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‘Wanted: An Alternative’: leaflet given out at ‘Claiming our Future’ Conference

30 October 2010

Members of Socialist Democracy gave out the leaflet below to the ‘Claiming our Future’ conference held in Dublin at the end of October.  The conference was sponsored by the Irish Congress of Trade unions, the liberal think tank TASC and various voluntary bodies.


The scale of the economic disaster which is affecting the Irish people is daunting and in some ways it has been paralysing.  The policies pursued by the Government are the equivalent of the ‘shock and awe’ tactics employed by The United States when it invaded Iraq.  Today’s conference is recognition that we need an alternative to these policies and that we cannot wait for an alternative coalition Government to implement them.

Only Reason?

But this is not the only, or even the main, reason for the lack of an alternative that we see today.  Nearly two years ago over 120,000 people demonstrated in Dublin against the pension levy designed to make ordinary working people pay for the sins of the bankers.  Strikes were being organised to push this opposition. 

But all this was called to a halt when trade union leaders went into talks with the Government.  These talks failed and new cuts were announced.  New demonstrations were organised across the State and a day of action across the public sector was organised.  But then the same thing happened – union leaders went into talks with the Government and accepted all the cuts that had been implemented which only emboldened the Government to inflict more. 

A Better, Fairer Way?

This policy of ICTU has been justified by the policy of a ‘better, fairer way.’  Is this the alternative?  There are major reasons to doubt that this is the case.  First it accepts that workers should pay their ‘fair’ share of the economic crisis when workers had nothing to do with creating it.  Then it says that the pain should simply be spread over a longer time.  The policy does not reject NAMA and its plans to transfer the debts of the developers and bankers to the people and it does not oppose all cuts to public services.  The ‘better, fairer way’ seeks to continue the policy of social partnership but this should set alarm bells ringing.  This is because partnership was a central part of creating the current economic and political disaster.


During the creation of the massive property bubble trade union leaders and heads of the voluntary sector sat in partnership with the politicians and businessmen that created the mess we are now in.  David Begg sat on the Central Bank that was responsible for regulating the banks, the non-regulation that proved so disastrous.  Trade union leaders sat on FAS while it wasted millions of Euros and showed itself to be every bit as corrupt as the banks.

ICTU remained partners with the people who created this mess.  ICTU cannot now wash its hands of its responsibility for being in partnership with those responsible for the disaster.  The policy of continuing partnership while the Government seeks to decimate public services, welfare, jobs and conditions can only be implemented by preventing the anger of working people from being properly organised. This is why we have seen demonstrations called which go nowhere, strikes called off, the Croke Park deal which cuts services and conditions and pushing the policy that working people must ‘fairly’ pay for the crisis.  In short you cannot have an alternative if you are partners with those you seek an alternative to.

So what is the alternative?

First it is refusal to accept any responsibility for the crisis.  All cuts in services, welfare, pay and pensions should be rejected.  So should the argument that there is no money to do this.  There seems no limit to the amount of money the Government is prepared to waste on the banks.

Second is refusal to pay for the debts of the bankers and developers.  NAMA should be rejected.  No money should be wasted recapitalising zombie banks.  Those who invested in these banks as shareholders or bondholders should be made to pay the price of their speculative investments.  The savings of working people can be guaranteed and form the basis of a new bank.

The existing owners and managers of the banks have shown themselves to be utterly reckless and incompetent and now they are hoarding money just when we need investment in jobs and industry.  We cannot rely on those that ran the economy during the boom because even in the best conditions they were incapable of building a sustainable economy.  The Irish State has proved wasteful and incompetent with a dysfunctional HSE and FAS – utterly incapable of laying the foundations of a smart or knowledge economy.

Nationalisation is no solution if it is simply used to make working people owners of the debt, as in Anglo-Irish and Allied Irish banks.  It is no solution if the same State bureaucrats are in charge.  Workers themselves must take ownership and run these banks for the benefit of working people whose main interest is in jobs and the future of their children.  We should discuss how bank workers and others can organise to do this.

If today’s conference is about how working people could take control of the society we live in.  If it is about how we take control of the banks we are supposed to own, and how we should use the money we have given them, then we could really claim to be making a start in ‘reclaiming our future.’

Reclaiming our Future

We can only reclaim our future if we take ownership and control.  That means we take control of our trade unions and reject partnership with those responsible for the crisis.  It means we refuse to pay the debts of the banks and developers – this money was not borrowed by us and we will not pay it back.  It means we don’t wait and don’t rely on parties which have already agreed to implement the cuts. We are not interested in paying back a bill over a longer period that we shouldn’t be paying in the first place.

It does mean we need a new party that is controlled by and is led by all the working people who are being made to pay for the current economic disaster.  It is our future and only we can reclaim it.


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