The Far-Right in Ireland have been been for some time hiding behind the homeless. Fascists, other racists and even anti-vaxxers have been organising public demonstrations while pretending concern for homeless people and the crisis of homelessness within the state. But recently they sank to a new low – impersonating the homeless.
Fascists are unable to go to the public with their true intentions unadorned, which is understandable. Why would most people support a capitalist dictatorship built on the suppression of all defence organisations such as trade unions and all other democratic organisations? So fascists need to point to false enemies and false problems, along with false solutions to real problems. One section of the false enemies are migrants and therefore immigration is a false problem. But in a real problem, the ongoing homelessness crisis within the state, they propose a false solution: “house the Irish first”.
The Far-Right ignores the real source of that crisis, that local authorities are not building municipal housing for rent and that for several decades governments have denied them the finance to do so. It is not migrants, who struggle to pay high rents in often sub-standard accommodation, who benefit from that situation but property developers and landlords. And their credit-extending backers, the banks, that our governments forced us to bail out not so long ago at the price of an austerity program and interest-repayment schedule to run for decades.
It is rational for the Far-Right to shift the blame to the blameless and away from the real causes for to do otherwise would bring them up not just “against the Government” but against the capitalist system that all our governments have represented and continue to act for.
When the Irish Yellow Vests started up in Ireland a few years ago, a number of Socialist and Republican activists, along with people not active previously, unaware perhaps of how the Far-Right in France had infiltrated the movement there, joined the rallies and marches. But it quickly became clear that this “movement without leaders” did indeed have leaders and that they were of the Far-Right, one a prominent islamophobe and the other a self-promoting opportunist1. And that fascists and racists were working within it using, among other things, the homelessness crisis and promoting “house the Irish first”. Landlords were only targeted for housing migrants and property developers and the banks not at all.
The theme continued as other sections of the Far-Right accused migrants and asylum-seekers of being housed in luxury accommodation and at public expense. Fascists and other racists organised against buildings being used as asylum-seeker hostels and whipped up fears of invasions by thousands of muslim terrorists and in at least one case, set fire to a proposed hostel building.
Another opportunist and cynical use of the homelessness crisis has been the holding of anti-vaxxer rallies and other publicity-seeking events while claiming to be doing so “for the homeless”. Carey has been holding little rallies for a number of Saturdays at the Garden of Remembrance, having himself videoed there, also broadcasting regular videos of himself sitting in his car, addressing his supposed public support group that is regularly failing to show up. Carey claims that his actions are designed to help the homeless but they neither challenge the cause of the problem nor supply relief, for example through delivering free food or clothing services. Oh yes, he did have a fundraising appeal but where did the money go? Carey was also at one of the early Irish Yellow Vest gatherings on Custom House Quay, Dublin, where he was videoed by their own people behaving aggressively towards a tiny group of antifascists who were present there, also attempting to snatch one of their flags.
A similar publicity stunt was a supposed “walk from east to west” by another anti-vaxxer, Alan Sweeney, who was raising money “for the homeless”. His call for people to join him seems to have resulted only in one woman who was doing it, she said, “for the mentally ill”. Among wide disbelief that he is walking all the way, his sparse videos showed him occasionally walking or, in at least one case, having a confrontation with staff in a shop who didn’t want him in there without wearing a protective face covering. On that occasion, it is the woman “doing it for the mentally ill” who is videoed by Sweeney while she gets served in the shop twice without a mask and goes in a third time to get the confrontation she is seeking.
While they manage to keep both staff (apparently brothers) in pointless argument, what seems to be the no-nonsense father comes along and pushes them out the door. No physical reaction from the bold Sweeney, who was videoed last year aiming a kick at and spitting on a disabled woman on the ground, an antifascist protester who had been knocked down and kicked by another nazi warrior.
All that is reasonably well known and much of it in the public record though it might take a little digging to unearth it. But last weekend the Far-Right went beyond pretending to support the homeless to actually pretending to be homeless themselves.
CONVOY &RALLY AGAINST THE LOCKDOWN
On Sunday (10th January 2021), QAnon called for an anti-vaxxer2 “anti-lockdown” convoy from Belfast to Dublin. QAnon is one of the negationist groups who proclaim that the pandemic is either not real or not serious, that the (rather insufficient) preventative measures brought in by the Government are just intended to restrict the freedom of assembly for other purposes. They also have a range of other conspiracy beliefs that include, according to which individual is speaking, Jewish financiers or the Chinese Communist Party or Millionaire George Soros being behind it all and financing their opponents, Republicans, Socialists, “Antifa” etc. Or that all are in the service of paedophiles. And that the vaccines are going to inject nanomachines into people’s bloodstream which will allow the Government to control them.
There are a number of QAnon groups around the world and they are especially prominent in the USA, where they have been enthusiastic Trump supporters and were among those who stormed the Capitol building just recently (and where the woman shot by police was a duped by QAnon supporter3).
On the day of this intended great “convoy”, Covid 19 reported cases within the Irish state were just starting to fall again, at 153,000 with 2,532 reported deaths.
Advertised to start with meeting at Dublin Airport at noon, the anti-vaxxers were going to head north to Belfast and then swing around to come into Dublin with a number of stops along the way to meet at the GPO, a regular weekly rallying point of QAnon in the past. The bringing in of individuals and small groups of people from different parts of the country has been a regular feature of Far-Right rallies to make them seem as having much more public support than is actually the case. Despite current travel restrictions being in place as part of the tardy effort of the Government to prevent or reduce the spread of Covid19 infection, currently at 5 kilometres for exercise, and no outside activities to be organised, the anti-vaxxers clearly had no fear of their convoy and rally failing to attract their supporters nor of any interference by the State.
Although anti-virus contagion measures on a number of occasions have put travel restrictions in place, until now the Far-Right have been able to travel about freely, and assemble unmasked without social distancing. On one occasion in Dublin they marched to the Garden of Remembrance (dedicated to the martyrs who fought for an independent Ireland) and chanted in triumphant mockery “Where’s your Lockdown?”
But last Sunday was a different case.
IMPERSONATING THE HOMELESS
Last Sunday, the Gardaí (police force of the Irish State) had roadblocks out and were stopping traffic to question the drivers on their starting point and destination. The British colonial police force, the PSNI did too and turned up to a score of the anti-vaxxers back at Newry. On the quays in Dublin, Gardaí checkpoints stopped a number of other anti-vaxxers and fascists, such as Alan Sweeney4, who had himself videoed in a short argument from his car refusing to tell a Garda where he was bound or the reason for his journey (which at one point he claimed was for “family”) or to give his address, which he quickly did when threatened with arrest and a hefty fine. Later, on foot, while shouting at Gardaí carrying out other checks, he claimed he was “of no fixed abode” and “homeless” before giving his address, again under threat of arrest. Alan Sweeney does have a home, which is in the lovely area of Kinvara in Co. Galway (sorry, Kinvara but we know he does not represent you) and is 213.3 km from Dublin city centre.
Having reached the GPO without making most of the scheduled stops, Dolores Webster, one of the leaders of the QAnon group regularly rallying there who broadcasts videos under the nom de guerre of “Dee Wall” (and known to her opponents by other names such as “Deemented”, “Off Dee Wall” and “the Screech”) was approached by Gardaí. She claimed she was homeless and was waiting for the homeless feeding service5 to set up but eventually she and her coterie ran out of excuses and had to disperse.
There are an estimated in excess of 8,000 people without a permanent home in the 26-County State, only part of which were the 1,117 families who accessed emergency accommodation in October 2020, including 2,642 children. The use of the homeless as a cover for fascist and racist mobilisation, as a pretence for targeting migrants and asylum seekers, for fund-raising and, in the end, as a cover for violating contagion prevention measures, shows the total cynicism of the Far-Right. Furthermore it exposes their total lack of any concern or feeling of social solidarity for the victims of the capitalist system, in addition to their complete lack of any intention of resolving the real crisis of homelessness.
1 Glen Miller is a prominent islamophobe and Ben Gilroy has often been a speaker for it, when not being a self-publicist.
2A collective term for people opposed to vaccines but in particular those campaigning against their use.
3Ashli Babbit, a former member of the US military, her QAnon support confirmed by posts on her FB page and reported interviews with family and friends.
4Sweeney has regularly been associated with the fascist National Party headed by Justin Barrett.
5There are feeding services for the homeless and poor people in hostel accommodation etc provided at the GPO by voluntary organisations, religious and secular, every week. The General Post Office is a grand building in the middle of Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street and was the HQ of the insurgents in the 1916 Rising.
Back in November, I was horrified enough by an orgy of violence at a Pro-Trump march to write a column exposing it, but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the horrific scenes that unfolded on television Wednesday January 6th. Millions of Americans watched in disbelief as tens of thousands of Neo Nazis, White Supremacists and other members of the extreme Right invaded the Capitol. A horrified CNN presenter asked the question that was on everyone’s mind: where is the National Guard and law enforcement? Black Lives Matter protestors asked: why was their peaceful march in Washington met by a huge National Guard and police presence, while these same forces were nowhere to be seen as violent white supremacists ran amok?
Looking at the complete lack of preparations for the violent mob which swarmed the Capitol on Wednesday, it may have seemed like bad planning. However, it’s becoming more and more obvious that the lack of security was absolutely intentional.
The attacks that took place should have surprised no one. The extensive multi-billion dollar security apparatus ignored several red flags. Plotters in on-line far-right forums explicitly discussed how to storm the building, handcuff lawmakers with zip ties and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election — in what they portrayed as responding to orders from President Trump. Trump supporters exchanged detailed tactical advice about what to bring and what to do once they assembled at the Capitol to conduct “citizen’s arrests” of members of Congress. One poster said, “[expletive] zip ties. I’m bringing rope!” Online chatter was organized, in some cases, around hashtags such as #StormTheCapitol and included threats to kill congressional leaders.
The violence that occurred was orchestrated at the highest levels of the Trump administration. Trump made sure that the Pentagon would not provide necessary forces to protect the nation’s capital against the assault he was orchestrating. Shortly after losing the election in November, Trump began replacing Pentagon officials. Principled leaders were dismissed as Trump packed the Pentagon with sycophants who had demonstrated blind loyalty to him. The new appointmentss included bringing in disgraced former Gen. Anthony Tata, Islamophobic right-wing radio host Frank Wuco, and conspiracy theorist Rich Higgins. A day after positioning this trio, Trump replaced the Chief of Staff at the Pentagon with former Devin Nunes staffer Kash Patel. On the same day, he forced out the undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
Last Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol seemed that the Government was caught unprepared, but the lack of response was carefully crafted. Trump made certain to get rid of those officials who had resisted efforts to use active military troops against Black Lives Matter protestors over the summer. When the violence started last Wednesday, Trump’s lackeys at the Pentagon blocked repeated requests from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for the use of the National Guard to contain Trump’s “wild” protest and continued blocking it, even as Senators and Representatives were frantically phoning from inside the besieged Capitol. This was not a spontaneous event. It was, in every way, a plotted coup and the Pentagon was part of it.
While exactly what happened still remains murky it is now clear that the Pentagon limited the Washington D.C. National Guard to managing traffic. Foreseeing violence, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested support in advance of Trump’s rally, but the Department of Defense said that the National Guard could not have ammunition or riot gear, interact with protesters except in self-defense, or otherwise function in a protective capacity without the explicit permission of acting Secretary Christopher Miller, whom Trump put into office shortly after the election after firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
When Capitol Police requested aid early Wednesday afternoon, the request was denied. Defense officials held back the National Guard for about three hours before sending it to support the Capitol Police. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, tried repeatedly to send his state’s National Guard, but the Pentagon would not authorize it. The National Guard of Virginia was mobilized only when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the Governor, Ralph Northam, herself.
There was also a personal angle to holding back the National Guard. Bowser was harshly critical of Trump in the summer, and the Pentagon got revenge on her by denying help when she needed it. A White House adviser told New York Magazine’s Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi that Trump was watching television coverage of the siege and was enthusiastic, although he didn’t like that the rioters looked “low class.” Many people called for Trump to make a statement urging his followers to desist, but for hours Trump said nothing.
As the assault on the Capitol unfolded, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned on Thursday, made “an urgent plea” for a 200-member rapid response force to rush to the Capitol building. However, an official from the office of the Secretary of the Army replied that “wasn’t going to be possible.” As a reason, that official said the Pentagon didn’t like the “optics” of Guard members entering the Capitol—even though the building was at that point surrounded by thousands of Trump supporters who had forced their way through multiple levels of police security. It wasn’t until Trump supporters had actually stormed the building, smashed their way into the chambers of Congress, ransacked congressional offices, and prowled the halls hoping to take political leaders hostage, that the Pentagon finally approved the use of National Guard forces.
On Thursday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy ludicrously claimed the military had “acted as quickly as possible” and that officials hadn’t anticipated the level of violence demonstrated by Trump supporters in their “wildest imagination.” If so, they were the only ones. Trump encouraged exactly this type of action, and many others warned of the potential for violence. In fact, many of the same groups that rioted in December planned another orgy of violence for the bigger event that Trump was already advertising for January 6th.
Perhaps the prime target of the Capitol rioters was Vice President Mike Pence who had refused to block the certification of Biden’s election as president. While the rioters were in the Capitol, Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify.” The Vice President had to be whisked away to a secure location to save his life. Reuters photographer Jim Bourg, who was inside the Capitol, told he overheard three rioters in “Make America Great Again” caps plotting to find Vice President Mike Pence and hang him as a “traitor”; other rioters were shouting the same.
Many of the rioters are being identified and they allegedly include police officers, elected Republican Party officials and former members of the military. Some rioters gained access to the security cordon around the Capitol supposedly by flashing badges. Some Capitol police allegedly opened barricades for the rioters and even took selfies with the mob. Five people died in the mayhem including a woman shot in the chest. Capitol Police have identified her as Ashli E. Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and Q Anon conspiracy believer from San Diego. Fifty U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers were injured in the riot and one officer died while on duty.
AMAZING NOT MORE LOSS OF LIFE
It is amazing that there was not more loss of life. An Alabama man allegedly parked a pickup truck packed with 11 homemade bombs, an assault rifle and a handgun two blocks from the US Capitol. Another man showed up with an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and told acquaintances that he wanted to shoot or run over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Christopher Alberts, of Maryland, was arrested for carrying a handgun and 25 rounds of ammunition on Capitol grounds. Explosives were found in the Capitol and multiple locations around Washington.
In response to the wave of anger that spread across the country, right wingers claimed that the rioters were Antifa and Black Lives Matter activists. Speaking on the House floor only hours after the mayhem, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) expressed his anger at the perpetrators. But Gaetz wasn’t accusing fellow Trump supporters — instead, he suggested members (sic) of Antifa had secretly infiltrated the group to cause the chaos. The F.B.I subsequently refuted claims that Antifa activists took part in the attack.
Will Trump be punished for his role in the violence? If there were real justice in America, Donald Trump and his flunkies in the Pentagon who planned holding back the National Guard would face severe punishment. It is almost certain, though, that Trump will avoid paying for his criminal role in the riot, even though he has blood on his hands.
“Mandate Trade Union members employed by Arcadia (Topshop, Topman, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Outfit, Wallis and Evans) held a socially distanced protest on Kildare Street yesterday (Tuesday, December 22nd) where they handed a letter into the Dail demanding stronger protections for workers losing their jobs due to liquidation scenarios.
“We’ve seen workers in Debenhams, Clerys, the Paris Bakery, La Senza, and many more other companies lose their jobs while their employer abandoned their obligations. The government commissioned its own report on this issue in 2016 (Duffy/Cahill) and for more than four years has refused to implement it.Every day workers are losing their jobs while our government procrastinate and sit on their hands. We need action, and we need it now.” (Mandate, on their website)
The ruthless action of capitalists in sacking workers — often without even paying agreed redundancy pay — to safeguard their rates of profit during the Covid19 crisis is a harbinger for the austerity they will force on working people with the collusion of the government as soon as this pandemic has been quelled.
Having hectored, cajoled and bullied its way through the uncivil negotiations around Brexit (“British exit”) and Trexit (“Transition exit”) it seems that the United Kingdom is now insistent on having its sovereignty cake and eating it too. How else to explain the complaints from UK politicians and commentators objecting to the European Union implementing checks on British goods entering its borders? A couple of weeks ago the right-wing press in London was gloating at the relative lack of interruption in ongoing trade with the Continent following the end of the transition period. Where, they sneered, are the kilometres-long tailbacks at the Channel seaports and the English retail stores filled with empty food shelves? Where, they guffawed, are the legions of international passengers stuck at airports or the army of businesses closing down as their supply chains disappeared?
Conveniently, of course, all this sniping ignored the dramatic fall in cross-border trade…
Salaam Alikum (we hope that’s right, we had to go to a Pakistani shop and ask the staff and write it down as we heard it – that was after the Indian shop where they said they were Hindu, not Muslim; it’s all very confusing to us Catholics).
We just wanted to drop you a quick note to express our support for your tweets that the Covid19 vaccines from the USA and UK are “completely untrustworthy”. Not only that but we would like you to know ALL Covid 19 vaccines are and when you understand that hopefully you will stop Iran from producing its own.
In the first place, Covid19 is just a kind of ‘flu and the sickness and death figures are just plain made up. We don’t understand how they can get away with claiming nearly 89 million cases of infection from it in the world and two million dead! In the second place, they use the vaccine to pump nano machines in your body so they can check where you are going and control you, get you to believe anything they want, even the craziest of things. That is not what God – sorry, Allah – intended. I mean it’s not in the Bible, is it? Nor, we’d bet, in the Koran either.
Now that our World Leader is being forced to vacate the Presidency of the USA, we wondered whether you would like to be our sponsor. You’d have supporters all over the USA and in many parts of Europe.
Some Antifa, Republican and BLM terrorists may have told you lies about us joining an anti-Muslim protest last year at a celebration of Eid at Croke Park (that’s an Irish kind of football stadium in Dublin), which was accusing Muslims of making Irish butchers go halal and marrying underage girls and things. Which is just liberal-communist propaganda and anyway, anyone can make a mistake, right? And as Dee Wall (that’s the celebrity name of Dolores Webster, one of our leaders) said at the GPO, it’s not Muslims’ fault if the Government lets the GAA lend the stadium to a group of Muslims, is it? The GPO is where have our rallies without masks or “social distancing” but the Irish Guards don’t bother us – you have Islamic Guards in Iran too, don’t you?.
We hope you will consider sponsoring our world-wide movement and in particular our Irish branch. According to a number of prominent Irish people like Niall McConnell, Gemma O’Doherty, Justin Barret and Glen Miller, Ireland is full of Muslims so you’d feel kind of at home with a real Irish fáwltche (that’s Irish for “welcome”). We could even arrange for you to do a live linkup broadcast to be projected on the General Post Office building where we’ve been holding Saturday rallies. That would be just brilliant.
We hope you will give this your best consideration.
Iran has informed the International Atomic Agency that it is stepping up its uranium enrichment to 20% purity, which significantly exceeds that set by the restrictive 2015 Agreement and which according to media reports places it one step away from achieving weapons grade. This has set off concerns and what might even be interpreted as threats from other states but whether we agree with the existence of nuclear weapons or not, what gives some states the right to have them and to tell others that they can’t?
Iran entered into that Agreement in exchange for ending of the economic blockade on it by the USA. However, recently Trump withdrew the USA from the Agreement, leaving little incentive for Iran to continue restricting its development of nuclear fuel.
Three big European powers signed a public call on Iran to return to the Agreement levels in the hope that Biden will bring the USA back into the Agreement (which he has indicated he will). Meanwhile, some media are reporting that a similar step by Iran prior to the Agreement led Israel to prepare to launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And Israel is in fact believed to have assassinated Iran’s foremost nuclear scientist, Mohseh Fakhrizadeh last year.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS GATEKEEPERS
Whether we agree with any state having a nuclear arsenal (and I don’t), what gives some states the right to dictate to others that they can’t have them? And what is the record of these “nuclear weapon gatekeepers”? The partners in the 2015 Agreement were: USA, UK, Germany, France, Russia and China. These are, if we believe the slant of much of the mass media, the states that are justified in telling others that they cannot be permitted to have nuclear weapons.
The USA is one of the states with most nuclear weapons in the world (according to some estimates, Russia has the most, followed by the USA), a state which has been involved in wars of aggression against other peoples and states almost since its creation (10 directly – not through proxies — in the last 20 years alone). Furthermore, it is the only state to have attacked another with not only one but two weapons of mass destruction, causing at least a million casualties of mostly civilians.
The European states that made that public call on Iran are Germany, France and Britain, of which only Germany does not have nuclear weapons of its own (though it permits them to be sited there). The reason that Germany does not have them is probably because its European neighbours and in particular world powers France and the UK would not allow them to have them, with memories of two world wars in four decades during the last century.
France and the UK are imperialist states with massive armed forces which, when they have not been at war with the other, have attacked nations and peoples across the globe.
The other owners of nuclear weapons are Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. And Israel, a Zionist occupation-settler state established through ethnic cleansing and which, since its inception, has been at war with its neighbours. And massively supported by the USA, financially, militarily and politically.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, on the other hand, has been at war with no-one since it came into existence except Iraq, when the Western powers were supporting Saddam Hussein and all his atrocities because he was attacking Iran. Saddam attacked Iran very soon after the latter’s revolutionary change of regime but within three months its offensive stalled and it began to get pushed back despite the support of the Western powers (including the supply of chemical weapons by the USA and Germany) and the international isolation of the Iranian clerical leadership. Nevertheless the war lasted eight years and was extremely draining for Iran, in particular since it was also facing US-led economic and financial sanctions.
Currently Iran has full diplomatic relations with 97 states and although it has some territorial disputes with the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf and some Caspian sea disputes with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, along with some outstanding issues from the Iraq-Iran war, these are being dealt with on the whole peacefully.
In the midst of slanted or even hysterical “reporting” — or beating of war drums — we should be aware of these facts.
NOTE: NOT “NATIONS”
By the way, the news report headline “European nations urge Iran” etc. (see below) is inaccurate: France and Britain (sic, actually the UK) are not “nations” but states, each one containing a number of nations and for example in a number of sporting bodies the existence of nations within the UK is recognised. That a number of such states are permitted to call themselves “nations” for membership of various bodies does not change that fact and journalists should be more exact in using the term.
In the capital city of the USA, the most powerful superpower in the world, supporters of the President who lost the elections stormed the Capitol, seat of the Congress of Representatives and of the legislative branch of the USA. The Trump supporters invading the building, according to some witness and police reports, carried weapons such as steel bars and chemical sprays and wounded 50 police officers, some seriously. Four people died in the Capitol grounds, at least one shot by a police officer.
Those who forced their way into the Capitol building were apparently intent on preventing Congress, the parliament of the USA, from discussing the Presidential election results and probably voting that they were legal and correct. They had been whipped up through weeks of President Trump claiming that the vote that ousted him was rigged and then yesterday again by him in person addressing a mass protest meeting in the Capital.
While mainstream opponents of Trump and some of his erstwhile supporters are calling these incidents an attack on democracy, I cannot agree. I certainly agree that current Trump supporters generally and those in the riot in particular are hostile to democracy – many of them are racist, fascist and violent. However I cannot agree that the system of government in the USA is democratic, much less representative — but more about that anon.
THE COPS AND THE FAR-RIGHT
I feel pretty confident in saying that if that rioting crowd had been black – or socialist – that there would have been a lot more than four dead. The Capitol steps and the ground around would have been dark with bodies and awash with blood. US police forces carry guns and are not shy of using them. Nevertheless, at most they shot four and possibly less out of an armed crowd that assaulted them and stormed the building of the government of the USA. What could explain that degree of restraint on the part of the cops?
The Capitol’s Chief of Police Steven Sund, responding to criticism of lack of police preparedness, said that his force had a good plan worked out but that it was for a peaceful demonstration. OK — but why that assumption? There have been many examples of the violent behaviour of that Trumpist sector in many cities where the Right are in minority and one as recently as 14th November 2020 in Washington itself (reported on Rebel Breeze, see below). On that evening, far-Right Trump supporters, angry at the election totals in favour of contender Joe Biden and at Trump losing the election, rioted in the capital city and attacked people who did not agree with them.
Ah, yes, but you see, that violence was not directed at the police – in fact, it was directed at people who the police tend not to like either. Like socialists. Like people of colour. Trumpists attacked people of colour and left-wingers while police mostly stood by or attacked the victims defending themselves. The police have come to regard most of the Far-Right in the USA as being the right kind of people with the right kind of thinking – i.e Right-wing. Which is because the police themselves, for the most part, have the same kind of thinking. They expected the demonstration to be peaceful because they did not expect the Trumpists to attack the police.
The cops have got so accustomed to the Far-Right attacking the traditional targets of the cops, so used to colluding with them on many occasions, even in murders, that it seemed inconceivable to them that they would actually attack cops to get where they wanted to go. And we see this often, don’t we? The PSNI shocked at the violence towards them from the Loyalists in the Six Counties because normally, they collude against the Republicans and the nationalist areas. French police shocked when French fascists turn on them instead of both attacking the Algerians, Africans, commies ….
The US Acting Attorney General announced that they were processing evidence and expected to have 52 participants charged on Thursday as well as possibly others later. But what about charging Trump as the instigator?
TRUMP WENT TOO FAR?
Twitter gave Trump a 12-hour ban only after he appeared to condone the rioting and Facebook has banned him until he steps down from the Presidency. I don’t view that as democratic defence action since I have seen comrades and other activists regularly suspended and banned from Facebook for doing no more than telling the truth about the behaviour of the PSNI or of the Israeli Zionist state. But to ban a right-winger and the President of the USA! What that says to me is that there is a growing consensus in the ruling class of the USA that Trump has gone too far, that he is a danger – not to democracy but to their class. That he has taken his ego above the needs of the class of which he was a member and which sustained him.
That consensus is growing with resignations from his administration, including one of the Secretaries (like a government Minister in many European state parliaments). And also with cries for his impeachment again (he beat the process in 2019!), i.e something like being put on trial by the legislature and losing his position as President. Of course, the majority may wish to wait until January 20th when Trump has to step down anyway, as apart from him, only two other US Presidents have faced impeachment: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton (Nixon resigned before it came to that). But there is no doubt that Trump’s actions and the attack and invasion of the Capitol have rattled the elite so what they will do is not certain yet.
Though they may be concerned about the members of their class sticking to agreed procedures and respecting their institutions (at least on the surface), their alarm has nothing to do with defending democracy. The USA Congress is not a democratic institution; just over half the members of the House of Representatives are at least millionaires and many billionaires – hardly representative of the population of the United States. Successful election campaigns are funded by financial, industrial and military interests that then expect payback in voting favourable legislation, tax cuts and other measures. And voting down “harmful” proposals such as reducing the damage to the environment or taxing corporations adequately. In my time alone I have seen all US Presidents lie blatantly about foreign policy (Trump perhaps less than some others), one instigate burglaries and tell lies, another bring the country to war based on blatant lies, another use government offices for liaisons and then lie about it … and so on.
Although the USA is perhaps one of the most obvious examples of corrupt government on a huge scale, all capitalist government is like it, albeit possibly to a lesser degree. The most we may expect from capitalist democracy is to be given a choice as to which party of the exploiting capitalist class we can put into government.
AND THE FASCISTS ….
Most fascists pretend most of the time that they support democracy, by which they mean the kind of capitalist democracy which I have just been describing. Socialism, on the other hand, is “undemocratic”, they claim. But when fascists feel what they want is being threatened, they quickly drop all appearance of democracy, even capitalist democracy. That is when fascists burn government buildings (like the Reichstag in Germany in 1933) or when they stage coups (as in Austria 1934, Spain in 1936, Hungary in 1944). Or when they storm the Capitol because they didn’t get the candidate they wanted reelected as President of the USA. Democracy, for fascists, is what gives them what they want.
Not only that, they lie and put the blame on their enemies. Like they tried to blame communists for the burning of the German Reichstag in February 1933 and anarchists for the bombing of the Basque Town of Gernika in April 1937. Like some blamed the Washington violence last November (including in a rant to Rebel Breeze) on “BLM and Antifa”. And like some are already, incredibly one might think, blaming the Left for having “taken over” the Capitol “demonstration” (see RTÉ report below).
Minimising the violence and blaming the Left (from RTÉ reporting):
“American conservative media has played down the gravity of the storming of the US Capitol citing anger at the establishment and accusing the hard left – without proof – of having infiltrated the crowd.
“As well as Fox News, new ultra-conservative outlets battling to nibble market share from the television news giant sought to dissociate Trump supporters from the chaos in Congress.
“The demonstrators “pushed and shoved but for the most part, that was about it,” said Kevin Corke, a Fox News reporter.
“ “Most of what we saw was beautiful today,” said Ben Bergquam, a reporter for the small online channel Real America’s Voice.
“Outlets including Real America’s Voice, Newsmax and the One America News Network (OAN) – which Trump has recommended several times in recent weeks – claimed without any evidence that the crowd had been infiltrated by small ultra-left groups.
“ “I think they were undercover Antifa,” Gina Loudon, presenter for Real America’s Voice, said of the rioters she encountered in the corridors of the Capitol.
“While denouncing the violence committed in the precincts of Congress, Greg Kelly, of Newsmax, said it nonetheless followed a certain logic.
“ “If you steal an election,” he explained, echoing Trump’s discredited accusations, “there are going to be a lot of angry people.”
“ “There’s a reason this is happening,” said Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. “It is happening because the people with all the power have decided to clamp down so harshly on the population that things explode at a certain point.” ”
Few Irish American women have led a more controversial life than Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. A fiery orator with a passionate dedication to social justice, Flynn dedicated her life to the working class. A militant’s militant, Flynn was arrested dozens of times fighting for the causes she espoused and served a prison term for her political beliefs. Flynn became one of the most influential labor organizers of the early 20th century, while also becoming the first female leader of the American Communist Party. Famed international journalist Eugene Lyons praised her intelligence saying she was “the most brilliant woman I had ever met.”
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the daughter of Irish immigrants, was born in Concord, New Hampshire on August 7th, 1890. The family moved to New York’s impoverished South Bronx in 1900,where Flynn attended the local public school. She later recalled, “I hated poverty. I was determined to do something about the bad conditions under which our family and all around us suffered.” Influenced by her parents to become a socialist, Flynn was kicked out of high school for giving her first radical speech, What Socialism Will Do for Women , at the Socialist Club of Harlem.
Not yet eighteen years of age, Flynn became a full-time organizer for the radical labor group The Industrial Workers of the World, or as they were more commonly known, the Wobblies. A passionate devotee of free speech, she led the first of three free speech fights in 1909 as an I.W.W organizer and over the course of her life Flynn remained a dedicated advocate for free expression, freedom of the press and assembly, and the right to a fair trial for all labor activists, regardless of their political affiliation. In 1907, Flynn met a much older Minnesota local I.W.W. organizer, J. A. Jones. Flynn later stated in her autobiography, “I fell in love with him and we were married in January 1908. She had two children with Jones, one who died as an infant and her son Fred who was born in 1910. The marriage broke up and Flynn returned to her family.
Her first major involvement in an I.W.W. job action was at the famous Lawrence, Massachusetts Textile Strike of 1912, which began when the American Woolen Company there tried to reduce the wages of its largely immigrant workforce. The workers walked off the job and the I.W.W. formed a strike committee with two representatives from each of the striking nationalities sitting on the committee. The strikers demanded a 15 per cent wage increase, double-time for overtime work and a 55 hour week. Using her powerful oratory, Flynn became one of the leaders of the strike, which became very violent. Reporters from around the country covered the strike and filed stories on the violence and the poverty of the Lawrence workers. Eventually, after management realized that it was losing the publicity battle, they settled with the strikers, giving Flynn and the I.W.W a great victory.
The following year Flynn gained even more fame for her role in the famous Patterson, N.J. Silk strike, which saw three hundred silk mills shut down by thousands of striking workers, many of whom were female. Flynn set up weekly women’s meetings on the issues. Flynn wrote in her autobiography of her experience in Paterson:
“Sunday after Sunday, as the days became pleasanter, we spoke there to enormous crowds of thousands of people — the strikers and their families, workers from other Paterson industries, people from nearby New Jersey cities, delegations from New York of trade unionists, students and others. Visitors came from all over America and from foreign countries. People who saw these Haledon meetings never forgot them.”
Unfortunately for the workers, management was able to drive them back to the mills without achieving their strike demands. Flynn continued to organize restaurant workers, silk weavers, garment workers and miners across America. She was often arrested, but never convicted. She became such a celebrated labor activist that leftist songwriter Joe Hill wrote a 1915 song, reputedly dedicated to Flynn, called The Rebel Girl. A feminist, she began to write articles and make speeches criticizing labor unions as being male dominated and deaf to the needs of female workers.
She later became romantically involved with Carlo Tresca, a fellow I.W.W labor organizer and writer. When Flynn discovered that her sister was also romantically involved with Tresca, she suffered a mental breakdown that prevented her from working for eight years. During this period Flynn lived in Portland, Oregon with birth control activist, suffragette, and I.W.W activist Marie Equi.
Returning to politics, Flynn joined the Communist Party of the United States in 1936 and began to write a women’s column for the Communist Party newspaper the Daily Worker. She quickly was elected to the party’s national committee, but as a result of her party membership she was ejected from the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a pre-World War II red scare. During the war, she played a central role in the campaign for equal economic opportunity and pay for women, as well as the establishment of day care centers for working mothers. She ran for Congress in New York and received an astonishing 50,000 votes in a losing effort. In the Red Scare that followed the war, Flynn was arrested under the Smith Act, which made it a crime to support a violent overthrow of the American government. She was convicted and sentenced to a three-year term. Flynn served her sentence in the Alderson Federal Penitentiary in West Virginia. During her incarceration she wrote a memoir entitled, in The Alderson Story: My Life as a Political Prisoner (1955). That same year she published her memoir, I Speak My Own Piece: Autobiography of “The Rebel Girl.
Flynn became national chairman of the Communist Party of the United States in 1961. She made several visits to the Soviet Union and died there unexpectedly in September 1964. She was given a state funeral in Red Square. In accordance with her wishes, Flynn’s remains were flown to the U.S. for burial in Chicago’s Waldheim Cemetery, near the graves of I.W. W. Members Eugene Dennis and Big Bill Haywood.
Rebel Breeze comment:
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was indeed an Irish UStater and made a point of her background, keeping the surnames of both mother (Gurley) and father (Flynn) and stating it in her autobiography.
Her ashes being taken to Waldheim Cemetery near the grave of Big Bill Heywood can be viewed as something of an irony as in 1916 she had a major rupture with Big Bill over a plea bargain that she and another organiser, Joe Ettor, had counseled three innocent miners to accept when Heywood thought they could beat the charges. In addition, the one year jail time part of the plea bargain somehow ended up as 20. According to some accounts, she and Ettor were expelled from the IWW but according to others, Ettor left and Flynn remained but generally avoiding Heywood from then on.
During the years of Flynn’s labour organising in the USA, employers often hired company thugs (including the (in)famous Pinkerton Detective Agency) to beat up those they considered agitators or union organisers, who were also targeted by reactionaries including racists and fascists. Many worker organisers were killed or permanently disabled. In addition, many were jailed by the UStater legislature or even executed, as were the Molly Maguires, Saccho and Vanzetti, five of the Chicago Eight and Joe Hill. Being even a moderate union organiser in those years required courage and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was far from being a moderate.
(Published elsewhere earlier in December, including Red Line; published here with author’s permission and section headings, photo choices (except one) and intro line are by Rebel Breeze editing)
The issue of drugs is one that is never far from public discourse on the Colombian conflict. Biased or just simply lazy journalists use the issue to ascribe motives for an endless list of events, massacre and murders. It is true that drug trafficking has permeated all of Colombian society and there is no sector that has not been impacted by it. But not everyone in Colombia is a drug trafficker. However, once again the King of Clubs is played to describe the conflict in terms of a drug problem.
Several Colombian newspapers have recently published articles on the supposed relationship of the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) with drug trafficking and there are already eleven commanders who are under investigation for such crimes and are sought in extradition. They talk as if the ELN dominated the drugs trade, and talk of settling of accounts over drug money, as if they were a crime gang, instead of saying that the ELN takes drastic measures against its members who get involved in drug trafficking and that those internal executions are due to the indiscipline and betrayal of principles of some people and are not an internal dispute over money. Of course, the ELN in an open letter widely distributed on social networks and alternative press, denied any links to the drug trade. But, how true is this new tale? Before looking at the accusations levelled against the ELN it is worth going over the history of drug trafficking in Colombia and the reality of the business in international terms.
POLITICIANS, GUERRILLAS AND BANKS
Let’s start with the obvious. When the FARC and the ELN were founded in 1964 drug trafficking was not a problem in the country and there were no large plantations, i.e. the existence of the guerrillas predates the drugs trade. Later in the 1970s the country went through the marijuana bonanza on the Caribbean coast, but it is the emergence of the large drugs cartels in 1980s around the production of cocaine that would define forever the shape drug trafficking in the country would take. Up till the 1990s the country was not self sufficient in coca leaf, even though it was the main manufacturer of the final product: cocaine. Escobar was dead by the time Colombia achieved self sufficiency and it is in that context that the discourse of blaming the FARC for the drugs trade gained ground, completely ignoring that the main narcos were the founders of the paramilitary groups. One of the most notorious paramilitary groups in the 1980s was the MAS (Death to Kidnappers) founded by the Cali Cartel and other drug traffickers in response to the kidnapping by M-19 of Marta Nieves Ochoa a relative of the Ochoa drug barons.
That discourse, however, was useful in justifying Plan Colombia and there was an element of truth to it, but not that much back then. The FARC’s relationship with the drugs trade has not been static and has evolved over time. Almost everyone accepts that they began by imposing a tax on the production of coca leaf, coca base or cocaine in the territories they controlled. The initial relationship changed and the FARC went from just collecting a revolutionary tax to promoting the crop, protecting laboratories and even having laboratories of their own and in some cases, such as the deceased commander Negro Acacio, got directly involved in the drug trade. There is no doubt on the issue. But neither were they the big drug barons that they tried to have us believe, those barons are in the ranks not just of the Democratic Centre but also the Liberal and Conservative parties. It is forgotten that Samper’s (1994-1998) excuse regarding drug money entering his campaign’s coffers was and still is that it was done behind his back, but no one denies that drug trafficking has to some degree financed every electoral campaign in the country. Although companies like Odebrecht play a role at a national level, at a local and regional level drug trafficking decides who becomes mayor, governor, representative in the house and even senators. Even the brother of the current Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez was a drug trafficker and there are loads of photos of many politicians with Ñeñe Hernández and Uribe appears in photos with the son of the paramilitary drug trafficker Cuco Vanoy. It is a matter of public knowledge that several high ranking police officers close to Uribe such as his former head of security Mauricio Santoyo were extradited to the USA for drug related crimes and Uribe’s excuse was the same as Samper’s: it was all done behind his back.
NOT THE ELN
But when we look at the extent of illicit crops in Colombia, we can clearly see the reason why they are linked to the FARC for so long and not to the ELN. The reason is simple, the majority of the large plantations of coca and opium poppy were to be found in areas under the influence of the FARC. If we look at the crop monitoring carried out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) we can see that in 2001 the main departments (administrative regions: Colombia has 32 — RB editing) where there were crops were almost exclusively FARC fiefdoms.
In 2001, coca was to be found in 22 departments of the country, compared to just 12 in 1999. However, despite the expansion, just two areas accounted for the majority of the crops: Putumayo-Caquetá had 45% of the total amount of coca (about 65,000 hectares) and Meta-Guaviare-Vaupés with 34% of the area (about 49,000 hectares) i.e. 79% of the total area under coca. They were areas that were completely dominated by the FARC, not a single eleno was to be found in those territories and if they did venture in, it was undercover at the risk of execution by the FARC were they discovered as the FARC did not tolerate political competition in their fiefdoms. When one looks at the map of crops back then, one can see not only the concentration in those areas but also almost all the other departments were dominated by the FARC and those where there were significant amounts of coca and also an ELN presence, one finds Cauca with 3,139 hectares, Nariño with 7,494 hectares and the Norte de Santander with 9,145 hectares. But in those areas there was a certain territorial balance between the different guerrillas and one of the few departments where the ELN was clearly the dominant force was Arauca with 2,749 hectares. But when we look at the counties we can see that it is not as clear cut, as in the Norte de Santander 83% of the coca crops were to be found in just one county: Tibú, FARC fiefdom for many years before the paramilitary takeover in 1999. In Arauca the county of Araquita accounted for 60% of the crops in the department and it was also a FARC fiefdom within an area dominated by the ELN. Thus it is obvious as to why they spoke almost exclusively about the role of the FARC in drug trafficking and not the ELN at that time.
Years later the situation had not changed much, the main producing departments were the FARC fiefdoms. The UNODC study on coca crops in the country in 2013 continues to show a concentration in FARC fiefdoms, with a displacement from Putumayo to Nariño due to aerial spraying and the persecution of the FARC by the State. In 2013, there were just 48,000 hectares of coca in the entire country, with significant reductions in some parts. Nariño, Putumayo, Guaviare and Caquetá accounted for 62% of the land under coca, with Norte de Santander representing 13% and Cauca with just 9%. There was a reduction and a displacement of the crops towards new areas with Nariño accounting for the most dramatic increase of all departments.
In 2019, there was 154,000 hectares of coca, a little over three times the amount grown in 2013, though it was slightly down on 2018 when there was 169,000 hectares. Coca production recovered after 2014 in the middle of the peace process with the FARC. It stands out that in 2019, Arauca, a department dominated by the ELN the UNODC did not report any coca crops. Once again Norte de Santander is a department with widespread coca leaf production almost quadrupling the amount reported in 2001. It had 41,749 hectares of coca but the county of Tibú alone had 20,000 hectares and the same UNODC report indicated that these are not new areas and show that the crop has deep roots in the area.
THE BANKS, THE BANKS!
However, despite the role of the FARC in the drugs trade, they weren’t the big drug barons we were led to believe. How can we be sure? Their demobilisation did not alter the flow of cocaine towards the USA and Europe. The big drugs capos in the companies, the Congress of the Republic, the international banks did not stop for a second. Neither did people such as Ñeñe Hernández and other associates of right wing political parties in Colombia stop for a single instant.
Neither the production nor consumption of cocaine halted. The UNODC’s World Drug Report says as much about both phenomena. According to the UNODC consumption of cocaine fell from 2.5% in 2002 to 1.5% in 2011 in the USA, but from that year it increased again reaching 2.0% in 2018 and also there are indications of an increase in the sale of cocaine of high purity at lower prices between 2013 and 2017. The price of a gram fell by 29% and the purity increased by 32%. The report also indicates that in Europe there was a significant increase in various places such as the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Estonia and Germany. Nevertheless, some of those countries had seen decreases in consumption in the first years of the century. All of this suggests that there is a greater supply of the drug. This can be seen not only in the previously mentioned figures of an increase in the production of coca leaf in Colombia (or in other countries such as Peru and Bolivia), but can also be seen in drug seizures. An increase in seizures may indicate greater efficiency by the police forces, but combined with stability or an increase in consumption and a reduction in price, rather indicate an increase in production and availability.
According to the UNODC cocaine seizures have increased dramatically since the commencement of Plan Colombia, indicating, although they do not acknowledge it, the failure of their anti-drugs strategy and the tactic of aerial spraying with glyphosate. In 1998 400 tonnes were seized globally and that figure remained relatively stable till 2003, reaching 750 tonnes in 2005 and surpassing the threshold of 900 tonnes in 2015 to finish off at 1,300 tonnes in 2018, i.e. there was no reduction in consumption or the production of cocaine. Throughout the years with or without the FARC there has been coca production and of course the main drug barons never demobilised, the heads of the banks remain in their posts.
The real drug traffickers wear a tie, own large estates, meet with President Duque, it is not the ELN that moves hundreds of tonnes of cocaine around the world. In 2012, the Swiss bank HSBC reached an agreement with the US authorities to pay a kind of fine of $1,920 million dollars for having laundered $881 million dollars from the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel of Northern Valle, Colombia. The bank had, despite everything, classified Mexico as a low risk country, thus excluding $670 billion dollars in transactions from monitoring systems and the bank was notified by the authorities but ignored them. Nobody went to jail, in fact no one was prosecuted. As Senator Warren in a session of the Senate Banking Commission pointed out, no one was going to go to jail for this massive crime. Moreover, the Sub Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David S. Cohen refused to recommend a criminal investigation against the bank. There is no need to state that no ELN commander is on the board of this or other banks. The ELN is usually accused of infiltrating universities, but to date no one has accused them of having infiltrated the boards of banks.
It is not the only bank implicated in money laundering, in 2015 London was described as one of the main centres for money laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking. A report by the UK National Crime Agency states, on the basis of a UN calculation that between 2% and 5% of global GDP are laundered funds “that there is a realistic possibility [defined as between 40-50%] that it is in the hundreds of billions of pounds annually” and the majority of it comes from crimes committed outside of the UK. There is no need to say that no ELN commander is a director of those companies, nor is there any need to state that these companies continue to operate and their directors are walking about free and according to the report they could only recover £132 million. The NCA cites favourably the reports of Transparency International. According to this organisation, 1,201 companies operating in the British Overseas Territories inflicted £250 billion in damage through corruption in recent decades. They analysed 237 cases of corruption in the last 30 years. The majority of the companies are registered in the British Virgin Islands (92%) and the majority (90%) of the cases happened there in the favourite headquarters of many companies that operate in Colombia, without mentioning those who finance election campaigns. Once again, the ELN does not operate in those territories, although many mining companies in Colombia are registered there. The report points out that due to legislative changes there are fewer reasons to buy property in the UK through those companies registered in the Overseas Territories, yet the number of properties has remained relatively stable at some 28,000. Of course not all them are the result of illicit funds, however… As far as we know the ELN’s Central Command is not the owner of any of these properties.
Transparency International continued with its investigations and its last report highlighted the number of British companies involved in money laundering or dubious transactions. It states that there are 86 banks and financial institutions, 81 legal firms and 62 accounting companies (including the big four that dominate the market). According to this NGO
Whether unwittingly or otherwise, these businesses helped acquire the following assets and entities used to obtain, move and defend corrupt or suspicious wealth: 2,225 Companies incorporated in the UK, its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies directly involved in making payments; 17,000 more companies incorporated in the UK that we have reasonable grounds to suspect have facilitated similar activity; 421 Properties in the UK worth more than £5 billion; 7 Luxury Jets 3 Luxury Yachts worth around £237 million worth around £170 million. 
Of course not all the laundered funds are drug related but they are all illicit in origin. However, the USA has not sought in extradition any of the banking capos, legal firms and less still the four big accountancy companies in the world. It would simply collapse the financial system were they to do so.
The extradition of criminals from Colombia has always been problematic in legal and political terms. Nowadays, the majority of those extradited are extradited for drug trafficking. The USA receives 73% of all those extradited from Colombia and 60% of them face charges of drug trafficking or money laundering. Though not all those extradited are guilty and there are various cases of people being returned to Colombia, after their extradition, or others more fortunate who managed to demonstrate their innocence before being extradited, such is the case of Ariel Josué, a carpenter from San Vicente del Caguán who didn’t even know how to use a computer and yet for
… the United States and then the Colombian justice system, Ariel Josué was the head of an electronic money laundering network, and had to pay for his crime in a north American prison.
In the absence of an independent investigation nor the verification of his identity, the Supreme Court issued a court order in favour of his extradition and even President Juan Manuel Santos signed the order for him to be taken.
OPEN LETTER FROM THE ELN
Despite those extradited, when not innocent, being poor people or those who have some relationship with right wing political parties or the economic elites of the country, the media and the Colombian and US governments’ focus on the problem is always the same: the guerrillas and not the banks or business leaders. In fact, one of the most famous people extradited is Simón Trinidad, a FARC commander and part of the negotiating team in the Caguán. Trinidad was extradited for drug trafficking and despite being a FARC commander they didn’t manage to prove any link to the drugs trade and thus resorted to the detention and captivity of three north American mercenaries hired by the Dyncorp company, a company denounced for crimes such as trafficking in minors, prostitution, sexual abuse amongst others. So we should be very careful when it comes to accepting these new allegations against the ELN.
The ELN in its open letter acknowledges that they collect taxes from the buyers of coca base and cocaine who come into their areas of influence, as they do with other economic activities. So if the ELN is not involved in drug trafficking, how can we explain the presence of illicit crops in their areas? The ELN commanders explain the presence of these crops in the same manner and the same dynamic they describe could be seen in all the regions where they had to deal with the FARC. There was a dispute between the two organisations as to what to do regarding the crops and drug trafficking itself. Initially the ELN opposed the planting of coca and opium poppy in the regions, but the FARC said yes and they authorised the peasants to grow it and moreover in some parts they were willing to buy base or cocaine itself, depending on the region. Faced with this reality the ELN felt that it had no choice but to allow the growing of the crop, as otherwise they would have to militarily face the FARC and the communities. That is why the ELN is to be found in areas with a coca tradition and as they acknowledge in their open letter they tax the buyers as they do with other economic activities. However, it is worth pointing out that the FARC also initially only charged taxes, but given the long ELN tradition on drugs it is unlikely, though not impossible that they do the same.
Its open letter not only refutes the allegations against it, but they also put forward proposals as to what to do regarding the problem of crops and drug consumption. It extends an invitation to various organisms to carry out in situ visits and inspections to see the reality of their relationship to the drugs trade, but they go further than clearing up the question of their links or otherwise to the drugs trade and they put forward proposals on the drugs problem as such.
PROPOSALS — SOLUTIONS?
To pick up the proposals made on various occasions by the ELN with the aim of reaching an Agreement that overcomes the phenomenon of drug trafficking that includes the participation of the international community, the communities in the regions that suffer this scourge and various sectors of Colombian society.
The issue of drug trafficking is not one that Colombia can solve on its own, it is an international issue in nature, not just in terms of the distribution and consumption of the final products, such as cocaine and heroine or ecstasy and other drugs generally produced in northern countries, but also because Colombia’s obligations on the issue are covered by various international UN treaties. The ELN makes various points.
Only the legalisation of psychotropic substances will put end to the extraordinary profits of drug trafficking and its raison d’être.
This position has been discussed thousands of times in various fora and international settings. It is partially true. No doubt the legalisation demanded by various social organisations, including health organisations, would put an end to the mafia’s profits, but not the profits as such. The medicinal uses of coca and opium have never been banned, rather the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) regulates and controls its production and end use. The UNODC calculates that in 2018 there just under 12 billion daily doses of opiates available in the legal market, double the amount available in 1998. Cocaine and medicinal opiates, including heroin, have always been used in a medical context and the use and regulation of cannabis is a growing market. The legalisation of recreational consumption is another matter, the state of Colorado in the USA and Uruguay are two places where they legalised the recreational consumption, with various benefits in terms of crime, health and taxes. The profits are lower in these legal markets but they are large, nonetheless, as are they for other legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, products that are controlled in terms of quality and their impact on the health of the consumer. The legal marijuana market in Colorado amounted to $1,750 millions in 2019 with 69,960,024 transactions with an average price per transaction of $51.89, but the price to the consumer continues to fall and quality is guaranteed. However, both Colorado and Uruguay have experienced legal problems with the banking system as their legalisation has no international recognition. The ELN’s proposal could only happen in the context of an international debate and a paradigm shift in the states and regulatory bodies at an international level such as the UNODC and the INCB, amongst others and the recent decision by the WHO on the medicinal use of cannabis is a good start.
A pact on shared responsibility between drug producer and consumer countries is required
This pact already exists. There are various UN pacts on the issue starting with the Single Convention of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1981 and United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. This last treaty deals with aspects related to organised crime, precursor chemicals etc. What is lacking is political will, not another pact. The factories where the acids used to make cocaine are not bombarded but they do attack and bombard the producer communities, neither do they bombard the factories of illegal drugs such as ecstasy in the Netherlands. It is not the case that there is a lack of pacts but rather as they say the law is for the ragged and in geopolitical terms, Colombia is very ragged
The drug addicts are sick and should be treated by the states and should not be pursued as criminals.
This is one point that is always overlooked in the discussions on illicit crops and despite the belligerent tone of the USA, both the north American health system and that of the majority of countries in Europe deal with it as such, some countries do not even pursue consumption as such, acknowledging its character as a health problem and only go after related crimes. The UN accepts the need for treatment for drug addicts and calculates in its World Drug Report that 35.6 million people in the world abuse drugs and just 12.5% of those who need treatment get it, i.e. about 4.45 million people.
The peasants who work with illicit use crops, should have alternative plans for food production or industrial raw materials, financed by the states in order to solve their sustenance without seeking recourse in illicit use crops.
Although this point is well intentioned it makes the same mistake as the FARC, the NGOs, international aid etc. Whilst it is true that the peasants should have alternative plans and receive economic support from the states, the problem is a core issue and cannot be solved through projects or credits: the economic aperture ruined the agricultural production of the country and the peasants can’t compete with the imports subsidised by the US and European governments. The underlying problem is not agricultural, nor economic but political and requires national and international changes. The free trade agreements, the monopoly in the agricultural and food sector exercised by multinationals such as Cargill, Nestlé, Barry Callebaut amongst others are not resolved by subsidies or projects.
As well as pursuing the Cartels in the narcotic producing countries they should also pursue the distribution Cartels in the industrialised consuming countries; as well as the Cartels for the precursor chemicals and money laundering of narco funds in the international financial system and the tax havens.
This is a key point. As long as drugs are illegal, they should go after the points in the production chain there, both the banks and the companies that engage in money laundering and the companies whose chemicals are used in the manufacture of cocaine. They don’t do this, one little bit or not much at least. Whilst the USA seek in extradition just about anyone in Colombia, they have never sought nor will they seek the directors of banks such as HSBC.
There are reasons to accept the ELN’s word on the issue of drugs, and there are more than sufficient reasons to accept the debate on drugs and what to do about them. It is a debate that never occurred in the context of the negotiations with the FARC. The FARC opted to negotiate benefits for themselves, their social base and they never touched the structure of the agricultural economy in the country nor the international law in force on drugs.
The allegations against the ELN lack any basis in fact, but the media does not ask us to treat it as truth, rather it serves as an excuse to delegitimise this organisation in the eyes of Colombian people and in the international area they are useful as excuse to continue to militarily support the Colombian state and in a given moment can be used as a pretext for more direct interventions against the ELN and perhaps Venezuela.
 Some NGOs prefer the expression illicit use crops, but it is misnomer. The international treaties on the matter leave us in no doubt on the issue, the crop itself is illicit. The Single Convention of 1961, the convention in force on the issue, in Article 22 No.1 demands the total eradication, the coca leaf and its derivatives are banned. The treaty demands that even the plants belonging to indigenous people be destroyed.