a person wearing a brown sweater holding a burning globe

Capitalism is destroying the world

In the official ideology of the Irish state, the Industrial Development Authority comes in for special praise as one of the main agencies that helped “modernise” the Irish economy—i.e. opened it up to penetration by foreign, mostly American, capital. It has been lauded as a latter-day David that outfought Goliath (other European states) to bag an impressive haul of American transnational companies, which transformed the Irish economy and Irish society.

The reality, of course, is different. The IDA acts as an advocate for the interests of American monopoly capitalism in Ireland, and it was in this role that its CEO, Martin Shanahan, gave an interview to the Business Post last month.

In his interview Shanahan condemned the decision to put a moratorium on new data centres in the greater Dublin area. He argued that siting more data centres there is vital to the needs of the Irish economy.¹

In the same issue an article by Killian Woods pointed out that in 2021 Meta’s data centre in Co. Meath used as much electricity as 151,190 Irish homes, and also used the same amount of water as a 20,000-person Irish town.² (Is it any wonder that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party want to privatise water? Imagine the profits they could present to their capitalist controllers!)

There are at present approximately seventy data centres in the 26 counties, which between them account for 14 per cent of the state’s electricity usage. Government spokespersons are busy lecturing us on the need to cut back on our consumption of electricity and water in order to preserve such vital resources and to slow down the rate at which the Earth is heating. Yet at the same time, with parts of Europe, North Africa and North America burning as a result of climate change because of capitalism’s fetish for increased growth and profits, the IDA calls for an expansion of the number of data centres.n

Imagine the outcry if they had called for coal-fired steel plants!

Data centres are portrayed by the IDA as clean, ultra-modern, and progressive. When one considers their environmental impact, the data-centre industry should be seen as a dirty industry.

However, they are not alone. A report in the Guardian last month showed that 25 per cent of the total land area of the Six Counties and 27 per cent in the 26 Counties is covered by mining concessions.³ Mining is a particularly dirty industry, which has a record of leaving environmental devastation in its wake as well as damaging the living communities whose way of life is utterly changed by the mining process.

Local communities have organised to resist the siting of environmentally destructive industries in their communities, such as Raybestos-Manhattan in Co. Cork in the 1970s, Shell to Sea, and the cross-border campaign against Dalriadan Gold in the Sperrins.

These struggles show the reality of where power lies in Ireland, north and south. Official ideology would have us believe it lies with the people; the reality is very different. The Six Counties is a British colony, and the ultimate source of power is the British capitalist class. In the South the Irish capitalist class is the ruling class: it is they who execute state power, but they do so within the constraints of the triple lock of American, British and EU imperialism.

The interests of capitalism carry far more sway than those of working people. The coercive force of the state and the “soft power” of the media is used against those who dare stand up for their communities. They are accused of being backward-looking, selfish “NIMBYs” or Luddites who are holding up progress and who fail to see the “bigger picture.”

Being opposed to environmentally destructive industry does not mean opposing sustainable industrial development, but to be effective it must mean opposing capitalism. “Green,” sustainable capitalism is an oxymoron. Capitalism is built on ever-increasing growth, the destruction of more and more natural resources, and built-in obsolescence—all driven by the need to increase profits at the cost of everything else, even life on the planet.

Such a system cannot be reformed, modified, or regulated: it has to be overthrown and replaced by socialism. Only socialism will give us a sustainable economy and sustainable communities.

  1. Business Post, 10 July 2022, p. 1.
  2. Business Post, 10 July 2022, p. 6.
  3. Tommy Greene, “Fears island of Ireland faces ‘a new carve-up’ by mining companies,” Guardian (London), 25 July 2022.