Statement from IWW Ireland on a class response to Covid-19
The Covid-19 crisis has clearly shown how our society is constructed to operate for the benefit of the few, not the many. We have seen our creaking health and care services, North and South, facing unprecedented demand with governments belatedly realising that those to whom they recently denied a living wage are in fact ‘heroes’... Sadly the Southern government’s new found concern regarding health does not extend to those people living in Direct Provision, who remain in extremely cramped (and therefore life threatening) conditions.
The actions of employers throughout the country and beyond have demonstrated how little they think of the safety of their workers in what are clearly life or death circumstances.
In the North this week groups of workers walked out in Dungannon, Lurgan and Portadown - eventually forcing promises of adherence to safety standards which they say had previously been ignored. People across Ireland have been disgusted by the casual way in which workers have either been discarded without wages and adequate redundancy measures or exposed to further risk, depending on what best suited the needs and tendencies of the employing class.
By comparison, the actions of huge sections of the working class, working in health and social care, pharmacy, delivery and retail, to name only some examples, have demonstrated that solidarity is not only possible, but alive and well, and keeping our society running at present. Food runs, mutual aid groups, calls for freezes on evictions, rents and mortgages have shown us all what is possible, and perhaps what has been previously lacking in our social interactions - that we depend on each other, and can only thrive when all do.
Within communities, mutual aid has been proven as the only way to get through the privations of lockdown and the fear of serious or fatal illness. Communities have acted quickly to share basic supplies and resources. Any selfishness and recklessness which has also been noted within communities is vastly in the minority. Price gouging and other exploitation of the crisis has been effectively highlighted, with the promise that people will have long memories when we get out of this current situation.
And while we should remember those who tried to take further advantage in a crisis, we MUST remember what will have got us out of it, and what we have learned during this time.
We cannot go back to a life where workers are treated as pawns in a money making exercise for the few. Housing rights have been further highlighted by the crisis as landlords have shown how their parasitic endeavours rated above the basic needs of workers and their families. While some ‘concessions’ have been wrested from government and finance systems, much of this has been in the face of clear public outrage. The lack of workers’ rights, including adequate sick pay and the ability of employers to fire at will, has left people having to choose between their own or other’s health and keeping food on the table.
IWW Ireland has been supporting members and their colleagues throughout the country who have either been forced to work without adequate physical distancing, or have been summarily dismissed without notice. It is clear that the boss class are all about the economy and care nothing for society, where the rest of us live.
The lockdown has shown the truth of the words of one of IWW’s founders Bill Haywood: “If the workers of the world want to win, all they have to do is recognise their own solidarity, They have nothing to do but fold their arms and the world will stop. The workers are more powerful with their hands in their pockets than all the property of the capitalists”.
While continuing to demonstrate mutual aid and class solidarity during these times, let us also remember how the failures of capitalism have brought us to this point, and all resolve to rebuild a better world from the ashes of the old. We believe that large sections of the working class will have clearly seen how the boss class sees them as expendable, valued only as a wealth producer (for them). We must ensure that the learning from these times is put to good use in the struggles ahead. IWW Ireland pledges to continue to work with others in the months ahead and thereafter, to build a world fit for all of us to live in. The working class have been given a sharp lesson in how little they matter to the employer class, and have demonstrated to themselves the power they possess.
“An Injury to One is an Injury to All”.
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