United Left Alliance

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Reflections After Promnight

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Watching the “deal” on Anglo being done over the past few days has provoked some pretty awful feelings in me and I imagine I’m not alone in this – certainly if my facebook news feed is anything to go by. The copper-fastening of the promissory note debt by converting it into a sovereign bond represents a significant move in the wrong direction. The government has actively maneuvered to limit even further any possibility of default on that debt.

In terms of the realpolitik of this, it makes a certain degree of sense. By transforming the promissory notes into government bonds the issues has been kicked to touch – no doubt the possibility of defaulting on this debt will be completely removed from the political agenda. In other words, this technical operation will depoliticize the Anglo debt and therefore consign to history one of the most contentious elements of the legacy of the ‘financial-real estate complex’.

Moreover, the government spin has been quite effective. They have managed to sell the line that this will cost us less because it is stretched out over a longer period and that this ‘bookends’ the Anglo chapter, thus providing a sense of resolution or closure. The support of the media for the government position, even for those of us who would not be enamored with the media at the best of times, was striking. On Wednesday evening it seemed the media were struggling to find their take on the whole issue. By lunchtime on Thursday Sean O’Rourke on RTE’s lunch time news was cheerily declaring a “breakthrough in Ireland’s attempt to lift the debt burden”. Today’s Irish Times (February 8th) features an entire promissory note section, most of which reads like a press release from the Department of Finance.

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Lost Opportunity

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Perspective of a ULA national steering committee member

The 2011 general election gave the Irish far left its highest profile in decades. Five TDs were elected under the electoral banner of the United Left Alliance (ULA), reflecting growing anger against the austerity imposed by the previous government’s agreement with the “Troika” of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.

During the campaign, I was strongly critical of the ULA’s overtly reformist election platform, which did not even mention the word “socialism”. This omission was made explicit by Ann Foley, the ULA candidate for Cork North West and a well known participant in People Before Profit (PBPA), one of the ULA’s founding organisations:

“I feel the ULA has very common sense policies. When people think of socialists, they think of communism, which is not the case. There is nothing dramatic or revolutionary about our policies. A lot of countries have functioning social democracies, especially in Scandinavia. They have great health, transport and childcare systems. This is the direction we want to take, a direction this Government failed to follow.”
(Cork Independent, 6 January 2011)

The decision to move beyond a reformist electoral lash-up by opening up membership to individuals and initiating a process supposedly aimed at the creation of a new working-class party, however, encouraged me to join. I saw this as an important opportunity to discuss the revolutionary socialist programme that the working class so desperately needs. Since then, I have participated in that discussion in ULA meetings at all levels and on my blog (revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com), and have twice stood for election to the national steering committee (NSC). In October 2012 I was elected onto the NSC to represent non-aligned members, ie, those not in one of the ULA’s founding organisations.

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