Politics

justice

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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Island of Saints and Sadists: Ireland 2014

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People often ask me why I write such dark books.

You’re such a sunny person, they say.

I say: Look around you, what kind of a country do you think you’re living in?

Here is a tale of the island of Saints and Sadists.

A young woman came to our country for help, for a home, for safety.

We call her an immigrant and it has become a bad word in the way that the simple trade of tinker became a bad word when I was a boy. And sometimes we call them refugees, which is even a worse word. Or fugees. At least we’re not racist about it. It applies to anyone in distress who asks us to take them in.

And she had been raped in her own country and she found she was pregnant when she came into the care of our state and we carried out the usual compulsory medical examination.

And nobody told her you couldn’t have an abortion in Ireland.

And nobody told her that our state has fought long and hard to force women to keep babies until they are born and then our state has fought long and hard to take their babies away from them and give them to decent people who deserve them or to the nuns.

Because our state cares for women. In the way that any decent man cares for his woman. And there are 221 men in our parliament and only 25 women. So that’s a lot of caring.

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast #052: What’s Next?

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This week I am delighted to welcome Professor Peter Hudis, of Oakton Community College, who has recently published his new book: ‘Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism‘.

We discuss what Marx had to say about post-capitalist societies, and the reluctance of those on the left to talk about what it might actually look like.

We also talk of the theoretical reasons for the failure of the Soviet and Maoist projects, how abstract labour dominates our lives, and how not even the capitalists are in control of the current system.

You can find the Professors book here:http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Marxs-Concept-of-the-Alternative-to-Capitalism

Enjoy!

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March & Rally for Palestine: Slaughter in Gaza – Israel must be sanctioned!

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[Dublin] March & Rally: Slaughter in Gaza – Israel must be sanctioned!

Sat, 2 August 2014, 14:00 Assemble GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE, Parnell Square, Dublin 1

This Saturday 2nd August in Dublin there will be another march in solidarity with the people of Palestine, especially those trapped in Gaza who are being killed in their hundreds, maimed in their thousands and terrorised in their entirety by the Israeli war machine.

Assemble 2pm at The GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE, Parnell Square, Dublin 1. March to Department of Foreign Affairs, St. Stephen’s Green.

JOIN THIS EVENT ON FACEBOOK

Please bring friends, flags, banners, noise. We would ask that you do not bring party-political flags (Irish, Palestinian or others). We are also asking people to bring flowers to leave at the Department.

This week we are bringing the march to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Clearly, the Irish government is out of step with the views of the people of Ireland on this issue. For almost a month thousands upon thousands of people have protested all over Ireland, both in solidarity with the people in Gaza and demanding Irish action. Sadly, the government has not listened, and has taken no action to sanction Israel. We must tell them that €500,000 aid is welcome, but it is time to take concrete political action to sanction Israel for its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.

This slaughter must end immediately, and Israel must be held accountable for its criminal actions against the Palestinian people. Israeli impunity must end.

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be asking the Irish government to play their part in imposing sanctions on Israel by calling for an international arms embargo on Israel and calling for Israel to be suspended from the Euro-Med Agreement which grants its trading privileges with the EU, amongst other things.

The Israeli state has launched a fresh assault on the Palestinian people, a collective punishment of a captive population. Israeli officials are now talking about “expanding and intensifying” the assault on Gaza which has already killed some 1200 people, the vast majority of them civilians including over 200 children. Over 7,000 people, mostly civilians, have been wounded, including almost 1,500 children and 1,000 women. 500 houses have been targeted and destroyed and 1000s of others extensively damaged, while at least 215,000 civilians have been forcibly displaced. Attacks have also been taking place in the West Bank for the two months month, where at least 20 people have been killed.

Join us this Saturday to make your voices heard, and tell the government that it’s time to sanction Israel.

Organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Supporting Organsiations: Irish Congress of Trade Unions, SIPTU, Trade Union Friends of Palestine, Gaza Action Ireland, TEEU (The Power Union), Academics for Palestine, Irish Anti-War Movement, Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance, Peace and Neutrality Alliance

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Debating Directions for a New Republic

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This article provides a critique of social partnership & ‘soft’ NGO advocacy and reflections on pathways forward.

Political & Economic Context: Neoliberalism & Ireland
Many people ask about the cause of poverty, oppression, rising inequality, environmental destruction and climate change. Neo-Marxist thinkers like David Harvey, Erik Olin Wright and Hardt & Negri, make the case that it is International capitalist globalization that is underlying these social catastrophes. It is the neoliberalism of the Washington Consensus – which was a political project of the wealthy and capital elite, theorized by the free marketeers of Friedman and Hayak. It started in Pinochet’s Chile and then Reagan and Thatcher implemented it in the US and the UK. In the face of declining profitability and the crisis of capitalism in the 1970s the aim of the wealthy and elite was to reduce the share of income (wealth) that went to workers and to increase that returning to capital and the elite. They also sought to reduce the power and influence of trade unions and the working class socialist organisations in society, politics and the economy.

At the heart of the neoliberal ideology was a belief that private unregulated markets are the best mechanisms to organize society and state-led planning is inefficient. Neoliberal policies included the de-regulation of the Keynesian welfare state protections and the financial sector, the privatization of public services, neocolonial conquest through corporations, imperial wars for resources such as Iraq, the commodification of nature like water, land, and seeds. Indeed at the heart of this project of neoliberal capitalism is the commodification of everything. Everything is to be turned into something that can be bought and sold, traded on markets, profited from, commercialized. Neoliberalism is about the utopia of individualized responsibility. Your existence is commodified through competition. You must compete with everyone for everything. Values of solidarity, public good, and co-operation are replaced with competition, individualism, commercialism and materialism.

But neoliberalism is also based on a myth of freedom. Where is the freedom for migrants who die in attempts to enter the EU or the US? Where is the freedom for low paid workers forced to work three jobs to survive? Neoliberalism has been dramatically successful in increasing the wealth of the minority, in increasing inequality, and in promoting its values and ideology amongst populations. However, it is also riven with contradictions as any variant of capitalism is inherently so because of the anarchy of free, unregulated, markets that continually engages in boom and bust cycles and because of uneven development where one area expands at the expense of retrenchment in another area. For example, the declining rate of investment for capital in general commodities led to capital in the 2000s flooding new financial products and the financialisation and commodification of ever greater aspects of our lives that capital could invest, gamble and accumulate profit from. But as the logic of the market was expanded into ever greater areas the potential for crisis and crashes increases and thus we see greater numbers and intensity of economic crises. Naoimi Klein has used an interesting term ‘disaster capitalism’ to describe the way in which the elites use various crises to further intensify exploitation and the commodification of everything by private corporations.

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Public Meeting: The Inter-Imperialist War, 1914 – 1918: Not a Noble Cause

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Communist Party of Ireland

Public Meeting

The Inter-Imperialist War, 1914 – 1918: Not a noble cause

Speakers:

Dr Brian Hanley (historian)

Eddie Glackin (CPI)

Chairperson:

Mary Cullen (historian)

3.30pm, Saturday, 26 July 2014

James Connolly House, 43 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Note that the time has changed due to the march in solidarity with the people of Palestine at 2pm at the Spire in O’Connell Street.

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Cutting the Grass in Gaza

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This article originally appeared on Conor McCarthy’s blog Reflections From a Damaged Life on the 22nd of July.

The current Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip recalls earlier interventions over the last several years, going back to Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.  As this blog has noted before, amidst the welter of reportage and high-octane verbiage brought forth in the media about these events, perhaps the most important thing for us observing, and protesting, from afar is to maintain a sense of the ‘bigger picture’.

As this blog has noted previously, Gaza is a place where violence – the hidden violence embodied and crystalised in the historical and present structures of states and interstate relations, as well as the obvious violence of war and counter-terrorism – over-determines the situation as we witness it now.

Let’s repeat a few simple facts:

  1. Gaza is the most densely populated region on the planet, with 1.7 million inhabitants. The overwhelming majority of these people are either refugees or the children or grandchildren of refugees – the human detritus of phases of Israeli ethnic cleansing both in 1947-49 and in 1967.  The great majority of the population is poor, and unemployment is extremely high, with approximately 60% of the population directly dependent on UNRWA for assistance and food;
  2. Gaza has never been a sovereign political entity or part of one – it has no army, no formal state apparatus, and it is technically, in spite of Israel’s pull-out of its settlers in 2005, under Israeli occupation.  This means that Israel has a duty of care to the Strip and its inhabitants;
  3. Gaza has historically been the locus of various kinds of Israeli violence: not merely ethnic cleansing, but also land confiscation, illegal colonial settlement, and population transfer; punitive raids into the Strip are not new – the Israeli raid of 1955 stands out.  And so amidst our horror at the current savagery meted out to the Strip, we must remember that it is routinely subjected to Israeli internventions, air-raids and killings;
  4. Gaza has been subject to an Israeli blockade since 2007, which seeks to control all movement not only of alleged Iranian or Syrian weapons supplies to Hamas, but also of food, fuel, medical supplies, and other essentials of even the most basic civil life, and it is surrounded on its Israeli borders by a ‘fence’, which has served as the prototype for the much better-known West Bank ‘security’ wall.

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