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We have been here before.  In February over 120,000 of us took part in one of the biggest demonstrations for years against the so-called ‘pension levy’.  Many unions then balloted for strike action and only a little co-ordination would have seen a one-day national strike.

This huge demonstration came just after spontaneous marches of older people had shaken the government and forced them to retreat on reductions to medical card entitlement.  Many believed that if older people with little organisation could stop the attacks then so could much better organised workers.

All this was possible.  A programme of rolling demonstrations and strikes building up to a general strike could have reversed the cuts, prevented An Bord Snip from ever reporting and prevented the massive waste of money that is now taking place in bailing out the bankers and developers.

We would not now be facing cuts in pay, services and welfare while bankers and developers are bailed out.  The NAMA business plan would not be giving bankers €53 billion for rotten loans or developers another €5 billion to finish off their useless speculation.  We would not be doing this while being told that there is no money!!!

Today we would not be listening to Cowen or Lenihan or to O’Donoghue’s nauseating excuses because this corrupt and stinking government would have been booted out.


But none of this came about.  There were no more demonstrations and the strikes never happened.  Instead the attacks on our living standards increased dramatically with more levies and the promise of four more budgets that will each cut €4 billion from public services and welfare while putting up taxes.  Unemployment has shot up, emigration has returned and thousands face the prospect of losing their homes.

All this was made possible because our trade union leaders went into social partnership talks and called off the demonstrations and strikes. They said that workers were prepared to take their ‘fair’ share of the pain.  The Fianna Fail and Green Government knew this was a green light to step up their attacks and that is exactly what they have done.  While our leaders talked the Government took action.

Now we are asked to believe that these same leaders will lead us in defending our living standards.  But our leaders haven’t changed.  We know this because they are calling on us to demonstrate and strike on the same policies that led to us being sold out in March.


ICTU has said that we are willing to take our ‘fair’ share of the pain of the economic crisis.  But what is a fair share?  We did nothing to create this crisis.  The bankers, developers and Government bear responsibility for the wild speculation and the bursting of the bubble.  Our fair share of the pain is exactly zero.

Trade union leaders talk about a ‘social dividend’ as part of NAMA.  But this is just absurd.  We give €53 billion to the bankers, which we have to pay back and on which we have to pay interest, and this is supposed to be ok because we get €1 billion of our own money back as a ‘social dividend’?

David Begg and ICTU want the cuts implemented, but over a longer time.  What good is that?  Is death by a thousand cuts better if it takes five years rather than four? 

Jack O’Connor says we can’t fight the cuts or oppose NAMA because this would be political.  This only shows we can’t fight back under the leadership of Jack O’Connor.  What mandate has Fianna Fail to implement these cuts?  Who ever voted for NAMA?  How could we possibly defend our living standards while we accept €20 billion of cuts and tax increases over the next four years and agree to give the banks €53 billion of our own money?

But even this will not be the total bill.  We will still have to pay out more billions to further recapitalise the banks even though we know these banks are already bust.  We have already given €4 billion to Anglo-Irish – the amount of the cuts and tax increases in the next budget – but this money is now gone, we may as well have burnt it.


All this shows that we can’t hope to defend our living standards, our hopes for our future and the future of our children by supporting the policies and strategy of our trade union leaders.  Begg sat on the board of the Central Bank while the banking system engaged in wild speculation.  McLoone was chairman of FAS while it became mired in corruption and greed.  Yet we are supposed to accept that the man who presided over the waste and corruption of FAS has a plan to implement the cuts that will not hurt his members or the public?

We can only defend ourselves by opposing all the cuts and defending our salaries and pensions.  This means we must reject NAMA and reject the bail out of the banks.  We must make it clear that we don’t accept any responsibility for the economic catastrophe visited on us by the bankers, developers and their insane economic system.  We must therefore reject ICTU’s ten point plan to get us to accept the pain.

There is a real alternative economic policy that means making the shareholders and bondholders accept the bank losses and wind the banks up if they are still bust.  It means setting up a new bank run by workers funded by the money and assets owed to us by the developers and speculators.  This would launch a real economic development based on useful production and not on a new frenzy of property speculation such as NAMA is relying on.

We can pay for this by refusing to borrow €53 billion to bail out the bankers and saving us the interest to be paid on it.  The banks and developers already owe us the money so we don’t need to give them anything to use their assets to make a new start.  We can reduce the massive inequality in our society and fund our new start by taxing the rich, including the tax exiles and multinationals, and taking ownership of our own resources such as the natural gas off our coast.

The Government hasn’t got any plans for a ‘smart economy’, we know that because their stupidity got us in this mess in the first place.  Workers need to develop their own plans to develop a real smart economy, one not dependent on building empty houses no one will buy.


All of this is possible but it is only possible if we take action.  We must ensure that this demonstration is only the first. We must ensure that we don’t allow our union leaders to go back into talks which will sell us out.  We must oppose all the cuts and oppose NAMA and fight inside the unions to make this policy.  We must elect leaders who will actually support and implement these policies.

This means campaigning for a general strike against the cuts and NAMA and kicking out the current leaders who are opposed to us taking action.  We are lions led by donkeys. Our leaders who are supposed to be our servants have become like our politicians - on a gravy train unwilling to endanger their own cosy positions.

Workers must organise themselves and not wait for their unions to do it for them.  We should not be hamstrung by union rule books or by bureaucracy.  We must organise across trade unions and outside trade unions in a united campaign that won’t allow us to be divided into public versus private sector or put into cul-de-sacs of only fighting against cuts on a local basis.


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