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1t

First we take Athens, then we take Berlin? The Greek earthquake and the twilight of neoliberalism

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Syriza’s victory has left in its wake a wave of hope that an alternative to neoliberalist orthodoxy is possible. In this piece, originally published in Ceasefire on February 2nd, Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen examine the prospects of further breakthroughs elsewhere in Europe.

 

As in the famous photograph of the Parthenon, the peoples of Europe are indeed rising up – even if the KKE which hung those posters has singularly ruled itself out of taking any part in the remarkable confrontation with the Troika which its one-time comrades in Syriza are now engaging in. Across the continent there is quite rightly a huge wave of hope at seeing that there is an alternative to simply taking our neoliberal medicine and watching as work, education, health, democracy and common decency are hacked to pieces by our increasingly-indistinguishable rulers.

Leaving aside the many possible partial analyses – of the history of German occupation, British military support for the postwar assault on the Greek resistance, NATO’s support for the regime of the colonels, the splits and reorganisation of the Greek left after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the corruption of Greek social democracy, the twisting of arms and breaking of mandates to ensure Troika rule, the perverse effects of bleeding money out of the economy, the rise of “solidarity economy” in response to the destruction of the welfare state, the wave of workplace occupations, the radical Greek diaspora abroad and so on – how can we understand “the movement as a whole”?

Much “radical” writing on Greece is painfully simplistic – the Greeks were suffering, therefore they rose up (but, as activists know in practice there is no linear relationship between levels of poverty and levels of resistance – or neoliberalism would long since have collapsed without us having to make an effort and, more trivially, we would have seen comparable levels of struggle in countries like Portugal and Italy). Or, party-building is always and everywhere the thing to do (but the presence of far-left parties, and the latest new coalition, normally fails to have anything like the desired effects – such coalitions often lose votes by comparison with their previously separate components).

Let’s consider three badly-affected European countries: Greece, Spain and Ireland. The new Greek government certainly rests on a long process of party-building going back to the split between the “interior” KKE (oriented to local struggles) and the “exterior” one (oriented to Moscow). But Spain’s Podemos – now the first party in terms of popular support – has just been invented and stands not in any genealogy of left parties but in a long history of the “anti-institutional left”, going back through the indignad@s, the 2004 protests against the state’s attempt to blame ETA for the Madrid train bombings, the 2003 anti-war movement, the global justice movement of the early 2000s and before that the complex and well-established Spanish autonomist scene. In Ireland, despite the agreement between Sinn Féin’s PR machine and the world’s mainstream media that it is somehow the equivalent of Syriza and Podemos, the collapse of Ireland’s traditional post-colonial party system (two right-wing nationalist parties and a tiny Labour Party) has mostly benefitted independent deputies rather than either SF or the Trotskyist parties, whose alliance recently collapsed.

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2t

Solidarity with Syriza: Challenging Austerity at Home

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An article by Brendan Young and Eddie Conlon

The election of Syriza has sparked a rash of speculation on the possibility of a left government in Ireland at the next election. Contributing to this were the recent inferences from SF sources that they would not go into a coalition with the Troika parties – in particular FF or FG. Such a commitment would be welcome.

This note addresses three issues:

  • there is little prospect of a left government coming out of the next election, so what should the anti-austerity movement do to build a political alternative in the light of the Syriza victory;

  • the movement against the water charge is the source of a new political alternative and new, anti-austerity candidates in the coming election; any slate of anti-austerity candidates must therefore champion the non-payment demands of the movement because otherwise it will remain isolated from it;

  • should any new political formation accept the rules laid down by the defenders of wealth and privilege – or be prepared to lead a challenge to those rules?

No to Coalition with the Right

Explicit rejection of coalition with the Right – FF and FG – is a pre-requisite for discussion of a left alternative in Ireland. We cannot develop an alternative to the ravages of capitalism by forming a government with parties committed to the preservation of the wealth and privilege of the capitalist minority. But as yet, no clear statement has come from SF on this matter. Nor is it clear that SF would not do something analogous to what Syriza has unfortunately done: formed a coalition with a party of the Right, in this case ANEL – a populist right wing, anti-immigrant party – rather than form a minority government and demand the support of the KKE on concrete issues. The fault in this lies with the refusal of the KKE (Greek Communist Party) to support a Syriza government.

Hopefully this coalition deal will not derail the pre-election promises by the Syriza leadership – or become an excuse for not implementing anti-austerity or socially progressive measures. Socialists across Europe should support the actions of the Syriza government against the continued imposition of debt and austerity in Greece and build active solidarity with Syriza. The best way to do that is to actively challenge the austerity regime at home.

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ttip

TTIP – What is it and Should we be Worried?

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TTIP – what is it and should we be worried?
 


 

A debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
with economist Constantin Gurdgiev and Frank Keoghan, TEEU President
 
Hosted by Joan Collins TD
 
February 27, 7.30pm, Wynns Hotel
 
 On February 27 at 7.30pm in Wynn’s Hotel, Joan Collins TD hosts a debate on the pros and cons of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Possibly the most talked about EU-US trade deal in a generation and still in negotiation, the TTIP sets out to create the world’s largest free-trade zone.
 
Setting out the reasons for opposing the TTIP is Frank Keoghan, TEEU General President and a member of the Global Solidarity Committee of ICTU. Economist and commentator Constantin Gurdgiev explains its merits while Deputy Joan Collins chairs the debate and the follow-up questions and answers session.
 
This debate is supported by Mandate, TEEU and Unite the Union
 

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peoplesnews

New Issue of People’s News Out Now

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Issue 118 of the People’s News is out now

Articles: 

Page 1: EU may take another blow to its legitimacy

Page 1: TEEU warns against corporations being given the power to dictate to Governments

Page 3: Meeting in Galway on TTIP and CETA

Page 3: Scrap TTIP and CETA demonstration – 4th February

Page 3: Is QE another blow for euro?

Page 4: Scary stuff

Page 4: Surely not

Page 5: Greece will not be taken for granted

Page 5: Germany’s past must be confronted

Page 7: Greek election strengthens Canadian opposition to CETA

Page 8: A roadmap to corporate plunder

Page 8: Lobbying organisations’ culture of secrecy

Page 11: British politician highlights EU/Partition contradiction

Page 12: “Light” and “darkness according to Brussels

Page 13: ECB intensifies power grab

Page 14: New Greek PM at national shrine to resistance

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Celebrating the election of Syriza

Syriza’s Historic Victory and the Prospects of the Left

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The Greek elections of January 25th have given a decisive victory to SYRIZA. It is a victory not only of the Greek but also of the European Left, which can prove of historical consequences for the further course of Europe.

SYRIZA gained 149 seats in the Greek parliament, just falling short of the required majority of 151 to form a government of its own. However, it achieved a clear preponderance, with an 8.5% margin, against the hitherto ruling conservative party of ND, and was able to form a government with the support of ANEL, a small Right party.

The result of the elections was hailed by the Greek laboring people with relief as opening a prospect of escape from their sufferings, the austerity measures, unemployment and poverty, deriving from the Memoranda imposed by the Troika after 2010. It was these laboring people who gave victory to SYRIZA against the ruling parties of the establishment. These parties, PASOK and ND, had followed faithfully all directions of the Troika, resulting in an unprecedented fall of wages by almost 30% (and even more in some categories of workers) and record unemployment of about 25-30% (more than 50% in the youth). There is now broad expectation within the people that at least some of the burdens and misfortunes they suffered during the last years will be raised and that they will achieve a betterment of their condition. At the same time, besides a willingness to fight for their interests, there is also some anxiety and uncertainty about the next day. SYRIZA’s result has given hope to the people but has not completely eliminated fear, as everyone here in Greece knows that, in view of strong pressures and blackmail from the EU, it will not be easy for the new government to effect the promised changes.

SYRIZA’s victory and the formation of the new government have aroused great interest in the rest of Europe as well, provoking reactions from all sides. Conservative forces have hastened to “remind” that Greece must implement the obligations ensuing form the Memoranda – German chancellor Merkel, minister of Finance Schaeuble and French president Francois Hollande have already made such statements. On the other hand, Left parties, activists and intellectuals all over the world hailed the result as a great opportunity and spur to the fight to end austerity policies.

The elections have shown some other significant, even if secondary, trends too with regard to all other parties and the rest of the Greek Left. They witnessed the smashing up of intermediate “center-Left” parties, the formerly mighty PASOK and DIMAR, being replaced by the colorless Potami (the Greek word for “The River”), the firmness of the Golden Dawn Nazis coming out as the third party, a mediocre rise of the Anti-capitalist Left formation ANTARSYA and the relative stability of the neo-Stalinist KKE[1].

All these aspects have received extensive commentary in Greece from analysts on the Left and the broader political spectrum. In the present article we will commend on the result and the course taken, hoping to throw some light on the issues involved – issues that are crucial not only for the Greek but for the European Left as well.

 1. The result of the elections

Seven months ago, commenting on the result of the Greek EU elections in an article in this site, the present writer had called it “a clear, historical, but still not decisive SYRIZA victory”. The same thing may be said in an even stronger sense about the result of the present parliamentary elections. It was a still more imposing and great victory for SYRIZA but yet still not decisive.

Throughout the election campaign, SYRIZA’s leadership persistently called the electorate to give SYRIZA a parliamentary majority (i.e., at least 151 seats) in order to be able to fulfill unhindered its program. During the last days before the vote, polls showed this to be a realistic possibility. Yet, after a thriller lasting almost all the elections night, SYRIZA failed to acquire the majority needed by the narrowest margin.

The fact that there was something lacking in SIRIZA’s result in both contests cannot be considered purely an accident and some explanations have been offered.

SYRIZA’s momentous rise in the 2012 elections was due chiefly to the big social movements of “Aganaktismenoi” that developed in Greece during 2011-12. However, after ND won the 2012 elections and was able to form a coalition government with PASOK (and, initially, with DIMAR too) the movements subsided. Despite occasional outbursts, there was a general mood of weariness within the people, who saw their previous big struggles being defeated and, in an immediate sense, remain ineffective.

To this natural reaction may be added the fact that SYRIZA adopted, to a bigger or lesser extent, a tactic of waiting, expecting power to fall in its hands like a ripe fruit after the inevitable decline of the ND-PASOK rule. This does not mean, as a number of Leftists imply in their criticisms, that SYRIZA should be regarded directly responsible for the decline of the movements, or that it acted as a barrier to their revival. The retreat of the movements was to a certain extent inevitable and SYRIZA could not have reversed it at will. The point is however that during the last two years its stance was somewhat passive and inactive, consisting of excessive “realist” adjustments and failing to strengthen its ties with the people in the new situation.

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4

Leave it out!  Left in and left out in Irish Syrizian thinking

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The imminent truncation of the Labour Party and the rise of Sinn Féin would probably have tabled it anyway. But the reaction to Syriza’s election in Greece has changed the topography of the Irish left unity discussion (such as it is) in one long political week.  Not necessarily for the better. Sinn Féin and then SIPTU President Jack O’Connor , and others,  have shifted the frame from a radical left alliance to one effectively taking in Sinn Féin and even Labour.

These two propositions are very different animals altogether. Furthermore, in a burst of ‘yeah, let’s do it too’ élan, people are now talking about going for a left government. The strewn constellation of the radical left will likely be split on the wider of the projects, even if it gets no further than a talking point. Including even a shrunken Labour is almost a no-no for the radical left. Including Sinn Féin is highly problematical to say the least. (Some categorise them outside the left; the anti water charge campaign left their left flank exposed, and may still do; two recent developments raised leftist eyebrows that may not have been raised before: the cutback provisions of the Stormont House Agreement and their failure to support Clare Daly’s December Bill to repeal the constitutional ban on abortion).

But here is another problem. Sinn Féin’s stature as a left party does not depend on how they are viewed by one or other far left party, but on how they are viewed by the electorate (voting workers, blue and white collared). It will be very difficult to carry an argument for a united left alternative while simultaneously arguing that it should exclude Sinn Féin (and arguing for a similar exclusion with those who would want to add Labour too).

Fortunately there is an old shepherd’s crook on the Irish left for separating the sheep from the goats: coalition with conservative parties (effectively Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael). If this condition is raised by the radical left it requires Sinn Féin (and Labour) to qualify their political positioning, and rescues the radical left from the accusation of refusing to unite for a ‘left alternative’ offered (with various degrees of sincerity) to the people. So, there is a simple question for Sinn Féin, Jack O’Connor and others. Would a vote for Sinn Féin or Labour be guaranteed as a vote for the left? Or could it end up as a vote for another coalition led by, or with a large bloc from, Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael? How do you stand – now – on such a coalition? Of course there are crucial policy and programmatic matters to be considered. But this initial question would indicate whether there really is any game on at all.

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Early Birthday Poem For President Higgins

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After The Abuse Hurled At Him By Gurriers

after Oliver Goldsmith and Marilyn Monroe

 

You stand stall, your integrity so vast

you need help from an army officer

dragging it up the steps of aircraft.

Your intellect a Gillette disposable

razor, and matched only

by your ability to make

a simple idea sound complex.

Why evade the issue,

when one can instead engage

in circumlocution?

 

You’re bigger to us than Thor,

or Apollo, only with a slightly

different hairstyle. Times

when our thoughts were stuck

on bread and butter, for lack of either;

we’d turn to you for inspiration,

the ripple moving across your

enormous forehead signifying either

impending flatulence or thoughts

on the situation in Nicaragua.

 

The insult thrown at you last week

the worst a head of state has suffered

since Charles the First lost out

to an axe of questionable parentage.

Though rest assured, all

about Galway, men and women

of consequence are having

heart attacks on your behalf,

and raising glasses

to the man we know

never called anyone

a wanker.

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3

The Wrath of Kane: Banking Crisis and Political Power

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While his whole testimony requires examining in a little more depth, I think this is a good standalone clip from evidence to the banking inquiry given by Prof. Ed Kane on Wednesday 28 Jan 2015.

He was asked by Deputy Pearse Doherty to elaborate on the statement below which was made in a paper that Kane co-authored in 2004:

Realistically, every government-managed disaster relief program is a strongly lobbied tax-transfer program for redistributing wealth and shifting risk away from the disaster’s immediate victims. A systemic crisis externalizes – in depositor runs and in bank and borrower pleas for government assistance – a political and economic struggle over when and how losses accumulated in corporate balance sheets and in the risky portfolios of insolvent financial institutions are to be unwound and reallocated across society.

Professor Kane’s analysis is that the way a crisis plays out in terms of who pays for the crisis is an issue of power – that is, it is related to the nature of political and economic power in a state and the relationships between the worlds of finance and politics.

Anyway, the official transcript is below, with a video clip of the ecxhange. You’ll notice that the official transcript differs slightly from the actual exchange, but not in a significant way. The meaning is still captured and essentially stays the same.

the 2004 paper referenced is available here.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: [your] 2004 paper says that while policy-making during a crisis may be of the seat of the pants variety, the policy itself is informed by a political and economic struggle over who pays for the losses. How important in the view of Professor Kane is that dynamic, namely, the political and economic struggle of who pays for the crisis in terms of framing the terms of the resolution?

Professor Edward Kane: I think it is terribly important. I define a crisis as a battle over loss allocation. There are firms with losses and no one wants to hold them. People are contracted to take the losses, by writing insurance or lending money or bonds, but they do not want to pay and they have the political power, in many cases, to see that they are paid. My superficial understanding of Ireland is that many foreign creditors were paid off with Irish taxpayers’ money and it is astonishing to me how good politics, the way a republic or a democracy is supposed to work, would ever lead to that solution.

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2

Debt? What Debt?

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With the Dail to debate a private members motion from Catherine Murphy, TD calling for support for a European Debt Conference, it is worth looking over Ireland’s debt numbers; especially as we will get a flood of claims from some quarters that our debt level is fine, its’ sustainable, we don’t need debt relief, etc. etc. etc.

The starting point in such debates is the question:  is Irish debt sustainable.  This can, however, descend into a black hole of formulae.  Simply put, just about any debt can be considered ‘sustainable’ if the debtor is willing to starve the kids and live under the railway bridge.  ‘Sustainable?  Sure, but there will be sacrifices’ (which, in Ireland are never inventoried).  If you believe this is an exaggeration, consider the EU elite’s attitude towards Greek debt levels. 

Let’s go through some bald numbers.

Debt 1

Irish debt is among the highest in the 19 Eurozone countries.  Officially, it is at 110 percent of GDP; when measured against our fiscal capacity as suggested by the Fiscal Council, it rises to 122 percent.  We’re placed fourth though look out for Cyprus and Belgium in the next few years.

When we turn to what some call an ‘illegitimate’ debt – that private banking debt that we all ended up paying for – Ireland remains league leader.

Debt 2

While banking debt makes up a quarter of our GDP, in the Eurozone the total debt is less than 2 percent.  And for Ireland, this doesn’t count the nearly €20 billion taken from the National Pension Reserve Fund for recapitalisation – since this is categorised ‘investment’ and not debt.   Were it not for the official banking debt, our overall levels would be close to the average Eurozone level. 

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1

Tsipras versus Cameron: people versus bankers

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This article originally appeared on Socialist Economic Bulletin on the 1st of Feb 2015. 

David Cameron became the first elected politician in Europe to criticise the election of the Syriza government in Greece and was quickly followed by George Osborne. This might seem odd as Britain is outside the Eurozone and has limited direct influence over its policies. But the urgent and unrestrained nature of the criticism is very revealing about what is at stake in the anti-austerity struggle and specifically the very different roles being played by the British and Greek governments.

The Syriza government represents the popular will to end austerity. Only the parties of the left increased their vote in the recent election, and that was overwhelmingly to Syriza’s benefit with a rise of 9.4%. But entirely new parties and even parties of the traditional right adopted similar anti-austerity rhetoric in an effort to shore up their vote. The election showed the Greek popular majority wants to end austerity.

In Britain the banks have an extraordinarily large weight in the economy. Consequently, this dominance is felt through all areas of political and social life. A recent Global Financial Stability Reportfrom the IMF (pdf) demonstrated the dangerously lop-sided nature of the British economy by focusing on ‘shadow banking’, the artificially created networks of companies and vehicles to disguise the real liabilities of the banks. In Britain shadow banking accounts for over 350% of GDP. The next highest exposure of all the industrialised areas or economies is the Eurozone at less than 200% of GDP. The phrase ‘too big to fail’ is insufficiently grave to convey the threat posed by the outsized level of British bank liabilities.

This explains the sudden and intemperate Tory interventions against the newly-elected Greek government. The British government represents the interests of British big businesses and the most important of these is the banks. The banks have sharply reduced their loans outstanding to Greek borrowers. As Martin Wolf the Financial Times’ chief economics commentator explained recently, the banks in general were the key beneficiaries of the bailout, not the Greek economy or its population. Since the €254bn bailout organised by the Troika just €27bn was to support the Greek economy. The rest went to creditors with British, German and Dutch banks at the head of the queue for the taxpayer-funded bailout. But the huge debt is incurred by Greek taxpayers, and so the debt burden is unbearable.

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svmay

January/February Socialist Voice Out Now

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The January/February Socialist Voice is now available online at http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/index.html.

Apologies to our readers but we had major technical difficulties at the beginning of the year.

Laughing all the way to the bank: Eugene McCartan

We have begun a new year just like the old one: the political establishment treating the people like fools, weaving a web of deception about their failed policies with the pretence that we have “turned the corner” and are on our way back to economic health.

Again Ireland has been touted as the poster boy for compliance, with Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and others from the EU Central Bank congratulating the Irish people on the sacrifice they have made and for taking the medicine dished up by them without a whimper and declaring that the rest of Europe should follow our example.

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/01-laughing.html

Political statement: CPI

At its first meeting of 2015 the National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland discussed and evaluated the political and economic situation as experienced by working people, north and south.

It is clear that the imposition of “austerity” is still the central plank of both the British and the Irish governments as well as a requirement of the European Union. It is the means of continuing to attack and undermine workers’ conditions and of ensuring the survival of the monopoly-capitalist system itself.

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/02-statement.html

Urgent need for a living wage:  Tommy McKearney

If the slogan “A car in every garage and a chicken in every pot” was once used by a candidate for the US presidency as a definition of prosperity, then a charity shop on every street corner and a food bank in every town centre appears to have become the signal of “austerity for working people” in 21st-century Ireland.

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/03-wage.html

Unite demands that the government treat young workers equally

Unite has reiterated its call for the minimum wage to be increased to €9.65 an hour for all workers. With one in every five people at work suffering deprivation, tackling poverty pay must be the priority.

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/04-unite.html

The elections in Greece: A clear message to the European Union

The working people of Greece have delivered a clear message to the European Union, to the International Fund and to the Greek oligarchs that they have had enough of “austerity,” enough of being bullied, enough of being dictated to by these forces.

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/05-greece.html

Christians need to face their bloody past:  Rev. Richard Bryant

Since the horrific massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, I’ve heard numerous discussions in the media regarding “good” and “bad” Muslims. Commentators and journalists ask, “How do we in the west know who is a good or a bad Muslim?”

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/06-christians.html

Pope lashes the “Golden Calf”:  Bernard Murphy

For Pope Francisco Bergoglio, economic inequality is the world’s biggest problem. And he sees capitalism as being at the centre of inequality.

As liberation theology was not exactly flavour of the month in the second half of the twentieth century with most of the solidly conservative Irish Catholic hierarchy, many socialists here will find it strange to have an unexpected ally in the Vatican. Yet in the following short extracts, taken directly from his Apostolic Exhortation, a 67-page manifesto published a year ago, the Pope doesn’t mince his words.

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/07-pope.html

Venezuela: New measures announced by Maduro as the economy wobbles

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela announced numerous economic measures during his annual address to the National Assembly, without announcing an increase in petrol prices, as was expected.

Petroleum in Venezuela is “the cheapest in the world,” he declared, but “the moment has arrived to raise prices.” For one US dollar you can purchase 1,800 litres of subsidised petrol, which generates $12½ billion of expenses for the state. “They may crucify me, but we must do it this year, in 2015,” Maduro said.

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/08-venezuela.html

The view from Cuba

Seán Edwards interviewed Noel Carrillo, former Cuban ambassador to Ireland, in Havana on 14 January 2015

SE: The Communist Party of Ireland has already expressed its congratulations to the Cuban people on the release of the five Cuban anti-terrorists from prison in the United States, and you have replied. Have you anything to add at this point?

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/09-cuba.html

Quo vadis, EU (and Ireland)?   Tomás Mac Síomóin

While Europe’s core economies—Germany, France, etc.—stagnate, Spain’s conservative Rajoy government and its Troika neo-liberal gurus are cock-a-hoop at the Spanish economy’s growth rate of 0.6 per cent. Spanish working people bear the enormously heavy costs of this “success story”: shrinking pay packets along with burgeoning poverty, evictions, and homelessness, whole families subsisting on their grandparents’ meagre pensions, child hunger, an unemployment rate of 26 per cent (56 per cent for under-25s), emigration of the young, a growing black economy, etc. g.

Housing action now:  Noel Martin

Ada Colau and Adrià Alemany, Mortgaged Lives: From the Housing Bubble to the Right to Housing (Los Angeles: Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, 2014).

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/11-housing.html

An Irish Faustus:  Reviewed by: Jenny Farrell

Tomás Mac Síomóin, The Cartographer’s Apprentice: A 21st-Century Fable (Nuascéalta, 2013).

It would be unfair to Tomás Mac Síomóin to suggest that he has a one-dimensional or indeed one-sided view of Satan. In his newly translated novel Satan first appears in the apparently kindly shape of Mephistopheles,

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/12-faustus.html

Two books on the Spanish Anti-Fascist War: Review Manus O’Riordan

Jack Bourke and John King, From the Shannon to the Ebro: The Limerick Men Who Went to Fight Franco (Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust, 2014)

Barry McLoughlin, Fighting for Republican Spain, 1936–38: Frank Ryan and the Volunteers from Limerick in the International Brigades (2014)

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/13-books.html

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Photo credit: Euronews

Syriza’s Victory: Turning Hope into Reality

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This article by Michael Burke and John Ross was originally posted on Socialist Economic Bulletin on Monday the 26th of January

The Greek people have inspired every progressive force in Europe, and beyond, by electing the first anti-austerity government in Europe. Syriza has similarly inspired every progressive person with the great political skill with which it outmanoeuvred the forces in Greece and Europe who attempted to scare the Greek people into not voting for it. As Alexis Tsipras said immediately after its victory Syriza has opened up hope for the Greek people – and many others as well.

The key question now is how to turn hope into reality.

Syriza has outlined clearly its orientation – which should be supported by every progressive force. Syriza has said it is not seeking to exit from the Euro. It wants Greece’s unpayable and unjust debt renegotiated. The immediate priority of the left throughout Europe must be to organise support for this demand of Syriza during the coming negotiations. It is to be welcomed that not only the political left but also far wider groups arguing for a rational economic policy support this course – including eminent figures in their profession such as Nobel Prize winners in economics Joseph Stiglitz and Chris Pissarides. All efforts must be redoubled across Europe to gain support for the renegotiation of Greece’s debt – a course which corresponds not only to the interests of the Greek people but to the interests of rational economic policy across Europe, and therefore to the interests of the people of Europe.

Whether or not these negotiations succeed, however, the new Greek government is faced with key choices in economic policy. This is even more the case as, if the economic policies of the new government do not succeed, sinister forces that failed to win this election will seek to turn Greece backwards.

The first and immediate priority, of course, is to reduce and eliminate the appalling humanitarian suffering imposed on the Greek people by the austerity policies. Creating jobs, raising wages, restoring pensions, recreating the best possible social security are the top priorities. As always politics must take precedence over economics.

But to sustain the improvement in the living standards of the Greek people it is necessary to relaunch economic growth. And the key to economic growth is necessarily investment. Without rising investment an economy cannot grow.

Under the conditions of Greece it is even more unrealistic than normal to rely on the private sector for investment. It is the collapse in private investment which has driven economic collapse in Greece and economic recession across Europe. Since 2007 Greece’s GDP has fallen by €57bn of which the bulk is the fall in investment at €36bn. The only way to secure economic growth is therefore to embark on a programme of state investment. Those countries which have used state investment as their key instrument to promote growth have enjoyed outstanding success – for example Ecuador, Bolivia and China.

In a country such as Ecuador, which has enjoyed 5% GDP annual average growth over 10 years, real incomes per capita have risen by over 2% a year, and 10% of the population has been lifted out of poverty. This has been driven by state investment which has now reached 15% of GDP.
Economic growth, led by state investment, will in turn create the conditions under which the private sector will begin to invest again.

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alphatoomega

From Alpha to Omega Podcast #059: Test Those Theories

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This week I am delighted to welcome to the show Jose A Tapia Granados, associate Professor in the Department of History and Politics in Drexel University. Originally trained as a medical doctor, Jose now specialises in the links between fluctuations in the economy and health conditions. He also is interested in purely economic issues, and is the co-author of the book ‘La Gran Recesión y el capitalismo del siglo XXI’ or ‘The Great Recession and capitalism of the XXI century’ in english. The interview is based upon a really fascinating paper of his I read recently called, ‘Does investment call the tune? Empirical evidence and endogenous theories of the business cycle’. In this paper, Jose looks at the different theories of crisis, in particular those of Keynes and Marx, and sees how they stand up when you test them against the historical empirical data. Very interesting stuff indeed.

Here is the podcast’s new YouTube channel, with all the episodes uploaded:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD63zXEPxFpl9Y0Vh8abp4A

You can find the paper here:
http://sitemaker.umich.edu/tapia_granados/files/does_investment_call_the_tune_may_2012__forthcoming_rpe_.pdf

You can find his book here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/GRAN-RECESION-CAPITALISMO-DEL-SIGLO/dp/8483196115

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risingineq

The Very Real Cost of Rising Inequality

, , Comment Closed

Inequality is one of those concepts that for many people remain somewhat abstract and amorphous.  There are few that are against equality, but it has difficult gaining traction in the popular debate.  When you’re trapped in deprivation, debt, or low-pay then income or more hours of work becomes the measure of the solution.  Equality, however framed, remains detached.

It shouldn’t be.  For all of us are paying a real Euro-and-cents cost for rising inequality.  Inequality has many facets – economic, social, cultural, gender, sexual.  Let’s just look at one aspect – rising income inequality with the assistance of a valuable database:  the World Top Incomes Database.

Equality 1

In 1977, the top 10 percent income group’s share of national income was 27 percent.  By 2009 this had increased to 36 percent – a rise of 9 percentage points.  Two years into the recession saw a drop in this share as income from the speculative bubble fell faster than the national average.  However, don’t worry – Eurostat shows that since 2009 it has started rising again.  While the data isn’t directly comparable (the World Incomes Database is based on tax revenue data, while Eurostat which is based on a survey of households shows little medium-term movement), an indicative number would be that it has risen to 37 percent in 2012.

Another way of looking at this is that the lowest 90 percent saw their share of national income fall from 72.7 percent in 1977 to 63 percent in 2012 (using the indicative number).

Again, this graph is abstract.   So let’s play a little game.  What would be the impact on households if the share of the lower 90 percent had remained the same; that is, how much more money would the lower 90 percent have today if their share of the income was the same as in 1977?

The bottom 90 percent of households would have €10.975 billion more.  Nearly €11 billion spread out among approximately 1.5 million households.

  • For each household, this would mean approximately €7,400 more income

Of course, there would be differences given the variations in household types (single, couple with children, single parents, etc.).  And this is just a suggestive estimate.  But imagine the improvement in their fortune if a low-paid couple (on €30,000 per year) were receiving an extra €140 or more per week.  And compare this to the €4 weekly increase from the tax cuts, which won’t even keep pace with inflation.

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