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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: November, 2012|
Some Home Truths....
|Ireland is a capitalist democracy. This means that Ireland democratically chose capitalism—doesn't it?
Can it be said that a capitalist democracy did not actually chose capitalism? That it had no choice in the matter because it lives in a region of the world where nothing else was possible, or allowable?
When Bill Clinton was President of the United States, and decided most of what went on in the world, he said that liberty was democracy and free markets—or was it that democracy was liberty and free markets? Anyway, free markets were an essential element. And America had the means of ensuring that what it considered essential was what existed. And Irish democracy was happy to comply with what America judged to be essential. It made itself an instrument of the American campaign, seconded by Britain, at the end of the Cold War, to ensure that nothing but freely-operating capitalism could exist in the world—that is to say, capitalism that operated freely in the service of Ameranglian hegemony.
The great obstacle in Europe to the free operations of capital globally was the well-ordered and corrupt crony capitalism of Germany.
The corrupt practices of crony capitalism became the catch-all explanation of situations in which capitalism did not make most people in a society better-off.
Crony capitalism—as far as one could gather its meaning from its regular use by the Irish Times—was when economic decisions were made outside the market and imposed on the market. At one moment the great crony capitalist who corruptly obstructed the free flow of capital around the world in search of profit to the benefit of everybody was Dr. Mahatir of Malaysia. Dr. Mahatir's political interference with the market was certain to bring misery on his people.
When it turned out that Dr. Mahatir's obstruction of the globalist market saved Malaysia from the misery that overtook neighbouring countries which complied with globalist demands, we just heard no more about him from the globalist media.
And likewise with Robert Mugabe. After fighting a war he made a settlement with Britain, under which the white colonial regime in Rhodesia was to be dismantled and the country was to become the independent state of Zimbabwe. It was part of the agreement that Britain would finance the abolition of the colonial land settlement—would buy out the landowners it had imposed on the country in comparatively recent times and return the land to the natives. But Britain's concern about Rhodesia was limited to ending the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, which the Rhodesia settlers had made and which the international situation made it inexpedient for it to recognise as legitimate. It was itself not willing to undertake military action against its "kith and kin" in Rhodesia. It let the Rhodesian natives fight a war for independence against the kith and kin and then acted as intermediary to bring about majority rule, i.e. democracy.
Britain did not honour its undertaking to finance a land reform to end the colonial land settlement. The white settlers were therefore left in possession of the land seized in a recent conquest, protected by a legal system designed for the conquest.. When Mugabe resorted to direct action to take the land and distribute it amongst those who had fought the war for independence, the Courts held his actions to be unlawful. A great global cry was started up against the illegality, corruption, cronyism and authoritarianism of the Mugabe regime, and it was reported that by dispossessing the white settlers (called "commercial farmers"), he was bringing about famine conditions in what had once been an agriculturally productive country and that mass starvation was imminent.
What the "commercial farmers" were was never explained in the global media. It was only with difficulty that it could be found out that they were the colonisers, who still owned vast tracts of land, and that each employed hundreds of labourers to produce luxury goods cheaply for European markets.
A democratic Opposition party based on the urban working class was cultivated and financed by Britain and Europe. The fact that it could not win elections was explained by authoritarianism and corruption, rather than the fact that it represented a minority interest in the country. The regime held firm against this internal Opposition which was the spearhead of international capitalist pressure in support of the colonial land settlement.
No actual famine was reported although year after year the international media declared it to be imminent.
Then a remarkable thing happened. Mugabe disabled the globalist campaign by persuading the Tsvangirai movement to join the actual Zimbabwean national democracy instead of acting as the spearhead of the propagandist ideological democracy of globalist capital. He accepted the land reform. He was therefore of no further use to his international backers. He entered into Coalition with Mugabe and joined in regularising the condition of post-colonial Rhodesia, and Zimbabwe was dropped out of the news.
The character of the Western media as a propaganda apparatus of globalist capital was clearly demonstrated in this event.
The Irish media might have been expected to understand the Zimbabwean situation, and to at least remain silent, because of the crucial part that reform of a colonial land system played in the Irish national movement. But Irish history has been subjected to a process of erosion by Oxbridge hegemony of the History Departments of Irish Universities during the past thirty years, and it sometimes seems that those who still know something about it feel obliged to show that they are not influenced by what they know.
Without a healthy core of crony capitalism and corruption committed to the national interest, countries are helpless today. It used to be the case—not very long ago in historical terms—when peoples might do their own thing according to their own inclinations. There is now no corner of the world so out-of-the-way and so backward that it is left alone to do its own thing. Nothing in the world is now outside the world market. The world market now includes everything in the world. It was created by Britain and the United States. Two decisive events in its creation were the British war on China in 1841 to compel it to open itself to the sale of opium from British India, and the arrival of American warships in Japan ten years later with an ultimatum that it must abandon the peaceful, unprofitable seclusion in which it had lived for centuries and open itself to the world—or else!
There was once an argument that international trade as good for everybody because it wouldn't happen if it wasn't. And there was a degree of truth in it when the world consisted of countries that were basically self-sufficient and so were free to exchange products for products as they saw fit. That world has gone. World capitalism has for some time been the medium of existence of all countries. And what goes on in international trade is not the trading of product for product but the movement around the world of capital from a handful of powerful centres, with capital increasingly taking on magical financial forms. And, if there is not yet complete freedom of trade, freedom to trade or not trade has long gone. The world will not allow freedom not to trade—the world being the control exerted by a few states over the 180 states that exist in it.
The great advocate of free trade in Ireland for many years was Garret FitzGerald. Free trade was sacred. It was the engine of economic growth. Then one day it struck him that there had been enough economic growth. He thought that the world should be content to settle down where it was at. What was the point of the rush for still further economic growth at an ever-accelerating pace with no conceivable end to it?
But how can the world be stopped without everything being thrown into chaos?
He had written his free trade propaganda for forty years without asking what it was all about, and without seeing that the more capitalism was driven towards globalist free trade, the less possible it was for it to settle down peacefully. Capital is restless. It must be always on the go. It is under internal compulsion to expand. Its purpose is to produce profit—i.e. to expand itself. But profit must be able to invest itself, or it withers. And invested profit expands the capital which must produce even more profit. A boom is generated and the pace of the boom increases until there is a slump. And there must be a slump because the hectic character of the boom causes the elements of the system to get out of alignment. The slump leads to destruction of economic resources. Firms go out of business. The fittest or the luckiest survive. Then business begins to pick up again at a lower level, but at a level higher than the low point of the previous slump.
We are at present going through a slump. By choosing capitalism we chose a boom and slump system of economy. And, if we chose it, we have no grounds as a democracy for complaining about the slump. If it is held that we did not choose it, then there is something very false about the meaning we attributed to democracy.
The international capitalist system—the international system in which capital flows more or less freely around half of the world—took a lot of arranging. It was established by the English ruling class of the 1688 Revolution by means of war and trade, following the vision of its martyred prophet, Algernon Sidney. As between war and trade, war was the dominant element—as the Irish, who were its first victims, should know. Trade could not have broken open the world for English capital. Nor could defensive war. Sidney laid down the principle that offensive war was best, and no one has yet counted all the offensive wars by which his successors established the world market.
The traditional societies of the world did not destroy themselves under some magical influence exerted on them by the example of capitalist market activity. They had to be conquered by the overwhelming military power generated by capitalism, and be broken down internally by that power, before they could be made to see the merit of living life in the medium of the market, and have their politics remade into the game that we call democracy. Few of them have been any good at that game. The crudity with which they play it is called corruption. But we in the capitalist centres do not want them to be good at it, because if they were they would take effective capitalist control of their material resources, which we need, and sell them dear to us. It is very useful to us to be able to moralise about their capitalist ineffectiveness as corruption as we simply plunder their material resources.
Ten years ago Ireland was participating exuberantly in the international capitalist boom that followed the collapse of the Soviet threat to the system. There was then no democratic possibility of imposing restraints on the boom in order to lessen the shock of the inevitable slump.
We are now dependent on the Germans to alleviate the impact of the slump on us—and we have become very anti-German. We congratulate ourselves on having rejected the influence of James Connolly and Roger Casement in 1914 and taken part in the Hun-hating war on Germany. We embrace that war, which had disastrous consequences for Europe, as "Our War". We deplore the military action we had to engage in to gain independence after we had voted for it because Britain refused to accept the verdict of the ballot-box, but we glorify militarism if it is British. Those who made possible the establishment of an Irish democracy were psychopaths, serial killers. But the Fighting Irish were great—the ones who joined the British Army.
We hate Germany because it is bailing us out, and become like English Jingoes. But how did it happen that Germany is in a position to bail us out? Because it maintained a system of crony capitalism lubricated by corruption and thereby restrained itself. It did not immerse itself in the market. It remained capable of not shopping over long weekends. It kept up a cosy, informal relationship between local banks and local industry. And the German "economic miracle" following the massive destruction inflicted on it in 1944-5 and by post-War plundering, was accomplished in the baffling ideological medium of Papal Encyclicals.
We were not always baffled by that fact. Britain was, which was why Europe escaped from it in the post-War generation. And now we have progressed and are baffled by it too.
Britain disdainfully refused to join in the European project at the start. When it took off, it tried to join but was refused during the Christian Democrat era of Adenauer and De Gaulle. Eventually it got in and set about subverting the project from inside. There was a great "corruption" campaign against Christian Democracy, in which Ireland was active. There was the campaign for random expansion, which wrecked the original dynamic. And then Britain appointed a Minister For Free Capitalism In Europe—a Minister for Competition—who set about eroding restrictive practices.
And the first Minister for Competition was the former radical socialist, Kim Howells, who was Arthur Scargill's lieutenant in the Miners' Strike that miscarried. English socialist opposition to the EU in the first instance was that it was an obstacle to socialist development. when socialism collapsed as a mass movement in England—largely as a consequence of Scargill's misconceived Strike—many socialists moved easily from opposition to the EU on the ground that it was an obstacle to socialism, to opposition on the ground that it was an obstacle to free capitalism.
The anti-corruption campaign against Germany was successful in greatly reducing the crony capitalist relationship of finance and industry. This made it necessary for the banks to find something else to do with their money. So they began speculative investment in the international money market. (What else could they have done? They had to do something. Capitalist money of the modern kind evaporates if it isn't used.) And this contributed something to the boom in which capitalism in Ireland was unable to restrain itself.
But Germany did not immerse itself entirely in the money markets. And, when the slump came, it was the only EU state capable of alleviating its effect. Therefore it is hated.
Survival of the Eurozone now depends on Franco-German collaboration. France is important chiefly for political reasons. It is the biggest EU state not on the verge of bankruptcy and it has the moral status of having come out on top in the last two Franco-German wars.
At the present moment, Ireland remaining committed to capitalism, the only practical course of action is the one adopted by Brian Lenihan at the start of the crisis—to tighten itself up in the way required by Germany. (It is unthinkable that it should emulate the German system—the crony capitalist/corruption nonsense is still too thick in the air.)
It is, of course, possible that the Eurozone will break up and the EU will fall apart. And a prudent democracy prepares for credible contingencies Anti-EU policies are therefore not politically irrelevant, though they do not meet the practical requirements of the moment. However the existing anti-EU positions need a much greater critical engagement with European realities if they are to be effective in such an eventuality.
It is a measure of the strength of Thomas Pringle's legal challenge to Ireland's ratification of the European Stability Mechanism that the Irish Courts referred vital aspects of his case for settlement by the European Union Court at Luxemburg. Moreover, for the first time ever, the EU Court will sit with all 27 judges presiding. (Each member-state has a representative in the Court. Usually the Judges sit in groups of 3, 5 or sometimes 15. With all the Judges sitting, it means the voice of British Judge Christopher Vajda QC will be heard. The Irish representative is Aindrias Ó Caoimh.)
Pringle's case exploits the dichotomy between the European Union and the Eurozone States. With Britain vetoing coherent EU action to deal with the financial crisis, states confronted with the need to take practical measures to save the Euro have been obliged to stretch the EU Constitution to find authority for their actions.
The European Stability Mechanism, which has been allocated 500 billion Euros and is empowered to fund indebted states, is not a proper institution of the European Union argues Labour's John Rogers, Pringle's barrister:
“Developed in haste, the ESM treaty is at odds with and undermines the EU legal order… In trying to defend the compatibility of the ESM with the EU treaties, the intervening member states and institutions have had to engage in mischaracterization and distortion in the confusion of form and substance and in legal and conceptual contradictions” (see Washington Post, 23.10.12).
Pringle argues that the ESM, which was declared operational on 8th October, violates the no-bailout provision under EU law and encroaches on the role of the EU in economic and monetary policy.
He says that the creation of the ESM, which like the temporary European Financial Stability Facility can offer financial aid in return for budget-austerity conditions on Governments, needed a change in the Treaty on the functioning of the EU. Thus the March 2011 decision by EU Governments to change a legal provision in the Treaty to allow for the creation of the ESM was adopted incorrectly.
He also describes the ESM as an inter-Governmental Treaty done outside the EU and an illegal mechanism to “circumvent” the bailout prohibition in existing European Treaties, according to court documents. John Rogers argues:
“We are concerned that a body outside the union and not subject to union law could take measures in connection with the union and dictate conditions that will be imposed on member states in matters so fundamental and integral to the union as its economy and its currency”
Koen Lenaerts, a Belgian and Vice-President of the court, asked Rogers about the meaning of the word bailout: “Are you really saying that member states would, as a matter of union law, be prohibited to help one another in whatever framework it would be?” Lenaerts is the reporting judge and will write the draft judgment that will serve as a starting point for discussion among the judges. (The court’s final decision won’t show dissenting judges’ views or how the vote was split.)
Michael Cush, leader of the Irish state's legal team told the court that it regards the ESM provisions as "fully compatible with the treaties”. He says that Pringle’s arguments “ignore the actual wording of the amendment” and “above all its purpose, which is to confirm that the euro-area member states may in times of crisis establish a stability mechanism”.
“Such a mechanism will not affect the union’s exclusive competence regarding monetary policy for the euro area nor will it increase the limited competence that it has in respect of the co-ordination of the member states’ economic policy.” (Irish Times 23.10.12)
The ESM is formally due to enter into force on 1st January, 2013 and the European Court of Justice has been forced to fast-track the case, in order to avoid interfering with that timetable.
At a moment when Irish economic recovery is heavily dependent on consolidation of the Euro-zone by Franco-German action, and Britain has committed itself to independent development outside the Eurozone (and therefore in conflict with it), the Irish Establishment, lacking a European dimension in its make-up, is adapting itself to British requirements. It refuses to take part in the Transaction Tax which the City of London has rejected. And it has consulted the British Ambassador about how centenary commemorations of national events leading to the formation of the Irish state should be conducted, even though those events occurred in conflict with Britain.
Irish national morale at the level of the State has been in a condition of collapse for forty years—excepting the years when Charles Haughey was Taoiseach, made Ireland a presence in Europe, made it a participant in the post-Cold War capitalism boom, and was blackguarded for it at home.
The moral collapse came about because the Irish Establishment was conned into accepting responsibility for the effects of British misgovernment in Northern Ireland. It fell into a state of mind in which it appeared that to hold Britain responsible for what Britain did with the Six Counties would be an expression of paranoid Anglophobia.
The British Ambassador suggests that Irish centenary events should be rolled up in a package with British centenary events for "inclusive" commemoration.
Britain manipulated European conflicts to bring about the Great War against Germany, Austria and Turkey. James Connolly and Roger Casement were of the opinion that its purpose was to maintain its world dominance by putting down a serious trade rival. We are required to dismiss that opinion without thinking about it—it would not be so easy to dismiss it if it was thought about—and to subscribe to the view that in organising that catastrophic war Britain was somehow defending freedom.
Britain won this war for freedom, and then arranged things so well that it launched another World War for freedom twenty years later. Large numbers of Irishmen joined the British Army at the instigation of the Home rule Party for the 1914 affair. In 1939, the 26 County Irish state, having just freed itself from British occupation by getting its ports back in 1938, decided not to make itself available to Britain for the War. (That is what neutrality meant. Britain had ensured that Ireland did not have an Army capable of fighting a war.) The British propaganda said that, because Ireland did not make itself available as a British base of operations, it was "the neutral island in the heart of men". And in recent years it has been cultivating the notion that Ireland was a kind of black hole, so closed in on itself that it denied that there was a World War going on in the world, and called the World War the Emergency. (See, for example, Dr. Fearghal McGarry in Irish Historical Studies No. 136: "Much of the extensive historiography of Irish-German relations was understandably focussed on the 2nd World War, or the Emergency as it was known in Ireland".) In fact the 2nd World War, as a military event, was amply described in the Irish papers. The Emergency was the condition in which Ireland was put by this war in which it did not take part.
The victor in that war was Communist Russia. Nazi Germany, having defeated Britain and France in Europe, was held and driven back by Communist Russia. While Russia was stopping the Nazis, and Britain was doing no fighting worth mentioning, convoys of supplies from America were sent to Russia on British shipping The Russian Government recently wanted to award medals to survivors of those Arctic Convoys, but the British Government ordered that British citizens would not be allowed to accept them.
From 1941 to 1945 Communist Russia was the beacon of freedom in the British propaganda. Russian victory made half of Europe Communist. Cold War against Russia began immediately in 1945, and Churchill wanted to make it a hot war while America had the monopoly of nuclear weapons. Forty-five years later the Soviet system collapsed and Russia was thrown open to Western capitalist intrusion. It was good from 1941 to 1945. It became evil through having defeated Nazism. In 1990 it became good again. No difficulty would have been made about the awarding of Russian war medals during the 1990s, when Western capital did as it pleased in Russia and the standard of living in Russia plummeted. But now Russian capitalism has taken itself in hand, and acquired the ability to operate the market in the national interest. It is no longer helpless prey to Western capital, so it is evil again. So convoy survivors are forbidden to accept medals for their contribution to the Russian defeat of Nazism.
And T.P. O'Mahony, Religious Correspondent of the Irish [Cork] Examiner, sees the prison sentences given to Pussy Riot for pornographic blasphemy in a Cathedral as a dire threat to democratic freedom. During the Cold War the curbing of religion in Russia was one of the evils of the regime. Now it seems that it is religion that is the evil.
A suggestion that the Royal Irish Constabulary should be parcelled up with the Guards and their "murder" in 1916-21 be commemorated proved to be a step too far for the time being.
The RIC was Irish in the same way that the Indian Government of the time was Indian—that is to say, that it was an apparatus of the British state for controlling the natives whose name it took.
Ireland was notionally an integral part of the British state under the Union, and therefore part of the ruling body of the Empire. But the police force in Ireland was organised on different principles to the police force in England. It was not a County Constabulary, locally based and locally representative. It was a centrally-organised coercive and espionage apparatus, indoctrinated with an Imperial morale, and deliberately alienated from the populace. It was a caste set apart from the community, and was the prototype for Imperial policing in other parts of the Empire.
The first act of the government elected in 1918 was to institute a boycott of the RIC and set about destroying it. Because of that, the war of Independence has been categorised by revisionism as a Civil War—which is a kind of racial or religious view of what was a political matter. The recruits to the lower ranks of the RIC were mainly Catholic Irishmen, but they were shaped into an apparatus of the British State for use against the Irish populace. And they continued to act as an instrument of the British State after the Irish electorate rejected it.
Another step too far was the demand of Ulster Unionists in the Northern Ireland Assembly that the Irish Government should apologise for bringing the Provisional IRA into existence and sending it on a murder campaign in the North. Even Micheál Martin felt obliged to reject that demand. But, in doing so, he launched a tirade against the devolved Government in the North as a way of getting at Sinn Fein. He has a frivolously devious mind which is incapable of saying anything straight.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has no government function. It may adopt motions by majority vote if they have nothing to do with government and do not require Executive action. Matters affecting government can only be carried by majorities within the representatives of both communities. And departments are shared out between the parties of the two communities without reference to the Assembly.
Britain decided in 1921 to set up a sub-government in the North in circumstances that meant that it could only function by aggravating communal antagonism. After almost fifty years that antagonism led to a Unionist pogrom against nationalist areas, which was responded to by a nationalist insurrection.
Jack Lynch played a mischievous part by making an inflammatory speech in mid-August 1969 in which he apparently threatened/promised military action, and then instituting criminal prosecutions nine months later against people who only obeyed his instructions. But Lynch's erratic conduct, deplorable though it was, was not what caused the course of events in the North. The British government was, and remains, the responsible body in the North. It decided in 1921 to govern it by means of sectarian sub--government in party-politics, but the main body of legislation affecting the North was always enacted at Westminster.
Today the devolved government has no sovereign power of state any more than the old Stormont had. Its budget is the British budget. It is given a sum of money to share out. The size of the sum is not decided by Sinn Fein. What the Provos have done is change the face of devolved politics by ending majority rule and over-riding the numerical minority status of the nationalist community by means of institutional arrangements. If one wants to call those arrangements "sectarian"—as Martin has done—they at least create an equalising of the sectarian balance in which the position of the Catholic community is greatly improved.
Gerry Adams pointed out that Martin might be taken more seriously "if he supported the efforts to get fiscal powers transferred to the North's Executive… Or if Fianna Fáil organised in the North as they have frequently pledged to do…" (IT 26.10.12)
The economic basis for the present settlement in the North is slight. Republican elements that condemn the ending of the war as treason are trying to unsettle it—and are given access to the British media in their efforts. And Martin echoes them. He seems to know no other way of competing with Sinn Fein in the South than by trying to upset the apple-cart in the North.
The Unionist demand for an apology from the Dublin Government for creating the Provo IRA does no more than repeat the nonsense published by the Official IRA about forty years ago—that Fianna Fail financed the Provos and encouraged "sectarian" war in the North in order to split the Republican movement and ward off the socialist revolution, which the Officials were on the verge of launching in the South. It was gibberish. The only evidence of money paid to the IRA is that it was paid to the Official IRA. Elements of that IRA went through various metamorphoses and ended up in the leadership of the Labour Party, which is now in government in Dublin. The Unionists only say now what they said then. And they keep silent as their Coalition partner rejects it.
Another Stickie initiative in the news is the private recordings made by Provo dissidents fed up with the ending of the war, spilling the dirt on their former colleagues in order to discredit them. These recordings, made under a guarantee that they would not be released until the death of the person making it, were lodged in Boston College (USA). It is said that the recordings were organised by Lord Bew of the Official IRA. The only sensible way of regarding Lord Bew for many years past is as a member of the regime in the North—the Whitehall regime of the Northern Ireland Office, that is. The NIO has gone to court in the USA demanding that the tapes be made available to them.