Sunday, September 11, 2016

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!



Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

John Molyneux

Written for Irish Socialist Worker , 11/9/2016

The demand for jobs – for the right to work – has always been fundamental for trade unionists, for socialists and for the whole working class movement.

The simple fact is that having a job is vital for lifting working people out of dire poverty, giving them a sense of self esteem, linking them to other workers and developing their potential to fight back.

Yet at the same it is clear that in Ireland today the slogan of ‘Jobs!’ is more and more being used by the political establishment for right wing, reactionary and anti-working class purposes.

The Apple scam is the latest example of this. “We cant expect Apple to pay any tax because this would threaten jobs.” But actually Enda Kenny and Fine Gael fought their election campaign partly on the jobs slogan and government ministers never stop saying their priority is jobs.

So this is an argument we need to grasp and be ready for.

Bogus

In the case of Apple its fairly easy because it’s so obviously bogus. Apple employs only 6000 people in this country – that’s less than Paddy Power (7000) and less than half of either Tesco or Dunnes (14,000 each). Just €1 billion investment generates at least 10,000 decently paid sustainable jobs plus those jobs can be used to perform socially vital tasks like building social housing and improving the health service.

So the choice between Apple’s 6000 jobs and the huge number of jobs and vast social benefits that could be created with €13 billion is a no-brainer.

However, there’s more to it than this. The fact is that any corrupt, rotten, inhuman and unacceptable practice is likely to involve some people working in it and so can be, and will be, defended on the grounds of jobs.

A poison gas factory in the middle of Tallaght, a concentration camp in West Cork, an oil rig in the middle of Dublin Bay – they are all by definition ‘local jobs for local people’.

Apart from the oil rig in Dublin Bay, an actual proposal, these are imaginary examples to show the logic of the argument. But they are not that far fetched. In Britain the Tories and Blairites defended spending £135 billion on Trident – an instrument of unbelievable mass murder – with precisely the argument about jobs in the ‘defence’ industry.

So giving in to the jobs argument just leaves us open to blackmail that can be used to excuse every crime under the sun.

Profits

But why is it always jobs the establishment politicians go on about and not other things working class people need. They don’t say, ‘Wages! Wages! Wages!’ or ‘Houses! Houses! Houses!’.

The answer is that any job involves an employee/ worker but also an employer/ boss. It means wages for the worker but also, crucially, profits for the boss. It is precisely through employing workers and exploiting them by invariably paying them less than the value of the work they perform that bosses make profits in the first place.

So when Enda Kenny or Richard Bruton talk about creating jobs and present themselves as social benefactors they expect working class people to hear “wages” and be grateful but they also know that their business cronies will hear “profits” and also be grateful.

This is why they are so keen on the jobs slogan. It masks the conflict between classes and seems to please both sides at once.

But next time you hear the ‘jobs’ slogan, and it wont be long, remember these basic things: a) it’s not true multinational corporations ‘create jobs’, humans worked for thousands of years before such a thing as a corporation existed; b) what they have done is not create jobs but corner the market in them by controlling the wealth and the means of production; c) the only reason Apple or any of the rest of them employ people is to make a profit out of them and if it stops being profitable they lay them off without a backward glance. Remember Clerys and Vita Cortex!

But then it is precisely because Apple are making so much profit out of their operation in Ireland that they, along with Starbucks, Google, Facebook and the rest, are unlikely to quit even if they are forced to pay a bit of tax.



Art in the face of Barbarism


Stuff Happens: Art in the face of barbarism

John Molyneux

This was written as the forward to "Wars of Aggression", the catalogue for May Ayres' current exhibition at the Belfry, St.Jon on Bethnal Green, London.

I first encountered May Ayres and her work when I visited her studio in East London in 2007. I was struck instantly by the power of her art – and, equally instantly, formed a warm regard for her as a person.

The main theme of her sculpture was war and the pity of war and in particular the Iraq War of 2003-4. At that time the Iraq War was fresh in all our minds as was the mass people’s movement that had tried in vain to prevent it. What I especially recall from that period are two large and stunning statues which so effectively expressed everything that was wrong with that horrible war. The first, entitled Pro-Consul, was a devastating portrayal of John Negroponte who, having previously overseen death squads for Ronald Reagan in Central America, became US Ambassador to Iraq in 2004. What this work conveyed with exceptional clarity and force was Ayres’ vision of this man as deeply corrupt – the embodiment of evil. The second, Fallujah, depicted a gun toting US soldier manhandling an Iraqi .So strong was this work, so powerfully did it express the brutality and horror that was inflicted on Fallujah in the infamous Operation Phantom Fury, that it completely dominated the ‘Left in Vision’ show of which it was a part.

Now, eight or so years later, May Ayres is still making sculptures about war and the pity of war and still responding to the Iraq War and its aftermath. It might be suggested that she should ‘move on’. But in response it should be said that the history of art yields many examples of artists who produced great work while and through focussing, seemingly obsessively, on a certain theme: Cezanne on Mont St.Victoire, Mondrian on grids with primary colours, Rembrandt on himself and so on. And in political terms we owe a considerable debt to people who refuse to “move on”. Without them would there ever have been justice for the victims of Bloody Sunday, for the Guildford Four or the Birmingham Six or the Hillsborough Families and so many others?

Moreover, the disastrous legacy of the Iraq War is still with us in the most immediate sense. Before the invasion of 2003 the Middle East was already a dangerous cocktail of conflict, tensions, bitterness, war and repression. This was due to a century or more of imperialist interventions and rivalries designed to maintain control of the world’s major oil supplies and sustain Western hegemony in this economically and strategically vital region. These ranged from the Balfour Agreement of 1917, the Sykes-Picot division of Arabia, the role of oil companies (especially BP), the establishment of the state of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, the overthrow in a US engineered coup of the Mossadegh Government in Iran, the Suez adventure, the various Arab-Israeli wars, the support for Saddam Hussein in the Iraq-Iran War, the Gulf War of 1991, the support for Saudi Arabia, Mubarak in Egypt, Bahrein  and many other repressive regimes in the area, through to the invasion of Afghanistan.

But after the Iraq War all of these conflicts and tensions were raised to a new pitch of intensity. In addition to directly killing 100,000 people or more (estimates vary greatly) and destroying Iraqi society and infrastructure the War, which even in official US terms lasted until 2011, had the effect of stirring up and fuelling a wave of sectarian conflict that threatens to engulf the Middle East. Like any imperialist power occupying a subject nation the US feared a united national resistance and resorted to the age-old tactic of divide and rule. In Iraq this meant backing a corrupt and viciously sectarian Shia government. This, in turn, produced an equally sectarian Sunni backlash and out of this was born the horror of ISIL/Daesh and more war and killing that continues to this day in a vicious cycle of imperialist intervention, terrorist atrocity and Islamophobic backlash.

Moreover, although it is both abundantly clear and very widely recognised, that Britain was taken into the Iraq War (against the wishes of the people) on the basis of deliberate and calculated lying about ‘weapons of destruction’ by our government and its Prime Minister, Tony Blair, there has still not yet – at the time of writing – been any official recognition of this or restitution for it. As it happens between the writing of this Forward and the opening of this exhibition we will see the publication of the long awaited Chilcot Report. Is it too much to hope, therefore,  that May’s exhibition will coincide with  a) an  acknowledgement of  some of the truth of this shameful episode; b) recommendations of some kind of justice for these war crimes and this deception of the British people?

So how does May Ayres’ art respond to this history and this state of affairs? With an impassioned combination of deep human sympathy for the suffering involved and rage and indignation against the hypocrisy and callous inhumanity of the perpetrators. It is work that brings together the influence and legacy of Kathe Kollwitz and Georg Grosz.

The element of sympathy and solidarity with the suffering is most clearly represented in the moving Witness to Carnage and the unbearably sad Samar Hassan. (It is worth noting that May is close enough to this history to know the names and stories of people few others have heard of e.g. the rape victim Abeer Qassam al-Janabi). The element of indignation is strongest in the two awesome columns devoted to Condoleezza Rice and Theresa May.  But these columns, while brilliantly satirising Rice and May, also insistently make the point that these politicians stand literally on the bodies of their victims.

May informs me that she is working on a statue called Collateral Damage depicting an Iraqi mother holding aloft her dead child.. It will, she says, be over six feet tall and will convey that although ‘the children are victims’ the Iraqi people ‘against all odds, remain defiant’. At the time of writing I have not seen this piece but knowing Ayres’ work as I do I have little doubt that it will be immensely powerful. It is also strikes me that it will recapitulate and express Ayres’ whole artistic project: a defiant woman holds up the body of a dead child to its killers and to the world.


Finally I want to say that such is the political and emotional power of Ayres’ work that one can easily lose sight of the exceptional craft and artistry involved in its making. In fact without that artistry and the arduous intense labour it entails the great political effect would not be realised. It is, in its way, an heroic endeavour and achievement.