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  Statement on the second Lisbon Treaty referendum


Bankers bailed out! Workers sold out!

The anti-democratic nature of the Lisbon referendum is self-evident. On every occasion that Irish workers vote against the European project they are asked to vote again until they give the 'right' answer. 

But we can't stand still protesting the unfairness of it all. Irish capitalism has a new set of reasons for us to vote yes and we have to refute these new claims.

The first claim is that the government has won important changes to the treaty. That is a transparent lie, refuted by every other European government. Even these claims of cosmetic change are all directed at the right wing. There is no pretence of concessions to Irish workers. Government concerns focused on defending low taxes for the multinational companies and supporting reactionary catholic social legislation aimed at suppressing the rights of women. They claim to have assured Irish neutrality – something that flies in the face of the articles of the Lisbon treaty, our everyday practice within the European military structures and the abolition of the Irish constitution within the confines of Shannon airport.  Even supporters of a Yes vote stop short of claiming that a ‘declaration’ on workers rights has any meaning at all – they leave that to their fawning supporters in the trade union leadership!

But the central claim is that we must vote for Lisbon, like it or not, because only Europe can save Ireland from bankruptcy following the credit crunch. Brian Cowen first campaign statement was that a Yes vote would provide a better means of dealing with the current economic crisis. IBEC has said a Yes vote in the referendum in October is an essential step on the road to economic recovery, claiming the support of 98% of top bosses.  IFA support for a yes is justified in terms of the EU supporting economic recovery.  This relentless campaign is paying off, with the referendum commission claiming majority support for a yes vote.

Yet the whole campaign is the technique of the big lie. The economic policies of Europe fuelled an unsustainable boom and encouraged property speculation. Now the European bank promises to take action, but the action is designed to save the banks - not to save the Irish people. Indeed the Lisbon treaty guarantees that Irish workers will pay the banks bills, that public services will be gutted and that there will be a further transfer of resources to the private sector.

The mechanism is as follows:  The government will issue bonds through NAMA that will be exchanged for bad loans backed by property holdings whose value the Irish Supreme Court has judged ‘fanciful in the extreme.’ The European central bank accepts and guarantees these bonds with the entire Irish economy as collateral and the payoff is to come from the public sector, with massive wage and job cuts and the transfer of wealth to the private sector – exactly the central policy issues promoted by Lisbon!

Saying yes to Lisbon is to give a blank cheque to bankers and speculators and to agree that we will meet the bill with further job and wage cuts, the loss of pensions and the decimation of public services.

But saying no is not enough. We have said no over and over again only to be pushed to give the 'right' answer. Not only that, the drive to cut workers rights, privatise public services and sign up to imperialist military adventures goes on night and day no matter which way we vote. 

There has to be a rank and file working class mobilization to fight a capitalist offensive designed to suck our blood and feed it to the bankers. Simply expressing the need for such a movement is to make oneself aware of the major barrier towards creating one – the political parties and trade union leaderships who claim to act in the interests of workers. The various parties find ways to criticise NAMA while advancing a variation of the same policy. The fact that they all call for a Yes on Lisbon shows what side they are on. (The odd one out, Sinn Fein, manage to oppose Lisbon while at the same time supporting the European Union. 

Time and again ICTU have acted to demobilise any resistance and implement the policy of the bosses.  We have had decades of social partnership in which the right to strike action has been signed away and every mobilisation sold out. In return the union leadership were given seats on the boards of the financial institutions and the privatised businesses that they had helped to create.  It was on their watch that the banking system went belly up – yet characters like David Begg remain on the board of the central bank and on the board of Aer Lingus!

In the aftermath of the financial collapse the bureaucrats demobilised the demonstrations, cancelled the strikes and called for a “better fairer way” for the workers to pay the bankers bills. Now they support a Yes on Lisbon and people like Jack O’Connor of SIPTU support NAMA, dressing up support with demands for a left-wing NAMA that will help with social housing.

It may seem difficult to break through the barriers holding back resistance, but there is a very simple principle we can stand around – the workers won’t pay to bail out the bankers!

A starting point is to call for democratic control of our society.  Lisbon isn’t the only area where our votes are set to one side. Every local council has a budget that is run in the interests of the developers and speculators and is under the control of an unelected manager. The church controls much of education and health. The HSE is a body run by private developers in contradiction to the interests of patients and workers and NAMA will be in the control of the people who are to blame for the crash in the first place.

We need democratic control of the banks, starting with the right to information. Who are the members of the golden circle? What are the bad debts and who owns them? Working people, led by the bank workers, should have access to the banks books. The current directors should be sacked.  The assets of the speculators should be seized. Workers should have direct control of the banking system to ensure that their wages and jobs and services such as education, health and housing are protected.

The tax system in Ireland needs to be turned on its head.  At the moment, the richer you are the smaller the proportion of your income you pay. The very richest pay nothing.  The biggest subsidy to the rich was the low corporation tax, only exceeded by the giveaway of natural resources like the Corrib gas fields.  We must tax the rich, tax the corporations and seize back control of our resources.

The battle between labour and capital is taking place all over the world.  When we vote no to Lisbon we are not attempting to stand aside, but standing for an alternative Europe and alternative world, for a United Socialist Europe where the solidarity of the working class comes first.

If we vote yes to Lisbon the offensive on working people will intensify and jobs, wages, pensions and services will all tumble. If we vote no and do nothing else our rulers will be embarrassed but will continue with the attacks. The outcome of this battle does not rest simply on a vote, but on the independent organisation of workers in Ireland, in Europe and across the globe. 

Join us in the struggle to build the resistance. 



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