National Sections of the L5I:

Irish workers must not pay for the recession!

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The budgest is the latest attempt by Brian Cowen's increasingly unpopular government backed by the Green Party to make Irish workers pay for the recession. Minister of Finance Brian Lenihan called for an extra 2 billion euro to be raised in taxes and 1 billion euro cuts in public spending to deal with the crisis in public finances.

The Irish economy was the first Euro zone country to slip into recession. Its government rushed to bail out the banks, guaranteeing domestic bank deposits and debt for 2 years after the Irish banking system was on the verge of collapse. The country faces a collapsing property market and a construction industry that is in serious trouble. The unemployment rate has risen to 6.7% in October, the highest rate since September 1998  one report calculates that one job every 3 minutes is disappearing!

Budget 2009 was brought forward to deal with Ireland's deepening economic woes. Among the proposals was a 1% levy on all incomes, which would draw in 1.2 billion euros a year. Over 70 year old pensioners would cease to have automatic medical cards and be subject to a means test to assess income eligibility. Students are to be hit with massive hikes in their registration fees. Minister of Finance Brian Lenihan urged people to accept the Budget 'as a call to patriotic action'.

'Be patriotic'  Revolt!

The response from working class people was overwhelming. Already suffering rampant inflation, job losses, collapsing house prices and a wage freeze, protests flooded in to TD (MP) surgeries and on radio phone ins. On 22 October in Dublin 15000 pensioners marched in the morning to be followed by 15000 students later in the day. A rich display of placards and home grown slogans was evident, from 'Rob the Pensioners to Bail Out the Bankers - .Shame. Shame. Shame.' to 'Our Patriotic Duty  Revolution' as well as the 'Fee-dom Fighters' and 'No cutbacks, no fees, no Fianna Fail TD's' on the students demo. 200 students blockaded Lenihan from a meeting forcing him to find a back door entrance. Clearly the government has been rattled by all of this but not defeated. One Fianna Fail TD has resigned and another Independent has withdrawn support from the government. A recent Irish Times poll puts the government rating at an amazing 18%! A climb down on its automatic withdrawal of medical cards for over 70's has occurred insofar as the income eligibility limits for such cards have now been raised. Most pensioners will still get them but the principle of universal access to primary care has not been granted. Means tests are in place and the limits could well be changed.The response from Irish Congress of Trade Unions and most trade union leaders has been feeble; they have protested and quibbled about where the threshold should start. But no action please and odds on they will be content with the concession that the lower paid on 18000 euro per year be exempt from the 1% levy. Just like their capitulation to a wage freeze deal with the government, they have proven themselves to be an enormous stone around the neck of workers they're meant to represent. Unions must strike

Budget 2009 will also involve savings of 1 billion euros on public spending. Massive educational cuts are imminent with over 1000 teacher jobs to go plus class size increases in primary schools, the abolition of substitute cover, slashing Traveller education funding, increase of school transport charges, school library and free school books scheme cut and many more cuts. Teacher trade unions have already marched 12000 strong in Dublin on 29 October. Regional protests like the one in Galway on November 8 where 8000 teachers and parents protested at the cuts have also taken place. On Saturday December 6 a national demonstration and rally organised by the teacher trade unions will take place in Dublin.

Clearly the protests have been vital in mobilising the widespread anger. However if workers are to ensure that their living standards and conditions are to be protected and that they should not be the victims of this recession then industrial action has got to be organised. If the government can bail out the banks then workers should insist that they should not pay and are not responsible for the sick capitalist system.

The present crop of union leaders will need to be forced down the road of militant struggle though. Already most union leaders are busy promoting an acceptance of a deal worth 6% over 21 months paid in two phases - in effect a wage freeze. A deal, moreover, which the government will use to offload more jobs. Most unions have now balloted in favour of this but where the union leadership has campaigned against the national deal as in the case of the second biggest union, UNITE, then members voted 3 to 1 against. UNITE must use this as a mandate to bust the freeze with strike action and link the struggle to the budget attacks.

Teachers should demand their unions take strike action until victory against the attacks  No Job Losses, No Cuts! They should make a call to the whole trade union movement for support and organise cross union action to smash the budget. This reactionary onslaught by the government affects all workers, students and pensioners.Action Councils should be organised in every town and city to coordinate the struggle drawing in the trade unions and other organisations of the students, pensioners and unemployed. These forums should become democratic organs of working class resistance to any attacks from the government.As recession gets deeper Irish workers will face more attacks on their livelihoods. The spinelessness of their leaders will become ever more apparent. The rank and file will need to organise class struggle currents in their unions to remove the yellow leadership. This struggle must of necessity become a battle against the whole capitalist system. Only connecting today's struggles with the struggle for socialism and the abolition of capitalism can satisfy the needs and interests of workers.The League for the Fifth International is dedicated to such a struggle and the building of a revolutionary socialist party with the aim of fighting for a Workers' Republic in Ireland.