Vol. 1-No 3
Tuesday 22nd December 2009
2) Sloganising and the economic downturn
3) The On-Going War of Terror
4) From The Media
a. Is Sinn Féin a party of the Left?
b. Call for end of Intimidation of the Mc Daid Family
The issue of child abuse has recently come to the fore in Ireland. The Murphy report (http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB09000504) has exposed the Roman Catholic Church as a power hungry authoritarian institution more interested in the defence of its members rather than the protection of children. The revelation that the president of Sinn Fein had known for 22 years that there were allegations of sexual abuse against his brother and then the further revelation that Gerry Adams Senior had also physically emotionally and sexually abused some of his children has shocked many. There will be those who compare the tendencies within the Roman Catholic Church as similar to the tendencies within PSF. They may be right but until the full story emerges, as it undoubtedly will, it is better to withhold judgement. Many will be ready to use the latter revelation to attack Gerry Adams. On this issue they should desist and leave it to the media to uncover all the facts. If it is proven that he used his public position to protect or cover up for his brother then his position in PSF is untenable.
The discovery of abuse within a family has devastating effects on that family. Most try to keep it secret either out of shame or to protect the victims. The child abuse issue was hidden under the carpet for many years in Ireland. We know of cases in different Churches when abuse by Ministers was covered up to protect the Church. The feelings of the victims was given scant attention. Thousands if not tens of thousands of Irish people have been physically and sexually abused by clerics. We have paid a heavy price for being religious! This is not a case of a few rotten apples. No church should have a role to play in education and should not be financed by any public money. Now is the time to secularise Ireland.
In a secular “spirit|” may we wish our readers a happy holiday and may we all renew the struggle for a better world in 2010.
Sloganising and the economic downturn
A “Socialist Republic” is a slogan used by many republicans and socialists to define what we struggle for. In pursuit of that slogan some republicans have made a pact with Irish nationalism to create a nationalist consensus as to how to deal with the northern state. Unfortunately in so doing they have been sucked into acceptance of sectarian politics even while proclaiming their non-sectarianism. Furthermore they have divorced their day-to-day activities from their so-called goal. In that they are not alone.
Staunch critics of the current PSF strategy also proclaim their adherence to the “Socialist Republic”. But are their actions designed to bring it about? Those who see armed actions as the way forward fail to learn the lessons of history. Armed struggle by the various IRA’S and INLA failed to bring about the goal. Armed struggle has no relevance to the lives of the vast majority of people who live on the island.
Faced with economic woes most people struggle to survive day-to-day. Others who disagree with a return to violence at this time seem to spend most of their energy on attacking Provisional Sinn Fein or other perceived enemies without trying to convince others of the merits of a “Socialist Republic”. There is no linkage made between the here and now and the ultimate goal. There is little or no attempt to show the relevance of socialism to the lives of the working class.
Without seeing that relevance no worker will be persuaded. Especially when one considers the current state of the economy I Ireland.
The unemployment figures for the 26 Counties continued to rise in the third quarter of 2009. The unemployment rate rose to 12.4 % in the third quarter of 2009, up from 11.6% per in quarter two. Because the rate of increase has slowed, sections of the media have presented this almost as a good news story. It may be a good story for those with a vested interest in the maintenance of the capitalist system but not for working class people.
Already in the past 12 months over 60,000 young people have emigrated from the 26 counties. Workers have suffered cuts of as much as 60 Euros in their weekly wage package. Community projects in inner city Dublin have been closed down, throwing community workers, with years of commitment to working class communities, onto the dole with minimum notice.
With over a million young people in Britain out of work and continuous rises in the rate for adults the situation is dreadful for many families throughout the British Isles regardless of which state they live or what nationality they claim. It is also clear that the current crisis within capitalism knows no borders.
In the ruthless pursuit of profit capitalism moves around the world regardless of location seeking the lowest wage rate with which to maximize profits. Hence the relocation of many industries some long regarded as traditional, to places like China and India.
The right wing of course, uses this to whip up resentment against “foreigners”. Appeals to keep Cadbury’s “British” and for the people of the 26 counties to be “patriotic “ and stay away from the six counties and shop within their “own” state, play on latent nationalist feelings and create an atmosphere that we, i.e. “the nation”, are somehow under attack and we must all rally round and stick together!
Utter nonsense. While capitalism knows no boundaries its supporters have no compunction in wrapping the Union Jack, the Tricolor, or whatever national flag suits, to bewilder people and bind them into loyalty to some vague national interests, which of course is really capitalist interests. While a councilor in Belfast City Council John McAnulty, then in Peoples’ Democracy, now Socialist Democracy once accurately referred to the Union jack as “the Butcher’s Apron” for its use in advancing Imperialism on the point of a bayonet.
Flag waving in the midst of the worst crisis in Capitalism for over 70 years plays right into the hands of those self same capitalist defenders and rather than unite workers divides them. The worsening economic crisis puts into perspective the sectarian nature of the Northern statelet. Flags don’t feed families. Flags don’t develop human potential. Flags don’t heal divisions and neither does capitalism.
Republicans and socialists in Ireland need to deal with cold hard facts not be side tracked by marches, flags or the personalities of the leaders of political parties like Provisional Sinn Fein.
It is totally pointless to talk about “betrayal” “treachery” or boast of being “true Republicans or “real republicans” when the people are being subjected to economic oppression as well as political oppression.
There were 120,400 more people unemployed in the third quarter of this year, in the 26 counties, compared to the same period last year – an increase of 75.5%. A total of 279,800 people were unemployed in the third quarter of this year, with unemployed males accounting for 68.6% per cent of the total unemployed and females representing 31.4%. So male unemployment increased by 86.8% while female unemployment saw a 55.3%increase. The male figure can be accounted for by the drastic decline in the construction industry. 80,000 have lost their jobs in the construction sector. The numbers employed also have fallen below 2 million, a fall of 8.8%.
If this was not bad enough the working class within the 26 counties have also endured a savage budget- Disability payments cut, the suspension of dental treatment, charges for prescriptions cutting the pay of civil servants who earn less than €30,000 including part-time women cleaners already scraping to survive. Why so? Well simply to keep the capitalist banking system working. So social welfare health and education will bear the brunt of cuts for years to come.
Vincent Brown has pointed out –(Sunday Business Post 13- 12-2009) that the rich
“=are able to escape the rigours of the tax system because of the multitude of ‘‘tax expenditures’’ (i.e. tax breaks, whereby the rich can minimise their tax liability).
One of the most spectacular devices whereby the rich can escape tax is through private pensions. A few weeks ago, the ESRI published a report on pensions policy which pointed out more than €8 out of every €10 in tax relief on pensions goes to taxpayers in the top one-fifth of income distribution.
“This is a wretched, insidious budget and it reflects on more than the wretched parties in government, Fianna Fáil and the Greens. It says a lot also about the economics and media commentators who have praised it for grappling with the fiscal crisis, while remaining indifferent to the social consequences”
It is also a wretched budget because at the behest of the international markets the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan’s budget seeks €1.3 billion of cuts in the public sector pay bill. It is a move to clearly divide public sector workers from those in the private sector.
It is also the first time a finance minister has cut social welfare since Ernest Blythe, Minister for Finance of the Irish Free State in early 1920’S.
All this against a background where even a Government appointed body, representative of consumer interests, an 11-member panel appointed by the Minister for Finance to monitor the performance of the regulator, has utterly condemned the Financial Regulator for carrying out:
• Useless investigations,
• Being lenient with the banks,
• Failing to understand many of the sectors and financial products it regulates,
• Failing to deflate the property bubble,
• Clamp down on risky products,
• Investigate rising insurance premiums and
• Provide meaningful protection for those in mortgage arrears,
“Many consumers with mortgages, pensions or shares have and will pay the price for this failure for many years.”
It also sidelined consumer interests at the height of the financial crisis. The report said that consumers
“- have suffered from negative equity on their homes, falling share prices, poorer returns on pension funds and the lack of availability of credit. The cost of bailing out the banking system has contributed to rising unemployment, wage and social welfare cuts and higher tax rates.”
So neither the Governments nor the banks really give a toss about the so-called “little people”. The whole system is designed to protect the interests of the rich, the financial institutions and the corporate world. In Ireland, north and South, in Britain, in the USA and in all capitalist states there are similarities in the way the establishments deal with crises and economy downturns, -screw the poor.
Their internationalism needs to be matched by the internationalism of the working classes. Here in Ireland today the Republican Left, the various Socialist groups and parties and need to be stating the case for socialism clearly and taking the lead in the class struggle. Mere parroting of slogans, flag waving, or spontaneous acts of protest will convince the working class of the validity of our arguments. The unity of the trade unions and the broad labour movements around a revolutionary programme may be a long-term goal but it is one worth striving for today to help begin a fight-back of the class. The only road to the “socialist republic” is through class struggle. There is no other road.
The On-Going War of Terror
By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation by Will Reissner.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
The secret archives still remain to be opened. They may some day reveal the truth about what took place on September 11, 2001, the pretext then-President George W. Bush used to declare the "War On Terror". That morphed into the "War OF Terror," which will remain one of the saddest blemishes on the history of the northern nation.
The "war on terror," was explicitly launched against Osama Bin Laden, leader of Al Qaeda, an organization that had fewer than 430 members. That turned into the occupation of two nations in the course of which the U.S. has thus far caused no fewer than one million casualties, counting the dead, the wounded, the mentally affected, and those who disappeared. Their families will always remember these victims with as much hatred toward the perpetrators as the families of the three thousand victims of the attack on the Twin Towers feel against those who masterminded that unspeakable act.
These wars have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $2 trillion, and the people of that nation, which still had not completely recovered from the syndrome of the defeat in Vietnam, have been deeply traumatized by the toll of the dead, the wounded, and the mentally scarred. This is the case, even though the majority of the losses have been sustained by those from low-income families, African-American families and Latino or Asian immigrant families. This is so even though their numbers are much lower than the losses suffered by an adversary that is much more poorly trained, equipped, and supplied for the type of high technology war that the superpower waged against them.
These specific terrorist wars that George W. Bush launched against underdeveloped Third World countries have also caused very significant damage to works of art and treasures of incalculable artistic and historic value... up to and including the assassination of a head of State, which always constitutes a very deep insult to the nation that suffers it. But perhaps the worst injury to the species inflicted by the terror war has been the ethical and moral degradation of the attacker.
"The people involved (accused of having engaged in torture) deserve our thanks. They do not deserve to be the subject of political investigations or judicial proceedings," stated Dick Cheney in response to those demanding that the investigations not be confined to agents and mercenaries of the CIA but instead should reach into the highest levels of the previous administration.
We see that the former vice-president of the United States, Dick Cheney, has had the audacity to publicly assert that the "refined" techniques the CIA used in interrogating suspects under the auspices of the government he was part of were justified because
"they served to save lives and prevent terrorist attacks."
This is a warning that as a result of the media manipulations of the far right, a goodly portion of that country's public opinion accepts torture and other inhumane, repressive practices as something natural and compatible with that society's ethical norms.
Humanity should be grateful to each United States citizen who may have contributed in some way to bringing Barack Obama into the presidency of the U.S. superpower. As a result, it -at least temporarily- avoided the holocaust that the continuation of the neoconservatives in the government under an administration headed by John McCain would have inflicted on the world.
This would have meant the return of Cheney and the rest of the team serving the Project for the New American Century and the neoconservative ideology of U.S. supremacy. Figures like Wolfowitz, Perle, Wurmster, Feith, Lobby, Bolton, Giuliani, Shalikashvili, Kristol, Podhoretz, and others -- advocated preventive wars and measures of police repression carried out by the executive branch.
But it is clear that this fascist-like intoxication, with its aspirations for global domination, has not been eliminated from the political scene. Indeed, it maintains strong positions of great political influence in the country's power structure.
What we see happening now is that the changes Obama promised as a candidate are not simply being held back by the neoconservative influence. Rather, they seem to have been turned into their opposite.
We see this on domestic questions (health, education, housing); on environmental matters; on how the wars in the Middle East are waged; with regard to policy toward immigrants and on many other questions of foreign policy.
With Latin America, the North-South tension, which was initially scaled back in terms of rhetoric, has become more marked.
The oligarchic-military coup in Honduras has been consolidated as a result of the covert support it was given by Wall Street and Washington.
There have also been the disgraceful agreements regarding the military bases in Colombia and the reestablishment of the Fourth Fleet.
Further, the continuation of the blockade and promotion of subversion against Cuba, and the maintenance of the Guantánamo Naval Base -among other manifestations of United States global policy-, indicate that the neoconservative influence is still as essential in Obama's Democratic administration as it was in William Clinton's, which, in turn, opened the road to Bush's.
We peoples of the world must continue to trust in the ability of the United States citizenry to block the maneuvers aimed at thwarting Obama's stated plans for change, however timid and insufficient these might have been. Not doing so would encourage a return of neo-conservatism to the White House and the continuation of the "terror war" against the people of the United States itself and against the rest of the planet's population.
From The Media
Is Sinn Féin a party of the Left?
The 2009 Brass Neck of the Year award goes to Jim Gibney of Sinn Féin for his column in the Irish News on November 12th.
Reporting on the ICTU rallies against cuts and in defence of the public service, Gibney wrote that,
“Sinn Féin ministers in the executive have made their position crystal clear in opposing any attempts to cut front-line services or introduce privatisation measures... It was therefore disappointing to hear union leaders at the rally in Belfast accuse all the parties in the executive of being in favour of cuts...”
In fact, all the executive parties backed the budget, which has made savage cuts in services inevitable. The budget incorporates the three percent year-on-year “efficiency savings” demanded by the British Treasury. SF, like the DUP, has swallowed this whole.
They can go to Downing Street and bang the table for hundreds of millions to smooth the way towards devolution of policing. But there’s no banging of tables for adequate resources for health or education or public sector jobs.
The 2008-09 budget for youth services has been slashed by seven percent by SF Education Minister Catriona Ruane. She has also inflicted severe cuts on after-hours schools provision, which involved breakfast clubs, homework sessions, various extra-curricular activities, etc.
These are front-line services attacked by a SF Minister.
Massive job losses are threatened under the “review” of local government, through which the number of councils will be reduced from 26 to a projected 11. SF is not only going along with this but is actively promoting the scheme – and the job cuts. Their only concern has been the Orange-Green breakdown of the new arrangements.
In Derry, prominent Sinn Feiner and former mayor, Cathal Crumley, publicly told council workers to “shape up or ship out”.
Hundreds of jobs have gone in the water service, as the private-sector “government-owned company”, Northern Ireland Water (NIW), slims the operation down in preparation for privatisation. Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, insists that NIW won’t be fully privatised. But he and SF adamantly oppose taking the service back into the public sector, which is the only guarantee against privatisation.
Minister Murphy hasn’t awarded a single roads contract, which hasn't involved private finance.
In the Assembly in June, SF Assemblymen Daithi McKay and John O’Dowd were first on their feet to welcome DUP Minister Edwin Poots’ Local Government Bill, which eases the way for privatisation of council facilities such as leisure centres, refuse collection and recycling depots.
This is not to suggest that SF is more gung-ho than the other Executive parties about cutting frontline jobs and privatising services. They are much of a muchness. The SDLP may be marginally to the Left of SF, but it’s a close-run thing.
Despite all this, Sinn Fein – showing as much honesty as Gerry Adams insisting he was never a member of the Provisional IRA – presents itself as a party of the Left.
One reason for their brazenness is that Right-wing commentators regularly attack them for supposedly socialist beliefs. This is the same crowd who, with as much plausibility, denounce David Begg, Jack O’Connor, etc. as dangerous revolutionaries!
Political parties reveal their true colours when they are in office. In opposition in the South, SF can put a Left face forward. But had they succeeded in forming a Coalition with Fianna Fail after the last election, they would have proven as tamely conservative as they are North of the border.
The excuse that, for the sake of the “peace process”, they have to maintain an alliance with the DUP is barefaced dishonesty. They have been willing to threaten to collapse the institutions over other issues – policing, an Irish Language Act – but not over the interests of the working class.
Nothing more clearly demonstrates that SF is a Nationalist Party, not a socialist party. The Left should expose the likes of Jim Gibney every time they present a false prospectus.
By Eamonn McCann
From the print edition of Socialist Worker No. 307
Call for end of Intimidation of the Mc Daid Family
The friends of the Mc Daid Family Appeal are calling for an end to the sectarian intimidation of the Mc Daid family. The call follows the news that Evelyn Mc Daid and her family have been forced to move from their Coleraine home following the ongoing campaign of sectarian harassment of the family since the murder of Kevin Mc Daid in May this year.
The Group are also demanding that Mark and Ryan Mc Daid are released on bail following the decision of the PSNI to charge them with making threats against one of those charged in relation to the events surrounding the murder of Kevin Mc Daid.'' The decision to refuse bail to Ryan and Mark Mc Daid is in sharp contrast to how the bail applications of many of those accused of involvement in the murder of Kevin Mc Daid were treated'' A spokesperson for the Appeal has also called on the new Victims Commissioners to meet with the family to discuss ways in which their safety can we guaranteed. "We will be contacting the Commissioners this week to ask them to meet with the Mc Daid family".
For further info contact Michael Doherty at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tue, 1 Dec 2009
As someone 10,000 miles away I'm loath to express any definite opinions on anything in Ireland, but I do still tend to think that there is a real basis for re-groupment among socialist-republicans and I hope things develop along those lines.
The SWP and SP aren't worth bothering about. The SP are gas-and-water socialists and the SWP are populists. They might have had some success in recent years, largely due to a political vacuum that opened up as SF moved rightwards and which socialist-republicans couldn't fill because they were too divided. But the SP and SWP's success has a very limited lifespan because they're off to the side of the actual historical line of march of the Irish revolution, in my view.
My view would be that the various left-republican and socialist-republican currents from Eirigi through IRSP, Republican Unity networks etc, need to organise a serious conference, build it nationally and have a real serious discussion about the lessons of the past 40 years and how to go forward.
One of the factors in why there isn’t much in the way of political struggle is because the republican forces are so divided even though most of the divisions are not around questions of principle.
As a united force, first in the form of an alliance and hopefully later in the form of a single party, they might have some chance of regenerating some serious political struggle. The core issues are still there.
In the absence of such forms of organisation and struggle as may well be possible already, dead-end, isolated militarism will continue and I don’t see that that is in the interests of the emancipation of the Irish people by the Irish people.
All the best,