“Those who do not speak for themselves
are doomed to have others speak for them”.
This old saying seems to apply very
exactly to September's Right2Water demonstration in Dublin. The demonstration
was called by the left unions and comes a few days after the release
of ICTU's submission to the government on the 2017 budget.
ICTU used to directly organise pre budget
demonstrations but in 2011 its policy, articulated by Jack O'Connor
as working within "the narrow confines" of the Troika budget led to demonstrations
of anger from workers. ICTU now prefer to stay in the background.
In the absence of any political programme
or democratic structures the role of the Right2Water demonstration can
only be to fuel the ICTU proposals. So what does their document "People
deserve better" say?
The deserving poor
It says that the €1 billion fiscal
space outlined by the government should all be allocated to infrastructure
and public services. In addition a further €1 billion should be collected
through taxes, including some wealth taxes and this used to solve the housing
This is in line with the platitudes the
bureaucrats come out with for each budget - a plea for a government of
the rich to tax the wealthy, a plea to capitalism to help the workers.
However it in what they do not say that
the union leaders come into their own.
In line with SIPTU's policy, they do not
call for the abolition of water charges.
They have no opinion on an Apple
They have nothing to say about the property
firesale organized by NAMA.
There are no proposals about the
endemic corruption and theft at all levels of Irish society.
These issues are not on the table because
today, just as in 2011, ICTU remain within the constraints set by the Troika
and the transnationals corporations. Within these constraints there is
no prospect that the yoke of debt and austerity will be lifted from the
necks of Irish workers.
The mobilizations around water charges
have enormous power, but to be fully effective they must be contained inside
democratic struggles and political demands.
Rather than the property rights of local
and international capital trumping the rights of workers, we must assert
the rights of workers to jobs, services and housing over those of capitalist