1 December 2015 Edition
We live in a dysfunctional society that must be replaced
Sinn Féin is no political Pope, sitting on a chair of infallibility, but it is a vital, central part of the Irish people’s fight back against austerity and national humiliation
THE IRISH PEOPLE are rightly angry about the collapse of the economy – brought about by Fianna Fáil’s blind belief that the market would come right in the end – and by the unnecessary austerity imposed on the working people by Fine Gael and Labour so that the Europe and the banks could be bailed out
There is as well a bewilderment as to how things could have gone so badly wrong, when (whatever our difficulties in the past) successive generations could see some improvement in their living conditions over the previous ones.
No more. The crisis has been seized upon by the bosses and their political representatives in Government to weaken workers’ protections, bringing in zero-hour contracts, non-secured short-term contracts, reduced pay, and other erosions of rights.
We are now at the mercy of the market with a vengeance.
This, of course, is the ideology that underpins the European Union, and is clearly written in the Nice and Lisbon treaties which the Irish people first rejected and were then bullied into accepting in the reruns.
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The revolution of 1916 was betrayed by the Treaty and, as Liam Mellows, warned, England still ruled us through her banks, financiers and capitalist industrialists
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We are now about to celebrate the centenary of the Rising. That declaration of the Republic meant to the Irish people the opportunity to discard the exploitation and waste which had gone before it. Unfortunately, the revolution was betrayed by the Treaty and, as Liam Mellows, warned, England still ruled us through her banks, financiers and capitalist industrialists.
The history of the 26-County state since the Treaty has been one of a confused struggle to seek a way out of domination by Britain and to use whatever statehood we had achieved to build some way forward for the Irish people.
Fianna Fáil, in the 1930s, did introduce much of what might be termed a social democratic agenda, with housing programmes, state-led industrialisation and so on. But it was always cautious, always afraid to tackle privilege straight on, and, in the end, became subsumed by the very privileged classes that had suborned the fight for freedom.
There was, throughout these decades, an underlying belief that the state should and could intervene to nudge (they didn’t have the courage to change) the system. That belief was based on the idea that the state existed to serve Irish society.
For many of the ruling ideologues today, the very idea of society is fanciful – the infamous Margaret Thatcher going so far as to deny that there was any such thing, only the economy.
But everything we do is linked to and depends on the work of others. The police who guard the houses of the rich enable them to enjoy their wealth. The nurses and doctors who staff our hospitals ensure people have the health to create wealth, and society steps in to protect the disabled from the disadvantage of disability, to ensure that we can all live with a modicum of decency and security.
But the facts are now staring us in the face that the state has failed. It is, of course, the expression of the power of the propertied classes but is now clearly unable to provide the basic needs of the majority of people.
In leaner times, we could begin the building of municipal housing estates, we could expand our schools and hospitals; but now, in slavery to the market, we cannot provide people with housing: they are left to the mercy of landlords who will rent properties at prices that soar ever higher and higher.
Our crises in the hospitals, in the schools, in employment rights, and in getting a job are all evidence of a society and system that is not working.
It is a dysfunctional society.
And the reason is stark as well. Instead of moving on from the defeat of the Tan War we have now surrendered to new masters in Europe, people whose free market strictures have impoverished thousands.
Relationships break up under stress. There is hopelessness where there should be expectation. Our country remains divided and our national independence is a joke.
The way forward lies in getting back to the inspiration of 1916, to rebuilding a genuinely independent Republic that will put the interests of the people first.
Working to increase the strength of the working class and their awareness of themselves as a class will not happen overnight. It will involve an effort to unite all the forces for socially progressive change together, rejecting sectarian exclusiveness and uniting trade unions, political parties and social movements together.
Sinn Féin is no political Pope, sitting on a chair of infallibility, but it is a vital, central part of the Irish people’s fight back against austerity and national humiliation.
To deny that is effectively to cast your lot in with those who have imposed austerity, because by rejecting united action you are ensuring that the reactionaries cannot be defeated.