Theorising "the social movement in general"
A working paper on the water charges movement now available online for comment and discussion.
This paper uses participant narratives and Marxist social movement theory to analyse resistance to water charges as the driving force of Irish anti-austerity struggles – or “the social movement in general”. It locates this movement within the history of working-class community-based self-organisation in Ireland. Contemporary resistance to metering and refusal to pay are not “spontaneous”, but articulate long-standing local rationalities.
The current situation has seen the crisis of other forms of working-class articulation: union dependence on a Labour Party which enthusiastically embraced austerity in government; the co-optation of community service provision within “social partnership”, under attack from the state since the mid-2000s; and the collapse of far left initiatives for shared parliamentary representation and resistance to household charges. New forms of popular agency are thus developing; community-based direct action has enabled a historic alliance between multiple forms of working-class voice and unleashed a vast process of popular mobilisation and self-education.
Finally, the paper relates the Irish movement to the wider loss of consent for austerity on the European periphery, and asks after the political prospects for effective alliances “within the belly of the beast”.
The paper can be viewed or downloaded at the link below. Activist and researcher comments welcome.