“Intervals of Peace”

A very interesting look by a descendant, himself an artist, at a freedom fighter, prisoner and artist, along with a mention of Civil War torture.

Scéalta Ealaíne

photo of Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn (Alfred McGloughlin) my grandfather Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn

Who’d have thought that my grandfather was into Futurism?  That’s correct – into Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Futurism.  And how do I know that?  Well, I was in the Kilmainham Gaol Museum last week and I saw his yellowing copybook (see below), and there it was, a lecture on modern art from the 5th of August, 1923.

Yes, my grandfather Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn was imprisoned in various prisons during the Irish Civil War (he was never charged with a specific offence) but to pass the time, he was often called upon to deliver lectures to his fellow prisoners.  He also made several pencil sketches of his comrades on small scraps of paper, some of which you see in this post.  The originals can be seen in “Intervals of Peace”, a special exhibition curated by Brian Crowley at the museum.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of a copybook from 1923 in Kilmainham Gaol the beginning of his lecture: “On…

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NOT “LA QUINTA” — THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADE WAS THE FIFTEENTH

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 2 mins.)

We see and often hear “viva la Quinta Brigada” but this is usually a mistake – the reference is not to the Fifth but to the 15th International Brigade. The word for fifteen in Spanish is “quince”1 whereas “quinta” means “fifth”. The brigade being referred to, the Fifteenth International Brigade, was one formed at the instigation of the Communist International (Comintern) in 1936 from volunteers from more than 55 countries2.

The estimates of numbers of participants in the International Brigades range from 40,000 to 59,000 with a death toll of around 10,0003 and of course many more injured.

Not all the Irish-born and Irish diaspora antifascists who fought4 in what is called the Spanish Antifascist (or Civil) War fought in the 15th Brigade5 but most of them did, whether in the British, Commonwealth or US Battalions (“Abraham Lincoln” and “Washington”, later combined), chiefly because these were the English-speaking battalions of the 15th International Brigade, which also included specific battalions for French, German, Italian, Spanish (from Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America) Czechoslovak, Hungarian and Polish languages6.

International Brigaders crossing the Ebro for the battle. The one in the bows of the boat appears to be Irish communist Michael O’Riordan, carrying the Senyera, the recognised Catalan flag of its time (red and yellow stripes without a star). O’Riordan survived the Civil War and returned to Ireland to lead the Communist Party of Ireland. (Image sourced: Internet)

The familiar songs in English were always about the 15th International Brigade, no other. So why and how has this mistake arisen of referring to the 5th?

The chief transmission of this error in recent time has been through that song with the wonderful lyrics and air created by the Irish balladeer and most famous folk performer, Christy Moore.

And he called his song “Viva La Quinta Brigada”. Recorded and performed under that title, with numerous videos repeating the error, even though he has himself corrected the reference in later performances.7 And in fact there are a number of Quinta Brigada versions of the Ay Carmela song on Youtube. So we can hardly blame all those people who are now singing the incorrect version, can we?

But before we arraign Comrade Christy Moore before a People’s Tribunal, it’s worth looking at the longer process of the error’s transmission. In fact, the incorrect wording was around long before Christy composed his song and it almost certainly informed his lyrics.

TRACING THE ERROR: THE AY CARMELA SONG AND SPIN-OFF

I remember thinking one time, when I became aware of the error in the title and refrain, that Christy should have consulted some Spanish-speaking people in Ireland. But I and my siblings are all Spanish-speaking and I recall even some of us singing a different song with a repeated line: Viva la Quinta Brigada, rumba la rumba la rumba la.

We were Spanish-speaking, yes and very sympathetic to the Republican side in that war — but at that time clearly not clued enough historically to detect the error,

That Rumba la rumba etc was a song in Spanish from the Republican side in the Civil/ Antifascist War, itself a spin-off or readaptation of a Spanish folk song about the crossing of the Ebro against Napoleonic troops in the 1800s. In this case the adaptation was fashioned to record the Republican forces’ crossing of the same river in attack on the advancing military-fascist forces in 1938.

The Battle of the Ebro was the largest ever fought on Spanish soil and lasted from 25th July to 16th November. The International Brigade song to the same air is generally known as Ay Manuela! and clearly refers to the International Brigade, not only by the lyrics in the final verse but by its alternative title, Viva La Quince Brigada!

Somewhere along the line someone made the error of replacing the Quince with Quinta. And so when Christy came to write his wonderful tribute to the Irish who went to the Spanish territory to fight against the fascist-military coup, the mistaken name had already been current for decades.

Re-enactment with partipants playing the parts of soldiers of the Spanish Republic advancing in the Battle of the Ebro. (Image sourced: Internet)

CORRECTING IT NOW

So no-one to blame for repeating the error and whoever caused it originally is long in the past. But we are here now and we know – so we have a responsibility not to perpetuate the error. We can do this quite simply in three ways:

  • Call the song “Viva la Quince8 Brigada” on all occasions
  • If we sing it, replace Quinta with Quince in the lyrics
  • Inform others about the correct version

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Fifteenth is “decimoquinta” in Castillian (Spanish) but, that being five syllables and therefore three too long for the song, “quince” (fifteen) must be sung instead.

2One of the many sources gives the figure of “55 Countries” but that probably means “55 states” and a number of states such as the UK, France, Belgium and Russia in Europe contain other nations, as do China, states in the Middle East, etc. In addition, many Jews also fought, one estimate putting them at one-quarter of the total of the “Brigadistas”.

3The very high casualty rate had a number of contributory factors but chief among them was the superiority of war-machines on the fascist-military side, in particular of aircraft, most of which were supplied, with pilots, by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, while Britain and France blockaded Spain.

4Some served as paramedics also.

5Some fought as part of the POUM, largely Trotskyist antifascist organisation or may have fought in anarchist militia and one that we know of fought alongside the Basques (and gave his life there).

6There were other language groups but their numbers did not usually rate a whole battalion and they were integrated into battalions primarily of some other language.

7And even later still, amended the historically incorrect “the bishops blessed the Blueshirts in Dun Laoghaire

8Pronunciation guide for Quince: keen-the or keen-se.

9I’ve translated Ay! as Oh! but it’s more like Alas!, only hard to see that in the song’s context perhaps.

10I’ve translated Ay as Oh but it’s more like Alas, only hard to see that in the song’s context perhaps.

11The “Moors” were native North African troops raised by Spain’s Foreign Legion. Franco had been sent there by the Republican Government probably to get him out of the way after his ferocious suppression of the Asturias miners’ revolt. From there Franco’s troops were airlifted to the Canary Islands and from there to Andalucia in southern Spain, carving their way in the blood of mostly unarmed civilians.

SOURCES

The original Ay Carmela/ Viva la Quince Brigada song: ¡Ay Carmela! (song) – Wikipedia

Lyrics of the original Viva La Quince Brigada as sung by Pete Seeger: Pete Seeger – Viva la Quince Brigada Lyrics | Lyrics.com

The 15th International Brigades: International Brigades – Wikipedia

Battle of the Ebro – Wikipedia

APPENDIX – THE SONGS

Ay Carmela – Spanish Republican version

Ay Carmela

El Ejército del Ebro,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
El Ejército del Ebro,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Una noche el río pasó,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Una noche el río pasó,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

The Army of the Ebro, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
One night crossed the river, Oh9 Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Y a las tropas invasoras,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
Y a las tropas invasoras,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Buena paliza les dio,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Buena paliza les dio,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

And to the invading troops rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
Gave a good beating, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!

El furor de los traidores,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
El furor de los traidores,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Lo descarga su aviaciónes,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Lo descarga su aviaciónes,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

The fury of the traitors, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
Is dropped from their ‘planes, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Pero nada pueden bombas,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
Pero nada pueden bombas,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Donde sobra corazón,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Donde sobra corazón,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

But bombs have no power, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
Where exists excess of heart, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Contraataques muy rabiosos,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
Contraataques muy rabiosos,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Deberemos resistir,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Deberemos resistir,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

Ferocious counterattacks, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
We must resist, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Pero igual que combatimos,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la.
Pero igual que combatimos,
Rumba la rumba la rumba la
Prometemos resistir,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Prometemos resistir,
¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

But as we fight, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc
We promise to resist, Oh10 Carmela, Oh Carmela!

Ay Manuela!/ Viva La Quince BrigadaInternational Brigades version in Spanish

Viva la quince brigada,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Viva la quince brigada,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Que sea cubierta de gloria
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela!
Que sea cubierta de gloria
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela!

Long live the fifteen(th) Brigade
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
May it be covered in glory,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc.

Luchamos contra los moros
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Luchamos contra los moros
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Mercenarios y fascistas
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela
Mercenarios y fascistas
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela

We fight against the Moors11
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
Mercenaries and fascists.
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc,

En el frente de Jarama
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
En el frente de Jarama
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
No tenemos ni aviones
Ni tanques ni camiones
Ay Manuela!
No tenemos ni aviones
Ni tanques ni camiones
Ay Manuela!

On the Jarama front
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
We have neither planes, tanks or lorries,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc

Ya salimos de España
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Ya salimos de España
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Pa luchar en otros frentes
Ay Manuela ay manuela
Pa luchar en otros frentes
Ay Manuela ay manuela.

Now we are leaving Spain
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
To fight on other fronts
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc

Viva la quince brigada,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Viva la quince brigada,
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-,
Que sea cubierta de gloria
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela
Que sea cubierta de gloria
Ay Manuela, ay Manuela.

Long live the fifteen(th) Brigade
-Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
May it be covered in glory,
Oh Manuela, Oh Manuela! etc

Viva La Quince Brigada!
Lyrics and musical arrangement by Christy Moore.

Ten years before I saw the light of morning
A comradeship of heroes was laid:
From every corner of the world came sailing
The Fifteenth International Brigade.

They came to stand beside the Spanish people
To try and stem the rising fascist tide;
Franco’s allies were the powerful and wealthy –
Frank Ryan’s men came from the other side.

Even the olives were bleeding
As the battle for Madrid it thundered on,
Truth and love against the force of evil
Brotherhood against the fascist clan.

(Chorus)
Viva la Quince Brigada!
No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight
Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight.

Bob Hilliard was a Church of Ireland pastor,
From Killarney across the Pyrenees he came;
From Derry came a brave young Christian Brother,
Side by side they fought and died in Spain.
Tommy Woods, age seventeen died in Cordoba,
With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun,
From Dublin to the Villa del Rio,
Where he fought and died beneath the blazing sun.

(Chorus)
Viva la Quince Brigada!
No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight
Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight.

Many Irishmen heard the call of Franco,
Joined Hitler and Mussolini too;
Propaganda from the pulpit and newspapers
Helped O’Duffy to enlist his crew.
The word came from Maynooth, “support the Nazis” –
The men of cloth failed again,
When the Bishops blessed the Blueshirts down in Galway
As they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain.

(Chorus)
Viva la Quince Brigada!
No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight
Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight.

This song is a tribute to Frank Ryan
Kit Conway and Dinny Coady too
Peter Daly, Charlie Regan and Hugh Bonar,
Though many died I can but name a few:
Danny Boyle, Blaser-Brown and Charlie Donnelly,
Liam Tumilson and Jim Straney from the Falls,
Jack Nalty, Tommy Patton and Frank Conroy,
Jim Foley, Tony Fox and Dick O’Neill.

(Chorus)
Viva la Quince Brigada!
No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight
Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight.

Gustavo Petro and the Civic – Military Campaigns

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh looks at the new government in Colombia and how it talks of peace while increasing militarisation. English language version first published in Redline, 24th November, reprinted with kind permission of author.

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

The Petro–Márquez government is one which proposes to bring us to what they term Total Peace.

The term and the proposal as such have been subjected to justifiable criticism, not least because it places the insurgency of the ELN on the same footing as armed drug trafficking groups. 

But there is another aspect of their government that calls upon us to reflect on what Petro – Márquez understand as peace and a demilitarized society that breaks with the past and the present of a repressive state where the answer to everything is a military response. 

A first step would be to remove the military from civilian settings. But Petro has already made statements that indicate that neither he nor Márquez think that. 

Shortly after taking on the presidency, he declared that the answer to deforestation of the Amazon was not only military, but Yankee. 

In their electoral campaign their proposal was different, they did not talk about the military anywhere, but rather of democracy, autonomy, measures against drug trafficking and money laundering.

We will stop the deforestation and the burning of the jungle.  We will dismantle the engines of deforestation, amongst them: displacement of the unemployed and landless peasants from the interior of the country towards the Amazon; land grabbers and promoters of extensive cattle ranching and other monocultures; corruption in public bodies; laundering of foreign currency through the purchase of deforested land, a by-product of drug trafficking and corruption; the uncontrolled extraction of wood etc.[1]

And he also said that the pacts to protect the jungle would be with the communities and not national or foreign militaries.

We will build a broad national pact of regional and global importance for the environmental defence of the Amazon, Orinoco and the biogeographic corridor of the Pacific.  We will set up community agreements for the regeneration and ecological restoration of these eco-systems based on organisational processes, proposing to increase the size of collective territories, registry of plots and the strengthening of traditional and ancestral authorities.  We will recognise the rural communities’ own lifestyle in strategic eco-systems and their own ecological and economic forms of production in these habitats, as well as their own environmental management.[2]

It all sounds very nice, but it goes hand in hand with militarisation.  He proposed a sort of military alliance with the USA to avoid the burning of the jungle, copying the already existing model in Brazil where the USA has a base from which to put out fires. 

Of course, in Brazil the mining and logging companies, etc. invade the territory with the approval of the government.  The presence of north American troops never prevented any of the extractionist policies and less still poverty under the governments of Lula, Dilma and Bolsonaro.

As others have pointed out, it is nothing more than the militarisation of environmentalism and it is an old slogan of the imperialists that they should be in charge wherever they want and that includes the Amazon.

They used to brandish the anti-narcotics struggle as an excuse and now it is global warming.  Al Gore once said that “The Amazon is not their property, it belongs to us all”.  Of course, by us, this miscreant means Yankee imperialism: the USA. 

It is the same discourse they have in relation to oil; it does not belong to the countries that have it but rather to all of us i.e. the US and European companies.  Al Gore’s fame as an environmentalist is undeserved but his reputation as an old imperialist is completely justified. 

Other governments have come out with similar feelings, Gore’s was not an individual outburst.  Macron, NATO as such and the influential magazine Foreign Policy have argued for a military intervention in the region with the aim of protecting the planet.[3]

For the moment, Petro is not in favour of Colombia becoming a member of NATO, rather he proposes a regional military alliance.[4]  Against whom would this alliance fight is not at all clear, or whether it would simply be an unofficial appendage to NATO. 

We should be concerned and not just a little bit.  In November he met with representatives of the US Embassy and the Subsecretary of Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland.  Following the meeting Nuland tweeted.

Thank you, Gustavo Petro President of Colombia for our productive meeting reaffirming the importance of our continued partnership on security, peace, progress for Venezuela and protecting our planet.[5]

Bearing in mind the murky past of Nuland in Ukraine in 2014, we should be very careful with her, but there are those who believe that Petro is charge.

It is not the only issue where he proposes military rather than civilian solutions.  Faced with the lack of access to healthcare in the territories of the Pacific, he also proposed to militarise the response.  The Pacific is one of the regions with the worst indicators in the area of healthcare. 

Nobody doubts about the need for an urgent and comprehensive response for the region.  The military boat USNS Comfort visited Colombia to provide medical assistance. 

It was not the first time, the said boat has visited the country four times as part of the Continuing Promise[6] mission, a medical and public relations initiative of the US, deploying its Soft Power.

This boat also took part in the two wars in Iraq as a military hospital, and in the invasion of Haití in 1994.  Petro’s response on Twitter was:

I am grateful for this support in healthcare from the US government to the people of the Caribbean.  It is important that we think about the Pacific.  A mission for the National Navy, along with the building of the first frigate “made in Colombia” will be the building of a hospital ship.[7]

In a non-militarised state healthcare should be under the remit of the Ministry of Health and not the Ministry of Defence, but Petro – Márquez want to bring healthcare to the Pacific through military rather than civilian institutions.

Such incoherence with his public discourse!

In previous governments the military has used its economic power and civic-military days as part of its military and armed operations. 

The mobilisation of troops and the demand for collaboration from the civilian population is justified on the basis of access to medical services that are provided for by civilians in Bogotá and other parts of the country without the need to explain themselves to military institution in the midst of a war.

The Petro – Márquez government is also going to continue with the proposal of the Santos government to build a military base on the Gorgona Island. It is worth remembering that Santos was one of these other men of peace that are in abundance in Colombia: hawks dressed as doves. 

The Gorgona Island was, for many years, a penal colony, the Colombian version of the infamous Devil’s Island immortalised in Papillon film with Steve McQueen.  In 1982 it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO due to it high ecological value. 

A deserted beach in Gorgona National Park, an island 21 miles off Colombia’s Pacific coast and a UNESCO World Heritage ecological site — Petro plans to put a military base there. (Image sourced: Internet)

Now they want to go ahead with the plan to place a military base there.  What is new in the Petro – Márquez government is that there is a rumour that the USA will have access to the base. 

It is not an absurd idea, as the project has anti-narcotic aims and is financed by the US Embassy in the country.[8]  With absolute certainty, the DEA will at least have access to it. 

There are alternatives, such as a warship as a centre of operations.  Petro wants the Navy to build a hospital ship but is not up to telling them to build a ship for what does fall within its remit.

He says he wants peace but he wants to promote the military at every turn, even turning up every time he can wearing military caps. 

So far, he hasn’t acted ridiculous like Iván Duque dressing up as a police officer in the midst of the National Strike of 2021, but as his supporters point out he has only been president for a little more than 100 days and we have to give him time. 

In every circus you have to wait for the clowns to come in.  We can’t always see the lion-tamer but clowns and clownish antics are always there.

Some social climbers from social and human rights organisations ran to take up posts in the ministries of Defence and also the Interior. 

They used to be critics of the armed forces and police of the state, now they look out for its good name in the area of human rights and international humanitarian law.  They also promote the military at each turn. 

The recently appointed Alexandra González, a former functionary of the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners, who is now the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of National Defence published an effusive tweet full of praise of the Ministry of Defence that stated “Military engineers will build tertiary road to benefit the peasant population.”[9] 

She doesn’t understand that the armed forces are never for anything other than war, even in peace time they are preparing for war.  It is their only function.  In any case, no one can explain why the military have to the ones that are building those roads. 

But as a good political opportunist she claims as her own that which does not belong to her.  On twitter they replied to her, pointing out that those projects were old ones. 

A retired military officer and former advisor to the High Commissioner for Peace pointed her in the direction of an article in the regional newspaper El Quindiano written by himself, speaking of the beginning of these civic – military projects in the 1960s.[10]

All governments have carried out infrastructural projects through the Ministry of Defence and in all governments, they were referred to as peace projects.

Perhaps the fugitives from the human rights organisations feel the need to say that it is new in order not to make evident that there is a continuity between this government and all of the previous ones. 

I don’t understand why they signed up to the non-binding declaration on safe schools, if they are promoting the military presence in all other aspects of civilian life. 

The ideal situation would be to not permit the military to use schools as bases or human shields in the midst of fighting nor use the military to build infrastructural projects.

If the government was really progressive (an imprecise term) it would remove the civilian contracts from the military, healthcare would be the exclusive responsibility of health bodies and not the military, it would not propose a military alliance in a world with an excess of them.

And the symbols that Peto would put on a pedestal would be civilian ones, from the people, the communities, even from some trade union, even if it were just out of pure nostalgia, as when he was Mayor of Bogotá he didn’t think much of unions.

End.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Véase https://gustavopetro.co/programa-de-gobierno/temas/propuestas-por-territorio/amazonia/

[2] Colombia Potencia Mundial de la Vida, Programa de Gobierno 2022 – 2024 pp 14 y 15 (disponible en https://gustavopetro.co

[3] Harris, R. (28/10/2022) NATO in the Amazon: Petro Plays with Fire https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/10/28/nato-in-the-amazon-petro-plays-with-fire/

[4] See https://twitter.com/mperelman/status/1592165003154853889?s=20&t=lUaSWKgD_-bO6wY-w4ELQA

[5] See https://twitter.com/USEmbassyBogota/status/1593757340737601544?t=bRqM8J-icRG6EKJuQMhCZA&s=35  

[6] See https://www.msc.usff.navy.mil/Ships/Comfort/History/

[7] See https://twitter.com/petrogustavo/status/1592199983943802880?s=20&t=nEMFaz_35YUU4LQXXZz0zA

[8] El Tiempo (26/10/2022) Pese a cuestionamientos, la Armada construirá muelle en Gorgona https://www.eltiempo.com/vida/medio-ambiente/gorgona-pese-a-cuestionamientos-la-armada-construira-muelle-712305

[9] See https://twitter.com/alexandraG_Z/status/1593927119352078336?s=20&t=wY2X-DPk17I-e4hnsLAJ3w

[10] Castaño, C. (24/03/2022) Un plan militar para la paz https://www.cronicadelquindio.com/opinion/opinion/un-plan-militar-para-la-paz

The British Royal Family and its contribution to humanity

Delighted to repost with thanks another contribution to recent discussion of the British monarchy — delayed by technological difficulties.

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

11 September 2022

The British monarch Elizabeth Windsor, formerly Saxe Coburg Gotha, has died at the grand old age of 96, thanks in no small part to the subsidised lifestyle and medical care she enjoyed throughout her long life.  Her death has produced the usual outpouring of manufactured grief from the media and also “genuine” grief from a sector of that population groomed by that same media.

But what is to be said of her passing?  There has been some reaction to her death that concentrated on her being a mother and grandmother.  But we were not invited to mourn the passing of mothers or grandmothers, but the death of a monarch and all that monarchy represented.  So, before we look at the legacy of Elizabeth Windsor we should ask ourselves what is monarchy.  The Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed by the British state under the reign of George V, stated in relation to that same king’s visit to Ireland.

What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.(1)

In this, Connolly only described monarchies in general as the most ignorant and backward manifestations of humanity.  It is a point that bourgeois revolutionaries such as Rousseau and Voltaire would not have disagreed with.  In fact, it was a standard capitalist argument for much of history.  However, various capitalist nations hung on to their royal households, either as symbolic figures or as propaganda figures for their campaigns and conquests.

Much is now made of the contribution of Mrs Windsor to society, the arts, and even peace through her now celebrated handshake with Martin McGuinness, though who gave more in that handshake is not questioned.  Connolly was very clear about the contribution of monarchies to the progress of society.

Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the species. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanizing of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogized today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes.(2)

Connolly had no truck with royalty.  No time for tales of cute old grannies who shook the hands of erstwhile enemies.  Any evaluation of the queen of the British state has to go beyond her supposed personal qualities. Criticisms of royals are not well received.  When the then British diplomat and future Irish revolutionary, Roger Casement, exposed the atrocities of the Belgium king Leopold II in Congo and his mass murder of over ten million Congolese, the report was not well received initially and the descendants of the man who murdered more than Hitler are the actual monarchs in Belgium and are apparently a lovely couple and third cousins of Mrs. Windsor.  Discussions about royalty are not about the individual qualities of the monarchs but the system as such.  Though even on this point Mrs. Windsor comes a cropper.

In 1972 the British army murdered 14 civilians in Derry on what was to be the last Civil Rights march in the country.  The British quickly engaged in a cover up which basically blamed those murdered as having been armed members of the IRA.  Everyone now accepts that this was not true.  Even the Saville Inquiry which stopped short of blaming the British state directly for the murders accepted they were all unarmed civilians.  But Elizabeth Windsor nonetheless decorated Lt Colonel Derek Wilford, the man in charge on the day and has never apologised for that.  Her role in this is often forgotten.

So, any question of looking at the death of Elizabeth Windsor cannot be ahistorical.  Though Sinn Féin have issued statements that are breath taking in their servility.  The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted.

To the Royal Family and all who mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth, especially Irish Unionists, I extend sincere sympathy. She lived a long, full life. In her lifetime relationships between our countries were changed and changing. I salute her contribution to this transformation.(3)

She is of course, referring to the Peace Process and her handshake with Martin McGuinness. This says more about Sinn Féin than it does about Elizabeth Windsor.  As a monarch she never had a problem dealing with people she saw as her inferiors, or those bowed in deference to her.  Michele O’ Neill was equally effusive about the queen acknowledging the apparently profound sorrow of Unionists.  And added that.

Having met Queen Elizabeth on a number of occasions alongside my colleague, the late Martin McGuinness, I appreciated both her warmth and courtesy.(4)

Her courtesy is a diplomatic ploy, as for her warmth that is not the image given in any of her public engagements, not even when greeting her son Charles after a long trip.  The poor kid did not get a hug, he was made genuflect.  But we can take O’Neill’s word for it.  It is not important.  Neither her courtesy or alleged warmth are political evaluations.  Whether we should mourn a monarch does not depend on such personal qualities.  Henry Kissinger the Butcher of Cambodia and Chile comes across as an affable, even charming old man, and he may well be in real life, but that is not how we judge him.  Likewise, George Bush the Lesser (as Arundhati Roy dubbed him) also comes across as likeable, though it would be hard to convince the dead of Iraq that this mattered one jot: it doesn’t.

The press coverage of her death and much of the commentaries indicate that there is clear obfuscation on the part of the press and ignorance on the part of the population about the nature of the English royal family and the role of Elizabeth Windsor as queen.  One of the myths is that she is just a mere figurehead, with little or no power.  It is true that most power rests with Parliament and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.  But she has powers that she has exercised from time to time.  She has instructed governors of overseas territories not to sign laws. In 1975, through John Kerr, her governor general in Australia, she dismissed the then prime minister Gough Whitlam.(5)  It was a rarely used power, but it exists as do other powers she never had to invoke, like her control over the military.  She has invoked the Queen’s Consent more frequently to prevent parliament discussing Bills she was not happy with.  She also was the last port of call for those sentenced to death, when capital punishment was still on the statute book.

In the 1950s three Greek Cypriots were sentenced to death, Michalaki Karaolis, Andreas Dimitriou and Evagora Pallikaridis.  The last of these was a particularly notable case.  Pallikardis confessed under torture to carrying weapons.  His lawyers pleaded to Elizabeth Windsor for clemency.  She refused.  The warmth that Sinn Féin leader O’ Neill felt was not on display for the 18-year-old, nor was she the loveable old grandmother that others have referred to.  Likewise, the other two were also hanged.  On the rare occasions that she has had to exercise power she has shown herself to be of the same pedigree as her blood thirsty forebears who raped and pillaged their way across the planet.

She never spoke out about the situation in Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion, which kicked off early in her reign.  The Pipeline, as it was known, that the British set up in Kenya was a camp system in which prisoners were moved up and down it according to the degree of torture that was required to break them.  That matter was raised in Parliament at the time by some Labour MPs.  The prisoners even managed to smuggle out letters to MPs and other officials, amongst them Elizabeth Windsor.(6)  She knew what was happening.  She was fully aware.  She exercised no powers to bring an end to it.  She just didn’t talk about it publicly, ever.  It was not the only situation that she kept quiet about.  Her relationship with the issue of race has never been a good one.  She negotiated exemptions to racial and sexual discrimination laws and employs very few non-whites.

In 1990 the journalist Andrew Morton reported in the Sunday Times that “a black face has never graced the executive echelons of royal service – the household and officials” and “even among clerical and domestic staff, there is only a handful of recruits from ethnic minorities”.

The following year, the royal researcher Philip Hall published a book, Royal Fortune, in which he cited a source close to the Queen confirming that there were no non-white courtiers in the palace’s most senior ranks.(7)

In her Christmas speeches she tended to talk of banal matters and family.  However, she did wade into politics some times and these speeches, unlike the speeches when she opens Parliament, are hers.

In her Christmas speech of 1972, she referred to various situations around the world and also the North of Ireland.  Her take on it was simple.

We know only too well that a selfish insistence upon our rights and our own point of view leads to disaster. We all ought to know by now that a civilised and peaceful existence is only possible when people make the effort to understand each other.(8)

Exactly who was selfishly insisting on their rights was not explicitly spelt out, but it was obvious that she didn’t mean the British state, but uppity Paddies and others around the world.  This was made clear when in 1973 she awarded an OBE to Lt Col Wilford, the officer in charge of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972.  The families of those murdered and injured on that day called upon her to apologise.(9)  She did not do so.  The nearest she came to it was a banal statement on history during a visit to Ireland in 2011 when she stated “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss… with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.”(10)  She did not accept Britain’s actual role in that and there was no specific reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre.

There is no shortage of sycophants and royalists who claim she had no powers, when in fact, she did as her son Charles now has.  Others have preferred to go the route of she didn’t do it, it was others.  Not quite true.  She did preside over the dying days of Empire and gave succour to the troops busy murdering and torturing people in places she liked to visit on the Royal Yacht. But the many atrocities committed before she acceded to the throne are also hers.  The Irish revolutionary James Connolly said of the visit to Ireland of one of her predecessors in the role.

We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.(11)

And she did claim them.  One of her other forays into matters of Empire was her Christmas speech of 1982.

Earlier this year in the South Atlantic the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy enabled our sailors, soldiers and airmen to go to the rescue of the Falkland Islanders 8,000 miles across the ocean; and to reveal the professional skills and courage that could be called on in defence of basic freedoms.(12)

It should be remembered that Britain gained control of the Malvinas in a colonial war, in 1833, against the newly independent Argentina.  In 1982, what was at stake was mineral wealth in the sea.  She, like Thatcher, rejoiced at the sinking of the General Belgrano ship, lest we forget that those who now joke about her death are not that far removed from her own sense of mourning people she sees as enemies of her dwindling Empire.  She had no sense of shame. In 1990, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq she stated without any sense of irony that

The invasion of Kuwait was an example on an international scale of an evil which has beset us at different levels in recent years – attempts by ruthless people to impose their will on the peaceable majority.(13)

This was the queen of a country that had imposed itself on more of humanity than any other previous empire had ever done.  Of course, Hussein had been a friend of Britain.  In 1953, the CIA and the British overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, which had nationalised the oil industry dealing a blow to the Anglo Persian Oil Company, now known as B.P.  This set in motion a chain of events that would see Britain install another royal, the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi whose despotic rule would lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  Enter Saddam.  He launched a brutal and bloody war against Iran, invading it in 1980.  The war lasted 8 years and cost 500,000 lives.  It was bankrolled by the west through the Saudis.  There was no one claiming that he had imposed his will, nor were British troops sent to attack this important ally.

Part of her role is that of cheerleader for empire and war.  British troops serve under her, not Parliament.  They are called upon to serve Queen/King and country and a major part of her role is to encourage young men (and lately women) to throw their lives away in places like Iraq as part of imperial exercises in power and the theft of natural resources.

It is also laughable that the English monarch talks of the peaceable majority when Britain is one of the major arms manufacturers and exporters in the world, supplying despots around the world with the necessary wherewithal to keep local populations in line.  Her own son Andrew was appointed Special Representative for International Trade and Investment for the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in 2001 and in that role he promoted arms sales.  When he was forced by circumstances surrounding his role in the abuse of young girls alongside Jeffrey Epstein to step back from a public role, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade commented that:

The news that Prince Andrew will step back from Royal duties is unlikely to provoke feelings of sorrow or regret for most British citizens – but for despots, dictatorships and arms dealers around the world it will be a sad day. They have lost one of their most high profile and influential supporters.(14)

During Mrs. Windsor’s reign Britain exported almost 135 billion (in current prices for each year) of arms and is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world.(15)  Some British companies with operations outside of Britain also export arms.  These figures do not include what Britain manufactures for its own armed forces or what it buys from other countries.

Remarkably even feminists in Britain and Ireland have publicly lamented the death of Mrs. Windsor ignoring her role in her son’s abuse of young girls.  What little action she took against him was due to public outcry and pressure helped along by a disastrous interview in which his sense of entitlement oozed out of the pores he claims not to sweat from.  She also forked out part of the money that was paid as part of the settlement with Virginia Guiffre, one of his and Epstein’s victims, though her part could not be used directly to pay the victim but only for the part that went to charities.(16)  Not a minor point for feminists, you would have thought.  Nonetheless, they lament the death of the loving mother and grandmother. One who showed none of the warmth Sinn Féin claim she shows.

Monarchies are inherently reactionary, even without the atrocities committed by them or in their name.  They are hereditary positions occupied by parasites living off the public purse.  A lavish funeral and later coronation of Charles will be held, costing millions of pounds.  Other old grandmothers will go hungry this winter or die of hypothermia as energy prices soar, a fate Elizabeth did not face and neither will Charles.  The old grandmothers around England, who will die of hypothermia this year, through their taxes ensure that Charles will see the winter through, unless a horse-riding accident upsets his plans.  Monarchy is all that is rotten in society, the sycophantic outpouring of fake grief is of a people who do not seek a better society, who are enthralled to their masters and their betters, those who bow down to the great and the good.  But it was again James Connolly who had said “the great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise!”

The idea of rising off our knees has been abandoned by most.  Sinn Féin is lavish in its praise for her, one of the political and cultural shifts that results from the Good Friday Agreement.  The rot has even spread to their friends in Colombia.  Timochenko the former FARC guerrilla leader tweeted his condolences to the people of Great Britain and also mentioned that handshake with McGuinness.(17)  Britain’s trade unions through the TUC have also bowed down to the royals.  The ideological role of the Windsors in class conflict is ignored.  Even the otherwise militant RMT has called off strikes planned for September 15th and 17th.  There was a time calling for the abolishment of the monarchy was a no brainer for progressives.  In the 1980s Arthur Scargill made just that call and when questioned as to what the royals would do then, he replied, “they can work in Sainsburys”.  Though some of them have pilots licences, maybe they can do the Gatwick – Dublin route with Ryanair.

Those who mourn Elizabeth Windsor are complicit in what she represents: privilege, war, torture, racism.  There are no ifs or buts to that.  It is as Robespierre said, “The King must die so the country can live”.  It is time to abolish the monarchy and throw onto the putrid rubbish pile of history all that it represents and Charles and William can, as Scargill suggested, get a job and sycophants can go back to worrying about Madonna or Beyoncé.

Notes

(1) Connolly, J. (1910) Visit of King George V https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

(2) Ibíd.,

(3) See https://twitter.com/MaryLouMcDonald/status/1567945861354909696

(4) See https://twitter.com/moneillsf/status/1567931690873503744?s=20&t=nKj7EgPfa0WHJ6PEPdwQgQ

(5) The Guardian (14/07/2020) Gough Whitlam dismissal: what we know so far about the palace letters and Australian PM’s sacking
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/14/what-we-know-so-far-about-the-palace-letters-and-the-dismissal-of-australian-prime-miister-ough-whitlams-dism

(6) See Elkins, C. (2005) Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya. New York. Henry Holt and Company. paras 20.48 & 26.48

(7) The Guardian (02/06/2021) Buckingham Palace banned ethnic minorities from office roles, papers reveal https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jun/02/buckingham-palace-banned-ethnic-minorities-from-office-roles-papers-reveal

(8) Queen’s Christmas speech 1990 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1972

(9) The Irish Independent (31/01/1998) Royal apology would help right Derry ‘insult’ https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/royal-apology-would-help-right-derry-insult-26200165.html

(10) The Irish Examiner (19/05/2022) The Queen’s Speech https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-20155083.html

(11) Connolly, J. (1910) op. cit.

(12) Queen’s Christmas speech 1982 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1982

(13) Queen’s Christmas speech 1990 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1990

(14) Smith, A. (21/11/2019) With Prince Andrew in retirement, it’s a bad week for despots and dictators https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/prince-andrew-step-back-interview-arms-trade-jeffrey-epstein-gaddafi-a9212841.html

(15) Figures taken from https://www.sipri.org

(16) Time Magazine (17/02/2022) Who’s Paying Prince Andrew’s $16 Million Settlement to Virginia Giuffre? What to Know About Royal Finances https://time.com/6149123/prince-andrew-settlement-virginia-giuffre-royal-finances/

(17) See https://twitter.com/TimoComunes/status/1568243032679497728

The Belfast Tunnels 1920-22

Great piece, grma!

Many tunnels in Dublin too, including the remnants in the top floor of houses in the Nos.10-25 Moore Street terrace (the one chiefly threatened by property speculation).

I’d have been interested to know which ‘armed men’ used the tunnels to enter houses and kill the occupants, though I have my suspicions and it’s not the IRA.

The Treason Felony Blog

Tunnelled yards in Vere Street, Belfast

In the summer of 1922, police and soldiers carrying out raids in the Grove Street area (off North Queen) reported that “…the search revealed that the yards on the Grove Street side were tunnelled the whole length of the street, and access to Grove Street could be made from Vere Street through another tunnel.” (Belfast Newsletter, 21/8/1922). The photograph above and below shows some of those yard walls in Grove Street and Vere Street (the next street over – note the same man in the cap in both photos), and appeared in the contemporary press coverage. In each case the brickwork was removed from the walls that separated the back yards of houses from each other. By doing so, people could move from back yard to back yard while hidden from view by the exterior walls.

By the summer of…

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Sinn Féin and their Queen’s Funeral

One of number of pieces on the recent media fest in relation to English monarchy delighted to be able to repost here with thanks.

Irish Dissent

The intensively mediated death of Elizabeth Windsor, accompanied by the relentlessly maudlin and invasive coverage of official mourning and her funeral, had an intensity that can only be described as imperial. Forced as it was into every corner of public discourse, this coercive atmosphere of state sorrow had a distinctly colonising thrust and meaning. Unleashed during a moment of total class warfare within her very disunited kingdom, it also marked an endpoint in the trajectory of her most obedient servants: the formerly Irish but now thoroughly British political party, Sinn Féin.  During Windsor’s reign colonial chickens came home to roost as the woman who presided over British forces while they rampaged across the six counties of British-occupied Ireland then became over the past decade and a half the queen of foodbanks in her own country. (1)  Her reign spanned a long period during which overt political violence in Ireland was…

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THE BLOOD-RED POPPY – NOT AT ALL ABOUT REMEMBRANCE

PART I

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Edited from a longer in-depth piece published in 2014 and divided into parts).

(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)

The dominant class in the UK and in some of the British Commonwealth will shortly be calling people to join in a cultural festival which they call “Remembrance” – but that’s not at all what it’s really about.

The organisation fronting this festival in the ‘UK’ is the Royal British Legion and their symbol for it (and registered trademark) is the Red Poppy, paper or fabric representations of which people are encouraged to buy and wear.

And in some places, such as the BBC for personnel in front of the camera, or civil servants in public, or sports people representing the UK, forced or bullied into wearing.1

In many schools and churches throughout the ‘UK’, Poppies are sold and wreaths are laid at monuments to the dead soldiers in many different places. The pressure to wear and display one of the symbols is intense and public figures declining to do so are metaphorically pilloried2.

Prominent individuals, politicians and the media take part in a campaign to encourage the wearing of the Poppy and observance of the day of remembrance generally and for a decade now, to extend the Festival for a yet longer period.

This alleged “Festival of Remembrance” includes concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and the military and veterans’ parades to the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London, on “Remembrance Sunday”.

The Royal Albert Hall concert is replete with military uniforms, British Royals’ presence and “Poppy” symbols everywhere. The big Saturday evening concert starts and ends with the UK state’s anthem, God Save the Queen/ King played by military bands.

Tickets for the big event are restricted to members of the Legion and their families, and senior members of the British Royal Family (the reigning monarch, royal consort, Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex). The event is televised.3

BUT WHAT IS IT ALL FOR?

We are told it’s for charitable purposes – the money raised from the sale of the “Poppies” and associated merchandise is to be used to support former military service people in need and the families of those killed in conflict.

We surely can’t object to that, can we? And isn’t putting up with the military and royal pomp a small price to pay for such charitable and worthwhile purposes?

Yet the main purpose of this festival and the symbol is neither remembrance nor charity but rather the exact opposite: to gloss over the realities of organised deadly violence on a massive scale, to make us forget the experience of the world’s people of war.

Worse, its purpose is to prepare the ground for recruitment of more people for the next war or armed imperialist venture – and of course more premature deaths and injuries, including those of soldiers taking part.

Video and song by Vincent Burke, “On Remembrance Day” from Veterans for Peace lists British conflicts (including Ireland) and condemns the Church of England for supporting the wars, calling also on people to wear the White Poppy.
The Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall in 2014. Jim Radford, singer and D-Day veteran had been there for the first of the VfP Remembrance Day events and every year since until Covid-19 got him. He was a friend and comrade of mine and I marched with the civilian supporters of VfP contingent in

PARTIAL REMEMBRANCE – obscuring the perpetrators and the realities of war

The Royal British Legion is the overall organiser of the Festival of Remembrance and has the sole legal ‘UK’ rights to use the Poppy trademark and to distribute the fabric or paper poppies in the ‘UK’.

According to the organisation’s website, “As Custodian of Remembrance” one of the Legion’s two main purposes is to “ensure the memories of those who have fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces live on through the generations.”4

By their own admission, the purpose of the Legion’s festival is to perpetuate the memories only of those who fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces – it is therefore only a very partial (in both senses of the word) remembrance.

It is left to others to commemorate the dead in the armies of the British Empire and colonies which the British ruling class called to its support: in WWI, over 230,500 non-‘UK’ dead soldiers from the Empire and, of course, the ‘UK’ figure of 888,246 includes the upper figure of 49,400 Irish dead.5

Cossack soldier volunteers WWI. Imperial Russia was an ally of Britain and France; the war was on of the causes of the Russian Socialist Revolution 1917. The following year, the war ended. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Festival of Remembrance excludes not only the dead soldiers of the British Empire and of its colonies but also those of Britain’s allies: France, Belgium, Imperial Russia, Japan, USA – and their colonies.

Not to mention thousands of Chinese, African, Arab and Indian labourers, mule drivers, porters and food preparation workers employed by the army.

No question seems to arise of the Festival of Remembrance commemorating the fallen of the “enemy” but if the festival were really about full “remembrance”, it would commemorate the dead on each side of conflicts.

German soldiers playing cards during WWI. Photos of Germans in WWI more readily available show them wearing masks and looking like monsters. (Photo sourced: Internet)

That would particularly be appropriate in WWI, an imperialist war in every aspect. But of course they don’t commemorate both sides; if we feel equally sorry for the people of other nations, it will be difficult to get us to kill them in some future conflict.

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN WAR

A real festival of remembrance would commemorate too those civilians killed in war (seven million in WWI), the percentage of which in overall war casualty statistics has been steadily rising through the century with increasingly long-range means of warfare.

Civilian war refugees in Salonika, NW Greece, WWI

Civilians in the First World War died prematurely in epidemics and munitions factory explosions as well as in artillery and air bombardments, also in sunk shipping and killed in auxiliary logistical labour complements in battle areas.

They died through hunger too, as feeding the military became the priority in food production and distribution and as farmhands became soldiers.

In WWII 50-55,000,000 civilians died in extermination camps or forced labour units, targeting of ethnic and social groups, air bombardments, as well as in hunger and disease arising from the destruction of harvests and infrastructure.6

Air bombardments, landmines, ethnic targeting and destruction of infrastructures continue to exact a high casualty rate among civilians in war areas: a Reuters study gave over one million killed by the war in Iraq and another study gave between 184,382 and 207,156 civilians killed in Iraq during the war and aftermath.7

That figure for Iraq does not include dead from pre-US invasion western trade sanctions (yes, economic sanctions frequently kill) or the 46,319 dead civilians in Afghanistan8.

The number of civilians injured, many of them permanently disabled, is of course higher than the numbers killed. Most of those will bring an additional cost to health and social services where these are provided by the state and of course to families, whether state provision exists or not.

Real and impartial “remembrance” would include civilians but not even British civilians killed and injured are included in the Festival of Remembrance, revealing that the real purpose of the Festival is to support the armed forces and their activities.

The 2014 slogan “shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces” underlines that purpose9 while contributing at the same time to a certain militarisation of society and of the dominant national culture.

The propaganda is more sophisticated this year: “Our red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future” but “Poppies are worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces Community.”10

WEAPONS AND INJURIES

If the Festival were really about “remembrance”, they would commemorate the numbers of injuries and detail the various types of weapons that caused them.

But that might reflect unfavourably on the armaments manufacturers, who run a multi-trillion industry11 in whatever currency one cares to name, so of course they don’t. And if really concerned about death and injury in war, they would campaign to end imperialist war.

Gassed Australian soldiers awaiting hospitalisation 1916

But then how else would the various imperial states sort out among themselves which one could extract which resources from which countries in the world and upon the markets of which country each imperial state could dump its produce?

So of course the Royal British Legion doesn’t campaign against war.

SANITISED HISTORY, MILITARY PROPAGANDA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

Partial remembrance was indeed embodied in the song chosen by the British Legion to promote its Festival in the WWI centenary festival in 2014.

No Man’s Land, sung by Joss Stone, is actually a truncated version of the song of the same title (better known in Ireland as the Furey’s The Green Fields of France), composed by Scottish-raised and Australian-based singer-songwriter Eric Bogle.

The Joss Stone version contains the lyrics of the chorus as well as of one verse and one-half of another, omitting two and-a-half verses of Bogle’s song.

Some of the British media created a kind of controversy, at the behest of who knows whom, to have the British Legion’s song included top of BBC’s Radio One playlist. The song is reproduced in entirety below, with the lines sung by Joss Stone in italics and those she omitted in normal type.

I.
Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride?

Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?

And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,

I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.

I see by your gravestone you were only 19

When you joined the great fallen in 1916,

I hope you died well and I hope you died clean

Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

(Chorus)
Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?

Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?

Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?

And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

II.
Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind

In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?

Although, you died back in 1916,

In that faithful heart are you forever 19?

Or are you a stranger without even a name,

Enclosed forever behind the glass frame,

In an old photograph, torn, battered and stained,

And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

(Chorus)

III.
The sun now it shines on the green fields of France;

There’s a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance.

And look how the sun shines from under the clouds

There’s no gas, no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now.

But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land

The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand

To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.

To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.

(Chorus)

IV.
Ah young Willie McBride, I can’t help wonder why,

Do those that lie here know why did they die?

And did they believe when they answered the cause,

Did they really believe that this war would end wars?

Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,

The killing and dying, were all done in vain.

For Willie McBride, it all happened again,

And again, and again, and again, and again.

(Chorus)

It’s easy to see why the Royal British Legion might shy away from the omitted lyrics, which would hardly encourage recruitment or support for war.

Interviewed on video, Joss Stone herself said how important it was to be “true to the lyrics” and that “the last thing one would want to do would be to disrespect the lyric”.

Incredibly, she and John Cohen, the record producer, both separately claimed that they had captured the essence of the song lyrics in the British Legion’s version.12

Although Bogle stated that he did not think the Joss Stone version glorifies war, he did say that it did not condemn it and was ultimately a sentimentalised version that went against the intention and central drive of the lyrics.

Believe it or not I wrote the song intending for the four verses of the original song to gradually build up to what I hoped would be a climactic and strong anti-war statement,” Bogle said.

Missing out two and a half verses from the original four verses very much negates that intention.” (apparently in a reply from Bogle to a blogger’s email and quoted in a number of newspaper reports).13

The truncation of the song and the removal in particular of the anti-war lyrics epitomises partial “remembrance” and stands as a metaphor for it, the production of a lie by omission and obscuration.

Sanitised history, military recruitment propaganda and public relations is what this “Remembrance” is about.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Five reasons people don’t wear poppies – BBC News

2Ibid.

3Description on Royal British Legion website in 2014 and matched by Wikipedia account of 2015 event

4Their website in 2014 and confirmed by Wikipedia for 2015.

5Irish in the British Armed Forces – Wikipedia

6World War II casualties – Wikipedia

7https://www.wired.com/2011/06/afghanistan-iraq-wars-killed-132000-civilians-report-says/#:~:text=At%20least%20132%2C000%20civilians%20have%20died%20from%2010,how%20many%20civilians%20have%20di%20in %20these%20wars. And Iraqi Civilians | Costs of War (brown.edu)

8Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) – Wikipedia

9The slogan of RB Legion in 2014.

10All about the poppy | Royal British Legion

11“In 2021, the military spending worldwide amounted to 2.11 trillion U.S. dollars. The United States accounted for 38 percent of total military worldwide spending” Defense spendng and arms trade – Statistics & Facts | Statista

12Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rotXZFXJWo were active in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down.

13Eric Bogle: I don’t like Joss Stone’s cover of No Man’s Land, but I won’t sue | Joss Stone | The Guardian

SOURCES & USEFUL LINKS

Against wearing the Poppy: Five reasons people don’t wear poppies – BBC News

A Unionist from the Six Counties’ view on the Poppy as a measure of support for the United Kingdom: Fewer people are wearing poppies in Belfast, as unionist symbols in the public space are successfully demonised by republicans | Belfast News Letter

Red Poppy Symbol:

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/article/remembrance-poppy.htm

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/poppy-appeal

(see also Red Poppy and British Legion links)

British Legion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royal_British_Legion

and Albert Hall Remembrance Concert: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/File:The Royal Albert Hall, London during the Festival of Remembrance MOD 45159095.jpg – Wikipedia

Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle were accessed at the following in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10 and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rotXZFXJWoWhite Poppy symbol:

http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/index.html

WWI war dead:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

Joss Stone’s truncated and rather awful version:

‘No Man’s Land’ – Joss Stone Ft. Jeff Beck – YouTube

Eric Bogle, composer of No Man’s Land on Joss Stone version: Eric Bogle: I don’t like Joss Stone’s cover of No Man’s Land, but I won’t sue | Joss Stone | The Guardian
Joss Stone butchers No Mans Land | urban75 forums

“Controversy” over Legion’s 2014 Festival promotional song by Joss Stone (truncation of Eric Bogle’s No Man’s Land):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2828041/BBC-branded-disgraceful-Royal-British-Legion-refusing-airtime-Poppy-appeal-song.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bbc-snubs-official-poppy-appeal-4600035

http://johnhilley.blogspot.ie/2014/11/poppy-appeal-and-royal-british-legions.html

Civilian war deaths due to war in Afghanistan:
Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–2021) – Wikipedia

Civilian war deaths due to war in Iraq: Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey | Reuters Iraqi Civilians | Costs of War (brown.edu)

Images WWI: Various sources accessed on the Internet

Arms trade: Defense spendng and arms trade – Statistics & Facts | Statista

Veterans for Peace (June 2011-August 2022): http://veteransforpeace.org.uk

Video Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph:
Remembrance Sunday 2014
(performing song and poem): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t34dnIabsGw
2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsr15SZfVUw

Video and song On Remembrance Day from Veterans for Peace web page: (lists British modern armed conflicts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPLtSkILwvs#t=62

NB: Sadly Veterans for Peace has ceased to exist as an organisation

CLOSING DOWN CHINESE POLICE STATION ON IRISH SOIL

Dear Editor,

I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear of the prompt action of the Irish Government in closing down an alleged Chinese police station operating in Dublin’s Capel Street.

It’s very important to keep Ireland neutral.

If those Chinese had been allowed to get away with that, next you’d have some country thinking they could run their warplanes and prisoners through Shannon airport. Or some other country allowed to fly over Irish airspace in their military helicopters. Or thinking they could set up a militarised colony on Irish soil.

Sincerely,

Ian Denieyan

DUBLIN ANTI-FASCIST CLEARED OF “VIOLENT DISORDER”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Donal O Ceallaigh walked free on Wednesday to congratulations of his supporters after four years under the threat of a ten-year jail sentence and/ or unlimited fine. He had been charged with “violent disorder” arising out events in February 2016.

The charging of antifascists with “violent disorder” was a first use by the State against political activists of this vicious piece of legislation with such a heavy penalty and for which the burden of proof seems very slight.

All that seems required is for the State to prove that a situation of violence occurred or was threatened in which the accused were present (minimum of three) and “that would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at that place to fear for his or another person’s safety.”1

The background to the charges was the boast of fascist islamophobic organisation Pegida in 2016 that it would organise a public rally – and founding meeting – in every capital city in Europe and the rally they planned to take place outside the GPO on 6th February 2016.

In response, antifascists mobilised in Dublin with the intention of preventing Pegida’s launch.

IRELAND’S ANTIFASCIST RESPONSE

The mobilisation took a number of forms:

1) a large diverse group gathered outside the GPO, occupying the space well before the advertised time. A large proportion of these included religious and liberal organisations and individuals.

2) Another large group, of Republicans and Socialists of different organisations — and none — gathered in O’Connell Street, on the central pedestrian reservation and on the east side of the street.

3) Irish fascists arriving by Luas (tram system) were met on the tram itself by young antifascists.2

It appears that there were no confrontations between the GPO group and fascists which was fortunate, since some of the participants had publicly advocated non-violence and even encouraged bringing children to the event,3 no doubt in order to emphasise their pacifist nature.

The handful of known fascists of Irish background, whose intended movements were known in advance, apparently noticed or guessed the sympathies of some of the antifascist youth travelling in the Luas, addressed some unkind words to them and violence quickly resulted4.

The fascists concerned apparently abandoned their plan to attend the rally and some reportedly felt the necessity to attend A&E department in hospital instead.

There is no doubt that the longest-running conflict with the most people involved on both sides occurred around the east side of O’Connell Street and streets running off it, in particular North Earl Street and Cathedral Street.

The fascists who were involved there appeared to be all of East European origin. It seemed that they had not been spotted until some of them began to insult some women and when filmed, to make a negative comment along the lines of “your f..king communist filming”.

Once having identified themselves, a crowd of antifascists gathered around them and the situation developed quickly. The fascists were soon running, in the course of which one ran into a Euro-shop in North Earl Street with a number of anti-fascists behind.5

Some Gardaí lashed out with batons at people leaving the shop (which could clearly be seen on the police compilation of video footage shown in court), including an RTÉ cameraman.6

At least three of those fascists ran eastward down Talbot Street, which is a continuation of the short North Earl Street; two large white police vans appeared at the intersection with Marlsborough Street and the “robocops”, the Public Order Unit emerged.

The POU deployed with dogs in North Earl Street, clearing it and menacing both antifascists and shoppers.7

Shortly afterwards, word spread among the antifascists that some of the fascists were in a pub in the parallel Cathedral Street and had exchanged words with some antifascists who also happened to be in there;8 a crowd of antifascists flocked to the area concerned.

This area saw one of the sharpest confrontation between the Garda Public Order Unit and antifascists, with the former lashing out with drawn batons on largely unprotected hands and heads.

The Gardaí rescued the fascists from the pub and loaded them into one of their vans before driving off. A decoy Garda van was blocked in O’Connel Street by protestors and interested youth for a period but the fascists were spirited away to safety in another van.

Pegida had been prevented from holding their rally so the antifascists emerged victorious. The State actors sat down to decide how they would respond in the aftermath.

THE IRISH STATE SHARPENS ITS KNIVES

The first to be targeted by arrests were the antifascists in the confrontation on the LUAS tram. Visible in recordings of the CCTV camera which had remained uncovered throughout, they were identified, charged, convicted and heavily fined — as a deterrent, the judge made clear.

Next the Gardaí set about identifying antifascists active in the North Earl Street conflict and selected two Republicans from different organisations which, along with an independent antifascist from the pub in Cathedral Street, they charged with the serious offence of “violent disorder”.

This led to alarm in antifascist circles since, as outlined earlier the potential penalties with this charge are very high and it had never been used by the State before with regards to a situation of a political nature – in fact, it had hardly been used at all.

Two years after the events, one week to the day after he had been found “not guilty” on another political charge, Donal Ó Ceallaigh was charged with “violent disorder” in connection with the anti-Pegida protest too.

Through the intervening months and years, two of those charged with “violent disorder” separately agreed a deal to plead “guilty” to a lesser charge and avoid the danger of a ten-year sentence and this week at the commencement of the remaining two’s trial, another one did so.

Ó Ceallaigh then remained the only one of the original four on trial for “violent disorder”. His trial began on Monday 24th in Criminal Court No.7,9 six years after the events and four years after he was charged, with some supporters and his wife present in the public area.

TRIAL OF O’CEALLAIGH

Shortly after Ó Ceallaigh’s trial commenced, his defence counsel, Brian Gageby BL engaged by Sheehan & Partners, asked for a discussion in court in the absence of the jury and took the State’s witnesses through their process of protecting the chain of video evidence and identification of Ó Ceallaigh himself.

A compilation of six video clips was shown from: (1) the Euro Shop CCTV, (2) Garda cameras, the (1) TV cameraman’s footage (obtained by warrant) and (1) video taken by the shop’s security guard on his phone.

It emerged that 500 Gardaí have viewed the footage on an internal Garda system without identifying anyone on it.

The Garda officer responsible for ensuring identification then gave a convoluted account of how he had ended up going through associates of another activist to contacting another officer who had arrested Ó Ceallaigh in relation to water protests, who obligingly identified the activist.

That Garda said that he knew the defendant from a previous arrest and that it was he in a number of the videos, wearing a green hooded jacket and red scarf around his neck and that he has a tattoo there,10although only a very small portion of the man’s face is visible.

Another Garda who oversaw the identification claimed to have made his own statement a long time afterwards from memory alone but somehow included the exact times, in minutes and seconds on the video where the other’s statement had identified Ó Ceallaigh!

Defence counsel put it to him he could only have that precision from having written his statement to coincide with the other Garda’s, which he denied having done — of course that would have looked very much like conspiring to, as they say, “fit up” the defendant with regards to identification!

As Tuesday’s jury-less court session drew to a close, Defence counsel made two submissions to the Judge objecting to the challenged video identification evidence going to the jury, which Prosecution counsel defended and the judge retired to consider the arguments.

At resumption of the trial on Wednesday morning, the Judge announced her decision not to permit the challenged video evidence to go before the jury and the Prosecution counsel admitted that without that, effectively they had no evidence to place the activist at the scene.

The jury was then called in and the Judge directed them to return a verdict of “Not guilty”. Ó Ceallaigh was free to go and receive the embrace of his wife and congratulations of his supporters (and from some interested members of the public).

Though appearing glad he seemed to take it all quite calmly but admitted to the author that it had been “a bit of a strain”.

SUMMARY

As a result of the mobilisation and struggles on the day, Pegida was prevented from launching in Ireland, perhaps the only European country in which they failed to do so. This would have been important in any case but became especially so with the struggles around Covid to come.

The State had failed to protect the fascists’ “right” to hold their founding rally in Ireland and no doubt the Gardaí felt humiliated. They determined to recover ground and the State made a political decision of charging demonstrators with a very serious charge: “violent disorder”.

In that, the State hoped to establish a legal precedent with a view to its use against demonstrators in other situations in future. It did in fact establish the precedent in using the charge (and without an outcry from liberals and social democrats).

The State may have felt enough was gained for the moment in offering to accept a “guilty” plea to a lesser charge but when Ó Ceallaigh declined to accept the deal, they tried for a conviction, which would have given them the precedent they originally sought – but they failed.

However, many antifascist activists were punished and according to information received, 15,000 Euro in punitive fines was collected, not to speak of the worry and years spent in the shadow of the hanging sword.

Antifascists have hopefully learned the importance of going masked in similar situations and awareness of the role of CCTV cameras which are ubiquitous in the Dublin city area. The charge of “violent disorder” remains as a threat and punishment for demonstrators in future11.

The wording of the charge ensures that no actual violence need be used and the “fear” surrounding a situation remains open to subjective interpretation and even manipulation of witnesses by police.

The RTÉ’s camera footage – ironically in view of the fact of his assault by a Garda – was obtained by warrant which raises issues of concern with regard to press freedom and safety. If verified media’s film is to be used by the State, how then is the media to claim independence?

And if demonstrators know or believe that media footage of them is likely to be used by the State, are they likely to tolerate the presence of such camera operators? Will we not all be the poorer if the media cannot produce film and photos of events of a similar nature?

This is surely an issue on which the press, along with the respective trade unions should take a stand, if they truly believe in their independence and freedom and think it worth defending.

While there is no current evidence of a resurgent attempt to found Pegida in Ireland,12 a number of small fascist organisations have been founded in recent years, including Identity Ireland, the National Party, Irish Freedom Party and Síol na hÉireann.

History has shown that when the ruling capitalist class is in crisis, it suits it to use fascists as part of the repression of the people’s resistance struggles. Certainly there is something of a crisis in the capitalist system world-wide at the moment and repression is very much on the agenda.

Pegida does exist in Europe and as late as the 22nd, the Saturday before the trial in Dublin, planned to publicly burn the Koran in Rotterdam, Holland,13 to which the State there responded by arresting their leader and accusing Pegida of disseminating “hate speech”.14

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 The 1994 Public Order Act (see Sources) and this section at least uses even the same wording as the 1986 Public Order Act of the UK (see Sources).

2 That group was of Identity Ireland, led by Peter O’Loughlin, a long-time Irish fascist who apparently planned to be chairman of the Irish branch of Pegida. According to recollections of antifascists to the author, there were also much smaller groups of anti-fascists roaming the south city centre attempting to coordinate and collate information while searching for groups of fascists.

3 Pacifism in the face of potential fascist violence seems dangerously stupid to me but that pales into insignificance when compared to the criminal irresponsibility of putting children in danger of such attack.

4 This was one of the areas which the Gardaí used to bring charges against anti-fascists and footage from the LUAS CCTV was used against individuals. The antifascists involved seem to have been from Dublin soccer club supporters’ associations and those identified were fined within a relatively short period of time.

5 This site was one of those used by the Gardaí to charge a number of antifascists and footage from the security CCTV were used in evidence against the latter.

6 The management of the TV channel complained as did the cameraman. Quite some time later the Garda in question was found guilty of assault and, despite the viciousness of the assault on a clearly unthreatening person and his lack of remorse, was given a suspended sentence but remained in the police force without facing a disciplinary hearing.

7 “I was coming back from reconnoitring around the Connolly Monument in Beresford Place, in case fascists had gathered there. Cycling westward along Talbot St. I saw three young men running west; they appeared East European to me and had hair cropped very short. I assumed they were fascists but there appeared to be no-one in pursuit and three was too many for me so I passed them and at North Earl St. junction found a large crowd with Public Order Unit with barking dogs and batons drawn preventing people from entering the area. The crowd was of mixed shoppers, passers-by and anti-fascist demonstrations.” (Recollection of antifascist to author.)

8 This site too became one to attract police charges against at least one antifascist.

9 On Tuesday it was moved to No.12 instead, right next door, coincidentally, to the Special Criminal Courtroom where a trial is currently underway. The SCC was from its inception a no-jury political court for decades but recently began to try some high-profile criminal trials.

10 He does in fact but you’d need x-ray vision to see it through a scarf! There had been a mass campaign against the proposed additional water charges and the belief that the public water supply system in the Irish state was about to be privatised. Protesting in the context that water charges were already being paid through two different public taxes, hundreds of thousands marched and smaller groups mobilised to disrupt the installation of water meters outside people’s houses (the locations of those unused meters may still be seen around Dublin city in particular). Most arrests took place in this latter part of the struggle, though a number of defendants fought a successful battle to prevent the State convicting them of “kidnapping” a Government Minister while protesting against her ministerial visit to a school in Jobstown. The additional taxation and privatisation plan was abandoned in 2015 – at least for the moment.

11 Note that there have been many situations of actual violence by fascists wielding clubs in Ireland in recent years in which the State chose not to charge any of the perpetrators with “violent disorder” and in fact only with great reluctance charged one individual, Michael Quinn of the National Party with assault after widely-circulated video evidence refuted Garda public statements that no violence had occurred.

12 According to Anti-Fascist Action Ireland from people viewing the fascist communication traffic, the Eastern European fascists who participated on the day denounced the Irish fascists of Identity Ireland as cowards and declared they would never work with them again.

13 Religious book of greatest importance to Muslims, equivalent to the Bible for Christian and the Talmud for Jews.

14 (See Sources).

SOURCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Violent Disorder charge in Ireland: Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, Section 15 (irishstatutebook.ie)

In the UK: Public Order Act 1986 (legislation.gov.uk)

Pegida intent to burn the Koran in Rotterdam: Dutch police disperse planned Quran burning rally of Islamophobic group Pegida (yenisafak.com)

https://nltimes.nl/2022/10/23/anti-islam-group-pegida-attempts-burn-koran-rotterdam-leader-arrested

RTÉ cameraman struck by Garda at anti-Pegida protest: SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR GARDA WHO ASSAULTED RTÉ CAMERAMAN – rebelbreeze

“Oh. My. God!”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

That’s what she wrote — in response to a political statement I had written. And it was funny — but at the same time an expression of the gulf that separates people like her not only from people like me – but from reality too.

Her comment on a FB post was that the PSNI are not the same as the RUC, to which another woman had replied that the uniforms and the name are different but that’s all, the essence being still the same.

In turn, herself above had replied that anyone who thought that, didn’t understand the current realities and what the whole peace process is about.

To which I replied that I too agreed that all that happened was that the colonial gendarmerie had changed its name and uniform and what the pacification process (because let’s call it what it was and is) is about is holding on to the colony while dismantling the opposition.

And then she made that response, the “Oh. My. God!” — and quoth no more. I laughed but also recognised that her response, from her point of view (apart from the appeal to a nebulous deity, which I take as just an idiom to express shock), was entirely logical.

No, not her political position, which is entirely illogical – but her reaction, from where she stands, away on the other side of the chasm between us.

(Photo sourced: Internet)

AN UNBRIDGEABLE GULF BETWEEN WORLDS

She recognises the gulf that separates her world from mine and knows straight away that there is no bridge to cross it. There is no point in debate, not only because I may not be easily overcome in argument but because we don’t even agree on the reality of the world.

By which I mean the economic, political and philosophical reality of the world of humanity, rather than the physical world of gravity and weather.

In her world, I’m guessing, admittedly there were some horrible injustices in the history of “Northern Ireland” and then there was a horrible war which made things worse and now everything is changed (even “utterly”, perhaps!) and going in the right direction.

To call the “Northern Ireland” entity a colony is shocking to her, though she knows some people probably think that.

Seeing reality is useful for getting around but it can be very uncomfortable too. The Six Counties is of course a colony, taken by force and maintained by force since 1921.

PSNI raid and arrest of a pregnant woman in the Bone (‘nationalist’) area of Belfast March 2021 — this led to riot (Photo sourced: Internet)
Residents objecting to PSNI in riot gear invasion of Roseapenna Street (‘nationalist’), West Belfast, August 2015 (Photo sourced: Internet)

The whole of Ireland was a colony even when it had its tiny minority parliament1 and it continued to be one when that Parliament, under massive bribery, voted to abolish itself in 1800 without the vast majority of the population in Ireland, native AND planter, having any say in the matter.

When the level of anti-colonial struggle in Ireland rose to a certain level and the rulers of the UK were beset by difficulties on most sides, a deal was done with an Irish client bourgeoisie and the country partitioned.

Whatever the status of the Irish State thereafter, the status of the Six Counties was clearly that of a colony. That is and was so, regardless of whether it is sectarian or not, whether there are civil rights or not. It is part of our nation held for the Crown by force of arms.

Those arms were again very much in evidence during the fairly recent 30 Years’ War – in the hands of the formal British Army, formal colonial police and informal proxy murder gangs.

And yes, the PSNI today is an armed colonial police force – and it would be that even if it had no history, if it were created today. But as it happens, it does have a history. It is a variant of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. And the RUC was a variant of the Royal Irish Constabulary2. And the RIC was a gendarmerie.

RIC and British soldiers supporting an eviction in Galway during the Land War (Photo sourced: Internet)

A COLONIAL POLICE FORCE WITH A LONG HISTORY

Perhaps my opponent has heard the term before. Maybe she associates it with Turkey … or even with the Spanish state. But such things belong to foreign and authoritarian states, right? Couldn’t possibly be to do with here!

States that have conquered nations within them, resisting from time to time, or regions that are otherwise difficult to manage, need to control them by army or police. The first becomes problematical over time and the second needs to be coordinated from the centre, not mainly local.

The solution some states have found is to have a central quasi-militarised police force: the Guardia Civil of the Spanish State, the Turkish Gendarmerie, the Caribieneri of the Italian State, the French Gendarmerie.

Gendarmerie of the Spanish State: Guardia Civil in modern uniform (Photo sourced: Internet)

These forces typically live in barracks and are directly answerable to the central State. The Royal Irish Constabulary was such a gendarmerie also. And nothing like it existed in Britain.

It was a colonial armed quasi-militarised police force to spy on and suppress the Irish by force.

What was left of the RIC in Ireland became the RUC after Partition and the RUC became the PSNI after some reforms. They don’t live in barracks but they do sally forth from them and they are armed – still keeping ‘the natives’ down since 1836.3

All-Ireland gendarmerie Royal Irish Constabulary in front of their barracks, King Street, Dublin, viewed by local people after a Republican forces attack during the War of independence 1919-1921 (Photo sourced: Internet)

PACIFICATION FOR NORMALISATION

Then there was my shocking description of the role of the ‘Process’ that she described as for peace and I for pacification. She is shocked even by the title I give it, a title suggesting it is not about justice but rather about maintaining control, by trickery or violence.

And I actually stated that is its purpose! Oh. My. God indeed!

Any process which starts from the basis of normalising the colony is doing just that: normalising the foreign occupation of a part of the nation taken by force and which has never been accepted by the conquered population. It is “about is holding on to the colony”, as I described it.

But what is fundamentally abnormal can never be normalised.

That attempt requires pacification, by repression and coercion or by deception – or by a combination of both. The Occupier has used all but, since the late 1990s, mainly deception. The masking and twisting of reality, the blowing of smoke in eyes.

“Join the British Gendarmerie!” Recruitment drive for the PSNI supported by Unionists and Sinn Féin, February 2020 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Who is fooled? Mostly, those who want to be, some who see a workable future in the colony, under occupation.

The other deluded ones are those who are being deceived by their leaders, the latter who have given up not only the arms but any kind of struggle other than climbing into the elite.

Ultimately, the reality is so obvious that the deception is only possible when the deceived help it along themselves. Why do that? Because it’s comfortable, or seen as an alternative to hopelessness, or less frightening than the alternative – revolutionary struggle.

Oh. My. God! Yes indeed.

And yet we say, we who look at the reality, in the face of those who deny it, as Galileo is said to have muttered to his persecutors, who denied the world moved around the sun (rather than the reverse): “Eppur si muove”(“And yet it moves)”.4

We might also say, whether some find it shocking or just uncomfortable, something more mundane: Est quodcumque est. (It is what it is.)

end.

FOOTNOTES

1At various times Catholics were excluded from voting for representation in the Parliament and at all times from the Reformation onwards barred from being elected to the body or from holding high office. The vast majority of the Irish population were Catholics. Protestants other than Anglicans suffered discrimination too but not to the same degree.

2The PSNI themselves recognise that history – see https://www.psni.police.uk/about-us/our-history/history-policing-ireland

3And they got the “Royal” in their name in 1867 for their role in suppression of the Fenian rising that year.

4Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de’ Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer. He publicly ascribed to the theory of Copernicus before him that the sun’s position is static with the Earth revolving around it (heliocentrism) which had been attacked by the Protestant religions as contradicting the Christian Bible (Old Testament). But it was the Catholic Inquisition of which Galileo fell foul, firstly in 1616 when he was instructed not to hold that opinion. In 1633 he was forced to recant it after a long trial and lived under house arrest for the rest of his life.

SOURCES

Gendarmerie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendarmerie

RIC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Irish_Constabulary