In an article by Virginia Harrison on May 16th, in a context of praising the resistance of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol and in which she stated that the Azov Regiment had in the past (italics mine) had “nationalist far-right affiliations” (as distinct from fascist), she went on to state the following: “The regiment …………….. was a militia formed to fight the Russians after the invasion of Ukraine in 2014 but has become a unit of the Ukrainian national guard.”
Apart from failing to inform readers when and how the Azov allegedly dropped their “far-right affiliations”, the Guardian journalist is claiming the unit was formed to resist a Russian “invasion of Ukraine in 2014”!
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
Russia invaded Ukraine early this year, 2022. The armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine began in 2014, i.e eight years before the Russian invasion. Prior to the time of the Russian invasion in early 2022, over 14,000 people had already been killed in the conflict.
It was not Russia that began that conflict but the Ukrainian far-Right and fascist forces supported by a section of the Ukrainian oligarchy after it had overthrown another section in the “Maidan Revolution” (sic) in February 2014. Those forces began to impose a fascist and racist agenda, attacking LGBT people, left trade unionists, Roma, Greek Russian minorities and Russian-speakers in general. The new Ukrainian Government also removed any official status or support for Russian – even as a regional language — although the language is spoken by 29.5% of the population, or approximately one for every two speakers of Ukrainian1.
In response to the official and unofficial attacks of the Ukrainian Right, the residents of the Crimea held a referendum on 16th February 2014 in which 90% voted for secession and for incorporation into Russia, which in turn formally annexed the Crimea two days later on the 18th.
At the same time, Russian-speakers began to organise themselves for defence in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, heavily industrialised regions also known collectively as the Donbas. For eight years before the Russian invasion, Ukrainian government forces including in particular the fascist Azov Battalion, now incorporated into the Ukranian National Guard attacked the Russian-speakers who, in the course of this declared their intention to secede from the Ukraine and asked for support from Russia. A number of fierce battles in 2014-2015 ended with one third of the regions’ territory, its most urbanised part, occupied by two statelets calling themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
During this period Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany signed several versions of the Minsk agreements, which eventually stopped troop advances and reduced fighting significantly. But the Ukraine government never implemented the agreements and the governments of France and Germany failed to push for implementation from the new NATO-supported Ukrainian government.
The fighting became a trench war, with roughly 75,000 troops facing each other off along a 420-km-long front line cutting through densely populated areas. The territory became one of the world’s most landmine-contaminated areas, its heavy industry and economy ruined, destroyed many houses and public buildings and infrastructure and caused the relocation of millions. All of which occurred before any Russian invasion.
WHAT THE GUARDIAN PRETENDS
The newspaper, while asking us to “Support the Guardian”, stated:
“The truth, they say, is the first casualty of war. With correspondents on the ground in Ukraine covering the war, as well as throughout the world, the Guardian is well placed to provide the honest, factual reporting that readers will need to understand this perilous moment for Europe, the former Soviet Union and the entire world. Free from commercial or political influence, we can report fearlessly on global events and challenge those in power.
“We believe everyone deserves equal access to accurate news. Support from our readers enables us to keep our journalism open and free for everyone, including in Russia and Ukraine.
“Support the Guardian from as little as €1 – it only takes a minute. Thank you.”
In its mission statement, The Guardian continues:
“Of course, in a serious age, the appetite for thoughtful, clever features beyond the news is possibly greater than ever. Our readers want to be nourished – by meaningful journalism about technology, economics, science, the arts – not fattened up with junk. They want useful, enjoyable reporting on how we live now, spotting trends, catching the mood, understanding what people are talking about – life-affirming, inspiring, challenging. We can be fun, and we must be funny, but it must always have a point, laughing with our audience, never at them. Their attention is not a commodity to be exploited and sold. ……………………
“We will give people the facts, because they want and need information they can trust, and we will stick to the facts. We will find things out, reveal new information and challenge the powerful. This is the foundation of what we do. As trust in the media declines in a combustible political moment, people around the world come to the Guardian in greater numbers than ever before, because they know us to be rigorous and fair. If we once emphasised the revolutionary idea that “comment is free”, today our priority is to ensure that “facts are sacred”. Our ownership structure means we are entirely independent and free from political and commercial influence. Only our values will determine the stories we choose to cover – relentlessly and courageously.”2
Great words, Katherine Viner, Editor-in-Chief – a pity that despite some good journalists on the staff and as correspondents, the Guardian regularly falls short of its own proclaimed ideals. Falsifying history, biased war reporting and obscuring fascist affiliations hardly matches your high moral tone.
12001 Census, quoted in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Ukraine Also from the same source: “An August 2011 poll by Razumkov Centre showed that 53.3% of the respondents use the Ukrainian language in everyday life, while 44.5% use Russian. In a May 2012 poll by RATING, 50% of respondents considered Ukrainian their native language, 29% Russian, 20% consider both Ukrainian and Russian their mother tongue and 1% considered a different language their native language.”
2Katherine Viner, November 2017: “In a turbulent era, the media must define its values and principles” etc.
Niall McConnell, Director of the fascist organisation Síol na hÉireann failed to attend court in Dublin on Friday in pursuance of his claim of being assaulted by disabled antifascist Aisling Butler. Gardaí asked for a continuance in order to make further attempts to contact McConnell, including by registered letter but hearing that he had already been sent a letter and also failed to reply to a phone call, the presiding judge struck out the case. Also struck out for failure to appear was another charge by Ciaran Reddin, former right-hand man of McConnell’s (but with whom he has apparently fallen out since). Ms. Butler, who had attended as required, was embraced by supporters.
In July 2020 fascists and other racists objected to the hire of the national Gaelic sports stadium Croke Park in Dublin to a Muslim congregation to celebrate their annual Eid religious festival. The fascist organisation Síol na hÉireann called for a prayer-protest outside the stadium and announced their intention of reciting the Catholic prayer collection of the Rosary there. Their protest was supported by other fascists and racists including Phillip Dwyer of the National Party, Gemma O’Doherty and some others calling themselves Stand Together and QAnon, in emulation of the Trumpist far-Right movement in the USA1.
Dublin Republicans Against Fascism organised a counter-protest and attended with placards in Irish and in English quoting from the 1916 Proclamation2“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty to all” and also chanted those words at the fascists.
“Five of us turned up early, mostly women,” said a spokesperson for the anti-fascist group outside the court “and only McConnell and another two were there with a banner. They took fright when they saw us, folded up their banner and called to the Gardaí for protection. But as more of their sort arrived, they got more confident, opened their banner out and began their prayers and racist chants and so on. When there were a lot more of them than us they got aggressive and there were a couple of scuffles when they assaulted a few on the sly or provoked us by pushing their video cameras near our faces. Some local people came out to stand with us against them but the fascists were arriving from all over.”
McConnell claimed he had been assaulted by Ms. Butler but apparently the Gardaí on the spot were unimpressed by his claims so he took his complaint to GSOC3, which agency charged Ms. Butler with assault. As a result she has been required to attend court a number of times over the intervening years while McConnell and GSOC got their case together.
The Síol organisation is registered as a company rather than as a political party4 and sells fascist and far-Right material on line, causing some of their opponents to call them, along with general far-Right individuals who seek on-line funding: “PayPal Paytriots”. The latter is because of the claim of the fascists and far-Rightists that they are true Irish patriots with Irish Tricolours and “Irish Republic” flags proliferating at their protests.
Referring to the words of the 1916 Proclamation displayed and chanted by the antifascist counter-protesters, the spokesperson for the antifascist Republicans said: “One of the fascists had a Tricolour flag with the text of the Proclamation printed on it. We kept inviting her and her friends to actually read the words but of course they ignored us. They wave Irish flags and play patriotic ballads but they don’t know anything about Irish history or what the people who went out against the British Empire in 1916 stood for. The fascists promote Catholic religion dominance in opposition to the secular Republic that was fought for and in denial of the historic role of Protestants in founding and fighting for Irish Republicanism.”
A repeated feature of the Síol protest outside Croke Park5 was the reciting of prayers of the Rosary loudly through a megaphone. Another was the sprinkling of salt and holy water and vinegar near the feet of the anti-fascists: “They think antifascist women are witches and that will ward them off” Ms. Butler said, smiling.
As Muslims – including children – began to arrive for their ceremony, the antifascists welcomed them and attempted to screen the fascists from the arrivals, while the chants of the fascists grew louder. After the ceremony, the Gardaí arranged for the muslim congregation to leave by another exit and once they were gone, the antifascists left also, some of them to nearby houses.
Spreading fears about “Ireland being swamped by Muslims” is one of the regular activities of the fascists, in contradiction to the statistical facts6. They also claim that asylum seekers are being treated more favourably than the native Irish, being given houses and money, etc. This is also in contradiction of the established facts which are that asylum seekers are housed in rooms in Direct Provision hostels for years in conditions that have been denounced by human rights activists and where a number of suicides have taken place.
Fascists and other far-Right individuals and organisations were very prominent during the height of the Covid pandemic, some propagating unlikely conspiracy theories and others protesting at the perceived limitations of their civil rights.7 Antifascists counter-protested them on a number of occasions, partly in defence of equal rights but also out of concern that following the epidemic, fascists will be used by the ruling elites as historically to crack down on resistance to austerity measures.
In September 2020 a prominent LGBT campaigner was beset by National Party supporters near Leinster House and a member clubbed her to the ground.8 In October that year, antifascists stormed a rally of the same party, causing the latter to ask for Garda protection to escort them away9. Some confrontations took place outside the GPO10 building in O’Connell Street against “Stand Together” and QAnon also and on Custom House Quay two weeks before the assault of the LGBT activist, at a rally organised by the far-Right organisation Irish Yellow Vests, fascists wielding lengths of metal and wood disguised as flags attacked counter-protesters who were then also attacked by riot police. The general tolerance of police towards the fascists – the latter in clear breach of pandemic restrictions — has been remarked upon by a number of observers.
The celebration of Eid in Croke Park last year drew less than a half-dozen fascist protesters. As the Covid restrictions were relaxed, the fascist and other far-Right protests began to fade, though the organisations are still there, regularly seizing on some issue in the media to promote racism, homophobia etc. Some of the participants have a track record of protesting against all kinds of equality legislation over decades and all of them promote the Catholic religion (though some don’t accept the authority of the Papacy). Niall McConnell himself, like most public fascists, is a practitioner of the big lie: addressing a far-Right gathering in Europe some years ago he claimed that Ireland has more migrants than indigenous; on another he claimed on social media that James Connolly had been born in Ireland.11
1These could be seen every Saturday for months outside the General Post Office building in Dublin city centre’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street.
2The Proclamation was issued by insurgents in 1916 and is a remarkable document for its time.
6According to the 2016 Census, the percentage of the population in Ireland that are muslims is 1.33%.
7E.g that the virus was not real but the restrictions part of a Jewish plot, the vaccination were to inject nanobots into people to pacify them; that the Communist Party of China was secretly running the world through the UN and the EU, that the latter (or Jews) was working to replace white people with people of colour, partly through encouraging homosexuality; the masks were to separate people from one another and damage them through inhalation of carbon dioxide ….
8The Gardaí on that occasion ordered the victim — blood streaming from her head — to leave the area and claimed to the media that no incidence of importance had occurred. In the face of video evidence they later changed their statement and eventually, on a registered complaint by the victim, charged NP member Michael Quinn with the assault. In October 2020, Quinn pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison, the third year suspended.
10The imposing General Post Office building in Dublin city centre was used as a headquarters by the insurgents in the 1916 Rising and the area outside it is regularly used for political rallies, commemorative events and, in recent years, for feeding homeless or otherwise hungry people.
11The claiming by fascists of the revolutionary socialist James Connolly may seem bizarre but is also an indication of the rank opportunism of fascists generally, in this case because of the high regard in which Irish people hold Connolly. James Connolly was born in the working-class Cowgate area of Edinburgh to parents of the Irish diaspora and both he and his brother became socialist activists, James travelling in later life alternately to Dublin and New York as a socialist writer and organiser. Returning to Dublin, Connolly became a trade union and socialist organiser, historian and journalist, co-founder of the workers’ militia the Irish Citizen Army in 1913 and overall Dublin Commandant in the 1916 Rising. He was executed by British Army firing squad in Kilmainham Jail on May 12th 1916.
No doubt the Russian ruling class had other motives than “de-nazification” for the invasion of the Ukraine – beating back NATO encirclement, according to some and land-grabbing according to others – but it cannot be said that the smoke is entirely without fire. Not when nine hundred paramilitary nazis are part of the official Ukranian Army and prominent boulevards of Kyiv are named after Ukrainian nazis.
The Azov Battalion is a far-Right paramilitary organisation that was incorporated into the Ukrainian military in 2015. The number of the unit’s fighters is generally estimated at 900 and the mildest description of their ideology is “far Right”. They are in fact nazi, homophobic, white supremacist, anti-Roma and anti-semitic – and they are an integral part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Founded from far-Right Ukrainian nationalist groups in March 2014 as Azov, they were from the beginning engaged in actions against ethnic minorities including the Russian-speaking people of the Donbas region and Roma, as well as against socialists and LBGT groups. Then-President Petro Poroshenko said at an awards ceremony in 2014: “These are our best warriors …. Our best volunteers.”1
In 2014 Azov were active in overthrowing the elected Ukrainian government of President Yanukovych. That government was characterised as friendly towards Russia and for that reason unpopular with the West; however it was trying to negotiate with both Russia and the EU, with the latter for its agricultural sector and with the former for its industrial sector but the EU insisted on an exclusive agreement in total. When it did not get what it wished the EU, under its Irish President at the time, and the USA supported the overthrow of the government in a coup d’etat.
In that coup, Azoz also carried out attacks on socialists and communists and, despite a highly-politicised debate around the facts there is no doubt that 43 people who took refuge in a trade union building from anti-Russian elements were killed when the building was set on fire.
From November 2015 to February 2016, according to a 2016 Report by the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner of the UN, Azov was responsible for incidents in which they had embedded their weapons and forces in civilian-occupied buildings, displaced residents and looted civilian properties. The report also accused the battalion of raping and torturing detainees in the Donbas region.2
Also in 2015 the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the World Jewish Congress condemned the decision to name central boulevards in Kiev after Nazi collaborators and attempts to re-write the history of Nazi collaborators in Ukraine during WWII.34
In January 2018, Azov rolled out its street patrol unit called National Druzhyna to “restore” order in the capital, Kyiv. Instead, the unit carried out pogroms against the Roma community and attacked members of the LGBTQ community. In April of that year there was a march honoring Ukrainian Waffen SS units which massacred thousands of Jews during World War II.5 In May, Azov marched through Odessa claiming that the Ukraine belongs to Ukrainians, not to Jews and that they would be ridding the country of the latter.6 In June, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor Anatoli Matios said in an interview that Jews want “to drown Slavs in blood.”7
Ukrainian International soccer player Roman Vyacheslavovych Zozulya had to be let go from Rayo Vallecano FC in 2017 because the anti-fascist and left-wing fan base of the team objected so strenuously to his being on contract. The reason for the uproar was because Zozulya has been on record as supporting Azov.
“In December 2019, a match between the Spanish teams Rayo Vallecano and Albacete (Roman Zozulya’s then-current club) was suspended, when his former club’s fans loudly accused the player of being a sympathizer of Nazi ideology, due to his known support of the Azov Battalion as well as other images he had posted on his Twitter account, which contained references to Nazi symbolism or organizations claimed to support Nazism.”8 Rayo Vallecano was fined and suspended for two games by the Spanish League (La Liga), a decision of at least questionable justice.9
“WHITE RULER”, FUNDED BY OLIGARCHS
The Azov unit was led by Andriy Biletsky, who served as the leader of both the “Patriot of Ukraine” organisation (founded in 2005) and of the Social Nationalist Assembly, a nazi organisation founded in 200810. The SNA is known to have carried out attacks on minority groups in Ukraine.
In 2010, Biletsky declared that the national purpose of the Ukraine was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen” [German Nazi term for ‘inferior races’].
Biletsky left Azov formally in order to stand for election to the Ukrainian Parliament, as elected officials must not be members of the military or police force. He was elected to parliament in 2014 and remained an MP until 2019; his nickname among his supporters is “Bely Vozd” (“White Ruler”). In October 2016 Biletsky founded the far-right National Corps party, the core base of which is Azov veterans.
It is not only Russia that has oligarchs but of course it is they alone the Western media is focusing upon. However the Ukrainian fascist forces were privately funded by oligarchs – the best-known being Igor Kolomoisky, an energy magnate billionaire and then-governor of the Dnipropetrovska region. In addition to Azov, Kolomoisky also funded other volunteer battalions such as the Dnipro 1 and Dnipro 2, Aidar and Donbas units11.
Azov also received early funding and assistance from another oligarch: Serhiy Taruta, the billionaire governor of Donetsk region12.
The presence of these nazis in the Ukrainian military is not as in many countries where individual right-wingers and fascists are attracted into the military and police but rather that an already far-Right paramilitary organisation led by nazis has been incorporated into the national armed forces. That argues for a high level of acceptance of fascism among the country’s ruling circles and indeed one finds other examples in certain statements by officials and in historical revisionism of past anti-semitism and nazi collaboration in the country’s history.13
CHANGING ATTITUDES OF THE WEST
In June 2015, both Canada and the United States announced that their own forces will not support or train the Azov regiment, citing its neo-Nazi connections and white supremacist ideology.
However the following year, under pressure from the Pentagon, Congress lifted the ban. In October 2019, 40 members of the US Congress led by Representative Max Rose signed a letter unsuccessfully calling for the US State Department to designate Azov as a “foreign terrorist organisation” (FTO). Last April, Representative Elissa Slotkin repeated the request – which included other white supremacist groups – to the Biden administration.
In 2016, Facebook first designated the Azov regiment a “dangerous organisation” and placed it under its Tier 1 designation, one which includes the Ku Klux Klan and ISIL (ISIS). Facebook users praising or otherwise supporting Tier 1 groups are also banned by the social media company.
However, on February 24 this year, the day Russia launched its invasion, Facebook reversed its ban, saying it would allow praise for Azov. “While Facebook users may now praise any future battlefield action by Azov soldiers against Russia, the new policy notes that ‘any praise of violence’ committed by the group is still forbidden; it’s unclear what sort of nonviolent warfare the company anticipates,” the social media and information technology magazine The Intercept commented14.
THE UKRAINE REGIME “FASCIST”?
Opponents of the Ukraine regime (not all supporters of Putin by any means) have called the regime itself fascist, a claim which its defenders (and some others) have dismissed, citing its President and its Prime Minister being Jewish as evidence to counter the accusation. Ukraine now has the world’s third- or fourth-largest Jewish community, but estimates of its size vary wildly, ranging from 120,000 to 400,000 people, depending on who is counting15.
That the President and Prime Minister are Jewish is far from being the conclusive rebuttal that it might seem, since Zionists are known to have colluded with the Nazis in the 1930s in order to gain settlers for Palestine16. As far back as 2018, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that more than 40 human rights organisations had filed a case with Israel’s High Court of Justice to stop the Zionist state supplying the Ukrainian military because of the latter’s incorporation of anti-semitic fascists.
The article also pointed out that past anti-semitic regimes had been supplied by Israel, quoting the Argentinian Generals and the Bolivian regime that included Klaus Barbie; also Israeli instructors are known to be supplying the Azov with training17.
There is certainly some fire beneath all the smoke.
Putin is no anti-fascist and, apart from the failure to tackle the growth of fascist anti-semitic groups in Russia, the Putin regime’s suppression of Muslim resistance in Chechnya contains most features of fascist repression of a population18. The irony now is that, if a video is to be believed, Azoz are dipping bullets in pig fat and telling Chechens who are part of the Russian Army that they will be barred from Muslim heaven when shot. Another irony is that Azov is attracting white fascists and militant right-wing Christians from other countries to swell its ranks, much like Muslim jihadist organisations have been attracting radical muslims from other parts of the world.
Putin has his own reasons for the invasion of the Ukraine which are to do with the interests of the Russian ruling class, whether defensive or aggressive, rather than “de-nazification” but the evidence of fascist elements in the Ukrainian military and ruling circles cannot legitimately be dismissed as supporters of the Ukrainian regime have been doing.
4Active collusion with the Nazi occupation to the extent of whole Ukrainian units fighting alongside the occupiers and wiping out Jews and civilian socialists was notable among Ukrainian nationalists of the time. However, there was also significant anti-Nazi activism, both in partisan activity and in membership of the Red Army. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration_in_German-occupied_Ukraine
For quite some time now certain people have been protesting inside shops and other spaces, along with marching up and down streets insisting on their right to enter places and to travel without wearing a mask or without displaying proof that they have been vaccinated. Those anti-maskers have been quite proud of what they see as their stand for personal freedom and against authoritarian rules. I on the other hand think they have been very tame and don’t go nearly far enough. So I’ve listed some other rules and regulations they should be rebelling against.
ADDITIONAL UTHORITARIAN RULES AND REGULATIONS TO REBEL AGAINST
Being obliged to have a driving licence
Being obliged to have motor insurance
Having to drive on one side of the road
Having to obey traffic lights and signs
Being obliged to have working lights on one’s vehicle and using them in dark conditions
Having to clean up your dog’s excreta in a public place
Not importing pets without their vaccinations
Not importing wild animals without a licence
Not being allowed to keep animals in whatever condition one feels like
Having to send children to school
Not being permitted to have children working full time
Not being permitted to serve underage children alcohol
Not being permitted to sell underage children tobacco and cigarettes
Having to take action in cases of bullying
Not being permitted to beat children in school
Having to wear clothing covering sexual parts in public
Not being allowed to excrete in the street
Not being permitted to smoke in some areas
Not being permitted to drop trash wherever and whenever one feels like it
Being forbidden from playing loud music, operating power tools or creating noise in general in communities between certain hours
Being forbidden from emitting large amounts of smoke or other noxious gasses in a community
Not being able to say whatever one likes about anyone else without being subject to libel or slander laws (or a smack in the mouth)
Having to adhere to fire prevention and control regulations in communal or community living
Having to adhere to published standards in construction
Not serving food past its advertised sell-by date
Food-preparation staff being required to be qualified in the practice
Food-serving premises being obliged to store food according to regulations
Food preparation and processing having to adhere to published standards
Being required to advertise the contents of products
Being required to advertise a safe “sell by” date on food products
Working Health & Safety
Workplaces having to adhere to Health & Safety regulations
Being required to wear safety helmet on construction sites
Being required to wear goggles or industrial spectacles and/or ear protectors for certain operations
Being required to clip on a safety line on boats in rough conditions
Being required to wear a flotation jacket on board boats
Not being permitted to smoke in some areas
Having to adhere to fire prevention and control regulations
Having to avoid or control pollution from any procedures
Not being allowed to dump whatever material one wants to wherever one feels like it
Not being allowed to light open fires in certain areas at certain times of the year
Not being permitted to trim hedgerows during the bird nesting period
Being restricted in hunting or fishing during certain periods of the year
Having to adhere to anti-contamination procedures in ICU and generally in hospital
On Friday morning passing pedestrians, public and private transport drivers and passengers on Dublin’s Finglas Road witnessed a funeral cortege in which trade union banners and flags were carried by some of the mourners. The hearse leading the procession, followed by a lone piper did not bear the Starry Plough-draped coffin which instead was carried on the shoulders of a rota of family, comrades and friends on the approximately one-kilometre walk from the home of Manus O’Riordan to service at the famous Glasnevin Cemetery.
A large crowd participated in the funeral procession composed of a wide cross-section of the Irish Left, from revolutionaries to radical reformers to sedate social democrats. Manus was well known in Irish left-wing circles for a number of reasons. At various times he had been an active socialist, a member of the very small but influential and very controversial B&ICO, a senior official in the major trade union SIPTU and an active senior member of the Friends of the International Brigades Ireland. This last owed much to the fact that Manus’ father had fought in Spain and the veneration in the Irish Left and much of the Irish Republican movement for the Irish volunteers who fought to defend the Spanish Republic against the fascist-military uprising led by General Franco and aided by Nazi German and Fascist Italy. Mick O’Riordan survived the Spanish Antifascist War and was General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland and the last time some of the mourners had walked this route was in the elder O’Riordan’s funeral in 2006.
The trade union banners marked Manus’ trade union work while another signalled his support for the Cuban Republic against the blockade imposed upon it by the USA. Two large flags in the red, gold and purple of the Spanish Republic of 1936-1939 were carried too, bearing the legend “Connolly Column” (in Irish and in English) to represent the Irish volunteers who fought against the military-fascist coup. Along the route, copies of a combined Spanish Republic and Starry Plough, attached high upon lampposts, fluttered or strained outwards in the breeze. Among the procession a number of Starry Plough flags flew also, the green and gold version of the Irish Citizen Army, along with a Basque and a Palestinian flag, the latter recalling the stand of the Basque country against Franco and the former, Manus’ solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people. At one point, the Catalan Senyera (flag) was also displayed, recalling that in the Ebro Offensive, Michael O’Riordan had been chosen to carry the Catalan flag across the Ebro river. A number of people also wore scarves of the Bohemian Football Club, with supporters among Manus’ family and friends.
Though cold, the day remained sunny and most thankfully of all, rain-free. Upon reaching the cemetery, the coffin was taken into the chapel near the entrance at which non-religious or religious services may be chosen. Due to Covid19 restrictions, the service was reserved for family and close relatives only.
The rest of the crowd gathered outside and perhaps before 11 am a burst of applause heralded the approach of the President of the Irish State, Michael D. Higgins, accompanied by a senior member of the Irish armed forces in ceremonial uniform. The applause was no doubt in appreciation for Higgins’ appearance and due to his office but also certainly in approval of his decision not to attend a forthcoming British colonial state function to celebrate the centenary of the partition of Ireland in 1921. And also no doubt in sympathy to the controversy regarding his decision whipped up by sections of the British and Irish media and a handful of politicians, not only British and Unionist.
There was an ex-president of a different kind present too, Jack O’Connor, who was elected General President of the SIPTU (trade union) in 2003 for three terms and in 2009, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. O’Connor took a stint sharing the weight of the coffin and though no doubt he had his supporters in the crowd he had a substantial number of enemies in the trade union movement too, though this is not the place to speak of the reasons.
Among others who attended to pay their sympathies to the O’Riordan family and Manus’ partner Nancy Wallach were Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin TDs Louise O’Reilly and Sean Crowe.
Former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn, former Press Ombudsman and Labour TD John Horgan, Communist Party of Ireland Gen. Sec. Eugene McCartan and retired trade union leader Mick O’Reilly of Unite were also there.
After the service, some of the attendance repaired to the not very distant Maples Hotel in Iona Road, where food had been prepared and refreshments could be purchased. Even with the crowd by then much diminished, they were spread over two reception rooms and had to be fed in shifts.
Manus’ sister Brenda playing a piece on the harp by medieval Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan while his daughter, Jess read a poem by Charlie Donnelly, who died fighting fascism in Spain, “The Tolerance of Crows” and his son, Luke sang the “Roll Away The Stone” song celebrating workers’ leader Jim Larkin (a song often sung by Manus himself in the past.
Manus was a regular participant in the singing session of the Góilín where he sang songs, in some of which the lyrics were his translations into Spanish, Irish or English and some were of his own composition. He composed poetry too. Accordingly, a significant section of the attendance at his funeral was composed of singers and participants of the Góilín and it was strange to hear no song sung during the procession or among the crowd outside; however folk singer Radie Peat of Lankum sang Liam Weldon’s song Via Extasia and Gerry O’Reilly sang The Parting Glass before Francis Devin sang the socialist anthem The Internationale before Manus O’Riordan’s coffin draped in The Starry Plough was removed for cremation.. At least one occasion to pay respect to Manus’ memory is promised in the future and no doubt song will play an important part of the proceeding then.
Manus O’Riordan wrote and lectured copiously over the years on a number of topics and over time revised some of his opinions, never shrinking from doing so publicly and renouncing a previous position strongly held. All his assertions were backed by arguments in favour and never merely by assertion.
Despite the numerous verbal battles in which Manus took part in speech and print, a number of them quite heated, he managed to remain on speaking terms with most people including his political enemies and had a wide range of friends and of people with whom he was on good terms. He lived an active and useful life but one cut short too soon at the age of 72.
There will be a number of groups and occasions where his absence will be keenly felt and of course by his family and his partner Nancy Wallach.
Thank you so much for taking the time to explain to me how I am being manipulated and why I should not wear a mask. It is true as you said that fearful people are controlled more easily and what is more fearful than an invisible danger, an alleged virus?
But the thing is always of course: controlled by whom and what for?
When you explained that I was going to be controlled by Jews that was worrying but the lizards who were going to control me (as well or instead of?) were really scary. Then the Chinese Communists, with one of the permanent seats on the UN Security Council taking over those of the other four powers – that was terrifying. And then controlling the whole EU!
It’s amazing that the secret manipulators have managed to frighten or fool nearly every doctor, nurse and medical expert in the world – must be millions of them — into supporting the hoax and masking and vaccines. Thank God we have a handful of medical people spilling the beans. Still, it’s all quite terrifying.
And the plan to replace all white people through contraception, abortion, LGBT rights is frightening too – well, I’m white of course and I don’t want to be replaced. I’ve already been replaced by a machine at the checkout desk where I worked, which was easily done since most people during the pandemic – sorry, the hoax – preferred to use the machines and pay by bank card. Of course the bosses took advantage of the situation to replace some of us but nobody warned us about that.
Like you advised, I have refused to have the vaccine because I don’t want nanobots injected into me so They can control me and see where I go and what I do – even when I’m in the toilet or the shower. I can’t understand how all those controlled people are still managing to hold protests – like about housing, or people killed by police, or for the Palestinians. It’s very confusing so you’ll have to explain that to me again.
I told Brigid (remember, next door but one) about all the antifascists being pedophiles and she said does that mean all the people who fought against Hitler and Mussolini were pedophiles too? Then she said some disrespectful things like if you’re really concerned about pedophilia how come yous are always defending the Catholic Church? When I told her about Hillary Clinton running a pedophile ring from above a pizza restaurant, Brigid just burst out laughing so hard she said she’d have to go to the toilet. When she came back, she asked if John Kennedy and Bill Clinton couldn’t even keep their affairs secret from the public, how would Hillary Clinton manage to run a whole pedophile ring and keep it quiet? I didn’t know what to say and felt quite stupid. I wish you’d been there to answer her.
Brigid’s nephew has been wearing a mask in public since the authorities advised it. He got 99% in one of his exams and mostly around 90s, so I was wondering about that Dolores Cahill saying our children would end up stupid through inhaling carbon dioxide. Then I was wondering whether Brigid was lying or being manipulated. Or her brother, the boy’s father, was. Or the school, faking the results. Or the Government forcing the school to fake the results and fool the father and the son.
So anyway I’m confused and frightened. Tell me what to do, please.
(Changed headline andtranslated from article in Publico.es by D.Breatnach)
(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)
Franco’s repression in Fregenal de la Sierra executed more than 80. Now, a second excavation seeks to recover the bodies of those who did not come to light in 2012, when the skeletons of 43 victims were recovered. The remains found indicate cruelty towards women, disrespecting them even after they were shot.
When they gave her the jacket of her son, who had just been shot, she lost her speech. She was like this for two and a half years, in silence, until she died. The father, a lifelong labourer, said on his deathbed that he bequeathed his little house to his five children. “You only have four,” one of the witnesses told him. “Until they give me the body of my son, I still have five,” replied the man. They were the mother and father of Juan Serrano García, shot in September 1936 in Fregenal de la Sierra (Badajoz1), when the rebels tricked him into returning: “They said that all those who had not committed crimes of blood, would be free of reprisals,” adds Andrés Serrano, representative of the Association of relatives of the executed from the town and Juan’s nephew.
His body was found in 2012 in a mass grave in the town’s cemetery along with 42 other bodies, although many more are still waiting in the ground. At that time, there were seven graves opened. Now, five more are uncovered to try to account for the more than 80 murdered by Franco’s troops of which there is a record. Among the bodies there is an unusually high percentage of women for the situation, points out Laura Muñoz-Encinar, archaeologist and forensic anthropologist at the Institute of Heritage Sciences (Incipit), attached to the Higher Centre for Scientific Research (CSIC), and who is participating in the exhumation.
The forced and almost physical silence of Juan’s mother testifies to the decades and decades of internal repression of the thousands of victims of the Franco regime. So much so, that Serrano learned about the story of his uncle obliquely from his mother, the political one of the family. She did not tell him directly: “An anthropologist friend wanted to interview her for a job, so I took the opportunity and told him to ask her about what happened in the Civil War. I hid in a room next to the terrace, where they were and thus I was able to hear first-hand and for the first time in my life about the execution of my uncle, the hardships my grandparents went through and the stigmatization my family suffered for being, for everyone else, ‘reds’ “, related the historical memorialist at 68 years of age.
They were in a hurry to kill them
The case of Juan, a militant in the UGT2 and of socialist sympathies, assassinated at the age of 21, is just one more. In Fregenal, more than eight dozen people who were related to politics and social struggle during the Republican period were executed. Located in Badajoz, many townspeople joined “The Column of 8,000”, coming from the north of Huelva, to flee from the fascist barbarism between the air raids. The troops took Fregenal on September 18 and three days later Juan returned to the town together with another comrade. They thought that nothing would happen to them, because they had not committed any blood-crime.
“They arrived at 10:30 in the morning and at 11:15 they were both arrested. They were taken to jail, and no matter how hard my grandparents tried to intervene with some powerful people from the town to save him from being shot, on September 22 he was murdered”, relates Serrano. The same thing happened a few meters away, in those days, in the town square: “They shot about four people in the center of town; it was an exemplary shooting. They wanted to increase the fear that there was already,” he says.
That same September 22nd, Juan’s parents had already guessed the worst. They knew that their son had been detained and that the Francoists had no mercy. Their suspicions were confirmed when, a few hours later and for greater confirmation, they were given the jacket that their son had been wearing. According to Serrano, the rebel soldiers also told them that they should stop searching, that they already knew where he was, and not to bother people, referring to the people to which they had gone to ask for compassion for their young son.
The first exhumation: 43 bodies
More than 70 years later, the team to which Laura Muñoz-Encinar, the archaeologist belongs, arrived. It was 2010 and they couldn’t start the excavation for two years. After the surveys and a research project approved by the Ministry of the Presidency, they excavated seven mass graves. “There were men and women. They were from young to very advanced ages. Among the seven women we found, one of them had a full-term fetus of between 7 and 9 months,” explains the Incipit scientist.
The change of central government in 20113 meant the cancellation of the funding allocation related to the investigation of what happened during the Civil War and the Dictatorship, so they had to wait nine long years until they were able to return to the town. Muñoz-Encinar explains that “During this time almost all the children of the victims, of which there were many, have died. There is only one daughter living, María Lobo Villa. The Francoists executed her mother, three uncles and a grandfather. Now, mainly, grandchildren and great-nephews and great-nieces remain. “
In that excavation they found the body of a woman buried between two men, something recurring according to the expert. Once again, and as always, they got the worst of it. This is demonstrated by what happened to Antonia Regalado Carballar, known as “La chata carrera” (“the flat racer”?-DB). A 22-year-old political activist, this woman transgressed the traditional roles of the patriarchal culture of the time. “They detained her and took her to the cemetery. There they physically and psychologically abused her, and several of them raped her. After killing her, said the undertaker, they put her in the ditch between the bodies of two men,” Muñoz-Encinar explains further. Serrano adds what the rebels who were there said, as the gravedigger recalled, “As men tempt you, there you have men for your whole life.” They haven’t found her body yet.
This type of symbolism, highly contemptuous for all victims and sexualized in the case of women, is not an isolated event. “In the current excavation we have already found a body face down. In a Judeo-Christian culture like ours, the placement of the bodies responds to a ritual of elevating the soul to heaven, that is why the bodies are placed face up and with the limbs stretched , and not doing it like that is a post-mortem humiliation”, the archaeologist explained.
Killed without trial years after the War
She herself points out that all the remains already found and those they are still looking for were civilian victims of extrajudicial repression, executed on the basis of the war party in force from 1936 to 1948. That is that, almost ten years after the end of the war, it was still possible to execute civilians without the need to bring them through a judicial procedure. That is what happened in Fregenal de la Sierra in 1946 to a party of guerrillas4. This is how Muñoz-Encinar relates it: “We know that they were fighting in the mountains, that they were pursued, until one night they entered a brothel. There they were betrayed and, after a scuffle, they were arrested. They were murdered, their bodies were exhibited in the street entrance to the cemetery and then put in a grave.” Also victims of extrajudicial repression years after the Civil War ended, the team of experts does not know if their bodies will be in the five graves they are currently studying and in which they have already found three bodies.
By Diarmuid Breatnach
The Spanish state territory holds more mass graves than any country in the world with the exception of Cambodia. Most of their occupants were killed during the Spanish Antifascist struggle with or without a military court hearing outside of conflict zones, that is to say, either in the rear areas of the fascist-military forces, i.e areas already safely conquered. In some of the areas, there had been little or no military resistance whatsoever but that did not halt the arrests and executions. And after the conclusive defeat of the Republic, the executions continued. Many victims, perhaps even the majority, had never even fired a gun in defence of the Republic but were considered enemies of the fascist State through their support for the Republic, their political ideology, social attitude or sexual orientation.
The punishment was not always a death sentence but people died also in prison due to massive overcrowding, disease, inadequate food or clean drinking water, water for washing or inadequate medical care.
Despite the frequent assertion that the 1936 military-fascist uprising against the elected Republican Government was to “restore Christian values” and was supported by most of the Spanish Catholic Church hierarchy, rape of women and girls was frequent, whether they were afterwards shot or not. This was widely attested in evidence by victims, witnesses and even some war reporters.
Those who survived or did not go to jail faced constant harassment, confiscation and theft of land, animals and produce; fines and public humiliation, in particular the women who were force-fed laxatives and then paraded in nightclothes or underclothes through the neighbourhood, sometimes to the doors of the Catholic church, unable to control their bowels as they walked.
Babies were also taken from murdered supporters of the Republic and later from working class women (who were told their baby had been stillborn) and given to childless fascist couples. Children of the “Reds5” were taunted at school and insulted by teachers.
After its sharpest form abated the repression nevertheless continued throughout the nearly four decades of the Dictatorship and it was extremely dangerous to even speak of disinterring the mass graves and reburying the victims in dignity, not to speak of honouring them as antifascist martyrs. Even after the death of Franco and the Transition to an alleged democracy, many kept silent to protect their families. Schools suppressed the history6. Murderers and torturers were not prosecuted. Thieves kept what they had taken. The ruling class consisted for the most part of supporters of the fascist-military uprising and their descendants and they thronged the civil service, military, police, judiciary, church hierarchy, media (State and private), the education system – along with many businesses and a number of political parties.
More recently, the work of generations of those keeping the historical memory alive, investigating, speaking, marking areas, even disinterring on their own initiatives, is bearing fruit. The Law of Historical Memory, passed through the Spanish Parliament under a social-democratic Government in 2007 helped for a little while but then fell into disuse under the PP Government, though it was not abolished.
Its renovation in 2020 by the PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition has spurred more excavation bu the Law and its renovation had been preceded by the work over decades by volunteers of historical memory associations in many different parts of the State, such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, Andalucia and Madrid. The associations have been assisted by forensic experts working voluntarily. This work has helped create the political-social-cultural atmosphere in which in October 2019 the long-promised removal of the remains of the Dictator General Franco and the leader of the fascist Falange, Primo Rivera, took place from their fascist mausoleum in the Valle de Los Caidos7 (“Valley of the Fallen”, a fascist monument constructed with prisoner labour and a shrine for Spanish fascists).
Nevertheless the renovated Historical Memory Law, or its program posted by the Government, has been criticised by relatives and other historical memory activists, because it rules out any reparations. They are bitter that most of the known torturers, murderers and rapists died natural deaths without having faced even a trial and their accusers8 and that not only do their families hang on to their ill-gotten gains but that the State does not acknowledge its duty to the victims. The State itself, or one of its departments, is also engaged in a judicial-political struggle to recover from organisations and families some properties, including national monuments and one of them of UNESCO World Heritage status. Some local authorities face prosecution and reductions in allocation of central funds because they are holding on to commemorative signs exalting Franco or someone of his supporters.
Of course, the fascists and most varieties of the Right in the Spanish polity are angry at these events and link them to the struggle for Catalan independence as fatal to the Spanish State; they demonstrate and threaten a coup or some kind of repercussion, retired Army senior officers sign declarations and some rattle their sabres in public, the spokesperson of the Franco Foundation reminds the current King Felipe that it is entirely due to Franco that his father became monarch (which is true and Juan Carlos also swore allegiance to that regime, an oath which he never recanted).
Even some liberals are uneasy, feeling that “it’s reopening old wounds”, to which the relatives of the victims and others reply: “the wounds have never closed.”
2Unión General de Trabajadores, a general workers’ union allied to the social-democratic PSOE party. The union was outlawed by Franco and many of its supporters suffered imprisonment or even execution or murder without trial. It is one of the largest unions in the Spanish state today and the PSOE is one of the traditional parties of government.
3In that year’s General Election the right-wing Partido Popular won a landslide victory against the PSOE and the political climate changed considerably. Both the PP and the PSOE support the unionist and monarchist Spanish Constitution but the PP contains a harder Right, including supporters of the Franco regime and memory and outright fascists, some of which have split off at times to form the right-wing Ciudadanos and fascist Vox parties.
4Guerrilla struggle persisted in parts of the Spanish state after the defeat of the Republic, in some cases for decades.
5To sustain the fiction that they were fighting against “Communism”, (no doubt believed by many), those leading the fascist-military uprising constantly referred to their enemies as “Reds”. Some of course were but the Republic was also supported by Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists, democrats, social-democrats, revolutionary socialists, anarchists, libertarians and anarcho-syndicalists. The foreign press mostly referred to them as Republicans (sometimes as “Government supporters”) and the fascist-military side as Nationalists (sometimes as “rebels”). Communists, revolutionary socialists and anarchists predominated among the foreign volunteers who joined the Republican forces through the International Brigades and other routes (for example, Orwell, a member of the Independent Labour Party, fought with the mostly Trotskyist POUM) but they also included socialist Republicans from Ireland for example along with simply dedicated antifascists.
7An event covered in detail on Spanish TV in the style of a state funeral.
8Notable exceptions were Melitón Manzanas, Commander of the Political-Social Brigade of the Guardia Civil, a notorious torturer and Nazi collaborator, assassinated by the Basque armed group ETA in San Sebastian/ Donosti in 1968 and Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco’s nominated successor, also assassinated by ETA in Madrid in 1973. Manzanas was awarded posthumously the Medal of Civic Merit by the Aznar Government in 1998 as “a victim of terrorism”.
“WELCOME TO REFUGEES” EVENT SANDYMOUNT 3 SEPTEMBER 2015
(Reading time: 3 mins.)
On 13 September 2015, six years ago a remarkable event took place on the strand in Sandymount (Dumhach Trá) in Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath), of which I have been reminded by the Facebook anniversaries function. I wrote a short report with photos for a FB album at the time but it deserves a more easily accessible record on Rebel Breeze. Text from the album follows:
WELL OVER A THOUSAND PEOPLE (that will be just “several people” for RTÉ1), gathered at Sandymount strand today to spell out the message “Refugees Welcome” on the sand.
The day looked bad earlier with rain and, at the original time set, was still raining. But due to tide conditions, the start time had been set back an hour and the rain had stopped and there was even some intermittent sunshine as the crowds assembled.
I had to strip off rainproof clothes under which I was already sweating. Starting was slow and some singers tried to keep us entertained as we waited. We were also led in shouting some slogans — all in English (would using the word “Fáilte” have hurt?). We were each assigned to a column behind the letter we were going to spell out.
Eventually we were led off by our letter-leader to a spot marked out in the shape of the letters by string tied to pegs stuck in the sand. We shuffled into shape obediently.
A drone flew over us filming (I had unpleasant associations with the word, especially in a US-Syria context) and then we all had to be reformed, as according to the drone operator, the letters didn’t look right. So yes, we all became reformists .
Then it was finally right, the “heart” had to be reformed too — it was bleeding people out at the edges. Finally, we were judged to be right, waved to the drone, film was taken.
Then the organisers thought it would be good for us to “scatter” for the film effect. We did, kind of, a half-hearted scatter …. nothing like we would have done from incoming ordinance. And then we went home.
After standing in the wet sand I discovered that dubbin did not keep the water out of my boots and, no matter how much knocking of boots together, I still had some sand on them when I got home. Remember how you always managed to bring some sand home from the beach, no matter how hard you tried not to?
The event followed on the more than two thousand (“hundred” according to RTÉ) who gathered at the Spire yesterday to extend the hand of welcome to refugees fleeing murder and even sexual slavery (by ISIS); a counter to the xenophobia and especially Islamophobia which had awoken echoes of the anti-Irish Catholic rantings of Cromwell and his kind in the 15th Century. Well done to the organisers and those who turned up to support the event.
A lot of organisations had put their name to the event but effectively it had been organised by a coalition of ENAR Ireland (now Ireland Network Against Racism), Migrant Resource Centre Ireland and Irish Refugee Council — maith iad in conception, planning and execution.
As though their traumal from the cause of leaving and its own pain were not enough, many die in the attempt. Thousands of refugees have died trying to reach Europe, most of them in the Mediterranean. Those who survive face racism and ghettoisation.
“From January to June 2021, it was estimated that 827 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In 2020, the number of deaths amounted to 1.4 thousand. However, the accurate number of deaths recorded in the Mediterranean Sea cannot ascertained. Between 2014 and 2018, for instance, about 12,000 people who drowned were never found”.2
Casualties and missing people
“Worldwide, it was estimated that eight thousand people died in the attempt of fleeing their country. According to estimations, over five thousand refugees lost their lives in the attempt to reach the European shores in 2016. Therefore, the Mediterranean Sea was the deadliest migration route. Indeed, over the last couple of years, the Mediterranean Sea held the largest number of casualties and missing people”.3
Western, Central, and Eastern route
“According to migration studies, the Mediterranean Sea is crossed by a Western, a Central, and an Eastern route. Out of these routes, the Central Mediterranean route was the deadliest. In 2016, roughly 4,6 thousand people lost their lives while pursuing this route. Sadly, the identification of bodies is challenging due to the sea. In 2019 for instance, the vast majority of refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean were not identified and their country of origin was untraceable.”4
Remember? Remember when we were migrants?
Remember when we fled murder and rapine
and many another terrible scene
When death and torture were at hand
and we sought succour in other lands?
Remember when our little nation
was devastated by starvation.
disease and desolation,
our hope in emigration ….
Remember when we died by
mountain, valley and sea
or we braved
the rolling waves
to go where we might be free?
Remember, oh do you remember?
Escape, the vote,
in leaky boats
in anything to float,
fear in throat,
today they launch
for our shores.
We must remember!
1Radió Teilifís Éireann, the state broadcasting service.
SEPTEMBER 8, START OF NEARLY 900 DAYS OF NAZI SIEGE
On 21st June 1941 Hitler broke Nazi Germany’s non-aggression Treaty with the Soviet Union and invaded through Poland, sending roughly 3 million personnel through, in addition to its Finnish and Romanian allies, in a three-pronged attack.
Leningrad was one of the primary objectives as it was the most industrialised next to Moscow, with numerous arms factories among its 600 factories turning out 11% of all Russia’s industrial production, along with being the port of the Russian fleet. For those reasons it was important to the Soviet Union too but there was another very important one: the Petrograd Soviet had played a key role in the 1917 February and October revolutions in Russia.
The Nazi German advance in its various Army Groups through Soviet Russia overcame most resistance fairly easily but in September the advance of Army Group North was finally halted in the Leningrad suburbs. The German and other Axis troops had air dominance and a massive artillery capability. Hitler instructed his troops not only to besiege the city but to wipe it out. The Finnish troops controlled the area to the north and the Nazis placed the División Azul (the Blue Division), the fascist Spanish unit, along the south-east1.
“The Führer has decided to erase the city of Petersburg from the face of the earth,” he wrote in a memo. “It is intended to encircle the city and level it to the ground by means of artillery bombardment using every caliber of shell, and continual bombing from the air.” The memo stressed that requests for surrender negotiations were to be ignored, since the Nazis didn’t have the desire to feed the city’s large population.2
Civilians in Leningrad worked frantically on the construction of defences, digging trenches and constructing antitank fortifications as the Red Army and partisans lost one battle after another. The town of Mga was taken, recaptured and then taken again by the Nazis, severing the city’s last rail connection. With the capture of Shlisselburg in early September, the last road was cut. The only way to supply Leningrad now was across Lake Ladoga.
IRON RING AROUND THE CITY
Artillery and air bombardment of the city began almost immediately; the city could receive supplies only by barge across the lake which could also be targeted by Luftwaffe attack. Incendiary attacks caused huge damage and destroyed vital supplies of oil and food and on September 19th Nazi aircraft dropped 2,500 high explosive and incendiary bombs.
The authorities evacuated around 600,000 civilians before the Nazi “iron ring” closed around the city but 2.5 million civilians still remained inside. It is said that officials had been negligent in stockpiling food, so the only way to feed the city was to bring fresh supplies across Lake Ladoga, the only open route into the city. Transport of Food and fuel was by barge until the lake froze, then by trucks and sleds – all of these frequent targets of Nazi aerial attack.
“By November, food shortages had seen civilian rations cut to just 250 grams of bread a day for workers. Children, the elderly and the unemployed got a scant 125 grams—the equivalent of three small slices.”3
The winter of 1941-’42 was bitterly cold and as many as 100,000 a month died of starvation. “In their desperation, people ate everything from petroleum jelly and wallpaper glue to rats, pigeons and household pets. For warmth, they burned furniture, wardrobes and even the books from their personal libraries. Theft and murder for ration cards became a constant threat, and the authorities eventually arrested over 2,000 people for cannibalism. As the famine intensified, one 12-year-old Leningrader named Tanya Savicheva recorded the dates of the deaths of all her family members in a journal. “The Savichevs are dead,” she wrote after the passing of her mother. “Everyone is dead. Only Tanya is left.””4
And yet the city held out. Another 500,000 civilians were evacuated early the following year, 1942, which reduced the city’s population to 1,000,000. As the city thawed in Spring, the survivors went out to bury the dead lining their streets and cleared bombardment rubble. Courtyard areas and parks were planted for vegetables but even so and despite the “Road of Life” across Lake Ladoga, food was short.
A number of Red Army attempts to break through to the city failed, with very high loss of Russian soldiers. In January 1943 the Red Army won a land strip from the Nazis and its engineers built a special railway link to run through it which, by the end of the year nearly 5 million tons of food and other supplies had been delivered into Leningrad. Machinery and ammunition were soon being turned out in the factories by a workforce nearly 80% composed of women.
MUSIC OF RESISTANCE
In august 1942 it was played and broadcast towards the Nazi German lines over loudspeakers.
The Red Army finally broke the Nazi blockade on 27th January 1944 and, with the Nazi forces all over Russia in retreat, the city was free. Survivors celebrated but the death toll was huge; some had lost all their family during the siege.
Altogether an estimated 75,000 bombs were dropped on Leningrad during the period of the siege and killed many – but more died from hunger and hunger-facilitated illness.
Because of the declared intentions of Hitler and the Nazis and the effect on the civilian population of the city, many historians categorise this siege as genocide; it was also the longest siege of WWII and one of the longest in history.
“In total, the siege of Leningrad had killed an estimated 800,000 civilians—nearly as many as all the World War II deaths of the United States and the United Kingdom combined. Soviet-era censorship ensured that the more grisly details of the blockade were suppressed until the end of the 20th century, yet even while World War II was still underway, the city was hailed as a symbol of Russian determination and sacrifice.”5
Perhaps the most appropriate accolade to the resistance of Leningrad was penned by the New York Times in 1945: “There is hardly a parallel in history for the endurance of so many people over so long a time. Leningrad stood alone against the might of Germany since the beginning of the invasion. It is a city saved by its own will, and its stand will live in the annals as a kind of heroic myth.”6
Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symhony in 2019 (Russian composition, played by a German Orchestra, conducted by a Finn!) almost 1 hour 25 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB3zR_X25UU
MONUMENT TO THE HEROIC DEFENDERS OF LENINGRAD AND SCULPTURAL GROUPS IN VICTORY SQUARE PETROGRAD
Fascist supporters of bullfighting in Asturias thought they were having fun by naming two bulls due to be killed “Feminist” and “Nigerian” respectively. But their racist and sexist joke-jibes backfired on them in Gijón (Xixón), cultural centre and largest city of Asturias, the celtic nation in the north of the Spanish state.
Bullfighting is generally supported by a traditionalist conservative constituency in Spain, including fascists, who often project it as integral to their image of Spain. On the other hand, the practice is opposed by large sections of the Left and those who want independence for their nations from Spain, such as Catalonia (banned some years ago) and three southern provinces of the Basque Country (where it was suspended for years but limited fights permitted again recently).
BULLFIGHTING IS ENDED IN GIJÓN
Translation by D.Breatnach from Publico.es report
The El Bibio de Gijón bullring will no longer host the traditional Begoña bullfighting fair, as the City Council will not renew the licence of the bullring because it considers that bulls cannot be used to “deploy an ideology contrary to the human rights”.
“The bullfighting festival is over,” said the mayor of Gijón, Ana González, in statements to journalists, after stating that what happened in the last running of the fair this year, where two of the bulls from Daniel Ruiz’s cattle ranch were named “Feminist” and “Nigerian”, has caused great discontent among feminist and animalist associations and has precipitated a decision that was already in the pipeline.
“A city that believes in the equality of women and men, that believes in integration, in doors open to all cannot allow this type of thing,” said the Councilor before stating that “several lines have been crossed”.
González explained that the idea was to end the licence of the El Bibio bullring and later put an end to it, as contemplated in the resolutions of the PSOE congresses but these events have advanced the decision. For this reason, the Consistory will not grant a third extension of the concession signed in 2016 nor will it issue a new call, despite the fact that the payment of the successful bidder represents 50,000 euros per year for the city council.
“The bullfighting fair is over because it seems that too many things were hidden,” explained the Councilor, who argued that if the world of bullfighting is what was seen in the last run of the fair “it does not contribute much to a city like Gijón “.
“The Mayor indicated that in recent years the bullfighting was “clearly challenged” and that there were more and more voices calling for an end to the bullfighting fair in Gijón, a demand that has now been met.
“The names given to these two bulls which were fought by Morante de la Puebla last Sunday, August 15, in Gijón, generated controversy on social networks and have aroused complaints from feminist and animalist associations.”