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With Ireland in the throes of pervasive public-spending cuts following its financial bailout, Horace Campbell calls for solidarity and the need to ‘internationalise the resistance in order to change the system’.

The news of the draconian measures that have been inflicted on the people of Ireland so that the banks can be repaid brings into sharp focus again the turning point in the international capitalist system. From the streets of Ireland there are now discussions of the need for a system change. From the pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times we are confronted with headlines that cry ‘Banks’ exposure stirs EU contagion worries’. We are then told that according to the figures of the Bank for International Settlements, ‘European Banks were sitting on more than 650 billion Euros exposure to Ireland as of March 31. The UK banks are the international lenders with the most at stake, the banks had exposure of about $222 b to a variety of Irish institutions.’ One of the burning questions for all of humanity is whether the survival and health of the banks and the financial services industry are more important than the health and livelihoods of human beings. It has been revealed that the government of Ireland will have to raid its national pension fund and other cash reserves for €17.5 billion as a condition to bail out the banks. This structural adjustment package – which Africa, Latin America and the entire Third World have seen for the past 30 years – includes steep tax increases and sharp cut backs in the programmes for the working poor. According to the New York Times:

‘The austerity plan calls for cuts of nearly 15 percent in Ireland’s social welfare budget … Some 24,750 public jobs – a huge number in a country of about 4 million people – would be eliminated, cutting state payrolls down to about what they were in 2005. Child benefits and other social welfare payments would be reduced, and the nation’s minimum wage, now 8.65 euros, or $11.59, an hour, would be cut by 1 euro, or about $1.34, in the hope of promoting job creation.’

The Irish government, which has been subservient to the British and American bankers, tolerated massive ‘accounting control fraud’ while promoting the neoliberal mantra of social-partnership in order to suborn the working peoples of Ireland as accomplices to the fraudulent operations of the international and local capitalists. Now that the recklessness of the bankers and their supporters has been exposed, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) is forcing the Irish government to increase taxes on its working class in order to bail out the banks. The pressures of the IMF have been so successful that the newssheets of the business tycoons have proclaimed that ‘In Ireland, low corporate taxes go untouched.’ Other sites of the international financiers have noted, ‘Even as Ireland slips into austerity Ireland’s foreign oriented structured finance industry and related sectors are doing just fine in spite of the bail out of the domestic banking industry.’

As far as the IMF and its allied capitalists are concerned, the corporations who are the source of the problems are the very same ones who should be allowed to go without bearing the pains of the recovery. This recommendation, based on the old idea that the economy can recover from capitalists’ recklessness by having workers bear the brunt is part of the failed international capitalist logic. In the midst of this awakening in Ireland there is now a new burst of political and intellectual energy calling on the Irish workers to internationalise the resistance in the same way that ‘the markets’ have internationalised the crisis. Whether in the form of comedy or robots explaining the crisis – – there is emerging clarity that Irish workers must internationalise the resistance in order to change the system.

We want to agree with this call as in the past 100 years of the politics of Ireland, the emigration of Irish citizens from Ireland supported racists and imperialists from Cape Town to Philadelphia and from Boston to Toronto. The call for Irish workers to stand up should at this moment include a call for the Irish to return to the anti-colonial roots of the society so that those Irish who became ‘white’ in the USA and other parts of the world of white supremacy will join the worldwide struggle to transform our relationships as human beings.


For students of the recklessness of the bankers and their supporters, the Anglo Irish Bank became the poster child of privatised profits and public debt. This has been the logic of the capitalist system and ever since the inflection point of 15 September 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed in the USA, it became clear to workers in all parts of the world that the capitalists were bent on placing the cost of the crisis on the backs and bodies of workers. Irish workers are putting up mass resistance to this deformed capitalist logic. On 27 November 2010, up to 100,000 people took part in a march and rally organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) in Dublin. In one of the largest demonstrations in the history of the Irish Republic, these workers protested the imposition of the austerity measures on the ordinary people in order to pay British, German and US bankers. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions called on the workers ‘to make their voices heard and insist on a say in shaping their future’. This demonstration is only one of the many demonstrations that are now shaking the foundations of European society. Workers in Portugal, Britain, Greece, France, Spain and Iceland have been demonstrating in protest of austerity measures.

These austerity measures and the consequent resistance bring home to the Western workers what the African peoples have been enduring for more than 30 years of neoliberal plunder. It was the African workers that have been at the forefront of the delegitimisation of the IMF structural adjustment programmes. In Africa, the intellectuals have exposed the capitalist interests that dismantle popular social programmes of access to health and education and strip wealth from workers, placing profits before and above human beings. The intellectual impoverishment of neoliberalism constrained serious ideological critique within North American and European universities. In Ireland itself, international capitalists such as Peter Sutherland established intellectual institutes within Trinity College Dublin to divert attention from the kind of research that could expose the speculative bubbles that were being heralded as the success story of Ireland. Mainstream economists accepted the propaganda about unbridled capitalist globalisation while proclaiming Ireland as the ‘Celtic Tiger’. Ireland was presented in textbooks all over the world as the example of the benefits of foreign direct investments and capitalist globalisation. Now in the face of the exposure of this exploitative form of relationship between humans, the structural adjustment programme that has been delegitimised in Africa is being recycled as a recovery measure for Europe and North America.

In Europe, students have joined the rank of demonstrators against the attempt to mortgage their future. Worker–student alliances in France and in England are intensifying the struggle against the capitalists. In particular, British students exposed the activities of the Vodafone companies that avoided paying billions of dollars in taxes. The students have been at the forefront of using new tools of education to bypass the mainstream media to alert workers to the fact that the British government decided to give companies, such as Vodafone, huge tax breaks of about £6 billion at a time when ordinary people were having their benefits cut or taken away. In coordinated actions, the students moved to close Vodafone stores across the UK. These students demanded to know why the Conservative government is choosing to make over half a million people redundant in the public sector, instead of making large corporations pay taxes that they owe.

The students were able to show that there will be no need for austerity measures if the big corporations carried out their responsibilities as good members of the community. This example of the Vodafone exposure in England can be replicated all over the world where the capitalists see themselves as above the law. In the United States, the State of New York could wipe out its deficit with the imposition of the stock transfer tax, but the financial barons are treated as sacred cows who should not be taxed. Even a capitalist such as Warren Buffet has called on other capitalists to pay their fair share of taxes. Buffet said that the US government should tax the rich more, saying ‘people at the high end, people like myself should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it.’

The same is true for societies such as Ireland and the United Kingdom where the top 1 per cent of the population worked with politicians and big business to accumulate huge amounts of wealth at the expense of the working peoples. A wealth tax on the billions made by the top 1 per cent of society would be one step in the direction of a new economic direction, but the media that supports this 1 per cent ensures that the question of the redistribution of wealth is not presented as an alternative.


We agree with Buffet on the question of the wealthy being more responsible by paying their fair due in maintaining society. But we want to differ with Buffet on the fundamental issue of how the economy should be organised to avert the kind of capitalist crisis that makes human beings live at the mercy of capitalists. The crisis of capitalism is not simply a question of taxes. Restructuring taxation is only one manifestation of the systematic change to the economic, political and ideological structures that came into being as a result of financialisation. This financialisation hollowed out the real production economy in the US and elsewhere. And in Ireland, the bankers from Frankfurt, London and New York descended on the Irish workers to sweep out the real economy that had been built by the Irish working people. This Wall Street model of speculative capital rewards those who produce nothing but devise sophisticated formulas for the kind of corporate gambling that now threaten the livelihoods of the working people. The Irish experience is only one more example of what societies go through when the capitalists have free rein. The people of Asia have not fully recovered from the 1997 financial crisis. And the examples in Europe, Asia, America and Africa show that the process of economic transformation cannot be built on the basis of financial markets.


Real solidarity between workers in Europe and workers in Africa must transcend political statements and move to the concrete sharing of experiences in order to sharpen the tactics of resistance across borders. Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, showed concretely how the direction of international politics could be changed by an alliance of workers beyond borders. As the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, and as secretary general of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that took place in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001, she was forthright in supporting a worldwide anti-racist campaign. It was this same forthrightness that led her to oppose the invasion of Iraq and denounce the war as illegitimate. Mary Robinson did not simply propose the liberal ideas about human rights; she called on decent humans to join forces behind a set of core values in the areas labour standards and the environment. She supported the strengthening of the International Labor Organisation to ensure that corporations uphold and respect human rights and are not themselves complicit in human rights abuses. She worked hard to generate respect for labour standards, and called on businesses to make sure that they are not employing under-age children or forced labour, either directly or indirectly, and that in their hiring and firing policies they do not discriminate on grounds of race, creed, gender or ethnic origin.

The Bush administration lobbied hard against this international leader and African workers paid attention to the call to end child labour.

Africans must pay close attention to the capitalist events surrounding the economic depression because the same IMF and World Bank are going into African societies promoting fianancialisation and the destruction of trade unions. This is especially the case in countries such as South Africa, Ghana, Angola, Nigeria and Kenya, where the efforts are geared towards scooping up surpluses in the real economy in order to consolidate the neoliberal stranglehold. The same alliance between African workers and African intellectuals which delegitimised the IMF must be strengthened to undermine the alliance between African capitalists and Western capitalists who are bent on introducing the speculative economy. All over Africa, there have been bank bailouts to save capitalists in the face of reductions in spending on health, education and other social services.


The austerity plan that was unveiled last week is simply a plan for the recolonisation of Ireland by the international capitalists. In 1916, when the Irish war of independence started, their independence struggle inspired anti-colonial movements in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam wrote on the importance of this anti-colonial struggle. Marcus Garvey and the United Negro Improvement Association celebrated the independence struggle of Ireland and called on the African peoples to fight resolutely for independence in the same way as the Irish fought. International capitalists were aware of this inspiration and worked hard to demobilise the Irish workers. It was in the United States that this demobilisation had its most destructive impacts, when Irish workers became ‘white’. In the book, ‘How the Irish Became White in America’, the author documented how the Irish, who were brought to North America as indentured labourers, accepted the ideas of Anglo-Saxon supremacy and later internalised the idea of whiteness. The internalisation of whiteness by the Irish workers broke the solidarity in the ranks of the working people. Consequently, sections of the Irish workers became part of the most rabid racists in some parts of the USA. But the realities of the moment have shown that capitalists’ oppression against the working class people knows no borders. There are already projections that the financial crisis will induce a new mass emigration from Ireland. Progressives in Ireland must intensify the ideological and political work inside Ireland to educate these potential émigrés against joining the wave of counter-revolution and racism that is now sweeping North America. It is in this context that we call for an international resistance that transcends national borders and racial categorisation. It is such resistance that is needed to save our common humanity from dehumanisation and plunder by the capitalist class, whose drive for exponential profits is pathological.


* Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. His latest book is 'Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA', published by Pluto Press.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.