Tag Archive for Communist Party of Ireland

Another Europe is possible—another EU is not

The Communist Party of Ireland expresses its solidarity with and welcomes the decision of the British electorate, with working people having played a decisive factor to vote to leave the European Union. 
The decision of the people is a victory over Project Fear, unleashed by big business, global banks and financial institutions, with the EU and the ruling elite throughout the EU, including the Irish government, playing back-up. We congratulate those in the north-east of Ireland who had the opportunity to vote in the referendum and voted to leave. 
We call for a new referendum here in the Republic on continued membership, coupled with a halt to any further or deeper integration within the EU. We need to reassert national democracy and sovereignty. Also required is an end to the secret negotiations by the institutions of the EU and the United States regarding TTIP. 
The working people of Britain have sent a resounding message to London and Brussels, that they have had enough of the bullying, enough of permanent austerity, enough of putting the interests of big business above those of the people. This is also significant rejection of the straitjacket economics of the EU. The political and economic strategy of the EU is an affront to democracy and the ability of people to democratically decide their countries’ economic and social priorities and possible alternative direction. 
Throughout the EU, millions of workers will welcome this vote to leave, which may well mark the beginning of the end of the EU itself. Project Fear, masterminded by the EU, has been used to bully the Greek, Spanish, Italian, Cypriot and Irish people into accepting debt slavery, that there was no alternative but to bail out the banks and speculators over the rights of the people. But not only them: this strategy has been used against all working people right throughout the EU, using fear to impose the feeling that there is no alternative, using it to mask savage attacks on workers’ rights and conditions, and the further erosion of democracy and national sovereignty. 
The cycle of fear has now been broken. Working people need to take the opportunity now presented to assert their own demands throughout the EU, to assert themselves and build unity of action against these massive assaults. 
Now is the time for the mobilisation of working people to assert that there is a progressive left democratic alternative to the the plans and strategies being imposed big business through the institutions of the EU.

Monopoly capitalism and the Irish economy

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Two brilliant articles by Kieran Crilly published in this months Socialist Voice, magazine of the Communist Party of Ireland, look at monopoly capitalism in Ireland and expose the myth of competition which underlines much of the media presentation of the economy from establishment sources. Why? Because it is politically motivated by the desire to defend capitalism and increase its reach and strength over our lives. This well worth reading.

Kieran Crilly

Taken from the November Socialist Voice

Introductory orthodox economics is dominated by the concept of what is called “perfect competition.” This is based on four assumptions. (1) The industry or sector has a large number of small firms that cannot affect the price of the goods if they increase or decrease production. (2) All firms produce the exact same product. (3) It is easy to enter or leave the industry. (4) There is full knowledge of the prices and profits of all firms.

The reality is different.

The modern economy is dominated by large firms—monopolies and near-monopolies; and they set the prices for their products.

All goods in a modern economy are different in the eyes of the consumer, because of advertising and promotion.

In nearly all industries nowadays there are barriers to entry, so it is difficult for new firms to enter.

In some instances it is difficult to find out the price being charged: for example the tariffs of gas and electricity companies are so complicated that there are even comparison sites on the internet. The same applies to insurance and to mobile phones. And supermarkets change some of their prices by the day.

Most students study economics for one year and come away with the idea that the consumer has some say in the economy. We get consumers being urged to “shop around,” even though under a monopoly there is only one firm, and with oligopoly (a small number of firms dominating a sector) firms do not compete on price: they either collude (setting an agreed profit-maximising price) or follow the price set by the leading firm. Computers have made the setting of price to maximise profits easier. Firms (shareholders, through the profits they make) are the main beneficiaries of the economic system.

Students are taught that price is determined by supply and demand. But only demand exists while price is set by the monopolists and the firms in oligopoly to maximise profit. So supply is not relevant.

“Perfect competition” is Alice in Wonderland economics, used to hide the real structure of the economy. It is merely pro-capitalism ideology.

In this article we analyse different branches of the Irish economy according to the dominance of one firm or a small number of firms.

Supermarkets

This sector is dominated by five firms: Supervalu, Dunne’s, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl. They give the impression of competing on price by taking full-page advertisements citing low prices for a small range of products. With these enticements they encourage people to do a full shopping in their stores, leading to increased sales and profits.

Aldi and Lidl (two German companies) have expanded rapidly and have put pressure on the existing firms. Tesco has responded by opening smaller and more expensive “express” branches. Dunne’s has reacted by introducing zero-hour contracts.

There is informal evidence that Tesco charges higher prices in Ireland than they do in Britain, and that Aldi and Lidl charge higher prices than they do in Germany. They all try to maximise profits and so maximise share prices for their shareholders.

Banks

Banking in Ireland is dominated by Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Irish Permanent, Ulster Bank, and KBC.

Now, they do not compete on price for deposits or when they are lending. They try to confuse the public by offering a large number of different rates of interest on deposits. They also reduce rates without informing the depositor. They put small advertisements in the daily papers. For mortgages, Irish banks charge about 4 per cent, while their European counterparts charge 2 per cent. This is because they want to build up their capital so that they can be sold back to the private sector. In the case of Bank of Ireland it is to increase profits and share price for its shareholders.

So if you pay 4 per cent you will get a mortgage. It’s a “take it or leave it” proposition. The Central Bank does not regulate the interest rates in the interest of consumers.

Insurance companies

Insurance (motor and home) is dominated by six companies: FBD, Axa, Aviva, Liberty, Royal Sun Alliance (123.ie), and AIG. They have raised their prices on average by 20 per cent in the past year, but there is no way that customers can tell whether the price increase is justified.

As these are mainly subsidiaries of foreign companies, they may be taking advantage of Irish customers so that they can send back more profits to their parent companies. They are licensed by the Central Bank, but it does not regulate their prices. One would expect a regulation of prices with an oligopoly, where a small number of firms dominate, if the Central Bank were interested in consumers.

Mobile phones

There is only a small number of mobile phone manufacturers in the world. Apple, Samsung and Nokia dominate the market. They update their models regularly so that their older models become obsolete. They advertise heavily. They charge high prices for their products to maximise their profits.

There are three mobile network providers in Ireland: Meteor, Vodafone, and 3. Each provides a range of payment methods, and it is very difficult for customers to work out which is the best option for them. By confusing customers they aim to get the largest number of customers and maximise profits. They minimise costs by having a small number of retail outlets and a small head office staff. Once the network of masts is installed, maintenance costs are minimal.

Alcohol

The beer and cider sector is dominated by three companies: Diageo (Guinness), Bulmers, and Heineken. They set prices to maximise profits. They advertise heavily, and they sponsor sports and music events to attract young people into the drinking habit. They portray drink as a beneficial product, when all the medical evidence shows that in fact it is harmful.

The medical profession asked the government to introduce legislation that would ban drinks companies from sponsoring sports events. But the government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party put the profits of the drinks companies before the health of the population and decided not to introduce a ban.

The whiskey industry is dominated by two firms: Irish Distillers (Pernod Ricard) and Diageo. They are free from government regulation to set their prices to maximise profits.

Television satellite and cable companies

Satellite sports television is dominated by three companies: Sky, BT Sport, and Setanta. These companies offer billions for the right to screen live English premiership matches. They charge high monthly rentals to recoup their costs, and they make large profits.

Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Sky, was able to buy Fox News in the United States with the large profits he made in Britain and Ireland after Margaret Thatcher allowed him to set up Sky in the late 1980s.

The cable companies, UPC and now Eircom, are offering packages of phone, broadband and television; Sky is doing the same. You have to take all three services (a “bundle”) at a set price. The three companies are setting a similar price for the bundles. These offers are heavily advertised and are set at a low initial price to get new customers, who enable these firms maximise profits.

Terrestrial stations

RTE (including RTE1, RTE2, and TG4) is the state channel; its main rivals are TV3, BBC, UTV, and Channel 4. But it also has to compete with Sky.

The terrestrial channels are losing out to Sky, because they are buying up the rights to sports events which were available free. Sky has bought up the rights to some international soccer and rugby friendlies and GAA matches; if you haven’t got Sky you have no access to the matches.

Profit is the driving force for Sky in all of this. They gain extra income from new subscribers and from the extra advertising generated by the matches. Rupert Murdoch only wants Sky to grow and expand his empire.

Radio

National radio is dominated by RTE (Radio 1, Radio 2, Lyric, and Raidió na Gaeltachta). It is financed through the licence fee and advertising, and it competes for advertising with stations in the private sector. Getting funds from the licence fee impose an obligation on the television and radio stations to provide high-quality programming.

The private sector is dominated by two groups: Communicorp (Newstalk, Today FM, Dublin 98, Spin 1038, Spin Southwest, and TXFM), in which Denis O’Brien is a major shareholder, and UTV Radio Solutions (Dublin FM 104, Dublin Q102, Cork 96 FM, Limerick Live 95 FM, LMFM, U105, WLRFM, and Galway Bay FM).

The private stations aim to maximise profits, which they do by having wall-to-wall pop music. They have no commitment to high-quality programming. Because they are owned by businessmen it is probable that they have a pro-business and pro-conservative (Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) bias in their news and their economic and political coverage.

National newspapers

Irish News and Media Group, with six titles, is the largest media group in the country. It comprises the Irish Independent, Herald, Irish Daily Mail, Irish Mail on Sunday, Sunday Independent, Sunday World, and 50 per cent of the Daily Star.

The Irish Times (owned by a trust), the Irish Examiner (owned by the Crosby family of Cork) and the Sunday Business Post (owned by Key Capital and Paul Cooke, Irish businessmen) are the other Irish-owned papers. The Irish Daily Mirror and Irish Sunday Mirror are owned by the British company Trinity Mirror. The Irish Sun, Irish Sun on Sunday and Sunday Times are owned by Murdoch companies.

There are only six owners of newspapers in Ireland, despite the number of titles. Each of these companies tries to maximise its profits. They have a lot of power, as they set the agenda of politics here. The same comment applies to them as was applied to radio stations.

Cement and building materials

Cement Roadstone (CRH Holdings) is the largest company quoted on the Irish Stock Exchange, and the only Irish company to appear among the top 160 companies in Europe by income in 2012. It had a 100 per cent monopoly in the production of cement until recent years, when the Quinn factory was set up in Co. Fermanagh.

There is a significant barrier to entry when cement is produced in an island country. The shipping and delivery costs for cement are high, because its ratio of value to weight is low. A tonne of cement is cheap, but the cost of transporting it from England to Ireland is high. So cement prices were kept high, and large profits flowed in. Using these profits, CRH was able to expand abroad. The company is also dominant in the building materials sector.

Non-alcoholic carbonated drinks (fizzy drinks)

This sector is dominated by the Coca-Cola Group and the Pepsi-Cola Group and to a lesser extent by the Cantrell and Cochrane Group. In recent years Coca-Cola has introduced a smaller bottle (200 ml) instead of the previous larger bottle (330 ml); but hotels, pubs and restaurants are charging the same price as previously, which has the same effect as a whopping 65 per cent increase in price.

These companies are good at fighting their corner when it comes to governments “interfering” in their market. Obesity has become a growing problem, especially among young people, and health experts have called for a sugar tax. Carbonated drinks contribute to obesity because they contain large amounts of sugar. Our pro-business government ignored the pleas of the medical profession and the health needs of our young people and dropped the idea of a sugar tax. The needs of business are more important than the health of the nation.

Motor vehicles

In 2014 a total of 93,361 new cars were sold. Of these, 23,825 (26 per cent) were supplied by the Volkswagen Group, 9,658 (10½ per cent) were Toyota, 9,040 (10 per cent) were Ford, 7,410 (8 per cent) were Hyundai, 6,691 (7 per cent) were Nissan, and 6,156 (6½ per cent) were Opel. Between them these six companies supplied a total of 62,776 cars, or 68 per cent of all cars bought in Ireland. There is competition among the few, but the last thing they want to do is to compete on price.

It is interesting that the Central Statistics Office does not collect information on car prices.

Petrol and diesel

Four companies—BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell—dominate the petrol, diesel and heating-oil sectors. These were originally seven companies that merged to form three. From the late 1920s these companies shared production zones and transport costs and agreed sales prices. As a cartel, they colluded—and still collude—on price, and smaller operators follow suit.

No government would dare take on these companies, as they have overthrown governments and have pauperised countries, such as Nigeria.

Department stores (Dublin)

Three department stores—Arnott’s, Debenham’s, and Marks and Spenser—serve mainly middle-income people, with Dunne’s and Penney’s mainly serving ordinary people while Brown Thomas caters for the bourgeoisie.

Summary

There is nothing free about the “free market,” except that it is free from government regulation. But because nearly all branches of the economy, including those not listed above, are dominated by one or a small number of firms, the state should regulate these sectors much more in the interest of the majority of the population, who are being exploited by a relatively small number of firms.

Bailed out Permant TSB exposed for mortgage overcharging

Taken from http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d2b5-Ireland-Bank-slammed-for-overcharging-1,372

IRELAND’S communists condemned the country’s banking system yesterday after a probe revealed scandalous abuses that led to people losing their homes.

Permanent TSB, which was bailed out by the taxpayer during the 2008 banking crisis, has admitted “deeply regrettable” overcharging and wrongdoing on 1,372 mortgage accounts.

It has set up a “major” redress and compensation scheme for its customers who were forced off their tracker loans onto more expensive home loans.

The lender has admitted its actions led to customers paying higher instalments and being plunged into arrears, hit with costly legal bills and, in dozens of cases, having their home repossessed.

The scandal came to light after an investigation by the Central Bank of Ireland, which ordered the creation of a redress and compensation scheme for affected customers.

Central Bank enforcement director Derville Rowland said the offences had been “very serious” and their consequences “completely unacceptable.”

“Our first priority has been to address the customer detriment by requiring Permanent TSB to put in place a customer-focused redress and compensation programme,” she said.

Permanent TSB chairman Alan Cook and chief executive Jeremy Masding  said they “apologise unreservedly” for the very serious consequences of the bank’s failings.

“We are truly sorry that this has occurred and our absolute focus now is on correcting the position of every impacted customer as speedily as possible,” they said in a joint statement.

On the 61 people who lost properties, in some cases their homes, they added: “We will do everything in our power to help these customers.”

Communist Party of Ireland general Secretary Eugene McCartan said: “This is one in a line of overcharging and mis-selling scandals that have happened in Irish banking since the ’80s.

“As banking has increasingly become the key source of growth and profits within the global economy, we have seen this translate on the ground as the pursuit of profits at all costs, including at the expense of both customers and staff working in the sector.

“This won’t and can’t be regulated away, as to curtail the profiteering of finance is to halt the growth of capitalism more generally.”

CPI submission to R2W

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The full CPI submission to right2water CPI r2w submission

We submit these ideas as a contribution to what we believe is a necessary debate, onethat needs to take place not only within the trade union movement but also within communities throughout our country. We believe that the time has passed for patching up a system that has only offered, and can only offer, poverty, inequality, precarious employment, low wages, and few real rights for workers.

The capitalist economic system prevents the development of a truly just and democratic society—a society in which men and women are equal, a society built on respect for both age and youth, in which our culture and language are respected and encouraged, in which the public good is given priority over markets and profits, in which we have control and influence over all aspects of our lives: in our places of work, in our communities, within our families—an economic system serving the working people.

We believe that socialism—the social ownership of the means of reproducing the material needs of life, to be held and used in common by and for the people—is the only way that a decent society can be built.

 

A democratic programme for the 21st century

Starry Plough

The Communist Party of Ireland has published A Democratic Programme For the 21st Century.

The capitalist economic system that we live under is prone to cycles of boom and bust and is based on the exploitation of working people. It is a society in which the wealth created by working people is owned and controlled by a small minority. It is incapable of bringing about a civilised society: it is built on and sustained by inequality. Capitalism is also responsible for the deepening global environmental catastrophe. Women and men, local and migrant workers, employed and unemployed, are pitched against each other to ensure greater profits for that small minority. The very idea of mutual support and solidarity between people is a complete anathema to this system.

Our rulers, both domestic and external, tell us that sovereignty and independence are no longer relevant in the modern world, subsumed in the larger “European bloc” that is the EU. We disagree. This “European bloc” was constructed to serve the interests of international finance and transnational corporations. These forces and their institutions of control have no interest in serving the people.

The working people of Ireland have to take control if we are to end poverty, unemployment, emigration, and the destruction of urban and rural communities, discrimination based on gender, religion, race, or sexuality. Every generation since the foundation of this state has experienced mass unemployment and mass emigration. Our towns and villages are falling silent with the departing footsteps of our youth. Our communities are riven by drugs, poverty, and homelessness.

Working people, both urban and rural, have always had to wait in line and to fight for anything that we have gained. What we have gained is now being taken away. Each generation has had to fight to defend what their parents and grandparents struggled for. Working people, women and men, young and old, need to advance beyond this constant battle over the same issues: we need to transcend these constant, repetitive struggles to have our views heard, our needs and aspirations met.

To bring about lasting change we need to move beyond the narrow concept of democracy allowed by the establishment. Working people have little influence over the decisions of the Irish state, let alone the European institutions. Again and again the political manifestos we vote for are torn up the day after the election. Replace a disastrous government with new faces and the policies remain the same. It is “the markets,” we are told, that determine policy.’

Full document can be read here: A Democratic Programme

 

Outsourcing is a further transfer of wealth to big business

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland 3 September 2012

The Government is to outsource services in health, justice, education and local authorities as part of the EU-IMF cuts programme. Each department has been given until the end of the year to propose areas for outsourcing; but given the history of these major decision being discussed beforehand in foreign parliaments, it is likely that the principal areas have already been picked and that this is merely a rubber-stamping of this major negative development in the provision of services to Irish people.Private companies will carry out these services only if there is profit to be made off citizens. This will drive a reduction in the quality of services, accompanied by extra costs, either direct to the citizen or by way of government contract. These companies will put their own profit agenda ahead of citizens’ needs. It is likely that any outsourcing will also lead to offshoring as jobs are sent to the cheapest country.

We are still suffering the consequences of this private-sector agenda in banking that has bankrupted the country.

What outsourcing really represents is a transfer of money from citizens to big business. It will be the usual global monopolies that will win contracts through their cut-throat cost-cutting, and the state will hand over millions to boost their profits.

Once again Irish taxpayers will be paying for the lavish and outrageous lifestyles of a global elite while our services are cut, jobs outsourced and offshored, and our young people forced to emigrate.

Unions and citizens need to combine to defend jobs and services. The trade union movement, if it is to remain relevant, must no longer allow the tail to wag the dog but must break with Labour Party policy.