Stephen Collins: A Frightful Hobgoblin

Cunning Hired Knaves

The first English edition of the Communist Manifesto did not begin with ‘A spectre is haunting Europe..’. Rather, as Francis Wheen tells us in his biography of Karl Marx, it began with ‘A frightful hobgoblin stalks through Europe’. The frightful hobgoblin nowadays, according to Stephen Collins’s article in today’s Irish Times, titled ‘A spectre is haunting Europe . . .’ is not communism, however, but mere ‘political chaos’, and it manifests itself in the fact that more than half of the electorate no longer wishes to vote for the traditional parties of rule: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour. ‘Anger and discontent’, he says, ‘may prove more potent forces’ than ‘arguments about the need for political stability’.

In the shadow of the hobgoblin, Collins appears to see no relation between what he calls ‘political stability’, on the one hand, and anger and discontent on the other. Indeed, the maximum…

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