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Karl Marx


University of Limerick

October 22nd – 23rd 2010

Supported by:

The Institute for the Study of Knowledge in Society (ISKS)

The Department of Sociology

The Department of History

The Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies  

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

The Postgraduate Student Association Programme

Friday October 22nd, ROOM SR3006 (Schrodinger Building)

11:00: Conference Opening Address – Professor Helena Sheehan

11.30: Plenary – Dr. Kieran Allen (Deptartment of Sociology, UCD)

Aftershock:  Ireland’s Economic Crash and the Global Recession


The people of Ireland have suffered one of the worst declines in living standards of an industrialised country since the Second World War.  Yet its elite are being hailed as pioneers of a revived neo-liberalism. When other governments were embarking on stimulus programmes in a half hearted return to Keynesianism, Ireland boldly adopted a strategy of wage cuts and public sector reduction. It boasted that it was able to do so without significant social upheaval. This example was used by other countries, who subsequently adopted a deficit reduction strategy after the last G20 meeting.

This paper argues that the Irish government’s strategy has, in fact, been a failure and that the long term prospects for Irish capitalism are bleak.  Ironically, its own example of a ‘successful’ austerity will help to reduce the very export markets that it pinned its hopes on. The bank bail outs were designed to buttress support for capturing a niche market in global financial services. This, however, is only a further recipe for leaving the country open to more financial turbulence.  The much hailed knowledge economy will be undermined by lower levels of investment in education. In reality it is intimately tied to maintaining FDI from the pharmaceutical industry but this is by no me means guaranteed.

The paper finishes by suggesting that the current global crisis will be protracted. Capitalism has entered a major systemic crisis and, due to the concentration and centralisation of capital, re-structuring via a crash has become more difficult. In this situation serious imbalances between different economies are also likely to increase state tension. The only viable alternative strategy has become resistance.

Chair: Dr Eoin Devereux

12.40– 13.30: Lunch

13.30 – 14.50: Session I

Chair: Dr. Tadhg O’ hIfearnain

1. Dr. Andy Story (UCD):  The Great Gas Giveaway – The Political Economy of Plunder

2. Dr. Tom Turner (UL): Are Capital & Labour interests reconcilable under Market Capitalism? An Empirical Test.

3. Professor Terence McDonough (NUI Galway): The Celtic Tiger and its Crisis: A Social Structure of Accumulation Analysis

14:50-15:00: Short Break

15.00 – 16.20: Session II

Chair: Dr. John Logan

1. Terry Dunne (MIC): Class and Collective Action in Pre-Famine Ireland.

2. Stephen Ryan (UL): Class Conflict in Drumsna.

3. John McAnulty (Socialist Democracy Ireland): The Hunger Strikes – A defeat for Republicanism, a defeat for the working-class.

16:20-16:30: Short Break

16.30 – 17.50: Session III

Chair: Odette Clarke

1. Paul O’ Brien (ILHS): Marxism, History, and Culture: 1930 -1945.

2. Dominic Haugh (NUI Galway): A Lost Opportunity – The potential for Socialist Revolution in Ireland 1917 – 1922 and the role of Marxism in the workers movement during this period.

3. D. R. O’ Connor Lysaght (Socialist Democracy Ireland): The coming Revolution in Ireland.

Scholars Club

Saturday October 23rd

ROOM C1063 (Charles Parsons Theatre, Main Building)

10.00: Plenary – Professor Dave Hill (School of Arts & Education, Middlesex University)

Neoliberal/ Neoconservative Capitalist Globalisation, The Current Crisis, and Resisting the Capitalist Class War from Above in Ireland and other countries  in Western Europe.


This paper puts forward a Marxist critique of neoliberal/ neoconservative capitalist globalization and its varying impacts. The paper develops from the series of books (Education and Neoliberalism, edited by Dave Hill) published by Routledge in 2009. I represent the analyses and findings of those books and develop them in the light of the 2008-2010 financial and legitimacy crises of neoliberal capitalism, and developing resistance to `the cuts’ in, and assault on, workers’ rights, pay and social wage/ benefits, across the capitalist world, and in Britain and Ireland.

The paper examines neoliberal impacts on equality, equal opportunities and access to schooling and education; impacts on democracy/democratic control of schools and education; impacts on critical thinking, and analytical skills among students and teachers/ lecturers; and impacts on the rights/pay and condition of education workers- in particular those in private sector schools and universities in spaces vacated by state provision.

I contest the legitimacy of neoliberalising government policy and its subordination to and participation in the neoliberal project of global capital, a project encompassing what David Harvey (2005) calls “the class war from above” (see also Dumenil and Levy, 2004), using what Naomi Klein (2007) has described as shock and awe’ tactics to `sell’ —the diversion and appropriation of welfare funding and wages into the pockets of a small minority of the super-rich, `the masters of the universe’, the capitalist class.

The current crisis of capital accumulation, as predicted by Marx and Engels [1847], and as amplified now in the current (2008-2010) crisis of Capital- is having amplified impacts across the capitalist world, for example in England and Wales, in France, in Portugal, in Greece- and , very notably, in Ireland. These encompass reductions in public expenditure (the social wage, including public/ state educational provision) as well as reductions in the actual wage of workers. These are capitalist responses to `paying for the bankers’ crisis.   The current crisis has led and, it is argued, will lead to the intensification of the extraction   of surplus value, the progressing global immiseration of workers, and the intensification of control of populations by ideological and repressive state apparatuses (Althusser, 1971; Greaves, Hill and Maisuria, 2007).

The paper concludes by examining forms and organisation of resistance to the `class war from above’, including past and current models and actions, and discussing the united front and popular front strategies, parliamentarism and direct action (Socialist Worker, 2010; Taaffe and Mulhearn, 2010; The Socialist, 2010; Trotsky, 1922).

Chair: Professor Helena Sheehan

11.10 – 11.30: Tea / Coffee Break

11.30 – 12.50: Session IV

Chair: Gabriella Hanrahan

1. Jean Bridgeman (NUI Maynooth): A matter of trust – “The politics of working-class self education”.

2. Kieran McNulty (People Before Profit): How does the Social Model of Disability challenge the notion of charity? 

3. Dr. Eamonn Slater (NUI Maynooth): Marx on Economic Distress and the State’s inability to alleviate that distress (among the wine growers of the Moselle region of the 1840s).

LUNCH: 12.50 -13.40

13.40 – 14.50: Plenary – Clare Daly (Socialist Party)

Privatisation – A disaster for workers & the economy?


As the government gears up to sell off the state’s economic jewels, a barrage of propaganda will be unleashed to say that these assets are a drain on the economy, a luxury we can’t afford, a handy way of generating funds, and are crucial to improving our economic competitiveness. Meanwhile they bring into public ownership, the debts and liabilities of irresponsible banks. The legacy of Eircom and Aer Lingus has valuable lessons in the battle ahead against privatisation in order to defend public services, jobs and conditions.

Chair: Dr. Carmen Kuhling

14:50-15:10: Tea / Coffee Break

15.10 – 16.30: Session V

Chair: Dr. Joachim Fischer

1. Jill Wharton (Rice University USA): Seamus Heaney – Poetics of the Postcolonial?

2. Dr. Sinead Kennedy (NUI Maynooth): From Repudiation to Reconciliation – Marxism and Irish Modernism.

3. Professor Conleth Hussey (UL): Suppression of the Chromatic Rebellion – Mathematics in the Service of Universal Human Emancipation

16.30 – 16.50: Tea / Coffee Break

16.50 – 18.00: Plenary – Professor Hillel Ticktin (Critique)

Global Crisis and Dependent economies, like Ireland, in the Context of a Declining Capitalism


This article argues that the logic of the present depression is one of disintegration. The logic is clear even if dismal. During a crisis the poles of the contradiction pull apart- use-value from exchange value, sale from purchase, department one from department two, and one sector from another. Unless there is a resolution to the crisis, for which none can be foreseen the logic is one of disintegration. The parts of the economy and society will continue to pull apart and be reflected and refracted in national and geographic disintegration. Nationalism, as opposed to a struggle against a national oppressor, in this context plays a reactionary role.

The only way out, for the whole population, is for the workers to become not just a class but the universal class, both socially and geographically.

Ireland is not an emerging country but it is a small country dependent on Anglo-American capital and Euro subsidies, which shares its subordinate role with those of the former colonies. It is now obvious that we are in a depression. The dynamics of capitalism are given by its dominant imperial power, its financial capitalist hegemon, the United States, and it is clearly in decline itself. Decline of capitalism and crisis are closely intertwined even at a superficial level. In a global context there is only one finance capitalist power, with Britain as a junior partner. The remainder of developed capitalist countries are subordinate. Although there is an industrial division of labour, it is still controlled by a few countries, the United States and Germany in particular. Given de facto world overproduction of crucial items like cars and today even of computers, other relatively industrialised countries are forced to find particular subordinated and de-industrializing roles. The concept of inter-imperialist rivalry used by some who hearken back to the days before 1914 has little purchase on reality.

The present crisis presents itself as a huge agglomeration of surplus capital, unable to find profitable outlets, acceptable to capital itself. The essential barrier remains- the fear that reflation will strengthen the working class. On the one side there is an ever bigger surplus of capital which cannot be invested and on the other increasing levels of unemployment. Marx’s famous statement about the greater the growth of capital, the greater the growth of surplus labour has now been extended to a global level.

Capital, itself, has no solution other than cutting the public sector, which can only intensify the downturn. The idea that emerging markets, so called, will pull the world out of the downturn is a chimera. Finance capital and its political offspring, neo-liberalism no longer have the same force. If economic forces cannot hold the system together the ruling class will use more authoritarian methods.

Chair: Dr Micheál O’ Flynn

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