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Austerity – Basque Fight Versus Irish Flight

Bilbao, Basque Nationalist Demonstration 2012
Bilbao, Basque Nationalist Demonstration 2012

There is an interesting if understandably angry article by author James Petras at the Dissident Voice comparing the different reactions in Ireland and the Basque Country to the austerity policies being implemented in both nations. Where the Irish have adopted a poise of dejected servility the Basques have become ever more rebellious, with a rise in Left and Centre-Left Nationalist parties to challenge the cosy consensus reached long ago by the parties of the older Nationalist establishment and their Spanish “Unionist” counterparts.

“In the face of the long-term, large-scale crisis, Ireland has become the ‘model’ vassal state for the creditor imperial states. The leading Irish trade union confederation and the dominant political parties – including the Labor Party currently in the coalition with the ruling Fine Gael party – have signed off on a series of agreements with the Brussels oligarchs to slash public employment and spending. In contrast, the militant pro-independence Basque Workers Commission, or LAB, has led seven successful general strikes with over 60% worker participation in the Basque country – including the latest on May 30, 2013.

The class collaborationist policies of the Irish trade unions have led to a sharp generational break – with the older workers signing deals with the bosses to ‘preserve’ their jobs at the expense of job security for younger workers. Left without any organized means for mass struggle, young Irish workers have been leaving the country on a scale not seen since the Great Famine of the mid-19th century. Over 300,000 have emigrated in the past 4 years, with another 75,000 expected to leave in 2013, out of a working population of 2.16 million. In the face of this 21st century catastrophe, the bitterness and ‘generational break’ of the emigrating workers is expressed in the very low level of remittances sent back ‘home’. One reason the Irish unemployment rate remains at 14% instead of 20-25% is because of the astounding overseas flight of young workers.

In contrast there is no such mass emigration of young workers from the Basque country. Instead of flight, the class fight has intensified. The struggle for national liberation has gained support among the middle class and small business owners faced with the complete failure of the right-wing regime in Madrid (ruled by the self-styled ‘Popular Party’ ) to stem the downward spiral.

The Basque country’s revolt against centralized rule from Madrid is partly based on the fact that it is one of Spain’s most productive, technologically advanced and socially progressive regions. Basque unemployment is less then that of the rest of Spain. Higher levels of education, a comprehensive regional health system, especially in rural areas and a widespread network of local elected assemblies, combined with the unique linguistic and cultural heritages, has advanced the Basque Nation toward greater political autonomy.”

10 comments on “Austerity – Basque Fight Versus Irish Flight

  1. Peadar Ó Lorcáin

    Sionnach: This conformist society where dissent is frowned upon – along with institutionalised low self esteem and financial debts – are reasons why ‘silent majority’ in this state won’t protest against austerity — Ideologically this is a confessional state where 2013 European Unionism is far more trenchant than 1913 British Unionism, where only few weeks ago, Lucinda Creighton asked why so few Irish (publicly funded) anglosphere-emigrés don’t apply for EU-admin jobs: doubtless statist euro-federalists like herself have lived too long in a closet! — A pluralist, republican worldview appears now to be extremist – I think it might be too late for this lost generation — Peadar

    • I tend to agree. If the last five years have had so little an effect on people’s politics that economically right-wing parties like FG, FF and Lab continue to dominate the polls then there is very little hope for a “Scandinavian” model of a future Ireland/Éire. And now we have the Irish Indo et al pushing for parties even further to the right and not just in economic terms.

      Unrestrained capitalism with little or no social and cultural responsibility has turned Ireland into the Las Vegas of western Europe. A soulless wasteland. Certainly there is no sense of oineach in our culture or political classes (some day I’m going to incorporate cac ar oineach into a headline for one of my posts. It sums up my feelings on how the Golden Circle served the Irish nation).

      • Peadar Ó Lorcáin

        Nice one Sionnach! I remember studying the leaving cert this time in 1990 and reading about Edmund Burke as part of the (I think) now defunct prose element to the English language syllabus – “the chivalric virtues of 1789” – ah, the naïveté! — Peadar

  2. I am afraid Ireland has been well and truly tamed. A diet of cheap alcohol,illegal and legal drugs, and x factortype tv shows has dumbed down the population that much they simply havnt a clue that they are being shafted. I look on the spanish, greek and other europeans with envy when i see them standing up to the powers that be and saying no. The Irish are a case of be careful what you wish for. I.e We have always looked with amazement at the glitzy razzmatazz of the USA and some of us secretly wanted it. Well that glitz comes with a price. To acheive that razzmatazz you must be self-centred,greedy,cruel and have an enormous ego. When that criteria is met then the the soul of a country is destined to be destroyed. The ‘fighting irish’, these days, tend to fight to get their sprogs on reality t.v than to fight for their neighbours’ rights. Well and truly ‘americanised’. James Connolly would be mocked by his countrymen today if he were alive.

    • Pretty much agree with every word. For decades we were trapped between the two imperialisms of Empire and Church. Now we have sold ourselves to new masters. This Anti-Treaty image from the Counter-Revolutionary struggle had it right. We need an updated version for our new dystopian reality. More on the true origins of our dysfunctional state here.

    • Pádraig Ó Déin

      This statement is highly accurate and brilliant. It seems the Irish no longer concern themselves with matters of cultural integrity. We have become greedy and materialistic. Our desire is no longer to be a distinct people but rather a derivative blur between the United States and Britain. The other day I was talking to two Gardaí. I asked them about their opinion on the arresting of man in Dublin who decided, as was his constitutional right, to speak in Irish when they queried him. They had no idea what I was talking about! I was very much surprised.

      My family was angry about my doing so because they claimed that those Gardaí, who knew the family, would think I’m Republican. As in PIRA member. When does wanting to restore the language of the Irish become associated with such a thing.

      If you don’t mind Wolfe Tone I may use what you said when I get into a heated discussion with somebody.

      • I think the definition of modern Ireland as a “derivative blur between the United States and Britain” is entirely accurate. A brilliant summing up.

      • Work away. Ironically i believe the worse the ‘austerity measures’ become, then the chances are more people will wake up and smell the fraud that has been inflicted on them. That fraud will continue for a long time to come if the people dont open their eyes. On a more positive note, the smug englishman can shake his head and tut at the free states woes but i have no doubt they are in a worse financial situation than their neighbours, they just dont realise it yet. By the way, like them or loathe them, the IRA is admired around the world for punching above its weight and defying the mighty brit empire. Even amongst the ‘razzmatazz’ of the USA/UK they are quietly admired. Like them or loathe them they are a part of Ireland’s dna. Alas, the planter stock will tell you otherwise.

  3. Out of the ruins of the current mess I really hope the authentic Ireland re-emerges, the land of craic, Gaelige and community, not the land of greed, Hugo Boss and wannabe-Americans.

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