|Rosheen Callender, Des Geraghty, Seamus Murphy
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Many thanks to Catherine Murphy TD for donating this document to the Left Archive. The document has been posted as the specific chapters which can be found here. As noted previously:
This document [published on foot of a series of meetings] is unusual in respect of the Irish left in that it sought to challenge fairly directly the assumptions held by a political formation. That formation, Democratic Left, less than a decade old had recently left government after Fianna Fáil had won the 1997 General Election. It had also shed two seats from its complement of six TDs.
This document examines the economy and has a paper presented by Des Geraghty and another by Seamus Murphy, financial journalist. As with other excerpts from the overall compilation there is far too much text to give any more than a flavour of the contributions.
For me, democratic socialism must be the political expression of a truly egalitarian value system which determines a particular approach to politics, economics, social policy and the environment. To be sustainable – or credible – it must be deeply rooted in a world view which demands equality and justice for all human beings, irrespective of race, creed, class or gender. It must be informed by the belief that human society can cater for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed; that people are naturally disposed to care 1or and share with each other; that by working together we can provide sustenance, jobs, shelter, security, and the opportunity for personal and collective expression and cultural achievement.
He also suggests:
It is against these yardsticks that I measure all political, economic or social theory, and assess the value of the European market, the trees in the Glen of the Downs, or the so-called Celtic Tiger. Thesee are the yardsticks that I apply to the debate on market or non-market economies, state ownership of public utilities, central planning, class struggle, national liberation, or political democracy. These are how I measure human progress.
Equally, I believe it was the departure from these essential human values that doomed the Soviet model of socialism to failure, and will in time undermine the liberal market capitalism of our own time.
I make this assertion because of the self-evident destructive potential inherent in the unrestrained values of individualism – not individuality, which I value greatly – and the exercise of avarice, exploitation, environmental destruction, injustice, over consumption, power, privilege, and abuse of human rights which permeates so-called ‘free market’ capitalism.
He examines various examples of ‘free’ markets and argues:
We must challenge continually the ‘myth of the market’ which· is constantly promulgated to oppose political attempts at redistribution of wealth or the establishment of social protection_. We must point out that leaving everything to the market is a political choice of conservatives, and usually those with strong vested interests and extensive economic power in the market already.
There is no single market. But there is scope for a variety of approaches to open markets, partial markets with significant regulation, and non-market sectors for such essential services as welfare, health, education and social housing. These are practical choices, the means to an end. Essentially, markets must be part of a democratically regulated economic and social order: a system which prevents monopoly, the abuse of economic power, and the absence of transparency, accountability and social responsibility. Markets must be a mechanism of -and not the master of -political life, and the role of politics must be to ensure the mastery of people over profit.
And he argues that there is a need to work towards a ‘New Left Economics’.
I would not dissent from anything contained in Des’s paper, but would rather argue for a different and very specific focus on the politics of financial markets in particular.
So, is it hopeless? Should we surrender, throw in the towel? No, but we have got to realise that these people are massively more powerful than they were 20 years ago. That is why Tony Blair is no Ernest Bevin and Bill Clinton resembles FD Roosevelt only in the libidinous region. They are· what the market will tolerate. They have public expenditure under control.
Politicians of all kinds have much less power than they had a generation ago. The political arena -the democratic space -has shrunk, and is still shrinking. The mills of the market grind exceedingly small. They are not satisfied with their current level of political power, they never will be satisfied. Remember, it’s not personal, the dealers are doing their job. It is the nature of the beast.
There are signs in several parts of the world that there is at last a fracture, between markets as useful mechanisms and the neo-liberalist claptrap of the resurgent right which has dominated the last 20 years -what George Bush called voodoo economics. Into this space, this fracture, we can insert a new politics -a new socialism for the new millennium. Markets as such do not frighten us, except when they try to subvert our democracy. I leave you with one thought -is not the whole history of socialism composed of the struggle to bring market mechanisms under democratic control? It is one way of looking at it.
In summation Rosheen Callender, economist with SIPTU and Special Advisor to Proinsias De Rossa when he was the Minister for Social Welfare, and the moderator argues:
Most speakers saw competition and market forces as part of today’s economic furniture. The challenge was to shape and control them; to force them, if necessary, to meet peoples’ needs – but not to keep denying, or railing against, the fact of their existence. Others were less ready to accept this, believing that ultimately it’s impossible to control market forces; therefore they cannot and must not be accepted. However, one such speaker added, somewhat sadly, that he couldn’t really offer any convincing alternative.
The facilitator of the discussion was Nuala Keher of the Open Learning Centre in UCG.