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What you want to say? Open Thread, 30th November 2011 November 30, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

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1. LeftAtTheCross - November 30, 2011

Speaking of mental illness (as we were here http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/a-digitial-video-society-is-a/), have people been following the story about Kate Fitzgerald, the woman who committed suicide after writing a very moving article in the IT a few months ago?

More twists and turns here: http://www.broadsheet.ie/2011/11/30/kate-fitzgerald/

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irishelectionliterature - November 30, 2011

Read the article in the paper and then saw that this morning. Dreadful stuff.
You’d have a fair idea what stable the ‘journalist’ who gave them the warning came from.

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Gearóid - December 1, 2011

Fair play broadsheet.ie. At least there are some outlets of integrity in the Irish media.

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2. irishelectionliterature - November 30, 2011

Am currently reading an excellent book “On Our Knees – Ireland in 1972″ by Rosita Sweetman. It covers an awful lot of topics that would be of interest here.
Anyone know what the story with copyright is….. For instance scanning and posting an interview with Cathal Goulding from the book?

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LeftAtTheCross - November 30, 2011

IEL, read that many years ago, excellent book alright. I was hoping to hear Sweetman speak at the Flat Lakes Festival in Monaghan during the summer but she sent last minute apologies which was a disappointment. She also wrote a follow up “On Our Backs” which examined sexual attitudes in the 80s in ireland.

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Ghandi - November 30, 2011

Remember readingthat years ago, must see if I still have it, was’nt it out around the same time as “To take Arms” by ( I forget at the moment) which was about Daithi O’Connell’s trip to Europe buying arms. Marie Maguire?

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Cliffwalker - November 30, 2011

“On Our Knees” was first published by Pan Books Ltd, London in 1972. The ISBN is: 0 330 23320 3. The copyright is, or at least was then held, by Rosita Sweetman.

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Michael Carley - December 1, 2011

It gets a mention in Diarmuid Ferriter’s book on sex in Ireland: Occasions of Sin.

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3. LeftAtTheCross - November 30, 2011

Success to public sector workers in NI & GB who are on strike today over the issue of reform of public sector pensions!

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Ghandi - November 30, 2011

Surely its the North of Ireland LATC?

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LeftAtTheCross - November 30, 2011

Whatever floats your boat Ghandi.

The WP website uses “Northern Ireland”: http://www.workerspartyireland.net/ni.html

But sure split hairs if you will.

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irishelectionliterature - November 30, 2011

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LeftAtTheCross - November 30, 2011

Sometimes it takes a taxi driver to tell it like it is!

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4. Ghandi - November 30, 2011

Northern Ireland is a politically loaded term, which recognises the legitmacy of that State, whilst WP leadership may use it, it is not used by most members. No one better than WP to split hairs.

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hairsplitter - November 30, 2011

Em, Ghandi, while we’re on the subject of getting names right…

It’s Gandhi.

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Ghandi - December 1, 2011

When a well known publication began to refer to me many years ago as Ghandi that’s the way it was spelt. I would not want any confusion with the man of a similar name who was far greater than any of us and an inspiration to all.

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5. Richard - November 30, 2011

Success to public sector workers in Ireland and Britain who are on strike today over the issue of reform of public sector pensions! :p

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Michael Carley - December 1, 2011

Good turn out in Bath yesterday and mostly the rest of the public were supportive (beeps and cheers).

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6. EamonnDublin - November 30, 2011

Success?? Does anybody really think today’s strikes ( in the 6 counties!!!! ) and in Britain will achieve anything. A damp squib was the Tories responce.

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CMK - November 30, 2011

You got a better idea?

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EamonnDublin - November 30, 2011

Yeah, extend the strike to several days long to cause maximum impact. Short term financial loss for strikers but more chance of gain.

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7. Pope Epopt - December 1, 2011

I tried to resist – I really did – but this really takes the biscuit.

Anyone for tasteful ‘celtic’ swirly plughole themes? In eye-pleasing green and blue, natch.

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Ghandi - December 1, 2011

Nothing really changes does it. I would suggest that the most apt logo would be the Anglo building in docklands.

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RosencrantzisDead - December 1, 2011

An image of an exit sign would probably be the most appropriate.

All other symbols would be either meaningless or hypocritical.

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8. Ruprecht - December 1, 2011
9. LeftAtTheCross - December 1, 2011

I’m not intimately familiar with the historical context behind the issues raised in Lucio Magri’s NLR article “Parting Words”, but it is a fine piece of writing which touches on the need for an alternative Left programme and vision, a subject which crops up here on CLR from time to time. The piece isn’t confined to that point by any means.

[Watching Vincent Browne last night I was yet again struck by the glaring weakness in Joe Higgins' effectiveness in terms of creating a vision of this credible alternative. His critique of the existing situation was good, not even Varadkar or the Irish Independent journalist could argue convincingly against him on that, but what asked what is the alternative he yet again resorted to rhetorical crutches and vague unconvincing soundbite budgetary measures.]

It also contains a quote which has contemporary relevance, in terms of Occupy:

“The collapse of actually existing socialism, and the eclipse of social democracy as any kind of other socialism, has on the contrary left a void which has been filled by a spontaneism that negates the need for politics in the name of uncritical faith in the revolt of the ‘multitude’. Such a belief is but a mirror version of faith in progress: neoanarchism versus neoliberalism.”

The article is here: http://www.newleftreview.org/A2545

It’s easier to read in its PDF form here: http://www.newleftreview.org/?getpdf=NLR26504&pdflang=en

The article is somewhat defeatist, published in 2005.

Magri died earlier in the week via assisted suicide.

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Michael Carley - December 1, 2011

La rivista del manifesto (the article is farewell to it) was an excellent publication, as is Il Manifesto, which has just about managed to survive for forty years.

Magri was part of the group that was expelled from the PCI for having set up Il Manifesto, after taking on some of the lessons of the 1960s movements in Italy (which lasted well into the seventies). In many ways, they, and the PCI, kept Italy alive when the extra-parliamentary left were falling into terrorism.

There are a couple of autobiographies from the group which are well worth a look: Pietro Ingrao and Rossanna Rossanda (which has been translated by Verso).

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Mark P - December 1, 2011

The central problem with coming up with a “credible” alternative programme, is that there isn’t one within the limits of capitalism. It’s a choice between debt peonage and default and effective devaluation and both choices will lead to carnage for working class people.

There is no Keynsian route out. There is no “credible” alternative reformist programme. It all comes down to various anti-working class measures or an end to capitalism.

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FergusD - December 2, 2011

Mark P,
“The central problem with coming up with a “credible” alternative programme, is that there isn’t one within the limits of capitalism” I don’t wish to be trite but isn’t that where the Transitional Programme comes in?

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Mark P - December 2, 2011

Yes, Fergus, but a Transitional Programme can’t be “costed” or “credible” in a capitalist sense, because one of the central aspects of it is that it can’t be implemented without abolishing capitalism.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 1, 2011

Mark P, that’s one position and I don’t think there are too many here on CLR who disagree that when the moment comes that capitalism should be pushed aside, but in the meantime there is a gap of credibility that limits the effectiveness of the Left as an political alternative in the here and now. Look I don’t want to get into a reform vs revolution debate with you on the correctness or otherwise of your point of view, I’m only stating the bleeding obvious that the vast majority of the population would welcome some steps on the road to socialism in the short-term, regardless of the timescale or endpoint of the complete journey. The danger is that the attractiveness of a road to socialism could be substituted with the road to corporatism/facism unless the Left starts putting down some signposts along the route to help the masses to align their compasses in the right direction.

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Michael Carley - December 1, 2011

Going back to Magri’s article that kicked this off, that was exactly the position the Italian left (especially the PCI) found itself in in the 1970s. There was a strong extraparliamentary left which was being sucked further into terrorism (including the murder of PCI activists and trade unionists) and the risk was that it not take much for Italy to slide into outright Fascism, under the guidance of assorted intelligence agencies. The PCI and, in fairness, elements of the DC managed to hold things together and stop a drift towards the BR or PL, which could easily have provoked a general slide into reaction or worse. Their `alternative’ was decency, democracy and basic legality (which would make a remarkably radical platform for a major Irish political party).

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Garibaldy - December 1, 2011

Firstly, I don’t think there’s any harm at all in terms of the long-term goal of building a socialist society to argue at each and every point for a long-term strategic plan to build the importance of the state sector in the economy. A period such as this seems precisely the time to be making such arguments in terms of the possibility that the public may be more receptive now than in many years. It is though important to make it clear that there is a longer-term goal behind such arguments.

And just out of curiosity. Does the SP today have an equivalent list for either the Republic or the UK of the 350/250 top monopolies for rapid nationalisation that Militant had in the past? I’d be interested in seeing such a list if it does.

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Mark P - December 1, 2011

LATC,

The point I’m making is not that it would be undesirable to come up with a “credible” programme of left wing reform, but that in the current context it is impossible to do so. The former is an arguable position, but it doesn’t really arise because of the crisis. The “where’s the money” question is glib, smug and complacent but it simply isn’t answerable within the terms of the international market in the context of the debt crisis.

It’s not a matter of looking at the figures hard enough and thinking hard enough and then, somehow, the left can come up with a programme which simultaneously avoids debt peonage, avoids the massive destruction of incomes that leaving the Euro and devaluing would represent, avoids simply being unable to borrow money and at the same time involves progressively increasing the significance of the state sector.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 1, 2011

I don’t buy impossible I’m afraid. Difficult yes, likely to require multiple alternative options and contingencies and approaches within a framework of an over-arching alternative yes, uncomfoarable yes, but impossible no. I’m not suggesting that the framework has to be limited to “reform” by any means, clearly there are contradictions in play here which are bringing the huse of cards down at the moment, but it’s not beyond the bounds that some compromise will be established that will push its demise down the road another few years or decades, on the backs of workers of course. And in the meantime what, do we just march in our hundreds down O’Connell St and absolve the responsibility to lead in any meaningful way by ignoring the possibility of establishing a roadmap for transformation? There’s a grey area between reform and revolution and ideological petrification is of no benefit to people. (That last bit not meant to be as harsh as it sounds by the way)

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Mark P - December 1, 2011

You see, it’s very easy to say that, LATC, but I don’t think that the reason nobody has come up with a “credible” reformist programme is that nobody has tried hard enough. I think that there are solid, quite straightforward, structural reasons why there is no solution to the crisis on the basis of capitalism that does not involve massive damage to the living standards of workers.

I do not think that capitalism is going to collapse, by the way. It is an extremely adaptable system. But I think that the “solution” found, whether by way of debt peonage or default, will cause significant immiseration. Thinking that there “should” be a way around this isn’t the same as being able to find a way around this, because the game is rigged.

In this context, putting an end to capitalism can be posed as a necessity rather than as simply a nicer, preferable alternative. The problem is that public belief in the viability of socialism is almost non-existent. Even amongst many socialists, there is a kind of assumption that we can’t propose socialism because it’s too pie in the sky or abstract. Instead we have to find “credible” ways to make capitalism work in the interests of workers.

That really is an ideological crisis. At the very time when our alternative should be most relevant, its credibility is least widely accepted. This is a result of a long period of organisational and ideological retreat on the part of the workers movement. The social democrats have given up on social democracy. The Stalinists have given up on Stalinism. There is No Alternative is the overwhelmingly dominant discourse.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 1, 2011

Mark P, I did say at the start I didn’t want to get into this debate of reform vs revolution. But…before I sign off for the day…just on your point that there is “no solution to the crisis on the basis of capitalism”, I’m not arguing that there is. I’m saying that there are solutions to the immiseration of workers, and that these need to be spelled out as a programme of details movements over time that lead from where we are to where we want to be. It should start with stuff that’s easily understood in terms of today’s needs and issues, credible if you like, and move from there into short-term medium-term and longer-term proposals, where what we propose today fits in with what we propose to do next and so on and so on. It’s not reform, it’s not compromise, it’s just substantiation of the big picture, the vision, in a way that doesn’t scare people and doesn’t lend itself to dismissal for being utopian in the battle for hearts and minds. And with that, I’m gone…

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Joe - December 1, 2011

“The social democrats have given up on social democracy. The Stalinists have given up on Stalinism.”
And the Trostskyists are unable to describe to anyone what a socialist world will look and feel like. TINA indeed.

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Mark P - December 1, 2011

Well that’s a rather big issue, Joe, and one for socialists of all stripes to address rather than something particular to Trotskyism. Marx famously said very little on the subject, and most Marxists have followed in that tradition, rightly or wrongly.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that any attempt to transform society in the 21st Century is likely to look very little like Petrograd in 1917 or Barcelona in 1936.

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Joe - December 2, 2011

Yes Mark, it is an issue for all socialists. A really serious one.
In general, I’d be with LATC, if I understand him correctly, that socialists should at least map out some kind of short term “reformist” measures. And isn’t that what the ULA do with e.g. their recent press conference on the forthcoming budget?
This thread could be interlinked with the Tony Gregory one. That discussion/criticism that Tony ended up as a constituency politician, working hard for the working class in Dublin Central, but not putting much into trying to build a socialist alternative to the TINA brigade. I only knew the man by reputation but I’d say he would be gritting his teeth now if he was reading us internet warriors discussing his “failings”. He was a genuine activist on the ground with the working class, which is more than I can say for myself.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 2, 2011

Joe, yes, I think the Left needs to engage on the ground that is available to it (not instead of but in addition to the campaigning it undertakes in communities on local and wider issues, household tax, water charges etc.) and in the first instance that means building a wide concensus behind immediate reforms which benefit workers and regain ground from capital. But it also needs to (not instead, but in addition) place the immediate reforms in the context of further incremental reforms, which demonstrate why the immediate reforms are necessary and beneficial to workers, but also illustrate where the bigger project is going and how it will get there. I mean you could pick any area of policy and work out a plan that starts today and moves on from there. Take oil & gas. In the budget next week you could take away tax reliefs associated with writeoff of exploration costs, and frame that within the context of neoliberal austerity, we’re all in this together, there is no alternative, pitch it as catching up with the rest of the EU blah blah, no big swinging, not revolutionary, just a first step. A moratorium on further exploration & extraction licenses could also be announced. Second step could be to state now that in in next years budget the tax reliefs will be removed altogether and that an initial 15% royalty will be imposed on oil & gas extraction revenues (rising to 50% over the next 5 years). Third step could be to form an over-arching semi-state energy company including ESB, Bord Gais, Bord na Mona, Coillte (for the bio-mass partly but more for the wind energy potential of their land banks) and state that the next step will be to ringfence some specified part of the oil & gas extraction royalty to capitalising an expansion of the semi-state company into oil & gas exploration & extraction (an Irish Statoil) in competition with the existing players. Part of the mandate for the semi-state energy company would be to plan for energy transition, i.e. on the ground deployment of whatever local infrastructure is required in cities / towns / villages to face up to energy resource collapse over the next 10-50 years. And so on. And all of it linking together. And all of it costed and planned and taking on board input from outside the confines of the further Left. With teh goal of moving from pure market oil & gas exploitation which benefits capitalism above all, to a integrated energy sector under state ownership which moves from current market-driven imperatives today towards a socialist community-based imperative in the medium term tomorrows. I mean this is just one element off the top of my head. Pick 100 other areas and flesh them out and engage with the real world on tehdetail and it starts looking convincing as a road to socialism. And the point is that none of the existing Left organisations has the resources by itself to undertake a project like this, it would take co-operation and engagement with intellectual and propagandist forces (and other elements of the mix) which lie outside the further Left, maybe even outside the broader Left, and the project runs the risk of fragmentation of as it moves along the road as the limited ambitions of some components become satisfied. These are the difficulties. Nothing impossible here, just a shit load of work, and moving out of comfort zones.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 2, 2011

I should add that I’m expressing purely personal opinions here.

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Mark P - December 2, 2011

LATC:

The problem isn’t that setting up a state company to look for an exploit gas or oil off the coast is a bad idea. It isn’t, and in fact most left groups already call for some variant of this. The problem is that, barring some freak, Norway-style discovery of massive reserves in the short term it is not an answer to the debt crisis. And there are not 100 similar issues for the state to pursue which will have any kind of major impact on this crisis.

I am not arguing that reforms are undesirable or that they are unachievable under all circumstances or that it’s not worth looking for achievable reforms. I am arguing that there is no reformist path out of the current immediate crisis. That smug, hectoring, question so beloved of right wing commentators remains unanswerable: Where is the money?

Within capitalism, at the present moment, it isn’t there. And there isn’t some magic we can do to create it. The only honest answer we can give is that we have to step outside the rules of the rigged capitalist game.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 2, 2011

Mark P, it’s not all about the crisis. I just picked oil & gas as an area of the economy where an alternative path over time can be mapped out. There are other economic areas and many non-economic areas. Health, education, foreign relations, democratic structures, local government, etc etc. And pick 20 aspects of each of those. Flesh out what it is about the current form of these areas that fucks people over, moving beyond the fact (and yes it is a fact) that it is capitalism itself and its permeation of all aspects of our lives that is the root cause. Flesh out how it could be different, with examples that show the difference. Convince people that are simply afraid and sceptical of change that in fact it is possible to move from here to there and “here’s how we can do it”. On your point of “where’s the money”, well let’s use the accepted experts to answer those questions. The journey starts from deep within capitalism so it seems absolutely reasonable to use economic expertise and opinion formers that lie within those bounds, e.g. TASC, Michael Taft, social democratic critics of austerity here and elsewhere, to begin to quantify the costs of immediate reforms. When I say “accepted experts” I mean those that are accepted by those elements of the mainstream that are antagonistic to the extremes of neoliberalism.

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Mark P - December 2, 2011

By contrast, LATC, I think that it precisely is all about the crisis. That’s the central concern, looming over everything, limiting every possibility. We can’t have a discussion about reforms while trying to talk around the central reality that makes large scale progressive reform unviable at this particular juncture.

If we were having this discussion four years ago, we could have a more traditional “reform v revolution v transitional politics” sort of discussion.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 2, 2011

By not all about the crisis I mean that there are aspects of life that are not purely economic (allowing that everything in fact is both political and economic) and which can be presented even within the current context as relatively straight forward issues of “fairness” or “social justice” which simply boil down to spending choices even within the parameters of austerity. Of course I agree with the central point you’re raising here in, apparent dispute with my arguments, when you say that ultimately there is no solution within capitalism and that it is all about the crisis. I agree. But most people don’t see it that way, and that’s the point. They just see old beardies or young scruffies marching down O’Connell St with megaphones, or camping on Dame St., selling newspapers that people don’t want to read because when we say and write about is quite unconnected to their immediate experiences and horizon of possibilities. My central contention is that to bridge the gap between us and them, to build class consciousness, we need to move into territory that is closer to where the public discourse is taking place. Not to move our end goal, just to move our starting point. And not to just move the starting point but to demonstrate how we can move within a specified timeframe with concrete changes that to us constitue a road to socialism but to the vast majority of disinterested people just constitutes a sensible and unterrifying alternative to the shit they’re experiencing at the moment and might just be worth giving a try.

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10. smiffy - December 1, 2011

Interesting interview with Padraig Yeates about the Lockout here: http://soundcloud.com/the-1913-lockout

Most of it will be familiar to anyone who’s read his book, but worth a listen nonetheless.

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11. make do and mend - December 2, 2011

On a lighter note?:

San Diego Police Arrest Congressional Candidate

“Democratic congressional candidate Ray Lutz was arrested for registering voters in San Diego’s public Freedom Plaza (AKA Civic Center Plaza), where the local Occupy protest has taken place. The San Diego police arrested Mr Lutz for trespassing and confiscated his voter registration forms.

I’ve been skeptical of the “this is what democracy looks like” slogan (since mostly, democracy looks like boring things like long meetings, constituency consultations, and voter booths). But by any measure, registering voters in a civic square is assuredly “what democracy looks like.” And arresting people who register voters? Well, that’s something else altogether.”

http://boingboing.net/2011/11/30/san-diego-police-arrest-congre.html

(there a video, which I didn’t bother watching but it does show the Gaurdian of the Peace arresting the fella.

Democracy, how are ya

Hmmm…

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12. Mick O'Neill - December 2, 2011

What has the ULA done since the election?

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13. FergusD - December 2, 2011

Mark P
“Yes, Fergus, but a Transitional Programme can’t be “costed” or “credible” in a capitalist sense, because one of the central aspects of it is that it can’t be implemented without abolishing capitalism.
“. Point taken. However, some aspects of a TP could be conceivably be won under capitalism. I don’t see the strategy of a TP quite like that. It might contain winnable reforms, why not, the point is these and the other aspects of it should lead forward, developing support for a socialist programme while defending workers and even making gains.

I agree that trying to answer the “Cost it” question just drags you into a discussion of how to save the system. The bottom line has to be “can’t pay, won’t pay” for the crisis, that in itself of course would not be possible under capitalism, but people could be presuaded of it.

It’s a difficult one! If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be here.

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14. Shay Brennan - December 2, 2011

The Broadsheet.ie stuff on the Katie Fitzgerald case has been astounding…do the Prones/Savages run everything in this state?

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15. CL - December 3, 2011

Another member of the Irish Diaspora makes it to the top:

“John Timoney, until recently chief of police of Miami and before that Philadelphia, formerly of New York City, where he also was a high-ranking cop, is heading to Bahrain to train the cops there, according to the Associated Press.”

http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/02/john-timoneys-bloody-journey/

“The “model”, as Miami public officials called it at the time, was the brainchild of police chief John Timoney. After leading the head-bashing of protesters as Philadelphia’s police commissioner during the Republican party’s national convention in 2000, Timoney was hired by Miami and given more than $8m to introduce a level of police brutality unlike any we had ever seen in the US.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/03/bahrain-miami-model-policing

“Born Sean Timoney in 1948, Dublin, Ireland, he was brought up on Winetavern Street in The Liberties area of Dublin city, and attended St. Audoen’s National School on Cook Street”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Timoney_%28police_chief%29

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