It’s important to note the anti-water charges campaign was not started by any particular political party. It was started by ordinary working-class communities coming together and organizing, it was the communities that got everybody to cop on and look beyond the narrow lens of elections, PR and television appearances. It was communities in Togher and Raheny that sent the political parties scrambling to keep up with the new movement developing.
The trade unions, the original 5 and the now 6, provided the much needed direction for the new movement in the establishment of the Right2Water umbrella group. This initiative got all the communities together and established a vital organizational framwork to be set up, culminating in over 100,000 coming on to the streets. The unions played a key role in co-ordinating the activities of the new movement and in establishing links and allies.
While the political parties were also involved and played a role, it was the unions and community groups that set up this campaign and gave it its energy and direction. The 3 pillars of this movement all have their own role to play but also their own responsibilities. No one pillar is more important than the other and should not feel it is entitled to drag the campaign down. With an election coming up the political pillar will be moved to the front in many ways but this pillar should remember well it is there to represent the broader movement and not solely just any one political party. If this thinking was to become more pronounced it faces destroying the gains and advances already made by the communities and trade unions and the prospect of the movement going the way of another failed project. I happen to believe the parties have more common sense than this and this wont happen but setting out clearly where they stand does no harm.
It was the communities and trade unions that came together to form the 10 Policy Principles for a Prgoressive Government. These 10 Principles arguably may not be groundbreaking in terms of their demands but it’s important to remember they’re not set in stone. In fact, the new Right2Change movement is facilitating a road-show all over the 26 counties so ordinary people can take part in a process of debate and figure out how exactly we can take this movement forward. These principles are already evolving and forming under the simple demand: Change. The political parties have been asked to contribute to these demands by all means but have been asked to respect the consensus reached by the people who built this campaign and movement.
While some, such as the Labour-lite Social Democrats, have rejected participation and have been open about preffering to build the party, others have rejected this campaign but have given wishy-washy reasons for doing so. It’s always changing, “Only non-payment is needed”, “But SF are pro-austerity”, blah-blah. We all know the reasons why, a latent arrogance from some thinking they are above the people and only their methods are correct but we all expected this as the elections approach. All we can do now is say so long and good luck and keep to the main objective: Sinking water charges and creating a new movement, built by the people.
The parties that have agreed to sign up to the proposals deserve to be commended. Regardless of what petty differences we may have had before, we can now unite under the one banner. If some seem intent on going down the same clichéd route of doing their own thing and getting nowhere, leave them off, those who think they are above the people never had much to give us in the first place. These demands and the energy behind them go well beyond any party or election result and while some seem to have forgotten that, they’ll see their mistake soon enough when they get nowhere in the elections they covet so much.
You can be a big part of something small or a small part of something big.