Ever wondered how this country got to be the way it is? Privatisation of services, introduction of charges for the collection of your bins, massive congestion on the roads and the collapse of your health services. These things don't happen by accident. There is a motor that is driving these policies and you'll find it in Europe.
This is why the European summit in Seville, which will bring together the heads of all the EU member states, is once more accompanied by massive demonstrations against the Europe of the Bosses. Meeting behind closed doors, a tiny number of those who rule Europe are making decisions that will effect the lives of every one of the hundreds of millions of people living in the European Union as well as the countries to the east and North Africa.
The workers of Europe have no say in these decisions whatsoever. The Nice referendum demonstrated that in the exceptional circumstances where citizens of a European country get to vote on an aspect of the process they are only allowed give one answer. Ireland was the only country in Europe where the citizens got to vote on the Nice treaty. We rejected it but this Autumn we will have to vote on the same treaty again - the only result that is acceptable to the bosses is a 'Yes' one.
The EU is one of the motors of capitalist globalisation, the rule that all decisions should be made on the basis of profitability alone. The World Trade Organisation is trying to impose this on the global level through the Global Agreement in Trades and Services. This covers 160 services' sectors including healthcare, education, housing, water, waste management and other basic services. The EU web page proclaims "the EU therefore leads in the drive to liberalise trade in services world wide and remove barriers to a truly global market". The Nice treaty calls for "the achievement of unity in measures of liberalisation".
Decoded, what this means is that the EU wants to turn water supply, education, health and refuse collection from being social services provided to all to profit making enterprises provided to those who can pay. This is the agenda behind the introduction of local service charges like the bin charge and the water charge. If the charge is successfully introduced the service will be sold off and the cost will soar to hundreds of Euros per year. If this is done successfully in relation to refuse charges next on the privatisation agenda will be aspects of the education and health services.
The nastiest side of the EU summit and one on the agenda in Seville is on the question of migration. Here EU policy has resulted in thousands of deaths in the last decade. The European bosses want to use North Africa and the other countries on the fringes of Europe as a highly exploitative, low wage sweatshop where workers have no union rights and environmental legislation is minimal. There are two parts to this policy.
Firstly EU rules are adjusted to encourage low wage industries to re-locate from Europe to these regions. In Ireland Fruit of the Loom has moved thousands of jobs from the north west to new plants in Morocco where workers are paid one seventh of what the (low paid) Irish workers were paid.
We would hope that these jobs would enable Moroccan workers to organise and improve their wages and conditions. But there is no freedom to organise in Morocco. It is infamous for jailing political prisoners in an underground jail in the desert. One of the services this regime provides for the European bosses is the suppression of trade unions. An International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) report notes that "21 Moroccan trade unionists were imprisoned in 1999 for trade union activities, and that they were tortured during their detention."
The logical thing for Moroccan workers to do is to flee these areas of low wages and oppression for the better conditions of the European Union. But while the EU is all about opening the borders to flows of capital it is also all about closing the borders of Europe to flows of people.
Thousands have died trying to cross the borders that surround Europe. They have drowned in the Mediterranean and suffocated in the backs of containers. Dozens have died in suspicious circumstances at the hands of immigration police. Tens of thousands more sit in prison camps across Europe, waiting to be deported. At the same time large sectors of the European economy, particularly in agriculture, cleaning and fast food are dependent on the low wage workforce the migrants who manage to cross the border provide.
The Seville summit will attempt to set up a European immigration police force better equipped to track, arrest and deport migrants. This is one of a range of Europe-wide police forces under construction. The EU bosses know that their quest for profits is resulting in a 'race to the bottom' where all across Europe workers will lose pay and conditions. They know that this will meet increased resistance. They are preparing for this now. We must prepare as well, not simply to resist their agenda, but to build a free Europe for all.
At the Seville summit the leaders have come together to finalise documents that have been negotiated in the shadows over recent years. Lurking in these shadows is a deeply undemocratic process. Many proposals are initiated by the 'European Round Table of Industrialists' (ERT). This brings together 45 top European corporations like ICI, BP, Shell, Renault, Bayer, Unilever and Nestlé. Ireland is 'represented' by Michael Smurfit.
In addition the EU headquarters in Brussels hosts some 500 industry lobby groups employing some 10,000 professional lobbyists. Baron Daniel Janssen of the ERT describes the European Commission decision-making structures as "extremely open to the business community".
This explains some of the pro-car industry decisions that the EU has made in favouring motorway construction over freight trains for the long distance transport of goods? Many of the provisions of the Single European Act, originated in the ERT document "Europe 1990 - A program for action". This led to further concentration of production in the most developed regions and the centralisation of production.
The European Commissioner for the Environment estimated that because it also favoured road (rather then rail) transport it would lead to a 50% increase in heavy road haulage by 2000, some 17 million more vehicles. One component will mean 13,000 km2 of new roads. This leads to massive pollution and a waste of resources as goods are transported over crazy distances. One German study found that while the necessary components to produce and package strawberry yoghurt could all be sourced within a radius of 50 miles they were in fact transported over 7,000 miles. A 1999 WHO report on Health costs due to road traffic-related air pollution revealed that car-related pollution kills more people in Austria, France and Switzerland than car accidents in these countries .
In 2004 the European Summit will come to Ireland. The last summit in 1996 saw a small protest on Fri. 13th November, which was out numbered by Gardai and herded out of sight of the visiting dignitaries. Armed special branch officers raided a bookshop that dared to unfurl an anti-EU banner from its roof.
The 2004 summit will take place in quite a different context, one where the level of opposition to the bosses Europe has grown. The vote in the Nice treaty shows a huge proportion of the population is now suspicious of their agenda. The 2004 summit should be a major opportunity to take that opposition onto the streets. To do this successfully will require major organisation in the months ahead, not simply to prepare the protests but more importantly to get out and make the arguments our fellow workers as to why we should mobilise for them.
In some ways this is an uphill struggle. Elsewhere in Europe the mainstream union leaderships have been willing to give resources to help build the mass protests as a way of showing they still have some muscle. In Ireland the trade union leadership have not moved beyond anything but the most tokenistic of statements on globalisation. Any large-scale mobilisation of workers will have to be done from the bottom up, as often as not with the passive opposition of the bureaucrats.
As shown elsewhere, the decisions made at the European Summits impact on the day to day lives of Irish workers. Our main focus over the next couple of years has to be on finding ways of reaching people with these arguments and getting them active on building opposition to the 2004 summits. The summit is not an end in itself, rather opposition to it will hopefully be a way for thousands of people to self-organise and for hundreds of opposition groups to spring up and start working together. On Saturday 29th at 13.00 we are having a meeting in Dublin to discuss how anarchists and other grassroots activists can start preparing for this. Come along and join in the discussion.
Libertarian organistions from all around the world released a statement in advance of the Seville summit detailing why they oppose it and what our alternative is. Read it at http://struggle.ws/global/seville/SILstatement.html
On May 6th the European style of policing arrived on the streets of Dublin. A Reclaim the Streets party of lively but peaceful young people was attacked by some seventy Gardai armed with with vans, batons and dogs. This was the latest is a series of such attacks on demonstrations linked to globalisation but what was different this time was the actions of the Gardai were captured on film.
Although initial media reports suggested the demonstration had been violent, by the following day the whole country could watch the footage of baton wielding Gardai brutally beating the crowd on the 6.01 news. This sort of policing is typical of that seen in Europe on recent demonstrations - in Genoa last July it resulted in the shooting dead of one protester, Carlo Giuliani. As a Gardai later admitted on the Late Late Show the Gardai have travelled to such protests to liase with their European counterparts. Now they are demanding more sophisticated equipment like telescopic batons that could easily kill protesters if used in the manner of May 6th.
A so-called inquiry has been set up to 'investigate' the events of May 6th. It launched itself at a press conference on the afternoon of the Ireland - Germany world cup match, a time almost certainly selected to minimise coverage. Here it was revealed that the 'investigation' would be carried out by a former Assistant Garda Commissioner. He can take no action except to refer a matter for further action to a "Tribunal", which is made up of half the members of the Gardai Complaints Board! It has no remit to look at Gardaí tactics or training, instead it can only focus on complaints about individual Gardaí. To top it all it will not be required to publish the results of the investigation.
This is no more then a whitewash designed to, at best, scapegoat individual Gardai caught on film. It is obvious that these individual thugs were operating in a way they felt was permitted, if not ordered, by the senior officers present. It is almost certain that they in turn were following directives from the government and the EU on how to handle globalisation protests.
While we would like to see the top cops who ordered the attack fired, the responsibility for the attack on Dame street goes higher, into the Irish government and to the European Union. The people attacked, 18 of whom are now facing court cases, have set up a defence campaign. They will need money for their defence and also to take civil cases against the Gardai. You can contact the campaign to make a donation or offer support at 087-9425422 or by email at email@example.com
Eyewitness accounts of Seville and RTS protests with discussion around preparing for the Dublin European summit in 2004
This 'Anarchist News' is mostly about the EU but this does not mean that getting rid of the EU would solve the problems we face. 'Native' Irish capitalism is as bad, if not worse - the problem is the capitalist system itself. We need an alternative to it. But for many people what the left has done in power under Leninism in the Soviet Union or the Labour parties in the west seems to prove there is no such alternative. We believe that lessons are to be learned from those failures and that these lessons lead us to anarchism.
Anarchism is the idea that the mass of people, the working class, can change the world for the better by replacing the exploitation, inequality and injustice that are all around today with a new world based on socialism and freedom. Anarchism is the idea of a world where there are no classes - the rich having been sent packing. Where society is run and controlled through councils elected, mandated and recallable by those who produce the wealth in society, the working class. Where there is absolute freedom of ideas, of movement and of the individual.
Anarchism is a society built on the abolition of all tyranny, in society and in the workplace. In the everyday class struggle its aim is to build as much working class unity as possible. It argues for workers to strengthen their organisations and their capacity to take control from the bosses. This starts with taking control of our unions and community organisations at local level.
The inequality and authoritarianism of capitalism is neither acceptable nor necessary. Workers and the poor are constantly being asked to make sacrifices and to tighten their belts for the 'good of the country'. The things we most depend on like housing, health care and education are the very things that are underfunded by the Government while all the time the huge wealth and profit of private industry remains relatively untouched by taxes. We are no strangers to this in Ireland.
Anarchists argue that this doesn't happen because we have 'bad' politicians but because it is the way that capitalism works. In a society where a small rich class controls things, it is inevitable that they will exploit and make the poor pay for as much as possible.
Anarchism is a practical way to bring about a society of socialism and freedom. The traditional 'way', in countries like ours, is through the ballot box. It is here that we are told that changes can be brought about if we want to make them. Anarchists don't agree with this and oppose involvement in the parliament for two reasons.
Firstly, real power in society doesn't reside there. It is mainly a talking shop. Even if you did get a socialist party elected to Government that stood for the abolition of capitalism (instead of the normal situation where they stand
for simply an increase in dole payments or a cut of two pence in the tax rate) they wouldn't be allowed to do it. Big business organised military coups to overthrow reforming governments in Chile, Haiti, and many other countries. Earlier this year it tried to do the same in Venezuela.
But there is also another reason why socialism can't be brought about by electing a socialist government. Anarchists argue that socialism is about the working class running society through workplace and community councils - in other words democracy in all parts of human activity. It is through this that a real equal distribution of wealth can take place. But most socialist parties don't believe in this idea at all. Rather they see socialism as something else. For them it is the idea of their Party which 'represents' the workers interests taking control of the State and 'making it work for the people'. The old division into rulers and ruled remains.
Anarchists say that no one can actually 'represent' workers interests but workers themselves. Anarchists argue that only all those who suffer inequality and injustice can and will at the end of the day see the fight to end it through to the finish. Anarchists argue that the means used to build socialism and ends achieved are connected. Thus a Party which achieves power believing itself to represent the working class cannot but end up creating a rigid hierarchical society all over again.
Finally then, anarchism is the idea of a free socialist society and how it can be achieved by the direct action and strength of the working class. Anarchists stand uncompromisingly for a new world. It will be organised from the bottom up and production will be to meet peoples' needs, not for the private profit of a few. Every individual will enjoy complete control of her/his life with no limit on their freedom as long as they do not encroach on the freedom of anyone else. That is what the Workers Solidarity Movement is fighting for. We want you to join with us in this fight.
Here are some good places to start. These are some campaigns and groups supported by anarchists:
Workers Solidarity Movement - Irish Anarchist organisation involved in a range of struggles for a free, socialist world. 087-7939931 or http://struggle.ws/wsm.html
Campaign against the bin charges - Opposing unfair double taxation. For info on groups in your area phone: 087-6277606.
Gluaiseacht - Organising in a non-hierarchical way around environmental and social justice issues. They have organised a number of protests against Sellafield. http://www.gluaiseacht.org/
Reclaim the streets - Reclaiming public space for the people to party! 087-9425422 or http://www.indymedia.ie/rts
Indymedia - An international network of alternative news services, against the corporate monopoly of media: http://www.indymedia.ie/
Residents Against Racism / Anti-Fascist Action - anti-racist groups email: Residents_Against_Racism@ireland.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Cork Peace Alliance - Organising against war and imperialism. The CAZ, 4 Knapps Square, Cork.