Monday, February 23, 2009
LETTER FROM IRELAND- Gulliver has woken on the beach
Powerful Pictures and Audio also HERE
This weekend saw 120,000 workers march through the streets of Dublin calling for the withdrawal of the Fianna Fail governments 'pension levy'. The levy means that a public sector worker who earns 35,000 euro a year will lose 50 euro a week from their pay packet, so a couple who both work in the public sector are losing 400 euro a month, which is the cost of a mortgage and is an amount that most just cannot afford to pay.
This levy comes with a string of other vicious cuts against both private and public workers, the young, old and the unemployed. The right wing parties spouting pathetic justifications to, unsuccessfully, convince the irish working class to pay for the crisis. They have cut aid to children from Ireland's 'Traveller' community to assist them in school, they have cut aid to all children once they hit 5 years of age, creches, community drugs schemes, teachers and they want to slash our bus routes.
But people have reacted and reacted with anger. When the cuts were first announced there was a general meeting of the union IMPACT, which is a public services union, at which the leadership of the union called for an 'email campaign' and valentines day protests outside ministers constituency offices. There was fury from the members, the meeting erupted into calls for ballots for immediate strike action. The evening news on ireland's state TV reported the union leaders resolutions but ignored the call for strike action, there is a real fear in the Irish ruling class of a fight back from any sector inspiring others, but they cant hold back the anger that's out there no matter how hard they try.
'Teachers United' a grassroots movement of rank and file teachers picketed Anglo Irish Bank, a bank which has just been nationalised and its estimated that this maneuver has cost each household here 20,000 euro, the director of the bank, parasite Sean Fitzpatrick, it was revealed, gave himself loans of 80 million. Then it emerged that Anglo Irish had loaned 10 people secretly 400 million euro to buy shares in the bank just before nationalisation, if the shares went up they made huge profits, if they went down well the irish taxpayer was paying for the loan anyway.
The teachers protest got a lot of media attention because people are well aware of the connections between the shady dealings of the banks and the right wingers in the parliament buildings.
A meeting of rank and file and various sympathetic officers of all the unions was called in Dublin at which people called for an 'Iceland style situation' and general strike action across all sectors to reverse the cuts and to bring down the government. Various trade union members spoke of the fear and anger they encountered amongst fellow workers and how, despite the sabotage of the union leadership, they had managed, in some cases, to call huge meetings of workers (up to 500 in a lot of cases!) where the call for strike action and ballots to all members for such action was unanimously endorsed. The meeting was addressed by a worker from the Waterford Crystal factory which is still in occupation- he pointed out that we must resist the media onslaught which has been savagely attempting to drive a wedge between the private and the public sector workers. He received a standing ovation from every single person there. Everyone left the meeting determined to go back to there own unions and build for the national stoppage.
Last Wednesday the CPSU, the civil service union, had a walkout attended by thousands of members, at which we did a stall calling for further action and across all sectors, workers were coming up to the table saying 'we completely agree with you but why sign a petition? we need strike action NOW!'.
The bus drivers have been protesting constantly outside both the Department of Transport and out side the headquarters of the Green Party (who are in coalition with the Right, and despite claims to want more public transport have gone along with every cut). The drivers strike this week beginning on Friday and socialists and the People Before Profit movement organised public meetings across the city to defend our bus routes. At the meetings people from the working class communities affected spoke passionately in favour of the bus workers actions. Everywhere you look right now the phrase 'the workers united will never be defeated' is becoming a reality.
On Saturday last, the 21st of February, 120,000 workers marched through Dublin city centre to the seat of Government to show their opposition to, not only these cuts, but the Fianna Fail government and their friends in the banks. People began to gather from early in the morning at the top of Dublin's O'Connell street, we were overwhelmed by the response to our stall calling for united strike action, people cheered and shook our hands, we sold hundreds and hundreds of socialist newspapers. The banners making their way up the street showed the diversity of the opposition to this government but also the unity amongst the workers both public and private.
The Irish Travellers Rights association, Nurses, Firemen,Civil Servants, The Waterford Crystal workers (who were applauded all the way up the street by every single person standing on either side), Taxi drivers,Shell to Sea campaign,Anti War activists, The Socialists, Students, Anarchists, Sinn Fein, Teachers, Doctors, Binmen and even the Soldiers and some sections of the police. The mood in Irish society right now is so strongly turned against the government that the soldiers union have felt the strength to come out and state that not one of their members will break any strike. This has sent the government and the Army Officers into a panic, a high ranking officer this week in the papers was stated as saying that he would force the obedience of the lower ranks. Not sure exactly how they plan to force the men to break a strike, but its a sign of how much this government is losing control.
With the CPSU walking out of work this Thursday and the Buses out on Friday it looks like Fianna Fail are going to fail in their attempt to make the working class of Ireland pay for their criminal friends in the banks and the anarchy of the system they benefit from.
With a National One Day strike coming in the near future it seems the Irish Gulliver has woken on the beach and is starting to realise that he's tied down by nothing but tiny Lilliputians.
The workers are united. And although this movement will have it's peaks and valleys nothing can ever be the same again. Come visit Ireland...we're about to bring down a government!