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Democracy? January 29, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The Fianna Fáil leader has said that the Ard Comhairle does not decide party policy.He was responding to the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald who said this morning that only 17 of the 70 Ard Comhairle members of Fianna Fáil are elected.He said the Sinn Féin leader was “missing the point completely”. He said in a “functioning parliamentary democracy it is the parliamentarians that decide policy”.

Is that right? No one can claim some moral high ground. Parties in my experience seem to allocate policy and other formation in myriad ways. The British Labour Party has wrestled with this fr decades (and in some way Brexit shows how membership inflection of policy can cause problems). But my understanding has always been that the idea is that at Ard Fheiseanna or Annual Conferences the membership directs policy through motions that are adopted by the party and then acted upon by representatives organs within the party, not that parliamentarians are given the only say in this.

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1. alanmyler - January 29, 2020

This was discussed over dinner last night as herself is contemplating giving SF a first preference for the first time ever this time around. However the Ard Comhairle issue was seen as being undemocratic. So it’s curious how deeply that argument has seeped into the general consciousness, where democracy is only seen in terms of the public vote for individual politicians, but the idea of a mass party membership holding its elected public representatives to account is seen as undemocratic. I suppose people in general don’t really buy into the party form to some extent, it’s seen as election branding for individuals who fix potholes and such, no more than that. It’ll be interesting to see, should SF get close to power, how that division of influence between the Dáil cohort and the AC plays out. Obviously it didn’t work out too well for the WP back in the day. Hopefully lessons will have been learnt.

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2. Daniel Rayner O'Connor - January 29, 2020

A factor in my refusal to reapply for membership of the Labour party was my realisation that the Oireachtas party was in complete control and that us humble spear carriers were there merely to hew their wood and draw their water. This was not blatant; it was enforced by the control of party branches. A deputy could always whip up a few deadbeats, declare them a branch and pay its dues to vote for the Oireachtas line. However heaven help a functioning Branch that opposed that line. that M.Martin declares such a system to be ‘democratic reinforces his resemblance to Charles Montgomery Burns. his time for spewing forth a dead fish is overdue.

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3. Dr. X - January 29, 2020

Surely this is all just a bit of Shinner bashing via evocation of the bad old days? Days which are not remembered by a significant percentage of the electorate, many of whom are SF voters anyway.

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CMK - January 29, 2020

The tide is palpably going out on the manic shinner bashing that characterised the Irish media and political establishments since forever.

People who were between 6 and 12 years of age when the ceasefire in 1994 was announced are all in early middle age now and probably struggling like nearly everyone else.

Like the old style academic nearing retirement who uses the same exam questions every year, the pol corrs predictable analysis of SF has been out run by changing social conditions.

They will do well in GE2020. How the handle their success will be telling. If they get 40 seats and FF 50 then SF could hardly be regarded as ‘Junior Partners’ in any coalition a lá the PDs, Greens and Labour.

Interesting times.

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4. CL - January 29, 2020

Does international capital have more influence on Irish economic policy than the Irish people?

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tafkaGW - January 29, 2020

Of course. It’s part of the world suffering under a capitalist world-system. There is no ‘national’ capitalism or capital. And there never will be.

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CL - January 29, 2020

Nobody is saying there is a ‘national’ capitalism, but economic models under capitalism can differ from country to country.
The Irish economy has been integrated with capitalism since capitalism’s beginning.
Obviously Irish capital is part of international capital. But given the hisorical weakness of Irish capital the question has to be raised; is the Irish political elite acting in the interest of the Irish people or of an internationalized capital?

“Companies claimed relief worth more than €64 billion in just two years after the government extended a tax break for multinationals….
Michael Noonan, a former finance minister, raised the level of capital allowances on intellectual property (IP) assets from 80 per cent to 100 per cent in 2014. The move allowed companies to shield all their profits from corporation tax using capital allowances — tax savings given for buying assets.

The Times revealed in June that the decision was taken despite concerns being raised by a government official. Seamus Coffey, chairman of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, also estimated that the state was missing out on up to €850 million of revenue each year as a result of the move.”
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/multinationals-given-64bn-tax-break-g2rwkf82k

“is Ireland’s enterprise policy simply a one-trick pony – a neoliberal mechanism delivering low taxes to foreign multinationals?
Or is it a sophisticated, heavily State- interventionist policy, costing billions in subsidies annually, with thousands of public servants helping build foreign and indigenous enterprise? Crucially, is it all about attracting foreign firms while paying lip service to building an indigenous enterprise base of scale?

a number of the largest successful indigenous firms have been sold to foreign MNCs – not by their private owners seeking gains – but by the very governments that say they trying to build indigenous enterprises. They recently privatised Bord Gáis Energy, most of Aer Lingus and the National Lottery, sold off profitable parts of the ESB and may sell off what remains of Aer Lingus and AIB….
The EU-IMF troika, driven by ideology, forced the Government to sell “up to €2 billion in sales of non-strategic State assets”. This has been greatly exceeded, with €2,955 million in privatisation receipts to date, or almost 50 per cent more than required. How can politicians be taken seriously on building indigenous enterprise of scale when they have sold off some of the largest and most profitable Irish indigenous firms?…
The practice of selling good, commercial State firms to repay some of the debts of the failed private banks demonstrates how short-sighted and ideological our enterprise policy is.”-Paul Sweeney.
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/ireland-s-enterprise-policy-contradictory-letting-down-indigenous-firms-1.2067296

“The EU says Apple owes Ireland $14.5 billion in back taxes. Why don’t Irish elites want the money?…
It often seemed like Irish politicians believed they should represent Europe to the Irish people rather than represent the Irish people in Europe. But it turns out their cozy relationship with Europe was weaker than their romance with a major American multinational corporation…..
the Irish parliament has enacted more than forty pieces of legislation to facilitate the financial services industry and has integrated industry representatives into decision-making through a clearinghouse where they can discuss policy with senior government figures….
The Irish capitalist model has long placed multinational corporations at its heart. The state facilitates and enables these companies, giving them direct or indirect influence over many policy decisions….
All other policy domains — labor, education, governance, the welfare state — have become subordinate to the primary goal of attracting international capital….
Ireland’s elite may succeed in its appeal and get away with helping transnational capital escape taxation. Or it may find itself on the wrong side of both an emerging capitalist order and an intensifying popular struggle against global exploitation.”-Terrence McDonough
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/09/ireland-tax-haven-apple-inversion-eu

Perhaps the analyses of Paul Sweeney and Terrence McDonough offer some clues as to why the Irish public sector is starved of investment.
The Irish political elite wants to portray Sinn Fein’s Ard Comhairle as a threat to democracy.
This ploy conveniently diverts attention from the real threat to Irish democracy; the predatory, parasitical international capitalist class, of which the Irish comprador ruling elite is a component part.

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tafkaGW - January 29, 2020

I guess historically Irish politicians from TweedleGum and TweedleFee and their allies acted partly in the interests of local capital, but since I’ve been politically aware they’ve acted in the interests of capital, which is these days fully mobile and transnational, rather than the working class living in Ireland.

As a matter of course.

Anyone who thinks a ‘predatory, parasitical international capitalist class’ could be replaced by a presumably ‘national non-predatory, non-parasitical’ capitalist class is going to be disappointed.

There’s no going back to ‘national’ capital formations in an era of hyper-financialised global capitalism, apart from rhetorically in the nostalgic discourse of the right. Which only suckers should believe in.

There are nationally organised cartels with good connections to national politics of course – look at the property development cartel in Ireland as a classic example – but they are utterly dependent on transnational finance, while taking advantage of regulatory arbitrage between national states of course.

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CL - January 29, 2020

As i said no one is claiming that capital is ‘national’. But how a country is initially integrated into the world capitalist system is important in how that country has historically developed economically.

“Anyone who thinks a ‘predatory, parasitical international capitalist class’ could be replaced by a presumably ‘national non-predatory, non-parasitical’ capitalist class is going to be disappointed.” This in your head, not mine.

There is no going back to ‘national capital formations’ because they have never existed.
But struggles can, and must, take place locally and nationally against predatory, parasitical capitalism. To do so in Ireland requires an understanding of how the Irish fraction of capital is integrated into world capitalism. Taking refuge in some vague references to internationalism is futile.

To posit some vague all embracing capitalist entity without dealing with its country-specific manifestation is a recipe for inaction. Struggles against capital take place in a localized, particular setting. This is not to deny the need for international cooperation and resistance, merely to point out the obvious.
“Hyper-financialized global capital” has a particular presence in Ireland; its important to understand that presence, its local, ‘national’, facilitators, and its implications for Irish democracy.
McDonough’s piece above draws on a long, scholarly, and activist tradition analyzing the interaction between the hegemonic capitalist power and its dependencies.
A fairly recent example in this scholarly tradition is Kevin B. Anderson’s ‘Marx at the Margins’, with an in-depth discussion of Marx and Engels analysis of Irish political economy.

‘ ‘All other policy domains — labor, education, governance, the welfare state — have become subordinate to the primary goal of attracting international capital…’McDonough
To grasp how this undemocratic situation has come about its necessary to understand the historical context in which it is occurring.

Ignoring this reality, and its implications for Irish democracy, encourages right-wing reaction.

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CL - January 29, 2020

There is no such thing as ‘non-predatory’ capitalism, since capital is based on predation.

In the debate RBB rightly made the connection between the support for vulture funds by the Irish govt. and the housing crisis.
Most of these vulture funds are domiciled in the U.S.

Howlin today called for the end of the use of Shannon by the U.S military.
https://www.thejournal.ie/brendan-howlin-shannon-airport-the-candidate-4983380-Jan2020/

The connection also needs to be made between the Irish elite’s support for U.S militarism and the subjection of Irish economic policy to U.S-based MNCs.
This subjugation supported by FF and FG is a much greater threat to Irish democracy than the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle.

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tafkaGW - January 30, 2020

I agree with all of that CL.

Struggle has to take place at all levels: regional, national and transnational.

What I find frankly incredible is the ‘return to the national’ as the sole effective level of political action.

It not only lacks credibility, but plays directly into the hands of the ethnicist nationalists working for global capital hiding behind nationalist identitarian rhetoric which constitute our greatest current political danger.

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CL - January 30, 2020

As we remember Auschwitz and say ‘Never Again’, we should remember the connection between nationalism and fascism.
But Trump’s xenophobic America First and the jingoist, English nationalism of the Tories are something quite different from the anti-imperialist tradition of Irish republicanism.
Conflating the two as some are wont to do is not helpful.
Irish republicanism is a bulwark against fascism.

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5. NFB - January 29, 2020

It’s a way of enacting a Provo scare without having to say the words all the time. Obviously desperate to stop SF rise.

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WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2020

That’s a great way of putting it.

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6. makedonamend - January 30, 2020

Sort of reminds me of the USA Republicans who suggested that John F Kennedy shouldn’t be president because he would take orders from the pope in Rome.

Sounds like desperation to me from MM.

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Colm B - January 30, 2020

On Howlin and Shannon – that would a different Brendan Howlin then who, when in Government, never raised a finger to stop the American military’s use of Shannon?
And of course a different John Gormley and different John Halligan, different Finian McGrath, etc. etc. all of whom opposed US use of Shannon before they became members of government and then did nothing to stop it.

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makedonamend - January 30, 2020

Yep

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