[Marxism] SF's Social Democracy...
donaloc at hotmail.com
Fri Mar 10 10:57:14 MST 2006
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
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
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
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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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