User Preferences

  • Language - en | ga
  • text size >>
  • make this your indymedia front page make this your indymedia front page
William Wall - Luan Noll 22, 2014 14:37

This translation originally appeared on William Wall's website on the 17th of December.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was one of the great political philosophers of the 20th century. Founder of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), he was imprisoned by Mussolini in 1926 despite his parliamentary immunity. He would spend the rest of his life in prison. He is most famous for his philosophical and cultural writings collected in various volumes as ?prison notebooks?, often written on scrap paper, in a sort of code, and smuggled out to friends, in particular Palmiro Togliatti who would succeed him as head of the PCI. But he was also a father and family man, and many of his letters to his wife, his sister-in-law and his children still exist. Tender, amusing, nostalgic, loving and paternal, they show a different side to the great thinker. This letter, to Tania Schucht, his sister-in-law who had charge of his affairs, is a good example. It was probably written on the prison island of Ustica.

The text of this letter comes from Fiabe, Antonio Gramsci (Edizioni Clichy, Firenze). I am grateful to the editor, Tommaso Gurrieri for his approval of this translation. The translation is Creative Commons, as is all my work on this blog. See the note at the end of this page.

Dearest Tania,

And so the new year has begun. It is necessary to make plans for a new life, according to tradition: but even though I have thought a lot about such a plan I have never managed to achieve it. This has always been a great difficulty in my life from my earliest rational years.

In those days the elementary schools would assign, at this time of year, as a theme for composition, the question: 'What will you do with your life?'

A difficult question, which I resolved for the first time, at eight years of age, fixing my sights on the profession of carter. I found that the carter unites all of the characteristics of usefulness and delight: he flicks the reins and guides the horses, but, at the same time, he performs a work that ennobles the man and earns him his daily bread.

Richard - Déar Noll 18, 2014 20:47

Peadar Kirby has written a piece expanding on his criticisms of the Right2Water campaign, locating them within a wider critique of what he calls Ireland?s politics of anti-austerity. He is pessimistic about the possibilities of the current mass mobilisation against austerity in Ireland, and contrasts the situation in Ireland with the situation in Spain, where as he sees it Podemos is on the verge of taking power ?not through a politics of opposition but through a serious politics of proposing an alternative that is credible to large sectors of the citizenry?.

In this post I wish to highlight some further similarities and differences between the cases of Ireland and Spain, and in doing so, question some of Kirby?s criticisms.

Kirby is critical of the ?politics of opposition? rather than a ?politics of proposal? in the Irish case. He thinks the anti-water charges campaign ought to articulate fully how the right to water ought to be guaranteed, since, as he sees it, the likely consequence of the campaign should it prove successful will be to winnow away further at this right. This criticism relies on a strict interpretation of the right to water as codified by the UN. I agree with Kirby and others that when people are campaigning against water charges, they are not campaigning for a fully articulated and costed solution for the provision of water in keeping with UN accords. They are doing so because they feel they and others will be impoverished by water charges. But they are also doing so because they recognise that the imposition of water charges is regressive and hence unjust, and the demand for water to be paid for out of progressive tax measures, and the demand against privatisation, which are both very common in the campaign, are not calls for stripping away the capacity of the State to provide public services. On the contrary.

It is true: there are no detailed concrete proposals to this end. Kirby thinks this is a big problem. I don?t. And here is where I begin to part company with his analysis. In drawing attention to the rise of Podemos in Spain, Kirby omits the cycles of mobilisations that preceded the rise of that organisation. These mobilisations stretch back more than a decade now: from the mobilisation against the Iraq war to the V de Vivienda campaign for a right to housing to the Juventud Sin Futuro campaign, and, crucially, the 15M movement that called into question the very legitimacy of Spain?s political system, its right to call itself a democracy. And on from the 15M to the various Mareas???in defence of public healthcare, public education, emigrant rights, abortion rights, as well as the resounding achievements of thePlataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca in mobilising public opinion against evictions.

Kathy - Céad Noll 17, 2014 14:15

The disillusioned Citizen

As I sit in my cold, cold house

Sticking bubble wrap to my single glaze,

The slap of the letter box like a slap to the face,

Cold as the air, in an unemployed haze.

s

Each day the horrors of my future lie in suspension

No letters of job offers, hope and acceptance; its beyond comprehension.

Dangerous ground the post man dictates,

My mood, my emotions, my worries, my fate.

s

Plenty of bills though, they keep rolling in,

Unwanted, unopened and thrown in the bin.

For their demands just cannot be met,

It?s a number of weeks till my house is for let.

s

Never have I experienced such rejection,

Something is wrong with this country, a malaise; no, an infection.

A glitch in the system, an error of ways,

The dismissal of citizens through their ivory tower gaze.

Seán Sheehan - Máirt Noll 16, 2014 10:33

Exhibition Review: The EY Exhibition Late Turner: Painting Set Free

Turner turned 60 in 1835 and the paintings and watercolours he went on to produce are the subject of the exhibition at Tate Britain (running until January 2015). Work labelled as ?late? can carry a double-edged evaluation, pointing upwards to acclaim  ascent to new ground or downwards to indicate a decline into staleness. It can go either way: late Heidegger is radical, late Wordsworth is drearily conservative and if late Dylan comes into the equation the term?s uncertainty wobbles close to collapse.

Tate Britain?s tag line for late Turner, Painting Set Free, makes clear the gallery?s pitch, indicating that we view these post-1835 works as a liberation from classical canons and traditional notions of art as merely pictorial representation. Turner, suggests the sub-text, was a modernist avant la lettre who prepared the way for Impressionism, anticipated the spirit of abstract art and educated our sensibilities towards receiving a non-mimetic notion of art.

This has been a familiar way of viewing Turner for half a century now so there is nothing shockingly new in Tate Britain?s approach but what does distinguish this exhibition is the concentrated gathering in one space of so many works by Turner over a precise period of time. The result is a visual feast that takes narrative moments from myths, the bible and history and stirs in a heady blend of watery mists and hazy but vibrant colours to enact ethereal dramas of light and dark.

The atmosphere of his paintings comes from light-drenched vistas that exist independently of whatever set of humans, nymphs, gods or goddesses happen to inhabit one portion of a canvas. Turner is not afraid to add touches of impasto while remaining loyal to his palette of airy blue, creamy to murky white, golden yellow, russet that mutates to scalding red and burnt orange.

Michael Burke - Luan Noll 15, 2014 17:36

On the same day that the CSO reported that the economy grow by 3.5% from a year ago, the Irish Times reported deepening gloom among households with survey respondents reporting decreasing disposable incomes. 45% of people said they were spending more on utility bills, and many others reporting increased costs of transport, healthcare and housing.

How is it both possible for the economy to be expanding at a decent clip yet the population is becoming poorer? Leaving aside the possibility that the population is expanding at a faster pace than the economy (which is not the case here), then either the data is false or all of the benefits of recovery and more are going to a minority of society. Or both.

The reality is that the CSO vastly overstate the improvement in the economy, which in reality is doing little more than bumping along the bottom. At the same time, the austerity policy works to redistribute incomes from poor to rich, from labour to capital, especially unproductive capital such as banks and landlords. If energy bills are rising in real terms incomes are being transferred to them from households. If rents are rising, real incomes are being transferred from tenants to landlords, and so on.

Fake exports, real stagnation

The export-led recovery that is so widely touted by supporters of this government and of austerity generally is a statistical fiction. Over time a number of commentators have pointed to the tax regime as a source of huge distortions to the external accounts. This facilitates the booking of costs, output and profits in this jurisdiction in order to avail of extremely low effective tax rates, way below even the headline rate of 12.5%. Constantin Gurdgiev at True Economics has also shown that this is a key factor in the current inflated level of GDP.

One marker of this distortion to the trade data is that the monthly CSO accounts show total goods exports of ?23.2bn in the 3 months of Q3.  Yet the data included in the Quarterly National Accounts show exports at ?27.3bn. There is a different methodology for the two pieces of data. But there is a truth gap between the real level of goods exports and reality, which has widened over time. In 2008 the export totals were almost aligned, with the GDP data showing exports just ?1.8bn higher for the whole year. Now that annualised discrepancy amounts to ?16.4bn. This is greater than the entire recorded improvement in real GDP since the trough of the recession at the end of 2009, which is ?15.7bn. Without the fakery of an ?export-led recovery?, statistically there is no recovery at all.

Because the export data is so distorted, it is important to consider the trends in aggregate domestic demand, which is the sum of household consumption, government consumption and investment (Gross Fixed Capital Formation).

Fig.1 Real Final Domestic Demand, ?bn

MB1

Andy Storey - Luan Noll 15, 2014 15:51

In an article in last Saturday?s Irish Times entitled ?The water charges fiasco: a lesson in how not to do things?, Kathy Sheridan describes the saga as ?an accessible, textbook study of how an unaccountable Government and Civil Service can unite to patronise and insult us.?  Drawing on the views of Eddie Molly, she goes on to identify a number of reasons for public anger at the charges: rushed legislation, perceived cronyism in terms of board and management appointments, and, under a deal with the trade unions, the guaranteeing of workers? jobs at Irish Water. I have to confess that at last week?s mass demonstration against the charges I did not see a single banner bemoaning the fact that workers were being allowed keep their jobs, but it was a very big turnout so maybe I missed one.  

However, many banners highlighted other issues concerning Irish Water, including the regressive nature of the charges and the fear that a public asset might be privatised.  The vast majority of people on the march were not attacking a claimed bogeyman nexus of civil servants and trade unions.  Many were, however, attacking a perceived cosy relationship between decision-makers and corporate interests, specifically those of Denis O?Brien.  The story of how an O?Brien-owned company won contracts to install water meters despite not being registered as a company at the time, and had a large chunk of debts owed to the former Anglo Irish Bank (i.e., the public) written off, need not be rehearsed again here, but it was common currency on both posters and in speeches at the demonstration. Kathy Sheridan?s elision of corporate power?s baleful influence over governmental decision making serves a reactionary agenda that places Ireland?s governance problems at the door of public sector workers and trade unions.

On the day of the water demonstration itself, Sheridan was scathing about the fact that the protestors had, she claimed, ?hijacked? World Human Rights Day and foregrounded such relatively petty concerns above more pressing rights violations such as those endured by the people of Gaza.  Well, maybe there is something in that, though I saw lots of people at the water demonstration who I also see regularly at small Gaza protests (where I am pretty sure I have never spotted Kathy Sheridan). Let us take one example of what is a very urgent human rights concern in Ireland right now ? the scandal of Direct Provision for asylum seekers.

Sheridan interviewed the Minister responsible for Direct Provision in November in an article entitled ?Minister with a mission to deliver? and in which Frances Fitzgerald is described as ?[p]ractical, tireless, sharp and fast-moving?.  It was the sort of article that makes one wonder why the Minister bothers with a PR officer when she has the services of Ms Sheridan available to her.  In fairness, Minister Fitzgerald is quoted sympathetically as saying that ?I think it?s quite tough on families?, but she is referring to the problems faced by the families of politicians, not asylum-seeking families forced to live for years in inadequate and  often abusive conditions.

Am I being unfair in singling out Kathy Sheridan?  Perhaps, but she exemplifies many of the traits of Ireland?s mainstream journalists.  She professes horror at the state of governance in Ireland but ignores the corporate constituencies that have been at the heart of bad government and the current economic crisis.  She laments the lack of protest in Ireland and then maligns and distorts the views of those who have the courage to come out on the streets. She claims to be concerned for human rights but, given the opportunity to ask a minister challenging questions about human rights abuses, she opts instead for servile flattery. The status quo is safe in such hands.

 

Michael Taft - Luan Noll 15, 2014 13:59
Christmas comes early for employers, high-income groups and right-wing ideologues.  The Sunday Times (behind a paywall) reports on demands from Government backbenchers to introduce a mini-budget in an attempt to salvage the Government?s fortunes.  And what would be the centre-piece of such an initiative?  The race is on between Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers over who can make the most outrageous tax cutting promises, including the notion that the Universal Social Charge (USC) be abolished.    Ho-ho-ho. Let?s first deal with the idea of abolishing the USC.  Who would be the greatest beneficiary?

USC 1

As seen, someone on the minimum wage would get a boost of 2.2 percent in net take-home pay from the abolition of USC.  This rises to over 10 percent for those on ?100,000 and it gets even more lucrative for those on very high incomes.  Abolishing the USC would be highly regressive ? benefitting those on the highest incomes the most. But this doesn?t tell the full story as the above refers to headline tax rates.  High income groups can hire an army of accountants to avoid paying large amounts of income tax, inheritance and gift taxes, capital gains tax ? exploiting a huge array of reliefs and allowances and other legal tax reduction strategies.  However, that army is defeated when it comes to USC.  There is no getting out of paying it.  So, if anything the benefit to high income groups would be disproportionately higher than the chart above. Let?s put this in Euros and cents.

USC 2

Someone on the minimum wage would get ?7 per week; at the higher end they would get over ?350 per week (that?s right, a ?16,000 annual tax cut).  From my own, admittedly back-of-the-excel-sheet, calculation, over 46 percent of USC revenue comes from those earning ?70,000 or above.  Less than 10 percent of USC revenue comes from those earning less than ?30,000.  Guess who wins out in that tax-cut auction. To be fair, some proponents of abolishing the USC claim that alternative means of getting revenue from high income groups can be introduced.  This is simply not realistic.  USC collects over ?4 billion per year.  That?s over one-third of what income tax takes in.  How could you make it up?
  • Increase the top rate of tax from 40 percent to 57 percent.  That would do the trick (though as mentioned above, those who can afford accountants would be able to get around the high marginal tax rates).
  • Abolish tax relief on pension contributions, health insurance and mortgage interest.  However this would only bring in ?1.5 billion ? or 37 percent of the USC loss.
  • Abolish PAYE tax relief.  This would raise ?2.8 billion ? still, far short of the USC loss.  And every worker above the income tax threshold would lose ?1,650, wiping out gains for all low and average income earners.
  • Increase VAT to nearly 30 percent.
There are other measures such as a wealth tax which the Nevin Economic Research Institute estimates could raise ?250 and ?500 million.  You could toss in increases on capital income (inheritance, capital gains) but there?s a limit.  Of course, there?s a real loss here.  Instead of using the additional revenue from wealth and capital taxes to invest in social housing, education and health, we would only be clawing back a tax break that we gave to higher earners in the first place.
Michael Taft - Luan Noll 15, 2014 12:38
You?d think there would be concern among commentators about the latest GDP numbers produced by the CSO.  After all, a quarterly growth of 0.1 percent is not that far from negative growth.  Or that consumer spending has fallen in the last two quarters (an interesting contrast to all those feel good anecdotes about increased consumer confidence).  Or that the explosion in export growth doesn?t quite tally with global trends or even other numbers produced by the CSO. But there?s a class of commentators who are determined to cheerlead regardless. Michael Hennigan gives a flavour of these ? with economists talking up the ?fastest growing economy? in the EU.  Sure, why not.
Tom O'Brien - Luan Noll 15, 2014 09:22
This week I am delighted to welcome Gavin Mendel-Gleason to the show. Gavin works as a Post-Doctoral researcher in the computer science department at Dublin City University. Gavin also writes for the very interesting blog: Spirit of Contradiction, which focuses on various different aspects of leftist or socialist politics and theory. Gavin recently wrote a really interesting article on some empirical and theoretical evidence from the world Econophysics that chimes with Marx?s two-class analysis of capitalism. These results are extremely interesting and serve as another illumination of the accuracy and power of Marx?s work. We also talk about Gavin's experiences working as an anarchist activist in Ireland, and his journey from that to more formal party politics. You can find his Spirit of Contradiction blog here: The music featured on this show was: ?The Order of the Pharaonic Jesters? by Sun Ra and his Arkestra ?Working Man? by Rush ?Top Hat, White Tie and Tails? by Fred Astaire 'Time Will Tell' by The Lafayette Afro Rock Band ?Water No Get Enemy? by Fela Kuti Here are the instructions on how to leave a review on iTunes: 1. If you don?t already have iTunes installed on your computer, first you need to install it. 2. If you don?t already have an apple_id, please carefully follow the instructions here where you can create an account without having to give them your bank details (i know? swine!) http://support.apple.com/en-us/ht2534 3. Got to the iTunes website for the show: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/from-alpha-to-omega/id530114975?mt=2 4. Click on the ?View in iTunes? button 5. Click on the ?Ratings and Reviews? tab 6. Click on the ?Write a Review? button. 7. If you have not already logged into iTunes with your apple_id, you will now be asked to. 8. Write the review, and click on the submit button. 9. If you are having any trouble with all of this, drop me an email to: alpha2omegapodcast (at) gmail (dot) com
Kevin Higgins - Céad Noll 10, 2014 11:14

Four years ago, I took charge

of a country that had forgotten

how to tie its shoe laces; a nation

that no longer knew where

its undergarments were;

the saddest little great country

on this small part of the planet

many of whose people

had woken up to find

themselves on lavatory seats

not of their own making,

and those who hadn?t

could feel something

cold against their faces

and, on opening their eyes, discovered

it was the pavement. With policies got

from the late Herbert Hoover?s crypt

to encourage a flowering of

pound shops all over the country,

we taught the people of Ireland

how to properly wipe

their own rear ends again.

_

Giving people the confidence

and security to clean themselves

in the privacy of their own bathrooms

is what this Government is all about.

I?m glad to say that some people

are experiencing this as I speak.

Many more don?t yet

have the confidence

to tear off the toilet paper

themselves, and still need our help.

_

And as my government enters

this new phase of

final collapse, I want to pay tribute

to our workers. Despite waves

of economic incontinence,

they went out each morning,

on anxious and galling days.

_

We have learned from our ridiculous past

only to make sure we repeat it.

When I look at myself

in the giant gold mirror

you bought me, I still

can?t quite believe I?m here,

And know very soon

I won?t be.

_

KEVIN HIGGINS

Irish Left Review >>

© 2001-2014 Independent Media Centre Ireland. Mura bhforáileann an t-údar a mhalairt, tá gach uile inneachar saor chun athúsáid, athchló agus athchraolú neamhthráchtála a bhaint as, ar an idirlín agus in aon áit eile. Is le rannpháirtithe na tuairimí atá ar an suíomh seo agus ní gá go ndroimscríobhann Comharchumann Saormheán na hÉireann iad. Independent Media Centre Ireland. Séanadh | Príobháideacht