It might have started out as a strategy, but the ICTU leadership’s
profound belief that they can wrest some concessions out of Cowen and
Lenihan would be better described as an illusion or perhaps a death
wish. We’ve pointed out many times that in a slump social partnership
is like the partnership between a cat and a mouse. But at least in Tom
and Jerry the mouse was a master of tactics.
It is never a good strategy to announce to the world as David Begg
did this morning that the unions were “open to any compromise on pay
cuts proposed by the government”. The coalition is in a tight spot they
have no majority at all to speak of and are basing their position on
trying to hold the line for the bourgeois. Any worker would know that
you don’t go in to see the boss to negotiate with a big sign on your
forehead saying “we’ll take anything… anything at all”. This is a
recipe for defeat and demoralisation.
The position of the trade union leaders in society means that they
can exert a big influence over the membership. ICTU should have
demanded no wage cuts and no job losses. The crisis isn’t of our making
its been caused by the bosses and their rotten capitalist system. The
only justification for further talks at this stage surely is to provide
a platform to galvanise the movement to prepare for decisive industrial
action aimed at stopping the coalition in its tracks. A sliotar down
the throat of Lenihan’s anti working class strategy.
Workers will struggle to defend themselves. They have no choice. But
they are much more likely to fight if they think they are going to win.
They are also far more likely to win if they are given a clear lead.
Jack O’Connor and others have been critical of the reliance on social
partnership and this is reflected in Begg’s statement this morning,
when he said he wasn’t expecting much from the talks. But surely the
emphasis has to be on preparing the members to be ready to struggle.
The essence of the position of the right wing is always to be
reasonable and willing to compromise. But this is a fundamentally
incorrect position. It lets down the members, invites aggression on
behalf of the bosses and sows confusion and apathy among the members.
You can’t turn the workers on and off like you would do a tap.
Lenihan and Cowen, Harney and also Gormley and the Greens are fighting
a one sided class war against the Irish working class. They are
carrying out the wishes of their paymasters the bankers and the big
capitalists. The task of the Irish trade union leaders has to be to
represent their members and fight for their jobs and wages. You can’t
do this by waving a white flag on the way into the negotiations.
The task of the Irish Marxists has to be to provide a clear
explanation of the political and economic crisis, but also to fight for
a clear socialist programme in the unions and among the youth. Central
to that programme is the campaign for a one day general strike. That
would provide a focus for a campaign against the cuts and job losses.
The November day of action must be the first step in that campaign. One
thing’s for sure we won’t get anywhere relying on flogging a dead horse!
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