October 2014        

Water charge revolutionaries

Eoin McDonnell

It seems there’s a revolution going on. The people of certain working-class estates in Dublin and others scattered around the country have had enough, and it’s all-out war against the state—or so it seems.
      This is what we are to believe from social media: scenes of angry, indignant and ready-to-fight workers who have taken to the streets to do battle with the well-equipped wing of the state and its masters, Irish Water.
      So what’s happening? When did this revolution start, and who’s organising it? Judging by social media, it’s part spontaneous, part independent councillors, and some AAA and People Before Profit councillors, with a hint of the ever-present Dublin Says No.
      The aims of this revolution? No to water charges! And the methods? Surround the workers trying to install meters, who have Garda protection, with angry workers while filming with as many cameras as protesters, and hopefully you get a violent reaction, presumably to encourage more angry workers onto the street, and the state and Irish Water will cringe and fade away.
      The more likely result will be that it ends up with a few pockets of meterless estates and a group of workers being dragged through the courts, facing fines or prison terms; or is the real aim to bolster the voting strength of the above-mentioned parties?
      So what is the real agenda? Is this a real attempt at defending workers’ rights?
      It’s plain to see that these workers are angry—fed up with the constant introduction of charges to pay for the debt incurred by the wealthy that has been loaded onto the working people of Ireland. So why are they attacking construction workers and gardaí? Tax is not the issue: the ownership of our resources is. Even the rich pay tax.
      The fact that Irish Water will be privatised, and one of our basic needs will be at the mercy of a corporation, is a scary thought.
      In contrast, there is an attempt by some of the better trade unions to organise a mass campaign under the banner Right2Water, which, if it gets the support it deserves, should be able to mobilise workers around the country in a genuine attempt to force the Government’s hand and also to demonstrate the power the workers have at their fingertips.
      Judging by the attitude of some of the local protest organisers, I doubt if they see this as an alternative, as they see the trade union leadership as an enemy of the workers (not without merit, but hardly the fight that’s to hand). The sight of blood streaming down the faces of workers after an assault by the forces of the state was not and will not be the sign of the beginning of change or revolution.
      I attended a book launch on the Irish Citizen Army recently and asked if there is a need for a workers’ defence force today. Was it relevant, or would it be tolerated? The answer was surprising, in that the Citizen Army was not founded in 1913 by Connolly as a reaction to the Lock-out but began spontaneously some time in 1911 and was then developed by Connolly and Larkin.
      More surprising was the fact that, while they took part in battles with the forces of the state, this was not their main aim, which was to organise workers in a disciplined group for the battles ahead. They weren’t fooled into thinking that because they had angry workers at hand they could take on the state: in fact they realised that they should pick their own battles, and spontaneous civil unrest only gave the forces of the state the reason they needed to smash any resistance.
      Those who think that now is the time to attack and who refuse to listen to the organised workers’ movement, either for selfish reasons (i.e. votes) or just pure impatience, are wrong and in the long run will do more harm than good to the cause of the workers of Ireland.

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