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Marina Ginesta January 7, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, The Left.
1 comment so far

Just been told that Marina Ginesta – Spanish Civil War communist – has died at 94.

She is the subject of this famous photograph.

Social capital? January 2, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, History, The Left.

There was a curious and thought provoking piece on Slate some time back on the issue of social capital. It argued that the contemporary concentration on civil society may be a little awry. Now, let’s start by noting that for some on the right this approach would be a boon.

The term social capital is generally used to describe the trust and cooperation in a community that is the result of formal social institutions—associations, clubs, and the like—as well as personal networks and relationships. On some level, economists think of it as another source of productivity in an economy, just like tractors or new technologies (physical capital) or a better-skilled workforce (human capital). Trust makes it easier to do business on a handshake (or indeed to do business at all). A trustworthy labor force will work diligently without supervisors peering over their shoulders or burdensome regulations, and a trustworthy boss will return the favor, ensuring employees are paid on time and in full, and generally treated fairly.

And continues:

The same civic associations that build trust, cooperation, and community also serve as ready networks for the spread of new movements and ideas. It is in this sense that Voigtländer and his colleagues argue (following an idea put forth by Barnard political scientist Sheri Berman) that the richness of interwar Germany’s social capital was critical to the success of Hitler’s National Socialist party. They quote one member’s recollection of his conversion to Nazism to highlight the role of social networks in making party dogma palatable to a wide audience. The young recruit describes how he “became acquainted with a colleague of my own age with whom I had frequent conversations … whom I esteemed very highly. When I found out that he was one of the local leaders of the National Socialist party, my opinion of it as a group of criminals changed completely.”

Worse again, Weimar was notable for the range of such civic associations.

If the prevalence of civic associations is a measure of societal well-being, the Weimar Republic was in excellent health as Hitler began his march to power in the 1920s. Many of these organizations were built on an already rich history of associations from the 19th century, and while a few of these were explicitly nationalistic and even anti-Semitic in nature, the vast majority of membership groups were comprised of those united by rabbit breeding, stamp collecting, singing, gymnastics, and other decidedly apolitical interests.

But one thinks of the Rotary Club, which the Nazi’s used to spread their message. In a way one can see the benefits. Here were fairly innocuous effectively social organisations with a fairly markedly middle and upper middle class aspect to them. By engaging with them the Nazi’s were able to mask their agenda and to further it by drawing more towards them.

Of course one must point to caveats. Not all organisations are the same. Obviously more political groups weren’t open to the Nazi’s in quite this way. But their ability to use those that they could enter is striking.

Of course many of us are, if not quite sceptical of civil society or civic associations of one form or another, aware of the fact they can be diversionary and open to co-option. One thinks of how parts of sectors in this society were cooped by the state during the boom in such a way as to defang them. The unions obviously, part of the voluntary sector, and so on. So there’s no harm at all in recognising that the uncritical view of them as a near unalloyed good is perhaps a little wide of the mark, and a lot to think about here.

Winter Edition of Resistance – ISN December 16, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

Just to point people towards the Winter edition of Resistance from the Irish Socialist Network which can be found in usual outlets. Some great pieces in it including one’s from Ed Walsh on Greece and a very interesting overview of the public sector and state in Northern Ireland by Sráid Marx (www.irishmarxism.net). There’s a piece by Kevin Quinn on Labour’s woes in government, Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh examines state racism in relation to the Roma case(s) and Alan MacSimóin discusses ‘Preparing for the next Round’ about the CAHWT campaign. Well worth a read.

Wage inequality: Imagine if you will… November 24, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

…a referendum like this one held in Switzerland being so much as proposed by a major Irish political force*, let alone held. And yes, the vote didn’t go the way many of us would like.

Swiss voters on Sunday decisively rejected a proposal to cap “fat cat” pay, in a ground-breaking referendum on the issue.
Final results showed that votes against carried the day by 65.3% to 34.7% in favour. David Roth, the president of Switzerland’s Young Socialists and the referendum’s leading sponsor, said: “We’re disappointed [we] lost today.”

The proposal suggested a cap on executive salaries of no more than 12 times their lowest paid employee.

But somehow, even Switzerland is able to consider and reflect and decide upon the issue. And note that in the UK the TUC is calling for a cap of 20 times the pay of the lowest paid employee.

And by the way, how bad are things in Switzerland?

The young Socialists claimed during the 1:12 campaign that the ratio of the average salary among Swiss CEOs to the average wage had leapt from six to one in 1984 to 43 to one in 2011. Calculations based on figures compiled by the trade union Travailsuisse indicate that the biggest pay imbalance is at another drug company, Roche, where the salary of the best-paid executive is 236 times that of the lowest-paid worker.
Other firms where the ratio was in excess of 200 to one were ABB, Novartis and Credit Suisse. They were followed by Nestlé, UBS and Lindt & Sprungli.

I once worked for an European rival of ABBs. Cosseted is the term that comes to mind in relation to executives in that particular area. And that’s the kindest way of putting it.

* SF has a policy of a wage cap of €100k on public sector workers, with additional taxation on higher earners of 48%, which is fair enough, but doesn’t quite have the radical edge of the Swiss proposal.

Socialists or social democrats… November 19, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.

…it’s a small thing but Stephen Collins’ article at the weekend on the ‘exit’ from the ‘bail-out’ rankled a little for me, well amongst other things, at this point when he wrote:

The hard and unsympathetic stance towards Ireland currently being adopted by the German socialists in their coalition negotiations with Chancellor Angela Merkel did not augur well for the kind of debate that might occur in the Bundestag.

Technically I wonder how accurate it is given that the party is the SDP, and sure, it’s a part of the SI, and no doubt some members do self-describe as ‘socialists’. But… nonetheless.

Ireland into the EEC: The 1972 Debate November 19, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

The opening day of the Peoples Movement exhibition, Ireland into the EEC: The 1972 Debate. The exhibition has displays of pro and anti EU publicity materials stretching back over three decades.

Ireland into the EEC: The 1972 Debate – Saturday 16th November – Friday 22nd November 16, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.

lamp-post poster


The trouble with France… is what exactly? November 12, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, The Left.

Been listening to a podcast by former BBC Paris Correspondent Emma Jane Kirby entitled ‘BBC Analysis France: sinking slowly?’. It’s an incredible piece, not least because of the set of assumptions behind it – one where free market solutions are the only way forward and there’s an almost palpable sense of disbelief that any society could offer a situation with reasonable pension ages or so on. It’s deeply anti-statist, and needless to say rolls out an Economist correspondent, and a range of economists and economic commentators who Kirby admits are ‘provocative’, to reinforce the idea that all the French need is a dose of Anglo-Saxon style capitalism. And so we hear about ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’, complaints about ‘taxi’ services and so on.

It is true that there is an elite within the France political and economic class that is self perpetuating and that dirigisme is problematic in various respects yet… and yet.

When one hears one contributor that French political class have to be honest and must orient themselves to ‘create the next Google, the next twitter’ the analysis just seems to be incredibly shallow.

Tellingly the only voice from Government is one which is largely pro-‘reform’, and no countervailing opinion is put. And there’s a rather disturbing line of argument pursued which appears to condone an Italian style ‘political rupture’ and the installation of a ‘technocratic’ President.

From all of it one wouldn’t believe that the French economy – and this is in no sense to gloss over its actual problems – is as Kirby also admits:

“…the fifth largest … in the world and outperforms the United Kingdom in productivity.”

When is an exit from the bailout not quite an exit from the bailout? November 7, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.

Hard to work out whether this indicates a certain nervousness on the part of the troika, reading the news that:

In recent weeks, the EU powers quietly prolonged the period in which Government can draw down loans under the current bailout programme by two months until the end of February.
The view within the troika is that this “technical” adjustment provides a window until then for the Government to make a final decision on a precautionary credit facility, for use only in a financial emergency.
In troika circles, the expectation is that the Government will not declare any formal application until it knows the likely outcome of the negotiation.

An Phoblacht November edition October 31, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

The November edition of An Phoblacht is just rolling off the press and will be in your local newsagent nationwide from Friday morning.


Dublin & Monaghan bombings, Miami Showband Massacre and Glenanne Gang: UDR, RUC and British Army in the dock with UVF
Miami Showband Massacre victims sue British over collusion
Shooting IRA history: Photos from Tan War and Civil War
Water meters: Will only our rivers run free?
Joe Brolly & the GAA: Scoring points on the past
London Irish Centre packed for Sinn Féin conference ‘Towards a New Ireland’ – Unprecedented range of speakers ensures Ireland stays on political agenda in Britain
Challenging times – Liadh Ní Riada, bringing a strengthened republican voice to the European Parliament
Conor Murphy MP on opinion polls and Border polls
‘Lethal Allies’: Anne Cadwallader’s explosive new book naming names in Britain’s dirty war in Ireland previewed
‘We need a fighting, radical and independent trade union movement,’ says Senator David Cullinane | Top US trade unionists ‘In Common Cause Against Austerity’
The struggle for equality in education
Mortgage crisis: Homeowners warned against loopy ‘legal protection’
History in Omagh as Tyrone women Sinn Féin councillors elected to two top posts
Tragedy and courage as Priory Hall saga ends
Housing crisis: Proof that capitalism doesn’t work
Remembering the Past: The centenary of the Irish Volunteers, Óglaigh na hÉireann
Tá sé thar am éirí as an euro
Mickey Brady MLA on the cold reality of fuel poverty
The Basque peace process is under relentless attack from Madrid securocrats
MEP Martina Anderson welcomes EU tobacco product curbs
Uncomfortable Conversations: The time is here for unionism to stand up and be part of this debate
Book Reviews: The enigmas of Parnell and Kildare in the Tan War
Farm Forum’s first meeting in Mayo

All this and much, much more…


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