Monthly Archives For September 2013

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Did austerity lead to recovery? No, GDP was increased by government spending

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This post was originally published on Socialist Economic Bulletin on the 9th of September.

The government and its supporters have been quick to claim that the most recent GDP data have vindicated its austerity policy. George Osborne says the argument in favour of austerity has been won some more excitable commentators have even talked of a boom.

Usually, SEB would provide analysis of the GDP data after the publication of the national accounts, the third release in the cycle from the Office of National Statistics, which provides a detailed breakdown of the components on economic activity and the final revision to the data.

But the claims made for the British economy following the most recent GDP release (and some subsequent surveys) are so outlandish, and so at odds with the facts, that is worth providing a short analysis now.
The data is still partial and subject to revision. But there is enough evidence to demonstrate factually that the weak recovery is not a reward for austerity, but is in fact entirely a function of increased government spending.

The economy has expanded by just 1.8% in 3 years of austerity, an annual rate of 0.6% which is less than one-quarter of previous trend growth. The gap between the current level of GDP and trend growth for the British economy is widening. In addition, the growth to date is entirely a function of increased government spending.

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Independent Socialists and the Local Elections

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The following is from a new blog, Comrade Zhenka and was originally posted there yesterday, the 17th of September.

For independent socialists in the run-up to the local elections there are a couple of different options available to us to tie in with other groups. There are the remnants of the ULA still looking for a home, there was some movement towards developing a party under the banner United Left, with Clare Daly & Joan Collins and a couple of Councillors. There was some discussion around the rudiments of a programme some months ago. Unfortunately this seems to be still born, as there doesn’t seem to have been much progress over the last couple of months. Considering the lack of apparent movement (there may be something happening behind the scenes I’m not aware of but it’s doubtful), there doesn’t seem to be much drive behind the organisation.

The other development seems to be more interesting and probably has the most potential at this stage. There are a number of caveats attached to this potential however. For instance because it was started by academics there is naturally an academic-heavy make up to the people who’ve been attending the Left Forum meetings. That being said, as it attracts more towards it, we should see the base broadening out to include a wider variety of people. We are already beginning to see this happening, and should these difficulties be overcome, then the Left Forum could be a successful endeavour.

The first thing that should be noted is that LF is not a party, and it’s not likely to become a party before the local elections. In fact it’s not even certain what LF will be, if anything. There needs to be a serious ongoing debate about the nature of the Forum, and it’s vitally important that this isn’t rushed into just to have a slate of candidates for the local elections next year. This would in the long term be counter-productive to the best interests of developing the left in Ireland. There will of course be people associated with LF contesting the locals (there will also be other slates of non-LF candidates), but not under a Left Forum banner.

It’s clear there are going to be a lot of left-wing candidates standing in the local elections. Some of those will be standing under the SP’s newly formed Anti-Austerity Alliance (this is largely made up of SP members and those members of CAHWT who stuck with the SP line), others will stand as PBPA which launched a recruitment drive some months ago. Others however will be standing as independents. It is these independents that need to be brought together under a banner after the elections. There is neither the time nor the funding needed to unite them before the locals and to field them as candidates.

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Reaping What You Sow

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Book Review: Harvest, by Jim Crace

The time and place of Harvest seems to be Tudor or  medieval England – seven days in the life of a community after the harvest has being brought in and celebrations begin — though one critic reckons it must be after 1850 because of some of the characters’ vocabulary. This is not carelessness on the author’s part (though it may be impishness); Jim Crace likes to equivocate in such matters and it would be a reckless reader who made a bet on the terrain or time of Continent, his first novel, with its seven different parts and a style that mildly mixes Borges with Kafka. Quarantine, his 1997 novel, is easier to pin down for it takes an episode from the Bible, Jesus’s forty days in the Judean desert, but then this could be a fictional event in the first place.

In Craceland, historicity is labile even though one can often make a reasonable guess as to time and place. All That Follows (2010) is recognisably located in a Britain of the near future and there is no doubting that Harvest takes its context from a real historical movement, one arising from the intersection of economic plate tectonics: an old-world, pre-capitalist order coming up against a new mercantile domain where profit and loss calculations take precedence.

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Austerity is Working as Planned

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Statement from the Communist Party of Ireland

The recently published report on austerity by Oxfam confirms what the Communist Party of Ireland has been saying for the last number of years, stated Eugene McCartan, responding to the report’s findings. He went on to say that “Irish communists have been one of the few voices arguing that austerity is working as planned and designed.”

The report points to the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, with inequality in this state four times the average in OECD countries. The report further found that one in ten households in the EU now lives in poverty.

The CPI also stated that the external troika and the internal troika (the state-establishment political parties and employers) are using the crisis to drive down workers’ wages and conditions, to turn Ireland—but not only Ireland—into a zone of precarious employment in a low-wage economy. Much of the liberal left and trade union leadership swallowed the ruse of the EU about “flexicurity” in relation to workers’ rights and jobs when in reality it is “dependent insecurity” that is on offer.

The central problem is that they do not view austerity from a class viewpoint and the economic imperatives of the system. You can only understand austerity, what its role and function are, by understanding class, and that is what is crucially missing from the analysis by Oxfam and others.

Austerity was not designed to help working people but is consciously pursued to undermine and attack workers. It is for establishing new layers of inequality.

Austerity has always been for transferring wealth from workers to bosses, further compounded by the fact that there is a continuous transfer of wealth out of the country to pay for a debt that does not belong to the people. We will be paying nearly €9 billion per annum servicing this debt, which can only grow.

The internal and external troikas have given priority to debt repayment over the needs and interests of the Irish people. This also applies to the other heavily indebted peripheral states of the EU.

Austerity is working as planned.

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Creative Writing Classes in October

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Dave Lordan has two creative writing workshops coming up in October.  

 

Making it Now: Experimental Fiction with Dave Lordan at the Irish Writers’ Centre

Thursday 3rd October; 6.30pm–8.30pm

An intense eight week course for adventurous writers who don’t fit the conventional billing and don’t want to. The course will include discussion on seminal experimental fiction texts, as well as weekly writing experiments. It will culminate in a public reading/presentation of the students’ work. Taught by Dave Lordan, author of First Book of Frags.

Topics include: How to be unique in fiction; Sound and meaning; The counter-realist short story; Experiment 1930-1960 The surrealists and the beats; Experimental Novella, Experimental Laughter; Constrained writing techniques; Sex as divine scripture; Contemporary dystopias, Sci-Fi Experiment, Black magic realism, Conspiracies, and the experimental fiction scene in Ireland today.

Booking information at the Irish Writers’ Centre

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Whatever Happened to Workers’ Playtime?

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Jennifer O'Connell has a lifestyle feature in the Irish Times today that takes on David Graeber's essay in Strike! Magazine about bullshit jobs with a 'sure wasn't ever thus?' type of argument. But one of the ironies of it is that while she largely agrees with Graeber she can only do so by avoiding an important element of his central premise – that it's about capitalism.

In his essay Graeber says:

“In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more.”

What this doesn't address, however, is that Keynes argument was originally a lecture which he presented to mollify those of his students in Cambridge in the 1930s who were being attracted to Marxism and Communism.  Keynes, later Lord Keynes, hated Marxism, despised the USSR and was happy to declare that when it came down to it he would always side with his class, the capitalists against workers. His arguments about providing full employment and increasing wages were deployed as the best way to maintaining equilibrium within capitalism and not about improving the living standards of the majority, per se. Maintaining this equilibrium, however, depended on the ‘euthanasia of the rentier’, the suppression of reckless financial speculation and the promotion of productive investment. In his lecture, which Graeber and O'Connell refer to without acknowledging this context, he was telling his students, sure capitalism is doing badly now and is making things difficult for everyone, but within their lifetime working hours would be reduced and capitalism would provide the kind of conditions that are envisioned within a worker's republic. Capitalism works, stick with it.

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Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat

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Book Review: Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat (Pluto Press, 2013)

 

Salvador Allende’s last speech may well have contradicted the perfunctory process of an expected historical epilogue. The mere fragments of time prior to the initial horror unleashed by the military coup on September 11, 1973 may have annihilated the actual era of the Unidad Popular; however it ensured Allende remained an integral part of Chile’s collective memory. Of greater fortitude than nostalgia, Allende’s revolutionary process has managed to retain its relevance beyond the conformity of time.

‘Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat’ (Pluto Press, 2013) goes beyond the expected portrait of Allende as president of Chile, delving into an understanding of his life as a committed activist whose ideology was garnered both from Marxism as well as a profound insight into social inequalities. Despite a relatively privileged background, Allende’s upbringing in Tacna and later in various areas of Chile enabled profound perspectives through an observation of colonial processes, workers’ resistance, popular movements and the contradictions assailing Chilean society. Dispelling the critique of Allende as utopian, Victor Figueroa Clark demonstrates that, far from the multitude of generalisations associated with Allende, Chile’s political process with Allende at the helm was of tangible importance for the left on a global level, as well as for current Latin American governments who have embraced a perpetual struggle against imperial exploitation.

Allende’s life may be perceived as a series of experiences culminating into a profound concern for society and freedom, to the point where the definition of freedom becomes at times a source of controversy. Despite US intervention in Latin America proving detrimental to socialist progress, Allende’s respect for freedom of opinion went beyond the norm. Parallel to his insistence upon flexibility within socialist ideology in order to attain ‘unity of thought’, future dissent was also tolerated, departing from the trend of maintaining revolution through force and opting for revolution ‘as a profound and creative transformation’.

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The September Socialist Voice is out now!

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The September Socialist Voice is out now!

It can be view online or below.     

In this issue:

1. Stand together and build together EMC]
2. Youth and the crisis in capitalism [MA]
3. Spain taxes the sun! [TMS]
4. How we govern ourselves rather than how we are governed [TMK]
5. Credit Union workers silenced by a gagging order [MH]
6. The destruction of Syria—part of imperialism’s strategy [BG]
7.Forty years later, the same beast [SE]
8. Pension benefits being wiped out [Brendan Ogle]
9. Billy Ennis (1939–2013)
10. Political statement
11. Current debates in Marxist crisis theory [NC]
12. O’Flaherty Summer School a huge success [JF]
13. Anticipating the post-nuclear experience [JF]
14. Rosie Hackett remembered [BG]
15. Letter: 1913 Lock-out locked in

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No Fracking Ireland to Protest Oil and Gas Summit on 11/9/13

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No Fracking Ireland Network to protest ‘Ireland Oil and Gas 2013 Summit’ on Wednesday September 11th

(i) Protest taking place on Wednesday September 11th from 11.30am – 2.30pm at the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel, Stillorgan Road Blackrock / (ii) Gathering for public  awareness raising at 3.30pm at the Central Bank Plaza, Dame Street

No Fracking Ireland will protest against fracking (onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction) at the Ireland Oil and Gas 2013 Summit  on Wednesday September 11th. The Summit is taking place at the the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel, Stillorgan Road, Blackrock. The protest will begin at approximately 11.30am and will feature a number of speakers. No Fracking Ireland will also gather on the afternoon of September 11th in Dublin City Centre (Central Bank Plaza) from 3.30pm onwards to co-ordinate a number of awareness raising activities in the city. Spokespeople will be available to talk to the press at both locations.

Twitter: @Notofracking

#gassummit

Facebook: NO FRACKING IRELAND

Websites:http://frackingfreeireland.org/  :  http://nofrackingireland.wordpress.com

E-Mail: nofrackingireland@gmail.com

Ph: 087 7409102 / 086 8127536

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Statement from participants in the No Fracking Ireland Network on the occasion of the ‘Ireland Oil and Gas 2013 Summit’ 

The Elephant in the Room: “We are not going to be covering fracking and shale gas at all”

Initially, we decided to protest on this date because fracking company Tamboran Resources were due to speak. Tamboran Resources are the highest profile fracking company active in Ireland. They want commercial, large scale, widespread fracking to take place in parts of several counties in the north-west of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. The ‘summit’ organisers contacted us on Friday 6th September. They told us Tamboran were no longer taking part in the ‘summit’. They told us “we are not going to be covering fracking and shale gas at all”.

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Welcome to the New Poverty – Insolvency Poverty

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Today the new insolvency service goes live.  Today is the beginning of a new kind of poverty – insolvency poverty.

Our rulers, giving deep consideration to the problems posed by household debt, have designed a solution.  Does it write down the debt caused by the financial institutions?  Well, er, not exactly.  The solution requires that men, women and children undergo poverty-line existence for up to six years – and to do so publicly by having their names published on a register.  Included in this regime is the creation of a new professional class – Personal Insolvency Professionals – who will assist people to navigate their poverty experience and in many (most) cases will get an upfront payment.  Insolvency poverty and insolvency poverty professionals -you really couldn’t make this stuff up.  But they did.

When people apply for debt relief their living standards will be based on the Insolvency Agency’s ‘reasonable living expenses’.   According to the Insolvency website, reasonable living expenses are defined as:

‘. . .  the expenses a person necessarily incurs in achieving a reasonable standard of living, this being one which meets a person’s physical, psychological and social needs.’

The insolvency regime sets down a schedule of such expenses:  food, clothing, household goods, utilities, personal care. It will be for the creditors to approve the reasonable living expenses regime applied:

‘ . . . the decision on the reasonableness or otherwise of living expenses will be a matter for the creditors to determine on a case-by-case basis . . .’

Imagine the scene:  creditors sitting around a conference table in a corner office overlooking the Liffey, ticking off all the expense boxes for John and Mary, discussing whether this item or that constitutes ‘reasonable’.

But the Insolvency Service is anxious to prove that their expenses regime is ‘reasonable’.  They claim that their numbers are based on the model developed by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice.  The VPSJ has done tremendous work in ascertaining the minimum level of expenditure that constitutes a living standard that no one should have to live below.

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