The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Irish Workers Protest Third Austerity Plan

Oct 11, 2010

Angry demonstrators used a concrete mixer to break down the gates of the Parliament in Dublin on September 29. The mixer displayed “Toxic Bank” painted in big red letters.

Members of the Irish Parliament were greeted by projectiles and jeers. Protests also took place in Galway and Cork, two working class cities.

These demonstrations were the response of Irish workers to the government’s announcement of a new 18-billion-dollar bank bailout. That money is equal to almost 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It means the Irish state takes over the country’s five main financial businesses.

After the losses the banks made on their fantastic loans to real estate developers and big land owners, they got two previous bailouts from public funds. Now real estate prices in Ireland have collapsed, down as much as 70% from their peak in 2007. The country is dotted with abandoned construction sites and empty luxury homes and office buildings.

The anger of those September demonstrators was provoked by the announcement of a third austerity plan. It follows the 2008 and 2009 budgets in which state expenses were brutally cut: the number of public workers was reduced, their pay was cut by at least 15%, their deductions were increased. Pensions were reduced and the age of retirement was increased. Benefits like unemployment were cut just as the number of the unemployed doubled.

These sacrifices imposed on the working class were supposed to kick-start the Irish economy, reduce the government deficit, and provide a good example to the government of Greece.

Today Irish workers find only an economy that continues to lay off and threatens new austerity measures. Meanwhile, the rich who gained from real estate speculation got the Treasury to reimburse them. And the stockholders of big business continue to benefit from some of the lowest taxes in the European Union!

Yes, the Irish workers have many reasons to be angry. In the past, they didn’t accept things quietly. Each austerity plan was protested heartily by workers in the streets. But the union apparatuses, determined to remain “partners” with those in power, used workers’ combativeness as a springboard to assure themselves a place at the negotiating table. There, they approved all sacrifices demanded by the government.

Will the anger of the Irish workers help them to find the way around the constraints of the union apparatuses, a way to go on the offensive, to make the bourgeoisie pay for the crisis? We certainly hope so.