It's time for a break (for me anyway). Apologies for not being as active as I should have been on the issues surrounding the budget but work has been ferocious. I will be back on-line first thing in the New Year, ready to take on the orthodoxy. But more importantly, to build with everyone who is interested - and however late in the day - a viable, credible progressive alternative.
That is the good work that awaits us.
But only after all of us have had a good and relaxing rest. Best of season greetings.
They won. We lost. Get over it. Now let’s change it.
There are any number of outrages in the 2010 budget – large ones and a plethora of small ones that will only become evident when the details see the light. These will be dressed up in all sorts of fashionable clothes. My favourite is ‘this will instill confidence’. Take a look at these numbers from the ever fascinating Ireland After Nama. Now imagine you own a small business in one of these towns that is reliant upon local consumer spend: nearly half of the local at-work population is getting hammered with a pay cut, on top of cuts in Child Benefit and Early Childcare Supplement; the working age population without a job are also getting hit with an income cut. A significant proportion of your customer base is young, having bought a house in the last few years, with huge mortgage repayments. The Minister has announced that within a few years they will be hit with a property tax (sorry, house-property tax) and mortgage interest relief will be abolished. Oh, and yes, forecasters are predicting that interest rates will treble within two years.
So your customer base has less money and can look forward to higher debt repayments and more taxes.
Yeah, those business owners are really getting that confidence mojo happening. I’m sure they’ll start investing in expansion any day now.
But back to the main argument: we have lost the debate. In some cases we weren’t even at the debate. Arguments over alternative strategies or even alternative approaches consistent with the Government’s strategy – all lost. Not only do we have a deflationary, strategy – we have it on the worst terms possible.
If we don’t accept this, we are in denial. If we think that protesting ‘louder’ will have any effect, we are in denial. If we think that it’s the media to blame, for shaping the debate to a particular end (which they have done and will continue to do, in bucket-loads), we are in denial. If we think that soaking the rich (which I have no problem with) somehow constitutes a sustainable alternative strategy, we are in denial. If we think that all we need to do is distribute a few more leaflets, issue a few more statements, and call a few more meetings – we are in denial.
For these are all the fall-out from our defeat, not its causes. We must rethink – again; return to first principles. We must find the fundamental cause of our defeat and address that. If we do, our protests-against can be turned into campaigns-for, we can construct new communications strategies that don’t rely on the whims of editors and current affairs producers, we turn progressive redistributive demands into productive investment. And most of all we can ensure that the principles – ‘agitate, educate, organise’ - become purposeful and common-sensical.
Briefly, I’d like to address two causes of our defeat; one short-term, one long-term. There may be other causes but for me these are central.