For the past week, members of the business and political establishment in the Twenty-Six Counties have been tripping over one another to make calls for the development of a so-called national consensus to deal with the current capitalist crisis.
Calls for a ‘national consensus’ are simply a means of trying to stymie opposition to the impending four year austerity programme currently being cooked up by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition and their advisers in the employers’ group IBEC.
To suggest that ‘we’ are ‘all in this together’ and that a great ‘national effort’ is required to deal with the economic catastrophe is to grossly distort the true nature of this crisis and an attempt to hoodwink the working class into becoming their own gravediggers. The working class are not responsible for this crisis and should not be paying the price for it.
Already, the establishment parties who supported the Lisbon Treaty are in agreement that the target of a three per cent budget deficit contained within the European Union’s Growth and Stability Pact should be reached by 2014. They are also in agreement that next December’s budget should include public spending cuts of at least €3 billion [£2.6 billion]. However the coalition government has already made it clear that cuts will be in the order of €4 to €5 billion [£3.5-4.4 billion], while Fine Gael’s young Tory Leo Varadkar has called for the full implementation of the McCarthy Report and cuts of €6 billion [£5.3 billion] this year.
It will be remembered that the McCarthy Report effectively called for the evisceration of the public sector and the sell-off of all remaining state assets. Not surprisingly, calls for the burden of the crisis to be heaped upon the working class have been supported by parasitic tax exiles such as Denis O’Brien and Michael Smurfit. The ‘national consensus’ is simply a denial of class division within Irish society and an attempt by capitalists to continue to appropriate wealth from the working class.
The shape of December’s budget is clear: further cuts in social welfare payments; imposition of domestic water charges; increased taxes on the low paid; privatisation of publicly owned companies such as the ESB and Bord Gáis; lowering of the minimum wage and cuts in state spending on health, education and housing.
The airwaves have been jammed with a host of right-wing quack economists who still cling to this neo-liberal agenda and demand that the limited sovereignty enjoyed in the Twenty-Six Counties be surrendered to the all-powerful international markets. By their logic, reducing the living standards of the majority of the population is not only in the ‘national’ interest but is also the only thing that will satisfy the ‘Masters of the Universe’ in stock exchanges and investment banks around the globe.
It comes as no surprise that establishment politicians would capitulate to the demands of both native and international capitalists. Echoing Brian Lenihan’s call when announcing last year’s savage budget cuts to ‘pull on the green jersey’, Brian Cowen described these latest measures as being for the ‘common good’ and serving the ‘national’ interest.
The only interests being served in this nascent cosy consensus are those of capitalism. ‘We’ are not in this together and attempts to co-opt the working class into this agenda must be vigorously resisted: a capitalist with a green jersey is still a capitalist and is the enemy of the working class. In the words of James Connolly:“No matter what the form of government may be, as long as one class owns as private property the land and the instruments of labour from which mankind derive their substance, that class will always have it in their power to plunder and enslave the remainder of their fellow-creatures.”
One item that will certainly not be on the agenda of any meeting between establishment political parties in the Twenty-Six Counties is the appropriation of the wealth of those who created the economic catastrophe. The bankers, the speculators and the property developers who gambled and lost can sleep easy in the knowledge that their vast wealth is safe and that the working class will pick up their tab. Austerity measures, it seems, are reserved for the working class.
Yet, as éirígí and the newly established 1 Percent Network, has consistently highlighted, just one per cent of the population controls 34 per cent of the wealth in the Twenty-Six County state.
What absolutely terrifies the business and political establishment is the mobilisation of the working class in defiance of the austerity measures being imposed upon them and their unified call for the seizure of the assets of the rich. Why is it that cutting pensions, minimum wage and health services are somehow in the ‘national interest’ and for the ‘common good’, while increasing corporation tax, imposing a wealth tax, the nationalisation of our natural resources and the seizure of the assets of developers are not? The simple answer is because we live in a class based society and no amount of blather from John Gormley or Brian Cowen about a ‘national consensus’ can alter that fact.
In recent weeks, Europe has reverberated with the sound of marching feet and angry voices as millions of workers mobilise against the imposition of austerity measures. Early this week, over three million French workers were joined by huge numbers of school students in opposition to government plans to increase the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age at which individuals can receive a full state pension from 65 to 67. During the course of the one day strike, eight of France’s 12 oil refineries were shut down and transport networks across the country’s major cities were brought to a standstill. Trade unions in France have now balloted for rolling daily strike action as opposition to president Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing government grows.
On September 29, as part of a European trade union day of action against austerity measures, millions of workers participated in a one day general strike against public sector cuts being imposed by the Spanish government, who are also attempting to increase the retirement age.
Meanwhile, in Greece, where unemployment has risen to 12 per cent, workers continue to be at the forefront of resistance to the European wide cutbacks. This week, Greek police fired tear gas and attacked strikers at the Acropolis in Athens, where workers are seeking two years of unpaid wages.
This is the type of action that so terrifies the business and political establishment in Ireland and it is no coincidence that, in recent days, both RTÉ and the corporate print media have attempted to downplay the extent and significance of the mobilisations in France.
It is time to smash the cosy consensus that exists between Leinster House and IBEC HQ and to make the rich pay for their crisis.