Monthly Archives For July 2013

Sponsor This Poem Or I’ll Kick Your Head In

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I won’t name the entity that’s colonising creativity
except to say that it has been turfed off the sportsfield
for low tackles and foul behaviour already, you will find it in
a million spewed up burgers on our city pavements
and it was there while a thousand boy racers
had single vehicle collisions and left their mothers crying
it stood and watched wife beatings, gay bashings, street violence
it leered at women with their skirts askew in doorways
it sat at the cliffs while friends of mine jumped off them
and quicker than you can say tax-payer- funded
public- service- broadcasting it mixed with pills and sadness
in lonely apartments and killed people, worse it appeased
our post colonial state so much that we can’t mount
even a strongly worded letter and now in the last bastion
where people can create something, in one last Arena
of no profit ventures ,in a refuge of free breathing, seeing
and of open fulfilling disagreements It has the nerve to ask
if it could be allowed to enter, it says it’s at our service,
but to be honest I doubt it. Sponsor this poem or I’ll bottle ya.

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A Bridge for Rosie

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An article on Rosie Hackett and the naming of the Marlborough street bridge by Angelina Cox, Jeni Gartland, & Lisa Connell.

The bridges arching over the sleepy river Liffey project the memories of cherished historical and cultural figures; the Butt Bridge, named after the founder of the Home Rule movement in Ireland; the Grattan Bridge, named after Henry Grattan, an 18th century Irish politician, the Sean O’Casey Bridge, named after the enlightened dramatist, and the Fr. Mathew Bridge, named after Fr. Theobold Mathew, an teetotaller priest from the 18th century.  Every bridge in Dublin city centre is named after an important historical or cultural figure and every bridge in Dublin city centre is named after a man.

The practice of naming streets, bridges and other landmarks after cherished historical and cultural figures is an important form of recognition for their contributions. Lamentably, however, women’s contributions to historic struggles for independence, the trade union movement, the arts and culture have not received elucidation in Dublin city’s landscape.

The Marlborough Street Bridge is presently under construction. The naming of this new bridge is a timely opportunity to redress the gender imbalance projected in the architecture and infrastructure of Dublin city centre

The job of christening the bridge falls to Dublin city council which has produced a shortlist of five names; including two women – Rosie Hackett and Kay Mills. Given the bridge is located near Liberty Hall, naming the bridge in memory of Rosie Hackett, who lived and worked in the area, seems most fitting. 

Born in 1892, Rosie dedicated her life to the trade union movement and struggle for workers’ rights.

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To the Crucible II: A Further Irish Engagement with the Greek Crisis and the Greek Left


This is a sequel to To the crucible: An Irish Engagement with the Greek Crisis and the Greek Left published on the 21st of January, 2013.

The Dominant Narrative

“Things have gone very quiet in Greece, haven’t they?” So many people said that to me in the past six months or so. I responded that there was a lot going on, even if international media weren’t covering it. There were civil mobilisations of teachers and transport workers, as well as rising unemployment, emigration and impoverishment, being met with continuing protest, strikes, occupations. Even so, I sensed a lull in the rhythm of resistance, since the big demonstrations opposing the passage of the third memorandum last autumn. Obviously people couldn’t keep going at that pitch all the time, but how many were succumbing to exhaustion, despair, defeat? How many were quietly going about their work in solidarity networks, policy development, political education?

The story circulating in May, promoted by its government, was that Greece had stabilised and protest had subsided. Grexit had given way to Grecovery. Antonis Samaras, who was most actively articulating this, touring the world with the good news, even heralded a Greek ‘renaissance’. The feeblest of economic indicators were offered as evidence, although international commentators, even ones who wanted to believe this story, found it hard to get past the fact that most indicators still pointed in the opposite direction. In other statements, Samaras conceded that they hadn’t really changed the numbers yet, but insisted that they had eliminated the ‘negative psychology’.

Many Greeks were scathing, pointing out that tiny shifts from rating agencies and bond yields paled into insignificance aside the continuing freefall of the economy and the still deteriorating conditions of life for non-oligarchic Greeks. Among indicators being trumpeted were lower wages, which might be good news for investors, but hardly for workers. Yanis Varoufakis labelled the Greek success story as the ‘latest Orwellian turn of the Greek crisis’ and laid the economic facts on the line’

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Hold Your Breath – We’ll be Underwater for a Very Long Time

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Kevin O’Rourke links to an interesting paper by Jeff Frankel which discusses different ways recessions are measured.  The standard European measurement says that when an economy falls two quarters in a row it is officially in recession (we know all about that given our official double-dip).  This measurement has the advantage of being statistically clear and simple.  This, though, can lead to false readings.  For instance, over two years the economy declines in half of the eight quarters – leaving it much lower.  If, though, none of those quarters were consecutive, then according to the European measurement, there was no recession even though output has fallen.  This may be an extreme case but it shows how quirky this measurement can be.

The US has a different way of measuring recessions.  According to Frankel:

‘In the United States, the arbiter of when recessions begin and end is the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).    The NBER Committee does not use that rule of thumb (Europe’s two consecutive quarters of decline), nor any other quantifiable rule . . . When it makes its judgments it looks beyond the most recently reported GDP numbers to include also employment and a variety other indicators, in part because output measures are subject to errors and revisions.   The Committee sees nothing special in the criterion of two consecutive quarters.’

The problem with this approach is that there is no single definitive measurement so disputes easily arise.

I’d like to introduce another way to measure a recession.  It is based on the sinking-ship metaphor.  A ship starts sinking.  It eventually stops and starts to rise again.  While it’s rising back to the surface we can say that it is in recovery mode.  However, it will remain below water until it gets back to the surface.

Similarly with an economy:  an economy goes into decline, eventually stops falling and starts rising.  However, it remains metaphorically below water until it returns to the point at which it had started sinking.  If an economy is below its pre-recession levels it remains ‘recessed’.

Take, for instance, the US Great Depression in the 1930s.  The economy tanked big time in 1929.  However, by 1935 the economy had experienced nearly three years of rising GDP, employment, consumer spending and investment.  However, no one then (or now) would have said that the Great Depression was over by 1935 – it was still well below its 1929 level.

Let’s apply the sinking-ship measurement to the Irish economy, using the IMF projections out to 2018.

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Marxism and Social Movements

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New Book: “Marxism and Social Movements” 

Colin Barker, Laurence Cox, John Krinsky and Alf Nilsen, eds., (2013), Marxism and social movements. Leiden: Brill (Historical Materialism book series).

482pp. hardback; ISBN 9789004211759. Paperback version with Haymarket to follow; some chapters available online.

Marxism and Social Movements is the first sustained engagement between social movement theory and Marxist approaches to collective action. The chapters collected here, by leading figures in both fields, discuss the potential for a Marxist theory of social movements; explore the developmental processes and political tensions within movements; set the question in a long historical perspective; and analyse contemporary movements against neo-liberalism and austerity.

Exploring struggles on six continents over 150 years, this collection shows the power of Marxist analysis in relation not only to class politics, labour movements and revolutions but also anticolonial and anti-racist struggles, community activism and environmental justice, indigenous struggles and anti-austerity protest. It sets a new agenda both for Marxist theory and for movement research.

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An Opportunity to Strike a Small Blow for Equity and Efficiency

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The Government will soon be issuing a consultation paper on the forthcoming Broadcasting Charge to be levied on all households.  This is intended to replace the television license fee and will be applicable regardless of whether a household has a television.  The rationale for this move is that people access television content via other devices such as tables and smartphones.

There will be a number of issues debated, notably the funding of other media outlets besides RTE (though it should be noted that already 7 percent of the license fee revenue goes to the BCI Broadcasting Fund for projects of a public service nature produced by independent producers and broadcasters).

Minister Pat Rabbitte has given a commitment that the charge will not exceed the current television fee of €160.  Given that there is near universal television ownership, the move to a household-based, rather than a television-based charge is not unreasonable.  According to the CSO’s Household Budget Survey, over 97 percent of households own a television, with 65 percent owning two TV sets or more.

If one accepts that a television is a necessity – not only for communication but recreation as well; if one accepts that public service broadcasting is a ‘public good’; then even the television license fee could be considered a tax by any other name.  The Broadcasting Charge will confirm that – all households will be required to pay it.

I suspect that the Government will introduce a flat-rate charge at the current level of the TV license fee.  This would effectively mean no change for households.    But is there an alternative means to finance the broadcasting charge – one that is more socially equitable and economically efficient?

First, let’s look at the distributional impact of the television fee – that is, how it impacts on particular households by income group.  The following examines the license fee as a percentage of net disposable income broken down by deciles.

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The Rent is too Damned High A Free Public Talk, Thursday 25th of July 7pm, Exchange Dublin

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The Rent is too Damned High
Conor McCabe, author of Sins of the Father,
Michael Taft, Research Officer, Unite the Union (Ireland),
James Heartfield, author of Let’s Build! Why We Need Five Million New Homes in the Next 10 Years.
Exchange Dublin,
1, Exchange Street Upper, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

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Cuban Film Day @ Progressive Film Club, Sat 27th of July, the New Theatre, Temple Bar

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Progressive Film Club News

Cuban Film Day At the New Theatre · 43 East Essex Street · Dublin 2

Saturday 27th July 2013

Our next presentation is on the 27th of July when we celebrate Cuba National Day, with three films which are having their first Irish screenings. We have decided to dedicate the day to the memory of Bernie Dwyer. Bernie, a journalist and film producer, worked tirelessly in defence of the Cuban Revolution, particularly with regard to the quest for the release of the Cuban Five (also known as the 'Miami 5'). Her research on aggression and terror directed against Cuba was the subject of her two films: Mission against Terror and The Day Diplomacy Died.

12:00 (noon)
El Ojo del Canario [The Eye of the Canary]

The Eye of the Canary deals with the early life of José Martí, the hero of Cuban national independence. The film is described as “a look into the inner world of José Julián Martí Pérez and the formation of his character as a fair man” and “not a biography, but rather a spiritual journey.”

The director explains: “José Martí was a truly sensi­tive man who marked the history of Cuba. But he was also a normal human being, like any one of us. I think that is what makes great men great. My film will delve into the day-to-day com­plexity that helped form Martí’s character during his child­hood and teen­age years.

The point of view will lean more towards the personal than the historical; more subjec­tive than biographical. Each Cuban has their own Martí.

In this film, I would like to express my own.”
Directed by Fernando Pérez. In Spanish, with English subtitles.

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UNITE’s Seminar: Beyond Austerity Presentations

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The following power-points were presented at UNITE’s seminar ‘Beyond Austerity’ held on July 11th.

Tom Healy, Director, Nevin Economic Research Institute:  Budget 2014:  The context Download Tom Healy

Camillie Loftus, Research and Policy Analyst:  Why Incomes Matter Download Camille Loftus

Orla O’Connor, Director, National Women’s Council of Ireland:  Reversing the Cuts Download Orla O’Connor

Michael Taft, Research Officer, UNITE the Union:  Growing Our Future Download Michael Taft

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Interview: Mark Blyth’s The History of a Dangerous Idea

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Mark Blyth’s The History of a Dangerous Idea is a great book and slays many myths including a couple about how Ireland is the best example of a country obtaining growth through ‘fiscal consolidation’ aka austerity in the late 80s and early 90s as well as more recently being considered as a ‘poster child’ for austerity in Europe, a model for Greece etc.

But the sharpness of the book, its informativeness and the conciseness of the arguments are no match for the bite of Blyth’s delivery of them in this interview on The Business.

George Lee usefully gets some excellent sharp responses to recent events, about Ireland being a tax haven, the Anglo Tapes and the recent ESRI report that says the government should keep on with austerity. Highly recommended.

Click the link below to listen online: 

RTE’s The Business – Extended Interview with Mark Blyth

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The Property Market: Money Flows to the Top

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I usually don’t do too much work on property prices. However, an article in the Sunday Business Post regarding the sale of high-end residential properties got me interested.  If there is a pick-up in residential sales, where is it occurring; what can this tell us about the state of the economy and, just as important, the impact on different income groups?

The Residential Property Price Register gives some useful insights.  Here are some global numbers for the first six months of the year:

  • The number of residential sales in 2012 (first six months):  9,559
  • The number of residential sales in 2013 (first six months):  10,151

So the number of residential sales rose by 6.2 percent.  How much money was spent on residential properties?

  • The amount of residential sales in 2012 (first six months):  €1,807.7 million
  • The amount of residential sales in 2013 (first six months):  €1,983.0 million

Money spent on residential properties rose by €175 million, or 9.7 percent.

We have sales and expenditure rising. So what is the distribution of the money spent on these properties?  How much is being spent on high-end properties and how much on average-priced property.  This is where it is potentially interesting.

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Who is to blame for the crisis? Not unions, immigrants or ‘scroungers’

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A crisis is an objective fact to which there can essentially be only two responses. The cause can be identified and addressed, or some other explanation can be advanced which effectively shifts the blame for the crisis elsewhere. The government and the supporters of austerity are increasingly bent on the second course.

A succession of scapegoats have been offered for the crisis, including perniciously both immigrants and ‘scroungers’, and now unions. However, as these cannot begin to provide an economic explanation for the crisis, the supporters of austerity also persistently claim that the cause of the current crisis is weak exports, effectively blaming foreigners for the British crisis.

The reality is very different. The chart below shows the trend of total domestic expenditure in the course of the present slump. This is the same as GDP minus the changes in both imports and exports. In 2008 and 2009 activity fell sharply and was followed by a mild recovery. But since the Tories began to implement austerity the domestic economy has stagnated.

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Latvia Doesn’t Offer Europe a Success Story

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The Council of Europe has confirmed that Latvia will be accepted into the Eurozone from 1 January 2014. Commission Vice-President Olli Rehn has called the Baltic nation “a success story” and said that its “shows that a country can successfully overcome macroeconomic imbalances, however severe, and emerge stronger.” 

At a time when calls for a change in policy direction grow stronger every day, when the Eurozone heads towards recession with the European youth unemployment rate at 23%, pro-austerity officials badly need a success story. Latvia would seem to fit the bill; having weathered its fiscal crisis to return to modest growth, it could be the model student for the indebted European periphery. But those looking to the Baltic for proof that 'austerity works' should look a little closer. 

Much like Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece, Latvia experienced a short period of intense growth, with a property market bubble fuelled, in the Latvian case, by cheap credit from Swedish and German banks. When the credit stopped, the economy did too and the Government nationalised Parex, the country’s second largest bank, taking on its Euro-denominated debt. Private debts were transformed into public liabilities, creating a fiscal crisis. So far, so familiar. 

After the dissolution of the incumbent administration, the newly-elected coalition government responded with an aggressive austerity strategy. They targeted healthcare, education and public administration, with 30% cuts to public sector numbers and wage-reductions of 40%. Unlike in many other public-debt troubled countries, Latvia also squeezed old-age pensions, causing significant hardship for retired citizens. Despite IMF suggestions, currency devaluation was ruled out of the question and corporation tax remained unchanged at 15%. GDP shrank by a quarter over two years, leaving one in five workers unemployed. 

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The July Issue of Socialist Voice is Out Now

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The July issue of Socialist Voice is now available online.

Articles in this issue include: 

  1. Belfast says No to G8
  2. Haddington Road rebranded, or I’m all right, Jack [NOM]
  3. What’s “left” for Ireland? [EON]
  4. Ireland’s ruling class [NL]
  5. Government to abolish people’s right to cut their own turf [MH]
  6. Credit unions a target for carpetbaggers [MA]
  7. G8: A club of the rich to protect the interests of the rich
  8. An honest citizen criminalised [TMS]
  9. Getting a handle on events in Brazil [RCN]
  10. Repression and criminalisation in Colombia [JAG]
  11. Tax justice for the rich! [NL]
  12. Letter: The iron heel of capitalism

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