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Rolling blackouts… August 10, 2022

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Notable how low key the presentation of this story in the Guardian.

Businesses and even consumers could face blackouts this winter under government crisis plans as concerns grow over power supplies, it has emerged.

Under the government’s latest “reasonable worst case scenario”, officials believe the UK could experience blackouts for several days in January if cold weather combines with gas shortages to leave the country short of power.

Concerns are mounting over the toll on households this winter as new forecasts showed annual energy bills are forecast to top £4,200 from January, triggering a warning that Britons face “serious hardship on a massive scale” without government intervention.

Surely this is of huge significance? And yet even in the report linked to above the framing is partly in the context of the Tory leadership election. It’s not that the latter is entirely trivial, but it’s not the key issue (albeit the responses of the candidates to the energy crisis and bills is telling).

But anyhow:

Under the forecasts, which government sources insist are highly unlikely to materialise, the power shortfall could total about a sixth of peak demand even if emergency plans to fire up retiring coal power plants are enacted, Bloomberg reported.

In that scenario, a reduction of electricity imports from Norway and France, combined with low temperatures, would force the government to enact emergency measures to conserve gas for four days in January.

Under the plan the network operator would initially override commercial agreements to direct flows of gas on the system. After that, supplies to gas-fired power stations would be halted, leading to power cuts for businesses and homes.

Presumably aspects of this would impact on this island and this state too? And it’s not as if we are not having problems here.

An amber alert has been issued on the electricity market for the second day in a row.

In a message on the website of the Single Electricity Market Operator (SEMO) this morning, the reason given for the amber alert is “a generation shortfall in Ireland”.

Yesterday, Eirgrid said in its statement that the alert meant the buffer between the demand for electricity and the available supply was smaller than optimum.

“It does not indicate a loss of electricity supply to customers,” it added.

The reasons for yesterday’s system alert were low wind, limited electricity imports and some “forced outages” at a number of generators.

Notably: “SEMO is a joint venture between Eirgrid and SONI, the Northern Ireland grid operator.”

Doubling down on restrictions against choice…  August 10, 2022

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Some depressing news recently in the US with relation to restrictions on abortion provision. As most of us will know there’s the particularly grim case of the 10-year old victim of rape from Ohio who had to cross state lines to get an abortion (a case that the right-wing media initially denied the veracity of and then where those who aided this victim were threatened with legal issues). But Slate in an interview with Mary Ziegler [professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law and a preeminent expert on the history of abortion in the United States]  charts how the anti-abortion side shifted from a situation where exceptions for rape and incest and other issues were part and parcel of political platforms right up to Trump to a point where they were simply jettisoned. And those who were pragmatists of sorts in the anti-abortion movement rapidly shifted to the most hard-line positions. As in the following example:

As a result, what used to be considered fringe views are suddenly mainstream.

When the 10-year-old child in Ohio was raped and forced across state lines, the person we saw defending the idea that she should carry pregnancy to term was Jim Bopp. He had previously been the leading figure of the cautious, pragmatic wing of the movement. He had flown down to Ohio to testify against a heartbeat bill. These are the pragmatists. This is not the fringe of the movement at all.

The reason for the shift? The changed composition of the Supreme Court from 2018 onwards. And with that a sense that Roe was finished. 

There’s a particularly chilling line in the last response here… 

Do you think they’ll stick with that position [that if some women die because they’re refused care, that isn’t a certain death, there isn’t intentionally going to be a death, so that’s the lesser of the evils in that situation] even as we are overwhelmed with stories of women brought to the brink of death because they’re denied care for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies?

I haven’t seen any sign that they’re going to change. From their own standpoint, they probably should. I don’t think this will do them any favors unless the democracy is so broken that nothing matters any more. If anything, what you see is a doubling down. The Idaho GOP’s platform came out opposing exceptions for the life of the pregnant person after these stories. If anything, the movement seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

Is US democracy that broken? Does nothing matter any more? Ziegler notes something very important. 

The GOP did change. It became much more beholden to the anti-abortion movement and much less concerned about competition because of a combination of political polarization, gerrymandering, limits on access to the vote. These are essentially one-party states. Republican politicians aren’t worried these positions will be unpopular with voters because voters wouldn’t elect Democrats anyway.

One doesn’t need to be alarmist, one need only look at our own history here on this island, to see that decades can pass where there is no scope for change. And in some ways the situation in the US appears to be worse positioned. The Republican Party appears to have taken a tilt towards directions that neither Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil did, however conservative they were or are. Our voting system is different, the relationship with the Supreme Court. Frankly our size as a state is a positive in and of itself. This doesn’t mean that the situation is irredeemable, but one need only consider how another Republican President could shift the terrain further rightwards, the knock on effects on the Supreme Court, the judiciary and so on. There will, one suspects, always be states where abortion will be legal, though that’s not a given as this piece in Vox notes. 

What you want to say – 10th August 2022 August 10, 2022

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What you want to say – 10th August 2022

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

15 Years of the Left Archive: British and Irish Communist Organisation… The Irish Communist from 1973. August 9, 2022

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Here’s the first post proper of the Archive, posted this day in 2007 (there was an earlier post which was the genesis of the idea – as noted here). It’s more subjective than later posts and the comments had a great longevity – the most recent being in 2017. Well worth a read.

A new united Ireland August 9, 2022

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Andy Pollak a weekend or so ago spoke at the 35th John Hewitt International Summer School. He had a number of ideas, primary amongst which was that the Republic is far from ready for unity. Can’t really disagree with that, or with his point that a united Ireland would usher in a very large population, close to a million people, with varying degrees of antipathy shading to outright hostility towards unity. He notes that many will have no allegiance to the state and will believe themselves to be British. All this is true. The argument that unionism in the south was folded in with no great problem in the 1920s and so too will unionism in the north follow suit has always seemed simplistic. 

Oddly, though, all this has been thrashed out on this site here over the years, resulting in some of us supporting a ‘reverse Good Friday Agreement’ as proposed by An Sionnach Fionn. Pollak may believe all this is novel but quite a few have been thinking about just these matters for quite some time, even predating Brexit and the increased possibility of unity. 

Anyhow, in fairness to Pollak, he has been putting flesh on his thoughts.

His suggestion is that unity will involve a constitutional system somewhere between federalism and confederalism, with some continuing role for the British government. To this end, Pollak made some “against the consensus” ideas to prompt future discussion, in order to redefine Irish unionism as a positive good, “rather than an unloved relic of hated British rule”:

  • a power-sharing regional government and parliament to continue in Belfast
  • Irish membership in the Commonwealth
  • the reactivation of the British-Irish Council
  • a number of Northern politicians to continue to sit as British legislators in the House of Lords
  • a reversal of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, so that the British government has the right to intervene to protect the interests of unionists
  • amending the Irish Constitution, to codify the recognition of the British identity of unionists
  • a new flag (e.g. symbols of the four Irish provinces, or a small Union Jack inserted in the orange band of the current tricolour)
  • a new, non-militaristic national anthem (e.g. Ireland’s Call)
  • a new, free, single-tier health service “without Catholic Church involvement”

Interesting. That raises a lot of question: for example, how the right of Britain to ‘intervene’. What precisely does that mean? Commonwealth membership for the whole island? Doesn’t the GFA in and of itself also codify recognition of interests of Unionists – not that that would be a huge stretch to accommodate? And so on.

But for me the key point is, whether sited between federalism and confederalism, that it would be the people on this island who made the primary decisions and that there were robust and substantive links across the island politically whatever about some residual links to the UK polity. As always, important to note that the issue of Scotland needs to be considered in all this and how that impacts on the nature of the Union and all matters adjacent to that.

Pollak points to joint sovereignty or joint authority as a stepping stone that might bring about the above situation more quickly. Perhaps so. I know Ben Madigan has long flown that flag.

Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago August 9, 2022

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Another opportunity to use this! L7’s gift that keeps giving.

Anyhow, entertaining to see the sense of lèse-majesté the FBI raid on the Trump compound/resort has generated. From a man who trashed conventions wilfully it’s a bit much to take. One has to hope that the FBI has something solid in all this…

How many here have caught Covid? August 9, 2022

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Question for those on here, how many have caught Covid once (or twice)? How have you fared? And does anyone know the percentage of those overall in the population in the state who haven’t caught it at all?

And for those curious as to the current state of play here’s an excellent Twitter thread from Andrew Flood.

Class politics August 8, 2022

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Not a huge fan of Zoe Williams in the Guardian but she’s right about this.

The “white working class” is such a peculiar phrase, so widely deployed and so misleading. Of course there are white people who are working class, but the class as a whole is the most diverse of any group. This is a point made by a report from Class, the union-funded thinktank, on new attitudes to race and class in Britain.

You cannot predefine the beliefs and values of a class, it says, and then filter for people whose views correspond to them. Instead, the researchers built their sample on a points system, taking into consideration class identity, housing tenure, education level, occupation, household income, and if and how one might pay a £500 emergency bill. Perhaps that sounds obvious, but it is also quite a novel approach.

It makes sense to be sceptical or more about anyone who places the word ‘white’ in front of the working class. It seems to me to be a category error, as with national socialism, something that the phrase the ‘socialism of fools’ was coined to describe. And the diversity of the working class is important to keep in mind. Everyone is prey to certain preconceptions and caricatures – we’re pattern finding creatures, simplifications are our meat and drink. She makes a further good point which is that the Tories seek to mine authenticity from their self-serving description of the working class. 

…their broader pitch over the past six years has been to this fabled “white working class”, the one true voter: prioritised because they were authentic, their authenticity proven by their anger, which was justified because they’d been left behind. They hated the EU, immigration, London and elites; they loved the NHS, the Queen and their country.

The conception was unfalsifiable. All counter-evidence – other working-class people who were socially liberal, or valued immigration, or wanted to stay in the EU, or disapproved of the monarchy – was dismissed as coming from a false working class, either brainwashed by the elite, or a member of the elite in disguise. It was a completely deliberate mischaracterisation of the working class, and we could ruminate forever on who resisted it least effectively. Yet the cornerstone of its success was the insistence on whiteness as a distinct category.

That too is true but this has been effective terrain for the Tories. Perhaps because the working class is diverse, there are those within it who hold reactionary views, because there are also those who are in different or adjacent classes who like to present themselves as being of the working class and many different reasons.

The key issue of authenticity is fascinating, not least because actual measures that address concerns of this portion of the class which is so reified tend to be conspicuous by their absence. Steve Bannon who has gone on ad nauseam about the working class has deployed this trope too – while simultaneously being utterly and implacably hostile against the state and other measures that could support and assist the class, such as nationalised healthcare and so on.

Indeed that is one of the key aspects that makes determining the bona fides of those who use this rhetoric possible. Their adherence to those approaches that move beyond rhetoric is so scant as to be negligible. That is a ground on which they should be contested. 

UK polls August 8, 2022

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Checking the polls this morning to see what impact the Tory leadership contest is having the answer so far is less than one might expect.

A number have the BLP at 4-8% ahead of the Tories. A Times poll from a week ago had the BLP at 1% ahead, but polls from that source have varied hugely across the last six months.

All of which is mixed news for the BLP. Because while it is good to be ahead given the sustained and pervasive news from the Tory party this last month or so, much of it not good, but no news is good, one might have expected given the chaos in that party for the BLP to be further ahead. And once a new leader is in place on the Tory side, expect at a minimum a number of polls showing a lead for the Tories. Perhaps quite some number and for quite some time.

One consolation? An unbroken series of poll leads since 6th of December.

Left Archive: Fighting Talk, Issue 20, August 1998, Anti-Fascist Action (Britain) August 8, 2022

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To download the above please click on the following link.

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

This document is an interesting addition to the Archive, not least because it provides a comparison with its ally AFA Ireland (see here in the Archive) and also because it also contains some material relating to Ireland. The magazine contains contacts for AFA across Britain and Scotland and Wales and Ireland too.

The magazine has a range of informative articles on ‘Tackling Fascism at Football’, ‘International News’, ‘Race Attacks and ‘Anti-Racism”, ‘The History of Cable Street Beat’, an examination of how the ‘Mainstream Media Tackles Fascism’ and ‘Anti-Fascist History: Canada in the 30s. There are also reviews and letters.

There’s a full page on Ireland: Anti-Racism March, noting that AFA in Ireland were ‘joint organisers of 1,000 plus No-Racism-No Deportations’ demonstration in Dublin on April 25th 1998. It notes that:

As usual AFA concentrated on getting the message into working class areas. Racial tension is getting worse in these areas all the time. The lethal combination of the government housing large numbers of refugees in the deprived areas and the media myths about asylum seekers getting more money on the dole and better welfare entitlements is bound to lead to increased conflict in these areas.


Note the Join AFA box on the second page:

In the fight against fascism in Britain, Anti-Fascist Action has a record that is second to none. Our unique combination of physical confrontation and ideological struggle has produced results time and again.

We say no platform for fascists – no meetings, no marches, no paper sales, no leafleting – and we mean it, as the fascists know only too well. Our aim is to cause the maximum disruption to fascist activities.

But that doesn’t mean that AFA only needs street-fighters. Far from it. Everyone has a role to play in AFA, whether they feel confident in physical confrontations or not.

None of our successes in physically confronting the fascists would have been possible without the contribution of non-combatants. From legal observers to scouts, from leafleters to people who can write articles or speak at meetings, AFA needs people with a whole range of skills if it is to continue to succeed.

There’s a lot to do, so don’t wait around. Join today.

Contact your local group for affiliation rates and activities.

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