Over the last few days the Irish Independent has been releasing taped phonecalls between the bosses of the toxic bank Anglo-Irish, made at the time of the bank guarantee in 2008, when the government decided to bleed the country dry to bail them out.
As we might have guessed, the bankers – David Drumm, John Bowe and others – laugh and joke about the whole thing, revealing that the bailout figure of €7 billion was “pulled out of me arse”, that they knew they were conning everyone, that they looked forward to the government taking over the bank and turning them into civil servants.
The Independent harps on endlessly about this “damaging our reputation overseas”, a reputation Enda Kenny had been “painstakingly rebuilding” for us from its previous “shattered” state. But the only things the Anglo tapes have damaged are stupid illusions. They show the whole world that when we try to be “poster child for austerity”, “taking the medicine” without a fuss, we’re just being pathetic chumps, running our country into the dirt to save a class of bankers, speculators and bosses who sneer at us behind our backs.
What came between 2008 and now was five years of vicious cutbacks and new taxes. When the bankers sniggered over the phone at how they were scamming the country for tens of billions, they knew very well that they were sniggering over the hundreds of thousands who would soon be plunged into unemployment. They were laughing at people dying in underfunded hospitals; at people unable to get an education; at people living in misery and drudgery; at people losing their homes; at people being forced to leave the country. Hearing those laughs over the phone lines echoing from the beginning of these five merciless years provokes a serious anger in anyone who listens.
Politicians play innocent
Politicians from all the major parties are now demanding inquiries of various kinds. Eamon Ó Cuiv, a long-standing FF leader, thinks if we spend a few million on a good strong inquiry, we’ll “find out” what went wrong and then make sure it never happens again. But we know what happened; the rich fucked us over again, and their buddies in government let them do it again. We only need to listen to the bankers’ voices to gain a greater insight into the crisis than any inquiry could give us.
An inquiry, for f**k’s sake, wouldn’t start for years and would take the guts of a decade, and end with nothing substantial. It will make millionaires of some barristers and solicitors and instead of satisfying the demands of justice it would serve to “quarantine” the Anglo scandal, to seal it off from the whole system that is tainted by it, shaving the tip off the iceberg. It would take the anger people feel at the Anglo scandal, and exhaust it all in a boring and inconsequential saga of legal wrangles.
Compared to this, the image of a lynch mob hanging the Anglo executives from the Ha’penny bridge starts to look very attractive. Of course that wouldn’t solve anything, but the image is attractive because in it the people are centre-stage; a lot better than a government of shysters using our money to fund a bunch of rich lawyers to politely nit-pick the Anglo issue until today’s new-born babies are growing stubble and getting ready to emigrate.
The whole damn system is a scandal; the era of “free markets” ended with such a massive crisis that governments have been forcing enormous pain on workers just to prevent the capitalist system from collapsing. A system that’s become so monumentally fake and useless is being desperately maintained with the wealth of a society it does not serve but rules over.
The letters page in yesterday’s Indo is a showcase in the battle between people’s anger and people’s resignation. One letter compares the contempt of the bankers to the attitude of French aristocrats before the Revolution; the comparison is appropriate because in each case we’re talking about a ruling elite that’s lost the ability to provide anything for the people, but maintains the ability to take from the people endlessly.
Solidarity and struggle, not some lame inquiry
The Anglo Tapes provide the shock to make us realise what we’ve known all along: austerity serves the interests of the rich, and fleeces the rest of us. We give everything and we get nothing back. The last five years were a massive con.
The best course of action is to organise and fight. Against the power of money we have the power of solidarity and numbers. We need to reclaim our unions from the sellout bureaucracy who have had the power to lead the fight for years but have failed. We need to resist the imposition of new taxes and charges on working people. With over half the people of the country determined to vote for independents & others or else undecided, the vacuum in the electoral field desperately needs filling; the CAHWT electoral slate can be an electoral voice for working people in June 2014.
What we need to fight for
Vague appeals to “stand up and be counted” and innuendo about the fate of French aristocrats only go so far. We need concrete demands.
– We are still paying through the nose for AIB, BOI and Permanent TSB. These dysfunctional banks – they lost €500 million every month last year – need to be properly nationalised; we can open their books and decide who among their bondholders is more deserving of funds than a school or a hospital, and write off debts to everyone else. Then let’s get the banks lending again.
– More than 100,000 households are in arrears of more than 3 months. Let’s allow people to pay for the bricks and mortar they live in, not for the predatory, inflated prices generated by a ridiculous bubble.
– The 300 richest people in Ireland, who are growing richer every year, now sit on €66 billion. The essence of the crisis is that these and other wealthy people are not investing because the rate of profit doesn’t look inviting enough. We can’t politely wait for them to start investing again, as we’ve been doing for five years. We need to tax the hell out of this wealth and use it to create jobs, infrastructure and services.