Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Irish Economy

It is being said that the Irish economy is performing excellently. We are informed of considerable economic growth and the unemployment has been falling.

However this improved economic performance is a result of international conditons rather than simple domestic conditons. The international economy is experiencing an upturn led by the US which was first to experience it.

These prosperous conditions are domestically based on a reduced and flexible waged economy. It has also been the product of the massive multiplier effect generated by the large doses of revneue poured into this country by the EU.

The buoyancy experienced at the fiscal level is a result of the reduced interest rates. Indeed it is an exercise in criminality that the government has not reduced income tax substantially in view of this development.

It is a sad reflection on the conditon of the labour movement that it has failed to force the government's hand in this regard.

This failure is due to the changing character of the composition of the working class or as it is fashionably called the recomposition of the working class. The core of the working class movement has atrophied which means that the tradtional source of labour militnace and resistance has been seriously weakened in this respect. Then there is a substantial fall off in union membership as new forms of enterprise open up that exclude the existence of unions.

On tip of that there is the growing indebtedness of the working class which makes it less nethusiastic about stirking work. There is also the sustained implementation of the corportatist strategy which entails the surrender of militnant action in return for corporatist agreements over wages and working conditons. In this way the militancy of the working class is bought off against concessions of one sort or another.

As wekll as this there the working class in Irealnd have suffered significant defeats of one sort or another: the Aer Lingus workers and some others. However it is true that there have been no major defeats. Perhaps the nearest thing to a major defeat was the failure of the anti-income tax marches.

The restructuring of working conditons and the recompositon of the working class have been major factors in the increased passivity of the working class.

It is not insignificant that in all the talk about the oppression of this or that oppressed group and the need for greater political correctness there is hardly andy discussion of the increasingly harsh workign conditions under which workers work.

A British General Election

There has been very recently a general election in the UK in which the British Labour Party won an enormous majority in the House of Commons and now forms the current government there. In the Irish Republic an election will more than likely take place sometime in June of this year. Some reflection on the character of these elections is opportune:

The general elections are a fight for the floating vote. The election is generally fought and won over a minority of the electorate: the floating electorate. This element within the electorate tends to be fickle. It tends to vote this way or that for the most fickle of reasons such as the facial features of candidates or some such superficial characteristic. It is this element within the electorate to which the party political image industry has most impact. The image and showbiz characteristic of modern elections is, in a sense, a function of the need to win over this element within the electorate.

Since it is among the least political element of the voting electorate the floating electorate makes or breaks governments on the basis of secondary and superficial matters. This tends to give election campaigns a more superficial character.

The elections are won or loss in the marginal constituencies. And these marginals are won or loss on the basis of the how the floating vote turns. In short a small minority of the electorate, in a sense, dictate the kind of government and even society we are to have. It is to this minority that the official politicians direct most of their attention. This minority increasingly determines the character of politics during the campaign and the character of media coverage during it.

The floating vote appears to be increasing and is becoming a bigger element in elections for a number of reasons. The shift of the main parties to what is questionably called the centre is a factor in this. If there exists little difference between the principal political actors on the electoral stage then clearly their success at the polls will tend to be a product of secondary superficial factors such as image, style and personality. Since the differences between the contestants are marginal the contest tends to be grounded increasingly on marketing, on creating the illusion of real difference. As a result of this the election is fought and won on the basis of superficial issues. This means that election campaigns are increasingly trivialised so that debate turns around superficial and derivative matters while the fundamental issues tend to be increasingly submerged under a mountain of trivia such as Tony Blair’s football skills in relation to Kevin Keegan (the logic being that if you are good a football you are politically good). Instead of the election contributing to the increased politicisation of the populace the opposite dynamic takes place. Consequently politics tends to turn around superficial issues. People increasingly begin to think that superficial issues is the meaning of politics. As the fundamental issues retreat into the background superficial issues are, in a sense, transformed into their opposite, fundamental issues. On the other hand fundamental issues are turned into their opposite, superficial issues. This is why it almost considered Neanderthal and even kitsch to raise issues such as the need to eliminate market relations. Politics then turns into anti-politics. Politics looses becomes meaningless: the postmodernist’s dream (buckets of wee signifiers emancipated from signification!). What is called politics is no longer politics. Consequently the politicians elected into government are less and less politicians but theatrical figures from puppitry. As this trend develops the real politics increasingly takes place behind the backs of the people. The invisible figures in upper echelons of the state and certain other capitalist institutions makes the real politics.

Consequently the difference between the political parties continuously diminishes since they are constrained by the politics as prescribed by the invisible cliques such as the invisible administrators of the state and parastatal bodies such as the European Commission which are an expression of the objective necessities of world capitalism. The official politicians are the “frontmen” there to distract our attention while the significant activity takes place behind the world stage curtain.

In short the election campaigns rather than contributing towards increased politicisation forms part of a depoliticisation process: a retreat form the Enlightenment tradition.

The above are but tentative observations on general elections in Ireland, Gt. Britain and possibly elsewhere.

Humanism etc.

KARL: Hello Andrew. I read your message with some interest.

ANDREW: The object and the subject are in dialectical unity.

KARL: There exist thousands of what may be called objects and subjects: rocks, beer cans, mountains, stars, artists, actors and transvestites. Which
subject and which object do you have in mind Andrew? It is only when
you have selected your particular pair that you can begin to outline the particular relation they may have to each other. However I have my doubts as to whether a dynamic relationship of dialectical pirouetting will emerge as a possible relationship between the pair. But then Andrew I am not a humanist.

ANDREW: Humanism is the essential epistemological frame through which a world made by humans for humans--a social relational ontology--is to be grasped.

KARL: As I have already indicated humanism is a philosophy that deifies humanity, attributing to it transcendental absolute powers: powers that transcend history. In the above remarks you provide evidence of the validity of this definition when you make the false claim that "a world made by humans for humans" exists. The point is that there has been no world made by humans. The ability of human beings to create a world is the ability of Hegelian gods. Human beings are by nature limited beings which is why they cannot escape history. A being that is absolute, such as god, is history free. It is transcendental and therefore an abstract hypothesis.

Again you posit an abstract philosophy, humanism, as the
necessary and universal form by which we understand and experience
reality. In this way you posit abstract transhistorical notions as
the necessary conceptual forms by which we can understand history.
This being so the nature of capitalist society can be analysed and
valildly expressed by means of transhistorical categories. If transcendental concepts and categories are the necessary transcendental forms by which a specific society, capitalism, can be adequately analysed and descrtibed
then it follows that this society is a correspondingly absolute society that transcends all historicity. This being the possibility of social revolution is a no no.

ANDREW: Humans beings create god and stick it in
the sky. To it they give all their goodness, all their love, all their
power of creation, all their forgiveness, all their law; and for
themselves, humans leave only an evil, sinful, hateful, wretched, weak,
*created* shell. Eventually they forget they created this god. They have
rendered themselves powerless before their own creation! Should we, in
Marxism, similarly deny the human agency that built the structures that we
now struggle under? Is this not self-defeating? Those structures that rule
us, like the faith some give false idols, rule us in large measure because
we legitimate them, and this legitimation is born in the separation of
subject and object--alienation. To recognize the power of our own
self-creativity, and of the collective power that created the structures
that now ensnare us, is to realize those structures are, in fact, not
legitimate, not void of human agency, they are the alienated structures of
our own alienation. And this recognition is crucial in the step toward
cultivating mass revolutionary consciousness.

KARL: This, in many ways, constitutes the kernal of your humanist philosophy. Human beings invest god with absolute creativity. Yet it is they that create that god and attribute to it this absolute creativity. For humanism, Feuerbach and you the task is to return these absolute attributes to humanity or "man". The task is the transformation of a limited humanity into a humanity all-powerful and all creative: the deification of humanity. This is you religious mission. Humanity is no longer a limited historical form of being but is instead the universal absolute being: the Hegelian Geist.

For you social revolution is no longer the decisive historical necessity. Instead we simply need to, as you claim, "recognize the power of our own self-creativity". No longer is revolutionary practical activity (entailing a somatic dimension) decisive. The decisive condition for redemtion is to "RECOGNIZE" our absolute power. We must all become bona fide humanists: join the one true churc. Noetic action is all that is now required. There is now no need to change society instead we merely have to think (fantasise) the change, to critique and all is heaven. This is idealism as stand-up comedy. Incidentally it was essentially the conception of Bruno and Edgar Bauer about whom Marx had no few things to say. Needless to say it was Fueuerbach's too.

ANDREW: You purge Marx completely of idealism. Marx did not deny the power of ideas, or the ability to see patterns in world history. Yes, of course,
his theory was the product of his epoch; this follows from the tenets of
historical materialist method. However, within this method lies the key
out of the trap of historicity; for Marx, by creating a method which could
subject itself, as a historical category, to its own internal logic of
critique, constructed a method that could be transformed through each
subsequent sociohistorical ordering.

KARL: History is not, as you claim, a "trap" but the form by which society develops. Marxism does not seek to escape from history, as you again claim, but to contribute to its development. Again you suggest, as I indicated in my previous posting, that marxism as critique transcends history. This being so marxism is now liberated from history to be turned into a transcendental, transhisotrical theory. This is but a shabby and vain attempt to reduce marxism to humanism.

In conclusion I want to make it clear that the criticism contained in my last posting still stands unchallenged by you. Your current response rather than presenting itself as a challenge amounts to little more than a slight defensive shift in ground poorly concealed behind a smokescreen of wordy obfuscations.

Incidentally I am not nor ever was an Althusserian.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement

Given the sectarian character of the six county capitalist state in th enorth of Ireland it is clear that full civil rights cannot be achieved without the dynamic of the industrial working class. Given conditions as they existed in 1968 it was just as clear then that the industrial working class would not be available to provide the necessary dynamic that would make full civil rights achievable. In short the industrial working class lacked the necessary class consciousness and corresponding political character to offer itself as this dynamic.

To organise a civil rights campaign, under these circumstances, constituted a utopian venture designed to delude the Catholic masses and thereby obstruct the development of their political consciousness. The civil rights campaign was a form by which the development of the unity of the six county working class was to be obstructed. In this way the leadership of that campaign promoted a submerged sectarian agenda. Given the inability of this campaign to achieve civil rights in the absence of the support of the industrial working class the achievement of civil rights within the context of the six county state was impossible. As I intimated the civil rights leadership was petty bourgeois, utopian and sectarian in its politics. The unfolding of events verifies the correctness of this thesis.

Given the inability of the civil rights movement to achieve civil rights when confronted by the full resources of the sectarian capitalist state supported by the unionist and loyalist para- and extra- statal forces the only options left open was abject retreat or the development of the civl rights movement into the national struggle. The latter was the course taken. Consequently the leadership of the mass upsurge of the Catholic masses was taken over by the PIRA. The very fluid situation among the Catholic masses led to the replacement of one leadership by another --the civil rights leadership by the PIRA.

Since the civil rights leadership was verified by history as politically bankrupt it was replaced by a different leadership --the IRA. Given the failure of the industrial working class (predominantly Protestant) in the six counties to support civil rights the only other alternative was to broaden and deepen the struggle to a new level thereby transforming the civil rights movement into the national struggle. In this way it was hoped that the dynamic underlying the national struggle would serve as a substitute for the absent industrial working class. This was an admission that the Catholic masses were not immanently powerful enough to force through civil rights. The development of the civil rights struggle into the national struggle was an expression of the inherent weakness of the Catholic masses and the necessity of the industrial working as the driving force for any such struggle. The existence of the national struggle constituted a further turning away from the industrial working class by the leadership of the Catholic masses. Such a further shift away from the industrial working class constituted a programme for increased polarisation between Catholic and Protestant worker. Instead of taking the Catholic section of the working class towards the Protestant section of the working class thereby forging a revolutionary unity of the six county working class the former’s leadership lead it in the opposite direction thereby promoting sectarianism and guaranteeing that civil rights and the needs of the Catholic masses were never going to be met.

The national struggle was to prove essentially just as weak as the civil rights struggle. The national struggle proved inherently weak because again the industrial working class was absent as its driving force. Consequently, in so far as it can justifiably be deemed a national struggle, it assumed the form of a narrow petty bourgeois movement generating all kinds of stratagems, gimmicks etc as substitutes for the central and necessary dynamic --the industrial working class north and south. Because of its inherent weakness and the inherent weakness of the Catholic masses as a driving force the struggle assumed an elitist character in the form of a guerrilla force that was essentially private in character and independent of the masses.

It is the inherent weakness of the national struggle that also explains its leadership’s desire to ally itself with this and that petty bourgeois and even bourgeois force including the southern government and the Roman Catholic Church. It is this weakness that explains its crass opportunism and the confidence of the Unionist forces.

Indeed as the so called current peace process shows Sinn Fein is even prepared to ally itself with imperialism in the form of Washington and London. Over twenty five years on we are witnessing the truth of this in the present leadership of the struggle --its betrayal of its very own programme through its abject capitulation to the British and Irish bourgeoisie.

In the development of revolutionary politics there is never any substitute for the industrial working class as the agent of social revolution. There can only be one revolutionary vanguard --there are no shortcuts. Endless seeking of new vanguards -the Catholic masses in the north; the student movement etc can never- is a reactionary policy that betrays the class interests of the working class.

The Presidential Election 1997

The presidential race has had a decidedly political character.

The contest has been primarily between the Fianna Fail and the Fine Gael candidates. It has been reduced to a contest between two forms of bourgeois nationalism. The nationalism that places greater rhetorical emphasis on the aspiration of achieving the 32 county republic and the nationalism that supports the continuation of the thirty two county republic with improved relations between the 26 and the 6 county states. The former demonstrates a greater interest in the concerns of the Catholic population in the north. Essentially there obtains only a marginal difference between the two parties. The former laying greater emphasis on republican rhetoric and the latter less. Both are essentially happy with the status quo.

Consequently the debate has been a false one. It has been a debate centred around language or rhetoric and posturing. Even at that the former party has presented this presentation in a rather craven suppresses way. It lacks even the confidence to present its token republicanism in an explicit form. This is how little confidence it has in its own images.

Indeed in many ways its politics on the surface are that of posturing, images, hints and innuendo. In this way FF presents itself as a multifaceted populist organisation: all things to all people. In this way republican minded voters are seduced into voting for it. Less republican minded voters, on the other hand, are seduced into voting for it because of their belief that it is only mildly and thereby sufficiently and harmlessly republican.

FG, on the other hand, wants to present themselves as the party of the high moral ground. The party that express a moral disdain for anything tainted with Provoism and intolerance towards the bigoted unionists. They want to present themselves as the party that is most understanding and accommodating to unionism. The people with whom unionists can best do business. The party that can be nationalist and yet unionist at the same time. The party of the two sides. In this way they present themselves as the party that can best achieve political and institutional reconciliation of nationalism and unionism.

FG wants to present itself as the good guy. The party of the high moral ground, the party free from corruption. Conversely they seek to present FF as the amoral and corrupt party that is not concerned with the complexities of the national question.

However the point is that there is essentially no difference between the two political parties. They are both bourgeois parties that accept partition. They are each free from the high moral ground. The differences being presented to us then are one's of perception rather than policy. Difference of image, rhetoric and style.

Essentially on the national question, economics, social issues and security there no difference between them. Consequently to make themselves electable they must artificially manufacture surface differences. This is analogous to brand difference.

Both parties, in terms of their immediate interests, are merely concerned with securing political power as a means of gaining a greater share of the booty. Capitalism is essentially indifferent as to which of the parties take power. The primary function for capital is that of deceiving the public by creating the illusion of choice: a limited or false choice. As well as that the competition of the two parties keeps them, in some ways, on their toes. It makes it harder for them when in power to become so corrupt and authoritarian that the masses loose confidence in them. It also means that it anyone of the parties makes a mess of things there is in existence a government in exile waiting to step into its place. This then serves to protect the system and guarantee capital's continued existence.

The individual parties have to justify their existence by manufacturing false differences, surface difference that is not real difference at all.

In the presidential election FG led by John Bruton devised a presidential strategy designed to put Mary Banotti in the Park. The strategy was to "taint" or expose FF's candidate Mary MacAleese as a crypto terrorist. Bruton's remarks on Adam's support for McAleese formed part of this ground plan. The leaks that followed formed further links in the plan together with Banotti's xenophobic remarks about her which she latter retracted because of their conter-productive nature. They hoped that the alliance that existed between FG and elements within the media and commentators would assist in the implementation or development of this strategy. It, among other things, entailed a grandiose smear campaign against MacAleese.

In addition it entailed part of an attempt to expose McAleese as fraudulent in her claim to be similar to Robinson by exposing her nationalism and social conservatism which she sought to conceal. It was her attempt to play down her nationalism that made it easier for Bruton to launch his strategy. McAleese's strategy of presenting her as a figure of the centre made her more vulnerable to this type of strategy. It was Bruton's purpose to discredit her as a figure of the centre by establishing the perception of her as friend and supporter of Gerry Adams.

By means of this strategy Bruton and his allies hoped to polarise the political situation whereby the anti-McAleese voter would rally in behind the Banotti Presidential candidate abandoning the Nelly and Rote candidates. It may have succeeded in doing this in some measure. However not enough to overcome the hardening of FF support around the FF candidate. It, in a sense, succeeded in polarising the political situation over the presidential campaign. However it was McAleese that benefited mainly form the strategy. Bruton and his allies turned out to be McAleese best supporter.

As it turned out the entire exercise backfired. If anything the smear campaign by both Bruton and his allies in the media supported by DL and the Labour Party failed miserably may have even increased her popularity.

The significance of the anti-McAleese strategy was the massive way in which McAleese's relationship to nationalist politics and ideology was over-exaggerated and whipped up into virtual hysteria. There existed a broad front that extended right across the spectrum into the print and broadcasting media. What this event exposed was the less than innocent role of the media in influencing politics and public opinion. The so called neutral print media's objective commentators exposed their real narrow political character in the significant role they played in creating an environment hostile to the McAleese campaign. However the electorate bought none of it. This is an example of where the mass media was unsuccessful in whipping up a popular frenzy.

Having failed with this strategy there was a half baked strategy to smear McAleese as a socially conservative candidate. This has not been too successful because of the demoralisation ripping through the other camps.

Yet, as I have already said, the divisions generated over the presidential campaign is a phoney campaign since there is little essential difference between the tow candidates of the two leading political parties. And even if there are differences they will count for hardly anything within the extreme political constraints imposed by the office of the Presidency.

Ultimately the politics infusing the presidential race are a development of the political struggle between FG and FF. FG have as their strategy the ousting of the Ahern government as a means by which they can return to power either in or out of coalition. They hope to achieve this by means of the strategy of discrediting the Ahern government. By discrediting the government they hope to increase tension between the coalition partners while also encouraging tension within both parties. In this way they hope to split open the current government and at the same time weaken the coalition partners. In that way they hope to create the political conditions that will eventually make possible a FG government. In that way the mould will be broken and a new political landscape created whereby FG hope to achieve their kind of modern Ireland.

(This waw written many years ago)


The problem with the Russian revolution was just that: The fact that Lenin
was in a minority on the issue of whether to seize state power or not. This
encapsulates the very problem of the European revolution. Its very weakness.
The Russian revolution was an expression of the very weakness of the
European revolution. The events that followed including the collapse of the
Soviet Union are testimony to this.

That Lenin was bitterly opposed on this issue by the Central Committee is
not so much a testimony to Lenin's greatness, as many in their desire to
promote the cult of the individual suggest, but to the very weakness and
ambiguity of the European and specifically the Russian Revolution. The very
fact that Lenin was so bitterly opposed indicated how ideologically and
politically unprepared the Marxist movement in Russia was for social
revolution especially as leader not just of revolution in Russia but of
revolution in Europe. This ideological, political and organizational
weakness, in a sense, reflected how unsuitable the character of the
objective conditions obtaining in Russia itself were for a proletarian
revolution. The Bolshevik revolution was an expression of both the success
and failure of the European revolution.

This precisely supports my argument for the need to reconstruct Marxism
drawing lessons from both the mistakes and achievements of the previous
Marxist movement. The point is the working class do not want another
Russian revolution which was an expression of the failure of the European
revolution. It is only by building a powerful and richly cultured Marxist
movement that we can promote the conditions for an all-rounded social
revolution taking place in Europe. This is why we must revisit the past by
examining the texts of Marx which are a manifestation of the theory and
practice of the revolutionary movement obtaining then. This is why a Marxist
study circle is so important.

The significant fact was not Lenin's ability to recognize the need for the
Bolsheviks to seize power and to persist with this demand despite
overwhelming opposition. The significant fact is that he was overwhelmingly
and bitterly opposed by most of the Central Committee. What was significant
is not that he won the leadership over to his way of thinking but that they
had to be won over.

(The piece above was written many years ago. I have since then experienced futher development in my thought.)