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We’re all in this together… redux. October 28, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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He [Brian Cowen] said most of the savings for 2011 will be reached through cuts in spending instead of new taxes and warned nobody can escape the harsh measures.

Except cuts in spending per definition affect most those who rely upon state services and provision which is those on lower and no incomes (other than welfare).

Indeed for rhetorical evidence of this consider Moore McDowell’s ‘generous’ offer to eschew free transport which he could well ‘afford’.

Whereas taxation, on the other hand…

United Left Alliance formed. October 27, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
301 comments

This was forwarded to me today… interesting and apparently true…

United Left Alliance formed.

At a meeting held in Dublin last Sunday, 24th October, involving the
People Before Profit Alliance, the Socialist Party, the Tipperary
Workers and Unemployed Group, and Cllr Declan Bree and his local group
in Sligo, a historic decision was taken to establish a left alliance
to contest the next general election and to take the first steps
towards a new, left, anti capitalist formation to represent working
people.

It is to be called the United Left Alliance. A strong, left wing, anti
capitalist and anti coalition with right wing parties, programme has
been agreed. This will be circulated as soon as a few small agreed
amendments are made. The alliance will be open to anyone who accepts
its basic programme and aims, but the aim is to attract as many
workers and young people as possible.

A leaflet from the alliance will be circulated at the Claiming our
Future event next Saturday. It will be officially launched at a major
rally to be held in Dublin on the Friday evening of November 26th,
preceded by press activity during that week. Rallies around the
country and in the Dublin Constituencies will be held in the new year.

It will initially have a register of supporters, a steering committee,
a website, a media group, and will hold open monthly meetings in all
the constituencies where it is fielding candidates for the general
election. At this stage 12/13 candidates are agreed, covering Dublin,
Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Tipperary South and Sligo, with a number of
other areas and candidates to be considered.

The aim is to get people elected to the next Dail, which is entirely
possible in a number of areas. It is hoped that a group of left TDs,
working together, and being the real opposition, probably to a Fine
Gael/Labour coalition, will be the focus for a campaigning alliance
and lay the basis over time for a move to a more formal structure, in
reality, a new party for working people, union, community, feminist
and environmental activists, students and anyone who wants to affect
real change. In the situation now facing the country, such a party
could grow rapidly, supplanting Labour and Sinn Fein, and providing a
real alternative to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Saving us from – er – fascism…the ICTU way. October 27, 2010

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

As was noted to me yesterday by a long time contributor to the site, the Irish Times account of David Begg at the TASC conference about the trades union response to the crisis is quite astounding.

He believes we’re not like the French.

“Irish people are much more conservative. Social democracy has never taken root in Ireland.”
He said “most Irish workers would not thank me for creating havoc in Ireland as they would see it.”

Well, yes. Social democracy certainly hasn’t taken root in Ireland. But whether union activism is the same as social democracy is a different issue. And granted there’s some truth in the following:

It was “absolutely important for any trade union movement, if it purports to lead social movements, to align itself as far as it can with what the people of the country are willing to do.”

But, let’s not get carried away. What was the old WP saying, something along the lines of never be more than a step ahead of the people – something like that. But note that the crucial distinction is about being ‘ahead’, in other words leading, not staying at the same point, or even somewhat behind.

But it gets stranger if possible.

He said if trade unions pushed “what is perceived by the population to be a narrow class interest beyond what is good for the whole population, what you will create is a fascist backlash”.

Now this is remarkable. A fascist backlash? Really? From where? The state itself? The risen hordes of ISME and IBEC? The private sector? Don’t unions still organize there? Isn’t that where I joined SIPTU? Isn’t that where I remain in a fairly precarious situation, and fully dependent upon SIPTU to ensure my rights are upheld when and if my job goes to the wall?

And that despite the fact that unions have been all too slow to argue for the extension of conditions from the public sector into the private sector. And look now where that’s left us, that particularly craven and supine approach? A place where Eoghan Harris, tongue lodged firmly in cheek, but seemingly straightfaced to the none discerning observer, can suggest that Connolly were he here today would be arguing for conditions of some workers to be disimproved rather than arguing that the conditions of all workers should be improved.

And it gets better, in an ironic EH sort of a way…

They were engaged in “innovative ways of trying to get a message to Government that people are not happy with this direction without necessarily doing it in any destructive sense”.

Semaphore? Ouija board? Just what are these innovative ways, and what metric do we use to judge their effectivity?

Responding to criticism from the floor at a conference in Croke Park organised by social policy think tank Tasc, Mr Begg said that they campaigned for a “better, fairer way of approaching” the crisis with a 2017 target to reach a 3 per cent deficit. There were also “three major demonstrations, involving about 120,000 people on the street on each occasion”.

Which achieved precisely what? And he overstates entirely the current situation in terms of the discourse.

The problem “up to now was that almost all options were foreclosed on except this kind of four-year austerity plan”. He said “it has taken a long time to build on that but we have built to the point now where there is a debate in society about two alternatives”.

This was why the Taoiseach responded in The Irish Times on Saturday, “because he feels it is necessary to answer the question of why the four-year programme is the only available option”. But what was “most disturbing” was Government saying “well we have to start it like this anyway, and sure if it goes wrong maybe we can change”. He warned, however, that Irish citizens were confronted with “an austerity plan which is nasty, mean, brutish and short” and to stick to this course was “not only economically dangerous but politically unwise”.

Except that a discourse where the weight is on one side, or where the weight exercised is all on one side, is no discourse at all.

And in a way to posit this as a choice between France and nothing is as much an evasion as the idea that there is only a four year path of austerity or nothing. Glib certainty from the economic right is no surprise – even when such certainty is belied by a litany of policy failures. Hesitant but equal certainty from the unions… well, y’know.

This may be of some interest… October 26, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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…just to thank longtime commentor Crocodile for forwarding the following link.

A view from the UK on the peace process… October 26, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Northern Ireland.
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here at Ceasefire Magazine.

Well fancy that… October 26, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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The Irish Times understands that a briefing document circulated to Ministers suggested that every €1 billion cut could result in a drag on growth of between one quarter and one half a per cent.

But…

There is general agreement that up to €5 billion in adjustments will be made in the December budget.

Fianna Fáil on 18%… October 26, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
37 comments

I’m hoping AK of the IELB will do some number crunching on this poll, but my own response? Well best summed up by Dotski’s excellent initial analysis on the day where he asked one very pertinent question:

The trend in all the polling companies is in LP’s favour, although that could of course change. Although, at this stage, one has to wonder, when?

And my first thought was, after the upcoming Budget? Not a chance. That’s the point at which it gets worse for the Government, and Fianna Fáil in particular, because at that point while the substance of what the Opposition offers diverges hardly at all from the offerings of the Government they will still be able to position themselves as not themmuns…

Power without responsibility, but who really would begrudge them it given that they’ll have the responsibility for the next five or six years dependent upon the election?

Most notable though in terms of the polling data itself:

Fianna Fáil support is down six points to 18%, the lowest rating the party has ever received in a Red C poll. Fine Gael gains one point to 32%, while Labour has regained the 4% the party lost in last month’s poll, to return to 27%.
The Green Party, which was central to efforts to find consensus on the Budget, gain one point to 4%, Sinn Féin drop one to 9%, while Independents and Others gain one point to 10%.

Look at the churn. It’s almost all Fianna Fáil to Labour. And FF have dropped six points.

What’s interesting to me about this in political terms is that despite the now constant and increasingly shrill refrain from both politicians of other parties and media commentators of ‘Labour will have to show us hard policies’ (which in real terms translates as ‘Labour must align with the overall consensus’) there’s no indication that the public agrees. Indeed quite the opposite. And why wouldn’t they feel like that? Or as the SBP itself puts it:

Despite some criticism of the party for its failure to spell out its economic policies in greater detail in recent weeks, the medium-term trend in the Labour vote remains firmly upwards, and there is nothing in these numbers to suggest that the rise of Eamon Gilmore will stop here. Second preference support for Labour is also strong.

There’s all too much certainty emanating from Government and other points, despite the small matter of the current policy positions not working even on their own terms? How else to explain the lamentable undershooting of economic targets set and now broken? So that certainty rings a little hollow. How else to contextualise the amazing complacence of Brian Lenihan’s statement at the last Budget (as noted by Michael Taft) that the worst was now over, when truth is it’s hardly even begun?

And against that certainty even the mildest of the mild uncertainty or search for some wriggle room (however it may work out in practice) is a vastly more attractive option for some.

The other issue is that despite the entirely negative reception from various quarters to the idea floated by Beggs and Sinn Féin that at the least a longer period of adjustment would be more optimal the data stacking up seems to support precisely such a move (and on a human level how could it be otherwise if one wishes to ameliorate the impact of ‘adjustment’?).

So the nice little simplicities of the narrative established by the Government and sections of the media have been a little less credible than previously, which is poison to Fianna Fáíl, or rather its vote.

On these figures the Green Party might hope to rescue one or two seats, though transfers will be all. Trevor Sargent must be hoping he can pull in a wide range of support, and truth is he’s probably the man to do it. Certainly if he can’t, then no GP candidate can. Funnily enough I understand there’s some hope that E. Ryan may be attractive to the good folk of Dublin South, particularly in the wake of the disintegration of the great white hope that was George Lee. I’m not hugely convinced, but no matter.

Sinn Féin remain, as ever, in the zone that is all their own. In a way they should be happy by this result. It sets them up very nicely for the future as potentially the opposition party of the left (well, assuming that Fianna Fáíl and Fine Gael don’t take Chris Andrews advice of a ‘merger’, or failing that a coalition). A position that served the WP well in previous decades. Fine Gael? An upward tick is good for Kenny, whatever about being with the margin of error, so no complaints there. And Labour consolidates, or at least gets good headlines out of this.

As to the various extrapolations of numbers from this? Dotski’s got the following:

FG 61
LP 57
FF 27
SF 7
GP 3
OTH 11

And over on Political Reform we can read Adrian Kavanagh with the following tally:

On these figures, my constituency level analysis estimates the party’s seat allocations as follows – FF 32, FG 64, LAB 50, GP 0, SF 7, OTH 13

They’re not that far apart, though when one gets down towards the lower figures exchanges become easier, or to put it another way, circumstances on the ground will weigh heavily. Kavanagh has a breakdown constituency by constituency. I’m still not convinced that the LP will get two seats in Dublin Central. And while I guess it’s possible that SF will win a seat in Dublin North East I’m not holding my breath for that happy outcome.

Though a collapse of the FF Dublin vote could lead to a myriad unexpected outcomes.

But Fianna Fáíl. 18%? Easily the most astounding aspect of this and in the SBP/RedC poll, for my money the best one going, and certainly a sober one. This has the ring of truth, and as such is just about the worst possible news for FF. All that said, I think it’s no more likely to impel a rush to the lifeboats than any preceding poll, though more than one of the back benches, and perhaps some of the front-bench, may well be eyeing Mattie McGrath, and that 10% of support for ‘Others’, with more than usual interest.

But for the rest of us perhaps tracing the outlines of a political context where FF is so seriously damaged is worth considering. More on that soon.

If only it weren’t all so serious this would be great craic. But somehow, it isn’t.

Left Archive: “Hands Off Ireland!” – The Revolutionary Communist Group, Number Nine, November 1979 October 25, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Revolutionary Communist Group (UK).
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The file is in the following link: REVCOMGRP BINDER

Here is a quarterly bulletin of the Revolutionary Communist Group, which emerged from the International Socialists as part of an internal, albeit undeclared platform. Leading figures associated with the RCG include David Yaffe. As noted on wikipedia their line of eschewing support for the Labour Party was a substantive break with many other further left formations. The RCG itself suffered further splits, including perhaps most famously those who departed to form what ultimately would be the Revolutionary Communist Party (a document from whose precursor, the Revolutionary Communist Tendency, is available here in the Archive).

As with this document the RCG was strongly supportive of the Irish republicanism and so there are articles on a H-Block Press Visit, ‘Resistance on the Border’, and interview with the Provisional IRA and a piece by Terry Marlowe which reflects on Communism and Revolutionary Nationalism. Perhaps the editorial best gives a flavor of the contents and opinions within.

It lauds what it sees as ‘confirmation of the growing strength of the Irish people – the events of August 27 when Mountbatten and 18 soldiers were killed by the Provisional IRA. In this context it is more vital than ever for the British ruling class to isolate the Republican movement from the working class in this country.’

It continues: ‘This isolation takes many forms – the bourgeois propaganda against the Republican movement, the anti-Republican propaganda of the petit bourgeois left, the development of the pro-imperialist Young Liberal campaign and outright attacks on those who support the Republican movement and fight to unite workers in this country behind the Irish people’s struggle. Thus when the petit bourgeois left turns its back on a PSF march (as it did on October 20) it is directly aiding the ruling class in the effort toisolate the Republican movement’.

It speaks of attacks on Hands Off Ireland supporters, and argues that ‘Our reply to these attacks can be seen in the appearance in this issue of a full length interview with a spokesman of the military wing of the Republican movement – the Provisional IRA’. That interview is interesting, not least due to some insights into attitudes within PIRA to the INLA and to some fulsome quotation of Marx and Lenin, perhaps deliberately tailored to the audience. There’s an echo of the argument put forward in the document posted last week from Peoples’ Democracy about elitism in armed struggle, though in this instance it’s quite the reverse.

All told a useful reflection on the attitudes of some on the further left in the UK during this period.

[Not quite] Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week October 24, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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Not entirely sure where Garibaldy has got to Ah, he’s back, and as an add-on let me direct you towards the following. Now in fairness it wasn’t the Sunday Independent that made it, but it’s still a pretty good contender…

IRELAND should consider leaving the EU if it prevents us from making our own decisions on the management of our economy, [Mike Soden] a leading member of the Government’s newly-established Central Bank Commission has said.

Let me say that I’m far from reflexively anti-American. Indeed quite the opposite. But the idea that we should become the 51st state (as it happens the former editor of the Guardian had a so so thriller based around the idea of the UK and the RoI doing just that, and if memory serves me correct there was an even earlier book based on much the same idea in the 1980s) is so absurd as to be beyond reckoning. Not least because why on earth would they have us? In geo-political terms its utter nonsense.

And in economic terms? For a state so dependent upon FDI to suddenly find ourselves aligned with certain Federal rules and regulations might put a dampener on our attractiveness.

“Have we unwittingly surrendered these precious aspects of our society as the price of European Union membership?”

Addressing one solution that Ireland might consider, Mr Soden says we should “stretch our thinking, widen our view and look west, not east”.

But even Soden admits that the cure would be…er…equivalent to the disease.

“Surrendering our independence would never be palatable — but that’s what we have done through our membership of the EU.

“This may be the wrong time to put forward a negotiated plan that could result in a form of political and economic surrender. However, if we cannot make a decision on the financial aspects of our economy without referring to the EU or the ECB, then we have done just that.”

So precisely how would we prosper under the new dispensation, which would in fact strip away what remaining sovereignty we have under the EU system (and by the way, if he thinks that EU membership is equivalent to being a state in the United States his knowledge of these matters is shaky, to put it mildly)?

“The possible consequences of political and economic association with the US would be a massive influx of foreign direct investment, a link to the US dollar, a reduction in unemployment, and who knows, maybe an annual payment for a number of years to get our finances back in balance.”

Yeah, maybe. Maybe…though when people put the word ‘possible’ at the start of a sentence I tend to get a bit wary.

But really, why should it surprise us that in this day and age the solutions to problems seem remarkably like the original problems?

Want to avoid the IMF rapping on the door and their consequent proscriptions? Do all that you can to emulate the IMF proscriptions! Find your economic policies stifling growth and driving the economy into the ground? Only one thing for it, apply them with even greater rigour!

Remember, this man is part of the process of informing and advising the state on how to extricate itself from this mess. Here’s a review of his book, Open Dissent, and note some of the proposals he makes.

The use of Wikipedia as a source is questionable in the book but some of Soden’s suggestions make eminent sense: stronger whistleblower protection, lower public sector salaries, the need for a proper recovery plan, increasing the working week [really? He appeared on our radar and speaking of his view of working weeks…] last year, and and widespread reform of the banking institutions.

We’ve been warned.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week October 24, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in media.
13 comments

Bit of a bumper crop this week, although my internal editor could have collapsed under the strain. I certainly know how Jody Corcoran feels

EVERY week, I sit here and try to make sense of it all. Increasingly, it is a frustrating exercise, because no real sense can be made of it anymore. Take last week, for example, and ask yourself this: what the hell was that about?

And in a paragraph that earns him second place in the lack of self-awareness award

It is hard to blame those who are saving. I am one of them. I mean, all they have to do is look at what the Government has been doing for the last three years: encouraged by the dimwits, the Government has been engaged in the policy of brutality. The intention of this policy, embarked upon three years ago, is to make Ireland “competitive” again, as if a tap can be turned on and off in that regard, without consequence.

It seems Eilis O’Hanlon hasn’t been paying much attention to the effects of the current crisis of the working class, be it in Ireland, Britain, Greece or anywhere else, in her article on the coverage of the X Factor’s Mary Byrne.

As always, there’s a political undertone at play here. The working class are adopted in popular culture so readily as symbols of triumph over the odds because they start out from the vantage point of victims, a role foisted on them by socialist sentimentalists. That’s not a healthy self-image for any group of people to embrace for long, because it encourages defeatism.

Um, if workers are victims, it’s because they are exploited, and are the first to suffer when things go wrong, as the capitalist elite rushes to save itself. Or have I just imagined the last three years, and the banking bailouts and the rest?

Shane Ross and Nick Webb question why union “bosses” are involved in quangoes that deal with areas they know nothing about, like road building or tourism. Not that the Sindo would ever suggest handing everything (universities being one example) to business leaders, even if they know nothing about it. Speaking of unions, guess what Shane is saying now.

Besides, the Croke Park deal is dying. The public service unions have failed to deliver their side of the bargain. The promised efficiencies have not materialised. The trade unions, encouraged by the cheerleaders at the top of the civil service, are — as always — dragging their feet.

Brian Lenihan’s Budget should ditch Croke Park. If industrial unrest follows, the nation should tough it out. If the opposition parties exploit strikes or work-to-rules to advance their selfish interests, they will be playing a dangerous game.

Apparently, some people feel that the media is treacherous for the way it is reporting the crisis. This includes the Sunday Independent. I wouldn’t say it was being treacherous, but rather that it was being true to the interests of the class it is seeking to represent. There are, however, reports Emer O’Kelly, some who disagree, and who believe it has betrayed its own class, disguised as the interests of the country.

Four people recently said to me that negative comment on the Government and the state of the country should be declared treason against the State. They were dead serious.

Three of them specified RTE as the putative traitor; one specified all of the media, including this newspaper. Admittedly, three of them were fairly active and influential supporters of Fianna Fail. The fourth was, as far as I know, a non-aligned concerned citizen. But they all scared the hell out of me.

The media may well be traitors, but given the role of the Sindo in cheerleading for neo-liberalism, I’m not surprised the Sindo considers the above the winner of its own stupid statement of the week. No point defending the system if that’s all the thanks you are going to get for it.

This was supposed to be finally but has been trumped. These aren’t quotes from Sindo employees/columnists either, but they are quotes from a shower of capitalist ideologues.

‘IGNORE the muley, pukey economists like Ictu chief David Begg and others of his ilk. We should aim to close the deficit in three years, not five, six or seven. That means targeting a €10bn adjustment figure. This could be done by an immediate bonfire of the quangos. Close them all. Impose 20 per cent compulsory redundancies in the Civil Service and a 10 per cent across-the-board reduction in social welfare.

That’s the head of a certain airline, although at least he also favours raising taxes. Read the full quotes and shudder at the nonsense that passes for economic analysis, and note all the different reasons given to justify the same thing – massive spending cuts on socially useful things in order to bail out speculators from the banks and developers. How many ways can you talk the same rubbish? Loads.

And the winner this week, while also winning the award for total lack of self-awareness, step forward Mr Marc Coleman.

That anyone can still argue for a ‘tax and spend’ approach in the face of this historical evidence shows the extent to which either well-meaning ignorance or self- interested cynicism has dominated economic comment.

I keep adding to this when I think it can’t get any sillier. Comedy silly statement of the week award goes to Eoghan Harris, who has rediscovered Connolly this week. And found that were he alive today he would be in full support of The Workers’ Party. Well I certainly can’t argue with him there. Or apparently I can. Having launched an attack on the public sector as per, he offers this

At some point, between now and the next General Election, the private sector workers will produce their own political party. If I were a younger man, and in better health, I would help found it. I might even suggest it be called the Workers Party.

Still, one can’t help but admire the evil genius of a mind that can think like this. If this was the 1920s, I’d recommend his brain be saved and analysed.

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