'Time to make the wealthy pay' - speech by Gregor Kerr at Anti Capitalist Bloc protest

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We are here tonight outside Anglo Irish Bank to deliver a strong and clear message to the cabal of bankers, speculators and developers and their political friends who have brought this country to the brink of economic ruin.  That message as I said is very simple and very straightforward – ‘They didn’t share the wealth, We aren’t going to share the pain. Make the wealthy pay’.

Mainstream political and economic analysis of the current crisis speak of it as if it was some sort of natural phenomenon – as if this crisis had emerged from nowhere and was unpredictable.   That mainstream analysis also puts forward a twin strategy for dealing with the crisis  -
1. cut public spending – in other words cut spending on social services such as health, education and social welfare and
2. slash the incomes of ordinary workers.  Be those workers in the public or private sectors, the intention is to drive down wages as low as they can possibly get away with. 

Partly this is a response to the financial crisis but partly it is also a strategy of business and their friends in government to use the cover of the crisis to frighten workers into accepting wage cuts, attacks on their conditions, wholesale changes to their pensions and a whole raft of changes that they couldn’t hope to get away with otherwise.

But the message we are delivering tonight is that we do not accept their TINA strategy, we do not accept their political analysis that There Is No Alternative . We do not accept that Brian Lenihan can say that to find €23 billion to bail out the gangsters who ran this place behind me is not a problem but that we cannot afford to fund beds in hospitals, that we need to cut social welfare and that we cannot afford the many services that people in working class communities depend on.

Many references have been made to the spirit of Greece and to the spirit of fighting back evident among the Greek working class, their unwillingness to roll over and ‘share the pain’.  There’s a very fundamental lesson that everyone should be taking from what’s happening in Greece..  That lesson is that what is happening in Greece is that the international markets (i.e. financial speculators) have gone after the Greek economy because they believe they can make a short-term financial killing on it. ‘The markets’ are demanding a slashing of public spending and a dismantling of workers’ rights and conditions. And because economic orthodoxy across Europe has accepted that ‘the markets’ cannot be challenged, these profiteers (described as a ‘wolf pack’ by the Swedish finance minister) are being appeased by government policies in every EU country.

It’s in this context that the Irish government, rather than going after the assets of the wealthy or attempting to deal with the crisis by a re-balancing of the taxation system, has joined the bandwagon of slash and burn with regard to public services and workers’ conditions.  But what we all need to remember is that this wolf pack of financial speculators is not easily appeased.  In fact when they see we arte willing to accept the pain, they’re going to keep coming back for more – Social welfare rates, the minimum wage, pensions… everything that we depend on to make this an even slightly civilised society will come under attack.

Video of this talk (via Threeriversblue)

We’re all here tonight because we oppose what is happening.  We can see that a society in which 1% of the population owns 34% of the wealth and in which the share of Gross National Product going to profits continues to increase while the share going to wages has been slashed – we can see that that type of society is disgusting, immoral and just plain wrong.  We’re here because we want to oppose the greed and contempt for ordinary people inherent in capitalism. 

This crisis cannot be solved on a permanent basis by tinkering with the edges of the current system.  It can only be solved when we organise in our workplaces, our communities and everywhere we go to oppose the attacks on our class and organise to sweep away the system and replace it with one based on justice, fairness and equality.

The challenge for each of us is to begin to imagine that new society.  It’s relatively easy for us all to agree that we are opposed to the way things are.  It’s easy to declare that we don’t accept the Fianna Fail/Green party analysis that There Is No Alternative.  But the harder challenge for us is to begin to imagine and articulate what an alternative society would look like and to begin to work towards building that society.

So let’s get organised, let’s build a huge campaign which will unite workers, the unemployed, trade union branches, community organisations and all who are angry with the government’s economic slash and burn policies bringing them together to build a united campaign against the cuts and the attacks on our living standards.

But let’s also begin a conversation about the type of society we want to replace the current mess with.  Let’s imagine a society which puts the needs of the many above the greed of the few and which values equality, justice and democracy.  And let’s start the process of building that new society.   

WORDS: 'Time to make the wealthy pay' - text of speech by Gregor Kerr of WSM at Anti Capitalist Bloc protest, Anglo Irish Bank, 25th May 2010

IMAGES: Ciaran, Aileen, Andrew, Freda, Kev

Created with flickr slideshow.

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