Credit: Gript

The Far Left demands Debt Forgiveness as a Solution to Ukraine War 

The far left in Ireland is fond of having its cake and eating it. The only actual revolutionary movement there has ever been in Ireland, let us be honest, was the republican one stretching back to the 1790s and indeed preceded by and shadowed by various “secret societies.” They were the ones who staged uprisings and died heroically and had ballads written about them.

The far left has had to be content with manufacturing a mythological history based on imaginary Soviets whose sources are Ken Loach movies and some lad putting up a red flag during a creamery strike for an extra shilling a week, or an IRA Volunteer in the Civil War who told his sister in a letter from Mountjoy that “your man Lenin seems like a sound man.”

Rather than ever actually participate in any of the dangerous stuff, they tended to issue pronouncements outlining their “critical support” and raps on the knuckles for being “right wing sectarian nationalists” for the IRA and other arcane scriptural excuses for not getting stuck into the colonists and the “fash” themselves. The predecessor of the current Socialist Party distinguished itself by calling on the Provies to embrace the “workers in uniform” when they were kicking doors down in Belfast and shooting people on civil rights marches.

Now the same tendency, led by Paul Murphy TD, finds itself in another theological quandary over the war in Ukraine. The dilemma which the communists face is illustrated by the People Before Profit faction which controls the Irish Anti War Movement. It wants to “applaud” the resistance of the Ukrainian people, while at the same time lecturing them that whatever they think they might be at, they are really only a proxy for NATO and the United States.

The IAWM claims to have the imprimatur of the “Ukrainian Pacifist Movement” which others, including other far left groups, have questioned both on the basis of its minimal membership and support, and its alleged bias towards the Russians.

The UPM have certainly, whatever their apparent irrelevance in Ukraine itself, become the favoured local source for those on the far left who are campaigning on the basis that the focus ought to be on “opposing NATO” rather than on the practical reality that Russia has invaded Ukraine for no justifiable reason and with all the consequences that war has on the people on whom the bombs are falling.

The motion circulated to other TDs by Paul Murphy’s office on Wednesday – which he will presumably attempt to place on the Dáil order of business next week – manages to avoid altogether any reference to the war.

It says that Dáil Éireann should recognise that:

  • Ukraine’s external debt stands at €120 billion, or almost 80% of GDP;
  • Ukraine’s debt servicing expenditure for 2022 is expected to be around €6 billion, more than its total education budget, or approximately 12% of all state budgetary expenditure;
  • the IMF, which is the biggest holder of Ukrainian debt, is due to be paid over €2.5 billion by Ukraine in 2022, which is equivalent to 16.5 million average pension payments in Ukraine;
  • Ukrainian debt has risen by over €5 billion since the start of the Russian invasion;

Notes that:

  • the IMF imposed ‘conditionalities’ on Ukraine in exchange for the loans it gave to Ukraine, including liberalisation and promotion of foreign trade, removal of price controls on essential commodities, reduction of subsidies on essential goods, cutbacks in public services and the privatisation of state-owned enterprises’;⦁ the consequence of these austerity policies was impoverishment of the population, with the consequence that in 2015 Ukraine was at the bottom of all countries in Europe in terms of real wages;⦁ Ukrainian bonds are currently trading at less than 50 cents in a dollar, meaning that if repayments continue, hedge funds which are gambling by buying up Ukrainian debt will make profits of more than 100%;

Acknowledges that:

  • Ukraine’s debt is odious illegitimate debt, being a consequence of the oligarchisation of society and a failure of successive governments to seek to tax the rich, and is now in the process of increasing enormously due to the Russian invasion;⦁ Ukrainian civil society organisations, including the largest trade union in Ukraine representing over 5,000,000 workers, have called for the cancellation of Ukrainian debt;

Calls on the government:

  • to publicly call for the cancellation of Ukrainian debt and to push for the IMF and World Bank to cancel the debt Ukraine owes to them to free up funds for immediate relief and future reconstruction.

The focus is on the side issue of the Ukrainian debt which they bizarrely suggest ought to be cancelled with no apparent relationship to the war other than that it will “free up funds for immediate relief and future reconstruction.”  How to actually get from the current conflict to that happy conclusion is nowhere hinted at.

In his email soliciting support from other TDs, Murphy claims that the call for the debt to be cancelled is supported by the “largest trade union” in Ukraine. Well the largest trade union in Ukraine seems to be the Union of Education and Science Workers. There is nothing that I can see on their site that refers to the cancellation of debt. In fact it has called for the exclusion of Russian trade unions from International bodies and called for NATO intervention.

International Work of the Trade Union during the War » Trade Union of Education and Science workers of Ukraine (pon.org.ua)

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Murphy’s main citation is an interview given by Eric Toussaint, a French Trotskyist who appears to be aligned with a tiny sect which even ran a candidate against Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In the interview, Toussaint’s main target appears to be the Ukrainian government itself which he bizarrely accuses of continuing to “implement neo-liberal policies of anti-social austerity, arguing that extraordinary efforts are needed to achieve resistance to the Russian invasion.”

Stopping OzTerrity is therefore the priority of the Ukrainian working class who clearly need to be reminded by some aging failed 1968 teenage left bank “revolutionary” that “the class struggle during the war continues.” Which for those of us of an older vintage will recall memories of English Trotskyists trying to persuade Irish people that the solution to the conflict was a “living wage” and workers control of the RUC or some such bollixology.

All of this is echoed in the Murphy motion about “real wages” and “oligarchisation” and the pressing need to “tax the rich.” A combination of a few Irish crusties with backpacks of Stop the War leaflets and Alexandra Octavio Cortez turning up in Maripol in her only fabulous tax the rich frock would surely be the precursor to a stunning victory for the Ukrainian working class.

Meanwhile, in the real world …..

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