Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Archive for the ‘Financial Crisis (September 2008 onwards)’ Category

Gerry Adams: G8 will advertise County Fermanagh

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http://www.impartialreporter.com/news/g8-lough-erne/articles/2013/04/21/400658-adams-g8-will-advertise-county/

Lords and Ladies of Austerity from the G 8 – Obama of the USA; Cameron of Britain; Merkel of Germany; Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund; assorted other “Masters of the Universe”: all heading for the “dreary steeples” of Fermanagh in July 2013.  The local police have promised to have extra prison cells ready for protestors.  Politicians practice the ancient Irish art of “tugging the forelock” – Gerry Adams leads the way!

Future Left: ‘Beyond Capitalsm? The Future of Radical Politics’ reviewed by Phil Hearse

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Future Left

  • March 29, 2013 11:02 p

Phil Hearse reviews Beyond Capitalism? by Luke Cooper and Simon Hardy (Zero Books 2012).

This review of an important new book on the erupting question of the future of the left and of socialist organisation is from the website of the the British group Socialist Resistance: http://socialistresistance.org/5019/future-left#comment-48309

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There could hardly be a more timely book for the socialist left, facing in most countries a dual crisis. On the one hand since 2008 the working class has faced a brutal austerity offensive which has not been thrown back. On the other, partially as a result of the austerity offensive and working class defeats, the socialist left has suffered a series of political defeats which have seen organisations in several countries decay, split or go into crisis. Closely connected with the far left crisis is the fate of the global justice, ‘anti-capitalist’, movement which announced itself spectacularly at the November 1999 anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle.

When I heard about the Seattle demonstrations I rashly predicted “Now the American left is going to grow spectacularly”.  At a big London conference the next year a speaker from Global Exchange in the US said to huge enthusiasm from the audience “We’re winning”. In July 2001 the huge demonstrations at the Genoa G8 summit were politically dominated by Italian Communist Refoundation with a significant input from the Fourth International – Fausto Bertinotti and Olivier Besancenot were the key speakers at the main rally. The global justice movement was on the offensive and the militant left seemed to have a significant role in it.

Twelve years on the situation seems very different, despite the Occupy movement and despite the Arab Spring. Obviously the main objective factors that changed were the post-9/11 situation which enabled the huge new military-political offensive of American imperialism and its allies; and the financial collapse of 2008 and the utterly ruthless offensive against working class living standards that followed.

For Luke Cooper and Simon Hardy, two young militants of the Anti-Capitalist Initiative, the thing to be explained is this:

“The capitalist crisis poses profound questions about the future of left wing politics because of its sheer depth and severity…After all, in these conditions radical political ideas should be striking a major chord amongst millions of workers. If they are not we have to look hard at ourselves.” (1)

Part of the problem, obviously is the relative weakness of anti-capitalist ideas in most parts of the world:

“In most countries in the world not only is acceptance of capitalism fundamental to the assumptions of the major political parties, but a specific variant of neoliberal ideology has come to be seen as the exclusive road down which politics must travel.” (2)

Contemporary mass movement

This reflects itself in the weakness of anti-capitalist mass consciousness. But more than this, there seems like a perennial problem in the existing revolutionary left linking up with major movements of resistance and in particular with the young rebels who emerged in the global justice movement, going through the anti-war movement, the various Social Forums and into such contemporary mass movement as the Indignados and Occupy!

That doesn’t mean, they point out, that militant leftists don’t play leading roles in the movements and protests, indeed they do especially in labour movement based campaigns, but their leading roles are often quite separate from their identity as political militants. This problem seems particularly obvious during the anti-war movement of 2002-3, when in Britain the Socialist Workers Party led a coalition which mobilised two million on the streets but failed to grow at all. By contrast the Vietnam movement in the late 1960s, much smaller in numbers, saw every left organisation grow.

Luke and Simon explain that thy were themselves radicalised during the upsurge of the anti-capitalist movement, and the failure to effect a junction between the existing revolutionary left and the anti-capitalist movement is a theme to which they continually return. Their argument on this is quite nuanced but it is the pivot on which much of their basic position relies. Briefly summed up it goes like this:

  1. Resistance movements are themselves pressured by ‘capitalist realism’ and “still largely remain within the assumptions of liberal democratic ideology” (3).
  2. The way that this is expressed among many youthful protestors is a disastrous rejection of ‘politics’.
  3. BUT the strength of these movements has been their democratic and participatory ethos and practice, their rejection of rigid hierarchies and bureaucratic procedures and their capacity for rapid initiative from below – in other words the things that precisely differentiate them from much of the existing revolutionary left.
  4. By contrast, the existing revolutionary left is dogmatic, wedded to routinist, uninspiring and non-participatory events, and above all cleaves to a form of ‘democratic centralism’ that is top heavy and (at the very least) outdated.

They say:

“The positive side of the current political conjuncture is that it exposes the limitations in the political practices and philosophy of the organised left and the libertarian activist milieu simultaneously. A growing number of activists, who might be labeled ‘libertarians’ or ‘Trots’, depending which side of the divide you are on, are starting to question the limitations of their preferred form of organisation. If activists from the libertarian left are starting to see the social power of organised working class action is crucial to the resistance to austerity, then new organisational forms can also start to overcome other differences. For the ‘old left’ far less dogmatism in their organisational and ideological assumptions coupled with genuine attempts to build organic unity among socialists would go a long way to reach a situation where we no longer  ‘old and ‘new’ as dichotomies.” (4)

The authors then temper this with an insistence that this does not mean an attempt at eclectically muddling irreconcilable positions and quite rightly they take aim at people who dodge the question of government and political power with the pipe dream “that we can create a prefigurative space within capital that has a liberating function somehow outside the power relations of the system”(5).

Zinoviev’s legacy

Now we come to the $64,000 question, or rather series of $64,000 questions for the existing far left. Is it really true that the style, practices and hierarchies of the existing ‘Leninist’ organisations repel young rebels and indeed militants in the workers and other movements? Of course not all these organisations are the same, but in Britain the major far left organisations (the SWP and SP) have a hierarchical conception of Leninism that has been pressurised by Stalinism and is at least ‘Zinovievist’ – having features of the top-down version of Leninism imposed on the Comintern by Zinoviev in the early 1920s. The trade union movement and campaign organisations are littered with ex-members of the different  far left organisations whose basic politics hasn’t changed but whose ability to cope with this version of ‘the party’ has. Typically these organisations express extreme factional hostility to members of other organisations, have a highly manipulative attitude to the movements in which they participate, severely limit rights of internal discussion not minutely led from above, operate a more-or-less complete ban on public discussion of differences and have leaderships that preserve enormous privileges of private discussion and self-renewal by proposing themselves on the leadership slate.

In the Zinovievist sects there is a tremendous pressure towards conformity and obedience, and a huge price to be paid for dissidence, even on quite secondary questions. For Luke Cooper and Simon Hardy this cuts against the spirit of the times, which is towards greater personal freedom.

I think there’s a good deal of truth in that and young people naturally bristle against artificially imposed authority. On the other hand the zeitgeist of the times is not just the desire for individual freedom but a spirit of individualism promoted by neoliberalism. Rejection of all forms of collectivism, majority votes and disciplined action will disable any form of politics. And of course there are still plenty of radical intellectuals who don’t want to be beholden to anyone or anything, least of all a political organisation.

One other caveat here is that all the organisations that referred to the tradition of Trotsky and the Left Opposition cannot be tarred with the same brush. In particular there are many sections of the Fourth International (FI) who wouldn’t recognise this picture at all and the FI’s tradition is generally one of valuing differences and debate  – and often expressing these in public. But it has to be said that some of the more restrictive ‘norms’ of ersatz Leninism have their origin in the US Socialist Workers Party, a long-time key component of the Fourth International,  under James P. Cannon, codified in a document published in 1965 but stretching way back before that (6).

Rebels, socialists, revolutionaries are bound to make plenty of enemies. It is not to the discredit of the existing far left organisations that right-wingers hate them; on the other hand the snarling factionalism of the ‘combat party’ automatically creates disabling and usually  pointless disunity. ‘Everybody hates us, we don’t care!’ may suffice for Millwall football fans, but should not be a guiding principle for a revolutionary organisation.

Now what?

So what is to be done? The authors have a wide-ranging discussion of the experience of the left, particularly in Europe, in the last decade which ranges over the question of politics and the movements, as well as the experience of trying to form new left parties – experiences that have been extremely diverse. In making proposals for the future inevitably there are as many questions as precise answers. The framework however is perhaps contained in their assessment of the experience of the ‘Social Forum’ movement, perhaps the main institutional expression of the global justice movement:

“The post-1999 social movements have shown that potentially millions can be thrown into struggle and resistance to capitalism and for a fundamental social change. But for all the ideological impetus that drove many of these movements, they also paradoxically gave expression to the post-political logic that engulfed the world after 1989, because the social forums were consciously limited to the task of aggregating together diverse campaigns in a manner that retained their social movement as opposed to political movement character. It was not that the forums weren’t highly political – they were. These events bore witness to a vast outpouring of discussion on an array of themes. But they ultimately lacked a strategic perspective for social transformation; a strategy to move from protest to a real challenge for power. And it is the latter that would have necessitated a discussion around new political formations as part of a process of attempting to cohere together what Marxists have traditionally referred to as an ‘international – ie a global political party that seeks to overcome national antagonisms and move towards the transcendence of capital. ” (7)

In the section ‘Drawing Conclusions’ the authors note that the situation is becoming more conducive to overcoming ‘capitalist realism’ – the idea that there is no alternative. While expressing caution towards Paul Mason’s idea that “the age of capitalist realism is over” (8) they argue that the common idea of a decade ago that the market, democracy and modernity go together is taking a severe battering. Rampant corruption and declining living standards are going hand in hand swingeing attacks on democracy. How can the left take advantage of this situation? Simply summed up, Luke and Simon suggest:

  • The crisis of the left is still the crisis of the sect
  • This fuels a drive towards new political formations
  • New programmatic definitions will gradually over time through practice
  • A pluralistic Marxism is needed
  • The left needs to reclaim the idea of democracy
  • Electoral and trade activity needs to be linked with grassroots activity ‘from below’ and community struggles.

This of course is a huge agenda to be worked out in detail and practice. Of course it is impossible for anyone to suck the solutions to the problems of the left out of their thumbs. These will only emerge over time through struggle. But it is essential to know “where to begin”. The authors identify key problems with eloquence and go a long way to establishing a practical agenda for a refounded Marxist left. I will just stress two final points.

  1. The book is evidently weak on the issues of feminism and the environment but these will be vital in establishing the parameters of a future left.
  2. The whole argument  about unity points in the direction of the creation of a new anti-capitalist party  – and this has to be out front and upfront. There will be those who will want to interpret the critique of sect functioning as being a rejection of the party form tout court, in favour of the endless circular networking of campaigns and initiatives, with no overall political coherence or direction. A long term war of position that can go ‘beyond capitalism’ requires the building of a party that can strike the political blows to the left of Labour that UKIP does to the right of the Tories. Simultaneously it is inevitable that there will be a pressure towards the co-ordination in a more coherent and structured way of a refounded centre of pluralistic Marxism.

It is through these processes that we can build a Future Left in the true spirit of the founder of Marxism:

“Hence, nothing prevents us from making criticism of politics, participation in politics, and therefore real struggles, the starting point of our criticism, and from identifying our criticism with them. In that case we do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to.” (Marx to Ruge, September 1843).

Notes:

  1. Beyond Capitalism p2
  2. Beyond Capitalism p3
  3. Ibid  p11, see also p99ff
  4. Ibid p96
  5. Ibid p97
  6. See for example  James P. Cannon,  The History of American Trotskyism and The Struggle for  a Proletarian Party.
  7. Op Cit pp140-141
  8. Op Cit p153

Dail Rushes Property Tax on to Statute Book – PickPocket Law Ridiculed by Clare Daly TD

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Mr Gilmore’s Labour Party To Lose 27 of its 37 Seats?

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tomasoflatharta:

This analysis fits in very comfortably with the assessment published on this blog last Saturday February 9 following the publication of an Irish Times Opinion Poll.

A different related question which deserves attention is what to do about the construction of an anti-capitalist/anti-coalition akternative, both inside and outside the Dail.

Originally posted on The Cedar Lounge Revolution:

I know we’re probably a few years away from an election but ….. with Labour now sliding in the polls , Paddy Healy made an interesting Comment on the recent Sunday Business Post Red C poll stating

When the Labour party vote declined to 10.4% in the 1997 GE following the Spring/Bruton/De Rossa government , it retained 17 of 33 seats. I believe that if Labour polled 11% in a general election to-day that it would retain far less seats. Traditionally, many Labour candidates were elected on transfers from independents and minor parties (in addition to benefitting from the surplus of coalition partner Fine Gael). The current poll indicates that Sinn Fein will be above the Labour Party on first counts in a large number of constituencies. Sinn Fein transfers will be unavailable in far more constituencies than was the case in the 2011 General Election. The decline in the…

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Written by tomasoflatharta

February 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

Ireland’s Banking Fiasco, Midnight Parliamentary Madness, A Government in Free Fall…..and Mass Media Self-Delusion

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Many media commentators predicted a popularity boost for a struggling Government because of extraordinary events this week.

They seem to be singing from this Labour Party Leadership Circular to its councillors :

“Farewell to Anglo!
Last night’s legislation brings an end to Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society. These two institutions, names that will live on in ignominy, are forever associated with the recklessness and greed of a tiny clique that brought this country to the edge of financial ruin. These banks, the people who ran them and the golden circle around them were at the very roots of the crisis that has caused so much distress to the Irish people.

In liquidating this institution, we are doing what should have been done on the night of the blanket bank guarantee.

This is another step forward towards the day when we can finally face forward as a people, when the past can finally recede into the distance and when Ireland and the Irish people can see the future that they truly deserve”

This text was apparently put into the public domain by Labour Party Fingal Councillor Cian Ó Ceallacháin, who dissents from the austerity dogma promoted by his party leadership.

Opinion Polls in the last few months have been grim reading for the parties leading the current coalition government, Fine Gael and Labour.

Labour Pains in 2013 Opinion Polls

There is one fundamental reason for the fall in Fine Gael and Labour Party ratings : Mssrs Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore are continuing to carry out the policies of the previous Fianna Fáil / Green Party Coalition.

The scale of the FF/GP fall between the General Elections of 2007 and 2011 was spectacular :  the two parties won 84 seats in 2007 but collapsed to 20 in 2011 – a staggering loss of 64 TD’s, reducing the Green Party Dáil delegation from Six to Nil.

Opinion Polls began to register this electoral earthquake after a 2008 all-night Dáil session which gave birth to the Brian Lenihan inspired “bail-out”, shoring up the Bust Anglo-Irish Bank and ushering in a programme of austerity, cuts to public services, privatisation, and tax increases.

Fine Gael and Labour this week staged a re-run of Brian Lenihan’s all-night Leinster House Show, once again rushing through a complex piece of financial legislation connected with the financial crisis.

Will these parties follow the electoral example of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party?

Since the Savita Halappanavar Scandal, the opinion poll ratings of the government parties have gone into free fall.

An opinion poll published in today’s Irish Times confirms the trend,with major losses predicted for Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

Adrian Kavanagh has done his usual excellent number-crunching giving this predicted result if a General Election was held tomorrow :

STATE  FG 42  FF 51  LP 15 SF 26 Others 24

Compare this with the 2011 result

STATE  FG 76
 FF 20
 LP 37
SF 14
Others 19

In other words, Fine Gael and Labour will lose a staggering 56 seats if these numbers are right.

In fact losses for the Labour Party will very probably exceed the catastrophic defeat predicted above :

Adrian Kavanagh says that “actual Labour seat numbers could well be lower than the numbers predicted here” :

Labour’s declining support levels (down eight percentage points on the party’s support levels in the 2011 election) translate in a further significant drop in the seat estimates allocated to the party in these latest poll analyses. The party’s support levels are now on a par with the levels earned by the party in the 2002 and 2007 general elections though its seat estimates here are lower than the seats won by that party in those contests due to (i) the increase competition levels offer by Sinn Fein and other left-of-centre political groupings and (ii) the impact of the boundary changes associated with the 2012 Constituency Commission report which are seen to more adversely effect Labour than another of the other parties or political groupings. It is interesting to note also that, with the exception of Galway East, most of the rebel Labour TDs would appear to be based in constituencies that this analysis suggests the party would hold seats in at an election based on national figures akin to these poll support levels. If these deputies were to remain outside the party fold to the point of running as independents the actual Labour seat numbers could well be lower than the numbers predicted here.

Web Link :

actual Labour seat numbers could well be lower than the numbers predicted here

Going into the detail, the following words jump out at readers interested in boosting the electoral fortunes of an anti-capitalist / anti-coalition alternative :

Boost for small parties

However, the appeal of other small parties and Independents has grown considerably since the last Irish Times poll, with a fifth of all voters now supporting this category.

The level of support for this group is particularly pronounced in Dublin, where 32 per cent of voters say they would support this category.

This is a far higher level of support than any of the political parties managed to attract and indicates that there could be many more Independents and representatives of small parties in the Dáil after the next election.

Web Link :

Support for Others at 32 Per Cent in Dublin

The others group is a mix of left and right, but in Dublin it is primarily an anti-coalition left vote.  When that vote came together in 2009, Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party won one of the three Dublin Euro-Parliament Seats.

The trials and tribulations of the faltering United Left Alliance project are being exhaustively discussed on this blog and other places.

The events of this week, and the electoral and opinion poll data above, show very decisively that, the anti-coalition anti-capitalist left must get its act together – or – in Bernadette McAliskey’s recent words at the 2013 Bloody Sunday Commemoration in Derry – “we are in for one hell of a hiding”.

“The Promissory Note Deal – A Three Card Trick” OR “another step forward towards the day when we can finally face forward as a people”

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A friend of this blog has unearthed a gem from the Irish Labour Party Presently participating in a coalition government with Fine Gael, under the leadership of Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore :

This is what the Labour Party are sending to their councillors today. I’d like to say its delusional but they are not that this stupid, although they obviously think some of their elected officials are. Fair play to Cian O’Ceallachain for publishing this stuff, going against the grain is never easy no matter how stupid it is…

“Farewell to Anglo!
Last night’s legislation brings an end to Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society. These two institutions, names that will live on in ignominy, are forever associated with the recklessness and greed of a tiny clique that brought this country to the edge of financial ruin. These banks, the people who ran them and the golden circle around them were at the very roots of the crisis that has caused so much distress to the Irish people.

In liquidating this institution, we are doing what should have been done on the night of the blanket bank guarantee.

This is another step forward towards the day when we can finally face forward as a people, when the past can finally recede into the distance and when Ireland and the Irish people can see the future that they truly deserve”

Commenting on this one writer suggested

Whoever wrote that is wasted in the Labour Party. Should be out there writing sci-fi

Our Literary Prize Panel agreed unanimously.

Words may fail you, so we present an alternative view from the blog of United Left Alliance TD Joan Collins :

Now you see it, now you don’t. Nobody should be fooled by the government spin on the deal negotiated with the ECB on the debts run up by Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide. Not a cent of the almost €35 billion poured into these two insolvent banks has been written down. This deal seals the fact that these debts have been fully socialised, that is transferred as a burden onto the Irish people.

Web Link :

Promissory Note Deal Is A Three Card Trick

The Irish government fast-tracked a new law through the Dáil, perhaps scared of a legal case taken by David Hall :

Once upon a time a failed private bank, under criminal investigation, got an IOU/promissory note from the State to pay off its bondholders. In 2011, we voted in a government that promised to tackle this blatant injustice. Last week they defended a legal challenge against the promissory notes. Then, hours before the Supreme Court could hear the appeal, in the dead of night, they rammed emergency legislation through the Dail that transfers those debts from the IBRC/Anglo (an institution we own, and with whom we could have negotiated a write-down or even a write-off of the debt) to the European Central Bank (which is legally prohibited from writing down, or writing off any of this debt – even if they wanted to. Which they don’t.)

So the ‘soft’, legally-suspect, promissory note debts, were turned into legally-sound, ‘hard’, non-negotiable, sovereign debt – without a single cent of it being written off.

In other words, the people paid to represent us have shafted us, and our children and grandchildren. But they still call it a ‘deal’ – kind of like an upgrade, to sit closer to the captain on a Slave Ship. Section 17 of the legislation now gives the Minister for Finance unprecedented powers to restructure these promissory notes with the Central Bank – without oversight and without a vote in the Dail. The terms of this ‘deal’ are being discussed now at: http://www.thejournal.ie/promissory-notes-michael-noonan-786949-Feb2013/

From this we will learn about ‘savings’ on the interest we’ll pay on this illegitimate debt, and how much icing sugar they intend to sprinkle over the shit sandwich they’ll be force-feeding us over the next few decades.

A delusional Jellyfish Spineless Labour Party has confused surrender and victory.

Gilmore’s outfit is going down in the opinion polls :

Labour Pains in 2013 Opinion Polls

Labour’s Way is now the Gormley-Green Way -

http://tomasoflatharta.com/2011/03/10/the-february-25-general-election-changed-something-in-ireland/

Any bets on how low the Labour Party and Fine Gael will dip in the next opinion polls and real elections?

We need an anti-coalition and anti-capitalist left which has the backbone for a fight, a physical feature absent from the jellyfish Labour Party.

Greek Lessons For the Irish Far-Left – Maybe the current government is wobbling again?

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tomasoflatharta:

Plenty of interesting ideas here for fighting left – the current Kenny-Gilmore Government might not be as stable as it appears, despite its bloated parliamentary majority.

Originally posted on NAMA Wine Lake:

Apparently, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was none too happy with the two nude paintings of his corpulent frame hung by a “guerilla artist” in the National Gallery in 2009.  Our nakedness can be a great leveler, and how quickly the veneer of unchallengeable respectability fades away when an image is planted of you naked sitting on a toilet gripping loo-roll.

We are presently seeing a slow striptease by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan of the impenetrable and seemingly interminable promissory note negotiations. We still don’t know who is negotiating on behalf of Ireland, though apparently it’s employees of the Department of Finance, the Central Bank and the NTMA.

But the shield of “technical and complicated reengineering” of the debts shouldered by us all in respect of the promissory notes given to three institutions, including Anglo, is slowly being lowered as we get a sinking feeling that negotiations, that have been…

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Greece protesters storm labour ministry – Al Jazeera English

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http://m.aljazeera.com/story/20131301749125751 So interesting to read this report, note the failure of Irish and British mainline media to report these events, and wonder can Ireland be far behind?

Labour MEP Nessa Childers Calls for a General Election

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tomasoflatharta:

Childers call for a general election should be endorsed by all left TD’s opposed on principle to coalition with the right.

Originally posted on The Cedar Lounge Revolution:

LP MEP Nessa Childers tweeted last night in relation to the latest news that the ECB is ruling out this particular ploy by the Irish government. Hmmm… not looking good for the ambitions of the latter in relation to these matters.

Very depressing news re ECB. The people need to be consulted about the future at this point. That means a general election.

That’s a very good point about democratic legitimation.

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Martin Luther King – Barack Obama : Compare and Contrast

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