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After the Gaza Massacre and After the Marches, What Do We Do?

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The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel looks like holding up. It is a cause for celebration that the mass killing has stopped; the destruction of entire neighbourhoods is over for the moment in Gaza. It is hard to celebrate though when the siege still goes on, the occupation of Palestine with all its associated violence continues apace, and those who perpetrated the Gaza massacre have not been brought to justice. In the current bleak post-massacre crisis which Gaza faces, the work of solidarity organisations are needed now more than ever. The question is what form this solidarity will take.

On Saturday August 9th, between eight and ten thousand of us marched the all too familiar two miles to the Israeli embassy. It was the largest demonstration of Palestine solidarity on this island – a truly national demo with banners, placards and people from all the 32 counties, it was a joy to know so many other people cared and to be marching alongside these people. And now we know this, that so many people in this country are willing to make the effort and stand and march in solidarity with Palestine, what do we do next?

The simple answer I want to give is that we don’t go back to the embassy, instead we engage in boycott actions around the country, bringing the energy from the demonstrations back home and making it meaningful.

Why not march again? Marches mobilise us and they energise us – but if all they mobilise us to do is simply to mobilise yet again, then we are making the march about ourselves and how good we feel chanting pro-Palestine slogans and being in solidarity with each other. That’s not good enough.

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Two London Exhibitions: Two Ways of Seeing

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Two Ways of Seeing: Review of Exhibitions by Kazimir Malevich and Dennis Hopper

Tate Modern is currently home (until 26 October) to a major Malevich retrospective, the likes of which has not been seen in Britain before, while at the Royal Academy there is an exhibition of over 400 photographs taken by Dennis Hopper and on show in Britain for the first time. Malevich and Hopper are both regarded as radical figures who challenged convention but their differences outweigh any perceived similarities. This is not down to painting and photography being different art forms but to the uncrossable gulf between someone who revolutionised the nature of art and someone who happened to be around at a time of social change and captured aspects of it with a camera.

Malevich experienced the October Revolution and then enacted it artistically, dramatically tearing down the old canvas and inaugurating a new way of representing reality. But like most such sweeping summaries, it occludes the history that leads up to a significant moment, washing it over with a rhetorical flourish that rinses out a meaningful understanding. What distinguishes the Tate retrospective is its resolve to show Malevich developing as an artist in a particular place, Russia, and at particular times, from pre-revolutionary tsarism through to Stalinism.

Born in 1879 into a Polish family in Kiev, Malevich travelled to Moscow as a young man, discovered impressionism, saw the work of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse and began to develop his own style of painting while still feeling he had to speak the language of the western avant-garde. This shows in his Self-Portrait of 1908-10 which takes from Gauguin a compositional ploy which positions the image in front of a painting – a just discernible scene of bathers in this case – while presenting himself as dapper and urbane. Room Two of the exhibition shows him as an artist drawn to Russian themes and styles, painting rural workers using simple forms and expressive colours to portray their hard-working, honest lifestyles.  The Scyther of 1911-12 reveals the influence of modernism without sacrificing allegiance to a Russian cultural identity. The figure is barefoot, as poor peasants would have been, set against a warm red background signifying the rye harvest;  the farmer’s form and mass is far from traditional representational art but the word for the colour red in the Russian language also denotes something beautiful (hence, Red Square) and this is also part of the painting’s iconography.

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Dismal Job Numbers Expose Government Spin

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Question: why has employment growth collapsed in the first half of the year after recent claims by the Government that 60,000 jobs per year were being created?

The answer lies in statistical misunderstanding, Government spin and the failure of many commentators to read the numbers correctly. For the fact is that the 60,000 job-creation number was never real and the recovery in the labour market is sluggish at best. This post may get a bit involved but stay with me – for this is as much a story about how the recovery is being contrived as it is about bald numbers.

Last year, employment growth suddenly took off. In 2012 employment actually fell by 11,000 – and this was after a loss of nearly 300,000 since the start of the crisis. However, in 2013 everything changed. Employment grew on a full-year basis by 43,000 (this is consistent with claims by the Government who were using quarter-to-quarter figures).

This was quite a turnaround. The Government claimed their policies were working. For many commentators this was proof that recovery had returned. But there were a couple of problems.

  • First, this employment growth took place while the economy remained in a domestic demand recession. Given that employment is sensitive to domestic demand, this didn’t make sense.
  • Second, the usual pattern of an economy coming out of a recession is that employment growth lags. This is because if there increases in business output, the first beneficiaries are those already in employment; they get an increase in hours which had previously been cut.
  • Third, the actual job numbers were throwing up some strange happenings. Self-employment (own-account workers) grew by over 10 percent and made up over half of the total employment growth. At one stage, self-employment was growing by nearly four times the rate of growth during the boom. This didn’t make sense – not with domestic demand stagnation. Agriculture employment showed a similar pattern.

These concerns were dismissed. Government policies were working and critics were just nit-picking. However, the CSO published warnings throughout all last year – warning people against interpreting growth trends. Why? Because they were re-aligning their sample base with the recent Census (don’t forget, the Quarterly National Household Survey is not a comprehensive head-count, just a sample; like a poll). This happens after every Census.

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Deng XiaT

Deng Xiaoping – The World’s Greatest Economist

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This article was originally posted on John’s blog, Key Trends in Globalisation on the 23rd of August.
August 22, 2014 is the 110th anniversary of the birth of Deng Xiaoping. Numerous achievements would ensure Deng Xiaoping a major position in China’s history – his role in shaping the People’s Republic of China, his steadfastness during persecution in the Cultural Revolution, his extraordinarily balanced attitude even after return to power towards the development and recent history of China, his all-round role after 1978 in leading the country. But one ensures him a position among a tiny handful of people at the peak not only of Chinese but of world history. This was China’s extraordinary economic achievement after reforms began in 1978, and the decisive role this played not only in the improvement of the living standards of Chinese people but the country’s national rejuvenation. So great was the impact of this that it may objectively be said to have altered the situation not only of China but of the world.

China’s economic performance after the beginning of its 1978 reforms simply exceeded the experience of any other country in human history. To give only a partial list:

  • China achieved the most rapid growth in a major economy in world history.
  • China experienced the fastest growth of living standards of any major economy.
  • China lifted 620 million people out of internationally defined poverty.
  • Measured in internationally comparable prices, adjusted for inflation, the greatest increase in economic output in a single year in any country outside China was the U.S. in 1999, when it added US$567 billion, whereas in 2010 China added US$1,126 billion – twice as much.
  • During the beginning of China’s rapid growth, 22 percent of the world’s population was within its borders – seven times that of United States at the beginning of its own fast economic development.

Wholly implausibly, it is sometimes argued that this success was merely due to “pragmatism” and achieved without overall economic theories, concepts, or a leadership really understanding the subject (particularly with no knowledge of U.S. academic economics!). If true, then the study of economics should immediately be abandoned – if the greatest economic success in world history can be achieved without any understanding of the subject, then it is evidently of no practical value whatever.

In reality this argument is entirely specious. Deng Xiaoping’s approach to economic policy was certainly highly practical regarding application – the famous “it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white provided it catches mice.” But it was extremely theoretical regarding foundations – as shown clearly in such works as In Everything We Do We Must Proceed from the Realities of the Primary Stage of Socialism, We Are Undertaking An Entirely New Endeavour, and Adhere to the Principle to Each According to his Work. Deng Xiaoping’s outstanding practical success was guided by a clearly defined theoretical underpinning, which can be understood particularly clearly in its historical context and in comparison with Western and other economists.

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Perverse Economics and Water Charges

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If you’re into perverse economics, then you’re going to love the debate in the run-up to the budget. Already we have Minister Simon Harris calling for income tax cuts (didn’t the Taoiseach tell Ministers last year to shut-up during pre-budget discussions?). Of course, there is almost no discussion regarding affordable childcare, reducing education costs or introducing universal pre-primary education, providing affordable pay-related pensions to all workers, reducing health costs, reversing the high levels of deprivation and poverty, etc. Almost no discussion at all about how we can improve our living standards.

But of real interest to fans of the perverse is that while Ministers and interest groups line up to demand tax cuts, the Government will be introducing an extremely regressive ‘tax’ on almost all households – and there is no discussion about how this can be avoided. I am referring to the water charge.

While there has been considerable discussion about the costs to the average household (measuring showers, baths, brushing teeth), there has been little reference to the distributional impact of the charges; that is, the impact on different income groups. Let’s see if we can start to fill this gap.

Of course, we don’t have a history of water charges to measure so let’s look at waste collection charges. User charges, like sales taxes (VAT, excise) are generally regressive – they impact more on low/average groups. This is in the nature of the tax as lower income groups consume, whether goods or water or waste, more of their income than high income groups. The CSO Household Budget Survey provides information on waste collection charges from 2009/10.

waste

There are two things worth noting about the above chart.

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repeal8t

Women, This State Hates Us.

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&white&
or cead mile failte, are you here for the torture?
&white&
In case you had managed to misremember
how much our country hates us
along comes another woman needing shelter;
because someone transgressed against her
she needs help from us, just for the moment
until all this is behind her,
and do we make her welcome?
Does she get the help she needs? Ah
you know the answer: does she hell-
this country hates the likes of her
this country rapes the likes of her,
we will leave her with her bodily integrity in tatters
while psychiatrists fight it out about her psyche
and noone will ask her opinion
on what’s to be done with her
she is not considered sentient
and our state penetrates her
over and over and over-
&white&
this woman will be incorporated as evidence
in a poisonous debate that skims over how
very many ways the state we’ve built
is willing to degrade us, she will get a code name
and become a touchstone, something (not someone)
that we can talk about in concerned tones
on Marion Finucane and we will shake our heads
and say it’s clear now that our state hates us
as if we hadn’t always known it
as if we haven’t always felt it
as if it hasn’t been the subtext of our paths
through life to womanhood-
&white&
men friends it’s clear now too,
that if you are so inclined you could rape us,
and in all but a few cases you’d serve no sentence
not only that lads but here in our little Ireland
you could impregnate us, force a conception
that we played no part in, then you could
sit back and wait for our institutions
to force motherhood upon us
and they’ll do it- they’ve proved it
even if they have to perforate our mouths with tubes
and force feed us, even if they have to sedate us
then slice our wombs open with surgical knives,
they can and obviously will do it
and deep down we always knew this:
we knew Savita Halappanavar
we knew the Kerry Babies
we knew of lonely deaths on wet nights in Granard
and the A,B, C, and X cases
&white&
and the fortunate amongst us,
the ones with resources know what ferry terminals
look like at night time and how much it costs
to raise a child in all sorts of currencies,
we know whether we are or are not up for it
there should be no shame in that but here, well,
we must keep it secret because of how much
our state hates us, when we make love
we take the risk of ending up in hospital
in a country where if you’re a pregnant woman
‘state care’ is an oxymoron, it’s a shame to say
that as long as we have the capacity
to bear children, Ireland is not a safe place for us;
women, rise up, this country hates us
it’s long past time we changed it
enough is way too much this time.
&white&
&white&
Referendum now – repeal the 8th Amendment.

Sarah Clancy

Image from a video of a protest which took place on Wednesday the 20th of August at the Spire in O’Connell St, Dublin. Courtesy of USI and Paula Geraghty.

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Obstruct Reality, Consciously Manipulate, and Deny the Denial: Propaganda, Irish Style

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The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

Ask the vast majority of people who said that and it is a fair bet they will probably reply something like: Josef Goebbels, or maybe Stalin perhaps, Saddam Hussein might even come up, maybe even Henry Kissinger, or maybe even, in a lucid moment, they might reply Rupert Murdoch, or for that matter Denis O Brien.  The truth is they would be wrong on all accounts. Although they would at least be relatively close with the last two or three.

But no, none of them said it, but it is a sure bet that all of the above names would understand the sentiment.

The quote is the first sentence from a 1928 book called Propaganda. The writer was Edward Bernays who many regard as the founder of modern public relations.  As a bold and declarative sentence it leaves you in no doubt what so ever as to the logic underlying the words.

That is, the masses can be first organised and manipulated and secondly, even more important, they must be if “democracy” as it is largely understood today is to fulfil its function in maintaining market-driven politics. The logic therefore is that “the people”, the great mainstay of democratic theory and thought or so we are told, cannot and should not be trusted.

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Left Forum: The Marxist Seminars Are Back!

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The Marxist Seminars are back!

After our initial 6 seminars based on theoretical topics, we thought we’d run the next 6 on ‘Marxism in Practice’.

We will be beginning on Saturday 9th August, 6pm, Chaplin’s Bar, Hawkins’ Street, D2. Each seminar will be at the same time and venue fortnightly thereafter.

Miles Link will be introducing the first seminar and will be put the case forward for the Frankfurt School of ideas. Western Marxism: Problems of mass culture. A lively debate will surely follow as always.

The full programme is the following:

  1. Western Marxism: Problems of mass culture – Miles Link
  2. Comparing popular resistance to neoliberalism in Latin America the in 80s and 90s to the situation in Ireland in the current context of crisis – Prof Barry Cannon NUI Maynooth
  3. Marxist Analysis of the Trade Union movement – Andrew Phelan
  4. Fundamentals of communist production and distribution – Gavin Mendel-Gleason
  5. Personality & History – Helena Sheehan
  6. Marxism & Feminism – Sinead Kennedy

Hope to see you all over the coming months!

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svmay

August Socialist Voice is Now Available Online

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Contents:

1. Israel: outpost of imperialism

The self-proclaimed “international community” is much preoccupied lately with international law and human rights, and is busy devising and implementing economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, and Syria, among others, allegedly for their real or supposed transgressions.

2. Demand grows for a living wage

The economic crisis that went global after Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008 is not over, but the free-market system appears, for the time being at least, to have stabilised. Output is increasing while unemployment is falling in Britain, the United States, and even Spain.

3. They simply don’t care
Western governments and media are using the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH170, with 295 people on board, as a further pretext for pushing for wider sanctions against Russia, which may push the world closer to a war on the European continent.

4. Time for women to get back to activism

Speaking at a seminar of communist and workers’ parties on the role of communists in the struggle for the parity and emancipation of women in Brussels in March 2010, Lynda Walker, national chairperson of the Communist Party of Ireland, said: “In the struggle for parity, for women’s emancipation and for socialism we understand the reactionary role that the European Union is playing and the role of British imperialism.

5. An independent political programme for the trade union movement and for workers

A declaration by the Trade Union Left Forum: Where is the ambition? Jack O’Connor has said on a number of occasions that the “left” lacks ambition and courage. This is certainly true of the official trade union movement. It lacks ambition, courage, and vision.

6. Shared slaughter in an ignoble cause
We are surrounded on all sides by a cacophony of noise about events, media features and academic feastings to celebrate the beginning of the war of 1914–18. “Co-ordinated” is the adjective that occurs to sceptical minds.

7. The First World War and a century of slaughter

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland The 31st of July is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, which resulted in the slaughter of more than nine million people, with millions more wounded and left physically and emotionally traumatised. It was the first “industrial” war, fought on a scale unprecedented in history.

8. A song for Palestine

The Lives of Strangers Eoghan O’Neill

9. Venezuela has more democracy than the United States

Venezuela is one of the countries that most appreciate their democracy. This is the conclusion of the Chilean NGO “Latinobarómetro” following its study of democratic evaluation in the Latin America populations.

10. Spain’s grass-roots revolution Protest goes political!

The huge anti-austerity demonstration by “indignados” (the indignant) in Madrid on 15 May 2011 generated mass protests in all the main Spanish cities, involving millions of workers.

11. The law of unintended consequences

In bourgeois economics, numerous rules and laws have developed to obscure the class nature of society and the existence of the class struggle. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is also the law of unintended consequences.

12. Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Summer School

The Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society has announced its second Summer School, following last year’s hugely successful inauguration. It will be held once again in Inis Mór (Árainn), the birthplace of these two great writers, on the last weekend in August, Saturday and Sunday the 30th and 31st.

13. Return of the Brute

This is perhaps a good time to look at the first Irish anti-war novel, Liam O’Flaherty’s Return of the Brute. When the First World War ended, in 1918, it seemed unimaginable that there could ever be such slaughter again. The arts in particular reflected the sense of exploded bodies and the insanity, a world that had spiralled out of control.

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Island of Saints and Sadists: Ireland 2014

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People often ask me why I write such dark books.

You’re such a sunny person, they say.

I say: Look around you, what kind of a country do you think you’re living in?

Here is a tale of the island of Saints and Sadists.

A young woman came to our country for help, for a home, for safety.

We call her an immigrant and it has become a bad word in the way that the simple trade of tinker became a bad word when I was a boy. And sometimes we call them refugees, which is even a worse word. Or fugees. At least we’re not racist about it. It applies to anyone in distress who asks us to take them in.

And she had been raped in her own country and she found she was pregnant when she came into the care of our state and we carried out the usual compulsory medical examination.

And nobody told her you couldn’t have an abortion in Ireland.

And nobody told her that our state has fought long and hard to force women to keep babies until they are born and then our state has fought long and hard to take their babies away from them and give them to decent people who deserve them or to the nuns.

Because our state cares for women. In the way that any decent man cares for his woman. And there are 221 men in our parliament and only 25 women. So that’s a lot of caring.

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast #052: What’s Next?

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This week I am delighted to welcome Professor Peter Hudis, of Oakton Community College, who has recently published his new book: ‘Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism‘.

We discuss what Marx had to say about post-capitalist societies, and the reluctance of those on the left to talk about what it might actually look like.

We also talk of the theoretical reasons for the failure of the Soviet and Maoist projects, how abstract labour dominates our lives, and how not even the capitalists are in control of the current system.

You can find the Professors book here:http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Marxs-Concept-of-the-Alternative-to-Capitalism

Enjoy!

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March & Rally for Palestine: Slaughter in Gaza – Israel must be sanctioned!

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[Dublin] March & Rally: Slaughter in Gaza – Israel must be sanctioned!

Sat, 2 August 2014, 14:00 Assemble GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE, Parnell Square, Dublin 1

This Saturday 2nd August in Dublin there will be another march in solidarity with the people of Palestine, especially those trapped in Gaza who are being killed in their hundreds, maimed in their thousands and terrorised in their entirety by the Israeli war machine.

Assemble 2pm at The GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE, Parnell Square, Dublin 1. March to Department of Foreign Affairs, St. Stephen’s Green.

JOIN THIS EVENT ON FACEBOOK

Please bring friends, flags, banners, noise. We would ask that you do not bring party-political flags (Irish, Palestinian or others). We are also asking people to bring flowers to leave at the Department.

This week we are bringing the march to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Clearly, the Irish government is out of step with the views of the people of Ireland on this issue. For almost a month thousands upon thousands of people have protested all over Ireland, both in solidarity with the people in Gaza and demanding Irish action. Sadly, the government has not listened, and has taken no action to sanction Israel. We must tell them that €500,000 aid is welcome, but it is time to take concrete political action to sanction Israel for its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.

This slaughter must end immediately, and Israel must be held accountable for its criminal actions against the Palestinian people. Israeli impunity must end.

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be asking the Irish government to play their part in imposing sanctions on Israel by calling for an international arms embargo on Israel and calling for Israel to be suspended from the Euro-Med Agreement which grants its trading privileges with the EU, amongst other things.

The Israeli state has launched a fresh assault on the Palestinian people, a collective punishment of a captive population. Israeli officials are now talking about “expanding and intensifying” the assault on Gaza which has already killed some 1200 people, the vast majority of them civilians including over 200 children. Over 7,000 people, mostly civilians, have been wounded, including almost 1,500 children and 1,000 women. 500 houses have been targeted and destroyed and 1000s of others extensively damaged, while at least 215,000 civilians have been forcibly displaced. Attacks have also been taking place in the West Bank for the two months month, where at least 20 people have been killed.

Join us this Saturday to make your voices heard, and tell the government that it’s time to sanction Israel.

Organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Supporting Organsiations: Irish Congress of Trade Unions, SIPTU, Trade Union Friends of Palestine, Gaza Action Ireland, TEEU (The Power Union), Academics for Palestine, Irish Anti-War Movement, Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance, Peace and Neutrality Alliance

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The most important book on economic growth to have appeared for many years

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This article was originally posted on John’s blog Key Trends in Globalisation on the 28th of July.

Vu Minh Khuong’s The Dynamics of Economic Growth is the most importantbook on world economic growth to have appeared for many years. It is for that reason (full disclosure) that I did a small amount of work assisting on editing it.

The crucial importance of the book is rightly summed up by Professor Dale Jorgenson, of Harvard University, in his forward: “The emergence of Asia… is the great economic achievement of our time. This has created a new model for economic growth built on globalization and the patient accumulation of human and non-human capital.’ However the book’s economic importance goes far beyond Asia – although it is by far the most important comparative study published anywhere of how East Asian countries became prosperous. The aim of this review is therefore to explain why the book is so important from the point of view both of general economic theory and policy making.

There are two different strategies for economic growth, related to two different theoretical analyses of its causes, which have been pursued in the world in the last six decades.

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