Monthly Archives For April 2013

Margaret Thatcher’s Death is No Loss to the Greater Part of Humanity

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Margaret Thatcher has left a deep legacy not only for the people of the neighbouring island but also for the Irish people and for the oppressed and suffering peoples of the world.

Thatcher epitomised the arrogance of the long imperialist traditions of the British ruling class. Her policy in regard to the H-block hunger strikes exposed her deep contempt and hatred for those who opposed British imperialist interests. Under her rule the British army gained greater freedom to develop and perpetrate its dirty war in the North of Ireland, when selective assassinations and the management of loyalist paramilitaries became more central to the British war machine.

Thatcher was one in a long line of British rulers who had a deep hatred of working people, such as her great hero, Churchill, another person who carried as a badge of honour his hatred of Ireland and the Irish people’s struggle for independence as well as for the British working class. Thatcher saw workers as mere cannon-fodder in imperialist wars, whether in Ireland or the Malvinas, or simply strategic pawns in her anti-communist crusades, as with “Solidarity” in Poland.

Her name has become a byword for aggression, selfishness, and rampant individualism. She has left a legacy of destroyed lives, shattered communities, rampant militarism and chauvinism and the destruction of what was left of British manufacturing and raised the adoration of the “market” beyond all previous levels.

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April Edition of the Socialist Voice is Out Now

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April addition of Socialist Voice is now out. It can be viewed online here

  1. Time for a radical departure [EMC]
  2. Cypriots paying the price [EMC]
  3. Growing threat of NATO membership
  4. The state of bourgeois political economy [NL]
  5. William Thompson: political economy and co-operative communism [NL]
  6. The new pope [MA]
  7. The question remains: when are we going to talk about class? [PD]
  8. Can we learn from Cuba? (or where to go from here?) [TMS]
  9. Financialisation, the euro, and the crisis [NC]
  10. A modest exposure
  11. The family, private property, and the state [SOD]

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Ireland is Hardwired into the Tax Evasion Network

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As reported today, “[Eamon Gilmore] did not believe that multinationals having headquarter operations in Ireland that used offshore locations as part of their tax avoidance strategies, put the country in a difficult position when it came to the subject of tax havens”.

The Tax Justice Network has made a point in recent years of replacing the term ‘offshore’ and tax haven with ‘secrecy jurisdictions’. This is their reason for creating the Financial Secrecy Index which lists Ireland at 31.

“The Tax Justice Network has estimated, conservatively, that about $250 billion is lost in taxes each year by governments worldwide, solely as a result of wealthy individuals holding their assets offshore. The revenue losses from corporate tax avoidance are greater. It’s not just developing countries that suffer: European countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal have been brought to their knees by decades of secrecy and tax evasion.

These staggering sums are encouraged and enabled by a common element: secrecy. Secrecy jurisdictions, a term we often prefer instead of the more widely used term tax havens, compete to attract illicit financial flows of all kinds, with secrecy as one of the most important lures. A global industry has developed where banks, law practices and accounting firms provide secretive offshore structures to their tax dodging clients. Secrecy is a central feature of global financial markets – but international financial institutions, economists and many others don’t confront it seriously”.

Irish politicians don’t take it seriously either, for the obvious reason that it remains good business for the Irish executives who operate the subsidiaries of foreign banks here, and who work in the law practices and accounting firms that advise large multinational firms on the international tax strategy. For a relatively small economy Ireland has a disproportionately large number of experts on international taxation.

So it’s unlikely, when talking about the need to attract foreign direct investment, or saying that that the Irish economy has to become more competitive to boost the export sector as a means of reducing the deficit that Eamon Gilmore or Enda Kenny would say that as a means of doing that we have to build on our excellent relationship with our largest trading partner: Bermuda, the off-shore the tax haven.

Taken from Mary Everett, The statistical implications of multinational companies’ Corporate Structures, Quarterly Bulletin, Central Bank of Ireland, April 2012

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Padriac White and the Establishment of the IFSC

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The following extract is taken from The Making of the Celtic Tiger: The Inside Story of Ireland’s Boom Economy. Dublin. Mercier Press. (2000). It is Padraic White’s own account of the development of the Irish Financial Services Centre.

In the middle of 1973, the IDA launched international services as its latest product. At the time, this category included both technical consultancy services and computer services. However, within the IDA’s own research unit, work continued to identify and analyse other service products, including those n the financial-services area. One of the economists engaged in this task was Ken O’Brien, who later, as founder of Finance magazine, would provide specialist coverage of the Dublin financial centre. Our New York office befriended a Wall Street lawyer, Bob Slater, who was familiar with the then-exotic world of offshore banking – the reasons why banks set up in specialist offshore centres, the kind of financial activities undertaken there and the nature and number of jobs created in this developing sector.

As manager of the planning unit, I agreed to take on Bob Slater, both as a financial consultant on financial services to IDA and to produce a study of offshore banking systems. His report examined the success of Bermuda in creating jobs in financial services, and he was satisfied that Ireland could emulate its achievement. And so in 1978 – innocently, in hindsight – we set out to promote international financial services to the world, and did so on a pilot basis to test-market the reaction. The IDA executives embarked on their selling mission, armed with the expert conclusions of the Wall Street expert.

During the year the IDA team soon landed some big fish in the form of two US banks that had developed specific job-creating proposals. However, the agreement of the Central Bank was first needed. Michael Killeen* considered the proposals sufficiently important for himself to go with Jerry Kelly, who was negotiating the projects, and myself to make the case for Central Bank authorisation. The reaction was not encouraging and we left the Dame Street offices feeling rather dejected. We could not give the required assurances or promises of authorisations to our foreign bank clients. The projects died and we ceased to do any more financial-services promotion. Subsequently, it emerged the bank no stomach for the projects and would not approve them. However, the IDA could never get a clear reason for this. The most authoritative word which came back indirectly was that the Central Bank believed the offshore financial projects ‘smacked of a banana republic.’ (pp.323-4.)

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What is the Government Thinking? Is it Thinking?

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This post was originally published Unite the Union’s Croke Park Report blog today.

It is difficult at times to understand what the Government is at. The weekend papers were full of analysis showing why growth was essential, if only to avoid another banking crisis (the IMF has warned of a €16 billion black hole if growth does not return to the economy). And yet Minister Brendan Howlin is threatening a 7 percent across the board-cuts in public sector wages if workers don’t vote for the current pay-cut proposals. There is nothing more certain to ensure we don’t return to growth than to cut wages.

We’re back in recession, according to the CSO (though you wouldn’t know this from reading media commentary which claims growth is on target). This occurred in the latter half of last year – the latest period we have data for. So what’s been happening so far this year? Are there signs of recovery on the horizon?

  • Retail Sales Index has fallen in the first two months of this year.
  • Industrial production is down (though there was a marginal increase in February).
  • Property prices are back in decline – having fallen in each of the last three months.
  • Manufacturing exports (which makes up most of our exports) fell in January by an annual 17 percent in value.
  • New vehicles licensed are down in the first two months by 14 percent over the first two months last year.
  • The Monthly Services Index fell in both January and February of this year.

The Live Register has fallen by 3,000 in the first three months of this year but how much of this is due to people moving into labour activation schemes, returning to education or just emigrating we don’t know.

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“It does matter to us.” – Hugo Chávez responds to Rory Carroll

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What follows further down is a transcript of an exchange between Guardian reporter Rory Carroll and the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, from Chávez’s TV programme Aló Presidente, broadcast 26th August 2007.

I was prompted to look up the transcript when it was referred to by Carroll himself, who has a new book out titled Comandante: Inside The Revolutionary Court of Hugo Chávez, in an interview on Today with Pat Kenny on Friday March 1st 2013. First of all, here is the excerpt from the Pat Kenny show.

Transcript: Excerpt from Today with Pat Kenny on Friday March 1st 2013

PAT KENNY: Now, the kind of weapons that he did use, besides the occasional imprisonment of somebody – humiliation. Heaping humiliation upon people’s heads. I mean, denouncing them on television. And I suggested to you when you came in, like what would it be like if you had Enda Kenny or Bertie Ahern on television for three hours, just mouthing away, commandeering the airwaves, and you said, what are you talking about, three hours? Nine hours. Non-stop.

RORY CARROLL: Yes, yeah. And em, well, speaking of humiliation, my own, I can give you a personal anecdote about that. I was on his TV show, he has a weekly TV show called Aló Presidente, Hello President, and I think I was on episode no. 294. I went in as a journalist, I had lobbied them to let me attend, and he invited me to ask a question. And I did, I asked him about the centralisation of power and risk of creeping authoritarianism, and boy did he let me have it. He proceeded to denounce me and it seemed eternal to me, this was all on live television.

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Occupation at Bawnogue Unemployed Group’s Jobs Club against threatened lay-off 4th April

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Martin Walsh who has been an activist on the political scene and is a delegate to the Dublin Council of Trade Unions has been working for ten years for the Bawnogue Unemployed Group, managing their jobs Club which assists unemployed people to help find work. He has been threatened with lay off with NO redundancy. Management are not engaging with his union Unite.

As a result he is occupying his workplace in Banowgue on his own. He explains why in this short video.

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Progressive Film Club: Venezuelan Stories: In honour of Hugo Chávez, Sat, 13th April @2.30, New Theatre, Temple Bar

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Progressive Film Club at the New Theatre · 43 East Essex Street · Dublin 2

Presents

Venezuelan Stories: In honour of Hugo Chávez

Saturday 13th of April

2:30 p.m.

Admission free. (Donations welcome.)

Tocar y Luchar [To Play and to Struggle] (2006)

The captivating story of the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra System—an incredible network of hundreds of orchestras formed in most of Venezuela’s towns and villages. Designed to bring the wonders of music to rural children, the system has become one of the most important, and most beautiful, social phenomena in modern history. To Play and to Struggle is an inspirational story of courage, determination, ambition, and love—a fitting tribute to the memory of Hugo Chávez.

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The War on Wages Spreads to Social Protection Payments

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This post originally appeared on Unite the Union’s Croke Park Report blog today. It is a follow-up to the previous post War on Wages.

Francis Byrne of OPEN made an excellent point in a tweet regarding the previous post on the war on wages:

‘Which will also of course inevitably provide a rationale for reducing weekly SW (social welfare) payments.’

This is a crucial point. Cutting wages hits social protection recipients – unemployed, old age, single parents, the invalid and sick – in two ways.

First, there is a reduction in tax revenue. In the private sector when pay is cut by €100, the state loses nearly €42 ((nearly €63 if the employee is in top tax rate). In the public sector the loss to the state is even higher given the pension levy and pension contributions. This leaves the Government with less revenue and, so, puts pressure on spending.

Second, wage cuts can drive down workers income towards social protection levels. Using the ‘incentive-to-work‘ argument, some will argue that social protection must be cut so that work ‘pays’.

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The War on Wages

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Originally posted on Unite the Union’s Croke Park Report blog on the 2nd of April.

It is now clear that a systematic attack on wages is currently underway. This attack stretches across the private and public sectors, aimed at both low and higher income groups. It is nothing less than an attempt to re-order the economy into a low-wage, high profit economy – with the Government playing a leading role.

Croke Park 2 is a crucial part of this wage-cutting strategy. With the economy having returned to recession – and with key indicators (retail sales, industrial production, merchandise trade surplus) indicating that the decline has continued into the early part of this year – cutting wages makes no sense except as part of a long-term strategy to depress wages.

But it is not just the public sector. The Minister for Finance recently called for wages in the covered banking sector (AIB, Permanent TSB, Bank of Ireland) to be cut despite the fact that 40 percent of employees earn an average of €30,000 per year or less.

Private sector employers are getting in on the act. In the low-paid sectors, workers’ wages have been falling back to the national minimum wage level since the Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) were, first, struck down by the High Court and, then, reconstituted in a much weaker form by the current Government.

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