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(en) Ireland, Organise! Working Class Resistance #8 - Socialist Democracy claim Working Class "not equipped" to fight water Reform

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 18 Feb 2005 10:13:00 +0100 (CET)


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On Thursday 4th November 2004, Socialist Democracy, adopting
the name Campaign Against Water Privatisation hosted a meeting
in the Unemployed Resource Centre. The speakers included John
MacAnulty (SD), Tommy McKearney (Forthwrite magazine) Cllr
Mark Langhammer, (Labour) and Jason Brannigan from Organise!
While it was stated at the start of the meeting that this was not
intended to cut across other established campaigns against Water
Charges, most members of the panel saw non-payment as a tactic
of secondary importance to having a campaign with the
‘correct’ political leadership. In particular Socialist
Democracy, while claiming not to be laying out any blueprints,
clearly considered their own theories to be the only correct basis for
workers to do anything, and since those trying to build a mass
non-payment campaign haven’t studied these theories,
we’re obviously stumbling blindly forward in search of their
guidance.

While Mssrs McKearney and Langhammer were somewhat
overcautious in relation to building a mass non-payment campaign
they did contribute the sensible points to the discussion that any
such campaign should ensure individuals did not become isolated
and that a fund must be established in order to ensure that legal
expenses could be met. Then John McAnulty of SD warned that to
opt for non-payment as the basis of a campaign of opposition would
be to ‘end the debate’.

The ‘spectre’ of the Rent & Rates Strike was raised as an
example of such a campaign leaving people isolated, ignoring the
fact that this was not a mass campaign. Based on a tiny minority of
nationalists it could never have hoped to become a mass campaign,
water charges on the other hand is a working class and cross
community project if ever there was one.

Another important thread of the meeting was the role of the Trade
Unions. Advocates of non payment have long realised that the
bureaucracy of the unions are more likely to negotiate a
‘better’ defeat for their members rather than defeat this
attack on the living standards of the people who pay their inflated
wages. While Jason Brannigan gave a realistic assessment of the
role of ‘our’ union leaders other panellists and SD
members from the floor called, as a major focus of the campaign,
for the lobbying for a Trade Union Day of Action on this issue. The
need for industrial action such as that taken last Wednesday by
water service workers cannot be doubted but the trades unions will
not stop this tax. Cllr Langhammer advocated the lobbying of our
MEPs. The less said about that suggestion the better, and as much
was said from the floor by more than one person.

The attitude of SDs John MacAnulty in particular was little short of
offensive. When one non payment activist rose to describe the work
he had been doing in his local area, and stated that he had obtained
non payment pledges from nearly everyone in his street, he was
patronisingly dismissed, and told that people were only saying that
now; when the time comes they’ll just pay up (subtext:
ordinary people don’t even know their own minds). The
working class in N. Ireland, according to MacAnulty is not
equipped to fight this battle (then why call this meeting, if
we’re already stuffed??).

The most bizarre comment of the night came from a SD member
from the floor who suggested that to build the campaign on a
community basis might result in a ‘sectarian dogfight’.
Unless activists from Ballynafeigh and the lower Ormeau are
training pitbulls while I write this, I don't really understand this
utterance.

While Jason Brannigan did not, as the SD later claimed, deny that
water reform and charges were part of a wider political agenda of
privatisation we certainly take exception to the statement that
non-payment activists reflect a “declining political
consciousness of the left which has retreated from class to
community”. Not because this is an insult to those activists but
more because this is one of the most mechanical definitions of class
we have ever had the displeasure to come across. Working class
people are working class in their communities as well as in their
workplaces, to suggest that community based campaigning is a
retreat is nonsense.

So, what can be taken from this meeting? In short, if some people
think that the Water Tax can be beaten by debating political
theories or lobbying the chocolate fireguards we have for politicians
and Trade Union leaders, let them get on with it. They clearly have
no faith in the working class to understand and fight this attack. We
think differently. We think ordinary people can and will fight. We
don’t care, in contrast, if people fight this Tax from a puritan
socialist standpoint, and we don't think they need to read Kapital
while wearing hammer & sickle underpants to understand
what’s going on. As workers we experience everyday what its
like to be at the wrong end of class attacks and we know when
someone’s trying to shaft us. This is the type of class
consciousness that can’t be learned from books, but is in reality
its purest form.

Advocates for non payment will continue to try to build this
campaign. We are sure that mass non payment is the only way to
beat this tax, and since this meeting was against water privatisation,
its quite likely that the only way to stop eventual privatisation is to
defeat the initial tax, which might put off private investors. After all,
where’s the profit if we won’t pay?

G. McC

Next Page: Budget Blackmail
ve accepted the need for a
water reform policy that including
‘restructuring’, private
sector involvement and charges. Just as they approved the future
increase of our rates to pay back a Treasury loan to
‘make
up’ for years of under-investment.

As for our Trade Union leaders and bureaucrats, even with the best
intentions, they will negotiate a slightly better defeat rather than
see
this attack defeated. They are already resisting calls for a mass
campaign of non-payment and while the water workers industrial
action is to be applauded and supported the pressure must be
maintained by the rank and file of the unions to ensure that this
sort
of action is maintained.

For the fulltime negotiators however knocking the
‘rough
edges’ off water reform, reducing redundancies and
improving
the package is the sort of game they are used to playing - and this
sort of game will not defeat the water charges or privatisation. We
do not discount the central role that water service workers and
trade
union members have to the building of this campaign against
cutbacks, privatisation and charges and if necessary such workers
should be preparing to take the struggle directly into their own
hands if it appears that the bureaucracy are preparing to strike a
deal.
In reality the only method at our disposal that can stop privatisation
and charging is to oppose them outright. This demands more than
the empty words of politicians or reliance on Trade Union officials
-
the only people we can rely on are ourselves, our neighbours in
working class communities and the workers who will suffer
cutbacks and privatisation and be expected to pay.
This campaign must be built from the bottom up, street by street
and working class community by working class community. The
principle tactic of this campaign must be mass non-payment.
While
we need to prepare adequate funds for legal costs in the event of
court action against non-payers we must remember that the Poll
Tax was defeated when mass non-payment clogged the courts and
made collection next to impossible. Non payment of water charges
in the south led to the defeat of government attempts to impose
water charges in December 1996. Anything less than non-payment
is courting defeat. We cannot afford to do that.

Help build the campaign, forget the top down approach and help
build local opposition in your street and neighbouring streets.
When
there are enough groups then is when we should look at coming
together and co-ordinating our opposition. Anything short ofn insult
to those activists but more because this is one of the most
mechanical definitions of class we have ever had the displeasure to
come across. Working class people are working class in their
communities as well as in their workplaces, to suggest that
community based campaigning is a retreat is nonsense.

So, what can be taken from this meeting? In short, if some people
think that the Water Tax can be beaten by debating political
theories or lobbying the chocolate fireguards we have for politicians
and Trade Union leaders, let them get on with it. They clearly have
no faith in the working class to understand and fight this attack. We
think differently. We think ordinary people can and will fight. We
don’t care, in contrast, if people fight this Tax from a puritan
socialist standpoint, and we don't think they need to read Kapital
while we

Advocates for non payment will continue to try to build this
campaign. We are sure that mass non payment is the only way to
beat this tax, and since this meeting was against water privatisation,
its quite likely that the only way to stop eventual privatisation is to
defeat the initial tax, which might put off private investors. After all,
where’s the profit if we won’t pay?

G. McC
==============================
[Ed. Note: Organise! is an anarchist group]


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