DL is accused of betraying spirit of tax marche

Mon, Oct 28, 1996, 00:00

BITTER criticism of members of Democratic Left, now sitting in Government, was voiced at the ardfheis of the Workers' Party at the weekend by the outgoing president of the party, Ms Marian Donnelly.

In her address to the party's ardfheis in Dublin on Saturday Ms Donnelly described her disappointment that the party's efforts to harness working class support, through the tax marches of the 1980s in the Republic and the civil rights movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s in Northern Ireland, had not been followed through.

She said that in an act of "betrayal and treachery" in 1992, the parliamentary party in the Republic had abandoned the struggle for "personal gain and private ambition" with the formation of Democratic Left. In Northern Ireland "sectarian reactionary nationalism" took over.

"Those who betrayed and continue to betray the spirit of the tax marches sit in easy cosy alliance with parties whose class interests are linked to the greedy interests of the tax dodgers and evaders." Dublin workers would remember that in the next general election.

She called for the building of strong alliances with "other principled workers, socialist and communist parties" in Europe so the concept of a Europe of equal citizens would be located at the centre of political dialogue.

Workers in Ireland desperately needed the kind of representation that only the Workers' Party could provide, she said.

The party needed to face this task in a period of disenchantment, despair and disgust with the political process. But that should not be interpreted as pessimism. They must guard against the naive expectation that "there is one big thing that we can do and everything else will follow".

There was a fundamental contradiction at the heart of modern capitalist democracy, Ms Donnelly said.

"The philosophy of individualism, the belief that the individual is autonomous and free only because of the capitalist system is sharply at odds with the actual organisation of modern political, social and economic life. In a very real way citizens sense that they are losing control over the forces that control their lives.

There was a widespread feeling that people's lives were governed by impersonal power structures. For example, in the last two months 2,000 Irish workers were told by multinational companies they would lose their jobs. "They close firms, destroy jobs, shatter lives because they can find cheaper labour elsewhere." It was just too bad about workers' mortgages, children or holidays.

Socialists rejected that economic philosophy, she said. "Industry is not just about producing the cheapest possible goods in the most efficient manner. It is fundamentally about job creation, enabling workers to buy goods, to build decent lives, care for their families, create a decent human society."

In the US the growth of alienation had led to totally "privatised" communities, heavily guarded by walls, private guards, schools, clinics, a world divorced from that of ordinary citizens.

The socialist alternative was demanding, however, because it asserted citizenship was a public responsibility. It required that citizens be well informed, capable of forming critical judgments and active in ensuring decisions for the common good were carried out.

Mr Martin O'Regan, vice president, said the Workers' Party was the only one that could stand up, to the "right wing rabble rousers who sought to divide and rule by separating "the haves from the have nots".

The Progressive Democrats leader, Ms Mary Harney, seriously proposed that Ireland should adopt a low wage economy like Hong Kong. Senator Shane Ross talked of a "devil's pact" between the left wing and welfare scroungers. These people seemed unopposed by a Dail which propagated false statistics about welfare fraud and unemployment, he said.

"If the State cannot or will not provide jobs then it must listen not merely to us but to agencies like the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Conference of Religious and Combat Poverty, and ensure that all our people get an adequate standard of living and an acceptable life style.

The ardfheis adopted a resolution calling for the setting up of a national drugs forum which would set out a concerted national approach to the establishment of drug treatment centres; investigate ways of controlling professionals who facilitated drug pushers; and identify other areas of concern. The forum would have representatives of addicts, the Garda, health boards and other State agencies.

It should also include political parties opposed to drugs which were "committed to working within the law".

The ardfheis opposed the holding of a referendum on restricting bail next month. A resolution adopted described the move as "a fundamental attack on civil liberties and fundamental rights of all citizens of the State".