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New Edition of LookLeft Out Now March 9, 2012

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism, Workers' Party.

The new edition of LookLeft is out now. It is now expanded to 40 pages, proving that growth is possible even in an age of austerity. Highlights include:

* Ireland’s poll tax – building a mass non-payment campaign against the household charge

* Class Dismissed – Conor McCabe on the need for class to become a central part of political and social debate in Ireland

* Whose Decade is it Anyway? – Donal Fallon on the forthcoming centenary commemorations

* Street Wars – Fergus Whelan on family history and ideological battles on the streets of 1930s Dublin

* Making the Future Work – Alan Myler on workplace democracy and economic recovery

* Football and Revolution – David Lynch on Egyptian Ultras and political struggle

* Feminism’s New Dawn? – Leah Culhane on Irish feminist debates on the Slutwalk phenomenon

* Rebel with a Cause? – Interview with Patrick Nulty TD

* Not Even Our Rivers Run Free – Padraig Mannion on the water privatisation agenda north and south

“I, for one, welcome our new …”: Stephen Collins and the euro crisis December 7, 2011

Posted by Wu Ming in Capitalism, European Union, International Finance, Media and Journalism.

As we approach one of the most significant European Council meetings in recent memory, no one quite knows what the nature of the plan to resolve the euro crisis once and for all is likely to be.  Will it involve new EU institutions with a specific remit to oversee national budgets, or will this role be assigned the the European Council (or Council of Ministers)?  Will it involve substantial Treaty change, or an additional Protocol to the Treaty? Will it apply to the EU-27 or just to Eurozone members?  And to what depths will the proposed fiscal unity extend?

Whatever deal is agreed, one thing is clear: it will be a good one.  Well, at least according to Stephen Collins in Saturday’s Irish Times.  Whatever price ‘we’ pay to save the euro, according to Collins will be worth it.  This is rather shocking, even by the standards of the Times.  They usually have the discretion to wait until a proposal is on the table before agreeing to it.  But Collins’ broad sentiment is echoed across the mainstream Irish media.  There is debate, of course, on what the likely outcome will be, with a wearied acceptance that whatever it is, we’ll have to suck it up, or end up scavenging for tins of dog food in a post-apocalyptic economic future.  However, there’s little or no attempt to engage with the fundamental democratic deficit not just within the EU, but at the heart of the international financial system more generally.

Collins hints at this when he writes:

Irish politicians and the media are already focusing on the threat to Ireland’s 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate as if it is the only important issue for debate. While President Nicolas Sarkozy has certainly targeted low corporate tax rates, Germany has taken a very different view, while the UK and the countries on the eastern side of the EU will all block the French threat from their own perspectives.

Whatever treaty changes emerge, harmonisation of tax rates is unlikely to be one of them. What Irish negotiators need to focus on is not just what we want to block but what kind of treaty changes we favour. EU institutions’ loss of power to the governments of the big powers is a trend that we should work to have reversed.

However, what is missing here is a real understanding of what has been demonstrated over the past year.  What we have seen has not just been the larger EU member states (Germany and France in particular) getting a little big for their boots, the solution being to reign them back in under the happy familial embrace of the EU, with the Commission acting as the warm benevolent Daddy.  No, it is now clear that when it comes to a genuine threat to the interests of international capital, the institutions – even the principles – of the Union are essentially irrelevant.  Nice to have during the good times, when we’re all friends, but when things get tough, best to leave the hard work to the grown ups.

Where was the European Commission, the supposedly defender of small countries against the dominance of large Member States when Papandreou was summoned to Cannes to answer to Merkel and Sarkozy for the impertinence of acting as the Greek head of government without their prior approval (not that this should be taken as any defense of Papandreou?.  The answer is nowhere, because the Commission – the EU qua EU – had no role to play.  Where was the principle of solidarity when Sócrates’ administration in Portugal was forced into requesting a bailout under pressure from national banks under the direction of the ECB (thanks to Donagh at Irish Left Review for the link – both pieces well worth reading) which led to the collapse of the government (again, not to be taken as a defense of Sócrates himself)?

At the risk of hyperbole, it could be argued that one way of looking at what we are witnessing has been the overthrow of last vestiges of democratic government by the forces of international capital, where national administrations which threaten financial markets must be removed, and replaced by more friendly regimes.  Like Chile in 1973 without the massacres.  Or perhaps that’s naive, and what we’re seeing is simply a more blatant, more naked display of the power of the markets over nation states, even over the European Union as an institution.

It was certainly the case that the run-up of the IMF/EU ‘bailout’ of Ireland last year was less an example of pan-European solidarity with a partner which found itself in difficulty, and more a shakedown reminiscent of a Sopranos plot.  Ireland was forced into accepting an extortionate loan to cover the liabilities of those who had irresponsibly thrown money at Irish banks over the past decade (and, needless to say, didn’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts).  Ireland was like the hapless store-owner forced to sell off the business to repay gambling debts owed to the mafia.  Or, to be more accurate, we’re like the family of the gambler, watching our home sold from under us to cover the costs incurred by one idiotic member of the household.

But what must be borne in mind is that the gangsters in this analogy aren’t France, or the Netherlands or even Germany (although maybe they’re the enforcers).  It’s the system of global capital itself, where a Prime Minister, even one as odious as Berlusconi, can be removed from office on the basis of the judgment of a private credit agency.

And, at a time when neoliberalism is finally genuinely in crisis (wishful thinking on the part of some over the past twenty years aside), we are likely to be faced with an agreement to enshrine the Goldman Sachs consensus into European law, binding on Member State governments in perpetuity.  This kind of blinkered thinking is exemplified in Collins’ piece where he writes:

Over the next few months, if all goes well, there will be agreement at EU level to a series of binding budgetary disciplines. This will probably require treaty change and, even though that may result in a bitter referendum, it is very much in Ireland’s interest that it happens. In the long run, such a development will ensure the Irish people will be saved from a repeat of the economic indiscipline and political incompetence that characterised the Bertie Ahern years.

as if the current dire budgetary situation in Ireland was caused by marginal increases in social welfare rates rather than the suicidal decision to guarantee bank debt (and to socialize the private losses).

In a sense, it doesn’t really matter whether the final deal envisages control over Member States’ budgets ceded to the Council of Ministers or to an independent body within the EU.  Once the principle of enshrining the failed policies of fiscal austerity into EU law is agreed, the battle is already lost.  The immediate challenge is to prevent this, and to imagine a Union founded on genuine democratic governance, one with the power to act as bulwark against the power of international markets.  The longer-term goal, of course, must be a meaningful challenge to the neoliberal consensus itself.

Of course, with cheerleaders like Collins declaring the fight over before the opening bell has sounded, this will be  anything but easy.

Wage freezes… August 22, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Media and Journalism.

…Interesting heading on a piece in the Irish Times today:

And then one reads the details:

Employees in the majority of small businesses continue to face a pay freeze with the trend set to continue next year, a survey claims.

The Small Firms Association (SFA) study found wage increases were only being given to reward productivity and innovation.

To be clear this isn’t the SFA’s fault as far as can be seen[I can’t find the press release on their website], but the headline appears to be just a little misleading.

I haven’t time now to go digging through the stats to look at pay freezes more generally. I will though.

Dispatches on Channel 4 Tonight (14/3/11) at 8 on how Big Society and Public Sector Cuts = Huge Private Profits March 14, 2011

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.

It’s on now. See the blurb here. Panorama at 8.30 on dirty tricks used by tabloid journalists too. Spoilt for choice.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week July 4, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.

In third place, more of the same from Daniel McConnell.

Acceptance of the Croke Park deal means that this Government will not tackle one of the biggest problems in this country — public-sector reform.

In second place, Brendan Keenan, who apparently has missed altogether the stimulus plans applied in other countries and the plans provided for something similar here, offers a gem. What annoyed him?

It was the universal assumption that the TDs could have done something about the Anglo losses, and unemployment.

Can you imagine thinking 22 billion euro could have been better spent and might even have created a few jobs? Crazy talk.

And in top place. An entire article with this as a headline

Stalin’s legacy upheld by his proud comrades in the HSE

You couldn’t make it up.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week January 31, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.

In third place, Eilis O’Hanlon, for a fine example of ignoring who actually is responsible for the economic difficulties of the south in favour of the usual lazy scapegoat. And she has the cheek to lecture others about reality. How can she keep churning this out week after week?

Though even if they don’t, the public sector unions show every sign of managing the total meltdown of the Irish economy very well by themselves, thank you very much, as they engage on a nationwide work to rule to protest against reality… sorry, I mean pay cuts introduced in the last Budget.

In second place, Aengus Fanning, for a fawning introduction to an interview with Ray McSharry, that peddles the same old lies about the Celtic Tiger being the result of his anti-people cuts of the late 1980s.

THERE is a story that gives us a clue to Ray MacSharry’s character, to the man who, as Minister for Finance, laid the foundations in 1987 for the economic miracle of the following 20 years, the Mac the Knife who seemed to thrive on unpopularity.

In first place, Cathal MacCarthy, for giving yet another outing to the Muslim birth-rate scare story.

The French have decided to double-bluff the Islamic fundamentalism that uses that country’s freedom to publicly display symbols of its own religious intolerance and issues the kind of long-term threats designed to be picked up by anyone who cares to glance at the tables of Europe’s birth rates and the religious affiliations therein.

And a special mention for trying to spin the Tory tradition of playing the Orange card as an exercise in progressive politics while not knowing that Cameron was not part of the Tory-UUP-DUP talks on which the story is based.

Sunday Independent Stupid Quote of the Week January 3, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.

After a break caused by an overdose of Christmas spirit that meant I didn’t want to annoy myself reading the Sindo, it’s back. In this case, back with the same old nonsense from just before Christmas from Daniel Mc Connell

Mr Lenihan is now convinced that the Irish economy is “turning the corner” and recent measures have led to a stabilisation of the public finances. Much of the credit must go to the minister, whose tough budget stance last month led to a new public mood of confidence that the worst of the financial crash was over and that with proper financial management the Irish economy could return to growth before the end of this year.

The cheerleading for Lenihan continues from him later, for third place in this story

Comment also centres on just who within the Cabinet would be tough enough to continue the difficult course mapped out by Mr Lenihan for the economy, and the dire consequences of failing to follow that course.

In the Editorial, we see the same old myths being pedalled, for second place.

The economic boom years gave Ireland a modern economy and an entrepreneurial culture that will help speed the recovery from recession…Now, however, we have to make a clean start. There are severe challenges ahead — not least the threat posed to recovery by the public sector trade unions — but they can be overcome if the Government does not lose its nerve. We all have an important part to play. We need to remember what we have gained and need to believe that we have the ingenuity and determination to recover from this recession.

And in first place, singing from the same hymn sheet to an extent that makes one wonder if the Sindo is run according to the principles of democratic centralism, Alan Ruddock.

Hopefully Lenihan’s health will allow him to see through a programme for economic recovery that, although it started poorly, has now gathered significant momentum. The threat to that recovery is internal rather than external: if the unions are allowed to prevail, then the country condemns itself to disaster. The union leaders must be resisted — by Government, by the Opposition parties and by their own members — if we are to edge clear of this recession.

But, even in the darkest of corners, we can find a chink of light. Gene Kerrigan reminds us of the class nature of the crisis, and the government response.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week Award December 13, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Media and Journalism.

Our new feature continues this week. In third place, Eilis O’Hanlon

This is the atmosphere which is now being forged in Ireland, whereby hardworking small business people who have taken risks to try and do something for themselves and their families are treated like absentee landlords sponging off the blameless lower classes. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. It’s the middle classes in Ireland who pay the bills. Class envy never wrote a single dole cheque or funded a single operation.

In second place, John Drennan

Instead, a Government that always ditches the tough choices effectively dumped the McCarthy report, and whilst we did get public sector pay cuts, the incompetence of the Government and their trade union doppelgangers means that these have been secured at the expense of real public sector reform for a decade.

And this week’s winner, Marc Coleman on Brian Lenihan’s budget

Heroism is not an overstatement to describe the man’s achievement.

However, it’s also worth considering this quote from Brendan Keenan, who has gone off message in drawing attention to the elephant in the room, and the real reason we are in the state we are in.

Ireland’s present rating is “appropriate”, said the man from Moody’s — the biggest ratings agency. That is encouraging, and there were other nice comments about how Ireland was doing more than most, but it is not yet making our borrowing much cheaper.
If there is a reason for that, it is probably the banking crisis.
Behind the €20bn annual borrowing, and the €85bn debt, is that €54bn pledged to buy property loans from the banks.

Griffin On Question Time October 22, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in British Politics, Media and Journalism.

I have to say I was never spectacularly exercised by this issue of the BNP’s leader Nick Griffin appearing Question Time. I think the British far left’s obsession with them is way over the top, and often has more to do with trying to give their own members something to do and to recruit new members than anything else. Having watched the show, the whole thing was a waste of time, and you would thiink that the only political issue of the week was the BNP – basically the whole show except for about 8 minutes on the Daily Mail on Stephen Gateley was about them, and even that became about them to an extent. Naturally the overwhelming majority of the audience and the other people on the panel, not to mention the BBC’s David Dimbleby, were all determined to show that they abhor the BNP. Tell me something I don’t know.

Having said that, there was one issue worthy of serious consideration for the left. During the inevitable debate on immigration, Griffin must have been sitting laughing to listen to the representatives of the mainstream parties vie with each other to sound opposed to immigration. I found Sayeeda Warsi, the Tory Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, repeating the mantra of “we must have an honest debate about this” particularly nauseating. Jack Straw did make the point that he was having an honest debate. I thought that was an important point. The right tries to get round this issue by saying that anyone not calling for immigration to be effectively halted is being dishonest. That is in fact the most dishonest contribution possible to the discussion of immigration. It’s clear though that the left in Britain has some serious work to do on the issue of immigration. Serious work.

The last question was whether the programme represented an early Christmas present for the BNP. It’s hard to say. Griffin did not a bad job, trying to defuse things through laughter and referring to the other panelists by their first name as though he was just a normal panelist. He did though let the mask slip somewhat over homosexuality (although if I recall right Searchlight had some interesting things to say about Nick Griffin and this issue), and when he denounced the BBC as part of an ultra-leftist establishment. He also was exposed as effectively telling lies on several occasions. The Labour and Tory representatives were convinced they had exposed the BNP, and to an extent that is what happened, with some of Griffin’s more embarassing comments being displayed to the public. Having said that, there was quite a lot where Griffin appeared perfectly in line with the rest of the panel, and as I noted already, there can be no doubt that his party has succeeded in driving the immigration debate to the right.

So I think Griffin will be happy enough, but so will the other panelists. The real question it seems to me though is what happens when the BNP is on next time. Even if it’s only once a year, you can’t keep having the should they be part of the show in the first place debate. By its nature they are going to be normalised to some extent. But we cannot forget the reasons they are there in the first place. They have two European seats. So they already have quite a lot of credibility. Being on Question Time or not won’t change that. Only work on the ground, and possibly there own stupidity, will. I remember seeing an interview with Warren Mitchell, who played Alf Garnett. He said people would come up to him and praise him for sticking it to the black people. And so it is with Griffin – people will have seen what they wanted to see regardless.

The Global Irish Economic Forum September 20, 2009

Posted by Tomboktu in Ireland, Media and Journalism.

The Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh at the weekend has been a peculiar affair.

It doesn’t appear to have been given any ‘trailing’ in the media in the days before – although I admit it may simply have been lost in the coverage of the Dáil debate on NAMA – but it suddenly appeared on the news on Friday morning. IMHO, the Irish Times got it right that first day and placed it on an inner page of the business section. But RTÉ: oh boy, were they excited and thrilled to be hobnobbing with the great and the good? The station had it at second billing through Friday, and moved it to top billing in the evening when Brian Cowen had spoken at it. And, interestingly, the national broadcaster’s website has a separate mini-site devoted to it, where they list the participants – mainly the great and the good of Ireland who have successfully climbed to the top in their chosen careers elsewhere around the world – where they publish a blog by Mark Little, and, at the start of Friday, had the agenda for the forum. (The agenda got taken down later.) This must be a major national event then. (But the Irish Times had changed their approach on Saturday. Was it a whoops, then, for some down-table editor’s judgement on the Friday edition?)

But it is the choices made by the Government and the mandarins about the content and significance of the Forum that leave me scratching my head. Irish people who have been a success around the world dominate. There are some ‘stay at home’ successes like Chris Horn, but they are lost in the list of those who have come home for the event and who form the main taking point in the coverage – and thus, I presume, were the main selling point put out by the national handlers in the Department of Foreign Affairs (whose gig the Forum is). But did any of the mandarins point out the other message that this conveys to the ambitious future leaders among the 20-somethings in our universities: “If you want get ahead lass, then get out”.

For the completeness, I should also state what will be obvious to readers of CLR: the delegate list is dominated by those who have succeeded in the corporate world. Yes, in among the list you can find the occasional Tom Arnold of Concern, or the odd Fergal Keane of the BBC, and even a Bob Geldof of, eh, Bob Geldof, but the main flavour is very definitely big business.

I also wonder when the government will hold an economic forum at which those who speak for the victims of the economic system will have their say alongside the masters of the universe.

And that might seem to make sense to those who see ‘economic’ in the title: “It’s obvious that they are the experts whom we should listen to”, they would say. But that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and not just from a left perspective. What those business leaders are excellent at is running a company, not running an economy. That doesn’t mean they do not have interesting or useful insights, but making the assumption that they are the main source of enlightenment is not a recipe for success. (It would be like asking a forum of expert taxi drivers to advise the government on how to improve the transport system in the capital.)

The final peculiarity I want to draw attention to is what this tells us about the government’s approach to planning for rebuilding for the future. Look again at the format it chose for harnessing the wisdom it has brought to Farmleigh. It consists of two days split between plenary sessions and a pair of workshops. Who believes this can help form a meaningful framework for an agenda? Contrast that with the time and resources given to the committee and the commission that the Government put in place in the last year to work out spending cuts and how to extract more tax from middle and lower earners. Those tasks merit serious deliberation over time by a stable group with expertise. But not, it seems, the generation of ideas for rebuilding.

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