Tag Archives: socialist

Broad Left Policy Platform Essential – Now

We will have a General Election in the next few months, no later than April 2016 but very possibly before the end of this year. With signs of a dramatic shift in public attitudes that election represents the first opportunity since quasi-independence in 1922 to fundamentally change the politics and the ideological basis of government in this state, and to create a better society for all.

Instead of capitalising on that opportunity we are still, at this late stage, witnessing a war of words between socialists and republicans and within both socialist groups and republican groups.

For some in either camp it seems far more important to hurl abuse or to issue weasel words against prospective allies than to work assiduously on a set of ideas to present in common to the people in the hope that they will take the opportunity as rational autonomous citizens to radically transform the sort of society we live in for the better.

What ideas are there that should be capable of finding broad agreement on the political left among socialist groups and republican groups, and between socialists and republicans? As a socialist-republican straddling those categorisations, here are 15 policy areas that I think should be relatively noncontentious.

1 Adequate, affordable, secure housing as a right, where necessary through public provision.

2 A single-tier publicly funded, secular and excellent education system with no provision from the exchequer for private fee-paying schools with exclusive enrollment policies. Religious instruction outside school-hours. Ending the university-controlled points system for third-level entry. Free third-level or vocational education/training subject to contractual obligation to work within the state for any three of first five years post-graduation with debt-related penalties for non-compliance.

3 The right of all children to adequate housing, nourishment and provision of health and care according to need, guaranteed by the state.

4 The right of workers to employment, or to further education or training as required, including those who wish re-enter the labour ‘market’.

5 A living wage, the ending of oppressive zero-hour contracts, workers’ right-to-organise and right-to-negotiate guaranteed by the state.

6 Full equality for women including pay-rates, personal autonomy and dignity including reproductive rights. Repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Provision of supports for mothers and carers commensurate with their contribution to society for that work.

7 State ownership of essential services, natural resources & physical infrastructure. Constitutional provision for public ownership of water and protection of Mother Earth.

8 Empowerment of communities, starting with disadvantaged communities – rural and urban. State support for community initiatives to achieve personal and community empowerment.

9 Strong laws against public and private corruption with strict sanctions. Ending political appointments to judiciary. Curbing legal costs for citizens. Equal access to civil courts regardless of means. Refocusing criminal justice system and penal system. Taking politics out of policing in favour of civic obligations.

10 Realigning taxation system to shift burden towards wealthiest. Ending tax-exile status, tax loopholes and tax-havens. Enforcing Corporation Tax.

11 Properly codifying the state’s position on neutrality, opposition to war, concentration on international and intra-national conflict-resolution and peace-keeping. Adherence to international codes on prevention of torture, refugees, humanitarian obligations, etc.

12 Proper commitment to reunify the people of the island through concerted, direct, rational dialogue with the objective of creating a fully representative all-Ireland parliament based on equality, respect and civil and religious freedoms.

13 Greater local and regional democratic control as appropriate. Making government fully accountable to parliament and the people. Creation of a democratically elected upper house to speed legislation and as a counter to excessive power of parliament. Installing a publicly accessible online register of lobbyists and a publicly accessible tendering system for state acquisitions, both updated daily.

14 Regulation of media in terms of ownership and the public’s right to essential information, fairly and accurately delivered. Active fostering of ideological diversity in media in the public interest. Insistence on journalistic ethics in the public interest. Higher values of Public Service Broadcasting a requirement for state media.

15 A commitment to expedite a widespread public consultation process towards creating a new constitution for a genuine republic.

Written-up in a little over an hour, this list could be contracted to be a 10-point or 12-point plan, or expanded to include further ideas. Of course, it may be that socialists would take issue with some elements of the list, and republicans with others, although it is hard for me to see where that would apply. But that is what sober discussions should be able to tease out.

The upcoming election should not be about disputation between potential allies but about disputation between conflicting ideologies – on the one hand the over-arching ideology of the state’s ruling parties since 1922 and on the other an ideological alternative that is being demanded by upwards of 50% of prospective voters in the next General Election.

Meanwhile, on the ground, grassroots political activists and mobilised communities are developing their own ideas. Leftist parties of all stripes would do well to understand the price they will pay if they fail to reach agreement to provide an alternative to the hegemonic tyranny of the right by providing a different road-map that would make a better-functioning society possible.

As paragraph four of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic points out, the republic is not just about the prosperity of the people, but about their happiness too.

And who, other than the wealthy, is happy with the state we live in – the political state, and the psychological state?

Stop sniping, stop hurling insults, sit down and discuss. And show us the list. We want to be able to vote for something worthwhile.

Like the prospect of a decent future.

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The Red Carpet and The Mob

In light of the re-emergence in Ireland of The Risen People – finally driven to rebel not just against the unjust water tax but by relentless austerity, authoritarian rule and rampant corruption among the political class, I think it is appropriate to publish a recently discovered piece written in 1969 by my father, Pearse. It will demonstrate how much of a circle game life can be if underlying problems are not dealt with. I know it would do my father’s heart good to see the Irish people come out to take control of their country. If he was still with us he would be at the barricades.

This is what he wrote –

Bernadette [Devlin] has been giving our beloved establishment a rather thin time. She doesn’t seem to realise fully just how firmly based our institutions really are. After all, our conservatives scored heavily in the last general election. The good old profit motive was fully endorsed by the electorate. The remnants of the Irish race, left here at home prefer to lie down, and be counted-out. We have lost faith in ourselves, and God seems to be on the side of the stronger battalions.

Bernadette is quite wrong to equate our gentle whimsical green Tories with the tough, die hard bull Tories of merry England, such as Sir Gerald Nabarro and his ilk. To be quite fair to our own dear Tories, they would all be socialists only for what happened to them – they were born lucky, and got rich. There’s the difference.

Bernadette’s abrasiveness is wasted on our smooth operators down here. Of course, they may only be pretending to be Tories, because any leftish tendencies, any slight list to port might result in the offender getting a ‘belt of a crozier’ to steady him up. A wise statesman plays it cool because he knows the score. It’s like this:

In the beginning God made a long red carpet, and rolled it out to infinity across the good flat earth, and He said, ‘Let there be kings’. And lo, there were kings. There were fat kings and thin. Tall and short kings. Foolish kings and wise ones. Kings white and black and all shades between. Kings good, and kings evil. Oodles of kings and all equally invested with divine rights, all trooping down the red carpet in endless succession, by the Grace of God.

They came with all their retinues in gorgeous array. Princes and Prelates, Dukes and Earls, Baronets and Knights all duly supporting their divinely accredited monarchs.

All was not exactly rosy on the nice red carpet. Heads rolled in grisly profusion. Crowned heads, heads with coronets, mitred heads, and plain ordinary swelled heads. No king on record lasted long without his head. That was a fact of life, divine rights notwithstanding. The natural order was preserved –  the survival of the fittest and all that. A bit messy, but no hard feelings. ‘The King is dead, long live the King’, and that sort of thing.

At some stage of the game the supply of kings started to dwindle. This was only to be expected. The royal mortality rate was rather high, due to one occupational hazard or another. Only a fool would want to be a king who wasn’t actually born with a crown on his head.

The kings in their heyday were very partial to a well-filled stocking, and they had lots of leisure, with predictable results. They say the Hapsburg chin was discernable in the most unexpected corners, for instance. There was no formal study of genetics in those days of course, but we know that the cutest hen lays out. This is where the hard-line Tories come from.

Wealth and power was a reasonable substitute for a crown especially when the divine right was extended to private property. Anyway there were only a limited number of crowns. The idea was to stay put on the red carpet with all those solid churchmen – to play it safe in saecula saeculorum Amen. Official Tory policy.

Suddenly, much too close to the red carpet, hordes of unruly peasants and workers appeared, churning up the mud and kicking up a row trying to get onto the plush. Couldn’t the damn fools see that there simply wasn’t enough room? By Gad, sir, the cheek of them, all swinish anarchists and socialists, fighting each other and everyone else.

Keep back, fools! Back to your places. Be content. It’s not for long anyway and there’s pie in the sky for sure.

Preach to them, Bish. Tell them they’ve never had it so good. Think of something quick. Tell them God is on our side. Tell them its a sin. Get through to them Bish, for heaven’s sake or we’ll all be dished.

Look at the silly bastards trampling each other in the mud, and blood. Serves them damn well right. Steady boys steady. Press on regardless and show no mercy. We can’t have millions of stupid clods getting mud all over the bloody carpet.

Oh to Hell with it all, there’s too many of them. They’re everywhere. Press the button. Finish the lot. It could never be the same again anyway.

Pearse Stokes

16th December 1969


Irish Water: washing away the mandate fiction

I need to amend the prediction that I have been making since 2011 – that the next General Election would not take place in 2016 (politically dangerous, given the centenary) but in autumn 2015.

Who would I do that?

Because this government has all the signs of one that could implode at any time. It may limp on but it is in terminal decline, just as the Cowan coalition was in 2010.

Not just fractious backbenchers, but fractious coalition ‘partners’. Labour is the new Greens – facing disaster at the polls and with nothing to suggest that the situation can be retrieved. Searchers may comb the shipwreck, but the most they will find is a handful of survivors clinging to life in pockets of foul air.

Fine Gael backbenchers and local authority office holders are talking openly of leaving the party. Fine Gael cabinet ministers, just as previous ministers in the Fianna Fáil-Green coalition like Noel Dempsey and Dermot Ahern did, are issuing holding statements that bear no connection with the reality of the situation. Labour ministers are operating as if they were deciding policy around water charges, without reference to the senior coalition partner.

This is a shipwreck, for sure. The hole below the waterline is too big to be patched. The rusting hulk will not make it to dry-dock. Even if it did, the shipyard workers are in open revolt.

The sensible thing to do three weeks ago would have been to announce that the Irish Water scam would be mothballed for six months while a new plan was drawn up to be presented to the people. That would have bought time, and might have defused the situation. But arrogance is a blindfold.

This government talks of mandates to implement policies arising from the 2011 election. These are largely a fiction. Fine Gael secured 36.1% of the vote, Labour 19.4%, giving a majority of 55% and a larger majority numerically in terms of parliamentary seats, given the vagaries of the PR-multi-seat system.

That’s a mandate, isn’t it?

Not on water charges, it isn’t. Fine Gael’s policy since 2009 was for the corporatisation (and ultimate privatisation as an ideological consequence) of water, predating any appearance on the scene by the EU-ECB-IMF Troika and their austerity programme. Labour’s pre-election position was the opposite. Both parties offered these commitments in their manifestos. The Fine Gael position secured 36.1% support. That is not a mandate to create Irish Water. Combining it with Labour’s 19.4% for the opposite course of action does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make it a mandate from the people to implement a policy of such far-reaching importance.

Any tinkering around with  water charges, or with Social Welfare vouchers, or with tax credits – which we will pay for anyway through other taxes, will not work. It is too late now. This government is hated. There is open revolt on the streets throughout the country. The most recent opinion poll gives a combined support for Fine Gael-Labour of just 29%. In other words, 71% of the electorate will not, on that indication, support these parties next time out. That is rejection of this government by the people. Add in Fianna Fáil, the third of the parties of permanent government since 1922, and the poll figure is still less than 50%.

My advice to the alternative parties and independents, for what it is worth, is to burn the midnight oil now. Put policies in place now. Talk to one another now to see if a common platform can be created – those policies on which there is broad agreement to implement in the interest of the people who have suffered most, that can point a better way to deal with noxious debt, that can shift the burden of taxes onto the rich, that will put public services including housing, health and education onto a sound and equitable footing, that will protect public utilities within the framework of public ownership and without the possibility of privatisation, and so on.

In other words, a different, enlightened, progressive vision of this country to the corrupt, brutal, counter-revolutionary three-party hegemony that we have endured since quasi-independence.

If those parties and independents of a potential alternative government really do care about the people, and see the State as the servant and the administrative implement of the people, then they will be able to put a programme of essential policies together. If they can’t do that then we will know that, once again, party or personal ego is more important than the needs and demands of the people.

Let us have, for the first time in 92 years, an opportunity to vote for a viable government that is not some combination of the same old corrupt counter-revolutionary parties – Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil and Labour.

In the meantime, on the street, let’s keep up the relentless pressure on this rotten, incompetent, dictatorial government and its hangers-on.

The people are winning. Consolidate the last victory and move towards the next. Gather together the voices of dissent. There’s a change coming.

Be unified, be determined.

Bí ullamh! Be ready.


Election Mania: notes from the asylum

With five days to go to polling in the general election, momentum appears to be with the Fine Gael party which may attain power without the need for Labour in coalition. That is a daunting prospect both for Fine Gael and for Irish people who are struggling to survive the economic disaster that has been visited on them – those dependent on social welfare, on inadequate incomes or who are burdened with excessive levels of debt including mortgage debt, on those out of work and students waiting to take their place beside them in the dole queue or, more likely, the emigrant ship.

The upside for Fine Gael in taking power on its own or with a number of independents is having a free hand to introduce its policies without the need for compromise, but this brings with it the significant downside of having sole responsibility for the failure of those policies, and there will be failures. Despite its PR literature, Fine Gael is not a centre-right but rather a right-wing party. Its roots are an interesting reminder. Born in 1933 out of the remnants of the regressive and repressive Cumann na nGaedheal party which joined forces with the  quasi-fascist National Guard – better known as the Blueshirts, Fine Gael has always been on the right of the Irish political landscape. Broadly speaking it is a ‘law and order’ party with a strong impulse towards ‘Thatcherite’ economic policy and a marked subservience towards the ‘European project’.

The upside for Irish politics is that Labour would be placed in opposition, which it would lead for the first time in that party’s existence, but would be under pressure from other opposition parties of the left – Sinn Fein and the  ULA, and leftist independents. That would force Labour to rediscover the core values of the party and to re-engage with its principal founder, James Connolly, with his socialist republican analysis and ideas, and with the values of the Irish Republic of 1916. This would become even more necessary with the attempt by a greatly diminished ‘new’ Fianna Fail to reconnect with its early radicalism so as to challenge Labour and Sinn Fein in the subsequent election.

Ultimately this scenario, while creating additional short-term suffering for those currently experiencing hardship, would lead Ireland away from the Tweedledumb-Tweedledumber politics of the past 80 years and towards a politics that spans from left to right – the norm in western parliamentary democracies. In the run-up to the centenary of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic this would be a boon for the citizens.

In the project of creating the enlightened, progressive Irish Republic it is not this election that matters, as much as the one to follow. Wishing for short-term right-wing success this time out is not as crazy as it seems!


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