The impressive attendance of 1,100 at the recent “Claiming Our Future” conference in the RDS was a positive indication that people want an alternative to the cutback agenda on offer from the entire political establishment, both government and official opposition. In fact twice as many applied for tickets to attend but could not be accommodated for reasons of space
The event was co-sponsored and co-financed by ICTU, the Community Platform, Is Féider Linn, Social Justice Ireland and philanthropic organisations like the One Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies and the Rowntree Foundation. The leadership of the former organisations were all previously participants in “social partnership” deals with the government over a 20 year period and alongside the Labour Party were present in force at the event.
The draft programme put forward by the organisers in advance contained some demands which the Socialist Party would support in terms of higher taxes on the rich, a stimulus in the form of public works, and the provision of public services free at the point of use.
The outcome of the event itself tended to endorse all these type of measures. However taken as a whole, the programme fell way short of the measures required to deal with the unemployment crisis and in particular was completely silent on the current under-taxing of corporation profits, an issue which has assumed the status of an official taboo which has to be broken.
Likewise the draft demand for “a longer time-frame for adjustment of public finances to the new economic reality” which is the position of ICTU should have no place in any alternative to dealing with the economic crisis if it means a single cent of a cutback or job loss. It amounts to buying into the same cuts strategy. This demand did not appear in the final programme.
A Socialist Party leaflet handed out on the made the point: “‘Claiming Our Future’ should imply doing whatever it takes to ensure that jobs and public services are defended and improved. The wealth and resources to do this exist but it cannot be achieved as long as they remain under-taxed and in private ownership. Rather than seeking to regulate Irish capitalism, a radical alternative means mounting a challenge to the capitalist interests which brought us into this crisis. It means a massive programme of public works and an extension of state enterprise to immediately create jobs in the numbers needed.”
As well as agreeing a programme, we need a campaigning strategy that involves mobilising large numbers of people onto the streets and into strike action. The “Claiming Our Future” conference concluded by everybody agreeing to tell ten other people about the initiative and to hold local forums.
The strategy of the leadership of this initiative seems to be to try to influence public opinion in the direction of supporting very mild reforms within the confines of the system, as well as electoral support for the Labour Party. The Labour Party incidently doesn’t even support these policies but is in fact wedded to the same cut back agenda as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael!
The many genuine people who showed up to the RDS will quickly see through the limitations of this strategy and alongside the Socialist Party and other forces who are active fighting the cuts will join the fight for a real alternative.