Ireland

In this article, originally published in The Red Plough, Gerry Ruddy looks at the role of the working class in Irish politics: “Despite the influences of social democracy and reformism, despite the dominance of nationalist and unionist ideology, the working classes in Ireland still have tremendous revolutionary potential. That potential can be unleashed but only when both objective and subjective factors combine.”

The outcome of the ballots among the ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions) affiliated unions over the Croke Park deal will be finally clear by next week when the SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional & Technical Union) and IMPACT (public and services union) ballot results are counted. A huge amount of pro deal propaganda has been brought to bear on the membership of the public sector unions, backed up by the trade union leadership who have been desperate to present the deal as the saviour of the Irish working class.

The isolation of electoral politics in the north of Ireland from that in Britain meant that the general election campaign and result were of a very different nature to the campaign elsewhere. The sectarian divide once again raised its ugly head as the dominant factor in politics in the north. Yet the result also highlighted discontent within the working class; Peter Robinson’s defeat in East Belfast demonstrated not just disgust at the actions of Peter and Iris Robinson but also with the expenses scandal and the degeneration of parliamentary politics.

The vote in the Dáil to force a by election in Donegal South West was defeated on the casting vote of the Ceann Comhairle on Wednesday night (5th May). Although the vote was tied as a result (apparently an accidental result) of the failure of two FF TD’s to vote for their own side, it shows how wafer thin the position of the ruling coalition has become. This is a particularly bad situation for a government that seems hell bent on taking on the working class and holding the fort for the bourgeois.

The Draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill is generating opposition from workers in the North because of its implications for trade union and political demonstrations organised by the trade union movement and protests against the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as community protests such as anti-racist demonstrations.

The next few weeks will be very important for the trade union movement in Ireland; either the Public Service Agreement will be rejected and the trade union leaders will be forced into organising action, or the government will get away with yet another attack on living standards and working conditions.

The ICTU leaders recently consulted their members over the “Public Service Agreement”. Most of the public sector unions have been rejecting the deal, which reveals that the workers are prepared to fight. But are the leaders up to the task?

A short report on last weekend’s commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising. This year the International Marxist Tendency was present at two of the commemorations in the north, and this report gives an assessment of the state of the republican movement at this juncture.

We are making available to our readers the editorial statement of the first printed issue of Fightback (Ireland), published just before Easter. As it states, “Neither social partnership in the south nor the TUV and ‘dissident’ republican terrorism in the north provides a way out. Connolly explained long ago that only the Irish working class stood alone as the incorruptible inheritor of the struggle for Irish freedom.”

This article which was written almost 70 years ago is interesting for a number of reasons, but we feel that it gives a clear exposition of the attitude that the Worker’s International League – to which the IMT trace our history, took towards the Republican movement.

We are delighted to announce the publication of Fightback: the magazine of the International Marxist Tendency in Ireland. The first edition of the magazine comes in two editions for the North and the South – they have different front and back pages and industrial material. This edition is full colour and has 20 pages.

Right across the British Isles public services are under attack. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have called two days of strikes against cuts in redundancy pay. The British Government has put a cap on redundancy and hope to save over £500 million. The union fears it is the beginning of both massive redundancies in the public service and also creeping privatisation of those same public services.

There is a lot of talk about normalising the statelet in the North of Ireland. But what has been “normal” here for the past century has been precisely civil unrest, sectarian violence and armed resistance to British rule. The way out of this impasse is to be found in directing discontent towards the road of class struggle.

While many active trade unionists across the country will be pleased to hear that IMPACT and SIPTU among others are planning to escalate the wave of partial actions across the public sector, and that they will be pushing for escalation at the ICTU meeting on March 8th; at the same time they will be acutely aware of the need to demonstrate to their members that the action is having an affect on the government. We welcome Jack O’Connor’s remarks that workers need to be prepared to escalate the action, but we also recognise that the responsibility for coordinating the action and providing a national focus to the campaign lies firmly in the hands of the ICTU leaders.

We are publishing here a speech given by Phil Mitchinson at the 2005 International Marxist school in Barcelona. Dealing with the history of the centuries old struggle for freedom in Ireland, and the part played in that history by republicanism and socialism, as well as the political developments that have led to the current impasse. 

While the public sector workers might not be all out on the streets or on all out strike, it would be a big mistake to think that the government is out of the woods on the question of the wage cuts and the attacks on the public sector. 70,000 SIPTU workers joined the work to rule yesterday and the CPSU have escalated their action and are balloting for full strike action. The workers are digging in for what could be a long haul. At the same time however the employers are threatening to stop deductions of union dues and stopping facility time for union business.

Long discussions into the small hours, shuttle diplomacy and the combined weight of Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen and still the deadlock continues over the devolution of policing and justice in the north. The process is meant to have been agreed years ago, but the deep contradictions in the north mean that every issue and every syllable has to be fought over. The “peace process”, far from solving the problems of the working class has enshrined sectarian division and entombed the leadership of Sinn Féin and the DUP in Stormont, presiding over the minutiae of what is more or less an overblown County Council.

The trade union campaign against the wage cuts announced in Lenihan’s December budget will begin to escalate over the next few weeks as different groups of workers across the public sector take action in what is being portrayed as an ongoing campaign of selective action. Today the air traffic controllers are coming out, which will have a dramatic and very public effect on air travel. It’s likely that the workers concerned in the various selective actions will receive strike fund support in many cases and as such the campaign could continue for a considerable time. But what is the underlying situation and what are the issues for the movement?