The efforts to form a “government of the willing” following the general election earlier this year rumble on. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have had to pretend to dance and engage in a courting ritual to give the impression that there are significant ideological and political differences between them, thereby requiring such a long period to produce a draft programme for government. Fianna Fáil are desperate to get into government at any cost in order to re-establish a presence in urban areas.
But what drives the state and these two main parties of the establishment is the need to thwart the desire of working people for real, meaningful change, as reflected in the outcome of the general election. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are hoping to gather enough support and the necessary numbers from the deeply opportunist smaller parties and independents.
The backdrop to government formation has been the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the almost total shut-down of the economy in order to control its spread. The government suddenly found tens of millions to boost the public health system after a decade of starving it of resources and the priority given to private health over public welfare by all the main parties, now dancing round the draft programme.
The programme presented by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael now being hawked around Dáil Éireann by both parties and being “carefully” fine-combed by the Labour Party, Social Democrats, Green Party and a motley crew of independents is full of pious aspirations regarding public health and public housing, but the sting in the tail is the imposition of the “cost-rental model” of housing, a policy first promoted and campaigned for by opportunist forces on the left. The provision of homes for the people will still take second place to private builders and speculators and the banks. The landlords, both native and international, will still lord it over their tenants in overcrowded houses and apartments.
For a decade they have been telling working people there is no money for public services or public housing; now they have found millions to prop up large and small businesses, to secure the interests of capital.
This “government of the willing” will have to have the necessary Dáil strength to impose future austerity and to make workers pay the coronavirus bill and pay for the growing global crisis of the system.
While the needs of the people for housing and health are cloaked in honeyed words, there is no ambiguity when they state categorically their firm loyalty and fealty to the EU, which includes a serious commitment to PESCO and the continued use of Shannon Airport by the US war forces. They are planning a lavish celebration to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Irish state joining the EEC, or the EU, as it is now called. They are cleverly exploiting the crass opportunism of leading figures within the Labour Party, Green Party, and Social Democrats.
No doubt in the murky corridors of Leinster House, in the Department of Finance and the board rooms of banks and big business they have already got their plans laid out for who should pay the covid-19 bill and for the emerging economic crisis—which was emerging before the pandemic dealt a severe blow to a faltering global capitalist economy.
They will be making sure that Irish workers are going to pay the price for rescuing the system. The public debt can only grow, and there is little sign that our gallant allies in the EU, who control the euro zone, are going to bail them out and socialise national debts in all the member-states.
At the same time we have the leaders of SIPTU and Fórsa making public overtures to any potential government, particularly one in which Fianna Fáil has a significant say. They are making it clear that they are more than willing to enter into a new “social partnership” relationship with any government that is formed except one of the left.
The leading figures in both unions, writing in the Irish Times in mid-April, made it clear that they have no interest in any alternative economic strategy. Their dismissal of “untested alternatives” is a not-so-subtle attack not only on the left parties in the Dáil but on the tens of thousands of working people who are demanding fundamental change.
The leadership of the ICTU see their role as showing to any future government that they can manage, control and reduce the expectations of workers—not to defend and advance their interests. They are willing to co-operate with any new government that will impose and implement policies that have already been an abysmal failure—policies that have caused great hardship to their own members and to the working class across the board.
Their strategy further exposes the complete bankruptcy of their thinking and their abysmal lack of ambition for and leadership to the working class. They are more than willing to have things return to “normal,” where those who have wealth and thereby political power will retain that wealth and power. They will be happy to have more “social partnership” austerity, willing to throw the interests of workers—particularly the hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers—under the bus to keep the system afloat, making workers pay for the spiralling government debt. They want austerity with a human face.
But there can be no return to the establishment’s “normal.” Their normal is our hell.
The future is built by our actions today. Our class can no longer accept third-best. We have had enough of standing in the queues that grow longer by the day, hoping for a proper health service, for a roof over our heads, safe and caring facilities for the elderly members of our community, a warm and educational experience in properly funded creches for our children, owned and run by the state.
If we want a decent society, a better life for our families and communities, then we have to move beyond believing and waiting for establishment politicians, and the parties and institutions they have created to control us, to solve our problems. Those institutions were designed and are structured to narrow our aspirations to what they believe we deserve.
Working people have to take ownership of their own future, organise to fight for a world controlled by them and not by the elite. We need to take the future into our own hands and not accept what they wish to give us.