Monthly Archives For November 2014

The Rise of Sinn Fein and the Abuse of the Past

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Speaking at a fundraising event in New York last week, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams remarked that during the War of Independence, Michael Collins had his men enter the offices of the Irish independent, hold the editor at gun point, and dismantled the printing press. This was in response to that papers accusation that Collins and his men were guilty of ‘murder most fowl.’ He went on to say ‘I’m obviously not advocating that.’[1]

Notwithstanding this qualification, Adam’s comments have been criticised by his political opponents and by the media. Such criticism is yet another example of the fear of the rise of Sinn Fein and the desire of the established parties, as well as some sections of the media to vilify the party. Opponents of Sinn Fein point to the party’s violent past in an effort to discredit its current leadership and to scare the public into thinking that Sinn Fein still advocates violent methods.

The Irish state: Born in Violence

On Easter Monday, 1916, a tiny, unrepresentative armed group, comprising of Irish Volunteers who had not gone to fight in the Great War and members of the Irish Citizens Army, affect a military insurrection which primarily took place in Dublin city.  More civilians were killed during Easter week than British soldiers or Irish rebels.

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No Peace in the Void

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Book Review: Absolute Recoil, Slavoj Žižek (Verso, 2014)

 

Žižek continues to fret away at the sweet-tasting bone of ontology, gnawing it from slightly new angles in the hope of stripping away any remaining morsels that will distract from savouring the pure marrow that lies within — a materialist philosophy that confronts the mystery of why there is nothing instead of something. His latest venture starts again with the dichotomy that  Kant drew between the  fundamental and allegedly unknowable nature of reality, the ‘in-itself’, and the human subject who, armed with his categories of thought like Captain America and his shield, goes out to meet and make sense of phenomenal experience.

A worthwhile materialism must go beneath, yet accommodate, the realisation that our sense of reality is governed by horizons of meaning, frames of reference, that we are born into. There is no escaping hard-wired webs of meaning — Kant’s transcendental idealism — but neither is there any breakout from the Real of a meaningless void. London Transport’s advice to mind the gap warns of the unresolved problem bequeathed to us by Kant: as passengers with mental coordinates for the lay of the land we step onto the firm ‘objective’ ground of the station platform and forget the space that is not accounted for in our conceptual maps of reality.

As ever, it is to Hegel’s ontology we must turn for understanding — a split universe of becoming, incessant movement through time in a praxis of being and nothing — and Žižek remains close to translating this ontology into the layperson’s language of quantum physics: a groundless vortex of what Badiou calls pure multiplicities, infinitely divisible and restless pluralities that contingently and finitely stabilize what is inherently opposed to the unifying power of thought. It is a universe utterly at odds with traditional notions of substantial entities bearing essential qualities independent of ourselves – in this sense it is nothing.

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Stability

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Stability

 

I walk a country lane,

hedges stripped

by the Council machine.

Branches, briars,

torn and crushed;

hawthorn trees,

          decapitated.

d

Brown, grey tangles

crucified on stone walls.

Bare, wounded limbs,

salted by raw winds.

d

I fear

not all our people

will grow back

again.

d

Marion Cox

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Water Charges and TTIP!

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The water charges can and must be defeated by resistance and non-payment but water, as a human right, must also be secured as a publicly owned and controlled resource universally available. Remember, we had to fight water charges in the 1980’s and again in the 1990’s so let’s make this win a permanent one.

The origin of the present water charges lies in the EUs Water Framework Directive (2000) which provided for full cost recovery for water use and whose Article 9 states:

Member States shall take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services …’

It also required Member States to have in place water-pricing policies by 2010. The Directive was transposed into Irish Law in 2003.

So, the origins of these punitive charges, this time around, are the Water Framework Directive which seeks to commodify water provision through the establishment of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services. The EU took advantage of the ‘bailout’ to make it a condition of the ‘loans’.  This will open the way for the sale of Irish Water either in whole or in part, ostensibly to complete the single market or to promote competition ‘in the interests of the consumer’. This is just one reason why there is such resistance to a constitutional referendum to permanently retain Irish Water in public  ownership – the other is TTIP.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is currently being concluded in secret by the EU and US. Both sides have made clear their intention to use TTIP to get access to what is described as “public monopolies;” that is, public utilities including water. These services would then be vulnerable to greater outsourcing and private tendering for service delivery and eventually, to privatisation.

TTIP would open up public procurement contracts to the private sector, meaning that social, environmental or “public good” goals in public procurement would be removed. A private monopoly can fix its price at an unaffordable level, as Bechtel did in Bolivia, leading to a popular uprising; the termination of the contract and replacement of the government.

It would also make the nationalisation (or renationalisation) of services or resources virtually impossible, as incredibly, corporations would be able to sue for loss of future and expected profits. This is facilitated by the inclusion of an (ISDS) Investor – State Dispute Settlement clause in TTIP.

 

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Peoples News: Where’s your mandate, Mr Bruton?

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The latest issue of Peoples News is available now. Click here to download.

Articles include:

P1. Where’s your mandate Mr. Bruton? Minister Richard Bruton and thirteen other Member State trade and foreign affairs ministers signed and sent a letter to Trade Commissioner Malmstrom and Commission President Junker last week in which they insisted that ISDS be included in any TTIP trade agreement.

P2. Ireland’s voting weight in EU law-making reduced by 150% since Saturday. Since Saturday, under the Lisbon Treaty provisions, Ireland’s voting weight in EU law-making was reduced by 150% and we have  lost our full-time commissioner.

P3. ILO study finds that TTIP would have significant negative effects

Official studies of TTIP are unclear about outcomes for employment  and income distribution but a recent study by Jeronim Capaldo, an Econometrics and Data Specialist with the International Labour Organization(ILO, finds that that the main existing studies of TTIP rely on inadequate economic models (of the CGE type).

P4. Peoples Movement Press Conference and demonstration. The Peoples Movement held a press conference and picket last week to highlight the fact that from last Saturday, Ireland’s voting weight in making EU laws fell from its present 2% to 0.8%.

P5. Children badly hit by EU austerity measures. Unicef has just published the most comprehensive study of the effects of the financial crisis on children in the OECD.

And lots for more…

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Left Forum Talk: “Cybersocialism”, by Dr Paul Cockshott

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Left Forum Public Meeting: “Cybersocialism”

Left Forum public meeting on the subject of “Cybersocialism”, by Dr Paul Cockshott of University of Glasgow.

The talk will explore questions around how a centrally planned socialist economy could be realised using mathematical techniques supported by advanced information technology.

For anyone who read the novel “Red Plenty” this should be right up your street.

Time: 7:30pm, Tuesday 18 November

Place: Unite Hall, Middle Abbey St., Dublin 1

Facebook event notice

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Resisting the Water Charges and Defending Our Right to Protest

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Statement from Communities Against Water Charges
Resisting the Water Charges and Defending Our Right to Protest

We are residents of a number of communities in Dublin North East. Over the last number of months we have come together to resist the installation of water meters in our areas, and to oppose this unfair double taxation that the government calls water charges.

For most of us, this is the first time in our lives that we have engaged in any sort of protest and have only done so because we simply cannot take any more of this government’s austerity agenda. At all times we have sought to resist the installation of these meters in a peaceful, dignified and resolute manner.

We are therefore appalled at the recent developments in how An Garda Síochána have policed our protests, and with the blatant campaign to vilify and demonise us that the government and Gardai, supported by segments of the media, launched in recent days.

They have claimed that Gardai are routinely assaulted at protests, and that our movement has been infiltrated by a “sinister fringe” or by “dissident republicans”. We categorically reject these claims. In recent weeks we have been subjected to heavy handed and abusive policing by the Gardai. Men and women, protesting peacefully, have been pushed, pulled and punched by Gardai. To our knowledge not one of our fellow protesters has been convicted of assaulting a member of An Garda Síochána, and violent protest is not something we would endorse or tolerate.

With respect to the claim that our movement has been infiltrated by sinister elements, we reject this also. We are the people on the streets, day in, day out, peacefully resisting these meters; we are mothers, fathers, parents, pensioners, workers and unemployed – we are not sinister, dissident republicans.

In light of these developments, we are genuinely fearful that the Gardai, at the behest of the government, are preparing to become even more aggressive towards our protests and to eviscerate our right to protest.

We therefore call on all of the people of Ireland to come out and support us this coming Monday, 10 November 2014, in Dublin North East. We fear that GMC Sierra will attempt, with heavy Garda support, to enter our areas and install meters that we do not want. It is our intention to continue to resist this unjust tax in a peaceful and dignified manner, but we fear that the decision has been made to strip us of a meaningful right to protest.

Each and every one of us has resolved to resist this tax and these meters, we will continue to do so in a peaceful way, but if we are to succeed we need the support of other communities. If we all stand together, we can resist these charges, retain water as a public good and human right, and vindicate our right to protest.

Communities Against Water Charges
communitiesagainstwatercharges@gmail.com
09 November 2014

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The 80th Anniversary of the Republican Congress: Its Relevance Today

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Public meeting

Thursday 13 November, 8 p.m.

The 80th Anniversary of the Republican Congress: Its Relevance Today

Speakers: Brian Hanley (historian and writer), Tommy McKearney (trade union official, writer, former hunger-striker)

Pearse Centre (27 Pearse Street)

Organised by the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum.

Déardaoin 13 Samhain, 8 i.n.

Cruinniú poiblí

The 80th Anniversary of the Republican Congress: Its Relevance Today

Cainteoirí: Brian Hanley (staraí agus scríbhneoir), Tommy McKearney (oifigeach ceardchumainn, scríbhneoir, iar-stailceoir ocrais)
Lárionad an Phiarsaigh (27 Sráid an Phiarsaigh)

Á eagrú ag Fóram Poblachtach Sóisialach Pheadair Uí Dhónaill .

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The Government Should now Come Clean on Water Charges

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I admit I can’t let this issue go but such is the misrepresentation, partial information and deliberate obfuscation being put out in the debate that it goes beyond a narrow calculation.  It actually reveals a Government determined to hide the facts in pursuit of a policy which caused over 150,000 to demonstrate last weekend.

Yes, I’m talking about water charges – but specifically about the estimated impact on the deficit if water charges were removed.  And now Dr. Tom McDonnell over at the Nevin Economic Research Institute has done his own sums – and they mirror what I had previously calculated here.

The Government is claiming that removing the water charges would ‘cost’ €800 million (this was run out again on Morning Ireland today).  Is this correct?  No.  Let’s look at how the Government is obscuring the real numbers and see if we can find the right ones.  If this gets a little ‘number-dense’ please stay with it for it is about more than just abstract calculations; it is about how the Government is treating this issue and the public at large. All numbers are approximate and rounded.  I have produced a summary table below.

  • First, the total cost of water service provision is €1.3 billion (€700 million in current spending and €600 million in investment).
  • Second, the Government is committing €500 million from the Local Government Fund to Irish Water.  This is ‘on the books’; that is, this is counted as government expenditure.
  • Third, this leaves a saving to the Government of €800 million.

So far, pretty clear. The Gvvernment’s argument seems to stack up.  But, no, this is not the case.  Because the Government is losing €250 million in revenue.  This is the amount collected through commercial water charges on businesses  This used to Government coffers.  Now it belongs to Irish Water.

So the Government gains €800 million savings on the expenditure side but loses €250 million on the revenue side.  This leaves a saving of approximately €550 million. This is pretty much the same number that Dr. McDonnell arrives at:  €527 million.

Ok, so we have sorted that out.   The actual cost  of removing water charges would be €550 million – yes?  No, that’s not it either.  Because the Government is spending money as part of the move to water charging – spending that wouldn’t exist if there weren’t the charges.  Dr. McDonnell states that he doesn’t factor these in.  So let’s do that.  There are three expenditures:

  • First, Social Protection is increasing subsidies to the Household Benefit Package and recipients of the National Fuel Allowance scheme ‘to offset the cost of their water bills’.  This will cost €66 million.

Finally, the cost of providing free water allowanced for children is ‘on the books’; that is, it is counted as government expenditure.

‘Social transfers in kind include such items as free travel on public transport, fuel allowances and the child-based free allowance related to water charges.’

‘How much does this cost?  The Government doesn’t say.  But we can estimate.  There were approximately 1,170,000 recipients of Child Benefit.  Each one of these children should be receiving a free water allowance of 21,000 litres per year.  On the basis that this will cost €102 per child, this brings the total cost to €119 million.  But this is just an estimate so let’s be conservative and round it down to €100 million.

When we add up these costs – Social Protection subsidies, tax relief and free water allowances for children – it comes to €200 million.  This will ‘cost’ the Government.

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How to Deliver Social Change through Racial Equality in Northern Ireland

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The following is a submission by The Workers Party to: “A Sense of Belonging: Delivering Social Change through a Racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland 2014-2024”.

The Workers Party is an anti-sectarian, anti-racist, secular socialist party. We are anti-racist in the sense that we accept the scientific consensus that ‘race’ as an objective descriptor of human diversity does not exist. More importantly, we are also anti-racist in the sense that we oppose violence and discrimination against people perceived to be ‘different’ for whatever reasons. Races do not objectively exist but hate-crimes and other abuses against ethnic minorities are very real and the Stormont government and other bodies in our society must work to end them.

Added to well established ethnic minority communities in Northern Ireland ( the Chinese, Indian, Jewish and Traveller communities), there has recently been an increasingly visible rise in migrant workers from very diverse backgrounds. It is fair to say that large numbers of people in NI embrace this rise in immigration as a positive development: the 2012 Northern Ireland Life and Times survey found that 43 per cent of respondents believed immigration to be ‘good’ or ‘very good’ for the economy, while half viewed Northern Ireland’s new diversity as having a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ cultural impact. The figures suggest that immigrants have indeed delivered for the local economy.According to recent research from Oxford Economics, far from constituting ‘a drain on the public purse’, between 2004-2008 migrant workers contributed over £1.2 trillion Gross Valued Added to the NI economy. However, this rise in the numbers of migrant workers has also been accompanied by a significant increase in racially motivated attacks and intimidation of ethnic minority people. PSNI figures for 2013/14 show that there were 982 racist incidents in NI, an increase of 232 (30.9%) over the previous year. Moreover, according to 2014 Peace Monitoring Report from the Community Relations Council, many more crimes go unreported, a failure which is exacerbated by the presence of paramilitaries in some of the affected areas.

It is our view that since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the Stormont Government has been remiss in its duty to protect people from hate crimes. This is a part of the overall unwillingness of the chief parties in Stormont Coalition to to tackle sectarianism at its roots in terms of education, housing, ‘peace-walls’ and flags and emblems. The continued existence of segregated communities in an environment of low-paid work and chronic unemployment and of poverty conditions sow the seeds for much of the racist scapegoating and violence that we have seen in working class areas. As journalist Peter Geoghegan notes:

The public administration of ‘Race Relations’ in Northern Ireland is undermined by a fundamental tension between a discourse of Good Relations and normalisation stressing equality and social diversity and a set of structures and practices which privilege sectarian identities. Although the Agreement includes a commitment to diversity beyond the ‘two traditions’ the text itself is a product of sectarian division and, in many important respects, continues to reproduce this bifurcation.

In relation to sectarian ‘bifurcation’ at government level, the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) notes that, “the current Good Relations Policy: Together Building a United Community (TBUC) perpetuates the ‘two communities’ approach and omits consideration of race relations in any action plan.”

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Low Corporation Tax Rates Do Not Boost Growth

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This article by Michael Burke originally appeared as a guest post on Notes on the Front. Michael blogs regularly on Socialist Economic Bulletin and tweets @menburke.

There are a number of reports that Ministers have travelled to the US in order to reassure investors following the closure of the ‘Double Irish’ tax loophole. It is not just highly-paid US executives who are concerned about the possible impact of changes to the corporate tax regime.

There is a widespread belief that low taxes for companies are the key to prosperity, in Ireland and in the Western economies generally. Taxes on companies have been falling in the OECD economies over a prolonged period. The corporate tax regime in Ireland is just one of the most extreme examples of this trend.

The off-setting factor has been a sharp increase in the proportion of taxes by ordinary citizens, either through income tax and social charges, or by indirect taxes on consumption (VAT, alcohol, fuel, tobacco duties and so on).

The argument is that lower corporate taxes increase the incentive and capacity of business to invest. Since investment increases productivity this would mean that lower taxes boost economic growth, create jobs and increase the quality of those jobs, including pay. The only trouble with this is that there is no evidence to support it. The evidence paints a very different picture.

According to the OECD, a weighted average of the main corporation taxes applied in its member states has fallen progressively over the last 32 years. In 1981 the average rate was 49.1%. In 2012 it was 32.4%. This was a period of the most severe economic crisis since the OECD was formed. Clearly low taxes were not proof against economic crisis. Even if we disregard the crisis itself, it is clear that GDP growth has been declining over a prolonged, which has coincided with cuts to corporation tax.

MB - Corporate Tax 1

The same is true in Ireland. The corporation tax rate was cut drastically and a 12.5% rate was phased in up to 2003. The 10-year period of GDP growth since has been the worst in the history of the state. Yet it is still widely claimed that a low rate of corporation tax determines Irish prosperity. This claim is evidently false.

The strongest ever year of Irish growth was in 1997.  This was not a part of what has become known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ period and was six years before the 12.5% tax rate was fully phased in.

MB - Corporate Tax 2

Even when this evidence is presented, the persistence of the myth on taxation is formidable. It is argued somehow that the inclusion of the crisis years distorts the comparisons, as if the purported reason for cutting taxes was not to increase growth and prosperity. But it is also the case that average GDP growth was 4.9% in the 5 years between the cut to 12.5% rates and the crisis (2003 to 2007). This is less than half the growth rate in the in the 5 years before the rate was cut, which averaged 10.3%.

The mechanism through which lower corporate taxes is supposed to lead to increased prosperity is higher corporate investment. The argument that lower tax rates leads to higher investment has been disproved throughout the entire OECD area, which has a experienced a secular decline in both the rate of GDP growth and the rate of investment for the last 30 years.

The same is true in Ireland. Lower taxes did not lead to higher investment. The chart below shows the level of corporate taxes versus the annual growth in the rate of investment (GFCF, Gross Fixed Capital Formation). The peak period for the growth rate of investment was in the mid-to-late 1990s. This coincides with the period of strongest GDP growth, which is not coincidental as investment plays a decisive role in growth. Both of these were before the corporate tax rate was cut drastically.

MB - Corporate Tax 3

Not only did the rate of investment growth slow when corporate taxes were cut, but the composition of that investment was changed in a negative way. The chart below shows the rate of Irish corporation tax and the proportion of total investment devoted to housing. The increasing proportion of investment directed towards housing led fairly quickly to the unsustainable housing boom. The evidence is that as the tax rate fell the proportion of housing investment increased until the bubble burst. In 2004 to 2006 more than half of all investment was in housing, which was immediately after the tax rate fell to 12.5%.

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast: #055 Encirclement

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This week I am delighted to have Rick Rozoff, long-time anti-war activist, NATO expert, and curator of the – Stop Nato: Opposition to Global Militarism blog. In a wide ranging interview, we discuss the current Ukraine Situation, Zbigniew Brzezinski and the Grand Chessboard, the NATO expansion and encirclement of Russia, and the plight of Syria.

You can check out his blog here: rickrozoff.wordpress.com/

The music featured on this show were:

  • ‘The Order of the Pharaonic Jesters’ by Sun Ra and his Arkestra
  • ‘Cut Em Off’ by Dizzee Rascal
  • ‘Solitude’ by Billie Holiday
  • ‘Isolation’ by Joy Division
  • ‘Blueberry Hill’ by Vladimir Putin

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November Socialist Voice

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The November Socialist Voice is now available online.

The articles include:

Water charges:  The government can be defeated

Eugene McCartan

The turn-out of more than 100,000 working people on 11 October, followed by the national mobilisation on 1 November, in which approximately 200,000 people took part in local protests around the country, show that the Right2Water campaign is growing in strength and is drawing new forces into resistance against the water charges.

EU negotiation terms declassified

Nicola Lawlor

The European Union has finally declassified the terms of reference of the EU Commission in negotiating the highly secretive agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Green light for risk-free speculation

THE EUROPEAN Central Bank plans to buy rebundled packages of debt and covered bonds, secured on assets such as property. It will include buying debt with a credit rating of “junk” from Greece and Cyprus, as long as such countries are under a formal international financial programme.

Transforming a tragedy into an opportunity

Tommy McKearney

Reader could be forgiven for feeling that little more of value can be said about the Mairia Cahill case. The Sunday Independent devoted sixteen pages of one issue to the question,* and it was not alone among the media in conducting this type of frenzied investigation. Broadcast and print journalists, internet trolls and a medley of commentators joined in what was cast as a defining moral issue.

Ebola: EU dithers, Cuba acts

Tomás Mac Síomóin

The yawning gap between socialist and neo-liberal values is reflected in the response to the call by the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, for international assistance to stem the deadly advance of the Ebola virus in Africa. Cuba’s response was immediate and massive; the European Union heaved and brought forth—a mouse!

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Squeezing the ‘Public’ Out of the Economy and Society

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We are experiencing a privatisation of the economy and society by stealth.  We usually associate privatisation with the sale of state assets to a private company.  But there’s a larger privatisation process at work, slowly squeezing the ‘public’ from our social life.  It is ongoing and the Government has signalled it will continue up to at least 2018 and in all likelihood beyond.

In a previous post I pointed out the ‘real’ cuts to public spending the Government intends to pursue up to 2018 – the second phase of austerity. This phase will entail public spending falling below inflation levels, which means the value will be cut.  This won’t mean Ministers standing up in the Dail announcing cuts as they have been doing the last six years.  But it will mean a squeeze up to 2018.

But this is against a backdrop of substantial reductions in government spending over the last six years.  Indeed, so severe have been the cuts that spending levels on public services and investment are hurtling back some 20 years.

RG1

The chart above tracks expenditure on public services (government consumption) factoring out inflation.  We find that in 2018 expenditure per every man, woman and child is estimated to be only slightly above spending levels in 2000 (the red line represents the Government projections).  There is a continued downward trend that we should expect to continue until the end of the decade.

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