Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Household Charges Rally

I've only lived in Ireland for seven years, but I've been to more than my fair share of protests, rallies, marches, public meetings and the like.  Ever since the financial crisis of the bankers was transmogrified into an austerity crisis for the working class I've wondered when and if people would start doing something in opposition.  Well, apparently that time is now. 

In my time in the Irish left, there is nothing which can compare to the enthusiasm which I experienced at the recent Campaign Against the Household Tax rally.  The statistical fact that government is failing to get payment combined with the level of defiance witnessed by several thousand people at a single meeting makes me think that the government is very likely to be on the losing side of this battle. This is really very important as there is nothing like success to breed success, and success is definitely something the left has been lacking for yonks.

That said, I can't help but notice a few things which I think need to be taken into account in terms of strategy to make sure we make the most of a good thing.

First, the demographic was definitely on the side of those more advanced in years.  Where are all the youth?  Of course the household tax applies only to those old enough to own property, and hits the eldest hardest, but austerity is not just being applied to the elderly, but applies across the board.  This demographic lopsidedness could prove to be a problem in the medium term.

Secondly, something like one third of the core activists appear to be anarchists.  I can't help but think about how incredibly ironic it is that all of these anarchists are acting as foot soldiers helping to build campaigns which will ultimately benefit the ULA, and more specifically the SWP and SP.  I certainly wouldn't countenance a withdraw from the campaign, and I believe success in this campaign is important for the working class generally.  However, it seems to me that if the success can not be used to gain further successes for the anarchists, then they should really swallow their pride and join the ULA, where at least they'll have some input in the course of events.

This tax campaign is simply the first salvo in a war, and there must be a attention to the full dimensions.  Several speakers put forward this point, yet I think it's not clear how it will move from this point on.  From the enthusiasm in the room I can't help but think that this campaign should be transformed into a party.  The people were clearly ready for a wider fight against austerity and financial capital.  They shouldn't be disappointed by the almost inevitable parting of ways of the various leftist sects when we arrive at success or failure.  It is not just the anarchists who should suck it up and join up for a broader fight against austerity, but also the WP, CPI, and all the rest of the remnant.

Last, there was a nearly deafening silence on the reality of the Global and European situation.  This is not Ireland's austerity.  This is a fully global attack on the working class in the advanced capitalist countries.  There was entirely too much methodological nationalism present in the rally.  The Portuguese are just after having a national strike and the Spanish are ramping up to one.  Greece has been involved in pitched battles in the streets.  It's silly to act as though this is a local problem with local solutions.  We need to be thinking big about how we are going to defeat austerity as it simply can not be success at the level of the nation state. 

The rally certainly gave a good idea of the scorching temperature of rage that people have for being screwed over yet again by the bankers, and any government official would be well advised to get out of the way lest they be burnt to cinders.  Let us not let this fire go out - instead we should be looking at how to feed it. 

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