Militant Class Struggle to Defeat Austerity
Fight for a workers’ government!
We are told by the rulers of society that in an economic crisis there is no alternative to attacks on the living standards of the working class. This is a lie, told to disguise the roots of the crisis in capitalism itself.
The Sunday Independent “Rich List” of March 2012 detailed how the 300 richest people in Ireland increased their wealth from €50 billion in 2010 to €62 billion in 2012 – an increase of 25% . Meanwhile working people have suffered a massive decrease in our living standards through direct wage cuts, reduced working hours, redundancies and unemployment, punitive interest charges on mortgages and personal debt, higher taxes through the levies and Universal Social Charge, slashed social services such as the Carers and Special Needs Assistants, increased costs for education, hospital closures – the list goes on and on. No wonder that the Credit Suisse “Global Wealth Data Handbook 2011” was able to report that the top 1% in Ireland owned over 28% of all the wealth. When the 2013 “Rich List” is published next month no doubt we will see another massive increase in the wealth of these parasites while working people become even poorer.
This process is repeated all across the world. The Bloomberg Billionaires index reports that the net worth of the 100 wealthiest people in the world at the end of 2012 was $1.9 trillion, an increase of $241 billion (13%) during one year alone. Major business corporations in the USA have been recording record profits during this “economic crisis”. US corporate earnings in the third quarter of 2012 were $1.75 trillion, an increase of 18.6% over the previous year.
These same US corporations form the major component of the multi-national investment that dominates the Irish economy. Although the exact figures are hidden behind “commercial secrecy”, we can be sure that these corporations are making similar record profits in Ireland based on decreasing wages and the very low corporate tax rates they pay (actually well below the nominal 12.5%).
Contrary to lies about “all of us sharing the pain” we are seeing a massive transfer of wealth from working people to the capitalist bloodsuckers in whose interests this society is run. The class divisions that form the basis of capitalism are becoming more and more nakedly vicious with every passing day. In response to attacks by the capitalists and their government, working people need to respond as a class using the strongest weapons available to us.
The resistance to austerity in Ireland has so far focused on opposing the imposition of household and water taxes. The non-payment campaign showed the potential for organising the working class in local communities and the beginning of mass resistance, but the state is now threatening to deduct the charges from wages and benefits.
A non-payment campaign is proving not to be enough on its own, and needs to be supplemented with militant action. For instance we will need effective tactics to prevent the imposition of water meters – perhaps by denying installation teams access to estates. This kind of direct action would provide a basis for organising similar defence against property seizures and house repossessions by credit card companies and banks.
To defeat austerity measures like the property tax, we need militant class struggle, not concerns about the future electoral prospects of the Labour Party, or focus on electing a few anti-austerity representatives to the Dáil and local councils. Unfortunately the existing trade union leaders are wedded to the sell-outs of “social partnership” and the Croke Park deal. This means we will require tactics such as wildcat strikes supported by mass mobilisations, occupations and other direct action, against the Revenue, Irish Water (the new division of Bord Gais set up to collect the water tax) and other key government departments. Ultimately this could build up towards the prospect of a real general strike organised and led by rank-and-file strike committees born out of the experience of the initial strikes and direct action.
Given the commitment of the Irish establishment, including the Labour Party leadership, to the austerity project it is only this strategy of militant class struggle that offers a real chance to win – it is not an easy path but it is the only truly realistic one.
Of course, as soon as the fight for our demands begin to pose a serious threat to the wealth and power of the capitalists, they will use every means at their disposal to stop us – the courts, the Gardaí, the army, all the forces of the capitalist state apparatus. The threat of draconian fines and special powers for the Revenue in cases of noncompliance with the property tax are just a foretaste of what is to come. We must prepare to vigorously resist such repression by organising legal and financial assistance as well as planning for direct mass action against attempts by the Sheriff and bailiffs to seize property.
To really defend ourselves in the fight against austerity we will need to form mass-based organs of self-defence which can resist the repression of the capitalist state and its agents. The creation of such bodies – by projecting working class power and self-reliance – will point in the direction of a potentially radical reconstruction of the entire social order: the expropriation of capitalist property and the break-up of their state and its replacement by one composed of democratically elected bodies, with representatives from workplaces and working-class communities, committed to establishing a more just and egalitarian social order in which production is governed by the principle of meeting human need, not maximising profit.
Our longer term strategic perspective as a class should therefore be to take over our workplaces and join together to take the economy into common ownership. This will necessarily carry over into a fight for working class rule, based on democratic organisations at all levels from workplace councils to a workers’ government. This will require the creation of a new workers’ party which would openly advocate the fight for a new society and reject any reformist fantasies about “community control” of the existing capitalist state apparatus. To get rid of capitalism once and for all, we need this revolutionary workers’ party to mobilise the fight for an Irish workers’ republic within a socialist federation of Europe.
Alan Gibson (personal capacity)
ULA national steering committee
Cork CAHWT regional coordinating committee | Cobh CAHWT secretary
http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
9 February 2013