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Greece is different to Ireland… part II February 10, 2015

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

And on foot of the earlier posts, Last Post in the SBP has an entertaining run down of those who told us last week Ireland is not Greece. I guess at that point they hadn’t got the memo that some sort of deal was likely, however watery. And therefore the Dáil was gifted some atrocious stuff. Most egregious quote?

Kildare TD Anthony Lawlor elaborated. “They live in cloud-cuckoo-land in which nobody pays for anything and the European Union and Irish taxpayers will pay for everything.” (This is Greece, by the way.)

Still, I guess as the enormity of the idea that, yes, Greece might get something and just where that would leave the Irish government hit home everything changed. No doubt this week we’ll be treated to the opposite message in the chamber!

Last Post takes a look at the following:

Labour TD Eamon Moloney used the debate to muse on language.
“I do not like using the word ‘austerity’,” he averred. “It is a very bourgeois word. When I was growing up we just used the word ‘hardship’. The people in most working class estates do not use the word ‘austerity’,” he explained.
“I am aware it is cool for the career socialists to speak about austerity but it is an awful word. ‘Hardship’ is much better, and people like Dickens used it. I do not know how the word ‘austerity’ crept in but it did not come from the labour movement.”

I don’t know if he’s right. I think most people now wherever do know and use ‘austerity’ and it’s hard to understand why ‘hardship’ would be an improvement – not least given the role of his party in this government in imposing austerity. As to this stuff about not coming from the ‘labour movement’, this sort of reaching for some spurious authenticity seems ever more rhetorical when set against the actual impacts of the crisis and – yes – austerity.

All that said, it’s Eamonn, two ’n’s and Maloney, ‘a’, not ‘o’. It’s the small things.

Greece is different to Ireland… February 10, 2015

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

Actually, on foot of Simon Coveney’s comments about how any deal on Greece should be applied to the RoI, interesting editorial on Greece in the SBP this weekend which under the heading ‘What is the point of destroying Greece’ makes some pertinent points:

The Syriza administration, with its youthful, charismatic leaders and unorthodox bluntness, has made clear that it will end the long winter of austerity endured by Greeks over the past six years – one way or the other. Reports from Athens stress how the new government has brought hope to the country.
But Greece needs more than hope. Above all, it needs two things. It needs help with its huge debts, and it needs to continue and intensify efforts to reform its own economy and society.


…if Greece is to be extended debt relief, in whatever form it arrives, it will be all of Europe, not just Germany, that extends a helping hand. Merkel may be Europe’s most powerful leader, its paymaster and Germany its economic powerhouse. But she is not chancellor of Europe.


The Irish government’s position has gone in the space of two weeks from being broadly supportive of a general conference on European debt to apparent outright opposition to any write-off0. for Greece. Last week, Enda Kenny was lecturing the new government in Athens about the need to stick to the commitments made by its predecessors.
That was, of course, the approach taken by Kenny when he assumed office. It is not one for which there is much support in Greece, however. It was precisely to repudiate these commitments that Tsipras and his party were elected.


What would be the point of insisting on further austerity in Greece? The country is broke, its society fracturing. A neo-Nazi party came third in the recent elections.
European countries should extend further assistance to Greece on the strict condition that the structural reforms necessary to rebuild the country’s economy…
What is the alternative? Ejection from the eurozone? Forcing the country into default? Syriza has promised reform. Tsipras should be given a chance to make good on his promises.

Very good, SBP. Very good (though it does take a lash at the ‘preposterously protected Greek public and semi-public sector). Now, what about this Republic?

Bank admits to ‘tax dodge’…but it’s ‘changed’. February 9, 2015

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

From RTÉ this morning.

British bank HSBC has admitted failings by its Swiss subsidiary that helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of euro of assets.

Details from HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland show bankers advised clients on how to keep money hidden from national authorities. It also offered deals to help tax dodgers to stay ahead of the law. The bank says it has now changed.

…well I never.

Just to note, there’s a more local aspect to this.

350 people associated with Ireland held accounts with HSBC in Geneva worth a total of €3.1bn. 20 Irish account holders have since made settlements with the revenue commissioners.

A deeply confused voice of the orthodoxy February 8, 2015

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

Check this out:

Back in 2010 Ireland and Greece were both on the verge of financial meltdown and were only saved from ruin by the intervention of the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
The Irish response to the EU-IMF bailout was to stick by the terms of the deal and implement the reforms contained in the troika programme. The Greeks responded with violent street protests, political turmoil and foot-dragging on many of the agreed reforms.

Stephen Collins, for it is he, is apparently blissfully unaware that the Greeks too did attempt to impose the ‘deal’, actually multiple deals, with no less than seven ‘austerity packages and reforms’, albeit many of those are extensions and expansions on previous ones due to the continually worsening economic situation. And the ‘violent street protests’ were in essence a marginal phenomenon. If anything the problem is ever increasing austerity leading to ever increasing economic problems with further servings of austerity to address the economic problems leading to…

What does he think is leading Syriza emissaries to traipse around Europe seeking some amelioration of austerity?

And what of the economic consensus developing that tends to the view that the imposition of austerity on Greece has been wildly counterproductive and that as a minimum it has to be eased. That it is – unsustainable! But not a term in Collins analysis of the problem.

But hey, why engage with those inconvenient truths when making a political point about the essential correctness of this government in this state?

Meanwhile it is, as Fintan O’Toole noted during the week, all but incomprehensible as to why some, including Collins in the following seek to marginalise calls for an international debt conference:

There was an instructive Dáil debate during the week on a motion from the technical group calling for an international debt conference to deal with the problems of Greece.
In response, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan calmly and methodically set out the facts of the recovery, pointing out for a start that Ireland’s net debt had been cut to 90 per cent as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) and is moving quickly towards the EU average.

Really? It makes no sense to Collins that the government might attempt to ameliorate the debt burden in any way it could?

And why not? Well in part because apparently it’s all our fault…

He also addressed one of the central misconceptions in political debate which is that Ireland’s debt is largely due to the bank bailout. That is simply not the case. The bulk of the country’s debt is due to the gap between Government spending and the revenue raised from tax.

Except he appears obvious to the fact that the weight of the bank bailout – and let’s not forget the nature of that exercise in terms of socialising private debt – made what was a sustainable situation unsustainable. Indeed he goes so far as to argue that we haven’t actually experienced ‘austerity’. Yep, really…

What was widely described as EU-imposed austerity was actually the means to avoid austerity.

What possible response is there to that?

SYRIZA in Dublin this weekend February 5, 2015

Posted by doctorfive in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.


Greek Solidarity Committee hosting Syriza activists in bid to raise awareness of Syriza debt proposals

Ireland’s newly formed Greek Solidarity Committee will be hosting Syriza MEP Kostas Chrysogonos and economist Dr Dimitros Sotiropoulos, a member of SYRIZA debt policy committee and advisor to Finance Ministry, this coming weekend (Saturday 7 February and Sunday 8 February).

The group will also include three Syriza activists.


The centrepiece of their trip will be a solidarity rally in the Sean O’Casey Community Centre in East Wall on Saturday 7 February at 4 pm.  The rally will be chaired by Mandate General Secretary and Greek Solidarity Committee member John Douglas, and addressed by Syriza activists.


Syriza activists will also attend a breakfast meeting hosted by Communities Against Water Charges in North Dublin on Saturday morning.

On Sunday, at the invitation of the five unions affiliated to Right2Water,  Dr Dimitros Sotiropoulos will brief an invited audience on Syriza’s proposals for a resolution of the Greek and European debt crisis.

This weekend’s planned events come as solidarity campaigns around Europe organise events to express solidarity with the Greek people and their newly-elected Syriza-led Government, and to underline demands for a socially equitable and economically efficient resolution of the debt crisis.

In a statement, the Greek Solidarity Committee said today:

“We are delighted that, at a time of such momentous change in Greece, Syriza representatives have agreed to take time out of their crowded schedules to visit Ireland.  Both Ireland and Greece have been exposed to unsustainable levels of debt coupled with a relentless austerity programme which has plunged both countries into social and economic misery.

“Austerity is a political choice made by Governments.  The Syriza victory reminds us that Government, and therefore political choices can change.  In demonstrating solidarity with the people of Greece this weekend, we will also be emphasising the need for a resolution of the debt crisis”.

The following Syriza members will be visiting Ireland:

Dr. Kostas Chrysogonos MEP

Professor of Constitutional Law at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, elected to the European Parliament representing SYRIZA in 2014, currently Vice-President of the Committee on Development.

Dr Dimitros Sotiropoulos

Lecturer in economics at Kingston University in London, member of SYRIZA debt policy committee and advisor to Finance Ministry.

Konstantina Tzouvala

PhD candidate and part-​time staff at Durham University Law School, social justice activist and member of SYRIZA UK.

Marina Zepatou

Journalist with youth publication {Young}ist, party activist in Athens and committee member of SYRIZA Youth.

Maria Karagianni

PhD candidate in urban planning at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, member of SOSte to Nero struggle against water privatisation in Thessaloniki, SYRIZA activist.

No surprise here… February 5, 2015

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

…to read that:

Frankfurt increases the pressure on the new Greek government which has been lobbying EU institutions and European capitals this week for support for its planned renegotiation of its bailout arrangements.


Greece’s bid to secure a new debt deal with international creditors received a serious setback last night after the European Central Bank announced it would no longer accept Greek bonds as collateral for loans.

Though meanwhile:

The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, flew to Berlin to prepare for meetings on Thursday with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble. At the end of a four-day whistlestop tour of European capitals, he claimed he now had widespread support for his debt relief proposals.

Varoufakis, sticking to his casual no-tie policy, said a meeting with the European Central Bank chief, Mario Draghi, on Wednesday, was “fruitful” and Athens could count on the central bank’s support.

Where does this go from here? There’s a clear consensus for change, particularly in economic circles, but much less so in evidence in political circles, and even where the rhetoric appears supportive it’s often hedged as with the French.

Speaking of Greece February 4, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics.

This from the CPGB is not bad. It’s not entirely unsympathetic to Syriza’s problems while pointing up the contradictions implicit in their stance.

I think the point about the 50 seat top up is well made in the following, even if it beggars belief that ‘standing up’ to the entire constitutional order was ever an option.

We fear that Merkel and the FT may be right. At his swearing-in ceremony, Tsipras vowed to defend the constitution. Far better to have stood against the entire constitutional order, including the 50-seat top-up and all the rest of the nonsense. Unfortunately, Syriza is not committed to the disbanding of the standing army, let alone immediately withdrawing from Nato – it is taking on a thoroughly reformist coloration.

But one could argue what is the alternative? Waiting for a genuinely revolutionary situation that is unlikely to occur any time soon. The left vote including Syriza, KKE and PASOK – I’m being generous at that last, totalled just about 50%. But look at the abstention rate. For all the talk of ideological ferment 1 in 3 voters stayed home. And all this in a state with a fascist tendency that gains a sizeable chunk of the vote and a deep state only itching to impose a 1967 redux solution? That’s not exactly a recipe for success either. Perhaps there are no surefire recipes for success, perhaps oppositionalism is the only stance that makes sense, whether in the form of Syriza’s efforts to push back aspects of/as much austerity as is possible or as others are doing, hunkering down in case the situation spins out of control. Perhaps it’s better to see all this as a continuum of resistance, albeit expressing in different and in some respects contradictory ways.

Mind you I did enjoy this:

The Syriza-led government may not be a classic popular front, but it certainly is a popular front sui generis – of a special kind.

Unseen wealth… January 30, 2015

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

Interesting analysis by Polly Toynbee and David Walker drawn from a new book by them on Cameron. In between noting just how right-wing Cameron actually is, they write:

In his book Capital, Thomas Piketty observed that in advanced economies wealth has become so concentrated among the few that most people are virtually unaware of its existence. Great wealth is secret, and its hold on power even more so. Who knows what goes on over country suppers in the Cotswolds, where the prime minister’s neighbours include Rebekah Wade and Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth, with Mark Carney’s sister-in-law and lobbying magnate Lord Chadlington next door? Yet people have inklings. Cameron provokes nothing like the visceral response that Thatcher did, but he has not erased people’s resentment of privilege. Today’s opinion polls reflect a scratchy sense of unfairness. George Osborne’s mantra, first chanted at the 2012 party conference, “all in it together” raises a hollow laugh.

In Prospect some years back in a piece on Ireland during the crisis it noted that the most conspicuous displays of consumption by the very rich in this state had been ramped back and quoted one person (I think a still wealthy developer) who talked about how boats were kept at private marina’s or otherwise well out of view, and so on, because those who owned them were aware of the friction they might generate. And if one considers how wealth is gated away it’s both disturbing and revealing. It also suggests that reaching towards democratic control of same is going to be a mammoth task.

Connolly Youth Movement Statement on Greek elections January 30, 2015

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

Thanks to the person who forwarded this…

The Connolly Youth Movement welcomes the Greek election results and sees the election of a left political party as a deepening of the class awareness of the Greek people. Syriza were just shy of 2 seats to form a majority government but as it stands they have now entered into coalition with the Independent Greeks, a far right party of the bourgeoisie, who happen to also oppose austerity and the debt – their common platform.

It seems the whole of Europe has taken inspiration from the Syriza victory and now the people of Europe will look forward with hope, that the Austerity measures of the last 6 years will be stopped, the debt will be renegotiated and the gains lost over that time period can be regained. These are the hopes of the Greek people and they have put their faith in Syriza to follow through on their election promises. We can only hope and wish that Syriza live up to these expectations.

The slogan ‘Hope is Coming’ are words that people hold on to, a people that have been beaten and impoverished due to the economic policies of the EU and carried out by Greek governments. The politics of hope, the catchphrase of Syriza, is what people want to believe in. Hope that the future will bring bread, peace and prosperity to a new Europe, rid of all the problems and crisis of the past.

In Ireland, the liberal left, those who have gotten the Syriza t-shirts, those who have shouted from the rooftops, and written reams of threads and tweets about the glorious victory of Syriza and the radical left have maintained this divinity and hope in Syriza. However, lest we forget the past and the great ‘Hope’ campaign of Obama in the United States, the CYM would caution those who are being swept by the euphoria of the initial election success.

There is one Greek left party however that will not be swept up in all the hype, the KKE. The KKE – the Communist Party of Greece – are perceived to be a deeply sectarian party by many on the left in Ireland, who through their actions and their lack of cooperation with other Greek parties, including Syriza, are seen to have made themselves redundant to this resurgence of left wing politics in Europe. The obvious question being, why didn’t Syriza and the KKE form a deeply radical left government coalition? The KKE received 5.5% (a 1% increase from 2012) of the vote and would have easily been in a position to form the new coalition government.

It is easy to criticise the KKE, they haven’t won a lot of favours or allies by remaining constant in their criticisms of Syriza. All the soft left wing groups in Ireland are absolutely disgusted with them. Some would even blame the KKE for Syriza having to go into coalition with a right wing party! However, for all the criticisms there is very little analysis done on WHY the KKE remain unwilling to partner up with Syriza.

There are two strategic areas as to why the KKE will not go into government with Syriza: 1) The past legacy of European Communist Parties or ‘eurocommunism’ and 2) The ideological difference between the KKE and Syriza. The legacy of eurocommunism has been to strip many communist parties of their Marxist-Leninist ideology, to leave a disbandoned party with a left wing rhetoric without the revolutionary guiding principles. The KKE put simply have looked at the past and based on their analysis have found that putting faith in a Parliamentary party, whether in government or opposistion has never led to a transition from capitalism to socialism. All it has done has been to weaken the party, the class and the international communist movement. So the KKE are correct to be cautious about going into coalition as their statements reflect a revolutionary rather than a parliamentary path.

The ideological difference between the KKE and Syriza however is the most fundamental point that seems to be lost on all those who will bash the KKE as being secterian. The two parties are ideologically opposed. Syriza has stated that it will stay in the EU, that there will be no Grexit, that the monopolies will remain and that they will remain in the imperialist war club NATO. They call themselves a radical party but there really is nothing radical about their ideology. They, just like many left wing parties of the past will do what they are ideologically driven to do – try and better manage the capitalist system. The KKE are diametrically opposed to these fundamental policies of Syriza.

The KKE have remained unwavering in their position in that they don’t see themselves as a party that wants to try and better run capitalism, the KKE wants to overthrow the capitalist system and to replace it with a real and substansive alternative – socialism and they don’t see this as something in the distant future either. No election result will bring this about and the KKE are not in the business to try and hide their aims and objectives. Syriza on the other hand have the rhetoric of a strong radical left party, however their policies and statements would suggest that the radical elements, which they do have within the party, will be silenced.

The main reason why Syriza was able to form a coalition with a right wing party of the Independent Greeks (ANEL) and not with the KKE is because Syriza are ideologically closer to ANEL. This sentence may cause our Irish Syristers to come out in their defence, however this isn’t an attack on Syriza, these are just facts. What the three parties do have in common is their opposition to debt and austerity, what separates the KKE from them is their unapologetic anti-imperialist policies.

If the new Greek government of Syriza and ANEL manage to alleviate any pressure from the Greek people the CYM will most certainly welcome it and if people are being politicised in the process then these elections are a definite step in the right direction, but there can be no illusions that this will inevitably lead the way to a pro-people, pro-worker state, not as long as Greece remains in the EU, the euro, Nato and that the means of production remain in the hands of the monopolies.

The CYM gives full support to the KKE in their endeavours. The path they have chosen seems to be a lonely one at the moment, but with a proud 93 year history and maintaining a discplined and principled position, the next phase of Greek politics will most certainly involve and need their activity, militancy and leadership.

The CYM like the KKE are fully aware that no matter the outcome of an election, and, to paraphrase Connolly ‘unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. The EU and monopolies would still rule you. They would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs’.

SF call for Irish Left Alternative in wake of Syriza victory… January 30, 2015

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

From An Phoblacht…

Writing in An Phoblacht (in shops Friday), Declan Kearney (SINN FÉIN National Chairperson) says:

“This is the time for serious political discussion among progressive Irish political, community and trade union activists on ideas and strategies to ensure the future election of a Left coalition in the South…

“Those on the progressive and republican Left need to make that change irreversible by alter- ing the current balance of forces to create a new political realignment. That will only come about through popular support for a credible political alternative that can effectively challenge the conservative power blocs and their policies…

“Political engagement needs to take place among all those genuinely committed to democratic control of the economy, social justice and an agreed, united Ireland. Progressive political, social and community movements should collectively discuss the development of an agenda which mobilises the greater mass of Irish society in support of equality, protecting the most vulnerable, distributing wealth and resources according to citizens’ needs, and guaranteeing their rights.

“As new international political forces move towards governmental power, formal political discussion should commence in Ireland on how to forge consensus between Sinn Féin, progressive independents, the trade union movement, grassroots communities, and the non-sectarian Left. That process should concentrate on building durable, strategic, cross-sectoral, cross-community and political alliances North and South.”


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