Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Ireland to protest against the privatization of water. In Dublin, 30,000 people took part in the rally chanting “No way, we don’t pay” and “the Banks got bailed out, we got sold out”. Major protests also took place in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, and Letterkenny.
The privatization of water is part of the restructuring program set by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for financial bailouts. Ireland was given 85 billion euro bailout loan in 2010. In order to receive this loan the government of Ireland guaranteed its creditors to pull out of its obligations for public provisions such as water, education, healthcare, and other public utilities that was paid for through taxes. This is why the people of Ireland are now being forced to pay 200 to 400 euros per year for water.
Neo-liberalism has created a world where capitalism’s crisis is being paid by the working class through economic restructuring. The neo-liberal and pro-austerity governments in countries such Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy have accepted large bailouts in order to save the financial institutions in their country and to revive capital accumulation. These bailouts only serve to prolong the life of capitalism at a very large cost and exploitation of the working class. Right now neo-liberal governments around Europe are busy putting a price tag on everything possible and inserting public services into the exchange-value system of capitalism. Placing a price tag on water and other life essentials is a form of secondary exploitation. The working class through its struggle may be able to increase its wages, however bourgeois is able to reclaim its surplus through the increasing cost of living.
The protest against the privatization of water must continue. However, this protest must also join a larger movement and organize around a working class, anti-austerity, political party to remove the neo-liberal government that is currently in power in Ireland. Such working class and anti-austerity political parties are already taking charge and re-shaping the economies in countries such as Greece (Syriza) and Spain (Podemos). Only a government with a working class character can transform the economy to promote the interests of the working class. As long as the working class is fighting for its rights as opposition the bourgeois will find new ways to rob the working class: either through primary exploitation (lowering wages and benefits) or secondary exploitation (increasing the cost of living).