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Vol 5-No 7
Thursday 12th June 2008
E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
1) It’s the Economy!
2) Communists and the Irish Civil War
3) Union News
4) Fact File
5) From the Media
a. So this is what the ruling class really thinks
b. Right wing links to Guerrillas
6) What’s On
It’s the Economy!
In May of this year the unemployment rate in the USA had its highest monthly increase in 22 years. In the 26 counties (Irish Republic) there was the largest rise in the unemployment figures for 15 years. In early June the Governor of the bank of England, Mervyn King said ,
“We are passing through the most prolonged period of financial turmoil that most of us can remember. Whether, as the IMF has argued, it is the worst period of financial stress since the 1930s is too early to judge”
He also said that recent financial "party" of cheap credit and excessive risk-taking has left a situation where
"when the party ends, some innocent bystanders may lose their homes altogether."(Independent Wed 11th June 2008)
World oil prices jumped nearly $11 to a record $138 dollars a barrel,
“after a senior Israeli politician raised the spectre of an attack on Iran and the dollar fell sharply against the euro"
(Jad Mouawad, "Oil Prices Skyrocket, Taking Biggest Jump Ever," New York Times, 7 June 2008).
Oil prices have quadrupled since 2004.
All of these facts impact on Ireland both North and South. The implications of these facts need to be taken on board by Republicans in Ireland. To neglect the economic implications of these facts would be politically disastrous for any republican organisation. Historically Irish Republicanism has neglected the class struggle. (See below “Communists and the Irish Civil War”)
During both the 1930’3 and the 1950’s as the Irish emigrated in their millions driven out by unemployment and poverty main stream Irish republicanism concentrated on military actions, almost totally ignoring the social conditions around them. Unfortunately today there are still some republicans who either deny the existence of class struggle or say that the class struggle can wait until the national struggle is solved. Such an approach will make republicanism irrelevant to the mass of the Irish people.
The four main Parties governing the Northern Statelet argued consistently in their campaigns to set up a Northern Administration that political peace would have economic benefits. They did not of course specific who would receive those economic benefits. Now that they have achieved their aim of a local administration they now are sending out messages that it may take decades to construct a vibrant economy for the north. For example the Institute of Directors calculates up to 140,000 new jobs will have to be created over the next decade if the economy is to show overall growth. Most economists suggest that inward investment particularly from the USA and a massive investment in tourism facilities are the best means of economic growth. Recently a lot of money was spend on a major investment conference bringing CEO’s from major USA financial investment institutions to the North to “sell” our financial benefits to the USA investors. Years ago the then President Clinton
“-hosted an investment conference in Washington, and supported a similar one in Belfast, amid all the excitement after the signing of the agreement.” (Paradox of peace: private wealth, a weak economy IRISH INDEPENDENT Saturday April 12 2008) By Brendan Keenan and Yvonne Hogan)
Positive economic messages are being sent out to investors all with a view for them to come and invest.
Should we all be equally optimistic and welcome the new riches we will all soon receive? Well actually it is not so simple as that.
Yes there have been economic benefits of the new dispensation. Businesses in City centres have been transformed. There is a vibrancy and excitement about some of these city centres. Many working class districts have seen big increases in car ownership in the past ten years. The centre of Belfast has been transformed with major new buildings shopping centres and a vibrant café culture established. There are huge changes taking place in the Titanic Quarter with a new city village being established. The regeneration of the rivers sides in both Belfast and Derry is modelled on regeneration schemes in Britain The road net works are being upgraded to permit a faster flow of traffic. For two to three years there was a property boom as house prices increased by an incredible 36% in 2006.
Is this not all to the good? Well actually no. Take the Titanic Quarter, which is being built with imported migrant workers and few if any from East Belfast working class areas being offered work there. The apartments are being built with an eye for investors or aspiring white-collar city types.
The road-building programme is geared towards speeding up the movement of private lorries (even as oil prices soar) to facilitate big business and ignores almost completely public transport systems. Little or no environmental considerations are taken into account especially the effect on the health of working class communities adjacent to the motorways. The farcical appointment of S.Wilson as the new minister for the environment shows very clearly the priority the administration takes on the protection of the environment. Wilson is the least friendly member of the DUP towards that environment. Few expect Wilson to challenge the planners and business interests who have destroyed inner city working class life.
The so-called property boom has forced working class families out of traditional working class areas in Belfast, such as the Lower Ormeau Road, the Holylands, Stranmillis and the Village. These areas are now blighted by hundreds of “to let” signs and empty houses and apartments for much of the year while newly weds, young couples and ordinary families wait on the housing list for social and affordable housing that is not there.
The private investor is king. Many of these investors came from the South of Ireland and bought up huge blocks of apartments with a view to make quick financial gains. The result? There is now a growing housing crisis. This is of course the inevitable consequence of “Thatcherism”. Huge swathes of public housing were sold off to tenants who joined the property owning classes. The Housing Executive, which once had total responsibility for public housing became weakened as many of its functions passed over to housing associations. Unfortunately the Housing Executive allowed itself to accommodate to local sectarian tensions by having separate points allocations for catholic and protestant families. That is why hundreds of homes in North Belfast lie empty within so called protestant areas while hundreds of catholics cannot get a house. If houses were allocated on the basis of need only then all those empty homes would be filled by families.
That of course would be the sensible attitude of any kind of radical Administration. Sinn Fein (Provisional) once posed as radical.
A radical response to the Housing crisis would be the immediate introduction of a Home tax of a £1000 per month on any apartment or house empty for six months or more and the seizure for public housing of any similar building without compensation if empty for two years or more.
Those two step alone, would lower private sector rents immediately, make thousands of homes available at affordable rents to all and end the housing crisis within a short period of time.
Unfortunately it would also go against the pro-capitalist tendencies of all the parties in the Assembly so is unlikely to see the light of day until genuine socialist voices make themselves heard .
But it is not only families on the housing waiting lists who are in distress. Recently the Northern Ireland Consumer Council revealed that families are now paying out more than £40 a week more than this time last year for the necessities. Prices rises in food, fuel and mortgage repayments, as people came off two year low rate mortgage, mean that most families are now paying at least £160 per month more. Food costs have risen by 7 per cent in the past year. For example bread has risen in price by 12 per cent and butter by more than 60 per cent in the last 12 months (It’s an odd time for assembly to hitch itself to US economy By Patrick Murphy Irish News 13/05/08)
With the slow rise in the cost of a barrel of oil up to $139 compared to $40 last year we can expect a steady rise in the cost of living for most families in both parts of Ireland. Already electricity prices have gone up by 14% and are due to rise again in October. Some families who recently bought new homes are now in negative equity and some particularly those in the building trade where there has been a massive slow down in economic activity, are having difficulty making the mortgages repayments. The housing charity Shelter estimates that there are likely to be about 53,000 home repossessions in Britain and Northern Ireland this year.
Overall the northern economy is heavily dependent on high levels of public spending. Public spending accounts for 60% of the economy as against 40\50% in Western European Union states. ((Paradox of peace: private wealth, a weak economy IRISH INDEPENDENT Saturday April 12 2008) By Brendan Keenan and Yvonne Hogan))
This public spending, paradoxically has benefited to a greater extent the professional middle classes. They have some of the highest disposable income in the British Isles. With the continued existence of elite Grammar schools these classes, don’t, unlike their counterparts in England and Wales have to spend a fortunate on sending their children to British public Schools.
The commitment of the Stormont Regime to the neo-liberal agenda means that Government public spending will gradually be reduced as creeping privitisation speeds up. The professional middle classes in the higher ranks of the public services can easily make the transition to the private sector. Those most to lose from this process will be those valiant civil servants at the sharp end of the civil service in the so called lower ranks who will see their jobs transformed and sold off to the private sector. That is why it is so important to defend public sector workers.
Unfortunately it is the policy of the Stormont regime to carry on the economic policies as dictated by the London Treasury. That same treasury has benefited by the reduction in security costs due to the outbreak of peace. It is now pursuing a policy of making the Stormont regime pay its own way. And sadly the new administration has actually under-spent to the tune of £170 millions, money which reverts to the Treasury. Local attempts to be allowed to reduce corporation tax to 12.5% equivalent to that in the Irish Republic were quickly shot down by Westminster.
Against this gloomy economic background it should be clear that there will be increasing opportunities for those of us on the left to make gains among working class people who find life increasing difficulty under capitalism.
After all “N.Ireland is the lowest region for productivity,80% of the UK average, public expenditure amounts to 62% of GDP, compared to 42% for the whole UK and 27% for the Republic; 23% leave school with no qualifications and the economically inactive are 27% of the workforce, compared to the 21% UK average.”
(Good Fences don't mean good neighbours Barry White BELFAST TELEGRAPH Tuesday, May 13, 2008)
Put simply there are now great opportunities for Left Republicans and Socialists to make gains within the working class movement. Now is clearly the time for an intensification of class work. Lest some think such a call for class struggle is somehow a dilution of our republicanism and/ or a retreat into some form of “trotskyist economism” may I suggest that they go back to basics and read again James Connolly.
As we have again and again pointed out, the Irish question is a social question, the whole age-long fight of the Irish people against their oppressors resolves itself, in the last analysis into a fight for the mastery of the means of life, the sources of production, in Ireland. Who would own and control the land? The people or the invaders; and if the invaders, which set of them – the most recent swarm of land-thieves, or the sons of the thieves of a former generation? –
. The revolutionists of the past were wiser, the Irish Socialists are wiser to-day. In their movement the North and the South will again clasp hands, again will it be demonstrated, as in ’98, that the pressure of a common exploitation can make enthusiastic rebels out of a Protestant working class, earnest champions of civil and religious liberty out of Catholics, and out of both a united Social democracy.
(Labour In Irish History” James Connolly)
Communists and the Irish Civil War
This article originally appeared in Scottish Socialist Voice. Charlie McGuire is a history researcher at the University of Teeside, Middlesbrough. His book Roddy Connolly and the Struggle for Socialism in Ireland was published by Cork University Press in 2008.
The historian and author Charlie McGuire outlines the role played by communists in the Irish Civil War
The Irish civil war of 1922–23 is one of the most neglected events in Irish history. In contrast to the Tan war of 1919–21, a celebrated event about which a great deal has been written, very little attention has been paid to a conflict that not only exacted a heavier toll in terms of casualties, but was also more significant in shaping subsequent political divisions within the southern state itself.
Ken Loach's acclaimed film The Wind That Shakes the Barley is perhaps the first film to look in any detail at the nature of the divides that existed within the Irish independence movement, and the manner in which these worsened after the signing of the December 1921 Treaty. Leaving aside the predictable hostility from the armchair imperialists of the English Tory press, most serious critical comment concerning the film has been positive and has recognised the importance of opening up a debate on this important period in modern Irish history. It is as a contribution in this direction that this article on the experience of communists in the Irish civil war is intended.
The Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) was formed in October 1921. Its president was Roddy Connolly, the son of James, and himself a 15-year old boy soldier during the Easter rising. Other notable figures included fellow-1916 veterans, Sean McLoughlin and Paddy Stephenson, and Glaswegian socialist exile, George Pollock.
The political situation into which the new party was born was that of an uneasy peace between the IRA and the British state. Following a two-year war, a truce had been agreed and negotiations were under way. Indeed, it had been the prospect of more relaxed political conditions that had persuaded the communists to come out into the open and set up their new party. Previously, Irish communists had been operating underground, with some joining the IRA and attempting to spread socialist ideas from within the organisation.
The CPI was skeptical of the negotiations that were taking place. In the aftermath of the Treaty, which copper-fastened the partition of Ireland, and installed a pro-imperialist government into power in the new semi-colonial twenty-six county Free State, it became the first political party to oppose it. Roddy Connolly argued that in return for a share in the spoils of the British Empire and the exploitation of Irish workers, the Sinn Féin leaders, and the upper section of the Irish bourgeoisie that was now backing them, had both destroyed the independence movement and strengthened British imperialism.
>From December 1921 onwards, the CPI argued that civil war was inevitable and that the anti-treaty majority within the IRA should prepare for it. This did not happen, however. Instead, rejecting a class analysis of the Treaty, the anti-treaty IRA leaders plumped for a strategy based on diplomatic maneuvering, designed to restore unity with their Free State counterparts. It was an approach that disempowered and ultimately paralysed the IRA rank-and-file. When civil war finally broke out, on 28 June, the Free Staters quickly crushed the IRA in Dublin, forcing hundreds of republicans to flee south to Munster, large parts of which were controlled for the time being by the anti-treatyites.
Many CPI members fought alongside the IRA in Dublin. After the fall of the republican garrisons, Connolly and Pollock travelled to London. There, they met Mikhail Borodin, an executive member of the Communist International. Borodin had been dispatched by Moscow to assist the CPI. Together, the three drew up a socialist programme, containing such demands as the nationalisation of industry, land re-distribution, the abolition of all rents and the arming of the workers.
Aware of the explosion of labour militancy in parts of Munster, where several soviets had been established by striking workers, the plan was to encourage the IRA leadership to set up a provisional government in Cork, and, by using the socialist programme to win support from workers and small farmers, turn the tide of war against the Free State government.
Connolly, accompanied by Seán McLoughlin, duly travelled to Cork and presented the IRA leader, Liam Lynch, with the socialist programme. Reinforcing the communist position, McLoughlin wrote an accompanying article in the CPI journal in which he stated:
“Victory lies with the side that can attract to itself the masses, the workers of the towns and cities and the landless peasants. Republicans here is your chance. With the workers behind you, the Free State lapses into the black hell from whence it came.”
But whilst Lynch was sympathetic in principle to the programme, he appeared more concerned with organising a purely military campaign to defeat the Free State. As a result, the programme was not implemented.
This, however, was not the end of the CPI-IRA collaboration. McLoughlin left Connolly in Tipperary, and took command of an IRA flying column that operated mainly in east Limerick. There, he used his influence to spread socialist ideas within the local republican movement. Séamus McGowan was another leading communist who joined the IRA and amongst the dozen or so jailed by the Free State. Connolly meanwhile travelled to Berlin, then Moscow, in order to put together an arms deal for the IRA. This was unsuccessful, but was further evidence of the degree to which the communists were willing to go in support of the IRA campaign.
The input of the CPI did have an effect on the IRA. Liam Mellows, the imprisoned IRA leader, wrote from his cell that the IRA should set up a provisional government in Cork and implement the socialist programme advocated by the CPI. He also expressed his interest in joining the CPI. So too did his fellow-imprisoned IRA officer Joe McKelvey. Peadar O'Donnell, a member of the IRA GHQ, had gone a step further and actually joined the CPI by this stage.
Unfortunately, however, those within the IRA leadership on the outside did not push the struggle leftwards or mobilise the workers against the Free State. This left the republican campaign isolated. By mid-August, Cork, and every other Munster town, had fallen to the Free State. By October, the Free State felt confident enough to begin a policy of executing republican prisoners. Mellows and McKelvey were amongst the first of seventy-seven who would eventually be shot by Free State firing squads. By the spring of 1923 it was all over. The neo-colonial Free State, backed by Churchill and Lloyd George, had triumphed.
The Irish Civil War was a deeply significant conflict. It exposed starkly the class divides in the Irish independence movement and, as a result of the input of the CPI, led to a section of the IRA moving towards socialism as a means of toppling the Free State. For socialists and anti-imperialists today, it remains a conflict worthy of close study. This is because it showed clearly that any compromise with imperialism only strengthens it, and that any anti-imperialist strategy that divorces itself from the struggles of the working class will either end up angling for such a compromise, or be powerless to prevent it.
"I say give me Ian Paisley any day.”
"One year into his tenure as deputy first minister, former IRA commander Martin McGuinness says he believes Ian Paisley is doing more for Irish unity than dissident republicans... "I say give me Ian Paisley any day.’’ (William Graham, McGuinness basks at Stormont, Irish New, 6 May 2008)
See also the Irish Times:
“The fact that we have so many important people coming from the United States - twice more than was initially expected - clearly is a major vote of confidence in what is happening here. “People with very busy schedules are taking time out to look very seriously at what we have to offer. That is very encouraging indeed at a time of economic difficulty in the United States.”
McGuinness Hails US business leaders
>From the Media
So this is what the ruling class really thinks
Northern Ireland's economy
May 1st 2008 | BELFAST
>From The Economist print edition
A beauty parade for foreign investors turns the spotlight on blemishes too
"But that border is also a cause of what Northern Irish businessmen, and politicians of all stripes, regard as the biggest impediment to attracting investment: the Irish Republic's 12.5% corporate tax rate is less than half of that levied in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. They want a big cut in their own tax rate—but a report in December from Sir David Varney, a trusted advisor of Mr Brown, has probably dealt that notion a fatal blow. In Westminster eyes, this would mean the end of fiscal union between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.
And there are other reasons for foreign investors to hang back. Northern Ireland has a bloated public sector, its workforce is mostly badly trained and integration with its southern neighbour is limited. In a second report, published on April 30th, Sir David prescribes some bitter medicine, rather than the tax sweetener locals still hanker after. He proposes cutting civil-service pay—high compared with that in Northern Ireland's private sector—and selling off public assets, such as Belfast's port, bus and rail services. Sinn Fein is unlikely to be keen; it remains staunchly left-wing. Sir David also urges stronger cross-border links with bodies such as the Irish Development Agency; on this point, the unionists will balk.
John Bradley, an economist in Dublin who has been studying Northern Ireland's economy since the early 1990s, reckons there is a deeper reason why investors may drag their heels. Northern Ireland's oldest problem has not yet been laid to rest: sectarian tensions are quieter but remain, and anti-Britishness is still acceptable among former IRA supporters. This, he says, must change, for “if the North is not an attractive place for British firms, it will be unattractive to foreign firms.”
Right wing links to Guerrillas
and see comments that follow!
(Please note the Guardian changed the headline without consulting me.)
It is not only Chávez who has links to guerrillas
Uribe's dealings with rightwing paramilitaries remains an untold story, says Andy Higginbottom
* Andy Higginbottom
* The Guardian
* Tuesday June 3 2008
* Article history
Your report on the find by Colombian security forces diverts attention from the mounting evidence of President Álvaro Uribe's own links with rightwing paramilitary death squads (Laptop emails link Chávez to guerrillas
The article states that Interpol "announced that a two-month forensic investigation of the laptops seized in a raid by Colombian security forces concluded they belonged to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc)".
None of the findings in Interpol's report "conclude" any such thing, as in conclude after an investigation. The two Interpol investigators are computer experts: neither speaks Spanish, and they were tasked solely with inspecting the kit. Interpol assumes that the equipment it inspected was indeed used by Farc, it did not investigate the circumstances of their seizure, when the Colombian army killed 25 guerrillas in its raid into Ecuador on March 1. Are the Colombian security services to be trusted?
It is they who presumably sourced the article's claim that: "Leaks from the trove of 16,000 files and photographs have suggested high-ranking Venezuelan officials plotted to help the Marxist group to obtain weapons and funding."
Your article is more remarkable for the story it did not tell, also involving computers. In the early hours of May 13 Uribe extradited 14 leaders of the paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia from its custody to penitentiaries in the US. This manoeuvre leaves in tatters any justice component of the government's own "justice and peace" process. Despite admitting the murder of more than 4,000 people, the "para" leaders have been extradited on drugs charges, not human rights violations, for which they may never stand trial.
In the course of this sudden extradition, top paramilitary Salvatore Mancuso's computer and the hard drives used by four other leaders have disappeared from Itagüí maximum security prison. One drive was used by "Tuso Sierra", known to have business dealings with the former senator Mario Uribe, President Uribe's cousin and lifelong political ally.
With no less than 96 Uribe supporters in the country's congress being held in detention or under investigation for links with the paramilitaries, this latest manoeuvre adds to the suspicion that Uribe himself enjoys impunity at home and in the US. International press investigation of the allegations is thus vitally important, but still woefully absent.
Uribe and Chávez exemplify the two social models competing for the continent's future: neo-conservatism versus "socialism of the 21st century". The Andean region is split. Like Uribe, Peru's Alan García is eager to strike a free trade and investment deal with the European Union, while Ecuador and Bolivia, like Venezuela, will not accept the EU's privatisation terms.
In Lima this month I joined 8,000 participants from indigenous peoples' groups, environmental organisations and social movements - at the "people's summit"; we rejected the primacy of corporate interests in the relationship between our two continents. We would all appreciate a better informed reporting of these inspirational developments rather than mere snapping at Chávez.
· Dr Andy Higginbottom is a senior lecturer at Kingston University and is secretary of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign firstname.lastname@example.org
lunchtime rally - all welcome
BELFAST SAYS NO TO BUSH
12.30pm Monday 16 June 2008
Belfast Anti War Movement
Irish Congress of Trade Unions - NI
Fire Brigades Union
Belfast trades Council
National Union of Students- USI
Irish Anti War Movement
Justice not Terror
(others to be added when confirmed)
* Other actions on the day to be confirmed
GEORGE BUSH – NOT WANTED HERE
We are appalled at the news that George Bush will visit Belfast next month. It is disgraceful that his visit is as a result of an invitation issued by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
This part of the world more than most places has an understanding of the deep damage and pain that war and conflict produces. George Bush is internationally regarded as a warmonger. The so called “war on terror”, now rebranded as the “war for democracy” that he has championed has inflicted that damage and pain on countless millions.
The world has seen the particular type of Bush “democracy” that was brought to Iraq in the form of the torture photos of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib Prison and the pictures of twisted bodies lying in the streets of Baghdad’s marketplaces. There are now over 2 million internally displaced Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homes. There are also over 3 million refugees who have been forced to flee the country completely.
According to CNN almost a third of all Iraqi children are suffering from chronic malnutrition and almost three quarters of Iraqi civilians no longer have access to clean water.
Bush’s phoney war has done nothing except create global misery and despair. His justification of the war has been to condemn Muslims as backward fundamentalists prone to violence. This has led to a massive increase in Islam phobia and racist attacks committed against those perceived to be Muslim has risen massively in recent years.
Apart from the war, Bush’s international crimes include a refusal to sign up to Kyoto and a refusal to do anything meaningful about global warming. This has placed the lives of millions of people in immediate danger due to the freak weather conditions that are already taking place. Longer term, the very planet itself is at risk.
Bush has also been responsible for misery much closer to home. Americans rightly accused Bush of leaving the residents of New Orleans to perish following Hurricane Katrina simply because they were black and poor and therefore considered expendable. Whilst he has spent countless billions on the war he has left millions of Americans without a proper healthcare system and a proper social security infrastructure. Bush has presided over a country where ordinary working people have seen their conditions deteriorate massively. While the poor have gotten poorer, the rich have gotten richer.
The Future Together is hosting a public debate on Thursday 19 June in the Lansdowne Court Hotel, Antrim Road, Belfast. This will be an opportunity to have your say on the rising costs of living and how it is hitting everyone hard in the pocket.
This is a public event that commences at 7:00.
NI Executive Minister Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein), Eleanor Gill (Northern Ireland Consumer Council) and Professor Paddy Hillyard (Former Independent Chair of the Water Tax Review) will be contributors to the debate.
Ceartais have an online petition on the investigation of the use of CS Gas in Long Kesh. Please sign it.
Also Public meeting The use of CS Gas in Long Kesh.
Tuesday the 17th of June starting at 7.00pm in the GlenPark, Ardoyne Ave.
Comrades our annual Bodenstown commemoration is being held this year on Sunday 29th of June,