Workers reject Croke Park II
Is the long retreat over? The decisive rejection of the Croke Park ll deal by public sector workers is certainly dramatic, especially in the teeth of the majority of the trade union bureaucracy who negotiated the deal and tried to force it through.
The first Croke Park deal shaved almost 20% of public sector pay and ushered in a period of full-scale offensives by capitalism and corresponding apathy and demoralisation on the part of the working class.
Does the rejection of Croke Park ll now mean a new period of heightened class struggle? It is too early to say, but we can say that the possibly is there and that socialists should be fighting to turn a potential into an actuality.
On the debit side the rejection of the new deal is a vote, an opinion, rather than a mobilization. Workers still remain tied to their existing leadership and to the ideology of a "better, fairer way" advanced by ICTU, which implies that the banks must be paid and that workers must pay their fair share. No overall alternative movement has emerged.
Yet this gut rejection of unending austerity comes at a critical time. What it does right away is highlight the central role social partnership and class collaboration have played in suppressing the resentment of the workers and preserving capitalist stability.
So in the immediate future the coalition government has to take €300 billion from public sector pay, impose a new property tax, impose a water charge and bring in new insolvency rules that will leave a growing minority of those in mortgage arrears on the breadline, with the banks given powers to set their weekly budget for food, clothing and heating.
Largely unreported is a "modernisation" agenda agreed between the Troika, government and union leaderships that will see public services and natural resources sold off wholesale.
It is also becoming clearer that the austerity offensive has done nothing to resolve the overall crisis. The solution in Ireland is to stand by the principle of paying every last red cent and push the final payment towards infinity - adding billions in interest along the way. The coalition hope to declare normality through a return to the market, ignoring the ongoing effects of debt and recession and also ignoring the stranglehold of the ECB on economic policy.
The crisis continues in Europe with the ECB attempting in Cyprus to directly seize worker's savings and major powers like Britain gradually loosing their credit rating despite savage attacks on the poor.
In the absence of a real leadership, tired out by a process of being marched up and down the hill by the union bureaucracy, and without a convincing alternative, workers have settled for a strategy of adaptation and survival. A few simple calculations show them that if they strip everything back to the bone many will have a tiny euro margin to see them through to the end of the month.
Now the same calculations tell them that a further wage cut and extra charges mean that they cannot make it through. That they are startling to go under. The new insolvency rules assure them that they will live as paupers while continuing to work - a life of virtual slavery.
There are great opportunities if socialists are able to address the immediate needs of the workers and great dangers if they do not.
The most immediate need is to mobilize against implementation of the public service pay cuts. Failure to do so will leave opposition to the left union leaders. Yet the no vote has seen a reunifi-cation of left and right and a new rhetoric of strike and struggle from the right. The end result of a united bureaucracy entering talks will be a new Croke Park ll. A rank and file mobilization has to break free from the union committees and organise independently across unions and in concert with union and community groups.
One demand must be for Labour out of government. That is a demand that is widely felt among workers, that would throw the austerity into crisis and would prevent labour "lefts" from diverting opposition towards an improved programme for government.
Above all a new movement must break from
ICTU's better, fairer way of paying the debt. We repudiate all the debt,
repudiate the bailout and look towards the expropriation of capital and
the establishment of a socialist society.