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It doesn't fall from the skies 

Turning water into a commodity

When Donegal Fine Gael senator Martin Conway justified the establishment of Irish Water as a commercial company he explained that we had to pay for water because it "didn't fall from the skies." When the laughter died down he underlined his  stupidity by explaining that he meant purified water.

Leaving aside what Conway thinks rain is if not   purified water, we should look at what he was trying to say - that is the official justification for privatisation of water.

This process has been successfully rolled out over decades. It is a form of "enclosure."   Enclosure is the theft of public resources and their transfer to private hands. Land enclosure was used to develop early capitalism by forcing people off the land and into wage slavery in the cities. Now enclosure is used to privatise public utilities in a form of vulture capitalism.

The logic is the necessity to return a profit on capital, but the robbery is dressed up in ideology. Only when water is assigned a price, when it is converted from a necessary resource to a commodity can a price be set. It is claimed that this is a green measure to ensure conservation and that only market forces can ensure this.

In reality the operation of capitalism in Ireland has seen an utter disregard for the conservation of    natural resources, an utter neglect of the water system and  an utter disregard and degradation of what was, not so long ago, one of the most pristine environments in Europe and is now catastrophe.

Water privatisation has no green outcomes. Where it occurs there is firstly a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich and then a concentration of water ownership into the hands of a small number of transnational companies.

The end result is what we see in Detroit. One of the major cities in the world's leading capitalist power sees tens of thousands cut off from mains supply.

Early capitalism developed municipal ownership and control of water to ensure the health of their workforce. In late capitalism, despite global reserves of money reaching into the hundreds of trillions, the rate of return on capital no longer allows this sort of expenditure.

It is tempting to look to the past and to a state providing a basic level of services. It is more helpful to look to the future. We have a high level of education and many skilled workers who are unemployed. We lack capital, but if we organized as a working class we could expropriate from a hostile quisling state. We have instant communications to connect to other workers across the world.

We should develop and implement a workers plan for water provision. 

How hard can it be?

It actually does fall freely from the skies - in  millions of gallons! 


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