Monday, 20 December 2010

Facts About Islam from an Unlikely Source

Cracked.com, a humorous website that produces articles of varying quality has put together a quite sober and reasonable article, '5 Ridiculous Things You Probably Believe About Islam'. I heartily recommend it. Have a look.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

BBC Misses the Point Completely: An Update on the Ben Brown Interview

Kevin Bakhurst, BBC News Controller has responded to the flood of complaints over Ben Brown's interview with Jody McIntyre, somehow managing to miss the point completely. His full response can be found here.

It is worth going through his arrogant statement in detail, firstly:

'I am aware that there is a web campaign encouraging people to complain to the BBC about the interview, the broad charge being that Ben Brown was being too challenging in it.'

There is no web campaign that I am aware of. Bakhurst seems to be under the impression that only the cabal of revolutionary bloggers that Brown seems to find so terrifying could possibly find fault with the interview. There was no 'campaign'. What happened was really quite simple. The interview annoyed and shocked people who passed it on to other people, who were also annoyed and shocked by it. Blogs, social networking and e-mail ensured that a lot of people saw the interview. The stupidity of the interview itself generated the complaints.

'I have reviewed the interview a few times and I would suggest that we interviewed Mr. McIntyre in the same way that we would have questioned any interviewee in the same circumstances: It was quite a long interview and Mr.MacIntyre was given several minutes of airtime to make a range of points, which he did forcefully; Ben challenged him politely but robustly on his assertions.'

On the latter point Jody handled himself extremely well and proved himself an able spokesman, more than a match for Brown. However, the claim that 'we interviewed Mr.McIntyre in the same way that we would have questioed any interviewee in the same circumstances' is patently false. Had he been a member of the metropolitan police or a Tory spokesman, I have no doubt a different tone would have been taken.

The matter at hand is not Jody's disability but the fact that he is part of a mass movement of students who have been systematically vilified by the kept press. The whole tenor of the interview suggested that the Met would only respond violently if provoked and that Ben Brown was astonished to even admit any other possibility. Where the issue of disability emerges is in Brown's questions like 'Were you rolling towards him?', which made me think for a moment that I was watching Brass Eye. Even when police are caught on camera attacking a disabled person with severely limited mobility, because he is a student, the only possible explanation could be that he was in the midst of some act of violence.

The BBC's attempt to paint those angered by Ben Brown's moronic interview as wooly and oversensitive misses the point completely.  What is important about the interview is that it sums up the mentality of the media: Students are violent thugs, the police are defending civil society. This mentality has reached the point where even when police attack a wheelchair-bound protestor, the only logical explanation is that he was a threat to them. After all, the London Metropolitan Police certainly don't have a record of violence or brutality, do they?

The effort of the Tories and the kept press to dehumanise and slander the student movement is unsurprising. They are the first point of resistance to the Tory's insane austerity programme and it is feared that they are going to set an example to society at large. Their response has been to slander them as thugs and vandals, the barbarians at the gates of polite society, to try and divide them from the rest of the population soon to come under the axe of Cameron and Co. Therein lies the limits of this kind of media coverage. The Tory assault on the welfare state will be so sweeping that almost no section of the working (and middle) classes will be left unaffected. When pensioners, NHS staff, council workers and the unemployed begin to mobilise, attempts to dehumanise those resisting the cuts will fail, because the threat to 'society' will be society itself.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Sack Ben Brown

For anyone who hasn't seen this disgraceful interview yet:


Go here to register your complaints with the BBC: Sack Ben Brown

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Ceol agus Craic

In a new feature, stolen from, well, every other blog, I will now post some videos from bands that are worthy of a listen.

Tim Smith's Extra Special Oceanlandworld - Swimming with the Snake



2. McCarthy - Keep an Open Mind or Else



James Dean Bradfield - Red Sleeping Beauty (McCarthy Cover)
 


Fatima Mansions - Popemobile to Paraguay Live

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

QUB Occupied!

Breaking news: 

Students have occupied part of Queens University in support of free education. They are demanding to meet with the QUB vice chancellor. Please send messages of support to 075 14 90 24 09.

More videos from the Limerick Marxist Reading Group

Helena Sheehan - Marxism in Ireland


Helena Sheehan from limerick marxist on Vimeo.


Kieran Allen - Ireland's Economic Crash and the Global Recession


Kieran Allen from limerick marxist on Vimeo.

Andy Story - The Great Gas Giveaway


Andy Story from limerick marxist on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Videos from the Limerick Marxist Reading Group Conference

1. Clare Daly Ireland's State Enterprises - The Marxist Response to the McCarthy Recommendations


Clare Daly from limerick marxist on Vimeo.

2. Professor Dave Hill Neoliberal/Neoconservative Capitalist Globalisation, The Current Crisis, and Resisting the Capitalist Class War from Above in Ireland and other countries  in Western Europe.


Dave Hill from limerick marxist on Vimeo.

3. Hillel Ticktin Global Crisis and Dependent Economies in the Context of a Declining Capitalism




Hillel Ticktin from limerick marxist on Vimeo.

Many thanks to whoever recorded and uploaded these.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Petition in Support of Laura Ashley Strikers

There is now a petition you can sign in support of the Laura Ashley strikers available here. I would also suggest looking at the eye-catching leaflet that Mandate have produced here and the Socialist Party articles on the strike here and here

United Left Alliance: Statement of Intent

Below is the statement of principles agreed to by the participants in the United Left Alliance, the Socialist Party, TWAG, Declan Bree's group and SWP / PBPA. All in all, I reckon it represents a broad but strong programme that can and will be built upon. 

Building a Real Political Alternative

The economic crisis is resulting in an unprecedented onslaught on living standards, spiralling mass unemployment and a dramatic rise in poverty. Meanwhile billions is being taken from working people and given to bankers, builders and international speculators.

The newly formed United Left Alliance (ULA) is opposed to the governments’ bailouts and the slash and burn policies which are only making the crisis worse. In the general election we aim to provide a real alternative to the establishment parties as well as Labour and Sinn Fein, who also accept the capitalist market and refuse to rule out coalition with right wing parties. The approach of a Fine Gael / Labour government in power would not be fundamentally different than this government.

The ULA will be standing candidates throughout the country and we are inviting all people, campaigns and groups that want to fight for real change and who agree with our demands to become part of the Alliance.

The ULA

1. Rejects so-called solutions to the economic crises based on slashing public expenditure, welfare payments and workers' pay. There can be no just or sustainable solution to the crisis based on the capitalist market. Instead we favour democratic and public control over resources so that social need is prioritised over profit.

2. Those elected as part of the alliance will not do any deals or support any coalition with any of the right wing parties particularly Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. We are committed to building a mass left alternative to unite working people, whether public or private sector, Irish or migrant, with the unemployed, welfare recipients, pensioners and students in the struggle to change society.

The ULA has agreed the following key demands:

1. End the bailout of banks and developers.


The ULA says scrap NAMA and end the bailout of the banks and developers. Take the banks, finance houses, major construction companies and development land into democratic public ownership and use them for the benefit of people, not the profit of the few. Democratic public ownership of the banks would guarantee the savings of ordinary bank account holders but would give no commitment to pay the bondholders and financial speculators who helped cause the global crisis.

We want to use resources, including the huge numbers of vacant properties, to provide facilities and social and affordable homes for all, to buy or rent.

Reduce total mortgages and repayments to affordable levels to reflect the real cost of the property and outlaw repossessions/evictions of families from their homes on the basis of inability to pay.

2. Tax the greedy not the needy

Ireland is not a poor country. Massive amounts of wealth were generated during the boom. The problem is that such wealth is in the hands of a tiny superrich minority. We completely reject the notion that all this wealth has suddenly disappeared. It is also the case that many companies, especially multinationals, remain profitable.
The ULA stands for a progressive taxation system where corporation tax on the massive profits made in Ireland would be significantly increased, which together with a steeply progressive income tax would shift the tax burden from working people to big business and the rich.

We also demand a wealth tax on the assets of the rich, increases in capital gains tax and an end to all tax loopholes for the rich.

We oppose all stealth and double taxes including bin charges and plans to introduce water charges, a property tax, or a “household tax”. We oppose the inclusion of the low paid in the tax net.

3. End the jobs crisis


The ULA condemns the complete failure of the government and the private sector to preserve or create jobs. Their policies are deflationary and are making the jobs crisis worse.

We call for a real social development programme that could create hundreds of thousands of jobs building necessary infrastructure like public transport, green energy projects, broadband, child care, schools, hospitals, health centres and other community facilities.

We oppose plans to sell off state companies. Instead these companies should be used as the vehicle for job creation.

End the reliance on the private sector, use democratic public ownership of wealth and natural resources and the banks to provide jobs by the launching a state programme of industrial development and innovation to build the productive capacity of the economy. Take the Corrib Gas Field into public ownership.
Reduce the working week without loss of pay and create tens of thousands of jobs by sharing out the work.
No to compulsory work for dole schemes or fake jobs. We demand real jobs and a reversal of all the cuts in social welfare and benefit payments.

4. Reverse the cuts - Defend public services

The ULA says end the profiteering in health care. We stand for a properly funded and resourced public health system, free at the point of access and paid for through a progressive tax system. No privatisation of health services and end all subsidies to private care. No co-location of private hospitals on public hospital lands. We demand proper state funding for a democratically run and secular education system, free for all from early childhood to university. For more teachers to reduce class sizes and special needs and language support so the needs of all children are met. End all subsidies for private schools. No re-introduction of third level fees, pay students a living grant instead. No to the cuts in social welfare payments or pensions and no to the cutting, taxing or means testing of child benefit. For a mass campaign by the trade union movement and the communities to reverse the cuts in public services.

We want real reform of our public services. Its time to stop copying failed private sector practices. We want an end to inflated salaries, bonuses and expenses for top public servants and politicians. We want a cap on salaries and full public scrutiny of public spending. Public services should be run democratically with the full involvement of the workers, the service users and the wider community.

5. Equality for all

The ULA supports equality for all and the elimination of all forms of discrimination based on gender, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age. We support a campaign by the trade unions to unionise all workers and for the legal right to trade union recognition. End all anti-asylum seeker and anti-immigrant laws and bias by the state. Give asylum seekers the right to work and give both asylum seekers and migrant workers the same rights as all other workers, to help fight "the race to the bottom" in pay and conditions. We support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including the right to marry for same sex couples.

6. Protect the environment


Despite the rhetoric, environmental destruction is continuing apace. We call for major state investment in developing renewable energy. Through public ownership and democratic planning, the economy can be redirected onto a sustainable path.

We need real reform of our planning system, so that people's needs and environmental protection come before the profits of developers. We call for major investment in community facilities, waste management, recycling facilities and public transport.

We are opposed to incinerators as a solution to the waste problem because they pose serious health risks. We call for a proper integrated waste management plan, including a drastic reduction of packaging combined with a serious approach to recycling and composting.

7. Build a real left alternative in Ireland and Europe


The formation of the ULA is part of a process across Europe and internationally of the development of movements and organisations to fight the attacks on workers, the unemployed and the poor and to fight for a new vision for society.

We are opposed to the dictates of the EU and its neo liberal policies of curbing public spending and promoting austerity. The policy of driving down public spending to meet EU imposed targets will destroy jobs and lead to misery for workers, the unemployed and the poor. Workers did not create the debt and should not have to pay for it.

We are committed to building solidarity with workers across Europe to forge a new direction which puts the needs of workers and the unemployed before the greed of speculators and profiteers.

An important part of this is the urgent need to reclaim and rebuild the trade unions and to mobilise the power of workers though mass action. The approach of Social Partnership has left workers defenceless and has led to a massive transfer of wealth from workers to employers and must be scrapped.

Our elected TDs will give full support to those unions and workers who oppose the Croke Park deal and will use the Dail to raise the real issues that affect ordinary working people.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Tea Party

Anyone paying attention to American politics will have watched with a mix of horror and fascination the rise of the 'Tea Party'. A somewhat incoherent mix of libertarians, small government republicans and far-right demagogues like Glenn Beck united by the vague rhetoric of patriotism in opposition to Obama. I think it's fairly important that people look beyond the somewhat moronic image the movement presents itself with and look at the underlying economic factors that are driving the Tea Partiers and where they might be going. To that end, people should check out the following links.

Firstly, a fantastic, albeit somewhat long article from Portsmouth SP: here

Secondly, from George Monbiot, exposing the influence of big business: here

Finally, the highlights of a debate between Socialist Alternative (CWI USA) and a Tea Party speaker: here

Further thoughts on Garda brutality at Dublin Demonstration

He's not mental, he just stubbed his toe
Now that the media and the USI leadership have been knocked down a peg or two by the emergence of video evidence of Garda brutality at the national tuition fees demo, it's important to take a step back and question the signficance of the Garda show of force on the demonstration.

What was new about the events of that day was not the type of protest employed, but the reaction to them. Take the sit-down protest outside the department of finance. About two years ago, during the last major anti-fees demonstration, about 300 of us did the exact same thing outside the Dáil. Now while there was a difference in numbers (there were close to a thousand at the dept. of finance protest) the sit-down protest at the previous demonstration was entirely uneventful. We literally just sat down for an hour or so while the Gardaí stood there, more to control traffic than to control the protest.

The other event of the day was the occupation of the dept. of finance. Again, this is now new. A few weeks before the 2008 national demo, myself and about 15/16 other UCC students occupied the president's office. We couldn't get the door shut, so we sent out a press statement and waited for an hour and a half before voting to leave rather than be arrested (by this point a Garda was standing with a pair of handcuffs ready). We generated a bit of media attention and buzz around campus and I even managed to make my 12 o'clock lecture without the need of a daring escape from Anglesea St. Garda Station. On that same day, an occupation was organised in Paul Gogarty's constituency office in Dublin. This ended up being a bit more of a confrontation with the door being barricaded successfully and the Gardaí breaking in. The occupiers were arrested and later there was a slightly ludicrous attempt to press charges. Though I think that all this had a lot more to do with Paul Gogarty kicking up a hissy fit and overreacting than anything else, after all, he has form.

What is signficant therefore about the Dublin demo was not the actions of the protestors, but those of the Gardaí. Why has there been a sea-change in their reactions to protest? Come here to me drew some interesting comparisons with the 1960s. The confrontations between Gardaí and students, housing activists etc. in the 1960s which often led to broken noses and bloodied faces were largely a result of the fact that the 1960s Gardaí, like other police forces in Europe, had only been trained to deal with riots. As such when confronted with occupations, mass demos etc., which were an entirely new phenomenon in Ireland, they reacted the only way they had been trained to.

However, the Gardaí of 2010 are a modern police force and are hardly unprepared for demonstrations. Actually, for a more relevant comparison, you could do worse than to look at Britain in the 1980s. Police brutality and heavy-handedness in those years led to rioting like in Toxteth and Brixton. At the same time, the role of the police became more like that of a paramilitary body than a law-enforcement agency, as seen most clearly in mass confrontations like the battle of Orgreave. This was not a coincidence. The Thatcher-led Tory government were preparing for the most savage programme of cutbacks and privatisation in modern British history. They knew well that there would be mass resistance and as such, made sure that the police would be like a domestic army to put down the inevitable rebellions that would follow from their policies. The view of the police as an 'army of occupation' which was felt in areas like Brixton was not far from the truth.

In Ireland the situation today is not entirely different. The next three budgets will mean fiscal savagery of an almost unfathomable magnitude and, following from that, mass resistance both in industry and in working-class communities. We should not be surprised by the actions of the Gardaí at the anti-fees demo. The only surprise is that this hasn't come sooner. The actions of the Gardaí in Dublin may simply be a sign of things to come. In the coming months and years, their role as a quasi-military force used to protect the ruling class at a time when it's authority is in peril will come more and more to the fore. As Gene Kerrigan writes in the Sindo:

'Students who had their heads bloodied at the anti-fees protest last Wednesday shouldn't take it personally. The tactics used by gardai seem to represent a government statement of intent, addressed to the general public.'

Militant Rap

Bout time

Friday, 12 November 2010

United Left Alliance: An Update

From Socialist Party website

The newly established United Left Alliance, which will be publicly launched at a rally in the Ashling Hotel , Dublin on Friday 26 November, involves the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit Alliance, the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group and the Independent Socialist group of Declan Bree in Sligo.

The ULA is a joint slate or alliance of candidates that will put forward a real left alternative in the general election and challenge the austerity and capitalist consensus amongst all the parties in the Dail, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Greens but also clearly including Labour and Sinn Fein.

The ULA flows from a process of discussions initiated some time ago by the Socialist Party. It is a necessary and principled attempt at serious co-operation between left groups and while we will have to see how it goes over the next months, the Socialist Party hopes that the ULA will be an important first step in the formation of a new mass party for working class people, based on socialist policies.

The ULA could possibly stand up to 20 candidates in the general election. This will include many who will seriously challenge to win TD positions, most obviously Seamus Healy in South Tipperary, Cllr Joan Collins in Dublin South Central, Richard Boyd Barrett in Dun Laoghaire, and clearly the Socialist Party will be going all out to try to get Joe Higgins MEP and Councillors Clare Daly and Mick Barry elected in Dublin North and Cork North Central respectively.

As of now ULA candidates will stand in five cities, with Declan Bree also standing in Sligo, Seamus O’Brien (PBPA/SWP) standing in Wexford and Cian Prendiville of the Socialist Party standing in Limerick.
In pushing for the establishment for a slate/alliance, the Socialist Party argued that it was very important to try to get a fraction of genuinely left TDs elected at the next opportunity. Given that this crisis will continue to wreck devastation for the foreseeable future and the likelihood that Labour will be in power putting the boot into working class people while ICTU sit idly by, three or four left TDs could become a very important focal point for organising struggle against austerity and for the launching of a new party of the working class to fill the political vacuum.

The outstanding role that Joe Higgins played in national politics when it was difficult for the left during the boom years is on the one hand a model, but on the other also shows the massive potential that will exist in this unprecedented crisis to use the Dail as platform.

The ULA was primarily established on the basis of agreement on a political programme, agreement on specific candidates that were credible as well as how other potential candidates could be agreed. There was an agreement on a democratic and consensual approach to decision making and establishing structures of the ULA.

In the initial discussions which only involved the Socialist Party and the PBPA, there was debate and disagreement between us, particularly with the SWP, on the issue of whether an alliance should explicitly advocate socialist policies and socialism as the solution to the crisis. The Socialist Party did not agree with the SWP’s view that socialist policies would put people off from voting for candidates or from getting involved in a left alliance.

We felt it was very unfortunate that this argument was being put forward at precisely the time when there is emerging, a new interest and need for socialist policies because this is a crisis of the capitalist system itself. We demonstrated that Joe Higgins got more than 50,000 votes while being one of the most identifiable socialists in the country with radical and socialist policies. Socialism was advocated in his leaflets that went into every home in Dublin.

This debate should continue on the left in a fraternal atmosphere as it is of crucial importance. We are partly in favour of building a new left party because the likes of Labour have sold-out. But why have parties like Labour sold-out?

The diminishing and ultimate collapse of any socialist outlook and perspective meant that Labour just succumbed to the pressure of the establishment. If a new left movement isn’t rooted in a socialist outlook that wants to break definitively with capitalism, it too will ultimately fail, regardless of whether it has TDs or councillors.

If the left believes that policies like taking over the wealth of society and using it in a planned and productive way are necessary to create jobs, then it makes sense to advocate them and try to win people to these ideas rather than obscure the solution.

We agree that the left must present its ideas skilfully but we also have a duty to tell people the truth and advocate socialist policies, regardless of the criticism from the establishment. This is because objectively they are the only policies that address and can overcome the reasons for the crisis. The fact that the majority of people don’t yet agree with that doesn’t mean we should obscure this necessity, quite the opposite. It shows the need to skilfully advocate why socialist policies are necessary. We hope that through fraternal discussion that the ULA becomes very confident that working class people and the young people now growing up in this crisis will see through spin and grasp the necessity to advocate an explicitly socialist alternative to the capitalist parties.

Even though there wasn’t agreement on the need for an explicitly socialist programme, the Socialist Party felt we should continue to try to establish an alliance as that would be a step forward for working class people. We fully support the programme that the ULA has agreed and it can be read on the Socialist Party’s website. But the Socialist Party, while advocating the ULA programme will also exercise its right to also put forward our own socialist programme in our own election material etc.

The Socialist Party also pushed that the ULA should be something that isn’t just geared towards existing groups. If it is to become something more, it needs to be open for any individual to get involved in it and to have a say. People can register to become a supporter and activist in the ULA, and hopefully the supporters register may be a step towards a membership if there is an interest in the challenge that the ULA is mounting in the months ahead. We would encourage anyone who wants to get involved to get in touch, or better still to come along to the ULA Launch Rally in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin on 26 November!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Dates for your Diary

Smash the Budget Rallly! Organised by the IWU. December 8th 5pm, Patrick's Bridge.

Also, Solidarity Books, perhaps tied only with The Spailpín Fánach as the mecca of the Cork left, are holding a series of Winter Talks on various historical topics of interest to socialists. So far these have included Dr. Donal O'Drisceoil on Tadgh Barry and Revolutionary Cork, Brian Hanley on The Lost Revolution and Conor Kostick on Labour militancy during the war of indepedence. Being abroad at the moment I've had to miss these but I would strongly recommend people try and make it to the last two talks which are:

8pm, Tuesday, 16th November
Kropotkin – The Anarchist Prince - Jim McLaughlin


Jim McLaughlin lectured in political Geography in UCC for many years. His current research interests are in Political Geography of Race and Racism, Irish Emigration, Irish minority populations Identity politics and ethnonationalism, Gypsies, Travellers and nomadism, Latin American studies History of the social sciences. He has been widely published. He will be talking about the ideas of Peter Kropotkin a Russian anarchist whose ideas were extremely influential well beyond anarchist and radical circles.

8pm, Tuesday, 23rd November
The Land War - Fin Dwyer

Fin Dwyer is a Dublin based archaeologist and the editor of the popular Irish History Podcasts. He will be speaking on the land war and the great movement of people that this represented, discussing the context, tactics and results of this key struggle.
  
Finally, any Dubliners reading this should make the effort to get to the Fund raiser in aid of striking Laura Ashley strikers on Thursday, November 11th at 8pm in Slattery's on Capel Street.

What's next for dystopian Ireland?

Via Brian Greene:

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Raise money for the Laura Ashley Strikers

Fund raiser in aid of striking Laura Ashley strikers on Thursday, November 11th at 8pm in Slattery's on Capel Street. I encourage anyone who can to attend.

Garda Brutality Exposes Right-wing Media and Pathetic USI Leadership

RTE News - Garda Brutality

Finally, the footage which has been doing the rounds online has made it onto the news, showing clearly the brutality of the Gardaí. Eddie McCabe, in an excellent article available here pretty much sums things up. There is also an excellent article at Come here to Me! which put things in historical perspective. To that end, I'm putting up a few pictures from my research into 1960s republicanism to complement the CHTM article.

March 1969 United Irishman
March 69 UI
June 69 UI, The paper used Garda brutality and draconian legislation like the Special Powers act to depict the Southern state as brutal, authoritarian and even fascistic.
March 69 UI, From article 'Defence Tactics for Demonstrators'

Monday, 8 November 2010

Engels, Housing and Negative Equity

'Here we see clearly that what  at an earlier historical period was the basis of relative wellbeing for the workers, namely, the combination of agriculture and industry, the ownership of house, garden and field, and certainty of a dwelling place, is becoming today, under the rule of large-scale industry, not only the worst hindrance to the worker, but the greatest misfortune for the whole working-class, the basis for an unexampled depression of wages below their normal level, and not only for seperate districts and branches but for the whole country'

                      -Frederick Engels, 'The Housing Question' c.1872


See also:

http://dublinopinion.com/2010/10/21/negative-equity-an-update/

http://ghostestates.com/main.php?g2_view=map.ShowMap

Friday, 5 November 2010

Socialist Party Material



































































Irish Times on Dublin Housing Action June 1968

Interesting interview with Pronsias De Rossa, at the peak of DHAC's popularity. DHAC was one of the most successful of the social agitation campaigns launched by the Republican movement under the Goulding leadership, gaining a large following in Dublin, Cork and Derry.

More information here: Wikipedia and here at Cedar Lounge


Socialist Youth Posters and Leaflets