Pressing restart won't work
The mass mobilisations against water charges have won a substantial victory for the Right2Water campaign. The political structures of Irish capitalism that led the offensive are unstable and are starting to decay, and they have had to retreat.
With Fianna Fail, the party that set up the privatisation process, and a majority of Dail parties now saying that they are opposed to charges it seems politically impossible that they will be reintroduced anytime soon.
However when we reach the summit of the water charges hill we see the mountain range of austerity, corruption and tax dodging stretching before us. As long as the Irish budget sits in the fiscal space set by the Troika the millions that were to come from water charging will be extracted in extra charges, further cuts in services and more rapid privatisation of resources.
Pressing restart on the Right2Water campaign won't work. We need an open, national and democratic movement that rejects the endless transfer of funds from Ireland to the banks and the transnational corporations and rejects all forms of austerity applied to the working class.
The leaders of the Right2Water campaign deliberately closed down the popular mobilisations and replaced them with Right2Change. They tried to use the mobilisations to drive an electoral manoeuvre to gain Dail seats, ending up with the left of the trade union leadership trying to sell Sinn Fein as a left wing party.
The campaign was wound down and the majority of the groups involved accepted that demobilisation, putting their interests in electoral advancement above the needs of the working class. We now see the limitations of these tactics.
Building loose alliances rather than a mass democratic campaign means that it can be shut down at a moment’s notice. We have had a decade of ad-hoc committees, steering committees and so on. We need an independent movement of the workers.
Having a handful of left TDs is of limited use – they have little power in the Dail. They have not used their seats to build a broader movement and have no clear picture of how such a movement can be built – they haven’t even reached the level of organisation of the old United Left Alliance and don’t accept individual members.
Building a left party around Sinn Fein is not an option. They are applying the Fresh Start programme in the North with the loss of 20,000 jobs and their programme in the 26 counties is within the fiscal space allowed by the Troika.
Obedience to the left union bureaucracy is a fatal weakness. Few can be unaware that the September revival of Right2Water demonstrations is an attempt to strengthen ICTU’s hand in forthcoming budget horse trading. Once the bureaucracy has another deal they will walk away again.
But above all our weakness has been political. We have set our demands within the "fiscal space" of the budgets, within a fiscal space set by the Troika. In step with the "Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" written about by Robert Tressell we have agreed we will pay the banks, the bondholders, the ECB, Apple and all the other transnational companies as well as allowing local politicians and capitalists to rob us blind. The handful of change left in the current budget is for water, housing, health, wages, transport, education, pensions and so on.
The basic issue is not how much we pay, how quickly or how much we get back via the Apple investigation. The issue is; can we imagine a free Ireland? Can we imagine a government controlled by the workers? Can we imagine a national economic plan that develops our own skills and resources in open co-operation with the workers of other lands rather than being bled dry by vulture capitalism?
We don't need a restart - we need a rebuild
– we need a national conference of the oppressed. The foundation stone
of the rebuild is a ferocious opposition to imperialist oppression and
a determination to put Irish workers’ interests to the fore.