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Poll Shows Class Divide Widening in Ireland

category ireland / britain | economy | opinion / analysis author Tuesday April 24, 2012 13:46author by James McBarron - WSM Report this post to the editors

Analysis by James McBarron, from Workers Solidarity Cork branch.

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Poll Shows Class Divide Widening in Ireland


The Irish Times/ IPSOS like all polls is only a snap shot in time they say, but polls can be helpful indicators of the public mood when they contain useful questions. This particular poll covered a number of areas the usual poll of party support, leader popularity and government satisfaction, opinion on the fiscal compact referendum and most interestingly opinions on the household and water taxes as well as a question about cutting social welfare.

A few things are clear from the poll:

1. The class divide in Ireland is becoming far more pronounced. This is shown by the clear division between the better off (ABs in pollsters terms) and the poorest section of the working class (DEs in pollster speak) on a range of issues. The ABs support the household and water taxes as a better way to raise revenue over income tax rises and the DEs favour income tax rises over the flat taxes. That is pure and simple class interest; income taxes would have to be levied on the better off, the flat taxes on everyone and thus hurt the poorest the most. The second issue that divides clearly on class lines is the idea of cutting social welfare with the better off in favour and the least well off opposed. These are quite pronounced differences class interest is coming more centre stage, the propaganda of the media and politicians of the right is weighing less with people as their income and lifestyle suffer as more and more it becomes visible just who has the wealth and the nature of the corrupt and unjust system that delivers it to them.

2. Class is defining party political choice more than ever. The better off, professionals, big farmers and "the middle class" are far more likely to vote Fine Gael, the working class Sinn Féin and left independents/ULA. Fianna Fail is being squeezed; their cross-class appeal no longer has a great deal of currency; Labour, having betrayed the working class yet again, is in rapid decline; the middle ground is disappearing. The media of course like to call FF, FG and Labour centrist, not right-wing as they are, but the media's influence is waning. Remember every major newspaper is pro-austerity and backed the household tax, but clearly the people have rejected it. In the media there are dissenting voices but they are the odd few columnists and are by and large compromised by their support for Labour or wedded to liberal notions of the state.

This sharpening class division comes on the back of the intensification of the class war as the recession bites even deeper. In this context the Irish ruling class has been fighting to protect the interests of the capitalist class in doing this however they are having to squeeze workers and throw some of the middle class to the wolves. The abysmal reaction of the trade union leadership is a consequence both of 20 years of social partnership, the clear identification of the ICTU leadership with Labour and the interests of the capitalist class and the decline of TU membership to a largely (though not exclusively) public sector base. Thus protecting what small advantages they perceive as being possible for public sector workers becomes their key area of activity. But public sector workers have not been immune from wage cuts, cutbacks in the sectors they work in and are far from satisfied. The result has been the absence of a fightback on a serious widespread basis by organised workers. We have seen sporadic outbreaks and heroic stands like that at Veta Cortex but the Trade Union movement has failed to rally the working class. Cracks are showing however with unions more based in the private sector starting to buck the trend, the move by Mandate to back a "no" vote in the referendum is an example. In that context the rise of household tax campaign is a great cause for hope. Unburdened by the need to play by the rules, negotiate with the state and not burdened by the dead hand of trade union bureaucrats it is a real flesh and blood campaign, organically part of the working class. This expression of working class community militancy is full of contradictory and competing ideas, individuals and political groups but it is potentially the most powerful movement to emerge in Ireland since the 'Tan war".

The class war is intensifying; in that context, there is only one question that everyone will have to answer eventually: "Which side are you on?"

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