Monthly Archives For December 2014

LookLeft 20 is Out Now in Easons and Country Wide

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LookLeft 20 is in Easons stores and hundreds of selected newsagents across the country now. Still only €2 the highlights of this issue include:

Boiling Point – Dara McHugh takes a look inside the working class revolt over water charges from Donegal to Cork.

This ain’t no fairy tale – Justin O’Hagan takes on the myths and realities of the Northern economy.

Not afraid of the fight – Brendan Ogle has been to the forefront of organising the water charge resistance. Paul Dillon discusses the campaign with him.

No debtor solidarity – Éilis Ryan looks at Ireland’s shameful lack of solidarity with other debt-ridden nations.

Citizen Baby – Michael Taft outlines the need for a greater State role in supporting families, while Éilis Ryan and Gyunghee Park assess the damage done by bad policies.

Forum – Opinion from across the Left, trade unions and the feminist movement.

After the referendum – David Jamieson and Tom Morrison debate the Left’s next steps in Scotland.

The republican congress – Brian Hanley looks back at one of Ireland’s most iconic Left organisations.

Cycling ac ross the border – Jimmy Dignam takes a spin through the famous Rás Tailteann and republican cycling.

Women to blame – Therese Caherty looks at Ireland’s feminist struggles, past and present.

And much, much more…

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People’s News No. 115 Out Now

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The current issue of the People’s News No. 115 is out now

P.1 “Water in its natural state” – the threat posed by CETA to public ownership of water. The treatment of water and water services in international trade agreements remains a controversial issue globally.

P.3 Dutch had euro-exit plan while we were being ruled by troika. Details have emerged that both the Dutch and German governments were preparing emergency plans for a return to their national currencies at the height of the euro crisis.

P4 Italian campaign against Euro launched. The leader of Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement has taken his campaign for a referendum on the euro to Brussels.

P.5 The current status of CETA. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a trade agreement – very similar to TTIP – between the EU and Canada.

P.5 European Commission threatens to leave small firms in the lurch. Since 2009 the Commission has been examining new legislation for its effects on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

P.6 TEEU votes to ‘Scrap TTIP’. The recent TEEU Biennial Delegate Conference in Kilkenny pledged the union ‘to oppose the ratification and implementation of TTIP in all forums in which it participates.’

P.6 Need for Plan B? It is quite clear that the Eurozone structural problems have never been resolved and probably never can be.

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Tweedledum Tax Cuts vs. Tweedledee Tax Cuts

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Apparently the Government, if not having an outright row, is at least engaging in a ‘strong debate and discussion’.  What’s it about?

  • The introduction of a Living Wage and associated reforms such as abolition of zero-hour contracts and minimum wage increase?
  • A comprehensive affordable childcare network – with savings of €400 to €500 per month for families with young children?
  • Universal access to free community health services – such as GP visits, outpatient services and heavily-subsidised prescription medicine?
  • Maybe a debt-relief programme – not only for households in arrears, but also for those caught in the terrible debt spiral of money-lenders and their interest rates which can exceed 100 percent?
  • Or a guarantee of an adequate income and home-help services for all people in retirement?  Or additional supports, such as a ‘cost-of-disability’ supplement for disabled women and men – of whom 50 percent are officially described as living in material deprivation?
  • Or a major drive to reduce rents in the private rented sector – through rent freezes combined with a new public enterprise drive to directly deliver quality, affordable rental units to private tenants?
  • Is the row about any of these or something similar (like eliminating all education-related costs such as school-books, transport, ‘voluntary fees’)?

No.

It is about which tax cuts the Government should pursue.  Good grief.

Let’s call it for what this is.  First, this is a deeply disingenuous debate – ‘my-tax-cuts-are-better-than your tax cuts’.  No Government Minister, TD, or candidate should be allowed to come to the doorstep, seeking votes by claiming ‘we can cut your taxes and still deliver European-style living standards – income supports, public services, economic and social investment’.  To make such claims is either hypocritical or completely indifferent to how the real world operates.

Living Standards 1

Second, tax cuts will undermine the next government’s ability to actually improve people’s living standards – affordable childcare, affordable rents, reduced public transport fares, free and comprehensive primary health care, real free education, etc.  Let’s not forget that Irish living standards are closer to Greece’s than it is to most other EU-15 countries.  Question:  how will a couple of extra Euros close this gap?

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The Time for Left Unity is NOW!

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The latest Ipsos MRBI poll shows that ‘Independents and Others’ are currently on 32% therein making them the most popular group amongst the electorate. If these poll figures were to be replicated in a general election tomorrow this would equate to around 52 seats – by all accounts a massive number. To put this number in perspective, in the 23 general elections that have taken place in the state since 1937 Fine Gael have only managed to exceed this figure on 7 occasions. This is pretty remarkable considering the complete duopoly they have shared – alongside Fianna Fail – on our political system.

Now it goes without saying that the ‘Independents and Others’ grouping is a broad brushstroke comprised of People Before Profit, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, former Workers Party members, ex Labour party members, the Fine Gael rejects and a range of other independents from across the political spectrum. And the conflicting political positions of this 52 mean that it would obviously never act as a coherent political unit. In fact some are even rumoured to be considering starting a party of their own, likely a centre right entity reminiscent of the Progressive Democrats – so in other words, nothing we haven’t had before.

However, in saying that, many of this 52 if not elected on a left platform could at the very least be considered anti-austerity anti-establishment candidates. These individuals should certainly look to coordinate as much as possible but where the small left wing parties are concerned this should go beyond mere coordination toward something more concrete. We saw that the transfer pacts used during the local elections in May bore fruit, but the question is why stop there?

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December Issue of Socialist Voice Out Now

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The December issue of the Socialist Voice is out now. It can be viewed online here or downloaded here.

Articles:

Government forced onto the back foot
The success of the broadly based Right2Water campaign and the community groups that are actively preventing the installation of water meters has forced the government to backtrack to some degree in its strategy of imposing water charges.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/01-water.html

Organised labour is essential for resistance
Referring to the Conservative Party’s handling of Britain’s early post-war economy, Aneurin Bevan of the Labour Party said: “This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time.” In fairness to the Tories it has to be said that they are rarely short of such organising geniuses.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/02-labour.html

Ireland’s odious debt: A wake-up call

Those who think that only the “loony left” want to cancel or restructure Ireland’s odious debt have another think coming. For influential—and unlikely—voices on the other side of the ideological divide are calling for just that.
Recent articles in two influential bastions of economic journalism, Bloomberg in the United States—the premier global source of investment information—and the Financial Times in Britain
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/03-debt.html

Continued success for #WorkMustPay
The Connolly Youth Movement continues to take part in actions against Job Bridge under the banner of the #WorkMustPay campaign to directly challenge the acceptability of employers taking on unpaid interns instead of providing even the basic respect of a minimum wage for workers.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/04-cym.html

The budget, water tax, and inflation
A household’s income will be affected by the recent budget (2015), and the water tax will reduce the household’s ability to spend. Inflation, expected to be 1.1 per cent in 2015, will reduce the amount of goods and services that a given income will buy in 2015 compared with 2014. Table 1 shows the position of single households in 2015.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/05-budget.html

Suffer the little children
The political establishment under Fianna Fáil and the Green Party made a political decision to plunge this country into debt by deciding to pay billions of euros back to unsecured bondholders and speculators. At the time, Éamon Gilmore of the Labour Party described Cowen and Lenihan as “economic traitors.”
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/06-children.html

Aistear casta cróga

Tadhg Kennelly, Bóthar Casta: Ó Éirinn go dtí na Filipínigh (Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim, 2015; €7.50).

Ba ghné shuntasach de shaol na hÉireann sa chuid is mó den fhichiú haois an méid sagart miseanach a chuir eaglais Chaitliceach na hÉireann ar fud an domhain.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/07-tadhg.html

Corporate terrorism

Chambers’ 20th-Century Dictionary defines terrorism as “an organised system of intimidation.” At present, 70 per cent of global trade is controlled by five hundred corporations, and their greed will not be satisfied until they have complete control. One of the main weapons in their arsenal is free-trade agreements.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/08-terror.html

Mexicans fight dollar imperialism
The forty-three students “disappeared” by the municipal police of the city of Iguala in Mexico on 26 September 2014 are still missing. As the state wants to end popular reaction to their disappearance, their families and fellow-students vow to continue searching until they find the forty-three alive. However, it is feared that they were murdered by the police, or their accomplices in the drug gangs, and their bodies burned to avoid discovery.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/09-mexico.html

Colombia: Tragedies often contain elements of comedy
Tragedies often contain elements of comedy; but the recent adventures of General Rubén Alzate of the Colombian army belong more to the theatre of the absurd. The general was captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dressed in civilian clothes, along with his lawyer and three other soldiers,
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/10-colombia.html

Reclaim the Vision of 1916: A Citizens’ Initiative for 2016
A group of concerned individuals has established “Reclaim the Vision of 1916—A Citizens’ Initiative for 2016,” in order to reassert the political principles and objectives that animated the 1916 Rising and to show their continuing relevance for Ireland today.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/11-1916.html

In defence of the Spanish Republic
The 3rd Annual Frank Conroy Commemoration at the Republican memorial in Kildare on Sunday 9 November was a huge success, with a large attendance that included Councillors Joanne Pender and Mark Lynch.
Frank Conroy, from Kilcullen, Co. Kildare, died on 28 December 1936 while fighting with the 15th International Brigade defending the Spanish Republic.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/12-spain.html


Cannibalism, concentration camps, and commodification

Jonathan Swift, Liam O’Flaherty, and Tomás Mac Síomóin, Three Leaves of a Bitter Shamrock (Dublin: Nuascéalta, 2014)

Earlier this year—on St Patrick’s Day, to be exact—Connolly Books in Dublin launched an extraordinary collection of three satirical texts, which could hardly be surpassed in their vision of horror.
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/13-leaves.html

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Now Let Us Plot the Great Social Expansion

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Are we getting into election mode? We have Government Ministers promising every tax cut possible while warning of the pestilence that will descend upon us if anyone else gets elected to office. No doubt, parties are preparing their election manifestos, poster and leaflet designs, and candidate strategies. Good luck to some of them.

We know what the Government parties intend to do – pursue real spending austerity as identified here. They will cut primary expenditure (excluding interest) by 9 percent, public services by 8 percent and investment by an incredible 15 percent in real terms; that is, after inflation. They will do this in pursuit of an economically reckless, socially callous and fiscally irresponsible and unnecessary goal: eliminate the deficit by 2018. In fact, they intend to run a small surplus. We have an investment crisis, a poverty crisis, an enterprise crisis (in the indigenous sector), and a public service infrastructure degraded after six years of irrational austerity. Yet the Government intends to stand idly by while it pursues budget fundamentalism.

Fiscal Space 1

However, while they have outlined what they intend to do with expenditure (cut it in real terms), they have not revealed their taxation policies. They’re projections are based on ‘no change of policy’. If they reduce taxation – and maintain their deficit elimination target – they will have to cut spending even further. But they’re hiding that little scenario.

The Government hopes to trap progressive parties and independents. They will say ‘if you want to increase expenditure, you will have to raise taxes’. They will accuse progressives of wanting to increase taxes on workers. Given that workers have suffered falling real wages while at the same time seen the effective tax rate increase by nearly 25 percent since the start of the crisis (never mind the cuts in income support such as Child Benefit) any hint of increased taxes is not likely to be met with hurrahs.

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Seminar and Workshop on Precarious Employment

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Seminar: ‘Ethics in Higher Education: the increasing casualisation of teaching within a discourse of quality and excellence’, December 9th @ 2:00pm

Workshop: ‘Precarious Employment in UL’, December 9th @ 4:00pm

Both events take place at the University of Limerick, Engineering Research Building, ERB001

The seminar is open to all.

The workshop is for all those concerned with the immediate and long-term consequences of the casualisation of employment in third-level, for those interested in researching and highlighting conditions and related trends, and for those that would like to help fellow workers organise and act on the issue.

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Liechtenstein on the Lagan?

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A statement from the Workers’ Party

Liechtenstein on the Lagan?

It is rumoured that the Con-Dem government is about to introduce a lower rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland in return for an electoral pact with the DUP at the next election.

It is the contention of the Workers’ Party that the risks involved in the introduction of a reduced rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland are enormous and that even if ‘successful’ the benefits will mostly be felt by a tiny group of local investors, accountants and tax lawyers and a larger group of foreign corporations and wealthy individuals, many of whom will be tax avoiders rather than wealth creators.

The risks, on the other hand, will be felt by workers in Northern Ireland, who will have to face the consequences of a substantial reduction in the block grant and may see no meaningful return for this sacrifice. If expected initial  losses in the Westminster  block grant  of between £285 million  and £300 million are not offset by an increased tax take, job losses in the public sector will pay for a tax break for wealthy corporations.

All of this is taking place in a political vacuum in which working people have no effective political representation.The sectarian parties of all stripes are as one in agreeing that turning Northern Ireland into a tax haven is the way of the future. Time will prove them disastrously wrong for most people. A small privileged elite is looking forward to a windfall while for the majority the decline of living standards is set to continue at a faster pace than ever.

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Deprivation Nation

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Ireland is a deprivation nation.

All manner of numbers and stats regarding growth and employment numbers are thrown around which feeds into the illusion of the ‘Celtic Phoenix’.  But there is a grim reality – which doesn’t feature much in the popular debate:  we are a society riddled with high levels of poverty and deprivation.  And recent EU Commission data shows we have much higher levels than most other comparable EU countries.

We are familiar with the CSO’s deprivation measurement.  This based on people experiencing at least two of eleven deprivation experiences (unable to afford food, heating, clothes, etc.).   On this basis, they estimate that over one million people – or 28 percent of the population – experience multiple deprivation experiences and, so, are categorised as living in deprivation conditions.

The EU Commission uses two measurementsmaterial deprivation’ and ‘severe material deprivation’.  These are harsher benchmarks than what the CSO uses (they both work off the same database – the EU Survey of Income and Living Conditions).  The EU Commission use nine deprivation experiences in which people cannot afford to

  • Pay their rent, mortgage or utility bills
  • Keep their home adequately warm
  • Face unexpected expenses
  • Eat meat or proteins regularly
  • Go on holiday
  • Own a television set
  • Own a washing machine
  • Own a car
  • Own a telephone

For the EU Commission, ‘material deprivation’ measures the percentage of the population that cannot afford three of the nine items.  ‘Severe material deprivation’ measures the percentage that cannot afford four of the items.

How does Ireland compare to other EU-15 countries?

Deprivation Nation 1

This is pretty staggering.  While it is not surprising to see Greece with the highest level of material deprivation, Ireland is right up there at the top – marginally behind Italy but ahead of poorer countries like Portugal and Spain.  Material deprivation in Ireland is 58 percent higher than the EU-15 average.

  • There are over 1.1 million people in Ireland living in material deprivation – a quarter of the population.

When we turn to ‘severe’ material deprivation (remember – that is experiencing four out of the nine indicators above), we see a similar pattern.

Deprivation Nation 2

Ireland remains in third place – behind Greece and Italy – and over 33 percent above the EU-15 average.

  • There are 450,000 people in Ireland living in ‘severe’ material deprivation – or one-in-ten people.

The growth in the number of people suffering deprivation has been substantial.  Between 2007 and 2012, the numbers increased from 450,000 to over 1.1 million – doubling in the space of five years.  There is a similar pattern among those suffering from ‘severe’ material deprivation – rising from 190,000 to over 450,000 – again, more than doubling.

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