The trade union movement must not compromise on “social partnership” after this pandemic is over. It is not our class that must compromise but the ruling class, as the failure of capitalism has been exposed beyond all doubt as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.
Social partnership is not the answer to this crisis. Social partnership is simply for fulfilling the needs of capital when it suits, facilitated by a subservient section of the trade union movement. It is social betrayal, not partnership; the only partnership is among the elite and the corporations, continuously forcing the working class to an ever-decreasing share of the wealth we produce.
There will be no return to the same old same old when we come out of this pandemic. We must return to our traditional trade union roots, to where we were founded, to fight for workers’ rights and our class interests.
We must build the people’s resistance. There is no crisis that capitalism cannot solve so long as the working class pay for it. We paid for the last crisis—a €64 billion bail-out of banks. We will not pay for this one.
The banks were put in public ownership to get the capitalist class out of the global financial crash in 2008, forcing Irish citizens to pay 42 per cent of European banking debt. As soon as these banks became profitable again the Irish ruling class began selling them back to the capitalist class—their own class, at whose behest they rule. This was a massive seizing of wealth, a betrayal and robbery of the Irish working class, and it must be reversed. These profits should be reinvested for the common good.
During the health pandemic, private hospitals are now in state control—in recognition that private health and the two-tier health system are not fit for purpose. Exposed by the pandemic, capitalism has had to compromise with the working class and bring all private beds into public use, which amounts to a 40 per cent increase in the number of hospital beds.
This is the enormity of what they are hoarding for their class. If wealthy sufferers from the virus were getting fast-tracked into exclusive health services during the pandemic, the ruling class would have a revolt on their hands.
But this was a forced compromise: it was not a gesture of good will. It is mealy-mouthed in the extreme. Despite what some on the left are saying, the private health service has not been nationalised: it has been rented, on loan to the state on a non-profit basis, whereby the state will pay all the wages and costs of the private health system for the duration of the pandemic.
Only when there is an all-Ireland, universally accessible public health service will capacity ever be sufficient to serve all the needs of all our people. The two-tier, two-jurisdiction health system guarantees that the wealthy get proper care when they need it while the rest of us join the waiting-list. The bare minimum of public beds is provided to keep a lid on society.
The bail-out in this crisis is once again for the capitalist class, disguised as a wage compensation scheme and a ban on evictions. By giving the workers affected by the pandemic a proportion of their wages and a delay on rent or mortgage payments, this will guarantee at the end of the crisis that people will come out of their isolation not with mounting debt but with the ability to go out and kick-start the consumer economy, and pay back the rents to the landlords—with interest, no doubt.
It is pressing the pause button on the economy in the interests of business and landlords so they can get back to normal after the crisis. This is a bail-out of business and landlords, paid for by the taxpayer.
If the state provided a decent, universally accessible public housing service as a right to all citizens we would not be faced with the crisis in housing in the middle of the pandemic. The state would own the asset; of course it would deny the property-owning class their profits and wealth.
Precarious employment has been exposed as the insecure disaster that it is; any sort of an economic change and it all comes tumbling down. This happens daily, and goes largely unnoticed; but during the pandemic it is widespread, when most of these jobs folded at the same time, exposing the unsustainability of this model on a grand scale.
There is no doubt that “social partnership” and the need for us all to put on the green jersey will be proclaimed as the only way to recover from this disaster. We need class solidarity against the capitalist class, which has created a world with levels of inequality never known before.
When the working class emerge after this crisis, capitalism will have nowhere to hide. It has never been so clear that it serves only one class, to the detriment of the other; as Karl Marx wrote, “accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony, toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole.”
Private banking, health services, rented accommodation and precarious employment only work in the interest of one class, that is, the owners of capital, and totally fail the working class. The system is working as it was designed to do.
Social partnership will only ever serve that class. Socialism transfers the ownership of capital to the working class, where it will transform society and serve everyone, not a tiny elite.
“Our country is not just Cuba: our country is humanity,” Fidel Castro said. We have seen this time and time again during the pandemic. Despite the limited resources of Cuba and an economic blockade by the United States for more than sixty years they have never lost that humanity and are always willing to share their meagre resources.