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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:42 pm    Post subject: plutosocialism Reply with quote

The author of this piece has given me permission to reproduce it in full. I hope it may be of interest to some of you.


In a sense the old claim of the Green Party to be neither Left nor Right but ahead has turned out to be correct. In combination with Fianna Fail, the Greens have helped to apply the power of the State (traditionally associated with the Left) to assist the rich (whose interests are traditionally associated with the Right). In that sense, in the game of economic inequality they are ahead of neo-liberalism and bureaucratic statism alike.

Of course, this isnt just an Irish development and we have seen its predecessor in the USA. A new global political force has come about of which the Irish version is (perhaps) currently at the cutting-edge: plutosocialism, or socialism for the rich. In an ironic twist, the Greens in government have traded the possibility of helping to increase freedom and justice (through a guaranteed basic income for all) for a drastic decrease in both freedom and justice (through plutosocialism).

That plutosocialism is a new development of the capitalist (or capitalist) system quite distinct from neoliberalism may be seen from the fact that some of the most trenchant political critics of plutosocialism (even if they dont call it that) are themselves neoliberals, and to the Right of the political spectrum. Their argumentshared with some on the Left--is that, if you have a capitalist system, the banks as part of that system should be subject to the laws of capitalism itself. In the theory and practice of capitalism, when you go belly-up, you go out of businessyou shouldnt expect a State bailout. The bondholders should not have expectedand indeed probably did not expectto escape scot-free. A debt-for equity swap would have been the appropriate capitalist remedy, not a wholesale State bailout with taxpayers money. Now that the Irish economy is in freefall, with the Euro and even the EU under threata situation to which Fianna Fail, supported by the Greens, have significantly contributed--the concept of making the bond-holders pay is being seriously debated at last.

But its now much too late: a bit like locking the stable door after youve given away the horse. And what might have been done easily enough a year or so ago will now come up against the argument that it could destroy the Euro and the EU.

Mixing elements of capitalism and socialism is nothing new. Social democracy trieswith varying degrees of success or non-success--to combine the freedom of the market with the social protection of the state. Plutosocialism, on the other hand, involves state intervention in the market to enhance the wealth of the rich at the expense of the poor: socialism for the rich, capitalism for everyone else. That plutosocialism is a genuinely new transformation (or deformation) of the capitalist system may be seen by the usual phenomena of co-option (eg the Government got the top echelons of the civil service on side by reversing their pay cuts) and ideological displacement/distortion (the media-generated blame of the unions and the public service for our economic problems, which neatly diverts attention from the real authors of the current economic calamity, the finance capitalists and their political allies).

The fact that the unions, the public service, home-buyers and other sectors of the population may, in one way or another, have contributed to the bubble should in no way obscure the fact that they are not the major figures to blame. In the case of home-buyers for example, the question should be asked why so many people in Ireland, in contrast with their counterparts in continental Europe, feel they have to buy a home rather than renting one. The lack of rights for renters has surely got something to do with the situation: the fault lies with successive Irish governments, who have skimped on tenants rights and public housing. If the only real home you can have is one you own yourself, there is no moral blame attached to paying (politically generated) sky-high prices in the fear that, if prices keep going higher, you will in fact never have a home. The blame lies with the political forces that allowed the situation to develop in the first place.

The contribution of the Green Party to the development of this new economic system of plutosocialism was as effective as it was (one hopes) unconscious. One has to assume that the Greens were carried along unconsciously by the impetus of (finance) capitalism and its political servants in Fianna Fail, rather than by any conscious intent to contribute to the consolidation of plutosocialismwhich does not of course negate the power of the economic system to use politicians, Green ones included, for its benefit.

There was, though, always the possibility that the development of plutosocialism could be questioned from within the grassroots of the Green Partya questioning that might have ultimated in the Greens having to leave government; a possible arrest of the disastrous bank-bailout policy; and the heading off of the present threat to the Euro and the EU itself. However, such an eventuality never had wings, as the Party either refrained from consulting the membership; or when it did consult them, did not listen to them when they gave an unacceptable answer; and finally ensured that the (NAMA) bailout was presented to the members in such a way that the only likely response was one in favour thereof.

In conclusion, one would have to admit that the banking bailout, which looks like shaking the euro and even the EU to its foundations, potentially causing misery not just in Ireland but throughout the Continent as well, was not without environmental benefits from a Green point of view. At least the spoiling of the Irish countryside through inappropriate development has halted, if only temporarily. In that sense, the Greens have succeeded splendidly, if accidentally, in achieving at least one of their environmental goals.

Paul OBrien (personal capacity)

(Paul OBrien is currently Convenor of the Economic Policy Group of the Green Party/Comhaontas Glas; in the past he was joint Coordinator, member of the Coordinating Committee, spokesperson on Economics, Facilitator of National Council meetings, involved in drawing up various versions of the GP/CG Constitution, etc.)

December 2010

I experience pleasure and pains, and pursue goals in service of them, so I cannot reasonably deny the right of other sentient agents to do the same - Steven Pinker
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