An Open Letter To The University Philosophical Society

Fellow debaters,

It is with disappointment that I write to complain about the University Philosophical Society's irresponsible decision to invite BNP leader and Holocaust denier Nick Griffin to speak at a debate on immigration. Griffin's ultra-right racist political views and involvement in fascist organising are well-documented, and undoubtedly well-known to the committee. The threat he and his party pose to immigrants, ethnic minorities, queer and trans people is both real and pressing. While in the short term, the BNP is unlikely to gain power and carry out their policy of forced deportation of blacks and Muslims, even modest success is enough to encourage hate crimes both by members of the BNP and others on the far-right, both in the UK, and in Ireland. The sense of legitimacy afforded by an invite by a debating society, particularly one as prestigious as the Phil, directly contributes to the momentum of these groups. Moreover, appearances by far-right speakers in events such as this are strongly correlated with increases in the incidence of hate crimes in the surrounding areas. These dangers are particularly acute in times of economic crisis, where 'blame the immigrants' rhetoric offers an easily-understandable explanation for complex socio-economic processes.

'Free speech' controversies such as this occur with depressing regularity in the debating community, and play out in a ritualistic manner: Some debating society, in an attempt to assert their commitment to freedom of speech and/or provoke a debate about the limitations of freedom speech (or, if I'm being cynical, to stir up controversy for the sake of publicity), invites a well-known fascist to address the house. Predictably, anti-fascist, anti-racist and immigrant groups come out strongly in opposition. The debate itself is of little importance as a debate (since an interesting, informative and nuanced debate would not involve Nick Griffin) but rather as the centrepiece of a dramatic narrative with the society's committee in the centre defending the open society against the illiberal forces of unfreedom - immigrants, racialised minorities, and the anti-racist movement - with the fascist playing the hapless victim who just wants the opportunity to present his opinion. This inverted ontology, in which racialised minorities become the oppressors and the racists the victims, is a recurring trope of racist discourse - the ordinary white man as victim of imagined multiculturalist hegemony - and is a consequence of the elevation of abstract principles ('freedom of speech') over concrete realities (people's lived experiences of racism).

Of course, we are always told, the fascist will not be given an uncontested platform, but rather will be robustly challenged by invited guests and society debaters. Having invited the fascist to speak regardless of the views of minorities and anti-racists, the debaters now adopt the pose of anti-fascism (white knights to the rescue!) and (rhetorically) confront the fascist as principled defenders of multiculturalism. By taking on both the anti-racists and the racists, the debaters consolidate their self-image as supremely rational intellectuals, through their performance elevating themselves above the vulgar irrationalism and illiberalism of the antifascist struggle, brave defenders of universal values against the murky contingencies of subjective struggle. If only these minorities would rationally argue that they shouldn't be deported en masse to the Third World because of their ethnicity, rather than trying to undermine our free speech utopia!

This is a perspective steeped in privilege. It's easy to be in favour of free speech for fascists when you're not the one whose humanity is called into question, and when you're not the one whose life and safety is under threat from the growth of far-right groups. Posturing aside, there's nothing particularly brave about forcing other people to take the risk in order for you to maintain your consistency in applying an idealised schema of rights and freedoms. Only in a worldview that invisiblises racial hierarchies does it make sense to conflate the 'right' of fascist groups to organise with the concept of freedom.

In any case, have we not been here already - dozens of times? Have we not already had the meta-debate about the limits of debating? Have we not already explored the boundaries of freedom of speech through the performance art ritual of the fascist in the debating chamber? Can we not have a debate about a complex issue like immigration with descending into Marilyn Manson-esqe transgressive theatrics? There's plenty of people with important things to say whose perspectives we're ignoring because we're too busy focusing on the fringe lunatic, not least those for whom racism is a daily lived-reality rather than an opportunity for a publicity stunt


Complaint to TV3 Re: 'Ireland's Bogus Beggars'

The following is the text of my complaint to TV3, following the broadcast of 'Fiddling The System: Ireland's Bogus Beggars'. I'll post up their reply if/when it is received.

To whom it may concern,

I wish to register a complaint about the irresponsible decision to broadcast 'Fiddling The System: Ireland's Bogus Beggars', on a number of grounds:

1. The dehumanising, animalistic, racist language used to refer to Roma beggars throughout. Roma women were described as travelling in "packs" or "swarms", terms which usually refer to dogs and insects respectively, rather than in "groups", and the city was described as "teeming" with Roma beggars, a term normally reserved for vermin and microbes. Precisely this kind of language is used by racists to dehumanise and otherise members of ethnic and racial minorities, and should not be used by journalists/presenters.

2. The uncontested platform given to members of far-right hate groups. The programme devoted substantial airtime to White Nationalist (i.e. Neo-fascist) Michael Quinn, of the Democratic Right Movement and Ted Neville of the Irish Solidarity Party, in which to promote a racist anti-Roma agenda. Michael Quinn was allowed to call for all Roma immigrants to be denied entry to the country and all Roma currently living in the country to be deported, purely on the basis of race. The "robust" challenge to these views by the programme's presenter, of which other complainants were assured, failed to materialise. Simply asking whether a member of a White Nationalist hate group is racist is wholly insufficient. Their comments amounted to incitement to racial hatred, and should not have been broadcast.

Predictably, the DRM have been encouraged and emboldened by the free publicity given to them by your station. A post on the DRM's forum today read:

"Michael did well, I can see people who are sick of Roma typing "democratic right movement" into their web browsers and see what we're about. If they are truly sick of what going on in Ireland we have won a number of extra supports.

We've already received a few positive emails, and it nice that it's another kick in the backside for those who try to silence us just because we want to keep Ireland for the Irish."

3. The exclusivity of the focus on the Roma. While the closing frames of the show may have said that there are no longer any links between Roma "begging gangs" and other forms of organised crime, the racist stereotype associating Roma with agressive begging, with choosing begging as a lifestyle, and with criminality was throughly reinforced by the programme based on flimsy evidence.

From the outset, a distinction was drawn between Roma beggars - who were cast in a sinister light - and white Irish beggars - who were presumed to be in legitimate need, and who were never associated with aggressive or organised begging. No investigation was attempted into whether white Irish beggars were involved in this kind of begging, rather, it was assumed to be exclusively a Roma phenomenon.

Moreover, the evidence used to prove that this specific form of begging is endemic to the Roma community did not support that conclusion, and it was only through careful rhetorical and cinematographical framing that the programme was able to give that impression. The sequence where the presenter was seen to be harassed by a group of Roma women took place after the presenter deliberately sought to engineer a situation of conflict in order to support his predetermined conclusion. Similarly, the use of hidden cameras to provide evidence of organisation did no such thing; the fact that a group of Roma women leave and return to their home at the same time proves nothing other than that they know each other, and that they leave the same place at the same time to carry out the same activity. To draw any deeper conclusion is merely supposition, based on a thoroughly unscientific methodology, which should not have been presented as fact.

I look forward to your reply,


Aidan Rowe

TV3's reply

Dear Mr Rowe,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding Fiddling the System: Ireland's Bogus Beggars. We have investigated your complaint regarding the content of the promotion in question and the programme to which it refers.

We believe that the programme itself was fair and balanced. We are aware of the reputation of the individuals about whom you are complaining and would like to state that they were not afforded a platform to promote their agenda in an unchallenged manner. We feel their views were adequately challenged by our journalist. In order to create a balanced programme we must allow all sides of a debate to air their views, however disagreeable they may be.

Furthermore, the programme's focus was on organised begging, not the Roma community in general. However, the programme contained frank interviews with members of the Roma community to allow them an opportunity to dispel the myths that surround their culture and way of life. A full investigation into the background of the Roma community and historical prejudice towards them would have been inappropriate in the context of the focus of the programme and to cover that issue would have taken up time enough for a programme on its own.

You will note that the conclusion was not "predetermined" as you assert, in fact that the conclusion of the programme was that there was no criminal activity involved.

We note your comments in relation to the DRM, however considering the conclusion drawn in the programme we cannot see how the DRM can feel that they have achieved anything from their appearance on the programme.

TV3's coverage of this issue was in compliance with law and internationally accepted standards.


TV3 Complaints


On Provocation, Israel, and Gaza

Last May, when a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza was attacked by Israeli commandos, killing nine people, the response from the general public was one of mass anger and condemnation of what was correctly perceived as a heinous crime. The Israeli propaganda machine seemed to have been caught on the back foot, and was only able to respond with a series of crude and racist smears: These murdered humanitarian activists were Muslims, so, of course, they were terrorist sympathisers determined to drive the Jews into the sea.

Now, once again, a flotilla of ships plans to defy the illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip, and Israel is determined not to suffer another propaganda defeat. Across the world, establishment politicians are lining up to defend Israel in advance of whatever measures the IDF takes to prevent the ships from reaching their destination (already, one of the ships has been sabotaged in a Greek port, while another has been prevented from sailing based on spurious accusations that it isn't seaworthy). US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already declared her support for Israeli soldiers exercising their "right to defend themselves" against "flotillas that try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters." (source) One need only remember Operation Cast Lead to understand what the Israeli exercise of their "right to defend themselves" means in practice. Meanwhile, "senior Israeli sources" are claiming that "extremists" on board were planning to "spill the blood" of Israeli soldiers, despite the floatilla's commitment to non-violence. (source) The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said that the flotilla aimed to "promote an agenda of provocation" and "warned ahead" that the sail could "only spell trouble". (source)

In Ireland, Labour Councillor Richard Humphreys, parroting the Israeli propaganda line, said: “I fully support the call by Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore that all sides must avoid the completely unjustified violence associated with the last flotilla. In my personal opinion, the responsibility for that violence rests with the Turkish terrorists who attempted to kill and injure members of the Israeli Defence Forces in front of their colleagues. No defence forces anywhere in the world that are worthy of the name would have responded to that murder attempt with anything less than immediate and potentially lethal force.” The fact that those Israeli soldiers were attempting to illegally seize a ship in international waters seems to be besides the point in Humphreys' "personal opinion". (source)

In short, then, in the eyes of the political establishment, Israel is entitled to enforce its Naval Blockade of Gaza, and anyone who attempts to defy the blockade are trying to "provoke Israel" and presumably deserve what they get, even if that includes being murdered.

But of course, in official doctrine, the right to defend oneself in the face of provocation only works one way. When a group of human rights activists attempts to deliver vital supplies to a besieged people, that is an act of provocation, but when a group of heavily armed commandos attempt to illegally board a ship, no right to defend oneself exists. - the occupants of the ship must simply go along with the instructions of the IDF-pirates, and hope they don't end up being tortured in an Israeli prison. Nor can the blockade itself, declared illegal by the numerous UN resolutions, or the illegal occupation, or the illegal building of settlements in the West Bank, or the theft of Palestinian water resources, or the annexation walls, or the use of white phosphorous, or the regular kidnap of Palestinians, or any of the other crimes of the Israeli State ever be discussed as provocations of the Palestinian people, who have no right to self-defence, non-violent or otherwise.

Update: The Irish ship to Gaza MV Saoırse was attacked by Israeli divers earlier who tried to sabotage her. Dr Fintan Lane said an Irısh Shıp to Gaza press conference wıll be held at tomorrow mornıng (Thursday) to present evıdence of the (lıfe-threatenıng) sabotage of the MV Saoırse by Israelı dıvers: 11am, Buswells Hotel, Dublın. More detaıls wıll be released then.


Reform or Revolution (reflections on the ULA)

This is a partial response to some of the concerns raised in this article by the communist party of great britan. The piece is worth consideration on the grounds that the misconceptions within are endemic on the left. The author (Anne McShane) correctly claims that Ireland needs a new revolutionary party; the ULA (it is argued) provides no such scope. The SWP in particular are credited with attempting to prevent the ULA establishing itself as a revolutionary organization; ''In essence the SWP wants a “radical” (non-socialist) party which is “broad and democratic”. The SP, on the other hand, wants the ULA to adopt a “a socialist plan and a plan for economic development”. The insinuation that the SWP tact towards reformism is based on a common misapprehension which il address here.

McShane highlights an important tactical difference between the SP & SWP; but draws an incorrect conclusion about the objectives of the latter. The SWP; advocate a united front; ie. aim to create a space for leftists to partake in struggle & develop their ideas through interaction with the revolutionary left. To this end the SWP urge against an explicit revolutionary socialist program. The consequence of this tactic will be to establish a broad membership; with an expanding socialist nucleus which radicalizes more moderate elements. McSahne needs no reminder that this is how the bolsheviks advanced within the RSDLP. The SWPs (long term) aim is to develop the front into a vehicle for revolution; but this will only become possible once we ascertain enough support to advance on that basis. In order to ensure this, we need to remain as open as possible, resisting the tendency to erect barriers through the imposition of ultimatums on those who can (and will) move towards socialism through struggle.

The communist party (like the SP) take a formal approach which can lead to isolationism. They propose that the ULA establish itself on a revolutionary program. This however would hinder its capacity to engage broader sections of the population. While a formal orientation towards revolution might seem radical at face value; it would (in practice) alienate many who through a broader configuration could move towards socialist ideas over time. In this respect; the sort of abstract revolutionism advocated by the communist party is a dead end; it would sacrifice our ability to radicalize large numbers on the alter of tactical purity. This is an error made by many on the left; who stagnate under the dead weight of their own morality. Ordinary people wont be convinced of socialism through an abstract document; rather the development of a full program will be the consequence of concrete experience.

The immediate task facing revolutionaries is to convince people to fight for concessions that the current system is incapable of providing. Trotsky referred to such calls as (transitional demands). McShane (due to her failure to differentiate between reformism & transitory propaganda) misconstrues the SWPs approach as a type of ''reformism'' when she claims that ''the last thing we need is a neo-Keynesian attempt to construct ‘socialism’ in Ireland''. In actual fact; the appeal & application of transitional demands leads to a revolutionary juncture. Economic initiatives to cancel the debt; socialize developers assets; nationalize key industry & impose capital/price controls are transitional demands insofar as they cannot be gained within the constraints of the current system. To this extent certain ''reforms'' are revolutionary; & therefore disqualify as exhibitions of''reformism''.

McShane criticizes the SP/SWP for supposedly failing to inform non-party ULA members on developments. The ULA (while in its preliminary stages) has moved towards monthly branch meetings where members are kept up to speed on all issues. McShane goes on to accuse the SP/SWP of being ''united in denying the ordinary membership any real voice''. It is claimed by McShane (& others) that the SWP/SP are holding back the development of branch activity; however as clarified at the recent ULA national forum (which McShane attended), the SWP propose ULA branches organize meetings as frequent as they see fit.

It is also claimed that the predominantly SP/SWP makeup of the ULA steering committee reflects some aversion to democracy; nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that the SP/SWP have a majority on the SC reflects the fact that the majority of active members where members of those tendencies when it was set up. The SWP advocates one person one vote with respect to electing the SC; this is the most democratic method. Unless McSane is proposing that SC positions be apportioned according to factions (an anti-democratic suggestion) - her accusations have no real basis. The ULA will move towards a conference where SC/branch structures are decided; but until then the leadership are representatives of the majority.

Ian McDonnell (SWP Maynooth/ULA North Kildare)


This Is What Class War Looks Like

If you look up the definition of 'war' in the Oxford English Dictionary you will learn that it is "a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country." The famous military theoretician Carl Von Clausewitz notoriously described war as "the continuation of politics by other means." I have no doubt that at the forefront of Clausewitz’s mind was the form of war defined above by Oxford when he pronounced his aphorism, however I believe that his view of war can be just as perfectly applied to a form that does not include armed conflict, but instead relies on acts of economic aggression to achieve its aims. The war that I am speaking of is of course class war, and it is occurring all around us.

The ongoing crisis of capitalism has exposed in vivid clarity just what a class war looks like. It involves the capitalist class aggressively fighting to maintain its strategic position in society, with the working class being beaten down by the effects of the buzzword of 2010, 'austerity.' The lack of recognition in the mainstream media that this class war is occurring is the result of the propaganda assault that the political agents of the capitalist class in national governments and supra-national organisations, such as the IMF an ECB, have been waging on a daily basis. Their mantra harks back to the era of Thatcher and Reagan, with their slogan of "there is no alternative". The result has had the effect of normalising the economic war that is going on around us, and disguised the true nature and intent of it.

Article 2 of the UN Convention prohibits the threat or use of force, and the prohibition of the threat or use of economic coercion has been included in subsequent amendments. However, the threats of economic Armageddon that have been fostered on the working class from the agents of capitalism, unless they accept the burden of bondholder debt, are commonplace and without mention. We are led to believe that if we do not shoulder the burden of the debt and default, a dystopia of cashless ATM's and rummaging through bins awaits us. It is through these threats that the capitalist class have kept the working class scared and subservient to its economic agenda. But all of this is just words, what is the evidence of this class warfare I hear you say. Let me provide you with some facts.

In Britain, at the height of the financial crisis the 1,000 richest people increased their collective wealth by 18 percent in the past year and are now worth 395.8 billion pounds. Contrast this with the 83 Billion budget cuts announced there last year which will lead to half a million job losses, cuts in social welfare, huge university fee rises and cuts to NHS services. The UK government had choices about who should pay for the capitalist's crisis. It hit the working class and left the massively wealthy alone. This is what class war looks like.

In the USA, last September Forbes magazine released its annual list of the 400 richest Americans, and their combined net worth climbed 8% to $1.37 trillion. Contrast this with the number of people living in poverty in America, which rose by nearly 4 million to 43.6 million in 2009, the largest figure in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available. The US has a current unemployment rate of over 16%, yet the ultra wealthy will not invest to create jobs in the economy, preferring instead to speculate on the bond markets. The rich continue to grow their wealth whilst the levels of poverty grow. This is what class war looks like.

In Ireland, the top 300 wealthiest individuals have a combined wealth of 57 Billion, with their wealth increasing by 6.7 Billion in the last year. In 2009 (when the economy was nose diving into recession) 181 residents in Ireland each had investable assets of more than $30 million totalling 5.4 Billion. This wealth is not being invested to create jobs, and sits idly by in bank accounts. At the same time 440, 000 people are unemployed (14%) and 1,000 people are emigrating per-week in search of work. Almost 30% of young people under the age of 25 are unemployed. The Irish government has signalled that it will fight tooth and nail to retain a low corporate tax rate of 12.5%, not daring to touch the profits of MNC's that amounted to close to 30 Billion last year, most of which will be repatriated to their home countries. They insist on tying billions of bondholder debt like a noose around the necks of the working class, whilst at the same time implementing cuts in health, education and social welfare, hitting the working class hard, while leaving the rich free to grow their private wealth further. This is what class war looks like.

In Greece, successive speculative market attacks on Greek bonds, raising their cost of borrowing to unsustainable levels, has left the country on the brink of default and revolution. The solution from the EU? To save its rotten system, the EU proposes a further 'bailout' for Greece, plunging the heads of the Greek working class deeper under a sea of debt that is not their own. Of course, "comments by Mrs Merkel and Mr Sarkozy signalled to banks and bondholders that they will not be made to incur losses on Greek debt." In Greece, like elsewhere, the working class will take the pain, while the wealthy remain untouched. This is what class war looks like!

Derek McKenna


The Queen and Obama: Good for Tourism?

Opinion piece originally written for the WSM site.

At the moment, the predominant view in the Government , the media and in business circles is that the two large, high-profile state visits by the Queen and Barack Obama will give a massive boost to Ireland, both in terms of increasing tourism and in terms of improving Ireland's current image of a bankrupt and disfunctional isle in the eye's of the world's media.

However, is this viewpoint accurate? It seems to me to be a naive and ill-thought out endeavour, without thinking seriously about the facts and implications.

Currently Ireland is already incredibly well-known in the tourist market. We're loved the world over by prospective holiday-makers, and the majority of our tourists actually come from Britain (52%)1, with the next significant chunk coming from mainland Europe (31%)2. We host a huge number of European students during the summer months, and we are an adventurer's paradise (admittedly this aspect of our tourist industry and infrastucture could be improved, though I doubt we'll see the Queen surfboarding in Dingle!) The fact that someone might see their head of state walking around the place and think "hmm, that looks nice, I think I'll go there" isn't really realistic in our case. The UK is literally just across the water, they know all about us and what we have to offer, and they also know the downfalls of coming here (which I will cover below).

In fact you could argue that the only affect on tourism from the Queen's visit could be that tourist numbers from the UK could drop after the inevitable ruck with the cops that will accompany the visit of the Queen, and from that an unfortunate "anti-British" portrayal that would be broadcast on the news channels abroad (not to say it that anti-British sentiment doesn't exist but it is marginalised).

The idea behind the visits and the bolstering tourism dialogue ignores the main reason that tourism has dropped for the past few years : Ireland is very expensive and people don't have disposable incomes anymore! In a survey published by Fáilte Ireland (the National Tourism Development Authority) covering 2009 it showed that 49% of British tourists surveyed3 said that Ireland was "Poor/Very Poor" in terms of value for money, with 38% of US tourists4 giving the same opinion. While I agree with the fact that Ireland is way too expensive and needs to be cheaper for the good of both tourists and ourselves who live here, I doubt I would agree with the ideas that would be put forward by the lads in IBEC as a solution, who would most likey argue for more "competiton" to drive down prices, i.e. lower wages. No thanks, how about less of a profit margin for yourselves good sirs? The fact that that during the visits the city centre and several key tourist sites will have restricted access/be closed isn't exactly beneficial to the tourist industry either. Likewise, is a thriving tourist industry necessarily a good thing if the workers in the industry continue to be paid on low wages while their bosses rake it in?

There may be some truth to the idea that Obama visitng his ancentral home of Moneygall, Co.Offaly would encourage Americans to come over and trace their own heritage, but I think that a large proportion of Americans who would be inclined to come and look up their roots do this anyway if they can afford it (he's hardly the first US president with Irish ancestry). North Americans made up 12% of the market share5 of tourism in 2009, and I reckon that they're never going to be a significantly bigger share, simply because the US is literally half the world away and will always be expensive, difficult and time-consuming to travel from.

The cost of the security for visits will total €30 million6, which seems quite a lot to pay for useless visits when apparently "we're broke as a country" and are cutting back on essential services such as Special Needs Assistants. Seems a lot to gamble for improving the tourist industry.

This article doesn't really touch on the political or moral reasons why the visit of the Queen or Obama might be right or wrong (though who thought it would be a good idea to have the Queen in Dublin on the anniversary of the Dublin/Monaghan Bombings?), but is purely to conteract the predominant idea that having heads-of-states visit from countries already well-disposed and aware of us as a tourist destination would in any way bolster tourism.

Which they won't.


1: Page 4, http://www.tourismireland.com/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=f800ac4c-05f0-4...

2: Page 4, http://www.tourismireland.com/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=f800ac4c-05f0-4...

3: Page 9, http://www.failteireland.ie/FailteCorp/media/FailteIreland/documents/Res...

4: Page 8, http://www.failteireland.ie/FailteCorp/media/FailteIreland/documents/Res...

5: Page 4, http://www.tourismireland.com/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=f800ac4c-05f0-4...

6: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/republic-of-irelan...


Thought-Terminating Clichés

Arguing with liberals, while often mind-numbingly tedious and frustrating, is an inevitability for most people on the left. In this piece, I'll be dealing with some of the more trite and clichéd arguments that liberals fall back on when they're losing the argument, from the point of view of someone who spends more time than most arguing politics with liberals. This is an ongoing project, and I'll be adding more bad arguments as I come across them.

Liberal democratic capitalism is the worst system except for all the other one's we've tried.

A.k.a. If capitalism is so bad, why don't you move to one of the many successful socialist countries?

This argument is essentially a way of conceding that your critique of capitalism and/or liberal democracy is basically correct without appearing to back down, allowing them to accept that the entire political economy of the world is inherently flawed, without the accompanying responsibility to do something about it. That way lie gulags.

The flaw in this line of thinking is a combination of three faulty premises:
  1. The present system is the best system that there will ever be. The idea that we'll ever be able to have iPods and Happy Meals and freedom of expression and the like without the requirement for a massive global underclass is hopelessly utopian.
  2. The fact that the Russian Revolution et al ended in butchery and totalitarianism is an inherent flaw in the idea of communism, and not a product of the unique historical circumstances in which the revolution took place, nor of flaws in the form of revolutionary organisation practised by the Bolsheviks. All future revolutions are doomed to repeat this pattern.
  3. The history of communist revolutions that ran up against the restraints of a predominantly capitalist world can be used to predict what would happen in a communist world.

You protested against X, why didn't you also protest against A, B, C... Y and Z?

Rather than deal with the actual point of a protest, a common tactic is to think of (or usually Google) another analogous thing that the left didn't mobilise for, in order to imply some kind of hypocrisy or ulterior motive.

Implicitly, this argument assumes that it's actually really easy to organise a mass protest - that getting thousands of people onto the streets is just matter of sending a text round - and thus the only reason why the left doesn't protest every injustice equally is because we're hypocrites, and probably racist, rather than because we have finite time, energy and resources and have to pick our battles.

This argument also misunderstands the purpose of political protest. It's not supposed to be some kind of box-ticking exercise to demonstrate some kind of intellectual consistency in some future debate. It's not about being able to say you've made your point. It's about trying to make some kind of concrete difference in the lives of real people, and encouraging people to take action for themselves in resisting the particular oppressions they live under.

Your ideas are great, but I'm a realist.

I'm sure slavery abolitionists heard this one a lot. Since no-one can predict the future, determining what's realistic is based entirely on certain subjective and utterly unscientific judgements. Given that some much of our picture of reality is generated by media outlets owned and run by the wealthy, one can hardly be surprised that what people tend to perceive as realistic just happens to coincide with the system that keeps those wealthy people at the top.

I want what you want, but through parliamentary reform.

A.k.a. If people agreed with you, they would vote you into power and there would be no need for a revolution.

This argument requires a leap of logic that would be incredible were it not so mundanely widespread: seemingly, the ultra-wealthy capitalists who control the vast majority of the worlds economic power, who are able to determine, through the movement of capital the fate of entire countries, who are able to collapse economies through capital flight etc. have allowed a situtation to exist where their power and class privilege could simply be voted out of existence.

Of course, in reality, this is untrue. The capitalist class in fact have a whole range of mechanisms to prevent precisely this from happening. Through their ownership of the organs of popular opinion (the mass media), their funding of pro-business parties and lobby groups, through corruption, and the ability to influence markets through the movement of capital, the wealthy are in practice able to prevent any threat to their power manifesting itself through parliamentary means, all the while maintaining the semblance of democracy.

Yeah, but under your system how would we decide how to distribute almonds in mountainous regions during light hail?

This one is particularly annoying. Under the guise of open-minded 'hearing out' of your alternative, the liberal will then proceed to delve deeper and deeper into the minutiae of everyday activity in your imagined post-revolutionary society, until they find something that you haven't thought about before and suddenly the whole system collapses because you don't know whether a non-capitalist society would continue to produce tricycles*. This is usually an improvisational process, where every plausible answer you give opens up a thousand new avenues of questioning to be stumbled down randomly like a drunk in a hedge maze until you eventually admit you don't know.

Of course, from the outset, you're accepting an unfair burden. The shaping of a post-revolutionary society is the collective action of all of society, and will require the creativity and intelligence of everyone to develop modes of organisation that create the best possible living standards for everyone without recreating the exploitation and hierarchy of capitalism. The fact that you can't do that after a few pints in the pub no more undermines communism/anarchism than the fact that a twelve-year-old science student doesn't know Schroedinger's equation undermines quantum mechanics.

* They probably would.

You can read words and write coherent sentences. You're obviously some middle-class intellectual in an ivory tower. The working-class will never listen to you.

In other words: it doesn't matter how right or wrong you are, the working-class are too stupid and ignorant to understand you.

Of course, it's true that the left has trouble expressing its ideas in forms that are understandable to those less well-versed in left-wing theory, or to those with less education, with simple ideas often obscured by esoteric academic-speak. But the idea that working-class people are incapable of understanding the reality of their own lived-experiences of oppression is ridiculously classist and patronising.


The Royal Visit and the Security Spectacle

The impending visit by Queen Elizabeth, like the Royal Wedding before it, is clearly designed, as a show of force by ruling elites, a reaffirmation of the power and authority of the state, and a demonstration of the state's ability to enforce its rule in the face of political dissidents and recalcitrants.

In Britain, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was accompanied by a massive security operation, with the aim of suppressing any potential dissent against the institution of the monarchy, against class privilege or against the austerity measures being imposed upon the British working class. A wave of pre-emptive arrests (which activists dubbed 'precrime' arrests in reference to Philip K. Dick's dystopian short story 'Minority Report') targeted hundreds of activists, including anarchists, republicans and anti-cuts activists, with the flimsy justification that some of them might have been involved in violence or property destruction during the TUC march, with police being granted sweeping stop and search powers on the day of the wedding itself.

In Ireland, a similar crackdown on dissent has already begun. The Gardaí and Dublin City Council have begun tearing down posters advertising protests, and removing political stickers from lampposts (including, oddly, tearing down posters for the un-related Anarchist Bookfair, which had been erected with council approval) in a clear example of political censorship. 10,000 Gardaí are to be drafted in to guard the Queen, with large areas of Dublin, Cashel, Kildare and Cork being closed off at various times to facilitate the monarch, including, oddly, Dublin Zoo (perhaps the Real IRA are planning to release penguins to confuse the Queen, or something). As in Britain, Gardaí will be stopping and searching potential protestors. As the Irish Times reported: "Officers on foot will stop and search people and those questioned will be asked to indicate their destination. Checkpoints will also be set up and motorists will be questioned. Road users will also be asked to explain the purpose of their journey." Tens of thousands of people have already had to suffer intrusive Garda calls at their homes.

Of course, to complain about the erosion of civil liberties would be to miss the point. Civil liberties are nothing more than privileges given to us by the state in return for our obedience, which can and will be taken away the moment they are used to threaten the interests of the powerful.

When viewed through the prism of austerity politics, the purpose of this security spectacle is clear. The ability of the state to close off half of Dublin, to hassle people on the streets and in their homes, and to muster 10,000 cops to batter protestors off the streets if needs be, in order to parade an unelected parasite and symbol of imperialism around, like the unprovoked violent response to the student protest last November, is a clear message to the people of Ireland: this is what's in store for those who attempt to stand up to a government intent on robbing the working class to pay off the debts of the wealthy.

Join the march on Dublin Castle on the 18th May, starting at St Catherine’s Church on Thomas Street at 17:30


Default Now And Throw Off Our Chains

The recent Morgan Kelly article in the Irish Times, “Ireland's future depends on breaking free from bailout[1] has caused much debate in the Irish media. In the article, UCD economist Kelly suggests that Ireland should walk away from the EU/IMF deal. In this regard Kelly is totally right, however the solution to the crisis that he proposes is wide of the mark. More austerity is not the answer. It is only through the promotion of economic growth through public investment and job creation, progressive taxation and nationalisation of our resources that Ireland will start to emerge from the crisis.
The fact that Ireland now has the debts of the banks on its books means that our national debt will rise to over 250 billion by 2015. This figure reveals the dream world that establishment politicians in Ireland and Europe are living in when they suggest that a recovery is possible. To illustrate how deluded these people are, by 2014 Ireland will be paying approximately 10 billion per year in interest payments alone on our borrowings. This is more than the current total yearly spend on education in this country[2] According to current figures[3], Ireland is taking in approximately 31 billion per year in taxes. The fact that by 2014 we will have to pay 10 billion in interest payments on our loans, before we even try to reduce the actual debt, reveals the deluded nature of those who want to ‘ bury their heads in the sand, keep their fingers crossed’ and hope for an economic recovery.
By taking on the debts of the banks, the last Irish government has committed economic treason. They have tied a noose around the necks of a generation of young Irish men, women and children. The only solution is to separate our national sovereign debt from the back debt that was taken on after the bank guarantee in 2008[4]. After this, we must default on the bank debt, because it is not our debt. The only reason that the Irish working class is being made to pay for the gambling debts of bankers and speculators both here and in Europe is that we have a spineless political class who are afraid to stand up to their European puppet-masters. A quick read of John Bruton’s response to Morgan Kelly’s article reveals this[5]. So what would this all mean for Ireland?
By separating our national sovereign debt from the bank’s debt, we would be removing a huge anchor from our prospects of moving forward. However, we on the political left must also be realistic; a default would not be without its consequences. A default on the bank debt would lead to reprisals from the capitalist classes and the financial markets. It is quite obvious that after a default, the cost of borrowing on the bond markets would be too huge for Ireland to engage in. Also, let us not forget that it has been the rising cost of borrowing on these bond markets that has pushed Ireland and others towards financial Armageddon. However, by Ireland only having the sovereign debt that we have accumulated, minus the bank debt, the picture of the future would already be brighter. In his article, Morgan Kelly sticks with the views of the establishment in prescribing more shock doctrine based austerity to reduce our budget deficit. There are other less painful ways to return Ireland to financial stability.
By not being able to borrow on the international markets, Ireland would need to seek out finance from other sources to balance the books. Firstly, to bridge the gap between what we are spending as a country and what we are taking in, Ireland would need to seek out friendly states who understand our plight. To suggest that money would not be available on a bilateral basis is nothing but scaremongering from the capitalist class and the political elites in Ireland and Europe. Through diplomacy and favourable trading with friendly states, Ireland could gain bilateral loans and bridge a portion of our current deficit.
Secondly, there is a necessity to cut our public service costs. This is something that many of my comrades on the left will disagree with, however it is in the higher echelons of the public service, and not those on low pay that need to be targeted. It is those who are earning over €100,000 per-year that should be the subject of cuts to pay. Also, there is much wastage in the public service. There should be a root and branch reform of all public services, with savings that are identified pumped back into the frontline services that matter most, such as health and education.
Thirdly, capital must be made to pay its way in Ireland. For too long, Ireland has been soft on making capitalists pay a decent tax on the profits they make. In this regard, the corporation rate must be raised to a level that is comparable to other European countries[6]. Also, the tax breaks that financial institutions, developers and multinational corporations have benefited from in recent history must be eliminated. A progressive capital gains taxation system must also be introduced to fairly redistribute the massive wealth that still exists in private hands in this country.
Fourthly, we must invest to create jobs and indigenous industries in Ireland. A public works scheme should be initiated to put the 100,000 or so construction workers back into employment, building much needed schools, hospitals, roads, a 21st century broadband system and other infrastructure to move this country forward. Investment must also be made to grow Irish industries. For too long the Irish economy has over relied on foreign direct investment to grow its economy. This has led to the current situation where the state has been held to ransom over the corporate tax issue, and has been reluctant to take any measures to upset the international capitalist class. Stimulus measures such as these and the knock on effect they would have on all sections of the economy would help grow it towards recovery.
Finally, Ireland must take all its natural resources back into public ownership. The huge reserves of gas that Ireland has off the west coast that were flogged off in a fraudulent deal by corrupt Fianna Fail ministers, must be taken back from Shell. Ireland must also nationalise all major profit making industries, including the banking sector, and use these resources for the public good and not for private profit. It must also be recognised that all of these measures are only part of a transitional programme. The only way to truly solve Ireland’s crisis of capitalism is for Ireland to break away from the chains of the capitalist system and form a democratic socialist Ireland. Ireland could not go on this path alone and would require the backing of other socialist countries. By taking a lead and showing other countries how to take the path towards socialism, and moving away from the exploitation of capitalism, Ireland would be held up as example to the working class of the world as a way to throw off their chains. The path to economic freedom starts with an immediate default and Ireland walking away from the shackles of the EU/IMF deal.
Derek McKenna.


Anarchist Bookfair 2011 at Liberty Hall

The 6th Annual Dublin Anarchist Bookfair is taking place this Saturday (14th May) in Liberty Hall. In previous years, the event has seen visiting speakers as diverse as historian Martha Ackelsberg and former Black Panther turned anarchist Ashanti Alston and this year, once again, it promises to be an interesting event - "a day out of the ordinary", as an old leaflet for a previous year's bookfair stated.

In particular, the "Peripheral Visions" discussion, featuring anarchists from the four "P.I.G.S." countries (that's Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) is an exciting prospect, offering radical perspectives from four countries going through similar experiences of harsh austerity and uncertain futures.

As well as the talks, there will also be the bookfair itself, with stalls from AK Press, Rebel County Books, the Irish Labour History Society, the Anarchist Federation, Shell to Sea, RAG, the IPSC, the Provisional University, the WSM book service and more.

Visit the Workers Solidarity Movement website for more details on the event or visit the Facebook page. The after-party in O'Byrne's also comes highly recommended.

I'm missing the whole lot, unfortunately, due to the impending disaster of final exams...