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28 April 2013 Edition

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Unions Fight Back

Whatever our differences on a range of issues, progressive forces should be standing together in unity on May Day and every day to face down the forces of austerity and achieve a new way forward.

MAY DAY – marked across the world as International Workers’ Day – should be a rallying point for trade unionists and progressives to celebrate, to honour the sacrifices of the past, and to reinvigorate those struggling in the present.

In many of Ireland’s town and cities, though, it has degenerated into a ritual of a few hundred dedicated souls flying the flag despite the best efforts of organisers and supporters to attract more people. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, crowds of 100,000 in Dublin were not uncommon.

So what’s gone wrong?

The lacklustre leadership of most (but not all) senior trade union officials – many of them still loyal Labour Party members despite Labour being wedded to an austerity-driven government – is one reason.

This strategy of social partnership has effectively sucked the lifeblood of activism out of many trade unions in recent years, allowing largely conservative union leaders a free hand in striking deals that the other partners (the government and the employers) often don’t honour.

A reinvigorated political Right is campaigning to undermine the welfare state and all the other progressive advances in improving social and working conditions.

With the mainstream socialist and trade union movements in disarray (in Europe at least), coupled with the current financial crisis within the capitalist system, the Right feels that an ideal opportunity is presenting itself to ‘restructure’ society.

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This ‘restructuring’ is a lot more sinister than this innocent word would suggest. Any ‘restructuring’ will be the image of the status quo and the ‘responsible’ society that allowed the economic crisis to swallow us up unless trade unions, community organisations, political parties and individuals join together to force change.

After the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East in response to social and political oppression, there are sparks of resistance being lit and fanned across Europe – in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, the Basque Country and Catalonia – in response to social and economic oppression.

In Ireland, the rejection of Croke Park 2 – received in horror by the mainstream media and its defenders in the commentariat – shows that the spark of resistance has been reignited in people being crushed by the cuts, taxes and wave of austerity being imposed by Fine Gael and Labour Budgets from Leinster House and the Tories and Liberal Democrats who still hold the purse strings from Westminster.

Whatever our differences on a range of issues, progressive forces should be standing together in unity on May Day and every day to face down the forces of austerity and achieve a new way forward.

Unity is strength.

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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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