Volume 3, Number 20
21 March 2006
E-Mail Newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
2) On Political Rights and Freedom
3) Benefits (?) of the Good Friday Agreement
4) The New Globalisation Guru?
5) Wages for Housewives in Venezuela
6) USA: Prison Nation
8) What's On
Every year we witness the nauseating sight of Irish politicians flying
over to Washington to pay homage to the President of the USA on St.
Patrick's Day. Usually that President then lectures, bullies and
patronises the politicians to reach agreement on restoring democracy
and peace to Ireland. Indeed only recently a leader of Sinn Fein in
protesting at the ban on fundraising let slip the telling phrase that
he had been of use to the USA. Quite.
It is indeed a sad irony of history that leaders in Ireland once
heavily involved in the struggle for self-determination for Ireland
cannot wait to slavishly pay homage to one of the most oppressive
regimes in the world. So we have republished below part of a report on
political rights and freedoms in the USA published by China which
surely exposes the hollowness at the heart of the USA's championing of
human rights and democracy. It is clear that corruption eats at the
very heart not only of the USA but also in Britain where Blair and his
cronies have been exposed as corrupt and as sleazy as the Tories
before them. Given this corruption and the march of the Irish Labour
Party into the political and ideological embrace of the right wing
Fine Gael Party the question has to be addressed is there a future for
socialists in these two parties?
We also republish a debate on Marx and globalisation that confirms for
us the necessity to have an internationalist perspective and also a
reaffirmation of socialist goals.
ON POLITICAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOM
The United States has always boasted itself as the "model of
democracy" and hawked its mode of democracy to the rest of the world.
In fact, American "democracy" is always one for the wealthy and a
"game for the rich."
The democratic elections in the United States, to a great extent, are
driven by money. During the mayoral election of New York City in
November 2005, billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent 77.89 million
U.S. dollars of his fortune for re-election. That came to more than
100 U.S. dollars per vote. The election was termed by the Associated
Press as the most expensive mayoral re-election in history. In the
race for governor of New Jersey, the dueling multimillionaires spent
75 million U.S. dollars combined, with 40 million dollars by Jon S.
Corzine, who won the election. Taking into account the 60 million U.S.
dollars he spent on a Senate seat in 2000, Corzine had spent 100
million U.S. dollars in five years for elections. According to a
survey, in Washington D.C. a U.S. senator needs about 20 million U.S.
dollars to keep the seat in the Senate. The Washington Post criticized
the U.S. political system in an editorial: "But a political system
that turns elective office into a bauble for purchase is not a healthy
Decisions of the U.S. Congress and the Administration are deeply
influenced by money. It is known to all that in the United States,
various firms and interest groups hire public relations and consulting
companies to lobby the Congress and the Administration, spending money
to influence their decisions and win government contracts.
On Jan. 4, 2006, mainstream U.S. media carried reports on super
lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleading guilty to three felony charges
including a conspiracy involving corruption of public officials and
agreeing to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors in investigating members
of Congress and aides suspected of corruption. The case is the largest
power-for-money scandal in American politics for several decades. It
was reported that 20 members of Congress and their aides have been
involved in this unusual large-scale scandal.
But the Abramoff case is just a tip of an iceberg. According to the
Washington Post and the British Observer, lobbying has become a great
growth industry with huge profits in Washington. Currently, the number
of registered lobbyists has reached 34,750, that comes 60 to 1
compared with the total number of the U.S. federal officials elected.
Meanwhile, the lobbyists handle more than two billion U.S. dollars of
funds a year. Washington downtown's K Street with many lobbying firms
is called "the road to riches" and "the fourth largest power" next to
the President, the Congress and the Court. From 1998 to 2004,
lobbyists spent 13 billion U.S. dollars to promote realization of
their clients' wishes. In 2004, 2.1 billion U.S. dollars was spent on
lobbying the federal government and the Congress, and 3 billion U.S.
dollars for elections of the President and members of Congress in the
United States. The USA Today revealed that since 2000, 5,410 trips of
Congress members were financed by undisclosed sources and Congress
members have taken 16 million U.S. dollars in privately financed
trips. It's a "revolving door" for lobbyists to turn into politicians
and retired politicians from government service to engage in influence
peddling in the private sector. It was reported that since 1998 more
than 2,200 former U.S. government employees have become lobbyists;
among them are 273 former White House staff members and 250 former
Congress members and department heads from the Executive branch.
On Oct. 24, 2005, a national public opinion survey released by the
U.S. News and World Report revealed that 73 percent Americans believe
their leaders are out of touch with the average person; 64 percent of
Americans feel that their leaders are corrupted by power; 62 percent
think that leaders seek for increase in personal wealth. A joint
Gallup Poll by the USA Today and CNN found job approval for Congress,
which has a Republican majority, has fallen to 29 percent, the lowest
level since 1994; 49 percent American adults say they believe "most
members of Congress are corrupt." Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey
Clark said it is an offense to democracy to describe the United States
as a democracy.
The United States flaunts its press freedom but scandals about the
U.S. government blocking and manipulating information came out
continually. The New York Times reported on March 13, 2005 that the
United States is in "a new age of prepackaged TV news."
The federal government has aggressively distributed prepackaged news
reports to TV stations. At least 20 federal agencies, including the
Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed
hundreds of television news segments in the past four years.
The U.S. military pays Iraqi newspapers and journalists for the
so-called information operations campaign. The Los Angeles Times
reported on Nov. 30, 2005 that the U.S. military troops have been
writing articles burnishing the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq,
sending them to a Washington-based firm, which translates them into
Arabic and places them in Baghdad newspapers. It said the military
also has purchased an Iraqi newspaper and taken control of a radio
station "to channel pro-American messages to the Iraqi public." Other
reports said that U.S. army officers created an outfit called the
Baghdad Press Club that pays members as much as 200 U.S. dollars a
month to churn out positive pieces about American military operations.
The Washington Post in an editorial called these activities against
freedom of the press as "planted propaganda."
The U.S. government's ban on different voices through various means
has been condemned by the international community. On Nov. 22, 2005,
British newspaper the Daily Mirror, citing a "top secret" memo on
April 16, 2004 from Downing Street, said the U.S. government wished to
bomb the headquarters of Arabic TV station Al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar,
during the Iraqi War to block information about the real situation of
the war and remove its negative influence on the U.S. side. The
revelation resulted in protests by all the Al-Jazeera staff in more
than 30 countries and criticism from the International Federation of
On Nov. 27, British Observer said Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad and
Kabul had all been bombed by the U.S. military and its journalists
detained, threatened, abused and harassed by the U.S. military during
the Iraqi war. In fact, U.S. crude intrusion into press freedom
happened repeatedly. On April 8, 2003, cameraman Jose Couso of the
Spanish Telecino television station was shot dead by U.S. soldiers.
After Couso's death, the Spanish court issued warrants for the Spanish
police and International Criminal Police Organization to arrest and
extradite three suspected U.S. soldiers immediately. On Aug. 28, 2005,
U.S. forces opened fire at a team of Reuters reporters; one Reuters
soundman was shot several times in the face and chest, and he was
killed on the spot. Two Iraqi reporters who rushed to the spot were
also arrested and forced to exposure to the scorching sun. According
to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the United States is holding
four Iraqi journalists in detention centers in Iraq and one journalist
of Al-Jazeera, at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo bay,
Cuba. None of the five have been charged with a specific crime. In
July 2005, the New York Times reporter Judith Miller was sentenced to
jail for refusing to disclose her source. Covering the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina, a photographer for Canadian Toronto Star daily was
hurled to the ground by New Orleans police. The police grabbed his two
cameras and removed memory cards. When he asked for his pictures back,
the police insulted him and threatened to hit him. A reporter for a
local newspaper of New Orleans was also attacked while covering a
shoot-out between police and local residents. The police detained him
and smashed all of his equipment on the ground.
[From "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2005", The
Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of
China, 9 March 2006.]
BENEFITS (?) OF THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT!
Members of the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR), formerly the UDR, will
receive redundancy payments worth up to ?151,000 (US$ 262,000) under a
plan announced on March 9 to disband three of its Six-County-based
The redundancy package will cost up to ?250 million for 3,000 RIR
soldiers. British Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram announced around
that 2,000 full-time members of the regiment will receive a tax-free
lump sum of ?28,000 in addition to their normal army redundancy.
Around 1,100 part-time members of the RIR will also be given a
tax-free ex gratia payment of ?14,000. There will also be a welfare
package to help full and part-time RIR members resettle, retrain and
THE NEW GLOBALISATION GURU?
Eric Hobsbawm and Jacques Attali
Monday 13th March 2006
In the past week Eric Hobsbawm, the pre-eminent historian and avowed
communist, debated the role of Karl Marx in the 21st century with the
one-time international banker Jacques Attali. They came to some
Hobsbawm: Here we are, paying our respects to Karl Marx. Jacques
Attali's biography of him, which has sold like hot cakes in France, is
being translated in Britain. I've only done the biography of Marx in
The Dictionary of National Biography, in a more modest way. When you
consider, it's really rather strange that we should be here to talk to
an enormous audience about it. One can't say that he died a failure in
1883, because his writings had begun to have some impact in Russia and
a political movement in Germany was already in being under the
leadership of his disciples. And yet, how could he have been satisfied
with his life's work? He'd written a few brilliant pamphlets and the
torso of an uncompleted major work: Das Kapital. His major political
effort since the failure of the 1848 revolution, the so-called First
International of 1864-73, had foundered. He had established no place
of significance in the politics of the intellectual life of Britain,
where he had lived for over half his lifetime. And yet what an
extraordinary posthumous political success.
There is no other case of a thinker who left such a tremendous mark on
the 20th century. Yet, for more than 15 years after the end of the
Soviet Union, Marx was in no man's land. Some journalist has even
suggested that we are here tonight to try to rescue him from the
dustbin of history. Marx today is incredibly influential. I don't
think enough has been made of the BBC poll which named him the most
famous of all philosophers. If you actually put "Marx" into Google you
will find that there are several million entries - in fact, 39 million
when I tried it last time. He is much the largest of the great
international presences, exceeded only by Charles Darwin and Adam Smith.
How are we to explain this sudden re-emergence? First, I think, the
end of the official Marxism of the USSR has liberated Marx from the
public identification with Leninism in theory, and with the Leninist
regimes in practice. People have begun to notice once again that there
are things in Marx that are really quite interesting. And this, in a
sense, takes me to the second and main reason: that the globalised
capitalist world that emerged in the 1990s was in some ways uncannily
like the world Marx predicted in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto. This
became clear in the public reaction to the 150th anniversary of that
manifesto - which, incidentally, was a year of quite dramatic economic
upheaval in large parts of the world. Paradoxically, it was the
capitalists who rediscovered Marx, more than others. The socialists
had by that time had the courage knocked out of them, and they weren't
particularly trying to celebrate the anniversary.
I recall my own amazement when I was approached at that time by the
editor of the in-flight magazine of United Airlines - on which, I may
take it, most passengers are people travelling on business. He thought
that the readers would be interested in a debate on Marx, because
after all it did seem relevant to the present situation. A year or two
later, when I found myself having lunch with George Soros, I was
equally amazed when he said: "What do you think of Marx?" Well now,
knowing that our opinions on various things didn't agree, I gave a
sort of ambiguous answer, saying: "Some people think he's good, some
people think he's bad," to which Soros said: "Do you know, I've just
been reading that man and there is an awful lot in what he says."
So here we are tonight. Jacques Attali, I need hardly remind you, has
been highly active in both politics and intentional finance. He is
not, and has never been, a Marxist, but he, too, comes to the
conclusion that now is the time when Marx has something to say.
Attali: What he tried with the international socialist movement was an
amazing attempt to think about the world in global terms. Marx is an
amazingly modern thinker, because when you look at what he has
written, it is not a theory of what an organised socialist country
should be like, but how capitalism will be in the future. Contrary to
the caricature of Marxism, he is first an admirer of capitalism. For
him, it is a much better system than any other before it, because he
considers the earlier systems to be obscurantist. Once or twice he had
the idea that it was going to be the end, but he very rapidly decided
that this was not the case, and that capitalism had a huge future.
What is very modern also in his view is that he considered that
capitalism would end only when it was a global force, when the whole
of the working class was part of it, when nations disappeared, when
technology was able to transform the life of a country. He mentioned
China and India as potential partners of capitalism, and said, for
instance, that protectionism is a mistake, that free trade is a
condition for progress.
For Marx, capitalism has to be worldwide before we think about
socialism. Socialism for him is beyond capitalism and not instead of
capitalism. He has much say on globalisation, what is happening to
movement of companies, delocalisation and everything that is linked to
the way we live today. In a sense, the Soviet Union was destroying or
interrupting the validity of Marx's thinking and the fall of the
Berlin Wall is giving back a raison d'etre to his work, because Marx
was thinking of the world globally and the Soviet system was a
nightmare that he did not forecast.
Hobsbawm: We now have the realisation of some of what Marx
anticipated: a globalised economy. It has had a number of effects
which, however, he would not have predicted. For instance, the Marxist
prediction that a growing proletariat in the industrialised countries
would overthrow capitalism didn't work, because the progress of
capitalism eventually does without the working class, as it does
without the peasantry. Up to 1914 the prediction was quite reasonable,
and indeed, it created mass parties which still exist. In short, the
basic conditions under which Marxism operates in the 21st century will
be quite different from those of the 20th century. But one thing will
remain: the necessity not only to criticise capitalism, but to
demonstrate that the very process of globalisation in the capitalist
way generates not only growth, but also tensions and crisis, and that
the process of capitalism is incapable of coming to terms with these.
Attali: Marx predicted that capitalism will grow, that inequalities
will grow with it, that the working class will be destroyed and that
the workers will be poor. This is not true in the developed world, but
if you look at things globally, it is true. Concentration of wealth is
growing worldwide. The share of wealth which is owned by a small
number is growing, and the number of rich people is narrowing. There
are three billion people who live on less than $2 a day and out of
nine billion human beings 40 years from now, 4.5 billion will be below
the poverty line. This is Marx's nightmare. And you cannot say that
they are not workers. Even if they are unemployed, they are workers.
And people who work with only their head, or digital workers - they
are still workers. The contradictions at the heart of the market
economy, to use the modern term, are more true than they ever were
when applied to capitalism, which had 19th-century connotations.
If you look at the history of mankind in the past two centuries, this
is the fourth attempt at globalisation. The first came at the end of
the 18th century, collapsing with the Napoleonic wars. The second came
at the end of the 19th century and collapsed with the First World War.
The globalisation of the 1920s collapsed with the Second World War. We
are in the fourth attempt at globalisation in two centuries and the
most probable outcome is that this attempt will go the same way as the
previous, leading to isolationism and protectionism.
In 1849 Marx wrote about going back to protectionism and other kinds
of barbarism. At the beginning of the 20th century it was impossible
to imagine, and today is the same. We cannot imagine the barbarism
that will happen, but it is obvious that it will. The only way to
imagine a solution will be to organise, on a worldwide level, a
compromise between the market and democracy.
[These are edited highlights of a debate held on 2 March as part of
Jewish Book Week. It was chaired by John Kampfner, NS editor.
WAGES FOR HOUSEWIVES IN VENEZUELA
On February 3 President Hugo Ch?vez announced that, in recognition for
their work in the home, the poorest housewives would receive a monthly
income equivalent to 80 percent of the minimum wage - 372,000 bls or
about $180. He also announced a 15 percent increase in the minimum
wage (which, with the ticket employees get for meals and other
essentials, would bring the value of the increase to 835,350 bls or
about $400 a month), along with increases in pensions and other low
wages. The first hundred thousand housewives will benefit from June,
and another 100,000 from July. Ch?vez said that he aims for up to
500,000 women eventually to get this money.
This is not the implementation of the revolutionary Article 88 of the
constitution, which recognises the economic and social contribution of
women's unwaged work in the home and on that basis grants housewives a
pension. Article 88 still needs legislation to put it into practice.
Rather than wait for this, Ch?vez has put together the recognition
Article 88 gives to housewives' work, with the recent legislation
aimed at lifting the poorest out of poverty, and redirected some of
the oil revenue to women. Ch?vez has repeatedly said, women are the
poorest, work hardest and are most committed to the revolution.
USA: PRISON NATION
The U.S has a long history of black oppression that began with
slavery. Today, the racist persecution of black people continues
through social and economic discrimination, which condemns blacks to
live with the highest US poverty rates on record. As recently as the
1960s, blacks in the southern states were denied the right to vote,
systematically terrorised and degraded through segregation laws.
Despite decades of struggle, the US justice system still reflects, and
reinforces, horrific inequality.
According to "Prison Nation: the warehousing of America's poor", a
collection of studies into America's criminal justice system, a young
black man aged 16 stands a 29 percent chance of spending time in
prison while the probability for a young white male is 4 percent.
Black offenders are eight times more likely to be imprisoned than
whites and there are an estimated 1 million black Americans currently
in prison. Among black males aged 20-29, 30 percent are under
"correctional supervision", either in prison or on parole.
The operation of the death penalty illustrates the racism of the whole
system. Black offenders are more likely to be sentenced to death than
any other race. A black person is four times more likely to be
sentenced to death if the victim was white than if the victim was
black. Many American prison researchers have commented that whether
someone is given the death penalty is down to the quality of legal
defence, not the facts of the crime. It is a fact that most of those
on death row could not afford their own lawyer. Lawyers allocated to
them by the state often have not researched or prepared their cases,
leading one commentator to liken the courts to "fast food
restaurants". Furthermore, it is the District Attorney (D.A.) who
decides whether to apply for the death penalty. Over 80% of D.A.s are
Many adults who cannot afford a lawyer plead guilty and are sent to
prison without benefit of legal advice. When they are allocated
lawyers, they are often advised to plead guilty, leading to unfair
trials and questionable verdicts. In many cases, black people have no
representation at all, forcing them to defend themselves. In many
courts this can be to a mostly white jury even in states where blacks
make up a large percentage.
Parole also traps black people in prisons. Of the total prison
population, 70% are there because they have broken their parole - and
breaking parole is very easy. In some states, a stretch of
unemployment is grounds for re-imprisonment for up to 3 years. In
others, a $100 overdraft is enough. Poverty is the root cause of most
crime yet the state makes it practically impossible for blacks to find
a job if they have a criminal record, and those that do find
employment earn dramatically less than those who have no record.
The crimes of the poor have long been more harshly punished than those
of the middle and upper classes. Drug dealing and prostitution, crimes
of the poor because they are used as a way of survival, are
consequences of America's discriminatory economic policies. Gun crime,
a consequence of ghettoisation, is on the increase because
corporations stand to make millions out of the gun trade - gun shops
have always been strategically placed in black, poor neighbourhoods.
The US criminal justice system is systematically racist because US
society is systematically racist. Alongside fighting for equality of
treatment within the justice system, therefore, socialists have to
fight for the transformation of society itself through the
revolutionary overthrow of capitalism which was built on racism and
continually reproduces it.
[From FifthInternational.org Global Newswire, 7 March 2006]
COMMUNIST PARTY OF IRELAND
Dear comrades and friends,
As you are aware, the Government is on the verge of making a decision
on privatising Aer Lingus a very profitable state company. We have
had the experience of Irish Ferries, of Telecom ?ireann, now Eircom,
of the Irish Sugar Company, now Greencore, and numerous other
publicly owned companies which have been privatised and sold off to
friends and bankers of the main establishment parties.
We need to let the Government know that there is opposition to
privatisation and to support the workers in Aer Lingus. We need to
turn up the heat and make it uncomfortable for the establishment.
Please send e-mail messages to the addresses below, expressing your
opposition to the privatisation of Aer Lingus. Also, if you can get
different organisations and community groups to agree to support
sending e-mail messages, then please do so.
Pass this e-mail on as far and wide across the country as you can,
and turn up the heat!
I WOULD JUST LIKE TO SAY THAT I BELIEVE BEING A YOUNG MAN IN A WORKING
CLASS AREA OF DUBLIN. THAT DISCRIMINATION IS HIGH, FOR EXAMPLE
INTIMIDATION FROM THE GARDA NEARLY ON A DAY 2 DAY BASIS WE (MY FRIENDS
AND I) ARE OFTEN HARRASED AND OFTEN PHYSICALLY THREATEND BY FORCE
I BELEIVE THIS GOES BEYOND POLICING AND IS NOTHING MORE THAN ANOTHER
EXAMPLE OF CELTIC TIGER CLASSISM WHERE THE YOUTH ARE BEING LABELED BY
THEIR ADDRESSES RATHER THAN THEIR CHARACTER.
THE POLICE THINK THAT BEING FROM A WORKING CLASS AREA MEANS THEY
SHOULD GIVE YOU A J.L.O TO SAVE THEM TIME LATER. THIS IS IN MY
OPINIONS PART OF THE REASON THE RIOTS ON 25TH OF FEBURARY HAPPENED IT
IS NOT ONLY THE ORANGEMEN THAT FIGHT FOR IMPERIALISM.ANY OPINIONS?
International Platform Against Isolation
We would like to inform you that the revolutionaries from Turkey, who
were tried in Belgium for membership in the DHKP-C have been arrested
under pressure of the Turkish state and as one of the first
implementations of the anti-democratic EU- anti-terror-laws, released
after September 11.
Three of the sentenced persons were brought to the prison of Brugge
(Belgium). Two weeks were given in order to make an appeal against the
This is the address, where you could send letters in German, English,
Dutch or Turkish
Musa Asolu (prison sentence: 6 years)
Penitentiair Complex Brugge
Kaya Saz (prison sentence: 4 years)
Penitentiair Complex Brugge
Skriye Akar Zordulu (prison sentence: 4 years)
Penitentiair Complex Brugge
Friday, 24 March
Launch of the West Against Racism Network's Pubs and Clubs Anti-Racism
Initiative. Details of launch are as follows:
Friday 24 March 2006 at 2pm in the West Belfast Sports and Social
Club, 370 Falls Road.
Guest speakers are Brian Kerr, Sports Against Racism in Ireland and
Mickey Culbert Manager Antrim Senior Football Team.
REPUBLICAN SOCIALIST YOUTH MOVEMENT RAFFLE
The RSYM is selling tickets for a raffle will be April 17th, 11am at
Costello House. The prizes are a POW-made bodhrán (traditional Irish
drum), DVDs and assorted IRSM merchandise valued around 15 euro. The
price of each ticket is 2 euro, 1 pound or 3 dollars.
The funds raised from raffle ticket sales will help RSY to acquire a
banner, badges, pay for their website and so on. It's important work
in establishing the IRSM's youth wing and all sales are greatly
Wednesday, 12 April
The biography "Ruairí Ó Brádaigh - The Life and Politics of an Irish
Revolutionary" will be launched by Dr Ruán O'Donnell, Department of
History, Limerick University, on April 12 - the Wednesday before Easter.
Other speakers at the launch in the Cúltúrlann, Monkstown, Dublin at
7.30pm will include the author Professor Robert W White of Indiana
University and the subject of the book himself, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.
The book is in hardback and runs to 350 pages with another 60 pages of
notes and is the result of over 20 years of research and interviews
with the subject. Dr O'Donnell did extensive work for the
bicentenaries of 1798 and 1803 and is now engaged in a study on the
Republican Movement in the 1950s.
As part of the celebration for the 90th Anniversary of the execution
of James Connolly the Communist Party of Ireland has organised a
weekend of events on the 12th-13th-14th May. On Friday we have booked
Liberty Hall to have a celebration of Connolly's Life & Times with
visitors coming from India, Venezuela, Cuba and Britain. On Saturday
will be an all day conference dealing with contemporary Ireland. On
Sunday we have planned an International wreathe laying ceremony in
Arbour Hill. For further details visit our website,
Official website of the International Brigade Commemoration Committee
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