February 2013        

CPI calls for support for the ICTU demonstration

Take a stand—but make it your stand

The ICTU leadership has called for major demonstrations on Saturday 9 February. Demonstrations are taking place in Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Sligo, and Limerick. The main theme of the demonstrations is the restructuring the bank debt. The CPI supports that call to rally.
      The ICTU slogan is “Lift the burden: jobs, not debt.” It is arguing that the €64 billion bank debt is unsustainable and must be restructured.
      While we do not agree with the ICTU’s economic analysis of dealing with the crisis, we do call on all people to support the demonstration.
      There are several flaws in the ICTU’s strategy, not least the fact that it appears to have given up on any notion of national sovereignty. It argues that we need to convince the European Union that Ireland needs a deal on the bank debt, and that the trade union movement needs to support the Government in making this case.
      Now, while some people may think there is some merit in this argument, the difficulty with this is that we are letting the Government off the hook. This is flaw number 1.

Who is responsible for economic policy?

The ICTU would appear to have conveniently forgotten that it was this Government that introduced the horrific budget in December 2012. This was a budget that attacked the poorest and the most vulnerable disproportionately (a lot of trade unionists and their families are suffering), while leaving the wealthy relatively unscathed. And the Government called this a “fair budget.”
      The Government had choices, just as they had choices when they were elected and instead of pursuing a policy of blind compliance and deference to the European banking institutions they could have chosen a different road and could have repudiated the bank debt.
      The real reason for not taking a different approach is that we have a neo-liberal Government, pursuing neo-liberal policies, and these policies are in the interests of capitalists and not of the people as a whole.
      We cannot pay the €3.1 billion promissory note, and we should not pay it. It is not a debt owed by trade unionists, community organisations, or the unemployed. It is a debt belonging to speculators.
      The ICTU wants trade unionists to demonstrate against European bankers that are crippling Ireland. Good. But this is where the problem becomes evident. The European bankers are crippling Ireland on behalf of bankers as a whole, and these include our own bankers at home.
      Flaw number 3, which is probably the biggest mistake of all for the trade union movement, is the notion that rallying around the Government on this will save the Croke Park deal—or, which is much the same thing, make Croke Park mark II more bearable. This is a delusion. The Government’s policy towards the labour market and the public sector will not alter if the terms of the bank debt are modified.
      There are two reasons for this. The first is that the Labour Party has no traction on Fine Gael’s determination to privatise, marketise and disassemble the public sector, in the interests of private investors and providers. The second is that bank debt relief will have no short-term effect on the gap between what the Government borrows and what it spends. The coalition—including the Labour Party—is in thrall to the neo-liberal solution to this problem: austerity, austerity, austerity.
      So when we take a stand—make it your stand:
                • No to bank debt.
                • No to austerity.
                • No to the austerity Government.

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