Ultimate role? July 31, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism, The Left.
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This piece here from a short while back on the differing trajectories of LGBTQ and women’s rights on Slate caught my attention. Stern argues that the perception is now that the former is/are a ‘dignity’ issue(s), and therefore has greater traction while the latter is ‘all about sex’. I’m still thinking about that contention and whether I tend to agree (even taking into account the differences between different states globally). As a preliminary I think the broader and local contexts are significantly different for a variety of reasons so the trajectories will almost inevitably differ, but any and all other thoughts gratefully accepted – though important to note that Stern couches his analysis in a belief that these are not competing but complementary rights.
But there’s one quote that really stands out:
[US Supreme Court Justice Anthony] Kennedy, like a plurality of Americans, clearly views abortion as morally wrong. In one horrifyingly condescending passage from Gonzales v. Carhart, Kennedy infamously wrote that abortion must sometimes be banned to help women understand their “ultimate” role as a mother.
I find that a remarkable statement, whether contextualised with abortion or not. How does it work?
That the only valid purpose in a woman’s life is to be a mother, or that it is the only significant purpose, or that it outweighs all others? All women? Some women?
And what about men, how are they to be led to understand their presumably ‘ultimate’ role as fathers, and if that’s not their ‘ultimate’ role why is it not, and what is?
Candidate co-option July 29, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
It’s a while now since the elections, both European and Local, but one thing that has struck me looking back on the results is how co-opted candidates didn’t appear to have enormous success.
Now, let’s be clear, that’s not the fault of those who were co-opted, or even (mostly) of the parties who co-opted people. Circumstances sometimes simply dictated that the elected person has to step down and/or smaller parties simply lack the personnel to be able to contest elections both at home and abroad.
However, there were at least one or two instances where a successful candidate stepped away from a seat in their term and simply retired. I point no fingers and name no names though one party with the initials L and P didn’t cover itself in glory in that regard.
This is, by any measure, a bizarre eventuality, running for an elected position is something not to be undertaken lightly and in one or two instances where long time politicians contested and held seats only to leave front-line politics entirely is problematic.
But putting that aside from a purely tactical position it didn’t work well at all. And it does suggest that the optimal situation is for a successful candidate to retain their seat.
Hardly a surprise, that. Voters need to build up a sense of who is representing them – particularly those at the European Parliament. Indeed it could well be that the sheer distance that particular forum is from voters on a day to day basis, as distinct from geographically, means that it is only at elections that they get a chance to assess and, in a way, legitimise those who are elected. Once they’re gone that’s grand – from their perspective, but they don’t want that process short-circuited by political machinations subsequently. I think while not necessarily entirely logical it is understandable. And in some respects perhaps that’s the only way it can work given the low interest in the European Parliament between elections.
It will be telling if the current crop of successful candidates decide to remain in situ across the life of the European parliament.
Just on that psychological distance it will also be interesting to chart the progress of some of the newly elected MEPs whose ability to shape the narrative here will be significantly less than might have been hitherto.
But the world was out of joint, and we have set it right July 29, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.
Fascist Voices by Christopher Duggan, is a useful history of the rise of fascism in Italy following the First World War. Duggan uses a range of sources, but primarily those written by those in Italy in diary or memoir form, in order to outline the development of fascism from marginal force to its destination as the state power and its subsequent demise. It’s a depressing tale in many respects, not least for the sheer ordinariness of many of those voices. And it’s curious too because reading it one gets the sense that while fascism remained a force in Italy subsequent to the Second World War there seems to have been a distinction between it and more modern manifestations of national socialism such as Golden Dawn in Greece. Perhaps that was because of the nature of Italian fascism, or perhaps because the deep state in Italy was, well – deeper – than in Greece. But there’s also a sense that somehow at street level
Anyhow, one interesting passage is an outline of the age profile and social and class composition of fascist squadristi in the early 1920s.
[they] were young, frequently very young. Piazzesi was eighteen when he went on his first raids. Teoni had to wait until February 1922 before enrolling in the Arezzo fascia, but even then he was barely sixteen. As the carefully posed photographs of fascist squads taken ni those years show, their members were often of a similar age. One study has suggested that around 25 per cent of militants in the fascist movement were under twenty-one. Another has found that nearly 90 per cent of the squadristi in Bologna and 83.5 per cent of those in Florence were aged between sixteen and twenty-seven , and that while the great majority of the squad leaders were demobilised junior officers, more than half their rank-and-file followers were not old enough to have fought in the war.
Fascinating as that is, what of this?
The overwhelming majority of squadristi came from the ranks of the middle classes: landowners, entrepreneurs, professionals, civil servants, white-collar workers, students and the self-employed. In the study of Bologna and Florence less than 5 per cent could be classified as working class. Given the age profile, it is not surprising that students made up a particularly large percentage of the squads. In Bologna and Florence more than a quarter of the squadristi were enrolled at university, and 17 per cent… in secondary school.
And this was, as if that doesn’t demonstrate, a class war.
Duggan recounts an exchange between social democrat politician Emilio Lussu and a friend of his who was a university student about the nature of the squadristi:
-Were the peasants attacking or were they attacked?
-No, we were attacking. And we managed to beat them. Their land of cokaigne is finished. Imagine, each peasant was earning up to 40 lire a day.
-Fourteen lire. Whish is still too much… do you know, immediately after the war, when I walked in the street with my medals, they laughed in my face?
-And that’s the reason, today, why you reduce their pay to 14 lire and cut them to pieces?
-Oh! It’s easy to criticise. You needed to have been living with us. The peasants were dressing like me, and the cowman’s daughter was more elegant than my sister.
-Let’s not exaggerate. But still, this seems to you sufficient provocation to justify hunger and death?
-But the world was out of joint, and we have set it right.
Yet it’s also notable from Duggan’s research that the fascists made every effort to break any manifestation of workers autonomy. For example, they also attacked Catholic workers organisations and continued to do so – no doubt in part because they would tolerate no competition.
It sometimes seems to me that there’s been insufficient examination of not just fascism, but the manner in which it was able to relatively successfully co-opt political support in Germany and Italy during the inter-war period. Any examination of the melting away of both social democrat and communist lefts during that period raises questions. These were, of course, brutally repressive regimes, but… they were also at significant points regimes that were tolerated and more by a broad swathe of the population from all classes.
Without drawing futile comparisons between fascist/national socialist states or between and bourgeois democracies it is perhaps useful to consider how relatively easy it appears to legitimise state structures, something that has an importance today.
And their roots are fascinating too. Duggan notes that in Italy the left, and in particular the Socialist Party, was after the First World War fragmented and in a much less commanding position than the right thought. He argues that the rhetoric of revolution in the post-Bolshevik period was hollow, and suggests that ‘[the SP] knew well that [despite the rhetoric] there was no serious prospect of the Western powers allowing a Bolshevik-style regime to be formed in Southern Europe’.
That too is an intriguing thought and that too has more contemporary resonances.
Revolutionary defeatism July 28, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.
Albeit not quite in the way one V. I. Lenin meant.
I mentioned to a comrade recently that I’d been in the UK last Summer and driven from London to Chester. It’s quite a drive. You take the motorway north and it brings you through the still beating industrial and commercial heart of the island of Britain. Around Birmingham it’s particuarly noticeable, a vast megapolis of industry of one sort or another. And it’s one of those things, that it is lays bare just how embedded capitalism actually is.
My friend in response said that when he first visited the United States in the 1990s he had precisely the same thought, that the sheer entrenched nature of capitalism made him think ‘we’ll never overthrow this’.
I had a not dissimilar experience driving from Newark into Manhattan one evening in the early 2000s passing mile after mile of industrial plants and suchlike.
And it’s important to reflect upon that, not because that insight is particularly profound, but because it is – as always – necessary to assess the social, socio-economic and political weight of capitalism as it is now.
Of course those are the outward manifestations. And in some ways perhaps they’re almost the easiest to address, retooling an industrial plant for a purpose is much easier than engaging with the underpinnings of the social relations that sustain it in the first place, changing hearts and minds as it were.
Sinn Féin and Clann na Poblachta July 24, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
It’s long struck me that the party the contemporary SF is most like is not Fianna Fáil, lite or any other version, but Clann na Poblachta. Of course the comparison is not exact, far from it. The historical antecedents of CnaP are indirect as against a fairly, though not precisely, direct lineage for SF. And there’s an obvious difference in the histories, CnaP was a new formation, SF is a long standing one.
But yet, if one considers how SF is, however imperfectly, left of centre and Republican, then I think there is sufficient substance in the comparison to make it useful, not so much as regards the past of SF, as its potential future.
CnaP was, famously, a coalition between social radicals (some with very curious histories behind them, including the then far right – for more on this consider RM Douglas’s commanding history of Ailtrighe na hAiseirghe where quite a number of AA members went across fairly smoothly to CnaP), many of them informed by developments in Britain and in particular the radicalism of the post-war Labour government in areas such as health and welfare. In that respect CnaP was a somewhat social democratic party, and it is – I think – fair to say that SF is likewise.
But the Republican element to the make up of CnaP was as important. And it was remarkably strong. This was, as it were, broadly the generation of Republicans who had supported the anti-Treaty side, but not gone with Fianna Fáil when that party entered the constitutional arena. They had remained with or supportive of Sinn Féin and the IRA throughout the following years until the sheer impotence of that as either a military or political force during the war years pushed them to break with it.
It’s a bit more complex than that – for ironically parallel to the rise of CnaP a similar ferment was evident within SF and the IRA and in such a way that the more militarist approach of the 1950s appeared, but it will suffice as a general analysis.
Perhaps that jettisoning of the overt militarist element, by breaking with the IRA is similar, albeit not entirely with the process SF has been through in a decade or so.
And it’s not that difficult to see that oppositional approach to the system amongst those like Sean MacBride co-existed or informed a degree – though only a degree – of social radicalism. The appeal of those like Noel Browne who brought that social radicalism and a corresponding energy must have been considerable, even if, as we know, it all went awry further down the line.
Again, let’s not overstate this. CnaP was always a much more uneasy coalition than SF seems to be. But SF is itself a coalition, as are all political parties with a membership larger than a hundred or so members – and even then I may be being generous. They have to be because of intrinsic political and interpersonal dynamics. And SF is pulled in various directions as the conflict recedes into memory (some telling indications of populism in the last few weeks too). That said, while the nature of the conflict and the goal of Republicanism as being a form of political glue holding SF together is often commented on, less frequently is the small fact that given the continuing existence of Northern Ireland and the necessity for SF to engage with that also offers a glue. It’s political pre-eminence there is extremely useful in many respects but not least in providing a constant reminder of what is being sought, as much as what has – by their lights – been achieved.
And it provides a tension and a strength, legitimising at all times their continued existence in a way that CnaP could not hope to replicate. I’ve always been a little more impressed than many I know at the influence CnaP had on the Irish polity in relation to partition. The Anti-Partition campaigns of the late 1940s were both a part of and a response to CnaP. That they failed dismally is well known, that they were tried at all is testament to their effort. They were, too, of course, hugely counterproductive. Assistance to nationalist candidates in the North at elections during that period rebounded by consolidating the unionist vote. And in essence CnaP became just another Irish political party of the centre-left with no clear rationale, a process that perhaps the Mother and Child controversy accelerated rather than initiated. But the logic of anti-partition candidates was – albeit premature – not entirely without merit from their position. And look now at how in the context of the North SF is indeed that anti-partition party (and a source of continuing coherence in good times and bad).
Finally, CnaP gained 10 seats at their height. Far from discreditable, but not what was expected and thereafter never achieved again. SF has built up from much much lower numbers. There’s no reason for it to go back to previous numbers, and every indication that it will double or perhaps eventually triple CnaP’s tally, but what was given by the electorate can sooner or late be taken away.
Again, changed circumstances. There’s broad agreement on the current dispensation, but… nothing is for sure. And those stresses that felled CnaP. In some respects they’re built into the very nature of the political system in this state.
Political jokes and humour… July 23, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, The Left.
It’s that joke about the banker, the worker and the unemployed man in a cafe. The banker takes 9 of 10 biscuits on the table and nudges the worker “You want to watch out, that unemployed man has his eye on your biscuit.”
And the thought struck me, anyone know any good political jokes, actual real jokes you can tell people? All contributions gratefully accepted.
Some Workers’ Party and Democratic Left Archive Material July 21, 2014Posted by irishelectionliterature in The Left.
Many thanks to the person who forwarded these links on. They contain a variety of documents from The Workers’ Party / Sinn Fein from 1992 back to 1971 and also some material from the Democratic Left.
The Workers’ Party
That’s all very fine about SF wanting to work with the LP. But will there be LP TDs to work with? July 16, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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It’s good to hear her reported in the IT as saying:
…the next administration should not contain either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.
“We need to find, and we would like this to happen sooner rather than later, a space and a way in which we can build a dynamic and build agreement and build consensus on those points that we agree on to offer that alternative,” she said.
But will SF stand aside if the numbers fall a certain way, ie one in which the LP, as seems overwhelmingly likely, will have too few TDs to enter a government and the only way forward is in coalition with FF. As it happens I’m still dubious that FF would want to enter any such arrangement, except as the dominant partner, and even then…
Indeed all this seems very abstract. There’s surely little chance of an SF/LP lash-up anytime soon. So is this about projecting a certain image of the party? Or is there more, or less, to this than meets the eye?
“The Inter-Imperialist War, 1914–18: Not a noble cause” July 15, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.
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Saturday 26 July, 2 p.m.
CPI public talks, 2014
Dr Brian Hanley (historian),
Eddie Glackin (National Executive Committee, CPI)
Chairperson: Mary Cullen (historian)
Please find attached a link to the July Socialist Voice.
1. Housing is a right, not a privilege
There is not a town or city in this country that is not experiencing increased homelessness. Walk down any street and you will see at first hand the growing problem of individuals and whole families sleeping rough or wandering around the streets, as they have to leave a hostel or B&B during the day.
2. The anti-clericalism of the chattering classes
The recent revelations regarding the finding of up to eight hundred infant bodies buried in what were the grounds of a children’s home in Co. Galway hit the headlines and led to much ill-informed speculation, spurring renewed anti-clericalism by the establishment media.
While the numbers and the causes of death are still not clear, this has not prevented the state-controlled RTE and the corporate media from engaging in wild speculation.
140 Reasons to Feel Betterhttp://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/03-poetry.html
4. Lessons of the Republican Congress
Contrary to the common perception, history rarely repeats itself, and never in exactly the same fashion as before. Conditions and circumstances change constantly, and so therefore does the story. Nevertheless, certain episodes from the past provide valuable lessons, offering important ideas or crucial insights.
5. Workers in struggle
Block a return to slave wages and conditions
The privatisation of the collection of household refuse has led not just to chaos in housing estates with the duplication of collection services but to ever-increasing charges on working people for the collection of their black, green and brown bins. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/05-workers.html
6. Further sentence for Margaretta D’Arcy
On Tuesday 24 June, in Ennis District Court, Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell were given two-week suspended sentences by Judge Patrick Durcan following their conviction for “interfering with the proper use of an airport.”
7. Bausch and Lomb: the sequel
Workers at Bausch and Lomb in Waterford voted last month to accept the deal proposed by Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The SIPTU vote was 563 to 107.
Although the union made no recommendation, members were left in no doubt that a “no” vote would close the factory, with the loss of all 1,100 jobs. The same happened at the TEEU ballot, where the vote was 68 to 23 for acceptance. In effect there was no choice: you either accepted or lost your job.
8. Education under attack
The austerity attack by this Government and its ally, the European Union, continues to affect the many thousands of our people who are still suffering not only austerity but, equally important, the anxiety and stress that this causes to the general health of our people.http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/08-education.html
9. Inequality to continue?
When Government ministers wax lyrical these days about “recovery just around the corner,” “green shoots,” and “light at the end of the tunnel”—beware! They are far from talking about a return to the “good old days” of the Celtic Tiger, when the Irish capitalist economy boomed (for some).
9. Clean water is a human right
What will happen when an unemployed worker, pensioner or single mother is unable to pay a water bill? Will our privatised water and sewage-disposal service, Irish Water, be willing to meet in full its obligations to all citizens? Or will it threaten to cut off the water supply of those who are behind with their bills?
10. An Garda Síochána scriosta le polaitíocht
Ní inné ná inniu a tháinig ceisteanna chun cinn faoi fheidhmíocht nó ionracas an Gharda Síochána. I gcónaí riamh ba “phoblacht neamhspleách” é taobh istigh den stát, agus níor leasc le go leor de na baill, an cheannasaíocht san áireamh, gníomhú taobh amuigh den dlí. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/11-garda.html
11. Connolly Study Circle, Dundalk
Over the last few months the CPI has held three talks for activists in Dundalk
12. Réabhlóid na Fraince agus a polasaithe eacnamaíocha
Ba í Réabhlóid na Fraince an tréimhse staire ba mhó tionchar ar pholaitíocht agus idé-eolaíocht na hEorpa sna trí haois dheireanacha.
Leath tionchar na réabhlóide go dtí gach críoch ar domhan, agus roghnaíodh trídhathacha mar shuaitheantas beagnach gach náisiún a lorg neamhspleáchas, múnlaithe ar an mbun-leagan Francach
13. The economic philosophy behind the euro
In 1979 Margaret Thatcher was the first European prime minister to introduce the neo-liberal agenda. She was soon followed by Ronald Reagan in the United States, and the European Union formally adopted the neo-liberal ideology in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/14-euro.html
14. The hall that Jimmy built
James Gralton was the only Irish person (so far) to be deported from the country of his birth as an undesirable alien. The deportation was ordered on the grounds of dubious logic and equally dubious legality, which claimed that because he had adopted American citizenship he was a foreigner.