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corkunihosp

The Cost of Our Health

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Do we spend too much on healthcare?  The EU Commission seems to think so.  In their country-specific recommendations for Ireland they state:

‘Even though Ireland has a relatively young population, public healthcare expenditure was among the highest in the EU in 2012 at 8.7% of GNI, significantly above the EU average of 7.3%.’

The implication is that our spending on healthcare is 16 percent above EU average levels.  What more justification does the Government need to continue cutting our health services than to get a recommendation from the EU?

There’s only one problem.  The EU Commission numbers are wholly unreliable and not a proper representation of health spending in the EU.

Before getting into the EU numbers, let’s see if we can discover just how much Ireland and other EU countries spend on health care by referring to the OECD’s Health at a Glance.

There are two measurements that can be used; first, health spending as a proportion of economic output.  The latest year they have data for is 2011.  To compensate for the fact that GDP is not a good measure for Ireland, I have used the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council’s hybrid GDP which measures fiscal capacity.  This hybrid measurement stands between GDP and GNP.

healthEx1

Ireland is just below the average expenditure of other Advanced European Economies (i.e. EU-15) – but there is a major caveat which I will refer to below.  It should be noted that if we used a straight health spending as a percentage of GDP, Irish spending would be 8.9 percent of GDP.  Of course, benchmarking any expenditure against GDP has its problems, especially when a Government has been pursuing austerity policies that actively reduce the GDP.

For an alternative view, we can turn to the OECD’s measurement of healthcare expenditure per capita, using purchasing power parities to account for differences in currency and living standards.

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aaa_t

What Can Come of the Leftward Movement in the Irish Local and Euro Elections?

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The left are on the march in Ireland since the local elections. Irish people and Irish political culture is slowly changing. The old description of Whyte (1972) that Ireland possesses a politics ‘without social bases’ is coming to end. Class politics has started to arrive and the old ‘two and a half’ Irish party system, with the demise of Labour, is no more. These developments present real opportunities for the left in Ireland and for the people who have been oppressed by austerity. In this context, this article attempts to factor in the gains on the left and predict the future at the next election.  This is done to see whether at last we can have a progressive left-dominated government which can prioritise public services, workers, the welfare state and offer fairer taxes, and other progressive measures that this left government would bring.

Dr Adrian Kavanagh has been doing some excellent work in recent times examining opinion poll data since the FG/Labour government came to power in February 2011. Also, Tom Louwerse’s analysis, which calculates the average across all opinion polls from April 1st 2011 to April 1st 2014 is very useful. Reading off the approximate values from the Louwerse graph (politicalreform.ie), the analysis suggests that constant first preference party support is as follows:  FG (25%); FF (22%); SF (18%); Labour (8%); other parties/Independents (20%); Greens (3%).

The European elections indicate the following first preference party support levels: FG (22%); FF (22%); SF (20%); Other parties/Independents (30%); Labour (5%).

The final result for the Local Elections shows the following first preferences: FF (25%); FG (24%); Other Parties/Independents/Greens (28%); SF (15%) and Labour (7%).

Adrian Kavanagh uses a model to predict the number of seats that first preference votes would give to each party and he does this for all the final national opinion polls produced in the weeks prior to the Local and European Elections 2014. His analysis is based on this RTE commissioned ‘poll of polls’ of May 21st, 2014.

This gives the following breakdown: FG (24%); FF (22%); Labour (7%); Independents/Other Parties and Greens 26%.

Corresponding to this ‘poll of polls’,  Kavanagh predicts the number of resultant TDs in the Dail if a general election was held, as follows: FF (38); FG (45); Labour (2); SF (32); Independents/Other Parties/Greens (41).

I have analysed the ‘Independents & Other’ TDs (which includes left parties such as SP and PBP which opinion polls still categorise as ‘Independents/Others!) in the current Dail, as follows:

Currently there are 28 in total at this point. Of these 28 TDs, 11 come from mainly FG gene pool, that is, supporters of Lucinda Creighton, with the remaining being ex FF or PD.

However, the majority of the 28 seats, 17 in total, are from a ‘left’ leaning/ ‘people power’ gene pool in terms of their political philosophy. These include: Tommy Broughan (ex Lab); Joan Collins (People Before Profit); Clare Daly (Ind Left); Stephen Donneely (Ind); Luke Ming Flanagan (Ind); John Halligan (Ind); Finian McGrath (Ind); Catherine Murphy (Ind);  Ruth Coppinger (SP); Maureen O’Sullivan (Ind); Tom Pringle (Ind); Shane Ross (Ind); Roisin Shortall (ex Lab); Mick Wallace (Ind); Richard Boyd Barrett (PBP); Seamus Healy (TUAG); Joe Higgins (SP).

If we assumed that these 28 existing TDs were to get re-elected next time, which is not too unreasonable, then Kavanagh’s analysis suggests that at least a further 13 ‘Independent/Other TDs will also be elected at the next general election.

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HANow

Housing Action Ireland Manifesto Launch: 12th of June, @6pm, Teachers’ Club Parnell Sq

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Housing Action Ireland

Housing Action Ireland has been working away quietly for some time, but on the 12th of June we’re launching our Housing Manifesto. This is a public event so we hope to see as many of you there as possible. The manifesto will be available one week before the launch – watch this space to get a copy. Full details below and more to follow.

Housing Action Now

in The Teachers Club Parnell Square

On Thursday June 12th 2014 at 6pm.

Screening of the 15 minute film Scattered by Joe Lee

and O’Devaney Gardens Residents and Workers.

Aidan O’Halloran and Raymond Hegarty will play some music.

A short version of the Housing Manifesto for online sharing is available here. The full version is available here.

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DIA2

Economics and the Debate on Immigration II

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This article was originally posted on Socialist Economic Bulletin on the 6th of June.

The now notorious UKIP poster which suggested the entire population of the EU might come to Britain for work is designed to whip up racism. But it contains two fallacies that are unfortunately shared by many people who are not racists, and are therefore worth rebutting.

Myth 1
The first myth is that Britain is a uniquely attractive place within Europe in terms of pay or workers’ rights, or social security entitlements. The graphic below was produced by the UNITE union in Ireland in their argument for higher pay. But it is such a good graphic it is worth reproducing as it stands.

Graphic 1. Private Sector Hourly Compensation in Western Europe, € PPPs

Graphic 1. Private Sector Hourly Compensation in Western Europe, € PPPs

Compensation includes both pay and social wages such as pensions and other benefits. The data is in Purchasing Power Parity terms, so that they account for price differentials between European countries. The data is drawn from Eurostat database here.

The compensation for British workers is among the lowest in Western Europe. Britain is not a uniquely attractive destination for economic migration within the EU. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Britain has one of the lower levels of immigration of the Western European economies.

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basicincome2

Basic Income – An Idea Worth Exploring

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Basic Income is being discussed more and more.  It will be discussed at this weekend’s Basic Income Ireland seminar.  Basic Income is a weekly payment from the state to every resident without any means test or work requirement – a payment sufficient to afford a decent living standard.  It would work like this:  I receive a weekly payment from the state of approximately €200 per week (if that’s considered to afford me a decent living standard) whether I work or not.  Any income I earn above that is taxed.  If I choose not to work I still receive the €200 weekly payment.   In essence, BI breaks the link between work and income.

There have been considerable criticisms.

First, it has been dismissed on grounds of cost.  It certainly would be expensive, requiring very high tax rates on income from work.  Tax rates of 40 to 50 percent on all income have been proposed to pay for the programme.  And given the need to fund public services, additional social protection payments and investment it is hard to see how this could be introduced in the short-term.

Second is the impact on the labour market and work behaviour.  In short, if you give everyone an adequate income would they choose not to work?  This could create labour shortages in key sectors which would hamper growth and undermine the ability to fund BI.

Third is the inflationary impact.  Boosting incomes could put pressure on prices and drive up imports which in turn would require increasing the BI as it struggled to maintain value.  This could result in an inflationary spiral (of course, we could do with a little spiral to get us out of this deflation).

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bs_t2

Sewage Babies

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Put on our Sunday best for Mass.

Let on we haven’t heard

about dead babies in Tuam.

Eight hundred infants,

bunkered in human filth.

Bones tossed like old coins,

dump of dead currency.

white

To those who defend

servants of God and state:

‘They did the best

with what they had.’

What have we?

White

Garrison church.

Proud, complicit government.

Blessed well of

indifference.

White

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sz1_t

Same Same but Different

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Book Review: Event, Slavoj Žižek; The Most Sublime Hysteric, Slavoj Žižek and Hegel and the Art of NegationAndrew W. Hass 

Event, Slavoj Žižek (Penguin, 2014)

A difficulty in reading Žižek is that he often seems to be juggling with too many balls, making dizzy the reader who tries to track the course of a single idea as it speedily travels from one page to the next before somersaulting in a paragraph. The challenge is not in grasping the idea but in following it amidst the inflections and involuting digressions. The whole asymptotic shebang can become just too much and the exasperated reader is tempted to close shop on the whole act by slamming the book shut.

What makes Event easier to read and follow through from start to finish is that this time one of the balls is bigger and more brightly coloured than all the others. The reader can keep this master ball in focus, safe in the knowledge that the smaller ones circulating with it are all derivatives, examples or reduplications of the one defining conceit: Event.

Ordinarily an event is just something that happens but with an Event something is realized in a way that is extraordinary. Rust Cohle in True Detective is far from being an ordinary police officer because of how he actualizes and fully realizes, in a Platonic way, the Idea of the detective.  For Plato, everyday empirical reality is a pale shadow of the bright and substantial reality of Ideas, an originary and eternal order not to be confused with the fleeting world of appearances. DunmanusBay that I see outside a window, and every other bay that anyone ever sees, only participates in the Idea of Bay by virtue of being a surface copy. Žižek gives Platonism a twist by saying, yes, there are absolute Ideas but they realize themselves purely in appearance. Rust Cohle, in the pursuit of his investigation embodies what it authentically means to be a detective, he enacts the truth that belongs to the concept of detective and in him the Idea of detective shines in all its purity. The essence that he embodies is there, unhidden in the material reality of his behaviour. In Hegelese, the distinction between appearance and essence is inscribed within appearance – because appearance is all there is.

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svmay

June Issue of Socialist Voice Out Now!

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June issue of Socialist Voice is out now   It can also be view/downloaded at

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

Contents

  1.     A changed, and changing, political landscape [EMC]
  2.     The re-emergence of dark forces [TMK]
  3.     EU election shows up core-periphery divide [NL]
  4.     Government proposals on the “right to bargain” [NC]
  5.     The class war intensifies [TMS]
  6.     Spain moves to the left [TMS]
  7.     Solidarity with the Communist Party of Ukraine
  8.     Welcome to the new Ireland [NOM]
  9.     The compliant state [NOM]
  10.     Léirmheas: Tomhas maith ar Bono [CDF]
  11.     Films: Humanity and humour [JF]
  12.     Poems from Strabane
  13.     Frontier Soil


1.   A changed, and changing, political landscape

The election results have produced a changed and changing political landscape. There was a solid rejection of “austerity” by hundreds of thousands of working people throughout the country, with both Fine Gael and the Labour Party suffering heavy losses. The Labour Party has paid the heaviest price for its opportunism and its active support for anti-worker policies.

2. The re-emergence of dark forces

In Ireland we are often so wrapped up with our own election dramas that developments abroad may be overlooked and their impact on us missed. The remarkable rise of Sinn Féin, coupled with the equally spectacular plunge of the Labour Party and its leader, has predictably mesmerised the Dublin media. North of the border, where the story from the ballot boxes has offered little change, attention focused on the titillating travails of the recently formed and already collapsing NI21 party.

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imfd

IMF’d & EU too?

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This Reuters report suggests that Angela Merkel is trying to get the IMF’s Christine Lagarde installed as President of the EU Commission. Time to dust off this photo which is proving to be a little prescient.

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel has asked France whether it would be willing to put forward International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde as president of the European Commission, two French sources briefed on the exchanges said.

German and IMF officials said Merkel had a private meeting with Lagarde during a visit to Washington in early May. They saw each other again in Berlin two weeks later when Lagarde attended a meeting of the heads of major international economic organizations hosted by the German government.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has led opposition to Juncker’s bid to succeed former Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Barroso, arguing that the EU needed new leadership committed to reform in response to voters’ dissatisfaction. London sees Juncker as an old-style European federalist.

British officials have made clear that Lagarde would be an acceptable alternative, as would center-left Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Some British newspapers have campaigned for Lagarde to be given the role.”

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thumb

Dude, Where’s My Anglo-Irish Promissory Note Dividend?

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Remember back to the renegotiation of the debt repayments on the Anglo-Irish promissory note last year?  Amidst the sound of champagne corks popping we were told we would get a budgetary dividend of approximately €1 billion.  Overnight, our deficit was projected to fall from an estimated 3 percent in 2015 to 2.2 percent.  Less tax increases, less spending cuts.  Of course, we had to be quiet about all this – for fear of frightening the monetary-financing horses over at the ECB.  But what it meant was less fiscal pain.

So what happened to the dividend?  In short, it’s disappeared.   Under the latest Government projections, the deficit has quietly but firmly gone back up again.

ProDef

After the deal, the deficit in 2015 was projected to fall to €3,955 million (prior to the deal it was projected to be €5,325).  However, in the Government’s latest Stability Programme Update, the deficit has increased – back up to €5,235.  In percentage terms, the projected deficit yo-yoed – falling from to 2.9 percent of GDP to 2.2 percent after the deal, only to bounce back up to 2.9 percent.

So, instead of facing into a budget that needs to find €2 billion in fiscal adjustments, we should have only needed an €800 million adjustment.  And when you factor in the ESRI’s claim that, apart from water charges revenue, we wouldn’t need any more fiscal adjustments, then we should be facing into a budget where the Government could run expansionary policies (increase spending, cut taxes) and still meet the EU budgetary targets.

So what went wrong?

Three things happened.

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s_g_e_t

Greek EU Elections: A Clear, Historical, But Still Not Decisive SYRIZA Victory

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The Greek EU elections have produced what is clearly a historical result, not only for Greece but for the European Union as well. SYRIZA won by a clear margin of almost 4% (3.8% to be more precise), scoring 26.5% against 22.7% of ND, the governing right party. Moreover, in the municipal and regional elections SYRIZA gained an impressive victory in Attica district with Rena Dourou, though it failed to elect Sakellaridis in Athens, who lost by a small margin to Kaminis.

SYRIZA’s victory is widely discussed by the European mass media, together with Marine Le Pen’s impressive first place in France, as the two most striking and weighty EU elections results. But while important on a general level, SYRIZA’s success is even more important for the European Left. It is the first time in recent history of Western Europe that a party of the Left gains first place since 1984, when the Italian Communist Party had achieved the same, just after Enrico Berlinguer’s death. However, SYRIZA’s victory comes at a much graver occasion, when the specter of fascism, racism and reaction hangs heavily over the continent. In this connection, it is crucial in showing that there is another road for Europe apart from the turn to the ultra Right, observed not only in France but in several other EU countries (Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, etc.) as well.

Yet, precisely because it is historical, SYRIZA’s victory must be analyzed in a serious way and not be idealized or overestimated. This is not only because it was accompanied by a new rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, but also because, if closely viewed, it points to some weaknesses of SYRIZA, without which it could have been even larger. Moreover, the Greek EU election results show some interesting tendencies with regard to the other parties as well, reflecting underground social trends which may be relevant for other EU countries too.

We will proceed therefore to a commentary of the Greek EU elections, hoping to highlight some of these aspects. But first of all let us give the results themselves (we also cite the May and June 2012 parliamentary elections results for the sake of comparison).

Party

%

Seats

May 2012

June 2012

SYRIZA

26.5

6

16.8

26.9

ND

22.7

5

18.9

29.7

Golden Dawn

9.4

3

7.0

6.9

Elia

8.0

2

13.2

12.3

Potami

6.6

2

-

-

KKE

6.0

2

8.5

4.5

ANEL

3.5

1

10.6

7.5

LAOS

2.7

2.9

1.6

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LB_t

Left Surge in the Republic of Ireland’s 2014 Local and European Elections

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This article originally appeared in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on May 27, 2014.

Over the past few days there has been a minor earthquake in Irish politics. Sinn Fein has made a breakthrough into mainstream southern Irish politics, almost doubling its vote to 17% nationally in municipal polls and achieving more than 20% in the European election, with MEP in each Euro electoral district in the South. This was alongside a surge of electoral success from those further to the left and independents.

Overall in the municipal elections in the South, Sinn Fein won 150 seats and the “further left” won around 40.

In the European election, Sinn Fein topped the Dublin poll with a first-time candidate; this was replicated in Ireland South with another first-time candidate winning a European seat for the party, as well as Matt Carthy winning the closely fought third seat in the Midlands Northwest constituency. The success of first-time candidates across Ireland has seen Sinn Fein arrive as a party, lessening its previous dependence on individual local candidates.

The bourgeois parties are attempting to console themselves with the belief that people vote differently on Euro and local elections compared to national elections. There is ample evidence, however, that Sinn Fein and the further left can convert much of their success into Dail (parliament) seats and wider political influence.

An interesting aspect to the Sinn Fein vote was that Gerry Adam’s recent arrest for the 1972 murder of Jean McConville seemed to have no effect on the outcome.

Nationally, the governing Fine Gael Party lost 8.4 per cent of its vote, leaving it at 24%, while the Labour Party, the junior coalition party, lost half its popular vote, to 7%. The Labour Party was decimated in the local councils across Ireland; the party has now no seats on Cork City Council (Ireland’s second-biggest city), and the party has been reduced to eight seats on Dublin City Council (a drop of 17% of the first preference votes). Nationally, Labour has been reduced to 50 seats, which compares poorly to Sinn Fein’s 157.

In Dublin, Sinn Fein won almost one quarter of first preference votes, an increase of 12%, making it the largest party on the council with 16 seats. This vote tallies with the 23% won by Sinn Fein’s Lynn Boylan in the European election, making the party by far the most popular in the city.

On the far left the Socialist Party and its electoral front, the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA), won a very impressive 14 council seats; what is particularly important here is that the block won three seats on the Limerick City Council and three seats on Cork City Council, making it a national rather than Dublin-centric alliance. The Socialist Party also won a parliamentary by-election in Dublin West, meaning that now two of the four seats in the constituency are Socialist Party. This also leaves the party well placed to keep a seat after party stalwart Joe Higgin’s retirement from parliamentary politics in 2016.

The Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and its electoral form, the People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA), also did very well, winning a total of 14 council seats. (The group also made a breakthrough in Northern Ireland winning a seat on Belfast City Council).

Outside of the main blocks, the United Left (a group made up of some independents from the now defunct United Left Alliance), won two council positions and the Workers’ Party won a seat on Cork City Council. The Tipperary Workers’ and Unemployed Group also won a seat. A number of independent left councillors were also elected across the country, some of whom will be key to the future development of left politics.

One sour note on the left was the loss of Paul Murphy’s (Socialist Party) Dublin European seat. In a particularly Machiavellian move, the SWP ran a candidate (Brid Smith) in the European election with the aim of building her profile for the 2016 national elections. This — as widely predicted — split the vote with Murphy taking 30,000 (around 8%) of the first preference vote and Smith taking 23,000. Smith argued that her standing made no difference to the final outcome, but this is a very dubious claim as the few percentage points that most likely would have gone to Murphy may have been enough to keep him ahead of the pack in the transfer race.

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eu2014

European Elections 2014: 2020 Hindsight

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The results of the European Union’s Parliamentary elections are just in. They are twofold: first, there is a clear disinterest in the European Parliament as expressed by very low voting turnouts and second, of the few Europeans that did bother to vote, many have decided that it is time for a change.

Non-voters in the European Parliamentary elections are the majority in those nations without compulsory voting. The European turnout was 43% with 57% not voting or spoiling their vote. In Germany 48% voted, 46% voted in France, 36% in the UK and 35% in Portugal. There was extreme disinterest in the European elections in much of Eastern Europe: with 24% turnout in Croatia; 23% in Poland, 19% in The Czech Republic; and the Slovakians with a 13% turnout.

Christoph Hasselbach of Deutsche Welle’s Europe desk noted: “As for turnout, the picture is mixed: in some countries more people voted than before, but those votes often went to Euro-skeptic parties.” “All in all”, he added “the general public’s interest in the EU is shockingly low”.

As to the changes in voting patterns, highlights of the wave of political change include the rise of the German anti-EU AfD party (Alternative für Deutschland) which gained their first seats in the European Parliament; France, where Marine Le Pen’s party was the overall winner of 24 seats with more than 25% of the vote; Spain, which now has a new fourth party called “Podemos” with an anti-EU/Troika and an anti-capitalist stance which may have taken many of the PP and PSOE’s 17 lost seats; and the UK where non-finalised counts indicate that the right-of-centre anti-EU party UKiP (United Kingdom Independence Party) has won the election gaining, for the first time ever, more MEPs than either the Tory or Labour parties; finally there is Greece, where the “SYRIZA” far left alliance has come out on top with 27% of the national vote and seven MEPs.

On a national level Europe’s political structure has been reasonably stable since the Second World War and more specifically since the first waves of growth of the Common Market in the 1970’s. This has been broadly reflected in the European Parliamentary party groups since the Parliament began in 1979. Until today the main groups in the European Parliament reflected two broad nation political categories. The centre-left grouping in the European Parliament is the S&D “The Group of the Progressive Alliance of socialists and Democrats” which includes the German SPD, the PSOE in Spain, the French Socialist Party and Labour in the UK, among others. The large centre-right grouping in the European Parliament is called the EPP “The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)”, it includes Germany’s CDU party, the Spanish PP and the UK Tory party. Provisional results at 11:00AM/CET on Monday, May 26 show the S&D lost seven seats since the last (2009) elections falling to 189 MEPs but the EPP did even worse, losing 60 seats to 214 seats. There are 63 new ultra-left-wing MEPs and 63 new ultra right-wing MEPs who have not yet aligned themselves to European party groups. This change is a clear demonstration of the radicalization of European politics.

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LL

New LabourLeaks Website: Exposing Wrongdoing in the Workplace

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There is an independent and anonymous project being launched at the moment called Labourleaks.org and it is calling for contributions from workers, labour, social justice and free knowledge activists alike. These contributions would be given anonymously and securely to protect contributors privacy, using GPG or a similar software.

The site can be viewed here: LabourLeaks.org

The following is taken from the site and outlines the idea behind it:

OK. You know about press leaks: they are as old as the press. You know about the famous/notorious online Wikileaks, this is only seven years old and is one part of the subversive/emancipatory capacity of the web. There are increasing numbers of such leaks, produced by particular groups for particular purposes, for different kinds of public.

Well, we are labour activists, long active both on the shopfloor and online. And we have ourselves had bad experience with company secrecy and ‘managerial prerogatives’: some of us have been disciplined or sacked for exposing information that is essential for ourselves or our fellow workers.

This is why we have created labourleaks.org/.

You may know – as you may have personally experienced – any worker, anyone casually employed, any unemployed person exposing wrongdoings in their workplace (private or public) runs the risk of employer or government reprisals. This is the case, whether one is reporting bullying, corruption, misuse of public subsidies or whatever.

Moreover, with the increasing movement from an industrial to a computerized capitalism, any previous practice or ideal of a balance of power between management and workers is being seriously eroded. Big Brother has always, of course, been denying us essential information, has been watching and controlling us. Computerisation enables Big Brother to do this in ever more sophisticated ways. Corporations, managers and the state agencies have multiple ways of keeping an eye on us.

Cyberspace, however – as Wikileaks has amply demonstrated – also represents a potent counter-power. Whilst they can both keep an eye on us and deny us access to vital information, we can turn the matter around.

And when we make information public, we have democracy on our side – the principle of transparency and public access to matters concerning that public (whether at the level of the workplace, the corporation, the state). We cannot trust any claims of those with power over our jobs, our health and safety, our continued employment, the environment we live in, our right to self-organisation and self expression. LabourLeaks is designed to provide the means for workers – be they full time, contracted, precarious, migrant, the unemployed, men and women, old and young, to make their grievances – and documentation or other evidence that supports this – public.

We further believe that trade unions, works councils, and other bodies that represent us, can only do so effectively in so far as they commit themselves to transparency vis-à-vis the workers represented and the general public, and in so far as their actions are open to public scrutiny. So the making public of how workers’ representatives themselves operate is another major concern for LabourLeaks.

If you have material you want to publicise on this site, send it to us at: submissions at labourleaks.org.

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