The Time is Out of Joint
Deaglán de Bréadún
One imagines the Cabinet watched the TV footage of today’s trade union protest in Dublin with a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs. Bad enough to have the economy gone pearshaped and the banking system ensnarled by unpaid debts and wide-boy behaviour but now the proletariat is in revolt. It’s like a Marxist paradigm. Capitalism is plunged into crisis by its own internal contradictions and the workers are taking to the streets.
But we’re still a good way off having a Dublin Soviet with a dual-power situation and seizure of the means of production, distribution and exchange by a coalition of activists led by Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett.
Maybe the unions and the Government with the other social partners will get around the table again. If these austerity measures are going to cause so much aggro, maybe something else should be tried. This makes the over-70s medical card protest look like a tiff at a vicar’s tea party.
At the end of the day – remember Albert Reynolds’s stock phrase? – the money to pay for the functioning of the State has to be obtained from somewhere. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has gingerly suggested a property tax and there might be some potential there.
In any case, the unions will have to be brought back inside the tent. The Government will need statesmanship, passion, reasonableness, inspiration and luck. As stated before, Lady Luck seems to have deserted Brian Cowen.
Yours Truly did not get to see the protest, as he was covering the Sinn Fein ardfheis/annual conference in another part of town. That was an interesting event in its way: as the second-largest left party after Labour, SF is well-placed to make electoral gains in this crisis.
Gerry Adams called for broad unity with Labour, the Greens and others. A united left front is an interesting concept. The expectation must now be that Labour and SF will do very well indeed in the local and European elections in June.
But June is four months away. If this crisis continues to deepen at the present rate, there could be so much social disorder that the elections would be reduced to sideshow.
I predict that someone will invoke the spectre of the International Monetary Fund in the next couple of days. If I were taoiseach I would be recalling to myself Hamlet’s words, The time is out of joint; O curs’d spite, That ever I was born to set it right!