The collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy, the unemployment and emigration that followed, the cuts in vital services and payments, the boarded-up windows, the ghost estates, the buddleia that sprouts where dreams of riches or steady employment died, not to mention the commitment made in our name, and enforced painfully in our daily lives, that speculators must be winners – all of this seems to have triggered seething anger, resentment and cynicism, but no flaming of popular resistance, no widespread demand for political or social transformation.
Late last year, it was reported that an opera about the banking meltdown was about to open in the Samuel Beckett Theatre in Dublin. Was this to be the unlikely spark that would light the flame? Would Dublin on the twelfth of December 2013 be like Brussels on the 25th of August in 1830, when (so the story goes) the patriotic fervor voiced in Daniel-Francois Auber’s opera The Mute Girl of Portici (La muette de Portici) – set in Spanish-ruled 17th-century Naples - so stirred certain members of the audience that they rose up spontaneously and (after a lively bust-up with more conservative elements) poured out into the streets, lit the flame of resistance, drove the Dutch out and so created independent Belgium. Sadly, this heart-warming story is a little too good to be true. The audience participation, as it were, was in fact pre-scripted by the revolutionaries and the conclusion of the opera can be read as arguing that popular revolution needs guidance from a wiser and socially superior leadership. Nonetheless, it is very likely that some ordinary citizens unsupplied with revolutionary scripts were spontaneously moved and, rising from their seats, did join the revolution. What’s more, by leaving before the last act, it was as if they were, in the words of James H Billington, ‘in search of their own ending’.
In the cold or watery light of January 2014, it is clear that AntiMidas, or, Bankers in Hades, the opera that played for three days in December has not triggered a revolution or significant social unrest. So, if we didn’t have the excitement of incipient revolution, was there excitement of any other kind at the Samuel Beckett Theatre in December when Trinity-based Evangelia Rigaki’s opera played? Happily, there was. Let’s set aside matters of definition (who can say what is or isn’t opera today?) and focus on the pleasures that were on offer. What we witnessed was almost cartoonish – a morality tale or parable in which the incarnation of the lust for gold, AntiMidas the supremely arrogant money-maker, was hurried towards his fall by an alliance of powerful enemies to a cackling commentary from a chorus of Media.
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With the great and the good meeting in Davos, it is worthwhile taking a look at how the top 1 percent is doing, courtesy of a wonderful website – The World Top Incomes Database. I can’t do justice to all the data this website contains so I’ll just throw out a few numbers but take the time to visit the site and do your own ‘inequality-sleuthing’.
How much of national income does the top 1 percent take up and how do we compare? Well, the Irish top 1 percent is up there at the top. Our top 1 percent takes up over 10 percent of all national income. Our wealthy take less than those in the UK but more than the top 1 percent in all others.
There has been a long-term growth in the national share taken by top income earners – consistent with trends in other countries though, in most cases, not as extreme as we saw above.
- The top 10 percent increased their national income from 27 percent in 1977 to 36 percent in 2009
- The top 1 percent increased from 5 ½ percent to 10 ½ percent
- The top ½ percent increased from 3 ½ percent to 7 ½ percent
It should be noted that when the crash hit, the income shares of the top 1 percent and ½ percent fell slightly (crashing property /speculation income would have contributed to this). But by 2009 this had stabilised and, in the case of the top 10 percent, has started increasing.
So, with a slight interruption, the long march of the top income groups continues apace.
And just to get an idea of how much these income groups earn, the follow table lays it out.
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Press Statement from Fracking Free Ireland
EU civil society voice opposition to European Commission green light for fracking
Some 300 civil society groups from across Europe have addressed their concerns over proposals by the European Commission to issue non-binding guidance for the shale gas industry this week.
In an open letter addressed to EU institutions, some 300 diverse groups from across Europe criticise the Commission’s proposals to issue non-binding guidance for the industry, which pave the way for shale gas exploration. The EU executive body will announce its plans this Wednesday, as part of its 2030 Climate and Energy Package. Pressure from the fossil fuel lobby, as well as from Member States, with the UK playing a leading role, has resulted in the Commission making a U-turn from its previous course to deliver binding legislative proposals, initially favoured by Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik in October.
As new drilling sites appear across Europe, from Barton Moss in the UK to Punge?ti in Romania, groups point to how the current legal situation in the EU does not even guarantee mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments. Lobbying from Member States during recent negotiations on the review of the EIA Directive have resulted in the exemption of an amendment which would have required mandatory EIAs for shale gas projects. With no specific regulations in most Member States and plans for EU-wide legislation now scuppered, communities are at the mercy of an unregulated industry which has left a frightening toll of destruction in its wake in the US.
The Commission’s move also flies in the face of EU public opinion. The results of a consultation it carried out last year reveal that two-thirds of EU citizens believe the shale gas industry should not be developed in Europe at all. When asked which policy option repondents would like it to pursue most, citizens chose the development of a comprehensive and specific EU piece of legislation, while industry opted for guidance.
Legislators seem intent to turn a blind eye to the dangerous realities of the industry despite its own recommendations. A study published by the Commission in September 2012 identified significant gaps in at least eight key environmental directives. The same study confirmed the high risk nature of shale gas activities. A growing body of peer-reviewed scientific evidence highlighting the threats to air, water and human health continues to emerge, along with an ever expanding list of global bans and moratoria, with Dallas, Texas the latest US community to outlaw the industry.
With failure from Brussels to provide protection to citizens, Leitrim County Council voted last week to insert a ban in its County Development Plan, lending a huge boost to plans for a nationwide ban.
To coincide with the Commission’s announcement this Wednesday, citizen groups will also be staging demonstrations in protest
Fracking Free Ireland – Brussels
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The World Bank has recently released its updated forecasts for the world economy. Two key features of the forecasts have received the greatest attention. The first is that the World Bank describes the overall trend in the world economy as at a ‘turning-point’ and secondly that this is led by a recovery in the advanced industrialised countries, or High Income Countries in the World Bank’s categorisation.
In terms of the forecasts, global GDP growth is expected to advance from 2.4% in 2013 to 3.2% this year rising to 3.4% in 2015 and 3.5% in 2016. Within that the Developing Economies are expected to grow by 5.3% in 2014, accelerating to 5.5% and 5.7% in 2015 and 2016 having grown an estimated 4.8% in 2013. But the bigger contribution to global growth is expected to come from the High Income Countries (HICs) which grew by just 1.3% in 2013 (estimated) rising to 2.2% in 2014 and 2.4% in both the following years.
So global growth is only ‘led by’ the HICs in the sense that the modest acceleration in projected growth is from the low base of 2013, a rise from 1.3% to 2.4%. By contrast the Developing Economies as a whole are expected to accelerate from 4.8% in 2013 to 5.7% in 2016, a rise of 0.9%. As a result the growth gap between these two key categories of the global economy narrows from 3.5% to 3.3%, on World Bank forecasts.
Over the medium-term the compound effect of growth differentials of this magnitude is very large. If a 3.3% differential in growth were maintained over 25 years, the Developing Economies would double in size relative to the HICs.
Turning to the performance of the HICs alone, the chart below shows World Bank data for their gross savings and investment (Gross Fixed Capital Formation) as a proportion of GDP (left-hand side). The growth of GDP is the grey line shown on the right-hand side.
What is clear is that all three variables are in a downtrend. That is, both the cyclical high-points and low-points become progressively lower over time. The slump in activity in 2008 and 2009 is the exception not the rule. The rule is a steady downtrend in activity.
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Landscape and Revolution in Ireland, France and America 1770-1810
Irish Landscape Institute Lecture
Dr. Finola O’Kane Crimmins
Thursday January 23rd at 6.30pm
Goethe Institut, 37 Merrion Square East, Dublin 2.
All welcome, please rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space.
The original correlation of landscape and revolution took place on American soil in the heady decade of the 1770s.
This lecture will explore how this was projected back to Europe in order to engender revolution in the old world. It will identify which European sites were also invoked to do so and to what degree landscape tours became a precondition for revolutionary thought.
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I’m sure this will surprise no one but the highest income groups have seen their weekly earnings rise much faster than lower income groups.
From the latest period we have data for we see that managers and professionals earn much more than other workers in the economy – twice as much as clerical and production workers. And they have seen their weekly earnings rise much faster than other workers.
Managers and professionals have seen their weekly earnings rise by over 10 percent in the last three years. Clerical workers’ earnings have flat-lined. Production workers have seen their weekly income fall slightly.
As mentioned previously, we have to bear in mind the compositional effect. But overall, those with the highest incomes have seen their incomes rise. Not so, for lower income earners.
As I said, I’m sure no one will be surprised.
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This week our guest is Conor McCabe. Conor is a Research Fellow in the School of Social Justice in University College Dublin, and has just released the second edition of his book, ‘Sins of the Father: Tracing the Decisions That Shaped the Irish Economy’.
The book is a brilliant class analysis of the Irish economy since the origins of the state, and seeks to give a deep systemic structural analysis to the causes of the crisis, and to help explain why things panned out the way they did.
We discuss the Garden Cities of Ebenezer Howard, Irish economic policy and the British Empire, the rise of land speculation in Ireland, an extravagantly pointless Irish hotel, NAMA – the worlds largest property company, which owns all the worthless toxic commercial property in Ireland. Amongst other things…
You can find Conor’s book here. (It’s well worth the read…)
Happy New Year!
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The Communist Party of Ireland condemns in the strongest possible terms the arrest of the Galway peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy, who was arrested today and brought to Limerick Prison to serve a three-month sentence. Ms D’Arcy suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is also being treated for cancer.
She refused to sign an undertaking that she would keep away from unauthorised zones at Shannon Airport, as a result of which her three-month suspended sentence has been activated.
Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell were sentenced in Ennis District Court in December 2013. Each received a three-month prison sentence, suspended on condition that they enter into a bond to uphold the law for two years and stay out of unauthorised zones at Shannon Airport.
Shannon Airport is a major hub for US warplanes on their way to sow death and destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. It is also a transit point for aircraft carrying US military drones, also victims of “extraordinary rendition” were transported through the airport.
The Communist Party of Ireland demands her immediate release. It also calls on peace and democratic forces around the world to write to the Irish Government demanding her release.
Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice:
Send messages of support to Galway Alliance Against War :
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2014 should become the year of the wage increase. Lord knows, workers need one. Falling incomes, rising prices, increased taxation, cuts in income supports and public services – all have contributed to a toxic situation where living standards are falling, especially under the continuing burden of household debt. So, yes, a wage increase is not only desirable but necessary.
In the last five years weekly earnings have fallen by three percent, with the low-paid sectors (marked with an asterisk) of recreation and hospitality, along with the public sector, taking the biggest hits.
We should remember the compositional effect on these numbers. For instance, if you have three people earning €5, €10 and €15 respectively, these three would average €10. However, if the lowest paid loses their job, the average of the other two increases to €12.50. Yet, those two didn’t experience a wage increase; it’s just that the composition has changed. So, we might find in many sectors, the actual fall in weekly earnings for many/most workers is more (and vice-versa).
No doubt, arguments about ‘wage competitiveness’ and ‘wage inflation’ will be raised (isn’t it odd we never hear about ‘profit competitiveness’ and ‘profit inflation’, or ‘poverty competitiveness and inflation’?). These are arguments we will return to later. Hear I want to outline another issue – one which will impact on the kind of economy and society that is being created for us.
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“I would rather play roles that carry conviction.
Maybe it’s because they’re the easiest and yet
the hardest things for me to do.”
— Peg Entwistle, Oakland Tribune, 05/05/1929
Sprawled across a teak and brass rail bar,
suppose it’s September 1932
and you haven’t worked since Broadway.
Wouldn’t you sit and just get drunk?
Tell your folks you’re meeting friends
in a drugstore on Beachwood Drive
then beeline up the trail to Mount Lee?
Imagine the black fry of manure
and gardenias. All them crickets.
L.A.’s bristling dark and yellow
like a bumblebee’s fur.
Downhill through hosiery and scrub
to HOLLYWOODLAND and up the first
few rungs of a workman’s ladder,
you see your face in a small ravine.
Do you fall backwards or forwards
off the ‘H’; prefer it for its sigh—
in some quarters, not pronounced at all—
or simply jump? One day vies
against the next and for every kernel
of untruth, you’re just like a rosary bead.
Your own ghost calls it through
and two policemen make the find. Face down.
Well-dressed. Shoes and jacket in a parcel.
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If the Irish Times report is correct, the Government is on track to implement tax cuts for ‘middle income’ families. The Taoiseach is certainly keen on it:
‘“The priority will be to reduce the very high tax rates faced by families on middle incomes,” said Mr Kenny.’
What’s really interesting is that for many middle income families, tax cuts would be practically meaningless. And what they need is not even on the agenda.
How much income do middle income households earn? The following should only be seen as an approximation since it relies on income distribution data from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions which presents the information based on deciles (i.e. broken down on 10 percent categories). Further, the latest Survey from 2011 doesn’t provide a decile breakdown; so this data is courtesy of Dr. Micheal Collins from the Nevin Economic Research Institute. As well, the household breakdown comes from 2010 (again, as 2011 doesn’t present this data) – a breakdown for adults and children. That’s why this should be treated as indicative.
This middle income lies in the 4th to 8th deciles, making up 55 percent of all adults and 60 percent of all children. What is the average income for this middle group?
It ranges between €8,000 and €52,000 per household. This refers to ‘direct’ income – income from PAYE work, self-employment and capital sources (e.g. capital gains). This middle income group is made up of part-time workers, minimum wage workers, and the low-paid: a household of two working adults would mean average gross wage of €26,000 each. There would also be average and above-average income earners.
Data from the Revenue Commissioners is also helpful but there are some caveats. There is a chance that there is double counting – where people might have part-time self-employment combined with part-time PAYE work. Further, married couples are counted as one taxpaying unit. And the data only includes those in work. Notwithstanding these, the Revenue data corresponds with the above.
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The January issue of Socialist Voice is out now. Read it as a PDF or online.
Articles in this issue:
1. New year, same struggles [EMC]
2. Insurance: the white man’s burden [RCN]
3. A politics beyond anti-sectarianism [TR]
4. Dealing with the past [TMK]
5. Central Bank boss predicts a three-way banking split [MA]
6. Mandela’s debt to socialist Cuba [TMS]
7. An anti-monopoly or anti-imperialist strategy? [NL]
b. A front for youth’s struggle
9. Building class-consciousness in 2014
10. Latvia joins the euro [BG]
11. O’Flaherty Summer School
New year, same struggles
The beginning of a new year is the traditional time for most people to take stock of the past year and what they hope they can achieve in a new one. They make resolutions to do this, that, and the other, all done in good faith.
From a workers’ viewpoint, 2013 finished on a reasonably high note, with the victory of the ESB workers in securing their defined-benefit pension scheme, which may well have repercussions throughout the state-sponsored sector.
The establishment throughout the European Union are hoping that the deal done on the “outright monetary transaction” scheme and the European stability mechanism will continue to stabilise the euro. They have agreed that the debt must be paid off in full—not by inflation, default, or writing it off. All just wishful thinking.
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Here is the second part of a dialogue with philosopher Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop on the idea of the republic. This is a continuation of the discussion started here on the 29th of October last.
Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop taught modern philosophy in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid from 1981 to 1986. He translated Spinoza’s correspondence into Spanish and, as a member of the Association des Amis de Spinoza, has taken part in seminars and congresses in France and Italy. He is currently working as a senior translator in the Council of the European Union and is specialized in foreign policy matters. He is an advisory editor of the review Décalages (on Althusserian studies). He writes in European and Latin-American publications on Spinoza, Althusser, modern philosophy and political philosophy. His latest book is La dominación liberal (Liberal Domination. Essay on liberalism as a power apparatus) (Tierra de Nadie, Madrid, 2010). He is currently linked to the Philosophy Center of the Université libre de Bruxelles, where he is preparing a PhD on Spinoza in Althusser. His blog, in Spanish, is Iohannes Maurus.
RMcA: I’d like to relate what you’ve been saying here to the present situation in Europe. Before I do, a couple of comments. I think you -and the rest of the line of the damned!- are right about the common-wealth as an originary reality underlying capitalism itself. Indeed, the legal architecture of a capitalist State rests, at a very basic level, upon a conception of something that is common to all. And it’s also true about the way neoliberalism puts knowledge of this originary reality to its own ends.
JDSE: There is much to say on common-wealth or even on communism as the very fabric of any society, even of the one which most utterly denies it, capitalism. What we, on the “line of the damned” construe as the commons, has in bourgeois legal terms, an equivalent: the “public” as synonymous with State-owned and/or -managed. This is, of course, a mystification of the common ground of society, placed as a transcendent One above the multitude. This is exactly the way Hobbes thinks of the union of a Commonwealth in his political works. Against this we consider the multitude as rooted in the common, as an ever open set of incomplete singular individualizations as the French philosopher Simondon put it, in a very Spinozist way (even if he never was aware of this connection). From this point of view, the common is always-already political, and the relevant question is not the one about the origin of the political or the common, but the one about individualization and its modes.
Neoliberalism is an effort -possibly the last effort- by capitalism to get asymptotically as close as possible to the communist fabric of society, and even of the human species, in order to exploit it. That’s why it has been identified by Michel Foucault as “biopolitics”. Life and the reproduction of capital are getting ever closer to each other. The very span of labour time or space is nowadays indefinite and becomes identical to human individual and social life. There is no longer a closed space and a definite time for labour, as was the case in the classical Fordist or even pre-Fordist (Dickensian) factory. Today, life reproduction and labour are the same: Marx would say that we have entirely completed the “real subsumption” of labour under capital.
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Chancellor George Osborne has recently been promoting two ideas. One is that a recovery is under way and the other is that further cuts in government spending are needed, up to £25bn.
The contradictory nature of those two statements tells us something important about the nature of the current recovery and the actual content of economic policy. It is clear that however weak the current recovery is, the overwhelming bulk of the population will not benefit from it. Austerity policies have always been aimed at transferring incomes from labour and the poor to capital and the rich. So for example, a VAT increase was said to be necessary to cut the deficit yet was simultaneously implemented with a cut in the corporation tax rate which reduced government revenues by almost exactly the same amount.
The popular shorthand for this is a recovery solely for the 1%. The class content is clear. The policy is designed to boost capital at the expense of labour and its allies.
Austerity is not at all designed to boost total economic output, in which capital might be one of the beneficiaries. The reason is simple. In the ordinary course of events an economic downturn or slump leads to a fall in profits far greater than the fall in output. A simple recovery in output could entrench that for a prolonged period.
So, the owners of a car firm sell cars worth £1,000 million in a year. Their main costs are all the inputs of labour, capital and raw materials amounting to £800 million. But these largely to tend to stay the same or even continue to rise a little when the downturn occurs. Suppose sales fall by 10% to £900 million. Input costs are unaltered in aggregate. Now profits are only £100 million and previously they were £200 million. On a 10% decline in sales, profits have fallen by 50%. Profits fall faster than output.
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