Editorial from Irish Political Review, November 2008
War & Remembrance
Modern Ireland lives by the money market set up for it by Charles Haughey. And, as the Roman Emperor said about the tax on latrines: Pecunia non olet. Money doesn't smell.
It has no character. It is exchangeable for all qualities but has no quality itself except its power to buy whatever quality one fancies. Marx defined it as "the universal equivalent". He saw it in mid-Victorian Britain when Manchester capitalism and the Royal Navy dominated the world. If you had enough money you could buy anything in the world.
But what Marx saw was still a tendency rather than an accomplished fact. There were still things in the world then that money could not buy. But the apparently irresistible tendency of change in the world, powered by British capitalism and the British Navy, was to make everything purchaseable.
Only forty years ago, when Aristotle Onasis bought Jackie Kennedy, De Gaulle summed up the affair in one contemptuous word: "Putain!"—Whore! Bourgeois Europe in those days—Christian Democratic and Gaullist—imagined that certain human values were sacred and durable. We know better these days. If absolutely everything is not yet purchasable, then it ought to be. The world ought to be a single market in which not only every material object but every feature of human life is a commodity.
Ireland has played a considerable part in pushing the sphere of action of the universal equivalent close to universality. The Celtic Tiger has been an enthusiastic player in globalism. Haughey pulled it back from the verge of national bankruptcy and taught it how to play the global fiance markets. That is how it flourished and became modern.
It shed its qualities and became rich. Haughey thought it could become rich and retain its qualities. Because of Haughey, Christian Democratic Europe thought so too, and at a critical moment helped it along with a gift of £8 billion. The Celtic Tigger took the money, blackguarded Haughey, and helped Britain to undermine the integrity of the European Union.
Pat Cox flourished as a value-free Liberal. He had some credibility in Europe because of being Irish, and he used it to destroy the hegemony of the Commission on a spurious 'corruption' issue—having to do with a few cents that found their way to the hairdresser of a French Commissioner. Remember that? Of course not! No sensible person does.
Cox undermined the Commission in the British interest. It was certainly not in the Irish interest. The EU has been adrift ever since.
The Irish Government acted promptly to protect its financial system. Finance is what modern Ireland knows. The purposeful action of the Government, and the tardiness of Britain, has led to a superficial surge of nationalism on the part of some who have been disparaging it for a generation—Eilis O'Hanlon of Belfast and the Sunday Independent for example. She has been fanatically hostile to the Sinn Fein Peace Process in the North, but on a sudden she found that she was a kind of Irish nationalist when for an awful moment it seemed that, because of British financial misconduct, her money in the bank might be lost, and Brian Lenihan saved it.
Ireland played no part in creating the global system of finance. It just became a player in it. The system was created by Britain. It was later taken over by the USA with Britain as its lieutenant.
Globalism is not an autonomous system that evolved. It is a system constructed and maintained by the military and economic power of Britain and the USA. And it cannot exist without a master.
The nucleus from which the global market was developed by Britain was the Triangular Trade of the 18th century in the medium of slavery and the slave trade. Thereafter it was constructed around the British Empire, which secured its dominant position in the world by defeating France in what might be described as the first World War (1756-63). The Empire was given an immense boost in 1815 by victory in the long war to prevent revolutionary France from making Europe the centre of a world system. A century after that there was a war against Germany with the same purpose. During the intervening century Britain established something close to what we know now as the world market.
The Empire damaged itself severely in the two unnecessary World Wars of the 20th century. (The second of them was indisputably unnecessary, in that Germany would have been in no condition to fight a war in 1939 if Britain had not deliberately built up the power of the Nazi state during the thirties for another purpose, which it was unable to realise.
In 1945 the USA took over the business of ruling the world. The Bretton Woods system, which there is now meaningless talk of reviving, was an arrangement made by the USA for the system of states which it restored and made functional after 1945. It was maintained for a quarter of a century by the dominance of US military/economic power. It broke down when US military power was successfully challenged by North Vietnam.
During a critical point in the Great War, Lord Balfour ruled out a negotiated peace on the ground that it would undermine Sterling as a dominant international currency in the world market created by Britain. Britain lived by the exploitative power of its money in the world as much as by its industry.
Britain, like Ireland in the past generation, lives very extensively through the finance markets. But, unlike Ireland, it has a strategic productive capacity, and it does not live blandly in a money that does not smell.
Its major industry is its arms industry. Its arms industry and its Army make it a power in the world second only to the USA in the matter of active policing. It might be that it will be displaced by China and/or Russia in the course of the next generation, but as of now it is the second power in the world.
And it has always taken care to keep nationalist sentiment simmering with commemorative events, militarist displays, and anti-foreign campaigns in mass circulation newspapers—which the Government can take advantage of and disown at the same time.
Ireland has been actively disparaging national commemorative events and nationalist sentiment during the past twenty years. Professor Foster has been given his head to ridicule the commemoration of major events in the national history. He has preached forgetfulness as progressive.
But at the same time he has attacked "amnesia" with regard to other events, the chief of these being the participation of Irishmen in the British Army in Britain's war.
A false memory of forgetfulness has been worked up. The society has apparently been persuaded that, out of nationalist bigotry, it had forgotten that large numbers of Irishmen fought Britain's battles for it. It did not forget. It just did not celebrate Irish slaughter in Britain's interest.
Ireland is now well on the way to forgetting what it did for itself and remembering and celebrating only what it did for Britain.
See the British Legion fancy dress party celebrating British war in Cork city, and the opening of the Mayo 'Peace Park' celebrating war—without regard to old-fashioned ideas about just war—that was opened by President McAleese: that perfect chameleon who always reflects the transient fashion of the moment, but may do so only with Government approval.
The message of the Mayo affair is: War is peace if it is British.
War & Remembrance.
Banking On The Country.
The EU And The Credit Crisis.
Lenihan's Budget (Reader's Letter).
'Irish' Regiments: The Empire They Fought For.
The Dead Hand Of Eamon Gilmore.
Collapse Of Neo-Liberal Experiment.
Shorts from the Long Fellow
True Story Of The Events At Coolacrease.
Land Grabbers (Part 3)
Michael Collins' False "Vision" Of Ireland
In The World.
Remembering The British Legion (Report).
Commodities: there's anudder way to build an economy.
Antipodean Notes (Part 2).
Does It Stack Up?
Property Before People; That's Budget
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