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ULA must take itself seriously
Anne McShane argues that the United Left Alliance must take a lead
Anne McShane writes about the cutbacks, the DCTU march and the inadequacies of the fughtback campaign to date. On November 26 2,000 demonstrators marched in Dublin against the December 5-6 budget. This budget marks year two of a four-year plan to slash public spending and raise taxes - all part of stringency measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund/European Central Bank 2010 bailout.
Now things are very different as far as the union bureaucrats are concerned. Last year a Fianna Fáil/Green government was in power. Deeply unpopular because of the banking bailouts and political corruption, it was teetering on the verge of collapse and an election was imminent. Labour Party leaders were promising to stand up for the ordinary people and to resist all cuts if they were elected. It was clear that they would enter government with the rightwing Fine Gael, but Eamonn Gilmore, the Labour leader, promised that his party would protect the poor. ICTU leaders urged the working class to vote Labour.
In the midst of this period of working class suffering, overseen by Labour and Fine Gael, the ICTU still supports Gilmore and co. Eugene McGlone, the new ICTU president, speaking at Saturday’s demonstration, bemoaned the government’s short-sightedness and its failure to appreciate that austerity policies do not work. He appealed to their sense of fairness and decency and proposed the adoption of the ICTU’s pre-budget submission which is “based on reality, not pie-eyes schemes”.[http://du103w.dub103.mail.live.com/mail/RteFrame_16.0.1877.0920.html?dl=dl#2] This document proposes various measures for economic growth with very modest suggestions for an increase in corporation tax. It aims to rehabilitate Irish capitalism in the middle of an unprecedented world depression. Not that the government will take much notice of the ICTU’s appeal. The demonstration on Saturday was originally to be a United Left Alliance event. But, worried at the lack of union support, the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party created yet another campaign - the Alliance Against Austerity - and pulled in Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) and some sections of Sinn Féin. This was all done without any involvement or input from the ordinary membership. We were left in the dark for weeks as to whether a demonstration would even take place and there was very little work done to build it.
This decision to go for a broader campaign did not leave the ULA in a better situation politically, as the rally was dominated by the likes of McGlone. The DCTU did not mobilise significant forces and the march was made up mainly of the left, particularly the ULA and its constituent parts. But the ULA had no speaker in the main rally. And, to add insult to injury, when the speeches were finally over, DCTU vice-chair Mick O’Reilly announced that the main event was now over and would be followed by a ULA assembly. Anybody who wanted to stay for that could. He and his comrades folded up their banners and left, making it clear that they wanted no further part of this gathering. This caused confusion and a lot of the crowd understandably thought it was all over and left.
There followed what was meant to be an open mike session. The chair announced people should contact the organisers and give their names to take part - everybody would have their say. In fact it was almost completely orchestrated and dominated by the SWP. Although a couple of Socialist Party members spoke, including MEP Paul Murphy, the other contributors were in the main SWP - or any ‘Joe Soaps’ they thought would not say anything controversial. Names were carefully filtered under the supervision of SWP leader Kieran Allen....