The Red Plough
Vol. 3-No 4
1/ Campaigning on the left and ruling on the right.
2/ Prisoner Solidarity Committee?
3/ “best place to be a mother”
This edition of the Red Plough contains three articles. One reprinted from Liberation shows one of the successes of the Cuban Revolution and affirms the superiority of socialised medicine over the current wave of privitisation of public health services all over Europe.
Given the vindictive way in which the British Governemnt,backed up by the still bigoted, blinkeredand right wing DUP, is treating Marian Price the call for a Prisoner Solidarity Committee is well timed. There is no excuse for differeing republican groups ignoring each other and carrying out solidaity actions on their own. The call for a united front on the whole issue of prisoners is one that should meet with a positive response not only from all republican groups but also those socialist groups who claim to oppose state repression.
The main artice “‘Campaigning on the left and ruling on the right’” should be read in conjunction with “The United Left Alliance and the North-Some thoughts!” in The Red Plough Vol. 2-No 3 September 2011. Sadly the ULA has so far failed to build organisationally on the initial enthusiasism at its formation. The establishment of a mass socialist party in ireland with a clear socialist programme and open to the widest democratic internal debates could inspire the mass of young people currently facing a uncertian future fand facing unemployment and emigration. But in order to build such a Party the two main sects need to break from their selfish sectarian positions.
‘Campaigning on the left and ruling on the right’.
THE CURRENT CRISIS
The current crisis of capitalism is deeper and more prolonged than any other in history. The austerity programme pushed by the so called Troika, the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, is bringing misery to millions. It is not confined to one country nor one continent. It is world wide. And it has provoked reaction from the masses. Extraordinary events have occurred over the past few years. Dictators have been overthrown in Tunisia and Egypt. The Arab Spring has shown the power of the masses and given renewed vigor to the revolutionary forces within the Arab world. The movement of the indignados1 in Spain has brought in new forces of protest from outside the traditional political structures. Even the Financial Times has written
“Either Spain will miss the target, or the Spanish government will have to fire so many nurses and teachers that the result will be a political insurrection.” 2
Britain has seen riots and two years of the Tory/Lib/Dems has seen a swing back to Labour. The occupy movement has brought new forces into struggle. The Prime Ministers of both Greece and Italy were brought down to be replaced by technocrats to carry out the Troika’s austerity policies. Greece has seen a wave of strikes and demonstrations. Its election saw a heavy defeat for those parties espousing austerity. The French people have swung decisively to the left and rejected austerity. But will the democratic decisions of the Greek and French people be respected? The old ways now no longer count.
Mass unemployment is now a fact of life not only in Ireland but in in the Euro zone. In March 2012 the figures overall for unemployment were 10.9% or 17 .37 million men women and young people looking for work.. Spain alone has a figure of 24.1% in March 2012.Greece had a figure of 21.7% in January 2012. These figures of Southern Europe contrast with Northern Europe where places like Austria Germany, the Netherlands have figures below 6% 3
This has to be seen against a background of long planning by the forces who run capitalism to push back the gains of the working classes world wide. It has been argued4 that sudden crises are intentionally manipulated to push through extreme free market policies that were otherwise not politically possible. The past four years have proved a somewhat vindication of Klein's argument. A crisis of the market was cleverly transformed by free market ideologues into a crisis of public spending.
“Across Europe, the biggest slump since the 1930s has been used to push through policies straight out of some right-wing wet dream: the slashing of taxes on the rich and major corporations; the selling off of public services; and a bonfire of workers' rights. It is disaster capitalism on speed.”5
THE UNITED LEFT ALLIANCE
The United Left Alliance was formed in the Irish Republic (26 counties) two years ago with the coming together of three political groupings- The Socialist Party, the People before Profit Alliance and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group. A number of former labour party members including former TD Declan Bree also joined. Its formation was due in part to the fact that there was really no credible left alternative that the working class could vote for.
The Irish Labour Party has never been a mass party of the working class. Rather it has been a marriage of convenience of career politicians and strong personalities who build up profiles in a number of constituencies. While it has some links to the trade union movement these have tended to be with the leaderships of the unions and only then to ensure the passivity of the trade unions when they would go into Government withe the right wing Fine Gael. Its current leadership are former members of the Democratic Left itself a splinter from the Stalinist Workers Party.
The other so called radical alternative is Sinn Fein, itself a highly centralised and controlled nationalist organisation that in the North has little problem implementing austerity policies. While it has taken support from working class areas and from disillusioned Fianna Fail supporters its political trajectory is to occupy the space that Fianna Fail occupied for most of the States‘s life-that of a slightly left leaning populist nationalist party that would implement policies that encourage capitalism.
There had been a growing trend recently for independents to gain seats. So the coming together in the ULA was an attempt to harness the obvious growing disillusionment with the mainstream political parties.
Prior to the election of 2011 there was heightened expectation among some on the left that a left government was within reach for the first time in Irish history6. However such unrealistic expectations were totally upended by the actual results
In the General election of 25th February 2011 the ULA had 5 TD’S elected. However this success needs to measured against the greater success of Sinn Fein(P) and independents. Sinn Fein(P) won 14 seats up 9 from their previous 5. Independents won 14 seats included a range of views from left to right. The then ruling party Fianna Fail lost 57 seats and were down to 20. A new coalition Government was then formed comprising 76 Fine Gael members and 37 Labour members.
That election was the biggest change over in the history of the state. But there was never any possibility of a Left Government. At least 133 out 166 elected members support austerity and the screwing of the Irish working class. The electorate throw out one right wing grouping only to have it replaced it with another right wing grouping. This despite the fact that the combined ‘left’ vote was up from 15% in the previous election to 38.5 % in 2011
Fianna Fail for years considered the natural governing party were decimated. The reason why such a seismic change was of course the economy, the recession the collapse of the housing market and the state guaranteeing the bond holders their money.
But if the electorate thought that they were in for change by dumping out Fianna Fail, they were in for a very rude awakening. The coalition of Fine Gael and Labour has introduced the most right wing budgets in living memory. The leadership of Labour, who learned their political skills in the old stalinist WP have restricted the rank and file of the Labour Party from any real say in the direction of the Party. It is controlled from the top and is taking that same Labour Party into a headlong flight away from any pretence of socialism. In the last analysis the social democrats of the Labour Party provide left cover for the Government even as they betray every principle they once held. Social democracy in Europe is notorious for ‘campaigning on the left and ruling on the right’. That has always been the practice of the Irish Labour Party. Remember before the Irish election one of their slogans was ‘Frankfurt’s Way or Labour’s Way’. Once elected it soon became “Frankfurt’s Way”
Salaries have been cut. Pension money has been taken by the state. Social welfare cut. Taxation increased. Water taxes introduced. Property taxes introduced. The list goes on and on.
The ESRI analysis of Budget 20127 is the most comprehensive independent analysis to date of the impact of the budget on income inequality. It takes into account the impact of social welfare cuts, VAT increases, tax changes and levies on income. It shows that Budget 2012 is the most regressive budget in many years, proportionately targeting low income households more than four times as much as the most affluent households.
A drive around the the once ‘Celtic Tiger’ reveals empty shopping centres, main streets with boarded up shop fronts and few shoppers. Pubs are empty or closed. G.A.A. clubs once the centre of social life, are losing many of their best young footballers to emigration. One Irish university has over 40 % of its graduates headed for Australia.
An aura of despair almost fills the air and the economy sinks even more into depression. Primary schools are daily dealing with undernourished children and already one child has collpsed in a classroom with hunger. When social workers contacted the mother she had no food at all in the house and was waitng for her social welfafe money to feed her children.8 Ghost housing estates all around the country from Cork to Donegal and all in-between stand idle as monuments to the greed and avarice of the banks, the builders and their buddies in Government. This when we are only into the second year of a 4 year plan of austerity.
All this to pay for the debts run up not by the Irish people but by the bankers and developers who created the mess originally.The bankers continue to pay themselves bonuses. There is an unholy alliance between big business, the Government and the official leadership of the trade union movement9 to keep a lid on protest and ensure that the international capital market continues with screwing the Irish people
And now the Coalition Government want the people to actually vote yes for more of this. That is in effect what the forthcoming referendum10 is all about. It would impose, if passed, a maximum public deficit rule of 0.5% and a permanent balanced budget rule on all future Irish Governments
“in order to obtain access to a proposed Eurozone loan fund, when this fund does not yet exist, when the ESM Treaty which would establish it has not yet been ratified and may well never be ratified, and when the ratification of that treaty will almost certainly require a separate referendum to be held on it in Ireland anyway?I ask you would it not be foolish of Irish voters to change their Constitution so as to impose a maximum public deficit rule of 0.5% and a permanent balanced budget rule on Irish Governments for the indefinite future?”11
This crisis has raised serious questions for those of us on the left. Across the world there are numerous leftist grouping parties and movements some of whom are convinced they and they alone are the revolutionary party. Political sectarianism is a disease that hinder not helps the struggle for a better world and yet there are still those organisations who put the interests of their organisation before that of the end- the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a socialist society.
Ireland also has its fair share of narrow minded groupings, more interested in organisation gain than advancing the struggle. It affects not only socialist groupings but also republican groupings. For example those who at this critical juncture in a capitalist crisis see the so called “national question” as the priority make a major mistake. That is not to say it is not important. It is but the main focus of struggle at this time should be in the defence of the Southern working class against the austerity imposed by international capital. Republicans, North and South of the border, need to join in struggle with other leftists in defence of the Southern working class. Only in so doing can republicans retain credibility and relevance.
But unfortunately if they were to do so they would not be greeted with open arms by some on the left. The Socialist Party one of the constituent elements in the ULA has already made clear its position on working with republicans
“We will not associate ourselves with campaigns which support Marian Price but which do not take a clear position of opposition to the Real IRA campaign.”12
That statement begs the question would they work with republicans who do not support armed struggle? All the evidence from the past years is no. In essence the SP denies that there are any progressive elements in Republicanism. We disagree.
Of course there are many things to criticise within republicanism including its elitism, its fixation with armed struggle its refusal to acknowledge its own sectarianism and its over-fixation with ‘the struggle’ to the exclusion of almost all other issues. Nevertheless in its anti-imperialism, its solidarity with other oppressed peoples and its acceptance of socialism it deserves to be seen as a progressive force. That is of course the broad ideology of Republicanism.-Not the current armed campaign carried out by a number of differing republican groupings.
In the ULA itself there is clear evidence that political sectarian considerations take precedence over building the ULA itself. For example on the Referenduum itself the People before Profit Alliance, itself essentially a front for the Socialist Workers Party, launched its own campaign for a No Vote.13
The Socialist Party itself has its own website14 putting its own name before the ULA.
Each of these two groupings have strong elements of elitism within their approach to political issues and tend to see issues that arise as opportunities to build not the mass movement of the working class but their own particular tendency. Logically how can they defend going into elections under a guise of names that only serves to confuse and demoralise rather than unite and energise?
Furthermore the leadership of the ULA have already made a major error in actually meeting with the representatives of the Troika. The meeting took place in January and the ULA was represented by Richard Boyd-Barrett of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and Clair Daly of the Socialist Party (SP)Such meetings only serve to reinforce the impression that the leadership of the ULA would have no problem,s working with such bodies in the future. Already in Germany Christine Buchholz, a member of the International Socialist Tendency, the sister organisation of the SWP sits on the Defence Committee, which the Bundestag describes as a body that “always meets in closed session” and is charged with defending “the security of the country and of Germany’s allies, as well as the interests of Bundeswehr [armed forces] personnel on active service.”
This is the equivalent of Sinn Fein members serving on the Policing Boards in the North of Ireland and shows a ready willingness to work with and implement the policies of, the ruling class. Like the trade union bureacracy left reformism serves as a block on the development of revolutionary forces in Ireland. The comrades within the ULA should ponder on these words written many years ago,
“the delegates to Trade Union Congresses are, as a rule, not the flower of the working class, but are rather the intriguers who, because they are willing to perform (for a cash consideration) the drudgery and routine work of trade unionism, are allowed by the too indulgent rank and file to work themselves into positions of notoriety and to pose as leaders.”15
Historically left reformism hinders the development of a revolutionary conciousness among the working class. To combat it requires a struggle on a number of fronts.
Within the trade union movement the struggle needs to be for the widest extension of democracy witht the election of full time officials, the right of recall and the limiting of the salary of full time officials to that of the average wage.
But there is also the struggle within the existing political parties of the left including some republican parties. While the long term prospects of the ULA do not look good given the left reformist tendencies of both main factions nevertheless marxists within both it and the Labour Party should be working to break from coalition with the right and campaign to win the mass of workers to a revolutionary position and change society. Of course many of the most advanced sections of the workers may well have illusions in the ability of capitalism to meet their needs. But when the old ways no longer work events can move at breath-taking speed.
At times like these marxists must
“Lend an attentive ear to what the masses are saying, without prejudice without illusions, without deceiving oneself; for upon the basis of a correct appreciation of the relation of forces within the proletariat avoiding as much for opportunism as for adventurism, leading the masses forward but not holding them back.”16
But as well as listening to the masses we must also hear what others on the left are saying and
“lend a patient and attentive ear to their criticisms, to their doubts, to their hesitations; help their evolution towards Marxism; do not fear their caprices, their threats, their ultimatums (the centrists are always capricious and susceptible); do not make any concession of principle to them. Yet once again: Do not fear to state that which is.”(ibid)
2 Financial Times April 15 2012 .)
4 Naomi Klein “The Shock Doctrine”
5 The Independent OWEN JONES ￼FRIDAY 11 MAY 2012
9 David Begg, the leader of ICTU, sat on the board of the Central Bank when it failed to regulate the banks and failed to do anything to prevent the disaster.
15 The Workers’ Republic, June 1901. James Connolly
16 February 22, 1934http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1934/02/centrism.htm
The following article first appeared in the Pensive Quill (http://thepensivequill.am/2012/05/broad-prisoner-solidarity-movement.html utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+bigmackers+%28The+Pensive+Quill+-+Anthony+McIntyre%27s+blog%29
Johnny McGrath argues for a more proactive approach to the current prison crisis. The author of the piece is an activist with the Prisoners’ Solidarity Group, Cork.
Is the time not ripe for a broad 'Prisoner Solidarity Committee' to be formed? Made up of Representatives of all P.O.W. representative groups, IRPWA, Cogús, F+F Group, Cabhair, IRSP, Éirígi as well as active groups and ex-pows groups, like Duleek independent republicans, PSG, Friends of Marian (Dublin), Teach na Fáilte etc.
Forgive me if I have left anyone out) and including someone from a neutral standpoint like Independent Workers Union (I.W.U.). There are at present pickets, protests, white line pickets, marches, car convoys happening in Various parts of the country like Cork, Dublin, Duleek, Dundalk, Derry, Strabane, Belfast, Newry, Lurgan etc etc.
The lack of coordination and the variety of groups and organisations campaigning separately for the same issue can be off putting for those outside the world of Republicanism and on the left. A united broad campaign could generate a lot more support.
It has been said that the Prisoners dont have much support because the people dont support the campaigns that some of the prisoners have been alleged to have been involved in.
There have been political status struggles going back decades From Mickey Devine back to Thomas Ashe all part of the same old battle against criminalisation. Those imprisoned now are no different from Michael Gaughan or the Fenians transported to Australia, penal transportation is now extradition/rendition. What matters is that they are Political Prisoners.
What is lacking at first glance is a campaign with a Name!.i.e.'SMASH MAGHABERRY', 'SMASH INTERNMENT CAMPAIGN'.
Secondly, coordination of the already existing protests,(so at the very least they could happen on the same day where possible) and thirdly a set strategy, to achieve set objectives. We have a duty, an obligation to our Comrades 'behind the wire' to organise, agitate, and escalate our campaign so they don't have to escalate things inside Maghaberry. We have our Liberty, they dont.
In a recent article the IRSP noted the dangers of Broadening out a campaign for the prisoners
there is a humanitarian aspect to Maghaberry and the internment of Marian Price but there is also a much larger political agenda. The torturous conditions and political internment emphasise Britain’s imperialist role in Ireland and their continuing war against the Republican people. This is why any attempt to broaden the base of the campaign for the Maghaberry prisoners must include an acceptance that the prisoners are political prisoners. They are also Prisoners of War because as previously noted Britain continues to wage war against the Irish people...
No broad campaign can allow the Prisoners demands to be watered down. It must act as a support to the struggle within Maghaberry, Hydebank or Lukiskes prisons, democratically. Again the IRSP
Now support for the prisoners’ demands is a positive force but we should be careful that this ‘support’ from non-republican quarters does not culminate in the protest movement being hijacked. The Catholic Church and the SDLP have an appalling record as far as Irish political prisoners are concerned. During the period of 1976-81, both the clergy and the SDLP undermined Republican prisoners and refused to unreservedly recognise them as political prisoners and support their 5 demands.
Much time has been wasted on what divides us, now is the time to find common ground for the benefit of the POWs and to build a united Prisoners movement in order to escalate things on the outside to prevent the situation within Maghaberry from reaching the point of no return.
Below are just some ideas of what the objectives and strategies of a broad campaign could be.
A Broad campaign should have as its core objectives:
The Full Implementation of the 12th August Agreement
The Ending of Internment,and release of anyone Interned,(i.e. Marian Price, Martin Corey, Gerry McGeough)The Repatriation of Michael Campbell.
Formation of regional Broad 'Prisoner Solidarity Committees' in regional areas where networks of anti-imperialists exist, similar to the relatives action committees which could agitate at local level, local committees could organize protests in structured, consistent way (monthly?) highlighting situation, pickets of TDs, informing the general public who are largely unaware of situation, lobby trade unions, sports bodies like GAA, students unions, lobby local councils to pass motions supporting campaign objectives. Campaign at local level to be democratic.
Formation of 'National Prisoner Solidarity Committee/Movement'* which would include representatives of each aforementioned groups, to organize and coordinate campaign and turn it from being a regionalised campaign into becoming a National Campaign. Draw up a 'charter' or constitution which deals with mutual respect among representative groups., (focus on what unites us rather than what divides us).
Organise fundraisers Facilitate groups who are constitutionally opposed to taking part in 'broad fronts' by liasing and coordinating events with them where possible.
National campaign to be just that, National, reject partitionist tendencies where they arise and make sure equal measure is given to highlighting situation in areas like Dublin or Belfast( areas of partitionist power) organise pickets at and marches on Stormont and Leinster house ,pickets outside British and Lithuanian embassies and events organised to sell and promote British Normalisation policy, such as the 'dublin seminar on belfast agreement'. (Too late for that I know). And events that seek to Normalise policing.
Mobilisation.* 'National committee' liase with 'regional committees' to mobilise people, i.e organise and fundraise for buses to get people to Big events such as marches in one end of the country or the other.
Progressive support. National committee to engage with and seek support of all progressive/Left bodies and groups such as political parties and trade unions and cultural groups.
Seek practical support internationally. 'National committee' to establish links with other progressive forces with a view to establishing Internationl support committees in various countires, USA, Euskal Herria/Basque country, to agitate for campaign demands.
Propaganda. To effectively spread our message to both local and mainstream media through social media and agitational propaganda.
National committee* could launch an annual 'Prisoners day', and create a symbol (like the green ribbon) that would become synonymous with the campaign and Republican prisoners in general.
This is by no means a complete strategy, all ideas welcomed. Anyone who wants to respond directly to this article can email email@example.com
Níl neart go cur le chéile
Cuba declared 'best place to be a mother'
Afghanistan is last on list; United States is number 28
By Priscilla Lounds
MAY 9, 2010
Being a mother brings joy as well as challenges. The international charity Save the Children has released its Eleventh Annual Mothers Index of the World’s Best and Worst Places to be a Mother, just in time for Mother’s Day. The index is based on various indicators of women’s and children’s health and well-being, including access to education, jobs and health care for women and children.
In this report, Save the Children rated the United States at number 28 on the list of developed nations, behind Croatia, Latvia, Greece, Portugal and many other countries. Cuba ranked number one on the list of less-developed nations, while Afghanistan came in dead last.
One reason why the United States came in at number 28 on the “Developed Nations” list is because of the high maternal mortality rate—one death for every 4,800 births, as well as minimal maternity leave policies. Women in the United States can be expected to complete 16 years of formal education. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. women use modern birth control methods. Infant mortality is eight deaths per 1,000 live births. In reality, the U.S. infant mortality rate is significantly higher in the Black and Latino communities.
Based on the statistics compiled by Save the Children, Afghanistan is the worst place on Earth to be a mother. Women in Afghanistan have on average only five years of education. The life expectancy of an Afghani woman is just 44 years, while only 16 percent of Afghani women use modern contraception. Tragically, one out of four children in Afghanistan will die before his or her fifth birthday. As these data show, women in Afghanistan have not been liberated by the U.S. invasion on their homeland as the establishment media claim.
Cuba, a small island nation, stands at number one among less-developed nations. One hundred percent of Cuban births are attended by a skilled medical professional. Seventy –two percent of Cuban women use modern birth control methods, while the average Cuban woman can expect to complete 19 years of formal education. Infant mortality rates in Cuba are lower than in the United States at only six deaths per 1,000 live births. How can Cuba do this despite more than 50 years of the imperialist blockade and relentless destabilization attempts from the United States? The answer lies with Cuba’s socialized system that provides education and quality health care for all.
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