Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ding! Ding! Lisbon Treaty round 2 has started already!

Well that didn’t take long did it? Hardly had we a chance to pause for breath but Brian Cowan has told EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso that he is going to call another referendum because they didn’t get the result they wanted, although they won’t be so quick to admit it.

We don’t really need to labour the point about how undemocratic this is. No, hold on a minute – yes we do! There will be all sorts of dust kicked up about declarations and protocols attached to the Treaty when it is eventually put to the vote again but they will all mean nothing. How do we know that? Because when the French and Dutch workers told the EU constitution to get stuffed they gave them the Lisbon Treaty instead, with next to no significant difference except that the French and Dutch weren’t allowed to vote again.

It’s also undemocratic because the Irish vote was a vote of EU citizens which, if the EU really was democratic, would count in a Europe-wide vote. In other words it’s not a matter of the Irish being given this or that assurance. Despite the largely nationalistic content of the No campaign this was a European vote against militarism and neoliberal economic policies across Europe. It was a defence mechanism not just for Irish workers but for all European workers.

This means we should say to Sinn Fein and anyone else who wants to negotiate, or rather get Cowan to negotiate, a series of opt outs on our behalf – and what a joke that idea is –that that’s not what we voted for. We voted for all of us to be spared the race to the bottom that the EU has planned in the name of competitiveness.

This means we immediately need to start building a truly internationalist, a really democratic and necessarily socialist opposition.

The No camp has now been told – rhetorically because they would never dream of letting us do it in reality - that we should put forward what we want the EU to do now. Well let's start with determining what this means.

First we now realise, if anyone was ever in any doubt, that the idea that the Irish State was now out of the domination of an empire is nonsense. Ireland is not France as they say. We can get stuffed but this could never be said to one of the major imperialist EU powers. This means we must unite with workers across Europe also opposed to Lisbon because we will not defeat it by ourselves.

It means demanding a really democratic European organisation - a Constituent Assembly to decide how we really want to be governed. This would mean putting together a constitution that embodied not the rights of free markets, of money, but the rights of workers, women, youth and immigrants to real freedom, and control of resources to deliver a Europe dedicated to its people and not profit. But a Europe for thoseat the bottom will have to be built from the bottom - from mobilising workers in Ireland and across Europe.

The fight has only begun. We have been told by our enemies we don’t have an alternative. Socialists need to put forward exactly what it is. No more hiding behind broad campaigns. It’s time to fight for the socialist No, and also a socialist Yes to what we really want.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Internment vote puts DUP in driving seat

The passage of the 42 day detention law through the Commons on the votes of the DUP may have caused consternation in Britain, but it can hardly come as a surprise to anyone familiar with their record. The DUP and its counterparts in the UUP have consistently backed the use of repressive laws. Historically, this was epitomised most clearly under the old Stormont regime. Its Special Powers Act allowed for the suspension of fundamental democratic rights and legal principles. This law and the repressive apparatus that enforced it operated freely under the gaze of successive British governments. Of course as it applied only to the north of Ireland few objections were raised. Indeed, there is an anti Irish element to the current outrage, with the Government being accused by its opponents of using "Irish votes" to abolish English civil liberties.

Much of the media speculation has been about the nature of the deal between the DUP and the Brown government. This has covered such things as the money raised from the sale of army bases being retained by the Executive; a further delay in the introduction of water charges and a commentator not to extend abortion laws to the north. The deal appears to be a hodgepodge of patronage and reaction.

However, the details of what was agreed between the DUP and the government are secondary to the fact that there was a deal at all. The critical point is that the Brown government is now dependent on the DUP for its survival. The implications of this were spelt out clearly in the boast by Gregory Campbell that his party "now holds the balance of power at Westminster and we will use it to force the pace".

The DUP’s coup over the detention vote puts into stark relief the attempt by Sinn Fein to win concessions through engineering a mini crisis over the nomination of the new First Minister. This collapsed in ignominy with Sinn Fein agreeing to nominate with only a commitment from the British and the unionists to discuss their concerns. The Gordon Brown-DUP deal shoots a hole in the Sinn Fein belief that the British will put pressure on the DUP to move on issues such as an Irish language act and and the devolution of policing and justice powers. One consequence of the Brown-DUP deal will be the return of a form of internment to the north. As part of the UK, 42 day detention will apply here as well. Weren't we promised that repressive laws were a thing of the past?

Monday, June 9, 2008

DUP Iris Does It Again

Days Like These No7

by Guest Blogger Gerry Fitzpatrick

I'll not be commenting on the precise details Mrs R's recent outburst but wish to look at it's political consequences. What the Belfast Agreement and the St Andrew's Agreement was about for the British and Irish governments and Sinn Fein was to present the the DUP as new 'shiney happy people' (as the Irish Times described IPsnr) and every thing in the new DUP/SF future will be fine and if not fine - manageable.

After several incidents involving the DUP bigotry and malpractice SF's condemnations of their partners in government are waring pretty thin, because they are the ones who have vested interest in the fantasy that DUP can be what they want them to be - and not what they are.

The difference between this latest DUP instance of homophobia and previous instances is that the DUP via Iris are now telling us loud and clear 'they will not be silenced' not by anyone and have a right to their views. She has now been reported to the police by various groups - including the Alliance party for her hate speech. That will, if nothing else show us just how strong the DUP and Loyalist bigotry is here, as she is turned into a Loyalist hero -a 'victim' of 'liberal left political correctness' as one of her supporters put it .

The endorsement given by Iris to Dr Miller who is still practices aversion therapy in the province is now official as Mrs Robinsion is not only the chair of the Stormont health committee she also sat on the the special committee on suicide prevention. Now we know her solution for people who have suffered as a result of homophobia 'I know a Dr, who can help you change your sexual orientation...'. The person she offered that advise to had just been beaten and left for dead in Carmoney a few days ago.

Sinn Fein seem to think that they are dealing with a New DUP when they are the same as when they first started - an organisation devoted to reaction pure and simple. And it is Sinn Fein that we all have to thank for putting the DUP and that reaction into government.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Siptu Gets Stuck In

The recent painful history of union collaboration with employer attacks on workers’ conditions in Aer Lingus is so blatant that it could almost be forgiven if anyone with the least concern about the issues turned away in embarrassment and disgust.

SIPTU supported privatisation of the state-owned company on condition that workers conditions were protected. Ever since there have been unremitting attacks on these conditions while those at the top of the company have given themselves extravagant bonuses for having successfully pushed them through. In truth they have received these under false pretences. Those really responsible for their successful implementation are the trade union leaders who first of all sold privatisation and then imposed the attacks on workers when they were initially rejected.

Having made an agreement for pay rises under the latest social partnership umbrella – ‘Towards 2016’ – Aer Lingus management then tore this deal up and refused to pass the pay increases on to their workers. Then they demanded €20m cuts. What was SIPTU’s reaction? When workers rejected the cuts they made them vote again. Just as they did during the Nice Treaty referendum when they supported the government when it too demanded another vote when the first one didn’t go their way.

In this case however the union bureaucracy’s treachery is worse. When they voted for a second time, according to the union’s rules, the workers again rejected the deal. This time their leaders just tore up their own rule book and imposed the new terms and conditions on those sections of the workforce where a majority had been brow-beaten into accepting them in the second ballot. The remaining sections have been left isolated. They will no doubt receive short shrift if they too decide to fight back and ignore, by-pass or circumvent the union rule book, which is so often the bureaucracy’s weapon against its own members.

This whole rotten story has now been repeated with handlers at the aircraft maintenance firm SR Technics, an earlier victim of government and union false promises. Having voted against changes to their terms and conditions SIPTU again imposed another vote and forced another rotten ‘compromise’ on the workers. The nature of this compromise and the union’s sorry record has been made so clear in a SIPTU statement that it hardly requires socialists to comment further.

The SIPTU statement reads: “The handlers are willing to be trained up to undertake the task while awaiting the outcome of the arbitration. I would also like to point out that these men have undertaken additional productivity in the past without any monetary reward. They have had to forego the seven per cent increase due to them under the Sustaining Progress agreement and the last phase of Towards 2016, which was worth another 2.5 per cent, making a cumulative total of ten per cent. This latest change was introduced at the last minute in negotiations which had focused on the craft group of workers and we were given very little time to deal with the issue.”

So SIPTU dealt with it by mugging the workforce.

These are by no means isolated examples of the role of union bureaucracies, but rather fit neatly into a pattern that is so evident that it is overwhelming. Yet still many on the left regard these people as misguided reformists who share the same goal but just differ in ideas or methods. Like brass monkeys they see, hear and speak no evil as they hoist these people onto platforms in whatever single issue campaign is their latest hobby horse – giving them radical credentials so radically false we turn away in embarrassment and disgust.

But that is where we came in.