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Water charges: The final straw?

It is clear that the introduction of water charges comes very close to the straw that broke the camel’s back. On top of the sheer thuggery involved in charging you for something that you already own we have the overweening hypocrisy and arrogance of claims of economic recovery mixed in with an avalanche of stories on corruption. As an extra twist Irish water is trying to extract a database of our personal details which will itself become a commodity to be bartered on international markets. The case for water charges is so weak that even those who proposed it are now denouncing the shambles.

Almost everything said in justification is a lie - water is being charged for because it is the policy of the Troika to force privatisation and the local elite plan to get even richer on the back of crony capitalism.

It time to ask seriously what it would take to bring this farce to a halt and time to reply soberly that nothing less than an insurrection is required.
At the moment, instead of insurrection, we have Einstein’s definition of madness – lots of people repeating what we did before and hoping for a different result. So we have campaigns against water meters, calls nor non-registration and non-payment. All of these things are perfectly justified and should be supported, but they can’t be presented as an overall answer to the government offensive inspired by the Troika.

The most bizarre of all the flashbacks is the right2water campaign organised by the trade unions and sections of the left. Their bright idea is that we sign a petition and hold a march, asking the government to change their mind. To make it as broad as possible, they specifically exclude any mention of campaigns against meter installation or non-payment.

Even by the standards of a movement that has for six years simultaneously opposed austerity while imposing it through social partnership mechanisms and agreements, this is the stuff of hallucination. We are to ignore the unions signing up to water privatisation as part of social partnership, their ramming through of Haddington Road/Croke Park lll, their betrayal of the Dublin bus workers, their retreat on Greyhound and on Iarnrod Eireann. Finally we are to ignore the fact that the leading “left” union – UNITE – has only passed one conference resolution on water charges – a demand that water meters be installed by union labour!

We leave reality behind altogether when we find that a Right2Water campaign was launched last year in Europe with the backing of the European TUC and was “successful!” In March a European Citizens’ Initiative was accepted by the European commission with a view to framing legislation to protect water provision. This is perfectly meaningless when we consider that privatisation had been a key aim of Europe and the IMF for well over a decade and the Financial Stability pact essentially forces privatisation on national governments.

All protests, including trade union street theatre, should be supported. The workers have held on tightly to their traditional organisations and the unions still remain a framework around which we can organise. However we should recognise that none of the union groups or political parties have stepped outside the framework of capitalism. Inside that framework there is no alternative to an ongoing race to the bottom – a minimum life on a minimum wage. To pretend that we can make a stand on water while ignoring the broader rapine of the Troika and the quisling government is foolish. As long as we agree to pay every last cent the money will be squeezed out of us, by charges, wage cuts and privatisation of services.

When the workers do rise up it will not be on the single issue of one charge among many. They will reject the whole structure of austerity – all the oppression and exploitation, the hidden Troika rule and the quisling government. The task of Socialists is to put forward the alternative of the Workers Republic and set about building a working class party, based around the needs of the working class rather than the demands of capital.


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