Eamonn Holmes asked Jeremy Corbyn to “talk football”, discuss his tie choices, described him as a hippy and aksed him to admit that he “hates the Tories” among other inane questions in a cringy interview for Sky News.
Finding articles from the Irish Independent to be disagreeable is an everyday occurrence. But here’s a particularly questionable article from the newspaper by Shane Ross, claiming it isn’t the Irish working class (inspired by people such as Paul Murphy, Ruth Coppinger etc.) who are responsible for the defeat of the water charges, but the middle-class, who have staged a rebellion.
‘Irish Water’s days are numbered, slain not by Paul Murphy and his band, but by a middle-class rebellion.’ – Shane Ross
It’s easy to see how people can mistake the middle-class as the “real progressive force” in society, especially if you’re from the kind of bourgeois background as Ross is. Ultimately, isn’t it the middle-class generally who form laws, debate legislation, treat illnesses, manage businesses, etc.? So therefore one might easily confuse the middle-class as the force for change in society. We do after all, live in a bourgeois society.
I believe if we are to achieve positive and meaningful change in society, we should confront such views as the one expressed by Ross.
I should be clear, the campaign against the water charges would be nowhere without the courage and integrity of ordinary working-class people, who have ignited, developed and led the movement through protests and civil disobedience. Last Saturday’s protest in Dublin, when 2,000 or so working-class people turned out to support those Jobstown residents is just one example of that uniquely working-class solidarity, leadership and class consciousness. The 2,000 or so attendees were ordinary people fighting to protect the limited democratic rights that they have left, namely the right to effective and peaceful protesting. The crowd was neither largely comprised by, nor led by, middle-class people.
If it was a ‘middle-class rebellion’, Ross surely doesn’t think much of the kinds of values or principles on which the middle-class have based their rebellion. According to him, it was a rebellion driven by cynicism and greed on the part of the more privileged class:
You did not pay? You are carefree, cavalier and cunning. You know there is safety in numbers. The Irish Government is hardly poised to prosecute half its electorate just before an election. The battle is over. Civil disobedience has triumphed.
Some of those who have already paid up are looking ruefully at their respectable, middle-class neighbours. The neighbours – with two cars in the driveway and kids at private schools – are not paying their water charges. They see no point. They justify their refusal by citing the woes of Irish Water. They loathe the bonus culture, the waste, the daily litany of disasters dripping out of the Talbot Street headquarters. They deeply dislike Paul Murphy TD, his ilk and his antics, but they see a refusal to pay water charges as a gesture of defiance, a riposte to the constant crucifixions of the coping classes. They know they will never see the inside of a courtroom.
(This is ironic too, because it is the middle-class who benefits most of all from that “bonus culture” which exists, although it is indeed reviled by most working-class people)
Certainly, some of those more cynical reasons laid out above by Ross have been a reason in encouraging elements of the working class too. But if you ask most ordinary people about their main considerations for why they didn’t pay the water charge, their motives were not greed or cynicism; their motives were based on the moral belief that to ask the 99% to continually bail out an economic system that they work for, and reap little or no reward from, is wrong. Many others cannot afford to pay a water charge, and so they have no choice – but they have supported a movement which supports them. Many feel betrayed and ridiculed by a political party which they elected, which is now implementing austerity initiatives they were purportedly against before they were elected. There are other principled reasons such as, “we pay for water through taxation anyway”, that “Irish Water is not really about water conservation”, that “Irish Water will be privatised and driven by profit, just as the foundation of bin charges led to privatisation”. The working class are angry too – perhaps more acutely – at the sheer expense, waste and incompetency shown by the ‘top brass’ managing Irish Water; angry at their contemptible display of entitlement when taking large bonuses more-or-less from the pockets of an increasingly beat-down population. These are working-class grievances – and let’s not mention the anger over the role of Denis O’ Brien and his company Siteserv in all of this.
Middle-class representatives like Ross have had to resort to digging for reasons why the middle-class should be concerned about the water charges issue, beyond the powerful class-conscious reasons that the working-class have. The middle-class cannot argue that they cannot afford to pay, and they cannot say they are being hit the hardest by austerity. Even arguing against a “bonus culture” is a little shallow given that it is middle-class individuals who benefit the most from this culture. Thus cynicism, greed, frustration with the ‘sisterhood of quangos’, (an admittedly a costly bureaucratic ordeal for the middle-class with potential political ramifications within those circles) and an alleged sympathy for the crucified working-class become causes for concern for the middle-class in Ross’ view.
Ross is correct in the sense that some of the middle-class has played a part in defying the implementation of water charges – but who has shown them the way? Who has made it a national issue with the potential for real change? The protest movement began with brave acts of defiance in working class estates and spread throughout other working class areas in the country. Jobstown is now perhaps the most well-known of these. We should not forget the massive crowds that turned out for protests in Dublin on multiple occasions – more than 100,000 on at least one occassion. Other protests saw tens of thousands attend in working class areas such as Blanchardstown and Clondalkin. The working class people of Limerick and Cork, who have suffered harshly from austerity, have also been an inspiration. And yes, actually, much of it was led by Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger among other working-class leaders – indeed, the first recorded protest against water charges was in Coppinger’s constituency, Dublin West, in November 2013. All the middle-class could do was follow this huge working-class movement.
Homeless people and members of the Anti Austerity Alliance are staging an occupation of Nama housing under construction in Castleknock, Dublin, and calling on Nama to make them social and affordable homes.
The homeless families protesting are from the Blanchardstown area and say there is an acute housing crisis in the area that can only be resolved by more council housing. They are joined by Ruth Coppinger TD and three local AAA councillors, Matt Waine, Sandra Kavanagh and Tania Doyle.
Speaking from inside the Diswellstown Manor site ( Opposite the Castlknock Hotel & Country Club), Ruth Coppinger TD said:
“We took the action of coming onto this site to highlight the scandal that state-owned Nama is building these 156 expensive homes to sell on the open market while 117 Blanchardstown families are in emergency accommodation! Their misery could be ended if this estate was turned over for social housing.
Of course, many more people are struggling in overpriced rented accommodation or overcrowding, with 6,020 families on the local housing lists.
Nama must now become an instrument for the public good. It controls about 1/3 of development land in Dublin. A law could be brought through the Dáil this week making Nama lands and properties available to local councils to resolve the housing crisis once and for all.
Nama’s CEO has said many properties will be sold in a big portfolio sale later this year. Nama itself could be wound up by 2018. It claims it will return a ‘profit’ of €1bn to the taxpayer but it will give over €12billion to the banks during that time. This is outrageous when homelessness is endemic.
Nama argues it is recouping money ‘for the taxpayer’ but the taxpayer has already paid dearly for Nama, the banks and developers. It’s now time it was used to resolve the housing crisis created by the banks, the developers and government failure to build social housing.
The government wants to fob the homeless off with modular housing. There is no need for it. Houses can be built within months on the lands under Nama’s control. This is the obvious solution. If you had a government that cared about the fate of working class people and wasn’t beholden to a new-liberal ideology, Nama would be immediately taken over and it’s focus changed.
We call on Nama to release this estate for social housing. We appeal to the community to come down and support this occupation and for others suffering from the housing crisis to take similar actions in their area. ”
Arguments such as, “the working class failed to rise-up in Europe after the Russian Revolution, therefore Marx was wrong” are often erroneously made. In the latest issue of Socialism Today (September 2015), Peter Taaffe challenges this misunderstanding of Marxism with a pertinent and uncompromising critique of Paul Mason’s new book PostCapitalism, which is worth sharing. Specifically, Taaffe is scathing of Mason’s ‘Misunderstanding [of] Marxism’ – something which can be common among celebrity writers on the left (like Russell Brand). Taaffe quotes Mason as saying:
‘”It becomes necessary to say something that many on the left will find painful: Marxism got it wrong about the working class. The proletariat was the closest thing to an enlightened, collective historical subject that human society has ever produced. But 200 years of experience show it was preoccupied with ‘living despite capitalism’ not overthrowing it… The literature of the left is littered with excuses for this 200-year story of defeat: the state was too strong, the leadership too weak, the labour aristocracy too influential… Far from being the unconscious bearers of socialism, the working class were conscious about what they wanted, and expressed it through their actions. They wanted a more survivable form of capitalism… This was not the product of mental backwardness. It was an overt strategy based on something the Marxist tradition never gets it head around: the persistence of skill, autonomy and status in working-class life”‘.
Taaffe then repudiates this by writing:
‘So the 20th century, which was punctuated by wars, economic and social catastrophes, revolutions and uprisings, was not a mighty effort to establish a new socialist world but just an attempt by the proletariat to establish a ‘survivable capitalism’. Mason manages to conjure away the Russian revolution, the German revolution from 1918-23, the sit-down strikes and revolutionary potential in Italy in 1920 and in the USA in the 1930s, and the Spanish revolution of 1931-37 when the immortal Spanish working class could have made ten revolutions.
That is not to mention the greatest general strike in history and mass occupation of the factories in France in 1968, as well as revolutionary upheavals in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, etc, in the 1970s. Let us recall that the Times newspaper declared in 1975, after the defeat of the attempted coup of Spinola, that “capitalism in Portugal is dead” as the banks were nationalised and 70% of industry was taken over due to the pressure of an insurgent working class. This, it seems, was all due to a misunderstanding! Rather than revolution, the perspective of a new society, the masses spilled their blood, made huge sacrifices, colossal exertions of energy just to establish a different form of capitalism.
The same is true about Mason’s assertion that what we now face is “not just the working class in a different guise; it is networked humanity”. There you have it: at one stroke the working class is dissolved. There is nothing new in these arguments. He merely regurgitates the ideas of those in the past…’
The full article can be read here.
Is there any doubt at this stage that political policing is occurring in Ireland, if not actual repression, against the anti-water tax protesters and in particular, members of the Anti Austerity Alliance? The latest is that Paul Murphy has been banned on making collections on behalf of the movement, and going door-to-door in his constituency. The Government and senior Gardaí are using resources to undermine democratic process and the right of people to protest.
For a political group which does not accept corporate donations, and relies on the donations that ordinary people can afford to make to it, this ban on collecting indicates a political move to hinder the funding of the Anti-Austerity Alliance. It also appears as an attempt to further criminalise members of the AAA and Socialist Party, such is the threat that the establishment apparently feels from them politically.
Since the news of this, Paul Murphy says he has received many messages from people wishing to donate to the movement through other ways.
SIPTU general president, Jack O’Connor walked out of Vincent Browne’s Tonight programme after being asked critical questions about Labour’s role in Government (see video below). O’Connor then asked Browne why TV3 won’t ‘respect the employee’s right to collective bargaining’ and why Vincent Browne is ‘working for them’ if he disagreed with it.
Fellow guest Ruth Coppinger TD said of the incident:
‘I thought for about one second whether I should join Jack O’Connor tonight and march off the Vincent Browne Show.Then I thought of the timing: Jack O’Connor was being asked a legitimate question as to why Labour never carried out pro-worker legislation it promised. Then I thought of Jack O’Connor’s role in foisting reduced pay on thousands of workers by supporting Haddington Road, Croke Park etc. Then I thought of how Jack never took a principled stand to support Greyhound and countless other strikers; the wages he is on; and the fact that he knew quite well before the show the situation with workers at TV3. So, then I decided to stay and salute the magnificent stand by thousands of low paid workers today in Dunnes and the govt’s [sic] real agenda.
SIPTU has called upon all workers to support their colleagues in Mandate trade union who will be on strike at Dunnes Stores across the country on Thursday, 2nd April, by not shopping at the retailer.
SIPTU Services Division Organiser, John King, said: “This is a dispute about decent jobs and dignity in the workplace for low paid workers in precarious sectors of the economy. Such workers are more likely to suffer from in-work poverty and severe exploitation due to the implementation of low hour or zero hour contracts. The Dunnes Stores workers deserve support for the brave stand they are taking in fighting against these injustices and should be supported in their struggle by all working people.
“SIPTU members, in particular, are being asked to show solidarity with the strikers by not shopping at Dunnes Stores on Thursday.”
SIPTU Sector Organiser, Teresa Hannick, said: “SIPTU represents over 350 members in Dunnes Stores in Cavan, Cork, Donegal and Dublin. While our members have not balloted for industrial action at this time, they are in dispute with Dunnes Stores regarding their contracts of employment and the provision of a decent living wage.
“The management of Dunnes Stores has so far refused to meet with SIPTU representatives or attend the Labour Relations Commission or any other third party state agencies to discuss the matters in dispute. Similar intransigence was shown by the management of Dunnes Stores to our colleagues in Mandate and it eventually forced them to take strike action.
“SIPTU has been invited to attend a Labour Court hearing into the dispute with Dunnes Stores on Thursday, 9th April.”
The Anti-Austerity Alliance has today responded to reports from Irish Water on the loss of water through domestic leaks. Ruth Coppinger TD said:
“Today Irish Water has released figures in the media suggesting that 46 million litres of water are lost every day on domestic leaks. While 46 million litres is a lot of water, it represents 3% of the water which is produced into the system. On a daily basis 1.6 billion litres of water are produced, the figure for lost water ranges from 41% to the 49% the Minister stated in the Dail last week, this means that between 38% – 46% of the lost water is through leaks in the pipes.
“The main problem is the lack of investment in the infrastructure and mains pipes rather than domestic leaks. These leaks should not be allowed to divert attention from the real problem. We should remember that last year the spending on fixing this infrastructure actually dropped to around €300m (different figures reported) and that despite having meters in last year, they fixed the same number of leaks as were fixed the previous year when no meters were in.
“You would also have to question whether meters are the best method for detecting leaks – for example in South Dublin County Council they have a ‘leak detection team’ which has been in place for over 10 years. In this time using their methods along with district metering they have reduced water leakage in the County to 16% which is considered world class. Several other Counties had been taking a similar approach.
“This is an attempt to justify the spending of over €500m on meters which are being imposed purely for the purpose of implementing the water charge. Their installation has been opposed in many parts of the country by communities.
“People can expect stories like this over the next few days to attempt to justify water charges and meters before the bills drop. Our message is clear boycott the bills and come to the next
LGBT Noise are having a March for Marriage in Dublin on Sunday 17th May, starting 2pm at City Hall. They inviting people to attend this important event to send a ‘powerful message to those who are undecided about which way to vote on polling days’. 17th May is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). Find out more on their event page.
In case you missed this, another classic (and rather funny) statement by Joe Higgins regarding the “law governing” Irish Water so-called registration “figures”, and Pat Rabbitte’s hopping about from party to party throughout the years.