This will be a short post based around one statement made by SIPTU President Jack O’Connor.
He warns the government of a “mutually destructive confrontation” if they go too far with cuts.
You got that? Some threat. A “mutually destructive confrontation.” He might as well be threatening his own members.
That man has absolutely zero faith in the ability of organized labour to win against the state. He views strike action as a catastrophe that will be “destructive” both for the state and for unions. He sees it as a threat for games of brinksmanship, not a means of increasing the confidence and organisation of workers, of winning concessions and of posing the question of who really runs society.
SIPTU voted against the Croke Park 2 deal and I felt a great sense of happiness knowing that this was an act of defiance from the workers who run this country in the face of the bankers’ client state in Leinster House.
However when you realise just how rotten a huge chunk of the trade union leadership is it makes you realize that the struggle is only beginning.
O’Connor refers to 5 years of vicious austerity budgets as an “adjustment”. Not only is it an “adjustment”, by implication something sterile and objectively necessary and minor, it’s a “post-crisis adjustment”. You hear that? He thinks the crisis is over. Hell, if I was on a six-figure salary, I wouldn’t even know the crisis had begun. But he has to meet the members some of the way, you see, if he wants to keep that six-figure salary.
There’s obviously a massive problem inherent in the same leaders who called for a Yes vote leading the action against the government following the No vote. They will obstruct, hold back and demoralize workers’ militancy at every opportunity. They have five years’ practice at crisis management.
Of course, the workers of this country have five years’ accumulated grievances as well.
We must also understand something O’Connor doesn’t: the power of workers. It’s logical. The class that physically does the work that runs society is necessarily the most powerful class. Anyone who’s studied the history of labour struggles can tell you that once the working class feels its own power and is organised and confident, it can perform incredible feats.
Knocking over this staggering and morally and politically bankrupt government, by the way, would not be an incredible feat.
Nobody can summon up this consciousness with a single call, it develops in the course of struggle. However, as with the UK miners’ strike, a militant and radical leadership can massively increase the prospects for self-organisation and confidence developing in the rank-and-file.
A Unions versus Government struggle would have to go hand-in-hand with a struggle within the Unions. An increasingly militant membership will need to perform great acts of improvisation and defiance to fight an effective battle, rally the waverers and the doubters, neutralize the neutralizers like Begg, Cody and O’Connor, and, when opportunity arises, replace them.