may face in the next budget, due in December. It’s difficult to see the sun, not because of the onset of winter but from the number of kites being flown by the government.
      They are creating an atmosphere of confusion and fear among people, especially pensioners, people dependent on social welfare, public-sector workers, and those who need access to government services, such as health and education.
      The Labour Party ministers in particular have been to the fore in attempting to create confusion and obfuscation, as they know they will pay the heaviest price for the growing onslaught on working people.
      The government’s strategy of getting some relief on the debt has not worked so far, mainly because the European Union, and Germany in particular, are holding out for greater controls on national budget strategies, taking greater fiscal and monetary control away from national governments.
      This will put crucial economic levers and decision-making beyond national accountability. It will remove decisions about these crucial function of national governments beyond democratic control or influence. It is aimed at preventing class struggle or the mobilisation of people to influence them at the national level.
      The Irish establishment are willing collaborators in the continuous attacks on national democracy and sovereignty and are all too willing and eager to comply.
      As the big monopoly corporations see it, in particular the giant finance houses, democracy has now become an obstacle to their interests; it is too cumbersome to have to wait for “ordinary” people to be convinced, cajoled or bullied into taking the necessary pain to save a collapsing economic system.
      As we have said before, austerity is working. It was never for solving the people’s problems: it was for taking full advantage of the crisis to push home policies long desired.
      They need to cut wage levels in the public sector so that they can cut wages in the private sector. They need to remove statutory wage levels in order to drive down wages in general. Reducing the minimum wage allowed them to further attack social welfare. It is a clear strategy for making working people pay for the crisis and transferring wealth upwards; and it’s working.
      Today, in a country that the establishment politicians, their parties of clones and the mass media tell us is broke and in which we are all living beyond our means, 35,000 adults have assets of more than €100 billion.
      The top 1 per of adults own 29 per cent, the top 5 per cent own 47 per cent, and the top 10 per cent own 59 per cent. Wealth is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Mass unemployment continues to grow, with nearly 400,000 full-time jobs lost. More than a million people experience deprivation, including more than 350,000 children.
      The EU-IMF-ECB troika and the internal troika of the main political parties, under the “Programme for Ireland,” are simply hoovering billions out of this country, back into sustaining the euro and the finance houses.
      Hope is leaving the country in the suitcases of the thousand people a week who leave, mainly young people. They have packed up their dreams, hopes and aspirations in the belief that nothing can be done, nothing can change in their country.
      This is a failure of the left and of the trade union movement, which have either attempted to play the game of parliamentary grandstanding or the strategy of the grand old Duke of York, of marching the people up to the top of the hill (to the gates of the Dáil) and back again in endless demonstrations, where the list of speakers is greater than the number of those taking part.
      The vision of leading elements of the trade union movement—but not all: there are a number of exceptions—extends no further than managing the members’ expectations, managing the implementation of the Croke Park Agreement, that is, stripping public-sector workers’ terms and conditions.
      It is long past the time for hoping that the Labour Party in government will protect workers’ interests. Resistance needs to be built, and the trade union movement is central to that resistance.

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