Spring 2013 edition of Resistance May 19, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Articles from the Spring 2013 edition of Resistance can now be read online at the ISN website: www.irishsocialist.net. Print copies are available in Dublin’s Connolly Books and in Solidarity Books of Cork—or if you’d like us to send you a print copy, just email email@example.com.
Views from Clare Daly and Henry Silke on what comes after the break-up of the ULA.
Colin Coulter on Northern Ireland’s dysfunctional political culture.
Sráid Marx on the abolition of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
Andy Storey on Ireland’s predatory role in Africa.
And Ed Walsh on the legacy of Hugo Chávez.
The cost of austerity… wounding society May 17, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, The Left.
Mentioned in yesterday’s Guardian… the new book by senior health researcher at Oxford, David Stuckler and assistant professor of medicine at Standford, Sanjay Basu – The Body Economic, which makes the argument that:
…more than 10,000 additional suicides and up to a million extra cases of depression have been recorded across the two continents since governments started introducing austerity programmes in the aftermath of the crisis.
Those are the tragic (and avoidable) first order effects, in a sense, but there’s more:
In the United States, more than five million Americans have lost access to healthcare since the recession began, essentially because when they lost their jobs, they also lost their health insurance. And in the UK, the authors say, 10,000 families have been pushed into homelessness following housing benefit cuts.
…most extreme case, says Stuckler, reeling off numbers he knows now by heart, is Greece. “There, austerity to meet targets set by the troika is leading to a public-health disaster,” he says. “Greece has cut its health system by more than 40%. As the health minister said: ‘These aren’t cuts with a scalpel, they’re cuts with a butcher’s knife.’”
Worse, those cuts have been decided “not by doctors and healthcare professionals, but by economists and financial managers. The plan was simply to get health spending down to 6% of GDP. Where did that number come from? It’s less than the UK, less than Germany, way less than the US.”
That is a crucial point. The decisions taken have not been based on concepts of the public or societal good, but according to very narrow – and given the push back against the conceptual foundations of austerity – and deeply flawed political/economic policies. And how could it be otherwise in societies where the economic is now reified to a point where it appears to sit above democratic accountability.
Consider our own experience where political party after political party sought legitimation from the public vote merely to (and cheerled by a media infatuated with orthodox socio-economic approaches). The Green Party and the Labour Party are merely the most egregious examples of same. But all in government across the past five years share that feature.
Stuckler and Basu make a distinction between recession and austerity:
Such phenomena, he says, “are just a few of many effects we’re seeing. And with all this accumulation of across-the-board, eye-watering statistics, there’s a cause-and-effect relationship with austerity measures. These issues became apparent not when the recession hit Greece, but with austerity.”
Because in recessions efforts were made to mitigate the worst of the situation whereas in austerity the situation is considered to be virtuous in and of itself (whether the line is that it is a ‘necessary’ evil or not).
And they note that:
Investment in intensive programmes to help people return to work – so-called Active Labour Market Programmes, well developed in Sweden (where suicides actually fell during the banking crisis) but also effective in Germany – were a factor that seemed to make a big difference.
Maintaining spending on broader social protection and welfare programmes helped, too: analysis of data from the 1930s Great Depression in the US showed that every extra $100 of relief in states that adopted the American New Deal led to about 20 fewer deaths per 1,000 births, four fewer suicides per 100,000 people and 18 fewer pneumonia deaths per 100,000 people.
There’s more and it’s essential reading. Not least the way in which the data from the UK where the ‘austerity’ approach was adopted in perhaps the most politically opportunist way possible, suggests increasing numbers of suicides driven by economic context, and the dangers to the very fabric of the NHS.
And as Stuckler notes:
[He] finds this all in stark and depressing contrast to the post-second world war period, when Britain’s debt was more than 200% of GDP (far higher than any European country’s today, bar Iceland) and the country’s leaders responded not by cutting spending but by founding the welfare state – “paving the way, incidentally, for decades of prosperity. And within 10 years, debt had halved.”
By the way, worth noting that Stuckler is an economist as well as a public-health researcher.
Protecting Frontline services? May 17, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics.
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Where oh where will this freeman stuff end? May 17, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
Earlier this week… a businessman from Clonard, Co Wexford, who was adjudicated a bankrupt in July 2011, was returned to Mountjoy Prison after telling High Court judge Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne he didn’t recognise her authority. He referred to himself as Francis of the Clan Cullen and, according to the court’s official who deals with bankruptcy cases, Chris Lehane, every time he corresponded with Mr Cullen he received a bill “to be paid in gold” for “using his name”. He had been in prison for contempt of court since February.
For an example of how some of the ‘Freeman’ “thinking” [was] spread check this out from 2009.
…When is a forecast of ‘better economic performance’ not really a forecast of ‘better economic performance’… May 16, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
Economic growth is likely to reach 1.8 per cent this year, a forecast which is more optimistic than EU and Government predictions, but the expansion is unlikely to tempt consumers to begin spending again and will have little initial impact on unemployment.
…uh-oh. Depressing to read this in Slate the day before yesterday from Phil Plait about how the Canadian National Research Council has now stated that:
they will only perform research that has “social or economic gain”.
John MacDougal, President of the NRC, literally said, “Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value”. Gary Goodyear, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology, also stated “There is [sic] only two reasons why we do science and technology. First is to create knowledge … second is to use that knowledge for social and economic benefit. Unfortunately, all too often the knowledge gained is opportunity lost.”
As Plait notes, this is entirely wrong. As he puts it:
This is monumentally backwards thinking. That is not the reason we do science. Economic benefits are results of doing research, but should not be the reason we do it. Basic scientific research is a vast endeavor, and some of it will pay off economically, and some won’t. In almost every case, you cannot know in advance which will do which.
But as noted in comments under the article this is a line of thinking that can be found much closer to home… George Monbiot noted on his blog, again coincidentally the day before yesterday, that:
Two weeks ago I castigated the new [United Kingdom] chief scientist, Sir Mark Walport, for misinforming the public about risk, making unscientific and emotionally manipulative claims and indulging in scaremongering and wild exaggeration in defence of the government’s position(3). Since then I have seen his first speech in his new role, and realised that the problem runs deeper than I thought.
How much deeper?
Speaking at the Centre for Science and Policy at Cambridge University, Walport maintained that scientific advisors had five main functions, and the first of these was “ensuring that scientific knowledge translates to economic growth”. No statement could more clearly reveal what Benda called the “assimilation” of the intellectual. As if to drive the point home, the press release summarising his speech revealed that the centre is sponsored, among others, by BAE Systems, BP and Lloyd’s.
Yet more on the Labour Party… May 16, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Pat Leahy has some interesting things to say about the Labour Party in the SBP. Perhaps that’s inevitable. There’s been a telling diminution of volume from the Fine Gael dissidents about X legislation. The economic issue while ever-present isn’t subject to any big ticket events this last few weeks – though the news that is coming out hasn’t been good and with CPII negotiations in train there’s always the chance for accident. Politically this has been if anything a bit quiet, at least in the general rather than the specific. TD’s assistants demonstrating a sudden interest in acquiring personal hoards of local free sheets somehow doesn’t cut it. So small wonder Leahy shines the spotlight back on the LP.
He writes that:
I don’t think there is, at present, a serious threat to Gilmore’s leadership. That may come at some stage, as the cumulative toll of unpopular government decisions mounts, but it is not there now. That’s because the only options are a new leader doing the same things after an internal bloodbath, or a general election.
It is true that the economic grind of the last two years has hurt Labour and diminished the capacity of its leader. But there still remains, I think, a critical mass of resolve on its backbenches to stick by the programme.
That’s an intriguing thought in itself, does this critical mass stick by the programme from conviction or because there’s little choice for them now?
Certainly there is belief among them that a general election now would not only destroy Labour – how could the party seriously ask voters to put it back into government? – but would probably derail the expected exit of the country from the bailout later in the year. Backbenchers are glum and often under pressure in their constituencies, but there seems little sign of an outright rebellion. Most of them think there is just no alternative to sticking with it.
I’m curious at the idea that somehow going to the country would per definition mean that the LP couldn’t ask that it could be put back in government, unless Leahy believes that the present course is the only course of action that could be taken. It might be interesting to see what the outcome would be were the LP to shift leftwards, and really not very leftwards would be all that was required. Indeed that would open up all manner of interesting possibilities in relation to coalition partners and so on.
Of course we know that is not going to happen. This LP isn’t inclined in that way at present. What likely defeat will do is another matter.
One could add that the time to go has long since passed and those who were willing to already made the break. But note how the ‘exit from the bailout’ looms large in his mind. Problem is, and polling data appears to support this contention, there’s little evidence that the public is moved by this supposed achievement. And in a way why should it? This was what was promised one way or another. It’s not an achievement so much as a milestone.
They’re probably right: scrapping with the various left-wing groups – and with Sinn Féin for the hardline, anti-austerity vote – would be folly. Labour TDs, whether insider or outside the parliamentary party, can’t possibly compete for left-wing rhetoric with the likes of Clare Daly, who last week was haranguing Gilmore in the Dáil chamber for betraying the legacy of James Connolly.
To try to do so would be a political miscalculation. If people are going to vote on the basis of Connolly’s ghost, they are likely to plump for the authentic, full-throated version of “NO MORE CUTS!”, rather than Labour’s version which has the small print – “subject to fiscal sustainability” – attached to it. The bottom line is that, in any election, Labour is campaigning for government. The hard left is not.
But that works both ways. Why should the Labour Party not stand on an anti-austerity platform, after all the orthodoxy itself appears riven between those who see austerity as a failed experiment and those who still hold to it. And isn’t there a curious and telling contradiction in relation to Sinn Féin. Whatever else that party strikes me as one which is seeking participation in government on this island.
And what of the following:
Another way of saying this is that, in an election, Labour’s potential for recovering or winning votes is not in the 30 per cent of the electorate that wants to throw out the troika – it’s among the 70 per cent who think it’s a necessary evil.
I’m the very last person to be overly optimistic, or even just optimistic, about matters political but it does seem to me that that overstates the issue markedly, if one is to believe the polling data the SBP itself stands over. Take the result of the polling it published only a few weeks ago on Croke Park 2. That doesn’t seem to me to indicate that 70 per cent consider all that is happening a ‘necessary evil’.
Sure, it’s not the self-same issue but the implication is clear enough, a majority convinced that austerity has gone far enough. And then consider party polling data where 36 per cent was the figure – adding Independents and Sinn Féin together, which is pretty much outright anti-austerity (at least if we are to believe the pronouncements of those who represent the Independents in the Dáil. Fianna Fáil is more than equivocal on the matter, and it is unlikely that the 11 per cent the LP reaped in the last opinion poll is solidly behind ‘austerity’ which suggests that the 70:30 split Leahy references it unlikely.
Leahy references X legislation as ‘a success’ but notes that that is something that is regarded as such within the LP and they won’t be ‘trumpeting [it] as a political success’ which does sort of undermine its utility politically. He also – and I think mischievously – suggests that in relation to CPII…
[they] can’t really back down on the Croke Park issue. The history of elections here and elsewhere shows that the public will forgive a lot from a government, but voters will neither forgive nor forget a failure of nerve and a loss of authority.
Perhaps. Perhaps. I’m inclined to think, unfortunately, that the revisions to CPII will be passed – even though they’re bizarre, not least in relation workers voting for increased basic hours (and again, since when was a 40 hour week meant to exclude lunch times – that’s not my experience of the private sector across a range of employments). But I can’t see that impacting favourably on the LP vote at any time in the future.
And even if Leahy regards that as a quid pro quo for ‘easing of the budget numbers’ he also accepts that ‘it will do this is within the confines of the troika programme’. That’s not exactly a lot of wriggle room and I suspect in any event it’s too late. The damage isn’t so much what was done post General Election 2011, injurious though that has been as in the run-up to same with policies stated and the rapid retreat from them once safely ensconced in government.
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On Wednesday May 22nd at 4.00pm, we will also be holding a photo-call for the media outside the Labour Relations Commission, Beggars Bush. We want to use the event to express our opposition to the talks and to generate publicity for the Rally. We urge as many people as possible to come along to that photo-call.
Pay them less and the jobs will follow…really? May 15, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
There’s a neat irony in the positioning of two stories in the SBP this weekend. On one page of the Comment & Analysis page there is Richard Eardley, MD of the recruitment firm Hays Ireland suggesting on foot of the Supreme Court ruling which declared that Registered Employment Agreements were unconstitutional ‘Break the pay chains and the jobs will follow’ while facing it across the page from David McWilliams is a piece entitled ‘Wealth gap can’t keep growing’ which is subtitled ‘the divide between the super rich and the average worker is now wider than ever – and current global economic polices are only making matters worse’.
A neater encapsulation of the contradictions of the orthodoxy (or semi-dissident orthodoxy in McWilliams instance) could hardly be found.
For Eardley is convinced, though he offers no hard evidence for this assertion, that…
’if the consequences of the ruling play out as employers predict, we can expect to see job creation happening on a significant scale’.
Whereas McWilliams is convinced that
The American Dream is now broken, but the aspiration is not extinguished. It is this aspiration that will be the driving force behind the move to narrow the gap between the super0rich and the average.
The re-emergence of the ordinary Jope is not just a political question: it is a question of economic survival, too. After all where does corporate America think consumer demand comes from? It comes from the income of the average guy – and wages are his income.
First Left Forum on Sat. the 18th of May. May 13, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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We’re looking forward to seeing you all at the first Left Forum at 11am on May 18th at the Teacher’s Club on Parnell St, Dublin.
Please register online to confirm your attendance: Left Forum Registration. We’re charging 5 euro to pay for room booking, childcare and refreshments. If you’d like to confirm attendance but don’t have a payment method, you can email us to book your slot.
Also, if you have an idea for a specific discussion you’d be interested in hosting or attending, please respond as soon as possible.
The Left Forum is a party-independent initiative aiming to establish greater cooperation among the Left in Ireland. As we wrote in our initial call-out:
“We have had five years of crisis, five years where no alternative has been able to win support despite the obvious failures of the current political and economic regime, with serious human and environmental consequences.
Can we do better? Can the Left win widespread support for our ideas and build an alternative society? Can we make socialism more than a nice idea? The Left Forum invites you to contribute your views on the state of progressive politics and to discuss how we can do better.”
We’re hoping to have a day of honest and productive discussion on both broad and narrow issues so we can develop insights and make practical conclusions.
The full timetable is attached and the afternoon will have meetings planned on topics such as Left Media, Student Organising, Housing activism and Progressive Policy ideas, with more to follow. Again, please let us know if there’s a topic that you’d like to organise a discussion on.
We look forward to seeing you all then,
Left Forum Organisers
Final Agenda for the First Left Forum
The Left Forum will be divided into three main parts. The first section, the deliberative section, will see the agenda discussed in small groups of approximately six to ten attendees which will be chaired by a convenor. At the lunch break the convenors will meet to discuss if there seems to be a consensus from the discussions that can be formed into a document.
The second part of the process will take place after lunch which will be a plenary session involving all present. If possible the document will be presented, amended by attendees and voted on. If not possible a vote will be taken on whether to continue the process.
The third part of the forum will see a number of focused discussion groups around specific areas for example economics, trade unions and left media. This will be an opportunity to build networks of activists and those interested in the topics and develop ways that attendees may work together in the future. If agreed the convenors of the focused sessions will carry the work forward. Attendees are free to propose topics for focus discussions either in advance or at the forum.
11.00am- 11.15am – Registration and seating.
11.15am – 11.30am – Brief Introduction and explanation of the process.
11.30am – 1.00pm – Deliberation on questions below using tables of 10 randomly assigned participants. Chaired by convenor with more detailed agenda.
1 Who is the Left?
2 What can the Left realistically hope to achieve in the short, medium and long term?
3 How and where do we achieve these aims?
4 What sort of left organisations can help us achieve our goals
1.00pm-2.00pm – Lunch. Conveners meet, discuss outcome of deliberation discussions prepare document for plenary session
2.00pm – 3.00 pm – Plenary session – document shown numbered on projected screen. Attendees have opportunity to discuss document in single town hall style meeting, offer amendments etc. If agreed vote on the document, if not vote to continue process.
3.00pm- 3.15pm – Coffee break and organise tables of pre-arranged focused discussions i.e trade unions, education, media, – also allow space for anyone to set up table for any other issue they wish to discuss.
4.15pm-5.30pm – Focused Discussions –The focus of these discussions are to get people together, and may be of a more practical nature. And hope to establish networks for future work together. Each discussion group if decided will elect a convenor to carry on the process after the event.
Focus Discussions will take place on the following areas:
Left/Alternative/Community Media; Youth Issues; Housing; Economics and Policy; Education
(more may follow at a later date)
5.30pm Closing remarks, based on outcomes of deliberation and focused discussions (If a document has been agreed from deliberation and plenary). There can be brief report back from focused discussions conveners.