Left turn in the Ireland of crisis

This article was written before the agreement between Fine Gael and the Labour Party to form a coalition government but it’s general argument remains valid.

Ireland is one of the countries that has been hit hardest by the
capitalist crisis. In the late 90s the country became known as the
“Celtic Tiger”. The political leaders of the traditionally biggest party
in the country, liberal Fianna Fáil, turned the country into a neo-
liberal experiment shop.

The bank and finance sector was completely
deregulated, big parts of the welfare system was privatized and an
unprecedented campaign for loaning was launched, where ordinary wage
earners were convinced to loan up both on the house and car.

During some years it went well, really well. But also this bubble had to
burst, and the bigger the bubble the longer the fall. Time and time
again throughout history, bourgeois economists have claimed to have
found the solution to the up- and downturns in the economy. The latest
twenty years, it has been the neo-liberal prophets that the leaders of
the world have listened to.

Since the crash of 2008 we know that also this set of economists have
not managed to control capitalism. The experiment has had devestating
consequences for workers the world over, not least in Ireland where
they went from boom to bust in just a few months. Billions upon
billions of public money has been pumped into the banks to avodi a
complete collapse. It has even gone so far that the IMF has had to go
in to save the irish state. But that kind of help doesn´t come free –
now draconian cuts are being prepared in the public services.

It is with this background that Ireland went to the polls on February
25th. It was a total restructuring of the political landscape. Fianna
Fáil was more or less erased from the political map and lost more than
than two thirds of its support. Justly, the party took the hit for not
foreseeing the economical crisis and for selling out the independence of
the country to the IMF. Instead Fine Gael, the other bourgeois party,
stepped up as the biggest party. The party went to the polls promising
to renegotiate the terms for the deal with the IMF and to sanitize the
economy. But as many have said the electoral programmes of the two
parties are similar to each other and both fight for the same
electorate.

But the interesting things about this election was not the bourgois
twins of FF and FG. No, the interesting thing in this election was
that for the first time in many years the workers movement went
forward. Labour Party gets its best result ever and left-nationalist
Sinn Féin have finally got a breakthrough outside of Northern Ireland.
Apart from this, the United Left Alliance (ULA), a coalition of small
leftist parties and independent socialists, went into the parliament
with a bang and got five mandates. The frontal name for the left
alliance is Joe Higgins from the Irish Socialist Party, who was
a member of parliament and then won a seat in the  European parliament.

Even if we will see a continued bourgeois government in Ireland, or
maybe a settlement between Labour and the ”middle of the road-party”
Fine Gael, the elections shows the frustration that has built up in
Irish society after the crisis hit. The collected workers movement has
to come out against a coalition between Labour and Fine Gael, which is
unacceptable, and instead take a firm stance against the crisis
packages and cuts. In the coming years we will see harsh attacks on
public services and the living standards on ordinary people in
Ireland.

Socialists from both Labour, Sinn Féinn and ULA have to gather and
build resistance from below if the attack on welfare is to be
fought. Irish wage earners face an intense battle, but with a
strong workers movement as a megaphone in parliament it can go
forward and build the movement on the streets!

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