All Together Now - Against Water Charges, Against Racism


We want to clearly state that attacks on migrants have no place in the fight against water charges. Those who sow such divisions are not our allies, they are pursuing the agenda of the government and big business.

One of the major strengths of the ever-growing campaign against water charges is the diversity of groups who are organising all across the country. Trade unions, political parties and organisations, community groups, groups of people who have never been involved in political campaigning before, all are getting stuck in and all have a role to play.

One of the groups which has emerged is called the National Citizens Movement. The group’s facebook page says that it was “…formed to fight Irish Water in the courts and to get accountability from our Government”.

As anarchists, we would seriously question the point of trying to fight the water charges through the courts, but this is a campaign which employs a diversity of tactics so if people want to go the legal route that is of course their prerogative. But if we want to build a campaign that unites the Irish working class against the imposition of this charge, we cannot allow any section of that class to be attacked.

On 8th November the National Citizens Movement posted a status update to its facebook page entitled “The status of migrant workers and regulations to ensure equality for all workers”. This posting contained a number of attacks on migrant workers, saying that they “are a cheap labour market that only serves corporations [and] damages the Irish workforce”, blames them for “…[putting] pressure on the minimum wage”, claiming that immigration is to blame for “forcing our own people to migrate in search of work” and that our “house is full” (written in capitals for emphasis!).

Whatever the motivation for this posting was, its effect is to make the job of those who would exploit us – by imposing new charges on us and by driving down wages – easier by attempting to sow divisions among us. Immigrant workers will, just like everyone else, be forced to pay the water charges if they are introduced. How does any group which wants to build a unified campaign against the water charge believe that we can do so without one section of the workforce?

But apart from that, to blame immigrant workers for driving down wages or putting pressure on the minimum wage defies logic. The only people or groups who have driven down wages, and the only people or groups who are consistently trying to reduce the minimum wage are employers – Irish for the most part and if not Irish feted by the Irish government and invited into the country to avail of reduced corporation tax rates. Them and Young Fine Gael – who argued in June that the minimum wage should be reduced by €2 per hour as it ‘acts as a barrier to job creation’!

No worker – immigrant or otherwise - wants to work for the minimum wage or less. Employers, on the other hand, want people to work for as little as they can get away with paying them. Workers, united together, can resist attempts to drive down wages. The campaign against water charges is beginning to awaken in many people a feeling that we can fight back. We have put up with years of austerity, cutbacks and extra taxes – all imposed on us to pay off the debts of fianancial gamblers. Now that we are beginning to do that, in whose interest is it to attempt to drive division between workers based on how long we have lived in this particular bit of the world?

Those who would rip us off, those lining up to buy Irish Water if we let the government away with privatising it (the Denis O’Briens of this world) are just as likely to be Irish as not – even if they don’t believe in paying taxes here. They must be rubbing their hands with glee when they see immigrant workers being blamed for their crimes against us.

The minimum wage exists because it was fought for by the trade union movement. The fact that it hasn’t been appreciably increased and that getting by on the minimum wage is well nigh impossible is an indictment of the trade union movement and its lack of fighting spirit. The launch earlier this year of a Campaign For a Living Wage (supported by a number of unions and social justice groups) is welcome but unfortunately there is no real ‘campaign’ on the issue. Perhaps with a re-awakened spirit of standing up for ourselves that the anti water charges campaign is fostering that campaign might become one that we all unite behind.

Those who sow divisions among us on the base of race or immigration status are – whether they realise it or not – pursuing the agenda of the government and big business. This has been pointed out to the National Citizens Movement in many comments on their facebook page. The fact that they have defended the article and that it remains on their page points to the fact that their agenda is racist and right-wing. Unless they change their stance they are no friends of those who want to build a better world for all.