[Marxism] SF's Social Democracy...

DoC donaloc at hotmail.com
Fri Mar 10 10:57:14 MST 2006

A chairde,

In response to Philip.

Firstly, I don't think that Social Democracy is really a possibility 
within today's globalised economy. As such, as I've said before, I 
believe that the demands traditionally associated with Social Democracy 
demand a revolution in society. As such, it is only good politics for 
the left to make defensive (almost social democratic) demands with room 
for further development.

Indeed, Sinn Féin's policies are probably categorised to the left of 
social democracy but failing far short of old-style state socialism. The 
point of economics policies in advance of state power is not, as our 
idealist friends on the ultraleft would put it to provide a definitive 
economics framework, but rather to provide a framework in which 
progressive social trends can be advanced to wider strategic benefit 
over the longer term.

Whether SF proposes raising corporation tax is not hugely important to 
all that, - and readers can note that they have actually chosen to raise 
it - more for the symbolism than the impact, IMO. I couldn't care a fig 
whether they left them as they are - the amount saved is insignificant 
in a national economic sense. What is critical is that the policy 
provides a framework which can enable the party to engage with wider 
society to build the *social basis* for further and wider change. I 
believe that it does this, whilst not providing the party's enemies with 
unnecessary ammunition to sink the party.

Afterall, let us look at the objective material conditions in Ireland 
today (at least in the 26Counties). The state has experienced growth 
pretty much unparalleled at this time - and despite its obvious failure 
to address poverty (as we all expect) it has inculcated a popular sense 
of 'success' with the FDI model. This will increasingly fade over time 
and the framework document that SF put forward enables the party the 
opportunity to build a mass movement for both liberation and socialism. 
That of course, remains to be seen but that is my contention.

Remember kind readers that this is the economic policy of a party which 
may just hold the balance of power in the Twenty-six Counties after the 
next election. I don't think that there are many parties in Europe with 
such a radical economics platform and certainly very few with such a 
large and wide mass base.

Aside from that, the last criticism raised by Phil, is that SF now 
endorses membership of the EU. Well, to some extent that is true. The 
party does call for extension of the euro across Ireland (displacing the 
British-controlled pound sterling - big change there??). Also the party 
doesn't call for Ireland to leave the Euro. Does Phil really believe 
that this would be possible - or even that Irish socialists would want 
to do that? One of the key weapons which international imperialists use 
to hurt an economy is to subject its currency to external pressure 
through speculation. Does Phil really think that SF would want to do 
that? Furthermore, things have actually changed quite a bit in the last 
35 years. Does his near chronic strategic idealism allow him to never 
change an approach once it is promulgated?

The party, along with many others in the European left, wants to 
challenge the neoliberalist policies which underpin the EU as is 
currently established. Indeed, I understand that the two party MEPs are 
pretty much in the vanguard of the EU left in fighting things like the 
Services 'Bolkenstein' Directive which will undercut the entire public 
services sector. Maybe its time to see the challenge to the EU grow from 
within the structures?

Phil obviously prefers to run a two-bit ultraleft operation on the other 
side of the planet than stick with the workload in a mass movement in 
Ireland. He's always criticising Sinn Fein but just what it is that he 
has done to change the world? I think he has to be able to face 
questions as well as hold others to account. He's made a reputation off 
knowing a few real revolutionaries and yet what has he done to 
contribute to the struggle?

Like so many other Trotskyists, Phil is offering us his 'objective' 
truths but according to Marx these must be related to activity. This is 
where Trotskyists forget to read Marx and Lenin:

>From Thesis on Feuerbach:

'The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human 
thinking is
not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the
truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking, 
practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which 
isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.'

So just how is it that Phil can accurately project objective truth about 
a country he hasn't been in for about 15? years?

Not alone can he be condemned from the words of Marx but Lenin too:

'[Revolutionary] conditions cannot emerge at once. They are created only 
prolonged effort and hard-won experience. Their creation is facilitated 
by a
correct revolutionary theory, which, in its turn, is not a dogma, but
assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity 
a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement.'

Left-wing Communism: an infantile disorder.

Just re-read that again, Phil, 'assume final shape *only* (yes *only*) 
in *close* (yes *close* - not other side of world) connection with the 
*practical* (yes *practical*) activity of a truly mass (yes *truly 
mass*) and truly *revolutionary* (yes *REVOLUTIONARY*) movement'. 
Something about which 99.9% of all would-be Core country 
'Revolutionaries' know nothing or next to nothing about. It's about time 
they stop lecturing those in the actual struggle...

Maybe, I'll leave our infantile commentators with a few *actual* 
quotations from the Sinn Fein document selectively neglected by the 

Le meas,

A Rights-based Economy:

We reaffirm our commitment to the core republican economic objectives 
set out in the 1919 Democratic Programme, which asserts "the right of 
every [person in Ireland] to an adequate share of the produce of the 
Nation's labour," a right extending "to all its material possessions; 
the Nation's soil and its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth 
producing processes within the Nation."

Nearly one hundred years later, inequality, poverty, homelessness, 
educational disadvantage, lack of adequate health and social services 
persist in Ireland, north and south.  Tackling these and all forms of 
economic and social exclusion, within a sovereign all-Ireland framework, 
are key elements of the republican agenda in the twenty first century.


-          The Irish economy shall serve society and not the reverse.

-          Economic growth shall take place in an economically, socially 
and environmentally sustainable manner.

-          Everyone has the right to contribute to the economic and 
social life of Irish society and to reach their full potential.

-          Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and 
to the right to a dignified, productive and well-paid job.

-          Everyone has the right to work in safe conditions that are 
not harmful to health and well-being.

-          Everyone has the right to access life-long learning 
opportunities and vocational training and re-training.

-          Workers have the right to form and join trade unions, 
negotiate contracts of employment, the right to picket and to withhold 
their labour.

-          The state has an obligation to protect and nurture our 
national resources from waste and despoilation for the benefit of this 
and future generations, and to ensure an environment that is not harmful 
to the health and well-being of the people.

-          The operation of market competition will not be allowed to 
develop in such a way as to result in the concentration of the ownership 
or control of essential goods, including property, in the hands of a few 
individuals or corporations to the common detriment.

-          The state shall provide universal public services for all 
requiring those services, based on international best practice, and 
shall fund these services through direct progressive taxation. The 
taxation system shall be based on the principles of fairness and 

-          The freedom to conduct a business is recognized, and is 
limited only by the public good.

-          Everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific 
progress and its applications.

-          No law shall be passed attempting to abolish the right of 
private ownership or the general right to transfer, bequeath and inherit 
property except where such a law is necessitated by the common good and 
is in accordance with the principles of social justice.

Policy Objectives

-          To create an Ireland of Equals based on a stable and 
sustainable all-Ireland economy.

-          To maintain the maximum level of economic independence for an 
independent 32 county Ireland while participating in the EU and global 

-          To make the Irish economy serve society by ensuring that the 
economy generates the revenue needed to provide the highest possible 
quality of essential services and to vindicate the socio-economic rights 
of all.

-          To ensure that economic growth takes place in an 
environmentally sustainable manner and in a manner which enables the 
state to reverse the erosion of our environment that has taken place in 
past decades, and to bring about a reduction in the output of carbon 
emissions at a minimum in line with the commitments made by both states 
to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

-          To make Ireland more competitive by pursuing our 
socio-economic polices, including investment in housing, essential 
public services, childcare, infrastructure and life-long learning 
(including training).

-          To minimise Ireland’s vulnerability to recessions generated 
by international markets.

-          To reduce over-reliance on foreign direct investment (FDI) 
and consequent vulnerability to a global economic downturn, by ensuring 
that at a minimum the same quality and quantity of resources made 
available to inward investors are made available to indigenous 

-          To ensure that the business sector pays its fair share of 
taxation without undermining economic stability by utilising a fair and 
progressive taxation system to bring about a fair distribution of 

-          To ensure that an appropriate, fairly-paid job is available 
for every willing worker.

-          To promote the development of small and medium size 
enterprises (SMEs), from which the bulk of employment currently stems.

-          To promote a progressive enterprise culture and in particular 
to support and promote social economy enterprises and the development of 
national and local brands.

-          To bring about balanced regional development by redressing 
geographical imbalances and inequality in infrastructure and employment.

-          To utilise regulatory policy to protect the public good in 
the business environment including the promotion of affirmative action; 
family friendly work place policies; the protection of consumers, 
employees and vulnerable groups; protection of the environment and 
promotion of sustainable development; and safeguarding of health and 

Economic Overview and the Public Sector:

(3) Economic Overview

What kind of economy do we want?

Sinn Féin wants to build an all-Ireland economy where everyone can have 
a dignified and productive working life, a fair income and a good 
quality of life.

We also want to see the positive redistribution of resources to 
eradicate poverty and social exclusion by investing in the health 
service, education, housing, infrastructure, pensions and child welfare 
and other social assistance.

We recognise strength in diversity and we want to create a diverse and 
inclusive economy.  We want to enhance the economy’s internal integrity. 
We also want our economy to be truly independent, or perhaps 
inter-dependent, but not dependent – not on the British, not on FDI and 
multinationals, and not on the EU.  This would make our economy too 
vulnerable.  We want strong and also fair trade participation with 
partners in the EU and beyond.

We believe that Government, the public sector, entrepreneurs and workers 
all have their own positive parts to play in achieving these outcomes.

We recognise that some socialist economic models have not produced the 
results we want.  But there is also gathering evidence to present a 
strong challenge to many mainstream market supremacist economic 
orthodoxies cherished by the Irish establishment, including ‘trickle 
down’ theory, the theory of supply and demand, the absolute correlation 
of low taxation and low wages with competitiveness, the belief that 
inward investment is the key to solving economic problems, and the 
oversimplified equation of growth with well-being and social progress.

This demands recognition that:

-          GDP and GNP alone are not reliable indicators of social and 
economic advancement.  We need to use other tools such as the UN 
Development Programme’s Human Development Index, the Index of 
Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) and the Fordham Index of Social 

-          A fairer distribution of wealth and income is a far more 
effective way of dealing with poverty than the present dependence on 
economic growth alone.

-          A stable, strong economy and society requires balance between 
growth and socio-economic rights.

-          Equality pays for itself in the long-term but it costs up 
front.  The only way we can pay for implementing our vision is to ensure 
a healthy economy that creates jobs and nets tax back to the Exchequer.

The role of Government

Sinn Féin is unambiguous in our belief that prosperity based on equality 
can only be achieved by way of a hands-on, transparent and accountable 
involvement of the Government in the economy.  Government should have a 
central role in managing the economy.

Government interventions are not only needed to deliver equality and 
social justice but can also enhance the business environment, lead to 
job creation and contribute to sustainable economic growth. We need 
Government action to promote progressive entrepreneurship, R&D, 
infrastrutctural development, work-life balance, protection of workers 
rights and environmental objectives, the provision of public services 
that enhance quality of life for the population and support the goal of 
achieving balanced regional development, and to facilitate and enable 
the achievement by every worker of their full potential.

Sinn Féin supports the primary role of the state as a regulator, a 
collector and distributor of revenue, a provider of essential services 
such as healthcare, education, childcare, social services, policing, 
housing, waste management, water and sewerage, transport, energy, 
communications and security, and as a major employer in its own right.

The role of the public sector

The public sector also has a positive role to play in the economy. It 
provides equitable access to essential public services necessary for a 
good quality of life and the conduct of business, stable high quality 
employment, and can also provide an alternative (to taxation) source of 
income for the state through publicly-owned enterprises.

Neo-liberal economists take the view that expenditure on public services 
is a burden on the productive sectors of the economy, and hence the role 
of the state should be minimised and those services themselves provided 
as far as possible by the private sector. The reality is that public 
services have a positive effect on productivity of the whole economy, 
especially when public capital investment in infrastructure is taken 
into account.

The British Institute of Public Policy Research found that though it is 
often assumed that the sale of public enterprises reflects financial or 
operational problems with the enterprise itself, and therefore that the 
spread of these sales indicates a fundamental weakness in public 
enterprises the reality is that “in practice such sales often reflect a 
wish by the owning authority to resolve some immediate financial 
problems of its own budget by selling profitable public enterprises”.

This research also found that “public enterprises in the EU do not 
conform to the neo-liberal view that they are uncompetitive, inflexible, 
financially undisciplined, and mismanaged monopolies, being inextricably 
eliminated by the final solution of privatisation.” For example Aer 
Lingus – Europe’s most profitable state-owned airline – made a profit of 
€83 million in 2003. Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann all 
recorded a profit in 2003.  Yet these companies are currently under 
threat of privatisation.  This would be a waste of potential public 

Quality public services support economic development. We support 
provision of essential public services by the public sector – which is 
guided by the principles of equality of provision rather than by profit, 
and therefore provides more equitable access.  We oppose privatisation 
of such services.

However, we also believe that there is an urgent need to end waste and 
duplication in the public service in Ireland by developing and promoting 
cross-border strategies in all public service but in particular areas 
such as health, energy and transport, and by delivering public services 
on an all-Ireland basis.  In such a context public services would be 
produced on a larger scale (larger geographic unit and a larger 
population) with (on average) less input costs thus, by achieving 
economies of scale, reducing the cost of providing these services.

The Social Economy (Cooperative) Sector:

6.2  Encouraging Enterprise in the Social Economy

Sinn Féin believes that more attention should be devoted to the 
development of what is known as Ireland’s ‘social economy’.

The social economy is now receiving greater recognition in the EU and 
all member states’ national plans must facilitate the growth of the 
social economy. Within the EU the sector employs over 10 million people. 
Throughout Ireland it is estimated that the social economy accounts for 
between 5-8% of economic activity. This is comparable to the 6 Counties’ 
tourism industry at 5.6% or its construction industry at 5.1%.

It is increasingly recognised that the social economy has an important 
role to play in society particularly by enhancing the economy within 
communities suffering social and economic exclusion.

The social economy is necessary to build a strong, stable and 
egalitarian economy.  Therefore, a core objective of Sinn Féin’s 
enterprise policy is to support the full development of this presently 
neglected area of Irish entrepreneurship.

What is the Social Economy?

The social economy is about:

-         economic activity and job creation

-         local and worker ownership and empowerment

-         combined financial and social profits

Social Economy Enterprises (SEEs) have a social, community or ethical 
purpose.  They often operate using a commercial business model but have 
a not-for-personal-profit status. The sector includes a range of 
organisations such as:

-         credit unions

-         housing associations

-         the community and voluntary sector

-         local enterprise agencies (LEAs)

-         community businesses

-         co-operatives

-         employee-owned businesses

-         community development finance initiatives, and

-         social firms (a business that operates to fulfil social and 
commercial objectives simultaneously)

SEEs are concerned primarily with creating a more egalitarian society. 
Success is not based solely on turnover and profit but also job 
creation, personal and community involvement, capacity-building, 
educational advancement, and benefit to the community including the 
ability to generate income for and within the community.

The social economy promotes:

-         economic activities with social goals

-         sustainable communities and economies

-         social and economic benefits for individuals and communities

-         employee and community ownership and control of local economic 

-         social and economic inclusion and equality of opportunity

-         co-operation, solidarity and mutuality (beneficial sharing)

The social economy generally (but not exclusively) operates in areas of 
market failure, whether in particular geographical areas or in a sector 
which is not usually profit-driven, for example, childcare. They are 
usually areas which are overlooked by the private sector because they 
are deemed difficult to return a profit or simply because better 
opportunities arise elsewhere.

The social economy also plays a particularly crucial role enhancing the 
economy in areas of deprivation in the 26 Counties, such as the BMW 
region, rural communities, inner city areas and peripheral housing 
estates otherwise excluded from the rising tide of new prosperity.

In the 6 Counties the social economy has the potential to help rebuild 
communities which bore the brunt of the conflict and still suffer from 
exclusion, discrimination, disadvantage and marginalisation.  These 
communities, because of their disadvantaged status, have a unique case 
for centrally subsidised social economy projects which are not 
conditional on long term economic sustainability.

Worker ownership and co-operatives

The co-operative sector is a particular aspect of the social economy in 
which workers own and control the businesses and companies they work in. 
Over 800 million people are members of co-operatives worldwide.

Worker co-operatives are wholly owned and democratically controlled by 
the ‘worker-owners’. There are no external shareholders or non-worker 
management.  Membership is not compulsory for employees but only 
employees can become members.

There are also examples of hybrid ‘co-ops’ in which workers and 
consumers both have membership, but the types of membership are 
differentiated, sometimes into districts of the cooperative with each 
district often having a set amount of decision making power and profit 
distribution. A particularly successful form are the Italian social 
cooperatives, of which some 5,000 exist.

The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC) in the Basque Country is 
probably one of the most successful.  It now consists of 160 
cooperatives with 23,000 member-owners and is one of the top ten 
companies in Spain and the largest in Euskal Herria.

In the 26 Counties co-operative enterprises are already quite common in 
the agricultural sector with almost 50% of the total food exports coming 
from co-ops. One of Ireland’s best known co-ops is the Black Taxi 
Service based in North and West Belfast and Derry.  A more recent 
initiative is the tourism co-op operated by republican ex-prisoners in 
West Belfast.

Harnessing the Potential

Like any area of business the social economy needs to be dynamic and 
able to respond to changing needs within society. It needs to be 
recognised as a serious and progressive sector of the economy which 
gives added-value to economic and community development.

Since conventional market forces generally do not operate within the 
social economy (i.e., the primary reason for their existence is not to 
make a profit), social economy organisations often require public 
subsidy.  However, it should be recognised that some social economy 
projects can become self-sustaining and some pay for themselves in other 
ways.  For example by reducing unemployment and increasing community 
cohesion, they can in fact save society money in the longer term.

The following have been identified by the EU as areas for development of 
the social economy and where services are not being supplied either by 
the private or public sector:

-         everyday services such as childcare

-         services which enhance local districts (for example, housing 
improvements, improved public areas in urban centres, local public 
transport services)

-         cultural and leisure services (tourism, audio-visual services, 
cultural heritage, local cultural development)

-         environmental services (waste management, management of water 
services, protection and maintenance of natural areas, regulation and 
monitoring of pollution control)

Social economy projects and new sources of job creation have also been 
identified in the following areas:

-         energy saving and management of renewables (recycling, 
composting and energy schemes, domestic energy service companies)

-         regional food markets involving pacts between producers and 
consumers (box schemes, subscription farming, food co-operatives, market 

-         traditional small-scale arts and crafts industries

-         community based housing provision (self-build and self-repair 
projects, resident managed co-operatives)

-         community based workspace provision (repair of buildings for 
work or community use or for art space, new buildings for work or 
community use, self-build for work or community use, reclamation of land 
for workspace)

-         training and employment projects based on regeneration of 
areas (construction and non-construction skills training such as 
managing, costing and financing a project)

-         new financial instruments and supports (community trusts and 
foundations, community loan funds, local exchange trading schemes 
(LETS), credit unions)

The need for increased support

The social economy sector has traditionally been neglected and largely 
dismissed by Governments, hence its full potential remains untapped.

Groups and organisations operating within the social economy have found 
it particularly difficult accessing the wide range of business advice, 
guidance and training essential for social economy enterprises. They 
have historically received little support and there have been no 
dedicated management development programmes for the sector. This needs 
to be addressed on an all-Ireland basis.

Sinn Féin policy proposals

Sinn Féin is calling for:

·        The establishment of an all-Ireland network of social economy 
businesses and other enterprises.

·        A co-ordinated and comprehensive Social Economy Strategy on an 
all-Ireland and cross-departmental basis.  This would involve the 
creation of an appropriately funded, all-Ireland Social Economy 
Development Agency to develop the sector strategically. This should be 
under the aegis of the All-Ireland Ministerial Council and should report 
directly to the Taoiseach’s Office and to OFMDFM.  It should be a 
genuine participatory structure whereby those involved in the social 
economy are represented and can have effective input into policy 

·        Increased investment in community-owned enterprise units and 
infrastructure by the enterprise development agencies.

·        Measurably increased servicing of the sector by provision of 
business advice, guidance and training alongside dedicated management 

·        Help and training so that social economy businesses can tender 
for government procurement.

·        Government support for social economy community-run projects in 
the renewable energy, recycling, housing, agricultural, childcare and 
social service sectors.

·        Effective evaluation and monitoring to assess the impact of 
economic development programmes under the New Targeting Social Need 
(NTSN) and National Anti-Poverty Strategies (NAPS) in the 6 and 26 

In relation to the further development of the Irish worker cooperatives, 
Sinn Fein is proposing:

·        Adoption of a specific national strategy to support the 
development of the cooperative sector to make it a cornerstone of Irish 
economic and enterprise policy.

Government support to assist in the formation of cooperatives, following 
the example of the Scottish Assembly which is seriously considering the 
formation of a Cooperative Development Agency and introducing education 
on cooperatives to its education and enterprise modules in the secondary 
school curriculum.

Overreliance on FDI:

This overdependence on FDI will continue to be an issue of ongoing 
concern as multinational corporations and foreign investors encourage a 
‘race to the bottom’ in corporation tax rates, pay and working 
conditions on a global scale.  Ireland cannot compete with the 
developing world or with Eastern European countries on these terms nor 
should we try.  One way to guard against the destabilising effects of 
short-term capital inflows and subsequent outflows is the promotion of a 
strong indigenous enterprise sector.  So far, the EDAs have failed to do 
this effectively...

However, the higher concentration on FDI as opposed to indigenous 
industry has resulted in an unhealthy over-reliance on multinationals in 
the 26 County economy.  This is a risky position to be in given the 
unstable nature of global markets and global capital, and the ability of 
multinational companies to move quickly to other, cheaper locations.

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