Saturday, December 12, 2009

Me? A Leftist Authoritarian- Like it says on the tin.- My response to the endless celebrations of 20 years since the Iron curtain came down etc etc...

Some days you are just sitting there in the throes of a nasty flu, having just been informed that the ruling class in this country are cutting public sector wages again, that they are cutting payments to the blind, single mothers and the unemployed.

That the bankers and the various scumbags who run capitalism here and elsewhere are getting away with blue murder once again...all over the world...

And you know what you just don't feel like being democratic or 'right on' anymore. You just think of what really used to scare the capitalists of the world, what really used to get under their skin and make them wet their right wing pants.

Then you see a video like this and suddenly that flu doesnt seem so bad after all, you are empowered and you know what? I am going to be brutally honest here, I don't care if you don't like it and find it 'disturbing' or 'authoritarian' ....
This was the real deal guys, this was what the capitalists and imperialists were shit scared of ....and I would'nt have  the slightest problem at all about this particular boot being donned by the oppressed and workers of the world, who have been  getting it in the ass since the demise of the USSR.

That is my considered reaction to the endless round the clock 'celebrations' of the end of socialism which are being pumped out on the media all over the capitalist world day and night.

No wonder they are celebrating, it was the biggest let-off that the collective kleptocracy of global capitalism ever got, when they fooled the people of the socialist world into entering the hall of mirrors of capitalism.....Somehow, however, I feel certain that capitalism's reprieve is only in the long run scheme of things only temporary.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A powerful statement issued by the impressive Aleka Papariga, General Secretary of the CC of KKE ( Communist Party of Greece)

On November 9, 2009, in the rifle range of Kesariani, KKE honoured the communists and other militants who gave their life for the cause of Socialism, as a response to the anticommunist events that take place in Berlin.

With a simple event, filled with messages and symbolisms, KKE honoured in the rifle range of Kesariani the 200 communists and other militants who withstood the forces of fascism, recognizing in their example the heroism of all those who were not frightened, did not retreat, did not relent in view of the difficulties and the setbacks of the confrontation with imperialism.

The time and place of the event has its own symbolism and has been chosen as people’s response to the anticommunist events of lies and calumniation that take place these days on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the overthrow of the socialism in the German Democratic Republic.

The course of history cannot be stopped

Shortly afterwards, the General Secretary in her statement regarding the anticommunist events in Berlin noted:

We felt the need to be here today, in this sacred place for our people, where Greeks turned in to the Germans, unrepentant communists loyal to the struggle for the liberation of their homeland, knowing that they would be executed, or that they would be sent to the known camps in Germany. They preferred the unrepentant and fighting communists to be dead than alive struggling for freedom.

We felt the need to be here because today in Berlin the elite of the imperialists and their second class executives and allies, among whom the Greek prime minister, have met for the celebration of the Fall of the Wall.

In reality they are celebrating the capitalist restoration, the overthrow of socialism, because they believe that this overthrow is final and irreversible. However they understand that the course of history cannot be stopped and that sooner or later the timeliness of socialism will become reality. We do not forget the great contribution of socialism nor its achievements that benefited the humanity as a whole. No one can erase the fact that the overthrow of socialism made imperialism even more aggressive against peoples.

Freedom has class content

They celebrate and we understand why. They celebrate because freedom and democracy for them are consolidated in an exploitative class society; freedom and democracy for them means to violate people’s rights, plunder the working class, divide peoples, fragment and forcibly annex states. Freedom and democracy for them, are synonymous with the war of the capital, with the war of arms. All those who gathered in Berlin have forgotten their responsibilities and obligations regarding the wall raised by the Israelis in Palestine.

However, I would like to remind some facts in order to make it clear for the people and particularly the youth: Both West and East Berlin were in the centre of the German Democratic Republic. The erection of the Wall was imposed by imperialism when the NATO troops threatened to invade Berlin, especially the East part, in the territory of the German Democratic Republic. So I’m asking you: don’t the people, the workers’ power or any government have the right to respect their borders and erect a wall in their territories? For example, if there were 3 or 4 municipalities in Athens that belonged to the occupation army would people be free to come and go? At that time West Germany, with NATO and the Americans, was like an occupation army. On one hand it was responsible for the division of Germany and on the other it tried to forcibly annex it.

We will never abandon the struggle for Socialism

Once more we underline that we are on the side of socialism. We defend socialism we have known due to its great contribution to the people who experienced it and for the humanity as a whole and we have the courage and boldness to deepen and highlight the causes that led to the restoration of capitalism. That’s what we are fighting with all our strength and we won’t give up struggling for socialism. Socialism in Greece will include the contribution of socialism we have known and the lessons learned from the negative experience.

If those who gather today in Berlin think that the peoples will reconcile with the imperialist reality they are mistaken. Sooner or later people will rise even higher than in the 20th century.”

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Majority of Eastern Germans Believe that 'Life was better" in the German Democratic Republic.By Julia Bonstein

This article from Der Spiegel, no friend of socialism, existing , past , or future, makes fascinating reading and as someone who had some familiarity with some of the many positive aspects of life in the DDR, as well as the undoubted problems, I can only add that the sentiments being expressed come as little or no surprise to me personally ....

Glorification of the German Democratic Republic is on the rise two decades after the Berlin Wall fell. Young people and the better off are among those rebuffing criticism of East Germany as an "illegitimate state." In a new poll, more than half of former eastern Germans defend the GDR.
The life of Birger, a native of the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in northeastern Germany, could read as an all-German success story. The Berlin Wall came down when he was 10. After graduating from high school, he studied economics and business administration in Hamburg, lived in India and South Africa, and eventually got a job with a company in the western German city of Duisburg. Today Birger, 30, is planning a sailing trip in the Mediterranean. He isn't using his real name for this story, because he doesn't want it to be associated with the former East Germany, which he sees as "a label with negative connotations."
And yet Birger is sitting in a Hamburg cafe, defending the former communist country. "Most East German citizens had a nice life," he says. "I certainly don't think that it's better here." By "here," he means reunified Germany, which he subjects to questionable comparisons. "In the past there was the Stasi, and today (German Interior Minister Wolfgang) Schäuble -- or the GEZ (the fee collection center of Germany's public broadcasting institutions) -- are collecting information about us." In Birger's opinion, there is no fundamental difference between dictatorship and freedom. "The people who live on the poverty line today also lack the freedom to travel."
Birger is by no means an uneducated young man. He is aware of the spying and repression that went on in the former East Germany, and, as he says, it was "not a good thing that people couldn't leave the country and many were oppressed." He is no fan of what he characterizes as contemptible nostalgia for the former East Germany. "I haven't erected a shrine to Spreewald pickles in my house," he says, referring to a snack that was part of a the East German identity. Nevertheless, he is quick to argue with those who would criticize the place his parents called home: "You can't say that the GDR was an illegitimate state, and that everything is fine today."
As an apologist for the former East German dictatorship, the young Mecklenburg native shares a majority view of people from eastern Germany. Today, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 57 percent, or an absolute majority, of eastern Germans defend the former East Germany. "The GDR had more good sides than bad sides. There were some problems, but life was good there," say 49 percent of those polled. Eight percent of eastern Germans flatly oppose all criticism of their former home and agree with the statement: "The GDR had, for the most part, good sides. Life there was happier and better than in reunified Germany today."
These poll results, released last Friday in Berlin, reveal that glorification of the former East Germany has reached the center of society. Today, it is no longer merely the eternally nostalgic who mourn the loss of the GDR. "A new form of Ostalgie (nostalgia for the former GDR) has taken shape," says historian Stefan Wolle. "The yearning for the ideal world of the dictatorship goes well beyond former government officials." Even young people who had almost no experiences with the GDR are idealizing it today. "The value of their own history is at stake," says Wolle.
People are whitewashing the dictatorship, as if reproaching the state meant calling their own past into question. "Many eastern Germans perceive all criticism of the system as a personal attack," says political scientist Klaus Schroeder, 59, director of an institute at Berlin's Free University that studies the former communist state. He warns against efforts to downplay the SED dictatorship by young people whose knowledge about the GDR is derived mainly from family conversations, and not as much from what they have learned in school. "Not even half of young people in eastern Germany describe the GDR as a dictatorship, and a majority believe the Stasi was a normal intelligence service," Schroeder concluded in a 2008 study of school students. "These young people cannot, and in fact have no desire to, recognize the dark sides of the GDR."
"Driven Out of Paradise"
Schroeder has made enemies with statements like these. He received more than 4,000 letters, some of them furious, in reaction to reporting on his study. The 30-year-old Birger also sent an e-mail to Schroeder. The political scientist has now compiled a selection of typical letters to document the climate of opinion in which the GDR and unified Germany are discussed in eastern Germany. Some of the material gives a shocking insight into the thoughts of disappointed and angry citizens. "From today's perspective, I believe that we were driven out of paradise when the Wall came down," one person writes, and a 38-year-old man "thanks God" that he was able to experience living in the GDR, noting that it wasn't until after German reunification that he witnessed people who feared for their existence, beggars and homeless people.
Today's Germany is described as a "slave state" and a "dictatorship of capital," and some letter writers reject Germany for being, in their opinion, too capitalist or dictatorial, and certainly not democratic. Schroeder finds such statements alarming. "I am afraid that a majority of eastern Germans do not identify with the current sociopolitical system."
Many of the letter writers are either people who did not benefit from German reunification or those who prefer to live in the past. But they also include people like Thorsten Schön.
After 1989 Schön, a master craftsman from Stralsund, a city on the Baltic Sea, initially racked up one success after the next. Although he no longer owns the Porsche he bought after reunification, the lion skin rug he bought on a vacation trip to South Africa -- one of many overseas trips he has made in the past 20 years -- is still lying on his living room floor. "There's no doubt it: I've been fortunate," says the 51-year-old today. A major contract he scored during the period following reunification made it easier for Schön to start his own business. Today he has a clear view of the Strelasund sound from the window of his terraced house.
'People Lie and Cheat Everywhere Today'
Wall decorations from Bali decorate his living room, and a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty stands next to the DVD player. All the same, Schön sits on his sofa and rhapsodizes about the good old days in East Germany. "In the past, a campground was a place where people enjoyed their freedom together," he says. What he misses most today is "that feeling of companionship and solidarity." The economy of scarcity, complete with barter transactions, was "more like a hobby." Does he have a Stasi file? "I'm not interested in that," says Schön. "Besides, it would be too disappointing."
His verdict on the GDR is clear: "As far as I'm concerned, what we had in those days was less of a dictatorship than what we have today." He wants to see equal wages and equal pensions for residents of the former East Germany. And when Schön starts to complain about unified Germany, his voice contains an element of self-satisfaction. People lie and cheat everywhere today, he says, and today's injustices are simply perpetrated in a more cunning way than in the GDR, where starvation wages and slashed car tires were unheard of. Schön cannot offer any accounts of his own bad experiences in present-day Germany. "I'm better off today than I was before," he says, "but I am not more satisfied."
Schön's reasoning is less about cool logic than it is about settling scores. What makes him particularly dissatisfied is "the false picture of the East that the West is painting today." The GDR, he says, was "not an unjust state," but "my home, where my achievements were recognized." Schön doggedly repeats the story of how it took him years of hard work before starting his own business in 1989 -- before reunification, he is quick to add. "Those who worked hard were also able to do well for themselves in the GDR." This, he says, is one of the truths that are persistently denied on talk shows, when western Germans act "as if eastern Germans were all a little stupid and should still be falling to their knees today in gratitude for reunification." What exactly is there to celebrate, Schön asks himself?
"Rose-tinted memories are stronger than the statistics about people trying to escape and applications for exit visas, and even stronger than the files about killings at the Wall and unjust political sentences," says historian Wolle.
These are memories of people whose families were not persecuted and victimized in East Germany, of people like 30-year-old Birger, who says today: "If reunification hadn't happened, I would also have had a good life."
Life as a GDR Citizen
After completing his university degree, he says, he would undoubtedly have accepted a "management position in some business enterprise," perhaps not unlike his father, who was the chairman of a farmers' collective. "The GDR played no role in the life of a GDR citizen," Birger concludes. This view is shared by his friends, all of them college-educated children of the former East Germany who were born in 1978. "Reunification or not," the group of friends recently concluded, it really makes no difference to them. Without reunification, their travel destinations simply would have been Moscow and Prague, instead of London and Brussels. And the friend who is a government official in Mecklenburg today would probably have been a loyal party official in the GDR.
The young man expresses his views levelheadedly and with few words, although he looks slightly defiant at times, like when he says: "I know, what I'm telling you isn't all that interesting. The stories of victims are easier to tell."
Birger doesn't usually mention his origins. In Duisburg, where he works, hardly anyone knows that he is originally from East Germany. But on this afternoon, Birger is adamant about contradicting the "victors' writing of history." "In the public's perception, there are only victims and perpetrators. But the masses fall by the wayside."
This is someone who feels personally affected when Stasi terror and repression are mentioned. He is an academic who knows "that one cannot sanction the killings at the Berlin Wall." However, when it comes to the border guards' orders to shoot would-be escapees, he says: "If there is a big sign there, you shouldn't go there. It was completely negligent."
This brings up an old question once again: Did a real life exist in the midst of a sham? Downplaying the dictatorship is seen as the price people pay to preserve their self-respect. "People are defending their own lives," writes political scientist Schroeder, describing the tragedy of a divided country.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Blaming the USSR for the second world war is not only absurd – it boosts the heirs of the Nazis' wartime collaborators

Through decades of British commemorations and coverage of the second world war – from Dunkirk to D-day – there has never been any doubt about who started it. However dishonestly the story of 1939 has been abused to justify new wars against quite different kinds of enemies, the responsibility for the greatest conflagration in human history has always been laid at the door of Hitler and his genocidal Nazi regime.

That is until now. Fed by the revival of the nationalist right in eastern Europe and a creeping historical revisionism that tries to equate nazism and communism, some western historians and commentators have seized on the 70th anniversary of Hitler's invasion of Poland this month to claim the Soviet Union was equally to blame for the outbreak of war. Stalin was "Hitler's accomplice", the Economist insisted, after Russian and Polish politicians traded accusations over the events of the late 1930s.

In his introduction to this week's Guardian history of the war, the neoconservative historian Niall Ferguson declared that Stalin was "as much an aggressor as Hitler". Last month, the ostensibly more liberal Orlando Figes went further, insisting the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact was "the licence for the Holocaust".

Given that the Soviet Union played the decisive military role in Hitler's defeat at the cost of 25 million dead, it's scarcely surprising that Russians are outraged by such accusations. When the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev last week denounced attempts to draw parallels between the role of the Nazis and the Soviet Union as a "cynical lie", he wasn't just speaking for his government, but the whole country – and a good deal of the rest of the world besides.

There's no doubt that the pact of August 1939 was a shocking act of realpolitik by the state that had led the campaign against fascism since before the Spanish civil war. You can argue about how Stalin used it to buy time, his delusions about delaying the Nazi onslaught, or whether the Soviet occupation of the mainly Ukrainian and Byelorussian parts of Poland was, as Churchill maintained at the time, "necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace".

But to claim that without the pact there would have been no war is simply absurd – and, in the words of the historian Mark Mazower, "too tainted by present day political concerns to be taken seriously". Hitler had given the order to attack and occupy Poland much earlier. As fellow historian Geoff Roberts puts it, the pact was an "instrument of defence, not aggression".

That was a good deal less true of the previous year's Munich agreement, in which British and French politicians dismembered Czechoslovakia at the Nazi dictator's pleasure. The one pact that could conceivably have prevented war, a collective security alliance with the Soviet Union, was in effect blocked by the appeaser Chamberlain and an authoritarian Polish government that refused to allow Soviet troops on Polish soil.

Poland had signed its own non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany and seized Czech territory, which puts last week's description by the Polish president Lech Kaczynski of a Soviet "stab in the back" in perspective. The case against the Anglo-French appeasers and the Polish colonels' regime over the failure to prevent war is a good deal stronger than against the Soviet Union, which perhaps helps to explain the enthusiasm for the new revisionism in both parts of the continent.

But across eastern Europe, the Baltic republics and the Ukraine, the drive to rewrite history is being used to relativise Nazi crimes and rehabilitate collaborators. At the official level, it has focused on a campaign to turn August 23 – the anniversary of the non-aggression pact – into a day of commemoration for the victims of communism and nazism.

In July that was backed by the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, following a similar vote in the European parliament and a declaration signed by Vaclav Havel and others branding "communism and nazism as a common legacy" of Europe that should be jointly commemorated because of "substantial similarities".

That east Europeans should want to remember the deportations and killings of "class enemies" by the Soviet Union during and after the war is entirely understandable. So is their pressure on Russia to account, say, for the killing of Polish officers at Katyn – even if Soviet and Russian acknowledgment of Stalin's crimes already goes far beyond, for example, any such apologies by Britain or France for the crimes of colonialism.

But the pretence that Soviet repression reached anything like the scale or depths of Nazi savagery – or that the postwar "enslavement" of eastern Europe can be equated with wartime Nazi genocide – is a mendacity that tips towards Holocaust denial. It is certainly not a mistake that could have been made by the Auschwitz survivors liberated by the Red Army in 1945.

The real meaning of the attempt to equate Nazi genocide with Soviet repression is clearest in the Baltic republics, where collaboration with SS death squads and direct participation in the mass murder of Jews was at its most extreme, and politicians are at pains to turn perpetrators into victims. Veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS now parade through Riga, Vilnius's Museum of Genocide Victims barely mentions the 200,000 Lithuanian Jews murdered in the Holocaust and Estonian parliamentarians honour those who served the Third Reich as "fighters for independence".

Most repulsively of all, while rehabilitating convicted Nazi war criminals, the state prosecutor in Lithuania – a member of the EU and Nato – last year opened a war crimes investigation into four Lithuanian Jewish resistance veterans who fought with Soviet partisans: a case only abandoned for lack of evidence. As Efraim Zuroff, veteran Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, puts it: "People need to wake up to what is going on. This attempt to create a false symmetry between communism and the Nazi genocide is aimed at covering up these countries' participation in mass murder."

As the political heirs of the Nazis' collaborators in eastern Europe gain strength on the back of growing unemployment and poverty, and antisemitism and racist violence against Roma grow across the region, the current indulgence of historical falsehoods about the second world war can only spread this poison.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Double Dip Recession Very Likely

Much media blather about positive economic data from the USA and the prospects of 'green shoots' in the the EU, notably a recording of the fact that Germany and France had stopped shrinking in growth terms, ignores the fact that so much of the steam now apparently being picked up by the world economy is driven by entirely artificial 'monetary and fiscal easing'. This is in fact a posh way of describing the process of 'printing money'. The problem is, what will happen to this 'recovery' once it is no longer sustained by this artificial stimulus.. The stimuli will have to be curtailed, its just a matter of timing. Leave the money presses rolling for too long and you will certainly generate inflation, stop too early and the sickly weak recovery shoots will wither.
Two notable economists, Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Professor Nouriel Roubini of the New York University, have alerted us to this prospect...

"Employment is still falling sharply in the US and elsewhere – in advanced economies, unemployment will be above 10 per cent by 2010. This is bad news for demand and bank losses, but also for workers’ skills, a key factor behind long-term labour productivity growth.

Second, this is a crisis of solvency, not just liquidity, but true deleveraging has not begun yet because the losses of financial institutions have been socialised and put on government balance sheets. This limits the ability of banks to lend, households to spend and companies to invest.

Third, in countries running current account deficits, consumers need to cut spending and save much more, yet debt-burdened consumers face a wealth shock from falling home prices and stock markets and shrinking incomes and employment.

Fourth, the financial system – despite the policy support – is still severely damaged. Most of the shadow banking system has disappeared, and traditional banks are saddled with trillions of dollars in expected losses on loans and securities while still being seriously undercapitalised.

Fifth, weak profitability – owing to high debts and default risks, low growth and persistent deflationary pressures on corporate margins – will constrain companies’ willingness to produce, hire workers and invest.

Sixth, the releveraging of the public sector through its build-up of large fiscal deficits risks crowding out a recovery in private sector spending. The effects of the policy stimulus, moreover, will fizzle out by early next year, requiring greater private demand to support continued growth.

Seventh, the reduction of global imbalances implies that the current account deficits of profligate economies, such as the US, will narrow the surpluses of countries that over-save (China and other emerging markets, Germany and Japan). But if domestic demand does not grow fast enough in surplus countries, this will lead to a weaker recovery in global growth.

There are also now two reasons why there is a rising risk of a double-dip W-shaped recession. For a start, there are risks associated with exit strategies from the massive monetary and fiscal easing: policymakers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they take large fiscal deficits seriously and raise taxes, cut spending and mop up excess liquidity soon, they would undermine recovery and tip the economy back into stag-deflation (recession and deflation).

But if they maintain large budget deficits, bond market vigilantes will punish policymakers. Then, inflationary expectations will increase, long-term government bond yields would rise and borrowing rates will go up sharply, leading to stagflation.

Another reason to fear a double-dip recession is that oil, energy and food prices are now rising faster than economic fundamentals warrant, and could be driven higher by excessive liquidity chasing assets and by speculative demand. Last year, oil at $145 a barrel was a tipping point for the global economy, as it created negative terms of trade and a disposable income shock for oil importing economies. The global economy could not withstand another contractionary shock if similar speculation drives oil rapidly towards $100 a barrel.

In addition , Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics, has warned that the global economy could suffer a double dip, a pronounced rebound giving way to another slide.

'It is difficult to know whether or when there will be a W,' as such a course of events is often described, Stiglitz said.

Stiglitz, a former World Bank chief economist and an advisor to US former president Bill Clinton, said household balance sheets had been 'destroyed', which has meant that savings have gone up from zero to 7-9%.

A rising savings rate cuts into consumer spending, which is responsible for roughly two thirds of US economic growth. An 'inventory adjustment' is under way, as companies build up their stocks, Stiglitz said.

But 'because of the uncertainties, people are not hiring, unemployment is very high and foreclosures are likely to remain high,' he said.

Stiglitz has been a sharp critic of policies advocated by the International Monetary Fund, contending that they aggravate crises and impose public hardship.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CAMINO de SANTIAGO de COMPOSTELLA- Back from a 500 mile trek across Northern Spain..

If you are in any way a regular or semi-regular visitor to the Unrepentant Communist blog you may have noticed I have been rather low on postings in the past 6 weeks or so. This is because I have been engaged in a bit of recidivist catholic behaviour, that is indulging my ambition to complete the ancient and very challenging Camino pilgrimage.

I did it to mark my 50th birthday on the 14th of August, and it proved a suitably challenging and memorable way of marking my impending half century on this beautiful but sadly very mismanaged planet. I dont think there is anything I can say that will sum up the experience, save that I met some wonderful people whilst walking across Spain for 5 and a half weeks, and that I would recommend it to any one interested in an unforgettable and very moving personal experience. I dare say that 'Unrepentant' will resume its outpourings of nostalgic and whimsical as well as occasionally topical quasi-stalinist musings, but I suspect that the perspective I have derived from walking the Camino will stay with me for better or worse, probably I suspect, the better. Above I have posted some striking photos of the Camino to give people a flavour of this ancient and emotionally evocative journey.

Monday, June 15, 2009

'The Spirit Level' by Pickett and Wilkinson Represents a Vindication of What Marxists and Progressives Have Said for Years

"The Spirit Level- Why more equal societies almost always do better" Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (Penguin, £20)- Reviewed by Mile Pentelow- Courtesy of the Morning Star

IT RECENTLY took an ambulance crew so long to break through the home security system of a wealthy man suffering from a heart attack that he was dead before they could reach him.

The report of this in my local paper confirmed a view that grotesque inequalities of wealth not only lead to homelessness and squalid overcrowding for the poor but also the rich have to practically lock themselves up in miserable, albeit luxurious, isolation.

The life quality of both would therefore be improved if there was greater equality of income distribution - which is very much the theme of this book.

The authors, who are both epidemiologists, produce a wealth of graphs based on official statistics to show that the more unequal countries are, the worse are their health and social problems.

This is done by comparing the records of the richest 23 countries in the world on levels of trust, mental illness, life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity, children's educational performances, teenage births, homicides, imprisonment rates and social mobility.

Britain, the US and Portugal are the most unequal countries with the worst health and social problems, while Japan and the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden, are the most equal with the least problems.

The authors compare the life expectancy and life quality of people from specific income groups in different countries. Even the well-off fare better in more equal societies than people paid the same as them in richer but more unequal countries.

Records over time in the same countries are also compared. In Britain, for example, over the last 30 years of Conservative and so-called "new" Labour government, inequality has rocketed along with social problems.

Plenty of examples are given of co-operation and sharing being successful and the overall historical trend of society towards equality.

The authors dismiss state socialism as a failed experiment, even though recognising life expectancy has dramatically decreased and chronic stress increased in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe since changing from planned to market economies. { Editorial Note- In a recent interview on Irish TV3 with Vincent Browne, Richard Wilkinson pointed out that health levels in Cuba are equal to that of the USA where there is vastly higher amount of resources dedicated to health expenditure per capita}

"It doesn't take a revolution to put things right," said one author at a conference in an attempt to allay fears about introducing more equality - who was then surprised at how many people thought it would take just that because of the current concentration of power.

The book proposes government support for companies to be 100 per cent owned and managed by employees, but recognises that, if these compete in the existing "amoral" market, anti-social production would continue.

Overall, they conclude, there must be a sustained movement for a better society that is both achievable and inspiring to produce the political will for change.

To arm such a campaign with facts, the authors publish all their latest research on the Equality Trust

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I like this broadcast, and I applaud all those involved in this political initiative in the UK...It shows what can be done when the Left start to think outside the box, and makes a refreshing change from the uncritical adulation of all things connected to the EU, which is so often only countered by reactionary and right wing nationalism...I have long held the view that the defence of national sovereignty can be progressive, not everyone would actually be against the EU, but there is little doubt that people all over the EU are sick and tired of its increasing control over our lives as it drives us further an further towards a neo-liberal super state, which primarily serves the interests of big business, over those of the citizens of the member states...YES to DEMOCRACY....and if you doubt the urgency of this cry, then consider why the people of my own country Ireland, are to be forced to vote again on the EU's Lisbon Treaty after having democratically rejected it in a referendum 12 months ago?

Ken Gill: Communist, Trade Unionist and Very Funny Caricaturist... 1927-2009

I am very sorry to hear of Ken Gill's death, and I extend my sincere condolences to his family. Ken was an influence upon me in that when I was a teenager in the 1970s I was intrigued to observe that someone who was always portrayed as a 'dangerous red', in fact, when interviewed came across as reasonable, intelligent, and far from the stereotypical image spread by the press of 'reds'.
I only met him briefly on a couple of occasions and these brief introductions gave me the opportunity to tell him that hearing him speak on the TV had made me much more open minded about commmunists and challenged a number of assumptions that I had, like so many others, picked up from the media. I think that I was not the only member of the CPGB who derived a quiet pride that one of the most articulate , intelligent, and human trade unionists of his generation was a comrade.

I happened to check out some of his caricatures online and they really are very funny and wickedly accurate portrayals of personalities from that period.

Expertly edited by John Green and Michal Boncza and beautifully designed by Michal this delightful book offers a small segment of history as seen from the perspective of a leading trade unionist through the medium of caricature.

Hung, drawn and quartered – the caricatures of Ken Gill

The book is distributed by Central Books and can be ordered online, from bookshops or from the publisher: <> . Price £12 plus £2 p&p.

Artery Publications, 11 Dorset Road, London W5 4H

Ken Gill: 1927-2009

John Green and Joe Gill (Morning Star)

Ken Gill was born on August 29 1927 in Melksham, Wiltshire. During the second world war, aged 15, he became an apprentice draughtsman.

Gill was politicised at an early age, having experienced poverty in his childhood during the Great Depression and having lost his older brother Lesley, who was an airman in bomber command, during a raid over Germany.

During the war, his family took as a lodger a Welsh miner and Communist, who convinced the young Gill of the cause of socialism. At the end of the war, he became an election agent for the local Labour candidate in Melksham.

Gill was well known for his ability as a caricaturist, but his artistic talent was not limited to cartoons. As a child, his entry to a Daily Sketch competition of children's art was disqualified because the judges did not believe that a child could produce a work of such maturity.

As a working-class lad at that time, artistic talent was not a path to a creative career but to a seat in a drawing office and he duly "did his time" at a mechanical handling firm.

He continued in this field of engineering when he came to London, using his artistic skills to provide prospective customers with freehand perspective drawings.

In 1949 at the end of his apprenticeship, he moved to London and in 1950 he married Jacqueline Manley (nee Kemellardski), the former wife of Michael Manley, who later became prime minister of Jamaica.

In his early thirties, Gill became a director of a successful engineering firm, proving his skills as a salesman and negotiator.

However, his political commitments and involvement in trade unionism led him in a different direction.

He was elected as a regional official of the Draughtsmen's and Allied Technicians Association (DATA) in 1962 and was posted to Liverpool, with responsibility for Merseyside and Northern Ireland.

A wave of industrial militancy was sweeping both regions at the time, and Gill found himself leading workers in a series of industrial battles.

His success as a persuasive, militant but shrewd union official brought him higher office in 1968, when he was elected as deputy general secretary.

Two years earlier, he married Tess Gill, a civil rights lawyer and leading figure in the British women's movement. They had three children, Joe, Tom and Emma.

In 1974, Gill became general secretary of DATA's successor, the Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Staffs Association (TASS).

Faced with technological change and industrial decline during the 1980s, Gill reinvented TASS during the early part of that decade, taking in a range of unions, such as the Gold and Silver Workers, the Metal Mechanics, the Sheet Metal Workers and the Tobacco Workers Union.

In 1988, Gill and his long-time rival for the leadership of "white-collar" unionism Clive Jenkins - who was Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs general secretary - buried the hatchet and brought their two unions together to create one new union, Manufacturing, Science and Finance (MSF), with each as a joint general secretary.

Jenkins retired first and Gill became general secretary, serving from 1988-92. By the time Gill retired in 1992, it had become a large multi-industry union, eventually joining Amicus.

In 1974 Gill was the first and only Communist to be elected to the TUC general council with over seven million votes. He joined other leftwingers there and led a militant broad left grouping which spearheaded a number of ideological and economic battles during the militant '70s.

He was one of the most prominent members of the so-called "awkward squad" who made the industrial relations work of successive governments such a difficult task.

With the election of a number of leftwingers to the leadership of the big trade unions during the '70s, there was an expansion of "broad left" grass-roots groups, dominated by the Communist Party, particularly in the AEU, ACTT, TASS, ETU and UCATT. These groups worked around rank-and-file papers such as Engineering Voice, Flashlight and the Power Worker.

Gill spearheaded trade union opposition to the Labour government's demand for a social contract at the 1974 TUC and mass demonstrations against Barbara Castle's contentious industrial relations Bill, In Place Of Strife.

He was instrumental in promoting the Communist Party's alternative economic strategy within the trade union movement. This proposed a more radical socialist agenda as the answer to the economic woes and serious attempts were made through the trade unions to make it Labour Party policy.

There were strong fears within the Labour Party that this new militant trade unionism would seriously undermine the party. Prime minister Harold Wilson alluded to leaders like Gill when he spoke of "a tightly knit group of politically motivated men" out to undermine democracy.

In 1985, Cathy Massiter, a former MI5 officer who had resigned from her job the previous year, appeared on a Channel 4 documentary detailing how the security services had phone-tapped the homes of trade unionists, peace campaigners and civil libertarians, including two senior members of the current government - Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman, who both happened to be close friends of Tess Gill - despite the fact they had done nothing illegal.

In Gill's case, they burgled his home to plant a bugging device. The allegations were confirmed in Peter Wright's book Spycatcher, when the former intelligence officer boldly wrote that "we bugged and burgled our way across London at the state's behest."

Gill actually raised the issue directly with then home secretary Leon Brittan to little effect.

Despite being among the most prominent Communists in the country, Gill always saw himself first of all as a trade unionist.

The Communist Party at the time still played a powerful role on the industrial stage even though it had declined as a political force.

Gill fought within the TUC for the trade union movement to take more progressive positions internationally, and to support anti-racism and equality within the movement itself.

He and his union were active supporters of the fight against South African apartheid.

On Gill's initiative in 1988, the union paid the deposit for the stadium concert that celebrated Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday while he still languished on Robben Island, placing the issue of apartheid in front of the British people as never before.

This was acknowledged by Mandela when, after being freed and on his first British visit, he chose the union's conference hall to meet and thank ANC exiles and activists.

Gill hardly fitted the cliche image of a Communist. While he could be forceful and committed, he was rarely dogmatic or unnecessarily aggressive. He was tall, with a rugged handsomeness and his soft Wiltshire drawl and ready laughter belied his steely determination. His charm and persuasiveness easily disarmed many of his harshest critics. He was always a popular and well-liked member of the general council even if the colour of his politics weren't.

Gill believed vehemently that the unions were a necessary basis of any radical social change. But he also believed that the Labour Party was central.

"If you cannot win back the (Labour) Party," he said, "then you are certainly not going to be able to start another mass party."

He never relinquished his hobby of cartooning and drew his colleagues during the interminable speeches and discussions at union conferences. They captured the idiosyncrasies of their subjects and they now form a unique archive. The TUC in 2007, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, held an exhibition of his work.

Gill retired as a trade union official in 1992. But this didn't mean withdrawing to a country retreat or taking a seat in the House of Lords. He continued campaigning on radical issues, marching and speaking out against the Iraq war, right up until his illness confined him to his home.

He was particularly keen on promoting solidarity with Cuba. For over a decade, he was chairman of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in Britain and met Fidel Castro on several occasions.

As chairman of the People's Press Printing Society management committee, he was expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain for defending the Morning Star against the Eurocommunist leadership of the party.

He was later active in formulating the paper's broader appeal.

After his divorce from Tess Gill, in the '80s, he married Norma Bramley, a politically active teacher with whom he lived happily until the end of his life.

It was Norma who cared for Gill during his long battle with cancer, which he met with good humour to the last

Friday, May 22, 2009

Clerical Child Abuse in Ireland- Letting the Church Off The Hook?

Yesterday Ireland was rocked by the publication of the Ryan Commission report on the cruelty of the so called 'child care' regimes experienced by tens of thousands of Irish children between the 1940's and the late 1980's. The care of these children, most of them from working class and/or deprived backgrounds were 'outsourced', to use a modern term, to various Religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church. That this happened at all is a clear indication of the overly close and incestuous relationship which existed between the Church and the state of the Irish Republic in those days, a relationship which is meant to be less submissive and deferential these days....

The report itself makes absolutely harrowing reading, and can be accessed here
In the closing days of the last Fianna Fail adminstration, a deal was rushed through which 'indemnified' the religious orders from any further financial responsibility than that agreed in the deal. This notorious Church-State deal, capped the contribution of the religious orders at €128 million (and only a fraction of that in hard cash), the religious orders claimed there had been no cover-up of abuse and no protection of abusers. We now discover from the Ryan report that this was a lie, and that several religious orders not only knew all about the abusers in their midst but concealed that knowledge from the rest of us.
It was a fantastic deal for the religious orders, and an absolute stinker for the people of Ireland, and most importantly of all a retrospectively studied insult to the victims .
The religious establishment here in Ireland , were in effect left well and truly off the hook, for a relatively small financial pay-out, most of which took the form of properties, which were in effect for various legal, and now, economic reasons unsaleable assets in any case.
Why was this deal so soft on the Roman Catholic Church? It is very instructive to read again some of the quotes from the press at the time of the deal from the main Minister involved Dr Michael Woods of Fianna Fail....the ones reproduced below have a particular resonance, now in the light of the Ryan Commission report. A resonance that they did not quite possess to the same extent at the time of the deal....
"My faith helped to save church abuse deal, says Woods" Sunday Independent Sunday October 12th 2003EOGHAN WILLIAMS....
Defending the exclusion of then Attorney-General, Michael McDowell, and his officials from two meetings, Dr Woods said: "The legal people simply couldn't have attended - it was a no-go area for them - they had fallen out with the religious." As the row over the exclusion of the Attorney-General's office from the negotiations continues to divide the Government, Mr Woods yesterday told the Sunday Independent: "My religion was an asset." While Dr Woods said his Catholicism had helped to break the deadlock in the negotiations, he denied he was a member of Opus Dei. He also said he was not a member of the Order of the Knights of St Columbanus or any other lay Catholic organisation.When Dr Woods and the Department of Education Secretary General, John Dennehy, eventually struck a deal with religious institutions, the Church's liability was capped at €128m, a settlement which has been strongly criticised by the Comptroller & Auditor General.
Asked yesterday ( 2003 ed) if Michael Woods was a member of Opus Dei, the organisation's spokesman in Ireland, Paul Harmon, said: "It is not the role of the Opus Dei information office to say whether a person is or is not a member because it is a personal matter to do with their spiritual lives."
Dr Woods... said he had always brought a "straight and honourable" Catholic decency to his work.He denied ground was conceded by the Government during the negotiations. But he said his strong Catholic faith, as well as his status as the minister, had "kick-started" the talks and led to a larger financial commitment coming from the religious orders."My religion was an asset. They knew me and they knew my work. I can't say someone else wouldn't have been able to do the same. That said, they would have known me well," Dr Woods said. He said that he entered politics after working with several Catholic community groups. "I am a Christian first, then a Catholic," he said.Dr Woods said he kept in mind the "helpfulness and generosity" of the Church, which he had experienced as a minister, during the negotiations. The Church had not only given guidance, but also property, he said.Survivors of Child Abuse, a group representing clerical abuse victims, has accused the former Education Minister of being a member of Opus Dei, a group labelled "the holy mafia" by its detractors.
Reading all the above, it becomes very obvious why CORI ( the Conference of Religious in Ireland) have confirmed that they were 'not aware' of any plans for any of the Religious orders revisiting the terms of the deal arrived at with Dr Woods.....In poker circles thats called 'quitting whilst you're ahead', it also helps if you are playing with a dodgy set of playing cards, and the croupier is in your pocket.

Yes...These ARE New Times..and Marxism is for Today

Thanks to Andrew Taylor for kindly allowing 'An Unrepentant Communist' to reproduce his interesting piece below....

The party-group which contributed to the British Communist Party journal _Marxism Today_ in the 1980's concluded we were living in post-Fordist ‘New Times’, and that this astonishing kairos moment required a total rethinking of left politics and a scrapping of Marxism-Leninism. I subscribed to MT through the heady Gorbachev “Glasnost” and “Perestroika” 1980s and as Socialism was defeated/ destroyed in the USSR the MT editors/contributors became an openly non-communist broad-leftish think tank.(And subsequent to that they simply tanked.) There was a good deal of the conceits of the "times" between the covers, but sadly, the resemblance its futuristic and glossy contents bore to Communist theory was obscure and contradictory a la Alice in Wonderland,("The Queen: Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast").

In very recent years some have announced or more often implied that yet another qualitative shift in capitalism is upon us, another "New Times" that may require a new and improved version of socialism (or socialized capitalism) one without a Leninist vanguard party leading a working-class to a socialist revolution. It does seem puzzling why the working-class is conceding class-power in "socialist" theories just at a historical moment when bourgeois rule is so utterly discredited?

By all means, let us acknowledge what communists have discovered anew again and again in their several generations, -- that history is on the move and making sharp turns. And let's be guided by struggle and theory as we attempt to formulate the Communist perspective on the new things that we see arising out of the contradictions of the latest developments of capitalist crisis.

But let us also reason together, take open counsel in discussion, meetings, congresses, and conventions, - not stumble into a ditch as though the blind-sided among us might rightfully lead the ranks of the deaf, dumb, and blind to disaster and dissolution! For Marxist-Leninists all "times” are singular and “new” – and yet, at one and the same time, are a part of the historical trajectory sketched out in the social analysis and party building of Marx-Lenin.

And it would seem strictly rational and non-controversial to point out that those who do not follow or have left Marxism-Leninism as their political theory and guide to action are not Marxist Leninists? This does not negate their contributions to the democratic struggles, but it may well cause their political analysis to begin and end apart from a communist viewpoint.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I would like to urge you to do all you can to support the No-to-Lisbon candidates in the EU-elections 5th June, in order of your preference.

To remind you of what is at stake with the Lisbon Treaty, may we send you below a summary of the main things it does, showing why all true democrats should oppose it.

This document has been vetted for legal accuracy by authorities on Irish constitutional and European law. It summarises the current state of play regarding the Government's proposed Lisbon Two referendum in October.


A constitutional revolution: Lisbon would be a constitutional revolution in the EU and its Member States. It would give Government Ministers and the Big EU States huge new powers, while taking power away from ordinary citizens across the EU, and from the National Parliaments they elect. That is why only Ireland is being allowed a vote on it - because of our Constitution. Only we Irish can save democracy in the EU by refusing to allow ourselves to be bullied or bamboozled into overturning our rejection of Lisbon last year - thereby holding open for the people of Britain and our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland the chance of voting No to Lisbon in a UK referendum next summer.

Overturning the people's vote: The Lisbon Treaty is the EU State Constitution which French and Dutch voters rejected in their 2005 referendums in new legal form. Irish voters rejected it in last year's referendum by 53% to 47%. All genuine democrats, including Yes-side voters, should respect that vote. Respecting it would have meant Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Foreign Minister Micheál Martin telling their EU partners that Ireland could not ratify Lisbon because Irish voters had rejected it, so that there was no point in their continuing to ratify it, as EU Treaties must be unanimous. Instead Messrs Cowen and Martin told the other EU Governments on the morning of the count to ignore their people's vote, to continue with ratifying Lisbon and that they would re-run the referendum on exactly the same Treaty, while pretending it has changed, so as to turn that No into a Yes.

Exactly the same Lisbon Treaty: Not a comma of the Lisbon Treaty will be changed for Lisbon Two. If Lisbon comes into force it will be interpreted by the EU Court of Justice and not on the basis of political declarations and promises by the EU Prime Ministers which the Government is trying to make out are significant, but which do not change the Treaty and are not legally binding as part of EU law. As pro-Lisbon journalist James Downey wrote in the Irish Independent on 21 March: "The antis are right about one thing, if one thing only. Any guarantees we may get on their concerns will be irrelevant, or worthless, or both."

A UK Referendum: There is now a race in time between the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which would greatly increase the power of the Big States and the Brussels Commission in the EU, and the coming to office of a new Government in Britain by next summer. Labour's Gordon Brown broke Tony Blair's promise to give the British people a referendum. David Cameron's policy is to hold a referendum on Lisbon in the UK and recommend a No vote to it to the British people - so long as we Irish do not change our No vote of last year and thereby bring Lisbon and the new undemocratic EU it would create into being for all 27 EU States first.

Denying citizens a vote: France's President Sarkozy has admitted that if Lisbon were put to referendum in other EU countries their voters would reject it too. That is why the EU Prime Ministers decided to refuse referendums on it everywhere, although opinion polls show that people in most Member States want to decide themselves whether they should be put under an EU Constitution which would override their National Constitutions

We remain full EU members: There is no question of Ireland being sidelined or pushed out of the EU if we stand by our No to Lisbon. As Ireland's EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said last December: "There is no provision in the existing treaties to isolate anybody. There is no provision to throw out anybody, unless unanimously all the existing members of the club agreed to throw you out. And I doubt, now or in the future, any Irish Government is going to unanimously agree to throw themselves out."

Millions of Europeans support us: By voting No we remain full members of the EU based on the existing Nice Treaty, but we reject the proposed Lisbon Treaty as a step too far. Millions of our fellow Europeans who are being denied referendums on Lisbon by their Brussels-subservient politicians are hoping that we will say No again for their sakes. We can thereby open the way for a better Treaty for a better and more democratic Europe..

The economic crisis: All 27 EU Members are in economic crisis. Ireland is worse than most because of the borrowing binge which was encouraged by the same cosy cartel of political parties as are now seeking to push through the Lisbon Treaty. The crisis makes Lisbon's model of a deregulated privatised let-it-rip EU out-of-date. Lisbon's proposal to give the Big States from 50-100% more voting power in the EU, while halving Ireland's voting weight, would be economically disastrous for us.

Remember the reasons most Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty/Constitution last year. It would.....

1. Be a power-grab by the Big States for control of the EU. By basing EU law-making primarily on population size, the Lisbon Treaty would double Germany's voting weight on the EU Council of Ministers from its present 8% under the Nice Treaty to 17%. France's vote would go from 8% to 13%, Britain's and Italy's from their current 8% each to 12% each, while Ireland's voting weight would be halved from 2% to 0.8% (Art.16 TEU) (*See Note 1 below on how voting strengths in making EU laws would change).

2. Abolish our present right to "propose" and decide who the Irish Commissioner is, by replacing it with a right to make"suggestions" only for the incoming Commission President to decide (Art.17.7 TEU). The Commission, which is apppointed not elected, has the monopoly of proposing all European laws. Our No vote last year secured us a commitment to a permanent Commissioner. But what is the point of every EU State continuing to have its own Commissioner post-Lisbon when it can no longer decide who that Commissioner will
be? Under the present Nice Treaty Ireland would continue to decide that, and can continue too to have an Irish Commissioner indefinitely as well. (*See Note 2 below explaining how).

3. Permit the post-Lisbon EU to impose Europe-wide taxes directly on us for the first time without need for further Treaties or referendums (Art.311 TFEU). This could be any kind of tax - income tax, sales tax, property tax - so long as it was agreed unanimously by EU Governments. If they get Lisbon through, Government Ministers would have every incentive to agree to give the EU much increased "own resources" by introducing European taxes to finance the many new functions the EU would obtain under the Treaty.

4. Hand over to the EU the power to make laws binding on us in 32 new policy areas, such as public services, crime, justice and policing, immigration, energy, transport, tourism, sport, culture, public health and the EU budget. Ireland would lose the national veto it has at present in the policy areas concerned, and the Dáil and Irish voters who elect the Dáil would no longer decide laws or policy for these areas.

5. Establish a legally quite new European Union in the constitutional form of a supranational Federal-style State. This post-Lisbon EU would for the first time be legally separate from and superior to its 27 Member States (Arts.1 and 47 TEU; Declaration No.17 concerning Primacy). It would have the same name but would be constitutionally profoundly different from the present EU, which was founded by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. Lisbon would abolish the existing European Community which Ireland joined in 1973. It would give the EU its own legal personality for the first time, separate from and superior to its Member States, so that it could sign international Treaties with other States in all areas of its powers. In constitutional terms Lisbon would thereby turn Ireland into a regional or provincial state within this new Federal-style Union, with the EU's Constitution and laws being made legally superior to the Irish Constitution and laws in any cases of conflict between the two. The EU Court of Justice would decide such conflicts. Constitutionally and in the eyes of others this would be the end of Ireland's position as an independent sovereign State in the international community of States. Although we would retain some of the trappings of independent statehood from pre-Lisbon days, in reality we would be more like a regional or provincial state such as Bavaria inside Federal Germany or Massachussetts inside the USA. From the inside the EU would seem to be based on a Treaty between States, but from the outside it would look like a State itself. The only major power of a State the EU would lack post-Lisbon would be the power to force its members to go to war against their will, although they could do so voluntarily on the EU's behalf (*See Notes 3 and 5 below on the constitutional revolution the Lisbon Treaty would bring about) .

6. Turn us all into real citizens for the first time of this new post-Lisbon European Union, owing obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority over and above our obedience and loyalty to Ireland and the Irish Constitution and laws in the event of any conflict between the two. One can only be a citizen of a State. and all States must have citizens. Article 9 TEU would give us an "additional" EU citizenship, on top of our Irish citizenship. This would be a real EU citizenship for the first time, with associated citizens' rights and duties, and would be quite different from the notional or symbolical EU "citizenship" of today. We would retain our Irish citizenship, but it would be subordinate to our EU citizenship in any case of conflict, as is the case with citizens of such Federal States as Germany, the USA, Switzerland, Australia, Canada. (* See Note 4 below)
7. Give the EU Court of Justice the power to decide our rights as EU citizens by making the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding for the first time. This Charter includes such rights as the right to fair trial, the right to life, the rights of the child, the right to strike, the right to property etc. - all of them rights which we already have under the Irish Constitution, but which for people as EU citizens it would fall to the EU Court of Justice, not Ireland's courts, to interpret and decide. This would give power to EU judges to lay down a uniform standard of rights for 500 million EU citizens across the post-Lisbon European Union. It would open the possibility of clashes with national human rights standards in sensitive areas where Member States differ from one another at present, e.g. trial by jury, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, hard drugs, euthanasia, abortion, labour law, succession law, marriage law, children's rights etc. Ireland's Supreme Court and the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights would no longer have the final say on what our rights are (Art.6 TEU).

8. Enable the 27 EU Prime Ministers to appoint an EU President for up to five years without allowing voters any say as to who he or she would be - thereby abolishing the present six-monthly rotating EU presidencies (Art.15.5 TEU). Appointment rather than democratic election to this and other top EU jobs typifies the undemocratic nature of the proposed Lisbon Constitution. It is the Prime Ministers of the Big States who would have the key say in filling them because of the big increase in their voting weight under Lisbon.

9. Amend the existing treaties to give the EU Court of Justice the power to harmonise indirect taxes if it decides that this causes a "distortion of competition" in the EU market (Art.113 TFEU) . This should strengthen the hand of the Court in using the EU's internal market rules to subvert Ireland's low 12.5% company tax rate, which is the principal reason foreign firms come to Ireland and stay here when they come. Compare Germany's 30% company tax rate. Commission plans for a harmonised tax base in the EU, the precursor of harmonised tax rates, have been put on the back-burner until after Lisbon Two for fear they would scare Irish voters.

10. Be a self-amending Treaty which would permit the EU Prime Ministers to shift most of the remaining policy areas where unanimity is required and a national veto still exists, to qualified majority voting on the EU Council of Ministers, without a need for further EU Treaties or referendums (Art.48 TEU).

11. Militarize the EU further, requiring Member States "progressively to improve their military capabilities"(Art.42.3 TEU) and to aid and assist other Member States experiencing armed attack "by all the means in their power" (Art.42.7 TEU).

12. Reintroduce the death penalty "in time of war or of imminent threat of war" for possible future supranational EU forces by providing for the post-Lisbon EU to accede as a corporate entity, separate from its Member States, to Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which permits the use of the death penalty on these occasions, rather than to Protocol 13 which bans the death penalty in all circumstances and to which the EU's Member States have acceded (Art.6 TEU; Explanation on Art.2, EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).

13. Copperfasten the Laval and related judgements of the EU Court of Justice, which make it illegal for Trade Unions or Governments to enforce pay standards higher than the minimum wage for migrant workers. At the same time Lisbon would give the EU full control of immigration policy (Art.79 TFEU). This combination threatens the pay and working conditions of many Irish people. A Protocol in a new Treaty that was different from Lisbon would be needed to set aside the Laval and related court judgements.

14. Increase the influence of the European Parliament in making EU laws in 19 new policy areas, while reducing the power of National Parliaments to make laws in 49 such areas. Lisbon would entitle one-third of the National Parliaments or 1 million EU citizens to request the EU Commission to propose a new EU law or to abandon a proposed law, but the Commission need not accede to any such request (Art.11 TEU; Protocol No. 2). Lisbon underlines the implicitly subordinate role of National Parliaments in the institutional structure of the post-Lisbon EU by laying down that"National Parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union" by various means that are set out in Art.12 TEU.

Explanatory Notes

*Note 1: Voting to make EU laws: Under the present Nice Treaty Germany, France, Britain and Italy have 29 votes each in making EU laws and Ireland has 7. An EU law requires a majority of EU States to cast 255 votes in favour out of 345. This is the Nice-based "double majority" rule. Under the proposed Lisbon double majority rule an EU law must be passed by 55% of Member States, i.e. 15 out of 27, so long as the 15 make up 65% of the total EU population. Germany has four times Ireland's vote now under Nice: 29 as against 7. Under Lisbon Germany's voting weight would be 20 times Ireland's, for it has 82 million people as against Ireland's 4.3. Under Lisbon France, Britain and Italy would each have 15 times Ireland's voting weight. Germany and France between them have one-third of the EU's population. Under the proposed Lisbon rules they would need only two small countries to vote with them to block any EU law they did not like.

*Note 2: Keeping Ireland's Commissioner under Nice: The Nice Treaty requires the number of Commissioners to be fewer than the number of Member States from 2009, without specifying a number and any change must be agreed unanimously (Art.4, Protocol on Enlargement). This can be done by reducing the number of Commissioners from 27 to 26, which would mean Ireland would lose its Commissioner every 135 years. Alternatively, the country whose national is given the job of EU Foreign Minister could be represented by that person on the Commission. So there would be no need for any country to lose a Commissioner under Nice, unless they were compensated by having one of their nationals given this bigger job instead.

*Note 3: Ireland's proposed Constitutional Amendment: The first sentence of the proposed Constitutional Amendment which Irish voters rejected last summer and which they are being asked to change their minds on in October, shows that Lisbon would establish a legally new European Union which would have the same name but would politically and constitutionally be very different from the present Nice/Maastricht Treaty-based EU: "The State may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon signed at Lisbon on the 13th day of December 2007, and may be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that Treaty. No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by membership of the European Union, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions ther eof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred to in this section, from having the force of law in the State." (emphasis added)

*Note 4: EU Citizenship: Under the present Nice Treaty EU citizenship is stated to "complement" national citizenship (Art.17 TEC). This is purely notional or symbolical, for the present EU is not a State, and one can only be a citizen of a State. Neither does the present EU have legal personality, so it cannot have individuals as members. That would change under Lisbon, which would make citizenship of the legally new Union "additional to" national citizenship (Art.9 TEU). This would be a real Federal citizenship, with associated rights and duties vis-à-vis the new EU, which would override one's national citizenship in any case of conflict between the two.

*Note 5: Lisbon's Constitutional Revolution: The Lisbon Treaty proposes to "constitute" or set up a legally new European Union while retaining the same name, by amending the two existing European Treaties rather than by replacing these completely with a formally titled "Constitution", as the Treaty which the French and Dutch rejected in their 2005 referendums sought to do. This original constitutional Treaty was entitled the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe. When the French and Dutch rejected it, the EU Prime Ministers and Presidents decided to get an EU Constitution through indirectly rather than directly, without using the word "Constitution", for they realised that that word alarmed people and made too obvious the constitutional revolution being proposed. The result is the Lisbon Treaty.

Because the Lisbon Treaty consists of a long series of amendments to the two existing European Treaties, one can only understand what it would do by referring to the latter Treaties as they would be if amended by Lisbon. This document does that. The Constitution of the proposed new post-Lisbon European Union would therefore be the two existing European Treaties as they would be when and if they were amended by the Lisbon Treaty. These would be the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union (TFEU). The two Treaties would have the same legal value (Art.1 TEU). The second of these, the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union, would be the new name for the present second Treaty, the Treaty Establishing the European Community (TEC), for Lisbon would abolish the existing European Community that Ireland joined in 1973.

In legal content and effect the Lisbon Treaty is virtually 100% the same as the Constitutional Treaty which the French and Dutch rejected, except that the word "Constitution" is not used. Both Treaties would abolish the existing European Community and the Nice/Maastricht-based European Union and establish in their place a constitutionally new European Union with its own legal personality, which would be legally separate from and superior to its Member States for the first time.

Lisbon, like its predecessor, would then confer a real"additional" EU citizenship, with accompanying EU citizens'rights and duties, on the 500 million citizens of the 27 Member States, without most of them being aware of it or being allowed any direct say on it. At the same time the same name, "The European Union", would be retained for the post-Lisbon EU as for the existing Nice/Maastricht-based EU, even though the new Union's constitutional-political character would be fundamentally altered.

Those pushing this great deception hope that ordinary citizens and the media in the 27 Member States will not notice the constitutional revolution which Lisbon seeks to bring about - for the EU itself and for its Member States - until after it is accomplished. People are to be sleep-walked into becoming citizens of an EU Federation without knowing it. Hence the decision of the EU Prime Ministers and Presidents in 2005 to avoid referendums on this proposed constitutional revolution at all costs, in case people might be alerted and protest.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Signs of the Recession in Ireland

A variety of comments about visible evidence of the depth of the recession here in Ireland gleaned from various online Irish comment boards

Went shopping to Lidl last night, and the place was full. Car park full of 4X4's and large cars.

Last night my Chinese takeaway was delivered by an Irish delivery man..

I was speaking to a vet yesterday, and she said people are less likely to opt for the expensive surgery that could save the dog/cat.

A friend was telling me that the bank where he works are watching "excessive" toilet breaks.

Soup kitchens and food centres providing meals for those in need are struggling to
cope with the rising demand for their services as job losses mount and the downturn deepens.They are reporting increases of up to 13.3pc in demand this year,
with construction workers joining cash-strapped families for food parcels.

Was in a Dunnes Stores today and the porridge section was nearly cleared out - all brands.

I've heard that insurance assessors have been kept busy looking at a lot of burnt out high-end cars and SUVs of late.

Passed a business today, with a sign on the door. "No Staff Wanted."
Reckon they were pestered by job seekers.

Pay as you go leisure centres and swimming pools are inundated with unemployed builders /tradesmen during the daytime.

Sandwich chain O'Brien's, along with other mid-market retailers, is facing "extremely" serious trading conditions, according to the company's founder and chairman, Brody Sweeney.

A guy I know went to look at a used Land Rover, the guy in the showroom immediately told him the price was €5K less than the sticker price, before even asking, and then when they were talking more, the price was clearly very negotiable from there also.

Heard from a friend of a friend that mortgage and loan staff in their bank branch haven't sold a mortgage or loan for months. Instead they're literally ringing people in arrears all day every day.

Oxegen are taking flexible payments for their tickets this year, you can put down deposit and pay rest later.

On Marian Finucane’s programme on Saturday re inheritance, wills etc.Some people are finding that being left a house in a will becomes a liability due the capital acquisitions tax being due within one year, possible outstanding mortgage liability and the difficulty of selling the property. Marian was even heard to ask if it was possible to decline to accept the property….Changing times.

Pouches of 'roll-your-own' tobacco and Rizlas requested much more frequently in the shop queues these days…Shop assistant says they often run out of the ‘Amber Leaf’ the most competitively priced brand .

The small change that used to litter the floor of local supermarkets has disappeared. I used to regularly pick up about 20 or 30c and put it in a box for special needs at the exit but its all disappeared for the past 3 months.

No one ducks their head in shame when they spot someone they know in Lidl anymore. Instead they have loud conversations about the great value to be had there.

Latest data does show a surge towards prepay mobiles and away from mobile phone contracts.

The Law Society Gazette cover headline is "LANDS OF OPPORTUNITY? Job Seeking in other jurisdictions".

Friend works in a hospital in Galway and works for a consultant who does breast cancer care- the amount of women calling to cancel initial appointments because they cannot afford the 160€ consultancy fee is rising rapidly.

In the Dublin Great Run . Bertie Ahern was there to start it off. In the silence in between Bertie being announced and starting the race, someone shouted out "Bertie, you're a fucking liar!"..He went bright red.

Counted 100 taxis queuing for Heuston station last Sunday.Nearly the entire length of St Johns road west.

Got a text from Xtravision asking if an outstanding fine was keeping me away and if so come back and all will be forgiven on the spot.

The Republic's highest paid university head has suggested that staff work for a week for nothing to help the college through the current financial crisis.The move by University College Cork (UCC) president Dr Michael Murphy comes as university heads themselves consider a voluntary pay cut