Review:Analysing the Celtic Tiger

The Celtic Tiger: The myth of social partnership in Ireland
Kieran Allen
Pub: Manchester University Press

Kieran Allen's study of the Celtic Tiger was published with almost perfect timing as the bosses, the government and the trade union leaders lined up to tell workers that if they did not moderate their pay demands we might kill off the 'Celtic Tiger'. The concession of the extra 2+1% in December was designed to be the absolute minimum necessary to shore up the PPF and social partnership in general. Whatever way you do the maths it works out that in terms of pay, this year as in others, workers are still doing no better under the Tiger then standing still.

Whether or not this will work may depend on the outcome of the ASTI/Teacher's dispute. If they clearly win the 30% increase then it is likely other sections of workers may also seek increases well above inflation. And if we do then we will no doubt be again warned that our actions will just destroy the 'Tiger Economy'. Allen's book is very useful in this context at it clearly shows that although Irish workers effectively created and paid for the Tiger (through accepting low pay, public sector cuts and high taxes) we have not reaped the benefit of it.

Much of the actual material will be familiar to regular readers of Workers Solidarity and to anti-partnership activists in the unions. Nevertheless it is very useful to have these facts collected and published in one place and there is some new material. The sale of luxury cars, for instance, increased by over 300% in the decade ending 1997.

One big plus for this book is that, despite the fact that is published as an academic rather than an activist text, it is still accessible and free of a lot of the jargon that often makes academic publications unreadable. This is not surprising as Allen, as well as being a lecturer in Sociology, has also been a leader of the Leninist 'Socialist Workers Party' for well over a decade and the editor of their paper. Although some activists might find this off putting, it shouldn't be as Allen steers clear of much of the hype that has crowded the pages of 'Socialist Worker' over the last decade.

The discussion of social partnership and the trade union movement, although good at analysing the role of the union officials, entirely neglects the various anti-partnership campaigns. We are simply told that in SIPTU "42% of members voted against entering the Partnership 2000 deal" and that "Nearly one third of SIPTU members voted against the subsequent PPF". Given that the SWP effectively controlled the PPF anti-partnership campaign in SIPTU we might have hoped for an appraisal of the success and failure of this campaign.

All in all this is an excellent book for facts and figures, if not for answers. This is unsurprising, the answers we need are far more likely to be developed through the struggle of ordinary workers than through the sweat of theoreticians. But this book will at least give you material to argue with.

Joe Black

For WSM articles on the Celtic Tiger see

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This edition is No62 published in January 2000