Monthly Archives For February 2013

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Translation: Bifo: “The defeat of the anti-Europe begins in Italy”

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This is a rushed translation of an interview with Franco Berardi (Bifo), conducted by Amador Fernández-Savater for the Interferencias blog on eldiario.es, published 27thFebruary.

What is the context in which the Italian elections have taken place?

The political disintegration of Europe. Europe was born as a project of peace and social solidarity, taking up the legacy of the socialist and internationalist culture that opposed fascism. In the 90s, finance capital's major centres of power decided to destroy the European model and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty unleashed the neo-liberal assault. In the last three years, the anti-Europe of the ECB and Deutsche Bank seized the opportunity of the 2008 financial crisis in the US to transform the cultural diversity of the European continent (its Protestant culture, gothic and communitarian, its Catholic culture, baroque and individualist, its spiritualist and iconoclastic orthodoxy) into a factor of political disintegration of the European Union; and above all in order to make labour resistance bow completely before capitalist globalisation. The drastic cutting of wages, the elimination of the 8 hour limit to a working day, labour precarity among young people, the postponement of retirement for older people and the privatisation of services. The European population has to pay the debt accumulated by the financial system because debt functions as a gun pointed at the backs of workers.

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Clare Fracking Concerned: Talk by Jessica Ernst, Old Ground Hotel, Ennis, Mon 4th March @8pm

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World famous activist Jessica Ernst will be at the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis on Monday 4th March at 8pm where she will be giving her talk entitled Fracking Community.

Clare Fracking Concerned are delighted to have Jessica Ernst speaking in Ennis as they continue to raise awareness about the fracking issue in West Clare. Jessica will be making only 4 public appearances while in Ireland – Stormont in Belfast, Dublin, Leitrim and Ennis. The talk will focus on Jessica’s own personal experiences of fracking as she went public after her well water was contaminated in 2006 by nearby fracking which was caused by the gas company EnCana.

Jessica, from Alberta in Canada, is a scientist herself with 30 years oil and gas industry experience and she is currently suing the Alberta government, energy regulator (Energy Resources Conservation Board – ERCB) and EnCana for negligence and unlawful activities related to hydraulic fracturing. The technology has become the subject of serious government investigations throughout North America due to surface and groundwater contamination.

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FIRST COMMUNIQUÉ FROM ‘CAMP DIGNITY’ (#Acampadamérida)

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FIRST COMMUNIQUÉ FROM ‘CAMP DIGNITY’ (#Acampadamérida)

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Extremadura can bear no more. There are more than 160,000 people (more than 30% of the active population) who are unemployed, and 70,000 of them no longer have any form of income. Extremadura is currently the most impoverished area of Western Europe: more than 40% of Extremadurans live beneath or on the threshold of poverty. The brutal cutbacks imposed by the neoliberal executives in Brussels, Madrid and Mérida are destroying our region’s public systems of health and education. Men and women, young and old, workers and unemployed, are all suffering the neoliberal attack and debt blackmail in the form of unemployment, exploitation, misery, eviction, exclusion and criminalisation.

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We demand a basic income now. For months, thousands of people have mobilised throughout the whole of Extremadura seeking the implementation of a Basic Citizen Income, in successive street demonstrations and by signing up to the Popular Legislative Initiative. The Extremaduran Platform for a Basic Income and the dozens of social collectives that have supported its demands do not and will not accept the so-called ‘basic income’ -which is nothing but a very limited selective charity- proposed by the Extremaduran Government in response to the social mobilisation. We demand the implementation of a Basic Income that covers 100% of people in our region without an income, one that is high enough to guarantee the minimum of dignity that every human life deserves above and beyond the rules of the market: we are people, not commodities.

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Government resignation – and then what?

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Translation of an article by sociologist Jorge Moruno and philosopher Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop, published today in Público, analysing the present conjuncture in the Spanish state in light of major corruption scandals and the crumbling of the current regime’s legitimacy.

Government resignation – and then what?

The Bárcenas papers are not a simple case of political corruption in which a boss puts his hand in the till and all can be simplified by talking about rotten apples. Beyond the final denoument, what we are faced with is an entire process of putrefaction of the party system that arose from the 1978 assembly (cortes), in which the Partido Popular is the main -but not the only- political exponent of the Spanish real estate-financial bloc which has benefitted so much from these decades of bubble. Some of us have taken to referring to this ruling layer from the political-speculative tandem, which draws together the worst of our society, as a lumpen-oligarchy, thereby highlighting the nature of its policies and the way it puts them into practice.

This modus operandi functions by democratising the idea of the speculating property owner, turning every citizen into a potential entrepreneur with regard to his home or the one she aspires to obtain. The spreading of this idea and its practice brought about a situation in which, for a time, the possibility of social ascent was associated with the negotiating ability of the individual and not with the extension of collective rights and the development of a democratic culture that placed value on what is public. This operation of moving society to the right, based on the ideology of the property owner, always works as long as one can speculate a little bit more. Corruption, then, is not a mere consequence of casino-capitalism; it is also the necessary lubricant for putting it into practice. The common thread between regime politicans, speculators and builders is reflected perfectly in the Bárcenas papers, where many of the donors are now receiving contracts for Madrid hospitals up for privatisation. Corruption -of the systemic kind- is also seen in the way the vice-president of the CEOE (Spanish employers’ body) receives a discount in the cafeterias of public institutions such as universities and ministries, whilst at the very same time he rails against anything that sounds public, even when this sector is his biggest source of payment.

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Progressive Film Club: Urban Finance and Suburban Sustainability, Sat 23rd of Feb, The New Theatre, Temple Bar

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The following are the upcoming showings this saturday, but check out the full program for February, March and April here.

Saturday 23rd February: Urban Finance and Suburban Sustainability

The New Theatre • 43 East Essex St Temple Bar • Dublin 2

2pm: The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream (2004)
Since the Second World War, Americans have invested much of their new-found wealth in suburbia. It promised a sense of space, affordability, family life, and “upward mobility.”
As the suburban population exploded in these years, the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness: it became part of the American Dream. But as we entered the 21st century, serious questions began to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life.

  • Directed by Gregory Greene.

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LookLeft Forum: Realising a Left Alternative, Saturday 2nd of March, Teacher’s Club

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LookLeft Forum: Realising a Left Alternative

2pm, Saturday March 2nd at the Teacher’s Club

LookLeft Magazine are pleased to invite you to the launch of our new issue, featuring a discussion on the topic of Realising a Left Alternative: Complementary Visions of Social Change. This discussion will be lead by Erik Olin Wright, the distinguished American Marxist scholar and author of books such as Envisioning Real Utopias, Gender Equality, Class Counts.

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Conference – A Century of Workers in Struggle 1913-2013

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Conference – A Century of Workers in Struggle 1913-2013

2013 will see the centenary of perhaps the most significant event in Irish Industrial History, the 1913 Lockout. This anniversary offers an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the struggles of workers in the past, and on the challenges facing workers today, both in Ireland and abroad.

To that end, Sinn Fein have organised a major conference early this year in Dublin to consider all the key issues workers faced today and in the past.

The conference, entitled ‘A Century of Workers in Struggle 1913-2013’ is to take place on March the 2nd, 2013 in Liberty Hall in Dublin.

The Conference will hear from many of Ireland's key Trade Union leaders such as Jack O'Connor, Jimmy Kelly, Peter Bunting and John Douglas, journalists such as Eamon Dunphy, Frank Connolly and Gerry Flynn, workers from the Vita Cortex, Visteon, Lagan Brick and Waterford Crystal disputes, International Union Leaders, Siobhán O'Donoghue from the MRCI, writers such as Brian Hanley and Conor McCabe, Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald, and more.

The full line-up and brochure for the event is provided below.

This is a public event, and trade unionists, political activists, and member of the public are all very welcome to attend.

The details of the event are also available on Facebook.

Please also note that stalls from Trade Unions, NGOs, Historical Societies and other bodies are welcome, so please feel free to contact us if you are interested.

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The Immiserizing Growth Principle

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John Weeks posted a good article yesterday on Social Europe Journal, which challenges the idea, repeated by an SPD candidate for the German Chancellorship that Ireland is the ‘star pupil’ of the Eurozone. Weeks challenges what he refers to as the ideology of mercantilism and “immiserizing growth” which lays the emphasis on increasing exports while also increasing poverty.

In effect, these externally-imposed, government-generated surpluses take goods and services from residents and transfer them to foreign governments, banks and corporations. This type of trade surplus falls into the category of what Jagdish Bhagwati, the famous Indian economist (now at Columbia University), termed “immiserizing growth”, economic growth that generates poverty not improvement for a population. To put it simply, the country exports and the population grows poorer.

Today, data illustrating the effects of this policy has been published by the CSO.

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Response to the Minister

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UNITE’s Croke Park Report Walter Cullen, UNITE’s Regional Co-ordinating Officer, responds to comments made by Minister Brendan Howlin on RTE’s The Week in Politics: ‘The Minister claims there is a hole in public finances which…

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A Rotten Deal

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The Anglo: Not Our Debt campaign regards the promissory note deal announced last week as a rotten one, and we do so for three main reasons.

First, this was not our debt in the first place. Anglo Irish Bank (some of whose executives are under criminal investigation) and Irish Nationwide Building Society ran up these debts on the basis of loans made to them by speculative investors looking to make a fast buck. Those investors gambled and they should have lost, rather than have the state guarantee their gambles and force people living in Ireland to repay debts that they had no part in creating and from which they derived no benefit. The deal legitimises an illegitimate debt.

Second, the stretching out of the repayment period (which may or may not reduce the real value of the debt – government projections on ‘savings’ are already being contested) places the burden of this debt on future generations: our children and grandchildren will pick up the tab for the gambling debts of the bondholders. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan uses the analogy of a long-term mortgage, the cost of which will be eroded by inflation, but in reality we are paying a massive mortgage for someone else’s house and will have nothing to show for it in 40 years’ time save for the scars left by successive cuts. Meanwhile, billions of euros will be continue to be taken from public spending annually to cover the interest repayments on the sovereign bonds that have replaced the promissory notes. Children will pay now through cuts to their education, community and other public services, as well as the bombshell payments of principal they will face in 25-40 years’ time. How can this be considered just or ethical?

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February Issue of Socialist Voice is Out Now

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February issue of Socialist Voice is out now.

It can also be view here to download, here to read online or below in the embedded widget.

Below is a list of contents.

  1. We must build on Connolly’s legacy
  2. CPI calls for support for the ICTU demonstration
  3. The ICTU’s “better, fairer debt” strategy [EMC]
  4. 2013: the continuing of the great scattering [EMC]
  5. James Stewart (1933–2013)
  6. “Social Europe” for the EU’S privileged [COM]
  7. The truth behind the myth of “social Europe”
  8. Rarefied Davos air fosters elite illusions [COM]
  9. More on monopolies globally [NL]
  10. Poverty and wealth in France
  11. Democracy and the crisis—Part 1 [FC]
  12. Is Ireland a tax haven? [EON]
  13. Another imperialist intervention in Africa [TMS]
  14. Slanted media attack Caribbean socialism [TMS]
  15. Red westerns [AF]

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A Tale of Two Anglo Borrowers and What it Tells Us About the Future

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“AN official of the former Anglo Irish Bank must swear a “yes or no answer” as to whether the bank was solvent in 2009 when it allegedly gave €88m in loans to a developer, a judge said today.

A solicitor for developer Kevin McNulty had sought court orders requiring that all documents be disclosed, or “discovered”, relating to Anglo's solvency after September 2008 as part of his client's defence to proceedings brought against him by a NAMA company which took over the Anglo loans.

One of the “fundamental defences” being advanced by Mr McNulty and his companies was that Anglo, which was nationalised in January 2009, was insolvent when it purported to make the alleged loans, solicitor John Larney said in an affidavit to the Commercial Court.

While there was “a wealth of evidence in the public arena” suggesting the bank was insolvent since 2008, such material woud not constitute the proof required by a court and that was why discovery was being sought, Mr Larney said.”

Meanwhile….

“Denis O'Brien, the telecoms entrepreneur, is listed as owing Anglo Irish Bank €833.8m on foot of personal and corporate loans just after the bank was nationalised in 2009, making him its then sixth largest borrower.

Denis O'Brien is the largest single shareholder in Independent News & Media, the publisher of the Sunday Independent. He has lost an estimated €500m on his 21.6 per cent stake in the media group.”

That €500m loss is the amount O’Brien borrowed from Anglo for the shares – is he going to pay back a loan for an asset he no longer has? If and when the loans are transferred to NAMA, there is a strong possibility that they will be rendered null and void. Of course, before that there is a chance that the loan will be sold on, probably at a very significant discount. Loans transferred to NAMA from AIB and Anglo had up to a 70% haircut. But with a 'quick sale' on the back of this rushed liquidation if someone is willing to offer to buy them at a 90% discount then the liquidator would sell them. All that someone in Denis O'Brien’s position has to do is ask someone else to offer to buy the loan for him. The Anglo loans that Denis O'Brien has includes the one that funded the €45m acquisition of Siteserv, the infrastructure and utilities support services business. As the Indo article reports:

“This purchase was controversial as the taxpayer took a €105m hit.”

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