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In the new issue of LookLeft:
Rising tide against austerity: Working people and the Fine Gael/Labour Government are on a collision course over the property tax and attempts to cut public sector pay, reports Kevin Brannigan
The G8 comes to town:Kevin Squires looks at the impact the 39th G8 summit will have.
Learning Division: Fifteen years ago progressives recognised the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) as a positive development. However, fears that its structures would allow for communal politics to be institutionalised have been realised particularly in the provision of education, writes Justin O’Hagan.
Mobilising a generation: Young Irish people facing sharply limited opportunities at home or emigration are beginning to mobilise, reports Dara McHugh.
Precious few heroes: With his politically charged songs Dick Gaughan has inspired generations of Left activists, Kevin Brannigan caught up with the veteran Scottish folk singer during his spring tour of Ireland
No turning back from here: The Venezuelan revolution has dramatically changed not only the politics of Latin America also but the globe, reports Paul Dillon.
The tyranny of the credit rating agencies: Democratic accountability is being eroded by credit rating capitalism, writes Srinivas Raghavendra
Of live dogs and dead lions: Following the death of Hugo Chávez, Richard McAleavey assesses the Irish media’s representation of the ormer Venezuelan President.
Calling the bigots bluff: Do anti-choicers want follow through the with the logic of their argument and imprison women, asks Katie Garrett.
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Originally posted on Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on the 29th of April.
This brief report intends to outline the situation within the Irish left following the slow implosion of the United Left Alliance (ULA).
The ULA was an alliance made up of the Socialist Party (affiliated to the Committee for a Workers’ International, CWI), the Socialist Workers Party (the International Socialist Tendency, IST), the Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG, a locally based group with public representation including a member of Ireland’s parliament [TD] and numerous municipal councillors). It also included smaller groups such as the Irish Socialist Network and Socialist Democracy.
The ULA was initially very successful by Irish left standards and won five TDs. Though, it should be understood most, if not all, of these victories did not come only from the unity project itself but from literally decades of work by the various groups.
However, seeing the left under a single banner with a serious electoral challenge did initially attract many activists to its banner.
The ULA unfortunately lasted less than two years and today exists in name only.
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The First Left Forum will be held in the Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square, on May 18th 2013. In the call out the Forum states:
“We have had five years of crisis, five years where no alternative has been able to win support despite the obvious failures of the current political and economic regime, with serious human and environmental consequences.
Can we do better? Can the Left win widespread support for our ideas and build an alternative society? Can we make socialism more than a nice idea? The Left Forum invites you to contribute your views on the state of progressive politics and to discuss how we can do better.
The forum will be participatory and exploratory, and will aim to ask and answer key questions about what levels of political agreement are possible, what forms of organisation are useful and what tactics and strategies will be effective. We hope that you will join us and help define the future of the Left in Ireland”
This has led to some questions, firstly who is the Left Forum? Is it another front? What ideas do you mean, what exactly is ‘participatory’ and ‘inclusive’ and haven’t we heard all of this before?
Who are we?
The Left forum is an initiative that has been launched by the old United Left Alliance reading group in DCU, (now renamed the Left Forum DCU). While small the membership is diverse representing many trends of the Irish left. The group includes ex members of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers’ Party, The Workers Solidarity Movement, The Workers Party, the Communist Party as well as the non-affiliated. Though the various group members very much recognise the different strengths of the various organisations we believe that for both objective and subjective reasons that these groups (certainly alone) do not offer all the answers. The group originally came together as the DCU branch of the United Left Alliance and this initiative has partly comes as a result of the implosion of the alliance and the gap left in the political spectrum by its demise, including the political space available independent left activists.
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DCTU May Day Rally: Unfinished Business 1913 – 2013
7pm, 1st of May,
Assembly: Parnell Square
March to Liberty Hall
You can keep up with 1913 Unfinished Business by following the hashtag #UB1913 on twitter: https://twitter.com/UB1913 and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/1913UnfinishedBusiness
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Dublin Council of Trade Unions
May Day 2013
‘1913-2013 Unfinished Business’
Resist austerity- March with your banners
The Dublin Council of Trade Unions is holding its annual MAY DAY demonstration on Wednesday, May 1st.
Assembly point will be Parnell Square at 7 pm and marching to Liberty Hall for a public meeting at Beresford Place.
Music and stalls around the Lock Out theme will follow in the theatre and bar area of Liberty Hall.
This year’s theme will be ’1913/2013: unfinished business’. The unfinished business includes the legal recognition of trade unions in all employments and negotiating rights for all members.
It also includes a policy of resistance to austerity imposed by the government at the behest of the troika. Resistance to unemployment; to relentless cuts in health services, education, social welfare, community services, and in provision for the needy.
Job creation can never be seriously addressed in a climate of austerity. Oil and water don’t mix.
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Explore, participate, act
Teachers' Club, 36 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1
May 18th, 11am – 5 pm
Keep up to date through Leftforum.net & facebook.com/LeftForumIreland
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The following will focus on the relationship between planned political education and left activism. If there is a justification for this, it lies in the history of the worker’s movement itself. Almost every significant step toward the self-emancipation of the working class has rested on a deep and thoroughgoing emphasis on the educational development of those indispensably involved.
Careful planning and organisation of political education among activists and workers, within and without their respective organisations, is always centrally important. In an attempt to provoke discussion, some questions are raised about the different strategies for the development of educational forms worthy of the movement the present generation of socialist activists hope to build.
The most influential socialists of the 19th and 20th centuries all realised the necessity of ensuring workers take ownership of, and develop, the knowledge necessary for self-emancipation. Certainly Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, along with many other pioneers of the movement, were never prepared to neglect this necessary work, not under threat of exile, not in the midst of revolutionary upheavals, not during imprisonment, conditions of civil war and/or counter-revolutionary witch-hunts. Realising that action has to be theoretically informed, they never stopped studying, analysing and writing, throughout their lives. They have done much to prepare the ground, providing many useful signposts for subsequent generations, yet the necessity for intensive scholarship and focused dissemination of knowledge has not diminished in the slightest.
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Editorial: LookLeft Issue 15, March 2013
“I am, of course, aware that the ultimate solution is the ownership and control of the means of life by the whole of the people; but we are not at that stage of development as yet.”
– James Larkin
Across Europe, progressive political forces have yet to find an adequate response to the rightwing onslaught on the public good which has been unleashed since 2008.
The neo-liberal agenda, which the right uses to disguise the capitalist grab for more power and resources, has over 30 years permeated our political, media, academic and cultural worlds.
In Ireland this problem has been exacerbated still further by the historic success of deeply conservative forces in undermining the development of progressive and working class institutions.
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This month a group of socialist and republican activists from a variety of backgrounds throughout Ireland came together in Dublin to establish the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum. The concept of the forum arose from a series of seminars that in turn had their origin in a symposium on “Republicanism in the Twenty-First Century” hosted by the Communist Party in September last year.
The aim of the forum is to promote the ideas of socialist republicanism, as best expressed by James Connolly, Liam Mellows, and Peadar O’Donnell. The forum is named after Peadar O’Donnell in recognition of his outstanding role as a union organiser, republican soldier, author, enemy of fascism, friend of the worker and small farmer, committed socialist, and lifelong activist for peace and against imperialism.
At a time when our people are being ground down daily by the brutalities of the bankrupt capitalist system and the inability of the two failed states in Ireland to provide any solution to their problems, the Peadar O’Donnell Forum believes that the time has come for a decisive break with the present system—or, as Connolly so memorably put it, to set about the reconquest of Ireland.
All Ireland is under the domination of global capitalism and imperialism, which exercises its control through the machinery of the European Union and IMF, the direct intervention of the British state, and overt and covert US influence. This control is exercised at every level and in every area of life—economically, socially, politically, ideologically, culturally, and environmentally—and is welcomed, endorsed and facilitated by the domestic capitalist class, north and south, who have long ago given up any thought of creating a society that would “cherish all the children of the nation equally.”
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Is emigration state policy? – LookLeft magazine investigates
The new issue of LookLeft magazine, Ireland’s leading progressive media outlet available in newsagents country wide, includes articles on emigration and how it has benefited conservative forces in the Republic and an in-depth look at the events and impact of the 1913 Lockout.
In an article investigating the impact of emigration on the Republic, British and Irish civil service documents are quoted which back up the argument that successive Governments’ have tacitly supported the export of our youth.
These include one quoting civil servant Alexis Fitzgerald, an advisor to Taoiseach John Costello commenting that, “High emigration, granted a population excess, releases social tension which would otherwise explode, and makes possible a stability of manners and customs which would otherwise be the subject of radical change.”
In his in-depth look at the 1913 Lockout’s importance ‘then and now’ historian Brian Hanley asks is the establishment really interested in commemorating the ‘divine gospel of discontent’ as preached by James Larkin.
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Paul Murphy MEP and David Murphy of the Socialist Party provide a critical appraisal of the government’s Action Plan 2013 and argue that Ireland needs a radically different action plan.
Another year and another instalment in the Action Plan for Jobs from the government. After the self-proclaimed sensational success that was the 2012 action plan, with 92% of its targets being hit, unemployment still stands at over 14%. Self-congratulation is no congratulation.
With over 87,000 people having emigrated since the last Action Plan was launched, what does Action Plan for Jobs 2013 have to offer? Well, not a lot, despite containing 333 ‘actions’ to build on last year’s 270 ‘actions’. It continues to outline the next steps in the government’s plan to create 100,000 new jobs by 2016 and makes a big effort to be savvy by using the latest business jargon like “Disruptive Reforms”.
It contains some of the government’s favourite catchphrases like “governments don’t create jobs…but create the environment for jobs to be created” and Enda Kenny’s mantra of making Ireland “the best small country in which to do business”. It contains lots of lofty ambitions, but in effect doesn’t contain a lot of ideas to actually get people back to work. It is a plan firmly anchored within a neo-liberal framework, calling for less regulation and tax cuts for businesses together making Ireland more 'cost competitive', while hoping for a major increase in Foreign Direct Investment.
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Translation of an article by sociologist Jorge Moruno and philosopher Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop, published today in Público, analysing the present conjuncture in the Spanish state in light of major corruption scandals and the crumbling of the current regime’s legitimacy.
Government resignation – and then what?
The Bárcenas papers are not a simple case of political corruption in which a boss puts his hand in the till and all can be simplified by talking about rotten apples. Beyond the final denoument, what we are faced with is an entire process of putrefaction of the party system that arose from the 1978 assembly (cortes), in which the Partido Popular is the main -but not the only- political exponent of the Spanish real estate-financial bloc which has benefitted so much from these decades of bubble. Some of us have taken to referring to this ruling layer from the political-speculative tandem, which draws together the worst of our society, as a lumpen-oligarchy, thereby highlighting the nature of its policies and the way it puts them into practice.
This modus operandi functions by democratising the idea of the speculating property owner, turning every citizen into a potential entrepreneur with regard to his home or the one she aspires to obtain. The spreading of this idea and its practice brought about a situation in which, for a time, the possibility of social ascent was associated with the negotiating ability of the individual and not with the extension of collective rights and the development of a democratic culture that placed value on what is public. This operation of moving society to the right, based on the ideology of the property owner, always works as long as one can speculate a little bit more. Corruption, then, is not a mere consequence of casino-capitalism; it is also the necessary lubricant for putting it into practice. The common thread between regime politicans, speculators and builders is reflected perfectly in the Bárcenas papers, where many of the donors are now receiving contracts for Madrid hospitals up for privatisation. Corruption -of the systemic kind- is also seen in the way the vice-president of the CEOE (Spanish employers’ body) receives a discount in the cafeterias of public institutions such as universities and ministries, whilst at the very same time he rails against anything that sounds public, even when this sector is his biggest source of payment.
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A Greek tragedy
A monumental drama is playing out before our eyes. It is a true Greek tragedy. The plot: A society is being pushed to its limits. The denouement is not yet determined, but survival is at stake and prospects are precarious. Greece is at the sharp end of a radical and risky experiment in how far accumulation by dispossession can go, how much expropriation can be endured, how far the state can be subordinated to the market. It is a global narrative, but the story is a few episodes ahead here.
Greece is the crucible.[i] It is a caldron where concentrated forces are colliding in a process that will bring forth either a reconfiguration of capitalism or the dawn of its demise.
Salaries, pensions, public services are falling, while prices and taxes are rising. Massive asset stripping is underway. Water, power, ports, islands, public buildings are for sale. Unemployment, emigration and evictions have brought a sense of a society unraveling. Homeless people wander the streets and scavenge for food in bins or beg it from the plates of those eating in tavernas. If they are immigrants, they are terrorised. Those looking into a horizon without hope either drift into desolation or perform the ultimate decisive act of suicide. Some have done so in private spaces, while others have chosen public places to underline the political nature of their fate, as they jump from heights, set themselves on fire or shoot themselves. In April 2012, Dimitris Christoulas, a retired pharmacist, who felt he could no longer live a dignified life after his pension had been slashed, shot himself in front of parliament. His last words were: “I am not committing suicide. They are killing me.” He urged younger people to fight.
Speaking to Greeks, it is hard to find any without a far reaching systemic critique. They tell you so many details of the deceits of the troika, the corruption of government, the decline in their own standards of living, the pervasive sense of social disintegration. When asked if they see any hope, few answer in the affirmative.
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Inside the Irish and indeed international left wing movement there is a difficult discussion that is beginning (or I should say re-beginning as this discussion has many predecessors). This is a discussion of organisational structure and democracy. This discussion should neither fall into an anti-leftist ‘socialism is invariably anti-democratic’ and even less so into a condescending ‘socialism from below’ which has no practical meaning; or even worse act as simply an attack from one group upon another. These issues seem to be systematic across the dominant Irish and British left. In fact even within the more recent Occupy movement an informal bureaucratic clique seemed to have arisen quite quickly. Some might argue that the existing types of structures have been necessary for survival at certain historical periods of severe oppression; or even in periods of downturn in class struggle and consciousness; however I can see no credible reasoning for keeping them now. Others might argue that these structures are necessary to create an effective force of class struggle; this I also disagree with, in the short term they may be effective for small groups but in the long term they lead to fragmentation, ‘group think’ and hamper both individual and collective political development. These structural issues I believe are acting as a block on the development of the Irish left, both politically and practically, and I believe add to a sectarian mentality between existing groups. I do not wish to fetish structure I am aware as much as the next person that the material ‘objective factors’ are of key importance. However there is also a ‘subjective factor’ where the superstructure affects the base. Our own subjective structures are also something we can do something about. I am not saying it is a magic formula that will build a mass movement or party overnight however I believe this difficult discussion is a necessary step. While not fetishising structure we should also not ignore it altogether which has been the case for the last number of years. This article does not claim to have all the answers on the problem of organisation in the current period; however it hopes to be an opening to a frank and serious discussion.
Democratic Centralism, the Slate System and the Role of the Party Apparatus
There are three key issues to this debate that I think need to be discussed, the first is the adherence to a deformed notion of democratic centralism, the second is the ‘winner takes all’ slate system (practised by both the SWP and SP) and the third is the role of party staff and apparatus. I will explain these notions briefly as they are widely used with an assumption that the meaning is understood or agreed upon when this is not often the case. I define democratic centralism as the key notion that a group or party will have a discussion on an issue and eventually make a decision whether by a vote, a delegate assembly or by the election of representatives. If the vote is contentious the losers should agree to commit to the majority line externally while being free to push for their own line internally. Moreover every effort should be made to hold such debates publically in front of both the party membership and class, this may not be possible in all situations, but it is in most. This conception of democratic centralism is sensible notion of how to organise any serious collective group who are bound to have disagreements.
However the key point to democratic centralism that is not acted on in the Irish left is one of timing. The discussion needs to happen before the decision is made and members should have the option to express their view democratically whether through direct voting, delegation or representation. This does not happen, what tends to happen is a leadership executive body makes a decision and then passes that decision onto the membership. Democratic centralism then resembles the Stalinist notion of just doing what you are told. In some organisations you are perfectly free to discuss the issue and it will be ‘patiently explained’ to you by an executive member. But the key fact is the decision is made and the only option for the member who disagrees is to withdraw their labour, whether in a conscious mode or by dropping out.
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