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Contribution of the Workers Party of Ireland

The finalisation of the IMF/ECB/European Commission intervention in the Irish economy over the weekend 27th/28th November 2010 signalled, both nationally and internationally, the most catastrophic failure of Irish capitalism and the Irish government since the foundation of the Irish state.

However, this crisis was not merely the result of the nefarious activities of bankers, speculators and developers. It was part of the major structural and systemic crises in the world capitalist system.

The political pantomime that unfolded over the period Saturday, November 13th to Sunday, November 21st 2010 exposed an Irish government totally floundering in the face of international capital.

The intervention of the IMF/ECB/EU, and the €85 billion deal which they constructed, was not for the benefit of the Irish people. The purpose of the intervention was to safeguard major European banks which had lent huge sums to Irish banks and to safeguard the Euro which they perceive as a key building block of this phase of their European project. Ireland was seen as the weak link in the Euro chain and the Irish people were to be given their medicine whether they liked it or not.

The IMF/ECB/EU intervention is often described in the capitalist media and bourgeois political discourse as a bailout. This is a deliberate misrepresentation. The purpose is to suggest that Ireland has been given a generous and philanthropic helping-hand, given something for nothing. The reality is completely different. Ireland will get, at most €68.5 billion in loans on the most stringent terms and at penal rates of interest. The political programme which has been imposed will be closely monitored and reviewed every three months and only after Ireland has implemented the IMF/ECB/EU programme will it be able to draw down any monies.

The budget introduced by Fianna Fail was a classic right wing measure. It was a product of a very particular view of economics and society which is equally shared by the Irish bourgeois parties and the EU. It attacked the low paid; those on welfare payments; the most vulnerable in society, including carers and people with disabilities. It also placed a bigger tax burden on the low paid yet the minority at the top of the income tree faced minimal pain. It removed money out of the hands of the very sectors of society who have no capacity to either save or borrow and who spend their entire disposable income within the local economy. This was, in effect, a further attack on the service and retail economy, and will lead to further catastrophic job losses in these sectors in circumstances where it is already proposed to eliminate 25,000 public sector jobs.

There was no attempt at job creation, no attempt to reverse the scandal of the give-away of Ireland’s natural resources, including the catastrophic handover of Irish offshore oil and gas resources to a cartel of multinational corporations. There was no mention of using the solid base of state companies to develop new technology and new industry without imposing any financial burden on the working class.

As the Workers’ Party pointed out at the time “slavish adherence to market economics has landed Ireland in the present crisis. It is obvious that a further dose of the same market economics, whether applied by a Fianna Fail or Fine Gael Minister for Finance, cannot solve the problem”. The current crisis has happened not simply because of bad government but because of the economic system itself, capitalism. The problem is systemic. The new Irish coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour poses no threat to capitalism and offers no alternative.

In capitalist society the concept of the “free market” is inseparable from and is identified with “democracy”. This is the explicit political agenda of the European Union: “democracy” presupposes capitalism and to oppose capitalism is to oppose “democracy”. In fact, despite its contention that it is neutral and democratic the state in capitalist society maintains and supports the conditions of class exploitation and serves the interests of the capitalist class.

In the European Union the lack of internal democracy, the attack on workers’ rights, the promotion of privatisation of the public sector, the promulgation of “undistorted competition in the market”, the downgrading of health, education and social security systems, the massive growth in militarism, the attack on social and environmental regulation and the development of policies and stratagems for the exploitation of the developing world are integral to its political project.

The promotion of the concept of a new pro-market world order, the notion of the so-called right of “humanitarian intervention”, the advocacy of the supremacy of private ownership of the means of production, the primacy of the interests of capital over those of labour, the advancement of neo-liberalism and the creation of the myth that there is no alternative to capitalism was advanced while exploitation, misery, poverty, inequality and injustice increases. Imperialism, true to type, encourages the barbarism of war and genocide; exploitation and social discrimination; the abuse of science and technology; threats to national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states; the repression of progressive political development; the perpetuation of the rule of the monopolies; and the widening of the gap between rich and poor.

At a time when capitalism is forcing down wages and increasing unemployment the cost of living for workers is becoming more unaffordable. Consumer price index statistics in Southern Ireland for the month ending December 2010 demonstrate a 7.1 per cent rise in fuel prices between November and December 2010 when working people are facing fuel poverty. Home produced essentials such as bread, milk and eggs are costing between 20 and 40 per cent more in Ireland than in other EU member states. In a recent briefing note by the Irish Department of Finance the tax section of the document stated there was scope for changes in the VAT system, with options including imposing VAT on currently zero-rated goods such as food, oral medicines and books. The Department of Finance has also stated that “further savings” will have to be targeted in education to meet the “savings target” of €379m by 2014.

In the past three decades successive Irish governments prevented large scale investment in social housing schemes and forced workers into the grossly inflated private housing market. Now those same workers are suffering the hardship of mortgage debt and negative equity and are being evicted from their homes.

In recent weeks a powerful business group calling itself “Ireland First” has produced a so-called “Blueprint for Ireland’s Recovery”. This plan exposes an agenda for mass privatisation and cuts to public services, including a proposal to sell of Ireland’s airports, ports and electricity grid. This wealthy elite also proposes a 5.5 billion euro cut to social welfare and recommends the appointment of “business people” to the Irish cabinet to “advise” on economic decisions.
In Northern Ireland the local administration is implementing the cuts proposed by the British government. There has been a lobby of powerful interests demanding that Northern Ireland will be given responsibility for its own corporation tax, a step which will create a further deregulated economic environment through which money can pass with few questions asked, transforming Northern Ireland into a de facto tax haven for big business. This move has nothing to do with creating jobs and everything to do with making Northern Ireland a tax haven for the rich.
The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to implement some £4 billion cuts. This involves school closures, the removal of education maintenance allowances, the closure of hospital services, the closure of cancer treatment units, 10,000 job losses in health and education, wage cuts, a reduction in funding for higher education, an increase in tuition fees and more.
In Ireland, North and South, the working class is being made to pay for the capitalist crisis. The very same ideological tools which gave rise to the crisis are now being deployed as the supposed solution. The austerity measures and the conditions imposed through the power of the IMF/ECB/EU threaten not only the welfare and livelihood of Irish workers but pose a real danger to democracy, national and economic sovereignty and independence.
Imperialism, and US imperialism in particular, has threatened, threatens and continues to threaten the progressive, political, economic and cultural development of the vast majority of the human race. NATO is an aggressive military alliance representing the extension of US military power and acting exclusively in the interests of imperialism. The history of NATO cannot be separated from the history of imperialism and war. Imperialism continues to pose a danger to peace, freedom, the independence and territorial sovereignty of nations and the rights of peoples to freely decide their future. NATO promotes the militarisation of Europe, the continuation of the arms race and increases the threat of war and nuclear terror. Imperialism, throughout its history, and today, has been responsible for interventions, war, terror, death and destruction, most recently in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan – and now renewed interventions in the Middle East, including Libya.

We believe socialism to be the only alternative to the present failed system. In the interim there is a central role for the state in developing and shaping the economy in the interests of the public good and not the interests of a wealthy few, which focuses on protecting and developing public services, job creation and economic development; develops and strengthens our publicly owned companies, the commercial semi-state sector; defends and expands public ownership and control of vital economic interests, including our vast natural resources, particularly our oil and gas reserves; creates an equitable progressive tax system and democratises national, regional and local institutions to permit real participation by citizens in shaping their lives.

If the Communist and Workers’ parties are to take advantage of the current conditions we must deepen our co-operation and achieve a broader co-ordination of our actions across the arena of struggle. The shaping of the conditions for revolutionary change requires the Communist and Workers’ parties to challenge bourgeois ideology at all levels of political, economic, social and cultural life, confront anti-communism in all its manifestations and defend the socialist project, placing a clear socialist alternative before the people. A correct analysis and understanding, the adoption of the best and most effective forms and methods of everyday struggle and a commitment to win the confidence of the people is necessary to create the conditions for an ideological counter-attack. The task is to prepare thoroughly, to explain our positions carefully and to conduct actions and agitations systematically and persistently.

The challenges and task of the Communist and Workers’ parties is to correctly analyse the contemporary situation and elaborate a policy for united action by progressive forces against imperialism and capital. This will require an emphasis on ideological and political work and a firm and consistent stand in defence of working class interests. Our parties have a long history of struggle. It is vital to rally progressive, revolutionary, democratic and anti-war forces to our cause. As Lenin said: “The victory of the world proletarian revolution calls for the complete confidence, the closest fraternal alliance and the greatest possible unity of revolutionary action on the part of the working class”. [V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 29, p. 123]

G. Grainger
International Secretary and Member of the CEC
The Workers Party of Ireland
48 North Great George's Street,
Dublin 1.
00 3531 - 8733 916

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