jump to navigation

The Economist on Piketty May 6, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Books, Capitalism, Economics, Inequality, Journalism, Marxism, Taxation Policy, The political discourse, The Right.
55 comments

I bought the Economist because the cover said it has an article about Piketty. (Reading articles about his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, is quicker than reading the book!)

The headline on the actual article is weird: “Bigger than Marx”. That is true neither of the physical heft of the book nor, if everything I have read about it so far is valid, of the contents.

And then the content of the Economist’s review: 13 paragraphs: two are neutral; four approving; seven critical of the book. The Economist cites five critics of his thesis or aspects of it and zero supporters.

Not that I’m terribly surprised at their overall view, but they might have been subtler. Or maybe I should applaud their transparency.

Politics In the World of Tintin and Asterix August 4, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Books, Culture.
1 comment so far

Those of you familiar with the Tintin and Asterix books might like this from Red Wedge Magazine… Politics In the World of Tintin and Asterix

Jonathan Sperber Podcast on Karl Marx July 28, 2013

Posted by Garibaldy in Books, History, Marxism.
1 comment so far

Interesting podcast on the Guardian about Karl Marx with the historian Jonathan Sperber, author of the recent Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. See here for a Guardian article by Sperber on Marx and here for a review essay of Sperber’s book by Marc Mulholland at the Dublin Review of Books.

What are you reading this summer? July 23, 2013

Posted by Garibaldy in Books.
23 comments

It’s that time of year again when we share what we hope to read/are reading during the summer (although at least there is an actual summer this year). So here goes.

Eric Hobsbawm’s last book, Fractured Times examines C20th culture.

Steve Smith’s Revolution and the People in Russia and China deals with things like class, gender, and national identity among peasants settling in the two capital cities in the decades before their revolutions.

Closer to home, Andrew Walsh’s From Hope to Hatred: Voices of the Falls Curfew looks very interesting indeed.

So too Kieran Glennon’s From Pogrom to Civil War, shedding some much needed light on the period, especially in the north.

What’s everyone else reading?

Old books March 4, 2013

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Books, Design, History.
3 comments

Very interesting collection of old book covers here

Everything from fishing to celibacy to textbooks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will you be reading this “summer”? July 11, 2012

Posted by Garibaldy in Books.
52 comments

Summer definitely feels like the wrong word to describe what’s been going on of late, although I guess being stuck inside due to torrential rain offers an opportunity to catch up on reading. Not that, unlike previous years, I have a particular list of stuff I’m planning to read – actually reading the books on those earlier lists would be a good start.

Some books that might be of interest to people here anyway.

Belfast and Derry in Revolt: A New History of the Start of the Troubles by Simon Prince and Geoffrey Warner. I’m sure this will both be informative and raise some people’s blood pressure.

Rock and Popular Music in Ireland: Before and After U2. Likewise, if not more so.

Richer Than God: Manchester City, Modern Football and Growing Up Globalisation writ large. Conn’s stuff in The Guardian is always worth reading. Even if it isn’t about Shamrock Rovers and the Bohs.

On a related note, just noticed this series of Podcasts on the Guardian, called The Big Ideas. Currently, they are doing Rousseau.

John Lanchester on Marx April 10, 2012

Posted by Garibaldy in Books, Marxism.
12 comments

Over the last few years, related to Whoops, his book on the economic crisis, John Lanchester has written in the London Review of Books some extremely interesting stuff on the economic crisis (we’ve discussed him here, here, and here). I’ve just come across a podcast and article by him from the LRB. The podcast is an hour long lecture, and I haven’t listened to it all, but the article seems to be the essence of the lecture, although there are some differences (a greater attack on the way modern economics works in the podcast for example).

The article is called Marx at 193, and is essentially about what Marx’s analysis of capitalism might or might not tell us about the world today. Lanchester condemns the failure of economists to seriously pursue the possibility of an alternative to capitalism in a post-Soviet world that has seen “the near terminal meltdown of the global economic system in 2008”, before going on to argue that

The financial system in its current condition poses an existential threat to Western democracy far exceeding any terrorist threat. No democracy has ever been destabilised by terrorism, but if the cashpoints stopped giving out money, it would be an event on a scale that would put the currently constituted democratic states at risk of collapse. And yet governments act as if there is very little they can do about it. They have the legal power to conscript us and send us to war, but they can’t address any fundamentals of the economic order. So it looks very much as if Marx’s omission of the word ‘capitalism’, because he foresaw no alternative within the existing social order, was an instance of his crystal ball functioning with particularly high resolution.

He offers a discussion of Marx’s views of what money is and where value comes from, before offering some discussion of how the theory of surplus value applies to the world of digital products.

When you start looking for this mechanism at work in the contemporary world you see it everywhere, often in the form of surplus value being created by you, the customer or client of a company. Online check-in and bag drop at airports, for example. Online check-in is a process which should genuinely increase the efficiency of the airport experience, thereby costing you less time: time you can spend doing other things, some of them economically useful to you. But what the airlines do is employ so few people to supervise the bag drop-off that there’s no time-saving at all for the customer. When you look, you see that because airlines have to employ more people to supervise the non-online-checked-in customers – otherwise the planes wouldn’t leave on time – the non-checked-in queues move far more quickly. They’re transferring their inefficiency to the customer, but what they’re also doing is transferring the labour to you and accumulating the surplus value themselves. It happens over and over again. Every time you deal with a phone menu or interactive voicemail service, you’re donating your surplus value to the people you’re dealing with. Marx’s model is constantly asking us to see the labour encoded in the things and transactions all around us.

Lanchester addresses the question of conditions for the proletariat in the developing world, using the example of the world’s richest company, Apple. He also says (a dodgy assumption we might think) that in the western world, the majority of the population is now bourgeois, dependent on the proletariat in the developing world.

Its bestselling products are made at factories owned by the Chinese company Foxconn. (Foxconn makes the Amazon Kindle, the Microsoft Xbox, the Sony PS3, and hundreds of other products with other companies’ names on the front – it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that it makes every electronic device in the world.) The company’s starting pay is $2 an hour, the workers live in dormitories of six or eight beds for which they are charged rent of $16 a month, their factory in Chengdu, where the iPad is made, runs 24 hours a day, employs 120,000 people – think about that, a factory the size of Exeter – and isn’t even Foxconn’s biggest plant: that’s in Shenzhen and employs 230,000 people, who work 12 hours a day, six days a week. The company’s answer to a recent scandal about suicide rates was to point out that the suicide rate among Foxconn employees is actually lower than the Chinese average, and that it turns away thousands of applicants for jobs every day, and both of those facts are true. That’s what’s really shocking. These conditions are equal to or better than most of the equivalent manufacturing jobs in China, where most of the world’s goods are made, and that life is widely seen among Chinese workers as preferable to the remaining alternatives of rural life.

He argues that this is close to the vision of the exploitation of the proletariat presented by Marx. Having praised Marx as a critic of capitalism, he moves on to critique Marx. He starts with class, arguing that Marx’s organised and conscious proletariat does not exist. He also states that what the Chinese call Mass Group Incidents (protests or riots by large numbers of unhappy people) have nothing to do with class, something which again we might wonder about. Lanchester argues that Marx, like everybody else, could not foresee the many different forms capitalism has taken in different countries. He argues that a single analysis for such a variety of forms may not work. He develops the argument that capitalists respond to pressures and do things against their own interests for reasons such as ethical demands in the west producing pay rises in China, or even philanthropy, that go against the profit motive. This is part of a broader argument about us having more complex and contradictory economic activity, e.g. as workers or as pensioners or potential pensioners, that Marx did not foresee.

Lanchester essentially argues that the reforms that have been instituted since Marx’s day and the developments in things like life expectancy disprove significant aspects of Marx’s analysis, regarding immiseration for example (there are of course questions over whether Lanchester has understood what Marx meant by immiseration). Marx also missed, he argues, that the massive productive capacity of capitalism he saw so clearly would reach a point where the entire system of capitalism itself became unsustainable. He gives the example of water usage – there simply isn’t enough fresh water in the world for everyone to use it at the level people do in the US.

His conclusion runs along the following lines

So the question is whether capitalism can evolve new forms, in the way it has so far managed to do, and come up with property and market-based mechanisms which deflect the seemingly inevitable crisis that will ensue, or whether we need some entirely different social and economic order. The irony is that this order might in many respects be like the one Marx imagined, even if he saw a different route to getting there.

An interesting article from Lanchester, then, as always. It raises some of the problems those of us on the Marx-inspired left face, even when dealing with sympathetic people. Class consciousness and class struggle are seen essentially as old hat, and the fact that they don’t exist today in the way Marx expected (or it could be argued we saw in the C20th) means that they won’t exist in the future. This, I think, is what Lanchester was talking about at the start of the article where he explained that he is an empiricist but Marx wasn’t. He doesn’t say There Is No Alternative, but you get the feeling that even though he talks of the need for one, he doesn’t know where to start setting about trying to create one, and is rather hoping than some form of eco-collectivism will emerge. There seems to be a lot of pessimism of the intellect going on. The article certainly belongs, it seems to me, to the school of thought that Marx got a lot right about capitalism, but not much right about what to do about it.

He argues too that the welfare state may well have caused Marx to rethink his entire model. Along with his argument about all the different forms of capitalisms in different countries, we can see that the article perhaps looks for points where it can disagree with Marx without considering possible counter-arguments – the underlying sameness of the varieties of capitalism (at least in the eyes of capitalists) for example, or a consideration of what role class conflict played in the creation of the welfare state, or its defence. In the pages of the LRB years ago, Perry Anderson talked about zones of resistance to the neo-liberal model, picking out Latin America in particular. Lanchester seems not to have thought outside the west and China and Singapore; which is surprising, given the prominence of the BRIC concept in the broader media.

Interesting stuff, reminding us how many assumptions based on current experience, TINA and the end of history that we have to combat if we are to make a Marx-inspired message for social change, as opposed to a Marx-inspired critique of capitalism) practical in the eyes of huge swathes of the population.

2011 Books Roundup December 11, 2011

Posted by smiffy in Books, Culture.
10 comments

As we approach the end of the year, it seems appropriate to take a look back at some of the books of the year, consider which were good, which were not so good, which you might wish to give, or receive, for Christmas, and which should be avoided.  In this post, I’ve highlighted some of the books I’ve either enjoyed the most, or which have stuck with me since reading them.  It’s very much a personal selection, and not a ‘Best of 2011’ list.  But I’m sure readers will have their own thoughts and choices, and the comments below are open to everyone’s own selections and recommendations.

Firstly, my favorite books that I’ve read this year:

Post Everything: Outsider Rock and Roll (Luke Haines)

Post Everything is Haines’ follow-up to 2009’s Bad Vibes, his memoir of the Britpop years (covered by WBS here).  It takes up where the previous book left off, at the tail-end of the Britpop fad in 1997 and covers Haines’ adventures in the music industry up to 2006.

It’s a significantly less angry book than Bad Vibes, although it retains Haines’ tongue-in-cheek (I hope) self-importance.  It’s also marked with the same dark humor.  However, while The Auteurs played an important, if not central, role in Britpop (much to Haines’ horror at the association, which may explain the vitriolic nature of the attacks on his contemporaries) the following decade finds him an increasingly more marginal figure, with projects such as Black Box Recorder, Baader Meinhof and the Oliver Twist Manifesto.  Whether these represent an improvement over his work with The Auteurs is debatable (I actually like the second album), Haines distinct and unique voice is hard to ignore.  This book is worth reading for the account of the First National Pop Strike alone.

The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age (Alana Lentin and Gavin Titely)

Lentin and Titely’s book (with a preface by the Guardian‘s Gary Younge) is a useful counterpoint to much of the received wisdom – from both the tradition right and soi-disant liberals – about multiculturalism.  Rather than attempting to provide a normative definition of multiculturalism, the book shows how the concept itself (or a straw-man version of it) has become a convenient whipping-boy for those who claim that it has somehow failed.  The books covers related debates across Europe, including France, the Netherlands, the UK as well as Ireland, and shows how issues such as integration, gay rights, the wearing of the burka – the very claim of the failure of multiculturalism itself – often serves to mask a contemporary, but no less virulent, form of racism (and, yes, islamophobia is racism under another name).

It’s an academic work, citing a wide range of sources, and it’s by no means an easy read.  However, as an examination of how racism operates in Western liberal democracies, it’s second to none.  Except, perhaps, the work of Ian O’Doherty, whose satirical impression of a lazy, sub-Daily Mail bigot never fails to raise a smile.

Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart)

Gary Shteyngart is one of the funniest and most interesting new young American writers to emerge in recent years.  His first two novels, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan both focus on the experience of young Russian ex-patriates (first and second generation) in either the U.S. (mirroring Shtenygart’s own upbringing – he was born in Leningrand, as was, and moved to the States when he was 7) or in the former Soviet Union.  Both include a satirical take on the corruption of post-Communist oligarchies, more pointedly in Absurdistan.

While those novels are set in an imagined present, Super Sad True Love Story pictures a near-future dystopia in the United States, as the institutions of government break down during economic collapse.  It’s Shteyngart’s most accomplished novel to date, writing in the voices of two different protagonists, middle-aged Lenny Abramov and Eunice Park, a teenaged Korean-American.  Much of the novel is a satire on social networking technologies, and how it impacts on interpersonal relationships (which suggests that it might age very quickly, so enjoy it while you can).  What sticks in my mind most, though, is the description of large groups of economic protestors camped out in Central Park.  I read the novel in June, and a few months later see elements of it played out in the Occupy movement.  It’s not a particularly comforting thought.

The Enigma of Capital : and the Crises of Capitalism (David Harvey)

Harvey’s The Enigma of Capital, a Marxist analysis of the roots of the global financial crisis was originally published in 2010.  The paperback edition, published earlier this year, includes an afterward dealing with the euro crisis, although obviously events have moved on since January, when it was written.

Harvey attempts to show that the basis of the current crisis lies in the structures of financial capitalism itself.  The requirement for permanent growth, the need to continually expand markets and access to credit means that periodic crises are inevitable, and that after each crisis, capital becomes stronger, while the working class is increasingly impoverished.  This is a consequence of the socialisation of losses incurred during the crisis, via what Harvey terms the State-Finance Network  (which, incidentally, reminds us that the unsullied free market dreamed of by Adam Smith and certain disciples, unencumbered by state interference, is no less a utopian fantasy than the fevered dreams of anarcho-syndicalism).

Harvey doesn’t state that the collapse of capitalism is a given.  Indeed, at times he comes close to admiration of the achievements of the capitalist system, and he has no illusions about its ability to adapt and survive.  That said, he argues that the current crises offers an unprecedented opportunity to challenge the neoliberal consensus which has been dominant for the past 30 years.

The Enigma of Capital is an interesting companion to Conor McCabe’s Sins of the Fathers.  Both stand against the consensus view that the causes of the financial crisis – at global and nation levels – are simply under-regulation and the actions of a few corrupt individuals, but demonstrate that they are inherent within the structures of the economic system itself.

The Pale King (David Foster Wallace)

In 2008, on hearing of the death of David Foster Wallace, I wrote here that I was worried that his reputation would be defined by his suicide, making him just another angst ‘cult’ writer you get over by your mid-twenties, rather than by his work.  In the three years that have passed, hover, the opposite has happened.  Perhaps due to the renewed interest arising from his death, he is finally receiving his due credit as one of the finest English-language writers of the past 30 years.  And, to my mind, The Pale King is, or could have been, his masterwork.

It’s flawed, of course, uneven in parts, as you might expect from an unfinished work (editor Michael Pietsch deserves much credit for giving coherence to the reams of manuscript he was left with after Wallace’s death).  Set around an IRS office in the 1980s, The Pale King contains many of the hallmarks of Wallace’s style: postmodern self-referential trickery, long recursive sentences, fantastical humor, but there is a maturity to the voice where can see in its most realised form what, I think, he was trying to achieve in all his writing – in the short stories of Oblivion, in particular, in the characterisation of Don Gately and the other recovering addicts of Infinite Jest – what, in his own words, fiction was meant to show: ‘what it is like to be a fucking human being’.

Wallace wasn’t an overtly political writer, by any standards.  While he wrote a few pieces in The Atlantic and elsewhere in the wake of the 9/11 attacks which were highly critical of the Bush administration, his most well-known political work – ‘Up Simba’, an essay on the 2000 McCain campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination – is more a study of rhetoric and the political process than politics itself.  However, throughout his work we can see how he struggles with what is, ultimately, the most important political question, left or right – how can you live a basically decent life.

The Pale King is by far and away my favorite book of 2011, and the longest chapter, a 100 page monologue by a character called Chris Fogle, is one of the finest pieces of writing I have ever enjoyed.

Then, briefly, the rest of the best, the ones I’ve also enjoyed, without getting into the same detail as above:

Sins of the Father (Conor McCabe):  There’s little to add about this fantastic book that has already been written here, or elsewhere.  It would, obviously, have made the top five above, but if you’re reading this blog, the chances are you’ll already have read the book.  Indispensable.

 The Magician King (Lev Grossman): This is the sequel to 2009’s The Magicians, a kind of Harry Potter/Chronicles of Narnia for grown-ups.  Unlike it’s predecessor, The Magician King is more than just an enjoyable fantasy romp, but deals with themes of loss and death as movingly as any ‘mainstream’ novel released this year.

The Tragedy of Arthur (Arthur Philips): Although it treads a fine line between being great fiction and far too clever for its own good, this witty and technically brilliant faux-memoir and Shakespearean pastiche is ultimately an emotional study of the relationship between a con-man father and his children.  The fake (or is it?) play by Shakespeare, though, is a magnificent achievement.

Lockout: Dublin 1913 (Padraig Yeates):  Not a new book, of course, but, shamefully, I haven’t read it until now, prompted by the upcoming centenary.  It’s a brilliant piece of research, not just into the lockout itself, but also as a social history of Dublin at the time.  Despite the length (don’t try lifting it with one hand!), it’s also immensely readable.

An Evening of Long Goodbyes (Paul Murray): Initially published in 2003, it was recently reprinted to capitalise on the success of Murray’s second novel Skippy Dies.  While the latter is deservedly more famous, this is an extremely funny (albeit slightly uneven) book.  Although it’s a little dated, it works as a welcome antidote not just to the wild celebration of the boom years, but also to some of the po-faced ‘what have we become’ novels we now see emerging from that period.

And, finally onto the worst …

There’s one book I read this year that stands out more than the most, and not in a positive way.  I finally read the much, and deservedly, maligned, Atlas Shrugged.  To explain, earlier in the year, I was in the apartment of a friend, someone I admire tremendously and whose intelligence and breadth of knowledge I’m often intimidated by.  Looking through her bookshelves, I was a surprised, not to mention horrified, to come across a few Ayn Rand novels.  When I started to tease her about these, my friend replied with the reasonable point: how can you criticize the novels if I’d never read any of them (in her defence, I would hasten to add, my friend was by no means praising Rand).

So the game was on and, to prove a point, I subsequently spent two weeks ploughing through Atlas Shrugged, two weeks of my life I’ll never get back.

It goes without saying, of course, that the politics of the novel are appalling.  Whittaker Chambers was absolutely right in his famous review of the novel where he states: ‘From almost every page of Atlas Shrugged a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber – go!”‘.  But what surprised me about the novel was just how bad it was, how poorly written.  It’s utterly devoid of humour or wit, bogged down by long tracts of leaden, expository dialogue,filled with ludicrous coincidences and laughable characters and is completely overwritten – the less said about the tortuous 100-page John Galt speech, the better.

But, for all that, it can be unintentionally hilarious.  It’s impossible to open a single page without laughing at something in it.  If approached with the right mindset, it can be read as less a 1000-page paen to selfishness, appealing only to right-wing teenager boys who got bullied in school and want to revenge themselves upon the world, and more a demented classic of camp, an Objectivist Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Merry Christmas, and over to you!

“Tony Gregory: The Biography of a True Irish Political Legend” November 29, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Books.
Tags:
19 comments

About the book

As harsh economic times return to Ireland, it is time to celebrate this inspirational Irishman who made his name as a grass-roots community activist and went on to hold the balance of power in Ireland.

Tony Gregory’s political life has left an exceptional legacy. Robbie Gilligan has talked to the whole “kitchen cabinet” and covers his whole career, from local agitator to elected politician, and the campaigns from 1978-2009.

I read the book as someone who, like many of us, admired Tony Gregory from afar. I’m lucky too in that I have quite a number of his election leaflets spanning from 1985 to his death (my late Grand Aunt kept the earlier ones and later on various people, including the candidate sent them on to me). I was in secondary school when I met him in the mid 80s as he addressed a group of us who were staying in the Inner City for a number of days. Of course some of you will have worked with him, knew him, supported him and so on.

First off the author Robbie Gilligan is important (although there was I gather some fuss about the book launch) .  The reader is blessed that its someone who although not part of the inner circle,  knew Tony Gregory, knew the people around him, worked with him and probably as important was his familiarity with the issues and people in the Inner City that Tony represented.  It could easily have been one of the usual hacks choosing Gregory as the subject of a book and not giving the reader such an insight into both Gregory and the North Inner City Community.

Naturally Tony Gregory’s background is covered in detail, his mother was from Offaly (Later in the book Gregory mentions his Offaly roots in a speech wishing Brian Cowen luck in his new role as Taoiseach) and father a Dubliner. As they only had two children Tony and Noel they were refused a place on Dublin Corporations waiting list (you had to have had at least 4 children to qualify at the time).  The man in the Corporation is quoted as saying  “Come back when you’ve six” .After 12 years in a one roomed flat the family bought a house in Sackville Gardens, Ballybough. A house Tony lived with until his death.
Tonys work ethic and the values of education encouraged by his family, led to him winning a scholarship to O’Connells which turn led to a career in teaching. Amongst his former pupils at Coláiste Eoin were Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Liam O’Maoinlai and Colm Mac Eochaidh.
All the while he was forming politically. Initially Sinn Fein, Official Sinn Fein before a brief dalliance with Seamus Costello and then The Socialist Labour Party. It was though through his involvement in Community groups that led him through to success at the City Council elections of 1979.
‘The Gregory Deal’ is covered in detail ,the background to the demands, the negotiations, the impact and of course the Deal itself which printed in full. Whilst at the time it was trumpeted as a purely local, there were in fact many national issues covered in it too.
This is Tony Gregorys maiden speech to the Dail which is quoted in the book

Mr. Gregory-Independent: A Cheann Comhairle, I preface my remarks by wishing you well in your position. Since my election to the Dáil my advisers and I have had extensive talks with Deputy FitzGerald, Deputy Haughey, Deputy O’Leary and the other Independent groups. At all these meetings we presented the contenders with the same basic proposals. These proposals were exact [26] and specific developments of the issues for which I stood in the election.

Two major considerations dictated our approach to these negotiations: first, to try to get clear commitments from a future Taoiseach on tackling the issues with which we are concerned and on which I was elected; secondly, we were conscious of the responsibilities placed upon us to interpret the balance of political forces in the Dáil and to make a decision that would encourage the development of progressive and class politics. This was no easy task.

I interpreted the result of the election and my own election in particular as demonstrating that the two main political parties have failed to respond to the needs fo our society. I had no illusions about the differences between the main political parties. Policies, not personalities, influenced my decision. The decision I have come to has not been taken lightly and certainly not with a view to maintaining any particular party in power. My decision is purely tactical and based on achieving as many as possible of the issues that I was elected on.

Specifically, my decision is based on a clear difference in response from Deputy Haughey and Deputy FitzGerald. Given the commitment by Deputy Haughey, witnessed and signed by the General Secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union I had no alternative but to support a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach. The issues to which Deputy Haughey committed himself included a major increase in Dublin Corporation’s housing programme, which has been a scandal for years, the allocation of £91 million for housing in 1982, and a commitment to reach 2,000 houses by 1984 was given. Four hundred new housess in the north centre city area will be started this year.

Mr. E. Collins: What about the rest of the country?

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: This is Deputy Gregory’s maiden speech and it is customary [27] for no interruptions to take place during a Member’s maiden speech.

Mr. Gregory-Independent: I regret, though I understand it, that some members of the Opposition do not appreciate the importance of these commitments. I certainly do. I should like to go on with the details and the basis on which I shall give my support to Deputy Haughey as Taoiseach. An almost total breakdown of Dublin Corporation services will now be averted as a result of a commitment by the Leader of Fianna Fáil to allocate a further £20 million to Dublin Corporation’s budget for this year.

On the issues of employment we put specific proposals to Deputy Haughey. He committed himself to an immediate work force of 500 men costing £4 million for a corporation environmental works scheme and more than 150 additional craftsmen at a cost of £1,500,000 in addition to the present staff to be employed and to give a major boost to the corporation’s repairs and maintenance service. A commitment to nationalise Clondalkin Paper Mills to save the jobs of 500 men if no other option presented itself immediately was given. This commitment is a demonstration of a new departure and attitude to the development of our natural resources.

The controversial and destructive motor way plan will not now be proceeded with. The vital 27 acres on the Port and Docks Board site will be nationalised and developed along lines geared to the needs of centre city communities. In the field of education a major commitment to pre-school education along with the provision of a £3 million community school for the neglected centre city area was given, this being part of the designation of the central city area as an educational priority area. Advances in the taxing of derelict sites, office developments, financial institutions and development land were agreed to. A national community development agency will be set up for a budget of £2 million to replace and continue the work of the Combat Poverty Committee.

[28] These are some of a very comprehensive list of agreed policies between my advisers and the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party. Deputy FitzGerald in his response, though sincere and genuine, was most pessimistic and did not approximate remotely to the commitments given by Fianna Fáil.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Gregory-Independent: Having assessed the responses of the two contenders there were two further considerations which we felt were important.

(Interruptions.)

A Deputy: What about Cork?

Mr. Gregory-Independent: One was the role of the five Independent Socialist Deputies and the hope that they could agree to a common strategy in electing a Taoiseach. The decision of Sinn Féin the Workers Party not to participate in an alliance prior to the election of the Taoiseach and on the election of the Taoiseach, a decision which we respect as their right, made our hoped-for alliance impossible. The position of the Labour Party was also important to us because of the common ground between us on social and economic issues. Their decision not to participate in Government effectively ruled out any other option but to give conditional support to the election of a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach. Once a Government have been elected they will receive my support only in so far as they pursue the programme of agreed commitments and other acceptable policies to me.

Beidh mé ag votáil mar sin ar san an Teachta Ó hEochaidh sa toghachán le haghaidh an Taoisigh.

The book also deals with Tony Gregory in the context of ‘Tackling drugs and Crime”. There are some vivid descriptions of the havoc to the community caused by the Heroin epidemic. The inaction by the authorities, Tonys brave stance against dealers, The volume of addicts and the knock on effects of that. Later the horrors of HIV/Aids was added to misery caused by Heroin.
Aside from striving for better living conditions, jobs and education for his constituents, Gregory also was outspoken about crime. He was involved with the Concerned Parents against Drugs, a group that was in many cases ignored by official Ireland because of its minimal Sinn Fein element. Gregory also suggested a Criminal Assets Bureau , which took the murder of Veronica Guerin rather than the deaths of thousands of Heroin Addicts to come into being. He later on also suggested a mini CAB targeting the lower ends of the Drugs trade. The dealers driving around in the new four wheel drive, making the drug dealer lifestyle look appealing.
The Street Traders issue is also covered in detail and Gregory served time for standing by them. These were hard working local women trying to make ends meet. In this quote Tony Gregory entwines the Heroin, Class, the Gardai and the Street Traders well …..

“I want to mention something that makes me see red. It’s when I hear the Gardai whinging that they don’t have community support in the Inner City. I’ll just take two examples to make my point … when business firms demand Gardai action against unfortunate street traders, the Gardai arrive in force and bundle women and prams into paddy wagons and off to the calls in Store Street. But when the tenants or priests or community workers look for help against heroin pushers, the Gardai all but ignore them. The moral seems to be the Gardai are a tool for the rich to be used against the community. If the Gardai want community support in the city centre then they should act in the community interest. They could and should make heroin too hot to handle.”

Amongst other sections in the book are ‘Brand Tony’, ‘Republican issues’, ‘Environmental Safety and Planning’, Animal rights and ‘Foreign Affairs’ (There is a nice picture of him shaking hands with Fidel Castro in the book).
In relation to the crash we have Tony Gregory questioning the suitability of having Senior members of Anglo Irish Bank on the Board of the Dublin Dockland Authority. A Board that had authority over planning in the Docklands area…..
There is also a section on “His Critics and Opponents” with reference to relationships with some of the Left in that part and indeed in many other parts of the book.
Its a good read and well written.
I know this sounds corny but finishing the book I was left with the horrifying thought “What if there had been no Tony Gregory?”

Melvyn Bragg on The Grapes of Wrath November 23, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Books, History.
2 comments

Watched ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ again recently, a wonderful film and wonderful book and then today I happened on an article by Melvyn Bragg in the Guardian about the book.

Seventy years after The Grapes of Wrath was published, its themes – corporate greed, joblessness – are back with a vengeance

The background (has the series been aired on BBC yet I wonder?)

Earlier this year, when asked to make a film about Steinbeck for the BBC, I went back with apprehension. The peaks of one’s adolescent reading can prove troughs in late middle age. Life moves on; not all books do. But 50 years later, The Grapes of Wrath seems as savage as ever, and richer for my greater awareness of what Steinbeck did with the Oklahoma dialect and with his characters. It is just as alive, with its fine anger against the banks: “The bank – the monster – has to have profit all the time. It can’t wait … It’ll die when the monster stops growing. It can’t stay in one place.”

We started filming with a small crew in Oklahoma, near the spot where the novel begins. This summer there was another drought, as there had been in the 1930s. They farm land better now, but even so, many farmers are going bust. The resonances with contemporary America were powerful: the working and middle classes have once again been holed by the big banks. Once again, the protests have started up, as Americans scan their continent for work. As in the 1930s, there is a powerful feeling that the promised land promises nothing, not even hope.

%d bloggers like this: