05
Dec
16

Why I joined the Anti-Austerity Alliance

Yesterday (Sunday 4 December 2016) I joined the Anti-Austerity Alliance using their online form and PayPal facility.

I was motivated to do so by comments of AAA TDs about breaking with capitalism and how the ongoing crisis of capitalism makes the creation of a workers’ party (as a mass or at least semi-mass phenomenon) a top priority in the struggle for the socialist transformation of society.

I completely agree with these strategic goals.

The requirement for Anti Austerity Alliance membership is straight-forward – agreement with what the AAA stands for:

What We Stand For

  • Abolition of the Property/Home Tax. No to Water taxes, metering & to privatisation and profiting from water.
  •  Defend our council and public services. No more cuts or erosion of worker’s pay and conditions.
  • Our Councillors will not go into coalitions or make deals with the austerity Parties
  • (FF, FG, LP) and will not participate in junkets or the gravy train.
  •  We support a united movement of all affected by home taxes and austerity. We oppose divisions based on race, nationality, gender or age.
  •  End the bailout of the banks and bondholders. No to all Austerity – ordinary people have paid enough.
  •  Tax the Wealthy as the alternative to austerity: For progressive taxation on the wealthy and corporate sector.
  •  Public investment to create jobs, stop emigration and provide housing and socially useful infrastructure.
  •  Planning for the community, not for developers or vested interests.
  •  For mortgage debt write-down to real house values to keep struggling families in their homes. The banks should be run in the public interest and to assist in economic recovery.
  • Save our health, education and social services – reverse the cuts and restore staff levels.

(Taken from the AAA web site)

People who read my blog or know me in person will be aware that while my overall political views go far beyond this I would agree these are supportable reforms within the context of capitalism – as is true for any Socialist Party member of the AAA who like me also wants to go further than this and completely end capitalism as a social system.

I look forward to participating in the struggle to build a workers’ party with a programme capable of overthrowing the rotten capitalist system.

29
Nov
16

Some questions for the Socialist Party

Some Questions for the Socialist Party

In the wake of their successful day school on Saturday 26 November (“Dangerous Ideas – A Day of Anti-Capitalist Debate”) the Socialist Party in Cork are holding an “Open Meeting – Q & A About Socialist Ideas” this evening (Tuesday 29 November).

Here are a couple of questions about some core ideas of Marxism for them to consider:

Do socialist ideas include an intransigent opposition to all imperialist wars?

If so why did Jess Spears, speaking for the SP’s sister party in the USA, Socialist Alternative, describe Bernie Sanders, who has a long-standing record of consistently supporting US imperialism’s wars around the world, as being “a socialist who had fought for a political revolution”?

Are the core ideas outlined in Lenin’s pamphlet “State and Revolution” essential components of socialist ideas?

If so why does the Socialist Party give such a huge emphasis to the capitalist parliament as the vehicle for socialist change as compared to Lenin’s emphasis on the workers’ council model?

And why does the Socialist Party put forward it’s reformist “community control” approach to the capitalist state rather than Lenin’s revolutionary approach of “smashing” and replacing the capitalist state?

28
Nov
16

Report on the Socialist Party’s “Dangerous Ideas” day school – Cork 26 November 2016

I think the Socialist Party would have been very pleased with the day. Based on the number of leaflets I gave out (to over 80% of the attendees) and my headcount of the individual sessions I would say there were easily over 100 who attended at least one of the sessions. Other than for my leaflet and contributions there was no alternative from the left to the Socialist Party’s timid version of revolutionary socialism.

The first session “Women Rising Around the World” saw a good crowd in attendance. I counted approximately 60 people present, mostly young (average age would have been under 30 even accounting for the couple of old folks like myself), fairly even in gender balance and a decent smattering of non-European ethnicity for an event in Cork city.

corkdangerousideas26nov2016
(That is my baldy head at the back nearest to the camera)

The presentations about the situation for women in Poland, South Korea and South America were informative though heavily tilted towards a feminist perspective with only SP member Fiona Ryan initially identifying herself as a “socialist feminist” on the 4-women panel. The discussion after the presentations was also mostly from a feminist perspective and this saw a reflection in Fiona’s summary where she twice described herself as a feminist without the socialist prefix.

I mentioned this slip to Fiona after the session and she was genuinely surprised that she had described herself that way. It is hard not to see this as an unconscious adaptation to the predominant political tone in the meeting and is perhaps instructive about some more serious political departures from Marxism that were to occur later in the day.

The second session, a debate between the Socialist Party and Sinn Fein “Does a Left Government Need to Break with Capitalism?” saw a significant change in the demographic of the audience – now primarily male and much older (I was now far from the oldest person in the room). It was also smaller at around 45.

Mick Barry spoke for the Socialist Party and Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire for Sinn Féin.

Mick pointed to the SYRIZA government in Greece had initially implemented various radical reforms but when faced with pressure from European capitalism they backed down and took on the programme of austerity demanded of them. Mick assured the audience that unlike SYRIZA any left government the SP were involved in would not back down when faced with a similar fork in the road. They would go forward to nationalise the banks along with the wealth of the 1% and reach out to similar movements across Europe and around the world to spread the revolution.

Sinn Féin on the other-hand would capitulate at that fork in the road and will also moderate their demands in the here and now. Mick used the campaign against the water charges as evidence of SF doing exactly that with their refusal to call for a boycott of the charges and their central leaders initially saying they would pay the charge.

Despite Mick repeatedly using the SYRIZA government as a negative example he made no mention of the fact that this was a Popular Front government between SYRIZA and the right-wing capitalist Independent Greeks (ANEL). A strange omission for anyone claiming to be a Trotskyist as the struggle against Popular Frontism is one of the defining aspects of Trotsky’s political heritage.

This is also of importance in the context of a discussion between The Socialist Party and Sinn Féin and the various calls for “left unity” aimed at the two.

Mick stated that the SP would never enter a coalition government with any capitalist parties – listing who those capitalist parties were in the Irish context but of course leaving Sinn Féin out of that list. I referred to this in my contribution from the floor stating that Sinn Féin are an explicitly capitalist party who openly want to “foster business” (quote from their 2015 budget statement). Therefore if Mick was being consistent with his claim the SP would also rule out participation in a coalition with Sinn Féin as a matter of principle.

Mick tried to get around this in his summary when he responded to this aspect of my contribution by saying that effectively they had ruled out a coalition with Sinn Féin because the Right2Change platform Sinn Féin were part of held open the possibility of a coalition with capitalist Fianna Fáil.

This avoids dealing with the question of whether Sinn Féin are a capitalist party themselves. Mick finished his summary by rhetorically asking what would be the point of having this debate if a coalition with Sinn Féin was ruled out forever – though it would take a significant change in their policies for that to occur.

So it seems the Socialist Party believe Sinn Féin have a different class nature from Fianna Fáil. The “logic” of Mick’s position being that Sinn Féin are some kind of cross-class hybrid who currently have pro-capitalist policies but could at some time in the future change to having pro-working class policies.

From informal discussion with SP members my understanding is that this creative analysis is the result of the Socialist Party believing that there are illusions among a layer of working people that Sinn Féin really are a “left” party fighting for the interests of working people. It would therefore be a mistake to treat them the same as parties that “everyone knows are capitalist” like Fianna Fáil.

This fear of openly describing Sinn Féin as capitalist presumably, at least in part, comes from concern over getting as many preference votes from Sinn Féin voters as possible.

This position flies in the face of the political tradition the Socialist Party claim to stand in. Does anyone who has studied the writings and political life of Lenin and Trotsky seriously believe they would have come up with this kind of bizarre pseudo-Marxist analysis of Sinn Féin? Or would they have “stood against the stream” and told the “bitter truth” (Trotskyists or regular readers of my blog posts will get these references) to the working class? To even ask those questions are to answer them.

That truth is that Sinn Féin are a capitalist party and if in power would carry out policies no different in substance from those of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. That is the “bitter truth” any revolutionary Marxist worthy of the name should be telling the working class.

In my contribution I also pointed out that socialism was not just about bringing the economy into collective ownership but also about new forms of societal governance, based on the workers’ council model, which would be directly linked to a new form of state power that would replace the existing capitalist state. I pointed out that the SP focussed almost exclusively on the parliamentary road as the vehicle for socialist change and had an openly reformist approach to the capitalist state (“community control”).

Mick of course had nothing to say on these issues.

But the “best” expression of this craven parliamentarian opportunist distortion of Marxism was yet to come.

The final session was a panel with no discussion from the floor – “Challenging the Rule of the 1%”. One of the speakers was Jess Spear from the Socialist Party’s sister party in the USA, Socialist Alternative. During her presentation on building a fightback after Trump’s election Spears placed the primary blame for the result on the Democrats who had chosen such an unpopular establishment war-monger as Hilary Clinton when millions had voted for Bernie Sanders – “a socialist who had fought for a political revolution”!!!!

The bitter truth is that Bernie Sanders’ consistent voting with the capitalist Democratic Party over many years and his open and long-standing support for US imperialism’s wars of aggression around the world make the idea that he is any kind of “socialist” completely laughable. And these jokers want us to believe they would not politically capitulate to pressure from capitalism if they were to ever achieve parliamentary power? I’m sorry but this working class militant for one isn’t drinking that kool-aid.

25
Nov
16

Video of 25 Nov Pro-Choice protest in Cork

25 November 2016 Pro-Choice protest in Cork as part of the international day of action (that’s me in the hoodie holding the banner near the end).

Around 100 people took part with representatives from a good number of groups. Very cold evening but a warm feeling of solidarity.

23
Nov
16

My submission to Citizens Assembly on 8th Amendment

This is a simple matter of democracy.

For more than the past decade opinion polls have consistently shown an overwhelming majority in favour of significant liberalisation of access to abortion facilities in this state. (see below)

The opinion polls vary in regards to the exact details of the degree of liberalisation being polled about but what they all have in common is that for any of them to become reality it would require the repeal of the 8th Amendment to allow for subsequent changes in the law.

The members of the Citizens Assembly should carefully consider why they have been convened. There is a clear public mandate for a referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment. It is transparently obvious that the Fine Gael led government is using the Citizens Assembly as a ploy to avoid having to respect that clear public mandate.

I call on the members of the Citizen’s Assembly to refuse to be a part of this undemocratic sham. Stand down from the Assembly and join the majority of Irish people by calling for a referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment.

Alan Gibson

==========================================================================

Taken from the IFPA’s documentation of opinion polls on abortion rights (https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Public-Opinion):

• In October 2016, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll found that almost 75% of respondents support repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
• In July 2016, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll found that 67% or two thirds of respondents support repeal of the Eighth Amendment to allow for abortion in cases of rape or fatal foetal anomaly.
• In March 2016, a Red C poll commissioned by Amnesty International Ireland found that 87% of respondents want abortion access expanded and 71% believe abortion should be decriminalised. The poll also found that:
– 87% supported wider access to abortion in Ireland and 72% supported the decriminalisation of abortion.
– 69% wanted the expansion of Ireland’s abortion laws to be a priority for the new government (when ‘don’t knows’ and those who were neutral are excluded).
– 73% believed that the new government should hold a referendum on repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
– 66% consider it “hypocritical” that the Constitution bans abortion in Ireland but allows women to travel abroad for abortion.
– 72% believed that the fact that women must travel for abortion services unfairly discriminates against those women who cannot afford or are unable to travel.
– 68% described Ireland’s abortion laws as “cruel and inhumane” (when ‘don’t knows’ and those who were neutral are excluded).
– 80% supported abortion at least in cases where a woman’s life or health is at risk or where the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. 38% favoured abortion access as women choose. 7% supported abortion access only in cases of fatal foetal anomaly.
– Only 5% were opposed to abortion in all circumstances. Of that group, 72% were not aware that the penalty for an unlawful abortion is up to 14 years imprisonment.
– 55% did not know that having an abortion in Ireland is a crime when a woman’s life is not at risk.
– 80% agreed that under international human rights law, women have a right to access abortion in Ireland in cases of rape or incest, where their health is at risk or in cases of fatal foetal anomaly.
• In February 2016, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll found that 64% of people surveyed were in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment. Support for repeal was highest amongst younger and middle-aged voters, with about 70% of those under the age of 49 supporting repeal.
• In January 2016, a Newstalk/Red C poll found that 78% of respondents supported abortion in cases of rape or incest and 76% in cases of fatal foetal anomaly. 41% agreed that abortion should be an option in all circumstances felt necessary by a woman, while 48% supported removal of the Eighth Amendment.
• In August 2015, the majority of Fine Gael TDs who responded to a Sunday Times survey (63%) were in favour of a referendum to widen access to abortion in the lifetime of the next Dáil.
• In July 2015, a Red C poll commissioned by Amnesty International Ireland found that two thirds (67%) of people surveyed believed the Government should decriminalise abortion. The poll also found that:
– 64% did not know that having an abortion in Ireland is a crime when a woman’s life is not at risk. 50% believed that it is legal for doctors to make referrals for women to abortion services abroad.
– 9% knew that the penalty for an unlawful abortion is up to 14 years imprisonment – when informed 87%disagreed that it is a reasonable penalty.
– 81% were in favour of widening the grounds for abortion: 45% were in favour of access to abortion as women choose, while 36% were in favour of abortion only where a woman’s life or health is at risk, or in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal anomaly.
– 7% were opposed to abortion in all circumstances, while 9% were in favour of abortion only where a woman’s life is at risk.
– 70% agreed that under international human rights law, women have a right to access abortion where their life or health is at risk, and in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal anomaly.
– 65% agreed that Ireland’s ban on abortion makes women have unsafe abortions.
– 71% agreed that the criminalisation of abortion adds to the distress of women who need abortion.
– 64% agreed that the criminalisation of abortion contributes to stigma experienced by women who have had abortions.
– 70% disgreed that travelling abroad for an abortion is not especially traumatic for women.
• In June 2015, a Sunday Times Behaviour and Attitudes Poll found that 76% of people surveyed were in favour of abortion in cases of fatal foetal anomaly, while 70% supported abortion in cases of rape or incest.
• In April 2015, a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll found that 70% of people surveyed supported abortion where there is a medical risk to a woman’s life other than suicide. 63% of people supported abortion in cases fatal foetal anomaly, while 60% were in favour of abortion in cases where a woman is suicidal.
• In October 2014, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll found that 68% of people surveyed were in favour of a referendum to be held on whether or not to allow for abortion in cases of rape and fatal foetal anomaly.
• In September 2014, a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll found that of those who expressed an opinion, over 75% of people surveyed were in favour of holding a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. 69% of respondents believed abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, while 68% were in favour of abortion where there is a threat to the long-term health of a woman.
• In June 2013, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll fiound that 75% of people surveyed were in favour of the Government decision to introduce legislation to give effect to the X case judgment, which provides for abortion in circumstances where a woman’s life is at risk, including the threat of suicide.
• Also in June 2013, a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll found that 58% of people surveyed said they would support legislation for the X case, which provides for abortion where there is a risk to the life of the woman, including the risk of suicide.
• In May 2013, a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll found that 53% of people surveyed supported legislation that would allow for abortion in cases where a risk to life occurs becuase of a threat of suicide. 78% of people surveyed said they would support legislation that would permit abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
• In February 2013, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll found that 71% of people surveyed supported legislation for the X case. 85% of people surveyed said abortion should be allowed in certain circumstances where a woman’s life is at risk.
• In January 2013, a Sunday Times Behaviour and Attitude Poll found that 60% of people surveyed supported legislation for the X case, which provides for abortion in circumstances where there is a risk to the life of the woman, including the risk of suicide.
• Also in January 2013, a Paddy Power/Red C Poll found that 64% of people surveyed were in favour of more liberal abortion laws.
• In December 2012, a Sunday Business Post/Red C Poll found that 85% of people surveyed supported legislation for the X case, allowing abortion where a woman’s life is theatened, including by suicide.
• In September 2012, a Sunday Times Behaviour and Attitude Poll found that 80% of people said they would support a change in the law to permit abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
• In 2011, a study of 500 established GPs and almost 250 GPs in training revealed that 75% of Irish GPs feel that there are situations in which abortion should be available in Ireland with 52% believing that abortion should be available to any woman who chooses it.
• In 2010, an Irish Examiner/Red C Poll found that 60% of people supported legal abortion and three in five people aged 18-35 believed abortion should be legalised.
• Also in 2010, a Marie Stopes/YouGov opinion poll indicated that 79% of those questioned were in favour of liberalisation of Irish abortion laws in certain circumstances.
• In 2007, an Irish Times Behaviour and Attitudes Poll found that 54% of women believe the Government should act to permit abortion.
• A 2004 Crisis Pregnancy Agency study found that 90% of 18-45 year olds support abortion in certain circumstances, with 51% stating that women should always have to right to choose an abortion.

23
Nov
16

Anti-choice brigade care nothing for the truth

In today’s Evening Echo there is an opinion piece by a priest, Fr Jaimie Twohig, “Young Cork Priest Urges Fight Against Abortion

It is shocking, but not surprising, that this article including an outright lie is able to be published without any editorial comment by the newspaper:
“In reality, there is but a small group of people who want to see the eighth amendment repealed.”
This is simply not true.
Opinion polls consistently show an overwhelming majority in favour of liberalisation of access to abortion facilities that would require repeal of the Eighth Amendment and when the direct question about repeal is asked a clear majority indicate they are in favour of repeal. (Once again I refer people to the IFPA’s excellent web page collating results of polls on this issue – https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Public-Opinion
The anti-choice brigade care nothing for the truth in their desire to maintain this key component of the oppression of women in Ireland.
 
22
Nov
16

25 Nov – Dublin/Cork protest for women’s right to choose

25-nov-rally-corrected-infographic




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