They’re making it up as they go along, Part 2

Posted: May 13, 2011 in politics
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Our “European partners” are the people on General strikes in Greece and Portugal, not the wise grey heads that think “responsibility” means closing down schools, hospitals and welfare programmes. Those who loudly voice their opinions in the mainstream press, even those who are pro-default,  show no signs of copping on to this reality. Never mind. We can safely ignore them.  

It seems every time Morgan Kelly writes one of his big showpiece articles, the frontlines of debate in the mainstream press shift a little, with some grumbling. All Kelly does really is he repeats what Left-wing political papers with tiny budgets and tinier circulation have been arguing for months if not years. He does it with more obscure jargon- though not as much as most economists- more political timidity, complete hopelessness, no class consciousness, and with the word “Doctor” in front of his name, and he does it in the Irish Times, so I guess it all adds up to make his opinion more “respectable” than the consistently accurate predictions and analysis of the Revolutionary Left.

Experiencing conditions of scarcity teaches you more about the world than any number of degrees, but the people who write opinion pieces in the Irish Times, who have any number of degrees, wouldn’t agree. What we see in Kelly is a guy who’s been through the right-wing gauntlet of a higher education in Economics expressing in conscientious and a serious way what’s up with this country. Accordingly, while he calls for massive cuts, he does back it up with an honest analysis rather than platitudes about cloud computing or some other economic miracle cure.

Whereas practically everyone else is just making it up as they go along, committing to nothing but cuts and working “with” our “European partners” (before being shown up for the bluffers they are next time we get downgraded or have to pump another few billion into the banks), Kelly represents the more sincere edge of mainstream opinion. He tries to say it like it is, not as he wants it to be or wants people to think it is- which is why some have accused him of “sowing panic” among the swinish ignorant multitude and the financial markets. His articles usually end with predictions of how the Beast and the Whore of Babylon will battle with Christ and St. Michael in the skies over the hill of Armageddon. I’m not taking the piss out of him; from a sincere Capitalist point of view, that’s a fair enough analysis. He’s honest. Accordingly, his message is: On our own right-wing capitalist terms, we’re fucked.

As I said, the frontlines of debate shift when Morgan Kelly comes to town, but there is always some grumbling. A big showpiece opinion article a few days ago (“Coalition strategy may give us safet”y net we need”, Philip Lane, IT May 12) was all

“…the ongoing heavy reliance of the Irish banking system on ECB liquidity support means that the consent of the ECB and governments is essentially required if the imposition of losses on senior bondholders is the be smoothly achieved…”

The phrase “unilaterally impose” was repeated and repeated and repeated— there’s something tyrannical and dictatorial, it seems, about making extremely rich people pay their own gambling debts. Reality usually “unilaterally imposes” this, but these debts are so big the system has been called into question. Government strategy is therefore to “unilaterally impose” mass misery on millions of people. This is perfectly OK in the eyes of the opinion-piece writers, because if we go after the rich, they and the governments that are in their pockets will punish us:

“…tighter liquidity conditions would considerably diminish the net financial gain from unilaterally imposing losses on senior bondholders…”

These people cannot see that any system (Capitalism) and any institution (the EU) which “unilaterally imposes” the interests of the richest and most powerful people on earth onto the clearest moral and ethical issues is insane and wrong. Another phrase repeated a few times this article was “our European partners”. Why can’t they see that this stock CSPE phrase has become, more obviously than ever before, laughable? Beneath all the bullshit, the Eurozone crisis is a clear case of the weak being tossed about by the strong. Behind all the talk is the unacknowledged assumption: they’re stronger than us and can do whatever the fuck they like with us. So let’s get sucking or they might make us do something worse.

Anyone will tell you that passivity is the worst possible response to bullying. Moreover, the fact is that like many bullies, they’re not stronger than us. Any system demands the cooperation and consent of people. However much mainstream opinion has written human beings out of the equation, even the core countries of the EU, France and Germany, have seen mass movements of people power in the last year. In Britain, students and workers have shown their strength. And then there’s Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain, three of which have seen general strikes, while Italy has mobilized enormous protests against Berlusconi, reflecting a deeper social anger.

Then look beyond Europe— but that’s a subject for a book, not for a blog post.

These movements need clear and decisive leadership and a logical programme to fight for, and they need to be united, but that will come. Realize that this is only the start. Remember that those who form mainstream opinion in our newspapers are a privileged elite commentariat who, for the most part, have nothing to worry about economically. Take their writings with a handful, not the usual pinch, of salt.

To conclude, let’s return to Kelly for a moment. His autumn article concluded that, radicalized by this crisis, the people of Ireland would turn to the far right. Here we see an example of how any time these wise-men factor in “humanity”, it’s with total condescension and fear: of course they’re going to turn into fascists, they’re stupid, that’s the kind of thing they’d do. In, say, Sweden or Britain or Greece there are scary far-right nuts gaining ground. But in Ireland, aside from a ridiculous, swiftly-exposed attempt at an “Irish National Party” and a quiet, harmless “Immigration Control Platform” without widespread support, there has been zero evidence of far-right gains. Kelly sees that there must be some mass reaction to this deep and horrible crisis: he concludes, for whatever reason, that it will be Fascist-populist in character. It’s true that there must be a mass response to mass emmiseration. However, there is no evidence for a burgeoning far right in Ireland. There is in fact evidence of a far more positive development.

The fightback on the streets in Ireland has been smaller than in the other PIIGS, but on the other hand none of those other countries have elected active revolutionary Socialists to their parliament. With a sizeable parliamentary platform and a man in the European Parliament, and more importantly with a respected fighting record and a principled opposition to cuts, the Left in Ireland has huge potential to grow. Let’s not be complacent about the far right, but in the Republic of Ireland they are less of an organized political force than in any other state I can think of.

The media, political and business elite, though they take either an “all is well” or a “nothing we can do” position, should be scared. But the spectre of an imaginary far right that, if it existed, would pose no threat to their broad interests anyway, is irrelevant at this moment. Capitalism has failed spectacularly, and it’s Trots like me, who can provide a serious, logical alternative, that they should be scared of.

  1. dubhghaillix says:

    Well said. I’ve noticed that the country has a real defeatist attitude to this whole disaster. Do you ever read McWilliams in the Indo? At least there’s one writer out there who has the right idea.

    • lenihanm says:

      Yeah mcWilliams does seem to be actually thinking rather than trotting out the line, which is a relief. I don’t agree with him on a lot of things but he argues well for default and he can explain the world economy well.
      Yeah, defeatist is definitely the right word for it. Those who are selling us out will still get their huge pensions so it doesn’t metter to them!!

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