March 2014        

Lions led by donkeys


This was supposed to be a year of commemoration (celebration for some) of the start of the First World War. So far, the post-bail-out propaganda and spin has exposed the ICTU and the Labour Party for the shallowness of their sell-out.
     A quarter of a million euros seems to be the going rate for the CEO of a Government-approved charity. That doesn’t take into account the expenses, health and pensions packages that usually go with the salary. These so-called leaders of society don’t seem to be able to function unless the pay is 100,000+ while workers are forced to apply for family income supplement because of low rates of pay and the hidden inflation in the cost of living, with high bank charges, zero-hour contracts, and so on.
     The whole “austerity” story has been shown to be a deliberate policy that applies to workers, the unemployed and pensioners and not to the clique at the top. The Labour Party and ICTU bought in to the lie and helped sell the programme of austerity to trade unions.
     It is worth recalling that “Towards 2016” was reneged on by the Government. Next came an attempt at another deal in December 2008. This was knocked on the head as the campaign of austerity was initiated with a campaign by the capitalist-controlled media against the civil service and public service—the most unionised sectors of the work force.
     The Croke Park 1 deal was sold to union members as “in the national interest,” following the campaign of vilification. When trade unionists realised they had been conned, they rejected Croke Park 2. This rejection was by both a numerical majority of members and a majority under the collegiate system of voting (one vote per thousand members). If the college of voters had accepted Croke Park 2 when the numerical majority of members had opposed it, the ICTU would have had no credibility. As it was, it was in crisis.
     The Labour Party was in a bigger one. Its function in Government is to enable the campaign of austerity against the working class by delivering the unions with the minimum resistance. If the democratic decision of workers had been allowed to stand, the Labour Party’s usefulness as part of the Troika would have been finished. Instead, Haddington Road was dreamed up.
     Essentially this is the same as Croke Park 2, but individual unions were allowed to vote on it separately, and therefore union bosses could sell it to members as though it addressed individual union interests. This, together with the FEMPI legislation (“financial emergency measures in the public interest”), presented us with Hobson’s choice. No matter what way you voted, your pay was cut and your conditions worsened. The intimidation used to force through this contemptible agreement has engendered fierce resentment.
     Pay-back time is now approaching for the Labour Party in the May local authority and EU Parliament elections. Within unions, activists are placing pressure on officials to be more militant. SIPTU is talking about pay increases. The Labour Party is desperate to offer something big to save itself.
     Trade unions are like the regiments of an army for the working class in the war between labour and capital, between wages and profits. Like an army, there are regiments of general foot soldiers, organised in unions such as SIPTU and Unite. Then there are the specialist unions, based on specific trades or crafts, such as TEEU. Outside these there are other groups in society, such as pensioners and community groups, who often have a shared interest with the working class.
     There are constant skirmishes with the enemy in the work-place. These skirmishes are continuing—sometimes initiated by the management and sometimes by the workers. In fact it’s a lot like trench warfare. Mostly it’s unrecorded and known only to the participants. Every now and then there’s open battle, as represented by a strike. “Trade Unions are required for the guerrilla fights between capital and labour,” as Marx wrote, and they are the “organised agencies for superseding the very system of wage labour and capital rule.”
     Capitalism is an inefficient and wasteful method of using the world’s increasingly scarce resources. It is destructive of the environment. There are periodic peaks and troughs of oversupply and demand, creating periodic crises. Trade union leaders—like First World War generals—often get lost in the minutiae of trench warfare and fail to see the overall strategic objectives. The capitalist class has political parties and the media to help maintain its position through propaganda and anti-union legislation.
     The next area of attack is expected to be defined-benefit pension schemes. Already the ICTU has bought in to the false narrative of the pensions time-bomb.
[NOM]

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