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The July Issue of the Socialist Voice Out Now

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The July Issue of the Socialist Voice is Out Now. 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/index.html

In this issue 

1. Housing is a right, not a privilege

There is not a town or city in this country that is not experiencing increased homelessness. Walk down any street and you will see at first hand the growing problem of individuals and whole families sleeping rough or wandering around the streets, as they have to leave a hostel or B&B during the day. 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/01-housing.html

2. The anti-clericalism of the chattering classes

The recent revelations regarding the finding of up to eight hundred infant bodies buried in what were the grounds of a children’s home in Co. Galway hit the headlines and led to much ill-informed speculation, spurring renewed anti-clericalism by the establishment media. 
      While the numbers and the causes of death are still not clear, this has not prevented the state-controlled RTE and the corporate media from engaging in wild speculation. 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/02-homes.html

3. Poetry
Richard B 

140 Reasons to Feel Betterhttp://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/03-poetry.html

4. Lessons of the Republican Congress

Contrary to the common perception, history rarely repeats itself, and never in exactly the same fashion as before. Conditions and circumstances change constantly, and so therefore does the story. Nevertheless, certain episodes from the past provide valuable lessons, offering important ideas or crucial insights. 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/04-rep-congress.html

5.  Workers in struggle
Block a return to slave wages and conditions

The privatisation of the collection of household refuse has led not just to chaos in housing estates with the duplication of collection services but to ever-increasing charges on working people for the collection of their black, green and brown bins. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/05-workers.html

6.  Further sentence for Margaretta D’Arcy

On Tuesday 24 June, in Ennis District Court, Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell were given two-week suspended sentences by Judge Patrick Durcan following their conviction for “interfering with the proper use of an airport.”
 http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/06-margaretta.html

7.  Bausch and Lomb: the sequel

Workers at Bausch and Lomb in Waterford voted last month to accept the deal proposed by Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The SIPTU vote was 563 to 107. 
      Although the union made no recommendation, members were left in no doubt that a “no” vote would close the factory, with the loss of all 1,100 jobs. The same happened at the TEEU ballot, where the vote was 68 to 23 for acceptance. In effect there was no choice: you either accepted or lost your job.
 http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/07-bausch.html

8. Education under attack

The austerity attack by this Government and its ally, the European Union, continues to affect the many thousands of our people who are still suffering not only austerity but, equally important, the anxiety and stress that this causes to the general health of our people.http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/08-education.html

9.  Inequality to continue?

When Government ministers wax lyrical these days about “recovery just around the corner,” “green shoots,” and “light at the end of the tunnel”—beware! They are far from talking about a return to the “good old days” of the Celtic Tiger, when the Irish capitalist economy boomed (for some). 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/09-ilo.html

9. Clean water is a human right

What will happen when an unemployed worker, pensioner or single mother is unable to pay a water bill? Will our privatised water and sewage-disposal service, Irish Water, be willing to meet in full its obligations to all citizens? Or will it threaten to cut off the water supply of those who are behind with their bills?
 http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/10-water.html

10.  An Garda Síochána scriosta le polaitíocht

Ní inné ná inniu a tháinig ceisteanna chun cinn faoi fheidhmíocht nó ionracas an Gharda Síochána. I gcónaí riamh ba “phoblacht neamh­spleách” é taobh istigh den stát, agus níor leasc le go leor de na baill, an cheannasaíocht san áireamh, gníomhú taobh amuigh den dlí. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/11-garda.html

11. Connolly Study Circle, Dundalk

Over the last few months the CPI has held three talks for activists in Dundalk 
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/12-dundalk.html

12. Réabhlóid na Fraince agus a polasaithe eacnamaíocha

Ba í Réabhlóid na Fraince an tréimhse staire ba mhó tionchar ar pholaitíocht agus idé-eolaíocht na hEorpa sna trí haois dheireanacha. 
      Leath tionchar na réabhlóide go dtí gach críoch ar domhan, agus roghnaíodh tríd­hathacha mar shuaitheantas beagnach gach náisiún a lorg neamh­spleáchas, múnlaithe ar an mbun-leagan Francach
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/13-reabhloid.html

13. The economic philosophy behind the euro

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher was the first European prime minister to introduce the neo-liberal agenda. She was soon followed by Ronald Reagan in the United States, and the European Union formally adopted the neo-liberal ideology in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/14-euro.html

14. The hall that Jimmy built

James Gralton was the only Irish person (so far) to be deported from the country of his birth as an undesirable alien. The deportation was ordered on the grounds of dubious logic and equally dubious legality, which claimed that because he had adopted American citizenship he was a foreigner. 

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/15-film.html

http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/index.html

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Stag-covery

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Stag-covery (n): a situation where statistical recovery occurs within a persistent economic stagnation  

The CSO’s new release shows a statistical recovery and a stagnant economy – a state of affairs that can be described as stag-covery.

The headline rates show a GDP quarterly increase of 2.7 percent.  This might seem solid enough but all this is driven by net exports.  The domestic economy remains mired in stagnation.

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The worst of the economic crash ended in 2010.  Since then it’s just a matter of bouncing along the bottom.  In 2013 consumer spending fell, spending on public services bumped up marginally while investment fell marginally.  We can debate the swings and roundabouts (impact of the pharma cliff, aircraft leasing, etc.).  But the narrative remains the same – the ship sunk to the bottom and is struggling to get back to the surface.

The first quarter of 2014 didn’t get off to a hectic start.  On a quarterly basis:

  • Consumer spending fell, though this shouldn’t be too surprising given that it was coming off a quarter that contained Christmas spending.
  • Spending on public service resumed its long-term fall – by over 2 percent.
  • Investment fell by a substantial 8 percent.

It is this inability of the latter to generate any momentum upwards that is particularly worrying.

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This represents is a potential problem for the Government.  In the last quarter investment fell by 8 percent.  Yet the Government has pencilled in investment growth of over 15 percent this year.  Of course, the game isn’t even half over but this is an especially poor start.

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Photographing Absence

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Book Review: Phantom Home, Ahlam Shibli  (Hatje Cantz, 2013) 

The sudden and violent death of someone close to you can only intensify the grief and feeling of loss that accompanies any bereavement, so much so that looking at a picture of the person may be too unbearable to bear. The raw and unavoidable facticity of someone’s absence becomes a too-painfully presence that would be compounded by a photograph that makes the ordeal even more difficult to cope with. This is understandable and it takes an effort of imagination and empathy to comprehend another kind of response when the sudden and violent death is a public and political moment in the life of a community that is itself living with an ongoing sense of loss and deprivation. Palestinians living in their land under occupation by Israel have witnessed death at the hands of their occupiers for most of their lives and seen the destruction of their homes and crops. They live with daily indignities that prevent them from travelling on certain roads in the West Bank, they suffer from a grossly unfair allocation of water and they observe the expansion of settlements for Israeli colonizers.

Western Graveyard, Nablus, January 20, 2012 In Nablus, the families of the deceased visit the graveyards on Thursday evening or Friday morning to take care of the tombs and sit next to them in commemoration. Usually members of the same family are buried close to one each other, whether they died a martyr’s death or of natural causes.

Ahlam Shibli, a Palestinian photographer, explores the visual culture — posters, murals, banners, paintings, photographs and graffiti – of the community of Nablus as it commemorates those accorded the status of martyrs: Palestinians killed fighting Israeli forces, civilians killed in Israeli attacks and suicide bombers whose missions took them into Israel.

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Pablo Iglesias: “put a stop to the grand coalition that is imposing austerity and financial totalitarianism.”

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This is a rush translation of the address by Podemos MEP Pablo Iglesias to the European Parliament this morning, on the occasion of presenting his candidacy for President of the European Parliament. Original text via Público.

It is an honour to speak to you all in presenting my candidacy for the presidency of this chamber. This parliament is called upon to represent the sovereignty of Europe and we must, fellow deputies, live up to what that means today.

The dream of Europe has been buried many times but it always managed to awake once again. This is what happened nearly 70 years ago: Europe awoke again in the resistance of its peoples against fascism, in the survivors of the extermination camps, in those who gave their lives for justice and for freedom. Thousands of my own compatriots, who had struggled to defend democracy in Spain, took part in that struggle and that dream of justice. You cannot imagine the pride I have as a Spanish person that the first tanks that entered Paris to liberate it were manned by Spanish combatants. Today, as intolerance and xenophobia threaten us once again, I want to call upon Europe’s memory of antifascism, and that of all those peoples who love freedom and democracy.

My fellow deputies, the best of our continent and our common history was forged in the revolutions that made the people the subject of rights, above kings, gods, noblemen and major property owners. The best heritage of Europe is the will of its citizens to be free and to be the serfs of no-one. To be no-one’s serf, my fellow deputies, that is democracy.

That is why I must tell you today that the peoples to whom we owe our social freedoms and rights did not struggle for a Europe in which its people live in fear of poverty, of exclusion, of unemployment or of abandonment when faced with illness. The expropriation of sovereignty and subjection to the rule of financial elites threaten the present and the future of Europe, they threaten our dignity, they threaten equality, liberty and fraternity, they threaten our life in common.

The creation of new supranational entities does not have to come at the price of leaving the citizens helpless. Our peoples are not children, nor are they colonies of any investment fund. They did not win and defend their freedom so as to hand it over to a financial oligarchy. These are not abstract terms, my fellow deputies: all of you are well aware of the problem.

The ease with which lobbies in the service of major corporations move around here is scandalous, as are the revolving doors that turn public representatives into millionaires in the pay of big businesses. We have to say it loud and clear: this way of operating robs the peoples of their sovereignty, attacks democracy, and turns political representatives into a caste.

My fellow deputies, democracy in Europe has been the victim of authoritarian erosion. In the European periphery the situation is tragic: our countries have almost become protectorates, new colonies, where powers that no-one has elected are destroying social rights and threatening the social and political cohesion of our societies.

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Unite Seminar: Ireland needs a pay rise: Wage floors and economic recovery

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A Unite the Union Seminar
Unite offices (Matt Merrigan Hall), 55/56 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1
Thursday 10th July, 9.30am – appr. 1.30pm

How can we ensure that all workers in Ireland earn a Living Wage or above? Research shows that Irish wages in the private sector are well below other European countries, despite the fact that Irish productivity is high and Irish profits are growing. This is not just a feature of the traditional low-paid sectors – retail and hospitality.

Even in the manufacturing and professional services sectors, low pay persists. This seminar will examine how robust wage floors can help produce a wage-led recovery.

Schedule

09.00 Registration, tea/coffee
Chair: Siobhán O’Donoghue, Director, Uplift
09.30 Opening
David Begg, General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions
09.40 Why the economy needs a pay rise
Prof Terrence McDonough, NUI Galway
10.00 Minimum Essential Standards of Living: Expenditure and a Living Wage
Sr Bernadette McMahon, Vincentian Partnership
10.15 Raising the floor: Driving up the Minimum Wage
Dr Rory O’Farrell, Nevin Economic Research Institute
10.30 Raising the floor: Increasing hours
Brian Forbes, National Co-Ordinator, Mandate trade union
10.45 Is there a case for an enhanced system of JLCs?
Dr Joe Wallace, University of Limerick
11.00 Panel discussion – beneficiaries of improved wage floors (tea/coffee)
Representatives from National Women’s Council of Ireland, Migrant Rights
Centre Ireland, Civil and Public Services Union and We’re Not Leaving.
(5 minute presentations followed by discussion)
12 noon Strategies for raising the floor
Michael Taft, Research Officer, Unite the Union
12.10 Discussion
1.00 Response
John Douglas, President, Irish Congress of Trade Unions
1.15 Closing
Jimmy Kelly, Regional Secretary, Unite the Union
Tea/coffee, sandwiches
For information or to reserve a place contact alex.klemm@unitetheunion.org

Time & Date
Thursday 10th July, 9.30am – appr. 1.30pm

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast #050: The Matrix

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This week I am delighted to welcome back the economist, economic historian, and extremely prolific author, Professor Michael Perelman of the California State University, Chico. We talk about the latest book he is working on: ‘The Matrix: An exploratory political economy of the dangerous, paradoxical interactions between war, the economy, and economic ideology’.

We discuss unintended consequences, the difficult of decision-making in complex situations, US Imperialism, Vietnam, Heavyweight Boxing ,and the little talked about darker side of Winston Churchill.

You can check out the Professors books here

And here is his blog:

http://michaelperelman.wordpress.com/

Enjoy!

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Closer to the Bottom than to the Top

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Irish living standards are now closer to the bottom of the EU-15 countries than to the top; they are closer to Greece than to Germany or Belgium or the UK or most other EU-15 countries.

Eurostat has just released its annual estimates of household living standards. To measure this they use Actual Individual Consumption (AIC).  According to Eurostat:

‘In national accounts, Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) denotes expenditure on goods and services that are purchased and paid for by households. Actual Individual Consumption (AIC), on the other hand, consists of goods and services actually consumed by individuals, irrespective of whether these goods and services are purchased and paid for by households, by government, or by non-profit organisations. In international volume comparisons, AIC is often seen as the preferable measure, since it is not influenced by the fact that the organisation of certain important services consumed by households, like health and education services differs a lot across countries.

For example, if dental services are paid for by the government in one country, and by households in another, an international comparison based on HFCE would not compare like with like, whereas one based on AIC would. . . Actual Individual Consumption per capita is an alternative indicator better adapted to describe the material welfare of households.’

In short, AIC captures goods and services bought by households and by Governments on behalf of households.

The following table shows the relationship of European countries’ living standards to the EU-15 average, with the EU-15 equalling 100.

LS1

Ireland is approximately 11 percent below the average EU-15 living standards.  We rank 12th in the league table.  What’s noteworthy is that we are closer to Greece than to most other countries.  We are 14 indice points above Greece but 15 points below the UK.  There are eight other countries above the UK.

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Here We Go Again – Blaming Workers Again

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Previously, I discussed the assertions that rising housing costs were caused by over-paid construction workers.  It wasn’t true but that never stops some commentators from trying to find blame – and finding it in workers’ pay packets.  It’s been going on since the start of the crisis.  And it still goes on.

The Irish Times reported that consumer prices in Ireland are still much higher than in most other EU countries:

‘Even after six years of austerity, consumer prices in Ireland are on average 18 per cent higher than the European Union norm, prompting renewed concern about the country’s competitiveness.’

Why should this still be the case?  Costs associated with being an island on the periphery (transport and import costs?).  Oligopolistic price-setting in key sectors?  Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion Stockbrokers, believes he has part of the answer:

‘The other key issue which these figures highlight is the underlying cost for retailers – eg rents, insurance and wage costs – are higher than elsewhere. You cannot look to have one of the highest minimum wages in Europe, and then not be surprised that prices are more expensive than the rest of the bloc.’

Oh, my, it comes back to those darned over-paid workers, this time in the in the retail sector where workers are undermining our competitiveness by getting an average weekly income of €512 a week (and this includes management salaries; weekly income for shop floor workers are bound to be much lower).

Let’s look at this claim about high wages in the retail sector and see how we compare with other countries, using the National Accounts here and here.  We will use the Wholesale / Retail sector (there is little data at the retail sector only) but this sector as a whole would impact on costs for  consumers.  First up, employee compensation.

blameworkers1

Ireland is below the mean average of other EU-15 countries (no data for Sweden) and well-below most other countries.  We’re only higher than other peripheral countries and low-paid UK.  This shouldn’t be surprising.  Unite the Union examined employee compensation using the Eurostat Labour Cost Survey and found pretty much the same picture.

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Scapegoating During a Time of Crisis

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The following piece is based on a much longer article ‘Scapegoating During a Time of Crisis: A Critique of Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland’, co-written by Micheal Flynn, Lee Monaghan and Martin Power. It is available here.

Austerity and Scapegoating: two sides of the same coin

Class war is in large part a propaganda war; it is in no way confined to formal political life, but  works its way through all the institutions of society. For the most part it is the ruling class that is advancing – most obviously through the commercial media, which so often serves to divide, disempower, demoralise and dis-benefit the working class.

Only a few years ago it was generally accepted that bankers, developers and speculators destroyed Ireland’s economy. In the wake of the collapse, Brian Lenihan’s claim that ‘we all partied’ was rightly understood as an attempt to deflect blame from those actually responsible. Most understood that it was the recklessness of the investing classes, coupled with the political decision to socialise private bank debt that had forced hundreds of thousands on to dole queues and/or through airport departure gates. For a time, the anger of the population was focused squarely of those that had destroyed the economy.

Yet, notions of collective responsibility have been carefully fostered ever since. The idea of a specifically Irish lust for property (or even a ‘property-owning gene’) appears to have become the common-sense of our time. The commercial media, with the help of the trendy economists elevated to celebrity status, such as David McWilliams, reason that everything went askew because of a ‘cult of property’. We Irish gave in to a ‘mass delusion’ – or as Indakinny so eloquently explained ‘we all went a bit mad with borrowing’.

Consequently, and very conveniently, the role of developers, speculators and politicians – their systematic destruction of alternatives to crippling mortgage debt, the role of section 23 tax breaks, the endemic planning corruption revealed by the Mahon tribunal, are all put out of sight as blame is socialised. This makes it far easier to justify the on-going socialisation of debt, which in turn helps to rationalise the ‘tough decisions’ that government insists are unavoidable. The subsequent apportioning of blame to specific targets is likewise done in a manner consistent with the distribution of austerity.

As expected, cuts to the public sector have gone hand-in-hand with attempts to demonize public sector workers. With the public sector now on the chopping block, ‘over-paid’ and ‘under worked’ public sector workers have been identified as unbearable burdens on the public finances. Rather than remain focused on where the billions are actually going, attention is paid to a ‘privileged’ public sector. This cultivation of resentment gives licence to savage cuts and softens the public up for privatisations. Even better, damage done to the highly-unionised public sector also damages the trade union movement, which when weakened makes for more effective attacks on pay and conditions down the line.

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Championing the Affluent

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The affluent are blessed in their champions.  They have a myriad of commentators fighting their corner.  In the Sunday Independent Colm McCarthy, discussing the benefits or otherwise of a third tax rate on high incomes, stated:

‘In order to raise meaningful amounts, it (the threshold to enter the third rate of tax) cannot be pitched at a level much higher than the €100,000 indicated, but that pulls into the high-tax bracket many people who do not consider themselves exceptionally well-off.’

€100,000 not exceptionally well-off?  Ok, maybe, but they certainly are ‘well-off’; very well-off.  In fact, they are in the top 3 percent of income earners in the state.  If these high-earners don’t consider themselves exceptionally well-off, what would they think if they were part of the 50 percent of income taxpayers who earn below €29,000 a year?  Or the 25 percent of the population who live in official deprivation.

These kinds of comments are part of the don’t-tax-high-earners-too-much-because-then-they-will-leave-in-a-tax-huff argument.  Thomas Molly, writing in the same newspaper, puts it this way when discussing the wealth tax:

‘Any other sort of wealth tax is likely to bring in very little money as the cash moves overseas at warp speed but is guaranteed to scare away many of the people who create wealth and jobs in our society.’

Ah, tax flight – the phenomenon whereby high taxation causes people to leave the jurisdiction.  How valid is this?  Not very.  The US is a good place to study.  Individual states can set their own income and wealth taxes in addition to Federal taxes.  And moving from one state to the next is not nearly as challenging as moving from one EU country to the next.  So what happens when states like Maryland or New Jersey or Oregon raised taxes on the highest income groups?  This study – ‘Tax Flight is a Myth’– found:

‘Attacks on sorely-needed increases in state tax revenues often include the unproven claim that tax hikes will drive large numbers of households — particularly the most affluent — to other states. The same claim also is used to justify new tax cuts. Compelling evidence shows that this claim is false. The effects of tax increases on migration are, at most, small — so small that states that raise income taxes on the most affluent households can be assured of a substantial net gain in revenue.’

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Does Ireland Need a New Left Party?

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This article is based on a talk given at conference “Local Resistance, Global Crisis” at National University of Ireland, Maynooth, 13th of June 2014

Does Ireland need a new left party?

Yes.

Why?

We are involved in a colossal class struggle and we are not winning.

We need to confront the very system that is demanding ever more drastic redistribution of wealth from below to above, accelerated accumulation by dispossession, continuing dismantling of the public sphere in favour of private property and commodified culture.

It is not enough to go issue to issue, to oppose cuts, to denounce austerity.

We need to win consent to a counter-narrative to the dominant view of the crisis. We need to break the grip of the belief that there is no alternative.

We need to fashion a force that will challenge for power that will make the long march through all the institutions of society: schools, universities, media, trade unions, local councils, national and international parliaments, production, distribution and exchange.

We need the best possible left. We need to maximise our efforts.

We need to build on electoral gains by the left in elections of 2011 and 2014. The last general election saw the greatest overturning in Dail Eireann in its history and the next will outdo it, we have every reason to believe. The last elections and recent polls indicate a huge shift, primarily to the left, in Irish politics.

We need to aim to form a left government in the next decade or so.

For this, we need a new left party. A party of a new type. By which I don’t mean a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party. Traditionally parties of the left have been communist, Trotskyist or social democratic parties. This would be different.

We have a multiplicity of left parties of the traditional types, quite a few of them M-L vanguard parties. All of these have maxed out their potential in their present form. Some are still vital, while others have been in decline for some time.

In the first category are the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party, each of which have formed broader fronts, the People Before Profit Alliance and Anti-Austerity Alliance. In the second category are the Communist Party of Ireland and Workers Party. The two Trotskyist parties and their broader fronts have been especially active on the streets and in electoral politics and they have achieved considerable success. They also built and broke the United Left Alliance.

None of these formations, in and of themselves, form the basis for the sort of new left party we need. They will be important in the future of any new left formation, but a new left party cannot be ULA 2.0.

We also have two bigger parties of the left, although some may contest whether they are left: the Labour Party and Sinn Fein. They are left, but not as left as what we need. This is primarily because they do not engage in systemic analysis and therefore they do not move in the direction of systemic transformation.

There is a big empty space where a big party to the left of LP and SF should be. We need a new left party to fill this space.

What kind of new left party should this be?

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Mass Deception and the Manipulation of our Minds

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Book Review: Understanding Shadows: The Corrupt Use of Intelligence. Michael Quilligan, Clarity Press. $21.95

A convenient narrative of our times, prevalent in news media, entertainment channels such as TV and movies, and across a wide range of literature, is that the ‘intel’-led security state began in 2002 just months after a tight and cheaply funded operation by a previously little-known group brought down New York’s twin towers and killed almost 3,000 people.

This narrative, which has developed multiple strands and threads, by now woven into a fabric which goes virtually unquestioned, is false, as this book demonstrates.

Michael Quilligan’s focus is on the weapons of mass deception which elites and states use to keep us ignorant. His book is a meticulously researched and corroborated survey of how ‘intelligence’ is used to hide, distort, and bury the truth of great events, and instead implant a ‘version’, a narrative, which reflects the requirements of the rulers of the world and serves to conceal reality.

Intelligence services and their linked military, criminal, and undercover ‘assets’, do a lot of things, of which spying is perceived as the most exciting and glamorous. But they do more.

For example, they murder. The French secret service’s assassination of a Greenpeace photographer in New Zealand is an egregious example, another the almost incessant stream of doorstep killings and public executions by Israel’s Mossad. And now we have daily murder by drone and missile on the orders of a former law professor who became President of the United States, carried out from secret bunkers by agents of one or other of the plethora of intelligence agencies which have been so expanded since 9/11 as to constitute a state, an unanswerable state, within a state.

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Republicanism and Nationalism; What Have They Ever Done for the Workers?

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Fluther (angrily): What th’ hell do I care what he says? I’m Irishman enough not to lose me head be follyin’ foreigners!

Sean O’Casey ‘The Plough and the Stars

Sean O’Casey ‘The Plough and the Stars

In the Monty Python film the ‘Life of Brian’ one of the discontented lefty proletarians asks a very pertinent question – What have the Romans ever done for us?  The answer was apparently quite a lot.  Much of the humour in the scene derives from the questioner being reduced to a dumbstruck silence. Nevertheless it was a question well worth asking.  In the run up to the centenaries of the rising, the war of independence and the civil war the question, what have they ever done for the workers, needs to be asked again.

Republicanism in History

Republicanism has a long history stretching back to the ancient roman republic.

It was far from a harmonious state but riven by class conflict between patricians and plebeians.  Attempts at land reform and wealth redistribution ended with the respective murder and suicide of its two advocates (Boatwright et al, 2004).  Beyond that point the republic was dominated by an oligarchic gang of large land owners until its demise under the emperors.

Republicanism was to raise its head again in Britain between 1649 and 1660.  Cromwell had come to power through an alliance with middling disaffected landowners, merchants and artisans.  Yet he was aghast when the republican revolution and the associated political ferment spawned groups, such as Levellers, Diggers and 5th Monarchy Men, some preaching and attempting to practice a primitive form of millenarian communism.  Levellers demanded complete religious toleration, democratic control of the army and bi-annual parliamentary elections while the Diggers claimed that the land belonged to the whole people of England.  The republican Cromwell was having none of it and told his bourgeois supporters ‘you must cut these people in pieces or they will cut you in pieces’ (Morton, 1938)

After 1789 some of the French revolutionaries looked back to the roman republic as an exemplar. They abolished feudalism and the divine right of monarchy, proclaimed the rights of man and citizens and that great slogan Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.  Almost immediately a difficulty arose as to how these slogans could be given a concrete realisation and were they to apply to those outside the ranks of the middling classes.  The answer was not long in coming.  In 1791 the convention passed a law (Loi Le Chapelier) outlawing combination of workers or trade unions (Hepple, 2010).  The ongoing conflict between bourgeois and proletarians was temporarily halted by Napoleon.  Dictatorship preserved the social and economic conquests of the revolution for its main beneficiaries – the middle classes (Goodwin, 1963).  Nonetheless the class conflict stirred up by the revolution was to figure prominently in the politics of the French Republic for a century and a half (Hampson, 1989).

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