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Austerity Programme must be met with Civil Disobedience


Brian CowenLast week’s launch of the Dublin government’s four-year austerity programme provided an outline of the extent to which the working class in Ireland will suffer in the war to maintain the profits of the few.

The so-called National Recovery Plan claims to provide a “blueprint for a return to sustainable growth in the economy”. The plan argues, as the entire business and political establishment has done throughout the last two years that “we must all accept our share of the burden so that we can collectively share in the fruits that will undoubtedly flow from solving our current problems”.

‘We’ were neither responsible for creating the economic crisis nor did ‘we’ share in the vast profits created, yet conflating the interests of bankers and developers, who sought to make super profits from speculative investment in property, with those of working people has been a conscious strategy employed by the ruling class to shift the burden of debt to the general population in the Twenty-Six Counties.

A tiny class of bankers and developers made obscene profits during the economic boom years, with little interest in distributing that wealth, yet, once the crash came and the debts mounted, ‘we’, the people, were called upon to carry the burden of that debt. As the debts have soared into hundreds of billions of euro, the coalition government has now presented what is spuriously titled a National Recovery Plan, one which it claims provides for economic recovery and sustainable growth. It is nothing of the sort; on the contrary, it is a blueprint for war. It is a war that will be waged on minimum wage workers; the unemployed; the sick; third level students; people with disabilities and children with special educational needs. The working class will be driven into poverty, all in the interests of consolidating the power of the ruling class.

Throughout the current economic crisis, the ruling class and its media cheerleaders have spuriously argued that, somehow, ‘we’ are all in this together. It is absolutely fallacious to argue that, somehow, the poor, the sick and the elderly are as culpable for creating the economic crisis as the bankers, developers and politicians and should therefore be held liable for the debts of Ireland’s elite.

Yet the ruling class solution to the current crisis of capitalism has been to socialise the losses of bankers, speculators and property developers and to force workers and the most vulnerable sections of society to pick up the tab for the gambling debts of these social parasites. According to the National Recovery Plan, the measures contained within are “proportionate” and, over the next four consecutive budgets, “no person, group or sector can be absolved from making a fair contribution to the resolution of our economic difficulties”.

Not surprisingly, the Dublin government is attempting to con people into believing that this four-year austerity programme is both fair and proportionate. But what is ‘fair and proportionate’ about a programme that proposes to reduce the minimum wage from €8.65 [£7.30] per hour to €7.65 [£6.45], while maintaining the rate of tax on corporate profits at just 12.5 per cent? What is ‘fair and proportionate’ about a programme that will cut at least 10 per cent from social welfare payments of less than €200 [£168] per week, driving the unemployed, disabled and one parent families deeper into poverty, while simultaneously protecting the six figure salaries of judges, politicians and senior civil servants? And what is ‘fair and proportionate’ about a programme that will cuts special needs teachers from vulnerable children while paying off the debts of private banks?

Far from being fair or proportionate, the plan represents a vicious attack on the living standards of the majority of society in order to maintain the privileges of the establishment. It is a blueprint for poverty and misery and quite literally represents a death sentence upon thousands of the most vulnerable people in our society.

ICTU demonstration, November 27, 2010It is also a plan based upon a complete fantasy, for it predicts average annual economic growth of 2.75 per cent over the next four years. It is utterly delusional to believe that the Twenty-Six County economy will grow while simultaneously servicing debt in excess of €200 billion [£168 billion] and implementing an austerity programme which will take a further €15 billion [£12.6 billion] out of the economy, which is on top of the €15 billion taken out in the last three budgets since 2008.

The austerity programme imposed on the Greek people has seen that economy contract by over three per cent this year.

This so-called recovery plan intends to recycle the failed Celtic Tiger economic model, characterised by export led growth, low corporate tax and other incentives to foreign direct investment to utilise the Twenty-Six Counties as a tax haven. In an inversion of the very principles of capitalism, the state has socialised the losses incurred by bankers and developers, who, we were told, were the great risk takers of our time who should command massive salaries and profits due to the nature of the risks being taken.

The €85 billion [£72 billion] loan from the IMF comes not only on condition that neo-liberal policies are maintained and enhanced, but also with a crippling interest rate, which, at the time of writing, is speculated to be as high as 6.7 per cent.

This is little short of a shakedown by the IMF and the EU to ensure that German and British banks are repaid the billions of euro they lent to Irish banks during the boom years; money that was borrowed by the same banks to inflate the property bubble and which ultimately crashed the economy.

Up until now, the European Central Bank was lending to Irish banks at the much lower rate of one per cent. So, rather than the banks administering their own debt, the population in the Twenty-Six counties is being forced to take on further debt of a staggering €85 billion, charged at an annual interest rate of up to 6.7 per cent. At such an extortionate rate of interest, the Irish people will be beggared for generations to come.

This money is not being borrowed to invest in hospitals or schools, or in providing public works programmes that might actually create jobs for the growing numbers of unemployed, rather it will be pumped into the failed entities of Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank.

In short, the population will be levied up to €5 billion [£4.2 billion] each year just to pay the annual interest payments on this loan from the IMF/EU, which will drive this and future generations into destitution. We have now reached a historic juncture.

Without a sustained campaign of opposition on the streets and in our workplaces, the power of the ruling class will be consolidated for generations to come. While marches are important expressions of popular democratic will, they are simply not enough.

éirígí has consistently called for a sustained campaign of civil disobedience. It is a call that was echoed last week by the TEEU and by speakers who addressed the Left Platform at Saturday’s ICTU march and rally. The time for talking is at an end. It is time for action.


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