Category Archives: Independent Workers Union

Workers and the way forward: a socialist-republican perspective

In order to get real action, the workers will need to act for themselves not rely on ICTU leadership

by Philip Ferguson

It seems a long time now since trade union members in the south of Ireland voted to reject Croke Park 11, a deal promoted by leaders of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in partnership with the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government in Dublin.  The current coalition, like the Fianna Fail/Green coalition that preceded it, has sought to make southern Irish workers pay for the financial crisis of Irish banks and the meltdown of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy.

For several decades the bulk of the union leadership has pushed tripartite deals with the bosses and the state, a ‘partnership’ model which has been held up by union leaderships as far afield as New Zealand as worth emulating.  But these tripartite deals did not deliver to workers even during the ‘good times’ of the ‘boom’ periods in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Now the boom has turned to bust the partnership model has simply locked unions into accepting responsibility for the financial crisis and agreeing to the austerity measures demanded by the Troika.

Rhetoric v resistance

The leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has engaged in some token rhetoric about ‘sharing the  burden’ of the crisis and they have marched workers up and down the hill and then sent them home a couple of times.  But, in general, they have acted as faithful lieutenants of the state and capital, serving more to Read the rest of this entry

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Belfast public meeting on organising against austerity

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1916, 2016: them and us

This first went up on the site back on April 28 this year; I’m putting it back up on the home page because it remains relevant.  I’ll be highlighting it continuously as long as I need to!

indexOne of the products of the end of the Provisionals’ armed struggle in the six counties and their signing up to, and enthusiastic participation in, an internal settlement there is that the kind of historical revisionism that was officially-backed from about the mid-1970s until the end of the 1990s has become outmoded.  The kind of nonsense delivered up by the likes of a would-be Sebastian Flyte such as Roy Foster is now surplus to requirements.

Instead, there is a new war over ‘1916 and all that’.  The southern establishment is much more relaxed about recognising and celebrating the importance of 1916 than they have been at any time since the explosion in the six counties at the end of the 1960s and start of the 1970s.  On the other hand, the establishment is vitally keen on tying the 1916 rebellion and subsequent war for independence into its own history.  They want to present the events of 1916-21 as finding their natural and logical conclusion in the establishment and development of the 26-county state.

Moreover, they want to show that this state and its population, or certainly its ruling elite, have ‘matured’ to the level of putting the old ‘enmity’ with England behind them.  ‘We’ can now recognise the ‘sacrifices’ made by Orangemen in the First World War and also commemorate men from nationalist Ireland who joined the British imperialist army and died on the slaughter fields of that war.  It’s all just part of Ireland’s rich and diverse Read the rest of this entry

Seamus Costello annual commemoration

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Nice to see speakers from éirígí and the IRSP on the same platform.  Well done again to the Memorial Committee.  Now, c’mon comrades, how about joint hunger strike and Easter commemorations?!

 

Yes to industrial action, but a new political movement is needed too

ICTU head David Begg: an example of what Connolly thought of as the labour lieutenants of capital

ICTU head David Begg: an example of what Connolly thought of as the labour lieutenants of capital

by Philip Ferguson

Free State taoiseach Enda Kenny’s reaction to the public sector workers’ rejection of Croke Park 2 has been to declare that workers in this sector, by their vote, have stripped themselves of protection from redundancies.  In effect, on April 24 he was saying that public sector workers, no matter how they voted or how the bulk of people in the 26-counties see things, had to accept either pay cuts or redundancies.

Welcome to all capitalism has on offer to workers in Ireland, either side of the British state’s border.

Meanwhile the latest Red C / Sunday Business Post poll, the results of which appeared in last Sunday’s SBP (April 28), indicate that less than a third (30%) of respondents support cuts to public sector pay, while 56% of respondents said the government should accept the position of the unions following their rejection of Croke Park 2.  Just over two-thirds of people also thought that if there was any spare funds in the system these should be used to reduce taxes on working people.

The rejection of Croke Park 2 seems to have caught both government parties, Fine Gael and Labour, on the hop.  Labour’s Brendan Howlin, responsible for public expenditure, had already compiled budget figures based on acceptance of the deal; namely, €300 million of pay cuts.   On RTE radio’s This Week on April 28 Labour junior minister Alan Kelly reiterated that, while there was Read the rest of this entry

Celebrating the rejection of Croke Park II – but where to now?

544260_520804691305780_1803494419_aby Philip Ferguson

The rejection of Croke Park 11 is a positive sign that workers are not prepared to just lay down and give up when faced with the Fine Gael/Labour coalition’s attacks on hard-won rights and living conditions and their attempts to make southern Irish workers pay for the financial crisis of Irish banks and the meltdown of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy.

For several decades the bulk of the union leadership has pushed tripartite deals with the bosses and the state, a ‘partnership’ model which has been held up by union leaderships as far afield as New Zealand as worth emulating.  But these tripartite deals did not deliver to workers even during the ‘good times’ of the ‘boom’ periods in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Now the boom has inevitably turned to bust, the partnership model has simply locked unions into accepting responsibility for the financial crisis and agreeing to the austerity measures demanded by the Troika.

The leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has engaged in some token rhetoric about ‘sharing the  burden’ of the crisis and they have marched workers up and down the hill and then sent them home a couple of times.  But, in general, they have acted as faithful lieutenants of the state and capital, serving more to demoralise workers than mobilise them.  Over time, the protests against austerity have become smaller and smaller and the main opposition to austerity measures has been the campaign against the household taxes.

Now, however, union members have had enough of simply being expected to accept whatever crap is put to them by the ICTU bureaucrats.  While the main body of Read the rest of this entry

New Peadar O’Donnell Society: a few comments

Nora

How about some recognition for Nora Connolly who was actually right in the dispute in Republican Congress?

Below is a statement announcing the establishment of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum; underneath it are some initial comments of mine; there is an article on the blog, here, about the first meeting referred to in the opening paragraph of the statement

Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum

This month a group of socialist and republican activists from a variety of backgrounds throughout Ireland came together in Dublin to establish the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum. The concept of the forum arose from a series of seminars that in turn had their origin in a symposium on “Republicanism in the Twenty-First Century” hosted by the Communist Party in September last year.

The aim of the forum is to promote the ideas of socialist republicanism, as best expressed by James Connolly, Liam Mellows, and Peadar O’Donnell. The forum is named after Peadar O’Donnell in recognition of his outstanding role as a union organiser, republican soldier, author, enemy of fascism, friend of the worker and small farmer, committed socialist, and lifelong activist for peace and against imperialism.

At a time when our people are being ground down daily by the brutalities of the bankrupt capitalist system and the inability of the two failed states in Ireland to provide any solution to their problems, the Peadar O’Donnell Forum believes that the time has come for a decisive break with the present system—or, as Connolly so memorably put it, to set about the reconquest of Ireland.

All Ireland is under the domination of Read the rest of this entry

Why austerity makes sense for capitalism – an excellent video

In several previous posts I’ve noted that much of the Irish left favour some kind of left-Keynesian ‘solutions’ to the crisis, even groups that would identify as Marxist.  In addition, the most progressive union, the Independent Workers Union, while identifying the long-term need for anti-capitalist politics, simultaneously advances the idea that in the short-term Keynesian pump-priming can improve things for workers.  I’ve promised to put up stuff explaining that this is simply not the case – indeed, Keynesian pump-priming would have the absolute opposite effect at present.

My long piece on how capitalism works and why, ultimately, it doesn’t, provides some refutation of the idea that there is an ‘alternative’ set of capitalist policies in a crisis that can improve things for workers.  Also Tony Norfield’s piece about Keynesian delusions is very useful.

Additionally, today I discovered a really good video presentation (see bottom of this article) on why austerity policies are not some kind of mad, ideological path taken by capitalists but are actually implemented by capitalist governments and employers for the completely rational reason that they are the way out of the crisis, at least initially, from the standpoint of the interests of capital.

It’s a talk by Charlie Post of the American socialist group Solidarity.  It’s about 37 minutes long and well worth watching.  One additional point that I’d make, and I’ll try to post more about this next week, is the role of state spending in relation to Read the rest of this entry

2009 interview with Tommy McKearney

This is the main part of an interview I did with Tommy McKearney back in 2009.  In the next few weeks the blog will get up a review of his excellent book on the Provos and their incorporation by the Brits.

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell us a bit about the Independent Workers Union in Ireland?  How did it begin?  What sections of workers does it try to organise?

Tommy McKearney: The IWU is a general trade union that organizes among all section of the workforce. It has, however, found that some workers are more open to recruitment than others. This has come about partly due to our origins and partly as a result of the current situation in the Irish workplace. The IWU was set up seven years ago in response to an attempt by bureaucrats in the trade union hierarchy, working we believe in concert with the employers and the state, to stymie criticism of the Social Partnership agreement. The strongest criticism of partnership was at the time emanating from the Irish Read the rest of this entry

Noel Murphy introducing Independent Workers Union 2012 conference

The IWU is certainly the best of the bunch, in terms of Irish trade unions and the one that is most clearly attempting to articulate an economic-political alternative.

However, I disagree with Noel’s point that Keynesian policies could ameliorate the situation for workers.  In fact, they would make things worse.  And any attempt to pursue them would therefore disorient workers, because you’d be telling them this was a solution, or at least a partial solution, and yet things would worsen.

This is very much what happened in the mid-late 1970s when Keynesian policies were used as a way to try to overcome the economic problems at the end of the long postwar boom.  The implementation of such policies created stagflation – something which wasn’t possible according to Keynesian theory.  The result was not that not only did Keynesian theory become discredited, and replaced by neo-liberalism, but left economics in general got widely discredited because so much of left economics was rally just left-Keynesianism.

In a future post, I’ll deal with why trying to breath new life into Keynesian policies is not only a complete dead-end for serious leftists but also thoroughly disorienting for workers.  In the meantime, this piece, which is kind of capitalism101, gives some pointers.

Phil