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Times Change? For some… March 7, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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Here’s a most interesting comment by Ruairí Quinn which perhaps shows the gulf between political activity as was and as is for some…

He noted there was a time politicians could rely on volunteers to stuff envelopes but now a supporter might rather pay for someone else to do it. “Is that corrupting?” he asked.

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1. LeftAtTheCross - March 7, 2013

I can assure the readers of the CLR that the WP’s Meath-East by-election campaign is relying exclusively on the goodwill of volunteers and party members. It struck me today while trying to balance the day job with the campaign tasks that reality is very different to the political campaign imagery we see in the likes of The Good Wife or The Killing (US). Oh for a budget that would allow for luxuries such as advertising. I am understanding now how elections can more or less be bought for a price. Level playing field my backside.

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WorldbyStorm - March 7, 2013

+1

That’s the problem with ‘it’s not corruption’ line. No, not corruption, but a tilting of the balance in favour of some and against others. I also think, though this is a bit more abstract, that the voluntarist approach is important in itself.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 7, 2013

It is. Mind you, there was an interesting discussion on Conor McCabe’s Facebook a few weeks ago about the abuse of volunteer effort by organisations of the Left. Now he was specifically challenging the notion that content creation for Left publications on a voluntary basis leads to both lower quality material but more importantly creates a culture of expectation of work-for-free which is far from in keeping with the ideological position of the organisations doing the ‘exploiting’ of the labour. This is labour which in some or many cases is provided by people with no income. It’s a fair point of course. It got quite heated on FB at the time. But ultimately we’re f***ed if we have to rely on wage labour for these things. There’s a place for both.

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WorldbyStorm - March 7, 2013

Definitely, but I think it also depends on the organisation. How large it is, what its resources are etc. Can they afford a token gesture or not. If not then to my mind that’s a bit different.

These days I’m doing a lot of unpaid work for a lot of organisations and I’ve no problem with that at all. But I think the point is where the volume becomes too great or it cuts too much into other aspects of my life then I always reserve the right to push back and say no, no more.

One thing I notice is that there’s also only so much of me. I can do the sort of work described above or I can leaflet or knock on doors. But I can’t do both because there’s not enough hours in the day. Even just running this site is an enormous eater of time.

So voluntary works both ways.

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2. Ceannaire - March 7, 2013

It’s worth pointing out that Quinn represents Dublin South-East, one of the richest (following the incorporation of Terenure, perhaps the richest) constituencies in the country.

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WorldbyStorm - March 7, 2013

+1

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3. sonofstan - March 7, 2013

Nobody has time to volunteer for traditionally ‘voluntary’ stuff anymore: they are too busy working for nothing as interns on jobbridge and the like.

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4. irishelectionliterature - March 7, 2013

Its funny when you see the publicity photo of the candidate putting up posters… then after the election contact the party to say that some posters are still up and they tell you they’ll contact the crowd they outsourced that to.
what there is are far less casual volunteers. In my youth there would be an army of volunteers parties could call upon at election time,yet the same individuals wouldn’t be involved with the party at all.

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5. dmfod - March 7, 2013

“The bureaucracy is the most dangerously hidebound and conservative force; if it ends up by constituting a compact body, which stands on its own and feels itself independent of the mass of members, the party ends up by becoming anachronist and at moments of acute crisis it is voided of its social content and left as though suspended in mid-air.” (Gramsci)

First FF & the Greens, hopefully Labour is next!

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6. Ghandi - March 8, 2013

Isn’t part of the problem that the whole voluntary sector is now the paid for voluntary sector, so no one (well very few) does anything for free, and those who as quinn puts it fill envelopes have n eye on some payback down the road. Oh the luxury to have funding for envelopes, when was the last time you got an envelope in your door, rather than just a leaflet, except of course for those with “oireachtas” on them ,

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LeftAtTheCross - March 8, 2013

True enough about getting envelopes in the door.

Just one comment on the ‘paid for voluntary sector’, which is that we might be careful about where the alternative to that leads to in the wider world. I’m thinking of the ‘Big Society’ project in GB where local services are being hived off from the state to un-paid voluntary and community groups. Not a good result.

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7. Ghandi - March 8, 2013

The problem LATC with the paid for sector is that their focus ends up on being maintaining their jobs and schemes rather than dealing with the problems they claim to deal with. Those that control the funding control the agenda, and can turn that tap on and off. So those in the paid sector become part of the problem and not the solution. They won’t put their heads above the parapet as they risk losing their jobs.

Its part of a strategy used by Thatcher where you take potental leaders or those vocal in a community bring them into the net where they effectively end up enforcing government policy and stifle any real deabte or change.

Similar to the DC Bye election when WP wanted to support the parachute Bacik as she might be of value in the anti- extradition campaign, when I was clear that she had nothing to do with DC and was simply a carreerist, a view with which the electorate in a number of constituencies agree with.

He who pays the piper,

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LeftAtTheCross - March 8, 2013

Sure, I’m not arguing otherwise, I’m just pointing out that actually replacing paid workers with unpaid volunteers to provide necessary services is not a desirable solution either. The problem surely is that these community services are being provided by charities and NGOs whose funding is contingent on following a particular political agenda and where that funding is for a particular time horizon, and thus acts as a disciplining control mechanism. Better to have services delivered directly by the organs of the state, or would you disagree?

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Jim Monaghan - March 8, 2013

Obviously most of us agree. But I would add a point from my experience. Communities with a degree of morale can use the help of the State so much better. I saw some amazing contrasts between communities as a State employee.
Look at bodies such as the GAA. Amazing and it does not have the media concentration that soccer has. I interviewed soccer coaches once and I was amazed at the number and dedication of the volunteers there.Presumably similar with other sporting bodies. Some towns have an incredible amateur dramatic society and others have pubs only.But it is not spread equally. Why do some communities flourish and others in a similar economic mess do not. Why does say the Basque people have Mondragon and we do not?

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LeftAtTheCross - March 8, 2013

I agree with what you’re saying there Jim in terms of sports and culture, and politics of course which is where the discussion started. It’s quite different though to the area of public services which Ghandi was alluding to and which the Con-Dems are busy devolving onto volunteers in GB in order to reduce the footprint of the state on society, and to reduce the state’s responsibility to provide a social safety net by consciously eroding the welfare state. Apples and oranges.

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Jim Monaghan - March 9, 2013

The main parties are dependent on patronage for support. In Dun Laoghaire a squabble between the 2 FFers in Dalkey showed that most of them had received some sort of patronage. Being a prison visitor gives a lot of expenses.
Labour has a declining number of genuine supporters, a relic of 60s activism.
SF have a real corps of dedicated people.
Most independents have a personal machine.
Oh Most TDs from the main parties have personal entourages who are not that much loyal to their parties as such

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