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CPI Political Statement on EU crisis. July 31, 2015

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Political statement
25 July 2015

The National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland at its meeting in July discussed the political and economic situation in the context of events now unfolding within the European Union resulting from the imposition of the new memorandum on the Greek working class. The meeting also stressed the importance of building working-class resistance within Ireland and throughout the EU.
In relation to events in recent weeks the CPI once again expressed its solidarity with the Greek working class and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), whose principled stance regarding the nature of the forces contained within the SYRIZA party and government has been vindicated, showing that SYRIZA’s strategy could only lead to the present situation. It is clear that the KKE’s steadfast opposition to the European Union and to the previous memorandums has played a central role in the resistance of the Greek people. The KKE has offered clear and unambiguous leadership to the Greek working class; it has also been vindicated in its opposition to the referendum, showing that the choice offered between Yes and No was a false choice to fool the people.
The dominant opportunist forces within SYRIZA never had the will to consistently oppose the European Union. They peddled the illusion that somehow they could talk reasonably to the “institutions” and appeal to their better nature. Most importantly, they showed no political understanding of the class nature of the European Union and the economic and political forces it was established to promote and protect. Their generating of false hopes and their inevitable abject surrender have left the Greek people even worse off than before.
The role of the Irish government at the meetings of heads of government and meetings of finance ministers exposed their slavish commitment to the European Union and showed that this state is a client state of the EU. No semblance of sovereignty or independence is left.
What lies exposed is the bankruptcy of social democracy in its various guises, both new and old. Current events lay bare the illusions of those who believe they can somehow transform or reform the actually existing EU into something else. The real economic and political driving force at the heart of the EU—monopoly capitalism, in particular finance capital—is exposed for what it is. Those not still labouring under the illusion that the EU is some benign force are beginning to question its legitimacy. This questioning of its legitimacy can only grow in the coming period; next they must question its invincibility.
The attitude of the EU are not the action of brutish individuals but real class power brought to bear against the Greek people, to send a clear message to other European workers, particularly those in the heavily indebted countries, that there is no other way, and that no way will be tolerated other than what European monopoly capitalism demands, that the debt and the euro itself are the straitjacket and disciplining mechanism for imposing political and economic control and conformity to the will of the dominant economic powers.
The recent announcement by the Irish government that it will institute tax cuts in the next budget is nothing more than a re-election ploy to placate the business and professional sectors. Its aim is to revive the illusion of permanent upward mobility for those same interest groups.
With the completion of the privatisation of Aer Lingus, the final piece of the jigsaw is the selling of the government’s share, marking the continuation of the strategy of privatising important and strategic public companies and assets.
There will be no increase in spending on the collapsing health service or on education. More than 17 per cent of all tax revenue now goes to service the national debt, now almost €8 billion a year—a debt that does not belong to the people.
Regarding the struggle against water charges, the party reaffirms its support for non-payment and for the broadly based Right2Water campaign, and welcomes the fact that nearly 60 per cent of the people have not paid. The party again reiterates its call for the intensification and reinvigoration of the grass-roots struggle, both in opposition to the installing of water meters and in the non-payment campaign, as essential for ending water charges and ensuring a constitutional amendment that will enshrine the public ownership of this valuable resource. This would be a significant defeat for the Irish establishment and the European Union.
The party also welcomes the decision by the delegates to the ICTU delegate conference to oppose water charges and to support the demand for a constitutional amendment on the public ownership of water. The purpose of the setting up of Irish Water as a separate company was to enable the ultimate privatisation of water. Only a constitutional amendment can prevent this.
The ICTU must now translate a paper resolution into concrete action and support for the R2W campaign and must support the communities that have sustained the campaign thus far. The party also calls on activists not to be distracted from the central task of defeating water charges by the electoral ambitions of different groupings or parties and opportunist individuals. The party also welcomes the adoption of a resolution opposing TTIP, which also also needs to be translated into a vigorous public campaign of opposition and the education of workers regarding the dangers posed by TTIP.
The recent budget presented by the British Conservative government and the announced £12 billion package of cuts in welfare spending will hit working people, the working poor and the unemployed hard in the North. It will have a disproportionately higher impact because of the reliance on welfare benefits. These spending cuts will be a blow against an already peripheral regional economy, with adverse effects on consumer spending and on retail industry.
The CPI draws attention to the fact that working people who are employed but live in social housing will see their rents increase to the level pertaining in the private sector, with those receiving sickness benefit having their benefits reduced to the equivalent payment made in the jobseeker’s allowance.
Another example of the peripheral and precarious nature of the dependent economy is the fact that approximately 18 per cent of households in the North receive child tax credits, compared with 13 per cent in Britain. The Northern economy has a higher proportion of young people, and the new “youth obligation” and the removal of grants for students from low-income families will have a disproportionate effect on working-class youth. These renewed attacks on social welfare are coupled with and linked to the new anti-union laws recently proposed by the British government. The party expresses its solidarity with the British working class and with trade unions in the North of Ireland, which will also be greatly affected by these anti-worker laws. The party also reiterates its long-held position of opposition to sectarianism and condemns the violence surrounding this year’s Twelfth of July marches. It again calls on all paramilitaries to cease their activities and desist in their efforts to reignite their failed military strategy.
It is clear from events both here in Ireland and throughout Europe that there is a need to build the people’s resistance, north and south. The struggle against imperialism in all its forms and its domination of our people has to be built throughout the country.
The deepening economic crisis of imperialism is beginning to expose its real nature, and more and more people are now beginning to question the system itself. This presents new challenges and demands for those forces committed to radical economic, political and social change. Working people need to develop a clear strategy for defending themselves against the onslaught on their conditions, for going over to the offensive and bringing this moribund oppressive system to a close.
Communist Party of Ireland.

The cost of not having sufficient money July 31, 2015

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I’ve noted before just how lack of immediate access to disposable funds can make life even more difficult for people on low and even medium incomes. There’s a range of areas where simply having disposable income to pay out ahead of time is cost effective – some subscriptions, certain payments, and so on and so forth.

But surely the grim arrest and death of Sandra Bland points up how in the US, and presumably other polities, it can have a devastating impact. Without discussing the specific incident it seems to me that there’s a sort of policing equivalent of constructive dismissal where the ultimate end goal is the arrest of an individual by upping the ante at any given moment.

Just on Bland she seemed remarkably calm, albeit understandably irritated, for quite some time during the incident.

But in terms of costs, financial and otherwise, this in Slate is sobering.

If Bland had been able to pay her bail on the spot [$500 − 10 per cent of the overall bond of $5,000], she would have been released immediately following her arraignment, which took place on Saturday, July 11, the day after she was pulled over on a traffic violation and detained for allegedly assaulting a police officer. A representative for the Waller County Sheriff’s Office told me they could have processed Bland’s bail at any time

And look how bail functions in a particularly pernicious way for some:

In practice, the bail system is particularly hard on poor people, who frequently get stuck behind bars because they can’t afford to post bond, while those with greater means pay their bail and go home. According to one study, five out of six people in jail are there because they could not afford to pay their bail.

Postcapitalism? July 31, 2015

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It’s been raised by others during the last week, but this article by Paul Mason in the Guardian on post capitalism is an interesting read.

It’s fascinating stuff. An argument that the new processes of the digital led economy are posing a fundamental challenge to capitalism as we have known it. That this was envisaged to some degree by Marx and that it can essentially be regarded as us all entering a post capitalist period.

His basic contention is that the current phase of capitalism is shuddering to an end pushed by new connected information technologies.

And he posits that another crisis is on the way, a crisis that will – paradoxically for capitalism – be exacerbated by the lack of social and political power on the part of the working class and suppressed wages. None of this is particularly novel, and I think most of us would tend to the view that the current economic systems while in some respects looser and less binding than before are – oddly – losing flexibility. He certainly makes a good point in relation to how so much of business is oriented away from genuinely cutting edge technologies towards the services sector (entertainingly a recent Analysis podcast on the BBC argued that there should be an even greater focus on that sector). I’ve long noted here that there are growing calls across the political-economy spectrum for consideration of basic income due to rising levels of automation that are reaching deep into our economies to remove or weaken previous forms of work carried out by workers.

Mason isn’t completely optimistic. But he’s pretty damned optimistic:

But a different path has opened up. Collaborative production, using network technology to produce goods and services that only work when they are free, or shared, defines the route beyond the market system. It will need the state to create the framework – just as it created the framework for factory labour, sound currencies and free trade in the early 19th century. The postcapitalist sector is likely to coexist with the market sector for decades, but major change is happening.

And he argues for a ‘reconfiguration’ of the left.

The transition will involve the state, the market and collaborative production beyond the market. But to make it happen, the entire project of the left, from protest groups to the mainstream social democratic and liberal parties, will have to be reconfigured. In fact, once people understand the logic of the postcapitalist transition, such ideas will no longer be the property of the left – but of a much wider movement, for which we will need new labels.

It’s all a bit vague though. He can’t, and he’s quite honest about it, really describe the future of this process.

Capitalism was structured by something purely economic: the market. We can predict, from this, that postcapitalism – whose precondition is abundance – will not simply be a modified form of a complex market society. But we can only begin to grasp at a positive vision of what it will be like.
I don’t mean this as a way to avoid the question: the general economic parameters of a postcapitalist society by, for example, the year 2075, can be outlined. But if such a society is structured around human liberation, not economics, unpredictable things will begin to shape it.

But what would the society look like, what sort of democratic controls would exist, what sort of social structures? How can we have any sense of what a better society would be if it’s all so infuriatingly vague. He continues:

If I am right, the logical focus for supporters of postcapitalism is to build alternatives within the system; to use governmental power in a radical and disruptive way; and to direct all actions towards the transition – not the defence of random elements of the old system. We have to learn what’s urgent, and what’s important, and that sometimes they do not coincide.

Perhaps so. Indeed absolutely so. But how does one link the present-day concerns of workers with this somewhat indefinable future? How does one shape actions towards this end goal?

I tend to the view that a lot of what he is saying is absolutely correct – that there are massive structural changes taking place in capitalism. That the present system is simply not going to prevail. My concern would be that there’s no inevitability about progressive outcomes – that we could see soft or hard authoritarian socio-political and economic structures imposed where democracy, socialism and even dissent are rendered impotent where they are not sidelined entirely. It is true that the left has to engage with the changes that are taking place, that it must rework itself to function successfully in new forms. But to do so doesn’t that require that we continue to place solidarity, …

Perhaps it is unfair to engage with this in isolation, it is but one article taken from a longer work. I’m very interested in what others have to say on this.

That gap in the market in Irish politics… tell us where exactly would that be positioned again? July 31, 2015

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Is the question that comes to mind on foot of the poll at the weekend. For all the acres of newsprint over the past number of years that there was a massive space open to the right of Fine Gael the actual support for RENUA, surely the closest analogue to any such formation, is a mere 1% in the current SBP/RED C poll. Surely, were those analyses correct then RENUA would be doing markedly better. Indeed this surely calls into question a whole heap of assumptions – doesn’t it? For those anxious souls calling out for a right of FG formation clearly aren’t that worried to either support FG itself… 25% in this poll – and why not, when you’ve got the real thing and it’s actually in government that’s a powerful pull factor, or alternatively go to the less well charted Independents. After all, some of them, names like Grealish and McGrath and Lowry most notably, would offer something of an alternative.

Ironically the Social Democrats are on 2%, perhaps a function of having three much higher profile TDs than the RENUA cohort and the immediacy of a launch that took place in the last week or so. But even there that’s a figure they’ll be keen to improve on and rapidly in order to build a more cohesive identity. And it also suggests that so far, and it’s early days yet – compared to RENUA, that the market is already reasonably well served by others.

Perhaps the truth is there is no gap in the Irish political market, or at least not much of one. That the sort of totalising dynamics extant in the past are now largely gone given that there are numerous effectively mid-range parties, a multitude of smaller ones and Independents to beat the band.

Changed times.

Privatising rail services in the ROI. Why? July 30, 2015

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The contract to run rail services in Ireland should be put out to international tender, the European Commission has proposed, a move that could have serious ramifications for Iarnród Éireann.The Government is strongly resisting the idea, amid concerns it could cause major financial and industrial relations problems for the State.Iarnród Éireann’s 10-year contract to run Ireland’s rail services is up for renewal in 2019. The contract is typically awarded to the State-owned body Iarnród Éireann, but the European Commission is arguing the Irish transport sector needs to liberalise further.

Am I alone in thinking this is a particularly pointless exercise in generating entirely artificial markets?

And what about a supposed ‘lack of concern for the public interest’? July 30, 2015

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Just on SBP editorials, the other editorial in the current edition has some good points to make as regards the crisis. It asks why was the:

…bank failure so damaging? Because it caused the second aspect of the economic disaster – the sudden implosion of the public finances. This resulted in the extreme austerity implemented by two governments in order to restore the stability in the public finances necessary for economic confidence, and therefore economic growth. And why were our public finances so brittle just before the crash? Because, to simplify it greatly but not inaccurately, taxes had been cut and spending increased over several years.
This was done by the parties in power, of course. But it was criticised by those not in power for not being sufficiently generous. Why? Why did our political system run this huge auction? Because nobody was concerned with the public interest.

That’s true to an extent. But it’s also a function of a political and socio-economic approach that was adopted by the major political parties and lauded in Europe as the correct way forward. International bodies waved on such policies. The Labour Party – supposedly the torch-bearer for social democracy adopted low tax high spend policies itself in 2007. And on and on.

One could say it wasn’t just about a lack of concern with the public interest, but a narrowing of political and ideological choices and this due to a sharp tilt to the right during that period which led to a sense that only a certain orthodoxy could or should prevail. Moreover McCreevy’s mantra of ‘if I have it I’ll spend it’ fit right into that approach. Even as our tax base was being ripped apart with an ever increasing emphasis on indirect taxes and a lowering of direct taxation.

The editorial continues:

We have allowed a politics to evolve in which the public interest – or the national interest, if you like – ranks far down the list of politicians’ and policymakers’ priorities, behind expediency, electoral advantage, short-term popularity and the wishes of vocal special interest groups. And when the national interest comes last, good government goes out the window.
In the past the fundamental failing of our politics is that it has reflected only the special and sectional interest; there has been no constituency for the public interest, no hearing or reward for any politician saying to voters: we must discipline ourselves. We must provide for the future. We must tax sustainably and invest wisely. We must say no to some interest groups.

There is much in it that is true and even good. But… let’s not pretend that there’s no political aspect to that.

As the shock of the crash recedes, so the shock our politics experienced recedes too. Before it disappears completely, we should ask ourselves, is there a constituency out there for good government? For long-term planning? For necessary reform even when entrenched interest groups resist it? For prudence, for self-discipline? For telling some groups that they will have to contribute more to the public good? If not, we shall surely repeat the mistakes of the past.

The example of the minimum wage rise proposals in the same edition and tackled by an accompanying editorial, comes to mind. There the SBP editorial is adamantly against – yet, why should employers be set aside from the proscription that it is necessary ‘to [tell] some groups that they will have to contribute more to the public good’? Or what about maintaining marginal tax rates, or even increasing them?

An Phoblacht out now… July 30, 2015

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jpeg

An Phoblacht out now, including…

Editorial – The National Hunger Strike Commemoration

Ireland’s last acceptable racism – Love/Hate star JOHN CONNORS on the vilification of the Traveller community and the campaign for ethnic recognition

Water Charges – Pearse Doherty – Q&A with Mark Moloney

Irish Water fiasco – European ruling leaves Government with egg on its face

McGuinness meets White House on Stormont crisis

Slán le Séamus Mhicil Tom– Dá mba aisteoir ‘Bearla’ é bheadh i bhfad níos mó cainte faoi

The Hooded Men – Behind the torture

Lessons for us from progressive movements in Spain and Greece – Julien Mercille in Building an Alternative

Julia Carney is back – ‘The Greatest Political Leader Ireland Has Ever Known’

Professor Richard English and Community Relations Council’s Peter Osborne on ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’

Belfast to Bahrain – Human rights activist Oisín Mac Canna on Government collusion in targeting protesters

Mainstream media misreporting Greece

Gerry Adams and that IRA raid on the Irish Independent – Press Council rules against the Indo

Just for the record: Joan Collins TD called for ‘mass- non-registration and non-payment’ in the Dáil in November 2014 July 30, 2015

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From RTÉ covering a debate in the Dáil.

19:38
Joan Collins says mass non-registration and non-payment will defeat these

British Labour… July 30, 2015

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Odd piece in the Guardian at the weekend by Martin Kettle. I’ve got to admit I’m following the leadership process with some amazement. The media’s efforts to close ranks around the more right leaning candidates is all too evident, as is its willingness to apply all too rapidly the supposed lessons of the most recent election – that being that the BLP must of necessity tilt more to the right and at all costs avoid a Corbyn leadership. I think the latter is probably still quite a remote likelihood, but… who can tell in these times of political churn and uncertainty.

But what is odd about Kettle’s analysis which essentially takes the LP to task for a cohort even envisaging such a course is its curious blindness to recent political history. Kettle argues that:

His [Corbyn’s] socialism, though, is more a matter of faith than a viable programme. He is not, as his three opponents are, a reformist who aspires to govern and get re-elected. He is not interested in making detailed policy choices or pragmatic compromises. Corbyn’s position is essentially made up of attitudes and slogans, not least about the place of the trade unions, many of them proudly unchanged for almost 50 years.

I wonder if that’s entirely true. To many of us further left than the LP it certainly doesn’t seem like an entirely accurate analysis. Corbyn is certainly more left wing than many, but he remains broadly within the confines of the BLP.

In a way though it’s not that that’s so objectionable in the analysis.

I grew up in a leftwing culture of this kind and we all felt very principled and even, in a sense, blessed because of our embrace of the true faith. But in the end, as Eric Hobsbawm recognised so honestly in his later writings, it is in many respects a religious approach to politics. It has very little to do with building an alliance, winning an election, forming a government or actually changing things. It is politics as being, not politics as doing.

The obvious problem is that as time goes on social democratic approaches – which are presumably what Kettle cleaves to – are voided of content as SD parties tilt ever more rightwards. And while there may be issues about sloganeering, there are equally problems about detailed policy choices or pragmatic compromises that are empty of all political or ideological moorings. Furthermore, as was clear from the LP’s predicament, it lost to its left in Scotland. How does Kettle attempt to square that? Well, he doesn’t.

He continues:

A former Labour frontbencher took me to task, pointing out, as Tony Blair did this week, that it was possible both to win power and to be principled. The ex-MP was surely right. Nevertheless Labour is unusual as a party because of the historic tendency of some of its members and supporters to think that being in government is a regrettable diversion from having socialist values, a tendency turbo-charged in the modern era by the anger and indignation of social media. The Conservatives have no equivalent hang-ups of any kind.

Really? Is he sure? Well within living memory I can think of two Tory leaders – those who arrived in that position after the election of Tony Blair to office, who were clearly wedded to an approach, a ‘hang-up’ if you will, of precisely this sort. How quickly they forget, but it took four separate leaders to arrive at one who could win elections for the Tories, and even then only imperfectly at first.

Then there’s this:

Three decades ago, a few months after bitter internal warfare and a weak leader produced Labour’s worst general election performance of the modern era, and with the SDP-Liberal Alliance still snapping at its heels, Labour’s newly elected leader Neil Kinnock called on his deeply divided party to rediscover what he called its common sense and realism. In a speech to the conference in Brighton that had just elected him, he asked Labour supporters to remember how dreadful it felt to have been smashed in the 1983 general election. Never again should Labour experience that. Party unity was now paramount at all times, Kinnock warned. It worked, in the end, just.

But this is the sort of argument that the US Democrats deploy time and again to corral support. But not being the Tories isn’t much of a platform. It didn’t win at the most recent election. Why should it convince in the future? And what of the damage inflicted upon – and I use these words tentatively, although as a former member of the British Labour Party I believe they have had some meaning in the past – Labour values, traditional Labour values, if the following is adhered to?

Unlike Germany, we will also have separatist nationalist parties to complicate matters still more, and we will still have a first-past-the-post electoral system to empower the unified centre right. The upshot, almost inescapably, will be a long, perhaps a very long, period of Conservative rule. Labour’s only way of preventing that is by competing in the centre, with a modern reformist agenda that can challenge the centre right. But that, it seems, may no longer be Labour’s priority.

A party that cedes ground to its right at every turn, that has done so for decades now, that even when it – as it did – apply redistributive measures, was unable to do so openly. Is that a serious prospect for the future, for the left? Surely it is the antithesis of what the left is and stands for? And this is the best Kettle can recommend?

RENUA news! They’ve just lost a councillor. July 29, 2015

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Well now, that was swift work;

A councillor who joined Renua two months ago has announced his decision to leave because of what he says is the party’s U-turn on water charges.
Cllr James Charity, who was elected as an Independent to Galway County Council last year, joined Lucinda Creighton’s party in May.
He was being lined up to run in the Galway West constituency but will now revert to running as an Independent.

Two months – eh? It continues:

Cllr Charity, who polled more than 1,400 votes in the Athenry-Oranmore ward last year, said he could no longer remain in the new party because of a number of issues.

Including the water charges where Cllr. Charity suggests that the RENUA platform was against. The good Cllr. argues:

“Renua’s position on water charges was always very clear to me prior to joining, with our stated policy being ‘We fundamentally disagree with how water charges have been introduced and will continue to do so until Irish Water has been radically reformed and public waste eliminated.’

I’m not so sure that that interpretation is correct. My read was that they just disagreed with the way they were introduced. Anyhow he’s gone from them.

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