The native Irish ruling class have long been prone to parasitical activity, enriching themselves by acting as agents of absentee landlords or today as law firms for multinationals keen to avoid and evade paying taxes. As landlords agents that involved breaking down the doors to evict those who were literally dying of starvation. The modern form is less hands on but the repercussions are similar, the 13 billion they don’t want to collect from Apple are the same billions whose absence has people dying on hospital trolleys.
The modern myth of Irish nationalism denounces those who acted as the landlords agents and celebrated rebellions against their power. But anyone who watched the government ceremonies marking the 1916 anniversary rebellion couldn’t help but notice how awkward the ministers appeared and the considerable effort made to keep the public out if sight.
The equivalent parasites today are not simply robbing us, they are robbing people across Europe and indeed the US. It’s not just our old people who are suffering on hospital trolleys so that our wealthy elite can take 0.001 cent on each tax euro evaded or avoided. And that elite (legally) awards the ministers with seats on boards once they retire and on occasion get exposed as rewarding them illegally with brown envelopes of cash while they are in power.
Online polling that shows a lot of people support the governments refusal to take the Apple billions demonstrates that far too many of us are playing along. This is a national version of the cute hoor infection that sees Michael Lowry get elected in Tipperary despite the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal. Our so called national interest translates to little more that the interests of developers to rent buildings and law firms to charge company registration fees. Now as then there are always plenty around to look with envy on the comparative wealth of the landlords agents and desire to join them rather than abolish them.
Multinationals in general and tech multinationals in particular don’t want to contribute to the costs of providing healthcare and education to the population through taxation. Silicon valley is dominated by a particularly poisonous capitalist ideology that allow’s people to be forced onto the streets in the name of competition. Like aristocrats of old a few try and assuage their guilt though charitable work,the equivalent of the public water fountains erected in town squares across Ireland by the local landlord.
Their paternalism which seeks to have people dependent on their charity is one and the same with their avoidance and evasion of tax. And with their attempts to destroy collective labour rights, whether that be minimum wages, collective bargaining through union membership or making workers ‘self-employed’ to avoid health and safety legislation.
In that context the silence of the Irish trade union leadership on the Apple scandal is all the more shocking. Whatever about giving us a few jobs the silicon valley tech culture of which Apple is a central part is deeply anti-workplace organisation, in most companies you would be fired for even telling another worker in the same company what you are paid such is their fear of workers organising together.
Let’s be clear, Apple CEO Tim Cook tried to bully us by talking of the 6000 workers Apple employs in Ireland. This isn’t some sort of freebee in return for us turning a blind eye to their refusal to contribute to healthcare. Those Apple workers work just as hard in Ireland to boost profits for the largest company on the planet as they would if they worked somewhere that didn’t facilitate tax avoidance. Apple isn’t giving ‘us’ anything in return, those workers create the very profits that Apple is so keen to avoid paying tax on.
That’s a key understanding. This isn’t Apple V Ireland or Ireland V the EU. Rather on one side are a very small number of very rich and powerful people. And on the other are the vast majority of those of us living in Ireland, Europe and indeed the planet. The vast majority need to band together and end the run of the corporations and their local agents.
WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter