“The South of Ireland is pregnant with revolt.”
These were the words of a CWI member from Ireland at the CWI World Congress. To prevent the Irish government going bankrupt, the IMF offered a bailout for fear of the knock-on effect, but at a price: the wholesale gutting of social welfare — with savage cuts to public services and jobs.
But the four-year austerity program will not be accepted by the Irish working class without a fight. Already, a backlash is being seen. The main establishment party in power for 20 of the last 23 years is not only facing a defeat in the next election, it is polling third! This represents a “sea change in Irish politics.”
The Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) has joined forces with other left groups to form the United Left Alliance (ULA). Their aim is to “provide a real alternative to the establishment parties as well as Labour and Sinn Fein, who also accept the capitalist market and refuse to rule out coalition with right-wing parties.”
The ULA program includes demands to:
- End the bailout of banks and developers.
- Tax the greedy, not the needy.
- Reverse the cuts – Defend public services.
- Take the banks, finance houses, major construction companies, and development land into democratic public ownership and use them for the benefit of people, not the profits of the few.
The ULA may be able to win a number of seats in the Irish parliament in upcoming elections. Joe Higgins, Socialist Party Member of European Parliament representing Dublin, who is a central figure in the ULA, already has growing recognition as a fighter for workers and youth in Ireland and across Europe. A left voice in Irish politics would not only change the course of debate but could also serve as a platform for mobilizing workers into action, which the union leadership has failed to do.
Another speaker at the Congress noted that “a revolution is taking place in the consciousness” of the Irish working class. In this volatile situation with a huge vacuum opening up for an alternative, the ULA has the potential to act as a pole of attraction by articulating clearly the interests of ordinary working people and youth, and placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of those responsible: the bankers, speculators, corporate politicians, and their system of capitalism. It could be the beginning of a new mass force in Ireland, with the CWI playing a central role.