Austerity plan must be resisted

By eirigi

The Dublin government last week published its much anticipated declaration of war on the working class.

The phoney war of the last number of months came to a shuddering halt as Twenty-Six County minister for finance Brian Lenihan revealed that his government’s four-year austerity programme will commence with the imposition of E6 billion [£5.2 billion] of cuts next year, to be followed by a further E9 billion [£7.8 billion] of cuts averaged out over the next three years to 2014.

Content that this statement of intent would satisfy international finance markets and their parasitic bondholders, Lenihan provided no detail as to where he intends to wield the axe, thus ensuring that working class communities across the Twenty-Six Counties will spend yet another month living in fear and uncertainty. While the detail has yet to be provided, the class nature of the forthcoming budget has been abundantly clear for some time. Having already handed over E50 billion [£43 billion] to rescue corrupt bankers, Lenihan has consistently reassured the business class that they will continue to enjoy incredibly low rates of corporation tax while he sets about dismantling the public sector and driving tens of thousands of working class households into poverty. In slavish devotion to the market, Lenihan will take the axe to social welfare, health, housing, education, impose a range of taxes on ordinary workers and households and commence the sell-off of public assets.

Any pretence that the Twenty Six County political establishment is accountable to the people has been well and truly shattered as the coalition government, acting at the behest of international organisations such as the IMF, prepares to sacrifice the Irish working class upon the altar of neo-liberalism. While corporate profits will be protected, Lenihan has suggested that the average household will be at least E6,000 [£5,200] worse off after next year’s savage budget is imposed. Harking back to the recession of the 1980s, when the current finance minister’s father Brian Lenihan Snr declared that “we can’t all live on a small island”, Lenihan Jnr indicated that an estimated 40,000 people will be forced to emigrate next year. According to this failed economic philosophy, a certain proportion of the population has to be sacrificed so that the profits of a tiny minority can be maintained.

It is a sentiment enthusiastically supported by the Dublin government’s business-wing, IBEC, whose director-general Danny McCoy described the proposal to drive tens of thousands of households into poverty and emigration as “a proportionate and credible response to the budget deficit’’. The employers group has demanded that the so-called ‘adjustment’ of E15 billion [£13 billion] comes primarily in the form of public sector cuts rather than taxation. It seems what IBEC demands IBEC gets, as the Dublin government has given an absolute guarantee that corporation tax will not be increased and has indicated that there will be E3 of cuts for every E1 in taxation.

It should be noted that the bulk of any new taxes will be imposed on low paid workers and on households in the form of property tax and water charges. The corporate sector and the state’s wealthy elite will continue to enjoy the protection of the state as the burden of the economic crisis is heaped upon the working class. While the Twenty-Six County state has underwritten the debts of the private banking sector to the tune of E50 billion, criminals like Danny McCoy expect pensioners, people with disabilities and families on social welfare to pick up the tab and suffer a significant reduction in their standard of living. Indeed, it has already been announced that the registration fee for third level students will be doubled to E3,000 [£2,600], meaning that the prospect of third level education will be denied to many thousands of young people.

Given the class dimension of this war, there is little prospect of the Dublin government targeting the wealth of the rich. While working class communities face the prospect of job losses, wage cuts and the gutting of public services, Ireland’s exclusive multi-millionaire club continues to enjoy its privileges. The Bank of Ireland Wealth of the Nation report in 2007 estimated there were 33,000 millionaires in the Twenty-Six Counties, with 330 of these individuals possessing wealth in excess of E30 million [£25.8 million]. A recent analysis by Tom O’Connor, lecturer in economics at Cork Institute of Technology, estimated that, in 2006, the total wealth held by these 33,000 millionaires was E156.21 billion [£134.6 billion].

Taking account of the collapse in property prices and the possibility of some losses on the stock market, O’Connor estimates this rich elite still controls wealth in the region of E121 billion [£104 billion]. A five per cent wealth tax on this figure would accrue the E6 billion this year that the Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition intends taking from workers, pensioners, students and the most vulnerable in Irish society.

It seems that the working class must suffer so that the Denis O’Briens, Peter Sutherlands and Michael Smurfits of this world can continue to enjoy their lavish lifestyles. Of course, taking wealth from the powerful is anathema to those who adhere to the principle of the ‘free market’. Rather than taxing the rich and making them pay for a crisis of their own creation, the anti-social activities of multimillionaire bankers, property developers and financiers has been handsomely rewarded with a E50 billion bailout.

While the Twenty-Six County state confers considerable largesse upon the corrupt bankers and developers, those who dare stand up to the injustice of this corrupt system are smashed over the head with batons by members of the Garda Goon Squad. Last Wednesday’s violent Garda attack on students who were engaging in peaceful protest was meant as a demonstration of state power and a warning to those who might consider taking to the streets to resist next month’s austerity budget.

Meanwhile the actions of éirígí councillor Louise Minihan in pouring some red paint over Twenty-Six County minister of health Mary Harney, who has wrought havoc upon our health service and death and misery upon those reliant on it, have been greeted with howls of indignation from the usual establishment suspects. It seems the political establishment expect the working class to take their austerity medicine quietly and, if they insist on protesting, that they do so within boundaries defined by the establishment.

That Dublin government ministers have been met with some diluted red paint and farm fresh eggs is an indication of severe restraint in the face of extreme provocation. And, yet, Sunday Independent journalist and Bertie Ahern-appointed senator Eoghan Harris last week called for restrictions on the right of assembly as it seemed the working class was getting uppity!

The battle lines have been drawn and the Dublin government has presented its war plan – the decimation of the public services and the impoverishment of tens of thousands of households. The fourth estate has been mobilised in support of this agenda and the Garda Goon Squad has been activated in defence.

The response of the working class to this declaration of war will be critical in determining the future of this and coming generations. Almost 100 years ago in Dublin city, the capitalist class, their prostitute pressmen and the Dublin Metropolitan Police combined in an attempt to smash working class organisation into the ground. They were met with fierce and determined resistance, upon which the foundation of the trade union movement in this country was built.

The stakes today are no less high than they were during the Dublin Lockout of 1913. At stake are working class advances won by our brothers and sisters through a century of struggle. To fight is to win. Rise up!

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