SP use the same overall framework as SF & FF in criticisms of the budget

It seems that even in articles that deal directly with the class based divide in wealth that exists in Irish society that the SP are unwilling to present the case for the socialist transformation of society.


Labour backbench proposals only serve to distract from huge wealth that exists in society

Over the weekend a number of Labour’s backbench Dail deputies unveiled what they must have considered an audacious proposal to be included in Budget 2013. Their bold idea is that the Universal Social Charge should be increased from 7% of gross salary to 10% for individuals earning over €100,000 per year and seems to be the only proposition to emerge from the ranks of Labour’s voting fodder within the Coalition government.

Sadly, when it is understood that this proposal would only raise a paltry, extra €71 million in a year, what strikes most people is, not how audacious these Labour Party members are, but how cringingly accepting of the austerity agenda which dictates that low and middle income earners make the sacrifices to bail out the European financial system while the very wealthy go virtually unscathed. €71 million is one fifth of one percent of the €3.5 billion which the Government is to realise through brutal cuts and tax increases in the Budget.

One of the Labour deputies claimed that their proposal ‘would make other budget cuts more bearable by sending an important signal that those earning more were paying their share.’ Well an adjustment of this tiny fraction wouldn’t make anything more bearable for those who are suffering real pain, especially the unemployed, the low waged and the so called squeezed middle. In any case it is far from a ‘fair share’ of the bailout burden.

These crusading Labour deputies needn’t look very far for some ideas on how they could propose extra amounts of tax from higher earners and big business that could begin to make a real difference as opposed to a token gesture. In answer to a parliamentary question from myself to the Minister for Finance on October 23, we learn the following: Three new income tax bands at rates of 50% for earners over €100,000, 60% for earners over €135,000 and 70% for earners over €200,000 would yield extra income ‘of the order of €1.1 billion’ in 2013.

Another answer on the same day informed me that if corporation tax was raised from 12.5% – one of the lowest rates in the twenty seven EU Member States – to 15%, 17.5% or 21.8% extra amounts of income could be realised respectively, of €675, €1.35 billion or €2.5 billion. In supplying these figures the Minister for Finance was extremely defensive and went to the unusual length of prefacing his answer with the admonition that, ‘The Taoiseach, myself and other members of the Government have repeatedly expressed the Government’s commitment to the retention of the 12.5% rate.’ God forbid that the big multi national corporations were troubled by rumours of a tax rise on their profits in Ireland.

These potential increases in taxes from the wealthier sections of society could be added to by a tax on accumulated wealth of a substantial nature. While the State here has done no scientific auditing of wealth it is possible to divine from the Central Statistics Office data and anecdotal evidence that substantial resources rest with the wealthiest 10% of the population. Of course the government will not even consider making extra demands. At the same time low and middle income workers are being lined up for another hit in the form of the proposed property tax to be announced in the Budget and designed to bring in €600 million next year.

There is nervousness among the ranks as the leadership of the Labour Party copper fastens its adherence to the Troika demands of more cuts, more taxes on ordinary people and rapid privatisation of State assets. Hence the token proposed USC increase. Judging by the results of a RedC opinion poll published at the weekend, Labour’s vote is in danger of moving in the same direction as that of Fianna Fail and the Green Party at the last General Election. Only 14% of Labour voters see themselves as ‘loyal’ while a massive 86% pronounced themselves either as ‘becoming disillusioned’ or ‘losing faith’.

Working people across Europe are also getting increasingly disillusioned with the austerity agenda being foisted on them by governments taking exactly the same approach as the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition here. That is borne out graphically by the fact that on November 14 no less than six EU States will see simultaneous general strikes – Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. Shamefully this has hardly been reported in the capitalist dominated media here. When right wing politicians from Germany or elsewhere pronounce on the necessity of persisting with cruel austerity to bail out their financial system it generates major headlines. This austerity makes countless millions suffer. But when the same millions rise up in anger as on November 14 their voice is deliberately muffled on the European stage. Nevertheless their earnest struggle is the only way to force a change of policy.

So there it is in black-and-white. The aim of these so-called “revolutionary socialists” is to “force a change in policy” by the capitalists.

No doubt SP leftists will attempt to justify this by saying that this is a clever way to get across the idea of the need for socialism. In reponse I would ask them to look at the totality of what the SP has been saying about the budget and think about how that will be interpreted by the working class. I have seen nothing by the SP in the wake of the budget that argues in any clear way for socialism – all that the SP is presenting is a more left-wing version of the same criticisms as Sinn Fein, and even Fianna Fail, about the bad policy choices being made by the government. What the SP critique shares with that of these outright bourgeois parties is an implied assumption of the continuation of capitalism. As I argued in my previous blog post, the fact that this is not being done in such a craven way as the SWP does not absolve the SP from their own refusal to make the case for socialism.


4 Responses to “SP use the same overall framework as SF & FF in criticisms of the budget”

  1. December 7, 2012 at 17:21

    I don’t think you can expect revolutionary demands in every article. The point that governments can be forced to change policy by class struggle is perfectly valid and should be made. Only writing articles calling for revolutionary change means that issues of strategy in day to day struggle will be ignored. However you are correct to point out the hypocrisy of Sp comrades attacking everyone else for not being rrrr-revolutionary all the time themselves.

    • December 7, 2012 at 20:17

      I am not arguing that every article has to contain the full revolutionary message. I agree that articles about specific attacks and the campaigns against them will tend to focus on the specific details involved. I also think it is possible to use the method of the TP to write articles that integrate specific struggles and the overall socialist message.

      However I do believe that it is necessary for the totality of the programmatic statements for any “revolutionary socialists” worthy of the name to be seen to be presenting a truly “radical alternative” – which is an argument in favour of, and at least the beginnings of a programmatic framework for how, the overthrow of capitalism can be achieved.

      The point I am making is that the SP (and SWP and therefore the ULA as a compromise between the two) articles about the budget are NEVER presenting a programme for the socialist transformation of society – they are ALL making a left-reformist argument, with the SP generally to the left of the SWP within that reformist framework. This dominance of left-reformist arguments would also seem to be the perspective of many in the non-aligned as well.

      • December 7, 2012 at 21:04

        That is probably a reflection of the current political period, the current material conditions and the balance of class forces. There is also the fact that when social democracy has abandoned social democracy the small revolutionary forces seems to be substituting themselves for SD. There is also the question of whether the CWI may be better described as ‘left social democrats’ (in the original meaning), rather than revolutionary communists. There is also the element that I think needs to be addressed on the legacy of Trotskyism (not Trotsky) which in the UK and Ireland which has been sometimes negative.

      • December 7, 2012 at 22:49

        I think I’d agree with all of that. I remember when I first arrived in Britain and started to get to know the left I wanted to stop calling myself a Trotskyist as the groups associated with that description were so exactly like what you describe.

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