We are on the verge of avoiding the fundamental issue regarding the childcare crisis; namely, that a private sector model of delivering childcare will keep the service beyond the reach of most parents (except at an exceptionally high cost) and will undermine the quality of care for children. Fintan O’Toole gets it:
‘Preschool education is a vital public good. There is an overwhelming public interest in the provision of high quality early education to all children, regardless of their family circumstances. . . Childcare is a public project, an expression of a shared social commitment to common values. . . .This was recognised in the commitment of public resources to the provision of one year of free preschool education. But that commitment is trumped by a very different imperative – the logic of profit. Instead of childcare being a collective public project, it has been turned into just another business. . . The outrageous practices of some of the biggest commercial childcare providers are not throwbacks to the past. They are harbingers of the future.’
In the weekend media there was a fight back against any idea that childcare should be a public affordable service accessible to all parents regardless of means. We had Brendan O’Connor with these bon mots:
‘What was most evident from last week’s discussions is that the State is not even able to get it together to properly inspect crèches. How this proves it should be running them instead is beyond me.’
Ooookkkkaaaayyyy – let’s see if I get the logic of this. Public sector inspections cannot keep up with the negligence of certain commercial childcare providers. This is proof that we must continue to rely on . . . those same commercial childcare providers. Geez, it must be great to write for the Sunday Independent.
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Who Profits from Peace?
Slides from the Belfast & District Trades Union Council Annual May Day Lecture, May 2nd by Conor McCabe.
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The Provisional University Presents…
A day of talks and discussions with acclaimed historian Peter Linebaugh, author of The Magna Carta Manifesto
plus research collectives based in Spain, Ireland, USA and the U.K.
Time: Saturday, May 18, 2013 11:00am until 5:00pm
Location: O’Connell House, 58 Merrion Square, Dublin 2
This event is open to the public and admission is free but booking is advised.
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The international financial crisis brought about a radical change in the structure of international industrial competition, and China is winning this new contest. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the pattern of industrial expansion and contraction in the major industrial centres in the five years since the beginning of the international financial crisis in 2008.
As taking comparisons only for single years can obscure this fundamental trend, Figure 1 shows the changes in industrial output during the entire last five year period in the world’s four major industrial centres – China, the U.S., the European Union (EU) and Japan. The pattern is clear and striking.
- U.S. industrial production on the latest data, for February 2013, remained 1.3% below its level five years previously – essentially stagnating over the five year period taken as a whole.
- Industrial output in the EU remains at 12.2%, i.e., significantly below its level five years ago. EU industrial production has fallen since February 2011.
- Japan’s industrial production remains at 19.2%, i.e., substantially below its levelof five years ago and has also fallen since February 2011.
- China’s industrial output is 76.1% above the level five years previously.
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As reported today, “[Eamon Gilmore] did not believe that multinationals having headquarter operations in Ireland that used offshore locations as part of their tax avoidance strategies, put the country in a difficult position when it came to the subject of tax havens”.
The Tax Justice Network has made a point in recent years of replacing the term ‘offshore’ and tax haven with ‘secrecy jurisdictions’. This is their reason for creating the Financial Secrecy Index which lists Ireland at 31.
“The Tax Justice Network has estimated, conservatively, that about $250 billion is lost in taxes each year by governments worldwide, solely as a result of wealthy individuals holding their assets offshore. The revenue losses from corporate tax avoidance are greater. It’s not just developing countries that suffer: European countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal have been brought to their knees by decades of secrecy and tax evasion.
These staggering sums are encouraged and enabled by a common element: secrecy. Secrecy jurisdictions, a term we often prefer instead of the more widely used term tax havens, compete to attract illicit financial flows of all kinds, with secrecy as one of the most important lures. A global industry has developed where banks, law practices and accounting firms provide secretive offshore structures to their tax dodging clients. Secrecy is a central feature of global financial markets – but international financial institutions, economists and many others don’t confront it seriously”.
Irish politicians don’t take it seriously either, for the obvious reason that it remains good business for the Irish executives who operate the subsidiaries of foreign banks here, and who work in the law practices and accounting firms that advise large multinational firms on the international tax strategy. For a relatively small economy Ireland has a disproportionately large number of experts on international taxation.
So it’s unlikely, when talking about the need to attract foreign direct investment, or saying that that the Irish economy has to become more competitive to boost the export sector as a means of reducing the deficit that Eamon Gilmore or Enda Kenny would say that as a means of doing that we have to build on our excellent relationship with our largest trading partner: Bermuda, the off-shore the tax haven.
Taken from Mary Everett, The statistical implications of multinational companies’ Corporate Structures, Quarterly Bulletin, Central Bank of Ireland, April 2012
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Martin Walsh who has been an activist on the political scene and is a delegate to the Dublin Council of Trade Unions has been working for ten years for the Bawnogue Unemployed Group, managing their jobs Club which assists unemployed people to help find work. He has been threatened with lay off with NO redundancy. Management are not engaging with his union Unite.
As a result he is occupying his workplace in Banowgue on his own. He explains why in this short video.
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The Irish government has made much of the fact that it now holds the EU Presidency, chairing meetings of the European Council. It has been proudly proclaiming success in negotiating a new EU budget for 2014 to 2020 (the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework – MFF). What they don't say, however, that in the position of Presidency, they are pursuing the same austerity policies that they implement in Ireland – imposing unprecedented levels of cuts to the EU budget.
Two weeks ago the European Parliament voted for a resolution that rejected, in its current form, the proposed MFF. The proposal comes from the February summit of the EU Council and was a product of horse trading and negotiations between the EU's 27 heads of state.
This Summit was presented as showdown between Hollande on the one hand and Merkel and Cameron on the other. In reality, it was a discussion on how far to stick the knife into workers and poor people, with Herman Van Rompuy, backed up by the Irish Presidency, presenting a draft proposal for a second round of cuts. This was then amended to reflect the various political pressures on the heads of states. Despite these competing pressures, all heads of states feared an open conflict over the EU budget that would rattle the markets at a time they seemed to be calming. They also no doubt feared such open division could give confidence to workers and those opposed to austerity that they face a divided enemy and give impetus to new struggles.
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The following questions and answers with an audience took place after a talk Alexis Tsipras gave to SYRIZA’s London branch in Friend’s House in Euston on Friday, March 15th. Coverage of the speech itself can be found here. Some of the questions have been condensed to remove lengthy preambles and/or tangents but they remain an accurate reflection of the query posed by the audience member. Rónán Burtenshaw
Q. Could you give us a few reflections on what we can learn from the Left in Latin America and particularly the legacy of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela?
A. That’s a good question because I was in Venezuela a few days ago. What impressed me about my recent visit was the tens of thousands of people waiting patiently to go past the remains of Chávez. They weren’t expressing grief waiting to pay their final respects but they were showing hope, resolution and determination. This signifies that for the last fourteen years this process has been ongoing in Venezuela and is continuing. This shows us that no social transformation or movement can be sustained without popular support. Chávez was accused by his opponents of being a dictator but I have not met many dictators who have won thirteen elections in fourteen years. For us it is clear proof that without popular support it is not possible to carry out these reforms. This is what we can learn from the Latin American experience, and particularly Venezuela.
Q. How can Greece create enough room to manoeuvre at the international level to resist pressure from the creditors, the IMF and the EU and follow a real alternative path to austerity?
A. How will our lenders, creditors and our partners in the European Union be able to answer that question? It would be the first time that they are under this pressure from a government with popular support. How would they deal with this pressure? I am certain that austerity isn’t the way out of this crisis and, in fact, that it is the political aim of those who force it upon us. They are fully aware of that. They want to blackmail people with this enormous debt, which has been worsened by government policy, and by the threat of expulsion from the Euro. The clear aim is to create the conditions where the southern European belt will be a place of cheap labour and favourable conditions for exploitation, and they have been confronted so far with no opposition from any of the governments from the south. Instead what these governments are doing is accepting every absurd measure that’s being proposed to them. But once they have resistance from a government with popular support the balance of fear will change, it would move to the other side of the battlefield.
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The March issue of Socialist Voice is out now.
Can be viewed as a PDF here or view it online.
Table of contents:
- Workers continue to pay the price [EMC]
- The passing of a hero
- Austerity hits local services [MA]
- Theft by stealth—the solution of the rich [MA, JA]
- The super-rich dine at our expense [NL]
- Women written out of history [PD]
- Launch of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum
- Democracy and the crisis—Part 2 [FC]
- Spain swings to the left [TMS]
- Western commentators shocked by their own darling [BG]
- New abusive measure against one of the Cuban Five
- The hunt for truth [RCN]
- Belfast’s working-class troubadour [RH]
- A fantastic sixty minutes of drama [PD]
From the lead article: Workers continue to pay the price
We need to constantly keep to the fore the following question: What is austerity designed to do?
It is for shifting the burden of crisis onto workers and away from capital, through pay cuts, redundancies, and the socialisation of corporate debt where necessary. Austerity is capitalism’s response to the crisis: to recover growth through increased exploitation and provide state-led guarantees to private investment.
Croke Park I and II are an extension of “social partnership.” Mentally, the ICTU still sees things in terms of giving away rights to placate the interests of the bosses.
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The US magazine Worth published a report with its analysis of who were the 100 most powerful people in global finance. Four were from China – Shang Fulin, Chair of China Banking Regulatory Commission; Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the People’s Bank of China; Lou Jiwei, Chair and CEO of China Investment Corporation and Jiang Jianqing, Chair of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). They were respectively ranked 14th, 15th, 27th and 31st.
That only four of China’s top financial figures were included in the list in fact showed how much understanding of the power of China’s financial and banking system still lags behind its reality. There are exceptions – for example Bloomberg journalists Henry Sanderson and Michael Forsythe in their recent book China’s Superbank simply stated that Chen Yuan, chair of China Development Bank, was ‘the world’s most powerful banker.’ But in banking it would seem Deng Xiaoping’s famous advice that China should ‘hide brilliance, cherish obscurity’ is alive and well.
This is a serious error, as will rapidly become apparent. To grasp the underlying dynamic of the global financial industry it should be grasped that it is a mistake to understand the strength of China’s economy by statistics such as that China produces as much steel as the next 38 countries combined, more cement than the rest of the world put together, that it is the world’s largest market for TVs, refrigerators, mobile phones, cars, or that it has more than twice as many internet users as the US. These figures are impressive but far from illustrating the real core of China’s economic power. The real center of China’s economic strength, which determines both its domestic and global expansion, is unparalleled financial strength.
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There has been much criticism recently here and elsewhere about the strategy taken by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as a response to the crisis, the establishment, defending of, and piñata like status of the Croke Park Agreement, and the thinking behind the Lift the Burden ‘protest’ on the 9th of February which is supposed to send, we are told by David Begg a “very clear signal to Europe”. The clear message seems to be that Congress want to get Irish workers to support the government’s efforts in negotiating a deal on Ireland’s bank debt along the vague lines expressed in the June 2012 Summit that “the Eurogroup will examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with the view of further improving the sustainability of the well-performing adjustment programme”. In light of this ineffectual ambition on the part of Congress I thought it would be worth providing some context in the form of this very informative article by Terrence McDonough and Tony Dundon, of the School of Business and Economics at NUI, Galway. The follow is an excerpt from the final part of a much longer paper called Thatcherism delayed? The Irish crisis and the paradox of social partnership which was originally published in Industrial Relations Journal (41:6, 544–562) in 2010.
The whole article reviews the state of Irish industrial relations in light of the current economic crisis. It argues that social partnership was rooted in the continuation of a tradition of permissive voluntarism with minimal employment rights with both direct and indirect implications for the current Irish economic crisis. As such, Irish industrial relations cannot be understood in isolation from a broader analysis of the rise and fall of social structures of capitalist accumulation.
I would like to thank Terrence McDonough and Tony Dundon for permission to republish this section of the paper on Irish Left Review.
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Does anybody else want to scream in frustration at the intellectually-rationalised paralysis that has the Irish Left by its vitals when it comes to the subject of strikes?
Richard McAleavey has written a terrific post on his Cunning Hired Knaves blog. Prompted by a poster for the upcoming Irish Congress of Trade Union (ICTU) march on February 9th against the debt burden, it’s a sharp analysis of its imagery and wording:
“First of all, its destructive ambiguity. To whom is the message addressed? Is it supposed to be a message to the Irish government, and through them, to the Council of Ministers to lift the burden off working people? Or, is it supposed to be a message to the people who bear the burden at the moment that they should exert themselves even more? Who is doing the speaking? Is 'Lift the burden' what the faceless silhouettes struggling beneath the weight are saying, or is it a public notice, as with a street sign that reads 'Give Way'?”
Rightly observing that ICTU’s poster is something Enda Kenny could equally happily stand in front of while telling us citizens that we must pay ‘our’ way, McAleavey goes on to parse the impotence of ICTU and its role in the country’s economic crisis as exemplified by their dissembling poster. However, just at the point in his article at which some readers might reasonably expect a call to strike action against the state of affairs he has just delineated, McAleavey lobs cold water over any idea of that kind in favour of this:
“And that -amid a climate of grim sacrificial inevitability- is a problem that no amount of simply shouting 'traitor!' or 'general strike!' will solve. We need imaginative ways of communicating the conflict, of capturing people’s commitment to a struggle for democratic rights, and of destroying the ambiguity served up by zombie social partnership.”
Whatever all that may yet turn out to mean, I’m sure it will be very worthwhile when it has finally been thrashed out. Wouldn’t strikes themselves be among the most effective means possible of ‘capturing’ people’s commitment to a struggle for rights? But there you have it – sit down again everybody. As you were. We need to do lots more talking and thinking before we act.
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This day last year, 16th January 2012, was a black day for Irish trade unionism. From that day bin collection in Dublin was carried out by a private firm, Greyhound, after Dublin City Council sold the business to them bringing bin collection by the city to an end after almost 150 years. The privatisation of bin collection in Dublin City Council was, among all the recent setbacks and climb downs of the trade union movement, a symbolic defeat in a heartland of Irish blue collar trade unionism. The Dublin bins have gone the way of other emblematic and once seemingly impregnable redoubts of Irish trade union stability, such as the integrity and public status of electricity supply and the sacredness of the JLC/ERO system. Unlike signal defeats further back, those at Pat the Baker, Ryanair and Irish Ferries for instance, the Dublin bins passed with only a whimper.
That the privatisation of Dublin city bin collection happened at all was a depressing development. The manner in which it occurred served only to lower the mood further. As the changeover happened some of the bin workers themselves were certainly dissatisfied with the situation and with the unions:
“Before heading out [for the last time at Davitt Road depot], the men met for about half an hour to discuss their options. There was talk of “missed opportunities”, of how they should have balloted for industrial action before Christmas, or sat in in the depot last week, keeping the lorries hostage. They derided both council management and their unions – Impact and Siptu. Shortly after 6.30am the seven crews set out. It was minus 1 degree, and still dark….” (Irish Times, 14th January 2012)
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With considerable speculation about an impending deal on bank debt, with the Taoiseach and the German Chancellor jointly stating that Ireland is a ‘special case’, it is helpful to remind ourselves just how special a case we are.
Eurostat, the EU Commission’s data agency has calculated the cost of the banking crisis in each EU country. The following focuses on the cost to general government budgets. Ireland has really taken one for Team EU.
Yes, there’s wee Ireland up at the top, just edging out Germany for the dubious title of spending the most on the banking crisis. €41 billion to date according to the Eurostat accounting data (this doesn’t count the billions ploughed into the covered banks from our National Pension Reserve Fund as this was not counted as a ‘cost’ to the General Government budget).
Of course, this doesn’t give the best picture. What happens when we look at the cost as a percentage of GDP?
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