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Left Archive: Why the Labour Party Fails – Socialist Workers Movement 1993 July 29, 2019

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To download the above please click on the following link. labourpartyfails.pdf

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

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

This pamphlet published in 1993 by the SWM and written by Conor Costick offers a critique of the Irish Labour Party. Under various headings it engages with issues such as ‘Managing the Economy’, ‘How Other Labour Parties Fail’, ‘The State’, ‘Could Labour Be Changed?’ And ‘The Foundations of the Irish Labour Party’. Written as it was after the 1992 General Election which saw a then historic number of Labour TDs returned it notes that:

‘The size of the vote for the LP… was an exciting development in Irish politics. For it indicated that thousands of people are fed up with he main right wing parties, and are looking for an alternative’.

However, it continues:

Their commitment to running the system tells us in advance they will not challenge the capitalist class. Instead they will seek to participate in running the country at a time when to restore profit levels requires savage cuts in jobs and welfare.

There’s an interesting analysis that in a short period following the 1987 General Election ‘the left made the running in the Labour Party’ and it argues that ‘Mervyn Taylor, the candidate backed by the left defeated Ruairi Quinn for the position of Cahir of the party. Even more significantly, Emmet Stagg captured the Vice-Chair in opposition to Niamh Breathnach… however the left was pulling its punches. Instead of openly attacking the right wing of the party, instead of fighting for socialist ideas, they concentrated on the constitutional issue.

Please note: If files have been posted for or to other online archives previously we would appreciate if we could be informed of that. We are eager to credit same where applicable or simply provide links.

Sunday and the Week’s Media Stupid Statements July 28, 2019

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I’m tempted to say almost anything from this is worthy of the above title, Sammy Wilson’s latest intemperate outburst on Brexit – for example he has to have his tongue in cheek when he suggests that:

He said nobody has yet explained how Brexit would tear up the Good Friday Agreement, and also said he failed to understand how nationalists would find themselves alienated as a result of Brexit.

But then if we include Wilson why not the new British PM, or indeed any politician. Actually, why not indeed?

But then there’s this – an effort to compare the prospect of said British PM pursuing his current confrontational course with the EU from which: argues that…

The depressing lesson of history is that it is the patriotic hard-line that is always the easy political option even if that has disastrous consequences for the people of the country involved.

And:

Eamon de Valera was elected to lead this country in 1932 on a promise to tear up the provisions of the treaty of 1921. The economic war with Britain instigated by his decision to abolish the oath and default on our national debt by ending payment of land annuities was an unmitigated disaster for this country. Far from undermining support for Dev, the economic war galvanised a majority of people behind him in a do-or-die battle with the British, and it cast WT Cosgrave and the former leadership into the role of aiding and abetting the enemy.

That’s an interesting analysis and one wonders how central the abolition of the oath was to the economic war given that the Cosgrave government quietly sought to have it abolished too. No mention of how the British refused to allow more neutral arbitration on the issue of land annuities (in itself the fact of the Free State having to pay them being deeply problematic), and no lesser authority than JJ Lee has a very different take on matters, or rather how the war came to an eventual end. That said, fascinating to see the distaste with which abolition of the Oath (by a democratic parliament) and refusing to pay annuities is regarded.

Social desert July 28, 2019

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This is troubling, statistics about interactions with friends and family in the UK which suggest that:

[of] some 8,000 Britons …urveyed on everything from their sex lives, quality of sleep, finances, relationships and jobs, with an average “wellbeing score” of 60.4 out of 100.
The figure is 0.38 points lower than last year, which the report said was equivalent to a wellbeing decline associated with a £260 (or 18%) fall in the average monthly income.
Nearly one in 10 (9.1%) people said they never metfriends, relatives or coworkers socially, while 21.4% did so less than once a month.
A further 17.5% only socialised once a month, according to the survey.

It’s funny, reading it first I thought – hmmm… do I have a social life. Then I released I was taking my lead off the photograph at the top of the page where it shows someone downing a pint. And in that respect my social life is a blighted wasteland compared to years ago. Indeed I was thinking recently how only once in my life have I had a real local – that living in the Coombe where the Tenters pub was near enough literally around the corner (well, the corner and the next corner) and I’d be in there a couple of times or more a week. Ironically or not I didn’t drink too much in those days – two or three pints in an evening would be my lot. Living in East Wall Gaffney’s in Fairview became a reasonably regular port of call, but never on quite the same level. And now I can’t tell you the last time I was in the place. Five years ago? Longer, shorter? Probably. And similarly with most places like that, bar Bru House which does food.

I meet a lot of people for cups of tea – indeed I’ve kind of moved to a point where I find that a preferable to meeting people for a pint. I’ve had my moments but I’m not the world’s biggest drinker and I’ve found I’ve less and less patience for extended periods of drinking. So going to pubs is something I don’t do more than once every month or so. But I do try to get to gigs on a bi-monthly basis, and of course I drag the creature various places –

What intrigues me is the following:

Authors of the study said the key driver was a decline in social connections (down 0.36 points) and relationships (0.29 points).

I wonder if there is a retreat to screens and so on?

1989 revisited: 28 July – Estonia declares sovereignty from the USSR July 28, 2019

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This was part of a rolling process which had begun the previous year

Estonia declared its sovereignty from the Soviet Union on 16 November 1988. Lithuania followed on 18 May 1989 and Latvia on 28 July 1989.

Appropriation error July 28, 2019

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Jason O’Toole in the Mirror notes a continuing irritation. The tendency for British media to claim Irish sports (and other) people for their own.

One of the most pathetic recent examples was The Telegraph, of all papers, rhetorically asking during the London Olympics: “Can anyone stop Britain’s Katie Taylor?”

It was inexcusable because Katie fought for Team Ireland and stepped into the ring to the tune of Amhran na bhFiann and even had a tricolour draped around her shoulders.

But then it is, as he notes, of a piece with this:

English newspaper columnist Melanie Philips caused huge controversy in 2017 by claiming “Ireland itself
has a tenuous claim to nationhood having seceded from Britain as the Irish Free State in 1922”.

She hit the nail on the head in a way because she was only saying out loud what many English think too – that Ireland is not a “real” country for them.

Another UK Poll July 27, 2019

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From the Observer/Opinium and a distinct bounce for the Tories.

30% for the Tories – up 7

28% Labour – up 3

16% LD – up 1

15% Brexit – down 7

5% GP – down 3

Interesting movements there, no?

Cup of Joe July 27, 2019

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I like tea, not so fond of coffee which I haven’t drunk a ‘real’ cup of since 2004. I’ve also had to moderate tea intake due to migraines. Too much and it seems to create the conditions where migraines are more likely. It’s a diffuse linkage – chocolate sometimes triggers them, but usually doesn’t. Occasionally alcohol. Lack of sleep is the big one. Too little sleep and a day or so later on with the flashing lights and zig zag lines, though thankfully the pain is very low level.

But some pieces in the Atlantic point to high levels – energy drinks and so on, as having a range of unpleasant side effects. One notes that:

…essentially, energy drinks can be looked at as caffeine. And as the SAMHSA report puts it, “Large amounts of caffeine can cause adverse effects such as insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartbeat, and seizures that are severe enough to require emergency care.”

Out of those five adverse effects I’ve experienced four, though never to the point I’ve felt the need to go to A&E, and to be honest the first four are pretty much my definition of drinking real coffee from my early teens onwards.

That said, as the Atlantic notes, a lot is down to individual metabolism. Simply put some people have a tolerance and others don’t. Mind you, given that in order to generate convulsions a dose of 2,000 mg one can see that the levels within certain drinks would be not a million miles away from that – but oddly as the piece notes, it’s not energy drinks that are the problem so much as commercially available coffee variants at the likes of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts where the 20fl oz sizes reach put to 436mgs of caffeine. There’s also the issue of guarana which is added to energy drinks and has a stimulant effect in addition to caffeine.

Some interesting effects of caffeine and guarana on the circulation of students (aka younger people) are outlined in this piece. In truth, reading the pieces it seems clear that for those in early adulthood and younger it makes sense to consume these drinks with a degree of caution.

As to more innocuous ones… Coke Zero/Diet Coke has a relatively low level of caffeine – about 34mgs per can. Tea has less again with 26.1 mgs in 1 cup (though it depends how it is made etc).

Of course the real question is why this stuff interests me!

Voice control July 27, 2019

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Reading this about female voices used by digital technologies such as Siri and so on I was surprised to read that:

Voice is going to become the chief way that we make our wants known to computers – and when they respond, they will do so with female voices.

And:

In these instances, the technology adapts to pre-existing stereotypes, and so helps to perpetuate them. This will become increasingly important as children learn from their own interactions with a voice assistant. But this gendering is not inevitable.In some markets, Britain among them, Google offers a male voice for its assistant, though Alexa and Siri are always female.

It is true that the default on Siri is female, but the option is there for male as well and it’s not difficult to find or implement (it takes a short while to download other voices/accents).

And while I’m not unconvinced that differently gendered voices can evoke different responses I’d be a little cautious about drawing very specific conclusions from about how this functions in specific contexts. For example the Guardian says:

Male voices are also used by assistants in Arab countries, in many of which gender equality is not a mainstream ideal. A recent Unesco report also draws attention to the counterintuitive gendering of the field of computer technology. In Arab countries, and indeed in India, there is a far higher proportion of women studying computer science than in the west. It is those countries where gender equality is most advanced that have the greatest imbalance of male over female students of computer science and, consequently, of software developers.

But is the use of male voices in Arab countries (sic) a good or a bad thing. On the face of it that is a bad thing, because it suggests that the expertise or knowledge of women is so ignored that a digital ‘assistant’ can not be a woman. And I’d tend to that interpretation. But doesn’t that hold as well in regard to other places? In other words that having a woman’s voice that is authoritative and knowledgeable is a positive, pushing back against the sexist and misogynistic attitudes towards women?

And the Guardian sort of fades out in the final sentences:

This was not always the case. Software was once a field in which women worked on equal terms with men. A woman, Grace Hopper, gave the world the term “bug” – as necessary to computer science as zero is to mathematics. But within a generation, from about 1980, the profession became overwhelmingly male. These were also the years in which programming became associated with the acquisition of huge fortunes. Bill Gates may not have been a better programmer than Admiral Hopper, but he certainly ended up a whole lot richer. This imbalance is wrong, and it matters. As voice assistants move into bedrooms and kitchens and follow us around on our phones, conscious effort will be needed to eliminate prejudice that harms both men and women whether they’re building the software or using it.

But where does that leave us? Should male voices predominate? That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me where in our society there are already too many male voices and insufficient female ones?

In truth all this seems to me to bundle together a fair few disparate though far from unimportant issues – the reality that software development is skewed male is a problem in my view. Issues around authority that diminish women likewise. But that said the idea that authoritative women’s voices are a problem does seem to me to be reaching.

As to Siri? I never use it. Putting an intermediary between me and the information I need to read seems a long-winded way to go about things. And I’d be dubious about just how much things will change in the future in respect to this – certainly the keyboard mouse option (using keyboard shortcuts) appears to be the fastest means of interacting directly with computers. Of course in domestic or non-work environments that’s not a huge issue, but for any serious work difficult to see that keyboard/mouse approach being superseded.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Billy Bragg July 27, 2019

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.
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Am off to see Billy Bragg for three nights in Whelan’s next week as he does his “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back tour” in Dublin. A 50th birthday present to myself. He’s one of those constants in my musical taste and I have a host of LPs, Singles and 12 inches. What he is doing is a really good idea , Monday he will play his current set, Tuesday material from his first three albums (and I presume The “Between The Wars” EP) and on Wednesday material from his fourth, fifth and sixth albums. So for the likes of myself it’s a once off three nights of heaven! … although what state I’ll be in after three late nights jumping around a bit!! Whelan’s is a lovely venue for it too.
I presume too for a touring artist it’s nice to have time to actually stay in a place for a few days and go off and explore, meet up with friends and so on rather than going somewhere and literally just going from the airport to the hotel, to the venue, post gig hostelry, hotel and back off to the airport again.
For someone with such a back catalogue there will always be fan favourites missing from sets so hopefully I’ll get to hear my favourites. Whats nice too is that after much negotiations over who will use the second 3 day ticket, on Monday my wife will go and on Tuesday and Wednesday my son will go along. Since the record player was resurrected in his room last year my son has had various Bragg albums playing away on the turntable. Having seen Billy Bragg live umpteen times (including the night Thatcher resigned!) it’s great that my son will get to see him now too.
It’s probably Tuesday that I’m looking forward to most, “Lifes a Riot with spy versus spy” (I’ve previously done a TWIBMLT for that album) ,“Brewing Up With Billy Bragg” and “Talking with the taxman about poetry” are all really excellent albums.
The Wednesday will feature “William Bloke”, “Workers Playtime” , “Don’t try this at home”. Judging from Reviews (a review of the Bristol leg of the tour) there will be plenty of other material thrown in over the three nights and you’ll have the usual bit of humour, politics and song.
Can’t Wait.

Expectations… July 26, 2019

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Kathy Sheridan had a piece a month or two back on safety laws to combat on-line hatred argues that the internet is filled with viciousness and aggression. There’s a lot to that thesis. This site here was explicitly created because other places were bear-pits and we wanted out.

And no one would stand over the examples of belligerent and worse behaviours that Sheridan notes. Indeed I’ve long said that freedom of speech is over-rated and over-reified in these matters. The expression is fine, the idea all have to buy into it is not (ASF had a revealing post a while back about how he’s been put under pressure by some on the alt-right to provide them with a platform on ASF, a pressure he pushed right back against. It says a lot about the expectation on the part of some that they have a right to a platform come what may).

That said she quotes the following:

It is six years ago to the week since the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications first met to discuss social media abuse and cyberbullying.
The snigger potential for the cool kids down the back was limitless. A then-senator, Fidelma Healy Eames, provided rich fodder.
Her tone and questioning betrayed fear and bewilderment.
Parents were responsible for their children she agreed, but they couldn’t keep up with the technology. She used terms clearly unfamiliar to her and only dimly known to many adults, such as “fraping – where you’re raped on Facebook” and “sexting” and situations “where a person takes another’s identity on social media”.
She asked if people left a “digital footprint even when images are erased?”

Sheridan notes that Healy-Eames was ‘annihilated’ on social media and adds:

Healy Eames’s questions were under researched and unsophisticated but they were a fair reflection of the deep concern, inexperience and fear-of-the-unknown that was haunting most of the population.

I’m not so sure about that. I think any figure in a public position who sits on a Committee really needs to engage in the research because this is public, because it has an informational content. And moving beyond the specific representatives shouldn’t just reflect but should take a leadership role. Liberius has noted same many times in relation to vaccination issues. In other words there’s a reasonable expectation that someone who raises an issue in public, particularly someone who is elected as a representative in whatever form, has to acquaint themselves reasonably with the topic they are talking about, or is that asking too much?

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