Quite a few pro-Catalan independence people have expressed horror and indignation at the statements of Spanish politician José Manuel García-Margallo in an interview recently. They should instead that be grateful that he spoke much of the truth and dispelled unrealistic illusions about the way forward for Catalonia.
Did he threaten the independence movement with violence? Yes and not too subtly. That was no doubt his purpose as well as perhaps reassuring Spanish unionists, whether fascist or otherwise. But nevertheless, he spoke an important truth.
Spanish ex-Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said that Spain would not withdraw ‘peacefully’ from the Principality. ‘It will not deliver the keys to the dependencies and furl up the flag’, he told ‘El morn de Catalunya Ràdio’. He expressed support for the accusations of ‘rebellion’ against the Government of Puigdemont, President Forcadell, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and the General Secretary of ERC, Marta Rovira. According to him, the unilateral way to achieve independence ‘necessarily’ implies violence.
Margallo was raised in a family with close military relatives, two of which died in the anti-colonial Rif uprising, one of whom was a colonial Governor of a town there. The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs was educated (and presumably brought up in) a part of the occupied Basque Country which must have helped condition him and his early adult life was spent under the Franco dictatorship. His early political career was there too and took shape during the ‘Transition‘ and since.
Translation of the transcript of the excerpt below:
“-Mónica Terribas: Crime of ‘rebellion’, does it exist there are or not, José Manuel? (DB: one of the charges against the Catalan activists but which requires the use of violence).
“-García-Margallo: I think there is a crime of rebellion. I share the theses of Llarena, that is, I believe that what we saw on the streets during the course of the (events outside the) Ministry of Economy was violent. I think that, by definition, unilateral secession can only be achieved by violence. That is, I say that hypothetically this leads to violence. Because? We have discussed it many times and we all agree: the Constitution does not allow secession. Therefore there will be no referendum agreed. Secondly, the Spanish state will not withdraw peacefully, that is, it will not deliver the keys to the dependencies and furl up the flag. So how is the Catalan Republic proclaimed? If it cannot be by agreement and it can not be by unilateral abandonment, then it will have to be by violence. And that necessarily leads to rebellion.”
Margallo’s political party, the Partido Popular is of course a coalition of a number of Franco-fascist organisations, put together to operate in the ‘new’ Spanish state. But the greater truth about the Spanish ruling class is more important than all this.
The Dictatorship ruled as the only face available of the Spanish ruling class – representing “old money”, from the expropriation of the labour power of workers and the plunder of its colonies but also “new money”, appropriated from the losers in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War.
In the 1960s and 1970s the Spanish State began to receive substantial US and other investment, particularly in military form. But the concern of investors was that with the rise of national liberation movements and the upsurge of the youth and student movement around the world, that an unyielding dictatorship would lead to revolution, so pressure began to be applied, although it was understood that attempts at reform after so much repression could also precipitate a revolution. Given the prevailing circumstances within the Spanish state, such a revolution could only be a socialist one.
When General Franco died in November 1975 two years and one month after his chosen successor Admiral Carerro Blanco had been assassinated, the reformers got room to move (internally Opus Dei and externally the US and others, especially the EU or Common Market as it was then). Reform and normalisation of control meant bringing on board of the ship of State two significant political forces with their corresponding large trade unions, illegal until then: the social-democratic PSOE with their UGT trade union and the Marxist CPE with their more militant Comisiones Obreras union. And imposing a Monarchy.
Both those illegal opposition forces agreed, accepted the monarchy and were legalised; then controlled and even sacrificed their own members. They pushed for agreement of the monarchist and unionist Constitution of 1978, in which the majority of a dazed and hopeful population of the state (but not in the Basque Country) voted in favour of it (and which is now being used to illegalise Catalan bids for independence).
Subsequently the PSOE gained an electoral majority and while in government in the 1980s ran assassination squads against the Basques (chiefly GAL and BVE groups, although foreign fascist gunmen were also brought in for individual jobs).
Under alternating governments of the PSOE and of the PP, the State forcesregularly used repression, particularly in the Basque Country, including torture of detainees and jailing people on the basis of ‘confessions’ tortured from them and which they repudiated in court. And they dispersed political prisoners throughout the jails of the State, hundreds or thousands of kilometres from their families.
This Spanish State is one that had at one time ruled much of the world and never ceded territory without a fight — with the English, the French, the Dutch, the North Americans; with native resistance and liberation movements from the Canaries to the Caribbean, to America, the Philippines and Africa. As a monarchy and feudal system, it overthrew the Arab colony of generations and expelled Arabs and Jews, brought in the terror of the Inquisition (the worst of all the states that had it), suppressed the rising of the Comuneros and resistance of the Basque and Catalan nations. As a semi-feudal capitalist monarchy, it overthrew a Republic and then raised a military coup with foreign fascist aid to overthrow another.
So this José Manuel García-Margallo is being on the whole brutally honest here and shattering the illusions many people had, especially those of a liberal or social-democratic turn of mind, that somehow Catalonia would win genuine independence without having to fight a Spanish military repression. But they should look on his utterances as doing them a favour, forcing them to look at reality.
In fact, for all that I have recounted about the particular nature of the Spanish State and its history, the more general historic truth is also that NO capitalist state (not to mention an imperialist one) is going to stand by and see itself being dismembered and losing huge chunks of what it considers its territory and economy.
Nations that won true independence had to fight for it. In the last century alone, how did Algiers win independence from the French? How did Kenya in Africa and Aden in the Middle East expel the British occupation forces? How did the Vietnamese expel the French occupation forces and defeat the US aggressors? How were the Nazi and Italian fascist and Japanese invaders of so many countries defeated?
People who hear the truth, no matter how bitter it tastes, should spend no time in bewailing it but instead concentrate on preparation.
Thank you so much for visiting our island (well, the independent part). It was a wonderful experience and its effect upon us, the faithful, was at one and the same time energising and calming. And for sure we needed that, needed it so badly.
These past few years have seen this state sinking into greater and greater godliness, between different lifestyles on the one hand and the terrible revelations of what went on in some of the religious charitable institutions on the other.
Years ago we lost the battle on condoms and the Pill but our Church survived that. And to be honest, if some of the priesthood were going to engage in immorality then it would have been better if they had indeed used condoms, God help me for saying that – but certainly in the case of a certain Galway bishop it would have been useful …. for the Greater Good, of course.
But then legal divorce, and we survived that too. It seemed hardly had we managed to coexist with those travesties than we had marriage between homosexuals legislation, now flaunting their sinful ways not only publicly – but legally married! And now, worst of all by far, abortion legalised! Well, up to three months of pregnancy but we all know, the faithful and the sinful, that once that door is wedged open ….!
Of course the abuse in the institutions run by religious orders was shocking, both in its content and extent. But people want to throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater! Or the dirty laundry water, perhaps. And knowing what people are like and the enemies the Church had and has, of course it was necessary to cover it up. The first duty of any institution is to survive and therefore to protect itself. Why do people find that so hard to understand? Have we not seen political parties and governments doing the same for years? Why do people find it so strange?
So anyway, we badly needed some comforting, some reassurance and it was wonderful that in our hour of need, Your Holiness came. How wonderful to see the gold-and-white Papal Colours fluttering on flagpoles, on bunting festooned! To see so many youngsters bussed in to Dublin from other parts of Ireland, their faces aglow with the excitement (and not just because of a day out in other adolescent company, or in the excitement of youth overnight “camps”, as the cynics have commented). So what if they were somewhat incoherent or illogical when interviewed about their reasons for attendance! The brilliance of the Holy See is enough to bring incoherence to anyone!
And I understand, Your Holiness, understand perfectly why it was necessary to say Your Holiness had not known about the Magdalene Laundries. How could the mass of ordinary people be expected to understand the balancing act of the Holy See, between Perfect Good and Necessary Evil? To balance things in favour of the Greater Good? What a field day the media vultures would have had if Your Holiness had tried to explain the intricacies to them! And the unbelieving hyenas too would have gathered to the feast on our dying bodies, to crunch the bones of our faith.
Sure where else would the Irish priests, bishops and nuns have had their laundry done? Not to mention Áras an Uachtaráin, Guinness, Clery’s, the Gaity Theatre, Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, the Bank of Ireland, the Departments of Defence, Agriculture and Fisheries, CIÉ, Clontarf Golf Club and several leading hotels! In the end there was altogether too much dirty laundry washed in public really.
Considering that the story involved the whole Irish church and was publicly recorded going as far as the US, and a film about it went right around the world, I thought it was very brave of Your Holiness to deny all knowledge. Only by the grace of God surely could Your Holiness have kept a straight face. I could not have managed it for a second myself but sure I am but a humble sinner.
Of course Your Holiness’ visit did not take place in the same society as we had in 1979, when your predecessor-but-one His Holiness John Paul the 2nd visited Ireland. One in ten boys born in 1980 were named John Paul in his honour. All the same, we can look forward to a crop of baby boys named Francis this year and next, though it’s unlikely to be anything like one in ten this time. We’d be lucky to reach one in thirty, if you’ll forgive my gloominess.
Still, even Francis — and we’ve had a crop of them over the years anyway, named after the two Saints of that name and maybe even after Frank Sinatra or – God help us – Frank Zappa! Yes, believe it or not, some parents were capable of doing that in the Sixties, Seventies and even the Eighties.
I was going to say, even Francis would be a mile more likely than your Holiness’ original names. I don’t imagine that many male Irish children born this year will be baptised “Jorge Mario”. I shudder to think of the damage done to that first name in Ireland. Horhay, would be the best attempt, I’d guess but for sure there would be Horjays, Georgeays and Georgies. Your Holiness doubts this? Your Holiness has yet to hear mothers calling a “Sor-tchah” in for their tea, instead of the actual centuries-old Irish name, “Sorcha”. Or to hear of a male or female child being proudly introduced as “Sheersheh” instead of “Saoirse”, which means “freedom” — but not the freedom to mangle Irish words, God help us!
Without wishing to be in the least insulting to Your Holiness but with a name like Mario ….. well, not many Irish or migrants are going to want to sound as though their children are Italian – except of course in the Irish-Italian community. Then also, how many would want their child’s name to remind people of a popular 1980s video game, perhaps imagining all kinds of things about the parents, what they were doing when the mother conceived, etc …. And Princess Toadstool! I ask you! Pagan erotic symbolism for sure!
Forgive me, Holy Father, I have digressed.
Anyway, I hope the visit did not tire Your Holiness out too much and hope the ten thousand or so oppositional marchers did not even impinge on Your Holiness’ consciousness. To us however that showing was worrying – a couple of decades ago, only a score would have dared and they would not even have been allowed on the street!
There are signs that soon we will face a battle over the Church’s control of the primary and secondary educational institutions in Ireland. The Godless have the bit between their teeth now and it seems they will shy at no obstacle. Sorry, that’s a riding metaphor; does Your Holiness ride?
It seems we are in danger of losing the gain for which the Holy Mother Church has been striving since the mid-1800s, and which even that Protestant fornicator Parnell championed for us. If we lost control of the schools, Catholic baptisms and marriage ceremonies would cease to be required to get on the premium enrollment lists. Then religious sacraments would be confined to the truly religious and Holy Communion and Confirmation would slowly disappear out of the schools. Losing Education would mean losing most of the population of this state and already the Godless are circling. I shudder to think of it.
Would it be wrong of us to pray for a religious spectacle, Holy Father? Some kind of miraculous apparition, such as with the young wans at Lourdes or at Fatima? It does seem as though only a miracle might save the Church here in the long run.
I stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow countrymen and women against the injustices wrought on the people of my beloved country, be it civil rights or human rights I will stand with you. If I ask you the people of Ireland to stand with me to ensure my civil and human rights are upheld – will you? Or will you exile me to foreign soil to seek a medical procedure that is denied to me here unless I`m at death’s door?
I grew up in the 70`s & 80`s. Abortion was not a subject that was openly discussed, the general consensus was only “floozies” had them. Abortion came into my young life when a conversation between adults was overheard: “yer one took the boat”; “she is a baby killer”; “the babbie was deformed” etc. Their victim was a mother of one who had an abortion due to FFA (fatal foetal abnormality); if she carried to term like she was advised by doctors it would have resulted in her death. This woman lived the rest of her life filled with shame and guilt not only for making the choice to terminate but because of the closed minds and nasty hateful words of those around her. Cancer claimed her life, in her words “it was God`s punishment for killing my baby”. Like so many women before and after her she had to leave her baby’s remains in a foreign clinic, forever separated because of laws that said a mother trying to save her own life was a criminal! Her husband and son had the baby’s name engraved on her headstone, uniting them again if only in name.
Here we are in 2018, a so-called new liberal age when marriage between same-sex couples is legal, they are rightfully afforded the same rights as a heterosexual married couple, yet a woman is denied the right to her own bodily autonomy. The fear-mongering is still the same, cries of “it will be used as a form of contraception!” echo the cries of “Floozie”.
I am a mother of three much wanted children; my eldest daughter from my first marriage was conceived with the help of ICSI. I miscarried two of the embryos implanted with her early in the pregnancy and in time suffered more miscarriages. I was then blessed with my son and youngest daughter with my second husband. I have also suffered because of the 8th Amendment. I was forced to have three major abdominal surgeries against my will to save the life of the baby. My eldest was delivered a month early as my waters broke but not completely. The decision was taken to deliver her by c-section when I developed an infection that they feared would put the baby at risk although she showed no signs of any ill effects. I was put under general anaesthetic and did not get to see my baby till the next day due to my reaction to the anaesthetic. I developed a massive infection in my wound in the hospital which took six months to clear. My son was delivered in the same way as I was not progressing fast enough; I was in labour a mere five hours.
After my first experience I was terrified, in the height of pain and in great fear I refused. My husband was told if I kept refusing I would be sectioned under the mental health act and he could lose me and my son. The doctor was somewhat sympathetic, he allowed my husband to try and comfort me yet at the same time booking the theatre for the c-section.
I was lucky this time, I was awake for the birth but again developed a massive wound infection while in hospital.
My third and final dance with the 8th came when I was told during my pregnancy on my youngest daughter that as my womb was so weak due to the previous sections and subsequent wound infections I would not be allowed deliver her naturally. All my children suffered with shock due to their arrival into the world. My consent was not needed for any of these major surgeries, my body was not my own because the baby`s life came before my own, I live with the consequences of the infections to this day.
RAGING DEBATES — HOW FAR HAVE WE COME?
The raging debates regarding the upcoming vote have brought out the worst in many. I have had my life threatened, been called the vilest of names, my morals and suitability as a mother called into question because I`m pro choice. Ridiculous arguments thrown at me, I answer all these arguments with “I am pro-choice be that keep, abortion or adoption”, only to be met with more scorn and a refusal to engage in a sensible debate. I have been judged without people knowing what brought me to my stand on repealing the 8th: the suffering of a mother, my own experience of the 8th, a love for the women of my country.
100 years after a minority of woman were given the right to vote, I hear about sexual equality but I have to question this when an unborn foetus up until birth shares the same if not more rights than the woman who is used as a vessel. How far have we truly come in this liberal country? How can we speak of equality or loving both when our women have no say over their own body at the most vulnerable time of her life?
Crisis pregnancies, FFA, happen each day, the support we offer these woman is to exile them in shame to face a medical procedure in many cases alone on foreign soil. We force women to procure abortion pills online putting her life at risk in fear of discovery and face up to 14 years in prison, we force women to leave the babies remains in a foreign clinic, or to smuggle it into the country to bury it in secret, to have the cremated remains delivered in the post.
I will vote to repeal the 8th as I want to live in a country where I have a say over my own body, for my daughters and all the generations to come. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all the women in Ireland. I will stand against the shame and fear culture we inflict on our women. I will vote Yes so young girls like Ann Lovett do not die because she could tell no one she was pregnant, so young girls like the X Case have a choice, for all the women like Savita Halappanava who died unnecessarily. Ireland owes it to our women to put them first.
Elise Hendrick is originally from the USA and a much-travelled activist, commentator and speaker of a number of languages. Rebel Breeze interviewed her to ascertain her reflections on recent nazi upsurges and the response to them, in particular on the North American continent.
Rebel Breeze: Elise, go raibh maith agat for agreeing to this interview. With regard to recent events, you will recall that after nazis planned a rally in Charlottesville, ostensibly against “Islamicisation” and events ended in the deaths of two anti-fascists, a number of comments emerged in social media and from some politicians, criticising the anti-fascists for staging a counter-rally. Firstly, do you think these comments had any validity?
Elise Hendrick: In a word, no. It’s really hard to express in words the level of dismissal that that ‘criticism’ merits, because a verbal response already honours it too much. A look at the people making those ‘criticisms’ tends to show that they’re actually coming from political allies of those the antifascists were protesting.
RB: Can you give some examples of what you mean by this?
EH: One example is a video blogger by the name of Tim Pool, who tries to maintain an air of journalistic detachment in his condemnations of Antifa tactics, but who has turned out to be on very good terms with neo-Nazis, including those who organised the pogrom in Charlottesville (discussed various times on the anarchist/antifascist website It’s Going Down).
One really amusing case I happened across was a thread about Antifa on US left author Paul Street’s Facebook page, in which various people showed up to make utterly outlandish claims about who antifascists are and what they stand for. I hadn’t seen any of these names before, so I decided to check out their Facebook pages to see who I was dealing with. It turned out that one of them had at the top of his Facebook page a post praising his friend Garret Kirkland, who was the organiser of the shambolic white supremacist rally in Boston.
Even when a lot of these media ‘critics’ aren’t actually tied to fascist groups themselves, they often make arguments that either trivialise or justify fascist violence or seek to create a moral equivalency between fascists and those defending their communities from fascists. One of the most notorious (and irritating) examples of this is Lee Fang of The Intercept, who, despite claiming to be an ‘investigative journalist’, has shown no interest in fact-checking rumours spread by neo-Nazis as well as a remarkable lack of curiosity about who militant antifascists are, what they actually stand for, and what they have to say about the accusations against them. He outright refuses to acknowledge the reality of violence by fascist groups, and constantly seeks to reduce the political conflict between fascists and those opposing them to a bunch of equally reprehensible people who just like punching each other.
Fang and others like him would certainly recoil at being called fascist sympathisers, but their dishonest and ill-considered arguments do fascists a great favour.
RB: Given that you think people should indeed present themselves to oppose public events organised by fascists, what are your thoughts on the debate about whether the anti-fascist opposition should use physical force or instead should be peaceful?
EH: What I find interesting is that there are basically two separate discussions going on. On the one hand, there is a surprisingly well-thought-out and sophisticated discussion about the role of physical force alongside other means of resistance to fascist mobilisations, how best to go about it, how it should be organised, and how best to coordinate it with other forms of action. I’ve been struck, as someone who has long been extremely critical of the lack of a real tactical/strategic discourse on the left both in the US and in Britain at just how self-reflective and serious these discussions have been.
This debate gives me hope, because it’s people actually doing what we should have been doing all along: Working out what our objectives are, working out broadly what’s likely to help us get there, and then figuring out the details and reporting back on practical experience with implementing that strategy. On the other hand, you have people who will gatecrash these discussions to tell you there needs to be a debate on tactics. They never actually let us in on what they would like to contribute to this debate, except for a belief that everything would be better if the central committee of whatever newspaper cult (whether it’s the ISO or the SWP in the UK) they’re in were in total control of the resistance.
In that sense, you could say that what we have is a combination of a vibrant debate and a rapidly developing political consciousness combined with a power struggle being conducted by representatives of groups that have managed to keep a lid on left organising despite token numbers and few actual ideas. I can only hope the rank and file of these groups are beginning to realise that their ‘revolutionary vanguards’ are treading water here and haven’t got a clue what to do in this sort of situation. The difference between those ‘vanguards’ and the rest of us is that the rest of us are at least willing to admit that we’re just getting acclimatised. Self-appointed vanguards feel a need to pretend they know everything already, even when no one believes it.
As for my own thoughts about the approach to take, I think we’ve seen enough at this point, both in the current struggle within the US and going back over the entire history of fascism wherever it’s shown itself, to know that no antifascist strategy is complete without actually being willing to engage the fash in combat. Fascists are experts at using liberal tolerance against liberalism, and any space they’re not kicked out of is one where they will build strength until no one is able to occupy that space without their blessing.
We also can’t rely on the state, because the cops tend to sympathise more with fascists than with the left and those the fascists target. In the current situation in the US, the level of sympathy is particularly striking: the various police ‘unions’ overwhelmingly supported the campaign of Donald Trump and all it stands for. What’s more, the FBI’s counterintelligence section has issued an advisory (declassified with significant redactions) against FBI agents sharing any intelligence of any kind on the far right with local police departments because of the degree of far-right infiltration of the police. The advisory offered little in the way of detail, but FBI counterintelligence won’t be issuing that sort of blanket advisory unless the infiltration they’d uncovered was pervasive.
So what we’re facing is an armed, paramilitary movement of genocidal racists who have determined that it’s now or never. They’re never just protesting, no matter what their lawyers will tell the court. In their own internal discussion, they describe the current situation as a ‘war’, and not a metaphorical one. When people like that assemble in your town with their guns and truncheons and the blessing of the police, you don’t invite them to chat over tea and cakes. You make sure they have a long convalescence in which to regret their choice of venue.
RB: Not all our readers may know about the presence of armed fascists in Charlottesburg. Can you say a little about this and also about whether it could have been expected?
EH: It not only could have been expected, it was in fact expected by those who showed up to oppose them. White supremacists have been showing up armed to their own and other people’s protests for a few years now. The far-right ‘Oathkeeper’ paramilitary, one of the more professional white supremacist paramilitary forces in the US today, made a point of brandishing semiautomatic rifles at Black Lives Matter protests against racist killings by police. Since the current cycle of far-right mobilisations began, they and other paramilitaries routinely show up, heavily armed and in paramilitary uniforms, to provide security and intimidate the opposition. In the various fascist attempts to establish a presence in Berkeley, they’ve shown up with guns, knives, clubs, and other weapons. They also repeatedly attacked antifascists by driving cars directly at them. It bears noting that Charlottesville was not the first car attack by fascists in the US; it was the first successful car attack.
So some, if not all, of those who showed up to oppose the fascists in Charlottesville will have been expecting to face an armed racist mob. The level of violence displayed by the fascists, however, does seem to be significantly higher than in previous mobilisations of the past year. Where in other places, the violence has tended to be limited to a few punch-ups, the ‘Unite the Right’ mob in Charlottesville attempted to carry out a full-scale pogrom, brutally beating anyone in their path, especially people of colour. In addition to Heather Heyer, who was killed when a fascist drove his car into the counter-demo, Tyler Magill, a University of Virginia librarian and anti-racist organiser, was beaten so badly about the head and neck with a tiki torch that he spent several days in intensive care before dying of a stroke. This is why I’ve insisted on referring to the fascist mobilisation in Charlottesville as a pogrom, rather than as a mere ‘rally’.
Interesting note: The left video journalist collective Unicorn Riot managed to infiltrate the planning group for the Charlottesville pogrom on the chat platform Discord, and has released the text of the chat between the various organisers. One of the things discussed in advance of the day was the legality of attacking counterdemonstrators with cars. I’m not sure to what extent the antifascist contingent were made aware of the content of these discussions in advance of the day, but in any case, a substantial number of those who turned out to oppose the fash in Charlottesville were aware that they’d likely be facing an armed mob, even if the level of violence itself was surprising.
RB: Do you see any role at all for peaceful opposition? Canada, Boston and Barcelona all saw fascist rallies swamped by peaceful (apart from a few incidents) demonstrations in opposition.
EH: Certainly. This is an important question because there is this misconception I’ve seen in many places that militant antifascists – much like those republicans James Connolly once described as the ‘physical force men’ – think that the only tactic that should be applied is main force. There’s no one seriously advocating that force should be the only form that opposition to the far-right mobilisation should take, even though antifascists are frequently caricatured as believing this.
My view, and that of pretty much every militant antifascist I’ve ever read or discussed the matter with, is that we need all sorts of tactics deployed in order to deny fascists space in which to organise and to counteract them politically. The same people who acquaint fascists with the pavement one day will be protesting peacefully, organising their workplaces, helping out with Tropical Storm Harvey relief, or any number of other efforts the next.
The thing to remember about Boston was that everyone present had Charlottesville firmly in mind. The fascists there had seen the humiliating defeat they suffered (leading their leaders to whimper into the cameras about how scary it all is), and half of them ran away before their rally even got started. Those who remained were outnumbered by a factor of something like 100 to 1. In a situation like that, there’s not really much need to prove to fascists that they’re outclassed; only the utterly suicidal would try to start some shit under those circumstances, and your average fascist isn’t all that interested in becoming a hero of the cause.
There were, of course, militant antifascists present at the Boston rally, as there are at pretty much any antifascist event anywhere in the US. The fash were unharmed because no one saw any particular need to engage them directly.
This brings me to one of the things that have really impressed me about the antifascist mobilisation in the US. I have long been quite critical of the lack of any real tactical or strategic thinking on the left in the US and in Britain, where, for so long, the one-size-fits-all tactic has been the A-B march, and the only metric of success is how many people showed up. The tactical debate amongst militant antifascists has massively enriched – and to some extent, really started – the tactical debate on the left in the US.
If you look at sites like It’s Going Down, you can read reports from antifascist groups of their actions. They are almost invariably quite thoughtfully written, and tend to include a detailed analysis of what worked, and, even more importantly, what didn’t work and why. The tactical discourse amongst militant antifascists is one of the first times in recent history I’ve seen tactical decisions on the US left discussed openly and orientated around specified objectives, rather than simply saying – like many of those on the left who today are condemning direct resistance against fascism – ‘our march against the invasion of Iraq was a great success; pity the invasion still went forward’.
RB: Looking ahead, how do you see the fascists and the State responding to these setbacks for them? And what do you think the antifascist movement should be doing?
EH:The fascists seem to be fairly uncertain how to deal with the unexpected degree of resistance they’ve been facing. There’s been a fair bit of the usual internecine shit-slinging, and divisions have become more evident. We’ve seen one of the major white supremacist paramilitaries, the III% group, issue a stand-down order to their members telling them to cease providing security to neo-Nazi events. It’s too early to tell for certain what the rank-and-file reaction to that will be. Given that they were providing security for fascists in the first place, there was clearly a fair bit of support for doing so, so this might cause a split in the group. Indeed, a recent report of III% forces teaming up with neo-Nazis in Yellow Springs, Ohio, suggests that not everyone in the group intends to comply. Of course, the stand-down order might also be complied with, in which case the fash will have lost a significant portion of the firepower that makes facing them in the US more akin to a standoff with the UVF than the BNP.
It may also put pressure on the other major paramilitary group backing them, the Oathkeepers, to do the same. One thing that is definitely clear is that the fash are worried, and looking to adapt their tactics. One interesting bit of information that came out of the Unicorn Riot dump of the chat logs of the organisers of the ‘Unite the Right’ pogrom was the suggestion that people should wear ‘Make America Great Again’ caps in order to create the impression that antifascists were attacking common-and-garden Trump supporters rather than armed neo-Nazi cadres. That suggests an awareness that the only way to maintain any level of public sympathy with them is to ensure that a least some of their number appear to be ‘normies’, as they are called in fash parlance.
Meanwhile, it took only a fortnight after the Charlottesville pogrom for the media and the political class to go on the offensive against antifascism. The Washington Post published an article claiming that a ‘peaceful’ right-wing demonstrator was attacked by Antifa. What they left out was that this same ‘peaceful’ demonstrator can be seen on video pepper-spraying random people without provocation. In a particularly dishonest move, the WaPo selected an image of the altercation in which the fascist’s right hand, which held the pepper spray canister, could not be seen.
The Washington Post on 28th August doubled down on this by publishing an editorial by Marc Thiessen that explicitly states that antifascists are ‘the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis’, a view that not long ago could only have been published in a holocaust denial publication like the ‘journal’ of the Institute for Historical Review. Meanwhile, a possible direction state repression could take is exemplified by the suggestion by the Mayor of Berkeley, California, the site of a recent failed fascist rally and massive counter-protest that was brutally repressed by the police, that Antifa should be classified as a ‘gang’ under California’s draconian ‘gang’ laws.
Not unlike the standards for “proving” IRA membership prevailing in the 26-County Special Criminal Court, these laws allow pretty much anyone to be classified as a ‘gang member’ or a ‘gang associate’ based on the flimsiest of evidence. If you’re related to or friends with a ‘known gang member’, or are mentioned in a ‘gang document’ (i.e., a letter written by someone classified as a ‘gang member’) you automatically become a ‘gang associate’. You become a full ‘gang member’ based not on actually being a member of an actual gang, but on the number of boxes like this that are ticked.
Using this exponential guilt-by-association approach, prosecutors in California have issued injunctions against gangs that don’t even exist, making it an offence for communities to assemble and friends and family to stay in touch. This hasn’t happened yet, it’s important to note, but it’s certainly plausible. If the ‘gang’ and ‘terrorism’ laws are brought to bear against antifascists, it will be the hardest test the movement has faced thus far. Whilst any such designation would be open to legal challenge on the grounds that it seeks to outlaw political activity, I reckon the key will be to stand in solidarity with the communities already being attacked with these repressive laws.
If antifascists successfully avoid being subjected to these laws, and decide on that basis not to make common cause with those who are targeted with them, not only will that disconnect us from communities that are under attack by fascists and the state (whose target selection criteria are remarkably similar), but it would also mean that, if cosmetic amendments are made to the laws to make it easier to target antifascists, we would have denied our solidarity to those whose solidarity we may ultimately need.
I don’t see an easy answer to this one, and I’d probably be reluctant to be all that public about it even if I did in order to avoid the state catering for our response before we’ve even begun to prepare it. What’s clear is that a community defence movement based on direct action like the growing antifascist movement in the US will have powerful enemies. As for what antifascists should be doing going forward, I think the key will be not to rest on our laurels, keep improving our intelligence work, and build strong relationships with the communities under fascist attack (which are often also the communities antifascists are coming from). We should look at the current struggle against these relatively small and weak fascist groups as valuable experience for the much harder community defence work that also needs to be organised.
Also, we will need to do better at exposing what hides behind the euphemism ‘alt right’. One recent poll suggested that the overwhelming majority of respondents had no idea that the ‘alt right’ were a bunch of armed white supremacists and fascists. As such, educating the public on the views and activities of these groups will be essential.
Bhí léirsiú ollmhór ar son ceart na mban roghnaithe ginnmhilleadh agus go baileach ar son Leasúchan Bunreachta a hOcht a chur ar ceal. Thosaigh an mórshiúil ag Gáirdín Cuimhneacháin, Baile Átha Cliath, agus chríochnaigh ag Cearnóg Mhuirfean, in aice le cúl doras na Dála.
Ba dheacair an líon a thomhais ach bhí sé an-mhór. Ní raibh mórán Gardaí i láthair agus ní raibh aon chíréib ná rud ar bith mar é go dtí gur sroicheadh ceann scríbe (d’fhágas go luath ina dhiaidh sin).
Ach b’ait an bealach a thógadar: Sr. Uí Chonaill, Cé Éidin, trasna Droichead Cuimhneacháin an Talbóidigh, ar aghaidh ar an dtaobh ó dheas ar Cé na Cathrach, suas Sráid Lombaird agus Rae an Iarthair go Cearnóg Mhuirfeann ag an gcúinne agus thart trí thaobh na Cearnóige — faoi mar go rabhadar ag iarraidh an bac ba lú a chur ar an dtrácht.
Repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution was a central demand of the demonstration.
In 1983, the 8th Amendment inserted a new sub-section after section 3 of Article 40 of the Bunreacht (Constitution) of the State. As a result Article 40.3.3° reads:
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
The amendment had been proposed by the Haughey Fianna Fáil Government but actually brought into law by the subsequent Fine Gael/Labour Party Government in 1983. As it was a Constitutional change, a referendum was required and it was passed by a majority of close to two to one.
Over the years since then a number of changes have taken place in Irish public opinion and the Irish Catholic Church has lost much of its influence. In addition, a number of scandals relating to women refused abortion have also received prominent media coverage, particularly in recent years, including one fatality. Opinion polls on abortion in Ireland now show a majority in favour of greater access and a fast-growing minority in favour of unfettered right to abortion. However, none of the major political parties. i.e. those with elected representatives in double figures, currently proposes to recommend the repealing of the 8th Amendment.
Statistics showed that 4,149 Irish women had abortions in Britain in 2011 and other statistics show that 7,000 women travelled abroad that year in order to obtain an abortion.
Anti-Water Tax protester leaves Dublin court today at liberty after two months but Gardaí arrest three Pro-Choice campaigners this evening, pepper-spraying at least one of them while held immobile on the ground.
Arrested impeding Irish Water vehicles
Stephen Bennet was brought from Mountjoy Prison this morning to Dublin Criminal Court to face “Public Order” charges relating to “obstructing” Irish Water vehicles in Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey and refusing to comply with Gárda instructions to desist. The Dún Laoghaire court had imposed conditions for releasing Bennet on bail which included a curfew, staying away from Irish Water vehicles and a large financial surety. Declaring the conditions unreasonable and a restriction on his civil rights to protest, Bennet had refused to agree to the conditions and the judge had taken to jail.
Up to 30 supporters crowded into the court this morning to hear Bennet’s case being tried. There was also a large number of Special Branch Gardaí (political police in plain clothes) and a smaller number of uniformed police. A Garda Sergeant Gilmore from Dun Laoghaire station gave evidence of having confronted Bennet at York Road in Dún Laoghaire, where the accused had been sitting in the road and at Dalkey, where he had been “marching extremely slowly”. Sgt. Gilmore quoted the Public Order Act to Bennet and ordered him to desist but Bennet had declined to comply. Defence Counsel maintained that there was “a reasonable doubt” as to whether Bennet had been in violation of laws initially which would have rendered his subsequent refusal to comply with Garda instructions not an offence. Since there was no question of accusation of breaches of the peace, assault or criminal damage, the point at issue was whether the Public Order Act was applicable. State Prosecution Counsel argued that blocking or slowing traffic was creating “a nuisance”, to which Defence Counsel replied that causing a nuisance was part of the purpose of a protest, in order to make it effective. Sit-down and marching slowly protests had not been tested in Irish law, said Defence Counsel but quoted a number of cases from the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg where the Court had ruled in favour of applicants’ rights to protest even when the applicants’ states had found them in violation of their laws and penalised them.
The Judge retired to consider the case and when he returned he found Bennet guilty on all charges and sentenced him to a total of around €800 in fines, in default of which a total of 11 days in jail. One one charge, he sentence Bennet to two months’ imprisonment but, since that was time already served awaiting trial, Bennet was freed to cheers from his supporters, including his daughter Saoirse and his grandson, who had been born while he was in jail.
Belfast mother charged with giving her daughter an abortion-inducing pill
At 6pm this evening a protest took place at the Spire in Dublin in solidarity with a Belfast mother who facing criminal charged for having given her daughter a pill which induces abortion in very early pregnancies. The pill is freely available in Britain and legal there but the 1967 Act which legalised abortion in Britain has not been enacted in the Six Counties.
The event had been organised by the Workers’ Solidarity Movement and Real Productive Health organisation in order to express solidarity with the mother and also to link the struggle of women in the 26 Counties with those in the Six, women in both parts of Ireland having to travel to another country, Britain, to avail of abortions and similar protests took place in Belfast and in Galway.
A number of people spoke and soon afterwards some excitement stirred through the crowd and they began to examine the roof of the GPO where something was going on. Very shortly after that a Garda squad car with siren blaring and blue lights flashing tore along O’Connell Street and turned into Henry Street.
Violent Garda arrest scenes
People broke away from the pro-choice demonstration and gathered in Henry Street as other Garda squad cars, a motorbike, a cycle Garda and a number uniformed and Special Branch Gardaí on foot poured into the street. The scene was was somewhat confusing for many but what was clear was that the Gardaí had torn the shirt off one one young man, handcuffed him and put him, stripped to the waist, in a squad car. Another young man was also handcuffed and ended up on the ground with a number of police on top, one of whom pepper-sprayed him while in that position. This action provoked shouts from onlookers and uncertain physical intervention. As a third was arrested and bundled into a police car, the word went around that these were pro-choice demonstrators who had got on to the GPO roof (presumably using the scaffolding to the side of the building) and that they had attempted to display a banner up there.
People gathered around the Gardaí, some of whom threatened to arrest those arguing with them. The Gardaí were then seen to be picking up a banner to put in the back of one of their vehicles when a woman cried sarcastically: “A banner! Oh, thank you for saving us from a banner!” Others joined in shouting: “Bad banner! Bad banner!” amidst other calls from protesters and passers-by generally expressing an opinion that the police action had been unnecessary, repressive and over the top in violence and in numbers. Indeed, the numbers of Gardaí present who had suddenly appeared did suggest to many that they had been kept in readiness to move on the pro-choice demonstration at some point or were aware that some publicity action had been planned. Protesters who attended Store Street Garda station soon afterwards were told that the accused would be charged and released on bail “in a couple of hours”. The wording on the banner apparently had been “ABORTION CHARGES ARE BOLLIX”.
WSM video of scenes at the arrests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPwZlWYW3kE
WSM Video of the rally just prior to the arrests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFp_AzsFIa0
Workers’ Solidarity Movement statement on the arrests http://www.wsm.ie/c/wsm-statement-garda-arrest-pro-choice-campaigners-july2015