The following piece is an honest critique of the upcoming Right2Water May Day Conference from one Rebel that has grown skeptical of promises from unions and politicians…
Unity is strength, is a truth spoken by a nave less of a truth? While I am passionate about Defeating the water charges and would agree in certain cases with the words ‘by any means necessary’, of late I have grown concerned. I am concerned that as we are so close to victory it may be unwise to adopt the means offered by right to water. Following on from their recent training provided to a select few they have announced a conference for the May Day weekend with 60 union reps, 60 politicians and 60 community spokespersons (to me that reads 120 parts of the problem and 60 community solutions)They have resources yes, what drove this campaign from the grassroots to the high street was ordinary citizens making best use of the resources available to them. They have more ability to organise, they should as they are paid to organise and work in the way they do. The people who have been the life of this campaign have worked in their own time, voluntarily and often at their expense.
As the nation’s workers and families have had their living conditions and access to opportunities chewed away inch by inch. Unions across the nation of every category have thus far done little to nothing to combat Austerity policy and the many negative consequences that have been imposed on our society. Far too often unions have been facilitator’s and members of the neo-liberal structures that have been attacking the majority of citizens in this country. Far from a driving force the right to water campaign has at times confused the campaign with its stances in supporting some aspects of the campaign and not others. It was ordinary people that stood up and said NO. Often lately it has been said that the water issue was the straw that broke the camel’s back. This is untrue and the camel’s back had long since been broken, the camel was forgotten in the dust and the people were waiting. They were not waiting for one more measure they were waiting for the chance to fight back.
People could not fight back in the dáil, they could not fight back at council meetings, we had no voice in the halls of civil servants and were not invited to union conferences. The streets have always been ours. It was the people living around us and marching in the streets with us that showed us we weren’t alone. It was in defence of our streets that people were able to say you can ignore my needs in your world but this is my home and I won’t be ignored. It was the common unity of the voiceless majority of this nation that stoked the dying embers of a fire that has long since Burned in the collective consciousness of our culture. A fire that burns not for the few, a fire that has sought to burn down structures of inequality and leave an equal playing field. At times in our history that fire has burned bright and scorched the levels of our societal structure. It is painful when one realises that thus far the same structures have been rebuilt one way or another.
It is high time the unions stood up and made an effort. From the moment the decision was taken to bail out the banks all unions should have been doing everything in their power to cater for the needs of the people they represent, Every aspect of austerity, every dodgy privatisation deal, every pay cut, every decline in income and rise in cost of living should have been an issue. The needs of the worker are do not stop inside the workplace.
The Irish campaign against unfair and unwanted policy since its coalescence as a united voice saying NO has many similarities to the miner’s strikes in Britain 1984-5. The strike and campaign of resistance was portrayed as directed from above but in reality events were determined by below, by the village, by the home, by the workers. The campaign was an issue related to family economy and was networked locally. Intergenerational solidarity is a prevalent strength seen in both our own campaign and that of our neighbours not so long ago. What our campaign does not need is another Arthur Scargill.
Right to water in their statement of defence at criticism they are receiving due to their attempt to bring communities under their union umbrella for me have been clear in their ideology. They are willing to invite community spokespersons to have a seat at the table they wish to lay but at the same time they recognise doing so means settling for lesser terms. It is appears to me that they believe they have been of greater benefit to our needs than they have been. They are offering to make concessions when they also seek to benefit from our communities. Similar to the ideology of those who we oppose? It is this mentality from those in high positions that created the mess we found ourselves in. It was a rejection by the people of this mentality that was the heart of this campaign. We have made it clear that we will not settle, we will not accept that things are not fair. While I recognise the vast amount of positive potential that could arise from the plans of right to water I feel that if we are to emerge from the storm with our aims intact, we will do so with the people by our sides, not by those who feel they are above us with an umbrella.
A copy of the aforementioned statement may be found here
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist