ICTU spreads its anti-sectarian message

by David Granville

OFFERING FRATERNAL May Day greetings to the people of Chesterfield from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and “workers on the island of Ireland”, Peter Bunting, pictured, delivered a blistering attack on the twin evils of sectarianism and globalised free market capitalism during the town’s May Day celebrations.

Warning that while sectarianism had dire consequences for working-class people in the north, the problem was not confined to Ireland. “Replace the word sectarianism with racism and you have the same thing happening in this country as well,” he said.

The trade union movement in the north, which represented 220,000 people “of all political opinion and none and of all religions and none” had been a catalyst for combating sectarianism.

Yet, despite nine years of ceasefires and four years of the Good Friday agreement the situation in Northern Ireland was regressing further into single-identity communities. Over the past year, a University of Ulster report had revealed that 65 per cent of 18-25 year olds had never had a meaningful conversation with a member of the other community, an NUJ branch secretary from Belfast had been shot dead by fascist, loyalist thugs and a young the trade union activist had been brutally killed delivering the post for no other reason than he was a Roman Catholic, he said.

The trade union movement had responded by organising anti-sectarian rallies throughout Northern Ireland attended by tens of thousands of people.

“In doing so we wrested back the power of the paramilitaries by showing them that there is one movement, the trade union movement, that was willing to stand up for the working class.”

Working class people in Europe had “come out in their droves” to vote for those like Le Pen in France and continued to support paramilitary organisations because the Labour Party, centre-left governments and social democrats in Europe were simply not delivering to the core vote of the working class people.

The danger of working people turning to the extreme right was there for all to see, he insisted.

“In that context let me also bring a message from the trade union movement in Ireland. The trade union movement in Ireland is deeply concerned by the collaboration between Tony Blair, the Spanish prime minister and Berlusconi in Italy.

Their concern was over attempts to roll back the European social chapter which had brought certain democratic benefits to workers throughout Europe.

Launching an attack on the impact of capitalist globalisation he warned that “the global money market and not the democratic electorate” had become the arbiter ‘sound’ policies. “In this climate a democratic president, a labour prime minister or a social democrat chancellor can snub the unions -- but he had better not offend Wall Street or the City of London or Frankfurt.”

Unfortunately, there was nothing to suggest that the deradicalised parties of the left had any solutions for tackling the inequalities of a market-led economy. “For the most part their policies are a slightly-more benign version of the same neo-liberal policies put forth by their centre-right predecessors.”

Europe still offered an alternative social model, he argued. “But unless Europeans act in concert to challenge the constraints of the global market they do not have a viable economic model.”

For the working class, their relationship to capital remained much the same as ever. “Beneath the technological changes, soft human-resource management techniques and the glitz of modernity a lot of people are as exposed as ever to the hard realities of the labour market.”

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-05-29 22:56:33.
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