Communist Youth Organization

The Youth Branch of The Workers’ Communist Party of Iran

“From the river to the sea, Irish water will be free”: a manifestation of capitalism’s exchange/use-value contradiction

With over 100,000 people gathered in the streets of Dublin, the people of Ireland have made it loud and clear that they will not allow the government to impose the new water tax on them. Since the collapse of the economy in 2008 the government of Ireland has imposed deep cuts into the social services. The financial bailout that Ireland received from the European Central Bank predicated on these cuts to social services. However, smaller social services do not mean lower taxes for the working people. As it is the case now with the Irish Water, which already receives one billion euros from taxes, the government has setup a private company to charge an additional fee for water.

The march and rally against the newly imposed water tax is setup and organized by Right2Water campaign. This campaign has organized rallies in Letterkenny, Donegal, Drogheda, Bray, Sligo, Waterford, Fermoy in Cork, Gorey in Wexford, and many other small towns and cities in Ireland. Further, YouTube videos have been made to show the citizens how to remove water meters as well as the resistance against the installation of water meters and the heavy handed police repression.

Taxation of water is an example manifestation of one of the most central contradictions of capitalism: the exchange-value and use-value contradiction. The use-value of water is very clear, and it is not only a very basic necessity of life, but it should be the right of every woman, man and child to have access to it for free since life is impossible without it. However capitalism functions on an exchange-value basis, the exchange-value for the commodity water is decided not necessarily on the cost of extracting the water or its delivery, but on the demand and supply of the market, and or arbitrarily set by the government in order to counter balance other costs. A complete privatization of commodity water can create a scenario where a corporation, having a monopoly in the market, can change the price (the exchange-value) that they wish in order to generate profits. In this way the “cost” of water via taxes and fees, its exchange-value character, does not necessarily reflect actual costs. This of course means that now many Irish people are being denied access to the use-value of water simply because of the capitalism imposed exchange-value imposed on commodity water.

The commodification of water is also a manifestation of the commodity fetishism of capitalism. Capitalism expanding market needs has seen the commodification of the natural world space around us. This list does not only include just water, forests and the oceans, but anything that can be possibly yields an exchange-value in the market. Capitalism will put a price tag on air if it is able to control it. For capitalism it does not matter if something is produced via social labour, but if it can be traded for a profit through the exchange-value system.

The Irish people are amidst the largest and most total assault by the bourgeoisie on their human rights. Access to water must never be a bargaining chip on a negotiating table, or bought and sold in the market: it is a human right! The ruthlessness by which the state police are attacking the protesters only demonstrates the inhuman mechanics of a system that will rather put bullets into the bodies of Irish working people than lose a penny in profits.

Chia Barsen

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