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Irish Left Review
Joined up thinking for the Irish Left

offsite link ICTU Youth, USI and IFUT statement in support of University of Amsterdam occupat... Thu Mar 19, 2015 09:28 | Irish Left Review

offsite link What would Europe Win from a Grexit? ?Peace and quiet. (Pause?) For a period? Wed Mar 18, 2015 23:15 | Irish Left Review

offsite link The People?s News No. 121 Out Now! Wed Mar 18, 2015 21:56 | The People's Movement

offsite link Economic Fundamentals and a Unified Irish Economy Mon Mar 16, 2015 23:38 | Michael Burke

offsite link My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide by Dave Lordan Fri Mar 13, 2015 12:43 | David Lordan

Irish Left Review >>

Spirit of Contradiction

offsite link Spain is not Greece, or is it? Electoral prospects for the left in 2015. Thu Feb 05, 2015 19:00 | modulus

offsite link SYRIZA and Memnosyne Sat Jan 24, 2015 09:09 | Jerome Nikolai Warren

offsite link Why the Workers’ Party Wed Jan 21, 2015 20:08 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason

offsite link “It’s boring but necessary”: An Interview with Jos Alembic (aka “Q”) o... Mon Jan 05, 2015 18:44 | Jerome Nikolai Warren

offsite link Is Class Real? Some Empirical Contributions from Econophysics Tue Oct 28, 2014 18:40 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason

Spirit of Contradiction >>

Public Inquiry
Just another WordPress site

offsite link Oh my God, Sinn Fein must now be outlawed

offsite link Rabbitte and cronies begin to stampede? Anthony

offsite link Kelly’s bluff and bluster will not save his ‘legacy’ or his go... Anthony

offsite link Irish Water: The meltdown begins. Anthony

offsite link Gardai caught between serving the people and the State Anthony

Public Inquiry >>

The Saker
A bird's eye view of the vineyard

offsite link MAIN SERVER BACK UP AGAIN VINEYARDSAKER:

offsite link THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO A NEW LOCATION VINEYARDSAKER:

offsite link Good news out of Russia - even the "non-system" opposition refuses to blame the Kremlin VINEYARDSAKER:

offsite link Nemtsov murder: Putin warned about exactly this type of "false flag" two years ago VINEYARDSAKER:

offsite link DPR PM Zakharchenko presser 27/02/15 Economical and political future of DPR VINEYARDSAKER:

The Saker >>

Irish Left Review - Thu Mar 19, 2015 09:28

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Youth, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) want to express our support for the New University / ReThink UvA occupation at the University of Amsterdam.

The demand to put an end to ?managerialism, real-estate-speculation and precarious labour in Higher Education? should unite students and staff across the world. 

In Ireland, the campaigning group Third Level Workplace Watch recently highlighted the terrible conditions facing adjunct staff in our Higher Education institutions - where lecturers are surviving on welfare, in ?permanent? part-time status for years, and working sixty hours per week while barely making minimum wage.

At the same time, students are facing exorbitant increases in fees as budgets for Higher Education are cut by successive austerity governments. In the twenty years between 1995 and 2015 these fees have increased 1,579%. From an adjusted figure of just under ?190 in 1995 to ?3,000 for incoming students. 

The balance of funding for Higher Education in Ireland is moving from public to private. In some cases this takes the form of major multinational corporations directing scientific research, in others EU research grants being used in the development of drones and ?counter-terrorist? weaponry. Little if any of this enjoys democratic oversight.

Still again this neoliberalisation takes the form of increased emphasis on attracting international students - who pay exorbitant, unsubsidised fees and are set into competition with Irish students for places in a process antithetical to genuine internationalism. These students can expect to pay more for poorer services too.

The neoliberal university in Ireland is profoundly changing the student experience. Most students aspire to engage in the free and critical pursuit of knowledge, to use our time in Higher Education for personal development and to become rounded citizens of society. However, increasingly it seems like we are reduced to consumers in a rat race, with degrees little more than stamps of social capital meant to improve our chances in the job market.

But this is not simply a problem in Higher Education. In Further Education budget cuts have forced the closure of many programmes. Community education and training has also been devalued, utilised as a source of free labour and a means to hide real unemployment figures. 85,000 people are on ?labour activation? schemes in Ireland at the moment which are often exploitative and result in little experience being gained. Apprentices have found themselves burdened with extortionate fee increases too.

The occupation in Amsterdam inspires many of us - both students and staff - who are trying to understand how we can break these cycles which worsen year-on-year. In Ireland we understand, like you do, that it is time for a fight back.

We send our solidarity to all of those involved in the occupation and in our common struggle for an education system that is democratic, developmental and focused on serving the needs of society rather than the careers of technocrats or the profits of business.

Derek Keenan (Chairperson, Irish Congress of Trade Unions Youth)

Laura Harmon (President, Union of Students in Ireland)

Mike Jennings (General Secretary, Irish Federation of University Teachers)

Irish Left Review - Wed Mar 18, 2015 23:15

Two recent interviews with Marxist economist, and now Greek MP Costas Lapavitsas are worth have a look at, particularly as they outline his view of the strategies that Syriza need to follow during the engineered 'breathing space' created by recent negotiations with the European institutions. He also outlines how a strategy he has long advocated, a Greek exit from the Euro, should be managed.

The first, published on the 12th of March in Jacobin magazine. The interviewer was Sebastian Budgen, an editor at Historical Materialism.

And Varoufakis himself explicitly located his position within a kind of Keynesian framework, and is allied with people like James Galbraith who are openly Keynesians.

Let me come clean on this. Keynes and Keynesianism, unfortunately, remain the most powerful tools we?ve got, even as Marxists, for dealing with issues of policy in the here and now. The Marxist tradition is very powerful in dealing with the medium-term and longer-term questions and understanding the class dimensions and social dimensions of economics and society in general, of course. There?s no comparison in these realms.

But, for dealing with policy in the here and now, unfortunately, Keynes and Keynesianism remain a very important set of ideas, concepts, and tools even for Marxists. That?s the reality. Whether some people like to use the ideas and not acknowledge them as Keynesian is something I don?t want to comment upon, but it happens.

So I cannot blame Varoufakis for that, for associating himself with Keynesians, because I?ve also associated myself with Keynesians, openly and explicitly so. If you showed me another way of doing things, I?d be delighted. But I can assure you, after many decades of working on Marxist economic theory, that there isn?t at the moment. So yes, Varoufakis has worked with Keynesians. But that isn?t really, in and of itself, a damning thing.

The People's Movement - Wed Mar 18, 2015 21:56

P1. Juncker: The EU needs an army. The European Union needs its own army ?to face up to Russia?, as well as to restore the bloc's standing around the world, according to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

P2. Is ?Another Europe? Possible? There are over 100,000 EU rules, international agreements and legal acts binding on or affecting Irish and other citizens across the EU.

P3. Save the Date:  Friday, 27 March 2015: Protest ? Scrap TTIP! 10.00 - 11.00.  Venue:  Dublin Castle, (Dame St Entrance). EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, will be in town.

P4. A Dilemma for 2016? Dominic Hannigan, Labour TD, the chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs seems to believe that were Britain the leave the EU many of the financial institutions currently based in London would move to Dublin!

P4. An obstacle to real and sustained growth: Despite a fairly shameless campaign to persuade us that the worst is behind us most people are aware of the fact that we are still burdened with huge government, corporate and private debts.

 

Michael Burke - Mon Mar 16, 2015 23:38

This article is based on a background paper which was delivered to a fringe meeting at the recent Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

In Ireland there are two separate economic entities. Their separation means they run up against the fundamental laws of economics, as first identified by Adam Smith[i]

In the first instance it is the size of the home market which determines the scope of the division of labour. But in Ireland both economies, by their separation, have a truncated home market. This was not always the case. As part of the British Empire the North East portion of the island was highly integrated into what was then the largest ?home? market in human history. At the same time most of the rest of the island was primarily a breeding ground for cattle, to help feed the large metropolitan imperial centres.

Post-Partition the situation has dramatically changed.  The Empire is gone while the southern economy has both developed a home market of a certain size while integrating itself to one of the world?s largest markets in the EU. This is the key fundamental fact which explains the dramatic changes in average living standards in the two parts of the Ireland since Partition. 

This is illustrated in Fig.1 below, which shows per capita GDP using common international Dollars (adjusted for Purchasing Power Parities, first Angus Maddison and then OECD). It amounts to a startling transformation of relative prosperity within Ireland.

To specify the data, Maddison shows that per capita GDP in Ireland in 1921 was $2,533 and that in Britain it was $4,439 (and from a variety of sources that average incomes in the north-east counties of Ireland was at least on a par with Britain). From OECD data per capita GDP in RoI was $37,581 in 2013 and in the UK it was 34,755 (and the ONS data shows NI per capita output was 82% of the UK level).

 fig1_mb

David Lordan - Fri Mar 13, 2015 12:43
My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide is a collaboration between Dave Lordan and Padraig Burke of runawaypenguin.com. The text of the poem, previously broadcast on RTE Arena, can be found in Lordan's latest acclaimed collection Lost Tribe of The Wicklow Mountains. Lordan's new project is the popular and iconoclastic website bogmanscannon.com.
Michael Taft - Thu Mar 12, 2015 21:43

When we look at the headline numbers, it appears that Ireland is a low-spend economy ? that is, Government spending is well below EU averages.  This helps explain why we don?t have anything near the public services, income supports and investment that other EU countries enjoy.  However, it is claimed that a significant part of the extra spend in other EU countries is due to their older demographic which necessitates higher public resources (pensions, healthcare, etc.).  Strip this away, and we may find that Ireland is actually a high spending country.

Seamus Coffey has contributed to the debate by doing just that - stripping out spending on the elderly.  When this is done Ireland comes in, not near the bottom, but near the top:  the 5th highest public spending economy in the EU-15, even ahead of ?high-spend, high-tax? Sweden.

This is a politically loaded argument.  If it can be established that we are, in fact, a high spending country this would justify a tax-cutting agenda.   We have the money, so the argument would go, we just don?t spend it right.

So are we an average or even high spending economy by EU standards?  No.  Not even close.  In fact we are starving ourselves of public resources.  Let?s go through this argument because I?m sure we?ll hear more of this as the campaign to cut taxes continues.

Headline Figures

First, with the help of the EU Ameco database, let?s look at primary expenditure (public spending excluding interest payments) with an adjustment for GDP per the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (which has created a hybrid measurement between GDP and GNP).  2012 is the last year we have data for old age expenditure ? and as we will see below, it is highly misleading to make any conclusions about spending levels for this year.

Irish Left Review - Thu Mar 12, 2015 21:21

A reminder of our screening this Saturday, in conjunction with the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which features the multi-award winning "A World not Ours".

We will be having two screenings this month. Details of our show on the will be sent next week.

2.30pm: The Great Book Robbery (2012)

Telling the story of the systematic looting in 1948 of 30,000 Palestinian books in a joint operation by the nascent Israeli army and the Israeli national library. A remarkable illustration of how one culture emerges from the dust of another after it has laid it to waste; the moment Palestinian culture is destroyed is also the moment a new Israeli consciousness is born, based not only on the erasure of the Arabs? presence in Palestine but also on the destruction of their culture.

¦ Directed by Benny Brunner.
¦ In English & Hebrew, with English subtitles.

**3.45pm: A World Not Ours (2012)

An intimate, humorous, portrait of three generations of exile in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh, in Lebanon. Personal recordings, family archives, and historical footage ensure the film is a sensitive and illuminating study of belonging, friendship, and family. Filmed over more than 20 years by multiple generations of one family, is more than just a family portrait; it is an attempt to record what is being forgotten, and mark what should not be erased from collective memory.

?Flips storytelling and Mideast-Arab cliches on their heads ... The Wonder Years in a refugee camp? - Variety

¦ Directed by Mahdi Fleifel.
¦ In Arabic, with English subtitles.

**A note of thanks to the directors

Spyros Lapatsioras - Sun Mar 08, 2015 22:17

An article by Spyros Lapatsioras,[1] John Milios[2] and Dimitris P. Sotiropoulos[3]

 ?One must know how to employ the kairos of one's forces at the right moment. It is easy to only lose a little, if one always keeps foremost in the mind the idea that unity is never the trick, but the game.? [4]

1. Introduction

The transitional ?bridge Agreement? of the 20th of February is a truce intended by the Greek government and welcomed by the other side (the European ?institutions?). Within the truce period (the next four months), the conditions for negotiating the next agreement will be shaped. This could mean that everything is still open. However, that is not true for two reasons. First, the very transitional agreement changes the balance of power. Second, the ?hostilities? will continue in the course of the next four months (i.e. the review of the commitments and the re-interpretation of the terms by each party).

2. The agreement of the 20th February: A first step on slippery ground? 

2.1 Negotiation targets

In the first substantive phase of negotiations at the Eurogroup of the 12th February, the Greek government sought an agreement on a new ?bridge program? stating that it would be impossible to extend the existing program on the grounds that it has been rejected by the Greek people:

  1. The ?bridge program? would not involve conditions, reviews and so on, but should be an official manifestation of the willingness of all parties to negotiate without pressure and blackmail and without any unilateral action.
  2. In the above context, Greece would forgo the remaining installments of the previous program, with the exception of the return of the 1.9 billion euros that the ECB and the rest of Eurozone?s national central banks gained from the holding Greek bonds (programs SMP and ANFA). Greek authorities could issue treasury bills beyond the limit of 15 billion euros to cover any liquidity emergencies.
  3. At the end of this transitional period: (a) Greece would submit its final proposals, which according to the program of the government would include a new fiscal framework for the next 3-4 years and a new national plan for reforms; (b) the issue of a sovereign debt restructuring-reduction would come to the negotiating table.

The German government and the ?institutions? (EU, ECB, IMF) came to the negotiations with the position that Greece had to request a six-month ?technical extension? of the existing program ? renamed as the ?existing arrangement? ? to enable its successful completion. 

2.2 The outcome of the negotiation

The agreement of the 20th of February includes a four-month extension of the ?Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement (MFFA), which is underpinned by a set of commitments.? The extension of the Agreement (?which is underpinned by a set of commitments?) means: (a) evaluations by the three ?institutions,? (b) commitments and conditions, (c) scheduled installments as they appear in the previous Program, subject to a positive evaluation, (d) return of the profits from holding Greek bonds by the ECB and national CBs, but subject to a positive evaluation by the ?institutions? (even given the ?independence? of the ECB).

In short there is a rejection-withdrawal of the Greek government?s negotiation targets (1) and (2). In addition, there is no explicit reference to how the government will cover its short term financing needs (e.g. issuing treasury bills to cover bond redemptions, interest payments and other possible emergencies) until the completion of the assessment. In this regard, the reference to the independence of the ECB may imply its ?discretion? in assessing the extent to which the Greek government responds positively to the ?commitments? that accompany the extension of the agreement (something which undoubtedly will complicate any ?interpretative? attempts in relation to the agreement on the part of Greek government).

At the same time, the February 20 Agreement includes the statement: ?The Greek authorities have also committed to ensure the appropriate primary fiscal surpluses or financing proceeds required to guarantee debt sustainability in line with the November 2012 Eurogroup statement.? This means that the Greek government refrains from the target of debt restructuring-reduction and adopts the sustainability plan based on debt repayment mostly through primary surpluses. This implies the rollback from point (3b) of its initial negotiating package.

What the Greek government has won (aside from the mere change in terminology, about which there was intense debate) is:

  • A. Part (a) of section (3) of its initial suggestions, namely the right to propose reforms to the ?institutions? for approval with regard to fiscal consolidation and growth. The policy measures agreed by the previous government (reduction of pensions and increase of VAT in the islands) were thus taken out. Both sides agreed to give particular emphasis to the ?overdue? fight against corruption and tax evasion, public sector efficiency, improving the tax system, etc.[5]
  • B. Further negotiations on the size of the primary surplus for 2015. Instead of the previously agreed 3% of GDP, the new agreement leaves open the issue of a lower primary surplus for 2015: ?The institutions will, for the 2015 primary surplus target, take the economic circumstances in 2015 into account.?

It is clear that the new agreement is a truce, but truce is by no means a tie. The agreement is a first step on slippery ground. The Greek government may have gained time, but the political landscape seems quite tough, having minor similarities with the initial minimum negotiation targets set by the Greek side on the 12th February.

Donagh Brennan - Thu Mar 05, 2015 13:38

I would like to point out that one does not need a long memory to recall when Mr De Rossa and Mr Rabbitte were constantly using the media to get their socialist message across to the masses.

Jerry Beades 1996

Like a lot of people, I try and avoid reading media stories that have all the hallmarks of absurdity. As these stories grow, boosted by some invisible force they annoy me more because they prove difficult to ignore. You find that you have the gist of what is going on without even trying. Work colleagues discuss them in your presence, people waiting in supermarket queues rattle through the reported facts, and even sometimes, curiosity gets the better of you and in a bored moment you click a link to a seductive news headline and scan the article's salacious content.

Then the deed is done. You've gone deeper than you ever indended. The mind recoils at the avoidance of facts contained in it and the framing of the story to justify the attention given to something that deserves none.

The example I am talking about is this Irish Times story about the 'repossession' and Jerry Beades role in it.

Cillian Doyle - Wed Mar 04, 2015 17:18

It?s been a week now since the guns fell silent between Greece and its creditors and a 4 month armistice was agreed - so what are we to make of the outcome? Yes it?s true that Tsipiris, Varoufakis and Co. were not able to deliver on one of their two main election pillars - debt forgiveness - but does that necessarily make it the complete capitulation that some have said? Would an honourable defeat be a more accurate appraisal? Or could it be that the agreement was simply a crucial exercise in buying time and space?

These are certainly valid questions but unfortunately valid questions don?t always elicit easy answers. For the position we take on this temporary agreement is in many ways determined by how we viewed the bargaining power of Syriza relative to the European establishment from the outset. In other words; hows we perceived that power differential helps determine what range of outcomes we would have considered possible.

So for example if you thought that in the negotiations Syriza held the trump card and all that was required was calling the Eurogroup?s bluff and threatening the nuclear option (Grexit) then you would see the agreement as a relative failure largely attributable to a leadership that lost its nerve. Thus all that was required was different players made of tougher stuff.

If on the other hand you believed that Syriza was negotiating from a much weaker position given that they were seemingly less prepared (and more scared) of Grexit than their interlocutors, then you could rationalise the agreement as best that could have been bargained for whilst providing the necessary breathing room to prepare a potential Grexit strategy.

Irish Left Review >>

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