Monthly Archives: February 2013

Poll: Do you feel more positive about Ireland’s economic situation? – A Response.

A response I posted to The Journal’s regime-bolstering daily rounds of mind orientation known as the ‘opinion poll’.

It’s all good.

The figures recently released by the European Commission, showing that nearly 40% of Irish children are living at risk of poverty, can only do wonders for Ireland’s competitiveness. Even better, these figures date from 2010, so that percentage hopefully has risen. Foreign direct investors will be cheered at the prospect of a hungry young workforce. The desperation of their parents to find a job can only be good for labour market reform. They could be given more encouragement by relieving them of the burden of having to receive benefits, but all in due course.

Employers will certainly be relieved at the latest example of flexibility shown by the trade union movement. Hopefully this will give our successful entrepreneurs the encouragement they need to conduct an all-out assault on those things that hold the economy back, such as the obligation to pay workers. Thankfully, our successful entrepreneurs have been ably supported in this by the Labour Party and Joan Burton, whose efforts to abolish paid labour via the JobBridge scheme have not been appreciated.

Emigration is another plus. There is nothing like a constant outflow of young people to keep unemployment down. They are much better off abroad eating at soup kitchens in Australia than hanging around here and getting all upset. People have taken far too negative a view of emigration. People, like live cattle, are one of the finest exports of Ireland’s economy, and they ought to be measured as such. They should also be transported in crates too, in order to keep costs down.

Best of all, the fact that it has now been decided officially that citizens of Ireland are unfit to decide what way they want the economy to operate, with the final say now going to the European Commission, means that we don’t have to worry any more about democracy affecting profitability.

Yes, folks, 2013 is the year stability returns to Ireland’s economy.

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Translation: Bifo: “The defeat of the anti-Europe begins in Italy”


This is a rushed translation of an interview with Franco Berardi (Bifo), conducted by Amador Fernández-Savater for the Interferencias blog on, published 27th February.

What is the context in which the Italian elections have taken place?

The political disintegration of Europe. Europe was born as a project of peace and social solidarity, taking up the legacy of the socialist and internationalist culture that opposed fascism. In the 90s, finance capital’s major centres of power decided to destroy the European model and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty unleashed the neo-liberal assault. In the last three years, the anti-Europe of the ECB and Deutsche Bank seized the opportunity of the 2008 financial crisis in the US to transform the cultural diversity of the European continent (its Protestant culture, gothic and communitarian, its Catholic culture, baroque and individualist, its spiritualist and iconoclastic orthodoxy) into a factor of political disintegration of the European Union; and above all in order to make labour resistance bow completely before capitalist globalisation. The drastic cutting of wages, the elimination of the 8 hour limit to a working day, labour precarity among young people, the postponement of retirement for older people and the privatisation of services. The European population has to pay the debt accumulated by the financial system because debt functions as a gun pointed at the backs of workers.

We are at a historic turning point.

Two things can happen. Either the labour movement can stop this offensive and set in gear a process of social reconstruction of the European Union, or  in the next decade civil war will break out in many parts of Europe, fascism will spread everywhere and labour will be subjected to 19th century conditions of exploitation.

What has the Italian electorate had to say about this alternative?

75% of the Italian electorate has said NO to the European project of Merkel-Draghi-Monti: 25% abstained; 25% voted for Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement; and the other 25% voted for the party of the mafia and fascism, for the most brilliant swindler in history, Berlusconi, the sworn enemy of Angela Merkel because the mafia cannot accept economic rule from Berlin. The Italian elections are a response that can evolve in a positive direction or a catastrophic one. It depends on the progressives, on the intellectuals and the autonomous social movements of the continent, it depends on us.

What is your analysis of the Grillo phenomenon?

Beppe Grillo’s movement is the novelty in these elections. It has picked up votes mainly from the left movements, but it has also gathered votes on the right. Beppe Grillo has said repeatedly that his movement would steal votes from the right and it has achieved this. I do not believe the 5 Star Movement will be able to govern Italy, that is not the point. The important and positive function that the Movement can have is to make the country ungovernable for the anti-European party of Draghi-Merkel-Monti. The Italian electorate has said: we will not pay the debt. Default. Europe’s financial governability has ended, even if Berlusconi and Bersani reach an agreement in order to survive and keep impoverishing the country by transferring resources and wealth to the financial system. That agreement has no future, it will not last. But it is then that the worst can begin.


What do you have in mind?

The financial class will try to strangle Italy as it has done with Greece. The political crisis will be turbulent and violent. The result may be frightening. The mafia and fascism have shown they control 35% of the Italian electorate and the left no longer exists. The idea of the North’s secession will re-appear even with the Lega Nord’s collapse.


Do you see an alternative?

Yes, a process of liberating Europe from the violence of finance capital could also begin – the reconstruction of Europe on a social basis. Outside the political schemas of the 20th century, there could arise everywhere an unconventional movement for organised default and productive autonomy. An occupation momvement could transform universities into sites of practical research for finding post-capitalist solutions. The factories, which finance capital wants to destroy, could be occupied and self-managed, as was done in Argentina after 2001. The squares could be occupied so that they became sites of permanent debate.


This movement of society that you propose, would it have any programme?

The programme was set forth by Beppe Grillo, a programme which, despite what the professional liars of La Repubblica say, is very reasonable:

-A citizen wage

-Reduction of the working week to 30 hours.

-The restitution to schools of the 8 billion dollars that the Berlusconi government stole from the education system.

-Good working conditions for all precarious workers in education, health and transport.

-Nationalisation of banks that have favoured speculation at the cost of the community.

-Immediate abolition of the fiscal pact.


There are those who say that Grillo’s party administers the absence of movements in Italy and reproduces it.

I don’t agree with that. Must everyone stay still when society is unable to move? We shouldn’t complain because someone else is practising politics in our space, but rather practise politics and create a movement. Grillo’s party has prevented the government of financial dictatorship. Now it is the turn for the movement of society. Will society have the necessary energy and intelligence to self-manage social life with a movement of generalised occupation? If we don’t have that energy, we deserve the disaster that will come.

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Democracy in Ireland: A Response to Fintan O’Toole


‘A few drops of fear are always handy for consolidating democracies’

This is a response I left on the Irish Times website to an article by Fintan O’Toole titled ‘Repression shaped our past’ (but not our present, sub-editor?).

Fintan O’Toole says the Irish system of institutional incarceration was ‘extreme for any democratic society’ but stresses that he isn’t suggesting Ireland was a totalitarian dictatorship on a par with Stalinist Russia. Fine. But this raises the question for me of the criteria used to classify Ireland as a democratic society.  

 It strikes me as nigh on impossible to describe any society that installed such brutal measures in the interests of religious, social and moral “purity” as democratic, whatever the claims made by such a society’s political institutions. North Korea officially designates itself as a democratic republic, but few people take this claim seriously, for obvious reasons. So why should we take the description of Ireland as a democratic society -or, as a democratic state, as its constitution puts it- at all seriously? 

 If you look at the recent history of the other PIIGS countries, you see dictatorships and long periods of rule by reactionary conservative forces. In Ireland, there is no formal dictatorship (even if the main ruling party has roots in fascism and even if there was strong support in Ireland for Francoist Spain). But there were ‘institutions of confinement’ as ‘the most prominent buildings in many Irish towns’, as the author puts it. 

 Should we assume, then, that in Ireland there was democracy operating in its political institutions at the very time that such a brutal carceral regime was in force? With any other country, I think most Irish people would give the answer a resounding ‘No’. But with their own country, with the State that they are supposed to give some service, as the popular refrain lifted from Othello puts it, they think the parliament is a legitimate democratic institution, and that if ruling politicians heaped a mountain of illegitimate private banking debt on the population, and strip away whatever provisions there are for a modicum of dignified living in order to do so, well, that’s something up with which we just have to put. Because that’s democracy.  

 Or is it adaptation?

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Unyielding, Indispensable

The other day I published a translation of the first communiqué from #AcampadaMérida, or Campamento Dignidad (‘Camp Dignity’). What follows is a translation of a short text from John Brown, originally published 22nd February, in support of the camp.

Acampada Mérida: The unyielding, the indispensable


At times, the important things do not take place at the centre of the monsters we know as modern States. Within those political structures, the capital plays a central role, since it is, in both senses of the word, the main stage for representation. Representative politics and spectacle meet up in the space that takes on the role of the centre. However, life, the life of people, flows through other channels distant from the spectacle and from representation. Today life is painful for many people, they lack housing, income that allows for a dignified life, freedom. That pain cannot be seen in the grand representations of the capital, but it is far more noticeable in small spaces: in the neighbourhoods or regions on the periphery seldom spoken about on television.


In Extremadura, this social and personal pain, this moral pain too, is very intense. The indicators of unemployment, poverty, child poverty and exclusion are alarming. They are among the highest not only in Spain, but in Europe, surpassing those of Greece or Romania. The region itself is not among the poorest, but it is among the most unequal, the most unjust, and it has been this way for a long time. Everyone remembers the scenes from Land Without Bread (Las Hurdes) filmed by Buñuel. Fewer recall  those of the land occupations by dispossessed peasants in the 1930s. Also in the collective memory lies the brutal class vengeance exacted by Yagüe and his hordes against the Extremaduran peasants called “moors of the North” by the troops from Army of Africa and its bloodthirsty officials. Those moors of the North were treated like the moors of the south, with the brutality displayed by those little lords toward those whom they despise and fear, with the brutality of an internal colonial army. The villages of Extremadura were turned into Kabyles of the Rif, and exterminated with fury.

In Extremadura a great deal of memory persists, because in Extremadura, misery and repression, and the inequality that is an insult to dignity, are not mere things of the past. The deaths of the present, the sufferings of this past that does not end, are today the work of cold mechanisms that expel people from their homes, deprive them of their means for living by taking away their jobs and eliminating other sources of income. Within this frame, Dignity has been lifting its head for some years now, with organisations such as the Platform for a Basic Income. Comrades in the Platform have begun, away from the centre of the State, distant from the gaze of the press and the regime’s television channels, a camp at the doors of the Extremaduran Employment Office. The camp demands above all two things: decent employment and a basic income. Through work, or, if not, through a guaranteed income independent of work. It is not an extravagant demand but an indispensable one, unless it is wished that entire swathes of the population should succumb to desperation, and plunge into civil death. Hence the name of the camp -‘Dignity’- which is the other side of outrage in the face of an inhuman plundering regime.

An embrace to all those who are camping: you are the unyielding ones, the indispensable ones.


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The Labour Party: Hatred of Democracy

The remarks by Colm Keaveney TD comparing the group of protesters in Dundalk to Golden Dawn whilst describing them as ‘neanderthals’ -an expression that recalls precisely the fascist perspective he claims to oppose- are the latest salvo in the assault on truth conducted by the Labour Party. 

Labour and its supporters have repeatedly resorted to describing loud and rambunctious -though not at all dangerous- protests as ‘anti-democratic’ and attacks on free speech, and so on. Frequent references are being made to fascism and Nazism. The shameless arrogance and ignorance of such a stance, in the context of brutal attacks on the livelihood of working class people -which Labour claims the government is conducting in the name of the Irish people in the ‘national interest’, is all too unsurprising. 

It is important to bear in mind though that this isn’t just an attempt by Labour flunkies to shore up legitimacy for its actions in government, but an implicit call for the police to batter such protestors.

Given this context it is important to highlight and emphasise, in public, on the one hand, the seething hatred of democracy that such a stance demonstrates; and, on the other hand, the impeccable democratic legitimacy of protesters who disrupt and frustrate a regime bent on stripping away wages, benefits and public services in order to sate insatiable financial loan sharks.

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Braised Rabbit, State Violence and Deprivation

This is a comment I left on an Irish Times article -no link, usual story- about the responsibility of poor people for eating unhealthy food. It suggested that it ought to be possible to provide healthy nutritious food to children even if you are impoverished, on account of the fact that the author knew one poor family in particular who, years ago, displayed great inventiveness in putting food on the table, including 'wild puffball mushrooms or braised rabbit'. I am not making this up.

In the author's attempt at myth-busting so as to épater les bourgeois, she has installed a myth of her own. The myth is that 'no-one is forcing less-well off people to buy and eat this guff'.

This is only true in so far as there is no-one standing in the supermarket or convenience store threatening physical violence if they do not buy cheap frozen burgers.

However, what would happen if a parent chose -through the autonomy and agency that this author wishes to attribute to them- to lift an organic chicken and walk out of Tesco's whilst throwing the cashier the couple of euro she had in her pocket that she might otherwise spend on cheap food? She would be arrested, and possibly even jailed. Therefore the threat of State violence places limits on people's food choices, and what they feed to their children. The 'therapeutic, protective intervention from the state' the author decries would all be in the service of Tesco.

In the 'Society of the Great Middle-Class Newspaper', such limits are seen as entirely natural and organic. If you can't feed your children properly, it's your own responsibility.

But official figures recently released show that more than a quarter of people in this State are experiencing enforced deprivation. Enforced: that means they are literally forced into it. But let's forget about what that means, about how the choices of the powerful are serving to enforce that deprivation -through cuts in wages and welfare payments, through privileging the health of the financial sector over the health of the public- and let's pretend that being poor is all part of the natural order.

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Boaventura de Sousa Santos: Ninth Letter to the Lefts

Translation of an article by Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, the Spanish translation of which, by Antoni Jesús Aguiló y José Luis Exeni Rodríguez, was originally published in Rebelión on 21st February.


(“Holy God! How do you clean up so much trash?”)

Ninth Letter to the Lefts

2013 in Europe will be a disaster on the social level and unpredictable on the political level. Will European governments, especially those of the south, create the stability that allows them to finish their mandate or will there be political crises that force them to call advance elections? Let’s say that each one of these hypotheses has a probability of 50%. This being the case, citizens must rest assured that whatever political instability that might arise is the price to pay so that an alternative power, and not just a changing of the guard in power, might come about. Can the lefts build this alternative? Yes, but only if they transform themselves and unite, which is demanding a great deal in little time.

Here is my contribution toward the creation of this alternative. First of all, the lefts must focus on the welfare of citizens and not on how creditors might react. History shows that financial capital and multilateral instituions (IMF, ECB, World Bank, European Commission) are only rigid to the extent that circumstances do not oblige them to be flexible. Secondly, what historically unites the lefts is the defence of the strong Welfare State: obligatory and free public education; a universal and free state health service; sustainable social security with a pensions system based on the principle of redistribution and not capitalisation; the nationalisation of strategic assets and natural monopolies (water, postal services)

The differences among the lefts are considerable, but they do not prevent this basic convergence that always determined the electoral preferences of the popular classes. It is true that the right also contributed to the Welfare State (one need only recall Bismarck in Prussia), but always under pressure from the lefts, and it withdrew when pressure reduced, as is the case, for more than thirty years, in Europe. The defence of the strong Welfare State must be the greatest priority and it must shape the rest. The Welfare State is not sustainable without development. In that sense, if divergences do arise in terms of ecology, science or flexicurity at work, the basic agreement on development is unequivocal and as such constitutes the second priority to unite the lefts. Since the safeguarding of the Welfare State is a priority, everything must be done to guarantee investment and job creation.

And here is where the third priority that must unite the lefts arises. If guaranteeing the Welfare State and development requires renegotiating with the Troika and other creditors, then this renegotiation must be carried out with determination. That is, the hierarchy of priorities shows clearly that it is not the Welfare State that must adapt to the conditions of the Troika; on the contrary, it should be the latter who adapt to the priority of maintaining the Welfare State. This is a message that both citizens and creditors will understand well, albeit for different reasons.

In order for unity of the lefts to have political success, three factors must be considered: risk, credibility and opportunity. With regard to risk, it is important to show that the risks are not greater than those that European citizens are already running: those of the south, a greater impoverishment chained to periphery status, providing cheap labour to developed Europe; and those in general, progressive loss of rights in the name of austerity, higher unemployment, and democracies held captive by finance capital. The risk of an alternative is a calculated risk with the purpose of testing the conviction with which the European project is being safeguarded.

Credibility is rooted, on the one hand, in the conviction and seriousness with which the alternative is formulated, and the democratic support it can count on, and, on the other, in having shown the capacity to make sacrifices in good faith (Greece, Ireland and Portugal are an example of this). It is only sacrifices imposed in bad faith that are not accepted, sacrifices imposed as maximum demands merely to open up roads to greater sacrifices.

And the opportunity is there to be seized. The widespread outrage, expressed en masse in the streets, squares, social networks, workplaces, health centres, educational institutions, among other spaces, has not come together as a social bloc capable of rising to the challenges that circumstances are posing. The current context of crisis requires a new politics of popular fronts at a local, state and European level made up of a heterogeneous plurality of subjects, social movements, NGOs, universities, public institutions, governments, among other actors who, united in their diversity, prove capable, through flexible forms of organisation, articulation and action, of achieving a major unity in action and purpose.

The objective is to unite the forces of the left in democratic alliances that are structurally similar to those that constituted the basis for the anti-fascist fronts in the inter-war period, with which there are worrying similarities. Two of these must be mentioned: the deep financial and economic crisis and the overwhelming pathologies of representation (widespread crisis in political parties and their inability to represent the interests of the popular classes) and of participation (the feeling that voting changes nothing). The danger of social fascism and its effects, which are felt more and more, creates the need for a formation of fronts capable of struggling against the fascist threat and of mobilising society’s sleeping democratic energies. At the start of the 21st century, these fronts must emerge from below, from the most articulated politicisation of the outrage that flows in our streets.

To wait without hope is the worst curse that can befall a people. And hope is not invented: it is built with dissent, capable rebellion and real alternatives to the current situation.

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Extremadura can bear no more. There are more than 160,000 people (more than 30% of the active population) who are unemployed, and 70,000 of them no longer have any form of income. Extremadura is currently the most impoverished area of Western Europe: more than 40% of Extremadurans live beneath or on the threshold of poverty. The brutal cutbacks imposed by the neoliberal executives in Brussels, Madrid and Mérida are destroying our region’s public systems of health and education. Men and women, young and old, workers and unemployed, are all suffering the neoliberal attack and debt blackmail in the form of unemployment, exploitation, misery, eviction, exclusion and criminalisation.


We demand a basic income now. For months, thousands of people have mobilised throughout the whole of Extremadura seeking the implementation of a Basic Citizen Income, in successive street demonstrations and by signing up to the Popular Legislative Initiative. The Extremaduran Platform for a Basic Income and the dozens of social collectives that have supported its demands do not and will not accept the so-called ‘basic income’ -which is nothing but a very limited selective charity- proposed by the Extremaduran Government in response to the social mobilisation. We demand the implementation of a Basic Income that covers 100% of people in our region without an income, one that is high enough to guarantee the minimum of dignity that every human life deserves above and beyond the rules of the market: we are people, not commodities.


We demand public employment and the end of evictions. The creation of public employment is an urgent measure, not only to alleviate the tragedy of unemployment, but also to reactivate the public welfare system and protect the commons. That is why we demand the creation of 25,000 public jobs, directly orientated towards alleviating the grievous deficiencies in our systems of education, health, long term care, and the protection of our natural environment. And of course, we demand the immediate cessation of evictions conducted against the family homes of our region, and the immediate re-accommodation of those families who are already victims of eviction from homes both in public and private ownership.


That is why we camp. The Extremaduran Platform for a Basic Income, accompanied by people from other friendly collectives and by neighbours in Mérida, have begun this Camp Dignity (in Spanish, Campamento Dignidad) (#AcampadaMérida) as a means of exerting pressure on the powerful and as a call for a mobilisation of the citizens, by that 99% of the population who are suffering government-driven austerity and looting by corporations. Camp Dignity offers itself as a meeting point for the tides (mareas) of protest that defend jobs, homes, public services, co-operation, social rights, civil liberties and environmental sustainability. We call on everyone to take part in the citizen tides that will take place this Saturday 23rd February in Plasencia, Cáceres, Miajadas, Don Benito, Mérida and Badajoz. We will stay here, indefinitely, until those who have the power to do so take the required measures to put an end to the torrent of suffering visited upon us through this plunder by illegitimate debt.

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‘Today, the idea of democracy is inseparable from the non-payment of debt’

Translation of an article by sociologist Jorge Moruno and philosopher Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop, published today in Público, analysing the present conjuncture in the Spanish state in light of major corruption scandals and the crumbling of the current regime’s legitimacy.


Government resignation – and then what?

The Bárcenas papers are not a simple case of political corruption in which a boss puts his hand in the till and all can be simplified by talking about rotten apples. Beyond the final denoument, what we are faced with is an entire process of putrefaction of the party system that arose from the 1978 assembly (cortes), in which the Partido Popular is the main -but not the only- political exponent of the Spanish real estate-financial bloc which has benefitted so much from these decades of bubble. Some of us have taken to referring to this ruling layer from the political-speculative tandem, which draws together the worst of our society, as a lumpen-oligarchy, thereby highlighting the nature of its policies and the way it puts them into practice.

This modus operandi functions by democratising the idea of the speculating property owner, turning every citizen into a potential entrepreneur with regard to his home or the one she aspires to obtain. The spreading of this idea and its practice brought about a situation in which, for a time, the possibility of social ascent was associated with the negotiating ability of the individual and not with the extension of collective rights and the development of a democratic culture that placed value on what is public. This operation of moving society to the right, based on the ideology of the property owner, always works as long as one can speculate a little bit more. Corruption, then, is not a mere consequence of casino-capitalism; it is also the necessary lubricant for putting it into practice. The common thread between regime politicans, speculators and builders is reflected perfectly in the Bárcenas papers, where many of the donors are now receiving contracts for Madrid hospitals up for privatisation. Corruption -of the systemic kind- is also seen in the way the vice-president of the CEOE (Spanish employers’ body) receives a discount in the cafeterias of public institutions such as universities and ministries, whilst at the very same time he rails against anything that sounds public, even when this sector is his biggest source of payment.

When an entire caste from business -the Rosells, Fernández, Ferrán- and finance -banks, investment funds- gets the support of the political caste of a regime completely removed from citizen feeling in order to traffic in public wealth and services, to speak of corruption is to speak of the decomposition of the entire political edifice as we know it. As such, corruption cannot be reduced merely to people with surnames, but rather, it refers to a widespread and embedded practice, which ends up eroding the legitimacy and the morality of a transition that dates back to 78. The composition of the entire political regime has been altered, but there is no reason why this should translate mechanically into a social transformation that benefits those at the bottom, or entail a pre-revolutionary situation.

This conjuncture of generalised crisis can also be understood as a crisis of authority itself, since it can no longer appear as a ruling class because it cannot establish a minimum consensus and can only maintain itself in the final instance through coercive and repressive domination. The lumpen-oligarchy no longer bothers keeping up appearances and appears in the raw, directly as a mafia. When one no longer directs but simply dominates, the forms and ideologies hitherto installed in the imaginary and in everyday life crumble away, thus opening up the field to the unpredictable. In this indeterminate time, when things are not what they were but nor are they what is coming, an opening onto the unpredictable appears, and with it, the possibility for new combinations to surge forth, for new models, faced with the difficulty of restoring the tried and tested through the path of coercion. It is an essential task to prevent these openings from ending up in the Berlusconian swamp where UPyD or an unpredictable Aguirre would play a degenerative role with regard to democracy.

But this crisis of authority which is now becoming a crisis of the constituted regime, the regime of 78 in our case, equally, and perhaps primarily, affects the left wing forces that have found a place for themselves within the regime. In their favour, and perhaps to their chagrin, they are not completely inserted within the regime, which could become a strength if they are able to take appropriate advantage. The historico-political moment ahead of us does not allow for acting in accordance with a worldview and a prefabricated discourse adapted more to a belief than a testable material reality. With things as they are, the only thing we can be sure of is that in a situation that was not of our choosing, the curtain is being pulled back whilst we are still undressed, leaving us at first unable to put forward alternatives and narratives to the widespread disorientation. Even so, it is of the greatest importance to hold back a train headed straight for collision, to remove it from the line, and to explore new lines, once we have managed to apply the brakes and avoid debacle. The line we must take does not entail reviving formulas that correspond to very different times, realities and compositions, as is the case with ‘mass fronts’. Today there are no mass organisations such as those of the 20th century, nor can the reality of antagonism be defined by a limited and inadequate call for left unity.

To draw together all that exists beneath an umbrella bearing the brand “Left” serves to centralise plurality and at the same time proves of little political use. To flood the discursive frames ingrained on the left means to give new meaning to the potency that the left once held. To reject any other possibility and automatically interpret in it an anti-political or even fascist tendency amounts to a grave political error that exudes stiffness, conservatism and, as a consequence, the belief that metaphors and symbols are timeless entities and not the product of material times and the people in whom they originate. Lenin took Marx to Petrograd not to recite psalms, but in spite of the insults and every manner of accusation he had received from those of the saddest passions. One could say the same about the Cuban revolution, or the current Latin American processes that have found the official left to be politically clumsy when not an obstacle.

In these conditions, to be responsible can only mean going on the offensive and breaking off with good manners and niceties; to be responsible today, more than ever, is to break off with those at the top (los de arriba) and open up to those at the bottom (los de abajo), but without repeating supposed self-justified truths that leave us nearer to the parochial house than to politics. Today, the idea of democracy is inseparable from the non-payment of debt, from breaking with and holding back the country’s impoverishment and social destruction. We need to apply a triple A for debt, using different criteria to those usually imposed by ratings agencies: Audit (auditoría), Cancellation (anulación), Alternatives (alternativas) are our AAA. To place the debt at the centre of the debate is to place emphasis on access to housing, public services and to think about labour flexibility not as precarity or unemployment, but as access to a continuous income when jobs are discontinuous.

Protests and waves (mareas) must be at once functional in their own spheres and protagonists of a change, since they represent the true value of politics through conflict. The presence of new candidates and organisations in institutions and the development of the movement’s own democratic institutions need not be incompatible; what is more, both should feed back upon each other in a process that is constituent in scope. This will not happen in the way that this relation has been understood until now; the hatred of democracy practiced by European and Spanish elites can be fought only if this combination is taken into account. Mobilisation, democracy, and candidacies which manage to draw together and interpret in a vivid way the totality of social aspirations and frustrations in terms of radical democracy, would be the different aspects of an enormous ¡sí se puede!

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The Troika Party and the Magdalene Laundries: A Response to Stephen Collins

This is a response to an article published in today’s Irish Times by its political correspondent Stephen Collins. No link to the article, for the usual reasons.

Readers should ask themselves whether any of what Stephen Collins has to say about Fianna Fáil matters an iota. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour are all committed to the implementation of the same Troika-backed policies. They all engage in less-than-honest manoeuvrings in order to make it seem as though they had any intention of changing the current policy direction of perpetual austerity.Whatever their rhetoric in the search of votes, once ensconced in power they set about enacting policies so that the financial sector gets to party as much as it wants, and everyone else gets to clean up the vomit.

We would save ourselves a hell of a lot of hot air if we stopped worrying about how each of these three parties competes or collogues with one another, and started referring to them en bloc as The Troika Party. They are all committed to the rolling back of the welfare state, to forced labour for the unemployed, to the privatisation of public infrastructure and the outsourcing of public service functions, and to the neoliberal vision of Europe.

My friends, the Troika Party is not your friend, and it’s best not to get enthralled by the order in which its candidates fare at the polls. The real crisis in Ireland is not the resurgence of a Zombie Fianna Fáil on the back of years of sustained necrofiannaphilia by the country’s media; it is the incapacity of the political institutions at both local and central government level to operate in the interests of the majority of people who live in Ireland. The Irish government strips away social and labour rights because it is subordinate to the interests of financiers and compradors, not because Fianna Fáil are smelly rotters (which of course, they are).

The only other thing to be said about this piece –which reads as if it were dictated by a Fine Gael grandee- is the suggestion that a State apology should be avoided because of ‘enormous cost to the taxpayer’. This is one of the most obscene things I have ever read in this newspaper. The author has spent years presenting the transfer of tens of billions of euro in public money to private bondholders as a matter of urgent and self-evident necessity. Now he has the gall to claim that the Irish State should not make proper amends to people whom it stripped of basic human rights and whose slave labour it used. The Magdalene Laundries and the slave labour that sustained them give the lie to the fairytale that Ireland since the foundation of the State has been a continuously democratic entity. It was not then, and it is not now.

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