Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why I'm voting No in the Irish austerity referendum

Socialist Party Vote No poster
To be honest it's only a gesture but gestures do matter. We’ve all heard the slogan a No vote is a vote against austerity. In itself that slogan sounds naïve - as the parties supporting a Yes have been quick to point out.

So a No vote is empty without a commitment to an ongoing campaign against austerity, and an expression of solidarity with the people of Greece. I'm afraid I'm too old and washed up to do a lot of campaigning these days but at least I'm supporting to the no household charge campaign

Incidentally the word austerity is much misused by politicians of the right, and most us have unwittingly fallen in with them. The original age of austerity was postwar Britain.  But the 1945 Labour government set up the welfare state and the NHS.  Look it up in a dictionary and you'll find austerity means the trait of great self-denial especially refraining from worldly pleasures.  But today austerity is being imposed because men in suits say that it’s necessary to satisfy the invisible gods of the financial markets, and it's used for a package of measures that increase inequality (already on the rise throughout the world for the past 30 years) and impacts mainly on the poor, and the people for whom worldly pleasures are already hard to come by.

The Irish referendum is to change the constitution to allow the government to sign up to the European Fiscal Stability Treaty, which will impose penalties on any government that runs a deficit budget.  It's supported by Fine Gael, Labour (the coalition parties) and Fianna Fáil, and opposed by the United Left Alliance and Sinn Fein. The vote is tomorrow.

A final point, there's no doubt a raft of new cutbacks and tax hikes has already been prepared, but will not be announced until after the referendum. The government got a fright from the backlash against the household charge, and you can be sure it is deliberately suppressing news.

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