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Jobstown acquittals – a major setback for the Irish state

9 July 2017

Militants across Ireland must feel an intense sense of relief at the not guilty verdicts in the Jobstown show trial, aimed at water charge protesters, labelling protest as a criminal activity of false imprisonment and threatening them with long prison sentences.

There is much to celebrate. Not only did the defendants face the prospect of years in jail, the criminalisation of protest would have enabled mass repression of workers in the titanic battles that loom on the horizon.

However it is a mistake to label Jobstown a victory. That would imply that in the course of the court battle we had built a movement that was able to force a retreat by the state and could carry us forward and allow the workers to advance. That is not the case. The campaign was weak and isolated. The state is already planning further attacks.

Jury Trial

The court success was due to the simple fact that it was a jury trail. The jury, faced with fifty Garda perjurers who were contradicted by video evidence, threw the case out.

Irish capital was not slow to pick up on this - the press immediately drew the conclusion that juries were unreliable - a worrying conclusion in a state that has routinely operated no-jury courts.

The state has no choice but to renew its assault. It claims the Irish economy has recovered, but the situation of the working class is dire. The economy is dominated by the sovereign debt. On one side there is a fire sale of resources. The workers paid for Allied Irish Bank, but a partial sale goes directly to the European Central Bank. Property is sold to vulture capital at knock-down prices, fuelling a housing crisis. At the same time the Troika constrain the Irish budget in a "fiscal space" determined by bank repayments that can't possibly lead to a recovery in living standards.

In the middle of all this the trade union leadership, fresh from the Bus Eireann sell-out, are recommending Lansdowne Road II, a deal that normalises cutbacks speed-ups and sell-outs installed during the credit crunch and betrays younger public sector workers to permanent low wages.

We can say confidently that this deal, were it to hold, would mean permanent austerity for the workers. It is unlikely to survive because dancing in the fiscal space left after paying sovereign debt is an increasingly unviable strategy.


Against this background delusional claims of victory do not help. We did not win Jobstown. We survived it. We did not defeat water charges, we won a stay of execution. The structures of charging and privatisation remain in place. We are not well placed to take on new battles because the Right2Water movement has been disbanded and the union's plans for a replacement sound all to much like the populist Right2Change experiment that failed so disastrously.

Attempts by the Socialist Party to build themselves after Jobstown by rallying with random celebs are doomed to failure. The organisational sectarianism of the socialist groups means that they have a mountain to climb to get back to the limited unity of the United Left Alliance and to overcome the increased parliamentarianism and reformism that the groups have displayed in the Dail .

Counter attack

The starting point for a new movement is to counter attack around the Jobstown repression.

Calls for an enquiry may help to maintain public focus for a while, but the call does reflect the Socialist Party’s growing reliance on action around the Dail and public institutions. Why do we need an enquiry when mass perjury is already established? When every institution in the state, with the Garda leading the pack, are completely corrupt? When the enquiry mechanism has become the main mechanism for kicking the crimes of Irish capital into the long grass until the workers come to accept them?

We should first try to neutralise the Labour party. There should be a concerted call for Joan Burton to step down as TD and member of the Labour party following her disgraceful role in criminalising dissent. Otherwise the Labour party should change its name and stop describing itself as the party of Connolly and Larkin. Such a campaign cannot be successful if the socialist groups maintain their traditional blindness in relation to the trade union bureaucracy. If Jack O'Connor is chairman of the Labour party he should not continue in place as leader of SIPTU, the state’s largest union, and the place where the new Lansdowne road agreement will be decided.

A more important target is the Garda and judiciary.  Both institutions are utterly corrupt and the subject of frequent scandal - in the case of the Garda involving every level and having reached the stage where the only response to each new charge is dumb insolence.

We have a minority government and an opposition that claims to be for democracy and against corruption. Why not call for the decommissioning of the Garda leadership and special units - enough pressure may well handicap capitalism by bringing down the government. Simultaneously we could call for "Garda Watch" groups in working class areas and begin the discussion about defence of the workers.

It is right that in the aftermath of the Jobstown trial we should talk about workers unity and a working class party. However we must accept that the days of the single issue campaign and "people power" have come and gone.

The workers cannot defend themselves and accept the payment of sovereign debt that squeezes public spending inside the narrow confines of the fiscal space. They cannot stand by and accept the transfer of public resources to vulture capital. The will resist increasing state repression. We should organise around simple principles: Against imperialist robbery, for self-determination and the  ownership of our own resources and for workers power and workers control.

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