We must demand an end to austerity now, writes Cllr. Mick Barry.
The spindoctors of the capitalist establishment are working overtime as 2014 kicks in talking up the prospects of economic recovery.
TV, radio, newspapers and the internet are choc-a-bloc with “good news stories” in the wake of the Troika exit before Christmas. But for the vast majority of ordinary working class people little or nothing has changed.
Where is the recovery for the 395,000 people on the dole? Where is the recovery for the tens of thousands of low income households about to be stripped of medical card entitlement? Where is the recovery for more than a million workers who haven’t had a pay increase in five years?
Some people are doing very well indeed, however, in the current climate. Figures released in January show that 20 landlords made 5 million euro between them last year in rent allowance payments paid for by the taxpayer. One individual landlord actually made 578,000 euro last year from the scheme.
RTE ran a programme in December titled “Who’s Buying Ireland?”. The programme showcased international capitalist investors who are buying up vast amounts of commercial property whose price has hit rock bottom in Ireland since the bust.
One company – Starwood Capital – recently purchased the Garda HQ in Dublin, 4 Superquinns and a clutch of International Financial Services Centre sites for 200 million euro, less than a quarter of its real probable value.
These companies are operating on the principle outlined by investment analyst Jeb Handwerger who recently stated: “One has to think rationally during periods of extreme pessimism. When there’s fear and blood in the streets is when the investors who have a longer-term approach are able to buy cheap assets.”
It is the case that Ireland’s capitalist economy has begun to register some growth and that this growth may very well continue for a period of time. This growth may have the effect of cutting the numbers being forced to emigrate and taking some workers off the dole queues.
Two things can, however, be said with certaintly. One, that a prolonged period of real economic upswing is ruled out on the basis of capitalism. A huge debt overhang – state debt, corporate debt, personal debt – will tend to sharply limit recovery. And two, that capitalism will not be able to undo the damage it caused during the recession years. The health service will not be restored to pre-crisis levels, the schools will not be restored to pre-crisis levels, and most important of all mass unemployment will not go away.
Merrion Stockbrokers forecasted in November that 11.5% of the workforce will still be unemployed by the end of 2015.
Working class people made huge sacrifices in this country and internationally during the recession years.
We didn’t create the crisis, we should not have been the ones to suffer and The Socialist has opposed austerity from the start. But the arguments for further belt-tightening diminish by the hour with every TV bulletin and newspaper headline hailing the onset of “recovery”.
We aim to build the socialist alternative right around the country in 2014 and make it the year that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party get trounced in the May elections as part of a fightback that decisively defeats austerity.