Politics

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Revealed: EU science chief promised to be “flexible” towards Israel’s war crimes

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This article was originally published in Electronic Intifada on Tuesday the 15th of October.

Israel’s war crimes sometimes have to be overlooked, according to a senior European Union representative.

During 2013, Israel reacted angrily when Brussels officials issued a policy paper stating that the EU would not award funding to firms and institutions based in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. Rather than standing up to Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, the EU’s top figures tried to downplay the significance of the “guidelines” contained in that paper.

One letter — not published before now — shows that some of this downplaying was tantamount to grovelling.

Signed by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the EU’s commissioner for scientific research, in November last year, that letter states that both the Union and Israel “are conscious of the need to find flexible ways of implementing the guidelines.” Such flexibility was required, she argued, to “ensure full respect of the Union’s policy in relation to the territories occupied by Israel, while not deterring Israel’s association to EU programs.”

Don’t be fooled

Her attempt to sound balanced and nuanced should not fool anybody.

The only possible interpretation of her letter (published below) is that although the EU considers Israel’s colonization of the West Bank to be illegal, it is willing to compromise on that position for reasons of political expediency.

The construction of Israeli settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. They involve the tightening of Israeli control on land it acquired by force.

In other words, they are war crimes.

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Austerity is Over? Now Back to the Real World

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Headlines and sound-bites abound: ‘austerity is over’, ‘the beginning of the end of austerity’, ‘we beat austerity’ and so on and whatever and sure, why not.

Let’s cut to the chase: austerity is not over. It is entering a new phase. We will now experience austerity ‘below the waterline’. Austerity by stealth, austerity beneath the radar: give it any description but have no doubts. We will continue to suffer austerity, probably up to the end of the decade.

You don’t have to believe me – just look at the Government’s own projections. They clearly show what is in store. And it is not pretty.

The following comes from the Budget 2015 Full Report (Table A.2.2, page 99). In this table the Government projects their spending plans out to 2018. You’ll see that spending pretty much flat-lines, with some slight downward pressure, up to 2018. However, this is what’s called the ‘nominal’ spend – the actual Euros and cents. To get a real world sense you have to factor in inflation.

The Government provides the inflation or deflator figures in Table 5. They estimate that inflation (for the economy, the inflation figure is the GDP deflator) will be over six percent up to 2018. Therefore, public spending – if it is to maintain its value – must rise by that amount. If it falls below that figure, we have a real cut; if it rises above that figure, we have a real increase. So what do we find?

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Primary expenditure excludes interest payments; therefore, it is the total spending on public services, social transfers and investment, with other small categories such as subsidies. We find that total real spending will fall by over six percent by 2018.

In regards to public services (estimated on the basis of figures produced in Table A.2.1 on page 97), we find that real spending will fall by five percent. That’s five percent less than we have today to fund schools, hospitals, policing, transportation, enterprise supports – all our public services. That is going to put a real squeeze on the breadth and quality of our services.

As to investment – the key to long-term growth – the Government intends to cut its spending by nearly 13 percent. This will undermine our infrastructural and business capacity. We will fall further behind our trading partners (and competitors) who are investing far more than us. Of all cuts this is the most irrational from an economic growth point of view.

But there’s another twist to this. For populations do not remain static. Our population is estimated by the IMF to grow by over three percent up to 2018 – which means more people to provide services and income supports to. So if we take the real spending cuts above and break them down on a per capita basis what do we get?

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It is worse. Now overall real primary spending falls by nearly 10 percent, with public services falling by over eight percent and investment taking an even bigger hit.

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A New Kind of Trade Unionism Emerging

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This article was originally posted on the Trade Union Left Forum on the 14th of October.

A new kind of trade unionism is emerging and consolidating itself within the right2water campaign, led by Mandate and Unite and supported by OPATSI, the CPSU, and the CWU. These unions are bringing the broader social and economic interests of their members to the fore and committing resources, time and effort to support mobilisation not only of members, but also the working class and communities more generally.

By viewing their members as workers (as opposed to people paying a subscription for work-place representation services) these unions are placing the workers’ immediate social demands alongside, and equal to, their immediate work-place concerns. This is crucial if the trade union movement is to really represent its members and to recover its power and leverage in society. Wage increases alone will not improve the lot of workers while the political economy of the country is being restructured from one made up of citizens to one of customers in a toll-booth economic and political structure.

The TULF on many occasions has suggested that the trade union movement has a unique position in Ireland in having the resources and channels of communication to support the mobilisation of working people in a way that no left party can. And now it seems that some unions are realising this potential, which is both necessary and welcome.

The right2water alliance is a genuine alliance of union, political and community groups, making a clear demand and statement, “calling for the Government to recognise and legislate for access to water as a human right. We are demanding the Government abolish the planned introduction of water charges.”

As well as the five unions mentioned, community groups and parties have signed up to the campaign. Some 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for the scrapping of the water charges, close to 100,000 marched at the demonstration on 11 October, and more local actions are planned for 1 November.

The right2water campaign is not dictating tactics to communities or individuals but is building and growing a broad campaign of groups and people based on the principle of water as a human right and as a publicly owned utility and resource. Some on the left have attacked the campaign for not demanding non-payment; but at this moment building the biggest, broadest alliance against water charges and privatisation is the priority. A turn towards direct non-payment may be necessary in the future, but right now the campaign’s strength is in growing and building the alliance rather than splintering over tactical matters.

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TTIP Trade Deal: Bad for Democracy

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European and American civil society have deemed the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) an anti-democratic threat to the environment, food safety and workers’ rights. Barry Finnegan explains.

While likely to generate increased profits for large companies by removing and reducing production costs associated with health and safety standards (referred to as ‘unnecessary and burdensome, restrictive barriers to trade’), neither citizens nor parliamentarians can get access to the details of the TTIP currently being negotiated by the European Commission and the US Department of Trade; while claims of economic and job growth have been exposed as mere marketing messages.

Private Corporate Courts

Despite the fact that the EU and the US have the world’s most advanced and well-financed legal systems, the TTIP makes provision for a new private ‘court’ called an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which would allow a company who imagines its future profits being reduced as a result of legislation, to sue a government by way of a private arbitration case.

In the absence of a list of clearly identified problems with the Irish and European justice system, only one conclusion can be drawn from the TTIP negotiators’ desire for a private international court for foreign investors which would allow them to bypass Irish and European courts: namely to avoid the jurisprudence and constitutional rights accompanying the application of justice in democratic societies.

This point was well made by Business Europe (the lobby organisation for 35 European national business federations – including our own IBEC) in their document, Why TTIP Matters To European Business, where they explained how they want to be able to use ISDS in TTIP to overthrow the right of the Americans to use the US constitution to protect themselves. They explicitly state: “If in the US a domestic law is adopted after TTIP enters into force and its content violates the [TTIP] Agreement, it can still be found constitutional by domestic courts. So the only possibility for the investor to ensure its adequate protection is to bring the claim to international arbitration”.

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No Easy Victories

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The campaign for the Right2Water in Ireland is rapidly growing in strength and confidence. Working class communities have been staging determined and inspiring protests to prevent the installation of water meters in their areas, the best of the trade union movement has mobilised to help support and coordinate these efforts at the national level and the Irish political left has rallied to the cause. In response to the growth of the movement, the Irish State has let loose its dogs of war. As a result of which recent days have witnessed heavy handed and provocative policing from An Garda Síochána, concentrated mainly in Edenmore, Donaghmede and Coolock.

Footage of Gardai man handling women and minors, and generally trying to intimidate and bully peaceful protestors has emerged. Many protestors have reacted to this with dismay, and believe that the Gardai are in breach of their “oath” because of the way in which they are trying to force through the installation of unwanted meters. This idea that the Gardai are acting abnormally ties into other quasi-legal arguments within the movement about the need for “consent” to be liable to pay the water charges and related matters.

As the movement grows in strength, it is important, also, that its energies be focused, so with that in mind it seems right to dispel some of the misconceptions about the role of the law, and the police, in the struggle for the right to water. The movement and campaign for the Right2Water is the most electrifying and significant development in Irish politics for some years, but in order for it to reach its full potential we should heed Amilcar Cabral’s advice that we ‘tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures [and] Claim no easy victories’. By dispelling some of the appealing, but ultimately unhelpful, arguments swirling around the movement, it will be possible to move forward in a more determined, focused and effective manner.

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Demanding the Future: The Right2Water and Another Ireland

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This article was originally posted on Critical Legal Thinking on the 29th of September.

The American abolitionist Frederick Douglass once observed that if you find out ‘just what any people will quietly submit to … you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them’ and that such injustices ‘will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both’. In Ireland, after six years of austerity and regressive tax reforms that have punished Irish working people for the benefit of Irish and European bond holders, it seems the Irish establishment may have finally discovered the measure of injustice that the people will not tolerate.

The Irish government is currently implementing a plan to install water meters, so that people’s domestic water usage can be monitored and they can be charged for the amount they use. In this way they are abandoning the traditional funding model for water provision in Ireland, which saw it paid for out of general taxation. This move by the Irish government is consistent with a global trend over the last twenty years towards the increased commodification of essential services, with water seen as a particularly lucrative market. Taking advantage of the economic crisis, as most governments in Europe have, the Irish government has accelerated a broad neoliberal policy drive (privatisation of services, cuts to public sector jobs, regressive taxes) under the well-worn mantra that “There Is No Alternative”.

However, this new tax–this commodification of an essential public good–is being met with trenchant resistance from working class communities throughout the island. From Crumlin to Togher, Edenmore to Caherdavin, communities have mobilised to prevent the installation of water meters in their areas. In these protests the community activists have remained resolute in the face of attempts at intimidation from both the company established to commodify the water service, Irish Water, and the police. As well as engaging in direct action to prevent the installation of meters, the bourgeoning movement is also encouraging a boycott of the attempts by Irish Water to enrol residents as “customers”, and calling for non-payment of any future bills.

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Consumerism and Equality

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The consumerism generated by capitalism throughout the  ‘Developed‘ or ‘Western’ World is a major obstacle to tackling climate change, the biggest problem facing mankind.  So the next question must be: why is capitalism still so widely accepted?   Why do workers in the ‘West’ vote overwhelmingly for pro-capitalist parties?

One of the less obvious features of capitalism is that by exponentially expanding its ‘free’ market into every corner of  life it puts a price on everything, and it thereby becomes a great social leveller: kings and lords, upper-class birthrights and privileges decline as possession of money, which by chance can be acquired by anyone, comes to measure everything.  As a result, other than the massive inequalities of money, we now live in a society with a level of personal equality that was unimaginable throughout  human history up to perhaps 40 years ago for gender, race, single mothers, LBGT, etc.  But crucially this equality drive of capitalism has always encouraged constantly growing agitation by workers for a just and equal economic share of their social production. They now see themselves as the social equals of their bosses, which causes desperate problems for capitalists.  Capitalism thereby lacks the acceptance of difference which earlier civilizations did, and which could last thousands of years in spite of vast degrees of inequality, class divisions, emperors, slavery, etc.

England’s history demonstrates this capitalist dilemma. In response to the rapidly growing agitation the capital-owning class must react, like any ruling class, in two ways: some groups are violently repressed and exploited; some are bribed to keep them loyal. Thus colonies were plundered by Imperialism to deliver ‘bribes’ to English workers (noted in England by Engels1 ) finally resulting in the compromise of social democracy.    For example while the famine was devastating Ireland massive amounts of food were exported under British army guard to Liverpool. Violence was used in the 1819  Peterloo massacre of protesters.  But when Chartist agitation for equality  grew towards 1850, this time instead of violence the Corn Laws were ended to allow imports of cheap food to quieten the agitation. It is clear that most wars fought during Hobsbawm‘s Age of Empire2  and continuing today were concerned with access to cheap labour,  food, raw materials, and later oil.  The home working class was comfortable enough to forgo  dangerous agitation, even gaining the vote over the years. But after 2 diverting world wars, which were much caused by imperial rivalry, in the 1970’s there arose further demands for economic equality by English workers (e.g. the miners strike) and also agitation by the colonies for their own liberty, for the equality of nations.  As there were no new colonies to invade Thatcher and others in the West had to find another source of wealth to answer this new agitation.

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast #054: Councils Upon Councils

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This week I am glad to welcome C. Derrick Varn back to the show. We discuss the council communism and the Ultra-left, a man who told Stalin where to go and survived, autonomous Marxism and the Occupy Movement, and the failure of revolutions.

Enjoy!

The music and voice used on this show are:

‘The Order of the Pharaonic Jesters’ by Sun Ra and his Arkestra

Paul D’Amato discussing the life and work of Antonio Gramsci

‘The Charleston’ by Django Reinhart

‘Working Class Hero’ by John Lennon

‘Destroy Everything’ by Dr. Peacock & Repix

‘Wild Colonial Boy’ by Tommy Makem and The Clancy Brothers.

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The Rising Tide – LookLeft 19 in Shops Now

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LookLeft 19 is in Easons stores and hundreds of selected newsagents across the island now. Still only €2 this issue includes former Worker’s Party President Séan Garland’s assessment of the career of Eamon Gilmore, an exclusive article by Greek economist, Yanis Varoufakis, on the failure of European Social Democracy, an interview with new Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger, an examination of the growing militancy among trade union members in Ireland and John Cooney on Scottish Independence and much, much more…

Contents include:

CLASS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The links between Irish corporate and clerical elites, Richard McAlevey investigates.

RACISM, NORTH AND SOUTH

Brian McDermott and Kevin Squires discuss the rise of racism on both sides of the Border.

THE OIREACHTAS’ NEWEST SOCIALIST

Kevin Squires meets Ruth Coppinger to discuss her aims in the Dáil.

CAN RENT CONTROLS WORK?

Osal Kelly discusses how to put a lid on a the bubbling housing market.

WHAT IS TTIP?

Dara McHugh and Padraig Mannion discuss the threat to democracy from the secretive trade deal.

RISING TIDE OF EXPECTATIONS Workers are seeking a new militancy in the trade union movement, Francis Donohoe explores.

THE FORUM Seán Garland bids an unfond farewell to Eamon Gilmore. Also featuring John Cooney, Anna Quigley, Cian O’Callaghan, Marie Moran and Gavin Mendel-Gleason.

WHAT NEXT FOR EUROPE?

Yanis Varoufakis and Terry McDonough discuss the fall of European social democracy and look at how the Left can rise instead.

RADICAL PROTESTANTS

Conall Parr looks at the legacy of radical Protestants in Northern Ireland politics

GLAM ROCK AND ANARCHY

Dara McHugh talks music, politics and petty theft with pioneering Dublin folk band Lynched.

NO NAZIS AT MALMÖ

Neil Dunne discusses the reactions of Malmö FC to the stabbing of a fan by neo-nazis.

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Phil Hogan, the Embodiment of the Crony Capitalist Links Between Business and Politics in Ireland

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Criticism of the government’s nomination of Phil Hogan as Ireland’s EU Commissioner has tended to focus on his lobbying, in 2012, to prevent a Traveller family accessing social housing.  On this basis, independent MEP Nessa Childers has reasonably described the nomination as a “step backwards for equality”. The other main strand of criticism concerns his signing off on bloated consultancy payments for the establishment of Irish Water, an issue that Sinn Fein in particular is highlighting.  Again, the criticism is legitimate and important, as is the fact that he spent the summer appointing former Fine Gael and Labour councillors to state boards and that he quashed inquiries into planning irregularities (including in his own fiefdom of Carlow) when he took office as Minister for the Environment.

But the problem with Hogan goes well beyond anti-Traveller racism, the wasting of public money, the dishing out of sinecures to political cronies, and taking a relaxed approach to dodgy planning. Most Irish politicians engage in all of the above. Hogan’s real importance lies in his being a prime exemplar of the noxious nexus between political and corporate power in Ireland.

The Moriarty Tribunal in 2011 concluded that former Minister Michael Lowry had “an insidious and pervasive influence” over the awarding of a mobile phone licence to Denis O’Brien’s East Digifone consortium.  In fact, the tribunal described Lowry’s conduct as “profoundly corrupt to a degree that was nothing short of breath-taking”.  Lowry was an honoured guest at Hogan’s 50th birthday party in July 2010, and only days after the publication of the Moriarty report Hogan had an official meeting with Lowry – allegedly to discuss unrelated matters.  But then this should not be so surprising, Hogan has form here.  As Jody Corcoran has reported, “Hogan was personally engaged in the extraction of at least two significant sums of money from O’Brien, or his companies or associates, for Fine Gael at or around the time of the granting of the licence”.  Coincidentally, Siteserv – an O’Brien-owned company that had substantial debts it owed to now state-owned Anglo Irish Bank (i.e., you and me) written off – has won some of the contracts to install water meters in Ireland, water charges of course being another of Hogan’s legacies to us.

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From Alpha 2 Omega Podcast #53: What’s Next? Part II

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This week we have part two of our discussion with Professor Peter Hudis, of Oakton Community College, about his book ‘Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism’. The first part can be found here.

In this week’s show we talk about the Soviet experiment and the alienation of labour, the role of the state in a post-capitalist society, the Spanish revolution and the anarchist understanding of revolution, and the co-operative model as an alternative.

You can get the Professors book here.

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After the Gaza Massacre and After the Marches, What Do We Do?

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The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel looks like holding up. It is a cause for celebration that the mass killing has stopped; the destruction of entire neighbourhoods is over for the moment in Gaza. It is hard to celebrate though when the siege still goes on, the occupation of Palestine with all its associated violence continues apace, and those who perpetrated the Gaza massacre have not been brought to justice. In the current bleak post-massacre crisis which Gaza faces, the work of solidarity organisations are needed now more than ever. The question is what form this solidarity will take.

On Saturday August 9th, between eight and ten thousand of us marched the all too familiar two miles to the Israeli embassy. It was the largest demonstration of Palestine solidarity on this island – a truly national demo with banners, placards and people from all the 32 counties, it was a joy to know so many other people cared and to be marching alongside these people. And now we know this, that so many people in this country are willing to make the effort and stand and march in solidarity with Palestine, what do we do next?

The simple answer I want to give is that we don’t go back to the embassy, instead we engage in boycott actions around the country, bringing the energy from the demonstrations back home and making it meaningful.

Why not march again? Marches mobilise us and they energise us – but if all they mobilise us to do is simply to mobilise yet again, then we are making the march about ourselves and how good we feel chanting pro-Palestine slogans and being in solidarity with each other. That’s not good enough.

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Obstruct Reality, Consciously Manipulate, and Deny the Denial: Propaganda, Irish Style

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The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

Ask the vast majority of people who said that and it is a fair bet they will probably reply something like: Josef Goebbels, or maybe Stalin perhaps, Saddam Hussein might even come up, maybe even Henry Kissinger, or maybe even, in a lucid moment, they might reply Rupert Murdoch, or for that matter Denis O Brien.  The truth is they would be wrong on all accounts. Although they would at least be relatively close with the last two or three.

But no, none of them said it, but it is a sure bet that all of the above names would understand the sentiment.

The quote is the first sentence from a 1928 book called Propaganda. The writer was Edward Bernays who many regard as the founder of modern public relations.  As a bold and declarative sentence it leaves you in no doubt what so ever as to the logic underlying the words.

That is, the masses can be first organised and manipulated and secondly, even more important, they must be if “democracy” as it is largely understood today is to fulfil its function in maintaining market-driven politics. The logic therefore is that “the people”, the great mainstay of democratic theory and thought or so we are told, cannot and should not be trusted.

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Left Forum: The Marxist Seminars Are Back!

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The Marxist Seminars are back!

After our initial 6 seminars based on theoretical topics, we thought we’d run the next 6 on ‘Marxism in Practice’.

We will be beginning on Saturday 9th August, 6pm, Chaplin’s Bar, Hawkins’ Street, D2. Each seminar will be at the same time and venue fortnightly thereafter.

Miles Link will be introducing the first seminar and will be put the case forward for the Frankfurt School of ideas. Western Marxism: Problems of mass culture. A lively debate will surely follow as always.

The full programme is the following:

  1. Western Marxism: Problems of mass culture – Miles Link
  2. Comparing popular resistance to neoliberalism in Latin America the in 80s and 90s to the situation in Ireland in the current context of crisis – Prof Barry Cannon NUI Maynooth
  3. Marxist Analysis of the Trade Union movement – Andrew Phelan
  4. Fundamentals of communist production and distribution – Gavin Mendel-Gleason
  5. Personality & History – Helena Sheehan
  6. Marxism & Feminism – Sinead Kennedy

Hope to see you all over the coming months!

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