The following is a letter from a reader in Ireland.
In efforts to avoid another Great Depression, the capitalist ruling classes of the world continue to respond to their profit crisis by bailing out their bankrupt finance houses and then demanding that the working class sacrifice its jobs, wages and social services to pay for the debt. As we have analyzed in recent issues of Proletarian Revolution, the crisis is widening not only the class divide between capitalists and workers, but also the divide between the great imperialist powers and the rest of the capitalist nations that they dominate and exploit.
The crisis is dashing many workers’ last hopes that if they worked hard they could earn a better life for themselves and their families under capitalism. Likewise, the crisis is dashing the hopes of whole nations who thought they had finally overcome the legacy of colonialism. Nowhere can this more clearly be seen than in Ireland, where rapid economic growth in recent decades fuelled illusions that the "Celtic Tiger" had leapt into the company of the richest nations.
When the world financial crisis first broke out in 2008, the Irish government reacted to the impending bankruptcy of its banks by guaranteeing their debts and then calling on the nation’s people to sacrifice. Two years later, the government predictably found itself on the verge of bankruptcy and needing to itself be bailed out. Thus in mid-November, in return for extending over $100 billion in new loans to the government, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund effectively took over direction of Ireland’s finances, extracting from the government a promise to launch the most far-reaching cuts to social services and jobs that the country has ever seen. Spending on "social welfare" will be cut by 15%, almost 25,000 public-sector jobs destroyed and the minimum wage lowered by 1 euro an hour. While taxes on business profits will be kept at their current very low rates, taxes on the working class will rise; young people will face higher university fees while the elderly will see their pensions cut.
Struggles by the workers and youth of Ireland against the capitalist attacks on their living standards are just beginning. We are pleased to publish below a letter from a reader of Proletarian Revolution in Ireland that describes a recent 100,000-strong union-organized demonstration against the cuts in Dublin and compares a basic revolutionary perspective to the messages of capitulation brought by the leaders of the unions and to the populist and reformist “solutions” brought by the leaders of Ireland's biggest socialist groups. Also on this website are earlier letters from the same reader, The Saville Report on the Bloody Sunday Massacre and Catholic Ghettos Erupt in Face of Orange Provocation and Police Brutality.
On Saturday the 27th of November somewhere in the region of one hundred thousand protestors took part in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)-organised march against the government’s proposed austerity measures and the southern Irish state’s ongoing “negotiations” with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU Commission. This huge turnout was achieved in spite of a freakish snow storm the night before which made for treacherous travelling conditions and a hazardous route for the march through the centre of Dublin city.
The protestors assembled at Wood Quay on the river Liffey before marching to the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell St., the capital’s main thoroughfare. The air of resentment and hostility, not only towards the Irish political establishment but also their international taskmasters, was palpable. The weight of recent events has clearly shaken a lot of previously demoralised workers out of the prevalent sense of apathy.
After a couple of hours a rally was held at the GPO with a multitude of reformist speakers; from the union bureaucracies’ top brass to members of the intelligentsia and the bourgeois press seeing an opportunity to lecture the “great unwashed” about the necessity of political, but not economic, reform. Vacuous rhetoric and patronising platitudes abounded in stark contrast to the temperament of the gathered crowd. Perhaps the only effect of all of this was to placate any concerns the vultures of imperialism and their native stooges might have had about these “rebels”. All calls for further “action” were clearly aimed at containing the struggles of the masses within large mobilisations, such as that witnessed on Saturday, and diverting workers away from withdrawing their labour power. When two senior union bureaucrats, David Begg and Jack O’Connor, gave their speeches they were booed by large sections of the crowd for suggesting unions uphold previously agreed austerity measures in place of the IMF and EU demands.
Following that an impromptu rally was held at the foot of the Daniel O’Connell monument by the “left bloc”. The bulk of protesters had already dispersed at this point leaving primarily members and supporters of a myriad of different left-wing organisations. The usual charade of the People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) pretending that they’re actually distinct organisations that function independently was once again rolled out. Responsibility for representing the PBPA fell to well-known SWP figure Richard Boyd-Barrett whereas the SWP’s top leader Kieran Allen spoke in the name of the party. Their remarkably populist speeches (the “rich” must be more adequately taxed for the benefit of “the people”) were only punctuated by that of Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party (SP) who actually managed to highlight the centrality of the working class for the present struggle. Higgins made no mention of socialism or revolution nor indeed did he properly define the enemy beyond the “sharks of the international markets”. Instead he advocated a twenty-four hour “warning” strike and the nationalisation of the state’s financial institutions and major industries. In reality what is now required is an indefinite general strike aimed at defeating the capitalist attacks.
The scale of Saturday’s march and that of recent student demonstrations clearly shows that the Irish working class is becoming increasingly combative.
A revolutionary alternative to the plethora of traitors, reformists and centrists currently on offer is warranted now more than ever. Committed revolutionaries genuinely interested in a communist future for humanity must unite in order to realise this alternative.
1. See Marxist Analysis of the Capitalist Crisis: Bankrupt System Drives Toward Depression PDF in PR No. 82 (Winter 2010) and As European Workers Battle Austerity: World Economic Crisis Resurgence, PR No. 83 (Fall 2010).
(Information regarding PDF’s on this website)