More reformist misleadership from a ULA TD

Joan Collins TD for the United Left alliance – People Before Profit issued the following press statement yesterday (Monday November 5 2012):

End big pay for bankers. Put a super tax on super incomes.

Commenting on the revelations that AIB have used state money to boost their executives’ pensions, Joan Collins TD said:

“Once again, the government is providing for the rich while the poor go hungry. It is scandalous that AIB can put €1.1 billion into its pension fund and pay their ex-chief exec a pension of €500,000 a year while ordinary people go to soup kitchens in Galway and Athlone. AIB is 99.8% state owned and got €20.7 billion from the state. It’s the same story with Bank of Ireland – which would also have collapsed but for state funding of over €4 billion. Yet Michael Noonan pretends there is nothing the government can do if the banks decide to pay their executives a fortune out of state money! He should, at least, put a super tax on super incomes in the coming budget.

Richie Boucher, BoI chief exec, got a total of €831,000 in 2011. AIB’s David Duffy got €675,000 and Anglo’s Mike Aynsley got €974,000 in 2010. These banks and their executives would have no incomes but for the money put into them by the Irish state. At the same time, there are cuts for Home Helps and for people with disabilities, and 10% of the population can’t afford a decent diet. It’s shameful that Labour is prepared to go along with this outrageous inequality.”

Collins went on to call for the banks to be made publicly accountable:

“It is high time that the banks were brought into line. The directors of the banks must be made publicly accountable and the big pay and pensions must end – or the directors replaced. Bank policy must also change and be made publicly accountable. Money should be put into local businesses and the domestic economy – not speculative investment. We’re paying these people’s wages – it’s time for us to call the tune.”



While rightly being outraged by news of the continuing massive salaries and pensions being paid to the top bank executives this statement highlights the flaw at the heart of the general approach of the ULA TDs.

Joan argues that the directors of the banks, and indeed all bank policy, must be made publicly accountable. This is all well and good as an abstract demand – but what are the concrete details applied to that demand?

These publicly accountable banks would be tasked with ending the big pay and pensions of directors – or failing that with replacement of the directors, presumably with ones on a lower rate of remuneration. And what new policy would these accountable banks pursue? Instead of speculative investment they would put money into local businesses and the domestic economy.

I am going to start analysing this from the perspective that the “we” and “us” that Joan refers to is the working class.

So we need to start from considering how exactly the working class in Ireland could get to be in a position to “call the tune” in regard to the banks?

Clearly something fundamental would need to change as none of the established political parties have shown any interest in doing anything like that – they are all completely wedded to the existing capitalist socio-economic system.

This vision must therefore presume a workers’ government, backed up by a new state apparatus committed to and supportive of that workers’ government, which was able to enforce our will as a class on these financial parasites.

Even if we leave aside the question of how that workers’ government would come to power we are still left with the question of why we would then decide, as the class in control of society, to allow the continuation of the existing capitalist economy, albeit one we could apparently force to operate on the basis of more ethical policies.

This ignores the reality that capitalism is inherently unfair and weighted towards the interests of the capitalists as it is based on the legalised theft that goes by the name of “profits” – it cannot be made to work in our interests as a class and no workers’ leader worthy of the name should not be pretending that it can.

If the working class in Ireland was truly in position to “call the tune” over the central pillars of the economy then we would surely not be limiting our sights to merely trying to mitigate the worst excesses of this rotten system. We would be creating something new that was designed to meet people’s want and needs rather than the current continual drive for maximisation of profits no matter the cost to workers’ lives.

This limiting of working class goals to what might be considered practical or realistic within the framework of the capitalist system is a consistent theme from all the ULA TDs. We must instead start from what we need as working people. Anything else, no matter how More refleft-sounding, is a reformist lie.

Of course if Joan is also suggesting that the working class could somehow “call the tune” under the continued rule of the existing pro-capitalist government and its state power then that it is an even worse form of reformist misleadership of our class.


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