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Cúchonnacht Ó Dálaigh

Irish Socialists Must Adopt a Land Nationalisation Policy

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The late economist, and former farmer, Raymond Crotty wrote in 1988:

 

Property in land I now percieved to be hardly less socially inequitable than property in man, or slavery, which Aristotle described as "the first, the best and most useful form of property." Indeed, some might deem property in land to be more heinously anti-social. One recalls, for example, that while a million Irish people starved to death during the 1840s so as to maintain or increase the profit from Irish land, the negro slaves of the United States of America, without any augmentation from the slave trade which by then had been stopped, were increasing in numbers by 2.5% annually. This was possibly the highest rate of population growth in the world at the time. Indubitably many starving, rack-rented Irish peasants, if given the choice, would have opted for slavery rather than to be the victims of property in Irish land.

 

Raymond Crotty, A Radical Response.

 

 

We cannot leave the structure of farming as it is in Ireland today. We see that farmers now get two thirds of their income from hand outs paid for by the urban worker. So its clear that the current structure of farming is uneconomical and can only be sustained by putting a massive burden on urban workers. Farm collectivisation has a bad name, but, in reality, this is what the EU has being trying to do for a long time, i.e. to push out the small and middle sized farmer in favour of the large ranch. The only trouble with this system is that it puts incredible and unmerited wealth in the private hands of the rancher. Larry Goodman, for example, collects a single hand out every year of half a million euro - just for owning so much land. It makes much more sense to run these large farms/ranches as state farms, with workers doing a 40 hour shift, like any other worker. As I say, all Irish farms are massively subsidised already by the taxpayer. Even if the state farms were no more profitable, or even a good bit less profitable, it would still mean a massive saving for the population in general, as land for roads, schools, homes, hospitals, etc. would already be in state hands, so no addition fee would have to be paid. This would make an enormous change to the very structure of Irish society, as increases in productivity in the workforce would no longer be converted into higher land prices - as happened over the last ten years, and during all times of prosperity over the last several hundred years. Instead of increased productivity being swallowed up by land price inflation, it could instead be put into building up a native Irish industry that would lessen our junky like dependence on the multi-nationals. Its this retardation of Irish industry that is the real cost of leaving the land in the hands of about 3% of the population.

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Raymond Crotty again from his book, A Radical's Response:

 

The essence of my thought was that the land of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland, equally to the entire people of Ireland. Property in Irish land has been a disaster for the nation ever since its creation by the confiscation of the clans' lands under the Tudor monarchs; and continues to be so. Unless the Conquest could be undone by causing Irish land to used efficiently and once more for the benefit of all the people, the Irish economy could not prosper.

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The state in every former capitalist colony traces its lineaments directly to the administration established there for the purpose of exploiting the colony for metropolitan profit. In Ireland the state functions from the mile square surrounding Dublin Castle, the original centre of English rule in Ireland.

 

Capitalist colonial administrations operated on the basis of privilege with its corresponding disability (the disability of the great majority to have a decent life), The function of the state in all former capitalist colonies has been to maintain that privilege and associated disability. Privilege is defined as rights exercised without commensurate responsibility to the society within which the rights are exercised. They are pre-eminently rights enjoyed by a garrison class in return for services rendered to a capitalist colonial power. The epitome of capitalist colonial privilege is landed property, or the exclusive title by some to the land on which all depend for their existence. Landed property owes its origin in every former capitalist colony to the colonial regime. It is by far the most important form of property in all former capitalist colonies (think of Nama). It is the principal part of the capitalist colonial heritage.

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Capitalist colonial administrations established, preserved and expanded privilege, and corresponding disability, in the interest of the metropolitan powers. Decolonisation in all cases has been a process of indigenizing privilege. Local interests, in the course of capitalist evolution, participated in privilege and eventually appropriated it from the metropolitan interest which originated and originally monopolized it. Thus Irish Catholic grazier farmers acquired from Anglo-Irish Protestant landlords that land which, at the original conquest, was confiscated from the clans. Similarly, Irish Catholics secured from Anglo-Irish Protestant bankers control of the money supply which, in a market economy, gave effective control of the stock of capital.

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Independence has, in every former capitalist colony, been sought and secured by the privileged indigenous groups which emerged as part of the process of capitalist evolution. The chief concern of the indigenous privileged groups who secured independence has in every case been to enhance and to consolidate privilege. This has been done in part by recognising and paying deference to local, nationalist feelings, by such gestures as painting red letter-boxes green, or commencing and ending official communications in the national language, and by playing a national instead of a metropolitan anthem. More substantively, metropolitan originating privilege\disability has been preserved and enhansed by a sufficient local extension of privilege to ensure sufficient political support for its retention in the post colonial era. The post capitalist-colonial state has in every case been the agency for achieving this.

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The independent state in every former capitalist colony preserves and enhanses indigenous privilege at the cost of national underdevelopment. It does so by using, in the same manner, the same institutions and technologies as were employed by its forerunner, the metropolitan administration, for the same purposes.

 

The state in former capitalist colonies makes land free for the privileged who possess it (it is not taxed) Because land is free, it is used inefficently by its possessors and the nation languishes. Because the nation languishes, the disinherited, who could use land efficiently, are impoverished and cannot acquire land from the privileged. Thus Irish land, which relative to GNP is the most highly priced in the world, is used even more inefficiently than in most former capitalist colonies, where universally land is badly used and people are hungary.

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The state in former capitalist colonies makes saving available free to politicians and free, or almost free, to the privileged. It does so by expanding the money supply and by public sector borrowing. The Irish state has secured control over, and used in these ways, far more savings relative to GNP than the state in any other former capitalist colony.

 

These resources are the savings of the public, secured more or less voluntarily through state loans and involuntarily through inflation. They have been used in the first instance to maintain in power politicians whose primary concern has been to secure re-election, and control of the state.

 

After their use to sustain in office a corrupt, inequitable and inefficient political establishment, the voluntary and forced savings of the citizens have been made available free, or virtually free, to the privileged. The privileged have used the citizens' savings for three anti-social purposes. They have used them first to buy out competing firms, so as to make Irish business extremely and exceptionally monopolistic and uncompetitive. The privileged have used the citizens' savings secondly to acquire labour-replacing plant. The third use that the privileged make of the citizens' savings is to invest them abroad. (Irish farmers were the biggest buyers of farmland in England in 2006 - all bought with money given to them in hand out from the landless workers.)

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It is understandable, in these circumstances, that half the supply of Irish labour has never been used at all. The disability corresponding to the privileged access by some to free land and to free or virtually free capital is that half of the nation are denied an opportunity to use their labour, because its cost has been raised so high by the state. That the Irish state operates in this manner stems from the fact that it owes its origin to a colonial administration which was established to exploit the nation. It is a state which continues to exploit the vast, deprived bulk of the members of the nation. It is a state which, as is the case with all the states in all the former capitalist colonies, is the enemy of the people and the nation.

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It's related also to the housing question, but I agree that there is a lack of clarity on the issue.

 

On the one hand it's seen as an anachronistic issue, on the other it may be deliberately ignored to curry favour amongst more reactionary elements. Either way I'm in support of land nationalisation and would welcome the revival of debate around the land question.

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Even if nothing else were to be immediately changed/reformed, land nationalisation would be an amazingly transformative process.

 

All economic activity is rooted ultimately in land ownership, although the more and more increasingy complex forms of some forms of work do sometimes appear to be divorced from it, but the line can be traced back to the land if you think about it. The most obvious implication for most businesses is the issue of rent. Even the current Free State government recognise that the rent regime in its exact form is curtailing economic activity. Essentially they recognise the contradiction that capitalism presents. They also recognise that their own position of power is inextricably linked to the dominance of private property rights, and therefore are not prepared to tinker with it.

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