As the clock counts down to what many believe will be the harshest budget in the history of the Twenty-Six County state, resistance appears to be gathering momentum.
éirígí has long argued that the savage assault being waged against the working class by the neo-liberal establishment in Dublin can be overturned through a sustained campaign of civil disobedience and mass protests. In mobilising for the fight back, éirígí has called for people to lobby in their workplaces, their unions and their communities for the organisation of a general strike.
Such calls are now being echoed by a number of prominent political and organised labour movements.
Calling for a general strike, Noel Murphy, the general secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union, said: “We now find ourselves in an economic crisis entirely the fault of the present government and its policy of favouring its cronies in the financial and property businesses. The only option now is to replace this government with one that can deliver for the working people of this country.”
A motion to the recent biannual conference of the Technical Electrical and Engineering Union [TEEU] called for delegates to endorse the ICTU march on November 27 and to mount a campaign of civil disobedience if the Dublin government does not call a general election. The motion read:
“This conference condemns the Government for its criminal negligence in the management of the economy and for colluding with the banks in misleading the Irish people as to the seriousness of the crisis we face. This policy of economic sabotage has led to the betrayal of our country and to the loss of the last shreds of our economic sovereignty. We now call on the Government to resign, hold a general election and face the verdict of the electorate.
“The Government’s actions since the adoption of the bank guarantee in September 2008 have forfeited the confidence of the Irish people. It no longer has the mandate, obtained under false pretences in 2007, to pursue reckless policies that have pandered to bankers and developers…
“If the Government persists in clinging to power we call on the ICTU and other civil society organisations to launch a campaign of civil disobedience to force an election on a regime that has no principles and no objective beyond staying in office for as long as possible, even at the price of destroying what is left of our economy and our society. In this way citizens can demonstrate forcefully that we are no longer prepared to be misinformed, misled and misgoverned by a cabal that has betrayed every principle of on which the Irish Republic was founded.
“We further put the Government, and future governments, on notice that the TEEU will continue to defend the rights of ordinary working people and oppose any attempts to make them pay for the profligacy of the rich.”
It was overwhelmingly endorsed by delegates. Commenting on a campaign of civil disobedience and condemning the Dublin government’s four year plan, Eamon Devoy, general secretary of the TEEU, said: “The proposals in the plan confirm our worst fears of what the Government had in mind for its latest bail out of the banks. At our conference, delegates voted overwhelmingly for a campaign of civil disobedience if the Government did not call an election and I can say now that we are prepared to pursue a similar campaign to oppose this plan if it is implemented.”
Last Saturday [November 27], around 100,000 people took to the streets of Dublin for the ICTU-organised rally organised to show their anger at the measures the establishment aims to implement. Many on the march voiced their frustration at the lack of leadership shown to workers by Congress and union leaders David Begg and Jack O’Connor were heckled by the crowd for their inadequate response to attacks on the working class.
Following the ICTU rally, a crowd of 5,000 gathered at the O’Connell Monument on O’Connell Street to hear speakers from the left-wing bloc put forward an alternative approach for organised labour to the crisis. Speakers, including Joe Higgins MEP and éirígí councillor and 1% Network representative Louise Minihan called for militant resistance form the working class and the organisation of a general strike.
Minihan said: “Today’s bureaucratic union leadership are not the vision of organised labour James Connolly dreamt of. Connolly envisioned the unions as fighting working class organisations controlled from the bottom up. We, as activists, must take the union movement back to Connolly.
“The 1% Network has called for a general strike in Ireland to resist the plans of the anti- worker establishment. A general strike is exactly what is needed. Through a general strike the working class can defeat the cutback agenda and force the FF/Green coalition from office.
“But it shouldn’t stop there – a general election to put twiddle dee or twiddle dumb into government will change nothing for the workers of this state. It’s the system that’s at fault not how it is managed.
“Each of us must begin to organise a grass roots momentum for an all out general strike. If the union leadership won’t back this call then we must remove them from office. Through a general strike we can show the true power of organised labour and awaken the class-consciousness of the workers. A general strike must seek to create the conditions for a more just and equal society. A society where the working class is in democratic control of its own destiny. The class war has begun. We must organise the resistance for the overthrow of capitalism.”
On November 28, Unite announced it supported calls for a general strike and that it was planning a campaign of civil disobedience in the run up to budget day. “The only hope is to go beyond marches and protests. We’ve got to put strike action firmly in place,” said Jimmy Kelly, regional secretary of Unite.
The battle lines have been drawn. In the coming weeks and months the resistance to the prevailing neo-liberal agenda needs to be built. This agenda can be defeated through the building of a mass movement that includes working class communities, organised labour and left-wing political parties. The time for talking is over. Now is the time for action.
On Tuesday, December 7, on the night of the 2011 Blood Budget, éirígí will be joining with its partner organisations in the 1% Network to protest at the gates of Leinster House. The assembly point for this protest is the Wolfe Tone Monument on Stephen’s Green where people will gather at 5.30pm before marching to Leinster House. All are welcome. Bígí linn.