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There is a Labour Party members’ meeting tomorrow to consider “What way out of the Economic Crisis? Can the EU/IMF deal work?” I wish I could attend. Here are some basic thoughts that I would have liked to put to the meeting.

Two points are worth making at the outset. Firstly, I’ve no great expertise in economics and such expertise is not necessary to participation in the controversy. Secondly, I’m concerned that the Labour Party might tear itself apart, leaving no large coherent left voice.

Agreement

  • Absolutely everyone agrees that Ireland is in an extraordinary mess and cannot pay off all of the debts.
  • Absolutely everyone agrees that i) the domestic economy needs to be primed and ii) “industrial” development is urgently required.
  • Absolutely everyone accepts that cuts to private income and services together with massive repayments are incompatible with i) and/or ii).
  • Absolutely everyone thinks it wrong that as regards the banks, public money should be used to pay private debts.

Disagreement

  • The government – aware that public service wages and welfare payments depend on the fortnightly delivery of European money – think it prudent to stay on very good terms with those who for now have the upper hand and to try to make progress slowly towards somewhat less of a mess which has a possibility of resolution in the long term.
  • Leaving liars and poseurs aside, thoughtful opposition to this approach comes from essentially two quarters, one of which believes that failure to play ball with international capitalism will have no real consequences and the other which believes there would be welcome consequences with revolutionary potential.  These opposition approaches can be summarised as a) “We can default and nothing much will happen; we can be like Iceland.” And b) “We can default, there will be crisis leading to revolution and eventually a socialist society. “
  • The FG part and very likely some of the Labour part of government, and the a) defaulters share an objective: the restoration of a prosperous, unequal society.
  • The a) and b) defaulters share an unwillingness to face up to the risks of what they propose, i.e. they won’t talk about the chaos and suffering which would follow a crisis of capitalism.

Taking sides

I’m with the government because I fear crisis. I know damn well that it will be the poor who will suffer most if the crisis happens.

This does not mean acceptance of a grossly unequal society but this is an argument for another day: https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/irish-sovereignty-may-be-reduced-but-the-power-to-prioritise-remains/

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2 Comments

  1. I think you are presenting a misleading picture of the alternatives under the “disagreement” rubric. For a start, you seem to assume that the government line of trying “to make progress slowly towards somewhat less of a mess” does not itself involve the risk of crisis. One could easily flip your remark about being “with the government because I fear crisis” to “I’m against the government because I fear crisis”. What is your evidence that the government line poses less of a risk?

    Either way, it seems to me, there is a high probability that we face crisis. The government strategy involves sleeping walking into catastrophe; the opposition approach involves hastening catastrophe. Which option is better? I don’t know. But nothing in your post gives me any plausible reason to choose one over the other. Instead you beg the question at issue by simply describing the government position as the one that does not (or is less likely to?) lead to crisis.

    If the government position really does pose less of a risk, I’d like to hear your evidence for this claim. Otherwise you should consider removing the word “why” from the title of your blog post.

  2. Peter,
    Thanks for the comment.

    I don’t assume that the govt. approach is without risk. Indeed I asssume that the govt. too recognises the risks. I cannot see how the deal as it stands can work out. As I said, there is pretty much agreement on this. The disagreement is about what to do next.

    The choices are pretty bleak: Default a) and hope that everything will be alright and that those who now essentially pay Irish social welfare and public sector wages will not be so pissed off as to react aggressively. Default b) and hope that everything goes badly and that this will result in crisis, chaos, revolution and in time a different form of society. The govt. approach is to try to stay in the good books of those who control our lives, try to convince them that we are “good managers” and that with a better deal at some point, we could pull through.

    I certainly don’t like it but I prefer the govt. approach.


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