By Kevin McLoughlin
Christmas is coming, so too is the general election and the political games involving the four main parties. However, there is an alternative to the political horse trading where the interests of working class people are just a chip to be bartered with so that these parties can gain power.
We need a wholly new political movement that represents and also organises the working class majority to fight for real change. Socialist Party members and AAA TDs, Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger were the first representatives to advocate that the opposition to water charges should be the basis for such a movement.
Potential for new political movement
Paul called for this in his speech to the mass demonstration on December 10, 2014, and Ruth detailed how the water charges movement could seriously challenge in every area in the general election later that evening on “Tonight with Vincent Browne”. At any point over the last year – had the Right2Water trade unions gone into each area and called for a mass political assembly with a view to standing candidates on a non-payment and full anti-austerity platform, people would have queued out the doors and a new mass movement would have been established. It could have done so in an explosive manner just as Podemos and Syriza emerged in Spain and Greece.
Even now, with four months to go to an election, the unions and activists could still pull something really powerful together. Between January and early March 2012, the Campaign Against Home and Water Taxes (CAHWT) with limited resources organised over 100 public meetings in all areas attended by over 30,000 people.
The conditions for launching a new political movement are much more favourable now than in 2012.
In any event, we would encourage activists and communities to take the initiative and get organised and unite with others around the country and stand on a fighting platform of non-payment of water charges, for a reversal of austerity and an end to economic inequality. Such a grassroots challenge is necessary as unfortunately Right2Change has taken a problematic path. Even though the AAA said it supported the ten principles put forward by Right2Change, we have been excluded from it because we explained that to actually achieve the principles, a government would have to challenge big business interests and stand up to the bullying of the Troika.
Need to break EU rules
Unfortunately, the small print added late to the principles document by the unions, limits the scope for a new government, saying it must generally operate within the very strict spending rules of the EU. A document, which is now the companion to the principles, the “Fiscal Framework Document”, rolls back significantly on the principles themselves.
Even though the principles for Right2Change correctly call for “Right2Housing”, “Right2Health” and “Right2Education”, the document only calls for an additional €3.2 billion to be invested over four years (2017-2020) in capital expenditure e.g spending on building homes, hospitals, school and infrastructure projects. Even if all of this of this money were spent on the building of council homes (with no additional spending on building schools or hospitals) at current building cost this would only build an additional 17,777 homes – significantly short of what is needed given that 130,000 families are on housing waiting lists. The document itself says a government would need to make a number of specific appeals to the Troika and would have to hope to get a dispensation from rules of the EU so it could increase expenditure. However the experience of Syriza shows that negotiating a fair deal with the Troika is fanciful.
Right2Change’s idea of pulling together an anti-austerity and anti-establishment government is also severely undermined by the statements by Gerry Adams and Padraig MacLochlainn that Sinn Fein should consider doing a deal with Fianna Fail and Labour.
What the AAA stands for
Unfortunately, what the AAA stands for has been distorted by some in the anti-water charges movement itself.So to be clear, the AAA will fight the general election and seeks people’s votes on the basis of:
1. Standing up to big business interests and the bullies in the EU and deliver real change
2. No coalition with Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or Labour
3. Abolish the USC, property and water taxes; launch a massive public building programme to provide affordable homes; raise the minimum wage to €12 and reverse all austerity cuts.
4. Make people’s needs not profit the basis of the economy
We believe this is the type of real change that people need and hope as many as possible from the water charges movement, genuine activists/Independents and from other left / socialist parties, stand and get elected.
The AAA will discuss with parties and individuals after the next election to see if a genuine Left government can be formed based on this platform.