March 2016        

Time to step up the struggle for water


It is a matter of urgency for working people once again to mobilise, to get back on the streets to press home our demands for an end to water charges and, most importantly, for a constitutional amendment to enshrine the people’s ownership of water—not state ownership, because the state belongs to the rich and powerful.
     Regardless of the negotiations now under way about the formation of a new government, which will only continue the policies of the previous two, we must not allow ourselves to bargain away all our hard work, the early-morning blocking of the installation of water meters, the local and national mass demonstrations.
     Water activists urgently need to rally together to impose our agenda on the current political flux, and not allow them to impose their agenda on us. Fianna Fáil say they want to postpone charges for five years and to break up Irish Water; this is only a tactical matter for them in order to squeeze the momentum out of the mass mobilisation.
     The establishment is mounting a counter-attack on those opposed to water charges. Its strategy is to play the long game and break the people’s resistance. Although the manner in which this valuable resource is managed is important, it is not the central question we face. What is central is the ownership of our water resources; our demand is therefore for a constitutional amendment. This is the only way to block privatisation. It becomes even more urgent when we realise that the TTIP and CETA, once enacted, could make this impossible.
     We have to take advantage of the current political situation and use it to our advantage. Teachtaí Dála have been elected on the promise to end water charges and secure a constitutional amendment. They must be held to account. We cannot allow our struggle to be wasted on tactical manoeuvring for perceived political advantage, nor to be sidetracked by political sectarianism and petty point-scoring.
     As the dust from the elections begins to settle, a number of things are becoming much clearer. Certainly the continued growth in the anti-establishment vote is to be welcomed, especially if we add to it the significant numbers of people who did not come out to vote at all because of their disillusionment with the politics presented to them.
     All the main electoral parties and blocs, including those that stood on an anti-establishment platform, argued very much within the existing system. They allowed themselves to be corralled within the narrow ideological framework, some of them presenting their alternative economic and social policies with the boast that they had been fully costed by the Department of Finance! This implies that the Department of Finance and the state in general are neutral, above the cut and thrust of politics, above siding with any particular class interests. The reality is that the Department of Finance is the guardian of the interests of the economic system as a whole, that it takes direct orders from Brussels and Berlin.
     A big effort now, especially before a new government emerges from the whisperings in Leinster House, can achieve not merely a moratorium on water charges but a major victory, consolidated with a constitutional amendment.

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