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Left Forum: The Marxist Seminars Are Back!

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The Marxist Seminars are back!

After our initial 6 seminars based on theoretical topics, we thought we’d run the next 6 on ‘Marxism in Practice’.

We will be beginning on Saturday 9th August, 6pm, Chaplin’s Bar, Hawkins’ Street, D2. Each seminar will be at the same time and venue fortnightly thereafter.

Miles Link will be introducing the first seminar and will be put the case forward for the Frankfurt School of ideas. Western Marxism: Problems of mass culture. A lively debate will surely follow as always.

The full programme is the following:

  1. Western Marxism: Problems of mass culture – Miles Link
  2. Comparing popular resistance to neoliberalism in Latin America the in 80s and 90s to the situation in Ireland in the current context of crisis – Prof Barry Cannon NUI Maynooth
  3. Marxist Analysis of the Trade Union movement – Andrew Phelan
  4. Fundamentals of communist production and distribution – Gavin Mendel-Gleason
  5. Personality & History – Helena Sheehan
  6. Marxism & Feminism – Sinead Kennedy

Hope to see you all over the coming months!

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August Socialist Voice is Now Available Online

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Contents:

1. Israel: outpost of imperialism

The self-proclaimed “international community” is much preoccupied lately with international law and human rights, and is busy devising and implementing economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, and Syria, among others, allegedly for their real or supposed transgressions.

2. Demand grows for a living wage

The economic crisis that went global after Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008 is not over, but the free-market system appears, for the time being at least, to have stabilised. Output is increasing while unemployment is falling in Britain, the United States, and even Spain.

3. They simply don’t care
Western governments and media are using the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH170, with 295 people on board, as a further pretext for pushing for wider sanctions against Russia, which may push the world closer to a war on the European continent.

4. Time for women to get back to activism

Speaking at a seminar of communist and workers’ parties on the role of communists in the struggle for the parity and emancipation of women in Brussels in March 2010, Lynda Walker, national chairperson of the Communist Party of Ireland, said: “In the struggle for parity, for women’s emancipation and for socialism we understand the reactionary role that the European Union is playing and the role of British imperialism.

5. An independent political programme for the trade union movement and for workers

A declaration by the Trade Union Left Forum: Where is the ambition? Jack O’Connor has said on a number of occasions that the “left” lacks ambition and courage. This is certainly true of the official trade union movement. It lacks ambition, courage, and vision.

6. Shared slaughter in an ignoble cause
We are surrounded on all sides by a cacophony of noise about events, media features and academic feastings to celebrate the beginning of the war of 1914–18. “Co-ordinated” is the adjective that occurs to sceptical minds.

7. The First World War and a century of slaughter

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland The 31st of July is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, which resulted in the slaughter of more than nine million people, with millions more wounded and left physically and emotionally traumatised. It was the first “industrial” war, fought on a scale unprecedented in history.

8. A song for Palestine

The Lives of Strangers Eoghan O’Neill

9. Venezuela has more democracy than the United States

Venezuela is one of the countries that most appreciate their democracy. This is the conclusion of the Chilean NGO “Latinobarómetro” following its study of democratic evaluation in the Latin America populations.

10. Spain’s grass-roots revolution Protest goes political!

The huge anti-austerity demonstration by “indignados” (the indignant) in Madrid on 15 May 2011 generated mass protests in all the main Spanish cities, involving millions of workers.

11. The law of unintended consequences

In bourgeois economics, numerous rules and laws have developed to obscure the class nature of society and the existence of the class struggle. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is also the law of unintended consequences.

12. Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Summer School

The Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society has announced its second Summer School, following last year’s hugely successful inauguration. It will be held once again in Inis Mór (Árainn), the birthplace of these two great writers, on the last weekend in August, Saturday and Sunday the 30th and 31st.

13. Return of the Brute

This is perhaps a good time to look at the first Irish anti-war novel, Liam O’Flaherty’s Return of the Brute. When the First World War ended, in 1918, it seemed unimaginable that there could ever be such slaughter again. The arts in particular reflected the sense of exploded bodies and the insanity, a world that had spiralled out of control.

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Island of Saints and Sadists: Ireland 2014

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People often ask me why I write such dark books.

You’re such a sunny person, they say.

I say: Look around you, what kind of a country do you think you’re living in?

Here is a tale of the island of Saints and Sadists.

A young woman came to our country for help, for a home, for safety.

We call her an immigrant and it has become a bad word in the way that the simple trade of tinker became a bad word when I was a boy. And sometimes we call them refugees, which is even a worse word. Or fugees. At least we’re not racist about it. It applies to anyone in distress who asks us to take them in.

And she had been raped in her own country and she found she was pregnant when she came into the care of our state and we carried out the usual compulsory medical examination.

And nobody told her you couldn’t have an abortion in Ireland.

And nobody told her that our state has fought long and hard to force women to keep babies until they are born and then our state has fought long and hard to take their babies away from them and give them to decent people who deserve them or to the nuns.

Because our state cares for women. In the way that any decent man cares for his woman. And there are 221 men in our parliament and only 25 women. So that’s a lot of caring.

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast #052: What’s Next?

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This week I am delighted to welcome Professor Peter Hudis, of Oakton Community College, who has recently published his new book: ‘Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism‘.

We discuss what Marx had to say about post-capitalist societies, and the reluctance of those on the left to talk about what it might actually look like.

We also talk of the theoretical reasons for the failure of the Soviet and Maoist projects, how abstract labour dominates our lives, and how not even the capitalists are in control of the current system.

You can find the Professors book here:http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Marxs-Concept-of-the-Alternative-to-Capitalism

Enjoy!

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March & Rally for Palestine: Slaughter in Gaza – Israel must be sanctioned!

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[Dublin] March & Rally: Slaughter in Gaza – Israel must be sanctioned!

Sat, 2 August 2014, 14:00 Assemble GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE, Parnell Square, Dublin 1

This Saturday 2nd August in Dublin there will be another march in solidarity with the people of Palestine, especially those trapped in Gaza who are being killed in their hundreds, maimed in their thousands and terrorised in their entirety by the Israeli war machine.

Assemble 2pm at The GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE, Parnell Square, Dublin 1. March to Department of Foreign Affairs, St. Stephen’s Green.

JOIN THIS EVENT ON FACEBOOK

Please bring friends, flags, banners, noise. We would ask that you do not bring party-political flags (Irish, Palestinian or others). We are also asking people to bring flowers to leave at the Department.

This week we are bringing the march to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Clearly, the Irish government is out of step with the views of the people of Ireland on this issue. For almost a month thousands upon thousands of people have protested all over Ireland, both in solidarity with the people in Gaza and demanding Irish action. Sadly, the government has not listened, and has taken no action to sanction Israel. We must tell them that €500,000 aid is welcome, but it is time to take concrete political action to sanction Israel for its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.

This slaughter must end immediately, and Israel must be held accountable for its criminal actions against the Palestinian people. Israeli impunity must end.

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be asking the Irish government to play their part in imposing sanctions on Israel by calling for an international arms embargo on Israel and calling for Israel to be suspended from the Euro-Med Agreement which grants its trading privileges with the EU, amongst other things.

The Israeli state has launched a fresh assault on the Palestinian people, a collective punishment of a captive population. Israeli officials are now talking about “expanding and intensifying” the assault on Gaza which has already killed some 1200 people, the vast majority of them civilians including over 200 children. Over 7,000 people, mostly civilians, have been wounded, including almost 1,500 children and 1,000 women. 500 houses have been targeted and destroyed and 1000s of others extensively damaged, while at least 215,000 civilians have been forcibly displaced. Attacks have also been taking place in the West Bank for the two months month, where at least 20 people have been killed.

Join us this Saturday to make your voices heard, and tell the government that it’s time to sanction Israel.

Organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Supporting Organsiations: Irish Congress of Trade Unions, SIPTU, Trade Union Friends of Palestine, Gaza Action Ireland, TEEU (The Power Union), Academics for Palestine, Irish Anti-War Movement, Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance, Peace and Neutrality Alliance

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The most important book on economic growth to have appeared for many years

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This article was originally posted on John’s blog Key Trends in Globalisation on the 28th of July.

Vu Minh Khuong’s The Dynamics of Economic Growth is the most importantbook on world economic growth to have appeared for many years. It is for that reason (full disclosure) that I did a small amount of work assisting on editing it.

The crucial importance of the book is rightly summed up by Professor Dale Jorgenson, of Harvard University, in his forward: “The emergence of Asia… is the great economic achievement of our time. This has created a new model for economic growth built on globalization and the patient accumulation of human and non-human capital.’ However the book’s economic importance goes far beyond Asia – although it is by far the most important comparative study published anywhere of how East Asian countries became prosperous. The aim of this review is therefore to explain why the book is so important from the point of view both of general economic theory and policy making.

There are two different strategies for economic growth, related to two different theoretical analyses of its causes, which have been pursued in the world in the last six decades.

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From Alpha to Omega Podcast #051: Cry Me A Volume

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This week I am delighted to welcome back to the show, the Jazz Pianist, Marxist auto-didact, YouTube star, and the man behind the Kapitalism 101 blog, Brendan Cooney.

I’ve recently just finished reading volume II of Marx’s Das Kapital, and so I’ve invited Brendan on the show to see what he makes of it all.

We discuss Marx’s concept of science, dialectics, Rosa Luxembourg and empire, the role of gold and silver in Marx’s work, and the games people play.

You can check out Brendan’s Blog here:

http://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/

And his great YouTube videos here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/brendanmcooney/videos

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Debating Directions for a New Republic

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This article provides a critique of social partnership & ‘soft’ NGO advocacy and reflections on pathways forward.

Political & Economic Context: Neoliberalism & Ireland
Many people ask about the cause of poverty, oppression, rising inequality, environmental destruction and climate change. Neo-Marxist thinkers like David Harvey, Erik Olin Wright and Hardt & Negri, make the case that it is International capitalist globalization that is underlying these social catastrophes. It is the neoliberalism of the Washington Consensus – which was a political project of the wealthy and capital elite, theorized by the free marketeers of Friedman and Hayak. It started in Pinochet’s Chile and then Reagan and Thatcher implemented it in the US and the UK. In the face of declining profitability and the crisis of capitalism in the 1970s the aim of the wealthy and elite was to reduce the share of income (wealth) that went to workers and to increase that returning to capital and the elite. They also sought to reduce the power and influence of trade unions and the working class socialist organisations in society, politics and the economy.

At the heart of the neoliberal ideology was a belief that private unregulated markets are the best mechanisms to organize society and state-led planning is inefficient. Neoliberal policies included the de-regulation of the Keynesian welfare state protections and the financial sector, the privatization of public services, neocolonial conquest through corporations, imperial wars for resources such as Iraq, the commodification of nature like water, land, and seeds. Indeed at the heart of this project of neoliberal capitalism is the commodification of everything. Everything is to be turned into something that can be bought and sold, traded on markets, profited from, commercialized. Neoliberalism is about the utopia of individualized responsibility. Your existence is commodified through competition. You must compete with everyone for everything. Values of solidarity, public good, and co-operation are replaced with competition, individualism, commercialism and materialism.

But neoliberalism is also based on a myth of freedom. Where is the freedom for migrants who die in attempts to enter the EU or the US? Where is the freedom for low paid workers forced to work three jobs to survive? Neoliberalism has been dramatically successful in increasing the wealth of the minority, in increasing inequality, and in promoting its values and ideology amongst populations. However, it is also riven with contradictions as any variant of capitalism is inherently so because of the anarchy of free, unregulated, markets that continually engages in boom and bust cycles and because of uneven development where one area expands at the expense of retrenchment in another area. For example, the declining rate of investment for capital in general commodities led to capital in the 2000s flooding new financial products and the financialisation and commodification of ever greater aspects of our lives that capital could invest, gamble and accumulate profit from. But as the logic of the market was expanded into ever greater areas the potential for crisis and crashes increases and thus we see greater numbers and intensity of economic crises. Naoimi Klein has used an interesting term ‘disaster capitalism’ to describe the way in which the elites use various crises to further intensify exploitation and the commodification of everything by private corporations.

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Why China Won’t Suffer a Western Type Financial Crisis

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This article originally appeared on John’s blog Key Trends in Globalisation on the 22nd of July.

Inaccurate articles sometimes appear claiming China faces a “severe debt crisis.” Factually these are easily refuted. Changyong Rhee, the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department director, pointed out that China’s national and local government debt is only 53% of its GDP, compared to U.S. government debt which is roughly as big as GDP, or in Japan where government debt is 240% GDP. Foreign debt is 9% of China’s GDP – insignificant set against the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves.

Factually, it is therefore unsurprising that China’s predicted “Lehman” or “Minsky” moment, a financial collapse, invariably fails to occur. But there is another, even more fundamental, reason why China’s economy does not suffer severe financial crises of the type that struck the Western economies in 2008 or wracked the Eurozone. As this illustrates a way that China’s economic structure is superior to the West’s, it is worth analyzing.

Starting with fundamentals, the way the argument is constructed that China faces a “serious debt crisis” violates the most elementary accounting rule – more precisely that of double entry book keeping, which was invented in Italy “merely” eight centuries ago! This is that for every debit entry there has to be a credit one, and vice versa. Discussion of only of one side of a balance sheet without the other is financial nonsense. Claims, such as in the Financial Times, that the big story of 2014 is “the black cloud of debt hanging over China” are financially meaningless given they do not discuss assets to be set against debt.

To illustrate this elementary accounting principle, take a simple example. A company borrows $100 million at 5% interest, uses it to build houses, and sells them at 15% profit. To declare “there is a crisis – the company has a $100 million debt” is evidently nonsense. The company has debts of $100 million but assets of $115 million. It can repay $105 million and make $10 million profit – there is no “debt crisis” whatever. That its assets are greater than its debt illustrates why it is financially illiterate to discuss only debt without assets. A “balance sheet” is called that because it has two sides, not one.

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THEY KEEP KILLING, WE KEEP MARCHING!

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This Saturday 26th July in Dublin there will be another march in solidarity with the people of Palestine, especially those trapped in Gaza who are being killed in their hundreds, maimed in their thousands and terrorised in their entirety by the Israeli war machine.

Assemble 2pm at The Spire, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1. March to Israeli Embassy.

Please bring friends, flags, banners, noise. We would ask that you do not bring party-political flags (Irish, Palestinian or others).
The Israeli state has launched a fresh assault on the Palestinian people, a collective punishment of a captive population. Israeli officials are now talking about “expanding and intensifying” the assault on Gaza which has already killed some 660 people, the vast majority of them civilians including 161 children and 91 women.

Over 3,500 people, mostly civilians, have been wounded, including almost 1,000 children and 700 women. 500 houses have been targeted and destroyed and 100s of others extensively damaged, while thousands of civilians have been forcibly displaced. Attacks have also been taking place in the West Bank for the past month, where at least 10 people were killed.

This slaughter must end immediately, and Israel must be held accountable for its criminal actions against the Palestinian people.
We must call for an international arms embargo on Israel, and for Israel to be suspended from the Euro-Med Agreement whihc grants its trading privileges with the EU. Israeli impunity must end.
Join us this Saturday to make your voices heard.

Organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

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Public Meeting: The Inter-Imperialist War, 1914 – 1918: Not a Noble Cause

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Communist Party of Ireland

Public Meeting

The Inter-Imperialist War, 1914 – 1918: Not a noble cause

Speakers:

Dr Brian Hanley (historian)

Eddie Glackin (CPI)

Chairperson:

Mary Cullen (historian)

3.30pm, Saturday, 26 July 2014

James Connolly House, 43 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Note that the time has changed due to the march in solidarity with the people of Palestine at 2pm at the Spire in O’Connell Street.

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Cutting the Grass in Gaza

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This article originally appeared on Conor McCarthy’s blog Reflections From a Damaged Life on the 22nd of July.

The current Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip recalls earlier interventions over the last several years, going back to Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.  As this blog has noted before, amidst the welter of reportage and high-octane verbiage brought forth in the media about these events, perhaps the most important thing for us observing, and protesting, from afar is to maintain a sense of the ‘bigger picture’.

As this blog has noted previously, Gaza is a place where violence – the hidden violence embodied and crystalised in the historical and present structures of states and interstate relations, as well as the obvious violence of war and counter-terrorism – over-determines the situation as we witness it now.

Let’s repeat a few simple facts:

  1. Gaza is the most densely populated region on the planet, with 1.7 million inhabitants. The overwhelming majority of these people are either refugees or the children or grandchildren of refugees – the human detritus of phases of Israeli ethnic cleansing both in 1947-49 and in 1967.  The great majority of the population is poor, and unemployment is extremely high, with approximately 60% of the population directly dependent on UNRWA for assistance and food;
  2. Gaza has never been a sovereign political entity or part of one – it has no army, no formal state apparatus, and it is technically, in spite of Israel’s pull-out of its settlers in 2005, under Israeli occupation.  This means that Israel has a duty of care to the Strip and its inhabitants;
  3. Gaza has historically been the locus of various kinds of Israeli violence: not merely ethnic cleansing, but also land confiscation, illegal colonial settlement, and population transfer; punitive raids into the Strip are not new – the Israeli raid of 1955 stands out.  And so amidst our horror at the current savagery meted out to the Strip, we must remember that it is routinely subjected to Israeli internventions, air-raids and killings;
  4. Gaza has been subject to an Israeli blockade since 2007, which seeks to control all movement not only of alleged Iranian or Syrian weapons supplies to Hamas, but also of food, fuel, medical supplies, and other essentials of even the most basic civil life, and it is surrounded on its Israeli borders by a ‘fence’, which has served as the prototype for the much better-known West Bank ‘security’ wall.

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18-07-2014 18-23-01

The Great Numbers Game

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Sometimes the diffusion of figures required to explain what is going on with NAMA, the bank bailout and the economic crisis, produce nothing more than a thick cloud of confusion. For most readers, even for those who are not normally numerically illiterate, they seem to fall about incomprehensibly as we read any of the many articles spewed out by the Great Financial Crisis Machine. There are times, however, when one number can stand out, helping to make sense of all the rest.

In this case, keep the number 63 fixed in your mind.

The amount paid by NAMA for the loans in 2009 when first established (excluding the amount paid by ‘private investors’ and interest charged on the bonds raised when the loans were taken over) is €30.2bn, says this article by Tom Lyons in the Irish Times today.

In the article NAMA’s Chief executive Brendan McDonagh said that “Nama’s clients now number 700, of which 500 were relatively small with total combined borrowings of €2.5 billion.” The original number of borrowers transferred in 2009 was 800.

Based on this, it suggests that in 2009 300 people were responsible for the vast majority of the €74bn of loans taken from the banks. While we have to wait until later in the year to get a proper figure, it’s reported that €22bn of the original €30.2bn loan book remains.

The article now informs us that just 200 people originated the remaining combined borrowings of €19.5bn.

However, if we look at the figures for 2009 when NAMA was set up we can see that now only did the vast majority of the stock of the loans emanate from a very small number of people and its actually far less than 200 people.

In 2009 just 63 people were associated with €45.47bn of the €74bn of loans transferred from the banks, while 709 people were associated with the remaining €28.54bn.

Given that McDonagh has said that 500 people are now associated with total combined borrowings of just €2.5 billion, it’s worth looking at the bottom 500 debtor connections on NAMA’s books in 2009. These bottom 500 held a nominal debt of between €49m and less than €20m with combined total borrowings of €9bn. This means that 300 borrowers were associated with €65bn (€9bn less €74bn).

If 63 people were associated with €45.47bn it follows that 237 people were associated with €19.53bn (45.47 plus 19.53 equals 65).

Now NAMA has 100 fewer borrowers on its books. How many of the 63 largest borrowers in 2009 are responsible for the remaining €19.5bn on NAMAs books (€22bn remaining on NAMA books in 2014 less €2.5bn of the 500 smaller borrowers)?  I don’t know exactly, but the point remains, the vast bulk of NAMA loans were taken out by a very small number of people.

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March & Rally – Stop Israel’s slaughter in Gaza!

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[Dublin] March & Rally – Stop Israel’s slaughter in Gaza!

Sat, 19 July 2014, 14:00 Assemble @ The Spire, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1

This Saturday 19th July in Dublin there will be another march in solidarity with the people of Palestine, especially those trapped in Gaza who are being killed, maimed and terrorised by the Israeli war machine.

Assemble 2pm at The Spire, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1. March to Israeli Embassy, via the Dail.

Please bring friends, flags, banners, noise. We would ask that you do not bring party-political flags.

The Israeli state has launched a fresh assault on the Palestinian people, a collective punishment of a captive population. Israeli officials are now talking about “expanding and intensifying” the assault on Gaza which has already killed some 200 people, the vast majority of them civilians including 36 children and 29 women. Over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, have been wounded, including 368 children and 253 women.  246 houses have been targeted and destroyed and 100s of others extensively damaged, while thousands of civilians have been forcibly displaced. Attacks have also been taking place in the West Bank for the past month, where at least 10 people were killed.

This slaughter must end immediately, and Israel must be held accountable for its criminal actions against the Palestinian people.

Join us this Saturday to make your voices heard.

Organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Supporting Organsiations: Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Trade Union Friends of Palestine, Gaza Action Ireland, TEEU (The Power Union), Academics for Palestine, Irish Anti-War Movement, Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance, Peace and Neutrality Alliance

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