Está en la página 1de 118

Irish Marxist Review

Editor: John Molyneux Deputy Editor: Dave OFarrell Editorial Board: Marnie Holborow, Sinad Kennedy, Donal Mac Fhearraigh, Will Shane non Cover Design: Daryl Southern Published: June 2012 SWP PO.Box 1648 Dublin 8 Phone: John Molyneux 0857356424 Email:

Irish Marxist Review is published in association with the Socialist Workers Party (Ireland), but articles express the opinions of individual authors unless otherwise stated. We welcome proposals for articles and reviews for IMR. If you have a suggestion please phone or email as above.

Irish Marxist Review

Editorial Recession and the New Resistance Kieran Allen Economic Crisis: Austerity and Privatisation in Healthcare in Ireland Peadar OGrady Austerity, Capitalism and the Restructuring of Irish Higher Education Marnie Holborow James Connolly and the Irish Labour Party Donal Mac Fhearraigh Neoliberal Belfast: Disaster Ahead? Brian Kelly Marx and Self Emancipation James OToole Faster, Higher, Stronger : A Critical Analysis of the Olympics Gareth Edwards Letter from France Lorcan Gray The Politics of the Socialist Party John Molyneux SYRIZA and the Rise of Radical Left-Reformism in Europe Donal Mac Fhearraigh Review: Chris Stringer, The Origin of Our Species Dave OFarrell 1











Review: Paul Mason, Why Its Kicking O Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions Memet Uludag 113 ii

Review: Terry Eagleton, The Event of Literature Cathy Bergin



This second issue of Irish Marxist Review is both improved in presentation and larger in content. It also now has a website where our rst issue can be found. Many thanks to all those whose hard work has made this possible. For the best part of four years Irish politics has been dominated by the impact of the international crisis of capitalism that erupted in 2008. From the standpoint of the Irish ruling class, like ruling classes everywhere, the main task has been to ensure that the burden of paying for the crisis is shouldered rmly by the mass of working people and the poor. So far, it has to be said, they have made a good job of this. For the left the central question has been how to mobilize working class resistance to the relentless austerity being imposed by successive governments. At the start of the crisis there was a mass working class response to demonstrations called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions but the union leaders refused to build on this in any way and in the course of 2010 the level of protest declined. 2011 began with a riot at the ballot box which saw Fianna Fail crushed and ve United Left Alliance TDs elected, but struggle on the streets and in the workplaces remained low, despite the fact that internationally things seemed to be kicking o everywhere from Tunisia to Oakland. But in 2012 the mood has started to shift. Through the combination of mass non-registration for the Household Tax, large scale opposition in rural Ireland to the septic tank charges, some sizeable and vigorous demonstrations, and several small but important workplace occupations, a ghtback has begun. Our lead article by Kieran Allen analyses and assesses these 1 developments. As we go to press, however, we are faced with the results of the referendum on the Austerity Treaty and it is clear that fear has trumped anger with a substantial overall majority for the Yes side, despite big No votes in many manual working class areas. Had the treaty been rejected the government would have been thrown into crisis; what now remains to be seen is if this setback has a dampening aect on the resistance. One thing, of course, is certain: that the assault on working people will continue. Peadar OGrady and Marnie Holborow provide detailed examinations of how this impacts on two important aspects of our society, health and higher education. The state of the Irish health service is horrible to behold - OGrady shows why. The Holborow article also brings out the deeply alienating and reactionary eects of the neoliberal commodication of education. Similarly Brian Kelly demonstrates how neoliberalism, with the active collaboration of Sinn Fein, is damaging and distorting the project of a new Belfast serving to entrench sectarianism rather than uproot it. Given its role in government over the last year and a half it might have been hoped that the Labour Party would have the decency to allow James Connolly to rest in peace; hoped but not expected of course - how can you resist a national icon when theres a 100th anniversary to mark. Donal Mac Fhearraighs contribution not only exposes this hypocrisy but also looks at some problems in Connollys understanding of reformism and how to combat it, which continue to be relevant today. Internationally the crisis continues unabated, with even China and India clearly

feeling the aects. Such a situation is a huge challenge to the left everywhere. It can grow dramatically but this is by no means guaranteed. Getting things seriously wrong can lead not just to stagnation but to going backwards as Lorcan Grays Letter from France shows in relation to the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), which looked so promising a couple of years ago, but is now in deep diculties, eclipsed by Melenchon and the Front de Gauche. In contrast, in Greece the left reformist coalition, Syriza, has made massive gains. But in Greece the crisis is much more severe (and the level of struggle currently much higher) so any left or workers government will come under the most intense attack from the right and from the state itself. Donal Mac Fhearraigh analyses the factors contributing to Syrizas dramatic rise and examines the prospects for a Syriza led left reformist government. Back in Ireland John Molyneux takes a critical look at the history and politics of the Socialist Party. How did Marx become a Marxist? One part of the story, the best known part, runs through his relationship with Hegel and Feuerbach, Smith and Ricardo, the utopian socialists and so on. James 0Toole, in his piece on Marx and Self -Emancipation, focuses on another, cru-

cial, part of the process: Marxs discovery of the revolutionary role of the working class. This was something that could not be found in Hegel or any other of the philosophers, economists and socialists. OToole shows how Marx (and Engels) learnt it from the working class itself. The bourgeoisie has always used sport for (its) political purposes, while simultaneously saying (our) politics should be kept out of sport. Of no sporting event has this been more true than the Olympic Games. With the 2012 Olympics in London this summer Gareth Edwards critical review of the real history and spirit of the Olympics is very timely. Bourgeois culture has always trivialised and caricatured the development and early history of humanity (neanderthals, cavemen, The Flintstones etc) but actually the issue of the origins of humanity is of great importance to socialists as Engels understood and Dave OFarrell shows in his review of Chris Stringers The Origin of Our Species. Memet Uludag, no mean social media adept himself, nevertheless debunks the claim of Paul Mason in Why is it Kicking O Everywhere? that Facebook and Twitter are now the key drivers of revolt, and Cathy Bergin welcomes another new book from the prolic Terry Eagleton.

Recession and the New Resistance

Kieran Allen Two questions have dominated discussions about the economic crisis in Ireland. One is, Where will you get the money to close the 18 billion decit?. This crops up any time a left wing critic appears on television or radio. Once asked the show me the money question, they are put on the spot about the gures. Any hesitancy in tone or claims about eecing the rich is met with howls of derision. Even modest proposals to write down debt payments are branded as unrealistic. Reducing living standards of the majority is deemed inevitable but nothing can be done to upset investors. The rhetorical trick consists of getting the Left to provide a detailed alternative within the two minute time slot, while ruling out any encroachment on the power of capital. It only works when resistance is so low that it is dicult to see how the wealthy could be forced to pay up. Which brings us to the second question: Why have the Irish not resisted? This question arises because of the contrast between the Irish experience and that of Greece and, to a lesser extent, Spain. The political elite revels in the contrast because their economic strategy is based on ultra conformity to the IMF-EU-ECB troika. At one stage, Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, joked that he would print T-Shirts with the slogan We are not Greek, while Eamonn Gilmore has said. , Remember that the route that Greece has followed is the kind of route that some of the No campaigners are recommending for this country. That is not a direction that we want to follow.1
1 2

The fact that Greece was one of the rst countries to ratify the Treaty does not bother Gilmore. The propaganda technique is to associate his opponents with the suering that, ironically, his fraternal allies in PASOK imposed. Various explanations have been oered for Irelands supposed passivity. Fintan OToole has pointed to a generation that grew up in the boom years, claiming they were Thatchers children because their consciousness was formed by the dismantling of the post-war social democratic consensus and the rise of neoliberalism2 . Others have suggested that Irish passivity is a feature of post-colonial societies. However, these explanations fail to locate the problem in the specic political and economic forms of rule that have characterised modern Ireland. The central plank of ruling class strategies since 1987 has been social partnership. At a supercial level, this involved a political exchange whereby the leaders of organised labour restricted industrial action in return for a voice within the corridors of power. Advocates claimed this was designed to compensate for the political weakness of social democracy by expanding the political remit of the unions. However, the unions inuence was premised on their own acceptance of the neoliberal strategies of Irish capitalism. They eectively supported Irelands status as a tax haven and its niche position as a centre of light regulation. Symbolically, ICTU general secretary David Begg sat on the board of the Central Bank while it turned a blind eye to bank gambling. The legacy of social partnership has

Tanaiste: Greek situation a clear picture of Ireland after No vote, Irish Examiner, 12 May 2012 Indebted generation must nd their voice,Irish Times, 4 April 2011

had a major impact on the Irish workers. On a political level, it aligned the labour movement with the priorities of national capital. Before social partnership, there was a strong current of economic nationalism amongst Irish workers. This arose from the decay of radical republicanism as it made its peace with the system and the Fianna Fail party was its main embodiment. The party started out with a left republican rhetoric in the 1920s but then argued that the expansion of Irish capitalism would bring benets to workers3 . Social partnership built on this tradition and developed a dense institutional network to integrate the union leaders. Union leaders interacted with top civil servants and employers leaders in the National Economic and Social Council to develop a consensus framework for partnership agreements. During the Celtic Tiger years, they agreed some benets for workers while minimising the costs to capital. Thus, tax breaks were used to subsidise low wage rises and the unions did not press employers for minimum pension contributions even when prots were high. Partnership structures were also created at local level to promote greater productivity from workers. This experience ideologically disarmed workers and made them illprepared for the crash of 2008. But the damage was not conned to the ideological sphere. Acquiescence meant union organisation was signicantly run down during the partnership years. Union density fell from 61 percent of the workforce in 1985 to 32 percent in 2007. In the private sector, density fell to 20 percent overall and to only 11 percent in the multinational sector. Alongside shrinking union density came a calamitous fall in union participation. Attendance at branch meetings shrunk to handfuls and the union

machine came to be increasingly dominated by leadership hacks who were rewarded with small privileges. Invariably, they adopted a pro-employer stance and were incapable of organising serious resistance when it was necessary. This process was further exacerbated in SIPTU with the disbandment of branches and their replacement with sector committees which were elected by tiny numbers of activists. When the crash occurred, the employers pulled away from partnership agreements but the union leaders sought to inveigle them back. They organised one public sector stoppage to gain leverage to reopen talks with the state. The resulting Croke Park agreement represented a major defeat for workers. Resistance to pay cuts were dismantled on the promise - which was subsequently broken - that those below e35,000 would receive compensation from savings gained through increased productivity. Sanction was eectively given to the pensions levy which represented a 7.5 percent cut on gross pay. This was imposed on the public sector in February 2009 and was then followed in December 2009 with further pay cuts of 5 percent on the rst e30,000 of salary, 7.5 percent on the next e40,000 of salary and 10 percent on the next e55,000. Under Croke Park, a new system of performance management was also established to remove a right to automatic increments. Employment contracts were also re-written and long standing agreements on rostering and overtime were torn up. Initially the unions gave their assent to the loss of 17,000 public sector jobs but this target was subsequently increased to 35,000. The attacks on public sector workers were designed to have a signalling eect for the private sector. As it was state policy to cut wages, it became easier for employers to impose cuts on their work-

See K.Allen, Fianna Fail and Irish Labour, (London: Pluto Press 1997)

ers. In 2008, the average annual income for those at work stood at e29,240 but by 2010 this had dropped to e28,1444 . Findings from the Fifth European Survey on Working Conditions have shown that Irish and Baltic states workers were among those most likely to have experienced a pay cut in 2010. Some 48 percent of Irish workers have experienced a pay cut, compared with 16 percent of all European workers5 .

The New Resistance

The Irish government has taken 24 billion out of its economy since 2008 in a series of ve harsh budgets. That is the equivalent of 16 percent of its GDP and represents the biggest scal adjustment of any advanced country in the past 30 years7 . Successive governments thought that foreign investors would come to their rescue. However, the over-optimistic predictions about growth have come unstuck and Irelands debt is rapidly becoming unmanageable. This becomes clear if we use GNP rather than GDP as the measure for the size of the Irish economy. In most countries, it makes little practical dierence but in Ireland GDP is inated by the transfer pricing practices ( multinationals pretending that higher prots are made here to benet from low corporate taxes) and so it suers from a high level of prot repatriation. If GNP is the measure used, then Ireland is still stuck in recession. Last year, GNP shrunk by another 2.5 percent8 and the Irish debt to GNP ratio is scheduled to peak at 150 percent by 2013. Even the latter gure is based on modest expectations of some growth. As the recession continued, workers hopes that they could keep the head down until recovery started, gave way to an intense anger. The rst sign was the riot at the ballot box when Fianna Fail were decimated in the General Election of 2011. Those who saw this as simply a switch from one right wing party to another missed the point. Fianna Fail has had deep roots in Irish society for over 75 years and the rise

Beyond these immediate defeats, the Croke Park agreement had an even deeper eect. An understanding was eectively reached that the unions would not provide a focal point for mass opposition to austerity. The ICTU would not call any mass demonstrations to the Dail and would seek to defuse any serious opposition. The SIPTU leader, Jack O Connor, acknowledged this when he told the Financial Times that Croke Park took the best organised section of the workforce out of the equation for social protest6 . Once the Labour Party joined the government, this understanding was deepened. Union ocials were warned to watch out for the ultra-left lest they bring about Greek-style confrontations. Every eort was made to spin a line that Labour ministers were doing their best to soften the blows that Fine Gael was intent on inicting. When Richard Bruton changed the JLC and REA system, for example, SIPTU put up the mildest of protests. At all costs there was to be no rocking of the boat.

Central Statistics Oce, Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2010 (Dublin: CSO, 2011) Table

1 Workers in Ireland and the Baltic states hit most by pay cuts, Industrial Relations News, No. 42, 17 November, 2010 6 Political Stability helps drive Irish Recovery Financial Times 27 January 2012 7 Whelan, K. (2011) Ireland Sovereign Debt Crisis, Dublin: UCD Centre for Economic Research , Working Paper Series 8 CSO, Quarterly National Accounts, Quarter 4, 2011, Year 2011

of Fine Gael could never match this. They only won mass support because they appeared to oer the quickest and most effective way to get rid of Fianna Fail. A year later opinion polls were telling a dierent story. The upper professional groups had overwhelmingly remained with Fine Gael but Fianna Fails working class base had moved left. Here is how Damian Loscher describes the nding of a recent opinion poll:.

Household Wont Pay



The European elite have a long term strategy of cutting taxes on prots and reducing income taxes in order to subsidise lower wage rates across the continent. They want to use more indirect taxes to nance the state.

Fine Gael, you could say, owns austerity and this makes the party near bullet-proof among pro-austerity voters. For example, the partys greatest gain in recent years, not surprisingly, has been among the middle classes. The left has seen huge gains in recent years as the impact of spending cuts and higher taxes has been felt on working, low-to middle-income families. In todays poll, Sinn Fin is the number two party in Ireland, and is the most popular party among working-class voters, with 28 per cent support, compared to just 22 per cent for Fine Gael. Labour attracts just 14 per cent of votes among working-class Ireland, behind Independents/Others who enjoy 18 per cent support9 .

This big shift in political attitude forms the backdrop to the emergence of the most important resistance movement of today the anti-household charges campaign.
9 10

Sometimes this is given a more progressive veneer, particularly when applied to property taxes. The TASC think-tank, for example, argued that a shift to property taxes would be progressive as long as it was equality proofed10 . But this ignores the wider context whereby the lower and middle income strata pay a greater share in taxes. Ireland has a home ownership rate of 76 percent and, even if property tax bands were introduced, the bulk of the estimated 1 billion revenue to be raised would come from PAYE workers who have already suered a severe cut in living standards. In this context, it was absolutely right to oppose the household charge.

Government parties feel the pain, Irish Times, 20 April 2012 Tasc Submission to the Intergovernmental Group on Property Taxes,

The campaign to resist was initiated by the radical left, in particular by parties like the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party. From an early stage, it was agreed that the best tactic was a mass boycott campaign and that Left TDs in the Dail would openly call on people not to pay. Signicantly, Sinn Fein refused to endorse this call and at some early meetings of the campaign played a negative role because their spokesperson tried to frighten people about possible consequences of a non-payment campaign. The republican tradition has often counterposed the heroism of the few to mass action. So it was not entirely surprising to hear them say that while their TDs and councillors would not pay, the mass of people would not be able to break the law and face the consequences. Whatever the public justications, however, another agenda was also at work. The party has a long-term eye on entering government and did not want to be branded as promoting illegal actions. This stance, however, was entirely at variance with the public mood. In Donegal, for example, where Sinn Fein have two TDs in neighbouring constituencies , they were almost marginalised by more left wing forces who embarked on a strategy of mass action. Opposition to household charges began in the autumn of 2011 and initially drew very small numbers of people. In Dublin, where experience of a defeat on the bin charges was still fresh in peoples memory, the turn-out at local meetings was tiny. The poor level of participation led to a more top-down structure as far left groups negotiated over who would take responsibility for particular areas. This only began to change after 1 January 2012 when people were presented with the reality of having to register and pay by 31 March. It also occurred in ways that were not foreseen by many on the left. 7

The rst surprise was that the main resistance came from the more rural areas outside Dublin. One reason was that the government had simultaneously imposed inspection fees for septic tanks and had made individual households shoulder the full costs of remediation. But there was also a deeper resentment in rural Ireland against the neglect they had suered. Many connected their anger about charges to the withdrawal of basic facilities such as schools, hospitals and post oces. Some of the farming population had beneted from the rise in food prices but rural Ireland today is host to a much more diverse population. The high property prices during the Celtic Tiger meant that many working people could not aord to live in Dublin and had been forced to re-locate to rural towns. The consolidation of farms and the shrinking in the numbers employed mean that rural Ireland is now composed of public sector workers, factory or oce workers and those who are forced to eke out an existence on the dole. The dialectic of history shows that there is never a set vanguard in the workers movement. Those who have been scarred by the defeats of earlier resistance often cede their place to others, and they in turn are often surpassed in militancy by late comers to struggles. The meetings outside Dublin were huge. Seven hundred attended a meeting in Waterford and 400 in Athlone, for example, while thousands turned up to smaller local meetings in Donegal and Wexford. Those who attended were attentive to the arguments of the left, and attempts by Fianna Fail supporters to separate opposition to septic tanks from a general ght against household charges were easily brushed aside. Many felt they had been handed a weapon to hit back against the bail- out of banks and speculators and that mass non-payment was the way to do it. The resistance in rural Ireland eventually

fed back into opposition in Dublin. As the deadline for registration approached, there were large turnouts in the manual working class areas in Dublin and in the suburbs where white collar workers had moved. The second surprise was the manner in which the movement outran the schemas drawn up by some of its mentors. The original conception of some political activists was that the campaign would be built purely as a boycott movement and that slow systematic work needed to be undertaken in housing estates to sign people up to the campaign. Mass demonstrations were to be avoided lest they divert from this tactic. This approach was based on the experience of the far left in Dublin during the bin charges campaign. At that time, the response of workers was often highly localised and did not involve mass demonstrations. Meetings of over 600 were held in areas like Crumlin or Ballyfermot in Dublin but attendance at mass protests in city centres was often far smaller. Against this background, some argued that the best way to win support was to suggest that people did not have to do very much - just refuse to pay. It soon became clear that the movement would go beyond these limited perspectives. From an early stage, local demonstrations began to be organised in Donegal, Wexford and Carlow. Moreover, it was found that the more visible the local protests, the more they fed back in to individual enlistment in the campaign. In order to resolve the issue of whether or not to have a national demonstration, a campaign conference decided to refer the issue back to local meetings. When it was raised, support for a national demonstration was overwhelming. The rst national mobilisation was called for the Fine Gael Ard Fheis and the turnout surpassed all expectations. Some 15,000 people marched in the angriest and liveliest protest Dublin 8

had seen for a long time. The next mobilisation was the Labour Party conference; 4,000 people turned up and a signicant minority broke through police lines to take the protest right to the door of the conference. This move was not initiated by any section of the far left but was predominantly led by a new layer of mmiddle-aged activists. It would have been far larger had not some organisers taken fright and urged a retreat from the doors of the Labour conference. The third surprise was the depth of the political generalisation. The deadline for registration ended just as the referendum on the scal treaty was beginning. The political establishment was shocked by the scale of the resistance, as over a half of all households refused to pay. Instead of proceeding with the bully-boy tactics of visiting the homes of non-payers, they did a quick change of tack. As one ministerial source explained, they were afraid of upsetting the people before the vote. They also thought that a period of social peace might help to defuse the campaign. Once again they got it wrong. The organisational structures of the campaign held together after the deadline. In many towns, activists continue to meet every week or fortnight to organise. The participants are normally middle-aged people with roots in their community. The dominant political outlook is a left populism that is targeted at bankers and the super-rich. Sometimes there are a few seasoned political activists from the left but these are a minority. A new seriousness and talent for organising is present and there is a real thirst to produce leaets and get them around local areas. The most recent national conference of the campaign was just one expression of the energy involved. About 350 people attended to debate over 70 motions. But it is not just about organisation

- a dramatic political generalisation is occurring. The anti-household charges campaign has come out openly for a NO vote on the Fiscal Treaty. This reects a spontaneous move at the grassroots towards a wider anti-austerity agenda. For political activists who have been shaped in the decades of defeat, this was not the predicted schema. A single issue campaign, which connes itself to the specic item at hand, and which presents itself as nonpolitical was thought to be the recipe for success. Yet the new layers of activists who have emerged during a global economic crisis have a dierent outlook. This tension between schematic formulae and a reality that shoots beyond these boundaries was further evident in debates about whether the campaign should link up with other anti-austerity movements. A motion to call another mass demonstration to the Dail and to invite everyone who was ghting cutbacks won overwhelming support at a national conference-despite the opposition of some left activists. Real movements throw up new problems and opportunities for the radical left. The left is often crucial to initiating such movements and in providing its ideological back bone. But the left is never simply the teacher while the movement acts as the pupil. A genuine dialogue is required and the left itself has to be renewed through the real experience of struggle. The household campaign provides an important arena for doing this.

tal and Visteon. The latter learnt from the former and used the sit-in as a base for generating more active solidarity. But the tactic seemed to recede after that. Then the Labour Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, introduced a measure in the last budget that appeared to be aimed at employers but had important side eects. Up to this year, employers received a 75 percent write o of the statutory redundancy payments they paid to workers. This system emerged as a way of quelling anger and it allowed the employers to grant workers more than the statutory payment when they faced possible resistance. During the Celtic Tiger period, workers often expected to receive six or seven weeks pay for every year of service and this diused resistance. Burtons move, however, boomeranged on workers because the employers became far less generous in redundancy payments. Some even ran down their business so much that they had nothing left to even pay statutory redundancy. Workers were then supposed to wait for up to a year to just get a legal minimal payment from a special state insurance fund.

The anti-household charge movement is the largest and most dramatic focus of resistance - but it is not the only one. A small but highly signicant wave of workers occupations has also taken place. At the start of the recession, two large occupations occurred at Waterford Crys9

The result has been a new wave of worker occupations. The Vita Cortex sitin was the rst and it generated a wave

of sympathy across the Cork labour movement. It was soon followed by an occupation of La Sensa Senza shopping chain and then another sit-in at the Cork Unemployed Centre followed. When the Game retail claim chain closed down, the managers of this these non-union chain shops helped to organise the occupation. The demands that workers made in these dispute were most moderate. They did not demand their jobs back - only that they receive their legal entitlements, or slightly over above in the case of Vita Cortex. But while the demand is moderate, the tactic strikes at the fundamentals of capitalist legality. And it has such a copycat eect that the RTE industrial correspondent Ingrid Miley suggested that they may be becoming the norm. The laws of capitalism treat human labour merely as a commodity. It is to be used for prot and disposed of when this cannot be realised. Moreover, as a mere commodity, workers have fewer rights than other capitalists who supplied a bankrupt rm with goods or credit. They are literally last in the line - even though their sweat and intelligence helped to create the company in the rst place. Sit-ins represent a total rejection of this inhumane logic. They represent a temporary seizure of capitalist property and an assertion that workers cannot be treated like disposable hankies. But they also create space for a dierent form of organising. An occupation can become a base for discussion and for the active participation of workers in the running of their struggle. They politicise workers and help to spread organisational skills11 . Although they have started on a small scale in Ireland, they are an important augur for the future.

The weary traveller who traverses a desert will easily discover oases that turn out to be mirages. It would be easy to exaggerate the scale of the change in resistance that is occurring in Ireland. The reality is that the Irish antiausterity movement is starting at a much lower level than those in Greece, Spain and Portugal. The absence of the organised workers movement means that, at this stage, left populism is probably the dominant viewpoint. Hatred of bankers and speculators is almost universal but there is a gap between this and an ambition to uproot a capitalist system. Even amongst those elements who openly call for revolution, there is still a lack of clarity about what that revolution might entail. But despite this undoubted political weakness, something new and fundamental has entered the equation. Networks of resistance have emerged that will help to stimulate much wider confrontations and will renew the left itself. Organised revolutionaries have a key role to play in this process. They can accelerate the politicisation that is already underway and ground it in a rmer anticapitalist framework. But they will be more eective at doing this if they understand that they too must change. Specifically, they must break from conservative habits that have grown up during the years of defeat. Instead of a top-down model where they seek bureaucratic control in order to shift the movement onto a mainly electoral terrain, the aim should be to encourage self-organisation and win the argument for revolutionary change. The more demonstrations that build condence, the better. The more the movement resists the power of the state through mass action against police lines or water bailis,

See D. Sherry, Occupy: A Short History of Workers Occupations (London: Bookmarxs,2010)


even better. The left should not shrink when the heat is on from the corporate media but understand that it must prove, in deeds as well as words, its determination to overthrow this rotten system. A few things follow from this approach. One is that the strategic goal must be to link the energy of the anti-household campaign and other social movements to the strength of organised workers. The connections are not always obvious. During the anti- bin charges campaign, council refuse workers who were charged with collecting only from compliant payers, were sometimes treated as oppressive agents. The betrayals of the union leaders have also produced such contempt among activists for the unions such that even left ocials like Mick OReilly of the Dublin Trades Council were heckled at an antihousehold charges gathering. But the power of any social movement is limited to either mass boycotts or street mobilisations. The economic terrorism of capital can only be defeated by a force that is equal or superior to it in power. Strikes, stoppages and even calls for mass mobilisation from organised labour give a dimension to protests which no social movement can substitute for. One focus for the household charges campaign should be to use its militant energy to awaken the sleeping giant of organised workers. A key condition for doing that is to challenge the hold that Labour Party ocials have over the unions. This can be dicult at the level of the ocial branch structures because they are so bureaucratic. But this is not the case at workplace level. The proposal to initiate a movement to withdraw union subscriptions from the Labour party is an excellent start. There needs to be a sustained campaign to take up petitions to withdraw union subscriptions form Labour and to demand real political representation. 11

A second goal must be to create a space that gives political expression to the emerging anti-austerity movement. Some are drawing the conclusion that they should join revolutionary organisations like the SWP and this should be actively encouraged. But there are many more who want a broader political alternative that relates more closely to an outlook that is characterised by left reformism and left populism. The experience across Europe shows that there is a growing space for formations of the radical left that seek to do just this. However, there can be some confusion about what exactly that entails. In France, for example, those who have put an emphasis on the purity of the programme and the need for incessant debates between the fragments of the far left have seen the New Anti-Capitalist Party experience serious decline [See Lorcan Gray, Letter from France, in this issue]. Real socialist democracy does not consist in receiving up to ten e mails a day but rather engaging properly with working people and, in that context, debating the best way forward. The key to doing that is a break from a sectarian defensive methodology that talks left about the socialist programme while warning against premature confrontations that might damage electoral prospects. The United Left Alliance can make a shift to this type of open, non-sectarian radical left organisation that is able to pull in hundreds of new activists who are being politicised. But it will have to change - and change quickly. As a basic minimum, it will have to move beyond a structure that gives the founding organisations a veto and open itself up to full membership democracy. It will also need to make more serious eorts to draw in other elements of a principled left to broaden its base. In the meantime, People Before Prot, which is part of the United Left Alliance,

provides an important vehicle for advancing such a project. The tradition of People Before Prot, of which the SWP is one component, is to base itself on more open grassroots organisation and to pro-

mote a less dogmatic form of left politics. Its growth and expansion will become an important element in developing a radical left that can rise to the challenges posed by the new resistance.


Economic Crisis: Austerity and Privatisation in Healthcare in Ireland

Peadar OGrady Although the nancial sector of an economy may be principally responsible for risk-taking related to the present economic crisis, the true costs of this risk-taking behaviour are to society as a whole1 .

Economic Crisis and Health

Economic crises are rooted in the fact that, in a capitalist economy, goods and services are bought and sold for prot as commodities. This means that exchange value leading to prot is considered more important than use value serving human needs. Failure to maintain prot rates leads to speculation and inevitably to a crash when prices fall. Instead of addressing the underlying failure of the economy to meet human needs the response of the rich and powerful is to withdraw investment and scramble to restore prots by cutting jobs and wages and by pressuring governments to bail them out using state debt paid for by Austerity programmes of cuts in pay, welfare and public services. These cuts in income and services have a devastating effect on the health of the population. However, the success of this response by capitalists depends very much on the level of organised resistance in each country. What has been shocking in the current economic crisis has been both the scale of the slump with massive lay-os and pay cuts but also the largely slavish obedience of trade unions and social-democratic governments to agree and impose austerity budgets. In Greece, the rst EU country to be hit, despite some heroic popular opposition, the eects of austerity have been devastating. Unemployment rose from 6.6
1 2

percent in May 2008 to 16.6 percent in May 2011 (and rose from 18.6 percent to 40.1 percent in young adults). The Irish Labour Partys sister organisation Pasok in government imposed a brutal IMF austerity package of public service cuts including a 40 per cent cut in hospital budgets. A Lancet study2 reported sta and medical supply shortages meant a signicant increase in people not going to the doctor when sick and doctors being bribed to jump queues in public hospitals. Public admissions increased by 24 percent in 2010 while there was a 30 percent decrease in admissions to private hospitals. People reporting bad or very bad health in surveys increased. There was a 17 percent rise in suicide in 2009 and 25 percent in 2010 and 40 percent in the rst half of 2011 with suicide helplines reporting stress from debt as the commonest complaint. HIV infection rates rose 52 per cent in 2011 mainly due to an increase in intravenous drug-use and prostitution. In Ireland unemployment has increased from an average of 4.5 percent between 2000 and 2007 to 14.4 percent in 20113 . Suicide rates increased by 24 percent in 2009 to a record high of 527. Geo Day, Director of the National Oce for Suicide Prevention said: The impact of the economic downturn in 2008, and partic-

Stuckler et al 2009, p322 Anne Kentikelenis et al, 2011 3 ESRI, 2012


ularly in 2009, has led to substantial increases in both self harm and suicide numbers4 . The suicide rate is three times higher for men than women, which may reect the long-term tendency of men to under-report mental health problems and use alcohol or drugs instead of seeking help and a shortterm trend of high rates of job losses in the construction industry. While the suicide rate fell in 2010 by 8 percent to 486 it was still high and its fall may well reect the high rates of emigration in young men who are particularly at risk. Statistics for suicide rates in Ireland and Greece have been criticised in the past for underestimating the true rates. Statistics in Ireland do not include undetermined causes of death which they do in Northern Ireland making it dicult to make comparisons. In the short term, sharp rises in unemployment are associated with suicide and alcohol-related deaths while cuts in health services reduce access to care when it is most needed. Government social spending on jobs and welfare benets for the unemployed has been shown to reduce the increase in suicides associated with the rise in unemployment seen in recessions5 . However, instead of increasing funding to services in a time of crisis governments can use the crisis to push through cuts and privatisations as emergency measures no matter how counterproductive the eects.

state never waste a good crisis as they smoothly move from bail-outs to austerity cuts and privatisation of public services: The massive debts the public is accumulating to bail out the speculators will then become part of a global budget crisis that will be the rationalisation for deep cuts to social programmes, and for a renewed push to privatise what is left of the public sector6 . Privatisation or marketisation of public services like healthcare, education or energy, means more buying and selling of these services for prot. Privatisation can involve a range of government policy measures to run down the public service and promote the private, for-prot sector. These policies include the separation of purchaser and provider, competition, contracting-out, hospital trusts, user fees, PPPs and private health insurance, even though all of these policies involve higher costs rather than eciencies7 . In forprot services, prots eat up 5-10 percent of funding but also increase administration costs (billing, marketing, accounting and legal fees etc), and executive salaries and bonuses. This makes the health service in the US (the most privatised healthcare system in the world), so inecient and expensive to administer that as little as 5060 per cent of each dollar paid in insurance premiums nds its way to frontline health providers8 . In the US about twice as much is reportedly spent on healthcare as comparable EU countries (18 percent of GDP versus 9 percent) with poor international rat-

Shock Doctrine: Health Insurance


In a 2008 article in The Guardian, Naomi Klein (Author of The Shock Doctrine) explains how those opposed to the welfare
4 5

HSE, 2009 David Stuckler et al, p322 6 Naomi Klein, 2008 7 John Lister, 2005, p17 8 S. Woolhandler et al, 2003


ings for eectiveness. This is clearly because only about half of this spending is going on healthcare; the rest is eaten up by prots and bureaucracy. If costs go up in a privatised system when the argument is supposed to be cost-cutting or efciency there is obviously a dierent motive. The answer is in the term for-prot; the policies are for prot to be increased and have nothing to do with costs or efciency. Under-funding the public health service is a double reward for capitalist investors: prots go up with lower labour costs as taxes are cut but also a source of prot in trading healthcare services is opened up further. Running down public healthcare can take many guises. In the past decade, small public hospitals such as Monaghan, Loughlinstown, Roscommon, Ennis and Nenagh were targeted as too small while equally small private hospitals like the Galway Clinic were opened up and there are plans to build a private hospital in Ennis. Where threats of closure have met resistance in these cases, a slow death is ensured by the government restricting or closing Emergency Departments as well as surgical and other services. Since 2007 the economic crisis has been used to put an embargo on employing sta in the public service, including the health service, with the assistance of trade union leaders in the Croke Park Agreement of 2010; and continued by the Labour Party in government. This has resulted in a dramatic fall in stang in services funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE): from 111,000 in 2008 to 105,000 in 2011 and to 101,000 by the middle of 2012. The HSE plans to cut sta further to 98,000 in 2012. This has resulted in ward closures (on top of already very low bed capacity) and service reduc9 10

tions. Despite claims by health minister James Reilly that the waiting lists were being reduced the reality is that the numbers waiting for hospital treatment increased by 24 percent between 2011 and 20129 . In 2012 the HSE is also engaged in a systematic closure of 500 beds in public Nursing Homes, accelerating the increasing dominance of owners of private for-prot nursing homes. The double reward of these policies of underfunding the public service is now obvious: the embargo makes more sta available and bed closures make more patients available to the private for-prot sector.

Fine Gaels FairCare 10 health service policy is the other side of government plans to privatise healthcare. Central to FairCare is the introduction of Universal Health Insurance by 2016. UHI is a mandatory health insurance system supposedly along the lines of the recently-introduced system in the Netherlands of regulated competition in Health insurance. This model is a combination of the Mandatory Health Insurance system introduced in Massachusetts and the regulated competition model of economist Alain Enthoven11 ; certainly closer to Boston than Berlin. In the US context it is arguably a progressive step to reign in the market madness of unregulated private health insurance and extend coverage but, obviously, taking out the proteers would be far better. In Europe however, introducing managed competition is a way of getting the for-prot insurers more involved, a backward step. UHI was recommended by a report in 2009, FairCare, which was produced

Susan Mitchell, 2012 Fine Gael, 2011 11 Pauline Vaillancourt Rosenau and Christiaan J. Lako, 2008, pp1031-32


by a Fine Gael commission chaired by Alan Dukes (now Chairman of Anglo-Irish Bank/IBRC) and inuenced by right-wing european think-tanks. The report used a high ranking for the Dutch Health service based on the Euro Health Consumer Index which is produced by a right-wing Swedish think-tank the Health Consumer Powerhouse which lobbies for privatisation of health services12 . However, a study, in partnership with the World Health Organisation and the Dutch Government, in 2010, reported that in terms of quality and eciency of health services, compared to other wealthy countries, the Netherlands was just an average performer13 . Here is a useful summary of the new Dutch system: On 1 January 2006, a major reform of the Dutch health insurance system came into eect. The former system, a combination of a statutory sickness fund scheme for the majority of the population and private health insurance for the rest, was replaced with a single universal scheme. The extension of market competition is one of the key features of the new health insurance system. Health insurers, which may operate on a for-prot basis, are required to compete on premiums, types of health plan and service levels. Consumers are free to choose any health insurer and type of health plan (for example, with or without deductibles, with or without preferred provider networks) and are able to change to an al12 13

ternative insurer or plan once a year. All legal residents of the Netherlands are obliged to purchase a basic health plan, but are free to purchase a complementary voluntary plan covering additional health services such as physiotherapy, dental care for adults, psychotherapy and various forms of preventive care (there is an enormous variety of complementary plans)14 . Fine Gael have claimed that a process of paying for health services based on the volume of care provided, a so-called Money Follows the Patient (MFP) would save money and improve services to patients. However a World Bank study found that these sort of insurance-style separations between purchaser and provider increase administration costs and paperwork15 . Since MFP was introduced in the Netherlands in 2000 the cost of hospital care in Netherlands has doubled. There are more than 30,000 dierent categories of treatment in the Dutch system. Indeed the Dutch experience is of rising costs (premiums increased by 100 in 2011) with no clear evidence of improved quality of care. There is also a perverse incentive to ignore preventive public health measures because falling rates of illness (and therefore opportunities for treatment) would reduce income for clinics and hospitals. Before the change in 2006, the Dutch Health Service had built up a much higher level of infrastructure and standards of care than Ireland before it changed from a mix of mostly public health insurance and some private (mostly not-for-prot) to a system of 100 percent private compet-

Dominic Haugh, 2011, pp9-11 W Schfer et al, 2010 14 Yvette Bartholome and Hans Maarse, 2006 15 DW Dunlop and JM Martins (Eds), 1996


ing insurers who could operate on a forprot basis. The trend now in the Netherlands is towards hospital mergers and profits. Instead of choice increasing as a result of competition there are trends towards monopoly. There are 20 Health Insurers but now just four of them have 88 percent of the total number of insured16 . Therefore, the Dutch Mandatory (mainly not-for-prot) Health Insurance system is not static. As it tends more toward protmaking it will tend to move towards a Mandatory (for-prot) Health Insurance system like in the US with the high-cost but low-level cover that it provides. The most important argument against UHI is that it will increase costs in a notfor-prot system but it will further increase costs the more it becomes a forprot system. The Dutch government proposal includes a plan to increase competition in care as well as in insurance funding: The current market reform is not only intended to introduce regulated competition in health insurance, but also in the provision of care17 . but FairCare makes no mention of this. In general the more for-prot organisations are involved the greater the prot-related costs. Fine Gaels plan may argue costcutting or eciency or quality but the evidence only supports a motive of supporting the greater involvement of forprot business in healthcare, that is privatisation. Of course any government austerity cuts in public funding would mean a crisis of prot versus care. Here are some facts about the Dutch system18 :
16 17

1. Current cost of UHI basic package for worker on the average industrial wage is e3,427 per year (premium of e1194 plus e2,233 wage deduction ie 6.9 percent to a ceiling of e2,233). An average Dutch household has an income of e53,000 and pays between e4,525 and e5,625 per year. 2. Dutch must pay e210 excess per year for claims. 3. 10 percent of funding is out-of-pocket for care not covered by insurance. 4. Since UHI was introduced in 2006 premia have risen by 41 percent. 5. Since 2006 Dutch GPs income has risen by e54,000 per year. Dutch consultants income rose by 50 percent in 2008 alone. 6. 8 percent of Dutch people in a poll felt the service was better since UHI but 41 percent thought it was worse.

Universal services
The FairCare promise of Universal provision sounds appealing. Public Health experts have argued that if public services, including healthcare, are not universal, that is, for everyone, then middle and higher income-earners are forced to consider private options as underfunding makes a service for the poor become a poor serviceRichard Titmuss, 1958.. In progressive tax systems the more you earn the higher a proportion of your income goes in tax. The Scandinavian model means higher taxes for middle and higher income earners in return for a comprehensive package of high-quality benets including childcare, healthcare, social

W Schfer et al, 2010, p31 Hans Maarse, 2009, p8 18 Dominic Haugh, 2011, p1


care and university educationMartin McKee and David Stuckler, 2011 as well as a less unequal, safer and more harmonious society19 . Breaking with universal services means worse services at a higher cost to low and middle income earners and pressure to reduce taxes. This only suits the super-rich whose tax-cuts will mean they wont have to pay for services they would never use anyway. Strategies to undermine universal services are to demonise welfare recipients, undermine trade unions (higher welfare spending in countries with strong unions) and remove benets from middle income earners by means-testing. FairCare only promises state funding of health insurance to the low paid and subsidies to those earning above an as-yet-unclear earning limit, that is, it will be meanstested. Crucially, the implications of policies like FairCare wont be seen for a number of years. The World Health Organisation recommends three important features of Universal provision: Breadth: Who is covered; Depth: What services are covered (Is it comprehensive?); and Height: What proportion of the costs is covered (Are there any out-of-pocket payments or extra insurance?)20 . So it is important to also ask whether or not Universal Health Insurance is likely to provide comprehensive care with no deductibles (additional out-of-pocket expenses). Fine Gael promise: Under UHI every citizen will have health insurance from one of a number of competing insurance companies, which will provide equal access to a comprehensive range of hospital and medical services. But how comprehensive this
19 20

will be in practice may well be largely left up to the insurance companies themselves. In Netherlands the comprehensive basic package does not include treatment services like psychotherapy, physiotherapy and dentistry and these require additional insurance or out-of-pocket payments that not everyone can aord. According to FairCare regulation will be by government, the nancial regulator and a new agency incorporating the current HIQA into a Patient Safety Authority. With Irelands recent history of regulatory failure, this is hardly a reassuring prospect. To date in the Netherlands, Health Insurance premiums are increasing, and insurance companies report large losses on the basic policies, public satisfaction is not high and perceived quality is down21 . These insurance companies are already lobbying for a relaxation of regulation as 50 percent of hospitals face bankruptcy. Health lobbyists for giant Health Insurers, Hospital Management Organisations (HMOs) and Drug companies in the US have a stranglehold on the healthcare system and have stymied any progressive changes in recent decades22 . Also appealing in FairCare is the promise to: dismantle the dysfunctional Health Service Executive (HSE)and end the eorts of Fianna Fil and Mary Harney to privatise the health system by favouring private over public care23 and that: Once UHI is introduced, the unfair and inecient two-tier health system in Ireland will disappear24 . However the solutions suggested dont in any way match the problems. Firstly the HSE has come to be hated because it has removed lo-

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, 2010 World Health Organisation, 2008 21 Pauline Vaillancourt Rosenau, Christiaan J. Lako, 2008, p1031 22 David Stuckler et al 2010, p5 23 FairCare, 2011, p3 24 FairCare, 2011, p4


cal democratic control and accountability. It would be progress if it were replaced by a more democratically planned service. However, FairCare only envisions the ability of individuals to become members of Hospital Trusts with probably very limited representation on the board but no say whatever in the wider planning of local health services as a whole because the purchaser-provider split will mean the Hospital trusts will be providers and not purchasers25 . Secondly the two-tier system in health is due to the existence of private fees in Hospitals and General Practice. All that is required for a one-tier service is to remove private fees in these settings. Abolishing consultants private practice incomes and capping salaries at a comfortable e100,000, would, on its own, save over e0.5 billion a year. Tax breaks on medical insurance and medical fees costs the state e0.5 billion a year26 . It does not require 5 years to do this but could be done immediately. As noted above, expanding access in a tax-funded public system involves very little extra administrative costs (averaging 4 percent) while a private insurance funded system involves massive extra costs (40-50 percent in the US). In the Netherlands, instead of getting rid of a two-tier system there is evidence of an emerging 3tier system: those with additional insurance; those with just basic insurance; and a growing number of those with no insurance at all because they cannot aord it27 . Plans to break up the HSE and to make hospitals autonomous were initially listed by Fine Gaels Faircare not to commence until 2014 but these plans have now been brought forward. The HSE board was abolished and eectively taken into the De25 26

partment of Health in 2011. In March 2012 health minister, James Reilly wrote to then secretary general Michael Scanlan directing him to create proposals for: The creation of hospital groups as quickly as possible this year. Reilly goes on to outline the plan for these hospital groups to have a single budget and the power to redeploy sta and recongure services between the hospitals in keeping with the Framework for Smaller Hospitals criteria including safety, cost, and sustainability and give the larger hospital the authority to manage the entire group28 . This is a clear recipe for continuing the downgrading and closure of local hospitals in line with the unpopular Hanly report and under pressure of a single budget enforcing competition between local hospitals. Notfor-prot voluntary hospitals would be included in these hospital groups but private for-prot hospitals would not.

There Is No Alternative?

Health and social problems are worse in more unequal countries. Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level, 2010

FairCare, 2011, p18 Sara Burke and Sinad Pentony, 2011 27 Dominic Haugh, 2011, p3 28 Dominic Haugh, 2011, p3


Of course a truly universal health policy would address more than just health services. Good health depends on access to basics such as food and housing, and poverty is a well established cause of ill health. Poor quality, expensive food and housing is encouraged if it makes for better prots. In Ireland there is a 6-year dierence in life-expectancy between the richest and poorest groups but this dierence is not conned to the poorest but is evident from bottom to top, that is, there is a social gradient in health. Risk of heart disease and diabetes is higher in low-paid workers and related not just to low income but to the degree of control in their workplace. Recently it has been noted that the greater the degree of inequality compared to other countries, the higher the rates of physical and mental health and a range of other social problems across the dierent income groups (though possibly not including the super-rich)29 . This means that reducing income inequality and improving the control of workers in their workplace should be crucial aspects of health policy. Inequality can be reduced by redistributive policies of progressive taxation, cutting taxbreaks for the rich, raising wages, full employment and increasing spending on truly universal (non-means-tested) health services and social protection such as welfare and pensions. Progressive taxation means increased taxes for the rich, getting rid of regressive taxes like the socalled universal social charge and indirect taxes and charges like the Household charge. Regressive budgets in the last three years have disproportionally hit low
29 30

income households and widened inequality30 . In 2009 the richest fth of the population had 4.3 times more income than the poorest fth, but this increased to 5.5 times in 2010, while deprivation levels increased from 17.1 percent in 2009 to 22.5 percent of the population in 201031 . Research has shown a direct relationship between social spending and health. For example, for each additional $100 of social spending per person, there is a 1.19 per cent reduction in deaths from all causes32 . Public health researcher Vicente Navarro has shown that political parties with egalitarian ideologies have tended to implement redistributive policies and that reducing social inequalities improves such health indicators as infant mortality and life expectancy33 . This is particularly true of wealthy countries with social-democratic (Labour-type) parties and strong unions. On the other hand, Christian Democratic (Fine Gael-type) parties have tended to promote restricted, means-tested social programmes34 . This should mean supporting Labour-type parties but, the researchers note that these parties tendency towards redistributive policies is being broken as during the last 30 years, many countries governed by social-democratic parties have implemented neoliberal policies. From the UK Labour Party to Greeces PASOK to the Irish Labour Party have turned to marketstyle neoliberal policies. The Labour Party in power in the last 18 months has led the charge in cuts to Social welfare (Burton), Education (Quinn) and public service stang (Howlin) while supporting privatisation in health (Lynch and Short-

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, 2010 Sara Burke and Sinad Pentony, 2011, pvi 31 CSO, 2010 32 David Stuckler et al, 2010 33 Vicente Navarro et al, 2006, p1033. 34 Vicente Navarro et al, 2006, p1036


hall) and state assets (Rabitte). Labour have tacitly supported a health policy of privatisation couched in a language of universal benets and opposition to private provision but ignored the drive towards introducing for-prot nancing and care and the vicious cuts in sta and beds in the public health service. The punishment of Pasok in Greece and the victory of the Left Coalition there is a warning to Labour but a challenge to the Left in Ireland to build with this movement against austerity and privatisation. While Sinn Fin talks of opposition to austerity in the Dil, they cannot be trusted as they are imposing austerity in the North of Ireland. The real alternative to market-style solutions to problems of access, quality and cost of services is based on the principles of a National Health Service as recently outlined in the People Before Prot health policy: A National Health Service that is universal, comprehen-

sive, democratically planned, funded by progressive taxation and free at the point of use35 . Historically, progressive changes in health services have come about in countries with a strong union movement and a strong Left backed by mobilisations of support in the community and workplaces. Resistance to closures of hospitals and nursing homes combined with protests against austerity measures such as welfare cuts, the universal social charge, the household charge and water charges need to combine with the building of strong leftwing forces if we are to win progressive changes in taxation and social spending to build an alternative to the neoliberal Labour Party policies of bail-out, austerity and privatisation. A more radical transformation to the sort of socialist society that James Connolly had in mind, where goods and services are produced for need and not greed, can only be built by such a movement. We have a world to win.

Bartholome, Yvette and Hans Maarse, 2006, Eurohealth, Vol 12, No 2 Sara Burke and Sinad Pentony, 2011, Eliminating health inequalities, a matter of life and death, Tasc, CSO, 2010, Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), 2010, http: // prelimsilc_2010.pdf Dunlop, DW and JM Martins (Eds), 1996, An International assessment of healthcare nancing: Lessons for developing countries, World Bank, Washington ESRI, 2012, Irish Economy,,retrieved5/5/12 Fine Gael, 2011, FairCare, Haugh, Dominic, 2011, Analysing FairCare, Fine Gaels Proposal for Mandatory Universal Health Insurance, AnalysisFineGaelFaircare.pdf

People Before Prot Alliance, 2011


HSE, 2009, National Oce for Suicide Prevention, Annual Report, http://www.nosp. ie/annual_report_09_2.pdf Kentikelenis, Alexander, Marina Karanikolos, Irene Papanicolas, Sanjay Basu, Martin McKee and David Stuckler, 2011, Health eects of nancial crisis: omens of a Greek tragedy, The Lancet, Vol 378, October 22, 2011, pp1457-8 Klein, Naomi, 2008, Free market ideology is far from nished, The Guardian, 19 September, marketturmoil.usa Lister, John, 2005, Health Policy Reform: Driving the Wrong Way, Middlesex University Press Maarse, Hans, 2008, Private Health Insurance in the Netherlands, the_Netherlands.pdf McKee, Martin and David Stuckler, 2011, The assault on universalism: how to destroy the welfare state, British Medical Journal ; 343:d7973, December Mitchell, Susan, 2012, Hospital waiting times up by 24% under coalition, Sunday Business Post, 20 May, Navarro, Vicente, Carles Muntaner, Carme Borrell, Joan Benach, gueda Quiroga, Maica Rodrguez-Sanz, Nria Vergs and M Isabel Pasarn, 2006, Politics and health outcomes, Lancet; 368: (1033-37), p1033. People Before Prot Alliance, 2011, Health Policy, http://www.peoplebeforeprofit. ie/files/PBPA%20HEALTH%20POLICY.pdf Reilly, James, 28/3/12, Minister for Health, Letter to Mr Michael Scanlan, Chairman, HSE Schfer, W, M Kroneman, W Boerma, M van den Berg, G Westert, W Devill and E van Ginneken, 2010, The Netherlands: Health system review. Health Systems in Transition; 12(1):1-229 Stuckler, David, Sanjay Basu, Marc Suhrcke, Adam Coutts and Martin McKee, 2009, The public health eect of economic crises and alternative policy responses in Europe: an empirical analysis, The Lancet, 374:315-23 Stuckler, David, Andrea Feigl, Sanjay Basu and Martin McKee, 2010, The political economy of Universal Health Coverage, First global Symposium on health systems research, 2010, 20political%20economy%20of%20uhc.PDF Stuckler D., Basu S. and McKee M, 2010, Budget crises, health, and social welfare programmes, BMJ, 340:c3311, Titmuss, Richard, 1958, Essays on the Welfare State, Unwin Hyman 22

Vaillancourt Rosenau, Pauline and Christiaan J. Lako, 2008, An Experiment with Regulated Competition and Individual Mandates for Universal Health Care: The New Dutch Health Insurance System, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Vol.33, No.6 Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett, 2010, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, Penguin Woolhandler, S, T Campbell and DU Himmelstein, 2003, Costs of Healthcare Administration in the US and Canada, New England Journal of Medicine, 768-775, Aug 21 World Health Organisation, 2008, The 2008 World Health Report: Primary Health Care: Now more than ever, Geneva,


Austerity, Capitalism and the Restructuring of Irish Higher Education

Marnie Holborow There is a deep contradiction at the heart of the way governments are dealing with the crisis. By converting bank debt into sovereign debt, they are injecting huge amounts of state money into a system that they stridently claim runs best as a freewheeling market. This constitutes, as Alex Callinicos points out, a moment of discontinuity in the neoliberal era, one in which the crisis has forced Western governments into much greater reliance on the state1 . This paradox is being played out in dierent ways across Irish society at present, and higher education is no exception. Education is supposed to succumb to the out there of global competition but meanwhile, the Irish government, under the guise of austerity policies, is intensifying its own intervention. The eects are leaden and oppressive: every aspect of Irish third level education has become quantiable and form-llable. The Irish university system, in the words of Tom Garvin, is being throttled by managers and bureaucrats, and is breeding an indescribable grey philistinism of Orwellian proportions2 . Behind this, lies the desire on the part of employers and the state to use the recession to implement a double-pronged strategy: to tie higher education more closely to the needs of capital and, also to entrench neoliberal ideology in what is taught and thought and in the way higher education work is done.
1 2

Ideological oensive
The Hunt Report, ocially launched in January 2011, marked an escalation of the ideological oensive. Oering a long-term strategy up to 2030, the report ocially declared higher education to be an adjunct of the economy with a mission to further commercialise educational provision, research activity and the student experience. Its institutions were to reinvent themselves, complete with CEO-style presidents and a ock of business managers, as universities of enterprise and as producers of high skilled, employment-ready graduates, rebranded now as human capital3 . Becoming entrepreneurial entailed reorganising research so that it was revenue rich and geared to discovering what multinational corporations in Ireland specically wanted. R&D was to dance to the tune of big business and big business could tap into what was on oer free from statefunded universities. Enabling business opportunities, incubating innovation, nurturing entrepreneurialism, incentivising startups, commercialising knowledge, individualising intellectual property, and other a host of other corporate clichs now directed the pursuit of knowledge4 . Producing an employment-ready workforce meant churning out highly skilled, responsive graduates, who would attract value-added investment and would become a workforce capable of dealing with the increasingly complex demands of the

Callinicos, 2012, p6 Garvin, 2012. 3 For example, the university where I work, Dublin City University, now ocially carries the title University of Enterprise. 4 DES, 2011, p72. 5 DES, 2011, p23.


global economy5 . This involved rewriting all the modules taught so that they captured learning outcomes, made up of minutely subdivided performance skills which the student could supposedly do at the end of the module, (regardless of whether the module was French literature or physics, social theory or analytical science). These skills tables constituted a convenient checklist for an employer but this did not stop academics across the land, hurried on by the dictates of the EU/Bologna harmonisation process, ticking the skills boxes for their various degrees. The real string pullers now came out from the wings. The Hunt Report Strategy Group was an overwhelmingly corporate grouping. It was chaired by Dr Colin Hunt, Director of the Irish Branch of the Australian nancial corporation, Macquarie Capital Advisors, which had interests in private education. It included representatives from the World Bank, boards of multinationals in Ireland, university managements, but, among its fteen members, astonishingly not one Irish academic6 . Education policy from now on, the Hunt Report made abundantly clear, was a matter for big business, not for academics, nor for legislators. Parliamentary procedures were summarily put to one side. The Hunt doctrine was fast-tracked, not for the rst time, to become ocial government policy, and appeared straight away on the Department of Educations website7 . Most of the policy had been drawn up prior to the crisis. But the arrival of the worst economic depression the Irish state had ever experienced forced some
6 7

last minute adjustments. The expansion of higher education continued to be advocated but now with the surprising twist that the already high percentage of those attending college should rise further. The government set a target of a 72 percent participation rate, up 17 percent on todays gures8 . It also tagged on a new function for higher education in the recession. Where higher education had followed the boom, it was now to lead the recovery. Investment in human capital was the means by which Irelands knowledge economy would take o. The report painted an idyllic picture of Ireland as a commercialisation hub in Europe which would deliver quality, well-paid jobs for the next phase of the development of the Irish economy9 . The question of why capital was not being invested much anywhere during a deep recession seemed to elude the notice of these human capital enthusiasts. The appointment, in 2012, of a new Chairman (sic) of the Higher Education Authority marked another overtly ideological stance. For the rst time in the agencys history it was someone who was a pure bred capitalist with no background in education. John Hennessy, formerly CEO of Ericsson Ireland, quickly made his mark by declaring that colleges needed to nd ways of unshackling publicly funded universities from restrictive practices 10 . This was the other agenda of the Hunt Report - to dismantle the working conditions of public sector workers in the colleges and universities in order to get more with less. Over the period 2004-05 to 2009-10, fulltime student numbers increased by 20 percent while public funding per full-time stu-

, 2011, p9; Coulter, 2011. The only practising academic was from Finland. See pdf. on thee Department of Education and Skills website. The same quick conversion from report to ocial government policy happened with the OECD Report on Higher Education in 2007. 8 Hazelkorn and Massaro, 2010, p 14 9 DES, 2011, p 21 10 Flynn, 2012.


dent fell by 16 percent11 . Further shortfalls would be picked up by those that delivered education in the institutions. Courtesy of the Croke Park Agreement, sta reductions in universities over the period 2009- 2011 have been of the order of 6 percent per year and wages across the university sector have fallen in real terms by between 16-23 percent12 . It was now argued that more intensive work and longer hours needed to be put in by lecturers, administrative and technical sta so that even more could be delivered with even less. Hennessys other suggestion for higher education was that the hitherto small private sector should expand. In this, he was looking to what had already been done in the recession elsewhere. The University of Phoenix at Arizona showed how quickly for-prot institutions could ll the gap of falling federal funding for community colleges. It made billions of dollars through the delivery of millions of almost useless diplomas, via the callous exploitation of working class people who were desperate to increase their employment prospects13 . Education for prot was a bit like subprime education, with the same misery of mounting debts for the poor.

Human capital, skills and the knowledge economy

The human capital view of education, promoted a long time back by the Milton Friedman Chicago School of Economics, proclaimed that individuals, not society were responsible for education. If students
11 12

paid for it, they would reap later the reward of higher wages14 . Human capital theory incorporates education into the capitalist dream of rising up the social ladder through your own eorts. The Hunt Report speaks a lot about human capital being key, for individuals and for economic recovery15 . So prevalent is the notion that upskilling is the route to economic recovery, that it is seldom challenged. At a common sense level, it seems to t how economies work and seems to argue for education being directed towards jobs, rather than ivory tower pursuits. But it is selling us a pig in a poke, with some serious political outcomes. Capital ocking to where there is a pool of highly skilled workers or the knowledge economy generating an endless supply of value-added jobs are myths, as British sociologists, Phillip Brown and Hugh Lauder show16 . The ideological construct of the knowledge economy assumes things about todays world of work that do not hold up. Demand for knowledge workers does not far exceed the numbers now graduating; technical innovation does not create ever more jobs; Furthermore, it does not follow that Irish knowledge workers will be in a position to earn more than workers from elsewhere, nor that knowledge workers in general can earn higher wages. First, the demand for knowledge workers is way behind numbers graduating from college. In fact, graduate unemployment in Ireland, in 2008, tripled over the previous years and graduates have been the

HEA 2012a, p5. 23% was the gure given by one trade union activist in DCU who is a lecturer below the bar, ie. the lowest grade of lecturer, a place she has been for twelve years. 13 See Frontline video College Inc. for a chilling account of for-prot education at http://video.pbs. org/video/1485280975 14 Becker, 2002, p3. In the fties when Gray Becker rst coined the term human capital it was considered too debasing to use for people. 15 DES, 2011, p 10. 16 Brown and Lauder, 2006; Lauder, Young, Daniels, Balarin and Lowe, 2012.


most likely to emigrate. An HEA survey of the graduates of 2008, found that only 34 percent of graduates found employment in their country of origin17 . Unemployment among the 18-25 year olds, amongst which there are many graduates, is ocially 30 percent in Ireland, the fourth highest in Europe after Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy18 . In this situation, higher education is less of a gateway to employment than a temporary backdoor from unemployment. Signicant numbers of young people are re-entering or remaining in education in the hope that to do so will better equip them for jobs19 . This has the added advantage for the government that those who would potentially be joining the dole queue are now paying for themselves in education and bringing down the ocial number of unemployed20 . Secondly, technological advances, even during periods of expanding capitalist investment, do not continue to create ever larger employment opportunities. In the ICT sector, even where there is signicant investment, for every knowledge job there are often far more lower-paid service jobs21 . But also new technology tends to squeeze labour out and reduce the number of workers needed. For example, the latest stateof-the-art assembly line of the Ford plant in Chennai, India requires highly skilled workers but, even with doubling its annual production, fewer workers than at Fords other plants22 . It is also wrong to assume that high skilled graduates will necessarily be able to
17 18

earn an-above-the-average wage or have, in Hunts words, value-added jobs. Brown and Lauder show, in the British context, that equally educated but much cheaper graduates elsewhere in the world are also available for high skilled jobs. They argue by 2020, 195 million people in China will have degrees, and in this situation the British graduates will be assured no special place23 . Most British graduates end up working in low-paid knowledge work and 20 per cent of them get no work at all24 . But there is a deeper fallacy in the idea that high skills can attract higher wages. Highly qualied graduates, when they do get work, are not using what they know. Becoming a member of a technical support team may demand that you have a degree, but it doesnt lead to a meaningful career and certainly isnt well paid. It mainly consists of boring grunt work, often requiring thinking conceptually about very little, except perhaps how to shorten the conversation with another irate customer, or to wangle the next break. It is worth remembering this when the government announces new jobs in the ICT sector. For example, IBMs headline announcement in May this year that it was creating 200 high skilled new jobs in the legal nancial and supply chain for its global services centre in Mulhuddart, Dublin, did not mention that an IBM software developer with one years experience can expect to earn e25K per annum (marginally below the wages of someone doing security work), that IBM already makes use of students, that interns

HEA, 2012a, p5. MaryFitgerald, 2012. 19 National Youth Council of Ireland, 2011. 20 Lipman notes the same uses of education as bulwark against disaection amongst the unemployed, in the US. See Lipman 2011, p 124 21 Brown and Lauder, 2003, give as an example Sillicone Valley,in the US, where huge capital investment has not resulted in large amounts of knowledge work. 22 See 23 Brown and Lauder, 2006. 24 Lauder, Young, Daniels, Balarin and Lowe, 2012, p6


work for free and that, only two years ago, the 190 jobs IBM created in its hardware operations in the same plant in Mulhuddart were moved to China25 . These new high skilled jobs are low paid, wide open to exploitation and precarious. The increase in advanced technology and the growth of boring work are not just a coincidence, they are directly linked. Under capitalist production, whose object is more productivity for more prots, new technology brings with it an ever-greater division of labour. During the huge expansion of the service industries in the 1970s, it was noted by the American socialist economist, Harry Braverman, that while modern production calls for much more sophisticated levels of knowledge, the average worker, tied to a job that involves only a tiny repetitive part of the whole work process, experiences deskilling26 . The ofce routine is converted into a factory-like process in accordance with the precepts of modern management and available technology27 . Thank you for calling xxx, my name is Noel, can I have your home telephone number please? I have spoken this exact sequence of words at least two thousand times in my life, Noel, from Dublin told an Irish newspaper in his account of what it was like being a call-centre drone28 . Knowledge work, far from holding the potential for more autonomy for the individual worker, in practice is work which is removed from the workers con25

trol and belongs to management29 . Knowledge put to work in capitalist social relations is monopolized and controlled by the few and, through ever greater division of labour, results in the vast majority experiencing degradation of their work. Ever more specialized labour has other advantages for capital, besides greater productivity; it also renders more measurable the routines of work and also makes the work more easily replaceable. For the individual worker, for perhaps only e18k a year, this is a long way from the value-added work beckoning graduates in the strategy mapped out by Hunt and his group.

Higher education and capitalism

Because of the global impact of neoliberal ideology, and the radical changes it has brought, it is often thought that hitching education to the economy is a new phenomenon and that the way to combat this utilitarianism is to look back to an earlier age when education and scholarship was somehow society-free. Some contributions in a recent Irish collection of essays, Degrees of Nonsense, (which includes, surprisingly, a foreword by British arch-conservative, Roger Scruton,) follow this line of thinking. A chapter by a neo-Hayekian, Prof Dennis OKeee (from the University of Buckingham, Britains only private university) puts the demise of

See . See also website of the Communication Workers of America, Alliance@IBM, archivesjobcutstatusandcomments2.htmso for a frank reporting of the precarious and exploitative conditions of Bly Sky IBM in the US. 26 Braverman, 1974; Barker, 1976; Bellamy Foster 2011; see also Harvey 2006 for a succinct account of Bravermans position. 27 Braverman, 1974, p347. 28 Burke, 2008. See also Justin OHagan, call Centre Workers in Northern Ireland. Stream and Invest NI Irish Left Review at 29 Hardt and Negri, 2005, argue that workers have greater autonomy in the new networked world and can establish islands of resistance within the system.


the university down to state interference public ownership and, apparently, institutional and ideological socialism30 . Another written by Gerard Casey of UCD, (formerly of the pro-life Christian Solidarity Party), takes the surprising line that just as state funding has been bad for the Christian churches in the past so too is it bad for the university31 . Cardinal John Henry Newmans name is often mentioned. Newmans so called liberal education, which became the model for a Catholic university in Dublin in the nineteenth century, oers no model at all: it was highly class and gender bound, more like an aristocratic club than a university, a mini-theocracy imbibed with the worst elitist excesses of the Oxford of his day32 . Not all opposition to the neoliberal university is backward looking. Stefan Collinis popular book, What are Universities for? rejects university elitism and puts forward a clear case against intellectual enquiry being shackled to nancial goals. He sees the cause of the new instrumentalism of higher education in Britain in a new way of thinking about eciency and the way universities are administered, nanced and run33 . Because he does not oer broader economic and political causes, university utilitarianism comes to be explained as the adoption of a mindset. His conclusion is to suggest an alternative set of values which would respect good scholarship and science and preserve the intellectual heritage of mankind. This is all very well but unless we understand how the business model came to be dominant, not only locally but globally, we lose sight of the social origins of present changes in
30 31

higher education. Any critique of the neoliberal university is not only an intellectual argument but a political one, and one which, to alter things, will require institutional and social change. Left-wing critiques also tend to rely on cultural and philosophical values to explain the rise of the marketization of the education. For example, Kathleen Lynch, gives a clear description of how the university is obsessed with measurement and performance, but explains this in terms of positivistic thinking, what she calls carelessness, Cartesian rationalism and liberalism. Carelessness, she understands as the ignoring of emotional thought and feeling which encourages the autonomous rational persons whose relationality is not regarded central to her or his being34 . Lynchs draws on Martha Nussbaum, whose Not for Prot: why Democracy Needs the Humanities also argues that it is deciencies in compassion that have made universities so perniciously prot-driven. Nussbaum argues that the humanities should be the champions of reinstating the value of human passion and imagination, and Rousseau and Dewey our models35 . It is not possible to separate ideas about education from the contending political and social forces within society as a whole. Moral values do not drive education systems. Schools and universities, perhaps even more than other social institutions, bear the stamp of the capitalist world. Marxs description of the interplay between the infrastructure - the economy made up of the forces and relations of production - and the superstructure - the

OKeee in Walsh, 2012, p112-114. Casey in Walsh, 2012, 29. 32 Collini,2012, pp39-60. 33 Collini, 2012, p38 34 Lynch, 2010, p59. 35 Nussbaum, 2010, p86.


state and its institutions, political and civil society, culture and ideology - is relevant to understanding how education is shaped by capitalism. He saw the the mode of production of material life as conditioning the social, political and intellectual life process in general which meant that the ruling class has at its disposal the means of mental production, in which he included education36 . As the economic has come to dominate everything, Marxs proposition that the economy directs other social institutions rings truer today than ever. However, the process is complex, and can, for various reasons, not turn out quite as capitalists would have it. The American Marxists, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, writing in the 1970s argued that education in capitalism replicated class divisions, what they called the correspondence principle. They saw universities as select institutions which, under the cover of intellectual achievement and merit, legitimised social hierarchy37 . In Ireland in the 1980s, when only 20 per cent of Leaving Cert students attended college38 , their characterisation seemed true. Elsewhere - in France, Italy, Germany and the UK - higher education expanded much more and, even though its main function remained to provide society with employers, managers, professionals, top public servants, the correspondence principle did not quite work out in practice. As the sixties gave rise to economic and political disillusionment, the universities became a ferment of revolutionary ideas and a site of resistance and revolt against capitalist war and exploitation. The Italian socialist, Antonio Gramsci described how in mod36

ern capitalism, universities were required to go beyond producing the formal juridical graduates of the classical era. With the increased complexity of capitalist production, they had to combine intellectual and technical learning and train both professionals and teachers but also specialised functionaries and managers for scientic industrial production39 . He argued, writing in the 1920s, that there was always a gulf between university graduates and the working class, but that as universities widened their social functions they also produced independent thinkers and radical critics of the system40 . Gramscis understanding of the tensions within the capitalist institutions of education help us better understand how universities today both reproduce class society and harbour the potential to contest it.

Capital and higher education

What has become known as the commercialisation of education is not just a mindset, but a symptom of the way in which the interests of state and capital are interlocked. As competition for markets and prots is even more intense, education is increasingly commandeered by capital to both deliver research and development, vital for competitive advantage, and also to produce tomorrows workforce primed with the skills, discipline and ideology that it wants. This has played out in dierent ways in dierent countries. In the US, it has taken predominantly the privatised, education for prot route; in the UK, and in Australia, over a longer period of time, the state has sought to shift the burden

Marx, 1977 and 1974, p64. See Harman, 1986, for a clear debunking of mechanical interpretations of the base/ superstructure relationship 37 Bowles and Gintis, 1976; see also Belamy Foster 2011, p8,for an account of their work. 38 DES, 2011,p35. 39 Gramsci, 1971, p28. 40 Gramsci, 1971, p32.


of funding from the state to the individual through the introduction of student loans. In Ireland, the tight capital-state overlap in education has taken the form of the corporate take-over of the universities41 . In the recession, this process is being speeded up. Multinationals are using Ireland as a base for their R&D and increasingly using universities and institutes of technology as their own private research laboratories. The 2008 report from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment makes abundantly clear how knowledge and enterprise clusters operate for the benet of the multinationals42 . Its clusters map for Ireland shows graphically how corporations in Bio/Pharmaceuticals, Internationally Traded Services, and ICT are shadowing universities and institutes of technology. For the ICT sector, for example, the three universities in Dublin share knowledge ows with Google, eBay, Intel, HP and Microsoft; the University of Limerick with Dell and Analog Devices; the UCC and CIT with Amazon and Apple; NUIG with Nortel and SAP43 . These collegecorporation partnerships are established with the help of large amounts of state money. A key government agency, with an annual budget of around e165m, is Science Foundation Ireland, which has funded the establishment of at least nine Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology which weave universities ever tighter to multinational companies44 . Corporations give very little in return. Actual monetary contributions from the private sector to the Irish higher education, at 2 percent
41 42

of GDP, have remained very low, and well below other countries in Europe. Capital sometimes nds harnessing state resources for its own ends more eective than privatisation per se.

Class and higher education

The huge increase in students attending Irish higher education has been strongly marked by social class. Higher participation rates have overwhelmingly beneted the wealthy. Already over the Celtic Tiger period, private education and grinds mushroomed, enabling all the children of the well-o to enter higher education for the rst time45 . The participation rate was 100 percent for the top, higher professional category, and outstripped everyone else, and the lowest income category by a multiple of six46 . Class also inuences the subjects studied, with those entering professional faculties such as law, medicine and dentistry disproportionately from middle and upper class backgrounds. There has been little change to entry patterns for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Working class areas in the cities are still hugely disadvantaged regarding entry to third level. The 2006 census found that only 5.8 percent of people living on the North side of Cork city had primary degrees with many not even completing secondary education47 . A further class distinction, exists between the Institutes of Education and the universities; only 15 per cent of university students are from skilledmanual, semi-skilled-manual and unskilled backgrounds48 . The recession has made

Allen, 2007a, p133-159. DETE, 2008, p7 43 DETE, 2008, p9 44 DETE. 2008, p 10 45 Allen 2007b; Whelan and Layte 2004, p92. 46 DES, 2011, p37 47 Dorrity and Maxwell, 2011, p20 48 HEA 2012b p94


things even worse. Social discrimination has been aggravated by the government cutting in, 2011, of the maintenance grant by between e2,440 and e3,900 a year for any individual student. In this situation, speaking of human capital potential in individual terms, or that learning equals earning, is nonsense. Having a degree does not assure you a better job. For example, women are more likely to have a third-level qualication than men: over half of women aged between 25 and 35 have a third-level qualication compared with less than four out of ten men. Despite this, women earn on average around 27 percent less than men49 . The unequal structures in society, including woeful accessibility to aordable childcare, determine what job you have how much you earn and whether you have a career in any meaningful sense.

temporary contracts have been appointed at the bottom of the scale and at 10 percent less than existing sta. There are also a growing number of researchers poorly paid and insecure who work at the whim of an erratic, and bureaucratic, funding system. The fact that trade union membership in colleges has remained high is a sign of growing job insecurity and carries the potential to give organisational form to the frustration amongst the majority who work in higher education.

Resisting austerity and neoliberal education

Crises of capitalism often nd political expression in colleges and universities. In the 1960s, the failure of expectations and disgust with governments involvement in the Vietnam war mobilised hundreds of thousands of students into a movement that left its mark on socialist politics for decades to come. This economic crisis, too, has seen students taking part in the new resistance to capitalism. In Wisconsin, schools and colleges, suering cutbacks and attacks on their right to union representation, were in the forefront of the struggle. Unemployed graduates triggered the movement of the Arab Spring. In Egypt, they organised alongside independent trade unions in Tahrir Square. In Greece in 2007, students previously thought as socially conservative, were the rst to move into battle against austerity policies, and oppose the privatisation of the universities. Last year, the Chilean winter was led by students, who gave expression to the anger against the ravages of the neoliberal market, and were instrumental in delivering one of the largest general strikes in that country in

Polarisation within higher education

If higher education reects class divisions in society in terms of the student makeup, there is also a widening social divide amongst those that work in their institutions. At the top, stratospheric pay levels of Presidents, earning, in most cases, over e200, 000 per annum and close behind, a layer of management earning in excess of e125,000 has created a veritable layer of super-rich in the academy50 . There has been a corresponding drop in salary levels amongst many lower grade lecturing sta and administrative sta. With the Employment Control Framework moratorium on permanent appointments the 2011 budget stipulations on new entrants to the public service, an increasing number of

CSO ,Women and Men in Ireland 2011 2012pressreleases/pressreleasewomenandmeninireland2011/ 50 See Kerry Public Service Workers Alliance, The tumultuous state of Irish academia, http://kpswa.


recent times. In the UK, students occupied their colleges over Israels assault on Gaza in 2008-09, and mobilised massively against the Tories raising of fees in 2010. Later British lecturers mobilised against attacks on their pensions51 . In the US, students were centrally involved in the occupy movement, in OWS in New York and in Oaklands, where they linked up so successfully with the trade unions. At this moment there is a massive student movement exploding in Quebec. There is every reason to suspect, despite the claims made about the conservative nature of Irish students, that Irish higher education will also be part of the growing resistance to austerity. The expectations about what education can deliver, either in terms of employment or economic

recovery, will create deep political disillusion52 . This crisis has far deeper structural causes than skill shortages. Overaccumulation and the crisis in protability of capital, which led to the massive growth of nancialisation, the property bubble, and the subsequent crash has global repercussions that will be long and deep. Slashing public services, including education, to pay the banks, alongside promises that the economy will recover, become less credible as each year passes. Growing graduate unemployment and education cutbacks are changing the political climate in colleges. Seeing how direct action can hold austerity back - whether through the Vita Cortex victory or through the successful refusal to pay household charges - might just provide the tipping point.

Allen, Kieran, 2007a, The Corporate Takeover of Ireland, (Irish Academic Press). Allen, Kieran, 2007b, Ireland: Middle Class Nation. Etudes Irlandaises, 32 (2):49-67. Barker, Colin 1976 Review of Labour and Capital International Socialism (1st series), No.86 ( February) pp.27-29. barker-/1976/02/braverman.htm Becker, Gary S. 2002 The Age of Human Capital in E. P. Lazear, Education in the Twenty-First Century, (Hoover Institution Press)pp. 3-8, http://economics.dlut. Belamy Foster, John, 2011, Education and the Structural Crisis of Capitalism Monthly Review, 63 (3), pp 6-37. Braverman, Harry, 1974, Labour Monopoly and Capital: the degradation of work in the Twentieth Century (Monthly Review Press). Bowles, Samuel and Herbert Gintis, 1976, Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life, (Basic Books Inc.). Brown, Phillip and Hugh Lauder, 2003 Globalisation and the Knowledge Economy:some observations on recent trends in Employment Education and Labour Market, Working
Swain, 2011. Browne and Lauder ,2003 ,noted that these factors went something towards explaining the student struggle in Britain.
52 51


Papers, series 43, School of Social Sciences, Cardi University http://www.cardiff. Brown, Phillip and Hugh Lauder, H. 2006 Globalisation knowledge and the myth of the magnet economy, Globalisation, Societies and Education 4 (1): 25-57 Burke, Noel, 2008, Confessions of a call-centre drone, Irish Independent (August 5). Callinicos, Alex, 2012, Contradictions of Austerity, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 36, Issue 1, pp 65-77. Central Statistics Oce (CSO), 2011, Women and Men in Ireland, pressreleasewomenandmeninireland2011/ Collini, Stefan, 2012, What are Universities for? (Penguin). Coulter, Colin, 2011, Factory Farms for the Mind, option=com_content&view=article&id=7101:factory-farms-for-the-mind Department of Education and Skills (DES), 2010, Education Trends: Key Indicators on Education in Ireland and Europe, blobservlet/des_educ_trends_chapter05.htm Department of Education and Skills (DES), 2011, National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (The Hunt Report) national_strategy_2030_report.pdf Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE), 2008, Knowledge and Enterprise Clusters in Ireland, Knowledgeandenterpriseclusters.pdf Dorrity, Claire and Nicola Maxwell, 2011, Access to 3rd-Level Education: Challenges to the Participation of Adult non-traditional Learners, Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Critical Social Thinking Conference, Cork (28th January) en/appsoc/research/cstj/CST2ndAnnualConferenceProceedings2011/Section1/ ClaireDorrityandNicolaMaxwell.pdf Fitzgerald, Mary 2012 The jobless generation: Europe, Irish Times (May 19). Flynn, Sean, 2012, Call for colleges to be unshackled Irish Times (April 21). Garvin, Tom, 2012, The bleak future of Irish Universities Irish Times (May 1). Gramsci, Antonio, 1971, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (eds. Quentin Hoare and Georey Nowell Smith)( Lawrence and Wishart). Harman, Chris, 1986, Base and Superstructure International Socialism 2:32,(Summer), pp. 3-44. 34

Hardt, Michael and Toni Negri, 2005 Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (Penguin). Harvey, David, 2006, The Limits of Capital (Verso). Hazelkorn, Ellen and Vin Massaro, 2010, A tale of two strategies for higher education and economic recovery: Ireland and Australia, IMHE General Conference OECD Paris Higher Education Authority (HEA), 2010, What do graduates do : the class of 2008 Dublin: Higher Education Authority statistics/48078%20HEA%20graduates%20report%2008.pdf Hardt Michael and Toni Negri, 2005 Multitude. London: Hamish Hamilton. Higher Education Authority (HEA), 2012a, Strategic Plan Document http://www.hea. ie/files/HEA-STRATEGIC-PLAN.pdf Higher Educatin Authority (HEA) 2012b Higher Education Key facts and Figures 2010/2011 11%20Final.pdf Lauder, Hugh , Michael Young, Harry Daniels, Maria Balarin and John Lowe, 2012 Educating for the Knowledge economy? Critical perspectives (Routledge). Lipman, Pauline, 2011, Neoliberal Education Restructuring: Dangers and Opportunities of the Present crisis Monthly Review 6 (3) 114-127 Lynch, Kathleen ,2010 Carelessness: A hidden doxa of higher education Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Vol 9 (1) pp 54-67. Mautner Gerlinde (2010) Language and the Market Society: Critical Reections on Discourse and Dominance London: Routledge. Marx, Karl, 1977, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels, 1974 The German Ideology (Lawrence and Wishart). National Youth Council of Ireland, 2011,Youth unemployement in Ireland: the Forgotten Generation. (NYCI) Nussbaum, Martha, 2010, Not for Prot: Why democracy needs the humanities (Princetown University Press) Swain, Dan, 2011, The student movement today International Socialism 131 (Spring), pp95-112. Walsh, Brendan, 2012, (Ed) Degrees of Nonsense: The demise of the University in Ireland, (Glasnevin Publishing).


Whelan, Charles. T. and Richard Layte, 2004, Economic Change, Social Mobility and Meritocracy: Reections on the Irish Experience, Quarterly Economic Commentary, pp 89-108. (Economic and Social Research Institute) QEC0904SA_Layte.pdf


James Connolly and the Irish Labour Party

Donal Mac Fhearraigh

100 years of celebration?

2012 marks the centenary of the founding of the Irish Labour Party. Like most political parties in Ireland, Labour likes to trade on its radical heritage by drawing a link to Connolly. On the history section of the Labour Partys website it says, The Labour Party was founded in 1912 in Clonmel, County Tipperary, by James Connolly, James Larkin and William OBrien as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress(ITUC). It is the oldest political party in Ireland and the only one which pre-dates independence. The founders of the Labour Party believed that for ordinary working people to shape society they needed a political party that was committed to serving their needs; they knew that there is only so much that trade unions and community organisations can do, an eective political party is needed to create a fair society. The Labour Party has never lived up to the rhetoric about its radical roots. During the 1950s, Jack White, the deputy editor of the Irish Times was asked by a foreign colleague to explain the irrelevance of the left-right cleavage in Irish politics. Draw a line, and put all the parties well to the right, he explained. But what about the Labour Party? his companion inquired,
1 2

to which White replied, Put that furthest of all1 . White was joking but only just, and if Labour was regarded as conservative at home it was it was even more so when compared with her sister parties. One historian described it as the most opportunistically conservative party in the known world2 . It was not until the late 1960s that the party professed an adherence to socialism, a word which had been completely taboo until that point. Arguably the least successful social democratic or Labour Party in Western Europe, the Irish Labour Party has never held oce alone and has only been the minority party in coalition. Labour has continued this tradition in the current government with Fine Gael. Far from being the party of socialism it has been the party of austerity. The Labour Party got elected a year ago on promises of burning the bondholders and defending ordinary people against cutbacks. Instead they have attacked the most vulnerable in our society. They have utterly betrayed those who voted for them. They have championed the EU-IMF programme as the only possible solution to the crisis and now advocating for the Fiscal Treaty that will see further cuts inicted on working class families. Lone parents and those on social welfare are suering the brunt of the attacks from Labour Party Ministers like Joan Burton. Threats to cut welfare payments and force people into unpaid internship work abound while the rich are molly-coddled with tax breaks and suer no surveillance on their tax returns. Struggling single parents will see their income slashed by e1,000 a year. The up-

Niamh Puirseil: The Irish Labour Party, p408 As above.


per age limit of the youngest child for new claimants of the one-parent family payment is to be reduced to 12 and it will then be further reduced on a phased basis. Child benet for families with three and more children was cut by e19 a month for the third child and e17 a month for the fourth and further subsequent children hitting the poorest families in the State. They are being scapegoated for a recession they did not cause.They hiked the top rate of VAT from 21 percent to 23 percent, which impacted most on poorer people. The back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance was cut by e55 for children aged 12 or more and e50 for children aged between four and 11 - the eligibility age of this allowance was raised from two to four years. Special needs assistants in schools have been cut, third level students face increased fees and small rural schools are being closed. The fuel allowance payment is to be reduced by almost a fth, in the context of a report by the Institute of Public Health which found that levels of fuel poverty on the island of Ireland remain unacceptably high and that these are responsible for among the highest levels of excess winter mortality in Europe, with an estimated 2,800 excess deaths on the island in the winter months. The community sector faces a reduction in funding of 35 percent by the end of 2013. This will devastate the poorest communities in the country. Aordable childcare will be stopped and a route out of deep poverty through education and training will be removed. They have continued the deep cuts on health expenditure: e2.5 billion over three years, over 8,000 fewer sta resulting in closure of hospital wards and beds, leading to more public patients waiting longer for hospital treatment; poor, inadequate or non-existent community and primary care 38

services; closure of public nursing homes; a 5 percent cut to home helps; and cuts to the State subvention for prescription drugs. Instead of creating jobs this government has slashed more jobs in the public sector. Pensions have been attacked and people will now be forced to work until the age of 68. But its a dierent story for the rich: The top 1 percent has recovered all their losses since the crash in 2008. The top 5 percent are sitting on assets worth e219 Billion according to the Central Statistics Oce. There is no talk of taxing those assets; rather in the last budget the superrich were given more tax breaks with some highly paid executives on e500,000 a year expected to pay only 30 percent income tax. Rather than creating a fair society Labour have helped increase inequality in Ireland.

The founding of the Labour Party

The Labour Party is a million miles away from where James Connolly, one of its founders, envisioned it could be. As one of the delegates to the annual meeting of the Irish Trade Union Congress

of 1912 at Clonmel, Connolly moved the resolution that the independent representation of labour upon all public boards be, and is hereby included ,among the objectives of this congress3 . It was carried by 49 votes to 19, with another 19 delegates not recorded. Connollys attempt to form a broader labour party linked to the trades unions was an attempt to sharpen class struggle in Ireland and not a move towards constitutional reformist politics. It was an attempt by him to form a militant class struggle based party to t the specic needs of the Irish working class at the time. Connolly proposed that an Irish Labour Party be formed, its purpose being to ght the capitalist parties of Ireland on their own soil4 . Connolly saw the Labour Party initially as a broad non-socialist movement. He insisted that the new party must keep a place for those who are not as far advanced as themselves, but whose class interests would bring them into line5 . The Labour Party would be the municipal and parliamentary wing of the trades unions. Connolly was absolutely right to try to give workers an independent voice in Irish politics. Only a year later all the nationalist rhetoric about all the Irish standing together against British exploitation was exposed by the great Dublin lock-out when Irish employers sought to smash the trade union movement in Dublin. Connollys perspective was that the Home Rule Bill would soon be passed in the British parliament and therefore the question of nationalism would recede in Irish politics. What was needed in his view was a party for Irish workers to be able to act independently of Irish employers.
3 4

These views were expressed most clearly in Connollys pamphlet The ReConquest of Ireland which he wrote for the new Labour Party. Connolly articulated this perspective at the 1913 congress of the ITUC where he stressed the extent to which the Labour Party was above national divisions. He claimed that in the past the English Labour Party was the natural ally as it was better to appeal to our own class across the water than appealing to our enemies in the master class in our country6 . However, far from the Home Rule Bill ending the national question in Irish politics and clearing the way for class politics, it precipitated a new crisis in Ireland as Unionists organised against it. Connolly was forced to re-assess his political perspective. The Labour Party remained a stalled project. The Irish TUC put little resources or time into it. At the rst meeting of the Labour parliamentary committee in 1913 Larkin resigned the chair and Connolly refused to take it up, believing it would not work without Larkin at the helm. Thereafter the Labour Party remained a vehicle for issuing statements and lobbying government ministers until its rebirth after the First World War. The Labour Party never became the working class political force Connolly hoped for, not because of organisational failings but because it became the mouthpiece of the trade union bureaucracy. It sought at most to represent workers, not to break capitalism. Connolly believed it was possible to safeguard against reformism by having the party tied to militant industrial unions. He underestimated the need for independent

James Connolly: A full life, Donal Nevin, p424 James Connolly, Forward, July 1st, 1911 5 ITUC report 1914, p43 6 ITUC report 1913, p34


socialist political organisation inside the trade union movement to combat the reformist political ideas of the trade union bureaucracy. Instead Connolly argued that a socialist party only needed to make general propaganda in society and that the unions would do the rest. He thought the union bureaucracy could become a force for revolution under the pressure of working class militancy. He did not conceive of the bureaucracy as a distinct conservative social layer inside the workers movement. This meant the ideas of the developing trade union bureaucracy were not challenged and the way was left open for them to compromise with the new nationalist ruling class. Labour refused to contest the 1918 general election or the 1921 Parliamentary elections under the mistaken slogan of labour must wait and thus left an uncontested eld for the nationalists. It was after this that the party was revived in its modern safe parliamentary from - a million miles away from the class struggle party Connolly had envisioned.

In 2008 at the Labour partys annual James Connolly Commemoration held in Arbour Hill, Dublin, even Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party, said Connollys legacy has been claimed by many. But his lifes story, and the many writings he left behind, make it impossible to depart from the compelling truth. That James Connolly was, rst and foremost, a socialist8 . Which is much more than can be said for Eamon Gilmore. But Connolly was not just a socialist he was a revolutionary socialist. He recognised the need to participate in elections but only as a tactic for agitation. The election of a socialist to any public body , he wrote, is only valuable in so far as it is the return of a disturber of the political peace9 . Connolly was completely clear on the need for revolutionary change to achieve socialism. Far from the creation of the Labour Party being his lifes work, it is his unswerving commitment to working class self-emancipation that shines through all his writings. Connolly was rst and foremost a revolutionary. In January 1913, a year after the formation of the Labour Party, he stood as a candidate. in the municipal election in Belfast .In one of his speeches he said, Believing that the present system of society is based upon the robbery of the working class, and that capitalist property cannot exist without the plundering of labour, I desire to see capitalism abolished, and a democratic system of common or public ownership erected in its stead10 . In 1912, the previous year, Connolly

Labour: Connollys life work?

Joanna Tuy TD, criticising RTEs Irelands Greatest show in 2010 about James Connolly that had forgotten to mention his role in setting up the Labour Party, said, It was his lifes work to set up such a party7 . Was the founding of the Labour Party really his lifes work? Only someone who has never read any of Connollys writings could utter such words.
7 8 9 K.Allen, The Politics of James Connolly, London 1990, p.11 10


waged a polemic with the leading socialist in Belfast, if not Ireland, at the time, William Walker, on the need for socialists to have a revolutionary and not just a reformist perspective. Connolly labelled Walkers politics gas and water socialism because of his sole focus on municipal services instead of the achievement of workers power. While supporting greater state intervention he was against mere government socialism. Every reform would be won by workers militancy. Reforms and socialist policies would be achieved by the increasing power of the industrial unions on the factory oor. He wrote: State ownership and control is not necessarily socialism - if it were, then the army, the navy, the police would all be socialist functionaries an immense gulf separates the nationalising proposals of the middle class from the socialising demands of the revolutionary working class11 . During the great lock-out of 1913 Connolly formed the Irish Citizens Army. It was created to protect the workers from any groups that might have been employed by the employers to rough up any striking worker. The ICA later played a central role in the Easter Rising. In Belfast as in Dublin he was a strong supporter of the militant sections of the Suragette campaigners for votes for women. It was also at this time that James Connolly revived a newspaper called The Workers Republic. Up to this year, all of Connollys work had been orientated around socialism and developing the rights of the working class.
11 12

Far from abandoning revolutionary socialism for a reformist approach based on parliamentary change it is clear Connolly remained a revolutionary socialist. More over his commitment to revolution intensied, rather than waned, with the outbreak of the First World War, which he opposed on internationalist grounds. He denounced both those socialists (like the German Social Democratic Party) who supported the imperialist slaughter and those who (like Karl Kautsky and Keir Hardie) who took a passive, or pacist attitude to it. When the bugle sounded the rst note for actual war, their notes should have been taken as the tocsin for social revolution12 . Someone whose politics were further away from those of Eamon Gilmore and the current Irish Labour Party would be hard to imagine. Unfortunately, as we shall see, there were weaknesses in his understanding of what was needed to defeat the inuence of reformism in the working class.

The roots of reformism

Connollys concept of a Labour Party that he proposed in 1912 was rooted in his experience of the revolutionary American trade union tradition, the syndicalists. The Industrial Workers of the World (known as the Wobblies) were a militant revolutionary union who sought to overcome the divisions in the working class by organising everyone in One Big Union. They had a vision of taking power within capitalism one factory at a time until they controlled all the economy. They therefore didnt need to engage in any political struggle with the capitalist class, it would all be decided at the economic level. This approach meant Connolly didnt worry about the politics of the Labour Party, it only mattered that it was strongly

Cited in C.Desmond Greaves, The Life and Times of James Connolly, London, 1976, p.130 Cited in K.Allen, as above, p.126


bound to the industrial unions, he thought that would guarantee militant politics dominated the new party. Connollys idea that you could guard against reformist politics by tying political organisation to a militant industrial base proved wrong. He lacked a clear analysis of reformism and its social base. Tony Cli, the founder of the SWP international tradition, helped develop a clear Marxist understanding of the social base of Labour and social democratic type parties. Labourism is the political expression of the politics of the trade union bureaucracy. The trade union bureaucracy forms a distinct social layer in society. Their aim is to achieve a compromise between workers and employers. Left-wing trade union ofcials may ght harder for a better deal, but in the end of the day they too seek to cut a deal with the bosses - they dont try to get rid of the bosses altogether. Lenin described reformist Labour type parties accurately as capitalist workers parties. They are capitalist in the sense that they do not seek to break from capitalism but rather seek only to curtail its worst excesses. They are workers parties because they draw their support from the working class and are organically linked to the trade unions. Therefore socialists need to organise inside the unions independently of the trade union bureaucracy. But its not enough to just be a militant trade unionist, a socialist must be, as Lenin put it, a tribune of the people. That is a socialist must ght the system on an ideological and political level as well as economically. Socialists must offer a clear political alternative not just to capitalist parties but to reformist parties as well. Connollys model of socialist organisation downplayed this and therefore when major political questions emerged in so42

ciety the socialists split between the reformists and revolutionary camps. The resulting weakness of revolutionary socialist forces meant Connolly was in a much weaker position when the national crisis erupted in 1916.

100 years on: Is the labour party nished?

The question of reformism is still one on which socialists need political clarity . Some socialists argue that all Labour and Social Democrats across Europe have now become social liberal parties and therefore the question of reformism is now dead. These socialists connect reformism to particular organisational forms and are confused when reformism re-emerges in other forms- whether as left reformist splits from traditional labour parties -like Syriza in Greece, Die Linke in Germany or the Front de Gauche in France, or in the form of Sinn Fein in Ireland. Getting it wrong on how to relate to these movements and parties can be disastrous for socialists as can be seen from the experience of socialists in France. Combating reformism cannot be done simply be launching a new party with a socialist program. New left parties, like the United Left Alliance in Ireland, will be sites of struggle between reformist and revolutionary ideas; they will not exclude reformist ideas just by declaring it. How these parties develop depends on the course of the class struggle and on how socialists operate inside them. If they are too sectarian they can become moribund, if they are too opportunist they can be incorporated into the system. Up to the very moment of successful socialist revolution revolutionary socialists will need to adopt methods of organising that draw non-revolutionary workers into common struggle. This will primar-

ily mean united fronts with members and supporters of reformist parties. Reformist consciousness also has deep roots in the everyday experience of workers under capitalism. Reformism is the common sense of the working class under capitalism and therefore will be with us until the moment of socialist revolution. It is rooted in the alienation and commodication of capitalism13 .Under capitalism everything can be bought and sold, including workers labour power. The exploitation of the system is hidden under a seemingly equal exchange of goods - the ability to work for a wage. It is summed up in the phrase a fair days work for a fair days wage. This seemingly equal exchange hides the exploitative basis of the system that each worker produces more than they get paid in their wage packet, while the rest goes to the bosses as prot. This common sense only starts to break down when workers understand their central role in feeding the systems prots

and begin to get a sense of their potential power. Often this starts to happen during strikes or other forms of collective struggle. But as class struggle is uneven this insight is discovered by dierent sections of the working class at dierent times and places. It is the central role of the revolutionary party to gather together these most militant sections of the class that understand the power and potential of the working class, in order to wage an ideological and political struggle against the inuence of bourgeois and reformist ideas in the class as a whole. The working class, in its majority, only comes to socialist consciousness in the process of social revolution. It is during this period that the active and focused intervention of a revolutionary party is decisive. This is why the revolutionary party must maintain its political and organisational coherence at the same time as working in broader movements and alliances like the ULA.

13 Marx developed his analysis of alienation in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and of the fetishism of commodities in Capital, Chapter 1 , Section 4


Neoliberal Belfast: Disaster Ahead?

Brian Kelly Buried beneath the hype surrounding the launch of Belfasts Titanic Signature Project in mid-April was a small detail that managed to get a brief airing in Belfasts council chambers a few weeks later: working-class communities across the city had missed out on the dividend arising from the project, which failed to meet even the minimal social responsibility goals that the city had set in exchange for fast-tracking the project through planning and handing over 10m in ratepayers money. The Titanic project, at more than 92m, two thirds of it public money, is the most expensive tourist attraction in Europe1 . Yet it failed to generate a mere 25 apprenticeships, fell short of creating a pitiful 15 jobs for the citys long-term unemployed, and to date includes not a single unit of desperately-needed social housing2 . Politicians from all the major parties, and from minor players like the Progressive Unionist Party, are now scrambling to hedge their bets on the Titanic Quarter, but not one of them raised the slightest objection earlier on, despite clear signals that all was not well. Serious complaints were raised as early as 2007 that local communities had been completely sidelined in planning. Auditors warned before the opening that Titanic would have diculty breaking even, and the bursting of the property bubble means that the new signature building stands alone, surrounded by industrial rubble rather than the glittering towers of

ash condominiums in the original plans. The owner of the adjacent Odyssey entertainment centre has said that its entanglement in the Anglo Irish Bank debacle will leave the 11-year old complex near-empty and derelict3 .

Criticism of the project has touched a nerve among tourism ocials and politicians. When government-appointed auditors warned in a high-prole report that it might be unviable, DUP Enterprise and Trade Minister Arlene Foster responded that she was frustrated to the ends of the earth by people talking down the Titanic project. Tourism chiefs deemed it unprofessional for the auditors to release their ndings ahead of the opening, and the scandal-ridden First Minister Peter Robinson went further, taking aim at

See Capital cost per visitor for a range of attractions in Northern Ireland Audit Oce, Review of the Signature Projects 13 Dec. 2011, p44. 2 Working-class communities missed out on Titanic Quarter dividend, Belfast Telegraph, 3 May 2012. Overall costs and public contribution to the Titanic project are from NIAO, Review of Signature Projects, p44. 3 NIAO, Review of Signature Projects, p37-41; Curistan warns over Odysseys future, UTV News, 26 Jan. 2012:


the meagre forces of the local Occupy movement then holed up in a former city centre bank. Rather than engage in artless protest over housing foreclosures and evictions, he told well-fed banqueters at a Stormont dinner for the NI Assembly Business Trust, it was time that we all pull together and stop talking the Northern Ireland economy down.4 The Titanic project illuminates in an especially crass manner the free market fundamentalism underpinning the new Belfast, and epitomizes the convergence of local and global capital in remaking the whole of Northern Ireland in a neoliberal mould. In the mid-1990s, when shiny diplomats and aspiring Nobel recipients were still struggling to convince ordinary people to sign on to the peace process, there was a great deal of talk in the air about a peace dividend: if only the British exchequer didnt have to squander so much public money on security, it was hinted, resources could be shifted to building up those working-class communities hit hardest during a quarter century of conict, renovating dilapidated schools and hospitals, and improving public services. In the wake of the real estate collapse and the onset of global economic crisis, all of that seems a very distant memory now,

and it is the gap between promise and reality that explains Robinsons defensiveness. The stark social inequalities that fuelled the Troubles remain deeply entrenched: the very same districts that suered the brunt of the violence from 1969 onward remain at the bottom in poverty, unemployment, and social deprivation; public funding is being cut to the bone, with hospital patients dying on trolleys and schools facing closure5 ; low-paid public sector workers whose wages make up a large portion of income in every working-class community across the North are threatened with redundancies by the thousands. All this is being carried out by an Assembly at Stormont that seems to be constantly falling out over issues having to do with culture and national identity, but which is ecumenical enough in its collective worship of the free market. Media focus on the Troubles and their aftermath has always obscured a critical aspect of life in Northern Ireland: it remains one of the most unequal societies in western Europe. A comprehensive study published in 2003 found that Northern Ireland has higher poverty rates than the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, and that the scale of poverty was a reection of widening income inequalities in a society not only characterized

Fosters comments came during the Northern Ireland Assembly Debates, 16 January 2012, at; Yvette Shapiro, Can Titanics hopes stay aoat? BBC News Northern Ireland, 22 January 2012, uk-northern-ireland-16666231; Robinson targets negative media for talking Northern Ireland down, BBC News Northern Ireland, 24 February 2012, Naomi Long from the Alliance Party shared the DUPs defensiveness. See Titanic project cant be allowed to sink: Long, Belfast Telegraph, 15 December 2011, 5 Man dies as Belfast A&E pushed to limits , BBC News Northern Ireland, 15 March 2012,http: //; see also Agency nurse at Royal A&E has not worked since man died, BBC News, 21 March 2012,; Education minister says school closures may be necessary, BBC News, 26 September 2011, 6 Hillyard et. al. Bare Necessities: Poverty and Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland (Belfast: Democratic Dialogue, 2003), p43-44.


by high poverty levels but also by considerably higher levels of income inequality than Britain.6 Any serious plan for post-conict economic development should have had as its central priorities the closing of the obscene gap between rich and poor, the eradication of the poverty that dominates working-class housing estates in both communities, and the wiping out of remnants of the legacy of decades of sectarian discrimination. Instead, the neoliberal model embraced by every main party after the Belfast Agreement and now held up as a model for conict transformation around the word holds dogmatically to a version of trickledown economics, where funds stripped from the public sector are poured into high-end shopping malls and lavish golf resorts under the pretext that some of this will somehow, someday, make its way back into the hands of ordinary people. The wealth gap is growing, poverty is on the increase, and the minimal checks on sectarianism forced upon the state in the postcivil rights era have been brushed aside in the new euphoria for private sector-led regeneration.

process come straight out of the Washington playbook, rmly rooted in neoliberal ideology, and not some specially adapted plan carefully tailored to t local history or conditions. In April 2008 Stormont announced $800 million in US investment, half of it from the Irish-American aliated Emerald Investment Development Fund. A month later New York mayor Michael Bloomberg led a delegation of 100 US corporate leaders to Belfast for an investment conference convened by Invest NI and the American Consulate, at which he suggested that exploiting its links to the US corporate world could make Belfast one of the most competitive nancial hubs in the world7 . Neoliberalism originated among USbased, right-wing academic economists in the 1950s, but made its way out of University of Chicago classrooms into the factories and internment camps of Chile under conditions of military dictatorship in the 1970s. Globally, the Chilean experiment found its greatest admirers in Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, whose attacks on the public sector aimed at popularizing the notion that state under modern capitalism existed solely to reinforce corporate power.8 If on some narrow grounds Chile represented an economic success, the export of free market shock therapy to the former eastern bloc countries by heirs to the Chicago School in the 1990s was an unmitigated disaster, resulting in soaring poverty, widening inequality, and a staggering decline in living standards. True believers had their devotion to neoliberalism rekindled, briey, in the fanfare preceding the

The Neoliberal Solution: Made in Washington

Pressed by the architects of the peace process in Washington and London, the northern establishment has embraced the free market as a panacea for the regions woes, imagining that it has come up with a pragmatic and original solution to local problems. The reality is that the economic foundations of the Northern Ireland peace

Bloomberg quoted in John Nagle, Potemkin Village: Neo-liberalism and Peace-building in Northern Ireland?, Ethnopolitics 8:2 (2009), 177. 8 David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, 6, 21,50, p55-62; Chris Harman questions the degree to which neoliberalism signied a rupture with postwar capitalism, foreseeing in some ways the nostalgia for traditional Keynesianism in recent writing on the global crisis. See his Theorizing Neoliberalism, International Socialism Journal 117 (Dec. 2007):


US/UK invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003. In post-Saddam Iraq, the Bush plan went, a stable, corporate-dominated, oilrich neoliberal utopia would emerge from the rubble of shock and awe to serve as a model for projecting US interests and transforming the region9 . The brutal reality of post-invasion Iraq oers a salutary lesson on the limits of neoliberalism. Not for the rst time, the market utopia promised by right-wing ideologues turned out to be a harrowing nightmare. Although trumpeted in Northern Ireland as a salve for sectarian antagonism, neoliberalisms record in Iraq-where it has produced a bloody and dramatic revival of sectarian violence10 -should make any sane person sceptical about these claims.

brutal intermittent attacks on vulnerable Catholics and mostly symbolic provocations aimed-like the Garvaghy Road stando in the late 1990s, the tramping of the Royal Irish Regiment through Belfast city centre in 2008, or the recent clashes at Belfast City Hall-at restoring the morale in their own dwindling ranks11 , but pragmatic elements within unionism-including in the DUP itself-are well aware that they cannot rule in the old way. This change of heart has been driven mainly by hard-headed reasoning among homegrown elites about how best to reposition the North in a global capitalist economy. Where local industries like shipbuilding and engineering once oered a basis for holding together an all-class Orange alliance between the big house Protestants dominating ocial unionism and a materially deprived Protestant working class, by the late 1970s these economic sectors were in terminal decline. For all his smallmindedness and bumbling inconsistency, modernizing unionists like David Trimble grasped this essential fact, and realized that the open appeals to sectarianism that had been regular fare in the more insular pre-Troubles Northern Ireland would scare o the foreign investment needed to replace well-paid work in basic industry. The DUP held o from signing on to the Belfast Agreement, hectoring Trimble from the sidelines for having done deals with the republican nemesis, but the evidence from Wikileaks shows that Paisley and his henchmen were involved in similar discussions with Sinn Fin going back a long way. When it suited their political prospects, the DUP proved eager to take over where

Multinational Capital and the End of the Orange State

Free market ideology was not simply forced on the northern establishment by armtwisters dispatched from London or Washington. By the time of the Belfast Agreement in the mid-1990s, the one-party sectarian state that had ruled Northern Ireland from its founding in the early 1920s through to the outbreak of violence in 1969 was already a relic of the past: what would replace it remained open to question. The Orange state rallied its repressive capacity to try to contain nationalist insurgency through the seventies and eighties, but by the termination of armed conict it was clear that there would be no going back to old-style unionist rule. Bitter-end sectarians have resisted the collapse of their former ascendancy in a combination of

On plans for neoliberal Iraq, see especially Naomi Klein, Baghdad year zero: pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia, Harpers Magazine, Sept. 2004: 10 Stephen Zunes, The US Role in Iraqs Sectarian Violence, Foreign Policy in Focus, 6 March 2006: 11 Debate rages over Mayors award snub, Belfast Newsletter, 21 May 2012:http://www.newsletter.


Trimble left o12 . Sinn Fins support for neoliberalism seems, at one level, to mark an abrupt change in their political direction. If true, it would not be the only sharp reversal they have dragged their supporters through in recent years. But the reality is more complex. Throughout the pre-conict years, even when unionist domination over Northern Ireland seemed most impregnable, a small Catholic middle class had secured a degree of prosperity. Strongly encouraged by a conservative church hierarchy, many had made their peace with the state, even if ultimately they aspired to Irish unity. Excluded from big industry, they carved out a niche in running public houses and grocery shops, in the construction industry and in other sectors13 . The opening up of UK higher education in the postwar period helped Catholics secure a prominent place in the professions14 , and throughout the Provisionals long war the IRA leadership struggled to contain the tensions between an insurgency being fought mainly by urban and rural working class communities and a cautious middle class constituency that helped fund the campaign, but which wanted nothing to do with economic radicalism15 .

In pre-1994 conditions, when they were locked out of the formal political process, it was easier for Gerry Adams and the Sinn Fin leadership to bury the contradiction between the left-wing rhetoric aimed at core supporters and a pragmatic approach to pursuing a settlement, but with the signing of the Belfast Agreement the balancing act became increasingly dicult to sustain. Inuential elements around Sinn Fin, including Mairtn OMuilleoir of the West Belfast-based Andersonstown News and individuals grouped around the local Partnership Boards across the North, were enthusiastic advocates of private sector-led urban regeneration, and argued that the same energy that had gone into conducting the war against the British should now be applied to economic development in nationalist areas16 . This essentially bourgeois vision matched Sinn Fins political ambitions: its aspiration to replace the SDLP as the party of nationalism required that it win over middle-class voters whod been unwilling to vote SF during the dark days, and to secure the loyalty of a new, more substantial layer of upwardly mobile young nationalists with no direct experi-

WikiLeaks: Ian Paisleys DUP and Sinn Fin in direct talks for years, Belfast Telegraph, 31 May 2011: 13 Nationalist-owned pubs and groceries became prominent targets of loyalist-orchestrated attacks in 1969. See the Scarman Report for details. 14 Ulster, a heaven for the middle class, Independent, 21 May 2012: uk/news/uk/ulster-a-heaven-for-the-middleclass-good-money-nice-houses-great-schools\no-drugs-to-speak-of--add-peace-and-w-hat-do-you-have-1387032.html. 15 As the late ex-IRA volunteer Brendan Hughes relates, nationalist businessmen were not averse to exploiting former republican prisoners. On his release from prison Hughes found work on a West Belfast building site. A big West Belfast contractor paid us 20 a day. I tried to organise a strike but the other ex-POWs were so desperate, they wouldnt agree. One of the bosses said, Brendan, well give you 25 a day but dont tell the others,... I told him to stick it up his arse, and I never went back. I wrote an article about it for Republican News but it was heavily censored. People wed fought for exploited us and the movement let them, Hughes quoted in Looking Back in Anger, Socialist Review (Sept. 2006): 16 Jonathan Tonge, Sinn Fin and New Republicanism in Belfast, Space and Polity 10:2 (2006): 139.


ence of conict17 . The trick in this for Sinn Fin lay in manoeuvring toward centreright politics while holding onto poor and working-class voters who had stuck with them through thick and thin. Whether they can pull this o in the long run remains open to question. Sinn Fins conversion to neoliberalism has gone through two distinct phases. The rst coincided with the heyday of the Celtic Tiger, when entrepreneurial elements in and around the Party felt condent that unionist elites, lured by the frenzy of unrestrained prot-making in the South, could be tempted into more expansive economic and political cooperation with Dublin and perhaps, eventually, to some form of permanent reintegration of the island. Economic integration and cross-border cooperation were the buzzwords in the period before the collapse of the southern economy. Kieran Allen captured the dynamic underlying Sinn Fins optimism perfectly about eighteen months before the economic crash: The distant shape of a bourgeois solution to the Irish problem is steadily coming into view. Economically, it is an island that is strongly wedded to the Anglo American empire, fully embracing exible markets and setting a lead on tax cuts for global capital. It will be a service led economy which specialises in obtaining outsourcing contracts

from US multinationals, while maintaining niche markets in pharmaceuticals and information communications technology. Politically, there could be an extension of the institutionalised form of sectarianism that is at the heart of the Belfast Agreement.... Under this wider schema, there could be a more closely intermeshed Ireland, where the British Irish sovereignty is pooled in the North. This institutionalisation of communal politics is, after all, an ideal mechanism for developing an all Ireland neoliberal economy.18 The exuberance that upheld this vision died a quiet death when the property bubble burst in late 2008, and in the new context it is unlikely to undergo a resurrection. Indeed, one survey undertaken in the depths of recession, after steep austerity measures had been pushed through in the South but before the implementation of major cuts in the North, found that a majority of northern Catholics would prefer to remain part of the UK rather than join the Republic19 . All the usual suspects on the Unionist Right seized on the numbers to gloat over the collapse of nationalist aspirations, but the results should be read as conrmation of the priority most ordinary people place on their economic security in hard times. The second phase of Sinn Fins ac-

Tonge, Sinn Fin, 144; Now the Taigs are lthy rich, Irish Independent, 15 June 2008:; Northern Ireland report: Statistically the future is Catholic and female, Belfast Telegraph, 1 March 2012: 18 Kieran Allen, Northern Ireland: The death of radical republicanism, International Socialism Journal 114 (April 2007): 19 Is Catholic support for a united Ireland on the wane?, Belfast Telegraph, 18 June 2011:


commodation to neoliberalism developed in a much less favourable economic context: the deep austerity imposed by international capital in the wake of the 2008 crash. One critical element of the formula for cross-border economic cooperation remains on the table in the new context of all-island austerity: plans to slash the corporate tax rate in the North by more than half, down to 12 percent-and lower if the DUP has its way20 . Pushed as its top priority by the Confederation of British Industry, the private sector employers lobby in the North, and supported by New Labour and now the Tories at Westminster, the plan has the support of all the main parties, including both the SDLP and Sinn Fin21 . Tory Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Patterson supports the corporate tax cut as one in a series of neoliberal reforms that will establish Northern Ireland as an enterprise zone, gut the public sector, and hand over the local economy to market forces. Patterson takes his marching orders from David Cameron, who singled out the North as a region where the state is too big, comparing its public sector to the communist countries in the old eastern bloc22 . The obscenity of Sinn Fins lining up with the heirs of Thatcher in the city that was home to Bobby Sands and two other hunger strikers who died at her hands is hard to stomach. Brian Campeld of

the Northern Ireland Congress of Trade Unions remarked that the Partys support for attacks on the public sector is dicult to comprehend.... The political logic of its policy on corporation tax would nd them supporting a united Ireland at any cost; monarchist, neo-liberal, anti-working people23 . Within the logic of neoliberalism, however - now thoroughly accepted by the Sinn Fin leadership24 - this is but one of a series of necessary manoeuvres in its evolution as a respectable partner in government. If tax cuts go ahead as planned they will bring real hardship to already suering working-class communities on both sides of the sectarian divide. The implications of such a massive reduction in corporation tax are stark: the burden for funding the Norths already ailing public services will either be shifted onto to the backs of working people or the public sector will collapse completely: within the framework of neoliberalism, there is no other way.

Our aim, the DUP manifesto claims, is not to be as competitive as the Irish Republic, but to be more competitive, so we would work towards a 10% rate, Economy: Corporation tax cut under threat, AgendaNI, 1 March 2012: 21 DUP and Sinn Fin back corporate tax cut, Financial Times, 13 Nov. 2006: cms/s/0/b4b44b20-7358-11db-9bac-0000779e2340.html. 22 David Cameron targets north-east and Northern Ireland for spending cuts, Guardian, 23 April 2010: 23 Were playing roulette with vital public funds, Belfast Telegraph, 16 June 2011:http: // 24 The virtues of free-market enterprise, urban regeneration, private-nance initiatives to bolster public services, and inward investment by global multinationals has become hegemonic in Northern Ireland, John Nagle writes. all the major political parties largely subscribe to these neo-liberal values. Nagle, Potemkin Village, 176-177.



The problems inherent in the neoliberal model for Northern Ireland extend far beyond the debacle of the Titanic Quarter or grave threats to the public sector. The neoliberal turn has been marked locally by a shift away from the grudging acknowledgment of social inequality that gured in the margins of earlier development plans. As a group of Protestant ministers noted, Pattersons private-sector wish-list, Rebalancing the Northern Ireland Economy, and the Assemblys most recent Program for Government dropped even the pretence of addressing ongoing problems related to poverty and social exclusion25 . With its almost religious belief in the conict-solving powers of neoliberalism, the consistent emphasis in everything emanating from government has been on economic growth, with not a word about how any new wealth might be redistributed to reverse inequality26 . This is in a region with higher rates of poverty and lower wages than anywhere else in the UK; with the number of people on incapacity benet some 74 percent higher than else25

where; where median private sector wages are lower than in the public sector; and where some 43 percent of households live in poverty or are vulnerable to poverty27 . The government agency charged with securing multinational investment in the North, InvestNI, has been plagued by scandal from its inception. It handed over 15m. in public funds to Valence Corporation to manufacture batteries in Mallusk on the understanding that the company would create 600 jobs, but only 400 of these ever materialized-the majority of them through temp agencies-before the company upped sticks and relocated to China. It handed the Bank of Ireland 2m, ostensibly to create 150 jobs, but only 20 were delivered, and more recently gifted 250,000 to high-powered London law rm Allen and Overy, whose directors used the bulk of the funding to simply relocate London sta, and never created the 300 jobs theyd promised. The list goes on. After every scandal InvestNI ocials vow solemnly to learn the lessons of past mistakes. Until the next revelation. The most troubling aspect of InvestNIs record is not is propensity for scandal, however, but the economic strategy revealed in its successes. One recent report found that far from lifting the local economy, InvestNIs involvement is now causing the ongoing failure of the market28 . The majority of jobs it can claim to have had some role in bringing to the North are low-paid, dead-end jobs in call centres and the service industry, and here the record at Valence, where temp agencies managed recruitment and took a cut

Evangelical Alliance, Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland Response to Building a Better Future: Draft Programme for Government 2008-2011 (Belfast: Evangelical Alliance, 2007). 26 Hillyard, Rolston and Tomlinson, Poverty and Conict in Ireland : An International Perspective (Dublin : Institute of Public Administration/Combat Poverty Agency, 2005), 47. 27 Hillyard et. al, Bare Necessities, 29, and Alan Ruddock, Northern Ireland Where is the bright new future? Management Today (March 2006), 46. 28 Invest Northern Ireland causes market failure , BBC News, 20 July 2011: uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-14213577.


for themselves, is typical of the exible labour arrangements that lie at the centre of the neoliberal vision for job creation in Northern Ireland. The Belfast Telegraph boasted in February 2012 that call centre posts are more readily available in Belfast than anywhere else [in the UK] with the city having three times as many jobs in the industry than the national average, and given the experience at one company, Indian-owned HCL Technologies, its not hard to see how the North has earned that dubious distinction29 . InvestNI sets out to attract investment by touting the regions lack of labour market discord and competitive wages. To sweeten the deal for HCL, they were given more than 5.8m in public funds to create around 1000 call centre jobs in Belfast and Armagh, all of which would be recruited through temp agencies like Manpower. Pay was just slightly above minimum wage, at 5.33/hour starting pay (nearly 2 less than the NI average), with a longer workweek and a heavy sta turnover. Over time, unions managed to whittle down the proportion of employees on temporary contracts before the company unilaterally withdrew from its agreements, then imposed new terms around pay and holiday entitlements in April 2011. The Belfast Telegraph reported on the companys ultimatum: [HCL] employees were sent a letterin which [the general manager] announced that the

rm would be making changes to the terms and conditions of the majority of the sta. These include freezing or discontinuing the current salary scale, removing March 17 and July 12 as bank holidays, freezing or discontinuing annual leave increments, removing personal health insurance, removing BUPA health care, freezing future increases to pension contributors and reducing company sick pay. All of those benets are protected in current contracts but the company doesnt recognise unions3031 . In February 2012 the other shoe dropped: HCL announced the complete closure of its Armagh operations, with reports that they would be relocated to Cork, in that other bastion of neoliberal exploitation to the south32 . Defenders of InvestNI insist that lowend jobs in call centres and the service industry dont reect the core of their investment strategy, which aims to supplement these with better paying work in the so-called knowledge economy (mainly computer- and bio-technology and nancial services). But even in these sectors, the oer of a highly-skilled workforce available at rock-bottom wages seems to be the main selling point for attracting multi-

Recruitment study names Belfast call centre capital , Belfast Telegraph, 23 February 2012: 30 1,000 HCL call centre sta in Northern Ireland get jobs ultimatum, Belfast Telegraph 30 March 2011: 31 See also the CWU review of pay and conditions at HCL in HCL (Northern Ireland), History: 32 HCL BPO rejig may cost 425 jobs in Ireland, Times of India, 14 February 2012:http: //


national capital. In a revealing article, Forget Bangalore, Come to Belfast, high tech magazine The Register summarised a study carried out in the middle of the last decade which found that high tech salaries in Belfast are among the lowest of cities surveyed in the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. Only Bangalore in India, and Budapest and Prague in Eastern Europe, have lower salary levels. The most glaring nding was the gap between salaries in Dublin (at the height of the boom years) and Belfast. Junior programmers in Dublin received on average e44,000 compared to just e26,000 for the same work in the North. Things hadnt changed as of 2009, when researchers at labour recruitment managers Brightwater found that highly skilled Belfast workers were being paid 60 percent less than their southern counterparts. Undaunted, InvestNI ocials regarded this as positive news for inward investment and further evidence that companies based [in Ireland] should consider the North their location of choice33 . As in post-invasion Iraq, so also in Northern Ireland, neoliberalism rarely delivers on the over hyped transformation it promises. In the context of global economic crisis, the architects of the new Northern Ireland face an unexpected dilemma: the low wages and austerity imposed under the neoliberal regime render it more dicult to create the conditions for economic recovery. The long delay in implementing corporate tax cuts and

the hesitation in proceeding with dismantling of the public sector do not reect a change of heart among the Tories, the CBI, or any of the main parties at Stormont. Rather they point to the realization by some that taking an axe to the public sector in the depths of world recession is likely to deepen the already severe economic crisis. The UUPs Esmond Birnie captures the dilemma faced by free market fundamentalists in the North: the economy, he says, is stuck in a predicament. We need to reduce the dependence on the state, but reducing the scale of the public service will reduce the level of demand in the local economy. The diculty is a localized version of the debate over austerity now rolling across Europe: large scale cuts in public sector employment will draw millions of pounds in wages out of the economy, with potentially devastating results in the current climate34 .

Calculated Amnesia: Sectarianism and the Rebranding of Belfast

Belfast is not alone in embracing the market solution to urban regeneration: variations of the neoliberal package have been applied to transforming cities across large chunks of the world over the past quarter century. In many ways the local version ts a pattern of attempts to remake formerly industrial centres hollowed out by the relocation of manufacturing away from advanced economies around

Northern Ireland touts low IT wages, The Register, 12 May 2004:http://www.theregister.; Northern Ireland salaries 60% lower than those in South: survey, Belfast Telegraph, 23 Dec. 2009: 34 Northern Ireland - Where is the bright new future? Management Today, 23 March 2006: 35 For parallels with Pittsburgh, the former steel capital of the US, see Steven H. Lopez, Contesting the Global City - Pittsburghs Public Services Unions Confront a Neoliberal Agenda, in Michael Burawoy et. al. Global Ethnography: Forces, Connections, and Imaginations in a Postmodern World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000): 268-298.


the former industrial heartlands of the US and the UK35 . What makes Belfast distinctive among these is its long history of political and sectarian violence, a legacy that advocates of private sectorled regeneration claim the prosperity of the new Belfast will leave behind: pull down the physical barriers separating communities, Bloomberg predicted in his speech to the 2008 investors conferencejust four months before the Lehman Brothers collapse-and the ood gates of private investment will open36 . Champions of neoliberalism-including prominent nationalist businessmen-assert that in its blind pursuit of prots the market will overturn the long legacy of sectarian discrimination in employment and elsewhere. The assumption rests on a signicant change in the Northern Ireland economy: displacement of the older, locally-controlled industrial economy (deeply entangled in Orange politics) by multinational capital with no loyalties but the prot margins. But the reality is that in widening social and economic disparities the market is likely to aggravate historic tensions, and could very well lay the conditions for a revival of sectarian violence. There are two key elements in the new Belfast: gentrication of the city centre and the rebranding of a new postconict city, where the only reminders of the recent past are the wall murals seen from the top of double-decker buses as they wheel through (segregated) working-class districts. In line with the wider regeneration strategy, both are aimed at making the city a viable tourist destination (the weather poses a more intractable problem). But both are also exercises in calculated amnesia, and demonstrate how su36

percial the commitment to uprooting sectarianism is among local elites in government and the corporate world. [T]ourists see few signs of the violent legacy of the civil conict in [Belfast] city centre today, one recent study found:

It is here where the conict seems to have been successfully transformed and ameliorated through inward investment, cathedrals of consumption and inner-city regeneration. One examplewas witnessed in March 2008 with the opening of Victoria Square, a 400m shopping centre replete with 800,000 sq feet of shops and arcades selling [expensive consumer goods]. Yet it could be said that the arrival of such features to normalize the city centre by making it into a commercial shared space for Catholic and Protestant consumers represents a Potemkin Village, a facade to... mask the injustices of segregation and socio-spatial exclusion that are hidden from the tourist gaze37 .

The cosmetic overhaul of the city centre and the designation of cultural quarters for the tourist market is problematic on a number of levels. In the context of global recession, the pouring of public resources into high-end commercial development in the city centre has come at a high cost for smaller-scale, locally-owned shops, so that Belfast today has the highest commercial

Take down peace walls, NY Mayor, BBC News, 8 May 2008: northern_ireland/7390938.stm. 37 Nagle, Potemkin Village, 173-174.


vacancy rate anywhere in the UK38 . More than that, the disparity between the upscale shops and restaurants concentrated in a few square blocks of the downtown area and the desperate conditions many working-class residents live with at the other end of the bus line is stark. Even in a growing economy, these tensions wont be eased by the fact that the vast majority of jobs created in the tourism and service sectors will be minimum wage positions that oer no way out of poverty. Formally shared (but socially exclusive) space in the shopping and tourist zones contrasts sharply with persistent residential segregation in working-class districts. The attempt to rebrand and reposition Belfast to exploit its (questionable) tourist potential relies on a deliberate effort to bury the recent conict, and to harken back nostalgically to a supposedly less contentious distant past by sanitising the citys industrial history. No one familiar with the brutality of what Belfast went through between 1969 and the mid1990s would begrudge its people their day in the sun, but there are serious and potentially perilous consequences to embracing the kind of calculated amnesia upon which Stormont and the corporate establishment base their hopes. In relaunching itself around the image of the Titanic, neoliberal Belfast has hitched its fortunes to an especially problematic piece of its past. The ocial PR for the opening, obviously aimed at American tourists, is suitably ahistorical and out of line with the rhetoric of a shared city (on Belfast City Hall: with its statue of Queen Victoria scowling down Belfasts

main drag, and the Union jack apping behind her. Its a stirring sight.)39 Behind the relentless assertion of industrial glory, the ship is burdened with a more complicated, less attering legacy-one marked by capitalist hubris and the celebration of social inequality, exploitation and contempt for democracy, discrimination and vicious sectarian violence. Mass expulsions from the shipyards occurred in 1886, 1893, and 1912, with a major campaign against Catholic workers and rotten Prods - leftwing Protestants - orchestrated by Unionist politicians and loyalist paramilitaries in 1920. As one commentator has noted in response to the PR campaign surrounding the launch of Titanic Quarter: That Belfast was in the ocean liner business of democratising luxury for a new century would have come as some surprise to those poor souls in steerage class... In a condescending fashion, a counterfeit representation of Belfast, portraying a shipyard with a united urban workforce led by visionary captains of industryboth with an accepting tolerance for mixed values - is sold back to its inhabitants in the interest of prot via the dulcet tones of a mid-American accent. Belfast from the 17th through to the 19th century was imprinted through patronage planning with the proprietary brand of the Chichester family. What is depressing in

Closed for business: one in ve Northern Ireland shops lies empty, Belfast Telegraph, 22 May 2012:; Belfast InShops complex to close, UTV News, 13 April 2012: 39 From the short and painfully ludicrous PR lm on the Titanic Quarter at


the 21st-century post-conict city is that such elitist city building on this grandest and most high-handed of scales, largely goes unchallenged40 . The spinning of the Titanic legacy is symptomatic of the local establishments faith in the markets ability to transcend the citys sectarian past. But it is seriously misplaced, and the danger of relying on amnesia can be seen in the establishments failure to confront sectarianism in the present. When in June 2011 the UVF laid siege over several nights to the vulnerable nationalist enclave of the Short Strand, the ocial response was driven not by concern over the safety of those under attack, but by anxiety among those marketing the new Belfast that rioting created the wrong kind of headlines for a city trying to rebrand itself41 . Enduring sectarianism does not horrify the neoliberal establishment; it merely embarrasses them. Promoters of the new Belfast have gone to great lengths to airbrush sectarian bigotry from the citys history, and when it raises its head in the present their main concern is not to protect its victims but to keep it out of the news cycle. The approach is clear in another recent incident - the attempted lynching of an 18 year-old lm extra in the Village area of South Belfast earlier this year. James Turley, from the nationalist Short Strand, had just nished work on a movie set when he was chased down and attacked by a gang of up to fteen young loyalists and dumped,

semi-conscious, in a wheelie bin. His attackers ran o after he overheard one of them say, Thats enough. I think hes dead42 . In some ways the response to Turleys assault was predictable and in keeping with a long tradition of evasion and victimblaming. Under pressure local unionist politicians issued bland condemnations of the incident, but one prominent community regeneration ocial had trouble admitting that Turleys assault was sectarian, and a former UUP candidate tweeted after he just saw a picture of James Turley that perhaps the Irish News and I vary in our denitions of left for dead. The most striking aspect of the incident was its disappearance from the media within 24 hours. The PSNI issued no statement, and the usually unbearable journalist Newton Emerson observed, perceptively, that as in the Stephen Lawrence murder police seemed to have switched quickly from crime solving to public order mode, consciously downplaying the incident to avoid provoking further violence. Ocials from within the Northern Ireland lm industry-another targeted growth industry-called the incident regrettable but not...typical of the industry here. Within days the press were running reports that Belfast was one of the best cities to work in, an assertion that contrasts sharply with the nding of a recent study by the ICTU-aliated Trademark, which found in a survey of 2500 workers that some 44 percent had experienced sec-

William J. V. Neill, Return to Titanic and lost in the maze: The search for representation of post-conict Belfast, Space and Polity 10:2 (2006), 115. 41 See for example the remarks of PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay: On the back of a day where the right headline, the success of Rory McIlroy out of this small country [sic] made world headlines. We are making world headlines for entirely the wrong reasons, Belfast riot violence must stop now, Daily Telegraph: Belfast-riot-violence-must-stop-now.html. 42 Beaten Catholic teenager left for dead after sectarian attack, Belfast Telegraph, 10 January 2012:


tarian harassment at work43 .

Conclusions - Neoliberalism, Sectarianism and the Way Forward

Clearly the material basis of the old Orange state that dominated the North and created the conditions for the upheaval of 1969 no longer exists. Like their counterparts in nationalist districts, workingclass Protestants have not benetted in a substantial way from developments in the new Northern Ireland. Large numbers of people on both sides of the sectarian divide remain trapped in poverty or struggling to hold on to the modest advances they managed in the years before the onset of global economic crisis in 2008. Nearly fteen years after the signing of the Belfast Agreement, sectarianism remains endemic across much of Northern Ireland. This remains true in spite of the fact that a majority of ordinary people from both communities seem prepared to move on, and its persistence requires an explanation. Unlike the corporate establishment, middle-class crusaders, or even sections of the reformist Left who regard sectarianism as infecting both communities equally and emanating from backward ideas in peoples heads, socialists locate its origins in the divide-and-rule policy through which Britain came to dominate and then partition Ireland. It survives to the present day not because of some immutable local pathology, but because powerful interests have sustained it over centuries. And although market forces regard the violence it gives rise to intermittently as a nuisance, the corporate establishment

that dominates the North is unwilling to risk the even deeper instability that would accompany a frontal challenge to sectarianism. Its persistence is fuelled by continued and intensifying deprivation on both sides of the divide. The danger in the current context is that, as the neoliberal promise unravells and ordinary people feel the full eects of economic depression, politicians from within both communities will attempt to divert the blame. Nationalist politicians who are deeply invested in the new arrangements have no real stake in a confrontation with lingering sectarianism, and have been reduced to playing a dangerous communal card, stressing the continued disparities between their working-class constituents and Protestants as a whole rather than the growing inequalities within the nationalist community, or parallels in the circumstances of working-class people on both sides of the divide. Their outreach to Protestants is really about organising a carve-up of space and economic resources between themselves and the most bigoted elements in the Unionist establishment, exemplied in the recent deal between both Sinn Fin and the SDLP and the DUP over the future of the Girdwood barracks site in North Belfast44 . Among mainstream elements within Unionism, grandiose pronouncements in Dublin and Washington about the need to reach out to Catholics go hand-in-hand with a resort to sectarianism that remains reexive and unapologetic. Against a backdrop of increasing desperation among ordinary Protestants, Unionist politicians encourage the perception that Catholics are getting everything under the new,

Loyalist attack on Catholic actor lming in Belfast, Irish Times, 11 January 2012:http://www.; Sectarianism in the Workplace (Belfast: Trademark, May 2012), 28-30. 44 See the Nolan Show episode on the Girdwood agreement at episode/b01j0n4w/The_Nolan_Show_Episode_5/.


post-agreement regime. As one Protestant community worker on the Shankill told Socialist Worker a few years back, The problem is that politicians and the paramilitaries are trying to convince working class Protestants that they are the new Catholics. The strategy - reminiscent of the right-wing backlash against black civil right gains in the US - is evident in dubious claims about Queens University becoming a cold house for Protestants, or in misleading reports in the Newsletter and elsewhere that Protestants are now being discriminated against in employment. But as the same community worker stated at the time, the claims are rubbish - were just all poor. Were living in the poorest part of Northern Ireland, the poorest part of Britain - and people are fed up45 . While it is signicant that handfuls of activists in Protestant working-class districts across the North see through the attempts to manipulate sectarian divisions, the persistence of widespread alienation in a situation of deepening crisis means that the Left needs to aggressively counter any notion that Catholics are now on top, or that their advance has come at the expense of ordinary Protestants. For one thing, it is an assertion that runs counter to facts: although the numbers of Protestants and Catholics living in poverty across the North today are about even, nationalists (with a smaller overall population) remain disproportionately aected, with 7

of the 10 most impoverished areas across the North in nationalist districts46 . Beyond that, the attempt to divert Protestant working-class frustrations by pointing the nger at uppity Taigs contributes directly to sectarian violence (especially during the annual marching season) and presents a barrier to an eective ghtback - the only means by which people in either community can begin to challenge and uproot poverty. One of the striking things about Sinn Fins success in so far balancing its role in implementing austerity and claiming to speak on behalf of working-class nationalists has been the ineectiveness of opposition from within the broad ranks of republicanism. It is clear now that the early obsession of Anthony McIntyre and other former IRA volunteers with the betrayal of Gerry Adams and those around him represented a serious political distraction, a focus on the form rather than substance of Sinn Fins evolution. Since then, the attempts of dead-end militarists to relaunch an armed campaign in the absence of popular support has proven a gift to Sinn Fin, distracting attention from the austerity they have signed up to and allowing the party to pose as the voice of mature nationalism against those seeking a return to unwinnable armed conict. At the same time their actions have allowed the establishment to paint all opposition to Stormont from within the nationalist community as the work of dissident wreck-

Belfast: the real divide, Socialist Worker (UK), 8 Oct. 2005: uk/art.php?id=7495; Protestants and universities: the students hit back, Belfast Telegraph, 6 October 2009:; Protestants losing out on jobs - report, Belfast Newsletter, 22 May 2012: 46 26% of Catholics in poverty compared with 18% of Protestants, according to the latest gures. See Tom MacInness et. al., Monitoring poverty and social exclusion in Northern Ireland 2012 (York: Rowntree Foundation, 2012), 14. Statistics on social deprivation are contained in Table 4.1, Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2010 (Belfast: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, May 2010), 27.


ers, stiing attempts at building an alternative outside the political establishment to which Sinn Fin now belongs. The simple fact of the matter is that no viable challenge to the status quo in the North is possible without the active involvement of substantial numbers of Protestant workers. They cannot be won within the limits of republicanism, and the suggestion by Tommy McKearney and others that it makes sense at present to park the national question represents a genuine attempt to wrestle with this dilemma47 . Partition as an abstraction has little drawing power in nationalist working class communities, let alone on the other side of the divide. Socialists have to be aggressive in nding ways to link the day-to-day struggles of working people across the North to a forthright campaign to root out sectarianism. That means taking a lead in struggles against austerity and in defence of workers rights - in workplaces and estates, schools and universities. But it also means refusing to shy away from the difcult political questions thrown up by the

persistence of sectarianism, which - if not confronted - will paralyse any attempt to build a united resistance. Beyond the hype that infuses most commentary about the bright new dawn in post-agreement Northern Ireland, the only substantive gain for those who want to change society here is the space opened up for building a ght for real equality that bridges the sectarian divide. In the past the Left has erred in one of two directions, veering either toward a watery economism that inches from confronting sectarianism, or toward a version of left republicanism that writes o Protestant workers and postpones the project of building united, class-based action until some distant day after the national question has been resolved. Together the local establishments headlong plunge into neoliberalism and the depth of the crisis now confronting global capitalism open up new opportunities. But the Left will have to make the most of them now if we are to avoid being dragged back into the downward spiral of renewed sectarian conict.

Tommy McKearney, The Provisional IRA: from Insurrection to Parliament (London: Pluto Press, 2011); Interview with veteran socialist-republican Gerry Ruddy, Irish Revolution, 24 Jan. 2012:



Marx and Self Emancipation

James OToole Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become tted to found society anew. K.Marx and F.Engels, The German Ideology, (1845)1 . That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves. K. Marx, General Rules of the International Workingmens Association, (1864)2 . The rst socialist view of the revolutionary proletariat was to regard its revolutionary potential as an instrument in others hands; as a battering-ram to break down the old system but not as a force t to build a new one in its own name. These non-proletarian socialisms not only preceded Marxism, but have always been far stronger than Marxism, in the socialist movements of the world - today as yesterday. Hal Draper, The principle of self emancipation in Marx and Engels, (1971)3 .

Many opponents of Marxism, on both the right and left of the political spectrum, present Marxism as an authoritarian or elitist doctrine. For example, Noam Chomsky4 states that The Leninist intelligentsia ... pre-empt the developing revolutionary process and distort it to their own ends of domination5 . The monstrous Stalinist dictatorships with their claim to be Marxist helped to promote this view. Even on the Trotskyist left, there are those who claim the Red Army brought about revolutions across the Eastern Bloc without mass
1 2

workers revolt6 . I want to trace Marxs own development from student to democratic journalist and, from there, to advocate of working class revolution in order to demonstrate that Marxism emerged as a critique of elitism, and that Marx was opposed to any substitutes for the mass activity of the working class itself. I also want to argue that Marxism was not the product of an intelligentsia which was then foisted on the working class; in fact, it was the working class, just when it was emerging as a social force, that played a 3 4 For a good analysis of the dierences between Marxism and Anarchism see Anarchism: a Marxist criticism by John Molyneux, Bookmarks, London 2011 5 6 See Tony Cli, Trotskyism after Trotsky trotism/index.htm


pivotal role in shaping Marxism7 . There is another reason for writing such an essay. Decades of low levels of working class struggle can lead to substitutionism- the great parliamentarian, the heroic activists, the perfect party programme come to be seen as substitutes for the self-activity of the working class. The essence of Marxism is working class self-emancipation. Socialism cannot be delivered by decree on behalf of the masses of people, no matter how good the intentions of those who want to do so. Layers of working class activists need to learn how to organise themselves, to grow in condence and from that condence to become more aware of their own potential to run society.

he believed that all it took to change the world was for caring individuals, with a blueprint for change, to lead by good example. His motto was build the perfect community and the world will follow you. It didnt quite work out as he had hoped and Owen ended up rejected by Victorian society and building utopias in the USA, which fell apart one by one. The conspirators and the utopian reformers both believed that the masses needed to be educated and led by good example. The mass of people were seen as passive, not as subjects of change. The relationship between the level of working class struggle, the youth of the workers movement and these groups was summarised by Marx thus: The Socialist and Communist systems properly so called, those of Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen and others, spring into existence in the early undeveloped period...of the struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie....the proletariat, as yet in its infancy, oers them the spectacle of a class without any historical initiative or any independent political movement. Since the development of class antagonism keeps even pace with a development of industry, the economic situation, as they nd it, does not as yet offer to them the material conditions for the emancipated of the proletariat. They therefore search after a new social science, after new social laws that are to create these conditions. Historical action is to

Marx becomes a Marxist

Socialism before Marx had quite a few self-appointed saviours and messiahs. A myriad of groups and individuals preached their schemes to transform the world. The conspiratorial followers of Babeuf, with his secret society, were ready and waiting to seize power on behalf of the masses and build a dictatorship that would wait until the people were ready (or suciently educated by this benevolent elite) to hand over their realm of justice and equality. There were also well-meaning attempts at building perfect communities. Robert Owen was a Welsh socialist, who owned a factory in New Lanark, on the river Clyde, near Glasgow. He realised that productivity would increase if his workers were given a share of the prots, leading him to suggest communism as a way by which people could live in cooperative communities. He built his workers schools and planted gardens. The problem was that

I dont have the space to go into Lenins infamous passage in What is to be done where he refers to socialism being a product of the intelligentsia which had to be brought to the class from the outside just to state that Lenin himself disowned the formulation, at a later stage. See Tony Clis excellent biography available online here:


yield to their personal inventive action, historically created conditions of emancipation to fantastic ones, and the gradual, spontaneous class-organization of the proletariat to the organization of society specially contrived by these inventors. Future history resolves itself, in their eyes, into the propaganda and the practical carrying out of their social plans. In the formation of their plans they are conscious of caring chiey for the interests of the workingclass, as being the most suering class. Only from the point of view of being the most suffering class does the proletariat exist for them8 . For all their weaknesses the utopian socialists did develop serious critiques of capitalist society, elements of which were very important to the development of Marxism. Marx developed his thought more fully by developing the positive side of their theories, and learning through criticism of their shortcomings, while at the same time engaging with a more mature workers movement9 .

previous philosophical development which was then reshaped and overthrown by his own struggles and by the immense impact of a workers uprising. The young Marx was a student of the philosopher Hegel. Hegel was an idealist, which, contrary to the modern popular usage of the word, meant that he saw thought as primary. The idealist sees the world as an emanation of thought, whether the thoughts of God or the thoughts of a collective or individual mind. For materialists, the world is made of matter, it exists outside of thought and thought is a product of matter. But Hegel was a very interesting idealist because of the times he lived in - he was much inspired by the French Revolution - and because of the class of which his idealism was the highest expression. He was also a profound inuence on Marxs thought. The German capitalist class were very weak compared to the French or English bourgeoisie. In 1648, and 1791, the English and the French capitalists had masqueraded as representatives of society as a whole, in order to successfully lead movements against their aristocracies. Germany was a jigsaw of dukedoms, principalities and petty domains, all dominated by a brutal Prussian aristocracy. The German capitalist class longed for the freedoms won by their English and French counterparts but they faced certain obstacles. Firstly, economic development in Germany was far behind those other nations with the result that there was a much weaker and less cohesive bourgeois or capitalist class. Secondly, their rivals were already on the scene: the working class. They were afraid that any challenge to their local Lords and masters might provoke the stirring of the dangerous class below them. This made them a bourgeoisie imbued with no histori-

Marxs own development

Marx himself was not born with some innate understanding of workers potential. He had to go through a period of struggle and transformation before arriving at the realisation that the self-activity of the working class was the vital element in overcoming the brutality of a society based on class exploitation. Marxism as a philosophy rst appears as the product of Marxs
8 9 For a good history of socialism from above and below see Hal Drapers The two souls of socialism


cal initiative, cowardly and timid, performing their revolution in the realm of philosophy, transforming the world of ideas and convincing themselves that the real world would soon follow. The German bourgeoisie were true followers of the Gospel, in the beginning was the word, whereas the French capitalist class had understood the ecacy of the deed. Hegels consideration of the French Revolution through the spectacles of German philosophy yielded some interesting results. Hegel believed that history had a purpose and that it represented the advance of the consciousness of freedom. He understood that history was the product of labour, conict and struggle, but being an idealist he believed that that labour was intellectual labour and the struggle was the struggle of ideas. He also grasped that the whole of history was an organic process. This organic approach to understanding social processes was key to the development of Marxs ideas. The whole of social life is to be understood as a process and through struggle and conict, things move from one level to the next. Mental labour was key to this process. Hegel believed that every existing thing, from society to ideas, is pregnant with the seeds of its own destruction and that the negative or destructive element brought movement and advance to the whole process. Unfortunately, Hegel believed that this whole process was the unfolding of the Absolute Spirit, a combination of God and collective consciousness, which moved history forward in the realm of thought. Ideas only explain so much. It was the actions of the Prussian state that impacted on the young Hegelians, (the student followers of Hegel, like Marx) and made them look for a way out of the impasse that German society found itself in.

Amongst some of Marxs contemporaries there were great hopes in the new ruler, Wilhelm IV, when he came to the throne in 1840. Expecting reforms, as spring grows green again in all hearts10 , they soon bitterly realised that the same old reactionary clique was to remain in place and that this would hold back German development. Hegelianism was chased out of universities by a regime which could not tolerate in any form the idea that change was possible and that the present contained the seeds of its own destruction. The young Marx, denied a university post, was thus thrust into a career as an opposition journalist with a democratic newspaper. Looking for a force in society with which they could align themselves, the young Hegelians joined with the Rhineland liberal opposition. The Rhineland was industrially developed and the local capitalists wanted freedom, both political and economic, from the constraints of an aristocratic society. Working at the Rheinische Zeitung newspaper, and as part of the democratic opposition, Marx was forced to deal with questions he had not confronted in university. When peasants were denied the right to collect rewood from the land, he was forced to investigate the reasons behind the States defence of private property . This led him to a re-evaluation of Hegels views on the State. Hegel believed the State was the embodiment of the absolute idea on earth: it represented universal, communal life above the grubby struggles of the economic sphere which was a war of all against all. Marx began to see how the realm of private property was invading the realm of the State. Previously the peasants of the Mosel region could gather wood as they pleased but now the State was stepping in and declaring the trees, the fruits, even dead trees as private property. This

Bruno Bauer quoted in The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx by Michael Lowy, Haymarket Books, 2005


was a process of enclosure, with former common land and common property being taken under the umbrella of private property. In the assembly debates peasants were referred to as thieves for gathering fruit or wood that had fallen on the ground; the change in the laws had suddenly transformed the people into criminals. The debates discussed the sentence for those who intentionally injured a tree to make it die and fall to the ground so it could be used as rewood. In his articles on the theft of wood, and the assembly debates, Marx declares the soul of private interest to be petty, wooden, mean and selsh, a soul that is always cowardly, for its heart, its soul, is an external object. The State far from being a realm of universal interests is the ears, eyes, arms, legs by means of which the interest of the forest owner hears, observes, appraises, reaches out and runs. This claim on the part of private interest, the paltry soul of which was never illuminated and thrilled by thought of the state, is a serious and sound lesson for the latter. If the state, even in a single respect, stoops so low as to act in the manner of private property instead of in its own way, the immediate consequence is that it has to adapt itself in the form of its means to the narrow limits of private property. Private interest is suciently crafty to intensify this consequence to the point where private interest in its most restricted and paltry form makes itself the limit and rule for the action of the state. As a result of this, apart
11 12

from the complete degradation of the state, we have the reverse eect that the most irrational and illegal means are put into operation against the accused; for supreme concern for the interests of limited private property necessarily turns into unlimited lack of concern for the interests of the accused. But if it becomes clearly evident here that private interest seeks to degrade, and is bound to degrade, the state into a means operating for the benet of private interest, how can it fail to follow that a body representing private interests, the estates, will seek to degrade, and is bound to degrade, the state to the thoughts of private interest?11 He defended the impassioned tone he used for the articles, which were written in coarse, and, if you like, even rude tones. Anyone who often has to hear directly the ruthless voice of want among the surrounding population easily loses the aesthetic tact by which his thoughts can be expressed in the most elegant and modest images. He may perhaps even consider it his political duty for a time to speak in public in the popular language of distress which in his native land he had no chance of forgetting12 . It was these articles that saw Marx for the rst time leaving the philosophical to investigate real material interests. He was outraged by the States role in defence of private property, and began to doubt his former idealist view of the State. His radicalism brought him into conict with the censors and with the papers liberal spon-


sors. In 1843, Marxs ideas were in a period of transition. He was still using the language of an idealist philosopher but was straining to contain his new ideas in the old forms. He began to read socialist authors like Moses Hess as well as French socialists like Proudhon, who had already written about the nature of private property. At rst Marx was quite ambivalent about what he termed socialist dogmas. The Rheinische Zeitung, which cannot concede the theoretical reality of communist ideas even in their present form, and can even less wish or consider possible their practical realization, will submit these ideas to a thorough criticism.13 But Proudhon and other early socialists made a big impression on Marx who now began to gravitate towards socialism. It was the banning of the newspaper though that really bought things to a head for Marx. The State was shutting down all opposition voices and Marx was appalled by the cowardice of the liberal democratic bourgeois opposition. He handed in his resignation in disgust at the lack of willingness to ght back on the part of the bourgeoisie. He was stied in that atmosphere... I have become tired of hypocrisy...of bowing and scraping14 . It is true that the old world belongs to the philistine. But one should not treat the latter as a bugbear from which to recoil in fear. On the contrary, we ought to keep an eye on him. It is worth while to study this lord of the world. He is lord of
13 14

the world, of course, only because he lls it with his society as maggots do a corpse. Therefore the society of these lords needs no more than a number of slaves, and the owners of these slaves do not need to be free. Although, as being owners of land and people, they are called lords, in the sense of being pre-eminent, for all that they are no less philistines than their servants15 . Under the impact of censorship and state repression, the young Hegelian movement broke into dierent groups. There were the so called free who blamed everything on the retreat of the masses. The cowardice of the bourgeois class was for them an indication of the stupidity of the mass of people and conrmation of their own genius. They retreated into ever more conservative meandering in their own heads, criticising everything and believing that the criticism itself had dealt the real world a blow. There were the philosophical socialists like Hess who were approaching communism from the point of view of philosophy, and believed that their worked out philosophical solutions to the worlds problems would be delivered ready-made to the masses. They believed communism to be above the struggle of classes. Marx was suspicious of all rigid formulae and in a famous passage from his correspondence, which is still a wonderful antidote to dogmatism of any kind, noted: This does not mean that we shall confront the world with new doctrinaire principles and proclaim: Here is the truth, on your knees before it! It means The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx by Michael Lowy, Haymarket Books, 2005 15


that we shall develop for the world new principles from the existing principles of the world. We shall not say: Abandon your struggles, they are mere folly; let us provide you with true campaign-slogans. Instead, we shall simply show the world why it is struggling, and consciousness of this is a thing it must acquire whether it wishes or not. The reform of consciousness consists entirely in making the world aware of its own consciousness, in arousing it from its dream of itself, in explaining its own actions to it... We are therefore in a position to sum up the credo of our journal in a single word : the self-clarication (critical philosophy) of the struggles and wishes of the age. This is a task for the world and for us. It can succeed only as the product of united eorts. What is needed above all is a confession, and nothing more than that. To obtain forgiveness for its sins, mankind needs only to declare them for what they are16 . There was the democratic humanism of Feuerbach. Feuerbach was a philosopher who had criticised Hegel from the point of view of materialism. He showed that man makes Gods and philosophies and then bows down before his own creations. Philosophy was made a product of human minds which in turn were products of material circumstances, of nature. He tended to be too crudely materialist. He had turned Hegel on his head by stating that everything was a product of matter and not thought, but he still held on to the

Hegelian division between active thought and passive matter. Humans were seen as products of their environment and as members of a natural species but not as a products of a social environment that was itself a product of human action. Nature was understood as something to contemplate, not as something that is transformed by human labour. Marx and Engels were initially very interested in Feuerbachs criticisms of Hegel but would return to make an important critique of Feuerbach later. It is in this period in 1843 that Marx for the rst time mentions the class of direct labour as the ground on which the whole of society rests. In April 1843 there were mass strikes in Belgium and other European countries that Marx would have known of. But still he was trapped in a Feuerbachian philosophical schema where those who think need to link up with those who suer. He understood that the weapon of criticism was not enough, a revolution was needed. But what was it that nally brought about the breakthrough in his thought?

Paris and Silesia 1844

Marx, with all of his ideas in ux, arrived in Paris in 1844 , and began attending workers mass meetings, which had a profound impact on him. Paris was alive with workers gatherings. His writings and letters were suddenly full of praise for the debates between workers, their own arguments, their own understanding. He wrote in his Paris notebooks: This practical development can be most strikingly observed in the gatherings of French socialist workers. Smoking, eating, and drinking, etc., are no longer means of creating links


between people. Company, association, conversation, which in turn has society as its goal, is enough for them. The brotherhood of man is not a hollow phrase, it is a reality, and the nobility of man shines forth upon us from their work-worn gures17 . In this vibrant atmosphere, he expanded his reading of working class literature. There were authors, such as Stein, who stated that the working class must free itself on its own and that the people itself has begun to live a life of its own18 . Marx read communist journals edited by workers themselves. Various articles repeatedly raised the need to rise up without having at their head some bourgeois. Marx met and argued with German working class exiles. One of these was Wilhelm Weitling who was a self educated worker who believed that the working class could only advance through social revolt. Marx absorbed these debates while reading various Parisian journals, and specically Burets book on the British Chartist movement. Chartism was a British mass workers movement that began, in 1838, with a peoples charter demanding universal suffrage for men, secret ballots, annual parliaments and the abolition of the property qualication. In 1842, there were mass workers strikes in response to inaction on reforms and in response to an economic slump. In 1843, the Chartists had gathered over three million signatures on their petitions as well as organising monster mass rallies. A young Engels, Marxs future collaborator, was profoundly inuenced by this movement. He had been sent over to work for his fathers cotton rm in Manchester
17 18

from 1842 to 1844 and witnessed rsthand the destitution and poverty of the working class slums and came into contact with the Chartists. Engels came from Barmen (now Wuppertal, in North Rhine Westphalia), one of the most industrialised parts of Germany at the time, and was the son of an industrialist. Engels had joined the Young German movement which included the socialist poet, Heinrich Heine, and became interested in radical politics, Hegel , liberal theology and social questions. Engels developed a relationship with an Irish servant girl Mary Burns who guided him through the maze of working class dwellings that had sprung up all around Manchester. He wrote an essay entitled Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy for the Deutsch Franzoische Jahrbucher which Marx read and later proclaimed led him to an understanding of economics. Engels, although changing in his ideas, was still imbued with a certain elitism:

the abolition of all government by force and by majority, and the establishment in its stead of a mere administration but the the proposal to nominate all ocers of this administration ... not by a majority of the community at large or the workers themselves but by those only who have a knowledge of the particular kind of work the future ocer has to perform; and, one of the most important features of the plan, that the nominators are to select the ttest person, by means of some kind of prize essay19 . See Michael Lowy, p67 19


Engels book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, outlined the terrible state of working class life at the time, and spoke of an approaching war between the classes. The book still carried the some of the tone of the philosophical communists. Some passages referred to communism as standing above the struggle of the classes. But Engels, inuenced by the Chartists, also understood the necessity of the union of socialism with a mass movement. When Engels met Marx on his way back to Germany they found themselves in complete agreement on questions of theory20 . By pooling their discoveries, they were aided in their mutual transition to a complete theory of working class self- emancipation. Marx also read French socialist, Flora Tristan, who was also inuenced by the Chartist movement. She had written in 1839 that the proletarians had no one to help them: they had to be both head and hands21 . An insurrectionary strike in Wales, that year, had seen several thousand armed Welsh miners battle police to free Chartist prisoners. Parliament had rejected their petitions calling for the vote, refusing to countenance the workers demands. Protests broke out all over Britain. The working class was taking action and producing leaders from within its own ranks who gave voice to their demands. A minority were coming to more and more radical conclusions. Marx himself was moving in the same direction. In June 1844, Silesian weavers rose en masse. Silesia was a huge centre of textile manufacturing. Five thousand workers fought armed battles with the army leaving eleven workers dead and many more wounded. The rebellious crowds sacked the houses of the local industrialists and demanded
20 21

money from local merchants. The level of class consciousness and combativity displayed by the weavers profoundly moved Marx: This rst of the Weavers Song, that intrepid battle-cry which does not even mention hearth, factory, or district but in which the proletariat at once proclaims its antagonism to the society of private property in the most decisive, aggressive, ruthless and forceful manner. The Silesian rebellion starts where the French and English workers nish, namely with an understanding of the nature of the proletariat. This superiority stamps the whole episode. Not only were machines destroyed, those competitors of the workers, but also the account books, the titles of ownership, and whereas all other movements had directed their attacks primarily at the visible enemy, namely the industrialists, the Silesian workers turned also against the hidden enemy, the bankers. Finally, not one English workers uprising was carried out with such courage, foresight and endurance22 . This revolution led to a revolution in Marxs thought. Marx spent a few months reconsidering all he had previously understood. Theory could no longer be considered as separate from action. Marxs Introduction to The Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Right, written between December 1843 and January 1844,

The Condition of the Working Class in England by Frederick Engels, Oxford Press, New York 1993 See Michael Lowy, 2005, P91 22


shows the start of the transition. On the one hand Marx denitely identies the proletariat as a class with radical chains, the universal class which will emancipate the whole of society, a total loss of humanity which can only redeem itself by a total redemption of humanity but at the same time he still retains the notion of a division between mental and physical labour: Philosophy is the head of this emancipation and the proletariat is its heart.[Marxs emphases]23 . The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 mark an important step forward with their identication of the root of alienation as lying in the relation of the worker to his/her labour and their conception of world history as nothing but the creation of man by human labour24 . And clearly the idealist division of mental and manual labour, of thought and deed, is part of human alienation. However, the real expression of this new world outlook comes in Marxs Theses on Feuerbach in March 1845. He realised that there was a problem with both idealism and materialism as previously conceived. In Hegels philosophy, change occurred and it was able to account for ruptures and leaps in the process of history but ultimately these changes were not the product of material factors, or of human beings, but of the Absolute Mind or Spirit. In opposition to this, the materialists argued that man was a product of matter and that matter was primary. But they had an abstract and fatalistic understanding of materialism. They saw that people were a product of circumstances but not how those very circumstances were the product of human labour and human history. Feuerbach saw the human as an individual, as a member of a species, abstracted from the real social relations that engender the individual. The key to un23 24

derstanding the dynamic of human history was human labour. Labour transforms our environment and transforms us in the process. We create tools to satisfy our needs and create new needs and then new tools to satisfy those new needs. Humans, unlike animals, have a social history. The act of creating our environment thereby holds the potential to be self- creating. The materialists saw nature as an object of contemplation; they were passive. The idealists saw change but only in the realm of thought. Now the two were brought together on the basis of human labour and revolutionary practice. The revolutionary class, the workers, are the product and producer of history. In order to overthrow the old order it becomes a vital necessity to understand the old order. In response to the idea that the masses must be educated, Marx simply asked: who had taught the teacher? The educator must rst be educated and that education came through participation in revolutionary and world changing struggles. It took Marx from mid 1844 until the spring of 1845 to reformulate his ideas. Philosophers had tried to understand the world but now Marx realised the point was for the working class to change it. The lightning bolt did not originate from the Mount Olympus of philosophy and ignite the virgin soil of the masses, but travelled the other way around. The Silesian weavers had displayed not only courage and determination but also a level of understanding of the structure of society that was far ahead of the enlightened philosophers. The workers own struggles threw up an insight into how society functioned and a desire for a new cooperative and exploitation- free world. Marxism is not something separate from these insights gained but, through them, provides a syn-

K.Marx, Early Writings, London 1963, p.58-9 As above, p.167


thesis of the previous lessons of the working class and the best elements of science and philosophy. Marx had a deep understanding of Hegelian philosophy, French revolutionary politics and the beginnings of a critique of economics developed from his reading of Mill and others. It was the fusion of these elements in the heat of working class action that brought about their inversion and transformation. Philosophy from the point of view of the working class had to be materialist not idealist but a materialism that understands conict and contradiction. It starts from Hegels view that the old is pregnant with the new but understands that this is not a battle of ideas but real world conicts involving real world victories and losses. The movement of the French Revolution where a minority substituted for the masses and led on their behalf was different to that of the working class which in order to win has to be a conscious process of mass self emancipation. Because the working class has no material wealth, the working class rules collectively or not at all. The subsequent workers revolts in 1848 and 1871 revealed more fully the truths Marx had discovered in the early 1840s. In 1848 uprisings broke out from one end of Europe to the other. In these movements, which in many countries were battles against the rule of aristocracy and for capitalist democracy, the capitalist class was more fearful of the working class below it than it was of reaction from above. It either fought half-heartedly or jumped straight into the arms of the State and counter revolution. Wherever workers put their faith in bourgeois or middle class democrats and intellectuals they were betrayed. Marx in his March Address to the International Working Mens Association was clear on the role that the bourgeois elements would play in future revolts 70

and that it was vital for workers to organise themselves in defence of their own interests in any revolution. Workers had to be their own head and hands. We told you already in 1848, brothers, that the German liberal bourgeoisie would soon come to power and would immediately turn its newly won power against the workers. You have seen how this forecast came true. It was indeed the bourgeoisie which took possession of the state authority in the wake of the March movement of 1848 and used this power to drive the workers, its allies in the struggle, back into their former oppressed position. Although the bourgeoisie could accomplish this only by entering into an alliance with the feudal party, which had been defeated in March, and eventually even had to surrender power once more to this feudal absolutist party, it has nevertheless secured favourable conditions for itself.... Although the German workers cannot come to power and achieve the realization of their class interests without passing through a protracted revolutionary development, this time they can at least be certain that the rst act of the approaching revolutionary drama will coincide with the direct victory of their own class in France and will thereby be accelerated. But they themselves must contribute most to their nal victory, by informing themselves of their own class interests, by taking up their

independent political position as soon as possible, by not allowing themselves to be misled by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeoisie into doubting for one minute the necessity of an independently organized party of the proletariat. Their battlecry must be: The Permanent Revolution25 . Marxs doctoral thesis, written in 1841, contained the simple words, I hate the pack of gods26 . The line is spoken by one of Marxs heroes - Prometheus - a Titan from Greek mythology. He had stolen re from heaven and gave it to mankind. As punishment he was tied to a rock and tortured for all eternity. The young philosophy student may have imagined himself in that role. But Prometheus was now a collective, a class, not a great individual and the new theories had arisen from earthly struggles. In 1871, following the Franco Prussian war the working class of Paris, provoked by the ruling class abandonment of injured Paris to Bismarcks troops, rose up and instituted the worlds very rst working class government - the Paris Commune. Marx had never been explicit as to the form a working class government would take. In The Communist Manifesto, he and Engels had written of winning the battle of democracy and the need for the working class to take back the wealth from the capitalists. Now with stunning audacity and ingenuity, the workers of Paris had presented to the world what a working class government might look like. The mechanisms by which the rich stay in power were dissolved. Instead of a police force and standing army, the Commune was based on the arming of the
25 26

working population. Instead of clerical darkness preached in every school aiding and aided by the State, the Commune enacted the separation of Church and State. Judges were elected. The Commune itself saw workers elected from each district, recallable by the electorate and placed on a workers wage. Although it was eventually crushed, with the massacre of thousands of workers, the Commune was a glimpse of what was to come. The bright ame of working class revolt had stormed the gates of heaven itself.

Marx stated in the third of his Theses on Feuerbach that the educator must rst be educated27 . It applied to Marx who had himself been educated by the social world in which he lived. His involvement in radical opposition movements rst drew him to ever more radical conclusions until, under the impact of the Silesian weavers and Parisian workers, he was then drawn to the understanding that the revolution must be a process of mass self-emancipation. This guiding principle underlies all other Marxist principles. The revolt of the working class is a combination of transformation of the world and the transformation of itself. Revolutionary struggle is necessary, not only to destroy the old order, but for the alteration of men on a mass scale. This process can be seen again and again in every workers uprising. The high points of Marxist theory, for example the understanding of the State machine, are generalisations made from participation in and observation of the revolutionary practice of the working class. The lessons of previous battles inform the practice of present struggles. This ideological material, by in- 27


tervening in current struggles, is enlivened and transformed, made concrete and hammered into shape. Socialism from above always has an appeal as long as we live under a system of domination, hierarchy and exploitation. When struggles are defeated or when workers are beaten back, the loss of condence that ensues allows for substitutionism - when organisations or individuals step in claiming to liberate the masses from above. What dierentiates Marxism from many other theories of change

is its focus on self-activity and its criticism of elitism and all substitutes for the self-activity of the working masses. In the midst of the present crisis, when we will be witness to massive upheavals and displays of working class strength as well as crushing defeats, it is important that we restore to its rightful place the principle of self- emancipation. Revolutionaries have to be willing to enter into a constant dialogue with the working class. The educators must themselves rst be educated.


Faster, Higher, Stronger : A Critical Analysis of the Olympics

Gareth Edwards For two weeks this summer London will play host to the Olympic Games. Against a backdrop of austerity-driven public spending cuts, thousands of athletes from more than 200 countries will contest 26 events, competing in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams1 . Awash with brands and corporate logos, the Olympics have become the quintessential mega-event; a global, neo-liberal, vering circus. Those ve rings of the Olympic symbol adorn everything from soft drinks cans to aircraft, the product of billion dollar sponsorship deals. To protect the Games the UK government is deploying 13,500 troops, locating surface to air missiles on the rooftops of residential housing, and stationing the warship HMS Ocean on the River Thames. London can expect a sporting jamboree of militarised corporate banality2 . Yet the popularity of the Olympics remains unparalleled. A combined global audience of 845 million watched the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Games in 20083 . The Olympic brand is recognised around the world and marketed as a festival of humanity, blind to gender, creed or colour. As a spectacle the Olympics claims to stand above politics, transcending the divisions and aairs of

states. Its history, however, tells quite a dierent story, one in which the Games have long been a site of political, as well as sporting, contestation.

Nationalism, Communism and Fascism

The Games of ancient Greece ran for more than a thousand years before the Roman emperor Theodosius I called time on the heathen contests. Although a number of subsequent sporting festivals described themselves as Olympic, it is Baron Pierre de Coubertin who is commonly held responsible for the renovation of the Games and the birth of the modern Olympic phenomenon4 . An educationalist and keen sportsman, Coubertin was born in France in 1863 into a life of aristocratic privilege, growing up in the shadow of the FrancoPrussian war and the Paris Commune. These two events had a profound eect on the young Baron who set himself the goal of restoring his nations status. Coubertin ardently believed that the dominance of British imperialism was founded on the English public school systems dedication to team sports. After all, had the Duke of Wellington not claimed that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing elds of Eton ? Physical competitive games would

Thanks to Lee Sprake, Harri Sutherland-Kaye, David Renton and Joe Ruell for comments on an earlier draft. 1 These words are taken from the Olympic Oath, which reads in full: In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams. 2 China Mieville (2012) Londons Overthrow 3 Initiative Sports Futures (2009) Viewer Track: The Most Watched Sporting Events of 2008, London 4 Given the dierences between the ancient games and those modern times, it is commonplace to refer to Coubertin as the renovator of the Olympics.


help to raise a generation of French children who would never again suer military defeat. Sport, said Coubertin, can be seen as an indirect preparation for war. In sports all the same qualities ourish which serve for warfare: indierence towards ones wellbeing, courage, readiness for the unforeseen The young sportsman is certainly better prepared for war than his untrained brothers5 . For Coubertin sports would also play a role in reconciling the contending classes, ensuring no repeat of the Commune, when Paris had been in the hands of a contemptible insurrection, formulated by cosmopolitan adventurers6 . While others, such as the right wing sociologist Le Play, had argued that the roles played by religion and the family had to be strengthened if France were to avoid class confrontation, Coubertin stressed the importance of sports7 . With his views largely ignored by the French establishment Coubertin, an admirer of classical Greek culture, turned his attention to resurrecting the Olympics. After much wrangling the rst modern Olympic Games took place in Athens in 1896, an attempt to inspire and educate the youth of the world through sport. However, the invitation extended to only one half of the worlds populace as Coubertin deemed the participation of women impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic,
5 6

and incorrect, insisting that they have but one task, that of crowning the [male] winner with garlands.8 Although women were allowed to compete in a minimal programme of exhibition events in Paris 1900, St Louis 1904 and London 1908 they were again excluded from the games in Stockholm 19129 . Such was the intrasigence of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that European sportswomen felt compelled to form their own organisation, the Federation Sportive Feminine Internationale in 1921, and the rst Womens Olympics were held in Monte Carlo in 1922 with subsequent Womens World Games in 1926, 1930 and 1934. In his memoirs the Baron would continue to argue for the suppression of the admittance of women to all competitions in which men take part10 . Coubertin, unperturbed by charges of discrimination and elitism, saw the Games as embodying more than mere sporting competition. In a rapidly changing, uncertain time they were an eort to foster mutual understanding between countries, seeking to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity11 . John Hoberman cites Coubertins vision as an example of the idealistic internationalism run-

Quoted in Arnd Kruger (1993) The Origins of Pierre de Coubertins Religion Athlete, p93 Pierre de Coubertin, (1900) France Since 1814 7 Considerations of class also brought out a distinctly paternalistic streak in the Baron. By his midtwenties he had attempted (unsuccessfully) to establish Workers Universities, which were to be run by workers themselves. 8 Quoted in Adrianne (1988) Blue, Faster, Higher, Further: Womens Triumphs and Disasters at the Olympics, p1 9 Unsurprisingly the women who contested these events were drawn from the upper classes of society 10 Pierre de Coubertin (1979) Olympic Memoirs, p721. Athletic contests for women were not included in the Olympics until 1928. The attitude that female athletes would not be able to cope with the rigours of physical competition persisted throughout the 20th century; the womens marathon, for example, was not included in the games until 1984. To this day it is evident in the disparity between the mens decathlon and womens heptathlon. 11 The Olympic Charter - Fundamental Principles, IOC Lausanne, p10 2011 12 John Hoberman (1995) Toward a Theory of Olympic Internationalism


ning through sections of the ruling class at the time12 . The resurrection of the Olympics came in an era when numerous attempts were made at international organisation, some of which were inuenced by the peace movement13 . Coubertins conception of internationalism, as embodied by the Olympics, was based on the inviolability of the nation state, a reection of his conviction that patriotism and internationalism were not only not incompatible, but required one another14 . As such he saw no contradiction in dedicating the inaugural Games of 1896 to both patriotism and world peace. Unfortunately his was an internationalism only in times of peace, and he enlisted in the French army during the First World War15 . The idealistic internationalism of the Olympics did not nd universal acceptance or approval. Following the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks refused to send competitors to the bourgeois Games, which they viewed as an attempt to deect workers from the class struggle and to train them for imperialist wars16 . But nor could they simply ignore the fact that sport occupied an ever-growing place in the leisure time of the European working class. During the Third World Congress of the Communist International in 1921 the Red Sport International (RSI) was formed, not only in opposition to the cultural imperialism of the ocial Olympic movement but also as a counterweight to the social demo13

cratic Socialist Worker Sport International (SWSI). In comparison with the sports of capitalist nations the worker sports movement placed a premium on festival-like activities, using sport to build international solidarity that transcended, rather than respected, national divisions. Through the 1920s both organisations attempted to inuence workers across Europe; the SWSI organised three Workers Olympics and the RSI held its rst Spartakiad in Moscow in 1928. The most famous, and tragic, example of such events came in Barcelona in 1936. Five years previously the Catalan city had been defeated by Berlin in the bid to host the 1936 Olympics. Its response was to organise the Barcelona Popular Olympics. A day before the Peoples Olympics were due to begin Francos military uprising signalled the start of the Spanish Civil War. Many of the worker-athletes who had gathered from across Europe stayed in the city, effectively forming an advance party of the International Brigades. Two months after fascist guns brought the Peoples Games to a premature end, the Olympics began in Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler had at rst been hostile to the idea of staging the Games, taking the position of Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg who had denounced the Olympics as a crime on the grounds of their international character17 . It was only the intervention of Josef Goebbels that persuaded

The Red Cross had been formed in 1863 while the International Peace Bureau (1891) and Scouting and Esperanto (1908) all appear in this period. 14 John J. Macaloon (1981) This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympics, p112 15 In fairness to Coubertin, he was not the only person preaching internationalism who would succumb to the chauvinism of imperialist war. Infamously, large sections of the Second International betrayed their internationalism to lend support to their respective ruling classes. The International Peace Bureau fell apart after many supporters felt they could not support peace at a time of war! However, while one may characterise the latter examples as cases of betrayal or confusion, Coubertins enthusiasm for the war was a logical conclusion of his bourgeois internationalism. 16 J. Riordan (1993) The Rise and Fall of Soviet Olympic Champions, p25 17 John Hoberman, Toward a Theory of Olympic Internationalism, p24


the Fhrer of the enormous propaganda potential of hosting an event of worldwide interest. Echoing Coubertins rhetoric , Hitler proclaimed his conversion to Olympism: The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesnt separate but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That is why the Olympic Flame should never die.18 It soon became apparent that the Nazi regime was discriminating against Jewish athletes, barring them from competition and the possibility of qualifying to represent Germany at the Games. The IOC dispatched representatives to investigate, meeting with Carl Diem, a historian and administrator, who had for many years played a leading role in German sports. Although not a party member, Diem was a nationalist who collaborated with the Nazis, setting aside whatever misgivings he may originally have had to persuade the IOC that the Berlin Games would in no way contravene the Olympic commitment to equality. Avery Brundage, an American IOC member who would later become its president, was one of those who visited Germany to assess the situation. Not only was he satised there was no evidence of antiSemitism, he also eulogised about the organisational zeal of the Third Reich. Others were not as convinced. Ernest Lee
18 19

Jahncke - like Brundage an American IOC member - told the New York Times that it was a plain and undeniable fact that the Nazis have consistently and persistently violated their pledges.19 Consul General George S. Messersmith concluded: Should the Games not be held in Berlin it would be one of the most serious blows which National Socialist prestige could suer within an awakening Germany and one of the most eective ways which the world outside has of showing the youth of Germany its opinion of National Socialist doctrine20 . A campaign in the United States to boycott the Berlin Olympics quickly gathered support and the Amateur Athletic Union collected over half a million signatures in favour, though it was dismissed as the work of Communists and Jews. Brundage used increasingly anti-Semitic language in his private correspondence, claiming criticism was obviously written by a Jew or someone who has succumbed to the Jewish propaganda21 . In public he went on the counter-oensive, repeating the mantra of Olympic neutrality: All the real sport leaders in the United States are unanimously in favour of participation in the Olympic Games which are above all considerations of politics, race, colour, or creed22

Quoted in Chris Weigant (2008) The Olympic Torch Relays Nazi Origins Quoted in Guttmann, The Games Must Go On, p74 20 Quoted in George Eisen, The Voices of Sanity: American Diplomatic Reports from the 1936 Berlin Olympiad, p68-69 21 Guttmann, The Games Must Go On, p72 22 Guttmann, The Games Must Go On, p72


by the Nazi Olympics. The format of the Berlin Games - with its opening and closing ceremonies, its Olympic torch, its two week duration, its pageantry and spectacle - have served as a template for all subsequent Olympiads.

Cold War, Protest



Eventually the USA did compete in Berlin, as did the half-Jewish German fencer Helene Mayer, whose selection amounted to little more than a cynical attempt to placate international opinion. The undoubted star of the Games was African-American athlete Jessie Owens who took gold in four events (the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay), and demolished Hitlers theories of Aryan superiority in the process. His success is often used as evidence against those who would have boycotted the Games, but it is worth bearing in mind that contemporary opinion was far from unanimous. The Nazis pointed to the fact that Germany topped the medal table, ahead of a USA team larger than any that had before competed at an Olympiad. W.J. Baker records, The Olympic Games held at Berlin in 1936 were an unprecedented success: as a sporting spectacle as much as a triumph of propaganda for the National Socialist regime. Such were the opinions at the time23 . This was certainly the feeling of Coubertin, who claimed Hitler had magnicently served, and by no means disgured, the Olympic ideal.24 The IOC was equally impressed
23 24

After the Second World War the Games resumed, staged in a war-ravaged London, with what is often dubbed the Austerity Olympics. The IOC again attempted to position itself at the head of a movement based on redemptive and inspirational internationalism25 . The IOCs ocial lm of the London Olympics urged: V for victory, not in war, not in wealth, but in sportsmanship and peace. The appeal to a common humanity without political division was an aspiration to which many could subscribe. Yet it was destined to fail as the realities of the Cold War ensued. It was inevitable that the relative success of East and West would be measured in gold, silver and bronze, no matter how much the IOC might protest that the Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries26 . Although initially ambivalent in its relationship to the IOC in the immediate post-war period, the Soviet Union was increasingly drawn into international sporting competition - on the strict understanding that defeat was unacceptable. Nikolai Romanov, the chairman of the Committee on Physical Culture and Sport, recalls: To gain permission to go to international

WJ Murray, France, Coubertin and the Nazi Olympics: The Response, p46 Quoted in WJ Murray, France, Coubertin and the Nazi Olympics: The Response, p53. The Nazi Foreign Oce had spent much time courting Coubertin and had even nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. 25 John Hoberman, Toward a Theory of Olympic Internationalism, p1 26 Olympic Charter, Chapter 1, section 6


tournaments I had to send a special note to Stalin guaranteeing victory.27 A Soviet resolution of 1949 recognised the propaganda value of victories over competitors from the West: The increasing number of successes achieved by Soviet athletes is a victory for the Soviet form of society and the socialist sports system; it provides irrefutable proof of the superiority of socialist culture over the moribund culture of capitalist states.28 In its rst foray into Olympic competition at the 1952 Helsinki Games the Soviet Union nished second in the medal table behind the United States. In Melbourne 1956 and Rome 1960 these positions were reversed. It was a situation that did not go unnoticed by politicians in the United States. In July 1964, in the run-up to the Tokyo Games, Attorney General Robert Kennedy highlighted the increasingly important political role of the Olympics: Part of a nations prestige in the Cold War is won in the Olympic Games. In this day of international stalemates nations use the scoreboard of sports as a visible measuring stick to prove their superiority over the soft and decadent democratic way of life29 . Senator Hubert Humphrey, soon to be Vice President, preferred more hyperbolic Cold War rhetoric, warning: Once they have crushed us in the coming Olympic battle the Red propaganda drums will thunder out in a worldwide tattoo, heralding the new Soviet man
27 28

and woman as virile, unbeatable conquerors in sports - or anything else.30 The Games continued as a proxy for the Cold War, culminating in tit-for-tat boycotts of Olympic proportions. The US led a 62-nation boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, ostensibly in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union reciprocated by refusing to participate at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. This was far from being the rst or only time that that the Games had been used to register a political protest. Twentytwo African nations boycotted the Montreal Games In 1976 in protest at the New Zealand rugby union tour of apartheid South Africa. The 1956 Games in Melbourne witnessed three separate boycotts from seven nations, including Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon refusing to participate following the Suez crisis31 . At the same Olympiad, Hungary met the Soviet Union in the mens water polo semi-nal, less than a month after the crushing of the Hungarian revolution. The infamous contest, remembered as the Blood in the Water match, ended as the pool turned red. Hungary won 4-0. It is the Mexico Games of 1968, however, that will long be remembered as the moment when sports and politics collided. In a year of protests stretching across the globe, 10,000 people had gathered in the Tlatelolco Square in Mexico City ten days before the Olympics were scheduled to start. Demonstrating against the cost of the Games and for democratic change they carried banners proclaiming, We Dont Want Olympic Games, We Want Revolu-

Quoted in J Riordan, The Rise and Fall of Soviet Olympic Champions, p26 Quoted in J Riordan Russia and Eastern Europe in the Future of the Modern Olympic Movement 29 T Hunt (2006) American Sport Policy and the Cultural Cold War: The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Years, p275 30 T Hunt (2006) American Sport Policy and the Cultural Cold War, p275 31 Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland all boycotted the games because of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. China boycotted following the inclusion of Taiwan who at that time were competing as the Republic of China.


tion! Within half an hour the army moved in and opened re and 325 protestors were murdered32 .

dismissing the group as irresponsible publicity seeking agitators and issued one of the most comically ill-fated injunctions in the history of sports: We must never permit the Olympic movement to be used as a tool or a weapon for any ulterior cause nor the Olympic Games to be a forum for demonstrations of any kind.33 Black American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos nished rst and third in the mens 200 metre nal respectively. On the rostrum at the medal ceremony both men bowed their heads, and raised gloved hands in black power salutes. Muhammad Ali, no stranger to either the Olympics or racism, described it as the single most courageous act of the century. Smith explained the symbolism of the gesture: The right glove that I wore on my right hand signied the power within black America. The left glove my teammate John Carlos wore on his left hand made an arc with my right hand and his left hand also to signify black unity. The scarf that was worn around my neck signied blackness. John Carlos and me wore black socks, without shoes, to also signify our poverty.34 The pair were censured by the US Olympic committee and expelled from the Olympic village before being vilied by the press and receiving death threats on their return home. Other black American athletes would also use their Olympic success as a platform to make political statements. Bob Beamon wore black socks and Ralph

In the United States the civil rights movement resonated inside the sporting world, nding its organisational expression in the shape of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). Spearheaded by Harry Edwards, an African-American academic, OPHR sought to highlight the issues of racism faced by black athletes and attracted a number of high prole supporters, pushing strongly (though ultimately fruitlessly) for a boycott of the Mexico Olympics. They also called for the removal of IOC president Brundage, who they quite correctly labeled a racist. He responded by
32 33

Chris Harman (1988) The Fire Last Time, p129 Quoted in Maynard Brichford (1998), Avery Brundage and Racism 34 Damien Johnstone and Matt Norman (2008) A Race to Remember, p44


Boston went barefoot at the medal ceremony for the long jump. Lee Evans, Larry James and Rob Freeman, who completed a clean sweep of the medals in the 400m all wore black berets when collecting their medals. But it is the iconic image of Smith and Carlos, captured in a moment of dignied rage, which remains arguably the most enduring image in sports history.35

ences with heads of state; the leader issues orders; the leader selects new IOC members and imposes them on the movement; the leader knows best; the leaders will is carried out; the leader appears at press conferences anked by the banners of the movement.37 The IOC was transformed into the nerve centre of a rapidly developing corporate monolith, commanding an extraordinary budget. Jules Boyko records that, the IOC made a prot of $383 million on the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, after routing a very substantial share of the $2.4 billion total revenue to other parts of the Olympic Movement38 . Unsurprisingly the IOC has made tax dodging into an art form. The Host City Agreement stipulates that the IOC should pay no tax on money made through the Olympics, and in their Swiss base they are recorded as being a non-prot organisation!39 Like so many other corporate entities its members have been embroiled in bribery and corruption scandals, most notably before the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics when members of the IOC were found to have accepted gifts from potential host cities in return for their votes. Despite assurances of reform, the IOC remains a singularly unaccountable group. In 2008 the British think-tank, One World Trust, ranked the IOC the least transparent of the 30 transnational organisations in its survey, below such luminaries of democratic accountability as the European Central Bank, Halliburton and Goldman Sachs40 .

The Neoliberal Games

The IOC likes to talk of the Olympics as being a family or a movement, as though, to borrow a wretched phrase, we are all in this together. Yet its elitism is evident from the people it has placed at the head of its organization. Christopher Shaw notes: Of nine actual or acting presidents, the IOC has put three barons, two counts, two businessmen, an overt fascist and a fascist sympathiser in its top job.36 The overt fascist of whom he wrote was the Spaniard, Juan Antonio Samaranch. As a teenager Samaranch had joined Francos National Movement, later becoming the President of the Barcelona Regional Council. Following Francos demise, Samaranch attempted to reinvent himself as a statesman in the world of international sport. As the investigative journalists Simson and Jennings describe: like the astute politician he was for twenty-ve years, Samaranch has not only reinvented himself, he has refashioned the Olympic movement in his own style of politics: the leader grants and accepts audi35 36

Dave Zirin (2005) Whats My Name Fool: Sports and Resistance in the United States, p73 Christopher A Shaw (2008) Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, p67 37 Vyv Simson and Andrew Jennings (1992) The Lord of the Rings: Power, Money and Drugs in the Modern Olympics 38 Jules Boyko, (2011) The Anti-Olympics, p42 39 Christopher Shaw, Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games pp71-72 40 One World Trust, 2008 Global Accountability Report


It was Samaranch who oversaw the explosion of Olympic sponsorship in the 1980s. In the previous decade the sale of television rights had been the IOCs main source of income, amounting to 98 percent of their operational budget. The television rights for the 1968 Mexico Games, the rst to be broadcast around the world via satellite, were sold for $10 million. By the time of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 the cost of purchasing the TV rights had skyrocketed to $225 million. As the sums involved grew ever larger, Samaranch was eager to ensure that the IOCs revenue streams were not exclusively bound to the whims of television executives. To do that the Olympics had to be transformed from a mere sporting event into a global industry. The estimated 2.5 billion people who had watched the LA Games represented a monumental captive market, as Michael Payne, former IOC marketing director, explains, Nothing has provided sponsors with a stronger or more powerful unied global platform to connect with their customers than the Olympics.41 Paradoxically, Samaranch fullled his mission of Olympic proteering, through The Olympic Partners (TOP) program, by reducing the number of ocial sponsors. The TOP sponsorships have generated massive revenues, $279 million in 19931996, $579 million in 1997-2000 and $663 million from 2001-0442 . It was inspired by the event in Los Angles. In 1976 there had been 628 ocial Olympic sponsors and suppliers. The LA Games - the rst purely privately nanced Olympiad - cut these numbers substantially, to 34 sponsors, 64 suppliers, and 5 licensees. For the duration
41 42

of the Games the ve ring Olympic symbol featured on TV programmes and advertisements, products were licensed and endorsed for the rst time, corporate hospitality centers were introduced. It was the perfect example of the fusion of international sport with Reaganomics. However, not all of the IOC was enamoured of the corporatised vision. Sir Reginald Alexander, an IOC member from Kenya, rounded on Peter Ueberroth, head of the Los Angeles Olympic Committee: You, Mr Ueberrroth, represent the ugly face of capitalism and its attempt to take over the Olympic Movement and commercialise the Olympic Games.43 The LA Games represented a watershed moment in Olympic history producing a prot in excess of $232 million. At a time when many people, including some of those in the IOC, feared for the future of the Olympics, the success of Los Angeles made the hosting of the Games an attractive proposition once again, with governments motivated by the lure of the P triad: publicity, pride and prot44 . Prior to the 2008 Games Chinese marketing ofcials concluded, The Beijing Olympics will not be about sport, it will be about creating a super brand called China45 . In somewhat more circumspect fashion, Prime Minister David Cameron says: Were going to show that Britain is one of the very best places to live, to work, to invest, to do business and were going to show that ours is

Michael Payne (2005) Olympic Turnaround, p95 Christopher A Shaw (2008) Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, p70 43 Michael Payne (2005) Olympic Turnaround, p11 44 Robert K. Barney (2008) Some Thoughts on the General Economies of Cities/States/Provinces after Hosting the Olympic Games 45 S Kronick and D Dorne (2008) Going for an Olympic Marketing Gold https://www.


a proud, forward-looking and condent country46 The costs of London 2012 have already increased from an initial estimate of 2.4 billion to a gure of 11 billion. Both the Athens and Beijing Olympics ran over budget, and the 1976 Games in Montreal resulted in a decit of more than $1 billion. Before the opening of those Games the citys mayor, Jean Drapeau, had said, The Olympics could no more produce a decit, than a man a baby47 . In fact, it took Montreal 30 years to clear its eventual $2 billion Olympic debt. Ito legitimise hosting an event that eectively nationalises organisational and infrastructure costs whilst ensuring maximum protability for multinational corporations, governments have turned to the narrative of legacy. In response to those dissident voices who have raised concerns over the cost of the London Olympics, the organisers have repeatedly claimed that not only will the Games inspire a generation, they will also result in inward investment and job creation. In fact the eects of staging the Olympics have proved disastrous for the poor and threaten the basic rights and freedoms of residents in host cities, with particularly serious impacts on the lives of low-income and homeless people48 The promised employment opportunities have been temporary and poorly paid, while the urban regeneration has been little more than the gentrication of urban areas housing prime real estate that would, in normal times, be o limits to property developers. Estimates suggest that the between the late 1980s and 2008 the Olympics have
46 47

been responsible for the displacement of 2 million people49 . This gure rises to 3.5 million with the inclusion of the Beijing Games50 . At recent Games every eort has been made to ensure undesirables are removed from sight, in particular targeting ethnic minorities and the homeless. The Atlanta Games of 1996 saw 9,000 arrest citations written for the citys homeless population, while the Vancouver authorities made sleeping rough illegal before the Winter Olympics in 2010. London has engaged in its own programme of social cleansing, targeting prostitutes and relocating residents in Newham to the city of Stoke-onTrent, over a hundred miles away. It is little wonder that every recent Olympiad has witnessed groups springing up in host cities in protest at the intrusion, eects and cost of the Games. As Helen Lenskyj observes: Most anti-Olympic groups had well-developed analyses of the links between Olympic sport and global capitalism, most notably the complicity of Olympic corporate sponsors in environmental destruction and human rights abuses, and the problem of the widening gap between rich and poor countries.51 It would be fair to say that the protests in London have not, as yet, reached the levels seen before the Sydney or Vancouver Olympics, perhaps understandable given the unanimous support of politicians and the uncritical coverage the event has received in the media. The IOC, however, is

Taken from David Camerons speech to mark the opening of the Olympic Stadium in 2010 Michael Payne (2005) Olympic Turnaround, p9 48 Helen Lenskyj (2008) Olympic Industry Resistance, p28 49 Helen Lenskyj (2008) Olympic Industry Resistance, p16 50 John Harris, London 2012s Stupendous Insanity Leaves Sport As An Also-Ran, The Independent, 30 April 2012 51 Helen Lenskyj (2002) International Olympic Resistance: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally


not one to leave these things to chance. Rule 61 of the Olympic Charter states: No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in the Olympic areas52 . In practice these areas are not restricted to sporting venues but stretch across the entirety of a host city. Vancouver saw the banning of any posters that did not celebrate the Games, with the police given the right to enter homes to remove any oensive material. Resistance, however, has not been entirely silenced. Occupy London set up camp on Leyton Marsh, the site of a proposed Olympic training center, before being forcibly evicted by police. Meredith Alexander resigned from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 in protest at the increasingly cavalier attitude the organisers were taking in their responsibility towards the environment. Without a hint of irony BP, the company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010 that saw 20 million gallons of oil pour into the Gulf of Mexico, have been selected as the chief sustainability partner of London 2012. Equally controversial has been the choice of Dow Chemicals to provide a wrap for the Olympic stadium. As the owners of Union Carbide, Dow has failed to take responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India that killed 25,000 people. Campaigners have shown that the inclusion of such companies makes a mockery of the IOCs claim to see the environment as the third pillar of Olympism, behind sport and culture. London transport workers have threatened industrial action over the Olympic period, despite the oer of a derisory bonus for the extra work the event will entail. This comes after Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, had refused to rule out strikes during the Games. Meeting
52 53

universal condemnation from all the main parties, McCluskey was derided as unpatriotic. The coalition government in the UK is invoking its own version of the Olympic Truce - the temporary cessation of hostilities between city-states for the duration of the ancient Games - by attempting to suspend our side of the class war in the national interest. Yet the Olympics is in itself a site of confrontation, having become both the justication and mechanism for the pursuit of a barely disguised neo-liberal agenda. As Ashok Kumor succinctly summarises: Any reading of Olympic history reveals the true motives of each host city. It is the necessity to shock, to fast track the dispossession of the poor and marginalised as part of the larger machinations of capital accumulation. The architects of this plan need a spectacular show; a hegemonic device to recongure the rights, spatial relations and self-determination of the citys working class, to reconstitute for whom and for what purpose the city exists. Unlike any other event, the Olympics provide just that kind of opportunity.53

Countries of the World Unite You Have Nothing to Lose But the Race
How may we explain the undoubted popularity of the Olympics? Strangely the answer has little to do with its prole as a sporting event. Of the most watched sports on a global scale (soccer, cricket, American football, baseball, Formula 1,

Olympic Charter Ashok Kumor (2012) Want to cleanse your city of its poor? Host the Olympics


athletics, rugby) only athletics and soccer appear at the Games - and very few people take the mens football seriously, although the womens competition is another matter entirely. The popularity of the Games cannot be explained by the inclusion of sailing, table tennis or GrecoRoman wrestling. Part of the explanation lies with the mass marketing of the Olympics which, as we have seen, has become one of the most recognisable global brands. In addition, our rulers eagerly encourage the petty nationalism that is part and parcel of the Games. But neither of these factors can be said to apply exclusively to the Olympics. To fully understand the appeal of the Games it must be recognised that the Olympic ideals of mutual understanding, respect and solidarity strike a chord with millions of people around the world - no matter how awed and hypocritical these ideals may be under scrutiny. In a world stained and scarred by poverty, war and bigotry the Olympic Games has become an event that nullies political and social realities, creating a dream world, if just for a few moments, an illusion of peace, goodwill and harmony54 . John Carlos recalls how, as a child growing up in Harlem, the Games had a huge impact on his life: When I rst learned about the existence of the Olympics, my reaction was dierent than anything I ever felt The sheer variety of sports, the idea of the nest athletes from around the globe gathering and representing their countries: it was different, and the fact that it only happened every four years just made it feel like an extra kind of special.55

Combining spectacle and myth the Olympics invoke a spirit of internationalism that, although never challenging the structures of capitalism, hints of a world in which people come together in shared humanity and culture. Fleetingly they touch on a human aspiration that transcends the mundanities of everyday life, but simultaneously they are subsumed within a tidal wave of ag-waving nationalism. It is this tension, reformist and idealistic in character, which lies at the heart of Olympic Games. It goes without saying that the internationalism of the Olympics is far removed from the internationalist tradition of revolutionary socialism, and was understood by Coubertin himself. After the carnage of the First World War, and in the light of the Russian revolution, he wrote:

There are two ways of looking at internationalism. One way is the way of the socialists, of the revolutionaries and in general of the theorists and utopians. They think of a gigantic egalitarianism, which will turn the civilized world into a state without borders and barriers, and transfer the organisation of society into one of the dullest and most monotonous tyrannies. The other way is the way of those men who know how to observe objectively and who take reality into account instead of following their own favorite ideas. They have realised for quite some time that national peculiarities are an indispensable prerequisite for the life of a people and

George Eisen (1984) The Voices of Sanity: American Diplomatic Reports from the 1936 Berlin Olympiad p56 55 John Carlos & Dave Zirin (2011) The John Carlos Story, p13


that contact with other people will strengthen and enliven them.56 The Barons description of socialism may be pure caricature but the division he highlights is real. Yet, much of the criticism leveled at recent Olympiads,has revolved around its accompanying neoliberal circus; its over-commercialisation, the woeful environmental and human rights records of the sponsors, the lack of democracy and accountability. It is a most valid and useful critique but all too often its proponents leave the Games themselves unchallenged. A socialist critique must not only rage against the corporate takeover of the Olympics but also the premise on which they rest. It is a critique that was at the centre of the workers sport movement, which rejected the articial divisions of imagined communities to emphasise the common bonds of workers in all countries. Professional sports - competitive, aggressive and so often seen in a national (indeed nationalistic) context - are well suited to function as a transmission belt for capitalist ideology. The Olympic motto, Faster, Higher, Stronger, could easily be the slogan of a major corporation. And, of

course, it is. Sports are shaped by and reect the society in which they are born, so it comes as no surprise that the Olympics have assumed an increasingly neo-liberal visage over the past 30 years. Similarly it is inevitable that the political struggles of nation states and competing ideologies will manifest themselves in sporting contests - no matter how much IOC presidents may preach the supposed nonpolitical purity of their Games. Crucially, as Mike Gonzalez explains, Sport, like every other cultural activity, is a contradictory space where there is a struggle for appropriation. Sometimes, our side can take it back57 . When the struggles of the oppressed and exploited erupt then they too can overow and nd expression in the sports stadium, as the actions of Tommie Smith and John Carlos demonstrated at the 1968 Olympics. The London Games will take place in a period of global dissent, protest and revolution rivaling the famous year of the Mexico Olympiad. What chance is there at these Olympics, a Games of illusory ideals decked out in dollar signs, that we might witness an athlete climbing the medal rostrum to reveal a t-shirt proclaiming, OCCUPY?

Robert K. Barney (2008) Some Thoughts on the General Economies of Cities/States/Provinces after Hosting the Olympic Games, paper delivered at the Ninth International Symposium for Olympic Research, SportsLibrary/ISOR/isor2008t.pdf Adrianne Blue (1988) Faster, Higher, Further: Womens Triumphs and Disasters at the Olympics, Virago: London Jules Boyko (2011) The Anti-Olympics, in New Left Review, 67
Quoted in D. Quanz (1993) Civic Pacism and Sports-Based Internationalism: Framework for the Founding of the International Olympic Committee, p18 57 Mike Gonzalez (2002) The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game


Maynard Brichford (1998) Avery Brundage and Racism, conference paper delivered at the Fourth International Symposium for Olympic Research, available at: http://www. John Carlos and Dave Zirin (2011) The John Carlos Story, Haymarket Books: Chicago Pierre de Coubertin (1900) France Since 1814 available at: stream/francesince00coubgoog#page/n262/mode/2up Pierre de Coubertin (1979) Olympic Memoirs, IOC: Lausanne Mike Gonzalez (July 2002) Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game in Socialist Review Allen Guttmann (1984) The Games Must Go On, Columbia University Press: New York Chris Harman (1988) The Fire Last Time: 1968 And After, Bookmarks: London John Harris, London 2012s Stupendous Insanity Leaves Sport As An Also-Ran, The Independent, 30 April 2012 John Hoberman (1995) Toward a Theory of Olympic Internationalism, in Journal of Sport History, Vol 22 (1) T. Hunt (2006) American Sport Policy and the Cultural Cold War: The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Years, in Journal of Sports History, Vol 33, 3 Damien Johnstone and Matt Norman (2008) A Race to Remember: The Pete Norman Story, JoJo Press: Australia S Kronick and D Dorne, Going for an Olympic Marketing Gold https://www. Arnd Kruger (1993) The Origins of Pierre de Coubertins Religion Athlete in The International Journal of Olympic Studies, Vol II Ashok Kumor, Want to cleanse your city of its poor? Host the Olympics, http: // Helen Lenskyj (2002) International Olympic Resistance: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally, paper delivered at the Sixth International Symposium for Olympic Research, Helen Lenskyj (2008) Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda, State University of New York Press: Albany John J. Macaloon (1981) This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympics, University of Chicago Press: Chicago China Mieville (2012) Londons Overthrow, available at http://www.


WJ Murray (1992) France, Coubertin and the Nazi Olympics: The Response in The International Journal of Olympic Studies, Vol 1 Michael Payne (2005) Olympic Turnaround, 2005, London Business Press D. Quanz (1993) Civic Pacism and Sports-Based Internationalism: Framework for the Founding of the International Olympic Committee in The International Journal of Olympic Studies, Volume II J Riordan, The Rise and Fall of Soviet Olympic Champions in The International Journal of Olympic Studies, Vol II, 1993, pp25-44, p25 in J Riordan Russia and Eastern Europe in the Future of the Modern Olympic Movement, available at ISOR1994e.pdf Christopher A Shaw (2008) Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, New Society Publishers: Canada Vyv Simson and Andrew Jennings (1992) The Lords of the Rings: Power, Money and Drugs in the Modern Olympics, Simon & Schuster: London Chris Weigant (2008) The Olympic Torch Relays Nazi Origins, available at b_96648.html Dave Zirin (2005) Whats My Name Fool: Sports and Resistance in the United States, Haymarket Books, Chicago David Camerons speech to mark the opening of the Olympic Stadium, available at: Initiative Sports Futures, Viewer Track: The Most Watched Sporting Events of 2008, One World Trust, 2008 Global Accountability Report, accountableorganisations/gar/2008gar-mock The Olympic Charter - Fundamental Principles, IOC Lausanne, p10 2011


Letter from France

Lorcan Gray The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) was formed in 2009 as a coalition of several groups on the radical left in France. Its formation was hailed as a breakthrough for left unity and was seen by many in Europe as a blueprint for organising against the system in their own countries. Against the backdrop of global economic crisis the NPA was a welcome breath of fresh air and a new style of struggle in a country renowned for its workers ghting attitude. The main component of the newly formed NPA was the Ligue des Communistes Revolutionaires (League of Revolutionary Communists, LCR) with its charismatic leader Olivier Besancenot at the helm. Following a result of almost 1.5 million votes (4.08 percent) in the presidential elections of 2007 the LCR was at the height of its electoral popularity, however many of its members and others on the left realised it could only achieve its potential and ultimate aim of revolution by working within a broader coalition of forces. tivists sign up for their membership cards triple the size of the LCR. The apparent unication of forces on the extreme left in France, excluding the traditionally sectarian Lutte Ouvrire (Workers Struge gle, LO), heightened the mood on Europes radical left . Today, the NPAs membership has dwindled to around four thousand at a time when more than ever voters and citizens across the country are looking for alternatives to the main pro-austerity parties. Why has this come about, and can the NPA return to its position as the alternative force in French politics? One reason for the decline in support for the NPA has been the emergence in popularity of the Front de Gauche (Left front, FdG), a coalition of the historically powerful Parti Communiste Francais (French Communist Party, PCF) and a split from the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party, PS), Frances equivalent of our Labour Party. The split was led by former Vocational Education Minister Jean-Luc Mlenchon, who left the PS in 2008 and e entered the coalition as part of his Parti Gauche (Left Party, PG). The FdGs rst electoral outing came in the 2009 European elections where it polled respectably. However, it was during the mass mobilisation against pension reform that the FdG stole the spotlight from the NPA and Mlenchon took centre stage. The FdG puts itself forward as a radical alternative to austerity but is not explicitly revolutionary. Instead, it uses the language of the Bolivarian civil insurrection to draw people to its cause. Mlenchons ery speeches during his cane didature for this years presidential elections have catapulted him to the forefront of French politics. Calling for a sixth 88

The founding congress of the NPA saw over 9,000 optimistic and energised ac-

republic the FdG managed to mobilise huge numbers of supporters for its rallies, the most breathtaking being the hundred thousand people crowded into that symbol of the French Revolution the square of the Bastille. Here Mlenchon continued his passionate rhetoric to an audience draped in red ags, illuminated by the glow of ares and chanting resistance. Mlenchon recalled the Paris Commune of 1871 which saw Paris in the hands of the working class for two months in the spring before being violently suppressed by the state. The surge in support for the FdG was expected to translate into electoral success with opinion polls putting Mlenchon as the third most popular candidate behind the incumbent Sarkozy and Francois Hollande of the PS. The rst round of the recent elections has, however, painted a dierent picture. Marine Le Pens fascist Front Nationale (National Front, FN) picked up almost 20 percent of the vote, installing her as the third most popular candidate. Traditionally seen as a fringe party under her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party has undertaken a revisionist approach to its history and has toned down its more overtly fascist and racist tendencies. Adopting terms used by the British National Party relating to identity and culture, the FN has managed to veil its rampant islamophobia and has picked up support with its antiausterity rhetoric, blaming the economic crisis on immigration and the non-French workforce. Mlenchon was relegated to fourth place with around 11 percent of the total vote. However, the combined left vote is the largest since the election of Francois Mitterand (PS) in 1988, and the combined vote of the radical left shows gains from the 2007 elections. Within this radical percentage was the NPAs candidate, Phillipe Poutou, a motor factory technician from 89

Bordeaux in the west of France. Phillipe Poutou was chosen as the NPA candidate for the presidential elections after the postal worker Olivier Besancenot declared he would not run a third time. The far lefts poster boy took a back seat in the elections, appearing sporadically in the media or at public meetings to show his support for his unknown successor. From the beginning of the campaign it was clear that Poutou did not have Besancenots appeal . His lack of charisma and his inexperience in handling the media saw many of those who had voted NPA in the past move towards the FdG. Besancenot had become a household name by the time of the 2007 presidential elections when he was nicknamed the Red Postman on both sides of the political divide. With over four percent of the vote it was clear that Besancenot was pulling in votes from those across the left who were disillusioned by conventional politics. Almost one and a half million people voted for a candidate with explicitly Marxist revolutionary views; the gure showed the huge support for Besancenot but also the great potential for the formation of the NPA. Poutous candidature, however, showed the danger and limits of faith in a personality and not a movement. Poutous relative obscurity and his apparent reluctance to be put forward saw opinion polls prior to the rst round of elections stagnate at under one percent with the nal result being little over the one percent mark; the other far left candidate Natahlie Arthaud of LO achieved only half that. To get on the ballot for the French presidential elections it is necessary to obtain the signatures of ve hundred or more mayors from the 36,000 cantons in France. This led to the NPA putting on hold practically all grassroots campaigning to scour the countryside and villages of France to nd sympathetic mayors or

those who hadnt yet signed for one of the main candidates. This collecting of signatures ran down to the wire and is indicative of the negative emphasis on and obsession with electoralism in the NPA. This is only one of the internal crises which face the NPAs membership, with many questioning the outcome of placing so much importance on elections, particularly with the emergence of the FdGs far superior party election machine. Past and present shows us that this type of emphasis on electioneering for a relatively small force can lead to the neglect of the real key to change: involvement with communities, trade unions and students with the aim of real mass mobilisation. Electoral success for the radical left does not necessarily translate into feet on the street. This may not be of particular consequence to parties that hold parliamentary aspirations for change like the FdG or the radical left coalition SYRIZA in Greece, but for the NPA it has led the organisation to lose sight of the real incarnation of progress the mob, as James Connolly put it. From my experience studying and working with the NPA in Lyon I have become frustrated with their attitude towards elections and their lack of work in communities and universities. My time here has seen not one public meeting aimed at dissaected students nor any consistency or coherence in organising public meetings in communities or looking to recruit new members. In a period such as this the NPA should be putting itself forward as an open, accessible alternative, not a talking shop for revolutionaries. Elements of substitutionist thinking and a lack of ideological coherence has caused problems. Lyon is the second largest city in France with a metropolitan population of over two million yet the NPA has failed to make any ground here politically and 90

has no full time activists to co-ordinate with Paris. The NPAs message is one which would resonate hugely with the historically radical French university students if they were given access to it. 2010 saw a wave of student protests across France in solidarity with the pension strikes, with 40,000 taking to the streets of Lyon, running battles with the police and many school children barricading their colleges. Political tensions were high and a natural awareness of solidarity should have been as great opportunity for the NPA to makes gains in the three large universities in Lyon. This was sadly not the case and the tensions turned to disinterest and defeatism when the pension reforms passed and the students had no coherent, radical political bodies to turn to. The university left has, instead, been inuenced by the FdG and a combination of disparate anarchist groupings. The lessons and realities of the student situation can be translated to wider society and, in particular, to the Arab and Muslim communities. The NPA were, of course, very vocal in their support of the Egyptian and Arab uprisings but they again failed to translate this support into tangible solidarity with the Arab communities in Lyon. Detachment between the party and those minorities it supports leaves neither side better o. The coming months will be decisive for the future of the NPA and the revolutionary left in France. The last national party conference saw a small minority split o to join the FdG. Many anticipate that a more signicant minority will follow suit, depending on the FdGs legislative election results and its attitude towards Hollandes government. The idea is being oated that the NPA would be better o nding a home in the FdG and agitating from within. The fact remains, however, that the FdG is a party which isnt

afraid of using revolutionary rhetoric yet which advocates the politics of a workers government and remains ambiguous on many social and international issues. It is ocially allied with SYRIZA in Greece which is already buckling under the pressure of international nance with a signicant minority of the party looking at the possibility of coalition with the social democratic PASOK In contrast, our comrades in the Greek SWP who are part of the extra-parliamentary coalition ANTARSYA are maintaining their revolutionary convictions while growing steadily and reaching greater audiences. We on the left must watch the situation

in France closely and maintain our revolutionary currents wherever we nd ourselves. The problems facing the NPA are signicant, but not too great to overcome. The ongoing polarisation of politics all over Europe means the revolutionary left must be coherent and ready to rise to the challenge when faced with it. The rising popularity of the FdG shows a radicalisation among the French population; the victory of Hollande shows a swing to what is considered to be the left. People are looking to reject austerity in France and the organisations and comrades within the NPA must look to lead the ghtback as a solid, coherent, revolutionary force.

Further Reading
Website of the French section of the IST within the NPA Video of meeting hosted by British SWP on the French elections. Analysis from the British SWP.


The Politics of the Socialist Party

John Molyneux Why are there two main organisations on the Irish radical left - the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party? This is a question that many ask today. Both organisations work together in the United Left Alliance which currently has ve TDs in Dail Eireann. But while working together in a common front against the right wing parties, neither the SWP or SP hide the dierences that exist between them. The purpose of this document is to trace the connections between the current political line and conduct of the SP and its fundamental politics developed over decades. Such a document is necessary not because we have any desire to quarrel with the SP - rather we wish to be able to work with them in a comradely and cooperative way where any divergences of perspective and tactics are debated openly and settled. Rather, its purpose is to clarify the dierences in politics and methodology. Given that this document, by its nature, is going to make a series of criticisms of the SP it is necessary to make one thing clear at the start: the members of the SP, both leaders and rank-and-le, are undoubtedly genuine and sincere socialists and working class militants who serve the cause of socialism with dogged determination, hard work and real commitment; this is precisely why we have been and remain keen to work with them in campaigns and strengthen our unity in the ULA. None of the criticisms presented here alter this.

The Roots of SP politics

The SP is the Irish section of an international Trotskyist tendency called the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) which consists of a number of afliated socialist organisations - most of them very small - in a variety of dierent countries. Its parent organisation was what was then known as the Militant Tendency in Britain and its political and theoretical leader was Ted Grant, a South African Trotskyist who came to Britain in the 1930s and who became a leading gure in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) which for a short period in the late 1940s united most of Britains very few Trotskyists. In the sixties, seventies and eighties what distinguished the politics of Ted Grant and of the Militant Tendency was their strategy of entrism into the Labour Party, which was also adopted by virtually all their international aliates in relation to their respective social democratic parties. In Ireland, the Militant rst appeared in 1973 with a paper bearing that name and proclaiming in its banner headline, An Independent Programme for Labour. The Labour Party was entering a coalition with Fine Gael at the time and many left wingers had left in disgust. Militant, however, warned against any attempt to build any alternative party to the left of Labour. The only place socialists could usefully be, they claimed, was in the Irish Labour Party. This policy came to an end in the early nineties after the expulsion from the Labour Party of a number of their leaders. Like the rest of the CWI, the Irish Mili-

This article was originally written as an internal brieng document for the SWP. Thanks are due to Kieran Allen for his assistance with the piece.


tant then took the view that the Labour Party and social democratic parties everywhere had become capitalist parties. In Britain, the change to open party building was strongly, but unsuccessfully, resisted by Ted Grant, who was expelled, and in the mid- nineties the name Socialist Party was adopted in both England and Ireland. In Ireland, former leaders of the Militant such as Finn Geaney also departed at this time. The current politics of the SP are a product of this whole long development. In particular they have been shaped by the following factors: 1) the legacy of Trotskys Fourth International; 2) their analysis of Russia and Eastern Europe; 3) their prolonged entry into the Labour Parties; 4) the poll tax campaign and their turn to open work in the nineties. We shall look at each in turn.

The Legacy of the Fourth International

When, in 1933, the Comintern or Third International, failed to mount any serious resistance to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, Trotsky decided that it was dead for the purposes of revolution. From that time on he sought to build a new revolutionary socialist international. Unfortunately circumstances were very much against him - this was a period of terrible defeats for the working class - and the Trotskyists made little progress. However in 1938 they decided to proclaim a new Fourth International. The founding conference in September 1938 was attended by only twenty one delegates from eleven countries (only one of whom, the American Max Shachtman, represented a substantial organisation) and met for only one day in a house in France. They compensated for their actual weakness on the ground by adopting a grand name, The Fourth International 93

(World Party of Socialist Revolution) and an even grander programme, written by Trotsky, entitled The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International which also became known as The Transitional Programme. Since then the Trotskyist movement has undergone many splits and changes but in understanding the SP it is important to know that they and the CWI see themselves as the true orthodox Trotskyists who still stand on the ground of this document and proclaim their adherence to its political method. They see themselves, and themselves alone, as the true heirs of Trotsky and of the whole Marxist tradition. This is unfortunate because there were major aws involved in both the founding of the International and in its programme. In the rst place it was highly problematic declaring the existence of a world leadership without any serious base in the working class and bound to lead to a misplaced pride and arrogance. It led in turn to an over emphasis on, almost a fetishisation of, the importance of the programme at the expense of the movement of the working class from below. It also led to a belief that the leadership can draw up the programme of the revolution in advance of, and without interaction with, the actual working class struggle. Marx, by contrast, used to say One step forward of the real movement is worth a dozen programmes. Moreover the economic and political perspectives on which the Transitional Programme was based, though plausible at the time, turned out to be mistaken. The programme declared that capitalism was in its death agony and that, The economic prerequisite for the proletarian revolution has already in general achieved the highest point of fruition that can be achieved under capitalism. Mankinds productive forces stagnate. From this Trotsky drew the conclusion that there can be no dis-

cussion of systematic social reforms and that the reformist organisations, both Social Democratic and Stalinist will depart the scene without a sound, one after the other. In reality none of this happened: the Second World War brought the end of the economic crisis and was followed by the massive post-war boom in which the productive forces grew rapidly; there were substantial reforms (such as the establishment of the National Health Service in Britain and a Welfare State throughout much of Europe) and improvements in living standards across Europe and the USA; and in general the Social Democratic and Stalinist parties grew in strength. Finding themselves having to deal with these diculties, and with Trotsky no longer alive to assist them, many of Trotskys followers retreated into a conservative frame of mind in which defending the programme and maintaining the letter of Trotskyist orthodoxy became all important. In 1946 Ted Grant was still repeating Trotsky from 1938: The denitive decline of Europe, already begun in 1914, has been aggravated in the succeeding decades, and World War II has put its seal on this decline. While cyclical upturns will take place and are taking place at the present time, there can be no real growth of the productive forces as in the past. The chronic crisis and death agony of capitalism will once again be revealed in its full scope... The programme of the Fourth International will become the banner of the Eu1

ropean and world proletariat1 . Indeed Grant was still echoing the words of the Transitional Programme in 1979. ...we are now in the epoch of the death agony of capitalism. There will be a tendency for living standards to fall in all the countries of capitalism, including the industrial countries, with only temporary exceptions 2 . It is a dogmatic and mechanical approach which still aects the leaders of the SP today. They still believe they have the correct Marxist programme and that advancing this programme is the key to the socialist transformation of society This leads to a top down view of the relationship between the party and the working class. The party is in possession of vital insights which it must teach the working class because it has studied Trotskys transitional programme. Less emphasis is placed on a party learning from a working class which has entered struggles and which will throw up its own demands.

Russia and Eastern Europe: the Stalinist States

As orthodox Trotskyists the Socialist Party, have always felt obliged to defend Trotskys characterisation of Stalinist Russia as a degenerated workers state. They argued that the Stalinist bureaucracy had betrayed genuine revolutionary socialism in Russia but that the survival of state ownership and state planning meant that, despite Stalinism, Russia remained fundamentally non-capitalist and a workers state. When in 1948 Tony Cli rst produced his analysis of Russia as state cap-

Ted Grant, Economic Perspectives, 1946, economy.htm 2 3 Against the theory of State Capitalism - Reply to Comrade Cli archive/grant/1949/cliff.htm .


italist, it was Ted Grant who wrote the main reply to him3 . What was at stake in this argument was not just what label to attach to the Soviet Union, but what constituted the essential, the fundamental, dierence between capitalism and a workers state. For Cli it was which class controls production and therefore runs the society, for Grant it was the form of property (private versus state property). This became especially clear in relation to the establishment of Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe. These regimes became communist not by virtue of the working class in these countries taking power but by virtue of the advance of the Red Army. If state ownership was the decisive criterion for a workers state these countries had to be regarded as workers states, even if deformed and not fully socialist, and this was Grants view and the view maintained by the whole of the CWI to this day. So xated was Ted Grant with the state property criterion that even concluded at one point that Burma and Syria were workers states with planned economies. In other words the overthrow of capitalism and the creation of the economic foundations of socialism did not have to be conquered by the working class itself, as Marx put it, but could be established from above by a leadership (in this case the Red Army). The subsequent military victories of Communist forces, armies based on the peasantry rather the working class, in North Korea, China, Cuba ,Vietnam and Cambodia , all of which established state ownership of the main means of production, reinforced the point that making this the key criteria led away from the self emancipation of the working class from below as the essence of socialist transformation. This in turn has dovetailed, in the political practice of the SP, with the focus on the programme over and above the struggle. 95

Moreover if the Red Army can establish a series of workers states over the heads of the workers, why shouldnt this be possible for a socialist government with a socialist programme in parliament? Here we see one of the original roots of the SPs current electoralism.

The Eects of Entrism

The tactic of entry into the mass social democratic parties was advocated by Trotsky, and adopted by his supporters in 1934 (it was known as the French turn because it was rst based on the situation in France) as a short term measure to relate to the masses of workers who, at that point, were joining these reformist parties. It was adopted by the Militant tendency as a long term (indeed more or less permanent) strategy and raised almost to the level of a principle. The long period, lasting more than three decades, during which entrism was pursued had a profound eect on shaping the politics of the Militant Tendency, the CWI as a whole, and the SPs of Britain and Ireland. In the rst place in order to remain in the Labour Party and not be expelled they had to disguise some aspects of their Marxist politics. In public they denied they were a revolutionary socialist or Leninist organisation, insisting they were only a current of thought around the Militant paper (when in fact they were a very tight democratic centralist party). They also presented themselves in the Labour Party, not as revolutionaries who wanted, a la Lenin in The State and Revolution, to smash the capitalist state but as left reformists who believed socialism could be brought about by electing a Labour Government pledged to socialist policies. No doubt, in private, the Militant leadership told a dierent, more revolutionary story, but since they recruited publicly on the

Labour Government with socialist policies basis there is little doubt that many of their members and, even more so, of their supporters accepted the left reformist parliamentary perspective. The fact that they stood candidates, and got them elected as City councillors and MPs in Britain (such as Derek Hatton, Terry Fields and Dave Nellist) as Labour Party members, who had to be especially careful what they said, only reinforced this tendency. As entrists they also adapted to their Labour Party hosts in other ways. They adopted a very narrow economistic approach to the working class. By economism we mean a near exclusive focus on bread and butter issues and a failure to raise more dicult issues concerned with repression in the broader working class movement. For Lenin: Working-class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence, and abuse, no matter what class is aected ... the Social-Democrats [i.e. Marxists - JM] ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it aects4 . But, in practice, this was not at all the approach of the Militant Tendency. All issues other than straightforward economic and class issues were either ignored or massively down played. Thus while they

played a leading role in the Anti Water Charges campaign in the 1990s or in the ght against bin charges, they did not play a substantial role in anti-war campaigning at any time. They joined the Irish AntiWar Movement only after the massive mobilisation on 2003 and then left afterwards. Instead of targeting US imperialism as the main enemy, they tried to balance a condemnation of terrorism with opposition to the US war eorts. Anti- imperialism has always been a particular weakness (as it was for Social Democracy historically) .Thus they treated the anti-imperialist IRA as equally as bad as the pro-imperialist UVF and UDA. They refused, for example, to support political status for republican prisoners during the hunger strike of 1981 instead demanding a labour movement inquiry to determine who was and who was not a political prisoner. This, despite the fact, that many of the union leaders played an active role in conniving with the British and Irish states in trying to break the H Block movement. On Palestine they tend towards two statism, advocating both a Jewish and Arab state despite standard socialist objections to ethnic exclusivity, and to equal opposition to Hamas and Zionism. They oppose the boycott of Israeli goods as a concrete way giving support to the Palestinian cause. In both these cases they covered their eective abstention by reference to Trotskys opposition to individual terrorism and by, formally correct, but completely abstract calls for socialism. Often what motivated these choices was a reluctance to oend or challenge the prejudices of ordinary workers in the Labour Party or trade unions whose votes they needed in elections or for positions in the movement. For example, at the start of the great Miners Strike of 1984-5

V.I. Lenin, What is to be Done?, Collected Works, Moscow, 1961, Vol.5, pp.412-23


in Britain many of the miners (for very understandable reasons) held very backward sexist and homophobic views and would chant sexist slogans on their demonstrations. The Militant comrades were unwilling to argue with the miners about these things, saying they were just part of working class culture, and criticised SWP members, who did challenge these ideas (in a comradely way) as being middle class. Unfortunately this is a habit that persists to this day in the practice of the SP in both Britain and Ireland and it is linked to their socialism from above approach and their electoralism. If you see the mass of workers as essentially a passive army of supporters because socialism will be introduced by a government with the correct socialist programme, then it doesnt matter very much if their heads contain various backward and reactionary ideas, but if you see the working class as emancipating itself in revolutionary struggle then the ght for the consciousness of the class is of paramount importance. Obviously the SP comrades believe their approach is correct but this leads them to defend it by attributing more backwardness to the working class than is justied and by quietly going along with conservative ideas when they can be used against others on the left (especially the SWP). Thus for example, they have been happy in the past to denounce the SWP as all middle class students or supporters of the IRA. Indeed during their period in the Labour Party they used to argue that since the Labour Party was the mass party of the working class anyone not in Labour Party (again, especially the SWP), were not really part of the labour movement at all. Another legacy of entrism was that to operate semi-secretly under the hostile gaze of the Labour leadership Militant had to operate with a highly trained, 97

strictly centralised core membership or cadre. This is in some respects a strength, and one which they retain, but unfortunately it went hand in hand with training their cadre in sectarian contempt for others on the left (especially their main rivals i.e. the SWP). Obviously any small left wing party needs its members to understand its political dierences with other left parties but it does not need to educate them in a spirit of arrogant contempt which makes working together very dicult. This is what Militant and later, the SPs have tended to do. Finally, the experience in the Labour Party led to a strategy of organising that stressed manoeuvring in back room committees to win control of particular campaigns. All the emphasis is on gaining key positions and bizarre alliances are sometimes formed in pursuit of this objective. Thus in the current anti-household campaign the SP have formed an eective alliance with anarchists and left republicans to gain control of key positions. They have even argued against the United Left Alliance intervening in the movement with coherent tactics that have been debated democratically within the alliance.

The Poll Tax, the Water Charges and the Turn to the Open Party
The abandonment of entrism and the turn to open party building was basically a product of the expulsions they experienced in the Labour Party in both Britain and Ireland. What made this particularly hard to cope with was that this was not supposed to happen. For years the Militant leadership had proclaimed that it was virtually a law of history that workers would ood into the Labour Party and that the party would move to the left. The move out of Labour was preceded

in 1989-90 by the struggle against the Poll Tax. First in Scotland (it was the making of Tommy Sheridan) and then in England and Wales, Militant were able to launch and lead mass campaigns of nonpayment. Similarly, in Ireland the Socialist Party played an important role in the ght against water charges and managed to secure the election of Joe Higgins to the Dail, primarily as an anti-water charges candidate. These two struggles have provided a mainly positive experience for the current ght against household charges. However this is not the whole story. There are other aspects of the anti-poll tax struggle which the SPs are less keen to remember or celebrate and which could have a bearing on their behaviour in the current household tax campaign. The rst is that the campaign by no means consisted just of mass non-payment and the poll tax was not defeated just by non-payment. On the contrary, from the start of the struggle there were mass demonstrations and protests at town halls, some of which turned into attempts to storm those town halls. Then on 31 March 1990 the Anti-Poll Tax Federation (under Militant leadership) called a national demonstration in London. In the run up to the demo Militant started to worry that it might turn violent. They did their very best to try to prevent this. On the coaches to London Militant stewards tried to get everyone to pledge not to be violent. In the event, however, the police attacked the march and it turned into a massive riot in and around Trafalgar Square. Inevitably there was a media storm against violence and calls for exemplary sentences by the Labour establishment like Roy Hattersley. Sadly the Militant leadership also condemned the riot and blamed it on anarchists. Steve Nally, Militant member and secretary of the Anti-Poll 98

Tax Federation, said they would hold an enquiry and name names. Subsequently Militant attributed the defeat of the Poll Tax exclusively to non-payment and denied that the mass demo and riot had anything to do with it. Tory Minister, Alan Clark, in his diaries, tells a dierent story. Civil Disorder. Could cut either way, but I fear will scare people into wanting a compromise - just as did Saltley Colliery [in the 1972 Miners Strike]. In the corridors and the tea room people are now talking openly of ditching the Lady to save their skins. Doubtless the SP are now embarrassed by this rather shameful episode but the memory of it may be a factor in their original hostility to mass protests in the Household Tax campaign. It is already noticeable that the move of the household campaign to mass civil disobedience has taken place in areas where the SP has little inuence. In New Ross and Donegal, for example, crowds of people have invaded council chambers. The SP, by contrast, has emphasised public meetings and a national indoor rally rather than a mass national demonstration to the Dail. Two other things need to be said about this period. The rst was that the election of Joe Higgins to the Dail on an antiwater charges ticket opened up a huge opportunity for the SP but they proved unable to adapt their party to dealing with a huge inux of workers. Political education remained conned to the grooves of a narrow propagandist group and those who joined as ghters against wage charges soon found it dicult to adapt to the long meetings discussing the Transitional Programme. After an initial surge of recruitment, many left. Unfortunately, the current SP leadership drew the conclusion from this experience that an even deeper immersion into sectarian politics was required. In 2004,

against the background of the bin charges dispute, for example, the party produced an extraordinary pamphlet attacking the SWP and former key gures that had left, including Joan Collins, currently a TD and Dermot Connolly, the former party secretary. In it, they proclaimed that Based on experience going back many years we do not believe the SWP has a positive role in the re-development of the movement. The aim was to clearly inoculate their membership against any genuine dialogue with others on the left. The result of this experience has led the SP to adopt a dual approach. On one hand there is a genuine attempt to engage with mass movements and to encourage them into existence. But this is often combined with a political methodology of manoeuvring and denouncing perceived rivals on the left. On the other the combination of the extremely hostile environment in the Labour Party and the success of the Poll tax and anti-water charges campaigns convinced the Militant leadership to make a nal break from Labour. However entrism had been so central to the Militant and CWI tradition, so much their political trademark, that this created a substantial political/theoretical problem for them. Were they to concede that decades of entrism had been a failure? Or perhaps they could acknowledge that the strategy was more problematic than they had previously acknowledged? Neither of these options seemed to have appealed. Instead they opted to argue that entrism was no longer appropriate because the Labour Party had qualitatively changed. From being the mass party of the working class it had become, they said, a purely capitalist party, indistinguishable from the Tories or Fianna Fail. This merely exchanged one mechanical position for another.

The Labour Party had never been simply a working class party. It had never had a predominantly working class leadership; it had never fought consistently for working class interests; and it had never governed in the interests of the working class when in oce. On the contrary it had always propped up capitalism and accepted all the key priorities of the capitalist class. There was no heyday of working class politics in the Irish Labour Party. Labour, for example, had led the campaign against Noel Brownes Mother and Child scheme in the 1950s and even when it turned left in the sixties, it was led by a member of the Knights of Columbanus, Brendan Corish. Lenin described the British Labour Party as follows: ...most of the Labour Partys members are workingmen. However, whether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers, but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only this latter determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat. Regarded from this, the only correct point of view, the Labour Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party5 . Lenin summed up the contradictory character of the Labour Party by dening it as a capitalist workers party. So when Labour moved rightwards under Blair or Spring it was a quantitative shift rather than a fundamental change. Moreover what constituted the workers element in this capitalist workers party, namely its working class base - as expressed in its

V.I.Lenin, On Britain, London 1959, p.460)


vote, its membership and its organic relationship to the trade unions - was weakened but clearly did not disappear. By adopting the undialectical view that the Labour Party was now a purely capitalist party the SP threw away decades of Marxist analysis of Social Democracy in favour of a position they would previously have denounced as ultra-left. This is what lies behind the Irish SPs current dogmatic and sectarian refusal to contemplate sharing a platform with even former Labour Party representatives in campaigns. These, it is argued, must rst prove, their genuine socialist credentials before being allowed to share platforms. This sectarian approach misses out on opportunities to bring many more people over from Labour to the radical left.

ist Party to the extension of the ULA into North has nothing to do with being slow to move on the issues that affect the working class, but is based on having a principled and sensitive approach to the conict of national aspirations [Note conict of national aspirations, i.e. loyalism - loyalty to British imperialism - is regarded as a national aspiration ] that exists in the North. We believe that a new workers party in the North, even more so than elsewhere, must be based on the emergence of a layer of working class activists from struggles. It is vital that a new formation is rooted in the understanding of the need to oppose both loyalist and republican sectarianism,...and for workers unity against sectarianism and capitalism. While sometimes over the last years, the SWP have argued for workers unity, that does not mean that they have overcome their one sided view of the national question [i.e. opposition to imperialism] which has been a hallmark of their position. The SWP approach has been infected with the view that republicanism as it emerged during the Troubles is progressive, and that includes an approach that tends to excuse Catholic sectarianism while highlighting and condemning loyalist sectarianism6 .

The SP today
The politics of the SP in Ireland today are a product of all this history. Yes, they are committed and hard working socialists who undoubtedly are genuine in their desire to end capitalism, but they have a mechanical and formalistic view of how this is to be achieved. They emphasise the question of the programme over struggle from below and the socialist programme they so exalt emphasizes nationalisation and state planning over the self -emancipation of the working class. They retain an economistic view of working class struggle, showing little interest in other issues. They are still weak on issues of antiimperialism, especially in the North where they equate republican nationalism and orange loyalism, demanding that any united left formation in the North must be based on acceptance of their position. In their own words: The opposition of the Social6

What programme for the United Left Alliance?,,14/07/2011


In the history of the Marxist movement there is a particular term, centrism, which accurately describes the political character of the SP. The term comes from the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) which at the time of the First World War contained three currents - the right, led by Scheidemann and Noske, who were openly reformist, supported the War and helped suppress the German Revolution (including being complicit in the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht); a revolutionary left led by Luxemburg and Liebknecht, who opposed the War, and became the Spartacus League and then founded the German Communist Party in 1919; and vacillating between the right and the revolutionary left, the Centre led by Karl Kautsky. In words Kautsky proclaimed his commitment to Marxism and revolution but in practice he always avoided drawing revolutionary conclusions or pursuing revolutionary action. Hence Lenin and Trotsky developed the term Centrism to describe political tendencies that waiver between revolution and reform; that in the abstract adhere to a revolutionary programme but are conservative and cautious when it comes to action. This is the Socialist Party. They are formally committed to revolution but in practice highly electoralist. They have a top down and controlling attitude in campaigns such as the household charges campaign where they originally insisted on drawing up the plan in advance and on everyone else adhering to it. Originally they tried to discourage protests and national demonstrations and arguing that all the mass of working class people need to do is stay at home and stay away from their computers. Working people transform themselves and their consciousness in struggle. That, Marx says, is how they t themselves to run society. But if what you 101

really want is just for them to vote for you, why not ask them to stay at home, so long as they remember you when it comes to the election. The same electoralism is shown in their role in relation to the ULA. After much prevarication they agreed to the ULA before the last election - as an electoral alliance- but since the election they have opposed any development of the ULA beyond a mere electoral alliance, blocking virtually all proposals in that direction on the Steering Committee. As true believers, sincerely convinced that they and they alone are possessors of the true Marxist method inherited from Trotsky, they are reluctant in the extreme to put themselves in a position in any campaign or in the ULA where they might be democratically outvoted by the rank and le. [The Socialist Party in Britain literally walked out en masse of the Socialist Alliance when that body adopted the democratic principle of one person one vote - and claimed this represented the SWP wrecking the organisation!]. A useful insight into the SPs real modus operandi is provided by Dermot Connollys account of their behaviour over the question of a list of anti-bin tax candidates. Having been members of the SP until very recently, and involved in its leading bodies, we can state without any doubt that the SP has been and remains absolutely determined not to become involved in any sort of election pact or list which would involve the SWP. However, given the events of last autumn, they had to respond to the pressure from working people that the bin tax campaigns should put up

a united front and really put it up to the right wing parties, and labour, in the June elections. They therefore came up with the public position that they were in favour of a slate of anti bin tax candidates, provided it contained genuine people who had actually had involvement in the struggle. On paper this sounds ne. Why give a platform to political opportunists to jump on the band wagon? It is also the case that if a slate was open to anybody and everybody that some people with no real creditability would have stood, getting derisory votes and weakening the overall effect and thus the campaign. The reality though was dierent. the SP were not concerned with putting forward a creditable list of candidates, but of ensuring that there was no list. At a meeting of the four campaigns to discuss a possible all Dublin list, it was quickly clear that we were not facing a situation where anybody and everybody was trying to get themselves onto this list. There could have been a list of twenty plus candidates, all of whom had played some role in building the various campaigns, and were likely to be nominated as candidates by local campaigns... Instead the SP insisted on a limited list, which included only those SWP can7

didates who they couldnt argue against. When it was proposed by people at this meeting that areas where there was a question mark over the local campaigns level of organisation and activity, such as in Ringsend or Coolock/Artane, we could write to the membership, calling a meeting and then judge whether to support candidates on the basis of the level of turnout and local support, This was rejected out of hand. So was a proposal to facilitate a meeting between the SP and SWP (who had made clear their willingness to co operate and withdraw one or two candidates) to try and resolve dierences. The SP eventually gave an ultimatum; either their version of the list or they would not participate in it. [My emphasis - JM]7

Despite all these problems the SWP remains willing and committed to working in a comradely way with the SP in the interests of Left unity and the wider interests of the working class. We hope that joint work will improve trust and even help the SP to overcome some of its more mechanical approaches to issues. Doubtless we will also learn much in the process. We believe the Household Tax campaign can win and that the ULA, if it develops, still has the potential to be a pole of attraction to working people. But we are not willing to be tied down or restricted to the limits imposed by the SPs mechanistic approach to the struggle.

Dermot Connolly, The Socialist Party, Joan Collins and the Bin Tax Campaign


SYRIZA and the Rise of Radical Left-Reformism in Europe

Donal Mac Fhearraigh The rise of SYRIZA, Greeces Coalition of the Radical Left, in the May elections and in polls since, has electried the left globally. The election on 6 May revealed that the mass of the Greek people rejected the austerity programme imposed under the Memorandum of Understanding between their government and the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). SYRIZAs leader, Alex Tsipras, has denounced the programme as barbarous and his refusal to form a coalition with the parties that support the Memorandum has forced Greece into a second election on 17 June. The last opinion poll published on Friday 1 June showed SYRIZA on 31.5 percent, its highest performance yet, and a full six points ahead of the right-wing New Democracy on 25.5 percent1 . This puts SYRIZA on track to be the largest party after the June 17 election, with over 100 parliamentary seats and in a position to form a government. The stakes are very high. If SYRIZA forms a government that rejects the Memorandum, the European Central Bank might well react by ceasing to fund the Greek banks, precipitating Greeces full default on its foreign debts and departure from the eurozone. The prospect of a radical left-reformist government in Greece posing a radical al1

ternative to austerity and the crisis of capitalism has provoked panic among the Euro-elites and the Greek ruling class. Tsipras stunned Europes rulers when, after receiving the mandate from the Greek president to try and form a government, after New Democracy proved unable to do so, he declared the austerity measures being imposed on Greece null and void. The campaign of Jean-Luc Melenchon in the French Presidential election shows that the re-emergence of a left-reformist current in politics isnt peculiar to Greece, as the EU ruling class strategy of deepening austerity erodes traditional political loyalties and creates rising political polarisation. Overall unemployment across the eurozone stands at its highest level since 1999 when the currency was launched with 17.4 million out of work2 . The scale of economic contraction and suering in some of Europes southern edge echoes the shock therapy Eastern European countries were subject to in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it has largely been without precedent in Western Europe since the Second World War. In Ireland the growth of support for Sinn Fein and Independents suggests that a similar space for an anti-austerity left reformist party may also exist here. Recent opinion polls put Sinn Fein at 25 percent and Independents (including the left) at 17 percent, ahead of The Labour Party at

The Public Issue/Kathimerini poll, published on Friday 1 June. Opinion polls are banned during the last three weeks of campaigning in Greece. 2 statistics 3\-enough-seats-for-a-dail-majority-sunday-business-post-red-c-poll-13th-may2012/#more-3399


10 percent3 . (Though neither the degree of radicalisation nor the level of mobilisation of the working class is as yet comparable to that in Greece.) The radicalisation generated by the crisis, and resistance to it, is causing working people to break from their traditional loyalty to mainstream social democrats, built up in some cases over decades, But when they do so they are more likely to turn rst to other more radical versions of reformism, where these seem credible and articulate an alternative in the language the social democrats used to deploy, rather than moving directly to the revolutionary left. Change within the framework of the system still seems easier and more plausible to many, than the message of revolutionaries that to solve the crisis workers need to rely on their own resistance and ultimately take control of society into their own hands. The example of SYRIZA suggests that this space can be lled by coalitions of revolutionaries and left reformists. If revolutionaries move quickly and avoid sectarianism they can help create a new left by forming broad alliances or class struggle parties so as to better engage with radicalising workers. Where the far left fails to do this new political formations can ll the vacuum. In France the Left Front formed out of a left split from the French Socialist (Labour) Party uniting with the French Communist Party. This overtook the far-left New AntiCapitalist Party (NPA) as the main expression of resistance to the crisis, partly due to the NPAs failure to broaden out to ll the space to the left of the Socialist Party. Both these examples show that a perspective of building new left alliances alongside the revolutionary party is necessary for revolutionaries in Europe today. Recent elections also show that far from 104

reformism being dead, left-reformist parties have beneted from the crisis rather than the anti-capitalist, revolutionary left where they stand alone. The elections point to deepening class polarisation across Europe. Major battles lie ahead that can in turn push the process of radicalisation further left, especially where the solutions oered by the various versions of reform rather than revolution are put to the test.

Who are SYRIZA?

SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left, has its origins in a split in the Greek Communist Party in 1968 between those who remained aligned with the Soviet Union and the Eurocommunists who were detaching themselves from it, largely on a social democratic basis. In the 1980s both sides came together again to form Synaspismos, the coalition of the left and progress. But in 1989, following nancial scandals under a Pasok (Labour) government, they cooperated with New Democracy in a national unity coalition government. After a few months they joined a second coalition government including both New Democracy and discredited Pasok. As a result the whole Communist Party Youth left Synaspismos and the Communist Party, later forming the New Left Current (NAR) which now participates in Antarsya, the coalition of the anti-capitalist left, alongside the Greek Socialist Workers Party(SEK). The two wings of Synaspismos then split again, with the pro-USSR Communist Party separating and becoming the KKE of today and the pro-E U wing remaining as Synaspismos. In 1992 Synaspismos voted for the Maastricht Treaty. At the next elections Synaspismoss vote collapsed.

In the early 2000s Synaspismos was involved in the anti-globalisation movement and started to shift to the left. It changed its name to Coalition of the left, the movement and ecology. Then in 2004 Synaspismos formed a broader coalition with a few other small organisations, called SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left. Synaspismos is by far the biggest party in SYRIZA and dominates it politically. Inside SYRIZA there are ex- ministers from the 1989 second coalition government. At the same time you have people who have been involved in the movement for a long period and who are on the left, and you have politicians who say Greece has to be out of the euro to stop austerity. SYRIZA has both a left and a right but is led by left reformists who, unlike the Irish Labour Party, wont simply jump at the rst chance of power even if it means abandoning all previous promises. SYRIZA also has some inuence in the trade unions, mainly in the public sector. The private sector unions are dominated by the Greek Communist Party though their refusal to work with others on the left is weakening their grip.

SYRIZAs breakthrough
The Greek elections in early May saw the combined support for the two main parties of austerity, PASOK and New Democracy, crumble from 77 percent just two and half years ago to 32 percent. PASOK lost nearly 2 million votes at the election and New Democracy lost 1 million - out of a population of just 11 million. The biggest beneciary was the left. especially Syriza . The combined left vote was 27 percent, with Syriza gaining 17 percent, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) gaining 8 percent and the Front of the Greek AntiCapitalist Left (ANTARSYA) 1.9 percent. The rst reason for the dramatic rad105

icalisation is the impoverishment and suffering imposed on the people. The rate of unemployment in Greece is now over 21 percent - it has doubled over the last two years. For young people unemployment is at 50 percent. There used to be hardly any homeless people in Athens but this winter there were 25,000 living on the streets. Wages and pensions have been cut by between 20 and 40 percent. There are also 400,000 workers who havent been paid for ve months in the private sector and there is a similar picture in the public sector. These are very big changes in a very short time and after all of this the national debt has actually grown! People see the austerity policies arent working and this has created huge bitterness and anger. The second reason is that people have fought back. Greece has had 17 general strikes in two years - one every six weeks on average! Two of these were for 48 hours. And for every general strike there were tens, and sometimes hundreds, of strikes and occupations that were happening from below and putting pressure on the union leadership to call the general strikes. There was also the movement of the indignados connected with the strikes. For a month there were people in the squares, and not just in the big squares, but in the suburbs with hundreds of people meeting and discussing every week about how to take the movement forward. The rise in support for SYRIZA is very recent. As people broke from PASOK and moved to the left, the rst thing they looked to was the Democratic Left which is a right wing split from SYRIZA. Its leader, Fotis Kouvelis, had left SYRIZA saying he wanted to cooperate with PASOK in government at some point in the future. A month before the elections, the Democratic Left was getting about 15 to 17 percent in the polls and the media, PASOK and New Democracy were all saying

that the Democratic Left will join them in a new coalition government. But this was very bad for the Democratic Left. People didnt want them to cooperate with PASOK and New Democracy. So people started moving on from the Democratic Left further to the left, which shows how rapidly new political formations can arise during a crisis. SYRIZAs election platform oered a radical programme, it included: A moratorium on debt payments. Taxing the rich and a radical redistribution of income and wealth. The nationalisation/socialization of the banks and their integration into a public banking system under social and workers control. The nationalisation of all public enterprises of strategic importance. The administration of public enterprises based on transparency, social control and democratic planning. The ecological transformation of the developmental model including energy, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. Well-paid, well-regulated and insured employment, the restoration of the minimum wage and collective agreements, opposition to layos, universal unemployment benet and the introduction of a guaranteed minimum income. A guaranteed minimum income or unemployment benet, medical care, housing and access to all services of public utilities. Price controls and price reductions. 106

The introduction of direct democracy and institutions of selfmanagement under workers and social control. Improved of the rights of women and young people in the family, the work place and in public administration. The social inclusion of immigrants and equal rights protection. Restoration of the pensions and the universal system of social insurance. A free health service and universal, public and free education. End to tax avoidance and tax havens. Disengagement from NATO and shutdown of the foreign military bases. The manifesto concluded with a declaration that the current economic and social system has failed and must be overthrown. It goes on: We are calling for a new model of production and distribution of wealth, one that would include society in its totality. Our strategic aim is socialism with democracy, a system in which all will be entitled to participate in the decisionmaking process.

If elected can Syriza implement this programme for government?

Implementing such a program would alleviate greatly the burden of the crisis on workers but it would mean a radical break with capitalism that could only be achieved by massive class struggle. It would require radical action and organisation of workers outside of parliamentary politics.

Socialists therefore welcome the possibility of SYRIZA forming a left government and trying to implement its program. However there is an ambiguity in SYRIZAs approach to implementing its program. Some in the coalition believe it requires radical action by workers, others in the majority Synaspismos believe a better deal can be negotiated with the EU. For the latter SYRIZAs programme is premised on the idea that the Euro-elite are more scared of losing the euro as a tool in global capitalist competition than they are of the contagion of resistance spreading through the Eurozone. Hence they believe they will cut a deal with a new Greek government. SYRIZA do not call for exit from the euro but say that they will make no sacrice for the euro. They then advance a series of demands, which are incompatible with membership of the eurozone. This puts the ball in the court of the EU elites. If they want Greece outside of the euro they have to expel it from the euro. This position on the euro is designed to deal with a contradictory desire amongst the Greek population. Whilst a big majority are against austerity they are also in favour of staying within the eurozone - which are mutually incompatible aspirations. The EU bailout programs to maintain the euro are the mechanism by which austerity is being imposed. This approach needs to be strongly upfront in the election campaign if the electorate is to be armed against the threats and ultimatums it will face. However the ambiguity can also be used as a fudge to avoid focusing on the need to build independent radical movements of workers in opposition to the state by claiming a new deal at EU level is possible. One leading Syriza advisor put it:

I would like to underline the fact that SYRIZAs proposal is not to renegotiate the so-called bailout agreement but rather is a complete rejection of it. A key preconditions for the success of this strategy is that in case of failure the people will be informed and mobilized and presumably ready to confront, through solidarity networks, the hardships that will follow the default4 . However there is little evidence SYRIZA is informing and mobilising workers for such an eventuality. In fact the majority of SYRIZAs leadership are holding out that a restructuring of the EU is a possibility. They argue that the EU has been captured by the neoliberals. The solution is to change this. So they say, look whats happened in France - we have a powerful new ally in Franois Hollande who will argue for economic growth. Tsipras has also called for negotiations to reform the euro and the EU. SYRIZAs leaders say that they wont act unilaterally to cancel the debt. They want a moratorium so that Greece can stop paying the debt for three, or maybe ve years, to allow growth, and then they can renegotiate the debt. But the problem is that will mean negotiating a new memorandum. As a step in that direction they seek a budget with a surplus because they claim that this would strengthen the negotiating position of Greece with its creditors. In eect this is a postponement of the promise to end austerity until the German government and the banks agree to it. In such a situation the revolutionary left is right to be enthusiastic about the possibility of a left government in Greece that can shift some of the burden of the


crisis onto the elites. But they are also correct to highlight the potential pitfalls and traps in such a government. A left government must support radical action by workers and promote transferring more power into the hands of the working class if it is not to become a tool of the ruling class in maintaining its rule. However there are many danger signs. BBC Newsnight economics editor, Paul Mason, reports When I spoke to leading members of SYRIZA in summer 2011, they said the most obvious solution would be an above-politics left-nationalist gure, a Greek Kirchner or Greek Morales, and that the absence of such a gure would make it impossible to form what Marxists refer to as a workers government ie a radical reforming government with the participation of the far left, but limited to parliamentary means. Paul Mason continued, When I interviewed a SYRIZA spokesman earlier this year [2012] I explored the problem of a farleft party, which is anti-Nato etc, taking power in a country whose riot police have been regularly clashing with that partys youth since 2008. The message was that they would be purposefully limited in aim, and that the core of any programme would be a debtor-led partial default5 .

The debate on a workers government

Some on the left are going as far as saying Syriza could form a workers government - a government that will be an initial step towards full workers power. Under certain circumstances a radical left government can sharpen the class struggle and inspire greater resistance from workers. This was the case initially with the Popular Front government in France in

1936 that inspired further militancy which won the 40 hour week, paid holidays and collective bargaining. Left governments can inspire workers, but they can also sow illusions in the old state and parliaments as ways to get change. In France the Communist Party used its inuence to demobilise the working class and in four years France was under Nazi occupation. In Spain the Popular Front government of 1936 was met with Francos fascist coup. This in turn provoked a revolutionary upsurge in Barcelona and elsewhere which resulted in virtual dual power. However the Stalinists, the reformists and even the anarchists used loyalty to the Popular Front to hold back working class struggle to within the limits of capitalism and this enabled the fascists with the aid of Hitler and Mussolini, to crush the Republic and impose their dictatorship for nearly forty years. In other words the election of a left government marks a huge step forward for the movement, one that revolutionary socialists must support and welcome, but precisely because it throws down the gauntlet to the ruling class it can also be a moment of great danger. Marxists are revolutionaries not because we prefer revolution to reform but because we understand that the crisis of capitalism leads to moments when either revolution succeeds or there is terrible reaction. Workers need to understand that it is their own power from below that is key to changing the world not parliaments and left governments. Where leaders maintain the illusion that change can come through the capitalist state and parliament it demobilises workers and allows the ruling class to re-establish its power through brutal means. This was the case


with Allendes Popular Unity government in Chile in 1970-73 that was crushed by the Pinochet coup. The state is not neutral; it is a weapon of class rule which, as Marx pointed out after the Paris Commune and Lenin reemphasised in The State and Revolution, the working class cannot simply lay hold of and use for its own purposes. Instead workers need to smash the capitalist state and replace it with their own democratic workers state. If this is not done the state will undermine the left government and tame it or try to destroy it. In Greece

where 50 percent of the police voted for the openly fascist Golden Dawn, and which suered military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974 this is no abstract threat. The leadership of SYRIZA has shown it has some mettle in standing up to the onslaught from the European and Greek elites. How far it will go in leading workers resistance is an open question. But whatever the answer to that question it is necessary to combine support for SYRIZA against the right with the building of a revolutionary party willing to go all the way to workers power.


Review: Chris Stringer, The Origin of Our Species, Allen Lane, London, 2011.
Dave OFarrell The topics of human evolution and the origins of human society have been of interest to Marxists since the time of Marx and Engels. The origins of modern human society have been an area of considerable debate on a number of fronts with Marx and Engels theories of a form of primitive communism existing in hunter gatherer societies often counter-posed with theories of humans as naked apes with conict and hierarchical structures being the norm. These naked ape theories are often used as evidence that a socialist society is impossible and that it is simply human nature that modern capitalist society is structured in such a way that a minority of people eectively have the power and inuence to control society. Various theories of human evolution which portray dierent races as evolving in distinctly dierent regions, known as multi region models, have also been used to justify racism of varying degrees. These topics and many others are all covered in Chris Stringers latest book. Chris Stringer is is a research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London and is regarded as one of the worlds foremost experts on human evolution. He has consistently been at the centre of many of the varied debates on the topic for almost four decades. His research and collaborations have made a major impact on our understanding of how and where our species developed. He is perhaps best known for his work on the recent African origin hypothesis which is now almost universally accepted. His latest book, The Origin of Our Species, sets out to explain the most recent evidence and theories about the origins of modern humans. 110 Stringers book is an excellent summation of the history of our understanding of the evolution of modern humans detailing developments in both archaeological nds and the often conicting theories resulting from them. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the book for most readers with only a passing knowledge of human evolution will be the very dierent picture of the process from the often portrayed image of a steady linear advance from ape to modern human. The reality is decidedly dierent, the archaeological evidence is often open to varying interpretation and there are often many, sometimes conicting, theories seeking to explain them. Given the time span over which humans have evolved it is far from surprising that the fossil record is patchy at best and the remains found are often badly damaged and frequently far from complete specimens, in some cases no more than a few individual bones or a handful of teeth. Stringers analysis is inherently materialist, starting with the available evidence he discuses the scientic analysis of the fossil record and the frequent diculties and uncertainties associated with the analysis. He frequently presents the reader with a verity of conicting theories but is always careful to present these ideas in light of the available evidence and occasionally concluding that there is not yet sucient evidence to be conclusive about the interpretations. We are frequently reminded that the division of various stages of human evolution into distinct species is of course a human construct and there is still signicant debate over the exact nature of various fossils. The overlap between the various archaic human species, including the Nean-

derthals, and early modern or cro-magnon humans can be signicant making a denitive interpretation of the fossils extremely dicult. Several chapters dealing with the origins of modern human society and behaviour will be of particular interest to Marxists. In the discussion of the development of human society the evidence of the interplay of the increase in the level of technology employed with the increased complexity in society lends signicant support to Friedrich Engels 1876 work The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man 1 . In this work Engels argued that labour was central to mans evolution. Building from Darwens theories on evolution Engels dialectical analysis was in stark contrast to the accepted view of the day that human evolution began with the development of larger brains and intellects which in turn lead to walking upright and the use of hands to make tools. While Engels recognised all these steps in human evolution his keen insight at the time, in spite of the incredibly limited fossil record then uncovered and the prevailing idealist philosophy of the time which placed a primacy on thought as the driver of cultural change, was to reorder the sequence of events. Engels argued that the rst step in this transition was the ability to walk upright, this in turn freed the hands which were gradually adopted to tool use. This increased use of tools in turn lead to an increased control over nature with an attendant increase in sociability as our early ancestors would have required an increased level of communication which in turn inuenced the evolution of larger brains which in turn further inuenced the development of tools and so on. The up to date evidence presented in Stringers book strongly supports Engels dialectical approach and the

archaeological record shows the increase in tool usage and complexity as well as the techniques used in their manufacture is paralleled by an increased complexity in society which can be inferred from the increased appearance of decorative items of clothing such as beads and shells as well as an increased appearance of art and the earliest surviving musical instruments (dating back almost 40,000 years). The art discovered both in cave paintings and in carved objects and gures is occasionally not simply representative but apparently symbolic including representations of human gures with animal heads. This symbolism is strongly suggestive of a society where the level of communication has developed well beyond simply indicating immediate needs to a level capable of thinking abstractly and planning ahead. A level of communication which would of course have been necessary for our early ancestors to further their ability to shape the world around them to meet not just immediate short term needs but also less immediate medium to long term needs. Stringers strongly materialist analysis of his subject matter is the main strength of his work. In analysing the views of Marx and Engels on the development of human society Chris Harman correctly pointed out that the main insight was the development of a new understanding of how humans relate to the world around them (historical materialism) and that this involved rejecting the two dominant ways of seeing this relationship: idealism which sees human beings as semi-divine, subject to Gods will and completely separate from the animal world; and crude materialism which hold humans to be no more

Frederich Engels, The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man,http://www.


than machines or animals, either simply reacting to stimuli from the external world (today generally labelled behaviourism), or as biologically programmed to perform in certain ways (today, called sociobiology). 2 Stringer avoids both of these viewpoints clearly asserting that while genetic studies of our ancient ancestors can yield signicant information there is far more to the development of human society and genetics mearly sets certain limits such as a maximum possible brain size. The discussion of the interaction of early humans with Neanderthals is also interesting and while not ruling out possible conicts between the two species Stringer points to a much more nuanced and subtle relationship. Taking into account studies showing possible interbreeding between the species,important dierences in phys-

iology and prevailing climatic conditions he paints a picture of a complex interplay with numerous factors playing a role in the eventual demise of Neanderthals and survival of Homo Sapiens. These interactions between two species who may well have had signicant physical and cultural dierences is a strong rejection of the often encountered naked ape theories which paint early humans as an embodiment of the supposed violence and desire for dominance which it is often asserted as representing human nature. In all Stringers book represents an astounding collection of the most up to date research on the topic of modern human evolution. Much of the detail contained in it is not available outside of academic journals which are often dicult for people outside of the eld of study to follow or even access. This book oers a clear and comprehensive introduction for anyone interested in the subject.

2 Chris Harman, Engels and the Origins of Human Society, International Socialism 2:65, Winter 1994.


Review: Paul Mason, Why Its Kicking O Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, Verso, London 2012.
Memet Uludag

Social Mediaism
In September 2011, Pakinam Amer of the Egypt Today Magazine reported that Before the revolution, Twitter had around 100,000 subscribers from Egypt. Shortly after, the gure jumped to 1.1 million, according to rough estimates released by internet experts in Egypt. Compared to 80 million [total population]....1 . It is not easy to have an exact gure on this since people can set their location information as any country they wish but this compares to 70 Million mobile phone users in Egypt. While reading Paul Masons book Why Its Kicking O Everywhere The New Global Revolutions, I could not stop asking why did Mason - by his own logic - not appraise the role of mobile phones, which have been widely used for over a decade, instead of the social media. Paul Mason is a journalist working for the BBC - indeed he is one of the most radical journalists around - and his new book is comprised of reports on revolts and uprisings round the world - Egypt, Spain, Israel, USA and so on. It is well written and has undoubtedly been very inuential but it shares a key weakness of all but the very best journalism, namely it tends to be supercial and impressionistic in its analysis. It picks up on and elaborates on two of the most common journalistic explanations of the wave of revolt: 1) that it is a generational thing; 2) that its other main driver is the use of social media. In reality all revolutions tend to be led by the young - its a great advantage in

street ghting - but the young of a denite social class, and their rebellion is a symptom of much wider class struggle. Also all revolutions use the communications technology of the day: the French Revolution used Marats newspaper, the Russian Revolution used Lenins Pravda and the telephone and the cinema of Eisenstein. This doesnt mean these revolutions are caused or driven by that technology. Throughout his book, Mason mentions a number of inuential Twitter users from Egypt and elsewhere. One of the best known names from Egypt is Gigi Ibrahim. Mason comments on her meeting in London that There was no noticeable dierence between her clothes, language and culture and theirs [the audience].... The iconic gure of the 25 January revolution - in Masons words - clearly explains the dynamics of building the struggle in Egypt, as reported in an article by Jonny Jones in the International Socialism Journal 130. The idea that social media played a signicant role in coordinating protests has been greatly exaggerated, according to the Egyptian activist Gigi Ibrahim. She points out that coordination between organisations tended to happen in face to face meetings. Facebook and emails had been used to call demonstrations in Egypt for a number of years - these protests were small. The incomparably larger mobilisations which followed 25


January were not because of some qualitative shift in the level of the Egyptian peoples engagement with social media. Rather the condence people gained from the events in Tunisia combined with the systematic work activists put into leaeting and raising slogans in areas where few people would even have access to the Internet. This was dangerous work, with activists being arrested and beaten. But it was integral to the mass mobilisations in Tahrir Square and elsewhere2 . The statement above probably summarises the relationship between revolutionary struggle and social networks, and clearly shows the clever use of technology by people during the process of building a revolution. Like the radio, mobile phones, email and ordinary letter by post, the modern social networking software is not the core engine of any movement but just the communication mechanism of the day. One could argue that, in the neighbourhoods of Cairo, the truth did not always travel faster than the lies. It was most likely slow, painful yet eective without the speedy, 140 characters of Twitter. The message had to be longer, deeper and with more context at times. Unlike what @littlemisswilde found unbelievable, articles and leaets were distributed and read. On the United Nations News & Commentary Forum Website, Mark Leon Goldberg listed [One Year Later: ] The 12 Twitter Users Who Shaped Our Experi2 3

ence of the Egyptian Uprising. Interestingly in his review of the Twitter users, Hossam el-Hamalawy (@3arabawy) was number six on the list with a note from the author saying I do not know much about Hossam, except that for the past two days he has been a great source for information on the protests from an Egyptian perspective3 . Two things are noticeable in this paragraph above. Firstly, all the author had to do was to check out Hossam to nd out that he was not just a just in time news source on twitter but one of the very active campaigners on the ground and a revolutionary socialist. Secondly, the title of the article probably puts social media in its right place in the case of Egyptian revolution: It was about shaping our experience, rather than shaping the direction, form or the level of struggle in Tahrir Square or elsewhere. Contrary to Paul Masons arguments, we could sit back, with our mobile phones in our hands and get a digital experience of what is going on in distant Egypt. And it wasnt our Twitter nicknames that went to Egyptian Embassies around the world to protest in solidarity with people of Egypt, it was our placards and physical bodies. People in Tahrir Square did not have this luxury to just to get their experience shaped by Hossam. And someone had to physically make the placard and hold it up so that people in Wisconsin could see the slogan Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers. The significance wasnt the fact that twitter could relay this message there and then. It was just a convenience to share. The networking wasnt about social media, it was about a shared class consciousness from Tahrir to Wisconsin.


Review: Terry Eagleton, The Event of Literature, Yale University Press, 2012
Cathy Bergin Despite the somewhat ippant tone in the introduction to his new book The Event of Literature, Terry Eagleton takes the oft derided question can there be a denition of literature? very seriously indeed. In attempting, if not necessarily to ultimately dene literature, but to take the task seriously, he has produced a timely and thought provoking book which speaks of issues well beyond the sphere of literature. Whilst this is an often very funny and engaging book it is also one which assumes a knowledge and understanding, not only of the eld of literary and cultural studies in the last thirty years but also of philosophical debates about the nature of literature. Eagleton is irritated both by the conservatism of traditional literary studies and the lazy smugness of radical cultural theorists. The former assume literature can be dened by its quality, the latter that only an old duer could imagine such a thing as literature exists at all. Eagletons concern is with challenging the grounds upon which the idea of literature is so summarily dismissed. So what? Why does it matter if an impenetrable cultural theorist insists that a work by Charlotte Bronte is no dierent to Glee as both are available for interpretation and worthy of study? This is now an old question in literary studies, but unlike twenty nine years ago when Eagletons Literary Theory was written, the supposed radicalism of the breaking down of distinctions between high and popular art has become institutionalised. Thus there is an often unquestioned assumption that an attempt to dene literature is somehow deeply suspect. Not all universals or general categories need be oppressive, Eagleton argues, any more than all dierence and specicity are on the side of the angels. At the core of Eagletons argument is an insistence that is not enough to assume that any attempt to dene literature is automatically reactionary and elitist. How we know what we know, is at issue here, and Eagletons book is a crusading defence of materialist analysis against both the liberal insistence that literature has an inherent moral purpose, and contemporary claims that there is no such thing as either literature or morality. As his devastating critique of the American literary theorist, Stanley Fish, demonstrates, surface radicalism is often a cover for highly dubious claims and rubbish politics. The Event of Literature is Eagletons methodological attempt to fuse a variety of philosophers and literary theorists to shift the intellectual ground of the debates about the nature of literary texts. In his book the notion of literature as a rareed space apart from the squalid realities in which people make their lives is ruthlessly interrogated. The complex relationship between literature and societies from which it emerges is at the centre of Eagletons investigation. He convincingly argues that, in both the literary and non literary world, what is or is not literature is not an ivory tower debate but an intervention in how we might hope to understand the categorisation of the unequal world in which we live.