H H H HH H H H H H H H H H November 2013
“I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini’s gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him. If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.” Winston Churchill Chancellor of the exchequer, later prime minister of Britain, 1927.
WILL WE OR WON’T WE?
T IS NOW clear that the Irish state will leave the “bail-out” or restructuring programme some time in December. The Government is spinning the argument that when we eventually get the EU-ECB-IMF supervision off our backs we will “regain our sovereignty” and independent action. The question has to be asked, When have we ever had full sovereignty and independence? They are claiming that Government policies have worked to such a degree that they may not need any “precautionary credit line” from the
European Stability Mechanism, the euro-zone rescue fund. For this state to get access to such funds would require parliamentary approval from a number of countries, including Germany. The minister for finance, Michael Noonan, is selling the good news that Ireland is the example to be followed by all the peripheral countries. He has been burning up the air-miles in the Government jet, flying hither and thither. In the Netherlands he met the Dutch minister of finance and head of the group of euro-zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem. continued overleaf
Economic crisis Page 2 Pensions benefits wiped Page 2 James Connolly and 1916 Page 6 There is and alternative Page 5 Time for independent leadership Page 6 Austerity is working as designed Page 8 The unseemly rise of Qatar Page 9 Ineos: a serious defeat Page 10 Ionad Buail Isteach Page 12
Socialist Voice 3 East Essex Street Dublin 2 (01) 6708707
political economy continued from page 1 This followed meetings with the EU Commission, European Central Bank and IMF over the last two weeks.
Economic activity throughout Europe is very weak and shows no signs of significant improvement
The EU and IMF, the Irish political gombeenmen and the media continue to pretend that there is a difference of real substance between the ECB-EU-IMF troika and the private corporate finance markets, when in reality they are the same and work to secure the same interests.New research has shown that the Irish economy has been stagnant for three years, while establishment analysts are predicting a growth of 1.2 per cent this year. This is far below what they claimed was necessary for us to “grow” our way out of the debt crisis a number of years back when they saddled the people with the socialised corporate debt. Economic activity throughout Europe is very weak and shows no signs of significant improvement any time soon. Yet unemployment continues to grow, being particularly acute among youth. Poverty is spreading like a cancer throughout the European Union. Meanwhile the German balance of payments is burgeoning, causing the United States to complain about “unfair trading.” What it really means is that German monopolies are making vast profits, while wages have declined and workers face increasing insecurity in employment as the “hiring fairs” spread. Regardless of whether or not we leave the current supervised restructuring scheme, there will be no let-up in austerity. There will be little growth in employment, and tens of thousands of people will continue to leave the country for destinations that themselves have shrinking opportunities. No, we will not “regain our sovereignty” or our independence: we have long since ceded what little independence and sovereignty we gained in 1922. The bailiff will continue to come and knock on people’s doors to repossess their homes. People will still stand in a queue for shrinking social welfare benefits. The plunder of public wealth will continue, in the form of privatisation, and the servicing of the odious debt will have priority over all other calls upon the exchequer. [EMC] page 2 SOCIALIST VOICE
Departments I, II & III and economic crisis
Pension benefits wiped Part 2
IN THE SEPTEMBER issue I described how a combination of an ESB accountancy fiction, Government (owner) dividend demands in excess of €600 million and pension regulations that give total favour to retired pension-scheme members over today’s workers have affected the ESB pension scheme. In summary, less than half the scheme’s members have been left carrying the entire risk in the largest funded pension scheme in the state, while employer and owner abandon them to certain and impending pensions disaster. According to the state’s own regulations, the majority of those workers now have 3 per cent of their pension entitlement with no state pension entitlement. Their representative trade unions (ESU, SIPTU, TEEU and Unite) coalesce through the ESB Group of Unions. The group has a strategy, which we refer to as the “three-legged stool approach,” of addressing this issue through political,
Marxist economic analysis breaks up the process of capital’s reproduction of itself into three “departments.” Department I is the production of the means of production, considered to be investment in new technologies or replacement technologies and materials. Capitalists here sell their product to other capitalists. Department II is the production of wage goods: those goods that workers buy with their wages to ensure their own reproduction. Capitalists here sell their products largely to workers but also to other capitalists. Finally, department III is the production of luxury goods, non-wage goods, and also those growing areas of unproductive reproduction of capital through advertising, military expenditure, and financial products. Capitalists here are again largely dependent on other capitalists, or indebted workers, as their market. These demarcations help us to understand the areas of investment in the system and how changes in these contribute to the crisis that is imperative within the system. Because of the competitive need to increase profits and to get more for less from workers, capitalists will seek to invest in new technology, which results in an increased demand for department I goods. This will also result in an increased supply of department II goods; and if workers’ wages are not increased to consume this supply, overproduction will follow. Monopoly finance capital has attempted to counter this tendency through the extension of debt to workers, so as to
finance the consumption of both department II and department III goods by workers. However, this has increased new and highly unstable levels of debt, which create their own dynamics for crisis that we are seeing clearly today. The drive to replace workers with technology, to reduce wages and to shift production to Asia to increase profits was made easier as monopolisation occurred and has taken on a more pronounced character in recent times, leading to a variety of other systemic features (described in previous articles in Socialist Voice), such as growing unemployment, increased proletarianisation and pauperisation, and environmental crisis. This brings to the fore the inevitable contradiction between increased productive capacity and reduced consumption ability and as a consequence the struggle to realise profits for monopoly businesses with massive amounts of accumulated capital. Capital has adapted to this with a massive growth in department III, the production and consumption of luxury goods and the unproductive re-creation of capital. This can be seen in built-in obsolescence, in increasing expenditure on advertising, in the constant launching of new models of the same products, in the privatisation of public services, and of course in the financial services sector. These contradictions are not going away, and cannot be regulated away: they are core features of how capital re-creates itself today. This is why capitalism’s response to the crisis has been to further drive these features of the system. [NL]
Printing money to support the debt bubble
IT HAS BEEN reported that credit hedge funds have bought up the bulk of the $1,200 billion American junk bond market since 2008, using debt to purchase them, thus increasing the total amount of private-sector debt in the American economy. This development brings huge risks to the United States, which is recognised in a recent report by the Federal Reserve System (the US central bank). With the market dominated so heavily by investors who act fast and in herds, any faltering could trigger a mass selling off by these hedge funds, potentially bringing about another financial crisis in the United States. The dilemma, of course, is that the US government wishes this debt to be bought up and reduced gradually over time, and so it needed to underpin the scheme. legal and industrial campaigns. encourages its purchase and stabilisation Meanwhile another department’s Politically it is clear that the Government—the 95 per cent owner of the regulations and legislation, the Department through the massive amounts of capital it is of Social Protection, tightens the noose on injecting monthly into the markets. ESB—has a serious culpability for this So, in essence, the Federal Reserve’s capital is the scheme and the workers in it, while crisis. The statutory pension scheme has being used to support the highly speculative, the Department of Communications and been controlled by a Government minister volatile and unproductive profits of hedge funds Energy requires those workers to continue since its inception, and many of the that deal in hundreds of billions in junk debt. to deliver major infrastructure in the liabilities of the scheme can be traced If the Federal Reserve stops this support, the industry, not to mention “industrial peace.” back to this control. In addition, hedge funds will withdraw, causing another The unions have initiated a demand, Government regulation and dividend debt-led financial crisis. Continuing this support since joined by the ESB management demands have contributed to the current will provide the pretext for the continuing itself, for exemption from the minimum funding crisis. assault on the public sector and public services funding standard, and ESB staff and For a year and a half the group have and drive privatisation, again to the benefit of officials continue to write to and lobby been active, formally and informally, with the same money-men. their elected representatives and senators key ministers and their officials. We have In the United States, just as in Ireland, the about their plight. highlighted how the policy of one arm of debt is being used to attack workers, jobs and As the campaign to protect workers’ Government (one example being the services and to provide profit-creating pensions gathers pace, Dáil Éireann and minister for finance’s introduction of a opportunities for an increasingly desperate and Seanad Éireann will become key locations pension levy of pension funds, taking €80 million out of this scheme) is at odds with for the ensuing debate. On the legal front, struggling capital. People can either allow themselves to be four trade union members of the scheme the expectation of another arm of the same department, Public Expenditure. This have initiated court proceedings sponsored enslaved by capital’s debt or repudiate the debt and begin to free themselves. That is the choice. by their respective unions. department wants the company to be [NL] [Brendan Ogle] stripped of €600 million in assets that are SOCIALIST VOICE page 3
James Connolly and 1916
N THIS PERIOD of commemorations there seems to be a concerted attempt to write James Connolly out of history, or to play down his role in the 1916 Rising, implying that he had abandoned socialism for the time being and handed leadership of the revolutionary movement over to nationalists. Despite the fact that public buildings, such as a major train station and a public hospital, were named after him, the fact that one of the founders of the Republic was a socialist and Marxist has become an embarrassment to official Ireland. It is easier to sanitise Connolly by claiming that he abandoned socialism in 1916 and became a nationalist than to examine his role in 1916. The Irish Citizen Army has been practically written out of the official version of 1916. Part of this version of 1916 is the attempt by the establishment to trivialise 1916 as a whole and to treat the whole event as a romantic gesture of revolt by a bunch of poets that was futile from the beginning— Pearse’s so-called “blood sacrifice.” At the recent Desmond Greaves Summer School, Dr Priscilla Metscher pointed out that Connolly was the first self-educated Marxist theorist from the working class. He spent as much time as he could in investigating and studying the material conditions about which he wrote. Connolly was operating in a pre-internet age, and the transmission of information
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was not as immediate as it is now. Yet by 1916 he had reached the same analysis of the Irish situation as that outlined by Lenin in “Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”—namely to take leadership of the revolutionary forces or else be led by the reactionary forces. The passing of the Government of Ireland Act showed that the British administration in Ireland was about to move to a different phase. Finance capital would in future determine the relationship with Ireland. The constitutional nationalists, led by Redmond, were willing and eager to go along with this new relationship, where in effect the Irish bourgeoisie would govern in place of the British administration, but nothing else would change, had it proceeded as planned. The decision to defer home rule because of the Great War led Redmond to a position where supporting the war would show the Catholic Irish to be as loyal as the unionists. It also showed that home rule under Redmond would have been little more than a change of administration. A more radical group around Pearse, MacDonagh, Clarke and the IRB were not willing to delay until after the war and wanted to go further, to have complete separation, but had not determined the precise form the government would take. Following the 1913 Lock-out, the Irish Citizen Army was established as a defence force for strikers against attacks by the
Dublin Metropolitan Police. Unlike the Irish Volunteers, the Citizen Army used British exservicemen, such as Captain Jack White and Michael Mallin, to teach marching and drilling—all part of the basics of military discipline for a conflict situation. The Volunteers, for nationalistic reasons, did not use ex-servicemen; consequently, during 1916 there was often confusion in Volunteer ranks.
The Irish Citizen Army has been practically written out of the official version of 1916 Shortly after the formation of the Citizen Army, Connolly saw its potential as a revolutionary army and began to see it as a force to be used in a blow at British imperialism. He studied previous insurrections and battles, such as the Alamo in Texas, the Moscow Insurrection of 1905, insurrection in the Tyrol, revolution in Belgium, revolution in Paris in 1830 and 1848, and the Battle of Lexington in the American Civil War. Connolly’s analyses of these battles were published in 1915 in the Workers’ Republic.
In effect, in these articles Connolly laid out the tactics to be used in the conduct of urban guerrilla warfare. Although no actual plan of the 1916 Rising has survived or has been discovered, it is clear from a study of both Connolly’s writings and the buildings actually occupied that Connolly had laid out a comprehensive plan for the Rising, which was the one that was followed to a large extent. The fact that it did not have greater military success was probably because not all the Volunteers turned out, because of confusion over orders, the failure to take key buildings, delays and difficulties in communications, and the fact that most of those involved were inexperienced and were facing professional soldiers. In general, however, 1916 was a success, in that it laid the foundation document for the Republic in the Proclamation. By holding out as long as they did the revolutionaries showed the British establishment that a serious attack had been made on the British Empire, as acknowledged by Lenin. Easter Week 1916 also laid the basis for the subsequent guerrilla war. The fact that the British committed a war crime by murdering soldiers who had surrendered only temporarily postponed the guerrilla war. It is hardly surprising that the present establishment seek to belittle Connolly’s memory and his writings.
Works of James Connolly Over the years the Communist Party of Ireland has kept in print the principal writings of the Irish Marxist pioneer James Connolly, including the classic Labour in Irish History (1910) and more recently a two-volume Collected Works (1987).
There is an alternative
PARTY POLITICS now constitutes a profession for managing the affairs of big business, both foreign and domestic. If business is interfered with or pulls out of the country because of government policy, or increased corporation taxes or repudiating an odious debt, for example, the capitalist economy may falter, ultimately leading to the removal of that party from power. This is why substitute parties in parliamentary democracies will find it, and have found it, virtually impossible to remain principled in the long run on ideological terms. To do so leads to their demise. There really is only one viable long-term solution, and that is for the working class and its allies to stand together, organise together and build together with the ultimate goal of bringing the main means of production—the land, the factories, the banks, and natural resources—into common ownership, so that they can plan and fund from industry the policies that would provide for an expanded public-service system, social welfare, housing, health, education, and jobs. That is the alternative. Whether this can be done through parliamentary means is questionable, because to take control of power would also require the ownership, control and management of certain industries through working bodies of people’s assemblies. In real and immediate terms this could be the growth and expansion of worker cooperatives (the Mondragón Corporation in Spain as an excellent example) and the state enterprise sector, nationalisation, and reclaiming important natural resources, such as our oil, gas and fishing grounds and, in cases of failing businesses and factories, for worker-led takeovers and occupations wherever viable. South American countries, including Argentina, Venezuela, and Bolivia, have successfully been doing this over the last decade or so. This requires protection and subsidies from the state in the form of fundamental government policy changes to enable growth in production and innovation. Governing this process could see an expansion of town and county councils, which would be represented at the central government level. All levels could then be engaged in planning the economy in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, in such a way as to provide the local and national services people need for enjoying a healthy life. These working bodies could quite easily eliminate the need for parliamentary democracy and the talking-shop of professional politics and instead lead to a much deeper and more participative democracy. It would be utopian and naïve to think that this type of organising would go unopposed, or even that after five years of the biggest crisis of
capitalism since the great depression it would be supported by a majority of people in this country. There are huge obstacles to overcome and enormous tasks ahead, but we have to begin somewhere in bringing people around to the idea of this alternative. In sum, we need to urge unions, communities and individuals to agree or at least debate some basic demands. (1) The odious corporate debt needs to be rejected or repudiated. (2) We need investment and growth in state enterprises to provide long-term jobs. (3) We need to reclaim our resources—oil, gas, mines, and seas—to get essential revenue. (4) We need sovereign control of our banks, together with monetary and fiscal policy. (5) We need to lessen our dependence on foreign investment and transnational corporations and build up an indigenous industrial base. (6) We need a progressive tax system and controls on capital. The strength and power of monopoly capitalism, be it in the form of the United States, the EU, Britain, or the Irish big bourgeoisie, will block any parliamentary party that is not well organised, well disciplined, ideologically classoriented and made up of the working class and its allies from breaking the cartel and taking power.
‘It is now time for rethinking our nation’s long-held belief in the European Union’
Central to this is a critique of the EU as a base and institution of imperialism. Without such a critique the ability to withstand the cartel is unattainable. Sinn Féin, the Green Party and the left parliamentary bloc (Socialist Party and SWP mainly) are devoid of such a critique. They may be critical of the EU, but as an imperialist bloc they have very little if anything to say. Hanging on to the hope that the EU can be reformed into either a social-democratic or socialist bloc has misled our people for too long and has been a haemorrhage in solidifying any tangible anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement here in Ireland. It is now time for rethinking our nation’s long-held belief in the EU. We need to invert our notion of democracy from a representative to a participatory model. It is time we explored and implemented new ways of organising and producing in the industrial field. Finally, it is past time that we brought a new wave of revolutionary socialist thinking to our people and for our people to take up the mantle of the class struggle. [EON] SOCIALIST VOICE page 5
Time for more independent leadership
HE ICTU called for a day of action on Saturday 12 October. Out of the 800,000 union members affiliated to the ICTU, about 500 turned out. Some who participated reckoned there were more police and security personnel than demonstrators. The Government can rest easy when faced with threats from the ICTU. The working class have realised that the current leadership of the ICTU is part of the comprador class, criticising the campaign of austerity on the one hand but making sure that any signs of protest are nipped in the
bud, as was demonstrated by the Haddington Road Agreement. The efforts of working-class activists to oppose the campaign of austerity are constantly undermined and neutralised. David Begg, current general secretary of the ICTU, addressed Seanad Éireann on 25 September and spoke to that well-heeled body about the 1913 Lock-out and its relevance today. It is obvious from his speech that Begg’s real hero of the revolutionary period at the beginning of the twentieth century is William O’Brien. He recognises that there was “out-andout class struggle in 1913,” and that the
labour movement played a central part in the founding of the Irish state. He regrets the fact that Ireland did not follow the Nordic social-democratic model until the period 1987–2008, when “social partnership” was introduced. Unfortunately, although Begg understands that social partnership was abandoned in 2008, he does not understand that it was only ever a temporary device for industrial peace when the capitalist class consolidated its position. In fact at the heart of Begg’s analysis is the belief that the market needs to be regulated and the social element given greater recognition. He does not seem to grasp the fact that trying to regulate markets and asking capitalists to be decent, socially responsible people is not the answer. It is the very nature of capitalism itself (the term “market” is just a euphemism for capitalism) to be allconsuming and destructive. It is the nature of capitalism to accumulate and to eliminate competition until it monopolises a market and extracts all value from a product, regardless of consequences. Unfortunately for Begg, at the time of his speech to the Seanad he was not able to read an article by Maurice Saatchi (former chairman of the Conservative Party and one of the strategists who helped Margaret Thatcher gain power in 1979) on 19 October in the Daily Mail. Saatchi is worried because the Tories have not won a British election for twenty-one years. Thatcherism was supposed to destroy socialism and create a nation of capitalists, all competing with one another in the market in accordance with the vision of liberal economists. Unfortunately for the visionaries, the opposite has been happening. Inequality has widened; and, as
Rail and bus transport: Why nationalisation was the o N 1953 the Great Northern Railway was nationalised under the joint control of the governments of the Republic and the North. The other major railway company was Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE), which had already been nationalised in 1950. Between them these two companies then controlled public transport in the twenty-six counties. Many small private bus companies were subsumed into the two companies, and the state (i.e. the taxpayer) paid what was at the time huge compensation to these private owners. This money was paid out on the grounds that public transport would be state-owned, and that private operators would not be allowed to re-enter the market. There were many reasons for the nationalisation process. Remember that
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Ireland was not exactly a hugely revolutionary country at this time, but even the most strident capitalist couldn’t make a great case for the opposition. The main problem was safety. In the pursuit of profit, buses were often badly maintained, and crashes resulting in injury or death were not unusual. Often employees and owners, who in some cases were also drivers, worked long hours, which did not help make things safer. Another issue with badly maintained vehicles was reliability. A mechanical breakdown for a small operator often meant lack of or no transport for the public, with the resulting knock-on effect on the work force. Private operators vied with each other for the most lucrative routes. For instance, on
sunny Sundays many operators just serviced the busy routes from the city centre to the seaside, but woe betide you if you didn’t live near one of those routes and you needed to get somewhere. There were many other reasons why nationalisation was the obvious answer. This is not to say that bus and railway services are perfect nowadays, or have been since the nationalisation; but I would argue that they are of a very high quality, in spite of the fact that some of the appointments at the head of the transport organisations were political ones, not people who had worked their way up through the ranks. Many of those appointed were not exactly admirers of public ownership. Todd Andrews, appointed by Fianna Fáil as chairman of CIE, presided over the closure of significant
Ed Milliband pointed out, instead of the rising tide lifting all boats it only lifted the yachts. In effect, as one Karl Marx predicted, “the end result of competition is the end of competition.” When you look at the provision of utilities in Ireland, it’s easy to see what a farce the so-called competitive market in electricity is: various companies all claiming to sell electricity at less than their “competitors” and then increasing prices. In effect, what you have is the operation of a cartel, fixing prices and using control of the market to extract money from consumers for an essential service. This is then facilitated by the Government allowing price increases through the medium of a so-called regulator. What was wrong with the ESB, which is still the actual producer of electricity? Nothing other than the need to appease the EU by pretending to create a “market” in electricity. In July this year David Begg announced at the ICTU biennial delegate conference that he intends retiring within two years. It is clearly time for more independent-thinking and independent-acting leadership for the trade union movement. We’ve been squeezed for every last penny and have nothing left to give. At the same time, capitalists are continuing to thrive here, having achieved the biggest stroke in Irish history: transferring their private debts to the working class, while undermining labour laws with the assistance of right-wing courts, lengthening the working day, and cutting back on wages. David Begg’s legacy to the working class will be zero-hour contracts and no right to collective bargaining—just like 1913, in fact. [NOM]
e obvious answer sections of the railway network. This has proved to have been a very short-sighted policy, particularly now that the world has to start looking at alternatives to the private car, and railways may provide an answer. Some of the railway infrastructure has either been built on or allowed to fall into such a state of decay that it may never again be operable. Think of the massive work that had to be done to recover only a section of the old Harcourt Street to Bray railway line for the Luas tram service. In recent times we have seen the re-entry of private bus and coach operators into the transport arena. A question that has never been asked is whether the taxpayer has ever received compensation from any of these operators. But I think we know the answer to that one. [RCN]
Political statement by the Communist Party of Ireland 20 October 2013 ONCE AGAIN the people in the Republic have been forced to endure an “austerity” budget as the Irish capitalist class, in alliance with the EU, ECB, and IMF, continue to make working people pay for the odious debt, with cuts in social welfare, attacks on the living standards of pensioners, cuts in subsidies for public transport, and a further consolidation of the two-tier health system. There is a concerted drive to push the youth out of the country with the renewed attacks on social welfare provisions for the under25s. The Irish ruling class are determined to take full advantage of the present crisis to drive working people back, to reclaim lost inequalities and impose new ones, to make the poor, the old, the sick, the youth and workers pay for this crisis. Debt is the means of driving down workers’ living standards and facilitating the continuing attacks on workers’ rights and living standards in the Republic and is also the justification for similar attacks on the people of the North of Ireland, under the direction of the British state. While the present Government proclaim that they are over the economic crisis and returning to stability and growth, and that they will leave the restructuring programme in early December, this is nothing more than a ruse. While they will be the first of the socalled bail-out countries to be pushed out the door, they know they will need additional funds to keep their sinking ship afloat; that is why they are attempting to negotiate a new line of credit, a just-in-case insurance policy.
‘The strategy of monopoly finance capital is to create permanent dependence and permanent debtservicing, guaranteeing billions in working people’s money to European and global finance houses’
The EU has to show success for the imposition of draconian austerity on the working people of peripheral countries so as to ensure the stability of the euro and to drive its agenda of attacking workers’ rights, terms, and conditions, wholesale privatisation, and creating debt-dependence. The strategy of monopoly finance capital is to create permanent dependence and permanent debt-servicing, guaranteeing billions in working people’s money to European and global finance houses. While this is happening, sectarian politics in the North stumbles along, with the various factions within unionism vying with each other to see who will gain most electoral advantage next year. What is obvious is that none of the parties in the Executive have any clear idea about how to solve the people’s problems, with unionism and loyalism retreating further into sectarianism. The recent actions of Ineos and its billionaire owner Jim Ratcliffe at the Grangemouth oil refinery, which supplies most of the North’s liquid fuels, such as petrol, diesel, and heating oil, demonstrates the importance of having an all-Ireland energy policy. The fact is that a corporate billionaire can put at risk the economy of Northern Ireland. We express our solidarity with the workers in Grangemouth. Rejectionist republican groups meanwhile continue to settle internal scores, accompanied by the recent fire-bombing of a clothes shop in Belfast. Their pretence that they are leading a war for national freedom and protecting exploited workers is farcical. Like the loyalist paramilitaries, they simplify and exploit deep economic and social alienation. They have no answers to the people’s problems. Pandering to loyalism or unionism is not a solution either. Only by presenting and building of a clear democratic strategy that has the potential to weaken the EU-USBritish triangle of imperialist domination over all the Irish people will we begin to liberate the people from the scourge of sectarianism. We need to build maximum unity between the people’s organisations, trade unions, community, women and youth throughout the whole country, to develop a transformative strategy that has the potential to challenge the economic and political power of imperialism and break down sectarianism and false sectoral interests. SOCIALIST VOICE page 7
Austerity is working as designed Speech by Eugene McCartan general secretary of the Communist party of Ireland at the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties Lisbon, November 2013
OMRADES, there are a number of central questions facing the workers’ movement in our world. Firstly, we need to deepen our knowledge of the continuing crisis of the system, which clearly is showing no signs of abating, and in fact the contradictions appear to be intensifying. The second area in which we need to develop our understanding and to strengthen our common actions is in relation to the growing environmental catastrophe now facing our planet—a crisis that is having and will have a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people as well as thousands of species of plants and animals. Thirdly, imperialism’s strategy is now one of a permanent state of war and military build-up, with permanent regional conflicts to sustain the industrial-military complex. And fourthly, there is the importance of maintaining our unity, based upon mutual respect. There is more that unites us than divides us. Recently the Irish establishment proclaimed that the crisis is over, that the worst has passed, and the economy has “turned the corner.” Both the Irish ruling class and the European Union have declared that “austerity” has worked and that we are ready to leave the restructuring programme, or what they call the “Programme for Ireland,” in early December. They also falsely proclaim that the Republic will get its sovereignty back. This has more to do with appearances than with reality. The European Union has to show to the people of Greece, Spain, Portugal and other EU member-states that if they take the austerity medicine without resistance, it works. In reality this is nothing more than rocking the train from side to side to pretend that it is moving forward. Since the crisis erupted, the Irish government has taken more than €20 billion out of the economy in five annual budgets. This has been achieved by massive cuts in public spending on social welfare, education, health, social provisions and pensions and with thousands of jobs lost in public services. This strategy is hitting working-class women harder, as they have always made page 8 SOCIALIST VOICE
up the majority of low-paid workers and those dependent on social welfare. Simultaneously they have increased government charges, introduced new taxes, and increased working hours without pay. Workers in the public health service are now being forced to work two extra weeks for no wages. A recent report by the hand-picked establishment figures who make up the National Fiscal Council stated that the government’s financial liabilities “have increased four-fold since 2007, reaching €208 billion (127 per cent of GDP) in 2012. Over this period, Ireland experienced the largest increase in indebtedness (relative to GDP) of any Euro Area country . . . [This] mainly consisted of sovereign bonds, Troika/bilateral loans and promissory notes. “Debt in Ireland in 2012 amounted to €192 billion or 118 per cent of GDP. There has been a four-fold increase in government debt over the past five years, reflecting a series of large budget deficits and the cost of direct support provided to the banking sector. On this basis, Ireland had the fourth highest debt ratio in the Euro Area in 2012, whereas in 2007 Ireland had the second lowest ratio.” The Irish people in the Republic experience the political and economic strategy of the European Union, while identical policies are imposed by British imperialism on the working people of the North of Ireland. In the Republic, unemployment now stands at nearly 409,090, or 13 per cent. In the North of Ireland the rate is 7½ per cent. The economic policies and priorities of the British state and their impact on the people of the North of Ireland are further exacerbating the deep underlying sectarian divisions and tensions. The growing poverty and social alienation among sections of the working class, particularly among youth, are being exploited by elements of the establishment parties and paramilitary groups. A growing number of home-owners are unable to pay their mortgage and are now facing eviction and repossession. The “troika,” in alliance with the Irish ruling class, continue to turn the country into a zone of precarious employment, a lowwage economy. Workers’ rights and conditions are under sustained attack, while the government has rushed in legislation giving it the power to cut the wages of public-sector workers. Key elements of the leadership of the trade union movement have been more than willing to co-operate and to actively discourage workers’ resistance to the continuing attacks. Some are members of the Labour Party, the junior party in the current government. The result of recent budget cuts in social
welfare for those under the age of twentyfive will drive tens of thousands of young people out of the country. Emigration from the Republic is now running at 50,000 per year, equivalent to nearly a thousand a week, or one person every ten minutes. Those remaining will have to work on schemes called “Job Bridge” for up to forty hours a week for less than the minimum wage or be forced into internships. Debt has become the principal means for pushing through the long-term strategic imperative of economic restructuring that is intended to restore lost inequalities and to impose new ones. They are driving forward with the privatisation of public companies and the commercialisation of remaining public services, allowing the economy to be further dominated by monopoly capitalism. The national gas company, An Bord Gáis, is now up for privatisation. Stage 1 of privatisation is the services side of it; the state will still retain the production side, but the profits will be reaped by the servicing part. That’s what citizens will be financing: private profits for energy that is socially owned. Since the eruption of the crisis our party has been arguing that austerity is working: that it is working as designed. Communists have been a lone voice in putting forward this argument, which challenges the illusion that bourgeois governments actually act in an objective or impartial way, that they are above class antagonisms. Austerity in Ireland, as elsewhere, is clearly designed to facilitate the transfer of wealth from working people, small businesses, working family farmers and the self-employed, upwards and outwards: upwards to the Irish ruling class, who are becoming richer, with wealth becoming more concentrated, while at the same time the massive flows of capital out of the country to service the socialised corporate debt are strengthening the dependence relationship and mechanisms of control over the Irish people’s potential to develop alternative, independent political and economic action. The servicing of the debt is costing the Irish people nearly €9 billion per year. What is clear to us is that the European Union and international finance capital do not want the debt repaid but rather are using the debt, particularly that of the heavily indebted peripheral states, as one of the central means of exercising and strengthening their control and domination. Debt-dependence is the means of ensuring that austerity is permanent and irreversible. This debt is not the people’s debt but corporate debt imposed on the people by the external troika, with the active collaboration of the internal troika of establishment politicians, business leaders,
international 0 and the state. The dominant economic and political interests within the EU, in co-operation with dependent national ruling classes, have, through the stability mechanism, securely fixed banking and sovereign debt together; and in all future financial crises the state—in fact the working class—will bear the burden. They have also made it clear that large and small depositors will in the future carry the main burden. The European Union is itself under growing strains, with the stability of the euro still very questionable. More and more working people are beginning to ask, Whose interests does the EU serve? This is reflected in the setting up by the EU of a new section to monitor social media in the member-states to try to actively combat this growing questioning of the EU’s legitimacy. We believe that the question of the euro needs deeper study. Are the euro and the banking debt the strategic weaknesses of European monopoly capitalism? We need to examine this not only in relation to the weaker EU countries but also as an instrument of inter-imperialist rivalry against the dollar. And can we build united workingclass action and mobilisation around them? Regarding the growing environmental crisis, this is something we cannot ignore. We need to study the whole relationship between global environmental destruction and modern state monopoly capitalism. It is capitalism that is creating the environmental crisis, with its need for growth. If capitalism is not growing it is in crisis. In addition, a significant contributing factor is modern imperialist warfare and its contribution to the destruction and pollution of the environment, with their use of depleted uranium weaponry. Military production is the most anti-environmental of all industries, and wars, of course, hundreds of times worse. The workers’ movement has not successfully linked the ownership and nature of capitalist production and capitalist commodity fetishism in our political understanding and anti-monopoly strategies. We would argue that, because we have not fully taken into account the environmental crisis, the defence of the environment has been in the main championed by petitbourgeois forces, with all their weaknesses and vacillations. They are unable to give any clear understanding of monopoly capitalism, the nature of the crisis and the reasons for it, as they continue to seek a solution within the confines of the capitalist system. We need to seriously reconnect the workers’ movement with the defence of the environment, build it into our anti-monopoly strategy, turn it against imperialism. We have to raise the argument that we must either save the planet or save capitalism: we cannot save both.
The unseemly rise of Qatar THREE YEARS AGO it was announced that the tiny Gulf emirate of Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup. This was despite the fact that Qatar has only 250,000 citizens, does not have the infrastructure to host such a tournament, and has an unbearably hot climate. The awarding of the World Cup to Qatar was a result of the widespread corruption within football’s governing body, FIFA. But, most importantly, Qatar’s rulers had made a statement of intent to the world. Qatar is an energy-rich dictatorship with delusions of grandeur. It is a close ally of both Saudi Arabia and the United States. Its huge reserves of natural gas have allowed the regime to become a regional power. The capital city, Doha, has become crowded with ultra-modern skyscrapers. The Al-Jazeera Network was founded here in 1996 to distribute the regime’s propaganda to an international audience. The Qatar Investment Fund is buying up businesses around the globe. The regime has also squandered a fortune on vanity projects, such as buying the Paris Saint-Germain football team, and is now planning to spend $200 billion on hosting the World Cup. More sinisterly, Qatar has been financing extremist jihadist groups fighting in Syria, and it played a major role in the imperialist coup that ousted Gaddafi in Libya. The Qatar regime relies on the exploitation of more than a million immigrant labourers from countries such as India for constructing its infrastructure and maintaining the luxurious standards of living for Qatar’s elite. It is estimated that four hundred migrant labourers
die in Qatar every year, working in conditions that are akin to slave labour. This figure is expected to increase as the building of infrastructure for the World Cup steps up. Workers pictured above are enticed to Qatar on the promise of high salaries, but their contracts are destroyed on arrival, their passports are seized, and they are forced to live and work in miserable conditions. The regime treats many Qatari citizens appallingly too. Women’s rights are almost nonexistent, and there are strict laws against the LGBT community. Like Saudi Arabia, Qatar is often able to escape international condemnation for its atrocious human rights record because of its alliance with the United States. The Qatari regime collaborates with imperialism to control international energy prices. Also, Qatar is helping to destroy the Arab nationalist states, or any progressive groups that block the advance of imperialism in the Middle East. If a country that was not aligned with the interests of imperialism committed human rights abuses like Qatar there would be an outcry among liberals and Amnesty International types. The awarding of the World Cup to Qatar is the most tangible signal of the growing influence of this malign regime. But Qatar’s financing of reactionary Islamist groups throughout the Arab world is the biggest danger to the people of the region. If there is ever to be democracy and liberation in the Middle East, then the brutal Gulf dictatorships need to be smashed and the people allowed to liberate themselves from imperialism so that they can develop their resources for the common good. [BG] SOCIALIST VOICE page 9
A serious defeat for workers and their union
he outcome of an industrial dispute in Scotland at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant, which resulted in a resounding defeat for the workers and their union, was one of the bigger setbacks for organised labour in the United Kingdom since the miners’ strike of the mid-1980s. The Ineos plant is one of Scotland’s largest industrial complexes, directly employing more than 1,370 full-time workers and about 2,000 contractors and supporting hundreds of local businesses. The dispute ostensibly began with an investigation into the conduct of the plant’s union convenor, Stephen Deans, with the firm alleging that he made “inappropriate use of company resources and systems”— using company time and equipment for union-backed political work. Deans is chairperson of Unite in Scotland and at the
time was chairperson of the Falkirk West Labour Party. He came to national prominence earlier this year as a result of allegations that he had improperly used union influence in order to manipulate the selection of a parliamentary candidate. The leader of the Labour Party, Ed Milliband, ordered an inquiry, and, surprisingly (or maybe not?), so did Ineos, and hence the charge of unauthorised use of company time and resources. As Dean’s workmates rallied to his defence, the company raised the stakes and demanded an end to workers’ final salary pensions, job cuts, a wage freeze, and harsher redundancy terms. When the union sought conciliation talks at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service the company abruptly broke off the engagement. Finding itself boxed into a
corner, Unite balloted for a strike and won approval for industrial action from its members. At that point Ineos’s billionaire owner and tax exile, Jim Ratcliffe, announced that he would close the plant. On hearing the news, the general secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, spoke bluntly, saying, “This is a savage blow to the Grangemouth work force and the wider Scottish economy. This is irresponsible capitalism at its worst . . .” Faced with the prospect of such a catastrophic loss of employment, the workers prevailed upon their union to capitulate and accept the brutal ultimatum delivered by the company. Some of the more irresponsible among the ultra-left called for a workers’ occupation and invoked the memory of Jimmy Reid and the 1971 Clydeside occupation. In reality there was little or no prospect of such action, since neither the Scottish government nor the British Parliament in London had any intention of providing the only possible alternative: nationalisation. Moreover, with Scotland suffering widespread unemployment, the Grangemouth work force was not prepared for a prolonged sit-in offering little prospect of success. As Pat Rafferty, Unite organiser in Scotland, said, “decent men and women are being asked to make sacrifices to hold on to their jobs, but the clear wish of our members is that we work with the company to implement its proposals.” Not content with humiliating the union and his work force, Jim Ratcliffe added insult by publicly advising the British government to reform its labour relations, saying, “You’d never have a situation like this in Germany.” A few hours later he flew out of Britain and boarded his £130 million luxury yacht in the south of France, where he relaxed on the 255-foot vessel while a crew of twenty-three attended him and his associates. Needless to say, the usual reactionary mouthpieces gloated over the workers’ dismay, with the Economist, Telegraph and
Willie Walsh floats again
s we go to press, word is finally out about the former Aer Lingus and British Airways boss Willie Walsh. Unlike most citizens, Wee Willie bucks the trend and continues to thrive through these depression days. Willie has now landed a most profitable nixer in the shape of chairmanship of the board of the new National Treasury Management Agency. The NTMA is responsible for borrowing on behalf of the exchequer and managing the national debt. It is also the State Claims Agency and manages the National Pensions Reserve Fund. Willie will be responsible for running the show. In October 2001 he was appointed CEO
of Aer Lingus, from his then position of chief operating officer, succeeding Michael Foley, who had resigned following a harassment complaint. Walsh’s main action was eliminating two thousand jobs and reducing the number of aircraft. He reconfigured Aer Lingus by imitating Ryanair. From 2001 Willie was hell-bent on privatising what was left of Aer Lingus. He and his management cohorts wanted to float the company on the stock exchange, whereby they would receive substantial bonuses. This went on until the trade unions put a stop to their gallop. The then Government was eventually forced to turn
page 10 SOCIALIST VOICE
Sunday Times, among others, lauding Ratcliffe’s stance. Joining in this chorus, and not unexpectedly from a former banker, Alex Salmond, first minister in the Scottish Parliament, said of the union’s defeat and the company’s triumph: “This is a day of great satisfaction that not only has a key part of Scotland’s industrial infrastructure been saved but that people can look forward with confidence to a bright future.” Less understandable and even less acceptable was the response from elements within the British Labour Party. Whatever misdemeanour Stephen Deans may have committed (and still unproved), it pales into insignificance beside the threat to deprive hundreds of workers of their livelihood and to undermine the economic viability of an entire region.
‘... the usual reactionary mouthpieces gloated over the workers’ dismay’ In the face of a feudal-like exercise of power employed by the owners of Ineos, the Labour Party’s one-time home secretary and foreign secretary, Jack Straw, attacked Unite and its general secretary. While being interviewed by Jo Coburn on BBC2’s “Daily Politics,” he said: “My analysis is that Len McCluskey put internal union Unite politics before the interests of their members at [the] Grangemouth plant.” Not allowing himself to be drawn into an ugly and distracting side argument, the Unite leader, writing in the Guardian (28 October 2013), pointed to the stark reality of the situation when he wrote: “. . . there are far larger issues raised even than the future of one plant. Because what has happened at Grangemouth shines a vivid light on the nature of power in our society today. The
down the float. Walsh and cronies resigned from the company in January 2005. Willie never got a chance to sign on, as he landed a job at British Airways, where he was chief executive from October 2005. He immediately launched a campaign against BA workers, culminating in his savage attacks on cabin crews. He oversaw the merger of British Airways and Iberia, forming a new holding company, International Airlines Group, in January 2011. On 24 January 2011 Willie Walsh became chief executive of the new group. He continues in that role. Now Michael Noonan is wetting himself with Willie’s new nixer, describing him as “the ideal candidate.”
central message is clear—the rights of private ownership are unchallengeable, even in a vital economic sector like energy, and the ability of the capitalist to hold work force and community to ransom is undiluted . . .” Yet in all this there is a deeper lesson and one that applies to the Republic of Ireland and beyond as well as to Britain. In Len McCluskey’s conclusion to the article quoted above he wrote of the power inequality that was on brutal display by Ineos at Grangemouth and then cautioned that “Labour politicians above all need to pay attention.” The appeal for Labour’s politicians to pay attention is understandable. No other political party appears to have the potential to contain powerful transnational companies, and the aftermath of a defeat is no time to gratuitously alienate possible allies. Yet this long-held view that a trade union movement working closely with a centrist socialdemocratic party is adequately equipped to defend workers’ rights against contemporary capitalism is no longer tenable. Nor, on the other hand, is it realistic to believe that a countervailing force to neoliberal vandalism can be developed without the input of mainstream organised labour organisations and the wider working class. Therein lies the great dilemma. Capitalism at its most rapacious is crushing down relentlessly on what was until recently the best-organised elements of the world’s workers; and an answer to the assault has yet to emerge. What can be said is that old structures are no longer working, as social democracy has been brushed aside by the Jim Ratcliffes of the world. There is surely an onus on leaders of organised labour to recognise this fact, stop pinning their hopes on helpless socialdemocratic parties, and initiate the widest possible debate on how we might organise new methods and models of struggle. No matter how reluctant they are to change, it’s time to look for a more effective strategy. [TMK]
While all this is scarcely news, it does underline the Government drift to follow the dictates of the troika of IMF, ECB, and EU, to the continued detriment of the Irish people. We can expect more of the same, with an increase in repression, cut-backs, and savage attacks on workers and their families. The need for resistance is doubled when even David Begg has called into question the troika’s antics. Communists continue to underline the continued need for principled leadership in opposition to this betrayal. A reconquest by our people is the only solution. So get up off your backside and join the Communist Party of Ireland. [MA]
Undoing the Conquest; Renewing the Struggle The first publication of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum. This 90 page booklet deals with the cornerstones of how to understand and analyse our society, based on three sets of seminars organised by the forum in 2012 in Connolly Books, Dublin. Available to buy in An Siopa Leabhair at An Cultúrlann, Falls Road, Belfast; The Sinn Féin Bookshop, Falls Road, Belfast; Connolly Books, Dublin or from the forum directly. www.communistpartyofireland.ie/cb ooks/
Connolly Books Dublin’s oldest radical bookshop
The place for H Irish history H politics H Marxist classics H philosophy H feminism H trade union affairs H environmental issues H radical periodicals H progressive literature
Connolly Books is named after James Connolly, Ireland’s socialist pioneer and martyr Connolly Books is in East Essex Street, between Temple Bar and Parliament Street SOCIALIST VOICE page 11
Ionad Buail Isteach A chara, Bheadh muid buíoch as cead a fháil chun míthuiscint a léirigh scríbhneoir sa Socialist Voice de mhí Dheireadh Fómhair a cheartú. Is Ionad Buail Isteach muid atá ag freastal ar phobal Átha Cliath ó 1993, a bhuíochas do shiopa Connolly Books. Bhí muid oscailte trí lá sa tseachtain ar dtús, ach le fada anois tá muid ar oscailt gach Aoine ag am lóin, faoi stiúir Chríostóir Uí Bhroin, a thugann tae agus caife saor in aisce do chách. Is Ionad Buail isteach muid atá oscailte do chách, le deis chun Gaeilge a chloisteáil is a chleachtadh, le heolas ar imeachtaí Gaelacha agus saol na Gaeilge go ginearálta, agus go háirithe mar áit do ghníomhaithe na Gaeilge bualadh le chéile. Bhí ár seimineár den 28 Meán Fómhair, “An Ghaeilge i mBaile Átha Cliath, 2013: Cad is féidir le gach duine againn a dhéanamh?” oscailte do chách (saor in aisce, mar a bhíonn ár n‑imeachtaí go léir), le gníomhaithe óga: Brian Ó Gáibhín ó Ghaeltacht Chluain Dolcáin,
hear spoken Irish, practise speaking their Irish, obtain information on Irish events and the Irish-language world generally, and especially a place where Irish-language activists meet and exchange ideas. Our seminar “Irish in Dublin in 2013: What can each of us do?” held on Saturday 28 Sept. was open to the public and free of charge, as are all our events. Three young activists: Brian Ó Gáibhín from the Clondalkin Gaeltacht, We would be grateful for space to correct a Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh (author of Language, Resistance and Revival) from misunderstanding in the Socialist Voice of Belfast, and Pól Ó Meara from Tallaght, were October ’13. the speakers. A summary of the talks can be We are an Irish-language Drop-in Centre, open to the public of Dublin since 1993, thanks seen in our publication Nuacht Átha Cliath, available free of charge at Connolly Books and to the generous assistance of Connolly Books. We were open three days per week in the early also at www.ionad.org. Your readers will be most welcome to drop years, but for many years now we open every Friday lunchtime, under the capable direction in to us any Friday lunchtime. Fáilte roimh chách san Ionad Buail Isteach. of Críostóir Ó Broin, who serves free tea and Is mise, coffee to all comers. Proinsias Ní Mhurchú The Ionad Buail Isteach is a drop-in centre ar son an Choiste which is open to all, a place where they can Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh (údar Language, Resistance and Revival) ó Bhéal Feirste, agus Pól Ó Meara ó Thamhlacht. Is féidir cur síos gearr a léamh inár bhfoilseachán Nuacht Átha Cliath, ar fáil saor in aisce ón Ionad nó ag www.ionad.org. Beidh fáilte roimh do chuid léitheoirí go léir bualadh isteach chugainn aon Aoine ag am lóin.
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