IMF arrival does not transform yesterday's enemies into today's friends


Even the Irish Times has now editorialized against the IMF intervention but, like most of the emerging mainstream concerns, the Times is not concerned about the cuts in jobs, wages and welfare that the IMF will be used to impose. No, their concern is for the loss of 'sovereignty' as IMF intervention results in a rise in populist cross-class nationalism, a tide which ironically the ruling party, which is bringing in the IMF to make the cuts it would like to, will be best placed to ride.

The Times editorial after admitting that it "may seem strange to some that The Irish Times would ask whether this is what the men of 1916 died for" then goes on to also admit this point in writing. "Fianna Fáil .. Even in its worst times .. retained some respect for its underlying commitment that the Irish should control their own destinies. It lists among its primary aims the commitment 'to maintain the status of Ireland as a sovereign State'".

This game looks attractive. Rather than fighting the national media, the media that has attacked our struggles year in, year out, from Rossport to the national strike, rather than fight them, these forces will suddenly be on our side against the external enemy. Maybe rather than scraping together euros from our wages and welfare, a few wealthy backers will come out of the wings to pay for the hire of hotel rooms, PA's and billboards. No more cold nights slapping up posters with wall paper paste while waiting to feel the hand of the Guard on your shoulder.

But their fight against the IMF is not our fight against the IMF. We want to see corporate tax raised. We want to close the tax loopholes the 1% use to evade paying any tax at all. We have no common ground on those questions and if we let these forces lead us into battle they will be the generals and we will be the foot soldiers whose role is to fight for a cause we don't control, and return home to find nothing changed.

Yes indeed, a clear warning why the left in general and anarchists in particular need to be wary of what nationalist opposition to the IMF amounts to. Another Fianna Fail government a few years down the line with some changes in leadership and a purge of the old boys who got the party into this mess sent into exile on full pensions.

What we are now seeing played out are the contradictions within republicanism, contradictions that have enabled the wealthy 'native' elite in Ireland to ride to power in the aftermath of the Anglo-Irish war and to retain power in the years since. The very bankers and builders who drove the crash in Ireland so much deeper than it has gone elsewhere used populist nationalism to overturn opposition to some of their antics and to hide the corruption of others. We were expected to cheer, for instance, when an Irish consortium outbid a Saudi one for ownership of the Savoy luxury hotel group in London, despite the fact that the vast majority of us could not afford a single night in one of those hotel rooms regardless of the nationality of those who own it.  Or when they ignored planning laws to tear down Georgian housing or build on old estates we were told this was a good thing because it showed they were displacing the Anglo Irish rulers of old.

Already we see this populist nationalism is being used to argue against the one aspect of IMF intervention that the wealthy elite have reason to fear. The possibility that the IMF might take a look at our ludicrous tax system and want to adjust it so that the super wealthy can't avoid tax by taking six month holidays, or that the American corporations here might be expected to pay taxation at rates that would be found elsewhere in Europe. Irish nationalism drummed up in the service of ensuring that Google can continue to get away with paying only 4% tax on its profits.

We do need to struggle against the IMF but we need to build that struggle not of the basis of mistily eyed nationalism, 'we are all in this together' and weeping for the men (and women) of 1916 (who apparently died for a 12.5% corporate tax rate). We have been down that road and it brought us to where we are today. No, we need to build that opposition on the basis of class politics, on the basis of opposing every cut in jobs, welfare, services and wages that the IMF will seek to impose on the bulk of the population. Elsewhere in Europe these cuts have been in the region of 20% - who of us can take another 20% cut on top of everything that has already been imposed? Today's Independent reveals that "thousands of public sector workers are at risk of pay cuts and job losses in the aftermath of drastic measures likely to be imposed. All workers face higher taxes, as the EU and the IMF will oversee at least €15bn in Budget cutbacks over the next four years." The Financial Times is more specific about likely pay cuts, writing "they may recommend public sector pay cuts above the 15 per cent reduction already adopted since 2008.’"

This from the same paper that for the last two years has been promoting such policies itself.  Are we to believe it (and the super rich O'Reilly family who own it) have suddenly reversed policy?  Or are they simply trying to conscript us in their fight, a fight they will declare won once the legal tax avoidance schemes they use and corporate tax rates are protected? We would foolish to accept such generals even if they come laden down with the impressive gifts of a daily national paper.  Part of our struggle to end inequality remains the need to fight for increases in taxation for corporations and the wealthy and to fight against the Fianna Failers and others who will be draping the green flag around themselves.

Our comrades in this fight are the workers of Greece and Portugal, Italy and Spain and not our own masters who now find their control diminished. And indeed our comrades are the workers of Britain who are now under attack from their government. Three weeks ago the same Irish Times and Independent followed up the Garda attack on students with seeking to blame the left and republican movements for leading students astray, in exactly the same way that the British media were to do one week later when students facing similar cuts there trashed the Tory Party HQ. There is a lesson in there and it is not to trust those who attacked us yesterday because today they suddenly tell us we have something in common today.

WORDS: Andrew