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That weekend poll from the Sunday Times… the latest Reform Alliance stuff and what of others? August 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

…First up let’s note the important caveats raised by Liberius and other in relation to the LP figures. As Liberius notes, there’s some adjustments taking place which may or may reflect the reality of voting on the day. As far as one can see the core party support is at or about where it has been with perhaps a very slightly uptick. This would align with other polls taken since Joan Burton took over as party leader earlier in the Summer.

Still and all, consider the figures, as related by IEL on Saturday evening.

FF 18 (-1);
FG 24 (-2);
Labour 14 (+7);
Sinn Fein 19 (-2);
Green Party 2 (unchanged);
Independents 22 (-2)

Note that we have now fairly clearly moved into a period of 3 medium parties – in terms of support (though not, naturally, actual numbers), a Labour Party whose actual level appears to be in or around 10%, plus or minus depending on whether it is a good day for them or not, and that huge chunk of support for Independents and Parties. So that’s three formations in or around 20-25%, that Ind/Other block in the same area and the LP trailing after (obviously it’s not quite that cut and dried, the Ind/Other block being in no sense seamless).

Sinn Féin remains ahead of FF, though well within the margin of error. But mirroring other polls where SF is reaching up towards the mid or higher teens – as it did at the European and Local elections. Fine Gael is weakening. It’s decline was masked considerably by that of the Labour Party, but now we can see how far it has fallen since the GE in 2011. All that talk of it truly supplanting FF is now gone, but then on the other hand so is the talk of FF being erased from the Irish political scene. Remember the question as to what was FF core support? We’ve found it. As we have perhaps found LP core support and that of FG is becoming increasingly apparent.

All that said, we remain most likely 12 to 18 months from an election, and perhaps slightly more given the constitutional parameters as regards the time within which an election can be called. Far from the election of Burton indicating a wish to reposition for a fast exit I would imagine that the LP will remain in situ in government for as long as it can. Why wouldn’t it? The rhetoric of a recovery is now in full flow in the media – albeit shaky. But, as ever, there remain dismal problems facing the Coalition. The Water Charges are approaching rapidly, and it’s fascinating to see how the media discourse about them, and austerity in general, has shifted from cheerleading to a much more sceptical tone. That dynamic will serve to weaken the government, but what will weaken it more is the impact of the charges and other cumulative measures.

Perhaps the one thing about this poll, is that it shows that the overall political situation is actually less volatile than it has been, that the support levels for the parties (bar the outlier that is the LP in this particular instance) are well within predictable bands. But one could argue that on a different level volatility has increased with no clear space for a party to become dominant in such a way as to guarantee it electoral supremacy in 2015/16. Government formation, on these figures, is going to be a nightmare. Even if we take LP support as read in this poll, a massive assumption, the further weakening of FG makes a return of this government deeply unlikely.

I tend to the view that a minority led administration is far from an unlikely outcome next time out. It’s just about possible FF and SF might do a deal, but that’s far from a certainty. An FG/FF coalition would be high risk for both parties. So perhaps better a reverse Tallaght Strategy allowing FG to continue into an unprecedented second term in office, but also allowing FF to remain detached from governing while being ‘mature’ and all those terms which some like to ascribe to political parties that do their duty by the orthodoxy.

The Phoenix noted that some on the right are trying to breathe life into the Reform Alliance, with a cohort – or so it is said – of ex-PDs, socially liberal, but fiscally orthodox, meeting up with Creighton et al. It’s never too late, is no doubt their thought, but perhaps it is. I’m very struck by how no independent councillors supportive of her was elected in her constituency, indeed – and I’m open to correction, I’m not sure any ran in her constituency under her banner. This isn’t a problem restricted to her, others on the left with very high profiles were unable to see candidates openly running as their allies elected, but it does suggest the limits of her political project. Moreover, the length of time now in the run-up to the election is limited. It is possible that given she was elected under a party banner she may be keen to face re-election under same, even if it is a new(ish) formation, but it could also be that she realises that brand Creighton is her single greatest asset and should run as such. What’s very telling, to me at least, is the hesitancy about all this. And that suggests deep uncertainty as to how to tackle the challenges ahead. There might also be the thought that in a post-Kenny era there might be space for her return to FG, as I suspect there would be. As to the others, it’s amazing how their supposed inclinations to rejoin FG are so openly discussed. That too says something, and it’s worth considering that any new formation isn’t going to be much cop if it has only a couple of TDs.

That said, the thought strikes that the developments this weekend in relation to the grim news of a woman denied a termination may well have some impact on that group – and in a number of different ways (just to be clear I’m very aware of the sensitivity surrounding those events, which are appalling, but they have happened within a political context as well). This may not be the best time for the launch or relaunch of a formation, or at least a group of TDs, so closely associated with the issue, or that one very particular side of the issue. Conscience clauses or not for those in the putative formation it may prove problematic. And, there’s a potential issue further down the line, in that those in FG can point to those events that came to light and argue (as Joanne Tuffy of the LP appears to have done) that all is well and nothing is broken and what was the need for the RA to split in the first place? Or perhaps it will function in some other way entirely.

As always much the same is true of any formation constructed from the Independent and ex-LP TDs. But there’s no sign of activity on that front. Still, who knows, the next couple of weeks might bring developments.

Automation – Part 2 August 13, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, The Left.

Two weeks ago I was in a hotel in the UK where at the reception there were self-service touch-screen check-in/check-out machines. Ironically there were receptionists hovering around them assisting people who were unfamiliar with the technology – for which read almost everyone as far as I could see. But that last will change as time goes on, just as the self-service units in Tesco or wherever are increasingly used by those shopping there.

And then one reads this in a piece which notes that driverless cars are to be be licensed from next year in the UK. It’s a testing process and reading up on the level that that technology is at one might be forgiven for avoiding them for a while because it is still remarkably primitive (and there are other considerations, wasn’t it the FBI which argued they might in effect be weaponised?).

But then one reads Vince Cable saying this:

“Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.”

And I’d wonder. It seems to me that this period is seeing a stealthy stripping away of yet more jobs (this, for example, is an outlier, but in an industry which has seen numerous cuts in numbers working in it). And the knock-on effects of that dynamic are deeply problematic. One doesn’t have to be a Luddite to see the potential implications, indeed already some economists are working through this, as noted here last year. And suggestions include guaranteed minimum incomes and redistribution, and this from non-Marxist, arguably non-left economists.

Perhaps the talk of four day weeks and so on are a precursor to an admission that societies will be very different in a relatively short space of time, but without genuine democratic control of this process it isn’t difficult to envisage very dangerous outcomes. And one doesn’t have to look very far to see how radically different societies (even those within advanced capitalist states) can be – look again at the appalling situation for millions of US workers in relation to holidays and other rights, and that is today. In a context where working itself is rare…

How bad would it have to get? August 12, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded to me “Where are the Pots and Pans? Collective Responses in Ireland to Neoliberalization in a Time of Crisis: Learning from Latin America”, written by Barry Cannon and Mary P. Murphy of NUIM and available free for download here…

Its central question is why have the much more aggressive responses seen elsewhere during the socio-economic crisis of the last half decade and more not been replicated in Ireland. The abstract gives a real sense of the thrust of the piece:

ABSTRACT Since 2008, Ireland has experienced a profound multi-faceted crisis, stemming from the collapse of the financial and property sectors. Despite enduring six years of neoliberal austerity measures in response to this situation, popular protest has been muted. Using Silva’s [(2009) Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press)] framework of analysis of popular responses in Latin America to that region’s debt crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, this article seeks to investigate why this has been the case. We assess how the crisis is being framed among popular and civil society groups, and whether increased associational and collective power is developing. In doing so, we look at processes of intra-group cooperation, cross-group cooperation and framing and brokerage mechanisms. We then ask, where such processes exist, if they can lead to a comprehensive challenge to the neoliberal policies currently being implemented, as happened in much of Latin America. We conclude that the crisis has not yet reached sufficient depth or longevity to foster a more robust popular response, but propose that analysis of similar processes in Latin America can help us understand better why this is the case, not just in Ireland, but in other countries of Europe experiencing similar situations.

It is an effective overview of the period and the framework used is quite persuasive. And there’s a lot of thought provoking points, not least the following:

Furthermore, as noted above, neoliberalism and free market ideology have largely been internalized by Irish people. Although faith in neoliberal institutions has been badly shaken (Edelman, 2014) progressive groups have had difficulty popularizing ideas about alternatives to austerity, not helped by a largely neoliberalized mainstream media (Mercille, 2014) using narrow, pro-market and divisive framing mechanisms (Cawley, 2011).


Despite unresolved high levels of individual and collective indebtedness, increased deprivation as a growing feature in the middle class2 and extensive political and socio-economic exclusion created by economic volatility, we argue, relative to Latin America, the crisis simply has not been grave enough to cause a ‘double movement’ with sufficient force to provoke a change of course. Meanwhile, the power of indigenous Irish proneoliberal forces augmented by their international allies, particularly in the ‘troika’ of the EC, ECB and IMF, has remained far stronger than that of contending forces.

And as to the left or the TU’s? Cannon and Murphy point too the co-optation of the latter for the most part and

Lack of capacity can be explained by the nature of Irish social power and how it is organized, in particular the state and market structures which constrain and shape such agency and their position in the wider global structure. It can also be accounted for due to more local fragmentary and sectarian tendencies within the Irish Left and the reactive and conservative natures of Irish NGOs.

It also notes some of the most reactionary aspects of the state/government/orthodoxy response to the crisis – for example, massively prioritising cuts over tax increases or the dismantling of the ability of the state itself to properly track the impacts of its own policies on citizens.

If people can read it it would be well worth the effort. It’s not very long and yet it manages to succinctly outline many (perhaps most) of the elements within the socio-political context and their interactions.

If their arguments are correct it raises a further question. How bad would things have to get before we would see the level of dislocation with the political system we have seen elsewhere? Any thoughts?

Bread tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the day after that again. But forget about the jam. August 11, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

An interesting flurry of stories at the weekend and early this week that suggest a certain softening up of areas in advance of the budget and the election (whenever that is eventually held). How else to interpret the stuff about the public-sector pay cuts being reversed where straight out of the gate FG TDs are coming out against that idea. As it happens I find it hard to believe that there is any serious belief that there will be a reversal (and in the SBP at the weekend there was a similar scepticism, with the point being made that the supposed time line is so long into the future that it’s almost meaningless). Moreover I’d not at all be surprised if the idea was precisely to raise the issue, generate public and political hostility to a degree that any reversals will be much smaller than first flagged. Win win for the government in that because it can position itself as trying to do something while not having to actually do very much, and simultaneously give a bone of sorts to the Labour Party in its relations with the unions. All that said I suspect that many will see through this fairly transparent charade.

As it happens I’m amazed its even been raised at all. There’s relatively little pressure on the government on the issue – certainly not that much from the unions, and perhaps this is an LP thing, as they gaze warily at the multiple threats that now exist on their left. It could also be a feint – Eoghan Murphy perhaps gave it away when he said that:

he did not think it was wise, and also said it was too early, saying the Government’s priorities should lie in the tax area, where the benefit would be universal and not confined to one sector.

It’s all too easy to envisage the unions being bought off yet again (albeit in a slightly different context) with the promise of tax cuts, as they were in the early 2000s in relation to lower paid private sector workers. And perhaps I’m alone in this, but I think the focus on the wage aspect alone of the processes we’ve seen over the past few years in the public sector is perhaps problematic. Without for a second denying the impact that has had, the conditions element where increased hours and so on have been introduced is arguably more pernicious. I doubt there’s any effort being made to change that by the unions and yet those new conditions will exist for considerably longer than the pay cuts (at least so it would seem). And Howlin’s rhetoric appears solidly focused on wage cuts.

And another story/straw in the wind? The one about SF employing ‘far more officials and staff’ than the other ‘four biggest parties’. Sure, but I think they’re looking at the wrong model of party activity. More profitable, so to speak, would be an examination of the smaller parties with national representation, who likewise have larger staffs. And SF points to the fact that its reps are paid less (or donate more) than those of other parties. This appears to be reflected in the figures too:

Labour has the highest average salary per employee of almost €50,000, with Fine Gael next at €46,000. Fianna Fáil’s average is €32,000 and for Sinn Féin it is €22,000.

But whatever about that it’s a handy old line to put about, that SF is somehow gaming the system, or worse. What’s that, the sound of party political activity restarting (as distinct from government activity which never stops) after the silly season? Could be!

Automation – Part 1 August 11, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.

More on this topic later in the week, but reading this piece in Slate.com I was surprised by the following:

Automation makes certain low-skill human jobs obsolete, sure, but it also ushers in new categories of high-skill employment, from engineering and equipment operation to banking and blogging. Its greatest effect is to increase productivity, which should raise incomes and stimulate demand for new products and services.
Yet the current jobless recovery, along with a longer-term trend toward income and wealth inequality, has some thinkers wondering whether the latest wave of automation is different from those that preceded it.

Blogging? Really?

They’ve got to be kidding… August 10, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Uncategorized.
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I’m no fan of U2, and this doesn’t make me feel any more warmly towards them…

When they released No Line on the Horizon, U2 blitzed the BBC in a day of television, radio and online appearances. The broadcaster later admitted that it had given the band “undue prominence”, in breach of its editorial-independence policy, and that temporarily altering its logo to “U2=BBC” was inappropriate. So expect a softer release this time.

Around the time of the Brooks/Croke Park controversy there was a lot of talk about how, correctly, the institutions of state seem sometimes to bend to commercial forces all too often, but the BBC?

Which by the by reminds me of this unkind view of them…

Greyhound Protest – 10.30 am outside Four Courts August 7, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, The Left.

Thanks to PH for the following:

Please show your Support for Communities against Greyhound Bullying outside Four Courts at 10.30 am tomorrow Friday

Greyhound is seeking an interlocutory injunction against community activists

Paddy Healy

Pushing back unions in the UK… August 5, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Economy.

This is fascinating, a reverse (of sorts) for the Tories in regard to union law, but reading the article further there is this:

But the plans also suggested that a future Tory government would introduce a criminal offence to stop picketing and would strengthen the code of practice on picketing by giving it statutory force. Carr told ministers that this announcement cut right across the review, it is understood.

Is that accurate, or am I missing something, in relation to stopping picketing? Don’t they mean in some instances (which isn’t satisfactory either)? or is it yet another broadening of the attack on workers rights?

Interesting shift in tone on the squeezed middle and the working poor… August 5, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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…in this piece by Carl O’Brien from the IT. Some of this I’d agree with, some I wouldn’t, but there’s one line which I think is well worth considering:

what fundamentally needs to changes is the idea within Government that any job is better than no job.

Socialist Voice from CPOI – August issue. August 5, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Layout 1
The August Socialist Voice is now available online http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/index.html


1. Israel: outpost of imperialism

The self-proclaimed “international community” is much preoccupied lately with international law and human rights, and is busy devising and implementing economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, and Syria, among others, allegedly for their real or supposed transgressions.


2. Demand grows for a living wage

The economic crisis that went global after Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008 is not over, but the free-market system appears, for the time being at least, to have stabilised. Output is increasing while unemployment is falling in Britain, the United States, and even Spain.


3. They simply don’t care

Western governments and media are using the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH170, with 295 people on board, as a further pretext for pushing for wider sanctions against Russia, which may push the world closer to a war on the European continent.


4. Time for women to get back to activism

Speaking at a seminar of communist and workers’ parties on the role of communists in the struggle for the parity and emancipation of women in Brussels in March 2010, Lynda Walker, national chairperson of the Communist Party of Ireland, said: “In the struggle for parity, for women’s emancipation and for socialism we understand the reactionary role that the European Union is playing and the role of British imperialism.


5. An independent political programme for the trade union movement and for workers
A declaration by the Trade Union Left Forum

Where is the ambition?
Jack O’Connor has said on a number of occasions that the “left” lacks ambition and courage. This is certainly true of the official trade union movement. It lacks ambition, courage, and vision.


6. Shared slaughter in an ignoble cause

We are surrounded on all sides by a cacophony of noise about events, media features and academic feastings to celebrate the beginning of the war of 1914–18. “Co-ordinated” is the adjective that occurs to sceptical minds.


7. The First World War and a century of slaughter

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland

The 31st of July is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, which resulted in the slaughter of more than nine million people, with millions more wounded and left physically and emotionally traumatised. It was the first “industrial” war, fought on a scale unprecedented in history.


8. A song for Palestine
The Lives of Strangers
Eoghan O’Neill


9. Venezuela has more democracy than the United States

Venezuela is one of the countries that most appreciate their democracy. This is the conclusion of the Chilean NGO “Latinobarómetro” following its study of democratic evaluation in the Latin America populations.


10. Spain’s grass-roots revolution Protest goes political!

The huge anti-austerity demonstration by “indignados” (the indignant) in Madrid on 15 May 2011 generated mass protests in all the main Spanish cities, involving millions of workers.


11. The law of unintended consequences

In bourgeois economics, numerous rules and laws have developed to obscure the class nature of society and the existence of the class struggle. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is also the law of unintended consequences.


12. Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Summer School

The Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society has announced its second Summer School, following last year’s hugely successful inauguration. It will be held once again in Inis Mór (Árainn), the birthplace of these two great writers, on the last weekend in August, Saturday and Sunday the 30th and 31st.


13. Return of the Brute

This is perhaps a good time to look at the first Irish anti-war novel, Liam O’Flaherty’s Return of the Brute. When the First World War ended, in 1918, it seemed unimaginable that there could ever be such slaughter again. The arts in particular reflected the sense of exploded bodies and the insanity, a world that had spiralled out of control.



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