For the last year the Anti Austerity Alliance has been spear heading the campaign for the mass non-payment of the water charges. Now the figures that Irish Water itself has given demonstrate that 52% have not paid the second water charges bill.
As well as proposing that people don’t pay, we have advocated that the mass anti-water charges movement should get organised and put forward Anti-Water Charges/ Anti-Austerity candidates in every constituency in the General Election. This would ensure that the anti-water charges battle is brought straight into the election, but would also be a challenge to the austerity parties and the start of a new political movement that really fights for the interests of ordinary working class people.
The AAA was established by activists from the campaigns against the Household and Property Taxes and was an attempt to help build such a new broad political movement, given that the Labour Party is now clearly part of the establishment.
It is not a temporary blip that the economic recovery is completely hollow as it affects ordinary people. This reflects how society has become more and more unequal as the wages, living standards and working conditions of ordinary people have been driven downwards and deteriorated with seven years of the austerity onslaught.
There won’t be a real recovery for ordinary people and that’s why we need a new mass political movement to fight for real change.
The AAA is part of Right2Water and we believe that R2W and the trade unions behind it have played a very important role in mobilising people on many mass demonstrations.
We accept the positive intentions of the trade unions in initiating Right2Change but we believe having Sinn Fein at the centre of a new anti austerity political movement is a major mistake.
Early this week, as the Right2Change proposals were still being considered, Sinn Fein orchestrated a major intervention into the media aimed at ensuring that Right2Change would be primarily associated with the Sinn Fein brand – a ‘power grab’ to try to boost their prospects in the election.
The record shows that Sinn Fein is not serious in its opposition to austerity and it doesn’t stand for the real change that people, fed up with sell-outs, now desire.
Their poor record on water charges has been demonstrated – they refuse to advocate non-payment and in fact their leading lights had intended to pay them until the pressure of the anti-water charges movement was demonstrated; they have major funding and resources, 14 TDs and over 150 councillors but haven’t waged an active and serious struggle against austerity; they have also been very weak regarding abortion and a women’s right to choose.
In the North they are implementing austerity which includes very serious cuts in jobs and services and they have agreed to a reduction in corporation tax for the major companies(the rich) that will be paid for by more cuts. That Sinn Fein stokes up sectarian division between working class people from Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, as seen in the Westminster General Election, illustrates the dangers of them being in power.
It is clear that if Sinn Fein were in government in the South it would not be radical or seriously challenge the inequality of the system. While supposedly being committed to Right2Change, comments made by party leader, Gerry Adams and a leading TD, Padraig McLochlainn, were a signal to Fianna Fail that they are prepared to do a deal with them for the next government. That means they are prepared to bring a party that is centrally responsible for the horror of the economic crash back into power.
For us the involvement of Sinn Fein in Right2Change unfortunately meant that we couldn’t be involved as it is clear that when it suits, Sinn Fein like Labour and Syriza in Greece, will make compromises with the system and that will undermine the whole basis of the initiative and lead to a dead end. We have a political responsibility to point out these problems in advance and not allow a situation where the movement is encouraged to look to another new dawn that would, unfortunately, prove to be false.
We need a new political movement that comes from the grassroots, from trade unions and the communities and that really represents the interests of ordinary working class people by being steadfast in its resistance to austerity and capitalist policies.
As the movement of the last year has demonstrated, people themselves must get active if things are to change. You can’t rely on the existing parties, a new democratic and radical force needs to be built.
Given that up to 30% of voters are already looking to, or open to support, smaller parties, independents and others, such a new movement could mount a huge challenge in the coming election. The AAA would encourage communities to immediately discuss getting organised and we would hope that the R2W trade unions would consider such an approach too.
Below is the AAA’s response to the Right2Change questions:
Does the AAA support the Right2Change policy principles?
The AAA generally supports the reforms outlined in the policy principles. We believe that for these to be realised will necessitate going much further than the projected spending increases in the Fiscal Framework Document. These reforms are reasonable and necessary and provide the opportunity to win mass support for the radical change that is needed but they are beyond what the current system can offer. We don’t agree that the Good Friday or St Andrew’s Agreements offer a way forward, as the failures over the last 17 years show. They institutionalised sectarian division whereas we need unity of working class, Catholic and Protestant, to overcome sectarianism and the sectarian parties which are a barrier to real change in Northern Ireland.
Does the AAA agree now to form a progressive government based on this platform if the numbers allow?
The AAA is open to participate in government but not a government that includes any parties associated with austerity or a government whose policy is based on operating within the strict fiscal rules set by the EU or capitalism. We want a government that will scrap the unjust taxes and charges and reverse the draconian austerity cuts that have been implemented; a government that immediately sets about the transformation of the economy on the basis of democratic public ownership of the key sections of the economy to ensure people’s needs not profit is the basis of society. The transformation of Syriza, in only six months, from being an anti-austerity party into leading a pro-austerity government shows that real change can only happen if a government is made up of parties or TDs who are prepared and committed to break capitalist rules. We believe mass mobilisations of working class people will be crucial if the programme of such a genuine left government is to be fully implemented.
How will you work together to agree this?
None of the four main parties represent the interests of ordinary working class people – we need a new mass political movement. The AAA will continue to work with others to maximise non-payment of the water charges in order to force their abolition and to help build such a movement. We also believe if the Right2Change trade unions called on their members and those who were active in the anti-water charges movement to get involved in building a political alternative in every community, a new democratic, mass movement could be launched and could challenge in each constituency in the coming general election. Given that already nearly 30% of voters are looking to small parties and Independents, such a movement could get huge support. The AAA will call for transfers to candidates who advocate non-payment of the water charges; candidates who are opposed to coalition with any party that implements austerity and who offer principled opposition to all austerity; and for candidates who stand for a genuine left and socialist alternative.