ireland after the election

Dara McHugh reflects on last week’s Irish election. The piece was written before the Labour leadership announced plans to accept a Fine Gael coalition offer

The election campaign and its aftermath have witnessed strident declarations that all has changed, changed utterly. Most prominent is the decimation of support for Fianna Fail, the party that has ruled for 60 of the last 79 years. Both Fine Gael and Labour have experienced remarkable success in the polls, unparallelled for the latter. These are not insignificant, but the context of continued economic crisis renders the changes in parliament relatively minor.

Whatever government is formed, it will share the titanic debt burden of the previous administration. Although Fine Gael made suitably statesman-like noises about ‘renegotiation’ of the interest rate on the ECB bailout, their timid overtures won only tolerant obfuscation from Frankfurt during the campaign and categorical refusals since. Continue reading “ireland after the election”

a friend in need is a friend indeed…

David Broder’s thoughts on the cosy ruling-class ties being pulled apart by the Middle East uprising

Like many of the great revolutions in history, the current wave of democratic uprisings surprised all the intelligence experts and media pundits. Not only has the hated NUS chief Aaron Porter been displaced in a palace coup, but so too have dictators such as Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.

This element of surprise in the Arab revolt has left many of the great and good caught with their pants down. If dictators are falling, it’s not the right ones, and the changed situation has left some cosy friendships rather exposed. Continue reading “a friend in need is a friend indeed…”

starting all over from scratch? a plea for “radical reform” of our own movement

An essay by Sheila Cohen. It is offered as a response to the question set by the Daniel Singer Foundation: “Given the devastating effects of the present crisis on working people, what proposals for radical reform can be raised which are both practical to the vast majority while moving us towards the goal of socialism?”

when workers mobilise for 'reforms', these are often just the tip of the iceberg

The current global crisis of capitalism makes the task set by the Daniel Singer Millenium Prize Foundation look relatively straightforward. Immediate proposals for radical reform would clearly include the demand that Western governments everywhere take over the banks and use the resulting trillions to fund health care, re-establish humane and affordable housing, rebuild education at every level, provide humane child- and elder-care, not to mention ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and rescuing the devastation to humanity represented in Haiti, Somalia, and other disasters of the “developing” world. Such proposals would certainly be radical, relevant to the vast majority of the human race and, if granted, enough of a blow to global capital to knock it off its pedestal more conclusively than Saddam Hussein. Continue reading “starting all over from scratch? a plea for “radical reform” of our own movement”

change of venue: feminism event 20th february

a day of mutual learning and exchange hosted by The Commune, 20th February, London. This will now take place at The Arbour, 100 Shandy St, London E1 4ST.

We believe that most of the left has a pretty poor record on gender. Even if overt sexism is less common than in the past, informal hierarchies and alienated, gendered relations run rampant. But this practice can – and must – change if we are ever going to revolutionise society.

As against swallowing the old left traditions, we believe it is important that the left critically reappraise our theory, practice and organisation in the light of socialist feminist politics, as well as the experience of working women’s struggles more broadly.

This is not a day for The Commune to lay down any ‘party line’, but rather to create a space for discussion of the insights of anti-capitalist feminism and the inter-relation between class and gender struggles. We hope to exchange ideas in a participatory, un-dogmatic and inclusive manner. We have planned three workshops. Continue reading “change of venue: feminism event 20th february”

from celtic tiger to death by a thousand cuts

Ronan McAoidh reports on the crisis engulfing the Irish economy and politics

On Tuesday 7th December, the Irish government were barricaded inside the parliament in Dublin. They were there to vote on a Budget implementing the cutbacks and austerity measures demanded of them by the IMF and ECB. The budget comes in a year of ever deepening crisis, as the debt of what was once Europe’s fastest growing economy, spiralled out of control. The obvious question one is faced with is “What went wrong? What happened to this economic miracle?” Continue reading “from celtic tiger to death by a thousand cuts”

trade unions – fit for purpose? edinburgh global commune, 29th january

In both the UK and Ireland today, the overwhelming majority of trade union leaders have signed up to social partnerships. These effectively reduce unions to a free personnel management service for the employers. However, the traditional Broad Left response of electing alternative leaders has shown itself unable to counter social partnerships. Indeed many current union leaders, who now accept social partnership, were themselves earlier Broad Left members.

The third Global Commune event, jointly sponsored by the Republican Communist Network and The Commune, asks the question – “Trade unions – Are they fit for purpose?” A number of different approaches to organising workers will be discussed in workshops over the day. All welcome: registration 10.30 for 11.00-16.30 meeting, at the Out of the Blue Centre, Dalmeny Street, Leith, Edinburgh. Continue reading “trade unions – fit for purpose? edinburgh global commune, 29th january”

waste disposal – towards zero waste by 2020

Dave Spencer writes on the failed Coventry incinerator project

A number of local Councils, including Coventry, have recently scrapped plans to build new giant £1 billion PFI waste incinerators.  These were being encouraged by the last New Labour government that believed in an “energy from waste” strategy – that is burn waste and turn the heat generated into energy for the National Grid. Obviously the prohibitive cost of PFI schemes has hit home with the local Councils.

To save money by scrapping these schemes is all very well but what is the alternative strategy for waste disposal?  The giant incinerator planned for Coventry, right in the city centre, a few hundred yards from my house, was due to take waste from leafy Warwickshire and snobby Solihull and from anywhere else that couldn’t be bothered to organise their own.  You can imagine the gleam in the eyes of the PFI private firms as more and more bin lorries came trundling down the M6 and the A45.  But Friends of the Earth backed by local residents’ groups campaigned against the plans and we won.  We are now left with the old incinerator about which our local councillor told us, “I’ve been assured by Council officers that the smoke coming out of the old incinerator chimney is cleaner than the air it’s going into.”  Ha, ha, ha. Continue reading “waste disposal – towards zero waste by 2020”

permanent revolution in the andes?

David Broder reviews S. Sándor John’s history of Bolivian Trotskyism

It is commonplace for western leftists to reduce Bolivia to a mere appendage of developments in Venezuela and Cuba. Yet it is in Bolivia itself that there is the strongest movement from below of any country in the Americas. Despite its relative economic underdevelopment and the small size of its working class, the rich heritage of class struggle in the country is the envy of most of the rest of the world.

Moreover, Bolivia is unique for its political culture. This has been shaped by the failure of Stalinism and classical social democracy to sink roots; significant indigenous and peasant movements; it is the only country apart from Sri Lanka and Vietnam where Trotskyism has found mass influence.

S. Sándor John’s book Bolivia’s Radical Tradition is a history of Bolivian Trotskyism written by a member of a Trotskyist organisation in the USA, the Internationalist Group. It offers a valuable insight into a much-ignored history, and is also important in what it tells us about Trotskyist politics more generally. Continue reading “permanent revolution in the andes?”

french workers en masse against pension ‘reforms’

by David Broder

Early September in France means la rentrée, not just back to school but also the end of the holidays and no more long evenings in the sun. But in 2010 it also means a return to pitched battles between the right wing government of Nicolas Sarkozy and the working class.

This Saturday l’Humanité, semi-official daily of the French Communist Party, reported on the ‘summer school’ of the MEDEF, a bosses’ federation akin to our ‘own’ CBI. The rhetoric was of Thatcher, and the need to disenfranchise the ‘no longer
useful’ trade unions. Continue reading “french workers en masse against pension ‘reforms’”

social democracy: bristol reading group 25th july

The next Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 25th July at 6pm in The Factory, Cave Street off Portland Square, Saint Pauls, Bristol. (Note the change of venue).


The session will discuss the role and demise of social democracy, the accommodation of the labour movement with capitalism and the future prospects of this truce.

Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Continue reading “social democracy: bristol reading group 25th july”

‘internationalism from below’ at the global commune

On 22nd May The Commune and the Republican Communist Network (Scotland) co-hosted a Global Commune day school in Edinburgh. The day had sessions on politics after the election, internationalism and communist organisation. Full reports on each to follow.

Allan Armstrong and David Broder led off the discussion, then we broke down into two groups for open discussion. Click here for Allan’s introduction; workshop reports below. Continue reading “‘internationalism from below’ at the global commune”

the communist case for ‘internationalism from below’

A contribution to the debate at The Global Commune event of 22nd May, 2010, in Edinburgh, by Allan Armstrong

1. Three Left approaches to building a new world order 

The Republican Communist Network (RCN) has mainly applied an ‘internationalism from below’ approach as a way to unite communists, socialists and revolutionary democrats throughout these islands around an immediate programme (1). This stems from our political opposition to the UK state, which acts as a junior partner to US imperialism and as a ‘licensed’ enforcer for corporate capitalist interests in the North East Atlantic, aided and abetted by its own junior partner, the ’26 Counties’ Irish state. (Of course, there are many other reasons why we oppose this and other capitalist states) In this context, we have argued for an `internationalism form below’ approach to counter two other approaches offered by the Left – the Left unionism of the British Left, and the Left nationalism mainly found in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Continue reading “the communist case for ‘internationalism from below’”

from persecuted to persecutors: the lessons of zionism

by João Bernardo

Reflecting on the recent Israeli aggression against the Mavi Marmara and the feckless impunity with which this country spreads terror in its region, I thought that most commentaries limited themselves to the obvious but fell short of the most important conclusion.

members of the Irgun terrorist group

Everyone knows that Jews were the victims of great persecution, the Nazis making anti-semitism one of their main ideological bases. From the first day of his regime Hitler persecuted Jews and during the Second World War attempted to exterminate them. It is also widely known that the  State of Israel inflicts suffering on the Palestinians, dispossessing them and subjecting them to a system of terror beyond even what the South African racists could achieve in the Apartheid era. Between these two moments: Jews as victims and Israel as aggressor, there is not a contradiction but rather a logical nexus, which this article seeks to explain.

Continue reading “from persecuted to persecutors: the lessons of zionism”

beyond resistance 19th june: ‘capitalist crisis’ and other session details

Our ‘Beyond Resistance’ summer school is now just two weeks away. The event takes place from 11am-6pm on Saturday 19th June at 96-100 Clifton St, London EC2. All welcome. Click here for a new page listing session and ticketing information.

We have confirmed more details of the session on the capitalist crisis, which will feature speakers David Harvie (Turbulence; The Free Association; Lecturer in Finance and Political Economy, University of Leicester) and Alan Freeman (International Working Group on Value Theory; Co-editor, Critique of Political Economy).

The current crisis has been the worst since the Great Depression. And just as with the great depression it caught the left largely unprepared. The need to understand the current crisis and the nature of crisis under capitalism has never been greater. Continue reading “beyond resistance 19th june: ‘capitalist crisis’ and other session details”