AGAINST THE background of the developing crisis in the Irish economy, the Labour Party continues to posture as a party that fights in the interests of working people. At its recent national Conference, Party Leader Eamon Gilmore several times referred to “crony capitalism” which had brought the country to the “edge of disaster”. He demanded an economy “where economic activity is primarily to serve the needs of people and where people are no longer slaves of the market”.
The Labour Party now feels comfortable in naming capitalism and the market as responsible for the crisis because this is commonly referred to in the Irish and international media. However just as in that same media establishment, there is no question of the Labour Party identifying socialism as the solution to this crisis. In fact the Labour Party supports the same capitalist market but merely wants it a bit more regulated.
In fact the Labour Party is very much on board with the prescription of the Fianna Fail/Green Party Government for dragging themselves out of the disaster into which capitalist greed has plunged society. They are supporting cuts in public expenditure but try to cover this up by referring to them as “adjustments”. Labour tries to distinguish itself from the government by opposing the way it is implementing the policies of making working people pay for the crisis but not the principle.
The Labour Party claims to be opposed to the extent of the savage wage cuts inflicted on low and middle income public sector workers in the guise of a pension levy. But Eamon Gilmore continuously undermines any effective fight back by workers. Thus when the Civil and Public Services Union held a one day strike the Labour Party opposed it and Labour Deputies crossed the picket lines at Leinster House.
Gilmore also came out strongly against the proposed one day strike supposed to be organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on 30 March. As a ploy he called on the Taoiseach to talk to the trade unions. Of course he knows that nothing will come of such talks but it was an excuse to undermine independent industrial action by workers.
The fact is that the Labour Party accepts the dictatorship of the capitalist market and intends to implement policies on that basis if they can get into government at the next election. Thus Eamon Gilmore said in interviews after their Conference that the “markets should be reassured” that the opposition in the Dail were taking such a “responsible” approach in the way they dealt with the crisis.
At the conference the Labour Party continued with the cynical fiction that it would contest the general election as an independent party. This allows the party not to take any responsibility for Fine Gael’s more right wing approach to the economy during the election campaign. But of course it is with Fine Gael that the Labour Party hopes to be in government after the election.
This means that Labour will jettison any policies that would be a stumbling block to such a coalition in the negotiations after the election. This is a long time ploy by the Labour Party. The best example was when former Leader, Dick Spring made a career out of condemning Fianna Fail, calling this party a cancer in Irish political life but within weeks of the 1992 General Election restored this cancer to government.
Polls show that the Labour Party will gain increased support in the Local Elections. This is to be expected in view of their verbal opposition to the details of the government policy and the hatred for Fianna Fail who are held clearly responsible by ordinary people for the present crisis. However, the Labour Party must not be allowed to deceive working people. They must be forced to spell out exactly what their real programme for government will be in the event that they are in coalition with Fine Gael after the election. Or even in government with Fianna Fail which they refuse to rule out as an option!