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Correspondence: Water crisis
3 February 2011
I read with some interest the recent article by JM Thorn about the water crisis. The exposition of general Marxist principles seemed sound and shows just how powerful the ideas of Marx are. Applying them in this little statelet is another matter. It seems to me that it breaks down into two questions. One is primarily a political question and the other primarily a class question.
The political question is the impossibility of any real politics or accountability under the local assembly. With everybody in the government, with all ministers operating with impunity and with the main function of office to dispense sectarian patronage, it becomes impossible to efficiently provide any service, have any effective investigations or hold anyone to account. The situation is so bad that when I attended a recent discussion of the water crisis with trade unionists, some of whom were members of socialist organisations, the only topic of conversation was how to lobby the minister and persuade him to move towards nationalisation – a discussion which in my view was on a par with discussing the existence of guardian angels. The same people, at another meeting, would have no difficulty in describing Murphy as a right-wing politician, yet he is their only hope in saving the water service through nationalisation.
It seems to me that from a socialist perspective the Stormont administration remains a massive roadblock to political progress. It blocks political development, any real democratic solution and class politics and this extends into every aspect of everyday life and every aspect of public service. People generally recognise the corruption of local politics but think it a price worth paying. Socialists should constantly remind them of the real price of the settlement and its unsustainable nature.
Also must not forget a major role of the modern wave of privatisations. It is to divest the capitalist state of responsibility for the provision of services. Socialists should hold the state to account for their failure to provide services.
We can however point out that in the recent crisis the workers themselves provided an excellent service given that there were too few of them and they seemed at times to be outnumbered by an incompetent management. Demands for workers control at one level seem common sense in a crisis of the level of the recent one, yet has to be set in the context that the North remains a colony and the route to workers power involves the defeat of imperialism.
Hope these ideas are useful
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