As readers of this blog probably know, today sees gatherings across Europe against the Euro Pact. There are protests in Ireland too. I have no idea how many people will turn up for these. I’m guessing a few hundred. Below, Rosa explains why people should go out onto the streets.
This whole notion of real democracy (as opposed to fake or inadequate democracy) hasn’t quite caught on in Ireland.
Now I’m not saying it could be expected for tens or hundreds of thousands of Irish people to start thinking that maybe, just maybe, the fact that the elections they just voted in had no effect other than a momentary cathartic one, combined with the fact that economic policy-making is conducted by small groups of unelected technocrats, combined with the fact that everything to be endured is said to be on account of ‘getting our sovereignty back’, pointed towards a significant problem with democracy in Ireland.
Or maybe I am. I mean, what the fuck? Just what is it that prevents Irish people from talking about it in these terms? Are they just pumped to the gills with econo-reformerator verbiage?
I have been listening to and reading people from other places talking about Ireland in recent days. And what is striking is that there is far more confidence in Irish people’s power to see things for what they are among people elsewhere than there is in Ireland.
I came across someone on the other side of the internet who ventured the following, a propos the demonstrations tomorrow:
‘No offence but but why are so many comments below written by non nationals?? This protest is right down my ally but the title of the protest kind of contradicts the fact that it seems to have been organised by non nationals too! Fair play to you all and thanks for trying but this is not going to work!’
and that furthermore:
Unfortunitely though, the Irish are a lazy nation and our government are mere puppets of the bigger picture at the moment…therefore protests have no impact. It’s also easy to descibe the corruption as a game, its a lot deeper than that. We need nationals in each country to worm their way into their national media and draw the attention of the taxpayer
So I responded thus:
I don’t know what you mean by ‘not going to work’. The absolute worst case scenario is that it pricks the conscience of some Irish people who have not taken part in anything up until now, and makes them think about how they should become more active, and at the same time extends the scope and magnitude of the event taking place tomorrow. The wider the protest across Europe, the better this is for people in Ireland, and in this sense, even a small protest in Ireland makes a tangible and worthwhile contribution.
Whilst I don’t agree with your characterisation of a ‘lazy nation’ we should not be afraid to admit that many if not most Irish people have no habit of any sort of political mobilization beyond voting once every couple of years. So, in fact, if people here of whatever nationality persist in going out onto the streets, that creates awareness and acts as a spur to break the habit. I think it is naive to think Irish citizens can ‘worm their way into national media’ any better than people who are not Irish citizens. RTE, outlets owned by Tony O’Reilly, Denis O’Brien, Rupert Murdoch are all centred on making people see the world through the eyes of the markets, not ordinary people. If anything, they will seek to portray Irish citizens participating as a) hiding a secret party political/trade union agenda; b) hopeless and doomed freaks; c) potentially violent and irrational thugs.
…at the end of the day ‘non-nationals’ have as much reason and as much right to be protesting here as Irish people. One of the most effective strategies of control by ruling elites in Ireland is to hold up an image to the Irish population of a country that is isolated, docile and obedient. We need to be careful not to be complicit with this, and must see these protests in terms of a crisis that is of an international character.
Its all well and good talking conspiracy hugh. Personally i’m more focused on whats happening here and now and how individuals are being effected by current economic changes and local government decisions.
As if being focused on the matter of democracy meant turning a blind eye to the latter.
Anyway, who is to blame for this state of affairs? I am not at all fond of this vast generalisation known as ‘the left’, for all sorts of reasons. However I think the translated article that follows, by Carlos Berzosa, from ATTAC Spain, does have the benefit of highlighting that there is a deficiency, among those parties that lay claim to left-wing history and ideals, with regard to basic defence of the ideals of democracy. Sometimes I think it is worse than that, that these parties actually militate against the ideals of democracy, especially those that describe themselves as parties of government and jump into bed with right-wing parties and proclaim that they have no problem with firms not translating increased profits into increased wages. Like, oh, you know.
The basic fact is, however, that any left-wing party that merited the description with an interest in a social Europe such as the one Rosa and other citizens across Europe wish to be preserve would be resolute in its opposition in the combined acts of economic aggression contained in the Euro Pact. But for the most part, the social democratic parties of Europe have said precious little about it, when they have not backed it enthusiastically.
The left meltdown and the economic crisis.
The general elections in Portugal and the local and regional elections that have taken place in Spain have meant a turn to the right which is in line with general trends in the European Union. Those governments still headed by centre-left parties are hemmed in by the power of the markets.
It is still striking that it is precisely those economic ideas imposed in recent years -moreover, the causes of the great recession we are in now-the ones imposed on the political landscape. The logical thing would be to search for different alternatives to market fundamentalism, growing privatisation and economic liberalisation, financial globalisation, and the adjustment policies under implementation. But it is not so, and what is getting imposed is more of the same.
The European left is in a considerable identity crisis, and everything that is happening should lead to a reflection that goes beyond the narrowly national frame, since we are faced with a left without direction and alternative prescriptions. In some way, even though the harshest adjustment policies have been led by conservative parties, and it has been so since Thatcher’s government, social democratic governments have been carried along by those siren songs, leaving behind their basic principles and accepting a large amount of conservative budget-making.
This is undoubtedly part of the explanation for the failure of the European left on the whole. In turn we should not forget that a large part of the electoral base of this left is being hit by the crisis, which logically manifests itself when it comes to voting, or not voting, or leaving the ballot paper blank, or spoiling the vote. There is a clear disaffection on the part of the electorate toward what have been their traditional parties of reference, but disaffection towards a democracy that is deteriorating.
The defence of democratic values should be hoisted high by the left, as the right wing is not worried by this degeneration of democracy, since it tends to be favoured by it. The degeneration of democracy has various levels but I would like to point out some of them. Firstly, the great power acquired by capitalist interests that unfolds on a global scale has limited the actions of governments whose actions take place within a national frame. We have the most palpable manifestation of this day in day out with the power of the markets, which is nothing other than the power of the great economic, financial and speculative powers, which impose their politics on governments. Secondly, the corruption that in pervades important spheres of political parties and of their prominent members. Thirdly, the activities of leading media outlets which fundamentally serve right-wing ideology and which are building up great influence, along with their programmes aimed at the lowest common denominator.
Faced with this whole series of things, and others which make the economic situation worse, with the imposition of values in which greed, avarice, and the obtaining of quick and easy profits, by legal or illegal means, in which a lack of ethics predominates, workers suffer a great number of deprivations and restrictions. Economic inequality is on the rise, unemployment reaches scandalous heights, there is a growth in precarious and unstable work, pensions are cut, along with other welfare state provisions. Young people suffer very high unemployment rates and have very few possibilities of developing their own personal and group autonomy. The lack of opportunities for this group is alarming and scandalous.
There is no lack of problems and we could add many more, such as environmental deterioration, the lack of energy alternatives for the immediate future, political refugees’ need for integration, and for social and economic reasons, gender violence, and the inequality that still exists between men and women in rights and opportunities. These are problems that affect the developed world, in emerging countries to say nothing of underdeveloped ones, all this has an even more serious dimension.
At any rate, what must be understood, especially by the left, is that we are faced with a global world and one cannot make any analysis that is only local, even though these are meaningful, but rather we have to contemplate a focus that takes into account that among the different parts that comprise the global economy relations of interdependence are produced. Relations that are in turn asymmetrical.
The left in developed countries has to adapt to the profound changes there have been in the structure of production and of services, as well as in the composition of the social structure, and the improvement in average living standards of the working classes. The contradictions that exist in a developed country are not those that there were three or four decades ago, and of course they are not those suffered by so many countries in which hunger, absolute poverty, and the amount of actual deprivations, the lack of adequate food, notable deficiencies in education and health, drinking water, among other things, make up the sad everyday reality. This, at any rate, should not lead the left to lose its identity.
The left needs to struggle for democratic regeneration – the electoral result s suffered in Spain and particularly the 15-M movement ought to serve for this. The defence of democratic values means changing the way of conducting politics. Avoiding the right-wing game and creating one’s own theoretical and practical framework is an indispensable requirement in order to receive the support to govern from a section of society.
What are needed are social and economic policies in which basic principles are present, such as the struggle for jobs, the improvement of the distribution of income and wealth, advances in equality in rights and opportunities, and firm support for public goods and services, among other things. We should bear in mind that distinction must be drawn between growth and development, and to conceive of the latter as human development. The agenda should not remain merely within the boundaries of each state, but there must be a joint proposal for the whole European Union, and for profound reform of international economic organisations. The battle for a more just and equitable world economy is fundamental.
Might see you later on.