Socialist Democracy www.socialistdemocracy.org January/March 2015
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Stormont House deal:
Twin hammers to smash the workers There is no disguising the calamity facing workers in the North. Benefits for the poor and sick are to be slashed. Thousands of public sector jobs are to go and the services themselves cut back. Public resources are to be auctioned off. The plan means terrible suffering - much greater than that in Britain because it will be applied in a shorter timescale in a situation where there is little local industry and levels of poverty are already very high. But that's only half the story. The common view is that little progress has been made on resolving political issues. That's not the case. The reality is that unionism has successfully applied a veto and their version of virulent sectarian division will continue to apply, a vicious weapon against working class unity. The political and economic elements are brought together by the sectarian way that monies are distributed.. The DUP and Sinn Fein will share out the spoils as patronage to keep control of separated communities. There are however grounds for hope. Sinn Fein, who a few weeks ago were denouncing "British cuts" are now attacking their working class base. That means an end to the pretence that they are a party of the left.
The Trade unions, fervent supporters of all previous deals, have rejected the Stormont House deal and threaten to campaign against it. Now we need a united democratic campaign that involves community and political groups. That campaign will have to face the dual nature of the Stormont administration: a mechanism for implementing austerity and a source of sectarian division.
Stormont House Deal: Sectarianism and austerity Twin pillars of reaction As 2014 drew to a close hosannas rang out from governments in Ireland, Britain, the US and Europe. The Stormont house agreement had been signed off at the last minute and the Irish peace process was yet again striding forward into the future. The reality is that there was a hurried scrabbling together of documents to present the appearance of agreement - a desperate sticking plaster solution disguising the continuing decay of a rotten system. To establish the truth of this assertion all one has to do is apply the Haass test. The Haass talks crashed and burned at the end of 2013 when the unionists rejected formulations on flags, parades and the past, themselves concessions made after they had reneged on earlier deals. How were these issues resolved in 2014? The answer is that they weren't. In fact they were hardly discussed. The unionist ultraright and paramilitaries split off from a unionist alliance at the start of the talks because they wanted the absolute right to assert sectarian privilege through Orange marches as a precondition to any discussion. The DUP's Gregory Campbell announced to cheers at their conference that Sinn Fein proposals might as well be written on toilet paper as far as his party is concerned and was then supported by party leader Robinson. It was crystal clear that there would be no accommodation by unionism. Loyalist intransigence The DUP could not and would not give way on issues of sectarian privilege and, despite tearful pleas from nationalist commentators, neither the British, the U S, nor Dublin had any intention of overruling them – Sinn Fein’s “friend” at the talks was Dublin’s foreign minister Charlie Flanagan, a Fine Gael Blueshirt and admirer of imperialism in general and Israel in particular who was denouncing Sinn Fein with the crudest sexual abuse within a week of the talks closure. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny also denounced Gerry Adams for holding back Martin McGuinness from instant capitulation. There was no point in discussing the Haass proposals and therefore they weren't discussed. They were ignored completely until the closing chapters of the talks and then kicked down the road in a plethora of grants, quangos, committees and working papers. Insofar as any business was done it consisted of concessions to unionism with a few minor sops to Sinn Fein. The concessions to unionism are quite significant. The most significant of all is that the Haass proposals, and formal agreements that went before, have been wiped out. The unionists have a veto and there will be no overall settlement that does not concede to their bigotry.
The specific concessions express this reality: Plans to shrink the administration and thus the range of Sinn Fein’s patronage (unionism is built into local civic society and controls a great deal of patronage without the need for the Stormont administration). Plans to modify the administration to allow for an opposition – at present 5 parties have seats in government and the unionists want a “democratic” settlement where they rule alone. By far the most significant concession is the proposal that decisions on sectarian parades will be transferred to the office of the first minister and deputy first minister. Given that it is impossible that the DUP would accept restrictions on sectarian parades this is a major victory for the Orange bigots. The concessions to Sinn Fein were that a major road project would go ahead and that a British proposal to hold an enquiry into a blocked Orange march in Belfast was taken off the table. A sign of the balance of power between the Shinners and the Unionists was indicated when all the Unionist parties, despite winning further concessions, protested the cancellation of the march enquiry, expressed dissatisfaction at the outcome, and have delayed signing off on the deal. Sinn Fein’s Ard Chomhairle immediately accepted proposals they had been denouncing weeks before. This includes a series of deadlines that apply only to Sinn Fein—any promises by unionism will come into effect after the elections Rebalancing the economy The real business of the talks was to agree an austerity budget that would include very sharp cuts in welfare payments. Claims that the peace process would include a peace dividend and provide economic growth proved false. The current capitalist policy is to rebalance the economy by shrinking the public sector. In practice rebalancing means the development of a low wage economy with the ill and deprived forced off benefits. Problematic anywhere, it is especially difficult in the North of Ireland where the collapse of traditional industries and lack of any real economic strategy has been partly offset by a reluctance to apply cuts too sharply while an armed revolt was still on and by the employment of a sizeable section of the population in a massive security sector. Application of British cuts will be devastating and the idea that local small-scale industry will take over or that there will be a large influx of transnational capital is fanciful. Sinn Fein's strategy had been to demand that unionists honour their "equality" agenda in return for financial agreement. When that strategy proved unviable it was they who were caught in the pincers of a political trap. By posing as a left party Sinn Fein now register as neck and neck with Fine Gael in the 26 county state. They are poised to replace Fianna Fail as the party of populist nationalism and
aim for a place in a coalition government in Dublin following the coming elections. So the question for Sinn Fein became: Are they best placed to do this as a party of the left who collapsed Stormont because they stood by the poor? Or as a party of government, a safe pair of hands able to take hard decisions in the interests of stability? In previous crises Sinn Fein have always answered; "party of government," and so it was today. The real meat of the discussions then became how to provide cover for the Shinners as they yet again sold out their supporters. Hardship fund Sinn Fein proposed a better, fairer way of imposing the cuts. They demanded a hardship fund to offset the effects of austerity and new money from the British. There are a whole series of problems with that approach. The most obvious problem is that there no point in a policy that negates austerity inside an austerity budget. A hardship fund would shift elements of welfare from a right to an optional benefit that must be applied for.
When the Sinn Fein/DUP have worked their way through these opportunities to enrich themselves, the transfer of a further ÂŁ200 million a year from workers to capitalists will enable them to bribe transnational companies with the offer of 12.5% corporation tax. A Mafia statelet The fact is that Sinn Fein has very few levers to shift British policy. The British want the pantomime at Stormont to continue but, such is the decay in popular consciousness, that its failure would not lead to any immediate revival of rebellion, while for Sinn Fein it would lead to the political collapse of their Northern organization. The popular mood combines dislike and distrust of politicians with a conviction that there is no alternative to the sharing out of sectarian privilege that passes for politics. The claims of a new settlement are met with a wave of apathy. As it is, there are background plans being fast-tracked to shrink the endless departments and the army of MLAs in the local administration and thus the reservoir of patronage available to Sinn Fein and hints that some parties might be levered out of the government and into opposition, slipping back towards the Stormont of old that the unionists call for. The new arrangements to come out of the Stormont House agreement can best be described as a corporate mafia statelet. The agreed budget says it all. Almost 40% of the budget is to pay for public sector redundancies, shrinking public services at a catastrophic rate. Another 40% is spent through crosscommunity mechanisms. This sounds vaguely progressive until it becomes clear that cross community structures do not undermine sectarianism but codify it and serve to share out the spoils. Already underway and part of the whole package is the transfer of housing from central Housing Executive control to local associations more amenable to sectarian manipulation.
Sinn Feinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ard Chomhairle immediately accepted proposals they had been denouncing weeks before.
So even on the grounds of providing cover for the sell out Sinn Fein suffered a serious defeat. Their main aim had been to increase the cash offer from the British to prove that they had successfully blunted the benefits cuts agenda. Instead they were offered a line of credit. The money available would always be too little and would rapidly shrink. The relatively small sum of ÂŁ70 million has been set aside over five years. There is no new money. The line of credit will create pressure to keep hardship payments to a minimum. An increase in indebtedness through the credit facility will also increase the pressure to sell off public resources. Water privatisation is an obvious candidate. In any case the austerity policy, a massive transfer of wealth from workers to capitalists, does not reduce down to welfare reform. It includes a unprecedented cut in public services that will see massive redundancies (700 million has been set aside for public sector redundancies). This shrinkage of public service will see the transfer of services to "social entrepreneurs" with consequent cuts in services and wages and mass profiteering. In addition there will be a fire sale of public resources, with Belfast harbour top of the list.
So society will move backwards by several generations. A low wage economy, current services reduced and supplied through an amalgam of political and "community" patronage. The whole system will be firmly in the control of the political organizations which will be able to allocate jobs and houses. The small socialist and left trade union forces imagine that under this dispensation they will come into their own with a programme of "bread and butter" politics. That is highly unlikely. The major political parties will rely more than ever on sectarianism to retain their hold on power. Most leftists have no answer to this. Their idea of nonsectarianism is a studied neutrality that automatically concedes to loyalist reaction. Much of their activity is centred on the idea that the local colonial administration can be moved to the left through electoral intervention. For all the dangers we are entering into a new period. Sinn Fein has signed up for a programme that directly and materially attacks the working class and their own base. The trade unions, for the first time, have come out against the deal. A new political movement is possible, But it should combine absolute opposition to austerity with absolute opposition to the colonial administration enforcing austerity and acting, under the direction of the British, as the major agent of working class division.
Unions, workers and resistance Socialists see history as unending class struggle. Even in times of capitalist victory and working class retreat that struggle continues. However as the workers retreat the forms of resistance become weaker - at one stage the main critique of Thatcherism in Britain came from the established church. In the same way the trade unions have survived decades of reaction, not because they have vehemently defended the workers, but because they have been weak and ineffectual. The bureaucrats have collaborated with the austerity, pleading for fairness and wringing their hands when it is not forthcoming. They capitulated to laws that limit industrial action and then use the laws to argue that resistance is impossible. Strikes are almost unknown. When they do occur they have a completely different dynamic to the industrial actions of the past. Once they would have threatened a more general challenge to government and bosses. Today they are one day wonders, used to add emphasis to what are essentially lobbying campaigns. Workers support The strange corollary of union ineffectiveness is that workers cling to them more tightly than ever in the absence of any alternative. Strike action calls out a disciplined response from workers. Union demonstrations bring out tens of thousands. However this is a process in decay. Workers cannot avoid noticing that there is no let up in austerity or that union leaders become more deeply mired in partnership with government and employers. A countervailing tendency appears - spontaneous popular mobilizations. These have a great deal more energy because they are not under the control of the union bureaucracy, but are cut off from the workplace and often lack clear structures and policies. Water charges The current struggle against water charges has seen the emergence of spontaneous movement headed by the left of the trade union bureaucracy. This indicates that the trade unions continue to have considerable authority. However a recent interview with an unnamed leader of right2water, combined with the way in which the campaign has been conducted and their willingness to condemn activists
being harried by garda and the even more recent retreat from broad mobilizations show how uncomfortable the left bureaucrats are with the size of the mass activity. In the interview with the Irish Examiner the right2water spokesperson indicated that they "hadn't gone away," had been lobbying politicians and were discussing setting up a new political party. In other words retreating from mobilization towards more constitutional forms of action as Irish water becomes more firmly established and water charging is implemented. Alternative How can we go beyond the current impasse? The trade unions should be part of the resistance, but this can best be done by mounting a challenge to a reformist leadership that constantly demobilises struggle. The base for that struggle is the working class communities who are the most militant combatants. There should be a democratic national movement, established by an open conference. "Steering committees" are all too easily used to set up deals behind the backs of the activists. There should be a simple common policy to close down Irish water. Blather about human rights leaves too much wriggle room for the fainthearted. The workers need a party Trade unionism and mass community action are not enough. The workers need a party. But what sort of party? Will it be an Irish SYRIZA or PODEMOS focused on parliament and negotiations with imperialism? Or will it be a party of revolution focused on the streets and workplaces and aiming to build an alternative socialist society? It would be wrong to say that the trade union left are suppressing the revolutionary impulses of the workers. It is very likely that many share the reformist illusions of bureaucrats. What is happening is that reformist leadership constricts the self-organization of the workers and that is through that self-organization and independent action that workers can gain confidence and act in their own behalf. That's why a democratic national movement with a representative leadership and a clear action programme is so essential.
A single, National movement A democratic structure involving all activists One immediate campaign of action:
Close Irish Water Now! What’s happening to the campaign against water charges? We advance a movement of the tens of thousands. We keep the pressure up both in Dublin and around the state. We confront meter installation and make life a misery for our political leaders wherever they appear. The government counters with a few pawns; no meters now, a cap on charges, a bribe if you register. The campaign acts as if we face checkmate – a nonthreatening carnival in Dublin, a holiday over Xmas, then a small steering committee meets in January and agrees – A period of consultation! The fact is the Trade Union left are taking a big step back from confronting the government. That decision shows up a big weakness of the campaign – it has no democratic structure able to involve everyone in debate and argue out a way forward. That way forward should be very clear – we need to close Irish water now. Government strategy has boiled down to saving the company with the simple reasoning that if it survives privatisation is inevitable. Behind the government stands the Troika, absolutely committed to the privatisation of all public services and the transformation of basic life needs to commodities. The way we can close down Irish water should be very clear also: Mass civil disobedience to close down government if they continue to defy the people. Alongside this should go class action. We should stop being diplomatic with Union leaders, pretending that they have no members, that we do not need industrial action to win our corner or that Irish water would not close tomorrow if they issued a withdrawal call to the council workers inside the company. All of this needs a democratic movement to enforce it. That why we ask other militants to join us in mounting a national petition for an open right2water conference meant to build a fighting movement under the control of the participants.
A silent retreat Major setback for the water campaign The Right2water demonstration in Dublin on 10th December had two central elements. It reaffirmed the mobilization of a significant section of the Irish population against water charges, against unending austerity and against pervasive corruption. At the same time it marked a significant setback for the movement. The fact is that in any struggle advance is followed by counterattack. In this case the government response was avoid the immediate use of water meters, promise a low flat charge, offer a bribe to those who registered and offer assurances that water would not be privatised. The purpose of the changes was to save Irish water. If it could be preserved as a commercial government company the Troika programme would be preserved and in the long term privatisation would be assured - Irish water is tasked with a â&#x201A;Ź6 billion renovation of infrastructure to be raised in loans. Once in hock to banks and bondholders there will be no turning back. Close Irish water! The call to close Irish water was a popular one with the Dublin demonstrators, but it was not a slogan implemented by the left bureaucrats leading right2water. Their strategy, supported by many of the political groups, was simply to organise the December mobilization, with the expressed hope that if it were large enough the government might retreat further. As part of the lobbying perspective it was made clear in advance that the December demonstration would be a non-threatening walk in the park, with a "carnival atmosphere" proclaimed. Socialist Democracy is very far from advocating violence, but we do believe that, when a government so openly resists a mobilization, the next stage is to call for it to step down and to outline a programme of political resistance aimed at preventing itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s functioning. As it was, a protest aimed at the government was met with a ring of steel around the Dail. There was no protest from the bureaucracy, who should have at least formally challenged the Garda barricade. Instead they organized the rally some distance away and dismissed it without making
any demands or presenting any strategy other than a petition. The lack of faith in the petition is reflected in the fact that twice as many people have attended each mass demonstration as have signed the online petition. Legislation to establish Irish water has passed the Dail and Senate. It has begun charges from January 1st without any organized national campaign of opposition. Government Advance The government have successfully moved forward despite mass opposition because the spontaneous movement is constrained by existing leaderships that have proved insufficient in the past. The reactionary role of the trade union leaderships was self-evident. The right of the bureaucracy, Jack O'Connor and David Begg, having signed up to water privatisation as part of social partnership and the implementation of the Troika programme, openly attacked right2water, Shay Cody of IMPACT went as far as attempting to ban his members from attending demonstrations. When O'Connor shifted to "support" it was with the transparent aim of diverting the campaign and ensuring the survival of Irish water. The weakness of the left bureaucracy is less evident. The truth is that they are tied to the other trade union leaderships and to social partnership and to the Troika programme. The left bureaucrats are dancing in the cracks, avoiding any clear demands or programme of action. We cannot ignore the fact that over 100 000 people mobilised on a work day behind a call by left trade unions without any section of the union movement calling for industrial action or for their members to withdraw their labour to support the protest. Even less should we ignore the fact that the workforce of Irish water is made up of council workers seconded from their positions in local councils by agreement of the unions - including the left unions inside right2water. The broad front was drawn so wide that it included Jack O'Connor, a leading opponent of right2water. It included Sinn Fein, who had weeks before supported payment, and who have now signed up to implementing mass austerity in the North. It included Fianna Fail, who first drew up the water privatisation plans. The December protest was
clearly arranged by agreement with the government and Garda. The platform was not used to develop a strategy for the campaign. Proposals for a January demonstration have been set to one side, decisions are made by an ad-hoc steering committee and, in confrontations between Garda and water meter demonstrators, the trade union bureaucrats have distanced themselves from the demonstrators.
In fact the greatest source of data is the rent and rates strike in the North following the introduction of internment. This enormous battle lasted so long because it was part of a much larger struggle. It was when the broader struggle was forced back and the rent and rates movement isolated that it was finally defeated. A wider movement
The magic bullet The failure to prevent the establishment of Irish water has not been an issue of deep discussion or concern within the opposition to water charges. Many groups and individuals believe that they have a killer weapon - a mass nonpayment campaign. It is true that mass anger at water charges is at new heights. It is also true that a successful nonpayment campaign would mean that so little revenue would be collected that Irish water would fail in its transition to a commercial company. The cost of water would remain on government books and the austerity budget agreed with the Troika would collapse. However non payment is essentially an individual and passive tactic around a single issue. People sit at home and don't pay while the government deploys a whole range of political manoeuvres, threats and bribes to break the campaign. For that reason the vast majority of nonpayment campaigns end in defeat. The chief ideologues of a single issue non payment campaign are the Socialist Party. They advance their argument through the simple method of ignoring the defeated struggles and holding out the successful struggles as exemplars. For example, the recent household charge campaign crashed in flames in an orgy of political sectarianism and is never mentioned. Instead the SP reach back to the original water charge campaign and to the British poll tax campaign of the 1990's. Even then there is no analysis, simply an assertion that victory can be achieved.
It should be self evident that the water charge protest is part of a wider uprising against austerity. Why then is there such little discussion about building such a wider movement? Again the Socialist Party serves as an example. Why did it set up is own "can't pay, won't pay" campaign, effectively splitting from the broader movement? The answer is straightforward. Many of the non payment campaigns have been defeats for the movement but successes for the Socialist Party and other left groups in that it has allowed them to build an electoral base and win seats in the Dail and local councils. The new "can't pay, won't pay" campaign, the close links to the Socialist Party and their anti-austerity front, the restrictive proposed conference limited to non-payment - all have a clear electoral perspective. Electoralism The Socialist Party are not alone in seeing the best way to generalise the opposition to water charges into a more general opposition to austerity through an electoral challenge. The Socialist Workers Party and their People Before Profit front share a similar perspective. Brendan Ogle of Right2water has been tight mouthed about an electoral role and an unnamed representative of right2water has given an interview in the Examiner saying that talks are underway to set up a new party. Even the Trade Union right in the form of Jack O'Connor has suddenly demanded abolition of the Universal Social Charge, putting clear water between himself and the Labour Party and allowing a shift to a new Labour Party mark ll in the event that Labour continue their meltdown. In addition Sinn Fein have declared support for a concept often advanced by former UNITE leader Mick O'Reilly and the Communist Party - a coalition government of the left that would reverse austerity.
Certainly candidates advancing a socialist policy should be supported. Certainly the more left TDs, the more difficult it is for the capitalists. Yet the election of socialists, even the election of left governments, doesn't automatically lead to the defeat of austerity. For socialists a basic principle is that electoral intervention should lead to greater mobilization and self organization of the workers. The history of the Irish left has shown a preoccupation with Dail committees rather than actions to support workers self organization. One aspect of this electoralism is a tendency towards vagueness around policy in order to appeal to a broad swath of voters. Because of this vagueness groups such as the Greens, in the past part of an austerity government, and Sinn Fein, implementing full-blooded austerity in the North, are saluted as left parties. The role of Sinn Fein clarifies the political bedrock of a fog of apparent broadness. They have carefully costed alternative, anti austerity budgets that match, euro for euro, the government budgets and contain the same payments to maintain the bank bailout. Union leaders Begg and O'Connor sing from the same hymn sheet. There is a better fairer way, but it must be found, according to O'Connor, within the "narrow confines" of the Troika programme. Wealth tax A similar line is taken by the socialists. The defunct ULA produced a budget within the Troika guidelines. Recently Richard Boyd-Barrett of People before profit claimed that the Troika would have been happy to substitute a wealth tax for water charges. The problem is that this is simply not true, It is not true that a wealth tax, although justified, would generate enough revenue to negate austerity. It is not true that the Troika would accept a wealth tax as an alternative to water charges. Privatisation of public services and resources is a central component of the Troika programme. The financial stability act outlaws state spending that would support public services. Above all it is not true that Ireland is an independent nation and that a change in government can lead to a change in economic policy. Not only would the local gombeen capitalists threaten civil war at any attempt to make them pay for the crisis, the Troika would launch an economic war to bankrupt the country and bring the government to its knees. A realistic resistance So Irish workers have arrived in the same place as many other sections of the European working class. There is a
rising up against a level of austerity that is becoming insupportable, while at the same time a socialist alternative doesn't seem to be present and workers cling desperately to existing parties and Trade Union organizations, or else to "new" movements based on similar policies. The potential of that scenario will be played out shortly in the coming Greek election. The role of socialists in the new struggles is to support all forms of resistance while arguing for an effective and realistic movement and for a socialist alternative. The most immediate task is to obliterate Irish water. That will require a democratic, national organization with a united policy demanding its closure - no more steering committees that obstruct real discussion and organization. The context is a full-blown struggle against austerity and Troika rule - it would be nonsense to imagine that people would fight against water charges and yet accept mass evictions, cuts in pensions or further privatisation of transport, health and education. We should ask Trade Union leaders to put their money where their mouth is. Trade Union members should be withdrawn from Irish water and return to their council contracts. Further demonstrations should include industrial action. Local action committees should include union branch and factory representatives. The water charge con involves capitalists expropriating public property. An effective countermeasure involves drawing up a workers plan for water, demanding its implementation by government and local authorities and, where that fails, taking direct action to seize resources and implement the plan. With the knowledge in Irish universities, the skills of Irish workers and water pouring from the skies - only imperialism and gombeen capitalism could make water provision a problem!
Water doublespeak: When unity means division On the 8th of January a meeting of the right2water campaign took place. The meeting agreed:
paigns across the state. There is no problem with doing this in addition to active involvement in R2W”.
That the trade unions would undertake a period of consultation.
So Paul Murphy explains that they are not splitting and then outlines a process where a split takes place and everyone does their own thing!
That there was general support for all forms of protest provided they were peaceful. That right2water "welcomed" a demonstration on 31st January that would be organized by unspecified groups. Despite everyone welcoming everything this was in fact a dismantling of the campaign. The left trade unions have distanced themselves from mass demonstrations and any demands more specific than human rights. The left have ignored the trade union retreat and hope to retain the loose cloak of right2water to advance their own projects and build their own base. Sinn Fein feel free of any constraints and can go on to focus on advancing their electoral fortunes. However there were complaints of splitting and sectarianism. It was the Socialist party that took the fall - to some extent deservedly so as they had unilaterally set up "Can't pay won't pay" and linked it to their AAA electoral front immediately after the Dail vote on Irish water. They had also called a meeting to launch a non-payment campaign on the 10th of January. That meeting attracted around 150 delegates. The was some attempt to discuss the politics of the campaign but, as it had been called to organize around a single tactic other issues were ruled off the agenda, a process aided by the apolitical, direct action attitude of some delegates. In advance of the meeting Paul Murphy of the Socialist party issued a statement refuting charges of sectarianism, saying that: “real unity is built through open discussion of differences, combined with common action”. He goes on to say: Sinn Fein does not call for non-payment. Similarly, none of the trade unions involved in Right2Water currently call for non-payment. We think that’s a mistake and we hope they change their position, but we recognise their right to decide their own positions. ...we are going to organise for mass non-payment, as we already have been doing with the We Won’t Pay campaign. We also want to go further in trying to build a national federation of groups who are for organised mass non-payment, in partnership with locally based cam-
Let’s follow the logic. The central issue for the SP is non-payment, The task is to approach the mass of the population in their homes, shopping centres and on demonstrations and convince them not to pay. On the other hand when the leadership of the trade unions and Sinn Fein, who have the support of large sections of the population - in the case of the trade unions the organised working class - oppose non-payment we are to shrug our shoulders and respect their position! The idea that we should respect differences is an example of diplomacy between groups that puts their interests before the mass of the population. The call from the mass of people at the December demonstration was clear cut – they want Irish water closed down. A campaign to do that should have been drawn up after the demonstration. Instead we are to have major sectors moving back, no attempt to build a coherent national movement, and a focus non-payment in April in the hope that a long time in the future this will close Irish water. The time to close Irish water is now. The reason no plan is being put forward is that no-one in the campaign is willing to look to closely at the ambiguous role of the unions and go over their heads to appeal to the workers who are being transferred from local authority to Irish water. So much for giving the unions the right to determine their own positions! We have had three mass demonstrations of 100 000 people. Yet another ad-hoc steering committee of 20 or 30 decides to row back the campaign. A few days later a meeting of 150 agree a non-payment campaign, ruling out any wider discussion. Where have the 100 000 gone? When are they to be consulted? What about the workers who are being drafted to Irish water with the agreement of their unions? We will build a mass campaign not by respecting differences and building our own corner, but by going over the heads of reluctant leaderships to engage the mass of the movement. What militants should be doing now is organising a mass petition for an open conference of right2water. They should use it to build a democratic, representative movement and to put forward a plan for closing Irish water right away through a programme of industrial action, mass action and civil disobedience. Anything less runs the risk of seizing defeat from the jaws of victory,
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Jack O’Connor, Irish Water and the Troika Programme. How do we explain Jack O’Connor’s apparent equivocation on the water charges? O’Connor only recently advised the people of Ireland to pay the charges because failure to do so would lead to the even worse option of increased taxation. Following the exponential growth of the anti water charges protest movement he reappeared saying he now supported the Right2water campaign—although this “support” still involved payment. To understand O’Connor’s role we have to look back in time. In November 2012, following a couple of well attended demonstrations, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions fronted an anti-austerity demonstration around the 2013 budget. It was at the launch of this demonstration more than anywhere else that the true strategy of the Irish labour movement’s leadership was laid bare. Jack O‘Connor announced; “We will be encouraging members to come out on the 24th to prioritise an agenda of growth within the narrow parameters of the Troika program”. It is almost incomprehensible that, accompanied by the sage silence of the reformist left, while launching a demonstration against the government’s economic policy the leader of the country’s largest union went so far as to make the case for that policy, stating that the Government had “very limited space to manoeuvre”. O’Connor has never strayed from this position. At the demonstration itself a section of workers and youth, some of which broke the discipline of their political organisation’s official position, booed the union bureaucrats and chanted slogans for a general strike. The organisers of the rally moved to protect O’Connor and quell the protesters’ enthusiasm and proceeded to allow UNITE’s Eugene McGlone, then ICTU chair, to taunt the vociferous youth with a cynical version of how to organise a general strike; “if youse want a general strike youse call it!” Consolidating this attack Jack O’Connor later referred to the young workers as ‘fascists’, a disgraceful slur by a Labour leader on class conscious activists. The entire episode was a microcosm of the relationship between capitalism, the trade union leadership, the reformist left and the working class. Given this previous contempt for anti austerity demonstrators and his blatant attempts to undermine the water charges campaign O’Connor’s recent attempts to get on board the Right 2 Water campaign could appear to suggest a movement to the left. His tentative moves are laced with caveats however, and his strategy has remained consistent. His demand that the campaign agrees to a payment per household based on the promise of a referendum on the issue of privatisation is an attempt to distract and confuse the popular campaign. If we abolish Irish Water no referendum would be necessary as without Irish Water it would be impossible to privatise the water service. The problem for O’Connor is that this campaign is genuinely spontaneous and cannot be controlled in the same timeworn way that union bureaucracies control their members, so in order to prove his usefulness to capitalism as a negotiator Jack must try to get his foot in the door of the water charges campaign, control and demobilise it and install the bureaucracy as the arbiters of class peace. In fact Jack O’Connor as leader of SIPTU could put an end to Irish Water’s misery and end the water charges campaign by instructing those workers who are SIPTU members to return to their contracted council jobs and the government and Irish Water, would be defeated. The fact is that O’Connor and the entire union bureaucracy are ideologically supporting the privatisation and there is strong documentary evidence to show that the whole union bureaucracy were in on the ground floor, helping to set up Irish water with their only concern that their members transfer over and union subscriptions be kept up.
From the beginning of the economic crisis the trade union movement’s leadership have been content to maintain the relationship with capitalism that they had consolidated during the Partnership years. With the arrival of the crisis this relationship did not change. The union bureaucracy still looked for the least worst deal, agreeing to large pay cuts, closure of key industries and job cuts in the hope of a relatively rapid economic recovery. Where the workers disagreed they were walked around the park and asked to vote and vote again until they came up with the right answer. Seven years later the union leader’s strategy remains exactly the same. STRATEGY. It is no accident that the entire bureaucratic leadership failed to recognise the fundamental nature of the crisis that afflicted capitalism with the collapse of the banking system. ICTU were never going to agree with Marx’s explanation for capitalist crisis being based on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, instead, their strategy was born of the reformist notion that successful trade unionism required the existence of a healthy capitalism and concessions should be made by the working class to ensure that health. With the advent of the crisis, which they believed would be short term, they fell back on their default position; they would continue with social partnership at all costs, making themselves indispensable to capitalism as crisis managers and facilitators of an organised surrender of workers short term interests in order to facilitate a capitalist recovery. The problem is that the depth and fundamental nature of this crisis demands the complete crushing of workers living standards in the hope of restoring profitability. Despite the long duration of the crisis and evidence that the austerity is to extend into the foreseeable future this approach was maintained. As it became increasingly apparent that the attack on the working class was intensifying the union bureaucracy became increasingly shrill in its calls for a Keynesian answer to the global crisis when no capitalist was talking about such a scenario. It is this political line that defines O’Connor’s position. O’Connor has spelled it out; “The problem with our economy is not that wages or spending is too high. It is that consumer demand continues to fall through the floorboards precisely as a result of the pursuit of this nonsensical approach which reflects an on-going attempt to resolve the problems created by those at the top of society through crucifying people on middle and low incomes. The one-sided austerity agenda is not working. Indeed it cannot work”. He was not against austerity, as long as it was shared by the ‘top’ of society. This despite the fact that the austerity is designed to transfer wealth from the working class to the huge glutted institutions of capitalism in an attempt to restore profitability. His idealist vision of a fair Keynesian capitalism meant he was against what he saw as the one sidedness of attempts to resolve the catastrophe which had befallen capitalism and believed that he was best placed to advise the capitalists on how to resolve their crisis, through the “Better Fairer Way”. He did not for a moment oppose the very unfair concept of the working class shouldering the banker’s huge debt, or the idea that what had been private banking debt had been shifted on to the shoulders of the working population of Ireland for generations to come. It was essential to the solution of the crisis. According to his interpretation his job was to prevent unscrupulous self interested immoral bourgeois individuals
from acting against the best interests of capitalism and thus the working class.
the decks for increased profitability and investment, not Keynesianism.
A CORRUPT POLITICAL IDEOLOGY.
A FABIAN LEFT?
At the bottom of this betrayal of the working population lies a debased and cynical corruption of socialist ideas based on Keynesian economics and Fabian gradualism which denies the source of profit in human labour, sees profits as dependent on investment, rather than the other way around as explained by Marx, and which holds an idealised view of social ‘justice’ within capitalism, the theoretical basis of ICTU’s “Better, Fairer Way”. O’Connor had explained this position well in a speech at the 2011 SIPTU Biennial conference;
Jack O’Connor’s blatant class treachery does not exist simply because he is a particularly degenerate trade union bureaucrat. It is there because he sticks resolutely to a reformist political perspective, one that dominates the Irish left. He is no fool awaiting in a state of ignorance for the intervention of a gently spoken leftist to enlighten him, he knows and has chosen his political point of view well,
“Capitalism is experiencing one of the most profound crises in its history. The great irony is that it can survive only if it repudiates its most essential characteristic – exponentially growing inequality. Yet– the survival of Capitalism is ultimately dependent on restoring the purchasing power of working people in the US and in Europe. This was clearly grasped by people like Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR), who also understood that the key to it is strong trade union organisation to ensure effective collective bargaining to redistribute wealth and restore purchasing power. F.D.R. understood this clearly and supported the Labour Relations Act (or Wagner Act as it was known) during the depression to provide a legal framework for trade unionism to grow stronger, equipping workers to engage in Collective Bargaining with employers …… So there it is. Trade unionism is key to the socialist transformation of society. However, it is also essential to the survival of capitalism.” There it is indeed! O’Connor’s Keynesian theory flies in the face of Marxist analysis. Michael Roberts, the Marxist economist, presents the case for Marxism. “For Keynes, the causal direction is simply that investment creates profit…. For Marxists, it is the other way round: investment depends on profit. And profit depends on the exploitation of labour power and its appropriation by capital. Thus we have an objective causal analysis based on a specific form of class society, not based on some mystical psychoanalysis of individual human behaviour. The Keynesian causal direction leads to a cockeyed understanding of the laws of motion of capitalism.” What O’Connor seeks to do is to present Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930’s as an example of a successful Keynesian intervention and a solution to the crisis of capitalism today. But the poverty and degradation of the working poor in 1930’s America isn’t much of an advertisement. Leaving the way in which the workers had to suffer for that ‘cure’ to one side for a moment it is also important to point out that it was ineffective. He ignores the fact that FDR’s New Deal did not restore capitalist fortunes which was boosted only by the arms economy, the military destruction of the means of production throughout the world and by the shedding of millions of gallons of blood in world war. He also neglects to mention that the New Deal was only resorted to in the first place following a wave of determined militant strikes across America with two general strikes in Minneapolis and San Francisco. The real reason for the US capitalist recovery was quite different. From 1932 FDR’s New Deal tried to rejuvenate capitalism “but as soon as he took his foot off the Keynesian pedal in 1937, the US economy slipped straight back into slump”. The switch to military investment, the forcing down of wages and enforced investment in ‘war bonds’ which was then handed over to industry for military investment in the means of administering death, led to the upswing in profitability. Workers were subject to reduced wages, increased exploitation, their savings were taken by the government in the form of ‘savings’ bonds and they were sent out to die. The barbarous destruction of the means of production cleared
Based on this corrupt ideology, O’Connor now seeks to make himself and the bureaucratic SIPTU leadership relevant to the water issue because the position that they occupy as mediator between capital and labour has been rendered useless by the water revolt’s independence and spontaneity. He seeks to control it and to bring it in to line with their perspective for healing the capitalist system. It is the political responsibility of Marxists to loudly and publicly oppose Jack O’Connor, the bureaucracy and the politics they adhere to but the leadership of the left are married to his reactionary Keynesian ‘Better Fairer Way’ through their refusal to do so. Attacking his personality is not the same as attacking his politics but they fail to confront his politics because they are smitten with the same disease, failing to grasp the systemic nature of the capitalist crisis and finding themselves sharing the reformist perspective of the union bureaucracy. O’Connor has the temerity to lecture trade union conferences on the need to save capitalism because his ideology is facing little opposition within the labour movement. This must change. A trade union leadership that places the survival of capitalism before the interests of its members betrays those members and must be removed. That will not happen to any meaningful extent by means of a bureaucratic manoeuvre, or an alliance with the next bureaucrat in waiting. Such an approach does not confront the political basis of the bureaucracy’s treachery. A real rejuvenation of the trade union movement can only happen when, as with the water charges, those effected most by austerity, the rank and file, mobilise on their own account. The existing leadership can only be definitively outflanked by a fighting trade union rank and file organisation across all unions which fights austerity, and the ideology that justifies it. The anti water charge campaign as it struggles to become nationally organised has provided inspiration to trade unionists on how to begin a fight back. Trade unions already possess the level of organisation that Right2water aspires to but the trade union leadership is unaccountable and politically degenerate. While the anti water charge campaign is focussed on a single issue and lacks a democratic structure, it still provides a service to the working class by asking the question; Should we have to pay for our water in order to balance the books for the Troika? The workers reply with a resounding No! The trade union leadership, based on their degenerate reformist political theory answers a resounding Yes! The establishment of a national grass roots democratic body opposed to water charges and austerity would be a step forward and would pose to the many thousands of trade unionists involved in it the immediate task of democratisation and radicalisation of their unions. The establishment of a fighting rank and file organisation across all unions, linked in action with communities defending themselves against austerity, would immediately strip the bureaucracy of the control and arrogance that allows them to lecture the labour movement on the need to make sacrifices to save capitalism, to order their branches not to oppose water charges or to refer to left wing youth that criticise their betrayals as ‘fascists’ and it would ultimately free the trade union movement from the leaderships reactionary political perspective. James Fearon.
It doesn't fall from the skies yâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;know -
When Donegal Fine Gael senator Martin Conway justified the establishment of Irish water as a commercial company he explained that we had to pay for water because it "didn't fall from the skies." When the laughter died down he underlined his stupidity by explaining that he meant purified water. Leaving aside what Conway thinks rain is if not purified water, we should look at what he was trying to say - that is the official justification for privatisation of water. This process has been successfully rolled out over decades. It is a form of "enclosure." Enclosure is the theft of public resources and their transfer to private hands. Land enclosure was used to develop early capitalism by forcing people off the land and into wage slavery in the cities. Now enclosure is used to privatise public utilities in a form of vulture capitalism. The logic is the necessity to return a profit on capital, but the robbery is dressed up in ideology. Only when water is assigned a price, when it is converted from a necessary resource to a commodity can a price be set. It is claimed that this is a green measure to ensure conservation and that only market forces can ensure this. In reality the operation of capitalism in Ireland has seen an utter disregard for the conservation of natural resources, an utter neglect of the water system and an utter disregard and degradation of what was, not so long ago, one of the most pristine environments in Europe and is now catastrophe. Water privatisation has no green outcomes. Where it occurs there is firstly a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich and then a concentration of water ownership into the hands of a small number of transnational companies. The end result is what we see in Detroit. One of the major cities in the world's leading capitalist power sees tens of thousands cut off from mains supply.
Turning water into a commodity
Early capitalism developed municipal ownership and control of water to ensure the health of their workforce. In late capitalism, despite global reserves of money reaching into the hundreds of trillions, the rate of return on capital no longer allows this sort of expenditure. It is tempting to look to the past and to a state providing a basic level of services. It is more helpful to look to the future. We have a high level of education and many skilled workers who are unemployed. We lack capital, but if we organized as a working class we could expropriate from a hostile quisling state. We have instant communications to connect to other workers across the world. We should develop and implement a workers plan for water provision. How hard can it be? It actually does fall freely from the skies - in millions of gallons!
What is Islamism?
If your view of the world is formed by mainstream media you would likely have the impression that society is under assault from Islamism and that there is some great ensuing struggle (the “War on Terror” or the “Clash of Civilisations”) between its tyrannical world-view and the democratic values embodied by what is referred to as "the West". In many ways this narrative parallels that of the earlier Cold War period which had "the West" in confrontation with communism in the form of the Soviet union. However, these narratives - constru cted to justify the policies of the policies of US led imperialism (what is really represented by the term “the West”) are far from the reality.
consolidate their rule. An aspect of this was the old divide and role tactics under which religious or ethnic identity was manipulated in order to weaken colonised peoples. While these early movements could be more correctly described as sectarian they did lay the foundation for the stronger and more ideological Islamist movements that would emerge later.
For a start there is no Clash of Civilisations - there is only one “civilisation” in which the various political forces operate and that is international capitalism. Islamism does not present a non-capitalist alternative. Neither has it got anything to do with religion. While Islamism may adapt certain elements of the Islamic faith, and at its most basic ideological level seeks to mobilise people on the basis of religious identity and to make aspects of society conform to a certain version of Islam, it is essentially a political movement with a political ideology. Critiquing Islamism as a religious phenomenon is totally futile and only plays to the worst racist stereotypes of Muslims. Neither is Islamism a monolithic bloc - it has a diverse range of factions and strands, many of which are in opposition to one another. Finally, the proposition that there is a conflict between Islamism and imperialism is overstated. Certainly, there is a current conflict with some elements within Islamism, such as the various Jihadist groups or the Islamic Republic of Iran, but for the most part imperialism and Islamism have been and continue to be allies. The origins of Islamism The close association of Islamism with imperialism is clear from its history. It’s no coincidence that the first Islamist parties came into existence in the 1920s & 30’s in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the assertion of power by Britain and France over predominantly Muslim populations of the Middle East . Those imperialist powers consciously cultivated movements and leaderships from conservative elements in society, such as feudal chiefs and religious clerics, who would help
The failure of secular nationalism In the period of decolonisation after the WW2 period the dominant political movement in the developing world, including those countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations, was secular nationalism. Generally these movements had a programme of state led economic development which sought to reduce their countries dependence on imperialism. While not socialist many of them employed left rhetoric and also looked to the Soviet Union as a model for development and as a potential ally. In the Mid East this political strand was pioneered by the Nasser coup in Egypt and its prestige was boosted by the defeat of the old colonial powers when they attempted to seize the Suez canal. In the 1960’s nationalist movements came to power in a string of countries across the Mid East and North Africa. Islamist revival However, this ascendancy did not last. The Arab nationalist states, which had championed the cause of the Palestinians, were dealt a severe blow by their defeat by Israel in the 1967 war. The prestige of nationalism was also damaged by the onset of the capitalist crisis in the 1970’s which saw the abandonment of many state led projects. These setbacks for secularism created the conditions for the revival of Islamist movements. They were in an advantageous position as they had the resources in the form of charitable organisations to move into areas of society, such as healthcare and education, from which the state had withdrawn. This gave them a base from which they could expand their influence. Afghan War The Islamist revival was also aided by the strategic decision of US imperialism in the late 1970’s to actively
promote Islamist movements as a means to weaken the Soviet Union and its allies. This had its fullest expression in the arming and financing of the Mujahideen fighters who were opposing the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan. Importantly, tens of thousands of men from across the Muslim world were recruited to participate in this so called Holy War. It is out of this foreign element of the Mujahideen that Al-Qaeda and many of the current Jihadist groups emerged. So to some extent the War on Terror has its roots in the Cold War.
Muslims and cleanse Muslim society. ISIL opposes democracy and burnt Palestinian flags to show their contempt for the people of Gaza during the recent Israeli offensive. Their view that people in western Europe and north America area are a monolithic block that is oppressing Muslims is completely wrong as are the atrocities, such as 9/11, the London bombings and the most recent attacks in France, that this is used to justify. The outcome of such actions is always reactionary - providing a cover to states for further repression at home and aggression abroad.
Iranian revolution Another major boost for Islamism came in the late 1970’s with the revolution which brought the Ayatollahs to power in Iran. This came on the back of a mass movement which overthrew a US backed dictatorship. But though it is described as an Islamic revolution, it was not inevitable that the Islamists would win out. It actually started out as a broad movement which contained various left currents and had a large working class component. Stalinism What the Iranian revolution exposes is the role the political left, particularity the Stalinist left, played in aiding the rise of Islamism. In rejecting the need for independent working class politics the Iranian left effectively handed the leadership of a popular uprising to the most conservative elements. This rejection of independent politics was also a key factor in the Arab states with their Communist parties being distinguishable from the nationalist regimes. In this context the Islamists, rather than the left, were the political force that were seen as the alternative.
Islamism has also shown its reactionary character in states where it has come to power. Its programme, irrespective of the party, is always anti-democratic, anti-labour and anti-women. There is nothing in it that socialists can support. Socialism Socialists must always promote the political independence of the working class, whether that be in Muslim countries or in the imperialist centres. Most importantly they must never concede anything to pro-imperialist arguments presented in the liberal guise of defending liberty or
Imperialism The current conflict between imperialism and elements of Islamism arises out of the continued imperialist domination of the Muslim world, and in particular the Middle East. A new round of aggression was heralded with the first Gulf War in 1990 and has continued ever since - most notably with the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the numerous onslaughts by Israel against the Palestinians. This is the context in which Islamist elements, including those such as Al Qaeda that were previously allies, have come into conflict with imperialism. In many ways imperialism and Islamism feed off one another. However it would be wrong to equate the two. Islamism is in no way a challenger or rival to imperialism. - In terms of political, military and economic power there is no comparison. Reactionary It is the abuses of imperialists that have fuelled the rise of the Islamist groups that they are now in conflict with, but it doesn't follow that there is anything progressive in the politics and methods of such groups. ISIL, in conflict with the West, argues that its task is to attack other
democratic values - that often come in the wake of atrocities such as the recent massacre of journalists and Jewish shoppers in France. It is only through demonstrating its independence that socialism can present itself as a credible alternative. In the middle east we should not concede for a moment that imperialism can bring peace and democracy to the region. They gave birth to and support the majority of the reactionary movements and regimes in the area. It is not so long ago that there were large socialist movements and they can be rebuilt. Even in the absence of sizeable socialist forces there are regular mass mobilisations against the regimes that demonstrate the burning oppression that the Arab masses feel at the continuing oppression and at the rivers of blood being spilt by the imperialist powers. In Europe we must say “je ne je ne suis pas Charlie.” The slogans around “freedom of expression” are being used by the capitalist powers to launch further state repression at home and new foreign adventures abroad. The socialists must urge the defence of Muslim workers and working class unity against imperialism and the capitalist state. J M Thorne
Irish state reduces women to vessels The repression of women by the Irish state has been exposed yet again by the case of a clinically dead woman being kept alive in order to continue a pregnancy. The responsibility of the state for this woman’s situation was summed up in the claim by doctors that they were unable to accede to her family’s request that life support be switched off for “constitutional reasons”. In this case the legal imperative to preserve the life of the unborn raised the prospect of a woman’s body being maintained for up to twenty weeks despite there being no possibility of a live, never mind healthy birth. This horrific scenario did not fully unfold (though it should be remembered that life support was in place for three weeks) as the family were successful in obtaining a judgement from High Court to grant their request. Yet the resolution of this particular case did not alter in any way the severe the reproductive rights of women in Ireland.
Eighth Amendment The “constitutional reasons” mentioned by doctors was a reference to article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution – known as the Eighth Amendment – which recognises a right to life of the unborn that is equal to that of the mother and requires the State to defend that right. Passed in a referendum in 1983 this was a major victory for those who were seeking to reinforce Ireland’s ban on abortion. That it was a factor in a case that had nothing to do with abortion shows the degree to which the ban on abortion has affected every aspect of women’s lives relating to reproduction. In healthcare the recognition of the right to life to an unborn foetus has embedded a distorted two patient approach to pregnancy in which the unborn is viewed as an independent entity despite being wholly dependent on the mother. While the primary purpose of this deceit is to deny women the right to an abortion, in the case of brain death it reduces them to nothing more than incubators. Cases such as the one above are not unique. High Court judgement The Eighth Amendment – and the right to life of the unborn imperative - was central to the High Court’s deliberations on the request of the family to turn off life support. Indeed, one of the first things established by the Court was that it did apply in this case. The Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment creates an independent right to life of the unborn that applies in all cases. In the case of maternal brain death the rights of the unborn must prevail over any regard for the mother who is no longer living. The main focus of deliberation is therefore on the “practicality” of continuing with the pregnancy. In this case it was found that there was no prospect of a live birth and so the request to turn off life support was granted. While this judgement may have satisfied the particular needs of the woman’s family, for women in general the implications are very bad. It upholds the fundamental deceit that a foetus has an existence independent of the mother and in the result of brain death reduces the woman to nothing more than a sustaining environment for a possible birth. The only consideration given to the woman in this judgement her right to dignity in death. However, this weighed very lightly in comparison with the right of the unborn. The right to dignity is also limited to death - it does not apply to a woman’s dignity in regard to a continuing pregnancy. The interference of this judgement is that if the practicably qualification is met then pregnancy in the case of maternal brain death should continue. And it doesn’t stop here. The judgement also introduces the principle of the “best interests” of the unborn as
an additional reason to sustain the body of the pregnant woman. Overall, it is very much in tune with the arguments advanced by anti-abortionists. Reform? The High Court judgement was typical of the judicial-political fixes that are produced in response to public outcries over particularly cruel consequences of Ireland’s abortion laws. They bring resolution to a single situation and some relief to the small number people immediately affected by it but do nothing to address the fundamental reasons such harrowing cases occur so regularly. These various judgements and laws, give the appearance of reform but in reality keep the blanket ban largely intact. So despite the passage of legislation in 2013 we had the case last year of a suicidal rape victim being force fed and subjected to a caesarean section. The only area that has been liberalised in relation to abortion is the right to travel. Even this right to travel isn’t universal, with reports that at least five migrant women in Ireland who wanted to have an abortion were forced to carry on with their pregnancy in the last year. The experience over the last twenty years - of the public outcries, spontaneous mass movements and the political response to them - demonstrate the impossibility of gradual reform on the issue of abortion. While mobilisations around calls for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment are useful in raising political awareness and should be supported, even a successful campaign would not guarantee the achievement of abortion rights. Clerical state The fundamental reason for the failure of reform is not the nature of the law but the nature of the state. In a liberal democratic state reforms in relation to abortion are possible - we can see the liberalisation that has taken place in the countries of western Europe and North America since the 1960s. Though reform would not have happened without struggle it could be accommodated by these states. The problem with the Irish state is that while it is democratic in form (parliament, courts, constitution etc) it is anti-democratic in nature. It came into existence on the back of the defeat of the democratic struggle. The conservative counter revolution which took place was reflected in the special status afforded to the doctrine of the Catholic Church and the control religious orders were given over public services such as education and health. This is why we describe Ireland as a clerical state. While the liberal assumption that we are living in a post-Catholic Ireland may be true in terms of public attitudes and behaviour - institutionally and politically the clerical state is still very much in place. It has been the foundation of capitalist rule in Ireland and there is no indication that any significant section of the Irish capitalist class is moving away from that. There was shock and embarrassment over the revelation that Savita Halappanavar was told by a midwife that she could not have an abortion because Ireland was “a Catholic country”. But this is the truth. Ireland is a country whose laws continue to be informed by religious dogma. This is the reason why abortion is banned. This is the reason why pregnant women die needlessly; rape victims are forced to give birth; and the bodies of brain dead women turned into incubators. Revolutionary In the framework of the Irish state reform in relation to abortion is impossible. The struggle for women’s rights is therefore bound up with the struggle for democratic rights and for socialism. The class nature of Irish society also means that such struggles can only be advanced by the working class. In Ireland the demand for abortion rights cannot be anything other than revolutionary.
The test of â&#x20AC;&#x153;broad anti-capitalistâ&#x20AC;? parties It is evident that many Greek workers will vote for the left party SYRIZA in the coming elections, with the possibility of that party forming a government. The workers want to use the elections to demonstrate their hatred of the unending austerity under the Troika programme and SYRZIA, with over 1/3 rd of the vote, seem best placed to demonstrate that hatred.
more fulsome in their support for SYRIZA and dismiss doubts about pre-election shifts to the right. Also, leading figures in the British Left unity group claim that SYRIZA will repudiate the debt. This is simply wrong. SYRIZA are promising what many aspiring government parties have promised before: that they will renegotiate the debt and get better terms. A more measured claim is that a victory for SYRIZA will lead to a chain reaction across Europe and the rise of broad anticapitalist parties. However this is simply an assertion and it totally misunderstands the dynamic of the current class struggle. The workers support broad reformist parties because they have suffered defeats. They move to the left when traditional parties betray them, but no further than new parties who promise that reform is possible within the existing system and that the desperate struggle for revolution will not be necessary.
It is equally evident that immediately after the elections there will be a profound crisis. The parties to the right of SYRIZA may form a coalition to continue the Troika programme. SYRIZA may form a coalition to the right that brings it to government with a weakened anti-austerity programme. If in government it will find itself locked in conflict with the Troika in a struggle around the future of Greece and of the eurozone. In preparation for the post-election struggle it is vitality important that where workers vote SYRIZA they do so without illusions, that where possible they vote for revolutionary candidates and at all costs organize independently on their own behalf for the intense struggles that will arise. This is all the more important given that many socialists, including the leadership of the Fourth International of which we are a component, are much
A further claim is made. That SYRIZA will form a workers government and raise a beacon across Europe. The party has given absolutely no sign of moving outside the institutions of capitalism. The claim is a sign that many socialists have themselves retreated and are intent on blurring the line between revolution and reform. Calls for debt renegotiation have failed throughout the years of crisis. Given that the crisis is deepening and that workers across Europe must be convinced that there is no alternative to austerity, the Troika will not give way. The reformist and parliamentary strategy of SYRIZA will not budge them. The question for workers will then be: do they despair in the face of capitalist intransigence? Or do they move to the streets and workplaces to begin the task of sweeping the capitalist system into the dustbin of history?