Thursday, 19 March 2009
The driving force that determined the character of economic development in Ireland from the latter part of the 18th into the early 20th century has been British capitalism. British capitalism has grown at the expense of Irish economic development. The economic development of Ireland has been subordinated to and determined by Britain’s mighty economic development.Economic development is an interconnected process. The specific quality of the production of wealth in the form of commodity production has been its expansion of production through the increase in the social division of labour which produces greater dependence among the producers as well as, of course, increasing anarchy in production. And commodity production in its more developed capitalist form while producing increased indirect socialized production brings about socialized production itself. The latter form widens and deepens such that it proves itself a primary contributor in the creation of the world capitalist system of production.To argue, as some do, that the locality of North-East Ulster grew separately from the rest of Ireland is to disregard the social character of the commodity form. It constitutes a denial of the mighty revolutionary role played by the capitalist system in turning world production into a world economic system. It mistakenly suggests that British capital exercised no central determining role over north-east industrialization and that the latter developed on a separate independent basis. Besides overlooking the peculiar character of imperialism this is to suggest that capitalist relations today are still progressive capable of promoting independent economic growth in oppressed countries. In this way the very fundamental conditions for the replacement of world capitalism with world socialism is entirely disregarded: that capitalist relations are not adequate if the productive forces are to be satisfactorily increased in the interests of humanity and that contained within bourgeois society are the material conditions for the establishment of socialism.As already indicated the character of Irish economic growth was determined essentially by British capital accumulation. During the 18th century Irish economic production was subordinated to Britain’s expansionary interests which was then a world commercial capitalist power. This oppressive bond explains why provisioning flourished on this island during the 18th century. It provided much of the basic requirements for feeding the crews of both the military and merchant and naval services as well as the commercial centres of the Colonies. "The provision trade killed, salted and packed the beef in barrel for export." (R.D. Crotty: Irish Agricultural Production; page 15). This trade produced "a whole complex of subsidiary trades, cooperage, tanning and tallow manufacturing among others." (ibid: page 15). But all these trades created a demand for labour power and for the means of subsistence of that demand for labour power. As a result of domestic demand for dairy produce, and even for corn, was increased , which in turn helped to make dairying and tillage in Ireland somewhat more profitable (ibid; p. 15). Besides this British commerce also determined both the growth and character of merchant capital. This ensured the increased centralisation of merchant capital at specific centres in Ireland, especially in the South. In turn this led to the even further social division of labour involving greater manufacturing expansion in or near these centres providing for many of the needs of their growing populations; glass-making and brewing are examples. This was a further stimulus to both population growth and agricultural expansion which, of course, expressed itself in increased social division of labour.The growth of commodity circulation and consequently commerce, is determined through the increase in the social division of labour both at the national and international levels. Even Ireland was not to escape such economic developments. But instead of this increased division of labour creating a corresponding increased home market, enlargement was restricted; the British home market expanded at the expense of its Irish counterpart.Whether in the money or any other commodity form, considerable wealth was being extracted from Ireland to Britain’s benefit. This appropriation of Irish wealth was a product of the unequal exchange of labour through the trade that took place between the two islands. The retention of Irish wealth in Britain by both owners of Irish land and sections of the commercial bourgeoisie constituted an added drain on Irish material reproduction. Needless to say the banks had a hand in this process.As a pre-capitalist form of appropriation of the labour of Irish producers, the rent-form hindered the expansion of national commodity circulation. By siphoning off a large portion of surplus product in the form of rent, the landed nobility left considerably less surplus product available for exchange in the commodity form: this restricted internal commodity circulation.Through merchant capital, its chief economic mediator in Ireland, Britain exploited Ireland. It served as the transmission belt through which Irish wealth was delivered to the British bourgeoisie. Trading relations in Ireland were promoted in a restricted form by the trader; in his absence, both the export of provisions and other commodities would have been constrained. In the interests of its own expansionary needs Britain’s commercial bourgeoisie determined the growth of both the provision trade and other forms of production. As a result of increased trade the merchants grew more powerful and thereby generated further manufacturing growth. But it had to be a growth constrained within the framework of Britain’s economic interests. By hindering the development of an Irish national commodity market, Britain was depriving Ireland of one of the primary indispensable conditions for the development of an independent Irish capitalist class.The Irish landed aristocracy played a secondary, although important, role as agent for British capital. By virtue of his private ownership of the land, the landowner appropriated the labour of the peasant producers in the form of ground rent. By means of such appropriation, they were enabled to have surplus product exchanged via the merchant with Britain for its "equivalent" in the general form of money or in the particular commodity form. Within certain limits, this meant that the landed nobility helped determine the character of trade between the two islands and consequently, in some degree, the character of Irish production. He influenced the character of production because of his impact on the material composition of trade. Furthermore, the landlord’s retention in Britain of a substantial part of the surplus product, in whatever form, as already indicated, was a deduction from wealth in Ireland with all the negative effects that followed this. Instead of the peasant producers determining how the surplus product created by them was to be employed, the parasitic landlord class appropriated the large bulk of it, in both its own interests and those of the exploiting classes in Britain. By fostering the export of primary wealth from the country, they were promoting the unequal exchange of labour against Ireland’s interests besides, of course, indirectly strengthening the economic power of the merchants handling the commodities. The harsh reality is that the landed nobility actively contributed to Britain’s growth at Ireland’s expense. The landlord’s were a reactionary class who obstructed independent capitalist development on this island; they were a barrier to production. Without the merchant and the landlord, Britain could not have so successfully subordinated Ireland to its own economic interestsIt was British exploitation of Irish producers that brought about restricted capitalist growth in Ireland. And this, only in the interests of British capital expansion together with the corresponding expansion of the British home market. Through British capital’s mode of appropriation of the labour of the Irish producers, it contributed towards its own economic growth as well as the very restricted expansion of Irish production. British capital expanded through the oppressive exploitation of the industrial working class and through the oppressive exploitation of other peoples. British history is testimony to this brutal reality. Irish production helped build the British market. It was the British market that produced Irish capitalism. The secret behind the character of Irish growth is British oppression. Many bourgeois historians prefer to remain at the superficial level of the market where justice and equality appear to reign. To cover up Britain’s oppressive role and its obstruction of Irish independent capitalist growth together with its blockage of the evolution of a national commodity home market, they must ignore the secret of Britain’s transformation into a bourgeois imperialist power.We must also make it clear too, that the role of the Irish banks increased in importance in transferring wealth from the country to Britain. Much of the deposits lodged with them in Ireland were transferred to Britain. In relation to deposits made in Irish banks in he 19th century Raymond Crotty has this to say: "The banks in turn transferred these savings to the London money market where they earned 2.5% or more. Thus Irish savings were financing British industry..." (Banking on Ireland’s Decline; Irish Times, March 16, 1981).The transformed economic character of Britain formed the underlying force that led to the industrialisation of North-East Ulster. From the latter part of the 18th century Britain had been in transition from a world commercial power to a world industrial capitalist power which led to a corresponding change in its needs. No longer was the provision trade to continue to play the same relatively important role between the two islands; instead agricultural and cloth exports were to replace it in importance.. The repeal of the Cattle Acts is evidence of Britain’s changing needs. Such dramatic change induced a new social division of labour in Ireland, increasingly subordinated, of course, to the expansionary interests of British industrial capital. This chiefly took the form of the South producing agricultural produce for the growing British market while in the North-East was concentrated linen production for that same market. And instead of these developments forming the basis for a correspondingly increased growth of the Irish commodity home market, they helped enhance forces of production on the British mainland while contributing to the expansion; and all at Ireland’s expense. Instead of Irish agriculture and industry primarily contributing to the independent development of the productive forces of this island, they were, in effect harnessed towards fueling the expansionary requirements of British capitalist production. So the changed internal social division of labour of the Irish economy merely contributed indirectly towards Irish economic development. Consequently, town and country were separating in a very narrow and unbalanced manner, so much so that the town was most developed industrially, after the 18th century, only in the North-East of the country. And one of the results of this was that the surplus land population, unlike in Britain, was not significantly absorbed by the towns. In a sense the separation between town and country developed in such a way that the country was Ireland and the town, Britain. To sum up: The social division of labour in Ireland changed chiefly in the interests of British capitalist growth and, as a result of the successful exploitation by British capital of the Irish producers. Indeed the character and significance of this division was eventually destined to generate tremendous historical and political change in Ireland.While it may, of course, be true that the modification of the land tenure system in the form of Ulster Custom served as an aid in the creation of the conditions for the industrialisation of North-East Ireland, it must be stressed that the expansionary requirements of the British bourgeoisie proved the decisive element. It must not be forgotten that Ulster Custom was but a mere modification of a land tenure system that, in general, embraced all of 18th century Ireland. In Ireland the land tenure system was a motley medieval system of landownership hindering the development of agriculture and even more importantly, independent capitalist development. Essentially, Irish landed relations served Britain’s interests and obstructed Irish economic growth.As has been suggested it is not true that Ulster Custom by contrast, with the equivalent situation in the South, necessarily led to a greater surplus product accruing to the agricultural producer which consequently contributed to the creation of the conditions for industrialisation. Agrarian relations then were not simple. Merely because Ulster Custom prevailed in a given region it does not automatically follow that the producers would have secured a bigger portion of surplus product than elsewhere.As well as the surplus product connected with it many conditions influence agricultural production. And Ulster Custom is not by far the sole determinant of the quantity of surplus wealth produced in the agricultural sphere for investment. Among the factors that may make up for the absence of Ulster Custom are the following: The duration of existing leases; the rate of return of investments on the land; the degree to which investments are undetectable by the landlord so that he correspondingly fails to increase rents; depreciation; investment in labour power; the composition of production and price fluctuations; how crops are related to investment whether land tenure in the form of Ulster Custom is completely absent or present in some degree even though not called such. There are other considerations to be taken into account as well. However it is not the task of this piece to present an explanation and analysis of these factors to the readerWithout the material conditions that produced the circumstances for the industrialisation of the North-East, no amount of modification of the land tenure in the form of Ulster Custom would have had the same results. In so far as industrialisation did take place, it was accompanied by a restricted increase in the Irish home market. But we must again stress that both these developments were determined by British economic developments and were consequently a function of them. 19th century North-East industrialization was not an expression of national independent capitalist development. It was Irish industrial growth of an extremely limited and dependent nature.By the latter part of 18th century feudal relations were but a medieval obstruction to the forces of production. Indeed, as already indicated the Irish feudal landed aristocracy were a agent in the oppression of the Irish producers; and this was true of the landlords in both parts of the country. To create the best conditions for wider and more rapid independent capitalist growth the abolition of private landownership would have been one of the chief and indispensable requirements. Such would involve the "transformation of the patriarchal peasant into a bourgeois farmer." But, on the other hand, bourgeois "development may proceed by having big landlord economies at the head, which will gradually become more and more bourgeois and gradually substitute bourgeois for feudal methods of exploitation." (Agrarian programme of Social Democracy: page 239 of Lenin Collected Works, vol. 13) And at the time there was no question of either course being underway.The role played by the Irish landed nobility both North and South, was radically different to that played by the English landed aristocracy. The latter, however impurely, facilitated agricultural capitalist growth, while the former obstructed it. In correspondence with this role, the English landed aristocracy implemented a policy of land clearance resulting in larger farm sizes, while the Ulster landlords permitted increased sub-letting of their lands resulting in smaller landholdings; this obstructed the development of agriculture. Agriculture flourished in England and remained backward in Ulster.And furthermore, through the instrument of the Irish Parliament and in close collaboration with the London controlled Irish Executive, that same Ulster landed class obstructed the creation of the conditions necessary for independent Irish capitalist growth. Through the medium of the political state they also obstructed the Catholic and Presbyterian producers in advancing their interests through political means; the Penal Laws were but one manifestation of this. Their reactionary character was clearly revealed in their counter-revolutionary opposition to the bourgeois rising of 1798 in which North-East Ireland Presbyterians actively participated.Quite clearly by the latter part of the 18th century, the feudal relations of production were but a medieval obstruction to the expansion of the forces of production in Ireland. Marxism must identify the central and dominant social relations that determine both the character and growth of the productive forces. And in the period under inspection, this social relation was capital in the concrete form of both British and Irish capital with the latter playing the subordinate and dependent role; this character of the relationship existing between them explains the latter’s oppressed nature.The character of the development of the world social division of labour basically determined Ireland’s peculiar economic growth. The former took place through a revolution in the relations of production; the replacement of feudal relations with capitalist relations and their subsequent rapid development and expansion. It was expressed in Ireland through the determining force of British capital. And this was further mediated through the merchant and the landlord. Put peasant differentiation was among the chief results, a basic prerequisite for the spread of commodity circulation: In "capitalist production the basis for the formation of the home market is the process of the disintegration of the small cultivators into agricultural entrepreneurs and workers."(Lenin: The Development of Capitalism in Russia; page 71.)And the home market that formed was narrow and weak and not at all independent, having as the source of its existence the British capitalist system. It was not as some misleadingly believe the medieval landed property relations that formed the central historical force that erected the conditions for an alleged independent capitalist Ulster. For Marxists, on the other hand, feudal agrarian relations, have been under continuous subjection to undermining so that today, in the epoch of capitalist decay, they have no role to play except for the most reactionary way.18th century southern manufacturing capital was a result of wealth accumulated through the exploitation of the producers of Ireland by the merchant and the landlord. None of these manufactories would have been set up without the extraction of wealth from the Irish producers. In this context, it is clear that linen manufacturing in the South was no superficial phenomenon but an integral part of the Irish economy. Because it formed part of the European linen production, however loosely, which was plunged into international recession then, manufacturing linen production in the South was triggered into decline which was to prove irrecoverable. And since the material conditions were insufficiently mature in the South, its decline had to be irreversible.Furthermore, outside of this, industries in the South such as brewing and glass-making although having suffered in the economic recession were to experience some sustained recovery following the introduction of more advanced technology. In general any industrial decline that took place in the South over the latter part of the 18th century was a product of the changing character of both Britain and Europe. Britain’s transformation into an industrial power changed the character of Irish economic activity leading to a new social division of labour in Ireland which generated a process of decline in the South. It was the British bourgeoisie that was chiefly responsible for industrialisation on this island. The manufactories were produced from the surplus labour extracted from the producers of this country through exploitation; Ireland was a sphere of exploitation for British capital.Some commentators misrepresent 18th century southern industry as a development that is dismisssible, that bears no intrinsic connection with the economic character of the South and indeed the entire country. Such an aim is designed to conceal their inability to ascertain the real forces underlying that industrial growth. But more importantly, if the two nations theory is to appear to have any credible standing, they must seem to have verified that the real basis for industrialisation was confined to the North-East region. And since it is a concrete fact that an industrial structure existed in the South in the 18th century, they must offer a reason for its decline that corresponds with their two nations prejudice.Integrally connected inner relations are a principal feature defining a nation. These relations take principally the form of the home market, however restrictedly, based on the social division of labour in conjunction with all other relations, both cultural and otherwise, that spring from this.In Ireland its force has been both relentless and brutal. As we have already indicated, over the 18th century and earlier part of the 19th century, Irish economic development was determined by the force of world capitalism which was mediated chiefly through British capital. Through Britain the formerly combined and uneven economic character was combined so as to eventually evolve into a nationally combined development that was both politically and explosively expressed in 1798 through the bourgeois democratic rising that erupted then. The character of Irish national development was a manifestation, at the time, of the form of world economic development and British development in particular. Because of its unique mediating relationship to Ireland, Britain’s oppression of the latter refracted the character of world economic development there. This happened because, if Britain was to compete successfully as a capitalist power with other nations, it must oppress and exploit Ireland as intensively as possible in order to equip itself as much as possible for that struggle; the more it exploited Ireland, the greater its strength and consequently the greater its chances of success. The international struggle for profit itself, and the degree of Britain’s success in this struggle, in turn further reflects itself in this country since it determined in what way and to what extent the appropriation of the labour of the Irish producers was to proceed. And this of course inevitably affected the character of the reproduction of Irish material wealth. And Britain’s success in the 18th century, in its struggle for world commercial supremacy was clearly a determining factor in her transformation into the world’s leading industrial capitalist power which, as we have already said, exercised a transforming affect on Irish economic development in the 19th century. Britain did not exploit Ireland for reasons of moral corruption. She was compelled to if she was to strengthen or even survive as an independent economic power. The underlying forces operating both within British society and at the world level demanded both within British society and at the world level demanded this from her. Despite appearances to the contrary, Ireland and the world were unmistakably growing in unity: through Britain world capitalism oppressed Ireland and consequently stimulated the creation of the oppressed modern Irish nation.The eventual concentration of industry in the North-East and agriculture in the South, during the 19th century, is concrete proof of the depth and breadth with which the law of uneven and combined development asserts itself. British capitalism’s exploitation of the Irish people was successfully achieved by means of definite social relations of production. Although the indigenous producers were directly exploited through diverse forms (including the rent-form), it could not have taken place so successfully had capitalist exchange relations been lacking. These relations created from diversity the appearance of equality and uniformity.And because British capital appropriated the wealth of Ireland through these uniform social relations, reproduction of material wealth was welded together, evolving into one Irish national economy: a nationally oppressed economy. Since the combined exploitation of Ireland bore the same uniform character in relation to every part of Ireland (capitalist exchange relations of production), it eventually evolved into combined national exploitation which was ultimately, form the end of the 18th century onwards, expressed in the form of the oppressed Irish nation.Put very simply and succinctly, the modern Irish nation was a result of the following historical process. Through commodity exchange relations, the universal and combined indirect exploitation of the Irish producers by British capitalism led to the creation of an oppressed Irish bourgeoisie. Through their increasing penetration and growing regularity, these relations together with production itself, created new classes. By this means the growth of an Irish merchant bourgeoisie was stimulated which involved, although restrictedly on account of British exploitation, increased concentration and centralisation of wealth. The consequences of this, of course, was the growth of industrial capital at the centres that had been produced by trade and hence the creation of an Irish industrial bourgeoisie; the small Irish industrial producer was increasingly becoming a common sight along the economic landscape. Growing peasant differentiation was another result of commodity production as was the increasing number of small bourgeois traders. And all these developments of course, were rooted in the social division of labour. Thus an oppressed Irish bourgeoisie together with a circumscribed home market were formed.But for"the complete victory of commodity production, the bourgeoisie must capture the home market, and there must be politically united territories whose population speak a single language, with all obstacles to the development of that language and to its consolidation in literature eliminated. Therein is the economic foundations of national movements. Unity and unimpeded development of language are the most important conditions for genuinely free and extensive commerce on a scale commensurate with modern capitalism, for a free and broad grouping of the population in all its various classes and, lastly, for the establishment of a close connection between the market and each and every proprietor, big or little, and between seller and buyer.Therefore, the tendency of every national movement is towards the formation of national states, under which these requirements of modern capitalism are best satisfied. The most profound economic factors drive towards this goal, and, therefore, for the whole of Western Europe, nay, for the entire civilised world, the national state is typical and normal for the capitalist world." (Lenin: The Right of Nations to Self-Determination).However history was to prove that the Irish bourgeoisie was too weak and divided to succeed in achieving "the formation of an independent national state." (ibidem)With the development of trade both internally and externally and consequently the emergence of an Irish bourgeoisie and home commodity market, the social division of labour progressively unites all commodity producers into a unified "productive organism" whose parts are mutually related and conditioned (Rubin; Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value). And since the producers are inseparably inter-connected and mutually dependent through the commodity production relations the basis is formed for the advancement of a common language and culture. This historical movement gives rise to a mass national struggle for the establishment of an independent national state which is a central political weapon through which to establish the political conditions best suited to the promotion of capitalist production and a common language and culture. Clearly then, the creation of an oppressed Irish bourgeoisie, a circumscribed home market and the tendency towards a common language and culture are the chief ingredients that constituted the oppressed Irish nation.World economic development brought into being a weak Irish capitalist class that was persistently denied an independent national state consisting of a centralised administration, the necessary political conditions for its development into strong independent capitalist class. This meant that the necessary political conditions best suited to the establishment of both a common language and culture were not achieved and that consequently the nation continued to exist in an oppressed condition. This is clearly manifested today in the extremely weak and divided nature of the Irish bourgeoisie as well as in the noticeably divided nature of Irish language and culture the Irish bourgeoisie is an imperialist dependent class, in decline, while objectively the Irish proletariat is much stronger and, in contrast, has been growing in material strength. It is now the only class capable of conquering political power through the establishment of an Irish workers’ republic.To sum up: Ireland suffered oppression at the hands of the British ruling class while its nature determined the character of Ireland’s economic development. This oppression manifested itself in many diverse forms, one of its chief forms was the uneven and combined development of the northern and southern sectors of the national economy. Furthermore, British exploitation determined the peculiar character of Ireland’s growth into a modern nation and consequently, the complex problems facing the Irish working class in the class struggle. British capitalism crested the Irish nation, but, equally, it created the conditions obstructing its development into an independent bourgeois nation state. Independent economic development is generally not possible in a nationally oppressed country in the epoch of the decay of capitalism.
announced last night it would buy $300 billion in long-term treasury
securities and another $850 billion of mortgage-backed securities issued by
nationalised financial institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."
The above report is evidence as to how desperate the downward economic
spiral is. It is obvious that this massive injection of money into the
economy by the Fed is an admission that the other measures it has taken are
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
“It is crucial now that the world - and Ireland- creates
inflation, not deflation. If we haven’t the stomach to print money
(which would be by far the easiest exit route), we need to turn on
the taps through government borrowing” (This Is Not The Time To
Panic by David McWilliams: Sunday Business Post 15th March, 2009)
In his comments on current economic conditions David McWilliams
suggests that under the present economic downswing the Irish state
can liberally borrow funds to compensate for the steep fall-off in
revenue from taxation. It also suggests that this wholesale
borrowing will largely relieve the Irish economy of the problems
it has been experiencing as a result of the economic downturn. He
also claims that this mass borrowing will prepare the Irish
economy for taking advantage of the pickup in the global economy
when it comes.
David is a victim of the illusory way in which capitalism
presents itself. He seems to think that the Irish economy can essentially
avoid the effects of the global economic downturn by borrowing. If
this is the case then there need never be recessions since
economies can merely borrow their way out of them.Borrowing then
is the the agency that prevents economic recession. But it is just
this borrowing that has largely helped turn boom into bubble with
its current deflation. The very borrowing of the banks and private
companies in Ireland and elsewhere was a factor in intensifying
the economic conditions that created speculative practices.
It is only at a particular stage in the downswing that the
injection of cash into the economy can precipitate recovery. At
this stage the economic slump has effectively bottomed out
rendering it ready for take off.If it was as easy as David suggests
there would never be recessions and there would be no need to
abolish capitalism and replace it with communism.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
The Fianna Fail party has a strategy. It is my opinion that Brian Cowan, as Taoiseach, is being increasingly viewed by the Fianna Fail Party as a transitory leader of the Party. The Party will sacrifice him to save its skin. He will be saddled, so it hopes, with all the blame concerning the harsh decisions that are currently being made by the Fianna Fail led government. Consequently, in true Stalinist fashion, he will be eventually sacrificed to "the masses" to save the Party.
When he has done the “dirty work” he will be shouldered with the blame for Fianna Fail’s lack of popularity. He will then be replaced by a new and “shining” leader. Since many of the nasty decisions will have already been taken by Cowan, the new leader will appear as free from such blame --a smiling and kinder figure –a people’s person.
It is hoped in this way that any popular support lost by the party will be recovered as a result of the election of its new leader. The mass media will give her/him the customary honeymoon period. In this way it is hoped that the party will win the next general election. Fianna Fail hopes to be able to claim too that it saved the nation from collapse under very adverse global economic conditions. In this way Cowan, as a figure from Greek tragedy, will have fallen on his own sword. The Party, by distancing itself from Brian Cowan, will have saved the day by exclusively holding Cowan responsible for having imposed harsh policies on the working class.
There is no better party than Fianna Fail to successfully appeal to patriotism as a device for rallying the Irish people behind it.
Thursday, 5 March 2009
by Paddy Hackett
March 5th 2009
The world capitalist economy has plunged into a sustained economic depression. The signs are that this depression shall be deep and prolonged. The principal way by which capitalism can come out of the depression is by reducing both the living standards and employment conditions of the working class. The only other solution is social revolution involving the seizure of power by the working class from the capitalist class necessitating the establishment of a world communist federation. Because of the peculiarities of the Irish situation: booms powered by bubbles and a Fianna Fail dominated government that instead of storing up its surplus revenue, in anticipation of future contingencies, largely squandered it. These funds were largely used to bribe the electorate into voting the Fianna Fail party back into power. It was also used to support its capitalist friends such as Irish property developers and bankers.
Since the outset of the depression the same Irish government has been engaged in a sustained attack on the working class. It endeavours to achieve this by splitting the working class --pitting worker against worker. By maximising the fragmentation of the working class it is rendered more vulnerable to a crushing defeat. Immigrant workers are split from indigenous workers; public workers from private workers; female workers from male workers; unskilled workers from skilled workers etc. In its current attack the government has singled out the public sector workers. To achieve a cutback in the income of these workers it has actively led a sustained campaign against them entailing the polarisation of pubic and private worker. This is the basis from which it has imposed a substantial pension levy on the public worker. Success here will render it easier for the state to reinforce this cutback with follow up cutbacks in the incomes of the entire working class. Its declared intention of widening and further increasing income tax within the next month is irrefutable evidence of this. The government also hopes to continue the reorganisation of the public sector work force. "An Bord Snip" with its mandate to focus on slashing employee numbers and spending within the public service forms part of this plan. The consequent reorganisation and diminution of the public service will lead to a weaker and harder pressed workforce. It is hoped to ultimately reduce the public service worker more or less to the same condition as that of the average factory or shop worker. Then capitalism will have a cheaper and more docile workforce. The European bourgeoisie is watching this conflict with keen interest. Cowan will be Europe’s new hero should he succeed in defeating the public sector workers and indeed the working class in Ireland as a whole. His success may provide them with encouragement to attempt to impose similar conditions on their own public sector. The present struggle in Ireland is not just a local matter. It also has a European dimension that may influence events in the European Union.
In view of this it is imperative that the working class meet this capitalist onslaught, led by its state, with stiff resistance and the correct politics. Working class action must involve strikes culminating in the general strike together with the setting up of workers' councils for the organisation and administration of economic, social and political life. In the struggle the conservative unions must be replaced by communist unions. In connection with this communists must struggle to set up workplace committees as a means of organising against the bosses and the leadership of the conservative trade unions. In solidarity with the working class in Ireland the European working class must strenuously resist their own ruling class too in the struggle for power.
The government has been actively encouraging the mass immigration of workers into the Irish Republic on an unprecedented scale. This is but a further way of promoting more division within the working class. Immigration is a social engineering device intended to drive down the price of labour power through competition. It is also intended to hinder the prospects of the working class in Ireland evolving into a unified revolutionary class force. The working class based in Ireland must overcome this division by endeavouring to create unity among migrant and indigenous sections of the working class in Ireland on a principled revolutionary basis.
None of the political elements represented in the Oireachtas can offer a solution other than essentially the same solution as that of the Fianna Fail Party. They are each bourgeois in character including the Labour Party, the Green Party and Sinn Fein. They simply attempt to dress the same solution up in different clothes. They all actively support a solution to the capitalist crisis at the expense of the working class. The leader of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore, has expressed his opposition to strike action and does not reject a pension levy in principle. Neither is he, in principle, against increased taxation being imposed on the working class. He merely calls for “fairness” in taxation. The Labour Party and Fine Gael claim that the cutbacks in the living standards of the working class are necessary and correct. Their difficulty with Fianna Fail is their alleged lack of fairness together with the unscrupulous way in which they are imposed. The opposition of Fine Gael and Labour hinges on matters of ethics. Fine Gael and Labour like to present themselves as corruption free in contrast to Fianna Fail. They oppose the form as opposed to the substance of Fianna Fail's politics. They thereby present a false opposition since ethically there can be no essential difference between the parties. If Fine Gael and Labour were in power as much as Fianna Fail they would exude just as strong a smell as the latter. Again this is a rather derivative difference of no real significance. In effect the main party in power and the opposition are similar. Consequently the Dail opposition concentrates its opposition largely around matters of corruption, ethics and competence. These constitute matters of secondary importance that obstruct the healthy development of class politics.
The voluntary reduction of salaries of high profile figures from the business and media world is chiefly a ploy designed to exert further pressure on the working class to accept falling living standards.
The growing army of the unemployed means that the production of surplus value, total profits, has diminished. This means that fewer resources exist from which to pay for state expenditure. This forces the state to cut spending, increase taxes and borrowing. Borrowing is a form of future taxation with a difference. Interest must be paid which amounts to an addition to future taxation. This constitutes a further deduction from total profits which further adversely affects investment conditions. This tends to bring about a downwards spiral. Consequently the Irish economy is forced to further contract in order to reproduce the conditions for recovery. Spending cuts, taxation and borrowing must be further increased.
The present depression is a result of the bourgeoisie's refusal to let the economic system follow its "natural" cyclical downswing whereby capitalism cleanses itself of less profitable forms of capital. This leads to a restoration of profitability and greater sustained economic activity. Instead the capitalist class through the medium of its state modified the downswings through counter-cyclical interventionist activity. The ruling class fear a generalised depression because its destabilising consequences may lead to revolution. In general the more the cyclical behaviour of capitalism is modified and prevented from completing its "natural" cycle the greater, more intense the crisis. The evidence suggests that the capitalist social system has plunged into depression. No amount of state intervention can prevent it from assuming an acute form this time round. We have now entered a new historical epoch. Politics can never be the same again. Under these new conditions of sustained and deep stagnation the class struggle sharpens. Consequently capitalism's obsolescent character becomes increasingly visible and thereby the need to abolish it.
At present the leadership of the working class (trade union and political leadership) has been offering solutions intended to rescue capitalism from its demise. Capitalism can only be rescued at the expense of the working class. There exist no significant political forces advocating a solution necessitating the transcendence of capitalism. Communists must endeavour to create a communist current within the working class. This can begin by organising circles of communist intellectuals. Such a communist intelligentsia conducts an intellectual struggle to propagate communist doctrine. As this intelligentsia develops and spreads its influence it has the basis for linking into the more advanced sections of the working class to form a communist strand within the working class. This is the basis on which a revolutionary communist movement can be built.
Under the present critical conditions a communist movement would draw up an action plan as the basis for struggle against this sustained attack on the working class.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
David McWilliams: Far from committing too much money to public projects, (as
much of the typically predictable commentary suggested this morning), he
didn't commit enough. He told us he was going to be ambitious, but he
bottled it (against his political instincts).
Yesterday was the day to tell the cautious mandarins of the Department of
Finance where to go. It was time to borrow heavily. This is particularly
logical given his view that the housing recession will not spill over into
the real economy in any worrying way. If that is the case, than now is the
best time to borrow to fund desperately needed new infrastructure...
Paddy Hackett: David has repeatedly made claims that the national economy of
the Irish Republic will suffer a hard landing yet he appears to be ironically
claiming in this current piece of his that the choices made by the Minister for
Finance can make a difference to the future state of the economy --hard or
It is questionable as to whether the Government should have taken up the
slack, as David would have it, by borrowing money on a significantly larger
scale to pour into the economy for capital projects. At the moment it is not
clear as to what the condition of the world economy is. Furthermore even if
this were clear the world economy (including here the Irish economy) may not
have progressed along its cycle sufficiently to render appropriate a very
large injection of funds into the national economy. Timing is of the utmost
importance here. If the economic downturn is far from bottoming out then a
mega injection of capital may not create the conditions for recovery.Then
too there are the constraints that the European Commission may impose
on the small Irish economy.
Generally it is just not clear as to what is the current condition of the
world economy particularly its more powerful components (the US). How then
can it be said what kind of interventionism is appropriate by the Irish
state? Given the uncertainities prevailing the present budget was probably
the best action the Irish bourgeois state could take as a means of coping
with the current economic contraction.
If it was a matter of throwing copious volumes of money at the problem of
economic downturns, recessions and depressions then it would follow
that they need never, in effect, exist anywhere in the capitalist world. But
this cannot be since the nature of economic downturn has a deeper and
more complex cause located in the contradictory nature of the valorisation
Overall the coalition government has probably done, budgetwise, as best
a job as they could concerning the immediate present in expressing the
interests of the capitalist class and capitalism itself.
Friday, 20 July 2007
by Paddy Hackett
Eamonn McCann in a piece published in the June issue of Socialist Worker
delivered the following interesting declaration:
"Sinn Fein has always been a nationalist, never a socialist party. At times
it may have pursued socialist policies."
His position is that any nationalist party may puruse socialist policies.
Logically if a nationalist party pursues socialist policies then the
totality of its pursued policies and even its programme can be socialist.
There can be, by Eamonn's logic, no difference between a nationalist party
and a socialist party. Indeed a socialist party, by virtue of this logic,
can equally pursue nationalist policies. It has been known for socialist
parties to pursue nationalist policies. In fact socialist parties are in
general nationalist parties. They seek solutions to the problems of the
working class within a national framework. They put the interests of
capital before the interests of the working class. Nationalism has been one
of the chief characteristics of Stalinism --socialism in one country.
Communists, however, know that the fundamental problems of the working class
can only be solved on a global basis through world social revolution.