Posts By Irish Left Review

New University / ReThink UvA occupation at the University of Amsterdam

ICTU Youth, USI and IFUT statement in support of University of Amsterdam occupation

, , 1 Comment

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Youth, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) want to express our support for the New University / ReThink UvA occupation at the University of Amsterdam.

The demand to put an end to “managerialism, real-estate-speculation and precarious labour in Higher Education” should unite students and staff across the world. 

In Ireland, the campaigning group Third Level Workplace Watch recently highlighted the terrible conditions facing adjunct staff in our Higher Education institutions – where lecturers are surviving on welfare, in ‘permanent’ part-time status for years, and working sixty hours per week while barely making minimum wage.

At the same time, students are facing exorbitant increases in fees as budgets for Higher Education are cut by successive austerity governments. In the twenty years between 1995 and 2015 these fees have increased 1,579%. From an adjusted figure of just under €190 in 1995 to €3,000 for incoming students. 

The balance of funding for Higher Education in Ireland is moving from public to private. In some cases this takes the form of major multinational corporations directing scientific research, in others EU research grants being used in the development of drones and “counter-terrorist” weaponry. Little if any of this enjoys democratic oversight.

Still again this neoliberalisation takes the form of increased emphasis on attracting international students – who pay exorbitant, unsubsidised fees and are set into competition with Irish students for places in a process antithetical to genuine internationalism. These students can expect to pay more for poorer services too.

The neoliberal university in Ireland is profoundly changing the student experience. Most students aspire to engage in the free and critical pursuit of knowledge, to use our time in Higher Education for personal development and to become rounded citizens of society. However, increasingly it seems like we are reduced to consumers in a rat race, with degrees little more than stamps of social capital meant to improve our chances in the job market.

But this is not simply a problem in Higher Education. In Further Education budget cuts have forced the closure of many programmes. Community education and training has also been devalued, utilised as a source of free labour and a means to hide real unemployment figures. 85,000 people are on ‘labour activation’ schemes in Ireland at the moment which are often exploitative and result in little experience being gained. Apprentices have found themselves burdened with extortionate fee increases too.

The occupation in Amsterdam inspires many of us – both students and staff – who are trying to understand how we can break these cycles which worsen year-on-year. In Ireland we understand, like you do, that it is time for a fight back.

We send our solidarity to all of those involved in the occupation and in our common struggle for an education system that is democratic, developmental and focused on serving the needs of society rather than the careers of technocrats or the profits of business.

Derek Keenan (Chairperson, Irish Congress of Trade Unions Youth)

Laura Harmon (President, Union of Students in Ireland)

Mike Jennings (General Secretary, Irish Federation of University Teachers)

Read Post →

cl

What would Europe Win from a Grexit? ‘Peace and quiet. (Pause…) For a period’

, , No Comment

Two recent interviews with Marxist economist, and now Greek MP Costas Lapavitsas are worth have a look at, particularly as they outline his view of the strategies that Syriza need to follow during the engineered ‘breathing space’ created by recent negotiations with the European institutions. He also outlines how a strategy he has long advocated, a Greek exit from the Euro, should be managed.

The first, published on the 12th of March in Jacobin magazine. The interviewer was Sebastian Budgen, an editor at Historical Materialism.

And Varoufakis himself explicitly located his position within a kind of Keynesian framework, and is allied with people like James Galbraith who are openly Keynesians.

Let me come clean on this. Keynes and Keynesianism, unfortunately, remain the most powerful tools we’ve got, even as Marxists, for dealing with issues of policy in the here and now. The Marxist tradition is very powerful in dealing with the medium-term and longer-term questions and understanding the class dimensions and social dimensions of economics and society in general, of course. There’s no comparison in these realms.

But, for dealing with policy in the here and now, unfortunately, Keynes and Keynesianism remain a very important set of ideas, concepts, and tools even for Marxists. That’s the reality. Whether some people like to use the ideas and not acknowledge them as Keynesian is something I don’t want to comment upon, but it happens.

So I cannot blame Varoufakis for that, for associating himself with Keynesians, because I’ve also associated myself with Keynesians, openly and explicitly so. If you showed me another way of doing things, I’d be delighted. But I can assure you, after many decades of working on Marxist economic theory, that there isn’t at the moment. So yes, Varoufakis has worked with Keynesians. But that isn’t really, in and of itself, a damning thing.

Read Post →

AAWorldNotOurs

Progressive Film Club & Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign

, , No Comment

A reminder of our screening this Saturday, in conjunction with the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which features the multi-award winning “A World not Ours”.

We will be having two screenings this month. Details of our show on the will be sent next week.

2.30pm: The Great Book Robbery (2012)

Telling the story of the systematic looting in 1948 of 30,000 Palestinian books in a joint operation by the nascent Israeli army and the Israeli national library. A remarkable illustration of how one culture emerges from the dust of another after it has laid it to waste; the moment Palestinian culture is destroyed is also the moment a new Israeli consciousness is born, based not only on the erasure of the Arabs’ presence in Palestine but also on the destruction of their culture.

¦ Directed by Benny Brunner.
¦ In English & Hebrew, with English subtitles.

**3.45pm: A World Not Ours (2012)

An intimate, humorous, portrait of three generations of exile in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh, in Lebanon. Personal recordings, family archives, and historical footage ensure the film is a sensitive and illuminating study of belonging, friendship, and family. Filmed over more than 20 years by multiple generations of one family, is more than just a family portrait; it is an attempt to record what is being forgotten, and mark what should not be erased from collective memory.

“Flips storytelling and Mideast-Arab cliches on their heads … The Wonder Years in a refugee camp” – Variety

¦ Directed by Mahdi Fleifel.
¦ In Arabic, with English subtitles.

**A note of thanks to the directors

Read Post →

inWomensDay

International Women’s Day Celebration

, , No Comment

Satharn 7 Márta, 2 i.n.

Ceiliúradh Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan

Women in the water resistance

Cainteoirí: Ann Farrelly (Sord), Cat Inglis (Baile Átha Cliath Thoir Thuaidh), Jessica Hughes (Fionnghlas), Carole Watson Purcell (Tamhlacht). Cathaoirleach: Betty Purcell.

? Teach Shéamais Uí Chonaíle (43 Sráid Essex Thoir)

 

Saturday 7 March, 2 p.m.

International Women’s Day celebration

Women in the water resistance

Speakers: Ann Farrelly (Swords), Cat Inglis (Dublin North-East), Jessica Hughes (Finglas), Carole Watson Purcell (Tallaght). Chairperson: Betty Purcell.

? James Connolly House (43 East Essex Street)

 

Read Post →

greek_reforms

Greek Reforms Submission as Presented to the President of the Eurogroup Today

, , Comment Closed

The following are the package of Greek reforms sent to the President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem at midnight Greek time, last night. 

Dear President of the Eurogroup,

In the Eurogroup of 20 February 2015 the Greek government was invited to present to the institutions, by Monday 23rd February 2015, a first comprehensive list of reform measures it is envisaging, to be further specified and agreed by the end of April 2015.

In addition to codifying its reform agenda, in accordance with PM Tsipras’ programmatic statement to Greece’s Parliament, the Greek government also committed to working in close agreement with European partners and institutions, as well as with the International Monetary Fund, and take actions that strengthen fiscal sustainability, guarantee financial stability and promote economic recovery.

The first comprehensive list of reform measures follows below, as envisaged by the Greek government. It is our intention to implement them while drawing upon available technical assistance and financing from the European Structural and Investment Funds.

Truly

Yanis Varoufakis Minister of Finance Hellenic Republic

I. Fiscal structural policies

Tax policies – Greece commits to:

  • Reform VAT policy, administration and enforcement. Robust efforts will be made to improve collection and fight evasion making full use of electronic means and other technological innovations. VAT policy will be rationalised in relation to rates that will be streamlined in a manner that maximises actual revenues without a negative impact on social justice, and with a view to limiting exemptions while eliminating unreasonable discounts.
  • Modify the taxation of collective investment and income tax expenditures which will be integrated in the income tax code.
  • Broaden definition of tax fraud and evasion while disbanding tax immunity.
  • Modernising the income tax code and eliminating from it tax code exemptions and replacing them, when necessary, with social justice enhancing measures.
  • Resolutely enforce and improve legislation on transfer pricing.
  • Work toward creating a new culture of tax compliance to ensure that all sections of society, and especially the well-off, contribute fairly to the financing of public policies. In this context, establish with the assistance of European and international partners, a wealth database that assists the tax authorities in gauging the veracity of previous income tax returns.

Public Finance Management – Greece will:

  • Adopt amendments to the Organic Budget Law and take steps to improve public finance management. Budget implementation will be improved and clarified as will control and reporting responsibilities. Payment procedures will be modernised and accelerated while providing a higher degree of financial and budgetary flexibility and accountability for independent and/or regulatory entities.
  • Devise and implement a strategy on the clearance of arrears, tax refunds and pension claims.
  • Turn the already established (though hitherto dormant) Fiscal Council into a fully operational entity.

Revenue administration – Greece will modernise the tax and custom administrations benefiting from available technical assistance. To this end Greece will:

  • Enhance the openness, transparency and international reach of the process by which the General Secretary of the General Secretariat of Public Revenues is appointed, monitored in terms of performance, and replaced.
  • Strengthen the independence of the General Secretariat of Public Revenues (GSPR), if necessary through further legislation, from all sorts of interference (political or otherwise) while guaranteeing full accountability and transparency of its operations. To this end, the government and the GSPR will make full use of available technical assistance.
  • Staff adequately, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the GSPR and in particular the high wealth and large debtors units of the revenue administration and ensure that it has strong investigative/prosecution powers, and resources building on SDOE’s capacities, so as to target effectively tax fraud by, and tax arrears of, high income social groups. Consider the merits of integrating SDOE into GSPR.
  • Augment inspections, risk-based audits, and collection capacities while seeking to integrate the functions of revenue and social security collection across the general government.

Read Post →

15

Grassroots Strategy Weekend

, , Comment Closed

 

Gluaiseacht for Global Justice, We’re Not Leaving, ATTAC Ireland,

Third Level Workplace Watch, and Marea Granate Dublin invite you to a

Grassroots Strategy Weekend

Evening debate, Friday 6th March
All day workshops, Saturday 7th March

The Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square, Dublin 1

Vibrant and spirited grassroots campaigns, including water and housing, have invigorated and energised people, movements and political actors in Ireland. Many of us now speak about austerity, neoliberalism, and the ruling elite that has lost touch with the majority of the people. We speak about and see the connections between the water-tax, the nationalisation of private debt, the housing and homelessness crisis, the scandal of direct provision, the crumbling health care system, trade agreements like TTIP, privatisation of public goods, services and national resources, the decimation of the community sector, the assault of structural violence and institutional racism, and much, much more. 


Still, this awakened public consciousness of how the powers that be operate and influence our lives is not yet visible in the collaboration of social movement groups who work on these issues.

Hence, we invite you to a weekend of discussion intended to establish what connects us

and to work out collectively if there are common strategies or projects we can pursue together to strengthen all of our movements.


For who?

Read Post →

ttip

TTIP – What is it and Should we be Worried?

, , Comment Closed

TTIP – what is it and should we be worried?
 


 

A debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
with economist Constantin Gurdgiev and Frank Keoghan, TEEU President
 
Hosted by Joan Collins TD
 
February 27, 7.30pm, Wynns Hotel
 
 On February 27 at 7.30pm in Wynn’s Hotel, Joan Collins TD hosts a debate on the pros and cons of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Possibly the most talked about EU-US trade deal in a generation and still in negotiation, the TTIP sets out to create the world’s largest free-trade zone.
 
Setting out the reasons for opposing the TTIP is Frank Keoghan, TEEU General President and a member of the Global Solidarity Committee of ICTU. Economist and commentator Constantin Gurdgiev explains its merits while Deputy Joan Collins chairs the debate and the follow-up questions and answers session.
 
This debate is supported by Mandate, TEEU and Unite the Union
 

Read Post →

3

The Wrath of Kane: Banking Crisis and Political Power

, , Comment Closed

While his whole testimony requires examining in a little more depth, I think this is a good standalone clip from evidence to the banking inquiry given by Prof. Ed Kane on Wednesday 28 Jan 2015.

He was asked by Deputy Pearse Doherty to elaborate on the statement below which was made in a paper that Kane co-authored in 2004:

Realistically, every government-managed disaster relief program is a strongly lobbied tax-transfer program for redistributing wealth and shifting risk away from the disaster’s immediate victims. A systemic crisis externalizes – in depositor runs and in bank and borrower pleas for government assistance – a political and economic struggle over when and how losses accumulated in corporate balance sheets and in the risky portfolios of insolvent financial institutions are to be unwound and reallocated across society.

Professor Kane’s analysis is that the way a crisis plays out in terms of who pays for the crisis is an issue of power – that is, it is related to the nature of political and economic power in a state and the relationships between the worlds of finance and politics.

Anyway, the official transcript is below, with a video clip of the ecxhange. You’ll notice that the official transcript differs slightly from the actual exchange, but not in a significant way. The meaning is still captured and essentially stays the same.

the 2004 paper referenced is available here.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: [your] 2004 paper says that while policy-making during a crisis may be of the seat of the pants variety, the policy itself is informed by a political and economic struggle over who pays for the losses. How important in the view of Professor Kane is that dynamic, namely, the political and economic struggle of who pays for the crisis in terms of framing the terms of the resolution?

Professor Edward Kane: I think it is terribly important. I define a crisis as a battle over loss allocation. There are firms with losses and no one wants to hold them. People are contracted to take the losses, by writing insurance or lending money or bonds, but they do not want to pay and they have the political power, in many cases, to see that they are paid. My superficial understanding of Ireland is that many foreign creditors were paid off with Irish taxpayers’ money and it is astonishing to me how good politics, the way a republic or a democracy is supposed to work, would ever lead to that solution.

Read Post →

2

Always the Artists: Week Three of the Bank Inquiry

, , Comment Closed

“Shadows never go away.
Might be you don’t see them,
but they’re always clinging to your heels.”

A Song of Ice and Fire

When I was a child in primary school my way of dealing with Irish class was to find a word in the question that matched a word in the text and hope for the best. The sentence I would find would be the one I’d read out. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But, it was a plan, and it helped me get through the hour.

In the absence of any understanding of the grammar, of the way the words actually relate to each other, you grab what you can and try to make sense of the situation.

In terms of the bank guarantee and bailout, and the different narratives that are being thrown out there, we can’t really do this – we can’t just pick out single words, single events, and use them to make our story. We need to have enough of an overview of the dynamics at play in order to make sure we don’t stray from the path as we go forward.

In other words, we need to understand the grammar that holds it all together, and one of the objectives of the bank inquiry is to fulfill this role.

It helps, of course, to have witnesses that understand this, and with Professor Patrick Honohan last week I’m not sure it did.

On paper the purpose of Honohan’s appearance before the Bank Inquiry Committee was to discuss his 2010 report, which looked at the regulatory and operational failure within the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator’s office. On the day itself, however, the proceedings were dominated by talk of the 2008 bank guarantee – the decision itself and supposed cost.

Honohan initially said that the net cost of the guarantee would be somewhere in the region of €40 billion. When he was challenged on this he revised the figure and, indeed, the parameters, acknowledging that his figure wasn’t for the guarantee alone but for the subsequent bailout. Even with this, Honohan had not factored in added costs such as interest repayments. The moment he gave the definitive-sounding figure of €40bn, though, he had handed the journalists the following day’s headline.

He followed his €40bn with another brash statement – that Brian Lenihan had been ‘overruled’ by a more senior politician with regard to saving Anglo Irish Bank. It was obvious that the ‘more senior politician’ he was referring to was Brian Cowen.

Read Post →

2

Peter Nyberg Bank Inquiry Evidence, 17 December 2014

, , Comment Closed

I do not think it is fair to say people partied. People just lived a little better than they otherwise would have done because of the bubble.” Peter Nyberg under questioning from Deputy Pearse Doherty, 17 Dec 2014.

Peter Nyberg’s appearance at the Irish bank inquiry marked the beginning of the context phase, the purpose of which is to set the scene for the causes and consequences of the bank guarantee and bailout. The context part is going to last for a few months, and it may not be until April before the committee starts calling people actually involved in the guarantee decision and its aftermath. So, for those looking for fireworks you may have to be a little bit patient I’m afraid. However, the context phase gives us the opportunity to do what it says – to place the guarantee within a wider framework than that of the personalities involved in the tense meetings of the night of 29 September 2008. It allows us to see the bigger picture; that is, if we want to see it. It is by no means certain that such a road is one that the various actors involved in Irish finance would choose for themselves. Alongside this, the committee is itself working within a context where narratives around the crisis have already been formed, most notably the “asleep at the wheel/regulators/bad apples/nobody understood/auditors/collective psychology” theme. I’ll come back to this later as this is something that popped up during Nyberg’s (quite dry and uninspiring) testimony, but it is worth flagging now because in the search for the truth as to what happened we have to deal with a story that has had six years to bed itself down. The analogy that is closest to explaining what I’m getting at here would be that of a cover story, but it is not as calculated and Machiavellian as that. We’re dealing here with an ideology – Nyberg admits as much in his testimony – and the way that the ideology of modern finance made sense of the world before the crash is the way that it made sense of the world after the crash. It couldn’t grasp the nature of the problem then, and it is incapable of making sense of it now. It knows that the problem was structural, but because it has such a vested interest in the continuation of those structures and practices, it has to find a way of addressing systemic failure without changing the architecture. Its solution, its way of squaring the circle, is to treat the crisis as a managerial problem. Asleep at the wheel / regulators / bad apples / nobody understood / auditors / collective psychology / etc etc etc. What is needed is better managers, better regulators, better auditors. It is a bit like if a car crashes because of faulty brakes, the solution is to find a better driver.

Read Post →

1

For Some Vicious Mole of Nature: Making Sense of The Irish Bank Crisis

, , Comment Closed

God will forgive them.
He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven.
I can’t live with that.”

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

What are we to make of the Irish Banking Inquiry, which began its public hearings last week. For myself, as I said in Shop Floor in September, I think it provides an opportunity for progressives and we should make use of it.

As to what I mean by that, well, take this quote from a 2012 paper by Gregory Connor, Thomas Flavin and Brian O’Kelly, entitled ‘The U.S. and Irish credit crises: Their distinctive differences and common features’, published in the Journal of International Money and Finance (available as a pdf here).

It is not clear that Anglo Irish Bank represented a systemic risk. Anglo Irish had a limited retail presence; it operated by making large-scale commercial loans funded by institutional borrowing. Other banks may have wanted Anglo Irish included in the government support schemes since, as was subsequently revealed, many developer loans with different banks were secured with the same collateral, creating a complex web that would be difficult and costly to unwind if Anglo Irish alone were allowed to fail.” (Connor et.al. 2012: 63)

The key to the Irish bank guarantee and subsequent sovereign debt crisis is right there in that complex web of developer loans with different banks. That’s the rabbit hole, the one we need to fall into, in order to make sense of this whole mess.

But let us be clear: although the loan book is key, this is not just about developers and their bets.

For example, the loans for commercial property speculation cannot be separated from the tax incentives approved by the Oireachtas and various finance ministers; nor from the legislative and regulatory environment that finance and property speculation demanded of, and received from, the Irish State.

Alongside the finance/speculator/state core lie the professional sectors that benefited hugely from this environment – that is, accountancy, law and real estate.

There is also the issue of the media in Ireland – private and public, the newspapers as well as RTE – which as a sector not only benefited from property speculation via ad revenue, but at a deeper level shared (and continues to share) much of the ideological framework which gave an intellectual sheen to such base and futile speculation.

When we take these dynamics and place them within a historical time-frame, we start to observe a reconfiguration of the Irish State, from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s, which parallels the shift in profit-seeking strategies within Western capital, from production to rentier. Ireland’s role as a comprador state, that stays the same, albeit one that shifts from the grazing fields of Meath to the glass towers of the docklands.

The best way to make sense of a ‘complex web’ of social, political, economic and cultural forces is to apply a relational approach, not a causal one.

A world seen through causality is binary, whereas a relational approach is dynamic – it allows us to see the various forces in motion, bouncing off each other, as they create new tensions and contradictions.

Read Post →

LL3

LookLeft 20 is Out Now in Easons and Country Wide

, , Comment Closed

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…

Read Post →

ethics_in_higher_educationT

Seminar and Workshop on Precarious Employment

, , Comment Closed

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.

Read Post →

1

Liechtenstein on the Lagan?

, , Comment Closed

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.

Read Post →