Anglo’s Rotten Apples versus The Taxpayer: A Most Useful Idiot

An excellent piece from cunning hired knaves on the individualisation of the Irish crisis as a problem of individual ‘bad bankers’ while ignoring the systemic problems of the Irish model and some excellent thoughts on the commonplace depolitisisation of the citizen framed as ‘taxpayer’.

Cunning Hired Knaves

This is an extended version of a comment I left on a piece , by Peter Cunningham in today’s Irish Times titled ‘A dark, cruel comedy at the expense of the Irish taxpayer’

Anyone who thinks people in Ireland ‘don’t riot, burn buses or paralyse the infrastructure in their anger’ either has a very short memory or a limited idea of Ireland. The history of the north of Ireland in recent decades offers plenty of examples to disprove the claim. It’s only when you think of Ireland in terms of the 26 counties of the southern state that such things appear convincing.

True enough, the population in the south has been docile by comparison with other periphery countries such as Greece or Spain. But we are talking about different places with different histories, so you shouldn’t expect to see the same thing.

There is no congenital condition affecting people in…

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Prime Time and Postpolitics

Ireland after NAMA

Old_Vs_YoungLast night RTE’s Prime Time looked at the impacts on Ireland’s crisis on different age cohorts.  Prime Time focused their report around two studies, one from the ESRI and one from UCD, which broadly explored the ways in which different generations in Irish society were being affected by, and copying with, the crisis.  The first of these studies suggested that over-45s were less hard hit by the recession, while the latter suggested some of the ways in which families were engaged in inter-generational solidarities that helped them cope with unemployment and cut-backs.

Prime Time was having none of this however.  Their report was a rather shame-faced and ham-fisted attempt to shoehorn the findings of these studies into a sensationalist debate pitting ‘unemployed’ youth against ‘comfortable’ pensioners.  The researchers from ESRI and UCD interviewed in the report never made these claims and were sometimes at pains to dispute them.  Meanwhile, despite…

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1913 Lockout Podcast – Episode 4 – Media

Basic CMYK

Episode four of the Unfinished Business 1913 podcast series is on the media, looking at different aspects of both mainstream and alternative media from 1913 to contemporary times. Henry Silke of Critical Media review took part in the podcast. For the rest of this excellent series see here

1913 Unfinished Business wants to reinvigorate class politics using the centenary of the Dublin lock-out as an inspiration and focal point.


We will engage in popular education about the events of 1913 and their contemporary relevance, producing imagery to provoke and research to inform.

2013 will see elite commemorations by government, political parties and a union leadership that has sold out the working-class. We intend to critique and oppose these attempts to sanitise this important moment in Ireland’s history of class conflict. We will endeavour to ensure, as we enter a decade of commemorations, that the workers’ story is told.

We want to work with rank-and-file union members to advance the cause of a modern, fighting union movement inspired by the one Larkin led one hundred years ago. It is time to restate the political nature of a union and reclaim the idea of it in people’s minds as a working-class, anti-capitalist institution.

We will challenge the right of today’s William Martin Murphys – oligarchs and organised business interests – to control our politics, economy and society.

The 1913 lock-out raised the fundamental question: who owns the city? Capital has shaped the urban landscape to meets its ends, we aim to assert the people’s right to shape the place where they work and live.

Dan O’Brien of the Irish Times is having trouble with the concept of Neo-Liberalism

Dan O’Brien complains in the Irish Times that financial and political  commentators have started coming under unfair criticism. It says a lot that after five years of recession and a near monopoly on political discourse that O’Brien is shocked to discover that there are in fact those who disagree with him. Ironically considering the title of his piece he builds a straw man argument against those who critique the dominant economic discourses.

In Ireland, a similar unhealthy trend in political debate is emerging. Reactionaries on the left of the political spectrum increasingly describe others very critically as “neoliberals” and policy proposals that are not state-led as forms of “neoliberalism”. The private creche scandal revealed by RTE is the most recent example this sort of name-calling, and it happens even though no political party, grouping or individual in Ireland describes itself/himself/herself as “neoliberal”.

Leaving aside the notion the notion that pro-market policies are viewed as simply common sense and in fact a ‘reality’ rather than an ideology that is adhered to, which is a common position in the Irish press; the question of neo-liberalism and the state is far more complex than O’Brien allows. After all the greatest state intervention since the crisis began has been the state guarantee of all private debt, which was done specifically to protect private markets. As discussed in an earlier piece on critical media review neo-liberal economics and politics has a close connection to the state which both guarantees and regulates it:

 While radical neo-liberal discourse can often be anti-state or anti political this is from the point of view of the social democratic re-distributive state  (or socialist appropriation) and state regulatory policies or programmes such as permanent employment or wage rates, here the state is seen to ‘interfere’ with the market. It is opposed to Keynesian demand interventionism. On the other hand an interventionist state to either defend or create markets is deemed permissible (Amble 2010 ). The role of the state therefore is to keep the market competition from either collective interests of monopolization, in that sense the neo-liberal state is regulatory.  That is to say nothing of protecting private property (and private markets) by force if necessary, up to and including from the state itself (through taxation). There is an anti democratic discourse which calls for the rule of ‘experts’ rather then those who must answer to the electorate or what is termed ‘political influence’. This is linked to elitism (Amble 2010).  When it comes to state enterprise there is an overall discourse of public sector enterprise being bad and private enterprise being good, except (so far) the repressive state apparatuses of the police and military.

The role of celebrity economists, opinion writers and much of the financial  media has been, as O’Brien himself consistently does, to normalise and depolitisise what should be contentious and  political decisions. This article in denying any real opposition to what are class based political decisions does more of the same.

‘Reason and evidence are triumphing’ – Dan O’Brien on neoliberalism and its reactionaries

Cunning Hired Knaves

I left this comment on Dan O’Brien’s piece in today’s Irish Times titled ‘‘Neoliberalism’ is being used as a straw man to close down reasonable debate on policies’. In it, he claimed that ‘in a world that is increasingly complex, reason and evidence are, thankfully, triumphing’, against ‘reactionaries on the right’ and ‘reactionaries on the left’. The latter, in Ireland, are ‘seeking to close down debate’ through ‘name-calling’, which ‘happens even though no political party, grouping or individual in Ireland describes itself/himself/herself as “neoliberal”.’

Pro-tip: if you’re going to attack straw men and emerge with respect, it’s always better to refrain from erecting 300ft straw men of your own. Dan O’Brien contradicts the supposedly ‘reactionary’ conception of neoliberalism with the following claims:

a) that there is a contradiction between neoliberalism and ‘the combination of the state, its agencies, market mechanisms and private business’;
b) that neoliberalism means diminished state involvement;

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