Irish Socialist Network - LeftLine Issue 2

John O'Neill johnfergaloneill at
Sun Dec 15 17:47:06 MST 2002

Irish Socialist Network - LeftLine Issue 2 December 2002

Budget 2003

Following the recently announced vicious cuts in rent allowance, school
building programmes, medical cards, and the drug refund scheme. Budget 2003
once again confirmed where this government's loyalties lie. In the so called
'good times' of the Celtic tiger, it was the richest in society who gained

Now, that the economic situation has worsened - it is workers on average
wages and those dependent on social welfare who are going to be made to
pay.While Government commitments on reducing Corporation tax still further
and paying out on the Special Savings Investment Accounts were firmly
adhered to, social welfare payments went up by a miserly ?6 per week and
Child Benefit, despite government promises, went up by only ?2 per week for
the first and second child. For those in work, tax bands were not increased
at all, effectively meaning an increase in taxes for PAYE workers once
inflation is taken into account. As things stand a person on $28,000 will
now hit the top tax band, while at the other end those on the minimum wage
are still being forced to pay tax. Nothing at all was done on childcare,
leaving thousands of working families to cope with juggling a mortgage and
childcare costs.

At the same time the VAT rate was increased by 1%, which will mean increases
in electricity, gas and other fuel bills, on top of the increases already
announced earlier in the year. This move will particularly hit those who are
poorest in Irish society and totally wipes out any social welfare increase.

Total disdain was shown for young people trying to purchase a house was
again shown, with the pretense that the increase in Mortgage Interest Relief
would in some way make up for the loss of the first time buyers grant. Added
to this is the fact that the increase in VAT will put up the price of new
houses, putting them further out of the reach of those on low and average

What was most clearly shown in the Budget is how the Government continues to
act to protect the interests of the wealthiest in society, particularly
through its total refusal to tax the richest. Despite the need for
investment in public housing, health, education and childcare. It refused to
abolish the PRSI earnings ceiling, which would have raised revenue from
those with the highest incomes in Irish society. Neither was employers PRSI
increased despite the massive profits which have been made by business in
recent years, while corporation tax was reduced yet again.

The Special Saving Investment scheme was not touched at all and in the next
three to four years millions will have to be paid out to those with enough
extra money to be able to save in the first place. Tax loopholes were left
open to be manipulated for the benefit of the wealthiest in society and
while some revenues is to be raised from Banks, we all know that that will
be passed on to customers. The approach of this government to public
services was demonstrated by the cap they have put on recruitment and the
announcement of a cut of 5,000 jobs over the next three years. This means
that the already troubled Health Strategy is effectively scrapped.

So in order to compensate for the mess made of public finances those with
least are being hit hardest, while once again those at the top are
protected. In the next few weeks the negotiations for a new 'partnership'
agreement will get underway in earnest. We will wait to see how the Trade
Unions and those representing the poorest in Irish society react. Will they,
once again, sign up to working 'in partnership' with those whose only aim is
protecting the interests of the richest and most powerful in Irish society.

Say No to Partnership!

Partnership is, once again, centre stage on the Governments agenda and
despite TU leadership posturing it looks like any real debate by the
membership will be shunned. The tired arguments will be rehashed, the old
chestnuts regurgitated all in defence of the status quo.

The facts, however, indicate a compelling argument against social
partnership when scrutinised. The process was alledgely, meant to deliver
higher standards of living for all, a more equitable society, the end to
poverty, and be an inclusive process for all the social partners.

What has the past 15 years of Partnership agreements delivered?-
Unprecedented profits for the corporate sector. The rich have got
substantially richer. The PD's & Fianna Fail have implemented an economic
model based on failed Thatcherite policies. Every intervention possible has
been enacted to maximise profit for the business class and multinationals
have exploited this, grabbing the cash, and departing as quick as they

Partnership has failed miserably to deliver for workers.  There are more
jobs than ever before  but at what cost? Inflation has wiped out any wage
increases delivered and poverty still impacts on pensioners, lone parents
and social welfare recipients.  The power of the Trade Union movement has
been curtailed through anti-union legislation and declining membership. The
TU leadership has not even secured the basic human right to Trade Union
recognition after 15 years of Partnership! The quality of life has declined.
Most cannot afford a home. Job security is non existent.

Partnership is a sham. It's a con job that has dis-empowered the trade union
and the community sector. It has stifled the development of real opposition
to exploitation and has been used as a tool to create a phony impression of
consensus. Campaign against it, vote against and refuse to participate in

The Irish Socialist Network has produced a pamphlet entitled "Parting
Company" outlining our position on Social Partnership which is available
from ISN, 19 Fairways Grove, Finglas East, Dublin 11. price ?2



One thing is certain. The US will go to war with Iraq. Nobody beats a drum
so emphatically without meaning it. Now that Bush/Cheney have gained control
of Congress there is nothing to stop them on the domestic front to pursuing
their aims namely, maintaining US hegemony in the Middle East and the
favorable renegotiation of oil contracts.

In Europe, a continent ravaged by years of  war, there is a greater
reluctance to become involved in Bush's folly with the exception of the gung
ho lapdog Blair. Although there is lack of enthusiasm in many countries, the
bullying strength of the US is not to be underestimated. This has lead
countries who fear the madness of the Bush 'crusade' being silenced. They
are afraid that voicing their concerns will lead to an economic backlash
influenced by the last remaining imperialist power.

This has become more obvious with the vote of a compliant United Nations,
with some Nations fearful of upsetting the US and others using the crisis to
solve their own domestic and colonial problems without fear of rebuke from
the US, such as Russia's war of genocide in Chechnya.

In Ireland this manifests itself in our own Government's hypocritical stance
on Shannon. During the Nice referendum the Government went out of its way to
show that it was the true defender of neutrality. The same government which
allows Shannon, a civilian airport, to be used daily by the US military to
refuel war planes and Troop Carriers (at a colossal cost to the Irish

The Irish Socialist Network have been active in recent demonstrations both
in Dublin and in Shannon. We believe that there is a need to combine mass
demonstrations with direct action. To this end we would encourage people to
get involved with anti-war groups in their communities.  A loud message
needs to go out to our government that our neutrality is non-negotiatable.



With the imminence of a full scale US/British attack on Iraq, under the
pretence of dislodging their former protégé Saddam Hussein and his brutal
Baathist regime, there is a real danger that the Israeli state will take
this opportunity to implement a policy of mass expulsion of the Palestinian
population of the West bank and the Gaza Strip and perhaps even of pre-1967
Israel itself. The desire to finish the Greater Israel project so long
nurtured by the extreme wing of Zionism and encapsulated in the chilling
slogan 'Jordan is Palestine' has now become a serious proposition at the
very heart of the Israeli centre-right.  There is every reason to believe
that the present caretaker Israeli government, given a sufficient
smokescreen, will try to ethnically cleanse occupied Palestine of its
inhabitants, especially as it is currently unaccountable to the Knesset.

Traditionally the left, or more accurately the Western European and North
American left have been dogged by a constant debate about one state vs. two
state solutions.  In some ways this debate is rather artificial. There are
very few, especially amongst Palestinians, who would argue that it would be
possible under any imaginable circumstances to bring about a one state
solution without a transitional period in which two states exist.  It
follows that a commitment to a united, secular state of Palestine, where all
communities can exist in equality, is not incompatible with the view that
the emergence of a democratic Palestinian State in the West Bank, Gaza Strip
and East Jerusalem would be a significant step in the direction of the
creation of such a state.  The emergence of a fully independent state in
part of historic Palestine would have a major destabilising effect on
Israeli society, opening up the massive class, religious and ethnic
divisions that underlie that society.  This in turn would open the political
and social space for left forces in both states to work towards the united

There a number of other weaknesses that the left must come to terms with
regarding Palestine.  We should listen more carefully to the diverse voices
of the Palestinian Left.  Of course this does not mean that we should pick a
'favourite' group and simply parrot their line but it does mean that we
should be informed by what our comrades in Palestine have to say.
Organisations such as the PFLP, the DFLP and the Palestine Peoples Party
(former communists), despite their numerical weakness and past mistakes, are
widely respected in Palestine for their unstinting resistance to the
occupation.  We should study their analysis of the current situation
carefully before adopting definitive positions.

There has also been a tendency by the left to ignore the internal class
divisions in Palestinian society.  The class most affected by the occupation
in an economic sense has been that section of the working class that was
reliant on employment within Israel, this source of employment now being cut
off.  At the other end of the spectrum some elements of the wealthy business
class have actually used the occupation to their advantage, cutting deals
with the Occupation Forces to corner the supply of essential goods and
services to Palestinian communities.  There is also a great deal of
resentment, especially amongst the poor of the refugee camps, towards the
corrupt crony class that grew around the Palestinian Authority, with the
connivance of the Israeli state, during the 1990s.  There is also a feeling
amongst the poor that it is they who are carrying the primary burden of
resistance activity and that middle class Palestinians are not playing their
full part.

It is hard not to be pessimistic about the future of Palestine but there are
reasons to be optimistic.  The steadfastness of ordinary Palestinians is
incredible. Despite the immense suffering and the obvious failures at a
leadership level, their will to resist remains unbreakable.  There is
renewed hope that with the cooperation of the Israeli radical peace camp and
international volunteers the door to mass defiance and resistance can be
opened, as happened following the last attempt by the Occupation Forces to
dislodge Yasser Arafat from his compound in Ramallah.  Such a change could
also have the positive effect of bringing an end to the suicide bombings,
which many Palestinians see as both morally wrong and tactically disastrous
for their cause.  This thinking is even having a positive impact on elements
within the Islamic movements; although there is no doubt that the Sharon
government would try to provoke a breach of such a new policy, to maintain
its grip of fear on the Israeli public.

As socialists we must now redouble our efforts in solidarity with the people
of Palestine.  Different perspectives and analysis of the Palestine
situation need not distract us from doing this.  There is general agreement
that our immediate task is to expose the massive human rights violations
being perpetrated by the Occupation Forces and to campaign ceaselessly and
creatively for an immediate end to the occupation.  We must also support the
resistance of the Palestinian masses in whatever manner we can.  In Ireland
the best way to work for these aims is through involvement in the activities
of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has mobilised a broad
range of groups and individuals and has been extremely effective in building
a widely supported campaign against the occupation.

It is equally important that we do our utmost to oppose the US led war on
Iraq.  US imperialism sustains the Israeli state to a remarkable degree and
without this sustenance it is likely that the Israeli state would collapse
both economically and politically.  While Israel itself contains no
significant resources that are of major value to US capitalism, this state
is a vital bridgehead in the Middle East, effectively imperialisms bull
terrier ready and able to intervene to when US access to the oil resources
of the region is threatened.  The current campaign to disrupt the use of
Shannon Airport as a war base by the US is a vital part of our solidarity
work not just with the people of Iraq but with the Palestinian people as

City Jet horror stories

For over 4 months now there has been a dispute in Dublin airport involving
Cityjet Handling and their workers. The dispute is about union recognition.
Cityjet Handling are using the same tactics that have been successful for
Ryanair. They have underbid for contracts which could lead to hundreds of
jobs being lost. They have signalled their intentions for the future of
Dublin Airport - a future of roster changes, pay freezes and massive
productivity for a lower wage.If they win, then conditions in City Jet will
be the benchmark for every other airport worker.

The workers in conjunction with DAWN (Dublin Airport Workers Network) have
been involved in action to disrupt the operation of Cityjet Handling.
Several members of the Irish Socialist Network took part in different
aspects of this disruption. Several workers were brought through the courts
on foot of an injunctions. To intimidate them they were sent to the
Bridewell during a lunch break in the case. The workers union SIPTU was
extremely slow to be actively involved in standing up for their members.
Fifteen years of Partnership has left the union hierarchy more accustomed to
having their feet under the table with their adversaries
than standing shoulder to shoulder with their members on the picket line. In
the current climate of cuts and attacks on the less well off it is now time
for SIPTU to fight to win this strike and stop the attack on the working


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