Anarchism in Interesting Times
Henry Street, Dublin, after the 1916 Rising. The shell of the GPO is on the right.
Down the country, it is worse; The cows have stopped giving milk and men from various townlands have discarded their clothing to fight naked battles on what once were GAA pitches using pitch forks and rocks in socks. The women folk hide indoors saying rosaries in the hope that a government of champions can bring stability back to the country.
If you read the Irish Times and Irish Independent or followed any of the pre-election coverage from the state broadcaster, RTÉ, and believed it, you would be forgiven for expecting such chaos scenarios to arise. Stability was the buzz word and when the election results rolled in, commentators were panic stricken, wondering where that would come from.
Yet here we are, almost two months without a government and all is the same as it was. Shops still open, people still go to work, the traffic lights still work and we still have WiFi. Moreover, the rich are still rich and the poor are still poor; This morning I passed a homeless man who was asleep in a sleeping bag on college green. A small dog shared the warmth, cuddled up beside him. The plight of homeless people huddled in doorways is something that hasn’t changed since February.
But while we officially don’t have a government, we are still governed. The laws of the state are still imposed and it is still illegal for a woman to have an abortion, with a penalty of up to fourteen years in prison. Irish Water is still pursuing people for unpaid bills, despite the fact that the people have voted by boycott to abolish the utility. Social Welfare recipients are still being investigated and their livelihoods threatened. In short, the machinery of the state rumbles on, barely inconvenienced by the lack of democratic lubricant.
It raises the question of who really governs, and exposes parliamentary politics as a thin veneer that disguises the permanent bureaucracy of the state. The amount of governing done by any government party is fairly minimal. They make legislation, but when the votes are counted in the Dáil chamber, the actual running of the country falls to people that no one ever voted for – the upper echelons of the civil service; the Garda Síochána (Police); the armed forces; the county managers. And behind them are the captains of industry, the bankers and media moguls whose interests they govern in.
Meanwhile back at the Dáil, the two biggest parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, do all they can to maintain the illusion that they are different. They could easily form a government together, but that of course would destroy the last ninety years of bourgeois pantomime and the carefully realised roles that they’ve nurtured. They can afford to do this because they know that the state can manage without them for the time being.
If we were able to go back one hundred years, to the time the story of this state was starting, and we joined the fight to drive out the British and start a new way of life, would we build this? If not, there’s still time to rip it up and start again.
The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war
Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who