Last weekend in Ireland, a Labour minister used the Sunday press to launch an attack on unemployed youth. Readers here will recognise the same arguements she makes as those which have been made over the years by assorted Tories and Blairites in our own movement. They must be opposed. Fightback, the Irish Marxist voice, reports on this disgraceful attack.
Last weekend in Ireland, a Labour minister used the Sunday press to
launch an attack on unemployed youth. Readers here will recognise the
same arguements she makes as those which have been made over the years
by assorted Tories and Blairites in our own movement. They must be
opposed. Fightback, the Irish Marxist voice, reports on this disgraceful
Labour Minister Joan Burton was reported in the Sunday Independent last weekend as saying “Social Welfare has become a “lifestyle choice” for many leaving school” and that it is “a situation which is no longer be tolerated”
we are getting at the moment is people who come into the system
straight after school as a lifestyle choice. This is not acceptable,
everyone should be expected to contribute and work," Ms Burton said.
to the Sunday Independent, Ms Burton said those who failed to cooperate
with her department by not taking job or training opportunities would
lose up to €44 a week.
This is precisely the sort of argument that the British
Tories under Margaret Thatcher used in the early 1980’s when they
attempted to “roll back the welfare state”. The outcome was cut after
cut in benefits, the wholesale manipulation of unemployment figures and a
lost generation of young people. The fact that the same language is
being used in Ireland today says a lot about the crisis in the Irish
economy and the pressure that is being brought to bear by the ruling
class. But at the same time, it also blows huge holes in the
justification of the right wing of the party to enter coalition in the
At Labour’s Special Conference on March 6th,
which ratified the decision to enter Government as the junior partner
to Fine Gael, much was made of the role that Labour would play in
moderating the political programme of Fine Gael and in defending the
most disadvantaged in society. The argument used against the left; who
argued that Labour should lead a principled opposition to Fine Gael, was
that Labour could not wait until 2016, but must make a difference now.
The problem with that argument however, is that
unless the Labour leadership were to base themselves upon a clear
intransigent socialist programme which posed an alternative to
capitalism the Labour leaders would be trapped by the crisis in the
economy and the strictures and impositions of the Troika. Coalition with
Fine Gael of course would have been impossible. The only correct
strategy would have been to fight for a majority of Labour and the left.
What’s left instead is “reformism without reforms”,
with Labour playing second fiddle to Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan, but
taking the responsibility for cuts and attacks on working people and
the most vulnerable people in society, through their “control” of key
government jobs. First and foremost in this are of course Brendan
Howlin, Public Expenditure Minister and Joan Burton Social Protection
Far from defending the most disadvantaged and
vulnerable in society, the two ministers are taking the lead in what is a
vicious assault on precisely the people least able to afford them. The
“In what is
the first stage of achieving budget cuts of at least €3.6bn, proposals
from every cabinet minister presented to Mr Howlin’s department in
recent days reveal unprecedented cuts to many essential services in
health, education and social welfare, which are set to impact most on
lower- and medium-income families.
choices have led to a heightening of tensions around the cabinet table,
because of the extraordinary decision by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to promise that there will be no cuts to social
welfare rates or any income tax increases in the budget.
level of reduction needed, many of us are wondering with the promises
the Taoiseach has made, how exactly will we square this circle," one
junior minister said.
controversial revelation is that class sizes in Irish schools are set to
rise dramatically as Ruairi Quinn’s Department of Education budget is
to be cut "substantially" despite soaring enrolment numbers.
"Some 80 per
cent of the education budget goes on pay and pensions. We can’t
unilaterally cut pay so the only option is to dramatically increase
class sizes. There is no other choice," one senior government source
Also included in the proposals are:
· Drastic cuts to a host of welfare benefits including rent supplements.
· Primary welfare rates and benefits under threat despite election promises not to cut them.
widespread closures of hospital wards, significant reduction in medical
services; cuts to after-care services and agency staff, and a reduction
in pay to hospital consultants in order to control costs.
· An aggressive tackling of transport costs with major reduction in budget allocations to state companies, including CIE.
· Increased rail, bus and air fares for passengers cannot be ruled out.
On the basis of the biggest crisis in world
capitalism for over 80 years and within the context of the bailout and
the crisis in the euro zone the Labour Party right wing are being driven
down the road of austerity. The whole of the forces at the disposal of
the ruling class in Ireland have been devoted to ensuring that the
workers pay for the crisis in the economy. Inevitably there will be a
reaction from the working class.
The problem for the leaders of the Labour and Fine
Gael is that they rest on very different class bases. Labour will come
under pressure from the working class, the trade unions and the left to
oppose the austerity and break with the coalition. Gilmore and the right
wing understand that. Even at the Special Labour Conference a week
after the election the leadership were predicting that there would be
demonstrations and protests outside future party conferences if they
participated in the coalition. The problem for the Labour leaders,
however, is that the coalition is going to be a government of crisis.
The pressure is already beginning to show with opposition over the
Roscommon Hospital crisis and within the Labour Party itself.
While the pressures within the Labour Party may
grow over the next period, the key task of the left in Ireland and
particularly the Marxists has to be to link with the workers in struggle
and explain patiently that there is a genuine socialist alternative to
the anarchy of capitalism and the greed of the parasitic bankers and
- No cuts in welfare
- Genuine Jobs for young people
- No wage cuts or cuts in jobs and services
- Labour must break the coalition and fight for socialist policies
- Make the bosses pay!