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Irish Marxist Review

Issue 1

Marxism and Trade Unionisim John Molyneux Women and Austerity Deirdre Cronin Our democracy and theirs: reflections on the Egyptian revolution Ann Alexander

Irish Marxist Review

Editor: John Molyneux Editorial Board: Marnie Holborrow, Sinead Kennedy, Donal Mac Fhearraigh, Dave OFarrell, Will Shannon Published: March 2012 SWP PO.Box 1648 Dublin 8 Phone: John Molyneux 0857356424 Email:

Irish Marxist Review is published in association with the Socialist Workers Party (Ireland), but articles express the opinions of individual authors unless otherwise stated. We welcome proposals for articles and reviews for IMR. If you have a suggestion please phone or email as above. Price: e3

Irish Marxist Review

Editorial Our democracy and theirs: reections on the Egyptian revolution Ann Alexander Marxism and Trade Unionisim John Molyneux Women and Austerity Deirdre Cronin Sinn Fein in Government Sean McVeigh Epilogue: the 15-M movement since the summer Andy Durgan and Joel Sans The age of extremes: new developments in climate change Owen McCormack Three Poems Connor Kelly 4







Welcome to the rst issue of Irish Marxist Review, a new journal of socialist ideas published in association with the Socialist Workers Party. Our principle aim is to provide serious socialist and Marxist analysis of political, economic and social developments in Ireland and internationally. We will also be interested in working class and socialist history, in Marxist theory and in matters of culture. Intellectually this journal will stand in what can be called the International Socialist tradition, characterised by broad, but not uncritical, adherence to the classical Marxism of Marx and Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky and Gramsci combined with an emphasis on socialism from below and working class self-emancipation pioneered by Tony Cli. However we will also be very open to contributions from other perspectives on the left and to serious critical debate. This issue appears as the most severe crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression of the 1930s enters its fourth year with no sign of resolution and with Ireland among its most serious casualties. The crisis is global and so too is resistance. 2011 began with the extraordinary events of the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions culminating in the fall of Mubarak on 11 February; it continued with uprisings in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. As we know the struggle has not developed smoothly: in Bahrain the revolution was crushed by the Saudis (with clear western complicity) and NATO intervention in Libya, hijacking the revolution, was a negative turning point; in Yemen there has been some advance but no decisive breakthrough and in Syria there is horrendous repression occurring as I write but the outcome is not yet clear. Meanwhile the struggle for full democracy, workers rights and social justice continues in Egypt. In May the spirit of Tahrir Square crossed the Mediterranean to Spain and the Indignados, and then in the autumn arrived in the USA with Occupy Wall St which in turn spread across the country and to some extent round the world. At the same time in Greece both the crisis and the struggle were escalating steadily in a heady combination of strikes and street ghting. Even in Ireland, which lagged behind in 2011, there are now serious signs (workers occupations at Vita Cortex and La Senza, the Household Tax Campaign, DEIS schools etc ) of mounting resistance, and big struggles keep breaking out in other parts of the world such as Russia, China, Kazakhstan and India. To put this in some perspective it is worth pointing out that on 28 February something approaching 100 million Indian workers went on strike in what is probably the largest one-day strike in world history. This is many times more workers out on strike in one country than existed on the face of the earth when Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto and issued his historic call Workers of the World , Unite!. If the numerous local strikes, riots and struggles rumbling in China were to coalesce into a national movement both the Egyptian Revolution and the Indian strike would be dwarfed in scale. But, of course, these stirring prospects must be counterbalanced by an awareness of the serious rise of the far right and neo-Nazis in a number of countries, including, most dangerously the hideous Jobbik Party in Hungary. The dominant trend over the last year has been leftwards but this is not set in stone. In this situation anyone who tries to view events from an exclusively Irish standpoint will undoubtedly fail. Nevertheless we are in Ireland and it our responsibility as socialists and internationalists to focus on the struggle here. This combination of international perspective and national focus is not easy to achieve but we shall try. In this issue we lead with a fascinating study by Anne Alexander of a hugely under reported and under emphasised aspect of the ongoing revolution in the Egypt, the development of embryonic forms of workers democracy in the struggle against survivals of the Mubarak regime and the rule of the army in Egypt. This is followed by a review from John Molyneux of the Marxist tradition and its application today to an issue of considerable importance on the Irish left: the role of trade unions and the trade union bureaucracy. One important aspect of the attack on working people embodied in the Irish governments austerity programme is a major assault on the rights of working class women. This is analysed by Deirdre Cronin. Another particular feature of austerity is the peculiar dual role of Sinn Fein, opposing it in the South while imposing it in the North. Sean McVeigh provides a trenchant critique of Sinn Fein in government. Moving back to the international picture, Andy Durgan and Joel Sans, comrades from the Spanish state, provide an update on the M-15 Indignados movement which, though no longer in the headlines, continues in various forms. Something that threatens us all no matter what country we are in is the problem of climate change. Owen McCormack shows a) that climate change has developed qualitatively over the last year or 3

so, b) that it is deeply bound up with the development and crisis of capitalism, and c) that it makes the need for socialism more urgent than ever. Finally we present three poems by Connor Kelly, the talented young poet/musician from Derry, which among other things take us back to the Egyptian Revolution.

Our democracy and theirs: reections on the Egyptian revolution1

Ann Alexander
To develop democracy to the utmost, to nd the forms for this development, to test them by practice, and so forth-all this is one of the component tasks of the struggle for the social revolution. Taken separately, no kind of democracy will bring socialism. But in actual life democracy will never be taken separately; it will be taken together with other things, it will exert its inuence on economic life as well, will stimulate its transformation; and in its turn it will be inuenced by economic development, and so on. This is the dialectics of living history. Lenin, State and Revolution 2 . More than a year after the fall of Mubarak, the Egyptian revolution has faded from the front pages and TV screens in Europe. Periodic upsurges of protest or spectacular examples of brutality by the security forces may force the issue back into onto the agenda of mainstream journalists and politicians, but the consensus for the most part is that the revolution - if there ever was one - is long over. This article is an attempt, therefore, to bring out some of the hidden dynamics of the revolutionary process in Egypt, and explore them a little in the light of ideas and practice of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party in early 20th century Russia. It is primarily a reection on Lenins assertion that in real life, democracy must be taken together with other things, and that this process is part of the struggle for the social revolution. I will propose here that Egyptian workers, in the course of their struggles over the past six years have already begun to take democracy into many places it was previously denied them, and these extend far beyond the debating chamber of the newly-elected parliament. The waves of strikes since 2006 have made it possible for workers to experiment with mass democratic organisation in the workplaces and in some places extend a large degree of control over the workplace itself, although often both the organisation and control have proved to be only temporary fractures in capitalist normality. The problem is that, as Lenin realised all too well, the stability of capitalist societies rests precisely on taking democracy separately (if they take democracy at all)3 . Bosses generally insist on their right to decide what workers produce, how they produce it, and who receives the goods or services they provide. The domination of the unelected, unaccountable boss within an individual workplace mirrors the domination of an unelected, unaccountable class of capitalists within society as a whole. Democracy is also taken separately at the level of the capitalist state. The democratically-elected parts of these states, such as parliaments, are in reality subordinate to the unelected parts, such as the bureaucracy and the military, which serve the interests of the capitalist class. The separation of legislature from executive is intimately connected with the separation of legislators from electorate. One of the main ways we encounter the ideology which sustains taking democracy separately is through the idea that democracy is something you put in a ballot box once every few years and forget about it. Therefore this article begins to discuss how the Egyptian ruling class has used the institutions and ideology of parliament in order to try and contain the explosion of unruly, mass democracy from below, with a view to re-establishing the proper separation of democracy from real life at a later date. (And there is no guarantee that Mubaraks old generals will allow Egyptians any sort of democracy at all, if they are able to embark on a full-scale counter-revolution). There is not space here to discuss the interaction between the democracy from below which has emerged in the workplaces and the democracy of the streets, although clearly this is a hugely important question for the future of the Egyptian revolution4 .
1 I am grateful to John Molyneux, Colin Barker, David Renton, Mark Thomas and Charlie Kimber for comments on the draft of this article. By far the greatest debt of thanks is of course owed to friends in Egypt, with whom and from whom I have learnt so much, in particular Mostafa Bassiouny, Sameh Naguib, Haitham Muhammadain, Hisham Fouad, Hossam el-Hamalawy, Gigi Ibrahim and Mohammed Shaq. 2 Lenin, State and Revolution 1970, p93 3 See John Molyneuxs recent discussion of whether capitalism needs democracy (2012) for more on this question. 4 The theme of that the ultimate source of democratic legitimacy in the revolution is to be found in the massive occupations of public squares, particularly Tahrir Square in Cairo, has resurfaced time and again since the fall of Mubarak. Since the

The nal section of the article argues that although the future course of the Egyptian revolution remains open, with both the ideas and central institutions of capitalist society working against taking democracy together, Egyptian workers need a weapon of their own which can help them in the struggle to force on the state the democratic lessons they have learnt in their own workplaces (which means in the end building a new state of their own). This means building a revolutionary party, which brings together a minority of workers who think like a state, and thus see beyond the immediate battles of the class struggle to the possibility of winning the war against capitalism itself However, it is only once workers develop the capacity to act as a class, in other words to join up their struggles between workplaces and across dierent sectors of the economy, that they will be able to test themselves in combat with the state. By using Lenins ideas I do not mean to suggest that either the revolutionary process itself or the development of the revolutionary left in Egypt today are anywhere close to the situation the Bolsheviks found themselves in by 1917. They are not, and there is no space here to give a proper account of the balance of forces in the revolution to explain why. In particular, revolutionary socialists in Egypt today are far smaller in number than the revolutionary left was in Russia in 1905, let alone in 1917, even though they have grown dramatically in size and inuence during the rst year of the revolution5 . Despite this, the debate about what kind of organisation todays revolutionaries should try and build is suddenly an urgent question for a far, far wider audience than it was before 2011. From Luxor to Athens and even in London and New York a new generation has experienced mass protests, strikes and revolution on scale not seen for decades. The answer to the question of revolutionary organisation cannot be decided in the abstract, or only with reference to yesterdays victories and defeats. If it is going to be built at all, a revolutionary socialist party has to root itself in the living dialectics of history, that is to say in the experience of ordinary men and women as they ght to re-make the world.

Winning the workplace

Ever since the week-long factory occupation by 24,000 textile workers in Mahalla al-Kubra in December 2006 triggered a huge upsurge in strikes6 , hundreds of thousands of Egyptian workers have had to face the question of how to take democracy together with the struggle for better wages and conditions. The organisation of these strikes concretely posed the problem of how a minority of activists could win their co-workers. Before the revolution, strike organisation was necessarily underground, but its rst action in the open was generally to bring workers together in some kind of mass meeting often held in the occupied workplace itself, or in the street. In order to be successful the strike leaders had to rstly persuade enough of their fellow workers to join in the action to make it bite by shutting down the workplace, or disrupting work to an extent it hurt management. In practice this frequently meant trying to win as many as possible to join the sit-in in order to physically seize control of the workplace itself and turn it into an organising centre for the strike. If not enough people joined the sit-in then the strike itself would be in real danger of collapse. Strikes were essentially illegal, the option of the union branch secretary and half-a-dozen stalwarts of the committee mounting a token picket line for a couple of hours did not exist. If the minority of activists did not expand their ranks to include dozens, hundreds or even thousands of their fellow workers to actively participate in the strike in some way then they faced the danger that the police would storm the factory. Thus the imperative to involve wide layers of workers actively in the strike was written into strike organisation from the start. This imperative was a fundamentally democratic one because the mass meetings at the heart of the sit-in were the place where the tactics and decisions proposed by activists would have to be tested if they were to be communicated to and accepted by the majority of strikers. There was simply
completion of the parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood has attempted to undermine this connection with slogans such as Parliament is the Square. 5 See Cli, 1975, pp352-4 for gures on the membership of the Bolshevik and Menshevik parties before and after the 1905 Revolution in Russia. On the revolutionary left in Egypt today, the Revolutionary Socialists perspective on what kind of organisation to build is closest to the ideas sketched out here. See Egypt on the road of revolution, Revolutionary Socialists, 2011, for a recent exposition of their perspectives on the current phase of the revolution. 6 Alexander, 2008; Bassiouny and Said, 2008

no other way of doing this - no mechanisms for a postal ballot, for an electronic consultation, in most cases no union structures at all which could be used by activists for the purpose of strike organising. The existing unions were dominated by the ruling party and actively worked to stop strikes. This does not mean that every decision would have to be discussed at a mass meeting, strike organisation immediately demanded a division of labour among the strikers, which was generally solved by electing a strike committee or sit-in committee. The question of who should negotiate on the strikers behalf was in many strikes something to be decided at the mass meeting, and there was a general expectation that negotiators would report back immediately to the meeting the results of their discussions. In cases where the workplace was occupied, these meetings carried great potential for rich and varied democratic discussion, all the more important in the context of Mubaraks Egypt where freedom of speech and association was very limited, particularly for workers. The basic pattern of strike organising has remained the same for most workers during the revolution. Successful strikes generally involve large groups of workers engaged in active, democratic decision-making at mass meetings. The revolution has additionally made it possible to test the call for strike action in open meetings beforehand, as was the case with the national doctors strikes in May 2011. The strikes were called after activists won the majority in two mass meetings of the Doctors Union General Assembly which brought together 3-4000 doctors in the street outside the union headquarters. However, the revolution has also made it possible for strikes to be called from above by the leadership of the new independent unions for example. These kind of strike calls have so far had little track record of success. This is a criticism which Ashraf Omar makes of the call for the February 11 general strike against the ruling military council. Although the strike call was supported strongly by the leaders of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, there was little response from workers, precisely because the argument was not won in the workplaces7 .

Delegates not representatives

The democratic mandate of the strike committee and of the negotiators is bound up very deeply with their relationship to the mass meeting. Their role as direct delegates, given only a temporary authority to represent workers and one subject to much stricter conditions and control from the mass of the strikers than is the case with even elected trade union ocials, was conrmed in cases where negotiators returned to the mass meeting with a proposed deal, only to nd it rejected. Hossam el-Hamalawy recounts two important occasions when this happened at Misr Spinning in Mahalla al-Kubra in 2007. In February 2007, an elected delegation which included activists who had lead the December 2006 travelled to Cairo to present a mass petition of resignations from the government-run Textile Workers Federation and came back with a series of proposed concessions from the ocial union leadership. News of the deal travelled ahead of them by SMS and mobile phone and they returned to nd an angry mass meeting denouncing their sell-out. In the September 2007 strike negotiators proposals to end the strike in return for concessions were rejected at a mass meeting to cries of Were staying put8 . The strike by Public Transport Authority (PTA) workers in Cairo in September 2011 saw a similar dynamic at work, this time to assert the authority of the mass meeting over the new independent union leadership. Negotiations with the Minister of Labour produced a proposed deal, but when the negotiators, led by the president of the PTA independent union Ali Fattouh, returned to mass meetings at the garages they got a hostile reception and were told to continue the strike. Not only did the strike continue for several further days, but new elections for the union leadership were held at which Fattouh lost his position. Other members of the union committee who had publicly argued in favour of rejecting the deal were re-elected, however. Control over negotiators from below is important to strikers in both a negative and positive sense. After long years of experience with an exceptionally bureaucratic trade union apparatus which was run by state, strikers had good reasons to fear the autonomy of their representatives and to try and nd mechanisms to
7 Omar, 2012. Moreover the February 11 strike call was for a political general strike essentially against not only the ruling military council but also the majority parties in the parliament, and was initiated by revolutionary activists outside the workers movement. 8 El-Hamalawy, 2008a; 2008b

discipline them. It was also a positive protection for the negotiators themselves as they were frequently in talks not with the employers themselves but with the state security apparatus in circumstances rather dierent from trade union negotiations in Europe. Talks to settle strikes there are not usually conducted by the police essentially kidnapping the union branch secretary in order to negotiate a deal on behalf of the boss. In such circumstances the negotiators position as a direct delegate of the majority of the strikers both disciplined and strengthened them. It disciplined them in the sense that whatever they might agree in private with State Security would have to be discussed and agreed in public at the mass meeting. It strengthened them in the knowledge that simply making them disappear into jail would not, from the point of view of the state, necessarily solve the problem of the strike, and would potentially result in the election of new, more radical leaders. Before the revolution, the democratic principles and practice of strike organising by and large did not generally nd an expression in permanent organisation. However, the activists who built the rst independent union to emerge in Egypt for over fty years, the Property Tax Collectors Union RETAU (Real Estate Tax Authority Union) tried to apply them directly to the structures of the new union. RETAU was built out of mass meetings, by the democratically elected strike committees, and brought together 4,000 delegates from across Egypt for its founding congress. The new unions constitution attempted as far as possible to distil the democratic lessons which workers had learnt collectively from the strikes by asserting the sovereignty of the union membership over the leadership through the decisions of delegates at the unions general assembly. The constitution of the Public Transport Authority Workers Union, formed in March 2011 after the overthrow of Mubarak contains similar guarantees and provides simple democratic mechanisms for the union committees based in the garages to exercise control over the central union leadership9 . The problem of course, is that writing these things into the constitutions of unions does not guarantee their respect in practice. Inevitably, as the tax collectors union consolidated and developed its new structures, and the strike leaders of yesterday were drawn into full-time or largely full-time roles as organisers and negotiators divorced from the pressures of the workplace, the beginnings of a union bureaucracy appeared. There is not space here to discuss this question fully, but the reasons why it happened are essentially those outlined by Cli and Gluckstein in their classic analysis of the trade union bureaucracy10 . The central issue was not, in the case of RETAUs leadership, the emergence of a large layer of salaried ocials, but the question of their autonomy from the struggles in the workplace. Sections of the Egyptian state were prepared to negotiate with them directly (although other sections, particularly the leadership of the ocial trade union federation, fought a vicious battle against the new union), so they were able to continue to build the union without needing to organise further mass strike action which would have both revived their own democratic mandate and reasserted the authority of the base of the union over the elected ocials11 .

Workers democratic control

Taking democracy together with the struggle and building basic principles of control from below into workplace organisations became, in the context of revolution, a means for some groups of workers to exercise increasing control over the workplace itself. When this situation arises, it is always an uneven process, and exactly what workers control means in practice and how it arises varies a great from workplace to workplace12 . In Egypt two sorts of struggles have posed the question of workers control very directly: the ght to cleanse the workplace of corrupt elements associated with the old ruling party and the struggle against
with Haitham Muhammadain, Mohammed Abd-al-Sattar, and Ali Fattouh, Cairo, 30 April and 1 May 2011. and Gluckstein, 1986, pp21-35 11 This why the democratic principles of strike organising must also be maintained and consolidated at the bottom of the unions. Regular democratic debate and decision-making at mass meetings, even through the routine of everyday union organising, builds stronger and more eective union organisation than passive consultations with the membership by ballots or email surveys. It is not enough to attempt to do this using the unions own internal machinery, however. What is actually required is the building of organisation rooted in the workplaces which is capable of moving independently of the union leadership where necessary. See Cli and Gluckstein, 1986, for a more detailed discussion of this question. 12 See for example, Bayat (1987) on the development of factory councils during the Iranian Revolution, and Ness and Azzellini (2011) for a collection of articles drawing together experiences of workers control across a wide range of countries since the Paris Commune.
10 Cli 9 Interviews

privatisation. In both these cases the exercise of workers control has been connected with workers assertion of their own right to take decisions normally reserved for management and to force the state to accept the consequences. In some workplaces workers have forced a dramatic change in the character of management, by forcing the state to accept the removal of members of the Armed Forces and their replacement by civilian ocials. The de-militarisation of even small parts of the state apparatus from below holds immense political signicance in the context of growing anger at the continuation of military rule at the top of the state, in the form of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which took power from Mubarak. There is only space to discuss a small handful of examples here, and there is as yet little information about how far this process has gone in other workplaces. It is certain however, that the question of extending workers control has been raised in hundreds of strikes, as it is expressed in demands for the removal of corrupt managers, the return of privatised companies to the public sector and the sacking of overpaid consultants. Radical tactics are common: workers at Telecom Egypt which runs a large part of the public phone network, locked their Chief Executive in his oce and ve were arrested and charged with his attempted murder. In response their colleagues organised a nationwide strike which ended with the release of the arrested protesters and the payment of a combined bonus of 51 million Egyptian pounds (6.4 million) to the 50,000strong workforce13 . The key point here is the living relationship between workers own democratically-organised mass action and workers control. The clearest example of this process in action is the establishment of the independent union in Manshiyet al-Bakri General Hospital in Cairo. In the early days of the revolution, Mohammed Shaq, one of the doctors at the hospital, and a revolutionary socialist activist, took the initiative to start the process of creating an independent union for all grades of hospital sta14 . He did this largely because of pressure from nurses and other sta to join in a simple petition campaign he had started demanding better conditions for the doctors. The union quickly attracted hundreds of sta, and moved into confrontation with the existing management. The heart of the process was the democratic levelling across professional boundaries within the union, which served as the mechanism for imposing democratic control from below over the running of the hospital itself. In other words, because the majority of workers in the workplace were won to the union, and because the unions own internal structures emphasized the equality of all grades and professions, this meant in reality that nurses, porters and admin sta suddenly gained a democratic stake in deciding how the hospital was run. This included the democratic election of a new manager and the imposition of that choice on the Ministry of Health through the threat of a strike. The speed and depth of this process was conditional on the revolutionary situation. The state apparatus had been dealt a huge blow by the popular uprising against Mubarak, the senior levels in the Ministry of Health were in a state of panic and confusion, and the sudden and dramatic rise in the condence of the hospital sta to see themselves as having the power to change their lives at work was deeply connected with the general change in Egyptian workers consciousness as they took part in the revolution. All the sta I met at the hospital in October 2011, including the deputy director, emphasized that the extension of democracy to the workplace had fundamentally changed the service they delivered for the better, as well as transforming their own experience of work. Fatma Zahraa Abd-al-Hamid is rep for temporary admin sta on the unions council. After the revolution, we found that the issue of democracy and the legitimacy of the majority opinion became an open area for everyone. The independent union knits everyone together. In the meetings of the union council, for example, the manual worker rep sits next to the doctors. There is equality. Ive only been here a year, but the union gave me my rights, it made my voice louder, and raised the democratic will. Thats why I joined the union15 . Adel Abd-al-Fattah Ali, director of the administration at the hospital, and representative for the permanent admin sta on the union council added,
13 Ahram

Online (2011b); Hussein, (2011) with Mohammed Shaq, in Cairo, 30 April and 27 October 2011. 15 Interview in Arabic with Fatma Zahraa Abd-al-Hamid, Manshiyet al-Bakri General Hospital, Cairo, 27 October 2011
14 Interviews

The union is really democratic, and it has given us the chance to extend democracy within the hospital, because all the sta at every level are involved. Democracy has helped us make improvements in services. Why? Because everyone is free to express their opinion, and so collectively we come to the right decisions. Do you think people feel that they are participants in the administration of the hospital? Yes, and this is the best way to run an administration. Were talking about directing human beings, and so the majority have to agree with us. We have to respect their opinions, or were not going to get anywhere16 . Even the deputy director of the hospital, Dr Usama Prins agreed. Our experience here is unique, as we were the rst people to try this experiment. When the revolution happened, and people wanted democracy, and for political life to be organised, we had an election here, the rst election, people stood as candidates for a union committee to defend the sta in the hospital from the doctors to the manual workers and the nurses and in order to gain our rights, which we were denied previously. In order to improve service in the hospital there has to be democracy. If there is democracy, it exposes things that are going wrong more clearly. If there is democracy, everyone will speak up and say whats wrong in the hospital, and they wont be afraid17 . Council workers in Alexandrias West Quarter in July 2011 attempted to extend workers control over part of local government in a similarly audacious fashion. On 5 July the Governor of Alexandria tried to transfer the elected secretary of the local council in the citys Western Quarter, Farag Shaaban and a colleague to new jobs, in a bid to stop them speaking out against plans to reinstate members of the old ruling party. Local government workers in Western Quarter declared a strike and locked the head of the council, an unelected general, out the building and chased him away when he attempted to break his way in with a gang of thugs. A few days later, with huge protests and occupations ooding the streets across Egypt, the same local government workers announced another strike and joined the sit-in in Alexandrias Saad Zaghlul Square in their hundreds. In addition to the resignation of the governor of Alexandria, they now added their voices to the hundreds of thousands calling for the downfall of the government. However, they also took another step, by democratically electing Farag Shaaban as a replacement for their old boss as head of the council. A strike in defence of a whistle-blowing colleague suddenly became something much bigger: a means to remake a small part of the Egyptian state from below. We have to get things done explained Shaaban in a video interview18 , so we decided that the head of the quarter should be elected by the council workers to lead a campaign of reform and change in the neighbourhood. The struggle for the de-militarisation of management from below can also be seen at work in the Civil Aviation sector. Overnight on 20 July 2011 thousands of airport workers launched a lightning strike and blocked the main road to the airport in protest at the proposed appointment of a former chief-of-sta of the Egyptian Airforce as minister of civil aviation. Other demands included an end to the appointment of former military ocers to head departments at the Civil Aviation Ministry and wage parity with EgyptAir workers. As Al-Ahram noted the following morning, workers agreed to suspend their action only after a long meeting with Air Marshal Reda Hafez, the current commander of the Egyptian Airforce, who promised to meet all protesters demands in 72 hours19 . Promises have not always been kept, but this has so far only sparked more strikes and protests. Workers in the Egyptian Airports Company blockaded the newlyappointed director, an Air Force Ocer, from entering his oce and threatened strike action in January 2012 demanding the de-militarisation of management appointments20 . The occupation of workers at the Egyptian Soap and Oils Company in December 2011 provides an example of how dierent demands have propelled workers to the same conclusion: that they need to exercise control over the management of the workplace. The company is a large one, employing several thousand
in Arabic with Adel Abd-al-Fattah Ali, Manshiyet al-Bakri General Hospital, Cairo, 27 October 2011 in Arabic with Dr Usama Prins, Manshiyet al-Bakri General Hospital, Cairo, 27 October 2011. 18 Interview with Farag Shaaban by Maysoonyat, uploaded 13 July 2011, available online on YouTube: com/user/MENAsolidarity?feature=mhee#p/a/u/0/XOd5X7rR_X8 19 Ahram Online, 2011a 20 Fouad, 2012
17 Interview 16 Interview


workers across ve branches. Workers action was prompted by fears that the company was being run down in preparation for being sold o to a private investor, and their central demand was that the company should be returned to the public sector. On 15 December thousands of workers occupied the Sandub and Zaqaziq branches of the company and stayed in occupation for 22 days, successfully enforcing the dissolution of the pro-privatisation management. One of the strikers explained: This was our fourth protest. The fourth sit-in in a single year. Our rst started on 10 February [2011] just one day before the end of Mubarak. We hope this will be the last. Weve put the issue to the powers that be. They now know all about it. It was a surprise to us as workers that the local governor wanted to sell us o. The governor of Dahaqiliyya province sent a complaint to the public prosecutor saying there were corrupt elements in the company which caused the sit-in and asked the prosecutor to act against those corrupt elements. The military council has known about the issue since the beginning of the sit-in. A counsellor from the military came to us and said It isnt our responsibility. It is no-ones responsibility to dissolve the management board: not the Field Marshal, or the local governor, not the prime minister. He asked me one question: who can dissolve the management board? I replied the workers. And thanks be to God we succeeded in doing exactly that21 . The signicance of what the soap workers have achieved lies not only in the achievement itself, but in the process of learning which went with it. They learnt not to trust management promises, they learnt the media was un-interested in their struggle, and that the local governor wanted to sell them out. They learnt that only their own, self-organised mass action would bring the results they wanted. They learnt that their democratic control of the workplace could achieve something that Field Marshal Tantawi and the military council were unwilling or unable to do.

Taking democracy separately

The problem is that simply attacking the roots of the regime from below and remaking the Egyptian state and Egyptian capitalism piece by piece and strike by strike is not going to gain these workers anything more than a brief respite. The health workers in Manshiyet al-Bakri found this out quite quickly. They discovered that their new democratically elected manager rapidly reasserted managements right to manage and called on the Ministry of Health to back him up. He started boycotting meetings with sta, and worked to undermine the democratic sta forums they had set up. Because the space within which their democratic experiment has been unfolding is a space created by the revolution, it can only be temporary unless the state itself is changed radically from below. The rst principles of workers democracy - in other words the need to win the workplace in mass democratic debate and assert workers control over their elected delegates - can be deduced directly from the imperatives of eective strike organising from below. They can, and have been, distilled and applied directly to building independent union organisation out of the strike, although as the examples above show this does not, on its own, stop the appearance of a union bureaucracy and the eventual decay of direct democratic control from below. The same rst principles can also, in the circumstances of mass strikes and particularly when there is a crisis in the state, accelerate and deepen moves towards workers control of the workplace. But the assertion of workers control within individual workplaces, even within many individual workplaces, will only ever be temporary so long as capitalists as a class retain their control of the state. The soap workers in Sandub and Zaqaziq will need more than further sit-ins and strikes to save their jobs and their company. Neither the huge street protests nor the waves of mass strikes for social demands which we have seen so far during the Egyptian Revolution have been able to break down the core institutions of the old regime, and in particular the army. That is precisely why we have to go beyond rst principles, and why Lenin points out in State and Revolution, revolutionary socialism is not merely the theory of the class struggle, but the recognition that workers must break the existing state and replace it with one of their own making. The reason for this is because the state in capitalist society is an expression of the fact that in order for the
21 Contribution by Soap and Oils Company worker at a meeting in the Centre for Socialist Studies 12 January 2012, lmed by Gigi Ibrahim and uploaded 14 January 2012. Available online here: UUd6A5QLrVIQ0YI6TpfU10_g&index=24&feature=plcp


capitalist ruling class to maintain the exploitation of workers as a class, it needs a centralized organization of force, an organization of violence22 . However, the political rule of the capitalist class does not depend only on coercion. It depends also on workers accepting both that their economic exploitation is natural and inevitable, and that the state which enforces and facilitates that exploitation is not an instrument in the hands of their exploiters, but a natural and inevitable expression of the needs of society as a whole. Thus the capitalist state is at one and the same time an expression of the fusion of the economic and the political aspects of capitalist domination (without it, the exploiters cannot maintain their exploitation) and the central institution which maintains the idea of their separation. The kinds of democratic practices which Egyptian workers have discovered through the course of their own struggles directly contradict the many ways in which normal capitalist society separates democracy from real life. The election of delegates subject to recall and the imposition of democracy from below on the management of the workplace give us a glimpse of the power that workers have to drive democracy into every aspect of social and political life. But even when they are engaged in this process, workers do not inevitably draw the conclusion that therefore they must use their collective power to destroy the old state and build a new one. On the contrary, the common sense of capitalist society suggests that there are better and easier ways of making the changes they are ghting for. In Egypt today, the institution of parliament is the principal political weapon in the hands of both the ruling generals of the military council, and the mainstream political parties of the former opposition to Mubarak, in their battle to contain and limit the revolution. The Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salast parties have worked ceaselessly over the past year to promote the message that democracy is not in the streets, nor in the workplaces. That is it not something which ordinary people use themselves in their everyday lives, but it is something that happens on polling day and once trusted representatives have been elected they must be allowed to get on with the business of running the country. They have campaigned hard against strikes in general, and particularly against political strikes. The mobilisation which the Brotherhood led against the call for a general strike on February 11 for the immediate handover of power by the military council showed that the political battle within the workplaces is intensifying. There is a common class interest between the old regime and the leadership of the Brotherhood in preserving the Egyptian states role as a machine for their enrichment. However, this is not the message that they present to workers who vote for them. Instead they talk about workers rights and social justice: Abd-al-Hamid Isa, an MP from the Brotherhoods Freedom and Justice Party told the parliament on 19 February 2012 that xed-term workers should be given permanent contracts and the policy of privatisation should be reviewed23 . Brotherhood MPs have been kept busy mediating between striking workers and their bosses, gaining promises from management in exchange for the suspension of the action, and telling workers they will also raise the matter in parliament. In the space of a single week in late February 2012, the Muslim Brotherhoods main website carried news of at least four separate strikes where the intervention of the Brotherhoods MPs apparently persuaded workers to suspend their protests including a sit-in by petroleum workers in Alexandria24 , a strike by 500 workers in a fertiliser factory in Aswan25 , a road blockade by workers in a chemical factory in Fayyum26 , and a sit-in by workers in the Kom Ombo Valley company in Aswan27 .

Learning to act as a class

There remain numerous reasons why the Islamists will have diculties stabilising a democratic faade for the old regime. The rst of these is that in a context of global economic crisis and increasing pressures towards austerity, promises made to strikers are going to be ever harder to keep. The second is the relative instability of the state apparatus itself. The repeated episodes of demonstrative violence by parts of the security forces
22 Lenin,

1970, p30 Online website, 2012a 24 Al-Tuhami, 2012 25 Ikhwan Online website 2012b 26 Sayf al-Nasr, 2012 27 Taha, 2012
23 Ikhwan


against revolutionary activists have actually caused severe problems for the Islamists as they have triggered large popular counter-mobilisations which have often threatened to spiral into out-of-control confrontations with the army and police. The third is the high degree of workers self-condence and self-organisation within the workplaces. Nevertheless, over time, the old patterns of life will reassert themselves, unless workers begin to make a qualitative shift towards consciously using their collective social power beyond the workplaces. In other words, they need to learn to act as a class. Acting as a class means here going beyond raising demands which meet the needs of workers in an individual workplace or industry to ghting for things which benet all workers28 . This may be expressed in generalised demands, such as the demand for a raise in the national minimum wage, or the extension of the vote to workers. However, it may be that the struggle of specic groups of workers becomes a battle where the outcome has such an impact on the wider balance of class forces that even though workers demands are not general, they are still class demands. Building organisation which is capable of leading workers struggles beyond the individual workplace is obviously a key part of learning to act as a class. However, this kind of organisation cannot be equated with trade unions in a simple or mechanical fashion. In some circumstances trade unions unite workers and in others they divide them by industry or trade. In some circumstances they can build workers self-condence and self-organisation, in others they facilitate the domination of paid ocials to and encourage workers passivity29 . Egyptian workers have already begun to take steps towards being able to act as a class. Even before the revolution, important groups of workers, such as the Mahalla textile workers were leading action for general demands such as an increase in the minimum wage. The mass strikes of September 2011 showed that another step had been taken: towards the ability to organise sector-wide strikes involving hundreds of thousands of workers30 . These strikes have already profoundly shaped the revolutionary process, by subjecting the state to further pressure from without, by holding open a space in the streets for further huge mobilisations against the military council, and above all by giving workers a taste of their own power at the very moment when the generals and the Islamist reformist politicians have been trying to persuade them to put their faith in parliament.

Thinking like a state: building the revolutionary party

For the reasons outlined above, the more that workers action over their general social demands is coordinated beyond the workplace, the more likely it is they will come into direct confrontation with the state. If this happens in the highly charged atmosphere of the revolution there is a good chance that at least a minority of workers will draw the conclusion that they also need to use their class power for directly political goals, and join forces with the wider revolutionary movement. However, this outcome is not inevitable. Workers aspirations for general social change may be trapped in all kinds of dierent vessels: reformist political parties, bureaucratic trade unions, movements for personal religious salvation. That is why the intervention of an organised minority of workers plays such a crucial role in the process of building up the ability of workers to use their power as a class, just as it does in attempts to overcome the gap between the streets and the workplaces. This organised minority can transmit the news of victories and share lessons from defeats. It can, and must, ght to counteract attempts to set workers from dierent trades, religions or nationalities against each other. In early twentieth century Russia, a revolutionary minority of workers took a leap of imagination beyond the possibilities of acting as a class and began to think like a state. Their leaders saw that democracy taken together was more than an instrument in the struggle against autocracy: it could provide the founding principles for a new social order. Lenins simple and compelling argument in State and Revolution was that workers had already discovered, and built into the functioning of the councils (soviets) of workers, soldiers
28 There is not space here to connect the rather truncated and simplied discussion which follows here with the rich debates stimulated by Karl Marxs about the relationship between the working class as a class in itself with the realisation of workers potential to transform society by becoming a class for itself, Marx, 1999. See also Molyneux, 1978, pp11-36. 29 Cli and Gluckstein, 1986 30 Alexander, 2012


and peasants deputies, a far deeper kind of democracy than that promised to them by any parliament. This democracy was based on overcoming several dierent kinds of separation: between legislators and electors, by insisting on making delegates subject to recall from below; between legislature and executive by abolishing the division between those who made decisions and those who carried them out; and ultimately between political and economic democracy, by implementing workers democratic control over the process of production and the state31 . Can thinking like a state help Egyptian workers advance their struggles today? I believe there are good reasons to think so. The workers movement is stronger in the workplaces than anywhere else. This article has tried to show how that strength rests in large part on the power of democracy taken together with the struggle in the workplaces. Thinking like a state in relation to the kind of workplace organisation which has developed in Egypt over the past six years would mean seeing what it could become and therefore ghting to transform it. It would mean working to generalise its democratic principles, and ghting to preserve and consolidate them beyond the moment of strike organisation. It would mean trying to use the huge leaps workers have made in self-condence and self-organisation in the workplace to build organisation beyond the workplaces which can carry the revolutionary, democratic energy of the mass strikes outwards and upwards to win victories for the working class as a whole32 . This might call for building up organisations of workplace delegates at the base of existing unions, it might mean trying to bring them together across a local area to plan joint action, it might involve setting up new unions from scratch, but ghting as far as possible to preserve control from below over their elected ocials by developing strategies for action which reinforce the self-activity of the membership. In a sense, this could be seen as thinking like a workers state. It is one way in which the revolutionary minority works constantly to overcome the separation between economic and political struggles. However, taking the leap of imagination from workplace organisation to a workers state is not in itself enough. The revolutionary minority also needs to think against the state it is trying to defeat, and ght to overcome the separation between the political and the economic from the other direction. This means understanding the limits of what can be achieved in the workplaces, and setting its sights on winning the majority of workers to sharing its analysis that their hopes of social justice can only be realised by imposing their collective political will on the ruling class. It means raising directly political issues within the same mass democratic forums where wage demands are agreed. Often this will mean putting uncomfortable or unpopular points: in defence of religious minorities when the state media is whipping up hatred against them for example. Doing this is not just about winning the battle against divisions within the working class because these weaken workers ability to ght eectively today (although this is important), it is also about preparing the ground for winning workers to the idea that they are ghting not only on for themselves, but for all the poor and oppressed. Revolutionary socialists should be tribunes of the people, Lenin argued in What is to be done? 33 . But this is only a premonition of his vision of the working class as revolutionary leaders of the people against the bourgeoisie in State and RevolutionLenin, 1970, p31. Winning workers away from reformism likewise involves thinking against the existing state. It involves convincing them that despite everything politicians and trade union leaders say, the state as it is will never
31 A large part of State and Revolution deals with the consequences of another separation: between the people and a standing army. Evidently, given the role of the Egyptian military in the current revolution there are many important ideas in State and Revolution which could be discussed in relation to Egypt, however, as the question of ordinary people taking up arms themselves had not, at the time of writing, been debated widely within the workers movement, this discussion would necessarily be rather abstract. 32 One of the sources of inspiration for this article is Gramscis writings on the factory councils in Turin, such as his article Workers Democracy which appeared in LOrdine Nuovo in June 1919 (Gramsci, 1919). Faced with a massive upsurge in workers struggles in Italy and having seen the example of the Russian Revolution two years before, Gramsci looked at the forms of organisation that workers were building in the course of these battles and saw how they could be transformed into the basis for a workers state. What I have taken from Gramsci is principally the idea that relating revolutionary socialist ideas to a new revolutionary context does not mean the cold application of an intellectual schema but winning workers to the perspective that revolutionary socialism is an interpretation of their own felt needs. (quoted in Molyneux, 1978, p146), and that they can, through the struggles they are already engaged in, start working usefully to create and anticipate the future (Gramsci, 1919). What Gramsci says about the revolutionary party in Workers Democracy is very dierent to the arguments presented here, however, as at the time he wrote the article, he had not yet seen the need to break with the Socialist Party. 33 Lenin, 1902, p49


be theirs, and that they have the capacity to build a new one. Thinking against the existing state does not mean rejecting using parliament or other reformist institutions as a platform for revolutionary ideas as a matter of principle, however. Finally, to a certain extent the revolutionary minority has to think like the state it wants to defeat. It has to centralise its small forces, deploy its resources carefully, generalise lessons learnt across space and time. It has to consider how to use the balance of class forces to its advantage, make and break tactical alliances beyond the ranks of the working class. Above all it means building organisation which knits together people who are able to make the right arguments in enough places to shift the balance of forces in the wider class struggle. While it is Egyptian workers themselves who will decide in which direction their movement develops over the coming phase of the revolution, there are several reasons why thinking through what taking democracy together with the social struggle might mean for a wider audience may be important. The rst of these is to demonstrate that just as the struggle for the extension of political democracy in Egypt has a large social soul, so the struggle for social justice has a democratic soul34 . This is particularly important in the face of the dominant narratives in the Western media about the Egyptian revolution. Recently the celebratory tone of media coverage of Tahrir Square has given way to complaints about the Islamist victory in the parliamentary elections. Much of this coverage assumes that because most Egyptians are Muslims, that Islamist parties have some magical hold over their minds, and that at every opportunity their obscurantist, backward and anti-democratic tendencies will re-assert themselves. One of the reasons for writing this article has been to try and break down ideas like this. It is an attempt to spell out that the profoundly democratic character of the revival of the Egyptian working class means that potential for building revolutionary socialist organisation in Egypt is greater than it has been for decades. A second reason for writing is to assert the common ground between the struggles of Egyptian workers and the global history of workers discoveries of the power of democracy taken together. Situating Egypts mass strikes and revolution in this history is profoundly disturbing to those who want to promote myths of Arab or Muslim exceptionalism. The nal motivation for sharing these reections is to extend an invitation to continue and deepen debate about the theory and organisation we need for the turbulent years to come. If we understand Marxism as a theory of working class self -emancipation, it is clearly not enough to simply repeat Marxist theory in the appropriate dialect. Rather, the challenge is to win workers in every country to see Marxist ideas as the theory of their own class struggles and act on them accordingly. A new era of revolutionary crisis calls for proving anew both the possibility and necessity of revolutionary socialist organisation from the struggle as it unfolds.

Ahram Online, (2011a) Cairo airport workers suspend protests until Monday, eg/News/16983.aspx Ahram Online, (2011b), Telecom Egypt to pay employees LE51 million in bonuses, strikes continue, Ahram Online website, 24 October 2011; Alexander, Anne, (2008), Inside Egypts mass strikes, International Socialism 118, uk/?id=428 Alexander, Anne, (2011), The growing social soul of Egypts democratic revolution, International Socialism 131, June 2011, Alexander, Anne (2012), The Egyptian workers movement and the 25 January Revolution, International Socialism 133, January 2012,
34 Hal Draper discusses Marxs idea of political revolutions with social souls in depth elsewhere (Draper, 1978, volume 2). See Choonara, 2011; Alexander, 2011.


Al-Tuhami, Muhammad (2012), Abu-al-Futuh yungah taliq istisam ummal Akba, Ihwan Online website, 23 February 2012, Bassiouny, Mustafa, and Said, Omar, 2008, A new workers movement: the strike wave of 2007, http: // Bayat, Assef, (1987), Workers and Revolution in Iran (Zed) Choonara, Joseph, 2011, The relevance of permanent revolution: A reply to Neil Davidson, International Socialism 131, June 2011, Cli, Tony and Gluckstein, Donny (1986), Marxism and the Trade Union Struggle (Bookmarks) Cli, Tony, (1975), Lenin: Building the Party (Pluto) Draper, Hal, 1978, Karl Marxs Theory of Revolution, volume 2: The Politics of Social Classes (Monthly Review). El-Hamalawy, H. (2008a), Mahalla testimony 1,, 15 June, arabawy/2008/06/15/mahalla-testimony/ , page accessed 20 June 2008. El-Hamalawy, H. (2008b), Mahalla testimony 2,, 17 June, arabawy/2008/06/17/mahalla-testimony-2/, page accessed 20 June 2008. Fouad, Hisham (2012), Al-amilum bil matarat yumnaun al-rais al-askari al-gadid min dakhul al-sharika, website, 5 January 2012, Gramsci, Antonio (1919), Workers Democracy, LOrdine Nuovo, 21 June 1919, translated by Michael Carley, website, htm Hussein, Marwa (2011), Telecom Egypt employees escalate their protest, demanding release of 5 colleagues, Ahram Online website, 18 October 2011; 24500/Business/Economy/Telecom-Egypt-employees-escalate-their-protest,-de.aspx Ihkwan Online website (2012a), Al-naib Abd-al-Hamid Isa yutalib bi tathbit al-amila almuaqita wal-mawsimiyya, 19 February 2012, 101679&SecID=0 Ikhwan Online website (2012b), Al-Hurriya wal Adala bi Aswan yungah fakk idrab ummal kima, 23 February 2012, Lenin, Vladimir, (1902), What is to be done? website, downloadable version, http://www. Lenin, Vladimir, 1970, The State and Revolution (Foreign Languages Press), internet version available at Marx, Karl, and Engels, Frederick (1999), Selected Works, The Poverty of Philosophy, Abstracts from Chapter 2,, 1999 pov-phil/ch02.html Molyneux, John, 2012, Capitalism versus democracy, Socialist Review, January 2012, http://www. Ness, Immanuel and Azzellini, Dario (2011), Ours to Master and to Own: Workers Control from the Commune to the Present (Haymarket).


Omar, Ashraf, (2012), Musharika umaliyya mahduda h 11 brayir limadha? website, Revolutionary Socialists, 2011, Egypt on the road of revolution, Revolutionary-Socialists-Egypt-on-the-Road-of-Revolution Sayf al-Nasr, Ahmad (2012), Naib al-hurriya wal adala bil fayyum yunsif ummal al-kimawiyyat, Ikhwan Online website, 24 February 2012, 102068&SecID=0 Taha, Hamdy (2012), Salah Musa yufadd itisam ummal wadi kom ombo bi aswan, Ikhwan Online website, 26 February 2012,


Marxism and Trade Unionisim

John Molyneux
Ever since the onset of the international economic crisis in 2008 and the consequent collapse of the Celtic Tiger and the Irish banking system we have seen the abject failure of the Irish trade union movement to mobilise serious resistance to the attempts by successive governments to make working people and the underprivileged pay for the crisis of the system . There has, it is true, been some opposition: in January 2009 the unions organised a huge public sector workers demonstration of at least 120,000 and on November 24, 2009 held a public sector workers strike involving 300,000. Then in November 2010 the Irish Congress of Trade Unions held another big march of up to 100,000. But on each of these occasions the union leaders failed to follow through. After the November 24 strike the proposed strike for 3 December was withdrawn and massive pay cuts accepted. After the 2010 march they simply did nothing. In other words they led their troops up the hill and promptly led them down again without any serious attempt to make either the last or the present government change course. At the same time the Croke Park Deal, reached in June 2010, in which the public sector unions agreed to accept government plans for leaner and more eective public sevices, ie huge job cuts, in return for no more reductions in public sector pay, has even further weakened the unions and locked them into a position of passive resignation. This failure has had the most serious consequences for the shape of Irish politics as a whole. It has made it possible for the general disgust and rage at the corrupt and bankrupt policies of Fianna Fail to be captured by Fine Gael, even though they always planned to continue implementing essentially the same policies. It enabled the Labour Party to enter into coalition with Fine Gael wqith relatively little opposition within its own ranks. It has facilitated widespread acceptance of the idea, assiduously cultivated by the capitalist media, that there is no alternative to massive cuts and abject prostration before the markets and the hitmen of international capital, the IMF. It has meant that so far [these things could easily change] opposition on the streets has been conned to single issue campaigns, such as Roscommon Hospital, the SNAs, the DEIS schools etc) and smallish demonstrations called by the left (the Right to Work Campaign, Enough, Occupy Dame St., the Spectacle of Hope and Deance,) and the intermediate case of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions anti- austerity march. It has also lead to the development on the left and among those who want to see real resistance (which includes many so-called ordinary ie politically unaliated working people) of moods of rejection and condemnation of not only the leadership of the trade unions but frequently of the (Irish) trade unions as such. This can heard at many meetings and gatherings of the left and more widely among the working class. A particularly crass example of this was the Occupy Dame Street Camps refusal to support or take part in the above mentioned Dublin Council of Trade Unions demonstration35 , but this was only an extreme instance of what is undoubtedly a wider mood. In these circumstances it is useful to go back to basics: to revisit the basic Marxist analysis of trade unions; to review the history of some of the debates about trade unionism in the Marxist movement and the to ask whether Irish trade unions today constitute a dierent and special case, or if, broadly speaking, the traditional Marxist attitude to trade unionism remains valid in Ireland today; and then, in light of these considerations, to try to outline the main tasks of socialists in relation to the unions in the present conjuncture.

Marx and Engels on Trade Unions

Strikes go back a long way. The rst recorded strike was by tomb makers at the Royal Necropolis in Deir el-Medina in ancient Egypt in 1152 BC and was successful. The rst recorded strike in America was the Jamestown Polish craftsmens strike in Virginia in 1619 demanding the right to vote in the colonys elections.
35 It is possible, even probable, that a majority of ODS supporters would have voted at the camps general assembly (s) to back the march but there was always a hard core determined to block the proposal and under the camps consensus system of decision making that was enough.


The rst use of the term strike to denote an organised work stoppage comes from 1768 when sailors, in support of demonstrations in London for Wilkes and Liberty struck or removed the sails of merchant ships in the port thus rendering them unable to sail. [There were many such strikes or mutinies by sailors at this time.]36 . However trade unionism as we understand it today really begins to develop with the industrial revolution in Britain and the growth of the industrial working class at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. At this time it was illegal under various Combination Acts. In 1834 the utopian socialist, Robert Owen, initiated the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union, but it discouraged strikes in favour of forming cooperatives and never really took o. Also in 1834 came the famous case of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, agricultural labourers, who were sentenced to transportation for the crime of forming a union. When Marx and Engels arrived on the scene as communists in the 1840s they found they found that most radicals, socialists and would be revolutionaries were actually opposed to trade unionism. Looking back in 1869, Marx noted, in 1847 when all the political economists and all the socialists concurred on one single point - the condemnation of trade unions - I demonstrated their necessity37 and Engels concurred Marxs assertion is true of all socialists, with the exception of us two38 ( In point of fact it was Engels in The Condition of the English Working Class in 1844 who rst took rst took up the cudgels on behalf of unions calling them, the military school of the working-men in which they prepare themselves for the great struggle which cannot be avoided...And as schools of war the Unions are unexcelled39 Marx followed suit, making the question of strikes and combinations a major issue in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847), his polemic against Proudhon (then the leading French socialist who was anti-union): In England, they have not stopped at partial combinations which have no other objective than a passing strike, and which disappear with it. Permanent combinations have been formed, trades unions, which serve as ramparts for the workers in their struggles with the employers. The rst attempt of workers to associate among themselves always takes place in the form of combinations... Large-scale industry concentrates in one place a crowd of people unknown to one another. Competition divides their interests. But the maintenance of wages, this common interest which they have against their boss, unites them in a common thought of resistance - combination. Thus combination always has a double aim, that of stopping competition among the workers, so that they can carry on general competition with the capitalist.... In this struggle - a veritable civil war - all the elements necessary for a coming battle unite and develop.40 After 1850 and the onset of a period of reaction Marx largely withdrew from active politics in order to write Capital in the library of the British Museum but in 1864 he attended the founding meeting of the International Working Mens Association in London. I knew, he wrote, that this time real powers were involved both on the London and Paris sides and therefore decided to waive my usual standing rule to decline any such invitations.41 . The real powers were the French and British trade unions. In the course of his work with the International Marx frequently defended the crucial importance of the trade union struggle. For example, in 1866, writing on Trades unions. Their past, present and future he argued: Trades Unions originally sprang up from the spontaneous attempts of workmen at removing or at least checking that competition, in order to conquer such terms of contract as might raise them at least above the condition of mere slaves. The immediate object of Trades Unions was therefore conned to everyday necessities, to expediences for the obstruction of the incessant encroachments of capital, in one word, to questions of wages and time of labour. This activity
36 See

Jonathan Neale, The Cutlass and the Lash, London 1985 Selected Correspondence, Moscow 1965, p.55 38 as above p.300 39 F. Engels, The Condition of the English Working Class in 1844, London,1968, p.224 40 K. Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Progress Publishers, 1955 41 Marx/Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1965, p.146
37 Marx/Engels,


of the Trades Unions is not only legitimate, it is necessary. It cannot be dispensed with so long as the present system of production lasts. [My emphasis- JM] However, he also injected a note of caution, warning the working class against relying on trade unionism alone and warning the unions against focussing only on the immediate economic struggle. At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are ghting with eects, but not with the causes of those eects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady.42 And he sounded the same note at the end of Wages, Price and Prot (1865) Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the eects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the nal emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.43 In 1875 both Marx and Engels sharply criticised the German Social Democrats for failing to deal with the role of unions in their political programme (the so- called Gotha Programme) ...there is absolutely no mention of the organisation of the working class as a class through the medium of trade unions. And that is a point of the utmost importance, this being the proletariats true class organisation in which it ghts its daily battles with capital, in which it trains itself and which nowadays can no longer simply be smashed, even with reaction at its worst (as presently in Paris)44 As the nineteenth century wore on the British working class movement, on its journey from Chartism to Labourism, became more and more reformist and respectable and this led Marx and Engels to grow more critical of corrupt trade union leaders [who] never raised a nger for their own brothers in South Wales, condemned to die of starvation by the mineowners. Wretches!... the only workers representatives in the House of Commons and moreover, horribile dictu [horrible to relate] direct representatives of the miners, and themselves originally miners - Burt and the miserable Macdonald - [who] voted with the rump of the great Liberal Party,45 Near the end of his life Engels was greatly cheered by the strike wave and rise of New Unionism (representing unskilled workers ) in the East End of London, in which Eleanor Marx and other avowed socialists played an important role. But even here he was forced to note ominous signs of the new union leaders like John Burns becoming incorporated by the bourgeoisie. I am not at all sure, for instance, that John Burns is not secretly prouder of his popularity with Cardinal Manning, the Lord Mayor and the bourgeoisie in general than of his popularity with his own class.46 Thus, although the emphasis shifts depending on the changing situation, we nd that from 1844 to the end of their lives, Marx and Engels always defended trade unions as an absolutely necessary element in the class struggle but at the same time never gave them uncritical support or regarded them as sucient in themselves.
Marx, The International Workingmens Association, Instructions for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council, 1866 43 Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Moscow 1977, p.75 44 F. Engels to August Bebel, 1875 45 K.Marx to W. Liebknecht, 11 February, 1878 46 F. Engels to F.A. Sorge , 7 December, 1889
42 K.


Lenin, Trotsky and the Comintern

Tsarist repression made the normal development of trade unionism in Russia impossible and there were no real trade unions before the 1905 Revolution. There was however the strange but instructive episode of the Zubatov unions. Sergei Zubatov was a teenage revolutionary who became rst an informer and then later a Director of the Okhrana (the Tsarist secret police). In that capacity, in the period 1900-3, he set about organising workers unions in order to steal the thunder of the revolutionaries and keep the workers in line. What is interesting is that, instead of boycotting them as might have been expected, Lenin organised his supporters (they were not yet Bolsheviks) to do political work in these police unions47 and, in almost every case, as the workers struggle rose, these unions got out of control of their masters. After a series of strikes in 1903, Zubatov was dismissed from his post. Similarly, Father Gapon, who was both a Russian Orthodox priest and a police agent, organized the Assembly of Russian Factory and Mill Workers of St. Petersburg , which led the mass demonstration to the Winter Palace that culminated in Bloody Sunday and launched the 1905 Revolution. In both these cases, therefore, the fundamental class basis of these organisations, in conditions of mass struggle, at least partially overcame the worst possible leadership. This lesson was not lost on Lenin or the Bolsheviks when it came to organising the Comintern (the Communist or Third International, founded in 1919 as a world party of revolution). The building of the Comintern in its early years involved political battles on two fronts: in the rst place against reformism and centrism (centrism referred to the Kautskyite centre of German social democracy and the international co-thinkers, formally Marxist but in practice reformist); in the second place against immature ultra-leftism, which became a signicant force in many European countries during the revolutionary wave that followed the First World War. On both fronts the question of the trade unions played an important role. In the struggle against centrism the Comintern bitterly denounced the leaders of the so-called Amsterdam Trade Union International (such as Carl Legien, Arthur Henderson and Leon Jouhaux) and sought to persuade unions to aliate instead to the Red International of Labour Unions based in Moscow. Lenin explicitly compared them to Zubatov; The Gomperses, Hendersons, Jouhaux and Legiens are nothing but Zubatovs, diering from our Zubatov only in their European dress, polish etc48 . At the same time Trotsky was debating and discussing much more fraternally with various syndicalists from America, France and Spain (Monatte, Rosmer, Pestana etc) who not only wish to ght against the bourgeoisie but who... really want to tear its head o. 49 , seeking to persuade them of the need for a revolutionary party alongside of revolutionary trade unionism. In the struggle against ultra- leftism, which became particularly urgent in 1920 as the post-war revolutionary wave receded, Lenin wrote one of his most important works, Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, in preparation for the Third Congress of the Comintern. In it Lenin dealt with a number of issues - strategy and tactics, party and class, the policy of no compromise, the necessity of participating in bourgeois parliaments - but on the question should revolutionaries work in reactionary trade unions? he was especially trenchant. The German Lefts consider that, as far as they are concerned, the reply to this question is an unqualied negative. However rmly the German Lefts may be convinced of the revolutionism of such tactics, the latter are in fact fundamentally wrong, and contain nothing but empty phrases. We cannot but regard as equally ridiculous and childish nonsense ...disquisitions of the German Lefts to the eect that Communists cannot and should not work in reactionary trade unions, that it is permissible to turn down such work, that it is necessary to withdraw from the trade unions and create a brand-new and immaculate Workers Union invented by very pleasant (and, probably, for the most part very youthful) Communists, etc., etc.... The trade unions were a tremendous step forward for the working class in the early days of capitalist development, inasmuch as they marked a transition from the workers disunity and helplessness to the rudiments of class organisation... the development of the proletariat did not,
47 V.I 48 as

Lenin, Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, Peking, 1965, p.47 above p.47 49 L.Trotsky, The First Five Years of the Communist International, Vol.1, New York, p.98


and could not, proceed anywhere in the world otherwise than through the trade unions, through reciprocal action between them and the party of the working class. We are waging a struggle against the labour aristocracy in the name of the masses of the workers and in order to win them over to our side; we are waging the struggle against the opportunist and social-chauvinist leaders in order to win the working class over to our side. It would be absurd to forget this most elementary and most self-evident truth. Yet it is this very absurdity that the German Left Communists perpetrate when, because of the reactionary and counterrevolutionary character of the trade union top leadership, they jump to the conclusion that ... we must withdraw from the trade unions, refuse to work in them, and create new and articial forms of labour organisation! This is so unpardonable a blunder that it is tantamount to the greatest service Communists could render the bourgeoisie.... To refuse to work in the reactionary trade unions means leaving the insuciently developed or backward masses of workers under the inuence of the reactionary leaders, the agents of the bourgeoisie, the labour aristocrats.50 Lenins polemic was very powerful - there is much more in the same vein as the above - but the basic idea is very simple: there are millions of workers in trade unions and, regardless of their leadership, they are the fundamental mass organisations of the working class; revolutionaries, therefore, are absolutely obliged to work in these unions so as to reach, inuence and lead the mass of the working class. Lenins position carried the day in the Communist International and subsequently has been the starting point in relation to trade unionism for all serious socialists ie socialists who base themselves on the working class. However there was one weakness in Lenins argument at this time. In attempting to explain the degeneration of the Second International into reformism and social chauvinism (support for imperialism and the First World War) and the fact that the Social Democrats retained signicant support in the working class and in the unions, Lenin used the concept of the labour aristocracy (taken from some of Engels letters to Marx) which he outlined in his 1916 booklet, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism. objectively the opportunists are a section of the petty bourgeoisie and of a certain strata of the working class who have been bribed out of imperialist superprots and converted to watchdogs of capitalism and corruptors of the labour movement... A privileged upper stratum of the proletariat in the imperialist countries lives partly at the expense of hundreds of millions in the uncivilised nations.51 As Tony Cli showed in Economic Roots of Reformism (1957) the idea that imperialism bribed a very small upper stratum of the working class is awed because none of the mechanisms for this bribery (reduced unemployment, higher wages, labour law reforms, welfare etc) were, or could be, conned to an upper stratum but, instead, raised the general living standards of the working class as a whole in the advanced capitalist countries. An inevitable conclusion following upon Lenins analysis of Reformism is that a small thin crust of conservatism hides the revolutionary urges of the mass of the workers. Any break through this crust would reveal a surging revolutionary lava... This conclusion, however, is not conrmed by the history of Reformism in Britain, the United States and elsewhere over the past half century: its solidity, its spread throughout the working class, frustrating and largely isolating all revolutionary minorities, makes it abundantly clear that the economic, social roots of Reformism are not in an innitesimal minority of the proletariat and the working masses as Lenin argued.52 This criticism pointed to the need for a more developed analysis of the role of reformist trade union leaders than just seeing them as bribed by imperialism. It is a point to which we shall return.
50 as 51 V.

above, pp36-44 I. Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,1916 52 Tony Cli, Economic Roots of Reformism, Neither Washington Nor Moscow, London 1982, p.109


As the Stalinist reaction took hold in Russia, from about 1923 onwards, and the Revolution degenerated towards state capitalism, so the Communist International was rapidly transformed from an instrument of international workers revolution into an instrument of Soviet foreign policy. Its main purpose came to be making friends with inuential political forces and leaders who might be induced to oppose western intervention in Russia and this inevitably impacted on work in the unions. The most dramatic example of this was the episode of the Anglo- Soviet Trade Union Committee and its eect on the policy of the British Communist Party in the General Strike of 1926. Established in 1925 the Committee was a joint council of Soviet trade union leaders and members of the TUC General Council (particularly its lefts- Purcell, Hicks and Swales). Its aim, as stated by Stalin, was to organise a broad movement of the working class against imperialist wars in general, and against intervention in our Britain in particular.53 As a result of this alliance the British CP, in the run up to the General Strike, muted its criticism of the trade union leaders in general and the lefts in particular, even putting forward the slogan All Power to the General Council as if it were a revolutionary soviet. In the event the TUC General Council, including its lefts, ignominiously betrayed the General Strike, calling it o after nine days, without any gains, while the strike was still gaining momentum. The fact that the CP had not warned the working class or its members of the danger of relying on the trade union leaders meant that it was unable either to avert the sell out or gain from it politically. The whole episode became a major issue in the struggle between the Stalinists and the Left Opposition. Trotsky fought in the Central Committee of the CPSU for a demonstrative exposure and break with the strike breakers of the General Council. Of Purcell, Hicks and Swales he wrote, The left faction of the General Council is distinguished by its complete ideological shapelessness and therefore is incapable of organisationally assuming the leadership of the trade union movement54 and These left friends, in a serious test, shamefully betrayed the proletariat. The revolutionary workers were thrown into confusion, sank into apathy and naturally extended their disappointment to the Communist Party itself, which had only been a passive part of this whole mechanism of betrayal55 . In short the left trade union leaders, as much as the right, were not to be trusted in a serious confrontation with the state and it was the duty of Marxists to make this clear to the workers. In 1928, after ve years of moving to the right, Stalin imposed on the Comintern what appeared to be a sharp turn to the left. It was declared that since 1917 there were three periods: 1917-24, the rst period of revolutionary upsurge; 1925-28, the second period of capitalist stabilisation ; 1928 onwards, the third period of the nal crisis of capitalism and direct revolutionary struggle. This phase which became known as third period Stalinism was characterised by extreme ultraleftism and sectarianism towards working class organisations. The corner stone of this strategy was the theory of Social Fascism according to which the Social Democrats were becoming, or had become, objectively fascist and therefore there could be no question of any united front with them. What seems to have motivated the third period was Stalins desire to cloak his assault on Bukharin and the Russian peasantry and his drive to forced industrialisation of Russia in left-wing rhetoric, but its consequences for the international working class and for the international Communist movement were catastrophic. The worst disaster was in Germany where the refusal of the Communist Party to form a united front with the Social Democrats allowed Hitler to come to power without serious resistance, but the third period also wrecked Communist work in the unions internationally. Just as Social democracy is evolving through social imperialism to social-fascism, joining the vanguard of the contemporary capitalist state ... the social-fascist tradeunion bureaucracy is, during the period of sharpening economic battles, completely going over to the side of the big bourgeoisie.... In this process of the rapid fascistization of the reformist trade union apparatus...a particularly harmful role is played by the so-called left wing.56
Stalin, On the Opposition, Peking 1974, p.355 Trotsky on Britain, New York, 1973, p.163 55 Leon Trotsky, Writings on Britain, Vol 2, p.253 56 Resolution of the Comintern Executive, July 1929, cited in D.Hallas, The Comintern, London 1985, p.126.
54 Leon 53 J.


Thus in the space of three years Comintern trade union policy had switched from uncritical support for the left trade union leaders to calling them fascists. The logic of this led to splitting the unions and the encouragement of breakaway trade unions. This was directly contrary to the policy that had been advocated by Lenin. We cannot but regard as equally ridiculous and childish nonsense ...disquisitions of the German Lefts ...that it is necessary to withdraw from the trade unions and create a brand-new and immaculate Workers Union(as quoted above). Almost everywhere this was tried the eects were highly damaging because if the socialists and militants had the support of the majority of workers in a given union they would be able to transform it. But if, as was generally the case, they were only a minority then forming a breakaway new union had the eect of articially isolating the militants from the less advanced workers and leaving the latter in the hands of the reformist bureaucrats and sell out merchants. In other words it actually divided the working class and assisted both the bureaucrats and the employers. Attempting to apply this line the membership of the French CP declined from 52,000 in 1928 to 39,000 in May 1930 and the British CP fell from 5,500 in 1928 to 3,500 in March 1929. The disastrous nature of this strategy is worth stressing, not because third period Stalinism has any inuence today or because it is likely to revive, but because the impulse to form breakaway unions can come from genuine trade union militants - in the midst of, or on the basis of, real struggles - who are rightly disgusted at the behaviour of their union ocials. But however good the intentions of the workers concerned it has to be remembered that experience has shown that forming breakaway unions is almost always a mistake.

The International Socialist Tradition and the Trade Union Bureaucracy

The next major contribution to the Marxist analysis of trade unionism was made by the International Socialists in the 1960s and 70s. This was a collective enterprise to which many comrades contributed - Colin Barker, Jim Higgins, Duncan Hallas, Chris Harman, Donny Gluckstein and others - and it was developed in dialogue with many trade union militants who may not have written books or articles but whose experience was fed into the theory; however it was Tony Cli who was the driving force and leading theorist in the whole process. The foundation in 1950 of the International Socialist tendency by Tony Cli (in the shape of the tiny Socialist Review group in Britain) came in the early stages of the long post-war boom. The boom produced about twenty ve years of rising living standards and more or less full employment accompanied by slow but steady strengthening of rather unpolitical trade unionism. Industrial disputes were numerous, generally small scale mostly quickly successful. In conditions of it was usually worth employers while to concede workers demands in order to get production going again. On the basis of this workplace organisation thrived and the shop steward became a gure of national importance - demonised by the right and lionised by the left. As the boom petered out at the end of the sixties and turned into crisis in the seventies so the British ruling class launched an oensive against the unions. This generated a series of much larger, and more political, set piece confrontations, such as the Miners Strikes of 1972 and 1974 (which led to the 3-day week and the fall of Edward Heaths Tory Government) and the Petonville Five Docks dispute of 1972 which nearly turned into a general strike (the government capitulated just in time). At rst the workers generally won these struggles but union organisation was undermined by social partnership (known as the Social Contract) with the Labour Government of 1974-79. Then came Thatcher and a sustained assault on union power culminating in the major class defeat of the Miners Strike in 1984-5. Throughout this period the trade union struggle was at the centre of British political life and Cli and his comrades produced a sustained and, to some extent, path breaking analysis of trade unionism. At lot of ground was covered - the shifting locus of reformism from parliament to the shop oor, the role of incomes policy and anti-union legislation57 , the attempt to weaken unions through productivity deals58 , the eects
57 Tony 58 Tony

Cli and Colin Barker, Incomes Policy, Legislation and Shop Stewards, London 1966 Cli, The Employers Oensive: productivity deals and how to ght them, London 1970


of the social contract and the down turn in struggle in the late seventies and early eighties.59 At the heart of this analysis stood the question of the trade union bureaucracy. As we have seen the tendency of trade union leaders to sell out the members was nothing new and was observed by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky and many others such as Rosa Luxemburg and Daniel De Leon. However this was variously explained by a) personal ambition and bribery; b) their representing high paid labour aristocrats; c) their reformist ideology. Instead Cli viewed the trade union bureaucracy not as a series of individuals but as a distinct social layer, consisting of local and regional ocials, as well as national leaders, standing between and, by virtue of their social role, mediating between the working class and the employers. This layer was characterised by 1) higher pay (in the case of top leaders, much higher) and better conditions than the workers they represented; 2) the relative detachment of their conditions from those of their members, eg. a union ocial who gave away a tea break in negotiations did not thereby lose his/her tea break; 3) a working life which led to spending more time talking to management than to the shop oor; 4) a tendency to view disputes not as struggles to be won but as problems to be solved. At the same time the union ocials remained ultimately dependent on the existence of the union and its membership to pay their wages, and were therefore subject to pressure from below. If the union ocials openly abandoned all attempt to represent their members, the members would either remove the ocials or leave the union; either way the ocials would be out of a job. Their material interest, without bribery and regardless of ideology, was to maintain the balance between the employers and the workers. This objective social position ptoduced in the trade union bureaucracy an equally objective tendency to vacillate between the classes. Vacillation went both ways. Under pressure from the workers they could swing, in words and to some extent in deeds, to the left. Under pressure from the bosses (or the media and the government etc) or from fear that the rank-and-le would get out of control, they could and would swing to the right. The political ideology of the individual leader or ocial (which would normally range from right wing labour to left labour or Stalinist) was irrelevant in this but neither was it the main determining factor. The division between left and right in mattered but it was not fundamental; the fundamental division was between the ocials and the rank-and-le. Here is a sample of the kind concrete analysis of the unions that Cli was able to make using this theoretical framework: The large scale movement against the Industrial Relations Bill [Tory anti - union laws] saw a number of important political strikes - December 8th, January 12th, March 1st and March 18th as well as the biggest working class demonstration on February 21st since the war. The movement, unocial in origin, could not have developed on the scale it did without the support of sections of the trade union leadership. This support changed the atmosphere of the campaign and made possible the raising of slogans like TUC must call a General Strike and Kick out the Tories. The leftward shift of sections of the ocial movement - however limited it was - was the factor that made the slogans conceivable, and this shift reected real pressure from signicant numbers of militants within the movement. These events have important political lessons. The ultra-left illusions that the ocial trade union movement is dead, that it cannot mobilise its membership and that the sole eld of trade union activity for revolutionary socialists are unocial rank and le committees, have been yet again exposed as dangerous nonsense. The danger now is that the opposite illusion may gain ground. The vacillation of the trade-union bureaucracy between the state, employers and the workers, with splits in the far from homogeneous bureaucracy, will continue and become more accentuated during the coming period. The union bureaucracy is both reformist and cowardly. Hence its ridiculously impotent and wretched position. It dreams of reforms but fears to settle accounts in real earnest with the state (which not only refuses to grant reforms but even withdraws those already granted); it also fears
59 Tony

Cli, The balance of class forces in recent years, International Socialism 2:6 1979


the rank-and-le struggle which alone can deliver reforms. The union bureaucrats are afraid of losing what popular support they still maintain but are more afraid of losing their own privileges vis--vis the rank and le. Their fear of the mass struggle is much greater than their abhorrence of state control of the unions. At all decisive moments the union bureaucracy is bound to side with the state, but in the meantime it vacillates. It is important to see that this attitude actually introduces confusion and disorganisation into governmental policies themselves. It is wrong to confuse the employers and the state with the ambivalent union bureaucracy, and to ignore the conicts between them or to brush them aside. Because of its bureaucratic position, the union ocialdom is in conict with the workers, but because of its dependence on its members it is bound to reect workers pressures to some extent. Its policy is not consistent. Even the pattern of its retreats in the face of threats from employers or the state is not completely predictable.60 This analysis of the bureaucracy led a strategy for trade union work known as rank-and-lism. The Communist Party, previously the dominant force on the left of the British trade union movement, and the Labour lefts worked through what were known as Broad Lefts- groups of activists whose primary function was to support and secure the election of left ocials - the likes of Hugh Scanlon in the Engineering Union and Jack Jones in the Transport and General Workers Union. In contrast the main purpose of the Rank-and - le groups was to bring together workplace militants so as to enable them to act independently of the ocials where necessary. This did not mean abstaining on union elections - the rank-and-le groups would support left against right and sometimes put up candidates themselves - but this was seen as secondary to developing networks and action at the base. A key element in this strategy was the ght for union democracy ie increasing the level of control of ocials by the ran-and-le. As Cli put it : Apathy toward the trade unions will become more and more an unpediment even to the immediate economic struggle for the defence of labour conditions. The demand for workers control of the trade unions will become more and more vital. This demand can take the authentic form of a demand for radical changes in the structure of the unions, - election of all union ocials, right of recall, paying them wages no higher than those of the members they represent - or the purely reformist, opportunist form of the CP and left labour - Vote for X.61 At the height of the movement (in the early to mid seventies) the IS/SWP succeeded in building a number of rank-and-le organisations with signicant support and substantial sales of their respective papers such as Rank-and-File Teacher, Dock Worker, Car Worker, Hospital Worker and so on. And when the severe down turn in industrial struggle of the early eighties foced the SWP to draw in its horns and disband the failing rank-and-le groups, it nevertheless maintained the principle of distrust of union ocialdom and focus on the rank-and-le. In recent years when a certain political radicalisation (especially in the shape of the anti-war movement) has gone alongside very low levels of industrial struggle the SWP has foregrounded the concept of political trade unionism. This stressed the need of party members to raise in their union branches political issues, such as the Iraq War, racism and Palestine , as well as basic economic issues.

The tradition summed up

The main conclusions that follow from these 170 years of Marxist engagement with trade unionism can be straightforwardly summarised. 1. Trade unions are the basic mass organisations of the working class and socialists support them, work in them and build their struggle in virtually all circumstances. 2. Trade unions though essential are limited. They are needed to defend the working class against the assaults of capital but in themselves they not able to overthrow capitalism. In addition to trade unions the working class needs its own -revolutionary - party and workers councils .
60 61 Tony

Tony Cli, The Bureaucracy Today, International Socialism 1: 48 June 1971 Cli, In the Thick of Workers Struggle: Selected Works, Volume 2, London 2002, p. 139


3. Trade unions need to be, as far as possible, all encompassing organisations of the working class. Socialists, therefore, work as far as possible to maintain trade union unity. In general they oppose breakaway unions which tend to isolate the militants from the more passive majority and make it easier for the reformist union leaders to retain control. 4. Trade unions, almost universally, have developed bureaucratic leaderships which vacillate between the employers and the workers. Socialists, while supporting left leaders versus right in the unions, encourage workers at the base not to trust or rely on union ocials and to organise independently of them within the unions. 5. Socialists ght to increase democracy in the unions: for the election and recallability of all union ocials, for ocials to receive the average wage of the members, for democratic conferences and so on.

Are Irish Unions Dierent?

Is there anything so dierent about the Irish trade union movement as to make the Marxist tradition on trade unions inapplicable here or in need of major revision? I would argue that despite their very poor record in recent years there is not. It is certainly true that twenty ve years of social partnership has been an exceptionally long period of collaboration with the bosses and the state, and that such collaboration not only resulted in the working classs share of the national product decreasing - the share of wages, pensions and social security in the national income fell by 10 per cent in the rst decade of social partnership62 - but also in a huge fall in the level of strikes. In 1979 there were over 1,300,000 ocial strike days, in 1985 about 400,000 and in 1988 (after social partnership in 1987) under 200,000 falling to about 50,000 in 198963 . Moreover this fall in strike activity undermined the role of the shop steward and weakened union organisation in the work places. With wages settled at a national level, there was little for grass activists to do. This is illustrated by the fact that unocial strikes declined even more than ocial ones. Whereas in the seventies the number of unocial strikes substantially exceeded the ocial strikes, in the nineties under social partnership they almost disappeared64 .And since 2000 the strike gures have fallen even further, so that in 2002 there were 21,257 strike days, in 2006, 7,352 , in 2010 6,602 and in 2011 only 3,69565 . The extremely low gure for 2011 must be attributed, at least in part, to the eects of the Croke Park Deal of June 2010. It is also the case that Irish trade union leaders are very well paid, earning far more than their members: The Irish Times... determined the pay and benets of the bank trade union IBOAs general secretary, Larry Broderick, from a UK disclosure.His pay last year was e133,518 plus pension contributions of e46,731, a car, bonus and VHI benets that totalled a further e19,957. His total package was 200,206.John Carr of the INTO has a salary of 172,000 while Peter McLoone of Impact has a salary of e171,313. McLoones salary is the equivalent of that of the Cork County Manager. The general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, David Begg, has a salary of e137,400. He earns an additional e27,700 from his work as a director of the Central Bank and as a Governor of the Irish Times Trust. With the add-ons, total benets would top e200,000 easily.66 Moreover there is more than a whi of outright corruption as the very damaging Fas/SIPTU scandal showed67 . Finally there is the direct experience of many trade union activists (such as Eugene MacDonagh and Paul Shields) who regularly report on the failure of their union ocials, and therefore of the union, to defend them or support any campaigns they try to mount. Eugene MacDonagh was a member of the National Bus and
Allen, The Celtic Tiger: the myth of social partnership in Ireland, Manchester 2000,p. 71 Wallace, Industrial Relations in Ireland, Dublin 2004 p.232 64 See above, p.231 65 Central Statistics Oce, disputes_q42011.pdf 66 Fin Facts Ireland, 67 Michael OBrien Luxurious all expenses paid trips SIPTU/HSE training fund scandal, The Socialist, July 2010
63 Joseph 62 Kieran


Rail Union National Executive victimised for union activity by Dublin Bus who had to wage a battle along with rank and le bus drivers (and with the support of socialist comrades and TDs but without support from his union) to get vindication in the courts. And, of course, it is the combination of all these factors that, along with the general failure to resist austerity, has fed the widespread mood of disillusionment and rejection of Irish trade unions that constituted this articles point of departure. Nevertheless none of these truly appalling and miserable phenomena change certain basic realities. With 579,578 members in 2011, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions remains the largest civil society organisation in Ireland and, by a very long way, the largest organisation of working people [compared with the 8000 members of the Labour Party and less than a 1000 of the United Left Alliance].What is more those half a million workers are, by comparison with the average (not by comparison with organised socialists), the more class conscious section of the proletariat - they have at least grasped the need for some kind of collective organisation. As a result the trade unions have a far greater mobilising capacity than any other organisation or organisations as was shown by the demonstrations of February 2009 and November 2010 and even the much smaller Dublin Council of Trade Unions anti-austerity march in November 2011. For all these reasons Lenins arguments of 1920 that is imperative for socialists to work in even reactionary trade unions retain all their force. International comparisons are useful here. The rst thing to realise is that trade unions exist in virtually every country in the world, from Togo to Botswana, from Mexico to Mongolia and , again, the existence of a more or less conservative trade union bureaucracy is equally universal. Trade union density (proportion of the workforce in a trade union) at 38% in Ireland is higher here than in the UK (23%) or Germany (18%) and much higher than in the US (11%). As we have seen the pay of Irish union leaders is shockingly high but not signicantly higher than union leaders elsewhere - it has been estimated that 37 trade union general secretaries in the UK earn more than 100,000 a year and Derek Simpson of Amicus had a salary of 186,000. I do not have gures for US trade union leaders but they will almost certainly be much higher. In terms of their behaviour the Irish trade union bureaucracy may be particularly conservative and undemocratic at the moment68 but they are by no means unique. There have been periods, especially during Labour Governments, when the British union leaders have acted as a similar break on the struggle and under the Blair government strikes fell to record lows, while American unions have been notorious for their sweetheart deals and their business unionism. Dave Prentis and the (Labour Party) leadership of UNISON, Britains largest union, have repeatedly witchhunted socialist activists and collaborated in their victimisation (eg the cases of Tony Staunton and Yunus Baksh). But this does not prevent these same rotten leaders changing their tune and when the mood in the class changes and they come under sucient pressure from below: for example on March 26, 2011 the TUC organised perhaps the largest march in British trade union history and on November 30 mounted the biggest strike since the General Strike, while the support given by the US labour movement to the Occupy movement in Wall St., Oakland and elsewhere was hugely signicant. That similar shifts can and will occur in Ireland is shown by the fact that in the midst of the steeply declining strike gures of the 2000s cited above there was the exceptional year of 2009 when there were 329.593 strike days, and by the fact that the Unions have supported the Vita Cortex and La Senza occupations. Another example is SIPTUs recent call for the Household Charge to be dropped - Jack OConnor sensed which way the wind was blowing and moved accordingly. To note this does not mean to develop illusions in these bureaucrats. They may move to head struggles only in order then to behead them ie support in one phase of a battle can switch to sabotage in the next. This is what is happening right now on the part of Dave Prentis and others in the Pensions Battle. But is
68 One consequence of this would seem to be the relatively high level of breakaway trade unions that have been formed in recent years in Ireland. These have not been red or revolutionary unions, as advocated by German ultra-lefts in 1920 or the Stalinists in the third period. Rather they have been a relatively spontaneous expression of the frustration of ordinary trade unionists at the failure of their unions to represent them and they have often involved switching from one union to another. These instances pose complex tactical issues and it is probably wrong to try to formulate a single one-size ts all policy. But a couple of general remarks are possible. Socialists sympathise with the frustrations of such workers but would usually argue against such moves for the kind of reasons given above, especially the need not to isolate the militants from the majority, and because the new unions tend rapidly to become as bureaucratic as the old. However, if we lose this argument and the breakaway takes place anyway, it may well be necessary for the revolutionary socialist trade unionists to go with and support the militant minority.


does mean that socialists absolutely have to be present and actively engaged in the unions. It means that in their union work they need to develop rank-and-le networks such as SIPTU for Change or the Bus Workers Rank-and-File which can enable them to pressurize the ocials and, if necessary, act independently of them and which ght for much increased democracy in the unions. It also means, and this can only come through practical experience, they have to learn how to deal with the endless vacillations of the bureaucrats, resisting every move to the right and taking advantage of every move, large or small, to the left.

Kieran Allen, The Celtic Tiger: the myth of social partnership in Ireland, Manchester 2000. Tony Cli, Economic Roots of Reformism, Neither Washington Nor Moscow, London 1982, p.109. http: // Tony Cli and Colin Barker, Incomes Policy, Legislation and Shop Stewards, London 1966. http://www. Tony Cli, The Employers Oensive: productivity deals and how to ght them, London 1970. http://www. Tony Cli, The balance of class forces in recent years, International Socialism 2:6 1979. http://www. Tony Cli, The Bureaucracy Today, International Socialism 1: 48,June 1971. archive/cliff/works/1971/06/tubur.htm Tony Cli, In the Thick of Workers Struggle: Selected Works, Volume 2, London 2002. F. Engels, The Condition of the English Working Class in 1844, London,1968. D.Hallas, The Comintern, London 1985, p.126. V.I Lenin, Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, Peking, 1965. Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow 1965, p.55. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol.2 ,Moscow 1977, p.75. Jonathan Neale, The Cutlass and the Lash, London 1985. Michael OBrien Luxurious all expenses paid trips SIPTU/HSE training fund scandal, The Socialist, July 2010 J. Stalin, On the Opposition, Peking 1974. Leon Trotsky, Leon Trotsky on Britain, New York, 1973. Leon Trotsky, Writings on Britain, Vol 2. Joseph Wallace, Industrial Relations in Ireland, Dublin 2004. Central Statistical Oce, labourmarket/2011/disputes_q42011.pdf Fin Facts Ireland, K. Marx, Trades unions. Their past, present and future, The International Workingmens Association, 1866. 29

F.Engels to August Bebel, March 1875. 75_03_18.htm K.Marx to W. Liebknecht, 11 February, 1878. letters/78_02_11.htm F. Engels to F.A. Sorge , 7 December, 1889. letters/89_12_07.htm V.I. Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, 1916. works/1916/oct/x01.htm


Women and Austerity

Deirdre Cronin
The position of women in Irish society in 2012 is in a very contradictory place. Double the amount of Irish women are working compared to only a generation before and the attendance of women in higher education exceeds that of men. And yet, in the Irish recession, conservative ideas about women are resurfacing and, courtesy of a Labour Minister for Social Protection, working class women are being scapegoated as feckless unmarried mothers who cost the state too much. As in the recession of the 1930s, working class women are bearing the brunt of all the injustice meted out by the capitalist class. Then laws were introduced to exclude women from work; today women are told to get o social welfare and deal with childcare on lower and lower wages. In the space of a generation, it is true, womens lives have changed immensely. The gains won by the women, are there today for all to see. 57% of all third level graduates in Ireland are now women. The employment rate for women in the 18 to 44 age group is over 60%. The highest oce in the land, the President, was held by women for the last 20 years while a small number of women have begun to occupy prominent positions in the media and in business69 . In a country where female public servants up to forty years ago had to resign on marriage and maternity leave was a mere four weeks sick leave, societys vision of women and their role has altered signicantly. However despite this welcome and undeniable progress serious issues remain for women. 2009 gures (the most recently analysed) show that a very signicant gender pay gap continues to exist: Average earnings for men that year were e47,178 while for women it was e33,932. In other words, womens earnings were just 72% of mens. This not only reects a gap in the hourly rate of pay for men and women but also the fact that women are more likely to have to take up part time employment due to family responsibilities.(CSO, National Employment Survey 2009, Government Publications Oce) Womens progress throughout their careers to senior positions in their work has been limited. In the civil service, for example, where 65% of employees are women, less than one sixth of secretary general, deputy secretary general and assistant secretary general positions are occupied by women. This is reected across the workforce and has been referred to as the glass ceiling eect. This ceiling is also evident in the political system. Ireland has one of the worst gender balances of any parliament in the democratic world. The 25 women TDs constitute just 15% of the total. Since the foundation of the state a mere 91 female TDs have been elected70 . Despite changes in the structure of families and households over the last twenty years, women remain the primary carers in society. Research by the National Womens Council found that women were responsible for 86% of child supervision over the course of a week , while 82% of care to adults was also provided by women.(National Womens Council of Ireland, 2009, Who Cares? Challenging the Myth of Gender and Childcare) The absence of aordable childcare has been an ongoing barrier to womens participation in the workforce. According to the OECD (2010, Gender Brief) families in Ireland pay up to 29% of their total income on childcare costs. This contrasts with countries like Germany and France where state provided services mean that this gure drops to as little as 8% and 11% respectively. While legal advances have meant that women enjoy formal equality, it is clear that in reality there are many barriers to womens full participation as equals in society. Sexism is still rampant, and an almost pornographic culture has normalised images of and attitudes to women that centre on appearance and negative stereotypes. One very clear legacy of the Celtic Tiger is the widening class divide between women. Women from some backgrounds have the money, power and inuence to ensure that they can buy the services for the home and family that ameliorate the burden of oppression. So while they are not immune to the generalised attitudes of society to women, they have very little in common with the daily lives of most women
69 Lynch, 70 McGing,

Kathleen, 2010 , Women, Class and Gender: New Discriminations address to 22nd Greaves School Claire, 2011,, Women in Irish politics: Why so few and are quotas the answer?


Austerity and the attack on working class women

Austerity has devastated lives across the board, but many of the most vicious cuts have been to services and benets that women disproportionately rely on, thus ensuring that they bear the brunt of the recession. Women have become the main targets of the war on welfare instigated by the Labour Party Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, in a disgraceful attempt to deect blame away from those really responsible - the banks, the developers, the capitalist class and system as a whole - and focus peoples minds on the necessity of slashing public spending. The media has been full of references to the excesses of social welfare fraud and double payments. A general atmosphere of scapegoating and subtle allegation has created a climate where a picture of a greedy conniving dole cheat raking in hundreds of thousands to fund her welfare queen existence is fed to the public. This attack on working class women reveals the degree to which the class divide is alive and well in Ireland, ironically brought to the fore by the Labour Party and their zeal to back up the austerity programme. Of course, the reality of life as a lone parent, 93% of whom are women could not be further from this picture. 65% of the countrys poorest children live in one parent families. 35.5% of people living in lone parent families are at risk of poverty while 17% of people were in consistent poverty in 2009. Lone parents are the group in society with the lowest level of income71 . Yet, successive budget have curtailed the payments and services that lone parent families rely on. A study of last years budget by TASC, the independent think tank, found that those parenting alone were the most negatively impacted, losing 5% of their annual income. This years Budget has made things even worse. The cuts in fuel allowance, Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowance, the additional payment towards rent supplement and the increase in VAT, school transport and fuel costs will push these families deeper into poverty. In addition a number of very targeted measures will further restrict womens already limited chances to enter work and/or training.. Community Employment schemes, rst introduced in 1997, provided a pathway for many women, and particularly lone parents, to engage in training and the workforce. This Budget has seen a move to cut the pay of workers on these schemes- all participants will lose e29.80 per child per week while new applicants will not be able to retain their One Parent Family Payment (OPFP) and payment for their work on the scheme. Meanwhile, the upper age limit of the youngest child for new claimants of OPFP has been lowered from 14 to 12. On a phased basis this will be further reduced to 7 years old in 2014. In other words, from 2014 a lone parent will be expected to enter the workforce when their youngest child hits seven. This is in a country where not only do jobs not exist at present, but the chances of getting suitable aordable afterschool childcare is extremely limited. What subsidised childcare does exist, mainly in disadvantaged areas, has in fact seen its funding cut in 2012. FAS and VEC trainees, for example, are now required to make a e25 weekly contribution for Childcare Education and Training Support.In addition the income disregard for all social welfare recipients has been lowered meaning that less money can be earned before it starts to eect the level of social welfare payment. All of this makes participation in work, whether in community employment or other types, and education/training more dicult and costly. It has the potential eect of isolating women and pushing them and their children deeper into poverty In fact one of the most striking eects of the economic crisis so far has been the fall in female participation rates in the labour force. According to the CSO last year the female employment rate was 56%, which falls below the EU target of 60%. In 2001 and 2008 Ireland was actually ahead of the target. The gender pay gap mentioned above has begun to widen, having fallen during the boom years72 . The changes to pensions, particularly in the public sector, will hit women workers the hardest. Calculating pension entitlement on the basis of career average earnings will mean that women will be penalised for the periods spent outside the workforce and for the more limited promotional opportunities available to them. The Older Women Workers Access to Pensions study, recently published by the Centre for Aging Research and Development in Ireland, found that women were already at greater risk of poverty in old age than men
71 TASC, 72 CSO,

Winners and Losers? Equality Lessons for Budget 2012 Women and Men in Ireland 2011


due to the fact that many have no occupational pension and among those who do, many have lower pensions than their male counterparts73 .

Women lling in for society

The cuts to public services and spending over the last four years have had a disproportionate eect on women. This relates to their role as societys carers. Women are expected to pick up the pieces when the state decides to abdicate responsibility for services for children, the sick, the elderly and those with special needs. Unpaid womens work becomes central. Women look after elderly parents saving the state the cost of nursing home care, and grandmothers are enrolled for child minding duties. Within the health services, bed closures and huge reductions in front line sta have been accompanied by a shift towards care in the community. With public health nurses not being replaced and home help hours being cut for patients, family members in the home, particularly women, pick up the pieces. Cuts in funding to organisations that provide services to women who have experienced rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse as well as the cuts to maternity services are all putting womens physical and mental health in danger. The cut to the National Womens Councils funding will further weaken the states commitment (sometimes mere lip service) to womens equality. All of this is the product of austerity and the policies of the Troika that are so enthusiastically implemented by government. It should come as no surprise that women have been on the front line of the suering. The IMF- inspired structural adjustment programmes that brought neo-liberal austerity to the developing world in the 1980s and 1990s pushed the cause of women back decades in those countries. Denied access to public education, health care and basic social services many women even paid with their lives as maternal deaths soared in some African countries. These neoliberal policies show how much class is the decisive factor in the position of women in society. People often refer loosely to the idea that it is patriarchal system - a society dominated by men - that keeps women in thrall. One of the bitterest lessons of this recession is that it is class that determines, as a woman, how much equality you have. Yet the media continues to talk of womens roles from the viewpoint of far better-o women. The Irish Times ran an article on October 22nd last year, for example, about the diculty of juggling work and childcare entitled I dont know how she does it, after a Sarah Jessica Parker lm of the same name. The paper, without the slightest hint of irony, saw t to interview a Marketing Director, a Tax Director at Price Waterhouse Cooper, a Project Manager at Intel Ireland and the Managing Director of a PR rm as examples of the diculties working mothers face. The dilemma of aording childcare simply did not gure. This kind of article is not untypical. There has eectively been a veil of silence in the media over the way the recession is aecting working class women.

The family and modern capitalism

Women are not destined by virtue of human nature or some biological determinism to be the carers in our society. This role has been very carefully constructed in modern capitalism and is very much centred around the family. The family in its contemporary form is a relatively modern phenomenon. In hunter gatherer and early agricultural societies there tended to be exible and loose pairing74 . The male-dominated family based, at least in theory, on monogamy, emerged with the division of society into classes and the development of private property around 5000 years ago and became a means of ensuring the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next through the male line75 . Since then the family has taken many dierent forms (polygamy, polyandry, extended families and so on) in dierent societies. The modern nuclear family is a product of the development of capitalism in the last few centuries.
73 See 74 Chris Harman, Engels and the origins of human society, International Socialism 65 p.133. 75 See above p.126-32


Under capitalism, the family, based in the notion of romantic love, but primarily an economic unit, plays a crucial role. In the overriding search for prot, no full social responsibility is taken for those who are not working and not providing prot. The family then becomes the place where the next generation of workers are fed, clothed, loved, care for and socialised, and where the older generation are cared for, at the least possible cost to the state. Today women work outside the home. However work within the family is still as vital to the system as ever, and becomes even more so when recession hits. It means that women today face a double burden of working and domestic duties. The family is ideologically supported throughout the system as a result and it is the bedrock for the ideas about women that permeate society.

The struggle for womens rights has been very much o the agenda in recent years. The idea that the ght for equality has been won was promoted in academia, in popular culture and in the media. Womens nal step to full liberation became centred on a consumer based acquisition of expensive products, organising a dream wedding or staying t with pole dancing classes. With the brunt of recession resting on the backs of working class women however, the myth of liberation is increasingly exposed. Nowhere can we see this more clearly than 20 years on from the X case when a fourteen year old girl was denied an abortion in Ireland we still have absolutely no right to abortion in any circumstances. Even now the Fine Gael-Labour government are dancing around the issue and refusing to enact legislation to provide for abortion. Today more than ever it is becoming evident that the ght to end the oppression that women suer is linked very much to changing the nature of the system we live under. Capitalism in its boom time did not realise real equality for women and now in recession it is seizing back some of what was won.The madness of the nancial system as evidenced in the last 10 years was not an aberration, but a reection of capitalism and how it operates. Women have every interest in joining the struggle for an alternative economic order. And it is as workers and young people, male and female, move into struggle, that all sorts of ideas and prejudices will be challenged. Ultimately a future where the resources of society would be harnessed to meet the needs of all would ensure that not just individual families, and women, but society as a whole would take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick and the vulnerable. The new Irish female workforce has shown that it can lead the ght on defending women workers rights. Women workers in La Senza, inspired by the Vita Cortex workers in Cork, recently had a successful occupation of a Dublin store. Lone parents have got organised through the SPARK campaign and are resisting the attacks on their rights contained in Budget 2012. The seeds of a ght by women against the system are there, that ght needs to blossom and grow into an Irish Spring.


Sinn Fein in Government

Sean McVeigh
On 30 November 2011 when tens of thousands of workers went on strike in the North over attacks on pensions and austerity cutbacks in the public sector, the Sinn Fein deputy rst minister Martin McGuinness said he supported the strike.McGuinness said: I understand fully the feelings of public sector workers angry at the imposition of a pension levy by the British government. I support the striking workers in the actions they have taken76 . In addition SF issued various statements saying its elected representatives and activists were out on the picket lines and Sinn Fein wanted, a change in the cuts policy being imposed by the British government77 . The message Sinn Fein was sending out was that the public sector cuts being imposed in the North have nothing to do with the policies it pursues in the Executive. McGuinness was careful to frame the industrial action as being against a pension levy by the British government, but the reality is that many thousands of strikers will have understood their action to be against both the government in Westminster and the Executive at Stormont.While McGuinness may attempt to distance himself from the cuts, the Executive - led by SF and the DUP - is implementing a programme of austerity which is deeply damaging to public services and working class communities. One recent example of this type of policy came when SF and other parties in the Assembly brought in a new workfare scheme for the unemployed. It provides free labour for employers and punishment - loss of benet - for the unemployed who refuse to comply. The new Stormont regulations - the Jobseekers Allowance (Work Experience) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 - came before the Assemblys Social Development Committee on 26 January. The committee, which is chaired by SF veteran Alex Maskey and contains other SF Assembly members, endorsed the new regulations unanimously78 . This measure copies the schemes in Britain that provoked widespread protests that compelled companies to withdraw from the scheme - and forced the Tory led coalition to make a series of U-turns. It is likely that changes to the scheme in Britain will be followed by changes to the rules in the North. But what is not in doubt is that before the controversy and the protests, SF in the Assembly worked alongside the DUP and other parties to bring in a scheme that would punish working class people if they refused to work for nothing. That is why McGuinnesss declaration of support for public sector strikers cannot be taken at face value. The 30 November public sector strike was extremely popular in Northern Ireland with more than 100,000 workers taking part. There was a total shutdown of all rail and bus services and two-thirds of all schools were closed. In the ve health trusts all non-critical procedures were cancelled. Most people were aware of what was at stake - the public sector employs 226,000 workers in the North - which is about 32% of all jobs. According to ICTU the cuts will mean the loss of 26,000 public sector jobs by 2017. SF was not the only mainstream party to see the value of issuing statements in support of the strike. Alasdair McDonnell leader of the SDLP, which has traditionally been seen as the more moderate nationalist party, announced that no SDLP Assembly members would cross picket lines during the strike. McDonnell said: Our MLAs will be standing shoulder to shoulder with those who are protesting against stinging cuts to our services. We oer our wholehearted support to those taking a stand for high-quality public services and will be showing that support to our colleagues in NIPSA in particular by respecting their picket-line. SF leaders say they are not responsible for the cuts in Stormont departments because these cuts were forced by the 4 billion cut to the Northern Ireland block grant announced last year by the Tory Lib Dem
76 77 78 See Social Development Committee minutes at: Social-Development/Minutes/26-January-2012/


coalition. While it is true the block grant was cut by the coalition in London, it is also true that the entire Stormont project has been characterised by an adherence to neoliberal policies since it was set up in 1999. McGuinness and the other SF ministers are not mere bystanders, helplessly watching from the sides as the Westminster coalition wrecks the public sector in Northern Ireland. SF ministers are part of the cuts process - they make the decisions on which schools will close and which workers will lose their jobs. SF ministers are culpable - they are participating in the crime of making working class people pay for an economic crisis which is not of their making. SF chose not to resist the cut to the block grant by London. This is at odds with its attitude over the last 40 years when other Westminster decisions were ercely resisted by Sinn Fein. For example Margaret Thatchers policy of criminalising republican prisoners was opposed with great determination and courage by the republican movement - to the point of death in the case of the 10 hunger strikers who died in Long Kesh prison in 1981.

Implementing the cuts

We have now had about eight years (on and o) of SF in government and its record, like that of the other Executive parties, has been one of privatisation, cutbacks and other neoliberal policies. These policies have been pursued independent of nancial restrictions imposed by London. As well as holding the top shared post of oce of rst minister and deputy rst minister, Sinn Fein have held a range of ministerial positions including health, education, agriculture and regional development. When it came to drawing up a budget for the North for the period 2008 to 2011, Sinn Fein thought it a good idea for government departments - including health and education - to make 3% eciency savings each year until 2011.The SF/DUP plan amounted to 1.7 billion in cuts to the public sector. The trade union NIPSA said the SF/DUP budget was predicated on cuts to public services and privatisation. The closure of numerous schools, accident and emergency departments, libraries and other public services shows NIPSA was right. In January 2010 when DUP nance minister Sammy Wilson announced a NI budget cut of 367 million, SF ministers were as quick to nd departmental cuts as their DUP colleagues. Announcing cuts of 10 million in her department, SF agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew, said the cuts were needed to balance the books: These savings are necessary to allow the Executive to balance its books and enter the next nancial year ready to address in-year pressures constructively. She added: There will be some impact on the frontline and job numbers79 . When Wilson stood up in the Assembly and announced the 367 million cuts there was no sign of any Sinn Fein opposition. Instead the SF economy spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin told the Assembly: It would be churlish not to acknowledge that the minister (Wilson) had a dicult job. He gave timely warning and spelled out to the Assembly the signicant pressures that were building up, particularly because the Assembly has a xed budget. When the global economy goes into decline, that has an eect here80 . This economic consensus and teamwork between SF and the DUP was noted by commentator Liam Clarke who, writing in the Belfast Telegraph last year, said: The parties have not yet developed policies that distinguish them in purely economic terms. Sinn Fein uses more left-wing language than the DUP, but they are at one on a range of issues, from corporation tax to health.

Closing schools
Sinn Fein has been in charge of education since the Executive was set up. The major areas of policy change brought in during that time have been in special education needs provision, a major school closure



programme, the use of privatisation and PFI contracts to replace old buildings and the abolition of the 11-plus. From the rst days in government Sinn Fein made it clear that it had no problem with privatisation and Private Finance Initiatives. In 2000 when Martin McGuinness was minister for education he announced a new PFI contract to rebuild schools in West Belfast. He said: The award of these PFI contracts highlights the opportunities for partnership with the private sector in the pursuit of good value for money and the eective use of resources. It is now clear that PFI does oer real potential for value for money solutions to the pressing capital investment needs of our schools generally. Its commitment to neoliberal policies has increased as the years have passed. On 21 February 2012 it was revealed that ve Catholic secondary schools in the North face imminent closure, to be followed by 23 other school closures in the near future. The school closure programme has its roots in the policy for sustainable schools which was launched by Sinn Fein minister for education, Caitrona Ruane, in January 2009. The policy stipulates that secondary schools with less than 500 pupils are not nancially viable and should close81 . At the time the SF minister said: It is not an agenda to close small schools. However, in accordance with this policy the new SF education minister continues to close both small and medium sized schools. In September 2011 SF education minister John ODowd ordered education and library boards to conduct a viability audit looking at the nancial sustainability of every school in Northern Ireland. ODowd defended the policy of relentlessly going after unsustainable schools when he said in the Assembly: Some critics have used the term hit list but I think everybody in the Assembly and everybody in the educational sector understands that we have to deal with an unsustainable schools estate82 . One of the schools on ODowds hit list is St Aidans Catholic secondary school in Fermanagh. In February parents of children at the school set up St Aidans Action Group to campaign to keep the school open. The chairman of the group summed up the anger and frustration that many parents and teachers feel at the enforced policy of closing secondary schools with less than 500 pupils. He said: The educational and community damage will be felt in every part of Northern Ireland, especially rural and disadvantaged areas. We are therefore taking an initiative to extend our campaign not just to the rest of Fermanagh but across Northern Ireland. We are inviting all those schools and communities under threat to contact us and join us83 . The SF programme of school closures is causing incredible hurt - with children having to travel longer distances to school and teachers and other education workers forced onto the dole.

Attacking the vulnerable

SF proposals to reform special education needs provision in the Norths schools were published in the policy paper Every School a Good School - The Way Forward for Special Educational Needs and Inclusion, by minister Caitrona Ruane in 200984 . The proposals will drastically reduce provision for children with special educational needs (SEN) and lead to the loss of many teaching assistant jobs. Under the current system children with a statement of special educational needs have a statutory right to help from a classroom assistant and this is paid for by central department of education funding. Under the new proposals from the SF minister all special education needs provision will be funded out of each individual schools budget. In the opening paragraph of the document it states that the main reason for the changes is the rising cost of the provision of SEN and the year on year increase in the number of children issued with statements. The proposals would see the end of statements and the entitlements they bring.
81 82 83 Fighting

parents hope to spread their campaign, Irish News, 15 February 2012



NIPSA, which organises classroom assistants, opposes the policy because it is likely to see a signicant decrease in the number of classroom assistants within schools, not because this will be in the best interests of children but because there will be inadequate funding to provide for the appropriate adult assistance within the class. The group Children with Disabilities Strategic Alliance said the proposed changes would mean, children who currently have enforceable legal rights to provision will lose these rights under these restrictive new proposals. The SEN policy put forward by two SF ministers is reminiscent of the very worst education policies to come from Thatcher and successive Tory governments.

The 11-plus - the radical exception?

In 2002 Martin McGuinness as minister for education announced his intention to abolish the 11-plus exam for primary school pupils. The 11-plus exam institutionalised an unfair selection system in which a minority of pupils - mostly middle class children - were selected for a quality education while the majority of working class children had to make do with inferior schools. The 11-plus should have been abolished long ago. Sinn Fein has not been slow to point to their role in ending the exam as evidence that they are playing a progressive role at Stormont. However, the picture of SF taking on the establishment and ghting to get the 11-plus abolished is a false one. The truth is there was opposition to the 11-plus from the top ranks of the NI civil service, employers and from business organisations such as the CBI and the Institute of Directors.Such was the hostility to the exam from the establishment that the DUP briey had a position in favour of its abolition. The 1989 DUP election manifesto stated: We believe that selection at 11 should be ended. The 11-plus procedure is educationally unsound and socially divisive and places unnecessary strain upon children at a very early age. Big business was calling for educational reform because thousands of young people were joining the workforce without the basic skills of numeracy and literacy. The CBI consultation document on abolition of the 11-plus said: The need for change is widely recognised. The current education system has not delivered the necessary outcomes to ensure a highly skilled, adaptable and creative workforce and it requires reform. The document went on to complain that too many young people leave school with numeracy and literacy problems and that key skills in young people remain signicantly below employers expectations85 . Similarly the Institute of Directors favoured the abolition of the exam and its replacement by a system of pupil proles. At a meeting on 24 June 2002 between McGuinness, senior civil servants and business representatives, the employers made clear their dissatisfaction with the educational setup and opposition to the 11-plus. The minutes of the meeting show that poultry producer Moy Park complained it had to invest time and resources to educate young workers while the representative from aircraft manufacturer Bombardier told McGuinness the company, would like to see 11-plus replaced. The notes of the meeting say that Bombardier, have found major skills shortage amongst new recruits and have had to educate and train sta86 . The decision to get rid of the 11-plus took place in 2002 - a time of falling unemployment; a growing skills shortage in some sections of industry with employers being forced to look abroad to recruit. It is clear that big business viewed the abolition of the 11-plus as part of an overhaul of education that would provide it with a local workforce that was numerate and literate. Thus the SF policy of abolishing the 11-plus was not a radical deviation from its usual practice. This policy, like everything the Executive has done, was an attempt to serve the needs of big business.

Tax cuts for the rich

During the peace process there was much talk that the end of the Troubles would be followed by a peace dividend as jobs owed into the North, but it is now clear that the dividend will be paid to the rich and come in the form of lower corporation tax on company prots.
85 86


Sinn Fein was the rst major player to start talking about the Assembly getting the power to set corporation tax for Northern Ireland companies. There is now almost complete agreement amongst business organisations and political parties for the proposal. In October 2011 the Executive and the Westminster government set up a joint ministerial working group to consider giving the Assembly the power to lower the tax. This plan comes at a time when most working class people in the North are facing greater nancial hardship, job insecurity, rising prices and attacks on public services. Since SF raised the idea it has become hugely popular with the rich. Prominent in the campaign to cut taxes for corporations was newspaper billionaire Tony OReilly who in 2007 organised a petition signed by 50 company directors demanding a cut in the tax. All this is more bad news for the public sector as EU rules stipulate that reductions in regional rates of corporation tax must be accompanied by an equivalent reduction in funding from central government which means more cuts to the NI block grant from Westminster. Sinn Fein and the DUP are completely aware of these rules but persist in deliberately bringing about a situation in which the public sector budget will be cut by hundreds of millions of pounds. Tax expert Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK said the cut to corporation tax in the North would not guarantee a single new job but would result in a loss of 300 million in central government funding. He said: That would create a double whammy for Northern Ireland because theres no evidence that reduced tax rates would result in a penny more tax being paid. The resulting impact on lost revenue for Northern Ireland could be catastrophic for its public services. ICTU assistant general secretary Peter Bunting was absolutely right to argue that cutting corporation tax would transfer wealth from the poorest to the richest, as public services are cut to ll the gap.

Privatising Water
Until May 2011 Sinn Fein minister Conor Murphy was in charge of the department of regional development which oversees public transport, roads, and water infrastructure. In preparation for full privatisation NI Water became a government owned company in 2007 (just before the Executive returned from suspension) with the aim of becoming self-nancing within three years through the introduction of domestic water charges. When SFs Conor Murphy took over the department in May 2007, he allowed NI Water to continue to prepare for the introduction of water charges on domestic properties by installing charging meters in every new house built in Northern Ireland. The fact that water charges have been continually deferred is evidence that both Sinn Fein and the DUP are fully aware that such a move would lead to mass resistance that could threaten the tribal basis of the Stormont regime. Murphy also continued the policy of handing over water infrastructure to be run by private companies under PFI deals. Under a deal signed with the consortium Dalriada Water Ltd in 2006 worth 110 million, the private sector will soon deliver 50 When the deal was announced by direct rule ministers, the Stormont administration was in suspension and SF opposed the PFI contracts. But when SF got back in government in 2007 the party suddenly found merit in the PFI arrangements and Murphy presided over the transfer of large parts of the water network to the private sector. The biggest company involved in Dalriada Water is California based multinational Aecom. This company specialises in taking over denationalised public utilities and has gas, oil and water interests around the globe. When opening a water treatment facility in Antrim constructed with the help of Aecom in 2009, Murphy praised the PFI project saying it would deliver an ecient, cost eective and high quality water source. Sinn Fein has played a key role in shaping the activities of NI Water because Murphy as DRD minister appointed a number of directors of the company. One of Murphys appointments was Lawson McDonald, a director of Global Armour Ltd, which supplies body armour to the SAS and other British forces in Afghanistan.The SF minister also appointed Padraic White who as former Managing Director of the Republics Industrial Development Authority was lauded as one of the architects of the Celtic Tiger. White is husband of Fianna Fail senator Mary White. These are the people - put in place by Murphy - who have shaped the direction of NI Water and are moving the company towards full privatisation with the always present danger of the introduction of metered domestic water charges. 39

Privatising public transport

Murphy also brought in changes that pave the way for the privatisation of public transport in the North. Bus and rail transport - Ulsterbus, Metro, and Northern Ireland Railways - are run by the government company Translink and are currently part of the public sector. Under legislation brought in by Murphy, the Transport Act, which became law in March 2011, the legal way was cleared to open up public transport to the private sector. Under the changes Translink will become just another transport operator that will bid for contracts in competition with privately owned companies. The change in the law allows DRD to issue transport licences to private operators and for contracts to be awarded to operators other than Translink in recognition that Translink may not be the only provider. The aim of the legislation is to open the market to controlled competition with new contracting and permit issuing powers. The law also stipulates that any new rapid transit system set up in Belfast should be put out to competitive tendering. The law also gives private companies the right to use facilities - stations, and bus stops - that were once the preserve of the public sector87 .

Privatising local government

Another example of home-grown Stormont Thatcherism came on 26 March 2010 when the Assembly passed another piece of new legislation - the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. This legislation was guided through the Assembly by the DUP but it got the wholehearted support of Sinn Fein. The explanatory notes attached to the Act make clear that it will enable local councils to privatise services. The notes state: The Act aims to clarify the powers of district councils to enter into long-term service contracts with the private sector and so remove any concerns contractors and nanciers might have about such contracts. It is one of the most signicant actions undertaken by the Assembly and will have a massive and negative impact on the Norths public sector. The Act passed through the Assembly in a joint SF/DUP eort. In supporting the legislation SF environment spokesman Daith McKay described it as an important piece of legislation that gives councils a number of new powers. Leading SF MLA, John ODowd, welcomed the bill as an important step on the road to restructuring local government.

Tribal chiefs for the 1%

While the Tory Lib Dem coalition at Westminster has pursued a strategy of massive cutbacks throughout the UK, in Northern Ireland it has found willing partners in the parties that make up the Stormont Executive. When SF ministers say they are not responsible for the cuts they are merely doing what parties of austerity do everywhere - pass the buck, deny ultimate responsibility and say they are compelled by circumstances to make cuts. Margaret Thatcher once summed up the position that has now become the stance of Sinn Fein ministers: there is no alternative. SF has dened itself at dierent times as part of the broad left or as part of a radical, progressive, republican tradition. However, parties need to be understood and judged not just by what they say about themselves - but also and more importantly by the policies they pursue and implement in oce. On the basis of its record in government Sinn Fein can only be understood as a party of capitalism and in the current period as a party of austerity and neoliberalism. Capitalist parties routinely talk left but act right when they get into oce. In Britain the Liberal Democrats do it. In the US the Democrats are currently doing it in the run-up to Novembers presidential election. Social Democrats have been doing it for over 100 years. Sinn Fein politicians have raised talking left and acting right to an art form. The Sinn Fein leadership and their DUP partners in government have made it clear they are ghters for the 1%. The Executives record is unambiguous on this - it does not hesitate to make working people pay for the crisis.
87 See

the Executives own account of the Act at


Sinn Fein voters, supporters and rank and le members are in a dierent category entirely. They are, in the main, part of the 99%, are victims of the system and will be part of the struggle to overthrow it. Most SF voters would be appalled to discover the extent to which the party leadership at Stormont is attacking the interests of working people. Sinn Fein has built a durable relationship with the DUP which has a history of bigotry and sectarianism. Today SF and DUP politicians play out the role of tribal chieftains with each party out to get the best deal for their respective communities. But the only people who benet from this system are members of the 1%. It is this group that benets from SF/DUP policies of privatisation, PFI, workfare, public sector cuts and lower corporation tax - not the people who live on the Shankill or the Falls. These policies can also lead to increased hopelessness and despair. It is possible that a combination of the economic crisis, the Executives neoliberal policies and the tribal system at Stormont, could combine to bring about a revival of sectarian tensions and violence. The challenge for socialists is to work alongside SF members and supporters who are part of the 99% as brothers and sisters in the struggle - and convince them that the experience of SF in oce is nal proof of the bankruptcy of republicanism. It is also important to argue that the only way out of the madness of austerity and cutbacks is to build a movement of resistance that can unite working people - Catholic and Protestant, north and south - in one struggle to overthrow both capitalist states in Ireland.


Epilogue: the 15-M movement since the summer

Andy Durgan and Joel Sans
Five months after having written on the 15-M movement in spain88 , and following the elections of 20 November, won by the Right with an absolute majority, the movement still exists albeit at a lower level. Dozens of local groups continue to be active even though now involving less, and more dispersed, forces; a situation compounded by a lack of large scale mobilizations that could pull activists together. After the summer break, there was a resurgence of activity. Local assemblies began to meet again and activity over the following weeks focused on the mobilisation of 15 October. The demonstrations on that day were once more impressive and showed the spread of the movement at an international level (most clearly with the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street Movement) with over a thousand protests in 82 dierent countries with the slogan of United for Global Change. In the Spanish State there were around 60 demonstrations, including 300,000 in Madrid and 200,000 in Barcelona. Five months after the emergence of the movement, the numbers mobilised were very similar to those that turned out on 19 June. What stood out this time was the presence of organised workers with their own contingents: for instance, in Madrid the massive presence of striking teachers in their green T-shirts; while in Barcelona, teachers, health workers and students were very visible. Moreover, the protest in the Catalan capital ended with the occupation by demonstrators of a hospital, a university faculty and an empty block of ats, an action involving families previously evicted from their homes. However, after the success of 15 October, the movement has not been able to maintain the same level of activity and mobilisation. Faced with the general elections of 20 November, attempts to generate new protests, emulating what happened in the week prior to the local elections in May, did not reach the same level of involvement. There were a few occupations of public squares, but in general these were small and failed to make an impact. Since then, the downturn in the movement has intensied. There are still many local assemblies taking place, but whereas before hundreds of people participated now there are only dozens involved. It has also proven dicult to coordinate joint actions between the remaining assemblies. When trying to understand the movements decline it is necessary to take into account various elements that we already commentated on in the original article; in particular the movement has still not managed to base itself around a more reduced and manageable list of demands. Added to this has been the lack of any dened strategy. Although it is clear that the varied and multifaceted nature of the movement was central to its initial success as the months have gone by, it has become the principal source of it weakness. By dismantling the camps and going into the neighbourhoods the movement broadened its support but it has not been able to maintain the level of coordination that stemmed naturally from the occupation of public spaces in every town and city. In part this lack of coordination has been due to the localist view of a sector of the movement which has centred its work on social problems in their neighbourhood, thus losing a more global vision. But the dispersion of the movement has not just been geographical, but also, as a result of diering types of interventions. The local nuclei that have maintained themselves have been involved in a variety of interventions. Evictions have continued to be stopped in conjunction with the local tenants movement. Participation by the movement in workers protests in defence of public services has increased, especially in Catalonia, where many local 15-M assemblies have occupied health centres and hospitals in protest over health cuts. Another part of the movement, which identied most with the need for electoral reform, is drawing up a new Constitution. In Madrid, the 15-M has given rise to the I wont pay movement against the increase in public transport fares, involving mass non-payment protests in the metro. In Barcelona a popular referendum is being organised over whether cuts should be made, the debt paid and what to do with public money handed over to the banks. Obviously, all these initiatives are very positive; the diculty has been in being able to combine these local initiatives with a line of joint work. The existence of diverse, parallel, orientations has led at times to frenetic activity due to the saturation of actions and protests.


Demoralisation caused by the victory of the PP 89 in November has been compounded by the 15-M not having a visible presence during the elections. However, the idea that all parties are the same among activists has been undermined by the rights victory. The 15-M reacted to the rights electoral victory by correctly pointing out that a government based on an absolute majority in parliament is not representative in of itself. It has counter posed this parliamentary majority with the fact that only 32% of citizens have voted for the PP ; albeit this observation has proved insucient to avoid the disorientation of many of those in and around the 15-M in the weeks following 20 November. Lastly, a very important element to take into account is the relationship between the 15-M and the organised working class. In a situation of enormous economic crisis and massive cuts, a social movement outside the workplaces has a limited capacity to pressurise governments. Thus in various cities the movement has attempted to converge with workers struggles. The mood generated by the 15-M has allowed some activists from a trade union background to promote workers assemblies based on the type of direct democracy seen in the occupied squares.90 The most impressive example of this has been the case of the Madrid teachers. During September and October, the workers in the sector mounted mass assemblies which managed to push the unions into organising strike action. A total of seven separate days of strike action took place. The rhythm of the strikes was determined by the workers organised on the basis of assemblies in the schools91 . Unfortunately the strike movement nished because the unions kept postponing assemblies and they blocked a proposal that had emerged from mass meetings in many schools for an indenite weekly three-day strike. These examples of the connection between the 15-M and workers struggles have been limited in scope. The orientation of the main unions continues to be that of reaching agreements with the bosses and the government at any price, avoiding the calling of strikes despite the intensity of cutbacks at so many levels. The movement as a whole has neither had the mechanisms nor the orientation necessary to break the deadlock by encouraging mobilisation in the workplaces and generating enough pressure to push the union leaderships into calling protests. The slogan no one represents us has led to a sectarian attitude inside wide sections of the movement towards the CCOO and the UGT. One of the most recent examples was the refusal of the DRY to participate in the 50,000-strong demonstration organised on 28 January in Barcelona by the Catalan Social Forum, headed by the social movements, because these two unions were going to participate. Such an attitude is an obstacle to the 15-Ms militancy inuencing the workers movement on a wider basis. In general, the anti capitalist left has played a positive role in trying to overcome these diculties by encouraging the drawing up of a concrete list of demands and by trying to get the movement to converge around more dened areas of activity. But the weakness and the uneven implantation of this left have made it dicult to help sustain the movement after the rst months of euphoria. Once the initial moment of energy and optimism had passed, as happens with many social movements and mass campaigns, the strategic problem of how to achieve real victories begin to be posed. At present the movement nds itself far from the highpoint of last May-June. However, it would be a mistake to think that hardly anything remains. Although indirectly, the 15-M has received a great deal of support, the basis of which remains intact. Over the last ten months around eight and half million people are calculated to have had some sort of contact with the movements activities92 . A network of local groups remain active, which although involving less people than during the summer did not exist at all a year ago. The 15-M has forged a whole layer of new activists that are sustaining other movements; as is happening, for example, in the local neighbourhoods and, most notably, in reinforcing the student movement. Also, as with the Madrid teachers or the health sector in Catalonia, the movements energy and militancy has inspired some workers mobilisations. Finally, the emergence of the 15-M has also led to political radicalisation. As the political scientist Carlos Taibo points out, many people in the movement have moved on from demands
89 See for example the communiqu of the Assembly of Granada: 32% no es mayora absoluta component/k2/item/1214-asamblea-de-granada-movimiento-15m-manifiesto-32-no-es-mayor%C3%ADa.html 90 This is the case of the company Rueda5000: interview with Eduard Fuentes: Compartimos la idea de asamblearismo y la de unidad de los y las trabajadoras con el 15M, 91 Robson, Sam: Profes en pie de guerra: tres dias de huelga a la semana hasta la victoria, en, octubre 2011. Available at: 92 Interview with Taibo, Carlos: El 15-M ayuda a que algo est empezando a cambiar en la cabeza de la gente www.kaosenlared. net/component/k2/item/3353-carlos-taibo-el-15-m-ayuda-a-que-algo-est-empezando-a-cambiar-en-la-cabeza-de-la-gente. html


that reject only certain elements of the system and call for limited reforms to more general anti capitalist positions93 . It could be said that the movement has matured, albeit ambivalently. On the one hand, it is now clear that things will not be so easy to change as was initially thought. The experience of participating in mass assemblies with an enormous capacity for self-organisation seemed to suggest that what had previous seemed impossible was now on the agenda. This is no longer the case: a certain activist innocence has been lost, now making it more dicult to mobilise. On the other hand, the experience of the 15-M has shown that the occupation of the squares on its own was insucient. New questions about how to change the world and subsequent strategical questions have become more central. The socioeconomic crisis today is even deeper than on 15 May last year. The Spanish state is in a recession that according to the IMF will lead to the decline of the economy by 1.7% during 2012. Unemployment is now at 23%, over 5 million people (44% of those under 25) and it will grow by half a million more during the coming year. Real wages are dropping and public services are increasingly eroded, while the cuts oensive of the central and regional governments will intensify. Added to this has been the imposition of a drastic reform of labour relations in early February that amounts to most serious attack on workers rights since the demise of the Franco dictatorship. So the underlying social problems that led to the explosion of the 15-M are even sharper today. Given the widespread anger over these attacks and the mood created by the 15-M, and although it is impossible to predict forms they will adopt, the potential for new mobilisations in the coming months is very real.

93 Taibo, Carlos: Muchos de los jvenes indignados han pasado del ciudadanismo al anticapitalismo, Declaraci en les jornades llibertries de la CGT de Valncia, 15 de desembre de 2011,


The age of extremes: new developments in climate change

Owen McCormack
For socialists the last period is testimony to Lenins o quoted There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen. from the Arab spring to the occupy movements ,to the global ght against austerity, the pace of historic events has quickened dramatically. Yet in the middle of these events another development has taken place seemingly separate to, yet inextricably linked with,the overall crisis of capital. 2010 reached the top of the charts as the warmest year on record. In 2011, the US alone saw a record fourteen separate billion dollar extreme weather events ie fourteen separate instances of extreme weather that each cost over one billion dollars in damage, including the Mississippi oods, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts and wildres94 . Across the planet extreme and once in a generation events are becoming common occurrences as records fall with increasing intensity. Russia suers a heat wave that breaks records while Pakistan and Australia see biblical oods. All random unconnected weather events? Increasingly these extremes are seen as the harbinger of what is in store for humanity over the next few decades. One climate scientist said that that increasing greenhouse gases from human industry were loading the dice and making these extremes, usual only in decades or centuries, happen at 1 in 5 or 1 in 20 year intervals95 . The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in November last year that it is virtually certain (IPCC parlance for 90 to 100% certainty) that the world will have more extreme spells of heat, and heat waves could be 50 C hotter by 2050 and even 90 C 96 . Global average temperature has risen since 1880 by 0.80 C and is currently rising at a rate of 0.15-0.200 C per decade. To put that change in perspective it is worth reading the NASA web site which states that: A one-degree global change is signicant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much. In the past, a one- to two-degree drop was all it took to plunge the Earth into the Little Ice Age. A ve-degree drop was enough to bury a large part of North America under a towering mass of ice 20,000 years ago97 . This rise has already seen the widespread retreat of mountain glaciers, the shrinking of Arctic ice sheets and the increased intensity and uctuations of La Nina and El Nino events, with dire consequences for huge swaths of humanity. Corals are dying across the globe and there is evidence that the northern boreal forests are suering from potentially catastrophic die back98 .

Carbon and capital

For the last 10,000 years the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has barely altered from 280ppm (parts per million). The level of carbon and other greenhouse gases like methane are a key determinant of global temperatures and climate. While not always the chief reason for uctuations in climate, (the earths orbit in relation to the sun or the level of solar activity can be as important), CO2 levels are seen to move in lockstep with the earths temperature over millennia. Since the Industrial revolution CO2 levels have climbed steadily; they now stand at over 390 ppm, higher than at any time in the last 15 million years of our planets history99 , and well past the level of 350ppm that many activists and scientists believe is the maximum you can have without the risk of runaway warming.
Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency; Hanson; 96 IPCC 2007 report, 97 98 IPCC 2007 Report 99
95 James 94 National


Not only are we past that, but every indication is that the level is accumulating faster as humanity burns greater levels of fossil fuels even after two decades of talk about carbon neutral energy and renewables100 . Estimates from the IPCC for the predicted levels of CO2 that the atmosphere will contain by the end of the century leave scientists struggling to nd historic parallels. The closest parallel in the climate record is what is known as the PETM event, the Palaeocene Eocene Thermal Maximum over 55 million years ago .It is thought that the temperature in the Arctic rose as high as 25 degrees Celsius! Last November, the International Energy Agency warned that CO2 levels of 450ppm could be reached by 2017 if the present trends in the building of huge numbers of coal ring power stations continued. After that, the hope of limiting temperature rises to 20 C vanishes and the agency warns we will have missed the last chance to avert irreversible climate change. In reality many in the scientic community believe that the gures that both the IEA and the IPCC base their predictions on are wrong, not in the way that climate sceptics say, but wrong as in too optimistic. They believe we have already strayed into triggering uncontrollable feedbacks and already crossed climate thresholds without knowing it101 .

Climates past
That history of the earths past climate has been retrieved by looking at the composition of air bubbles trapped in ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica and from the contents of deep ocean sediments. They have given us an amazing picture of climate stretching back hundreds of thousands of years, and the lesson of that history is starker than we could dream up. Far from the previous thinking, it now seems that the Earths climate can swing toward warming or cooling in a matter of decades with huge changes to the global ecosystem102 . The argument of climate sceptics that the climate has always changed and it is perfectly natural is in one sense absolutely true. But the history of that change oers no comfort today, marked as it is by sudden and dramatic changes that have occurred within a lifetime. The ability of plants, animals and humans to adapt to such dramatic change is profoundly aected by the speed of the change, by the eects humanity has already had on the global ecosystem, and by the nature of capitalism itself.

Causes and Eects

Billion dollar extreme weather events dont just cost money; climate change costs lives across the globe and causes species extinction on a scale hitherto unknown. The most severe eects will be on the poorest nations and especially those already wrecked from decades of IMF structural adjustment and political instability. The IPCC 2007 report, in careful and guarded language, predicted that in Africa alone within the next ten years up to 200 million people will be aected by increased water stress ,as a result of climate change, while agricultural yields could fall by 50%. It warns: Climate change plays an important role in the distribution of malaria, dengue, tick-borne diseases, cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases; the eects are unequally distributed, and are particularly severe in countries with already high disease burdens, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Asia103 . Scientists such as those involved in the IPCC and activists like Bill McKibben and James Hanson have become increasingly alarmed at what is happening to the global climate, urging the powers that be to take action before we cross thresholds and the climate trips into uncontrollable feedbacks. Hanson, formerly of the NASA Goddard Institute and one of the chief inspirations for Al Gores An Inconvenient Truth documentary, was among the rst to sound alarm bells about global warming in the 80s and 90s. The certainty around the damage being done by CO2 and methane emissions has move him to take radical action. Last year both he and McKibben were arrested outside the White House while protesting against the Keystone XL pipeline along with 12,000 others. The pipeline would carry vast quantities of crude oil
100 101 McKibben, 102 Turney,

Bill, 2010, Earth; Making life on a tough new planet, Henry Holt and Company New York. C, 2008, Ice, Mud and Blood; lessons from climates past, New York MacmillanScience. 103 IPCC 2007


mined from the tar sands of Alberta through the US ending in the Gulf of Mexico. Its backers represent the biggest oil and gas interests around and include the Koch brothers, nanciers of the Tea Party lunatics. As McKibben points out, the tar sands of Canada are, after the Saudi oil elds, the largest remaining sink of carbon on the planet104 . Their extraction and burning could mean, Hanson has suggested, that, its game over for the planet105 . The reality of what is happening is having a contradictory impact on the climate movement. On the one hand it is radicalising a whole section of mostly middle class professionals who are coming to conclusions that the system cant stop global warming. On the other hand, many and sometimes the same people will look to the free market to nd a solution our rulers might accept, and hope the great and good of the world will listen to reason.

Sceptics for Capitalism

As the science behind human induced global warming has become more certain, opposition to the theory of humanly generated warming has not only become louder but better funded, slicker and more condent. In February the Wall Street Journal printed a lengthy piece signed by seventeen so-called leading scientists claiming there was no need to be alarmed by global warming, and that in fact a bit more, for say, fty years would be a good thing for the planet and especially for its poor106 . Attempting to limit CO2 emissions would wreck the worlds economy and stop the much needed development of the poorest nations. Concern for the worlds poor is a new interest for most of the scientists involved .Some, like Richard Lindzen do have a long history of climate change denial and half of the signatories have received funding from various think tanks and right wing institutions like Cato, George C. Marshall and Heartland, to cast doubt on the science behind global warming. As the recent release of documents from the Heartland Institute107 showed these are far from independent non-prot organisations, their funding comes straight from big oil and gas. Their goal is to emulate the policy of tobacco rms in the 50s and 60s in casting doubt over the certainty of any link between smoking and cancer. Heartland were even planning a programme to get a form of climate change denial taught in schools in a move that mirrors the attempts to have evolution and creationism given equal footing in the school curriculum. The Wall Street Journal letter is a rehashing of previous claims and in a tremendous feat of ingenuity they include a graph taken from the IPCC which they claim shows the planet has had no warming trend over the period referred to. In fact they deliberately omit error bars in order to falsify the information shown. Amazingly the Wall Street Journal declined to publish a piece by 250 scientists of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 which urged action on the dangers of humanly generated warming108 . In fact the science behind climate change is sound and, if anything, even scarier than the direst warnings sounded by the IPCC. The accumulated information about the earths past climate and how it changed abruptly has galvanised many in the climate justice movement as it leaves no room for ambiguity about what may happen within our lifetimes.

Market Solutions
For many years it seemed that even leading members of the ruling class were now aware and alarmed at the consequences of global warming. Reports like those produced by the economist Nicholas Stern, portrayed global warming as a market failure that could be dealt with once everyone understood the potential costs109 . Even the Pentagons own report in 2004 warned of the horrendous consequences facing the US as a result of climate change110 .
104 105 106 107 108 html 109 110


Yet as the UNs recent Durban conference showed the system is seemingly paralysed and unable to limit its CO2 emissions. What attempts have been made are increasingly shown to be useless. The use of market mechanisms like Cap and Trade and carbon trading have been good at producing a multibillion nancial market but useless at reducing CO2 111 . Like all markets it has been plagued by fraud and speculation and yet remains the only response of those sections of the ruling class who take climate change seriously. In some respects it is the utter failure of the system to deal with CO2 emissions despite all the evidence that lies behind the renewed vigour and brashness of the climate change deniers. Yet even leading activists like Bill McKibben continue to believe that the free Market is the only force on the planet capable of reducing CO2 to the levels needed, in the time needed, to stave o catastrophic climate change. Coming from a honest campaigner this is depressing stu. The fact that the free market system itself is responsible for the emissions in the rst place has eluded McKibben and so many other genuine activists. This contradiction at the heart of this approach is shown in a recent book by Wallace Broecker, one of worlds leading climate scientists. Broecker has made signicant contributions to climate research with his theory of how the North Atlantic Ocean Conveyor Belt could shut down abruptly, triggering rapid climate change. In his book Fixing Climate 112 Broecker looks to geo-engineering projects to save the day. Accepting that CO2 will continue to be produced at increasing levels the task, he thinks, is to get it out of the atmosphere and store it somehow. He proposes a vast network of carbon strippers that will chemically remove carbon and pump it deep into the ocean or underground. Now the science on whether this is feasible is uncertain, and what such huge quantities of carbon would do in the depths of the oceans and underground is pretty much unknown, but the fact that such schemes are now proposed as the best chance humanity has is revealing. Broecker is involved in research on one scheme but tells us he cannot reveal details about it as the people behind it want to save the planet but also make a prot and there are patent issues! Hence the best bet the planet has is the hope that some scheme might be developed that could make prots for some corporation. So powerful is the grip of free market ideology that rather than think that capitalism could stop producing CO2 , or could invest massively in wind wave and solar energy, it seems to some genuine climate scientists more feasible to construct elaborate geo engineering schemes like this.

Capital and the accumulation of catastrophe

The upsurge in climate denial will surprise many who after the 2001 IPCC report and popularity of Al Gores An Inconvenient Truth documentary thought the debate was settled. In fact as Fred Pearses book Climate File 113 shows, the carbon industry is not about to let a threat to the future habitability of the planet get in the way of its addiction to prots . A reduction in CO2 is in truth a reduction in prots for many of the most protable and powerful corporations on the planet today. This is what lies behind the accusation that the scientists involved in the IPCC report are anti-market, big government lovers who just want more funds to feather their beds. Capitalism has simply proven incapable of stopping or limiting its use of fossil fuels. Even as the evidence mounts the strategy has been renewed obfuscation by climate deniers and the extraction of dirtier forms of carbon via fracking (induced hydraulic fracturing which creates fractures from wellbores drilled into reservoir rock formations to release natural gas ) and tar sands (bituminous sands, loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay and water, saturated with a dense form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen found in extremely large quantities in Canada). Ironically as the Arctic ice melts its vast potential for oil and gas is eyed up and as prices continue to rise hitherto unprotable stores of carbon become protable. This is driving the despair of many activists who cant gure out why capitalism cant control carbon emissions. A Marxist understanding of the system might help them.
111 112 Broecker, 113 Pearce,

W and Kunzig, R, 2008, Fixing Climate, Hill and Wang New York F, 2010, TheClimate Files, Guardian books, London


Capitalism could survive a switch to other forms of energy but there is a major stumbling block. The architecture and history of capitalism is entwined with fossil fuels. Capitalism has had profound shifts in its production methods and techniques throughout its history, but the driving force of such shifts were prots, competition and the need for each company to accumulate for accumulations sake ; Accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets as Marx said114 . It is this intrinsic logic of capitalism that Marxist environmentalist John Bellamy Foster has described as leading to the accumulation of catastrophe115 . Proposed solutions like carbon trading rest on the possibility of putting a price on a ton of carbon and requiring companies to pay to emit any level above a certain amount permitted. Economists call this an externality, ie a cost of production not paid for by the rm responsible. Be it a chemical spill into a river or globally the rising of CO2 levels that are driving temperature increases around the world. Foster quotes the economist William Kapp who saw the ability to externalise the true costs of production onto the rest of society as a key element of its operation. Foster goes on to say: Whenever the destruction is too severe the system simply seeks to engineer another spatial x. Yet, a planetary capitalism is from this standpoint a contradiction in terms: it means that there is nowhere nally to externalize the social and environmental costs of capitalist destruction (we cannot ship our toxic waste into outer space!), and no external resources to draw upon in the face of the enormous squandering of resources inherent to the system (we cant solve our problems by mining the moon!). The destruction that capitalism has visited upon the individual environments of the planet, by deforestation, industrial agriculture, acid rain from industrial complexes, etc. has now reached a new and global level with CO2 levels changing the worlds climate. Capitalism is driven by short termism in its hunger for prots. Investment decisions are made on the basis on what will make a return in the quickest time. Such a system cannot deal with the scale of the climate crisis or make rational planned decisions about what to produce that is separate from the bottom line of prots. Engels and Marx were well aware of this and of the systems rapacious nature. beginquote What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sucient fertiliser for one generation of very highly protable coee trees - what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock!116 Marx understood how capitalism treated nature and the consequences for both humans and environment, writing: For the rst time, nature becomes purely an object for humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognised as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous laws merely as a ruse so as to subject it under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a means of production117 . Marx developed his idea of a metabolic rift under capitalism between humanity and the natural world - a rift with dire consequences even in the 19th century and a rift he believed could only be repaired by the move to a socialist society based on the self-emancipation of the working class. Allied to this is a trend in capitalism that was rst noted by Victorian economist WS Jevons and is called the Jevons Paradox. Noting how improvements in the eciency of coal red engines actually lead to an increased use of coal, the Jevons Paradox is important today for those in the green movements who look to technological solutions to the growing crisis. Any improvement in fuel eciency or eectiveness is not going to lead to a reduction in the total amount of resources used. The need to keep accumulating that drives capitalism means any savings from increased eciency are used to expand production and drive the system on. Hopes of decoupling economic growth from an increase use of fossil fuels and CO2 are therefore in vain. Foster summarises this by saying;

Bellamy Foster; Monthly review; F 117 Marx, K

116 Engels,

115 John


An economic system devoted to prots, accumulation, and economic expansion without end will tend to use any eciency gains or cost reductions to expand the overall scale of production. Technological innovation will therefore be heavily geared to these same expansive ends118 . The solutions on oer, from carbon trading, carbon sequestration and storage, clean development mechanisms, or massive geo engineering projects, are ways in which the system can continue to use fossil fuels and produce CO2 . None will save the planet or stop climate catastrophes.

What should socialists say?

Faced with the argument that capitalism is the cause of climate change and socialism ie social ownership and democratic planning of production, many climate activists objected, There is no time to wait for the revolution. They believed that rational argument combined with eective campaigning would force governments to act and produce speedier results than struggling to overthrow capitalism. We are now well entitled to reply There is no time to wait for the capitalists and their governments to listen to reason. Whether capitalism could solve the problem of climate change is an abstract question; it is clearly not doing so and there is no reason to give it the benet of the doubt. One of the most dicult problems for the system is that tackling climate change clearly requires coordinated international action - a massive global shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy as the main source of power. This runs up against, and is blocked by, not only the logic of competition between corporations (Exxon Mobile, BP, Shell, General Motors, Toyota etc) but also the logic of competition between nation states (between USA and China and Russia and Germany and Japan and so on) which is central to the system: hence the failures of Copenhagen and Durban. Paradoxically, the international nature of the problem makes it more dicult to build a mass protest movement against climate change as such. Only a small minority of people will travel round the world to climate summits while many people may say to themselves what is the point of demonstrating in Ireland or Britain or India or France about an issue that our government is powerless (by itself) to resolve. People take to the streets in their millions not just from moral outrage but when they believe they can actually win. On the other hand the events of the last year since the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions have put the whole idea of international revolution back into the popular consciousness in way that has not been the case since 1968. These facts mean that we have a particular responsibility to integrate the argument about climate change into our general case for socialism. (Too often at the moment it falls o even our propaganda agenda agenda after austerity, war, fascism and so on). Moreover it is one of the most powerful arguments we have. It is easier to build a mass working class movement against Household and Septic Tank charges (in Ireland) or in defence of pension rights (in Britain) but the political logic of moving from these issues to the need for world socialist revolution is not so simple whereas the reality of climate change shows necessity of socialism for human survival. This really is a case of One solution, revolution not only for preventing runaway climate change but also for dealing with its disasters when , as is looking more and more certain, it fully kicks in. But of course advocating socialism, necessary as it is, will not be all that is required. The climate crisis will unleash a whole range of events and questions that revolutionaries will have to intervene in and answer. As capitalism accumulates climate catastrophes it will proer its own solutions to each. When even the sceptics cannot deny climate change, the nuclear industry will oer its help in moving to a CO2 neutral economy, as agricultural yields are hit by drought, Monsanto will oer up its GM products. As refugees ee ravished regions, right wing politicians will urge we shut our borders. Carbon taxes are praised as a civic duty when in reality there are a simply way for industry to continue to externalise the real costs of production.As Hurricane Katrina showed in New Orleans, class will determine who suers most and who survives. Each extreme event represents incremental steps toward a barbarism that Luxembourg could never have guessed. Most of the green movement represent the ght against climate change as a ght against the western life style of consumerism and high energy use. This misses the point. It is not about consuming less for most of
118 Foster,

John Bellamy, 2002 Ecology Against Capitalism Monthly Review Press, New York


the planets inhabitants or even for most of the population in the west. It is about stopping capitalism from consuming the planet, and ending the inequalities at its heart. Revolutionaries need to bring the issues around climate change into the struggles we are ghting every day. To oer to all those horried by the realities of climate change the prospect of building a movement that can challenge and identify capitalism as the cause of both climate change and the desperate inequalities around the world. One example is the struggle in the US around the Keystone XL pipeline. While many are objecting to the pipe on grounds of safety and the potential leaks into water tables etc others are objecting on the basis that the atmosphere cannot take any more carbon without massive risks to the future habitability of the planet. We support both these concerns. In the struggle over oil exploration o the coast of Dublin or fracking projects in Leitrim we should both support locals in their ght against these projects and also point out that the number one reason to reject the oil and gas companys promises of jobs and development is the release of more CO2 and its consequences for humanity. The ght against these projects is a place for revolutionaries to intervene with a much more profound argument about the nature of capitalism and a much more profound alternative than that oered by any green movement. We can point out that there are perfectly logical and feasible alternatives to fracking or gas and oil exploration. Societies resources could be marshalled to move to a carbon neutral economy now with the creation of more jobs than Tamboran or Exxon could ever oer . For all the talk and rhetoric of a green economy we are well away from even taking the rst steps .The minister for environment has made it clear that climate change legislation is not a priority and that agriculture and industry needs will trump the need to reduce CO2 . That will always be the case within capitalism. Socialists can expose this contradiction and win a generation of activists to the struggle for revolutionary change to ensure the survival of humanity in the face of what may be greatest threat it has ever faced.

Foster, John Bellamy, 2009 The Ecological Revolution Monthly review Press Hooper, M, 2007 The Ferocious Summer, Palmers Penguins and the warming of the Antarctica, Prole Books John Cook on debunking climate sceptics at Suzanne Jeery, Why we should be sceptical of climate sceptics, International Socialism 129, January 2011.

On the Heartland Institute and other right wing think tanks, georgemonbiot/2012/feb/24/christopher-booker-heartland-climate


Three Poems
Im With You In Egypt
- Dedicated to the people of Egypt and Hossam El Hamalaway (member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists)

Im with you in Egypt, where streets are lled with re, women dance in the ames, casting o the muck and tyranny of ages now past. Im with you in Egypt, ten thousand Muslims kiss the ground, guarded by Christians, Mohammed and Jesus married in the violence of the class ah Israel, how you quake in your blood soaked boots. Im with you in Egypt, where Coptic chants imbue my spirit with mystical revolutions. Im with you in Egypt where El Baradei wont leave the house. Im with you in Egypt, where the Muslim brotherhood are talking to the monster state. Im with you in Egypt where Hossam El Hamalaway leads the vanguard, stands up, lies down, gets shot, then returns home tired and bleeding to inform humanity of his adventures. Im with you in Egypt, where you defend your factories - workers of the world unite!! Im with you in Egypt where you strike the spark that will set the world on re. Im with you in Egypt in dreams of love Im with you in Egypt where you bare your soul. Im with you in Egypt where you risk your life. Im with you in Egypt and I share your tears. Im with you in Egypt shoulder to shoulder. Im with you in Egypt and I love you. Im with you in Egypt People of Egypt, you are beautiful.

- Connor Kelly 2011


The Dance
We continue the dance, irregular steps in snow, around the re, respite spinning, swirling, burning, through carnal modes and beats. we continue the dance, lying, hating, stealing and giving, singing to our sky Gods above, imagining, imagining and dreaming of love we continue the dance, so many bucks and falls, headlong through walls, diving in and out of wombs, loving, smiling, weeping and dying. we continue the dance, forging our own lights to chase, out of consciousness and grace, and truth, conceptions divine, that can split primeval blackness time. we continue the dance, spreading cloths of light beneath our feet, christening our delusions, purging our illusions in ritual amusement ceremonies. we continue the dance, treading on no-ones dreams but our own, dreams of dancing, dreams of our own divinity - we continue. we continue the dance, two-stepping through pristine elds of white, Just keep moving! March on through the night! frost on our boots, lead in our hearts, if we fall asleep, well die in the snow.

- Connor Kelly 2011


I imagine you now, wrecking your mind Over words that t, and lines that rhyme, Pondering Heaney, Longley, Muldoon, Your perfectly poised pen on the page; earning it! Ahh, the bullshit spills from the sacred poets, Obscuring feeling in fumbled form! For I know poetry, love streaming words Bursting from the mouths of Buddha Bards, Sound exploded to crash through skulls, And free the mind within! Potter, Lordan, Keegan, Mulligan, The Tempest, Williams, Oliviera and Brown. Channel and spit epileptic contortions Amrita opium for dispossessed souls Unrepressed lust for divinity beat Angelic prayers to the politics of love! Ginsberg wriggles his thumbs in their brains, Kerouac forces the wine down their throats, Their penniless penitent buttery hearts, Mask nothing. So, when youve swam through shit that could drown a horse, Noosed up rope for a fuckhead love, Died three times and come out alive, And been mushroomed high in the desert wilds. When youve sucked cocks of angels in cold water ats Fireworks streaking the cum stained sheets, And declared your love with back arched high, To melt at the sound of your lovers cry. When youve run away in a t of ambition To return the next week a broken soul And trampled for miles on the road of excess To piss on the palace of wisdom And when you can truly live in moment now Cast o nostalgic shit ridden past And bath in divine poetic light Then you stand on that stage and begin to recite. And travel this land from top to bottom, Expounding this truth till your hair turns grey, And your soul turns black and your heart dismays, And you havent a penny to your fucking name And then you can tell me earnest and true That I really ought to Earnit!

- Connor Kelly 2011