Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Better, Fairer Way?

ICTU’s 10-point plan to capitulation

John McAnulty

3 March 2009

The vote for strike action presents workers with something of a dilemma.

On the one hand workers want to protest the pensions levy, the wage cuts, the cuts in public service and the contrasting reward of the crimes, thefts and bailouts among the golden circle.

On the other hand the 10-point plan drawn up by ICTU, summing up the aims of strike action, is a call for social solidarity with the crooks who sold us out and a demand that ICTU be allowed on to the committee that will bring in the levy!

Let's read the fine print. ICTU’s ten-point plan calls for:

1. Protecting Jobs & Tackling Unemployment
Workers to be guaranteed 80% of income and retraining - a slogan rendered meaningless in the context of support for slashing the wages of workers rather than guaranteeing them.

2. The Banking System & the Public Interest
The bureaucracy suggest nationalization or recapitalization, ignoring the fact that these are the methods currently used by capital to hand over public funds to the bankers and ignoring the absolute corruption of the public bodies supposed to supervise the banks.

3. Competitiveness.
Cut energy costs - again a suggestion that the government can be persuaded to support the workers when the whole aim is to plunder them.

4. The Pay Agreement
Follow the pay agreement - The bureaucracy give the game away here. They are not asking government and employers to honour the terms of the national pay agreement, but simply to follow 'inability to pay mechanisms' built into all these agreements that always meant that only workers were bound by them. ICTU are signalling their willingness to police the credit crunch on behalf of the bosses.

5. Fairness & Taxation
We have arrived at the core of the bureaucracy's plan - the workers will pay for the crisis - but the capitalists must pay their fair share! This is by far the wordiest section of the document for the simple reason that the whole history of the 'Celtic Tiger' demonstrates the impossibility of getting capital to pay its fair share - in fact the common strategy of the bureaucracy and the government was never to ask the multinationals to pay any significant taxes!

Even if many of the obstacles to taxation were to be overcome, the plain fact is that the majority of capitalist wealth is of course held as capital. Getting the capitalists to pay their fair share (in reality the full bill) would mean expropriation of capital - an idea the bureaucracy will run a mile from!

6. Restoring Consumer Confidence
This is an ‘if only’ section. If only the government and bosses would stick to the pay agreement the workers would have some money and would spend more. If only this all-out attack on the working class wasn't an attack! Yet another plea to the bosses to call back the bureaucracy to their side!

7. The Public Service ‘Pension Levy’
ICTU give absolute assurances that the working class will pay. Again they call on capital to pay its fair share and to allow them back into social partnership and to police the offensive they have already agreed in January's framework document.

8. Pensions
ICTU call for a pension protection fund - having just indicated their acceptance of a totally bogus pension levy and agreed a deal on Waterford glass that guarantees nothing for the workers. It's OK for the government and bosses to rob Peter, but they must promise to save Paul!

9. Employment Rights Legislation
The government that has just torn up the partnership agreement is asked to enforce its clauses - even though exploitation of migrant labour and bureaucratic collaboration by the union leaders has been a consistent feature of the Celtic Tiger.

10. National Recovery Bond
There is a better fairer way. The government shouldn't force us to hand over our money - we should volunteer it ourselves.

Two unstated elements of the ‘better, fairer’ way

The 10-point plan is in reality a 12-point plan. The central, unstated points are:

Social solidarity with the government, bosses and bankers.

The workers must pay for the crisis (as long as there is some tawdry cloak of fairness).

The workers have no choice about activity. They must vote for strike action no matter what way some union ballots are worded. What they must not do is go into the strike as political cannon fodder for the bureaucracy. They must put forward their own plan, diametrically opposed to that of the bureaucracy, denouncing the new superpartnership of social solidarity and making it clear that the working class won’t pay for the crisis.

Even low levels of campaign on this basis would begin to build rank and file structures. Campaigning around the strike call and building local strike committees on this basis would lay the foundation for a national worker’s movement and prevent demoralisation and despair when the union leaderships finally implement the betrayal that they spell out so clearly in a ‘better, fairer way’.

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