This article originally appeared in "The Red Plough" an
independent Email journal of Republican Marxist opinion. It takes a
clear position against the arguments of the capitalist press around the
strikes on the 24th of November. In particular it deals with the
question of "the national interest". The bosses are always keen to try
and mask the class nature of society and here Gerry Ruddy points out
the contradictions in their arguments and offers a class alternative.
NATION OR CLASS?
250,000 Irish public sector workers took militant strike action on
Tuesday 24th November. Except for areas of severe flooding where
emergency workers continued to work with trade union permission there
was a magnificent turnout by the Irish working class. Needless to say
there was widespread condemnation by the ruling elites. Bourgeois
politicians talked about the national interest using terms like “the nation must unite” “we must all pull together” and “we all must share the pain”.
The media also had a go. The Sunday Business Post before the day of action wrote,
“The trade unions will only make things worse with the strike action due to take place this week.
action is unwarranted – after all, we do not even know yet what is
going to be in the budget. What’s more, it ignores the fact that
cutting government spending is essential if we are to maintain our
also deepens the divide between the union-dominated public sector and
the private sector, going against the partnership ethos that the trade
unions have preached for years. On a more practical level, it will also
impose unnecessary inconvenience on the entire population. It is, in
truth, the last thing we need. (SBP 22/11/09)
The Irish Times also had a go at the workers: "At
a time when social solidarity and a sense of personal responsibility
are needed as never before, employees in the most protected sector of
the economy have behaved selfishly
– This is a time of national
emergency. There is no point in vested interests demanding that others
should carry the burden of financial repairs, while seeking immunity
for themselves. Every individual and group should be required to
contribute according to their means.” (IT 25/11/09)
the reporters of RTE joined in the condemnation by alluding to the huge
backlog of Southern registered cars queuing to enter Newry in the north
to shop. They neglected to mention that because of the high cost of
living for working class families in the South hordes are now flocking
to the north to stock up for Christmas. And who can blame them? For
years on top of years the ruling classes in the South have been ripping
of the poor with exorbitant prices for poor quality goods, poor public
services whilst turning a blind eye to property speculators, corrupt
politicians and preying priests and heartless, inhumane church
Talks between the Government and the unions are
ongoing. At this stage there is no doubt that some sections of the
trade union bureaucracy view a few days of action as a way of letting
off steam and taming the militancy of the workers. But as Vincent
Browne points out in How to fix a rich but unequal country (see below) actual
facts are not taken into account by the political establishment but
they should be by the political and trade union leadership of the
working class. Days of action should be a prelude to a campaign for a
one-day national strike.
Social partnership deals have been
used to cut wages and conditions and privatise public services.
Governments can rescues the banks with billions of public money but are
determined to screw the poor.
Already we have had the pension levy, pay cuts budget and the establishment of An Bord Snip.
to divide public sector workers from private sector workers should be
strongly resisted by the political left. Weaken the public sector and
you can be sure the private sector employers will stick the boot into
private sector workers. Currently on building sites where
non-unionised workers are seen talking to union organisers they are
sacked. That’s just a taste of what lies in store for the workers in
the private sector north and south.
struggle for a national strike is a sure fire way to begin the process
of politicising the working class and stripping away illusions many
workers have in any progressiveness in Fianna Fail and the Green Party.
Any independents still supporting the coalition should be ashamed of
themselves. They should break with the coalition and form a left bloc
in the Dail that excludes any pro-capitalist party.
should be no illusions about the Dail. It may represent some vague
abstract concept called “The nation.” But it is not our nation.
real power that the working class has is in its own hands. A national
strike would be but a beginning in the empowerment of the working class
and a mighty step on its road to emancipation from the chains of
The above article refers to a piece by Vincent Browne in the Irish Times. The text of this was reproduced in The RED PLOUGH directly following the ‘Nation or class?’ article. To assist readers we are therefore doing likewise:
How to fix a rich but unequal country
If the top earners paid 43 per cent of their income in taxes and levies, a further €3.2bn could be raised,
Just a few random facts, not that facts are much in use nowadays. Certainly
not facts that contradict the line of the economic and political
is a very rich country, one of the richest countries in the world. Even
allowing for a deeper contraction in the economy here in 2009 than
elsewhere in the EU, our per capita income is still at least 10 per
cent above the EU average. We are better off than countries such as
France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece and very much better off than
all the 12 new member states.
are only 10 countries in the world richer than the rich counties of the
EU. They are three oil sheikhdoms (Qatar, Kuwait and UAE), and
Liechtenstein, Switzerland, USA, Norway, Luxembourg and Japan. Perhaps
now Australia and Canada are richer than Ireland, but, excluding the
tax havens and the oil sheikhdoms, Ireland is probably the 16th richest
country in the world. Ireland is 110 times richer than the Democratic
Republic of Congo, where the per capita annual income is less than $298
(€199). The latter data is from the 2009 United Nations Development
has one of the lowest tax takes – as a percentage of gross domestic
product (GDP) in the EU. In 2007 our tax take was 32.5 per cent of GDP,
as compared with an EU average of 40.9 per cent. Only Latvia,
Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia were lower than us. Denmark had a tax
take of 49.5 per cent, Sweden 48.9, Belgium 46.1, France, Italy 43.3
and Germany 40.8. Even with the levies, our tax take now would be among
the lowest in Europe. (Data from Eurostat.)
is true, those earning over €100,000 (this includes couples who file
their taxes jointly) pay almost 50 per of all income tax revenues. This
is not surprising, since this cohort, who comprise only 6 per cent of
all earners, get 28 per cent of all income.
who earn less than €30,000, who comprise 46 per cent of all earners,
get on average less than €15,000 a year and they take just 15 per cent
of total income. So 6 per cent of all earners get almost twice the
income share as 46 per cent of all earners. (All this
basic data on income and tax is available from the Revenue Commissioners, the analysis is mine.)
168,627 earners getting more than €100,000 per year got a total income
in 2009, according to the Revenue Commissioners, of €32.3 billion. This
works out at an average income of €189,770 per year. They are projected
to pay a total of €8.7 billion in income tax, which is just 27 per cent
of their income.
that these top earners (those earning over €100,000) pay the levies
that were announced for 2010, they will pay a further 6 per cent of
their income in tax. This will bring their total income tax and levy to
33 per cent of their income.
the top earners were obliged to pay 43 per cent of their income in
taxes and levies, a further €3.2 billion could be raised in income tax
and levies (this is a simple calculation: 10 per cent of €32.3 billion).
if the double earners who earn less than €160,000 were excluded from
these additional taxes and levies and were allowed to contribute at a
lower rate, the additional taxes could certainly net €2.5 billion.
44 per cent of all public servants earn less than €30,000 (this
information was supplied in a written answer to a Dáil question on
November 3rd and the data relates to the income tax year 2007).
per cent of all public servants earn €50,000 or less. Since these
income figures come from the Revenue Commissioners and apply to total
earnings, they include all allowances and bonuses.
Ireland is one of the most unequal societies in the developed world.
The OECD calculated in its report Growing Unequal that Ireland was the
23rd most unequal of 29 developed countries.
consequence of this inequality is that over 5,000 people die
prematurely here every year because of this inequality (see the report
Inequalities in Mortality by the Institute of Public Health).
on inequality, drawn from around the world and, in particular, the US,
shows that the more income inequality there is in societies, the more
prevalent is an array of social problems from obesity to imprisonment
rates, violence, poor health, welfare dependency and low literacy.
The Government, aided and abetted by the main Opposition parties and the hordes of economists, refuses
to see any relevance in any of the above in devising policies to fix the hole in the public finances.
Vincent Browne, The Irish Times – Wednesday, November 25, 2009