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Statement: Time to turn protest into opposition

6 December 2008

Leaflet distributed at a demonstration in Dublin against education cuts. 

Today tens of thousands of people are on the streets of Dublin in protest at the Government’s savage cuts to the education budget.  Following on from the twenty thousand strong demonstration in Cork last month, and the many protests that have taken place across the country in recent weeks, it is a clear indication of the strength of public opinion on this issue.   Protests across the board about the raft of cutbacks reveal a more general discontent within Irish society which has been brought into sharp focus by the emergency budget.  Its draconian proposals of cutbacks targeted at some of the weakest people in society has thrown a light on the essential rottenness and injustice at the heart of a Government that puts the needs of banks and property developers before the needs of Irish workers.

No-one can doubt the depth of protest.  Neither can anyone doubt also that protest will not be enough. We know this because INTO have already run years of protests on class sizes and the result has been that class sizes are now increasing.  We know this because a series of campaigns on health have been followed by continued attacks on the health service. We know this because the tide of protest has failed to move even the weak sisters of the Green party from government. We know this because none of the main political parties actually oppose root and branch the overall direction of government policy, going instead for calls for the policy to be made more humane.

Its time to go beyond protest and begin to build an alternative – build an opposition.

We take no responsibility for the banks and the property developers.

We take our stand on the promises made to Irish children, to the poor and the ill and to their needs.  If the Irish government can promise over €400 billion for the banks then they can meet the needs of the workers. The promises to the banks are not our concern and we take no responsibility for them.

We must make it impossible for the government to implement its programme.

The banks say that if we don’t pay up economic activity will come to a halt.  Our answer must be that, if the workers demands aren’t met, Ireland will come to a halt – that a campaign of street protest, civil disobedience and industrial action will make the cuts impossible.

We must have a democratic and independent workers movement

The present campaign is led by the trade union leadership, but they have already indicated that they want to behave responsibly and limit the extent of their protest.  They have spent decades in social partnership and still cling to a policy of working with government and employers – while these groups want to destroy our services! Only independent organisations at workplace, community and trade union branch level will have the will and imagination to oppose the government.

We have no alternative but to fight

Over the last twenty years the government has given billions in tax allowances to property developers and big business in an economic strategy that has now collapsed spectacularly.  They are now planning to pay billions to the banks. To do this the next series of budgets will make the recent one look like chicken feed. The cuts being lined up will make the 1980’s look like a luxury holiday.  To make a difference it is not enough to protest.  We need to build an effective opposition that will stop the cuts.

The alternative to the government programme is socialism.

The basic argument is that we must pay the price in order to prevent the collapse of capitalism.  It is an argument that at the end of the day is accepted by all the political parties and the trade union leaderships.  It is not an argument that we accept. If this is the result of capitalism it is time we set about fighting for a new society not driven by the need for profit for the rich. What we need is a socialist republic - a society based on human need.



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