The austerity policies of the Westminster government and the Assembly Executive have created mass youth unemployment and Depression-era levels of poverty in Northern Ireland and brought our health service to breaking point. Yet, rather than breaking from these failed policies, the Stormont politicians have committed to another four years of massive cuts which will see 20,000 public sector jobs destroyed and the services we all rely upon savaged.
Politicians united behind austerity
On top of this, the five main parties all support a cut in corporation tax, which will transfer at least £400 million per year directly from public services to the coffers of big business. This would see thousands more decent, public sector jobs wiped out in the vague hope of creating more low-paid, precarious positions. They are all committed to the right-wing agenda of cuts, privatisation and the race to the bottom in wages.
There is an alternative!
We are told that austerity is about ‘tackling the deficit’ – yet it massively increased, not fallen. We are told there is a recovery, but not for ordinary people. In Northern Ireland, wages continue to fall. But austerity has succeeded – in shifting wealth towards the super-rich. Since 2008, the wealth of the UK’s billionaires has doubled. Big business is sitting on huge cash piles and still avoids paying around £120 billion in tax every year. The alternative to austerity is to make the bankers, speculators and billionaires who created the economic crisis in the first place pay.
Resistance can win!
We need to fight back to defend our living standards, services and fight for our future. The politicians can be forced back. DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots reversed plans to close nursing homes in the face of community protests. Sinn Féin have twice signed up to implement the ‘welfare reform’ programme and twice backed off in the face of grassroots opposition.
Build a united fightback! Further strike action NOW!
The huge public sector strike on March 13th was an example of the power of working people. Tens of thousands of workers shut whole sectors down and demonstrated in opposition to Stormont’s austerity. This action had overwhelming support in society. The trade union movement should build upon this success by immediately calling further co-ordinated strike action as part of an escalating campaign. Unfortunately, the trade union leadership have decided to postpone further co-ordinated strikes until the autumn at least. This mistaken approach will see the momentum which has been built dissipate and let the politicians plough ahead with the cuts. Union activists should put pressure on their leaderships to lead a real fightback now.
This should be linked up with community and youth resistance – we have seen huge demonstrations recently in defence of local health services in Downpatrick and Newry. A united movement against the cuts – linking up with workers and communities facing the same cuts in Britain – can defeat the politicians’ austerity agenda.
Break with the sectarian parties!
While the Orange and Green parties at Stormont are happy to co-operate in cutting jobs and services, both sides continue to whip up sectarianism around issue after issue, playing games for their own cynical ends. These parties are reliant upon sectarian division for their political support. Unfortunately, some within the trade union movement want to cosy up to one or other of the sectarian parties, mistakenly seeing them as potential allies despite their record. This is extremely dangerous and could even see the splitting of the movement along sectarian lines, which would be a huge blow to the interests of working class people.
Build a new party to fight cuts & sectarianism!
Instead, we need to build a new political voice for the working class and young people, both Protestant and Catholic – a party which fights the cuts and challenge sectarianism and all forms of bigotry. In order to build for a society which is run in the interests of the 99%, such a party should stand for a break from the rotten, profit-driven capitalist system and fight for a socialist future, where society’s wealth is taken out of the hands of the fat cats and used in a planned and democratic way to provide a decent life for all. If you agree, join the Socialist Party today!