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A new Irish sovereignty

“Instead of drums and trumpets, our little apocalypse was played out against the background noise of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance murmuring evasive and mechanical denials.”

Thus writer Fintan O’Toole, in the Irish Times on Ireland’s bail-out by the International Monetary Fund and the British government.

The 94 years that have gone by since Ireland’s legendary Easter Uprising against British imperial rule seem to have come full circle. Yesterday Chancellor George Osborne announced that the British government was offering Ireland a £7bn loan in addition to the £77bn being offered by the European Union.

A sorry end indeed to the symbolic significance of the Irish Free State as a plucky David to Britain’s Goliath. That state, for all its betrayals, came into being following the martyrdom of many hundreds of heroic fighters. O’Toole points to a sense of a “historic threshold being crossed” in the psyche of the Irish.

The IMF-EU-British bail-out pulls away the façade of sovereignty that has provided a legitimacy – however threadbare – for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the political elites who have ruled the Irish Republic since the end of the civil war in 1923. But the truth is that the Irish state lost sovereignty to its own banks and speculators a long time ago. And by reducing its corporation tax to 12.5%, they had already handed over control to the corporations in the mid-1990s, just as they are now doing to the IMF and EU.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan are presently using the word “sovereign” in a new sense. In the past, as O’Toole notes ironically, “The Sovereign” used referred to the British monarch, “and as such it touched the rawest of nerves in nationalist Ireland. As the two Brians used it this week, though, the phrase is market-speak for ‘sovereign debt’.”

“There is nothing abstract”, O’Toole says, “in the sudden reality of officials from the EU and the IMF poring over the books in Merrion Street and the prospect of all big decisions on Government spending and taxation having to be approved by those same bodies for years to come. A simple rule of thumb for a sovereign state is that it – and it alone – makes its own decisions about taxation and spending. For the foreseeable future, Irish governments will not pass this test.”

But it is not only Ireland that is being humiliated by the arrival of the IMF-EU financial police. Greece has already had the visit and the “contagion” also threatens Spain and Portugal as Jean Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister and chairman of the eurozone finance ministers’ group, warned yesterday. And the European Union is already interfering with the Irish government’s decision to hold a snap election in December.

Chancellor George Osborne claims that Britain helping Ireland because it is ‘a friend in need’. In reality, though, smaller states are being swallowed up by larger states, themselves subject to the global financial system. This is not the reimposition of “direct rule” or the old British imperialism. Neither is it the British government bailing out the Irish government. It is in fact a loan by the British government to British commercial banks, who hold £140 billion worth of outstanding Irish debt in business and property loans. RBS says it will have about £10 billion in "impaired" Irish loans next year. Lloyds is expected to write off more than £1.6 billion. And the bottom line is that the taxpayer is once again bailing out the banking system.

The new overlords are the global financial institutions to which even the most powerful governments and states are increasingly subject. So much for the notion of the “sovereignty of the people”, which was the aspiration, not only of the Easter Uprising of 1916, but the democratic idea behind national independence in general.

Dublin satirist Morgan C Jones of the Emergency acting group, is calling for a citizens’ protest outside the government’s Leinster House with placards saying “You’re fired”. He’s right – the days of governments in thrall to the financial markets are numbered. Regaining sovereignty – in other words, the self-determination of people over their own destiny – is only possible by developing alternative economic and financial ownership and control.

A World to Win’s new booklet, Beyond Resistance, published online today, through its analysis of the crisis, offers ways forward to achieving real sovereignty.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
23 November 2010

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Your Say

Jonathan says:

The subject is this ‘contagion’ and the resistance to the removal of life support from society: ‘if there is such a thing lets kill it’. The interconnection of the financial links and trading links with Britain does as previously said put them in the same boat. The retreat from the Eurozone helps Germany but only allows the governments to play with interest rates separately and still bear down on their populations. As above says super-economic control by and through a few ‘nation states’ for the ruling classes solution to their crisis. World currencies, while significant aren’t the essence, the rate of fall of profit and the overproduction world wide is. In the six counties the banks rub shoulders as one, northern and southern.  It is a global system and as such no ‘nation’ is being bailed out: the crisis is just being shunted round exposing the rot. Ireland is England’s eldest colony, and with some qualifications the world’s and Portugal its longest ally. Both nations have a recent history of resistance.

The attempts to keep the ‘eyes’ on Parliaments are forlorn: apparent reality will disappear like smoke in the wind. Sovereignty is being stripped to the bone. Now comes the dance of death to hide the dissolving reality and dying system, but those in the ‘Gated Communities’ think they are the shifters and shakers. Apart from their fears of ‘contagion’ as a ruling elite and the class they serve (more and more from which they are drawn) within this or that nation state, or international body such as the E.U. they bleed the working masses and the smaller classes dependant on it economically (even if not – yet - theoretically) as well as the intelligencier linked to this international technological mode of production. So it is with the Irish working classes, the producers of value. Some comments makes it sound as if the Irish economy bleeds the ‘British taxpayer’. In fact as was put: ‘Britain and Ireland in the same boat’ and the British ‘taxpayer’ and others within society need to understand this, not that Ireland becomes an issue but that the world crisis does and is.

The Irish working classes - indeed the British classes and world - (and unemployed – all should look at the term taxpayer carefully) need leadership and a clear sense of resistance to this new ‘occupation’ and loss of the ‘partial sovereignty’ it (Ireland) had, could well learn from the changing nature over the centuries of resistance to occupation. It reflects the economical development of the world.

Ireland partitioned was left much as a banana republic (butter and milk – and cheap labour for its erstwhile physical occupier) but the 26 retained some ‘dignity’ without which the urge – a law in fact – of the permanent revolution would have pushed the social question to the fore. The different Treaties were opposed to the last hurdle in Ireland. Then all had to be worked over and threatened. This is amongst the reasons for the sense of betrayal. Within the financial and productive shield of the E.U. ‘possibilities’ were hoisted on the general population, and then it was ‘opened up’ to be sheared again.

The British economy in the crisis it is in can’t dodge the bullet anyway so preparations and organisation must be clearly put in place. Anger is on the streets and needs to properly analyse both its own self-awareness, the source of which must be objective and the changing nature of the crisis. The incredible speed of all this development can be seen on the face of misery: the Governor of the Bank of England. The QUALITATIVE leap of the nature of the crisis can not be dealt with in virtual reality. The constant references by the BBC amongst others to the’ population of Ireland of 4 ½ million’ grates in its almost bow down to the established fact: which it isn’t, as if by some slight of hand the GFA and the acquiescence of S.F. etc to this turns the six counties into shires within England made all forget the nature of the science of political economy. The matter can only be dealt with as the social question and that is done by the very body this applies to ‘society’. And even if they were shires in England their response and responsibilities would have by necessity be the same, slightly later maybe, but the same.

Assemblies, organs of power, meeting, etc, must be called in Dublin, Cork, Derry, Belfast – and fan out, or in, and with united action start to organise; occupy etc, implement not cuts but acts. The six counties will not be left out of this butchery and the crisis will respect no boarders – and doesn’t - however copper fastened they may appear. Theoretical mistakes will, of course, cloud the issues. The coverage by the main stream press, however well done, will not grasp the nettle. The mediums that represent the interests of those who need clear explanation, coverage, and sense of direction must be precise and quick. The coverage given that most get will leave them leaderless under the impression that there are no alternatives but the limited range on offer from the representative of the very system that is decaying – its executive branch, board of directors, as was put – and the very idea of real change will be represented as mindless. Mistakes will occur but the clouds must be cleared in the open and with the speed the situation calls for. And internal critiques will, as before, be had.

But there is a history to draw on, and for Ireland, Portugal, Pakistan, etc – each can give a measure to each. Theoretical confusion, if maintained, will lead to organisation uncertainty and then to hesitant action. Elections to the Irish Parliament say or save nothing; it is a cover for others to implement the cuts; an attempt to delay ‘re’action. Adam’s and co are already discredited but not S.F. members or those who drifted from the cease fire, or feel disillusioned. Even S.F. are not an alternative for they, also, will implement the butchery. It is not the time to ‘protest’ except as a means of teaching organisation. Who is the protest at: Parliament and partition parties: partition was the acceptance of foreign sovereignty if aimed at them they have no power, it implements the cuts and tax hicks dictated by others, where are the British ‘taxpayers’ then? They should organise and also do so with regards to the whole of Ireland because of the very fluidity and speed of matters.

This tsunami has hit the shallows and is picking up speed, and now is not the time to teach the ruling elite and the state bodies lessons by making too many mistakes: they must not ‘count the numbers’. Self determination is an international cry, not just a principle of respect for smaller nations: it is needed as ONE. Siptu General Secretary said: ‘everyone who adheres to the “principles of decency and fair play” should participate in a major protest on Saturday.’  And: the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said the union movement was calling for mass protests on November 27 to "allow ordinary working people to voice their opposition to a policy that could destroy 90,000 more jobs.”

Well that will stop the rot I’m sure: not. It is not just policy - it is essence: the system is broken. ‘Decency and fair play’ is not, and never has been, in recorded history how a class based for profit or servitude and the exploitation of others functions. “In reality every class, even every profession, has its own morality, and even this it violates whenever it can do so with impunity.” Fred Engles Ludwig Feuerbach and the end of classical German philosophy. They certainly don’t owe us anything except to exit stage right.

There has never been such a confluence of issues running into a flood and leaving rivers running down hill to pool since the ice sheets melted back allowing the land to spring up and leaving boulders across the landscape as there is now with all these issues coming together: it takes a very brave man or women to ignore reality as these union leaders are doing and this time it will need a little more than a noose dangled over their heads to turn them: they won’t be turned.

But the ‘armed’ expression of discipline, inferred from one of James Connolly’s sounder pieces of advice: ‘if by some chance we should win, hold on to your weapons’ (roughly: no time to find the quote) points out to those he warned against to whom power in the end slipped shows that now they (in the form of ‘their state’)hold the arms. But at this moment the members of these bodies of armed men will be nearly as confused as everyone but socialist who even when lacking the full insight (and this is as new as quantum mechanics was for Bohr when the theory unfolded) could see ‘something’ was coming and tried desperately to warn of this and to organise. With the usual resistance by ‘interested parties’ and cynics it can feel like wadding through mire. Now it doesn’t look so extreme this insistence on resistance – but the how needs detail. And detail isn’t to be worked out just in virtual reality and also must be worked out in practice.

If it’s true that the E.U. has put aside approximately €750bn to let loose in the Irish economic crisis and associated rolling problems, and as well as them there are others, such as the Bank of England and other national Banks, cobbling together what they can then there are further deduction that can be made. ‘Ireland’ may feel it has leverage much as the Banks did. And that doesn’t even account for the IMF. It would seem for each Euro covered (and fearfully, with shocked expressions and agreement of pundits on one thing: this is baaaad. As talked of in the main stream media) 10 times or more needed to be found. Now that is some domino affect. Tricky Dickey and crew didn’t see that one coming; maybe they did.  These dominoes are now tipping so fast that a gold standard currency might outmanoeuvre these others and sufferers. Russia has the gold; China has the ‘cash’, and productive power.

Lenin wrote Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism  as the new developments of Finance Capital became clear as blood flooded the trenches, communities were destroyed and families left to sink or swim without key important, emotional and economic, members.  And all this while nations rose to proclaim national self determination. Lenin says in the last preface: ‘It is painful, in these days of liberty, to re-read the passages of the pamphlet which have been distorted, cramped, compressed in an iron vice on account of the censor.’ And iron vice it is; a more prosy account might be ‘interesting to read’ but Ireland and Greece et al shows a shortage of leisure time. Historical analogy must be treated with care and indeed economic laws have developed (derivatives, bundled sold-on mortgages, etc, hard enough to follow if it is your full time occupation) and relations of finance capital and production have changed. But the above by AWTW show that we have to roll all into a ball to press forward. That ball is organisation in practice, in theory it is a single piece of steel.

A small personal detail: Osborn’s family were amongst the Ascendancy used to control Ireland for England and most received handsome rewards for this.

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