September 2013        

Stand together and build together


Next month we will face yet another austerity budget, which will be a continuation of the current strategy of making the people pay for the crisis and the odious debt.
     Tens of thousands of families have had to find the money to buy school uniforms, school books, school “donations,” and sports gear. Many will have gone to moneylenders, squeezed a few quid more out of the credit union or raided their dwindling savings to buy what is required to keep their children in school.
     Families that have children either starting in or returning to third level also face mounting bills, with increased fees and cuts in grants.
     The government is proclaiming that its policies are working, as the number on the live register of unemployed has dropped to 13½ per cent, or 435,280. But the real reason for the drop in numbers is spiralling emigration, with one person leaving the country every six minutes, together with the limited period for which people are able to sign on, and of course the doctoring of the figures.
     People wait in trepidation to see what is coming next and what this budget has in store for them. The government has geared up for a long, slow series of cuts, restrictions, and changes in eligibility, which are having a cumulative effect. More drugs will be unavailable on the medical card. It is a spreading of poverty by a thousand cuts.
     It is the job of the left and the trade union movement to assist and give leadership in breaking free of the grip of fear and the feeling of hopelessness that permeates people’s lives.
     The trade union movement must break free of the stifling grip of the Labour Party. If it does not it will become increasingly marginalised. The recent shambolic event in O’Connell Street, Dublin, to commemorate the 1913 Lock-out spoke volumes about how marginal it has already become. The ICTU predicted that 80,000 people would attend; a little over 3,000 turned up, while the majority of Dubliners walked past, ignoring the assembled dignitaries of the Labour Party in their exclusive VIP section. The egalitarianism of Connolly and Larkin was abandoned by the ICTU in order to rub shoulders with government ministers and their hangers-on.
     No—Irish workers now need to rebuild a united, coherent, fighting trade union movement. The sectionalism being fostered is the road to nowhere. Just as Connolly and Larkin forged a “new trade unionism” from 1907 to 1913, it now falls to this generation to do the same.
     The internal troika of the establishment parties—regardless of which particular combination makes up the government—will continue their policies of permanent austerity, unless we stand together and build together.
[EMC]

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