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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 November 2009

Ireland: 90,000 march against government cuts

AROUND 90,000 people took part in a trade union national day of action on Friday 6 November in opposition to the plans of the Irish government to cut 4 billion in pay, services and jobs in its December budget. The day of action consisted of eight regional demonstrations in which the Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) participated.

The turnout reflected the widespread anger that exists; not least over the government's bailout of 54 billion for the impaired and bad loans of the banks, while viciously attacking pay and public services.

The turnout was significant but it wasn't overwhelming and could have been much bigger if the trade union leaders had given a real fighting lead and alternative. On the one hand the union leaders are saying they are opposed to the slash and burn 'Thatcherism' of the government. Yet on the other they say the 16 billion 'readjustment' (ie cuts), should be carried out over eight years instead of four!

They are organising protests and have said there will be a public sector strike on 24 November. Public sector workers have already taken a huge pay cut this year and are being scapegoated for the crisis.

The idea behind these actions, however, is not to defeat the government plans but to force the government to the negotiating table so a "united" and "fairer" approach can be adopted to getting out of the crisis. Such a deal would be a frontal attack on workers' living standards and would further devastate the economy.

In advance of Friday's day of action, the union leaders accepted that there would have to be serious cuts in public services. They didn't come out and say the government must and can be defeated. As well as accepting serious cuts in public services, they have said and done nothing on job losses and unemployment.

By concentrating on the issue of public sector pay it meant there was little involvement of private sector workers on Friday's marches. The weakness of the union leaders is giving the government and the bosses the opportunity to try to divide public and private sector workers.

The one-day strike action on 24 November is now very important. A crucial question is: can a real struggle develop on the basis of the anger of public sector workers overcoming the conservatism of the right wing trade union leaders who don't want to fight?

The Socialist Party is calling for 24 November to be turned into a general strike for all workers in opposition to cuts in pay, services and job losses in both public and private sectors.

We are also arguing for the building of a new mass party to represent working-class people, to pose a real alternative and struggle for a genuine left and socialist government.

Socialist Party reporters, Ireland

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