I’m not usually a great one for going to demos in Dublin. The whole ritual of walking up and down O’Connell Street and then listening to longwinded speeches from the usual suspects just doesn’t have the appeal that it used to have. But, strange to say, I’m actually a little sorry that I missed the big farmers’ demo last week. Oddly enough, most of the Dublin left also seems to have missed this important event. Perhaps it’s just their knee-jerk view that the Irish farmer is an agent of Satan. Or maybe it’s because you can advance the class struggle much better by picketing beauty pageants…
It seems elementary to me that, if Peter Mandelson is hell-bent on destroying Irish agriculture in the name of the New European Empire, then he has to be opposed and any manifestation of the Irish farming class against Mandy is to be welcomed. And if that means lending support to a tougher Franco-Irish stance against the New Labour weasel’s antics in the WTO, then so be it. Even Fianna Fáil can sometimes move in the right direction, if there’s enough pressure behind them.
It may be a little unfashionable to say so, but I think it’s Economics 101 not to go about frittering away your natural resources but rather to use them for national development. Bear in mind that agriculture is still one of Ireland’s major industries. Hell, for a long time it was the only serious industry. Now remember that this was one of the basic political fault lines in the Revolutionary period. I’m grossly simplifying here, but basically the Cumann na nGaedheal programme was for Ireland to remain Britain’s market garden (the same sort of way that Bulgaria was the Soviet Union’s market garden) and hope for some trickle-down benefits. The original Fianna Fáil programme, for what little that’s worth now, was to establish self-sufficiency and then to plough the surplus into light industry. That’s what the Economic War was all about.
(Incidentally, the de Valera programme suggests itself as a possible path forward for underdeveloped countries today. In fact, Uncle Bob’s original programme for Zimbabwe was very similar. Unfortunately, it foundered on the corruption and brutality of the Mugabe regime, as well as the Brits reneging on their promise to buy out the white farmers.)
So we’re faced with a situation where the Mandelson position of today is actually a regression from the Cumann na nGaedheal position of the 1920s. Indeed, no politician with an actual mandate in Ireland (Mandy of course has no mandate anywhere) could contemplate putting forward proposals which, if the IFA is to be believed, could cost 50,000 rural jobs and the closure of a further 50,000 farms. For that reason I say, go farmers!
And this is not just an economic but also a cultural issue. Really, the two are inseparable. I’ve never been able to understand why so many Irish people who ordinarily have no time for the market are so laissez-faire about urbanisation, which they seem to regard as an unequivocally Good Thing. I don’t think so. Maybe this is an old Éire Nua streak in me coming out, but I don’t see it as Progress if half the population of Donegal has to move to Dublin. I think the depopulation and impoverishment of the West, combined with the unrestrained overdevelopment of Dublin, have a lot to do with why modern Ireland doesn’t work very well. And I don’t see why Ireland should aspire to the condition of Britain, where only about 2% of the population live on the land, and the countryside is divided up between multinational agribusiness on the one hand and the leisure needs of the upper and middle classes on the other.
No, we have an important and relatively successful economic sector here, not to mention a major natural resource. Any government with balls will be fighting tooth and nail to save it.