Monthly Archives: November 2011

Upcoming

I’ve been pretty busy in London and Dublin, as well as some relaxation away from computers in the wilds of mountainy west Wicklow, over the last couple of weeks and not much has gone up.

I’m just starting to remedy that, with several posts today (although mainly reprints) and I have a couple of articles of my own in the pipeline.

One will be on the cuts in the public sector in the twenty-six counties and why these cuts are not a reflection of doctrinaire neo-liberalism (which would mean some other economic policy like Keynesian pump-priming would solve the problem) but actually essential to capitalism (which means that only getting rid of capitalism can solve the problem).  Either in this piece or another article, I’ll also look at VAT increases and why, especially in an economic crisis, capitalists prefer VAT increases to increases in direct taxation.

The other will be an article about the first issue of the socialist-republican paper Republican Congress, publication of the short-lived organisation of the same name.  The first issue came out in May 1934.   That paper is a fantastic resource for socialist-republicans today and one of the things that struck me going through it in the National Library yesterday is that, while 2011 is obviously not 1934, it was remarkably fresh and vital.  Much of the content is very relevant to today.

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Reclaiming the unions – Bluster about bureaucracy, but no alternative programme

The following piece appeared on October 7 on the Socialist Democracy site.  I think it presents a good analysis both of the current problems faced by workers in the twenty-six counties in relation to the unions and the political weaknesses of much of the United Left Alternative, which includes the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party.  (Of course, a crucial additional weakness of the ULA is capitulation to imperialism on the national question.)

 

The “Reclaiming our Trade Unions” conference in Dublin on 1st October (better seen as a convention because of the limited political discussion) had its theme set by Kieran Allen, the President of SIPTU’s education branch.

Kieran denounced the corruption of the trade union leadership. The years of social partnership and the collaboration with austerity meant that their role was to pacify and smother workers protests. The decay of the trade unions was so deeply entrenched that even at shop steward level the movement was corrupt.

He went on to assert that a new period in trade union struggle had opened at last November’s mass rally in Dublin, when workers had booed and protested against ICTU secretary David Begg and SIPTU leader Jack O’Connor. If activists began to organise now they could use this new mood of opposition to reclaim the unions.

Kieran Allen was followed by UNITE organiser Tommy Fitzgerald. He recalled his own history of all-out battles against the employers and of the automatic solidarity offered by other trade unionists. He wanted to see the return of fighting unions, of trade unions that practiced solidarity.

A common thread running through the rest of the convention was this anger at bureaucratic sell-out and desire to build fighting union structures. This was expressed forcefully by Helen Metcalf of IMPACT and by Terry Kelleher of the CPSU executives in their speeches.

However Kieran Allen’s notion of a turning of the tide within the trade union membership was not discussed, nor did the structure of the convention really allow for an open political discussion.

That is unfortunate, as the lack of political discussion led to the rally ending in confusion without any concrete decisions on policy. The only outcome was that a very large steering committee was formed.

If Kieran Allen was correct and there was a new spirit of revolt in the unions then activists could postpone discussion of a programme. That clearly was the view of platform speakers. Helen Metcalf denounced the IMPACT bureaucracy but saw the answer in workplace activism and social networking on the internet. Terry Kelleher drew on his experience in the CPSU to stress the capture of executive positions in the union.

In fact there are reasons to doubt Kieran Allen’s analysis. Workers’ hostility to the bureaucracy Read the rest of this entry

Summing up the Celtic Tiger

Last week I had an experience which rather sums up the Celtic Tiger.  I’m currently visiting Ireland and had been staying in Wicklow with a mate of mine and got a lift to Naas where he works and then the bus to Dublin for the day.  By the time I got to Dublin I was in need of a crap.  I knew the Naas bus would go to Busaras, which is the big bus exchange in central city Dublin, so nice and easy to go for a crap.  I found the toilets easily enough, but they were the most disgusting toilets I have seen since a camping ground in Morocco 30 years ago.  The men’s room looked like a dirty dungeon.  There was a free cubicle but when I went in it not only was it filthy but there looked like encrusted poo on the toilet seat.  So I backed out cautiously and waited for another of the horrible-looking cubicles to be free.

Neither the partitions nor the doors go down to the ground – they’re about a foot above ground level and I could see that a huge toilet roll was on the floor between two cubicles and having to be shared.  Eventually one of these guys finished and came out; he was in suit and tie, so I went into that cubicle hopefully but checked and there was no toilet roll beside the dunny and again the seat was disgusting and seemed to have encrusted poo on it.  My frustration got the better of me and I actually said out loud, “Aaarrggghh, that’s disgusting” and walked the five or six minutes up to O’Connell St to a tourist office to ask where I could find a clean loo.  I mentioned having been to Busaras and not being able to bring myself to use the bogs there and the woman behind the counter said to me, “Oh yes, they’re disgusting, aren’t they?”

Literally a stone’s throw away from Busaras are Celtic Tiger billions of euro monstrosities, some of them largely empty.  Yet in the main bus exchange in Dublin, public toilets that would make an impoverished, underdeveloped Third World country blush.  Anyway, my next stop was the public library, which I vaguely recalled the way to.  Got in there, looked at the floor plan and it had staff toilets, but no public toilets.  I went up to a counter and asked where the toilets were.  The guy looked at me as if I was a bit strange and said “The library doesn’t have toilets”, as if my expectation of being able to go to a toilet in the main public library in the capital city was really quite preposterous.

Eventually I managed to find the toilets in the main shopping mall and they were excellent.

However, the contrast between basic infrastructure, in this case the bogs at Busaras, and the multi-billion euro Celtic Tiger buildings, a chunk of them already rotting away, seemed to be an apt representation of what has happened here in the 17-18 years since I left and of the politicians running the twenty-six county neo-colony today.

Political Policing in Ireland – Ten Years of the RUC/PSNI

Below are the texts of speeches delivered by éirígí Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney and the IRSP’s Chris Donnelly at a public meeting on political policing organised by the Republican Congress at Queens University Belfast on November 24; they first appeared on the éirígí and IRSP sites.


Steven Murney:

I want to thank the Republican Congress for inviting me here to speak of my experiences and the experiences of republicans in Newry with British policing.

Firstly I’d like to talk briefly about my childhood, when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. I come from a republican family in Newry where relatives having their houses raided was a regular occurrence. Family members being stopped & searched, sometimes 4-5 times a day was also a regular thing. Members of my family were beaten and arrested and imprisoned in British prisons for their republican beliefs and activities. When I was being taken to primary school in the mornings my mother would have been stopped and searched daily.

These things happened over 20 years ago, today I’m an adult, and I’m experiencing those exact same things on a regular basis.

Just over 10 years ago the RUC changed its name to the PSNI. Republicans knew at the time that this wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to the functions and tactics used by the force. This wasn’t the first time this force had a name change. In 1922 it went from being called the RIC to the RUC and in 2001 it changed its name to the PSNI.

It’s ironic that 10 years after this force was given a lick of paint, the PSNI now has access to more repressive legislation than it ever had. It has ignored the European Court of Human Rights in regards to stop and search legislation, it continues to fire lethal plastic bullets at men, women and children, it has introduced tasers, has CS gas at its disposal, and in 2006 it was confirmed that Read the rest of this entry