Archive for July, 2015

From Ireland to Bolivia, there’s something in the water

Posted in Water charges protest, Water Meters with tags , , , , on July 23, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars

Source: Red Pepper

Fifteen years on from Bolivia’s ‘water war’, Thomas McDonagh looks at the developing parallels between those dramatic events and the current Irish battle over domestic water charges
(June 2015)

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Water protesters in Ireland. Photo: William Murphy, Flickr

For months people across Ireland have been protesting against the introduction of charges for domestic water – which, until the first wave of bills arrived in April, had been paid for through direct taxation. Opposition to the charges peaked on 1 November, when more than 150,000 people attended 90 different protests across the country, building on months of local campaigning. Equally spectacularly, just weeks earlier almost 100,000 people took to the streets of Dublin to express their anger at a reform that was agreed as part of the 2010 bailout brokered by the Irish government with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The campaign still has considerable momentum and may well get a new lease of life as payment becomes a pressing issue.

The events in Ireland are reminiscent of what happened in Bolivia 15 years ago, during Cochabamba’s famous ‘water war’. In April 2000, this city of half a million people – about the size of Dublin – joined together across boundaries of class and ethnicity and literally shut itself down in three separate general strikes that had the common objective of taking back their water system from a foreign multinational.

In a grassroots struggle that resembled David and Goliath to the point that it even saw the use of slingshots on the city’s streets, the victory over the Bechtel Corporation became known across the world. But less understood is how this struggle over water radically transformed the politics of a country in ways that have been enormous and enduring.

The echoes of Bolivia in the current Irish water conflict are clear. One is that the struggle has awoken a sleeping giant, mobilising people in ways that until recently seemed impossible. And two, how the struggle plays out may have equally enormous and enduring effects on Irish political culture.

There’s something about water – whether it be in Cochabamba or Coolock – that gets to people on both a rational and a visceral level in ways that other issues don’t. We rely on it to meet our most basic needs. And when elites begin to mess with it, whether it’s polluting our water sources, using them for mining or fracking, or potentially putting water out of people’s reach by turning it into a ‘product’ on the market, people get angry. Appropriately, in Spanish, when you want to say ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’, the equivalent term is ‘the drop of water that made the glass overflow’.

Abusive economics

In Bolivia then as in Ireland now, people had been on the receiving end of abusive economic policies. What in Ireland is being called austerity, in Bolivia was known as ‘structural adjustment’: cuts upon more cuts, and a relentless drive to privatise public services and infrastructure. The family silver was being sold off in an obsessive drive to balance the books, often without democratic consent or any questioning of the conditions under which the national debt had been accumulated. While in Ireland it’s the ECB and IMF calling the shots, in Bolivia it was the World Bank that was insisting on water privatisation.

Bolivian activists didn’t just straight off denounce structural adjustment when the water war began, just as Irish activists didn’t begin talking about the injustices of austerity at the start of their water conflict. Both struggles, however, pushed the tip of a concealed iceberg above the surface long enough for people who never normally think of themselves as activists to get a clear glimpse of how the economic system works against their interests.

Most of the time, that system operates below the surface, with corruption and corporate encroachment into our democratic spaces only on the radar of activists and specialist researchers. And the system is safe when it stays below the surface like this. When the ship hits the iceberg, suddenly the mechanisms of the system are revealed so that people who aren’t usually activists can see it for what it is.

Ear of the public

There’s something about struggles like these over water that give us the ear of the general public in ways that most of the time we only imagine. As Oscar Olivera, the trade unionist leader of Coordinadora del Agua in Cochabamba during the water revolt, pointed out, ‘We always repeated those slogans “Death to the World Bank”, “Death to the IMF”, “Down with Yankee imperialism” but I believe that [the water war was] the first time that the people understood in a direct way.’

The lesson from Cochabamba 15 years ago and from Ireland today is that we only rarely accrue popular power sufficient to challenge the system from the situations that we carefully plan. More often than not, it comes from spotting the right moments – usually provoked by our adversaries – that reveal the system for what it is and the ways it negatively affects people’s lives in clear and understandable ways. At these moments, new activists emerge from the shadows of a normally disengaged public.

According to Maria Eugenia Flores, a young activist coming of age at the time of the water revolt, ‘That historic moment in Cochabamba allowed me to see clearly what was happening in my country, to understand the politics of water, privatisation, the struggle to defend this resource and especially to get to know other people like me who were waking up and opening their eyes to the injustices that we were living through.’

When these spaces open up, the possibility of change seems within reach. So much that was taken for granted in a political culture can turn out to be a lot less set in stone than it first appeared.

Losing their fear!

In Bolivia, following the water revolt, the parties that had dominated the presidency for decades vanished from the political map in less than five years, along with the policies that had driven the country’s economics. As soon as it became clear that they could be challenged and beaten, people lost their fear and traditional political power structures came tumbling down.

In Ireland, many of the political arrangements that seem to be immutable may well turn out to be as thin and vulnerable as they were in Bolivia – and are proving to be in places such as Greece and Spain.

As Brendan Ogle, trade unionist and spokesperson for the Right2Water campaign, has said about the achievements of the movement in Ireland: ‘Until now people felt alone; they felt that what the Troika want, what the IMF want, what the ECB want, is what the government will deliver, not what the citizens want. They now know that they’re not alone.’

There’s something about water and the ways that it unites people in common cause that can expand people’s horizons to the possibilities of broader social change. And while moments of victory – when edifices crumble – are unpredictable, fleeting and rare, when they do happen, we sometimes find that everything is changed.

In the words of Maria Eugenia Flores, ‘In the face of so much injustice, we stood up and lost our fear.’

Thomas McDonagh is a researcher and project coordinator at the Democracy Centre based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He is contributing author of Unfair, Unsustainable and Under the Radar: How Corporations Use Global Investment Rules to Undermine a Sustainable Future and Corporate Conquistadors: The Many Ways Multinationals Both Drive and Profit from Climate Destruction

Source: Red Pepper

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The Victims Of Tory Benefit Cuts

Posted in ATOS, Benefit Cuts with tags , , , , , , , on July 22, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars

 

Just some of the deaths caused by Tory Benefit Cuts…

  • Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from polycytheamia. He knew he was too ill to attend Work Capability Assessment but was afraid not to go in case benefits were stopped.
    During the session Terry asked for an ambulance.
    He died the following day.
  •  Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from COPD and fearful of losing her benefits.
    Suicide.
  •  Mark Wood, 44. Doctors advice and medical reports he had complex mental health problems.
    Found fit for work, benefits stopped.
    Starved to death weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.
  • Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith poet and author. Severe depression. Found fit for work, benefits stopped.
    Suicide.
  •  Leanne Chambers, 30. Depression for many years, became worse when called in for a WCA.
    Suicide soon afterwards.
  • Karen Sherlock, 44. Multiple health issues. Found fit for work, benefits stopped.
    Fought a long battle to access support group of ESA.
    Died a month after denial of benefits, of a heart attack.
  •  Carl Payne, 42. Father of two. Feared losing lifeline benefits due to welfare reform.
    Suicide.
  • Tim Salter, 53. Blind, agoraphobic. Found fit for work, benefits stopped.
    Suicide by hanging.
  •  Edward Jacques, 47. HIV and Hepatitis C. History of severe depression and self-harm.
    Found fit for work, benefits stopped.
    Suicide by overdose.
  • Linda Wootton, 49 years old. Double heart and lung transplant patient. Found fit for work, benefits stopped. The refusal letter arrived as she was desperately ill in her hospital bed.
    Died nine days later.
  • Steven Cawthra, 55. Benefits stopped by the DWP, rising debts.
    Suicide.
  •  Elenore Tatton, 39 years old. Found fit for work.
    Died a few weeks later.
  • John Walker, 57, deep in debt because of the bedroom tax.
    Suicide.
  •  Brian McArdle, 57 years old. Disability benefits stopped.
    Fatal heart attack the next day.
  •  Stephen Hill, 53. Found fit for work, while waiting for major heart surgery.
    Died of a heart attack one month later.
  •  Jacqueline Harris, 53. Former Nurse could hardly walk. Found fit for work, benefits stopped.
    Suicide.
  • David Barr, 28. Severe mental difficulties. Found fit for work by Atos. His appeal failed.
    Suicide. Threw himself from a bridge.
  •  David Groves, 56. Due to take work capability assessment.
    Died of a heart attack the night before. His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him.
  •  Nicholas Peter Barker, 51. Brain haemorrhage left him paralysed down one side.
    Notified his benefits were being stopped.
    Suicide by shooting himself.
  •  Mark and Helen Mullins, 48 and 59 years old. Attempted to live on £57.50 a week, making 12 mile trips each week to get free vegetables to make soup.
    Double suicide.
  •  Richard Sanderson, 44. Unable to find a job, housing benefit cut forcing him to move, nowhere to go. Suicide.
  • Martin Rust, 36 years old. A schizophrenic. Found fit to work.
    Suicide two months later.
  •  Craig Monk, 43. A vulnerable man, partial amputee, slipped far into poverty.
    Suicide by hanging.
  •  Colin Traynor, 29, epileptic, stripped of his benefits. He appealed.
    Died. Five weeks later his family were notified he had won his appeal.
  • Elaine Christian, 57 years old. Worried about her work capability assessment.
    Suicide. Found at Holderness drain, drowned, with ten self inflicted wrist wounds.
  •  Christelle and Kayjah Pardoe, 32 years and 5 months old. Pregnant, her benefits stopped.
    Suicide. Christelle, holding her baby son, jumped from a third floor balcony.

Source

The list above is merely the tip of the iceberg of the tragic effects of enforced ‘Austerity Measures!  The neo-liberal scum, whether they be the Tories, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Lib-Dems etc, care not one iota for tragedies like those listed above, in fact ideologically their Malthusian ‘principles’ actually welcome (in the words of Charles Dickens’ character Scrooge) the reduction “of the surplus population.”  It should be noted that the politicians and their monetarist idealogues who formulate such vicious measures against the most vulnerable souls in society and the wider Proletariat, invariably spend more on one night’s dining out than most claimants or workers earn in a year, (more often than not with the bill being paid by the taxpayer).

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The solution to this ultra-right wing offensive against the poor can never be won within the corridors of Westminster, Stormont or Leinster House, who James Connolly, Marxist revolutionary and the founding father of Irish Republican Socialism, correctly described such assemblies as far back as 1914,when he wrote,

“Yes, friends, governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich.”

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The solution can never be found in reformism or by appealing to a cabal without the semblance of a conscience.  Only a united working-class that has already began to build a momentum, whether it be militant action against water charges, fighting evictions, direct actions and genuine fighting Trade Unions can begin to act as a catalyst for real change.  The dire and in many cases fatal alternative is to do nothing..

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Alex Mcguigan

 

 

 

IRSP Statement on Agreement with Water Contractor and Residents. 20th july 2015

Posted in Water Meters with tags , , , on July 20, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars

Source: North Donegal IRSP

Irish Republican Socialist Party spokesperson Mark McKinney has welcomed a deal reached at a meeting in An Grainan Hotel in Burt on Thursday 16th July between local residents and Water contractor Gildea & Son.

Speaking after the meeting which was attended by the IRSP Mr McKinney said, “We were invited to a meeting at An Grainan hotel last Thursday evening by local resident groups who had organised the meeting in order to attempt to come to an agreement with the contractor who had already begun work in the county. His work involves the installation of water meters at private homes throughout Donegal. Residents were concerned that they might be forced to accept the installation of water meters as had been done in other parts of the county by the same contractor. Residents asked us along in order to support them because it is widely known that we negotiated with another contractor and had come to an agreement with them.”

Mr McKinney said, “People from across Inishowen attended on Thursday and we, with them, got an agreement with John Gildea that no meters would be installed on properties on which the residents expressed a wish not to have a meter installed. This would be done by way of a sign on the property expressing this. John Gildea, on behalf of Gildea & Son accepted this arrangement and has publicly stated that neither he nor his company would proceed to install meters where they were not wanted.”

Mr McKinney concluded by saying, “We see this agreement as a victory for residents in their attempts to refuse to have water meters installed but it is only one small victory in the bigger fight that will be won by the ongoing boycott of Irish Water bills. Only a unified approach will eventually stop Irish Water and we are calling on all community minded groups and individuals to join with us and residents to help distribute signs to people across Inishowen. The IRSP will be monitoring the situation and will hold any contractor to account if they fail to honour the agreement made on Thursday and also to previous agreements with other contractors. We wish to thank the residents of Inishowen for inviting us to the meeting last week and we look forward to working with all like minded groups in the future.”

ENDS

How To Combat The Offensive Against The Working Class?

Posted in IRSM, IRSP, James Connolly, Karl Marx, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars

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Revolution Not Reform!

There is no place in any Revolutionary Party for reformism either through ignorance of the party’s founding principles or choosing to ignore them.  It is a myth that to be a member of a Marxist/Leninist party one must be a walking, talking encyclopedia of the entire works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and V.I Lenin et al.  One need only look to the Bolsheviks,  the most successful revolutionary party in history.  It managed to recruit and eventually thrive in perhaps the most  backward, although massive, feudal Empire (within whose borders over 150  different languages were spoken) that had a functional illiteracy rate of close to 80% in many districts.   Even in pre-revolutionary times illiterate members were recruited to the Bolshevik Party’s expropriation and combat cells. They were then taught literacy and the party”s politics by a politically educated cadre, this was then repeated, snowballing both literacy and revolutionary theory which eventually achieved the Praxis (the symbiotic marriage of theory and practice) that all serious revolutionary movements seek.

 

Although it is always in one’s interest to read as many of the myriad of pamphlets and books written by and about Marx, Lenin, Engels and other Marxist theorists.  A clear starting point for all revolutionaries is an acceptance that:

  1. Marx and Engels correctly described the dynamic of class struggle throughout the various epochs;
  2. Marx and Engels’ Marxism was the first genuine scientific socialism;  whose materialist version of Dialectics and Historical Materialism made a concrete, unshakable analysis of the world we live in rather than the idealist metaphysics of previous philosophers;
  3. That based on Marx and Engels’ philosophy that proved the inevitability of a socialist society, Lenin built on this and for instance provided the model to achieve this by the  creation of the disciplined revolutionary party in primarily “What is to be Done” combined with a plethora of other works by Lenin that fearlessly critiqued many of the distortions of Marxism that had managed to usurp Marxism, attempting to mould it into what we now understand to be reformist social democracy.

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Why Armed Action can Never Be Divorced From Revolutionary Politics

If one is a revolutionary and believes,  correctly, that the Capitalist Class will never hand over the means of Production, Control and Exchange without a serious struggle  then it is logical and backed by historical fact that the building of the Irish Workers’ Republic will require the mass of the Irish people to wrest control from the Bourgeoisie led by force of arms.  It also goes without saying that the Capitalist state is protected by armed forces such as the ‘police’, the military in all it’s guises not to mention the various under-cover agencies whose modus operandi is to cultivate spies, act as agent provocateurs, undermine revolutionaries constantly using all the apparatus of the Bourgeois state, including the monopolised media (from tabloid rags such as The Sunday Worst to the BBC and so-called ‘broadsheets’).  Unfortunately, British imperialism has 800+ years of practice in the dark arts of divide and counter based on the premise that they can always pay one section of the proletariat to oppose and when ordered, attack the other.  (For instance, see British Imperialism’s ‘bible’ of counter-insurgency contained in the infamous Brigadier Kitson’s writings for examples of their progressive perfidy)

Unfortunately, in Ireland it has been relatively easy in the past for purely nationalist movements to pose as Socialists for propaganda value aimed at well meaning supporters on the Left overseas, while in reality they were clearly, in political terms, armed liberals. As we all witnessed post-GFA; when the armed liberals of the Provisionals put their guns away, their true politics become glaringly apparent. Arms by themselves are not ‘revolutionary’ they are simply an implement in a revolutionary movements’ “tool box”.   No better example of this is the example of Provisional Sinn Fein who sans fire-power have become acceptable in the 6 counties at the ballot box to Nationalist affluent workers (aka the middle class).  To be fair, Sinn Fein jettisoned any Leftist rhetoric by the early 1990’s where once it had been spouted regularly (except at fundraising functions in the USA where the lace-curtain Irish would be present).  There is a  cyclic phenomena at a series of junctures in Irish history of once ‘beyond the pale’ Republican pariahs transforming themselves into constitutional entities after jettisoning ‘inconvenient tactics’ which once were supposedly monolithic ‘principles.’   The common denominator being that throughout history all were one-dimensional Nationalists.

 

Also, those who now ‘wage war’ and are referred to as ‘dissidents in the media, have not ‘dissented’ from core traditional Republican principles but like the Provisionals in years gone by are Nationalist insurgents, who at best, claim that an Irish Socialist Republic must be a “stage” beyond their initial aims.  This of course, is a legitimate position but it is certainly bears no resemblance to the politics of James Connolly, who specifically in one of his most well known quotes, warned against the limitations for the Irish proletariat of placing their faith in traditionalist Nationalist goals:

 

“If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs!” 

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The IRSM: A Revolutionary Republican Socialist Alternative Since 1974

For Irish Republican Socialists, there has never been any confusion since their movement’s formation in 1974 of it’s principles or aims!  The IRSM are revolutionaries who are Internationalist and Revolutionary Socialist and have always been an alternative to one-dimensional Nationalism. The IRSM have correctly opposed the reformism of the Sticks and the Brit-centric Left who Seamus Costello described as “Ring road Socialists’ in much the same way as following the ‘Walker Controversy’ of over a century ago during James Connolly’s time in Belfast, he described socialists who chose to avoid the impact of British Imperialism on Ireland as ‘Gas and Water Socialists.”

Irish Republican Socialists maintain, in the tradition of Connolly and Costello, that the class struggle and the struggle for an Irish Workers’ Republic are symbiotic, inseparable and that the Irish working class will never be free without economic freedom.  In the current climate where the working class are being screwed viciously by international financiers’ and by ‘yes men/woman’ in Westminster/Stormont/Leinster House on a daily basis there is scope for Irish Republican Socialists, who have always been the most militant group on the Left in Irish politics to put the politics of Connolly and Costello into practice.

 

It would be naive to expect, as many on the Left did at the introduction of the Thatcher era, that a new neo-liberal Tory government in Westminster, will create an overwhelming backlash from the proletariat in response to the draconian offensive to be launched against them. (The NUM strike being a classic example and this was at the height of the struggle for national liberation for Ireland, when notably, but unfortunately, Thatcher and her cabinet of Fascists nearly got wiped out in Brighton.)  There are no easy answers, however we can learn much from the example and iron discipline of the Bolsheviks as a vanguard party.  Unlike the Thatcher regime when Capitalism was booming, it is widely accepted that it is now in ‘free-fall’ globally, it may seem a long way from hitting the dirt but socio-economic forces, as scientifically accurate as gravity, are in motion.  It may seem a tall order to oppose and overcome Gombeen and Global Capitalism in Ireland but the alternative of acceptance is not worth contemplating.  Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara figuratively stated that revolution will never fall by it’s own volition like an apple from a tree.  In the present economic climate it will require a series of much ‘shaking’ to reach a revolutionary situation based on, but not exclusive to, the following suggestions:

  • Mass working-class opposition that will take to the streets in popular protests;
  • An Irish Citizen Army for the 21st Century;
  • A militant Union in the Larkinite mode that are fighting representatives of the working class;
  • A broad front of anti-Imperialist/Capitalist groups
  • Most importantly a broadly held belief by the majority of the Irish proletariat that significant social change is the only viable alternative to the current batch of crooks that are currently screwing us while they get richer;
  • Any truly Revolutionary elected representatives should use their position as Seamus Costello advocated: “I favour guerilla tactics in parliament the same as I do in other respects. I favour them in local elections and local government bodies,they’ve proved successful there. And I see no reason, why, with a few TDs or MPs, of the right calibre, pursuing the right policies, why they cannot destroy the confidence of the people within these institutions and bring them tumbling down in ruins”

There is very much to do!

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Alex McGuigan

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