This blog is for anyone interested in discussing the political content of a programme for a revolutionary worker’ party in Ireland.
An initial statement by the author of this blog which does not pretend to be a fully finished programme – its aim is to stimulate discussion and debate about the key areas a revolutionary socialist programme needs to cover.
Paul Murphy was interviewed on the This Week RTE 1 radio programme on Sunday the day after the protest in Tallaght against Joan Burton. Since then he has been vilified in the press for encouraging violent protest. Paul’s militant stance of standing with his constituents is to be commended, and all campaigners against the water tax should defend him and others from attacks in the bourgeois press. This is no reason, however, for holding back on criticising the tactics of others within the movement. There were a few points in Paul’s radio interview that concerned me in terms of the direction the Socialist Party would like to see the anti-water charges movement developing.
Paul’s main argument in defence of a strategy of mass non-payment is that the government would avoid attempted prosecution of non-payers in the courts for fear of losing votes:
“by the time they get around to that they are on the very doorstep of a general election. The Labour Party knows that the water charges has the potential to add to what damage has already been done and wipe them out. Fine Gael is also experiencing [this]. So I think that is not a very strong sanction and people can feel confident that if numbers hold together, if we maintain a very strong non-payment then the government won’t be able to seriously attack that.”
He has nothing to say about the potential, which must be very real given the mass nature of the opposition, for building anti-water charges groups among the workers in Irish Water (and the Revenue if they do go for deduction at source at some later point) that would be able to take industrial action to undermine any collection process. Indeed an important component of any non-payment campaign should be attempting to create such groups in as many work-places as possible as a precursor to building towards a general strike which would be a powerful weapon in our arsenal if the government digs their heels in and plays hard-ball.
Paul mentions that the We Won’t Pay campaign will have a membership fee of three euros, and explains this by pointing out there is a fee to join the Labour Party.
This harks back to the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes where the SP also argued for selling membership cards as the best way to raise funds. In Cork the strongest CAHWT group, both numerically and in terms of finances raised, was the Cobh group where we did not use the membership cards at all. This was despite the SP having a significant existing organisational base on the north side of Cork city in the form of the electoral apparatus of Councillor Mick Barry – and where they did use the membership cards as the main fund-raising mechanism.
As someone who saw the SP divert those areas of the CAHWT which they politically dominated into the council election campaigns of the newly formed Anti Austerity Alliance, the analogy with the Labour Party leads me to think that the We Won’t Pay membership cards serve another purpose.
We Won’t Pay was explicitly created as an organisation of the electoral Anti Austerity Alliance (WWP carries the AAA logo on all its banners). It should be clear to anyone with eyes to see that a significant, if not the dominant, element in the SP’s plans for the non-payment movement next year is to harness as much of it as possible as “members” of We Won’t Pay thereby encouraging their participation in the Anti Austerity Alliance electoral machine for the coming general election.
It seems Paul’s fine words at the recent Socialism 2014 event (see my report) about the development of forms of working class self-organisation being the most important aspect of the anti-water charges campaign were only Sunday speechifying for the members of his sister party in England to help them continue in their self-delusion that they really are members of a revolutionary Marxist organisation. However when putting forward a concrete perspective for the movement in Ireland he falls back to the traditional SP parliamentarianism that will only undermine the further development of the exciting green shoots of working class self-organisation that we have seen in the anti-water charges movement.
Joe Higgins TD said: “Those responsible for all this expect, apparently, to be welcomed into the working class communities they have so grievously betrayed especially in the case of the Labour Party. No more. People are now intent on calling them to account for their lies in the 2011 General Election campaign when Labour promised to protect people from fine Gael’s water charges and promptly stabbed them in the back by implementing same.
“Varadkar says that the Jobstown protest was ‘organised and orchestrated by Paul MurphyTD of the AAA’. It was in fact organised by residents in the local area and Paul Murphy absolutely rightly attended in full support of the people who elected him to fight on their behalf. It is another demonstration of ordinary people finding their voices and declaring they will take no more of this government’s bullying. Joan Burton and Leo Varadkar better start listening and begin by abolishing the water charges which will simply not be accepted despite their last ditch, panic measures to try and halt the protest movement with some temporary concessions – in reality another lie to try and get them past the looming General Election.”
The full segment on This Week regarding the water charges:
Sean O’Rourke Today show on RTE 1 from this morning with their reporter Brian O’Connell who was in town this morning looking around and interviewing people on estate guard duty – at the start of this podcast. Sounds like a pretty accurate report of the reality of the grassroots nature of our campaign in Cobh. Well done to everyone interviewed this morning.
A couple of people have asked what I made of the violence at the protest against Joan Burton’s visit to Tallaght on Saturday (links to videos at the bottom of this post).
That is quite simple – I condemn the violence unreservedly.
The violence of the Gardai manhandling the protesters blocking Burton’s car.
The violence of the riot police deployed against working people protesting on the streets.
The violence of the Garda pepper spraying peaceful protesters.
The reality is that it was the Gardai who escalated a peaceful protest into a situation something more than that.
Of course the word violence has been used by the capitalist media and liberal commentators to refer to something else entirely.
Firstly there was the supposed threat to Joan Burton from a handful of protestors banging on her car with a water balloon and a few eggs being thrown. Burton has claimed that the protesters were trying to overturn her car and presumably injure her which anyone viewing the video can see is ridiculous.
Secondly there was the brick thrown at a Garda car later in the evening. The motivation of that individual is not known – perhaps they had a friend or family member who had been among those who were pepper sprayed or pushed around by the riot police; perhaps they had a previous personal grudge against the Gardai for some reason; perhaps they were a state provocateur.
Unless the last of those options is proven to be true then the important thing to recognise is that despite any criticism any of us may have with the act of throwing the brick he is on OUR side. I have seen some calls to hand this guy, and by implication anyone else doing anything “violent”, over to the Gardai by people within the anti-water charges movement. There should be no such talk as that amounts to doing the work of the capitalist state for them.
My main concern with the act itself is that throwing the brick might have provoked the Gardai into increasing the level of their violence against the working people out on the streets when they weren’t organised enough to defend themselves properly.
I believe that protestors have the right to defend themselves when attacked by the police but that should ideally be done in an organised controlled manner under the leadership of democratically selected stewards rather than spontaneous actions of individuals.
Irish Water tried to sneak into an estate in Cobh this evening to commission the handful of meters they had installed earlier. But they were spotted and quickly a large crowd gathered and then slow marched them out. Gutted to have missed it myself but so proud of the campaign here.
And here is the crowd singing Irish Water goodbye when they eventually got to the exit
During Questions to the Taoiseach on Tuesday 11 November Joe Higgins attacked the government over their use of heavy handed Gardai tactics against anti-water meter protestors.
As part of his speech Joe said the following (I have highlighted the parts that highlight the Socialist Party’s reformist approach to the question of the state):
“… you send heavy detachments of Gardai in that manhandle men and women who are coming to the peaceful protests. Don’t you think that’s an issue that should be addressed and instead people are looking for – they can’t get a guard when they need them, they wait for hours.
“Instead of having community Garda under their democratic control and management, properly resourced, this is where resources are being misdirected. This is an outrage and you better address it Taoiseach.”
For a revolutionary Marxist parliamentarian this would have been an opportunity to use the example of the heavy handed policing of anti-water meter protests to highlight the social role of the Gardai as defenders of the rotten capitalist system and the need to replace them and the socioeconomic system they defend.
Instead the clear implication given by Joe is that the problem is just one of bad government policy which he wants Enda Kenny to address by the government creating new, more democratic, institutions for managing the existing Gardai (perhaps tweaked a bit to be more community minded).
This has very little, if anything, in common with a revolutionary Marxist approach of “smashing” (to use Lenin’s famous phrase) the repressive apparatus of the existing state and replacing it with new armed bodies under the democratic control of workers’ councils.