This article is from the July 2004 edition of Socialist Voice

Is Bertie's time up?

WORKING CLASS people on their own initiative used this election to smack the arrogance out of this government.

By Kevin McLoughlin

The dominant feature of the election was the swing against Fianna Fail. At 32%, this was their worst vote in a national election since 1927, down a full 10% on 2002. They lost 80 council seats and if this vote was repeated in a general election they could lose up to 30 TDs.

The PDs are arguing that the government hasn't been decisive enough in imposing their neo-liberal agenda. While there has been no fundamental difference in policies between these two parties, there is now a division on how this government should proceed. Fianna Fail are likely to push for a change in how the government's anti-working class agenda is pursued. They may take some special initiatives and possibly increase spending on health and education to try to claw back support. While neither party wants an election in the short-term, the tension between the two parties seems set to increase.

Bertie Ahern's cabinet re-shuffle, due in the autumn may try to remove some of the "faces" most associated with attacks on the working class. Prominent cabinet ministers may be removed including members of the PDs and could increase the tensions between the coalition partners. The poor vote on 11 June poses the possibility of a challenge to Ahern's leadership and a threat to the existence of the coalition, both of which might be gone before the next general election.

A desire to punish the government was the basis for the rebound in Fine Gael's fortunes. Fine Gael are now seen by sections of the middle class as the core party of an alternative government to the present coalition.

Labour gained marginally on a national basis but in Dublin it increased its vote more significantly. The anger toward Fianna Fail can push some, including some working class people who had turned away from back to supporting that party at the next election. A repeat of the local elections result at the next general election could see a Fine Gael, Labour and Greens coalition government emerge. Regardless of how it presents itself, this would be a right wing government and would continue to impose attacks on the living standards of working people.

The Socialist Party believes that none of the established parties, including Labour and Sinn Fein, offer a genuine left/socialist alternative through which working class people can organise a fightback. What we need is a new mass working class party but there needs to be an increase in the level of struggle by working class people and the drawing of leftwing/socialist conclusions by a significant layer of workers and youth before such a party can become viable.

The result of the local elections shows that working class people are looking for an alternative. Struggles that can occur in the next period such as against the water charges (if the government proceeds with it plans) will further enhance the conditions needed for the development of a genuine mass working class party.

For now the focus should be on the fact that this government has been significantly weakened. Workers can take advantage of Fianna Fail and the PDs difficulties and if they get organised to repel to oppose their anti-working class attacks which they will most definitely still try to impose.

If you are interested in getting involved in the struggle to build a mass socialist movement then you should join the Socialist Party.

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