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Bertie Ahern - Global village idiot?
27th December 2003
Although generally considered ridiculous there was something particularly apt about the recent comments by Bertie Ahern that he had been an opponent of the war against Iraq. Not that there is the slightest truth in the remark. The open door policy to US military aircraft at Shannon airport was all that the US could want from the Irish State besides the support given to resolution 1441 while the Irish sat on the UN security council.
What is apt is the famed inarticulateness of Ahern as itself an expression of the inability of the Irish State to present a coherent foreign policy. There is something appropriate about his bumbling diction as a reflection of the Irish State's role in the world.
Upon hearing his remarks, and later reading the responses to it, it was difficult to sum up definitively what was quite so egregious about it. Certainly it was dishonest, stupid and contemptuous of the audience to which it was addressed, i.e. the Irish people. It was also embarrassing; too naked a declaration of a lack of seriousness that expresses the weakness of the Irish State in a world dominated more and more openly by brute force. So pathetic in fact that Ahern does not even have to worry that the vindictive US administration will take him to task for it. Not after the words of his Finance minister in the most recent budget lavished yet more tax concessions on US multinationals which speaks more honestly of Irish ‘'opposition' to the designs of US power.
It was apt because it illustrated that the role currently carved out for itself by the Irish State is one that is determined by imperialism, and the development of inter-imperialist competition threatens this. Before taking up the presidency of the EU Ahern stated that he hoped Ireland could be a bridge between Europe and the US. The decision of the US administration to gratuitously insult the core of the EU, France and Germany, and to bracket the Irish State with them, exposes the fragile nature of such a project. What better way to express this pressure than the utterance of remarks that appear to come from a schizophrenic?
The US position is summed up by Bush as ‘'For me or against me’'. Mere physical support for the war is not enough. Open and unambiguous political support for the US imperialist adventure is the bottom line. This produces considerable difficulty for an Irish capitalist class whose whole political existance is based on lies and ambiguity.
The decision to include the Irish State among those which will not be allowed to bid for contracts in ‘'reconstructing' Iraq shows that the future development of the EU and the current development of the US allow for the building of no bridges between them. Whatever retreats are made by Paris and Berlin will not find either appreciative of similar steps by the Irish. It is the same dilemma facing Blair's project of also being such a bridge. Unfortunately for the Irish State it has even less power to manoeuvre than Britain.
The tensions created by inter-imperialist competition between the core of the EU and the US is not new and can been seen over the resistance of the Irish and British States to tax harmonisation. The Irish State sees this as a threat to its ability to offer inducements to US multinationals investing in the country. Precisely because it is a bridge that allows these companies to compete more favourably in Europe others in the EU oppose this role.
‘'Either Boston or Berlin' is not a figment of Mary Harney's imagination and refers not only to domestic economic and social policy. For as long as the EU developed along lines that were not opposed by the US the Irish State could balance between them. It could receive the largesse of EU funding that partially compensated for the destruction of its native industry through unsheltered competition while offering tax breaks and subsidies to US multinationals. This is no longer the case. Ahern now bemoans that Ireland is no longer seen as at the heart of Europe.
The stresses in pursuing such a policy have led to both Blair and Ahern resorting to bare faced lies filtered through the false sincerity of the former and cunning dissembling of the latter. Both rely heavily on the lack of an alternative, on the fact that the last general election in both states revealed the failure of the opposition.
For socialists the broader lesson and deeper explanation is that Ireland has always been the object of the plans of great powers. It has never been genuinely independent and no political force, clearly not the capitulation to capitalism and imperialism expressed by the present day Sinn Fein, really presents a programme that espouses a perspective of national independence. Ireland is utterly subject to imperialist control.
A socialist revolution will not alter the fundamental weakness of the country against that of the big and even medium sized imperialist powers. This is why the only hope the Irish people have for the development of their country, free of domination and on the basis of equality between nations, is the perspective of international socialist revolution. Only a federation of socialist states of Europe and the world can offer the Irish people the role of equals in a worldwide collaboration of peoples. To believe in real independence and freedom short of that is to go down the road that leads to the home of the village idiot.