James Connolly Festival 2015

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In May of this year the Socialist Voice, in association with The New Theatre, will host its very first week long political/cultural festival in the heart of Dublin City. This festival is an extension of the ‘James Connolly Memorial Weekend’, where esteemed national and international guest speakers such as James Petras have given the James Connolly Memorial lecture. This is followed by a wreath laying ceremony at Arbour Hill on the Sunday, to mark the occasion of Connolly’s execution and to pay tribute to him and to the other leaders of the 1916 rising.
In May 2015 the Socialist Voice and The New Theatre will launch the first annual ‘James Connolly Festival’ which will host a broad list of cultural and political acts and events – with music, theatre, poetry, films, art, debates and lectures intended for a new risen people. Acts confirmed so far include: Sister Teresa Forcades (Euorpe’s most radical nun/political activist), Attila the Stockbroker (political poet/musician/activist), Mark Geary (singer/songwriter), Fiach Moriarty (singer/songwriter), Stephen Murphy (poet), Donal O’Kelly (actor/director), Evelyn Campbell (singer), Ronan Wilmot (actor/director), Andrew Kerns (singer), Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington (Academic) and many more.

The Festival held a fundraiser night, which was dedicated to the Dunnes Stores workers who went out on strike this month. The play Counter Culture was written and performed by Katie O’Kelly and Theo Dorgan read extracts from Pablo Neruda and from his own work, which were  mesmerising. A video of the night can be found on the facebook page and website.

The aim of the festival is to promote progressive culture and politics and to facilitate debate around current and contemporary politics. James Connolly remains Ireland’s foremost Marxist and working class hero. He of course was one of the founders of the Irish trade union movement, so one of the main goals of the festival will be to highlight the ideas of Connolly and the importance of trade unions for workers, especially amongst the youth. The festival is aimed at those who seek alternatives, who are engaged in today’s struggles against the many powers that dominate our lives, but also to celebrate the very rich working class culture that exists in Ireland.

For full details see the festival programme in this months Socialist Voice or online at jamesconnollyfestival.com. One of the central political events will be this year’s James Connolly Memorial Lecture, on Saturday 9 May at 2pm in the New Theatre, East Essex Street, to be given by the radical Catalan nun and activist SisterTeresa Forcades. The lecture will be followed by the formal launch of the CPI’s “Democratic Programme for the 21st Century.” On Sunday 10 May the CPI’s annual Connolly Commemoration will take place in Arbour Hill Cemetery, with an oration by the CPI and the Connolly Youth Movement, together with this year’s guest speaker, Clare Daly TD. This event starts at 3pm and all are welcome.

Website: jamesconnollyfestival.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jamesconnollyfestival2015?ref=hl

Twitter: @ConnollyFest and to create a trend #CONNOLLYFEST

 

 

 

Low paid struggle goes global – Take Action

5:30pm at Liberty Hall on Wednesday 15th of April

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‘Fight for 15’ has become the rallying cry of fast food workers across the United States. The movement began with 200 workers walking off their jobs in New York City in November 2012, in protest at employers who make billions of dollars in profits while paying poverty wages.

Over the last two years the protests have spread. The last major day of action on 4th December, 2014, saw thousands of fast food workers in some 190 US cities walk off their jobs, seeking the same demand they have been making for the past two years – $15 an hour in pay. On that day solidarity actions and protests were also witnessed from Japan to Brazil, while in Ireland 3 protests organised by the Young Workers Network (in Dublin, Cork and Belfast)  marked the global protest with lively actions outside of McDonalds.

Social media has been central to organising the campaign and on 4th December the #fastfoodglobal hashtag trended in nearly 20 US cities from New York to Phoenix, and around the world it trended in 50 cities from London to Lagos.

Activists in the ‘Fight for 15’ campaign made a three day visit to Dublin in early March to discuss the struggle in the US and Ireland against low pay and zero hour contracts.

The workers spoke at a public meeting in Wynn’s Hotel, Dublin, organised by the Young Workers Network (YWN). The meeting was followed by a protest at the Jim Larkin Statue on Dublin’s O’ Connell Street.

The YWN will be holding another protest outside McDonalds on O’ Connell Street, Dublin, against low pay and zero hour contracts on 15th April as part of an international day of action against low pay and are encouraging supporters to meet them at Liberty Hall at 5:30pm on the day for this event.

At the event, the YWN will launch the result of their Working Hours and Pay Survey which found that 89.13% of young workers under 35 regularly find it difficult to make ends meet.

For updates on the event, please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1626624900882238/

Dunnes Strike a seminal moment for the Irish trade union movement

I support Decency for Dunnes

100 years ago workers would wait by the docks of Dublin in the hope that some captain of industry would pick them for a days work. In many instances their selection was the only thing keeping them and their families from going hungry, which in turn ensured a compliant workforce. Join the union, make a complaint about health and safety, or look at the boss in the wrong way and the employer could remove your ability to feed or clothe your family or heat your home.

This Thursday, Dunnes Stores workers will strike against the very same constraints and mechanisms of control. Dunnes workers are kept on 15 hour contracts. Some workers report working for more than ten years on 35-39 hours and suddenly, at the whim of a manager, they’re cut down to the bare minimum of 15 and the employer can then spread those hours over five days. Spreading the hours over five days means the worker cannot access social welfare or Family Income Supplement (FIS) which requires a worker to have a guaranteed 19 hours for three months. It makes it impossible to survive, and the employer knows that and uses it. They can reduce a workers earnings from €384 to €144 with the stroke of a pen on a roster.

Dunnes also abuse the use of temporary contracts of employment. They regularly hire temporary workers for six or nine months and then let them go at the end of the contract and hire new workers. Often they’ll keep issuing temporary contracts of employment up to the maximum time limit and then let the workers go because they’ll have moved up the pay-scales and it’d be cheaper to hire new staff on the minimum employment costs. Permanent members of staff say they lose hours whenever new staff are hired, again, to reduce the employment costs for the company. There’s also an anti-union element to this as temporary workers have contacted Mandate Trade Union to say they want to join the union and the want to support Thursday’s strike but they’re afraid their 6 month contracts may not be extended.

Core to this dispute is the refusal of Dunnes Stores management to engage with the workers’ trade union, Mandate.  Mandate has an agreement with Dunnes dating back to their previous national dispute in 1996 where the workers were forced to strike for 3 weeks in order to win trade union recognition. At the time Dunnes was attempting to bring in zero hour contracts but the strike prevented them from being implemented and the workers won the 15 hour contract now in place. Incidentally, the 1996 strike by Dunnes workers led to the existing legislative protections against zero hour contracts as part of the Organisation of Working Time Act of 1997. Anyway, now the company is reneging on theagreement and are refusing to meet with the Union. Dunnes have also ignored the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) and the Labour Court, all part of the voluntarist industrial relations model that the establishment praises so dearly.

The types of contracts Dunnes workers have are becoming increasingly common. We now have an estimated 147,000 workers in “underemployment” or involuntary part time positions, meaning workers want more hours but cannot access them. Successive Irish governments bear responsibility for that fact. In 2008 only 0.4 percent of the entire workforce was classified as underemployed. That figure is now 7.8 percent and we’re the second worst country in the EU15. Why is that? Well, there are two primary reasons.

  1. Ireland does not have any statutory protections for part-time workers seeking more hours because our governments never fully implemented the EU’s Part-Time Worker Directive. If it had been implemented, Irish workers would have a legal entitlement to avail of more hours as they become available.
  2. Workers in Ireland have no right to collectively bargain. Mandate Trade Union has won secure hour contracts through bargaining in Tesco, Penneys, Superquinn (now Supervalu), Marks & Spencer and elsewhere. But because Dunnes refuses to engage with Mandate, workers are forced to take the only action left available to them, strike.

In all other countries in the EU, workers have one or two of the above protections. In Ireland, we have none.

We’re four years into a Fine Gael/Labour Government which had a commitment to legislate for collective bargaining  in its Programme of Government. David Begg, the former General Secretary of the ICTU has publicly welcomed the drafted legislation at least twice, but still there’s no sign of it on the statute books. We’re approaching the one year anniversary of the last announcement which came weeks ahead of last years local and European elections.

Now 10,000 workers in Dunnes Stores (6,000 of whom are Mandate members) will be affected by industrial action as the workers struggle for their right to earn a decent living and avail of their human right to be represented by a trade union of their choice. A similar battle to the one fought back in 1913.

The behaviour of Dunnes – a highly profitable multi-national company with estimated profits in the Republic of Ireland of up to €350m annually – is despicable. The owners of Dunnes, Margaret Heffernan, Frank Dunne and the McMahon family have a combined wealth of €758m.. Reports of intimidation, spreading of lies and misinformation, targeting of vulnerable people and threats of job losses and hours being cut appear to be commonplace across  stores as we approach the strike date. That’s why every trade unionist and trade union needs to support this struggle. This is much bigger than Dunnes Stores. This is about the type of society we want and are entitled to.

This really is a David versus Goliath battle. On the one hand we have an enormously wealthy family with a hugely profitable corporation and deep pockets, spending hundreds of thousands per year on advertising in the mainstream media – which no doubt influences editorial decisions, gaining advantage from a political establishment that proudly prioritises corporations over workers and refuses to legislate to protect vulnerable employees, and on the other hand we have a collective of low-paid workers on flexi-time contracts in extraordinarily precarious employment who are left with no other option but to sacrifice a days pay in a battle for basic entitlements that every worker should have. It is our obligation as trade unionists to stand with these workers and it is our responsibility to make sure nobody passes the Dunnes Stores picket lines this Thursday. Solidarity to the Dunnes Stores workers.

Union Action on Increase

The Total Days Lost due to Industrial Stoppages, a CSO record, significantly increased last year.

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The total days out last year was 44,015 compared to just 14,965 in 2013. The teachers strike at the end of last year having the most significant impact but also the Greyhound dispute and action in the manufacturing sector.

There is no doubt that union members, workers and communities are becoming more class conscious. Solidarity across communities and struggles is also on the up. Both the right2water campaign and opposition to water charges/meters as well as the upcoming Dunnes dispute have shown the increasing militancy of many on this island. The willingness of public sector workers in Northern Ireland to take on both their own establishment and the British establishment also provides inspiration and evidence of what clearly is a growing resistance to low pay, to privatisation, to austerity and to inequality more generally.

The TULF will continue to provide a space for radical trade unionists and community activists to mobilise and analyse for progress.

 

RIP Anne Casey

It is with deep sadness that we communicate the death of Anne Casey.

Anne was a lifelong trade unionist, founding activist in the TULF and its first secretary. Anne was a member of Siptu up to her passing. Anne was particularly committed to trade union and worker education. She understood and saw education as liberating and empowering and a key element of building a militant and fighting trade union movement. She is missed by many in her family, by friends, by union activists and by those involved in the fight for socialism. Anne was a truly honest and brave comrade and a friend to many of us.

We particularly send our condolences to her family and partner Colin who spoke at and attended many TULF meetings and wrote the TULF pamphlet on privatisation.

Solidarity and our thoughts are with Anne’s family and friends.

Politics, Policy and Organising in the Windy City: Lessons from 2015 Chicago for Irish Trade Unionism

Two important events happened in Chicago in February 2015, which hold lessons for the Irish trade union movement. Firstly, a major report was released by the Chicago Teachers Union, the highly politicised and organised 2012 strike winners and enemies of the Chicago establishment. It was entitled A Just Chicago: Fighting for the City Our Students Deserve (full report available at http://www.ctunet.com/quest-center/research/position-papers/a-just-chicago ). It proposed wide ranging solutions to a crisis in city education, which went far beyond base union issues such as pay and conditions. Situating school as the heart of communities, it also proposed substantive solutions to a range of community problems like housing, justice, employment and health.

In the same month, and more significantly in many ways, alderman (equivalent of council with less power) and the mayoral elections took place. Chicago driven by big business ‘machine’ politics was severely challenged for the first time in 30 years by the victories of a range of outsider and left candidates in various wards across the city and the forcing of Major Rahm Emmanuel into a run off with the Chicago Teachers Union backed candidate Jesus ‘Chey’ Garcia.

For the city the victory of the Chicago Teachers Union in the 2012 Teachers Strike and their challenge in terms of policy platform and elections in 2015 is based on core underlying principles and practices which hold huge transformative potential for trade unionism, workers and society more generally.

Firstly, the Chicago Teachers Union puts considerable time and resources into effective research. This takes a number of important forms. Research is geared towards tangible existing needs and longer term visions for education. This provides a counter narrative as well as readily translating into election platforms. More important than that though, is that research in the Chicago Teachers Union facilitates organising, and in particular a breaking down of the division between union and community through the merging of ‘union’ issues and ‘community’ issues. Consequently, more broadly building support for left-wing and grassroots activism.

Secondly, the Chicago Teachers Union research does not occur in isolation. It is part of a wider organising prospective, which emphasises high participation and confrontation backed by democratised union structures. Following insurrectionist election victory from the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), in 2012 and built on over a decade of grassroots education campaigning, the CTU embarked on a major campaign of industrial action and won. A 9 day strike was famously extended by a day to give the entire membership time to read and thus reached an informed decision on proposals to end the strike action. High participation in bargaining, as opposed to closed teams, expanded school by school councils and reduced emphasis on full time staffers, changed the dynamics of the teachers union.

Research itself was seen not as an elite media narrative alone but an integral tool in organising within the union. Breaking down the division between community and union was also seen not as a loose alliance of representative bodies but a recognition that union members themselves are members of a community, which needed to be built with the union.

Research breaking down the divide between the union and community perspective, organising emphasising high participation and deep democracy merge in political terms in the form of emphasis on challenging politics from the left but also from below. It becomes, in a city dominated by big business influence over politics and a centre of capitals onslaught, a new way of doing politics as well as a different vision. The fact that a relatively unknown Mayor candidate out resourced 16-1 can push the former White House Chief of Staff to a run off shows the political strength of such a vision. The run off will lead to a second round of voting in April, with a major win for the left possible.

For Ireland, the first message, in particular for teachers unions, is that members want solutions to the problems of their profession and communities as a whole and not just the bread and butter of pay and conditions. This may be particularly relevant for jobs defined by their ‘social benefit’. They also want to deal with a range of issues as a member of a community, from housing to healthcare. Secondly this breaking down of the barrier between community and union, or whole worker organising, as referred to by Jane McAlevey is backed by and driven by the membership themselves. There is nothing new in seeing a union member as a worker, a person with a whole range of class interests who’s life does not end at the end of a shift. But this has been lost in recent decades as the servicing of immediate workplace issues through professional staff has taken over.

Research can support members and communities to fight. Organisers do the same. For a left of the trade union movement increasingly breaking from the Labour Party, years of partnership and conservative policy, these lessons in terms of organising, engagement with communities and electoral ambitions seem all the more apt. And important for the ASTI and TUI as they tackle the issue of Junior Certificate reform and as early childcare educators seek to organise.

The strike is the key to union renewal and working class power

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Reviving the strike – How working people can regain power and transform America By Joe Burns

Available on pdf at http://www.tuleftforum.com/discussion-papers/ and for purchase at http://www.revivingthestrike.org/

Striking to stop production

This is a must-read book for trade unionists and left activists. Though it deals mainly with the American labour movement and conditions there, its main points and recommendations easily apply in Ireland.

The author, Joe Burns, is a union lawyer, negotiator and activist for many decades, most recently involved in the airline industry and health services. He is adamant that the movement needs to return to the strike as the essential part of union revival, to pull the movement out of the crisis of declining membership and power and pull our class out of poverty and desperation.

In this book he describes what he means by strike and explains the traditional form of strike prevalent within the movement in the 1920s and 30s and immediately after the Second World War, at a time of massive union growth and increased power for working people.

The traditional strike, and the workers who undertook it, aimed at stopping production, stopping the business from functioning. This was done with pickets, which blocked scabs from replacing the workers on strike or crossing the picket line, or with factory occupations or the sit-down strike. Whichever way it was done, the workers knew they were stopping the factory producing or the shop from opening, whether they were ceasing to handle goods in solidarity or refusing to co-operate with businesses where there was a strike, with the aim of hurting the employer economically.

Not only did the traditional strike strengthen the demands being made but it showed workers the power they possess within society. In addition to this it gave practical meaning and expression to solidarity. Workers would engage in solidarity strikes and actions to support their fellow-workers elsewhere. This traditional form of strike gave meaning and power to collective bargaining; without it, the author argues, unions are powerless.

The book describes the host of legal and legislative attacks on the strike that have since been introduced—some even welcomed by the movement. The contradiction that Joe’s book identifies is that, as the movement has sought legislation to establish and formalise collective bargaining, this moved the unions away from work-place power and into a dependence on process and on union officials.

The state—as this crisis has reminded us all—is a class state. It exists to secure the interests of capital and to maintain its system of production. Therefore, legislation by the state, even that won by unions, is fundamentally conservative. It established a regulatory relationship of control over workers, designed to pull the movement away from struggle and into formal processes that have made many aspects of the traditional strike illegal.

While concentrating on the history of the strike and its importance to the movement, the book also provides a general critique of other renewal strategies that are in vogue but that ignore the fundamental importance of the strike. Joe suggests that, despite two decades of activity and billions in workers’ money being pumped into organising, corporate campaigning, political leveraging, and other non-confrontational strategies, this has failed to build power or even numbers for the labour movement in the United States.

Reviving the strike in Ireland

What about Ireland today? Will we repeat mistakes made in the United States, or will we commit ourselves to a renewal strategy, with the strike as an essential weapon and the means by which we grow and strengthen the movement and our class?

In Ireland, both the strike and other forms of action are primarily controlled by the Industrial Relations Act (1990), which limits the definition of a trade dispute to disputes over employment or terms and condition of employment, making political or solidarity strikes impossible. It also limits picketing to peaceful acts, making the blockading of scabs illegal, and greatly restricts secondary picketing (aimed at employments not directly involved in the dispute but that may provide leverage for winning the fight).

The strike has also come under more recent attack from the EU Court of Justice, which has introduced “proportionality,” and its definition of a proportionate response, into the equation.

Just as in the United States, the legislation here is really designed to prevent workers taking militant action, providing for a safe withdrawal of labour as a form of protest but making actions to stop production, or to economically hurt the employer, illegal.

So, how can we revive the strike today? Firstly, there is no point—indeed it is damaging—to make irresponsible and hopeless calls for national strikes over political issues when no strategy exists for doing this. This is opportunistic and used only for short-term political gains, and it damages workers’ morale and organisation.

But reviving the traditional strike, which aims to stop production, increase solidarity, and build class-consciousness, has to be seriously considered. The movement must accept that the law is not our law, and therefore operating outside the law can be the right thing to do. Indeed we would not exist as a movement if millions of workers around the world had always acted over the years within the law.

Reviving the kind of militancy and awareness needed will not be done overnight, and provisions have to be made for protecting the assets of the movement, the pooled collective resources of workers, from being lost in litigation. But if the movement is to survive, a strategy must be agreed for moving in this direction.

Lobbying and soft campaigning, while necessary, won’t save the movement. Workers taking action, like the Greyhound workers last year during their lockout, at least provides us with hope that we can revive the strike as an essential component of organising and union renewal.

It’s time for a radically new Congress

Ireland: the greatest small country in the world to do business in. Unfortunately, it’s not the greatest small country in the world to live or work in. Ultimately that’s the success of the business class (the actual capitalist class of owners and speculators, the big farmer class and the layer of ‘management’ that run capitalism here for their masters) and the failure of the trade union and workers’ movement.

Low corporation tax, low income tax for high earners, tax avoidance schemes that are ultimately compensated for by workers, indirect taxes that go to bondholders, low investment in public infrastructure, public health, public education and public transport services are testament to that fact. So is the fact that we have the second highest prevalence of low pay in the entire OECD.

Arguably the greatest failure, however, is that after more than 100 years of fighting for it, we still don’t have real and effective collective bargaining legislation. We’re four years into this particular Fine Gael and Labour Party government and we’ve seen numerous, timely and opportunistic press releases about what may be included in the new collective bargaining legislation, but still no Heads of Bill have been published. When it is finally published, it will almost certainly not be real collective bargaining (and this view is formed by what we have seen to date from the Department) but a menu for employers to avoid dealing with trade unions directly.

The Irish government can guarantee the entire banking system and liquidate nationalized banks overnight, heaping tens of billions of debt onto the shoulders of children who haven’t even been born yet, but in 70 years we can’t fall into line with the rest of the civilized world and give workers in Ireland the basic right to trade union recognition and collective bargaining.  There can be no greater indictment of our failure as a movement than this.

With the imminent retirement of David Beggs as General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions this year, and with the appointment of a new general secretary in the coming weeks, isn’t it time a discussion began about what the role of Congress is and what we want from the new leader of the Irish trade union movement?

A good starting point would be to recognize two things:

  • Within the political establishment, the Irish trade union movement currently has very little power.
  • The Labour Party is the tail wagging the dog of the trade union movement and is preventing any cohesive and sustained fight against austerity, and the debt imposed on the people, that is ripping working class communities apart.

Arguably Congress’s warnings about the impact of government policies on our economy and on our society since the crash in 2008 have been right. With consistent ICTU pre-Budget and post-Budget predictions about austerity resulting in unemployment, emigration, poverty etc, successive governments ignore Congress at will. Every year the trade union movement argues for a stimulus package, utilizing taxes in a more efficient manner, investment in public services, and is ignored again and again by ‘there is no alternative’ politicians.

Reasons for this are varied but most important is the fact that the ‘movement’ cannot (or in some cases, will not) mobilise their hundreds of thousands of members to take action. This is recognized by the established political parties. They know after 23 years of social partnership, trade unions are more accustomed to sitting in board rooms than in community centres, and asking nicely for scraps from the table rather than demanding the food, the scraps and the table itself.

Yet instead of attempting to get back into communities to win the hearts and minds of workers and the unemployed, and build our muscle in the workplace and in society, we continue to put forward sophisticated and comprehensive economic arguments (whether you agree with them or not) that will again be ignored come Budget day. We all know the Einstein cliché about the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The leaders of our movement have a responsibility to be honest with themselves and with us. They need to ask what it is the movement has actually achieved over the past 30 years or so of so-called partnership and agree with workers a clear alternative strategy other than a return of partnership and the continued decline of the movement.

Almost all of the workplace rights we enjoy today – lunch breaks, annual leave, maternity leave, parental leave, force majeure leave, et al. – come as a result of wins by trade unions across Europe which are then normalized through EU Directives, and also through the very real experience of gains achieved in the Soviet Union and socialist countries which forced concessions to workers here.

Yes, the movement has managed to prevent some of the worst excesses of austerity (restoration of the minimum wage, JLC’s), but that’s not progress, that’s just a slower retreat.

Economic and social analysis is vitally important. However, equally, if not more important, is the ability to formulate tactics and strategies to have those policies implemented. If the movement cannot mobilise its members to take action or vote in a coordinated manner in which they recommend, then the economic analysis is redundant.

The Right2Water campaign has shown in some ways how powerful this can be. After only two major protests – planned, funded and coordinated by only five trade unions – we saw the biggest U-turn in government policy in decades. The unions did the economic analysis, attended local community meetings where they spoke on the issue, but most importantly they allowed communities to take control of the issue while they facilitated them. Interestingly, none of the unions concerned are affiliated to the Labour Party and have been criticized by members of the Party very publicly for their stance.

What the trade union movement needs to do now is recognise its major flaws, including its inability to activate its members. It has to reinvigorate itself within working class communities and genuinely start to question its political strategy – including affiliations to political parties.

The new general secretary of Congress has the ability to harness the enormous potential that the trade union movement has to offer. They can help to deliver a radically new Congress and a more progressive society. However, it will not happen if we continue to cultivate the failed policies and relationships of the past.

We need a movement that has a strong economic and social analysis, has a strategy to achieve its goals on behalf of its members and is not afraid to use strong tactics to achieve those goals, no matter who is in government.

The movement must politicize its members, educate them, facilitate them and get back into the communities where their ultimate power lies.

That’s what the role of Congress is. That’s what we need from a new leader of our movement.

Class-consciousness is increasing

The Right2Water campaign and communities from all over the country last week held their third massive national mobilisation within a few months, and the message was clear: people won’t be bullied or bribed, and they see through government lies and propaganda.

The recent retreat by the government is not enough, and is not accepted by the people. The government has lost the Irish Water issue and has no popular mandate. The view of hundreds of thousands of people and families is irrefutable; the government does not have our support to govern.

Last week’s protest followed an intensification of violence, supervision and vilification of communities resisting Irish Water and water charges. But the resistance is growing. Mobilisation against the installation of water meters has spread throughout the country. Peaceful protests against Garda brutality capture the mood.

And all this has occurred peacefully, despite constant propaganda from the O’Brien-dominated media and the spin from establishment politicians and Irish Water itself.

Lies were put out deliberately before this demonstration to break the movement and discourage people from attending. They failed. They failed miserably. The diverse platform of speakers and supporters and the magnificent diversity of the near hundred thousand people in attendance demonstrates the unity, resolve and determination of this burgeoning political movement.

On the day, protest songs and rousing music were provided by a number of local bands, with Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard showing their support for this growing national movement.

Clearly, over the last few months this has developed from a resistance into a movement, and this is the potential that must now be harnessed not only to secure victory on this issue but to tip the balance of power in Ireland away from billionaires and their political system to communities and working people.

The question now is not whether the government resigns, or who from Right2Water is going to stand in the next election. The relevant question we have to ask is, How do we strengthen the politicisation of this movement and strengthen community groups and the ties that are developing in a very positive way. Unless we do this, the rich will still continue to govern and rule us through the vast array of instruments they have, including the government, senior civil service, procurement arrangement, media, European Union, tax arrangements, trade agreements, IMF, Gardaí, etc.

We must, therefore, be in this for the long haul and not just for short-term electoral advantage. For even if you elect a progressive left coalition, unless they are committed to a progressive withdrawal from the European Union and to challenging the power of corporations they will not deliver any meaningful change.

To do this, these difficult and challenging issues need to be discussed within the movement and popularised within our class. They cannot be ignored, though they will be ignored by those people seeking to use the issue of water charges for their own short-term electoral strategy. We cannot allow this to continue, or this movement will be lost and this historic opportunity wasted. We need to begin building popular support for a withdrawal from the EU and for demands that challenge the power of corporations in our country.

New Briefing Document: Public Enterprise versus Private Inefficiency

The Trade Union Left Forum has put this brief guide, available at http://www.tuleftforum.com/discussion-papers/, for union activists to use in combating commonly used arguments in favour of privatisation and against public ownership. There is mounting evidence of the value of public-sector investment, compared with the inefficiency and waste of private-led investment; yet this is silenced by the privately owned media, just as they call into question the right of communities to peacefully resist the imposition of water charges.

We have all had arguments with a friend or colleague where the claim of the efficiency of the market is made, that competition is good for customers, without anything to substantiate it. Or we have sat angrily on a Sunday morning listening to radio commentators boldly say that private enterprise is superior to public, that privatisation provides savings for customers, or that the state benefits from the sale of public companies, without ever having to provide any evidence to support this highly political statement.

This guide is to help activists with short facts and figures to help you to combat these arguments, or to send tweets, texts or e-mail to the media so as to raise public awareness of the damage privatisation does and the great value that public ownership brings and can bring to our economy.

So, next time you’re in a pub with mates, or listening to a current affairs programme or being canvassed for a vote and you hear one of these false claims being made, don’t stay silent: use the evidence in this guide to counter their claims.

We hope you find this useful, and please distribute it as far and wide as possible.

Jimmy Nolan

Chairperson, Trade Union Left Forum