CAPITALIST DEMOCRACY, TRUMP AND FASCISM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

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?

Washington DC Trumpist rally prior to the Capitol invasion. (Photo source: Internet)

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?

A Trump supporter in the Capitol with Confederacy flag, an even more reactionary flag than the usual. (Photo source: Internet)

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.

Trump addressing rally of his supporters in Washington DC prior to their storming the Capitol building. (Photo source: Internet)

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.

“DEMOCRACY”

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.

Trump supporters overwhelm cop lines and storm the Capitol building. (Photo source: Internet)

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).

End.

SOURCES:

Capitol riots and politician reactions: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/pelosi-threatens-to-impeach-trump-after-armed-insurrection-against-america-1061189.html

Previous recent Trump supporters violence in Washington DC: https://rebelbreeze.com/tag/far-right-2/

Police Chief comments: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/capitol-police-chief-condemns-protest-and-identifies-woman-who-died-1061106.html

Calls for impeachment: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/donald-trump-vows-orderly-transition-but-calls-mount-for-him-to-be-ousted-1061161.html

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.” ”

https://www.rte.ie/news/2021/0107/1188165-world-live-updates/

The Red Joan of Arc — Elizabeth Gurley Flynn ( 1890- 1964)

By Geoff Cobb

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

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.”

1913 Patterson Silk Workers’ strike. L-R Patrick Quinlan, Carlo Tresca, Flynn, Adolph Lessig, Big Bill Heywood. (Source photo: Wikipedia)

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.

1915 song sheet cover for ” The Rebel Girl” by Joe Hill, dedicated to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. (Source photo: Wikipedia)

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.

End.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s gravestone in Waldheim, Chicago. (Source photo: Wikipedia)

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.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn speaking from a public platform. (Source photo: Internet)

Drugs, War and the ELN

It’s not the guerrillas that are running the drug cartels …..

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Versión en castellano: https://rebelion.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/colombia_drogas_eln.pdf)

(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.[1]  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.[2]  Of course, the ELN in an open letter widely distributed on social networks and alternative press, denied any links to the drug trade.[3]  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.

Alvaro Uribe, ex-President of Colombia and patron of current President Duque is under house arrest and investigation for close links with drug cartels and murder paramilitary organisations. (Photo source: Internet)
Late drug mafia boss”Nene” Jose Guillermo Hernandez (r) with President Ivan Duque ((Photo source: La Nueva Prensa)

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.[4]  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.[5]  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.[6]  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%.[7]  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.[8]  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.[9]  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.[10]

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%.[11]  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.[12]  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,[13] 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.[14]  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.

In 2012, the Swiss bank HSBC paid US authorities a penalty of $1,920 million for having laundered $881 million dollars from the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel of Northern Valle, Colombia. The bank had classified Mexico as a low risk country (!), thus excluding $670 billion dollars in transactions from monitoring systems. (Photo sourced: Internet)
HSBC bank has bought building of former Central Bank Ireland on Central Plaza, Dame Street, Dublin (Photo sourced: Internet).

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.[15]  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”[16] 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.[17]  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[18] 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.[19]  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. [20]

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.[21]  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.[22]

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.[23]  So we should be very careful when it comes to accepting these new allegations against the ELN.

Private company mercenaries in Yemen conflict, paid by United Arab Emirates. Dyncorp have replaced Blackwater/ Academi there, who were faring badly against President-loyal troops and guerrillas’ resistance. Vulture capitalists Cerberus now own Dyncorp which has ex-Vice President USA Dan Quayle and Israeli billionaire Steve Feinberg as directors. (Photo source: voltairenet.org)

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[24] 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.

ELN guerrilla patrol in Colombia (Photo source: GL)

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.

PROPOSALSSOLUTIONS?

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.[25]

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.[26]  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.[27]  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.[28]

  • 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.[29]

  • 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.[30]

  • 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.[31]

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.

End.

“Freedom for political prisoners; Jail for those who oppress the people.” Cartoon poster from Chile but which applies to Colombia with thousands of political prisoners (Image sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

[1] El Tiempo (05/10/2020) Los 11 elenos que EE.UU. pide en extradición por narcotráfico https://www.eltiempo.com/unidad-investigativa/los-11-miembros-del-eln-que-estados-unidos-pide-en-extradicion-por-narcotrafico-541475

[2] El Tiempo (16/10/2020) Confirman vendetta por coca en las entrañas del Elnhttps://www.eltiempo.com/unidad-investigativa/eln-alias-pablito-ordena-ejecutar-a-3-lideres-por-temas-de-narcotrafico-543671

[3] ELN (12/10/2020) Carta abierta al Departamento de Estado, a la Fiscalía Federal de los Estados Unidos y al gobierno colombiano https://eln-voces.net/carta-abierta-al-departamento-de-estado-a-la-fiscalia-federal-de-los-estados-unidos-y-al-gobierno-colombiano/

[4] UNODC (2002) Annual Coca Cultivation Survey 2001, SIMCI Project AD/COL/99/E67 p.4

[5] Ibíd., p.6

[6] Calculations made on the basis of the Coca Census November 1st 2001, SIMCI Project.

[7] UNODC (2014) Colombia: Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca 2013.  Colombia.  UNODC p. 17

[8] UNODC (2020) Colombia: Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca 2019.  Colombia.  UNODC p.15

[9] Ibíd., p.22

[10] Ibíd., p.81

[11] UNODC (2020) World Drug Report Vol. 2 Drug Use and Health Consequences. UNODC. Vienna, p. 26

[12] Ibíd., p.29

[13] UNODC (2020) World Drug Report Vol. 3 Drug Supply. UNODC. Vienna. p.28

[14] Reuters (11/12/2020) HSBC to pay $1.9 billion U.S. fine in money laundering case https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hsbc-probe-idUSBRE8BA05M20121211

[15] The Independent (25/12/2015) London is now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert.https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/london-

[16] NCA (2020) National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime. NCA. London p.54 https://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/who-we-are/publications/437-national-strategic-assessment-of-serious-and-organised-crime-2020/file

[17] Ibíd., p.55

[18] Transparency International UK (2018) The Cost of Secrecy: The role played by companies registered in the UK’s Overseas Territories in money launderin and corruption. TIUK. London. p.2https://www.transparency.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf/publications/TIUK-CostofSecrecy-WEB-v2.pdf

[19] Ibíd., p.4

[20] Transparency International (2019) At Your Service: Investigating how UK businesses and institutions help corrupt individuals and regimes launder their money and reputations p.13https://www.transparency.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf/publications/TIUK_AtYourService_WEB.pdf

[21] Rojas Castañeda, D. (16/07/2020) Estados Unidos recibió 73% de extraditados desde Colombia en los últimos tres añoshttps://www.asuntoslegales.com.co/consumidor/estados-unido-recibio-73-de-extraditados-desde-colombia-en-los-ultimos-tres-anos-3032110

[22] This and other stories can be consulted at https://www.kienyke.com/krimen-y-korrupcion/indignantes-historias-de-inocentes-que-fueron-prision-por-errores-judiciales

[23] The description of Dyncorp as a mercenary company may seem controversial, but their own webpage leaves in no doubt on the issue.  It has 15,000 employees and contractors in 36 countries in the world and they offer their services to all branches of the US military forces, federal agencies and other international “clients”.  See  https://www.dyn-intl.com/  .  Furthermore, the company has been publicly denounced for various activities, amongst them the ill-treatment of its employees and child trafficking and prostitution in Bosnia and Afghanistan.  See https://www.mintpressnews.com/lawsuit-military-contractor-enslaved-american-employees-sewage-flooded-barracks-tent-cities/250994/ The website https://trello.com/b/KdjpFSGS/dyncorp-crimes-by-country  gives a list of the companies crimes by country.

[24] 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.

[25] ELN (12/10/2020) Op. Cit.

[26] UNODC (2020) World Drug Report Vol 6. Other Drug Policy Issues. Vienna. UNODC p.9

[27] MPG (2020) 2019 Regulated Marijuana Market Update.https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/2019 Regulated Marijuana Market Update Report Final.pdf

[28] For more information on the WHO decision see Jelsma, M. (2020) Potential fall-out from the vote on the WHO cannabis recommendationshttps://www.tni.org/en/article/potential-fall-out-from-the-vote-on-the-who-cannabis-recommendations

[29] UNODC (2020) World Drug Report Vol 5. Socioeconomic Characteristics and Drug Use Disorders.  Vienna. UNODC.

[30] For a critique of the Colombian agricultural model in the sub region of Southern Bolivar, North East of Antioquia and Bajo Cauca see Ó Loingsigh, G. (27/07/2014) El Modelo Agro-Exportador y las Comunidades Campesinashttps://www.academia.edu/44677017/El_Modelo_Agro_Exportador_y_las_Comunidades_Campesinas  and Ó Loingsigh, G. (2019) Extractivismo y muerte en el nororiente. Bogotá. Equipo Jurídico Pueblos https://www.equipopueblos.com/project/extractivismo-y-muerte-en-el-nororiente/

[31] Ó Loingsigh, G. (2016) Las Drogas y la Paz.  El Salmón. No.27  Ibagué pp. 42 – 46 https://www.academia.edu/30669926/La_Paz_y_las_Drogas

THE CAULDRON CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Total reading time: 5 mins.)

It is reported in the news today that Trump has ordered the deregistration on the Stock Exchange of three China companies in the belief that they are basically fronts for the Chinese military. It is reported also that the incumbent, Joe Biden, is unlikely to take a different line and that “US officials have complained that China’s ruling Communist Party takes advantage of access to American technology and investment to expand its military, already one of the world’s biggest and most heavily armed.”

China’s military may indeed be one of the world’s biggest and most heavily armed but there is no question of which power is the most heavily-armed, far above all others: the USA. According to statistics supplied by an EU armed forces comparison site (see SOURCES below), China spends $288 billion on its military, which is much more than doubled by the USA’s $610 billions. And the USA’s military share of its GDP (Gross Domestic Production), at %3.1 is way ahead that of China’s 1.9%.

One of the few areas in which China’s military outstrips the USA’s is in active personnel, at 2,300,000 against 1,281,900. Which is hardly surprising, as China’s population is more than four times that of the USA’s (1.43 billion, compared with 329 million). And that too would account for its reservist imbalance, 8,000,000 versus the USA’s 811,000.

China Type99 Tank. Armoured vehicles and numbers of personnel are the few areas in which China outstrips the USA. (Photo source: Internet)

Another area in which the Chinese military outstrips the USA’s is in tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, self-propelled artillery and rocket artillery (that last by not so large a margin). But the USA has three times the total military aircraft of China, twice the number of attack aircraft, nearly four times the number of multirole aircraft and over four times the number of helicopters. Only in fighter aircraft does China outnumber the US’s and that by a significant amount: 1,150 against 587 – but multirole aircraft, of which the USA has 2,192, are designed for air-to-air combat as well as missile launching against ground targets.

In naval power, although China’s total of 780 looks impressive next to the USA’s 437, the USA has 20 aircraft carriers while China has …. two. The USA is not bothered with frigates or corvettes, of which China has respectively 54 and 42 but the USA’s 85 destroyers are more than double China’s 36. In submarines they are not far off level pegging, with China’s 76 against the USA’s 71.

The USA has 20 aircraft carriers while China has just two. This hi-tech US carrier cost $13 Billion. (Photo source: Internet)

These figures tell us that the USA far outranks China in military hardware and also that its military production per head of population is vastly greater than China’s. But when we look at the type of weapons in which one predominates over another (without regard to quality or modernity), it tells us something else: the USA is far better fitted for long-range warfare than is China. No state is safe from long-range attack by the USA military but many parts of the world are relatively secure from such an attack by China’s current military capability.

Furthermore, in a war between both powers, the USA would rely on hitting China from afar with bombing raids from air bases in countries with US-friendly regimes (e.g Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, Japan) and from its fleet of aircraft carriers.

China could perhaps overrun the USA’s defences on the ground but how could their troops and vehicles reach America?

Of course, the USA vastly outnumbers China in nuclear warheads too: 6,500 against 280.

MILITARISATION OF THE ECONOMY

Lenin and others wrote that increasingly in the capitalist countries, finance capital had become merged with industrial and whereas finance had earlier fed industrial development, it was towards the end of the 19th Century deserting industry at home to invest in super-profits available through exploitation of natural resources and labour power in the developing world. Countries that had large colonial territories and foreign investment preferments or monopolies were neglecting their industries in the time of imperialism while capitalist countries without the same outlets were concentrating their capital on modernising their production models and methods.

In the USA, finance capital merged long ago with industrial but, since WW2, with military expenditure also. But not only merged — the military side has come to dominate. Not necessarily in actual production statistics, though these are pretty high – according to industrial analyst Louise Echitelle writing in 2017, Roughly 10% of the $2.2 trillion in factory output in the United States goes into the production of weapons sold mainly to the Defense Department for use by the armed forces. But in addition, over half the World’s arms sales in 2013, according to a SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) pie chart quoted by Wikipedia, were by the USA and this share is likely to have increased since.

USA’s multirole fighters far outnumber China’s. This is the F-15E Strike Eagle. (Photo source: Internet)

Military production is publicly funded in Government purchasing and also in allocation of production sites – Echitelle wrote three years ago that the bidding to get a major company to locate in a municipality

“can sometimes top $100 million per factory location. A manufacturer who finally accepts a municipality’s bid collects tax breaks, a gift of land on which to put a factory and sometimes the cost of building and equipping the factory itself at taxpayers’ expense.”

Share of arms sales by state in 2013: chart by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Incidentally, that level of reliance on military production also makes for a militarisation of the labour force, a binding of workers and trade unions to military production. This will be reflected also in cultural products such as war films (documentaries of US Wars, fictional or semi-fictional war films, Sci-Fi with US military in the future), war games and novels, USA Armed Forces Day barbecues and street parties on the third Saturday of each May, all together resulting in social support for war, invasion of other countries and …. further military expenditure.

Although the figures here have concentrated on military production and its public funding in the USA, one has to take into account many other aspects, such as that expended on raising and educating a child to military age and all that is involved in that huge investment over a period of 18 years or so.

Another factor in the calculation is what is not being produced because of the concentration on military production and its secure source of public funding. Or no longer being produced. Echitelle points out that at the end of WW2, US industry produced cars and appliances, clothing, shoes, houses and furnishings for the home market and exported many of them too. The reliance on military spending in production facility and its public funding has seen the US give way to foreign competitors in those consumer goods not only abroad but in its domestic economy too. On the other hand, China is increasingly producing such goods for its huge home market and even exporting some, for example in communication technology products.

One does not need to be a supporter of the Chinese regime to burst out laughing at the irony when a US President or US officials accuse the Chinese of militarising their economy.

End.

SOURCES

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/new-york-stock-exchange-to-delist-three-chinese-companies-under-trump-order-1058223.html

https://armedforces.eu/compare/country_China_vs_USA

BASQUES MARK THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BURGOS MILITARY TRIALS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Basques marked the 50th anniversary of the Burgos military trials by the Franco dictatorship of 16 members of ETA, the armed Basque socialist independentist organisation. A few days ago a group went to the town of Burgos itself and posted slogans on the wall of the Spanish Ministry of Defence building there declaring that the Spanish State had not succeeded in its repression in 1970 and would not do so in future. In the Basque Country itself events were also held in commemoration.

The military trials of 16 members of ETA took place between 3rd and 9th December 1970 in the Spanish city of Burgos in Castille (north-central Spain). The trial concluded on the 28th with sentences of death on six and sentences up to 70 years on the remaining ten. Intended to be a mortal blow to ETA and to Basque resistance the trials instead inspired greater and more united resistance in the Basque Country and became an international publicity debacle for the Franco dictatorship.

Within the Basque Country, demonstrations and pickets took place and a general strike saw 100,000 workers there out on strike. ETA distributed pamphlets and leaflets among the people and in its repressive measures the Spanish police beat many workers and killed a number, as in Etxarri in Nafarroa (Navarra) province.

Internationally, protest demonstrations took place across Europe and other parts of the world, particularly outside Spanish Embassies, often leading to battles with the police of the host country. Pope Paul VI appealed for the death sentences to be commuted and Jean-Paul Sartre, a leading intellectual of the French Left and with an international literary reputation congratulated the defendants on having brought the situation of the Basque Country under Franco to international attention.

ETA hired prominent lawyers of Left and Human Rights reputation to defend the sixteen. The organisation also kidnapped the German honorary Consul as a hostage (and later released him unharmed). The defendants themselves used the trial politically, turning it into an exposure of the Franco regime and its repression. A number described the tortures to which they had been subjected, all of them declared their commitment to socialist freedom and some even stated that they were fighting for the rights of all working people.

Protest demonstration in front of Spanish Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela in December 1970 (Photo sourced: Internet)

The military judges, aware that the publicity of the trial was going against the Dictatorship, began to clamp down and restrict the defendants from saying anything that was not directly, as they saw it, pertinent to the charges, after which the defendants refused to speak at all. At one point during the trial the defendants all stood and sang the battle-song and national anthem of the Basque nation, Eusko Gudariak1. An even greater sensation occurred in a brief incident when the final defendant to speak, Mario Onaindia, attempted to attack the judges with an axe.2

Demonstration in Barceloneta, Catalonia in solidarity with Burgos defendants, December 1970
(Photo sourced: Internet)

BACKGROUND

A military-fascist uprising against the elected Popular Front government of Spain took place in 1936 and in the Spanish Antifascist War that followed, the Spanish Republic was defeated by the military with substantial assistance from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the UK and France blockaded the Republican forces.

Hitler and Franco reviewing invader Nazi troops in Hendaye, French Basque Country. (Photo source: Internet)

A military-fascist dictatorship with the strong assistance of the Spanish Catholic Church followed amongst huge repression, making Spain the state with the most mass graves in Europe and second only to Cambodia in the world.

The Popular Front Government had granted autonomy to the Basque Nation (and to Catalonia) for the first time in centuries of the Spanish State, although Nafarroa province had sided with the military-fascist forces. Any notion of autonomy was withdrawn under the Dictatorship and even use of the Basque and Catalan languages in public or in education was forbidden.

Some guerrilla resistance continued for a period in the mountains of the Basque Country, Catalonia and other parts of the Spanish state territory but the fighters were hunted down or fled the Spanish state. The Communist Party and some socialist organisations continued an underground existence and built illegal trade unions but the CP of Spain did not support independence for the Basque Country or for Catalonia, on the theory that this would “break up the Spanish working class” (however later they all mobilised against the Franco Dictatorship and in solidarity with the Burgos defendants).

Euskadi3 Ta Asakatasuna (Basque Land and Freedom) was formed in 1959 out of a coalition between a left-wing Basque youth group and the youth wing of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) who were discontented with the lack of action of their elders. In June 1968 ETA carried out its first armed action against Spanish police when killing a police officer asking for their identification papers at a checkpoint and shortly afterwards one of the ETA pair was gunned down by police. Two months later the organisation carried out its first planned attack when they killed Melitón Manzanas, Commander the Political Police Brigade in Alava Province. Manzanas was a notorious fascist and torturer who had hunted down Jewish refugees to turn them over to the Nazis during WWII.

The Burgos trials was intended to smash ETA completely but as outlined above, had an entirely opposite effect. The death sentences were commuted in an attempt to reduce the damage the trials had caused the international reputation of the Spanish State.4

Solidarity with Burgos Defendants in Paris, Dec. 3rd 1970 (Photo sourced: Internet)
Angry Brigade Communique on machine-gunning of Spanish Embassy, London on 3rd December 1970. (Photo sourced: Internet)

AFTER BURGOS AND TODAY

ETA continued its armed and non-military actions and other revolutionary armed communist resistance began to take shape elsewhere in the Spanish territory.

Despite the huge success of the Basque solidarity mobilisations to prevent the executions in 1970, five years later a similar wave failed to prevent the executions of another two ETA members and three FRAP (Revolutionary Anti-Fascist Patriotic Front) members: Ángel Otaegui Etxeberria; Juan “Txiki” Paredes Manot; José Humberto Baena; Ramón García Sanz; and José Luis Sánchez Bravo.

French solidarity with ETA defendants 1975. This time the international campaign was unsuccessful and the Spanish State executed the two ETA and three FRAP activists (Photo sourced: Internet)

ETA counted some actions notable for the harmful effect on them but also some spectacular successes in its armed campaign. Included in the latter were the assassination in Madrid in 1973 of Admiral Carrillo Blanco, Franco’s appointed successor and the abandonment of the nuclear reactor project in Lemoiz5 in Bizkaia in 1983. Blanco’s assassination and the death of the Dictator Franco in 1975 hastened the Transition of the Spanish State to an alleged democracy and a monarchical and unitary state constitution in 1978.

The Basque resistance constructed a network which beyond the armed group consisted of trade unions, youth organisation, social centres, daily bilingual newspaper and political parties. The Spanish State waged war against that movement with repressive laws, arrests, torture, jailings, closure of organisations and media, along with armed action against ETA. In addition, it organised and funded a terror and assassination campaign over a period of 26 years6.

In the late 1990s the Basque Left-Independentist movement began a process of unilateral disarmament and change in political direction which led first to an indefinite ETA truce in 2010, then to decommissioning of arms and finally to the dissolution of ETA in 2018. However around 250 Basque political prisoners remain in jail, a tiny group of which have declared their dissidence from the leadership’s path and are supported outside the jails by a growing movement which has a very different line to that of the “official” leadership.

The Spanish State insists that the only possible relaxation of prison conditions, end of dispersal7 or granting of parole for the prisoners is “if they recant their beliefs and apologise to the victims.”

Political repression continues at some level within the Basque Country. There is no indication that there is any intention in Spanish ruling circles to grant independence to the southern Basque Country – quite the contrary (as seen also in Catalonia).

THE 50th ANNIVERSARY

A group of activists from the official Abertzale Left carried out a publicity commando raid in Burgos recently (see video below) and attached a banner poster to the Spanish Ministry of Defence building which read: “NEITHER WERE YOU ABLE to repress the struggle of the people NOR WILL YOU BE ABLE” and LONG LIVE THE REPUBLIC!

A number of public meeting and on-line events were also held this month, including the commemoration in Etxarri of two Basques who were killed by Spanish police during the Burgos Trials protests.

In Eibar city in Gipuzkoa province around 100 people assembled despite Covid19 restrictions in the open air to mark the anniversary and included one of the Burgos trial defendants who, along with another woman, read out a manifesto which has been signed by many in the Basque independentist movement.

Burgos Trials 50th Anniversary Commemoration in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, Dec.2020. (Photo source: Naiz.eu)

“The Franco regime wanted to prosecute, punish and subdue again a people that in the darkness of the dictatorship had dared to rise from the ashes of war,” they read, introducing the manifesto.

Recalling the moment when the defendants rose in court and with upraised clenched fists sang the Eusko Gudariak, the manifesto commented: “With their courage, that handful of young militants taught us to stand up even when it seems impossible, and their example lives on today in us and in the future in the actions and dreams of the new generations.”8

The manifesto also states that the Burgos Trials were “a milestone” for the survival of Euskal Herria. However today, 50 years later, the substantive process has not concluded, since “they continue to take Basque youth to court, thinking that by disciplining them they will quench the desire for freedom of this people, and the states that surround us have not abandoned their strategy against the independence movement.”

The anniversaries of milestones in the struggle, of successes and failures, of martyrs, continue to be marked. And the journey is far from finished.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1“Soldiers of the Basque Country”, very similar in title and theme to the Irish national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann/ The Soldiers’ Song.

2How Onaindia managed to get his hands on an axe in court is one question but the significance of the axe cannot be underestimated – it was a traditional tool of foresters but also of ancient Basques in war and formed one part of ETA’s emblem, the other being the snake, representing wisdom.

3Formerly used to describe the whole Basque nation, “Euskadi” nowadays mainly describes the Basque Autonomous Region of the provinces of Bizkaia, Alaba and Gipuzkoa. “Euskal Herria” (The Country of Basque Language”) is more commonly used today to describe the whole seven provinces of the Basque nation, four currently within the Spanish and three within the French states.

4It also increased the pressure on the Spanish ruling class from the USA and European states to become more moderate politically and less vulnerable to revolution.

5This was in addition to frequent large protest mobilisations.

6Much more than the notorious GAL – see for example https://rebelbreeze.com/2020/12/23/november-month-of-murders-of-basque-activists/

7The vast majority of the prisoners are in jails dispersed throughout the Spanish and French states, between hundreds and even a thousand kilometres from their homes, placing a huge burden on their families and friends in visiting them.

8Comment: One wonders whether they felt any sense of irony in reading that out, considering that only in September last year 47 Basque prisoner solidarity activists pleaded guilty in a plea deal that ended their trial in 25 minutes with suspended sentences for all except for a few months’ jail for a couple of them. The deal came as a total shock to the estimated 50,000 people who had, only two days earlier, marched in solidarity with the accused, defending their right to do solidarity work without being persecuted or prosecuted.

SOURCES

https://www.naiz.eus/eu/info/noticia/20201228/ni-pudieron-ni-podreis-mensaje-en-la-an-y-el-gobierno-militar-de-burgos-50-anos-despues

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

https://www.naiz.eus/en/info/noticia/20201129/personalidades-del-ambito-independentista-recuerdan-el-50-aniversario-del-proceso-de-burgos

LANGUAGE IS A TREASURE CHEST 3: THE POWER OF THE WISH AND THE CURSE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

Apparently the Subjunctive Mood is disappearing from modern languages, including the Indo-European groups of Celtic, Germanic, Nordic, Romance and Slavonic. The Subjunctive is the grammatical mood by which we expressed wishes and desires, with an underlying feeling that their realisation was uncertain. But why is the Subjunctive disappearing? I think that its disappearance reflects a profound change in our general thinking, a definite shift towards a scientific view of the world.

Subjunctive forms of verbs are typically used to express various states of unreality such as: wish, emotion, possibility, judgement, opinion, obligation, or action that has not yet occurred; the precise situations in which they are used vary from language to language.” (Wikipedia)

Wishing while blowing the seed parasols off a dandelion ‘clock’. The form of words combined with an object and perhaps an element of chance was believed to have a power of realisation. (Image sourced: Internet)

Firstly, let’s look at relatively common phrases where we find the Subjunctive Mood and in English, these are not as common as in other Indo-European languages such as Irish and Castillian (Spanish), for example.

In its article on the grammatical use of the subjunctive mood in English, the online Collins Dictionary gives, among others, these examples:

  • God save the Queen!
  • God bless you!
  • God help us!
  • Heaven help us!
  • Heaven forbid that that should happen to me.
  • Suffice it to say he escaped with only a caution.

As an antidote to monarchical and religious expression, I give you the example Long live the Revolution! which is also in the subjunctive mood.

Often we can arrive at the subjunctive form by beginning the sentence with the word “May”: e.g May God bless you; May Heaven help us; May Heaven forbid. Sometimes when we use “May” we have to change the order of words a little: May it suffice to say from Suffice it to say; May you go with God from Go with God; May the Revolution live long from Long live the Revolution! And sometimes the May or even more words might have disappeared in common modern usage but be understood as in (May) thy Kingdom come1 and (May you be) welcome or (May) God speed (you).

Certainly the calling or greeting of Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year heard and read everywhere around this time of year were originally preceded by May you have a ….

Well and good2 but what has that to do with the “profound change in our general thinking, a definite shift towards a scientific view of the world” which I interpreted as the cause of the disappearance of the subjunctive?

Well, although the use of the subjunctive expressed a wish about the outcome of which we were not certain, it seems clear that its use was believed to have power. So to wish someone to (May you) go with God in English ((Que) Vaya con Dios3 in Castillian and still common in most of South and Central America and in the USA Southwest4) expressed a feeling that by saying those words, one could invoke protection upon the person leaving. Go5 dté tú slán, an equivalent in Irish but without any mention of God, one can find in the last line of the chorus in the Irish Jacobite song Siúil a Ghrá. And when we did not wish someone well, we might express a curse, invoking ill upon them: May you go to Hell! May you never prosper!

A curse tablet from ancient Athens — sometimes it was not enough to say or to write the curse but one had to attach it to an object (or to the object of the curse). (Image sourced: Internet)

Uncertain as the outcome of expressing a wish for another, whether good or ill, was believed to be in more ancient times, we are fairly convinced today that it is empty of any predictive or enforcement power, i.e we can’t make it happen by wishing alone. The only power left in the words is in the expression of emotion for us and to convey a strong wish of good (even if only socially conventional) or conversely an intense dislike towards the object of the phrases.

So when we wish someone well today we are only expressing a positive regard (whether strongly emotional or only as a social convention) and similarly the reverse with an ill-wish. Gone is the belief that the use of the words themselves had any power at all over the outcome. If we were to say nowadays May you go to Hell or the truncated Go to Hell, we would do so without the slightest belief that we can somehow convey the person to that destination6 by the use of those words – we’d merely be saying something like “I really dislike (or hate) you” or perhaps “I am angry with you at the moment”. To really express a malevolent feeling, we might instead use “I hope” but again with without any expectation of realisation, as when Bob Dylan sang to the Masters of War:

“I hope that you die

and your death will come soon”.

Today, we find the remains of the Subjunctive mostly in prayers and greetings7 and to some extent in curses and in prayers. In religion, the traditional forms of prayer tend to be preserved, whether through strong devotion, convention or habit. The survival of the Subjunctive in greetings is probably retained through the inertia of convention. We also find its survival in a few grammatical constructions and in the feeling that “I wish I were in Carrickfergus8” is somehow better than the more commonly-heard “I wish I was in Carrickfergus”.

Hands in prayer, by Albert Durer. (Image sourced: Internet)

In general we no longer believe in the power of invocation, in making things happen by expressing a wish for them in a certain verbal way. We know now or believe that to make something happen, that we need to act. Even if wishful thinking can still be seen in much of political and social expression, that is more a reflection of a reluctance to confront reality or of hope for the future, rather than a real belief in the power of expression in verbal form. A scientific outlook has replaced that of the religious, of the otherworld, giving us a stronger intellectual tool to govern our actions, to bring a wish to reality.

As with the study of history, the study of language tells us a lot about who we were and who we are now — and helps us to speculate on who we are becoming.

End.

La Malediction Paternelle (the Curse of the Father) by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805). (Image sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1 go dtaga do Ríocht in Irish, from The Lord’s Prayer of Christians.

2 Or the full Conditional Mood: That may be all well and good 🙂

3“May you go with God” — the subjunctive mood – compare with Ve te con Dios (“Go with God”), the imperative mood.

4 And sometimes in Hollywood “Westerns”.

5The Irish word Go (pronounced as guh might be in English) in the Subjunctive precedes the verb to correspond to the use of the word May in English we saw earlier. In Irish, the name for the group of greetings is Beannachtaí which interestingly translates as “Blessings”.

6If we even believe any more in the existence of that place.

7And since greetings are important for social communication the Subjunctive often gives the learner of a language some difficulty, as in the Irish Go raibh maith agat, for example.

8A line in a centuries-old macaronic Irish song (i.e a verse in Irish followed by one in English etc), Do Bhí Bean Uasal or in English, Carrickfergus. Sadly most people are probably completely unaware of the verses in Irish.

FURTHER READING

https://grammar.collinsdictionary.com/easy-learning/the-subjunctive

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

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

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

REVOLUTION WITHOUT ECONOMICS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Irish Socialists, though they seem to have little idea of taking on the State in revolution, have at least a rough economic plan for socialism: nationalise the banks and essential services, tax multinationals highly in the meantime, force them to pay higher wages, abide by worker and environmental protection regulations, etc … But Irish Republicans, who have a very clear concept of overthrowing the State, in general appear to have no economic program. How can this be?

Firstly, let’s do away with any idea that Irish Republicans have no awareness of the impact of economics on their lives. Irish Republicans are not nearly as focused on the trade unions as are the Socialists but they are well aware of austerity measures, of wage levels, the cost of housing etc. Irish Republicans are overwhelmingly working or lower-middle class and they feel these impacts and think about them. But they do not, collectively, formulate plans to change these factors.

It would be illogical to think that they don’t care, or that they think that there is nothing that can be done about these things. The rational conclusion to arrive at rather is that they are consciously shelving the question. They don’t have an economic program because they don’t want tothey are actively and consciously avoiding having one.

There is a rational reason for behaviour, even when it seems irrational and this case is no exception. Irish Republicans know that the field of economics is going to have different theories and a variety of proposals tendered for action and this will lead to divisions, some on a very fundamental level. It was part of the reason for the avoidance in the movement of burning social questions in the past. Many of those social questions have been largely resolved without any leadership from the movement, by changes in thinking across society, of which the Republicans are of course a part: contraception, gender equality, divorce, LGBT equality …. even intentional pregnancy termination may be approaching acceptance by the majority of Irish Republicans now.

The notional acceptance of “socialism” as part of the program of Irish Republicanism has led to divisions in the past. The Republican Congress project of the 1930s failed and the Republican movement lost many of its most advanced social theorists and organisers, while the IRA placed an official ban on communist membership.

The essentially social democrats1 who came to lead the 1960s pre-split Republican movement were very strong advocates of socialist economic measures but they foundered on the question of opposition to the State – the deeply sectarian Six-County colonial statelet. When the movement’s leadership failed to supply the arms which the ‘nationalist/ Catholic’ areas needed to defend themselves, the movement split and many in the new camp, the Provisionals, blamed the debacle on “politics” or even more concretely on “socialism”.

Members of the first socialist party in Ireland, the short-lived Irish Socialist Republican Party (distinct from the IRSP) in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, 1901. James Connolly is seated, fourth from left. (Photo sourced: Internet)

It was of course judgement of guilt based on association rather than on intrinsic nature but effective nonetheless (as such often is)2. Subsequently the Adams camp used “socialism” – without of course outlining any real socialist economic program — to unseat the historical leadership of the Provisionals. The objective was to replace them with Adams and his own clique and in this they were successful, through that and other maneouvres.

Now that Provisional Sinn Féin seeks to become a partner in managing the state for the neo-colonial Gombeen class, it has dropped the “socialist” tag (though occasionally, when convenient, likes to describe itself as “Left”).

But not since the 1960s split (apart perhaps from a brief moment in the Irish Republican Socialist Party) has the Irish Republican movement had an explicit economic program, much less a socialist one. “These are all questions that will be resolved later” is and has been the message – i.e after the colonial Statelet and the neo-colonial State have been overthrown, after the nation is free and united.

What is much more likely, however, is that at that point, should we reach it, we’ll have another civil war. And really socialist Republicans will likely lose, because they’ll be trying to sort out priorities and alliances in the midst of a struggle for survival, against a new capitalist order or a foreign invasion – or a combination of both.

The Jim Larkin monument in Dublin’s O’Connell Street today (Photo: D.Breatnach)

DEFINE AND DECLARE OR PREPARE FOR DEFEAT

All Irish Republican organisations and parties now define themselves as “socialist Republican”, which is something that was not true until fairly recently. They need not only to put flesh on those bones but to grow the very bones themselves. If they want to succeed, they need to answer the questions:

  • what do they mean by “socialist”?
  • What practical economic measures do they intend to implement?
  • What is their notional timetable for this implementation (i.e which are immediate, which transitional etc)?
James Connolly Monument, Beresford Place, Dublin. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The implications of answering these questions or not are crucial not only in whether we build a viable socialist society to benefit the vast majority of the working people on this island, but crucial also in whether we achieve independence for the nation in the first place. The working people need a visible stake in a free, united and independent Ireland; I am in agreement with James Connolly when he made the profound declaration that “only the Irish working class remain as the incorruptible inheritors of the fight for freedom in Ireland.”3

end.

FOOTNOTES

1Some may object to this definition but it seems to me correct to describe followers of a doctrine of installing a socialist regime without a fierce struggle to overthrow the existing State.

2There was of course also the wish not to alienate the Irish capitalist elements which the Provisionals hoped would support them, both in Ireland and in the USA.

3From Connolly’s introduction to his Labour In Irish History (1910) – second-last sentence (see https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1910/lih/foreword.htm)

Dear Mr. Tony Holohan

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 1 min.)

Dear Mr. Tony Holohan, We write to congratulate you on being voted Man of the Year for 2020 in the Today FM poll this month1. It must have come as a pleasant surprise to you – it certainly surprised us. We couldn’t have expected the Irish public would forget that embarrassing debacle with the cervical cancer checks.

People might think it reasonable to send the test results off to the USA for screening but, when it turned out that many of those “all clear” results were in error and that some who who later learned of the error were too late for treatment and going die …. you couldn’t hope they would forgive you for trying to keep a lid on the news or for declining to create an urgent response. Well, of course, some of those who wouldn’t be likely to forgive you aren’t with us any more …. but surely so many others would remember? Well thank God for short memories, you must’ve thought!2

Mr. Tony Holohan in a sombre moment. (Image sourced: Internet)

Still, that was news in 2018 and your award was for this year. What is more surprising is that they forgot that when the HSE first became officially aware of the pandemic in February this year, as Chief Medical Officer, you did not advise the Government to close the ports. Or even to isolate those returning from watching the rugby in Italy, where the pandemic was raging. Well, we can’t have the flow of capital interrupted, can we?

We wonder too how it slipped the mind of so many that you did not advise the Government to order precautionary arrangements and protective measures in essential services, so that An Post workers had to strike for such provision and shops and supermarkets only put them in place slowly, piecemeal. We’re sure your thinking was that those who are making money out of such establishments are the best placed to decide what is needed and when – even if they won’t actually be working at the danger point.

Then there was the advice to lockdown, relax, lockdown, relax, lockdown again …. what one know-it all TD called “the yo-yo policy” as reducing rates of contagion recovered and shot up again, etc.

More surprising still — and must have been more than you dared hope — was that people who are nearly unanimously and everywhere now wearing masks, apparently forgot that back in the early days you declared in public that wearing masks was of no help at all in reducing the spread of the virus.

We thought your humble acknowledgement of the award was excellent and especially that you refrained from one of those insincere responses one often hears like: “I feel I don’t really deserve this award.”

Sincerely,

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1https://www.buzz.ie/entertainment/tony-holohan-named-man-of-the-year-in-today-fm-end-of-year-poll-407121

2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CervicalCheck_cancer_scandal

NOVEMBER – MONTH OF MURDERS OF BASQUE ACTIVISTS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text only: 12 mins.)

November is a bad month in the memory of many Basque independence supporters, bringing with it the recollection of the violent deaths of two of their most prominent activists, Santi Brouard and Josu Muguruza. Both men were murdered by Spanish assassination and terror squads in which foreign and native fascists, criminals, police and army cooperated under State political direction in attacking the Basque liberation movement and attempting to spread terror among its supporters.

THE MURDERED BASQUE ACTIVISTS

Santi Brouard was killed on the 20th of November 1984 in the Basque city of Bilbo (Bilbao), capital of the province of Bizkaia, one of the four provinces of the nation under Spanish control1. He was a children’s doctor, Deputy Mayor of the city and a member of the leadership of the Basque socialist independentist political party Herri Batasuna.

Santi (abbreviation for Santiago) Brouard was born in Lekeitio in 1919, an important town for the fishing industry in Bizkaia province. Having completing his schooling he went to study medicine at the University of Valladolid, a city in the north-east-central part of the Spanish state, culturally and politically far from his native home. After graduating, Brouard returned to the southern Basque Country and practiced medicine, specialising in paediatrics in the hospital in Basurto Hospital in Bilbo (very near the San Mamés stadium, home ground of the Athletic Bilbao soccer team).

At the age of around 40, Brouard married the poet Teresa Aldamiz, a Filipino woman of Basque descent and the couple had three children. Likely while striving to achieve his children’s educational and cultural needs, Brouard became active in the underground Ikastola movement (offering education through the medium of Euskera, the then banned Basque national language).

In 1974, in his 55th year, after treating a member of the armed Basque liberation organisation ETA, gunshot-wounded by Spanish police, Brouard was forced to flee the Spanish State jurisdiction into the French-administered part of the nation, where many others had settled for their safety from the forces of the Spanish State2. There the refugee met Argala3 and other members of the ETA leadership, the Basque armed socialist national liberation movement and in the early post-Franco years hr collaborated with Argala and others in developing the KAS Alternative, organised around minimum lines of agreement across the Basque nationalist sector, including armed organisations, political parties and collectives and trade unions.

When Brouard felt it was safe to return to the Basque Country he became active in the political aspect of the movement for Basque independence, was one of the founders of EHAS (Basque Socialist Party of the Basque Nation) of which he was elected President in 1978; he was also on the national executive body of Herri Batasuna until the day of his death. For the HB party he stood in the 1979 elections for Mayor, gaining the position of Deputy-Mayor which he held during the term of that office, i.e until 1983 but that year he was elected as a representative on the Bizkaia Provincial Council. It was in that capacity that he was jailed by the Spanish State and in 1984 was elected as Bizkaia representative to the Basque Autonomous Government4.

The jailing in 1983 came about because he joined other Herri Batasuna elected representatives in singing Eusko Gudariak5 during the King’s6 visit to Gernika and in the presence of the Monarch. Juan Carlos had been Franco’s protege from the end of the 1940s and had also acted as head of state for such occasions in place of Franco in the latter’s final years. Gernika had been infamously bombed by the Condor Legion and also strafed by Italian Fascist airplanes, planes and pilots loaned by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to the fascist-military forces led by Franco, in an attack on a civilian population perhaps mostly remembered today through the image of Picasso’s painting Guernica (sic). Franco’s publicity department at first blamed the bombing and conflagration on the antifascist opposition, then apologists later claimed it had been bombed in mistake for another target.

It is unclear what the final judicial sentence was (it was revised by the Supreme Court in 1986) or to how long in jail the accused were sentenced but it seems to have been for a year or less.

Santi Brouard who, despite having been warned of fascists focusing on him, declined to hide or even to lock his clinic door, was murdered on 20th November while working in his clinic by Luis Morcillo and Rafael López Ocaña, killers hired by senior officials within the Spanish Interior Ministry and at least endorsed, if not actually organised, at the highest level of the State.

Josu Muguruza was shot on the same date but five years later (1989) – and in Madrid. He was sitting at a table with Herri Batasuna comrades, planning their participation the following day in the Spanish Parliament, to which they had been elected from the southern Basque Country. For the left Basque independentist party, it was the first time their representatives were to take part in the Spanish Parliament. Muguruza died on the spot in the attack and a comrade Iñaki Esnaola was seriously wounded.

Monument to Josu Muguruza in his native Recalde, completed by unknown artist in 1989. (Image sourced: Internet)

Josu Muguruza was born in 1958 in the Recalde district of Bilbo (Bilbao). Following his schooling he enrolled in university to study teaching but switched to study journalism instead in Lejona (still in the province of Bizkaia). Apparently he had had been reared speaking only Castillian (Spanish) as Euskera (Basque language) was illegal under the Franco dictatorship but he learned the banned language and was an activist in ASK (Socialist Patriotic Committees), an assemblist collective founded in Bizkaia and also in both KAS and Herri Batasuna.

When his girfriend (and later wife) Elena Bartolomé was arrested on suspicion of connection to the armed group ETA, Muguruza, like Brouard and many others, fled to the northern Basque Country (under French administration). Without a need to worry about extradition from the French state in those years, Muguruza was able to lead a fairly normal life, working as a journalist (although he had left his studies before qualifying). During his six years in that part of his homeland, he taught Euskera for AEK (organisation for the promotion of Basque language to adults) in Bayonne, broadcast for local Basque radio station Gure Irratia and, under a pseudonym, reported for the northern Basque Country edition of Egin7 (a Basque patriotic-left newspaper).

It is believed that Muguruza grew to significant political importance among the Basques in the northern Basque Country, both natives and southern country refugees living there and that he was pushing within the movement for negotiations between ETA and the Spanish State.

In early March 1987 the French police arrested Muguruza on foot of extradition request from the Spanish State and hustled him over the border without an opportunity to challenge the process. Having been released towards the end of the year due to the absence of charges against him, he was able to reestablish himself in the southern Basque Country with his wife Elena but in Gastheiz (Vitoria), in the province of Álava. Muguruza went back to work for Egin but this time as Editor-in-chief, rose in the Basque liberation movement with activity in KAS and election to the national executive body of Herri Batasuna, the electoral party of the movement. For some in the know, although publicly in the background, he was considered among the most important of HB’s leaders and was actively pushing for the participation of the party in the electoral system of the Spanish State.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DATE

The killing of both on the same date though some years apart was no accidental coincidence and clearly signalled the ideological source of the murders – though separated by decades, 20th November was the date of the execution of Primo Rivera and also of the death of the dictator General Franco8.

Primo Rivera was founder and leader of the fascist Falange organisation; he had been captured by Republican forces during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War and was executed on 20th November 1936 in Alicante jail. General Franco became the sole leader of the military-fascist coup and later Dictator of the Spanish State for four decades, dying in 1975. Fascists and Far-Right in Spain revere the memory of both men who, although they were rivals, were eventually interred together in the mausoleum of the Valle de los Caídos (“Valley of the Fallen”), which became a shrine for the Fascists and Far Right9, in particular for processions on the 20th of November — and a cause of bitter complaint for Spanish Republicans, members of the Spanish Left and national independentists (for example of the Basque Country and of Catalonia).

The murders of both Basques on the same date indicated the ideological background of the murderers – Spanish fascism. However, the organisations that carried out the murders were of significant difference and status within the Spanish state.

THE MURDERERS — SPANISH PARAPOLICIAL AND FASCIST ORGANISATIONS

As noted above, the murderers of Brouard were hired killers, contracted by high-ranking officials of the Spanish State.

Protest on 18th October 2008 by Askatasuna organistation on 25th Anniversary of the kidnapping, torture and murder of Jose Antonio Losa and Jose Ignacio Zabala, the first victims of GAL. The Spanish National Court had forbidden the commemoration in Tolosa, Guipuzkoa province. The commemorators are being confronted by the Ertzaintza, Basque Government police and at least six protesters were arrested. (Photo credit: EFE/GORKA ESTRADA)

Wikipedia’s account of the Spanish State assassination squad refers to GAL and the Dirty War, with the years of activity of GAL listed as 1983-1987, in total less than five years. However the whole period of Spanish State/ Far-Right terrorist murders lasted 26 years, beginning in 1975 and ending in 1990. The period claimed at least 66 lives10 and many injured. La Triple A (Acción Apolostolica Anti-communista) was active killing (eight murders according to Spanish State list of victims of this kind of terrorism) and injuring from 1975 until 1982, after which it may be said that GAL took over until 1987. GAL shared some of its time with the BVE (Batallón Vasco Español – “Spanish Basque Batallion”), claiming actions (21 murders and at least 10 serious injuries) between 1975 and 1981.

Poster for film about GAL (Image sourced: Internet)

The hitmen were criminals and mercenaries, sometimes from abroad but usually with a right-wing background, for example with the French-Algerian OAS, Italian fascist movement or the Argentine Triple A.

Some of the terror was directed in general at the Left within the Spanish state and some at Catalan independentists but most of the actions by far were aimed at the Basque Left independentists, many of these residing in the northern Basque Country, i.e under French rule. The terror of these parapolicial murders had a number of objectives:

  • eliminating specific antifascist and left activists during the period of the Transition from Dictatorship to “democracy”
  • causing fear and terror to encourage people to vote for the 1977 royalist and unitary state constitution
  • eliminating specific Left Basque independentists, in particular leaders
  • coercing the French Government into handing over Basque fugitives to the Spanish State

GAL was exposed in an invesigation by a Spanish controversial judge Baltasar Garzón11 and by journalists of El Mundo, newspaper of the right-wing conservative Partido Popular in a series starting in 198912. Although the Minister of the Interior, high-ranking police and army officers were convicted of a number of crimes including kidnapping, murder and embezzlement of Government funds (for personal enrichment, paying terror gang operatives and bribes), their actual time served was very short indeed.

The trial of the first of the senior13 State members of the terror operation did not take place until 1996, when the PSOE Minister of the Interior, José Barrionuevo and his Deputy Rafael Vera were tried on charges of funding and directing a number of murders. They were sentenced to ten years each. In 2001 they were pardoned, having served little more than a year in prison. That year Barrionuevo and José Luis Corcuera, his successor as Minister of the Interior, were tried for embezzlement but found not guilty the following year.

In 2000 General Galindo of the Guardia Civil was sentenced to 75 years for kidnapping and murder – of which he served only four, being released on health grounds.

The finger for Señor X, top director of GAL pointed at Felipe González, Prime Minister of the PSOE Government at the time but, though widely believed to be him, he was never even questioned. Earlier this year a CIA document revealed that González was the Señor X but he remains uncharged.

Felipe Gonzalez in more recent years. Gonzalez was head of the social-democratic PSOE, Prime Minister in 1980s and “Senor X”, mastermind of the Spanish State murder and terror squads. He has never even been questioned. (Image sourced: Internet)

The murder of Josu Muguruza, unlike that of Santi Brouard and many others, appears not to have been sanctioned by the Spanish State and was contrary to its interests in a number of ways:

  • Muguruza was to attend the Spanish Parliament for the first time the following day and his murder, including being in the capital of the Spanish State, reflected badly on “Spanish democracy”;
  • The murder stood to weaken those in the Abertzale Left who supported entering the institutions of the Spanish state and strengthened those for whom armed struggle was the main vehicle towards liberation.
  • The Spanish police clamped down on the Triple A in Madrid after Muguruza’s murder and in response the network officially dissolved itself (though not for long).
Poster for what looks like a documentary film about GAL (contains images of what appears to be real people). (Image sourced: Internet)

THE BASQUE ORGANISATIONS

The history of these organisations is one of struggles for unity alongside splits, including the unseating of one political leadership and its replacement by another. Naturally the murdered Basque activists, along with all other prominent Basque activists of the time, played a part in these conflicts.

HASI in Euskera means “to begin” but is also an acronym for Herri Alderdi Sozialista Iraultzailea (People’s Revolutionary Socialist Party) and was considered the political expression of ETA militar (ETA (m)), a split in the armed libertion organisation. Founded in 1977 out of the fusion of the Basque socialist parties EHAS and ES, HASI was one of the founding members of KAS and of Herri Batasuna.

HASI was dissolved in 1992.

KAS began its existence in 1976, in the dying days of the Franco Dictatorship, as the establishment of a minimum democratic platform for unity across the Basque socialist independentist movement, drawing in a variety of Basque socialist and independentist organisations and later, trade unions. Originally supported by a minority of the movement, it began to quickly gain more widespread support. In 1977 the “Alsasua Table” brought together nearly all the relevant players. KAS put together a transitional program for the independence of the Basque nation, including the removal of repressive forces and the Basque people deciding on the future of the nation; this program was revised in 1978. ETA (militar) came to dominate the alliance after the dissolution of ETA (politico-militar) in 1982.

The ETA leader Argala considered implementation of KAS proposals necessary if ETA was to cease armed struggle; in addition the PSOE and PNV proposed watered-down versions of the proposals.

Alternatiba KAS was dissolved in 1992 to be replaced by Alternatiba Democratica in which Herri Batasuna would negotiate on behalf of the Basque nation.

ETA, which arguably Brouard also helped promote, was founded originally in 1959 as an unarmed Basque socialist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Country and Freedom); it became the armed organisation of the Basque socialist independentist movement, with its first victim and also first martyr in 1968. ETA announced a unilateral truce in 2011, disposal of its armament in 2017 and its disbandment and dissolution in 2018. There are over 250 Basque political prisoners who are recognised as serving sentences — often of a number of decades — in prisons dispersed throughout the Spanish and French states for actual or alleged membership of ETA or assisting the organisation14. The Spanish State insists the prisoners must express regret for their past actions to gain any degree of relaxation of their prison conditions or release on parole.

Although EPPK, the coordinating organisation of ETA prisoners continues in nominal existence, ETA does not exist at least since 2018, arguably since even earlier.

Herri Batasuna, to which Santi Brouard belonged and helped build, as did Josu Muguruza, registered as a political party in 1981 but had been in existence, arising out of KAS, since 1978. The party, like KAS, was a coalition of different strands.

It became the majority party of the Basque socialist independentist movement and performed well in elections but was outlawed by the Spanish State as were a number of its replacement formations, one of the effects thereof being to disqualify them from standing in elections. Its remnants today are to be found in the EH Bildu and Sortu political parties. Although changed from revolutionary socialist independentist to social-democratic nationalist but continuing to advocate for an independent Basque nation, they are arguably the only organisational survivors of the years of the Spanish State’s terrorist war against the Basque liberation movement.

Outside of the influence of the ‘official’ leadership of the movement a number of new Abertzale Left organisations exist which would claim to be continuing the original trajectory of the Abertzale Left (or perhaps to be improving upon it) such as Amnistia15, Ikasle Abertzaleak16, Jarki and Jardun, the latter seeking to act as a coordinator for the movement as a whole. In addition there are a number of autonomous collectives of various types, often focused on specific aspects such as the environment, anti-racism and anti-fascism, etc.

A FIGHT OVER THE MARTYRS’ MEMORY

Monument to Santi Brouard with placards bearing images of both martyrs and Basque flag, Ametzola Park, Bilbao, Nov 2017 (Image sourced: Internet)

Today there exists a three-cornered fight over the memory of the Basque martyrs since 196817. What is now becoming known as the “oficialista” leadership of the Abertzale Left and its “dissident” opposition both commemorate the murders of those Basque martyrs, including of course those of Muguruza and Brouard. But they rarely do so together and on occasion the oficialistas have commemorated them alongside victims of ETA18.

A woman dances the aurresku, an honour dance, in front of projections of the images of Brouard and Muguruza, Bilbao November 2014. (Image sourced: Internet)

The third party to the struggle is the Spanish State, which claims that any commemoration of those martyrs is, in essence, enaltecimiento del terrorismo — “exaltation of terrorism” and, while it does not always intervene, the possibility is always present of judicial prohibition, police action or subsequent charges under “anti-terror” legislation.

Historical memory is a political battleground.

In 2009 the Ertzaintza, police of the Basque ‘Autonomous’ Government, remove banner that declares that Brouard and Muguruza were murdered by the PSOE (Image sourced: Internet)
Ignoring protest of Tasio Erikizia, a leader of the Abertzale Left, the Ertzainza, police of the Basque ‘Autonomous’ Government, remove banner that declares that Brouard and Muguruza were murdered by the PSOE. This took place during a 2009 commemoration in Bilbao of the Spanish State murders of Brouard and Muguruza (Image sourced: Internet)

End.

FOOTNOTES

1The three northern provinces are under the control of the French State, which shares a border with the Spanish State.

2The Spanish State was under the dictatorship of General Franco, which it had been since the victory of his military-fascist forces in a coup against the Popular Front Government and the ensuing Spanish Anti-Fascist War (1936-1939).

3Nom de guerre of Jose Miguel Berañan Ordeñana, leading theoretician and activist of ETA, also murdered by GAL in the northern Basque Country by bomb under his car in December 1978, which makes December too a month of sad recollection for Basque independentists.

4A semi-autonomous body under the 1977 Spanish Constitution, composed of three of the four southern provinces of the Basque nation. It has traditionally been dominated by representatives of the PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) with representation of the Basque socialist independentists either in second place or in third (after the Spanish social-democratic PSE).

5“Basque Soldiers”, national anthem of the Basque independentist movement, similar in theme to The Soldiers’ Song/ Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish national anthem.

6Juan Carlos was a protege of Franco, swore allegiance to the fascist State and, due to the Dictator’s declining health often presided over or attended functions in the role of head of state. Contrary to some versions of history, Juan Carlos was foisted upon the citizens of the Spanish state as part of a new Constitution in 1977, in turn part of the “Transition” of the State and accompanied by much violence and threats of the reimposition of a dictatorship. Though rejected in the Basque Country, the Constitution was accepted by a majority of the Spanish state electorate with the support of two of the main opposition parties (and their allied trade unions), the Partido Comunista de España and the Partido Socialista Obrero de España, the latter now one of two main parties of government in the Spanish state. Surrounded by controversy and allegations of financial corruption, Juan Carlos abdicated in June 2014 in favour of his son Felipe (now Felipe VI of Spain) and in August 2020 left the state, reportedly ahead of investigations that would lead to charges of financial corruption. The former King is reported to be living in luxury in the United Arab Emirates from which historically any extradition request to the Spanish State has failed.

7A bilingual Basque daily newspaper. In 1998, following many accusations of representing ETA in journalism, Egin was closed by Baltazar Garzón, the much-loved by liberals Judge of the Spanish National Court, with the mantra that “everything is ETA”. However, on appeal the newspaper was absolved of any connection with ETA but that was in 1989, over a decade later, when it was beyond possibility of reopening. The space was filled for many of those years by GARA, which is still in operation. A similar fate was that of Egunkaria, the first all-Euskera daily newspaper in the world – except that some of its managers were also tortured – all also absolved years later.

8Spanish fascists like to use dates as their signature – GAL killed “Argala” (José Miguel Beñaran Ordeñana) on 21st December 1978, the same date in 1973 in which the Basque armed organisation ETA had assassinated Admiral Carrero Blanco, the Spanish Prime Minister in Madrid.

9On 24th October last year 1919, the long-promised (by the PSOE) removal of the remains of both from the mausoleum at last took place, Spanish TV covering the occasion in a style reminiscent to a State funeral. It had been ordered by the PSOE-Podemos-Unida coalition government.

10This does not include ETA fighters or their associates killed during shootouts with the police, summary execution of prisoners taken by police or deaths in police custody, including cases of torture.

11Controversial in a number of ways: beloved by many Spanish and European liberals for ordering the exhumation of a mass grave of victims of the Anti-Fascist War and seeking the extradition of Pinochet for crimes of mass murder, he was also the directing judge in raids on Basque independentist activists whose 5-day incommunicado detentions he authorised and whose denunciations of torture to obtain “confessions” by the victims he ignored or accused them of their visible signs being self-inflicted. He is also infamous for his quoted remark that “Everything is ETA”, i.e that even perfectly legal organisations and activities of the pro-independence movement are organically linked to the armed liberation organisation, justifying the banning of organisations, closure of media agencies and social venues.

12According to their summary report on line (see Sources) these included “thousands of days of investigation, requiring more than 5,000 hours of journeys in Europe, Africa, America and Asia …. with 300 encounters with protagonists directly implicated ….”

13Some lower-level Guardia Civil officers were tried in 1991 and apparently paid money to keep quiet.

14A very small number of those have publicly dissented from the organisation’s leadership.

15Formerly Amnistia Ta Askatasuna (ATA – Amnesty And Freedom) but its full name now is Amnistiaren Aldeko eta Errepresioaren Aurkako Mugimendua (Movement for Amnesty and Against Repression).

16Students’ Union of the Basque Country, over which the ‘official leadership” has lost control to the “dissidents”.

17All Basques who are not diehard Spanish unionists commemorate the Basque martyrs who fell in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War but the PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) stops there while the Basque socialist independentist movement includes those who died fighting against Franco’s following repression. Accordingly the date of Gudari Eguna (Day of the Basque Soldier) for the PNV is October 28th while for the socialist independentist movement it is 27th September.

18In 2017 and again in 2018, Julen Mendoza, member of EH Bildu and Mayor of Errenteria participated in honouring the memory of the armed Guardia Civil killed by ETA in the area and this year in November the Basque Parliament, with the agreement of EH Bildu, commemorated the murder of Santi Brouard along with a number of elected representatives killed by ETA.

SOURCES

Wikipedia summary of Santi Brouard’s life in Castillian (the English version is very sparse): https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago_Brouard

Wikipedia entry on HASI: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herri_Alderdi_Sozialista_Iraultzailea

Summary report of El Mundo journalists’ investigation: https://www.elmundo.es/nacional/gal/investigacion/principal.html

Smaller convicted police fish accuse Government of running GAL: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/madrid-sues-over-dirty-war-claims-1567483.html

GAL and Spanish State involvement: https://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/12/world/death-squad-killings-of-basques-was-spain-s-government-the-mastermind.html

GAL and “hush money”: https://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/04/world/spain-is-haunted-by-basque-death-squad-scandal.html

More on GAL from Left-wing perspective: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1998/10/spa-o22.html

Very brief summary of corruption allegations against Juan Carlos while he was King of Spain: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/spain-s-scandal-stricken-king-juan-carlos-is-in-uae/1944728

Article on extradition requests from the UAE to the Spanish State (interesting about UAE extradition requests generally): https://www.detainedindubai.org/post/2015/06/21/uae-initiated-extradition-requests-in-spain-abroad

Three accused of killing Santi Brouard found not guilty: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/gal-verdict-concludes-investigation-into-spanish-dirty-war-crimes-1.36410

Basque Parliament commemorating Santi Brouard but with “victims of ETA”: https://www.diariovasco.com/politica/suma-homenaje-parlamento-20201119110344-nt.html?ref=https:%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Triple A: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_A_(Espa%C3%B1a)

Batallón Vasco Espanol (BVE): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batall%C3%B3n_Vasco_Espa%C3%B1ol

Spanish fascist “skin” groups Bases Autónomas: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bases_Aut%C3%B3nomas

Statistics on right-wing murders in the Spanish State 1919-2007: https://www.lavanguardia.com/local/valencia/20160122/301590754877/crimenes-de-odio-mapa-miquel-ramos-david-bou.html

1995-2016: http://www.movimientocontralaintolerancia.com/html/admin/verNoticia.asp?cod=1260&esBusq=True

TRAINING HUMANS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 7 mins.)

‘Today’, she said, ‘we will discuss the training of dogs’.

The class looked at her face to see whether she was joking. She looked back at them patiently.

‘But Teacher,’ ventured one braver student. ‘We are here to learn how to control humans.’

‘That is correct,’ replied the Teacher. ‘This is a sociology class. But there is much to learn from the training of dogs. In many ways, it is the same thing.’

(Image sourced: Internet)

So, to begin: Where do dogs come from to us? Where did they originate?’

‘Are they not descended from wolves, Teacher? I think I read that somewhere.’

‘Yes, I did too. And dogs and wolves can interbreed, so they would have to be closely related.’

‘That is correct, they are closely related,’ replied the Teacher approvingly. ‘There is only 0.1% of a DNA difference between them and they can interbreed quite easily. The wolf is classified as Canis lupus and the dog as Canis familiaris. It is not strange to find dogs that are part wolf. The assumption is therefore that the common dog is descended from the wolf. And in some parts of the world, for example in South Africa and in Australia, there are wild dogs, dogs that live like wolves. We presume these were domesticated wolves that became dogs, that later again returned to the ways of wolves. So our question for discussion today is: How did wolves become dogs in the first place?’

‘But Teacher, if this occurred it must have done so in prehistory, surely?’

‘I think I read that it was in the Paleolithic Era.’

‘Well, then surely nobody knows, Teacher? No-one would have written to describe it as humans did not develop writing until much later.’

‘You are all correct, yes. But we can speculate. We can extrapolate from what we know. Now, when we have a dog as a pet – or as a working animal – it is in a social relationship with us, right?’

‘Well, yes. Some people see their dog as part of the family – you even hear them say that. But working dogs?’

‘Working dogs too, I suppose. A shepherd would have a close relationship with his dog … and so would a hunter. Even if the bond was primarily between the one person and the dog, it would have to recognise those close to the owner as ok, as safe, not to be attacked or growled at.’

(Image sourced: Internet)

‘Good, yes, we are getting there. The guard dog needs to know its owner or owners and who is acceptable. Sled dogs the same, even though they are a group, like a hunting pack. The hunter, the shepherd, the truffle-searcher, the seeing-eye guide dog – they are all in a social relationship with humans. We could, in fact, describe a dog as “a wolf-descendant in social relationship with humans.” But what is the normal social group of the wolf?’

‘It is the pack, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, that’s what I have read too. A hunting pack.’

‘Yes but not just a hunting pack. They have to raise pups, don’t they?’

‘Oh, and don’t they have an accepted leader?’

‘Yes, very good. The social organisation of the wolf is the pack. And they have leadership – a male and a female. They are called Alphas, Alpha Male and Alpha Female. They lead the pack – the other wolves obey them. So, how is it decided, do you think?’

‘They must have elections, Teacher.’

‘Very amusing. It is a serious question however, part of our discussion today.’

‘Maybe …. they fight over it? The strongest wins?’

‘Yes, correct, that is part of it. The male fights other males and the female fights other females.’

‘How civilised of them!’

‘You all laugh but you don’t realise how true that comment is. Now, let’s tease the process of leadership selection out a bit. Let’s concentrate on the males, for simplicity. Male A wants to be leader, so does male B and they fight. Male A is successful and wins. But he will be wounded, right? Right?’

‘Well, yes he would be. Bite marks, bleeding ….’

‘So up comes Male C now and he is not wounded. He fights Male A and beats him, so now he is top dog, or wolf, the leader of the pack, right? Right?’

‘Yes, it must be like that.’

‘Then we have at last an accepted leader of the pack. But in what state are the males? And if the females went through the same process, what state are they in and what are the consequences?’

‘They’d be walking wounded.’

‘A wounded pack can’t hunt well.’

‘Some might die of their wounds. Some would die of hunger.’

‘It’s not like that, is it Teacher? There has to be another way.’

‘Another process, yes. They must have a system, right Teacher?’

‘Yes. Very good. Exactly. They do have another system. Firstly, they very rarely fight a full fight to the end. And if there is a challenger, it is usually only one. Not all wolves want to lead. Maybe not all wolves think they can. So if there is to be a leadership conflict, Male A and Male B, for example, they will fight but usually to the point where one recognises the other is tougher or wants to be leader more, or has more to lose — say Male A. Then Male B gives up. And if Male A has to remind him or any of the other males at any point, he only has to threaten and they give up. They lie on their back or show their submission in some other way. The pack stays healthy and the Alpha Male and the Alpha Female are in charge. The rest of the pack accept them. And if they are good at what they do, the pack does well. If not, well, maybe another leadership contest. Or the pack breaks up.’

Wolf pack.(Image sourced: Internet)

‘Teacher? When pups are born, I presume they accept the hierarchy of the pack. But when the Alphas get old, or killed or injured in the hunt – or by hunters, humans – the process must start all over again?’

‘Yes and no, not completely. I didn’t tell you earlier but only the alpha females in the pack mate. The Alpha Female chases away other females if they come into heat and the Alpha Male may accept some males mating with her or may threaten other males so only he will mate with the Alpha Female, when she is in season. So the pups are all from the alpha female and from the alpha male or a few others. The next leaders will likely come from those pups – but not certainly. There are possible variations. They might all be killed or injured. An alpha descendant might take a different mate and that one will be alpha too. And so on. Now, let’s think about dogs. How did dogs come to be human-bonded?’

‘Hmmm. Maybe hunters killed the parents, took the cubs and raised them?’

‘Or found the cubs ….’

‘Yes, that is the common scenario. But after generations of the pack, how does a pup come to bond with humans? More to the point, how does it come to obey a human or a family?

‘Hmmm. Does it see the family as the pack, Teacher?’

‘Yes, and its master or mistress as the Alpha or Alphas?’

‘Very good. Yes, now you have it. I must be that way. But …. pups in a pack grow up and may want to become leaders themselves. We don’t hear of dogs deciding they want to run the human family, do we? What would we do if our dog decided it wanted to be boss and was prepared to fight?’

‘We’d have to shoot it.’

‘Yes, we couldn’t allow that.’

‘Wait a minute. Teacher, has that happened?’

‘Probably, in the early days. A domesticated wolf that would not accept the human as the Alpha was killed. Or ran away, maybe. Perhaps joined a wild pack, if it survived …. was accepted …. But in any case, the pups being raised by humans would not be descended from that disobedient wolf.’

‘So …. over generations, wolves …. were bred into dogs. Obedient individuals chosen …. disobedient ones killed …. or run off …. so only obedient dogs mate ….’

‘Yes … and every now and again you hear of a dog being “put down” because it attacked a human being …. especially a child …’

‘Wait! Are you saying humans have been bred to accept a hierarchy? And that the hierarchy is hereditary?’

‘Well, now – I hope I am not being accused of advocating monarchy … or feudalism?”

‘No, Miss …. of course not …. but …..’

‘Slow down, now. Don’t jump too far ahead to conclusions. Stay with the discussion a little longer, ok?’

‘Yes, Teacher. Sorry.’

‘That’s alright. Now, let’s unpick this a bit more. Is the non-Alpha wolf in the pack governed by fear alone? Does he or she have nothing to gain from its position in the pack?’

‘The pack hunts together, doesn’t it? So I suppose …. a pack can kill a bigger animal …. by working together?’

‘Yes, of course. A deer …. or antelope …. or bovine …. and then the whole pack will have enough to eat. Any other benefits?’

‘Defence? Lots of teeth, many individuals.’

‘Vigilance …. warning? Lots of eyes to keep lookout.’

‘Maybe warmth, huddling together against the cold?’

‘Yes, all those are true. And emotional warmth too, the solidarity of the group. The pack looks after the cubs also, as soon as they start to run around. This benefits the future of the whole pack as well as relieving the Alphas of their childcare from time to time. And the pack seems to get an emotional reward from looking after the cubs.’

‘Being a dog is quite a change then, Teacher. From being a wolf.’

‘Yes. But what are the advantages and disadvantages for the dog who is no longer a wolf? And there must be disadvantages, for some dogs have returned to the wild and the pack. As those I mentioned in South Africa and Australia. Advantages, first.’

‘The dog gets regular guaranteed food, doesn’t depend on the hunt for it.’

‘And the dog gets protection …. humans have weapons.’

‘And the dog gets …. gets …. medical care?’

‘Yes, all those things. But one very important thing dogs get that very few in the wolf pack get.’

‘They get to mate.’

‘Yes, exactly. No alpha telling them they can’t. Well, humans lock a bitch in heat up sometimes or we sterilise a male or female but otherwise, they mate. And a bitch gets to have her own cubs.’

‘Teacher …. are you implying that dogs chose not to be wolves?’

‘Well, it’s certainly an interesting question. If some dogs go feral, if some dogs form packs, and other dogs don’t, there would seem to be a choice involved, hmmm? And perhaps the ancestors of the dog did choose to leave the pack, rather than just being socialised and conditioned as captured pups. Some wolves may have hung around human encampments, getting scraps, warning humans of the approach of dangerous beasts …. other humans …. They may have been renegades from the pack …. dissidents …. The first domesticated wolf may have been an illicitly pregnant bitch, knowing that in the pack, her pups would get killed by the alpha female …. Her pups, socialised to humans as soon as they were born. Then, selection by the humans for non-aggression … obedience …. culling the ones that didn’t fit …”

‘Wow!’

‘So now we come to extrapolating what we can from managing wolves and dogs to managing humans. Postulate, please.’

‘The pack is a metaphor for our society.’

‘We generally accept our leaders, so long as they are effective.’

‘Sir, we train humans from childhood. Like pups in the pack’

‘And we give them some benefits so they choose to be in our pack’.

‘Yes, very good. And what about those who choose not to be in our pack?’

‘We eliminate them.’

‘Cull them.’

‘Isolate them.’

‘Marginalise them’.

‘Very good. For your written assignment, summarise in around a thousand words to be handed in next Monday.’

end.