THE DÁIL: IRISH ESTABLISHMENT SUPPORTS THE SPANISH STATE’S ATTACK ON CATALAN SELF-DETERMINATION

Clive Sulish

A representative of the Irish (Fine Gael) Government’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade last night not only called for non-interference in the “internal affairs” of the Spanish State but defended the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the “independent Spanish judiciary”. She was answering a question regarding the Spanish State and Catalan independence movement and her stance was supported by representatives of the two other traditional parties of Irish Government, Fianna Fáil and Labour. Five Teachtaí Dála, elected members of the Irish Parliament, argued passionately against them.

Section of Catalonia supporters in Kildare St. waiting to attend the Foreign Affairs Minister’s Question time.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

THE VOICES OF THE ESTABLISHMENT

This was Minister’s Question time, when Ministers (or their representatives) appear in the Chamber to answer questions about areas of the remit of their Departments and earlier, Ministers had been quizzed about areas of childcare, social care funding, local government funding ……

The Dáil chamber looked mostly deserted but in the public gallery sat a score of Catalans and some Irish, listening intently. Normally, these sessions are attended only by the TDs asking the questions and the relevant Ministerial spokesperson – and only for the question being asked. And of course also in attendance is the Ceann Comhairle, the presiding person acting as Chair – and secretaries. Sometimes by members of the media but by no means always, since reporters can monitor the televised broadcasts of the session.

The Minister’s reply on the question of Catalan self-determination delivered by Minister of State Helen McEntee TD followed a predictable pattern – predictable because it is so often trotted out: the Irish and Spanish Governments have a long history of good relations and friendly links, lots of Irish people go there on holidays, lots of people from there come to Ireland every year, Spain is a democracy, its constitution must be abided by, it would be wrong to interfere in its internal affairs. Inclusions to that in litany in recent times are that the question of Catalonia is emotive throughout the Spanish State and that Catalan society is divided over it, that the rule of law must be upheld and that violence has no place in politics.

The Fianna Fáil representative, Seán Haughey TD, echoed that line, adding also that the Spanish Constitution of 1978 is unitary and does not allow any part to become independent. He also quoted some survey results that he claimed indicated that support for independence was now in a minority among Catalans.

The Labour Party representative, Jan O’Sullivan TD, went further and specifically supported the present Government of her “sister party in Spain”, the PSOE and suggested that the “inflexible” previous government of Rajoy (of the PP) had helped to bring the current situation about and that Sanchez, the Prime Minister, would help calm the whole situation down. The only concessions she made were to suggest that the lengthy jail sentences were perhaps not the best way to deal with the issue and to include the police by mention in her call for “end to violence by all sides”. However, she went further than others in the Establishment parties with a specific condemnation of the jailed activists when she said that “it is not acceptable for politicians to lead citizens into conflict”.

Early arrivals for the Minister’s Question time
line up in Kildare St. below a photo of the First Dáil 1919.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

THE OPPOSITION

“Reactionary Spanish nationalism”

          The first TD to speak in reply to the Establishment politicians was Eoin Ó Broin, a comparatively recent Sinn Féin Deputy (2016) for Dublin Mid-West. Ó Broin was in Catalonia as one of the international observers of the Catalan Referendum on Independence on 1st October, which was attacked by Spanish police with around 1,000 Catalans injured.1

Speaking about his experiences there, Ó Broin related his meeting with 83-year-old Antonio, bruised and with his fractured arm in a sling, beaten while trying to vote earlier that day, queuing again at a polling station in Barceloneta. The SF TD spoke about what he had seen there and the “increasingly reactionary Spanish nationalism”, then went on to list the elected politicians and their jail sentences. Denying it was an internal matter for Spain, Ó Broin said it was about human rights and required international independent mediation. The Dáil would be implicitly in collusion with the Spanish Government if it left the matter to internal resolution only.

“The working class are the incorruptible heirs …”

          Paul Murphy TD, a socialist activist2 who has recently left the Socialist Party of Ireland to form a platform called Rise, shared speaking time with Eoin Ó Broin. Calling for a “reality check” he said that jailing politicians and activists for organising a peaceful ballot could hardly be the work of a normal democracy. Responding to the Labour Party spokesperson with regard to the Spanish PSOE Prime Minister, he said that “Sanchez is in Government” and that he was “sending thousands of troops and police” to suppress the Catalan independence movement and mounting “a publicity campaign” to blame the convicted leaders.

The Spanish Government would one day come to be haunted, Murphy said, by the words of James Connolly in 19143 when he said:

“If you strike at, imprison or kill us, out of our graves or prisons we will still evoke a spirit that will thwart you, and perhaps, create a force that will rise up and destroy you. We defy you! Do your worst.”

Murphy said that the Catalan popular movement was impressive with their demonstrations, marches and the recent general strike. Against that, the Spanish police and army were carrying out “a campaign of terror” injuring hundreds and anyone who didn’t believe it only had to go on line and see the videos. “Francoism is baring its ugly head”, Murphy said and pointed out that the Spanish legal systems is riddled with a contempt for democracy, echoed by those at the top in the European Union.

The recent Catalan General Strike, according to Murphy, “showed the way forward” and he quoted again from Connolly, that “the working class are the incorruptible heirs of Irish freedom”. The Spanish State had a long history of suppression of national self-determination, including those of the Basques, Murphy said and the way forward would be for a voluntary socialist federation.

Catalan independence supporters gathering in Kildare St. waiting to attend the Foreign Affairs Minister’s Question time.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

“The judicialisation of politics”

          Next to speak was Thomas Pringle, Independent TD for Donegal since 2011, with a socialist Irish Republican background, a member of Sinn Féin for few years but who left the party in 2004. He opened his contribution by referring to “the judicialisation of politics” in the Spanish state and, in reference to the scale of the Spanish repression, mentioned the 700 Catalan town mayors who await judicial process due to their support for the Catalan Referendum in 2017.

Pringle said the Spanish Constitution purported to guarantee the rights of different people within the state, which would be a joke if the reality were not so grim. “The EU continues to ignore” what is going on in its member Spanish State, “as it did in the Six Counties,” he said.

“Catalonia in 2019 is Ireland  a century ago”

          “Self-determination is a human right,” said the next to speak: Peadar Tóibín, TD for Meath West since 2011, who left Sinn Féin in 2018 and went on to form Aontú in January 2019. Tóibín reminded all that the First Dáil had sent out a call to the world for recognition of Irish independence in 1919 and that most states had not done so then4.

“Catalonia in 2019 is Ireland a hundred years ago”, Tóibín said and went on to say that if the Irish Government remained silent on repression by the Spanish State then it shared culpability for it.

“ … a short memory in this House”

          “We sometimes have a short memory in this House” said Mattie McGrath when it was his turn to speak, a TD since 2007 who has been an Independent since he left the Fianna Fáil party in 2011. McGrath referred to the recent long war in the north-east of Ireland and said that conflict resolution process was the only way to resolve the issue.

McGrath referred to Clare Daly (elected MEP this year after being a socialist TD for some years) and her statements on the issue. “Self-determination is a fundamental human right”, McGrath said, and went on to speak about “the right of freedom of assembly”, which was under attack by the Spanish State.

“Ireland is a small island nation”, Mc Grath said, “very sympathetic to the rights of people” (apparently contrasting this to the attitude of the Establishment in the Dáil).

In the time allowed by procedure for final response from the Minister, her representative reiterated the position she had outlined earlier and, though she conceded that most of the Catalan demonstrations had been peaceful, said that some recent “scenes of violence” had been “of concern”.

Section of Catalonia supporters in Kildare St. waiting to attend the Foreign Affairs Minister’s Question time. Behind them, enlarged photo of the First Dáil, 1919.
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

COMMENT

Fianna Fáil‘s origins are in the split with Sinn Féin led by De Valera in 1926 over the question of taking seats in the “partitionist” Irish parliament, the Dáil, and rapidly became the preferred party of the native Irish capitalist class, having been in government since more than any other Irish party.

The origins of Fine Gael, currently in minority Government at the tolerance of Fianna Fáil, has its origin in the setting up of the Irish State after the War of Independence and represents the victors of the Civil War against the Republicans. It was composed of a coalition of a right-wing Irish Republican party (followers of Michael Collins, Griffiths etc), a small right-wing farmer’s party and the fascist Blueshirts (a name by which FG are still often called by their enemies).

Hard to believe today, the Irish Labour Party was founded by, among others, James Connolly and is the oldest of the three parties. A progressive party in the early days, it was not a participant in the Civil War, during which its representatives criticised the Free State Government about its abuse of civil rights, repression, large-scale arrests, internment without trial, torture and murder. Over the years it lost more and more of its socialist credentials and has been in coalition government with the right-wing Fine Gael on two separate occasions. The main trade unions in Ireland retain connections to the Labour Party, with the possible exception of the rapidly-growing British-based UNITE.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The supposed inviolability of the Spanish Constitution of 1798 is one of the questions at the heart of the matter. The boast of the Spanish Government and its supporters abroad is that the majority of the people within the Spanish State voted for it. Well, so they did, except in the Basque Country – but what of it? If in a wedding, one of the partners says “I do”, does that mean that person is forever forbidden from leaving? Do we not have the right to divorce acknowledged now in most states around the world and certainly in “the democracies”? If one agrees to join a club or organisation, does that mean one can never choose to leave? Well, maybe in the Mafia, or the Cosa Nostra ….

Furthermore, that monarchist Constitution was put forward to a population that had endured four decades of fascist dictatorship, with the collusion of the allegedly socialist and republican PSOE and the allegedly communist and republican Communist Party of Spain, restraining their trade union and party members in the wave of state repression and murders during the Transition to “democracy”. Isn’t there something about the invalidity of agreements made under duress?

The issue of non-interference in the internal affairs of another state is a bogus one, since all governments do that at one time and another and Irish governments and political parties are no exception. In 1936, the representatives of Fine Gael loudly supported the military-fascist uprising led by Franco against the democratically-elected Government of the Spanish State. The Irish Government of Fianna Fáil did nothing to prevent the Blueshirts going off to fight for Franco and the Bishops of the Irish Catholic Church blessed them as they sailed off. The reality is that states that agree with one another generally do not interfere in one another’s internal affairs.

The constant mantra of reference to “the rule of law” and the condemnation of “violence in politics” is not only an irrelevance but turning truth on its head. It was not illegal according to the Spanish Constitution or laws to hold a referendum on independence 5. It is also against the Spanish law to use violence against others and even the police are not legally empowered to do so except in self-defence or in defence of others. On October 1st the actions of the Spanish police had 1,000 people requiring treatment and another few hundred have been injured in recent days. The Internet is full of videos of different incidents of gratuitous Spanish police violence, often the perpetrators showing no fear of being filmed – clearly because Spanish (and more recently, Catalan) police know they have impunity. Recently, however, it seems that some Spanish police have become sensitive to being filmed during their violent acts and have begun to target photo-journalists, both with personal violence and with rubber bullets.

A total of five people have now lost an eye from the impact of the rubber bullets of the Spanish police. Apart from the fact that these are banned in Catalonia, the bullets are supposed to be fired to ricochet and not directly at people, nor are they supposed to be fired at close quarters. Clearly, the rules are not being adhered to and nobody is enforcing them, granting impunity to the Spanish police.

When the representative of the Minister for Foreign Affairs acknowledged the overall peaceful nature of Catalan independence demonstrations but expressed concern over some recent scenes of violence, what was she really saying? It was this: that the violence of the police against the peaceful demonstrators could continue but the victims using force in defence or in retaliation is a cause for concern!

End.

FOOTNOTES

1  Eoin Ó Broin, often described as on the (small) left wing of Sinn Féin (a wing badly needed by that party) has in the past had relations with the Abertzale Left in the Basque Country and wrote a book on the movement there in his time, Matxinada – Basque Nationalism and Radical Basque Youth Movements. He is also author of Sinn Féin and the Politics of Left Republicanism.

2  Paul Murphy has been, while a Socialist Party TD, dragged by police out of a housing protest and with others faced serious charges arising out of a protest about Irish water against a Labour Party Minister, of which he and the others were acquitted by the jury after an infamous trial. He remains in the PBP-Solidarity parliamentary coalition.

3  James Connolly (1868-1916) was at that time active in the Irish Labour Party and leader of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union, which was struggling to recover from an 8-month fight against a group of employers that had set out to crush the union (Dublin Lockout). Connolly was a revolutionary socialist, republican, journalist, historian, author and organiser and was horrified by the very idea of the First World War which began in 1914. He was shot dead by British firing squad, along with other leaders and some others of the 1916 Rising.

4  This reference seems particularly appropriate. In January 1919 the majority of MPs elected in Ireland in the UK General Elections of December 1918, carried out the “Sinn Féin” platform’s election promise not to go to Westminster and convened a parliament in Dublin. This is known as “The First Dáil” even by the Irish State, which numbers its parliaments from then onwards. The First Dáil declared independence and called on the states of the world to recognise Irish independence (see References) but only the young USSR did so. Ireland had no legal right under British law to break away from the UK unless it were agreed by majority in Westminster (where the Irish MPs would always be outnumbered by the British). The First Dáil was banned by the British in September of that year and its members were arrested if they could be found.

5  Though possibly the declaration of Republic was – but that was suspended in less than five minutes.

REFERENCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

Clip of Eoin Ó Broin TD reply: https://www.facebook.com/EoinOBroinTD/videos/1138199326378630/

Clip of Paul Murphy TD reply: https://www.facebook.com/paulmurphytd/videos/424540844872189/?t=11

Clip of Thomas Pringle TD reply: https://www.facebook.com/ThomasPringleTD/videos/416766079224197/

Clip of Peadar Tóibín TD reply: https://www.facebook.com/740004202875853/videos/738458029959798/?t=124

(currently seeking remaining TD, also footage of the whole debate)

Text of all contributions to the debate: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2019-10-22/34/

First Dáil’s Message to the Free Nations of the World: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Message_to_the_Free_Nations_of_the_World

Some organisations of Catalan solidarity in Ireland:

ANC Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/

CDR Dublin: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

“YOUR STRUGGLE IS OURS TOO!” — CATALONIA’S STRUGGLE IS WAKING SPAIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 minutes (not including video))

A Catalan solidarity demonstration of thousands in Madrid, in the big central square called Puerta Del Sol, shouted for “freedom for the political prisoners” and declared that Catalonia’s struggle was theirs too. A small crowd of Vox and smaller fascist groups tried to disrupt the rally but were repelled and the crowd turned towards them chanting: “Here are the antifascists!” (daring the fascists to come forward). Later, Spanish police charged the solidarity demonstrators and some running battles took place in the city’s streets.

There are two Spains – one of them is the Spain of an imperial and racist history, of expulsions, of plunder of colonies, of repression at home and abroad, the Inquisition, military-fascist uprising against an elected government, mass executions, rape and plunder, four decades of fascist dictatorship, followed by another four of a fake transition to democracy. That is the Spain that is in power now.

The other Spain is the one of popular resistance to exploitation of the Comuneros, the anti-feudal writing of Cervantes, the struggle against the military-fascist uprising supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, the mounting resistance to the Dictatorship that forced the ruling class to change their style of management, on the face of it ….. That Spain had largely been beaten, jailed or shot in to silence, crushed by treason and division and hopelessness. But there were always embers, embers that burst into little flames from time to time, not only in the nations of the Basque Country, where a fire burned for two decades, or in Catalonia, or Galicia …. but also in places like Asturias in the north, Andalucia in the south and in Madrid itself, in the centre.

The struggle of Catalonia for independence and against fascist police and judicial repression, is waking that other Spain and calling her to the fight. Waking her latent anti-fascists, her democrats; waking those who are unemployed, in precarious jobs, fighting to hold on to their homes or being evicted; waking its youth who want a better future.

It is the opposite of what was wanted by the Falangists, Vox, Ciudadanos, the Partido Popular, the Monarchy – all of them heirs of the fascist dictator Franco – and the PSOE, which climbed aboard with them. These have railed against the Catalan independence movement in order to distract the people from their real problems and real enemies. In Andalucia, Vox and Ciudadanos joined forces to oust the corrupt PSOE government and to progress towards a fascist regional government. In Extremadura they moved towards the same objectives but fell out among themselves.

Section of crowd in the Catalan solidarity demonstration in Madrid on Wednesday. The really large banner in the middle is the flag of the Second Spanish Republic with the yellow ribbon of freedom for the Catalan political prisoners across it. (Photo:see Source at end article)

But recently both those regions have seen courageous people take to the streets, proudly declaring solidarity with Catalunya. And Madrid on Wednesday saw another part of that awakening. A Catalan solidarity demonstration of thousands in Madrid, in the big central square called Puerta Del Sol, shouted for “freedom for the political prisoners” and declared that Catalonia’s struggle was theirs too. And chanted that “Monarchy is filth!”

The Spanish Government – and also other spokespersons of the parliamentary ambit – is calling for respect for the judgement (ie againts the Catalan activists – Trans.). The judgement is not respectable, neither in its genesis nor in its conclusions and therefore cannot be respected,” declared the conveners of the solidarity protest.

That is why this evening we are holding this assembly for freedoms, for democracy and against repression,” declared one of the speakers at the event. “And for that reason we salute and send all our internationalist solidarity to all the people who these days are coming out in various parts of Catalonia, especially to those who have suffered repression, with blows, arrests or in addition once again, a person has lost an eye through the brutal and illegal use of rubber bullets.”

A young woman spoke “on behalf of the youth of Spain to the youth of Catalunya”, saying that their struggle was waking up that of the Spanish, against unemployment, precarious employment, against fascism and the Monarchy.

She said that the democratic parties and trade unions needed to decide whether they were on their side in that struggle or on the others. The young woman read out a long list of organisations supporting the Madrid demonstration and ended with the call, in which all joined in: “Catalunya, listen: Your struggle is our struggle!”

end.

SOURCE (report on the Madrid demonstration and video):

http://www.izquierdadiario.es/El-Madrid-del-No-Pasaran-desborda-la-Puerta-del-Sol-en-solidaridad-con-Catalunya?fbclid=IwAR0i82WbXmmeU2V_IDRdLpVBBmcVConHYrSAcVuFbrW5RUAv_FNVPBGz4OQ

CATALONIA PREPARES FOR GENERAL STRIKE AGAINST REPRESSION AND FOR REFORMS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: article 5 mins; strike manifesto 5 mins.)

Catalans have been preparing for a one-day general strike since Monday’s announcement of the Spanish National Court sentences against the nine Catalan independence activists, who between them received almost 100 years in jail. Today’s will be the fourth Catalan general strike since the Spanish police attacks on Catalans in October 2017. This strike, according to its main trade union organiser, is not only against repression but also demanding social, economic, political and legal reforms and promises to have massive participation. The trade union organising it is a relatively new one, Intersindical CSC, a class union, which has been growing rapidly.

Photos of faces of the nine sentenced Catalan independence political and grass-roots activists. Between them they have been condemned to virtually 100 years of jail.
(Photo source: Internet)

TSUNAMI OF PROTESTS

          On Monday the Spanish National Court announced the sentences on seven Catalan politicians and two leaders of grassroots organisations on charges of ‘sedition’ and ‘misuse’ of public funds. The ‘sedition’ charges relate to demanding Catalan independence from the Spanish State and the financial ‘misuse’ charge to allegedly funding the Referendum from Catalan Government funds. They were also charged with ‘rebellion’ but since that had already been ruled out of order in test extradition cases for Catalans in exile, the Court had no realistic choice other than to clear them of that charge. The Spanish State is now proceeding with extradition warrants against other Catalan activists known to be in exile in Europe.

In addition, two senior members of the Catalan police force are on trial, 700 town mayors are to be investigated for their role in the Referendum, along with schoolteachers for discussing with their pupils police damage to their school buildings (used as polling stations). Recently seven alleged activists of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic were arrested on “terrorism” charges and two remain incommunicado, long after the usual five days permitted in Spanish State legislation. And others have been arrested in protests against Spanish State repression.

The self-styled “Tsunami” of protests began immediately the sentences were made public. Thousands walked, drove or rode bicycles to the El Prat Airport for Barcelona and effectively closed it down until they lifted the blockade at 10pm. Many others took to the streets of their cities to protest, particularly in front of institutions of the Spanish State, which had mobilised nearly 1,000 police in preparation against them. These were reinforced by the Catalan police, the Mossos D’Escuadra, who were seen as relatively benign during the Referendum and immediately afterwards but are now reverting to their past image — some years ago nearly a dozen of Catalan protesters lost eyes from rubber bullet impacts at close range, which led to a successful popular Catalan campaign to have them banned – but that ban does not apply to Spanish police. Already one young man lost an eye on Monday night while another appears to have lost one testicle and 150 were treated by paramedics. The toll grows and includes two youth run down by police vehicles and more arrests. These figures are certain to grow in the days ahead.

Riot police confront Catalan airport blockaders on Monday (Photo source: Internet)

Thousands are also walking along motorways to other towns in a protest procession, horns of cars, lorries and buses being sounded in solidarity, while different protests gather every night.

Section of the massive crowd of protesters that shut down Barcelona’s airport on Monday.
(Photo source: Internet)

PARALYSIS OF POLITICIANS

          This huge popular wave of resistance contrasts with the seeming paralysis of the pro-independence politicians, who are in three different political coalition parties: Junts X Cat (Together for Catalonia), Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left) and Candidatura de Unidad Popular (People’s Unity Candidacy). The three together form a narrow enough majority in the Catalan regional Parlament against the Spanish unionist delegates of the PP, Ciudadanos and the PSOE, as well as the ‘neutral’ “Communs”, a coalition around the Podemos party. Although the CUP delegates will defend any pro-independence motions etc in the Parlament, they are officially in opposition. JuntsXCat and ERC run the Government together on a slim majority but they disagreed on a number of important issues, including whether to give the minority Spanish PSOE Government qualified support without any concessions from the latter and also, about their resistance campaign being directed by ex-Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, in exile in Brussels, and the group he has collected there.

But their paralysis is more fundamental: despite the activity of some of them in popular movements before they became politicians, their focus has been on electoral strategies and campaigning, preparing legislation for the Parlament and running the Government. For a number of years now the power of the street has been growing and it is clearly in the ascendant now – and that is not where the politicians feel most comfortable. Not only that — but where else now has the Spanish State left any cards to play?

THE TRADE UNIONS

          The main trade unions in the Spanish State are the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) and the Commisiones Obreras (CCOO). After Franco’s death, their legalisation and incorporation into the system was felt essential for the smooth operation of the ‘Transition” and for that reason, the major political party of each was legalised too – the social democratic PSOE and the Communist Party of Spain – so that they could control their unions. They did and they have, despite a history of republicanism and antifascism, and in 1978 ensured votes in favour of a the new monarchical and unionist Constitution while their members and others were being clubbed and shot – or blown up — in the street.

The big SEAT factory in Catalonia has majority representation in the CCOO and UGT trade unions and neither union officially supported the previous recent general strikes. However, there was leeway for ‘allowing’ an early leaving of work to attend strike day demonstrations and UGT has already this week officially condemned the Spanish State repression. How they will react later today remains to be seen.

Intersindical CSC is a ‘class union’ (i.e does not recruit personnel from the repressive arms of the State nor from management) and is in favour of the right to self-determination. Its history is recent but it organised the previous general strikes in conjunction with grass-roots independentist organisations (like the ANC and Omnium) and will do so again. The growth of Intersindical is a a source of worry for the UGT and CCOO in Catalonia.

Catalans blocking railway lines in protest.
(Photo source: Internet)

Later today we can expect blockades of all major motorways and train lines passing through Catalonia, general closures of business, services and public transport of Catalonia’s cities and massive demonstrations in cities, not just Barcelona. What will happen at the docks, airport and the SEAT plant remains to be seen. There will almost certainly be confrontations between strike supporters and the police, both Spanish and Catalan. Whether that will escalate further cannot be forecast but is very possible.

Meanwhile, outside of Catalonia in the Spanish State, both Madrid and the Basque Country hosted massive shows of solidarity on the streets while other cities, for example Caceres in Extremadura and Granada in Andalucia (the two poorest regions of the Spanish state), have seen demonstrations on the streets in solidarity with Catalonia and against the repression of the Spanish State.

Catalan protesters on Tuesday use metal fences as protection against rubber bullets.
(Photo source: Internet)

GENERAL STRIKES — COMMENT

          General strikes, if successful in mobilisation, show the collective strength of the organised workers, ideally in conjunction with their communities (families, relatives, friends, local shops, churches, sport clubs etc).

While that is extremely important in the longer run, they are not always successful in the shorter run or, to be more precise, they often fail to achieve their stated objectives. The stated objectives of this strike cannot be achieved in the short run since they confront not only a capitalist but a neoliberal Spanish ruling class and, furthermore, one in which the majority are undefeated descendants of a fascist-military uprising, civil war and four decades of dictatorship.

The overcoming of these obstacles requires, arguably, a social and political revolution and Catalonia is not at that point yet. But it may be in time, especially if the Spanish State continues to pursue its path of repression (and it is sure to do so). One-day general strikes sometimes grow into longer and sometimes even indefinite ones. Such situations are almost pre-revolutionary situations, with workers’ committees having to organise vast forces and control, manage and defend large areas.

For a Catalonia to be successful in revolution or in secession from the Spanish State alone would require that the State faces challenges on a number of fronts, including internally, that severely restricts its ability to send sufficient repressive forces to Catalonia. Such an outcome would depend completely on mobilisations in other parts of the Spanish state, which is why Spanish State, media and fascist parties’ are practically racist in their hysterical condemnation of Catalan independentism and culture, trying to whip up anti-Catalan feeling to distract from the woeful economic, social and political mess to which most of the Spanish regions have been driven.

End.

Demonstration Barcelona, part of general strike in February, protesting the start of the trial of the independence activists.
(Photo source: Internet)

APPENDIX:

GENERAL STRIKE MANIFESTO OCTOBER 18, 2019 (English language translation)

For rights and freedoms, general strike!

A new Spanish government and a new disappointment. Whether led by the PP or the PSOE, the

social gains never reach the workers. Neoliberal austerity policies persist whoever resides in the Moncloa (Spanish Government), while authoritarian repression against the common classes and, especially, against the Catalan people become the tools to curb any struggle for better living conditions and justice for the majority. As in popular times, state “socialism” now also wraps itself in the Spanish flag and patriotism to cover the miseries of a ’78 regime which strangled the bulk of the population and which is showing more and more cracks.

During election campaign times, certain parties declare limited progressive proposals, which, if they are elected to govern, will be stored again in a drawer to be sold again to the designs of an Ibex 35 (Spanish Stock Market benchmark) that does not tolerate any kind of agreement with forces that question minimally the foundations of the Spanish monarchy: the unalterable privileges of the elites and an indissoluble and centralist state model. Therefore, despite all the changes that the PSOE promised before grasping power, they faded to pass again from opposition to status quo, in another turn of the eternal Spanish political carousel so that nothing changes.

Minimum measures such as derogations from the PP’s labor reform or of the gag law, the withdrawal of vetoes against the social laws of Parliament, the already agreed reception of refugees, the imposition of rent ceilings, the setting up of a tax on banks, the renewal of the regional financing model or the publication of the list of evaders that were covered by the Montoro tax amnesty, all of those became elusive despite previously having been defended vehemently by Pedro Sánchez.

The Catalan working classes know that rights and freedoms are not only begged through voting. We learned that a century ago, after the “Canadian strike” allowed us to achieve the greatest of the victories of that era, the 8-hour working day and retirement at age 65 (The 44-day strike 1919 originating at the principal electricity company in Barcelona, Riesgos y Fuerzas del Ebro, popularly known as La Canadenca because its major shareholder was the Canadian Commercial Bank of Toronto). But not only then – history has stubbornly shown that social advances have only been achieved through struggle. Peaceful, massive and nonviolent, with the general strike as one of the clearest tools of the workers.

And on October 18 we have a new date, a new call for a general strike that should be massive to make it clear that we will not remain unresponsive to the continuing attacks upon us. The disappointment of Sánchez’s brief mandate at the head of the Government, unable to repeal the most damaging measures of Mariano Rajoy’s period, should receive a blunt response in the street, the popular masses need to empower themselves and to declare that they will not allow themselves to be stepped on again, despite the growing criminalization of protest and growing repression against anyone who dares to raise their voice.

Intersindical CSC is clear that the Catalan Republic is an essential tool to overthrow the regime of ’78 and to move towards a horizon of well-being, equality and social justice but even with this horizon always present, the struggle for rights and freedoms of the popular classes cannot cease before any institution. We will remain on our feet, once again on this October 18, to demand all rights and freedoms:

– For a minimum Catalan salary and pensions of at least 1,200 euros to be increased depending on the Catalan Consumer Price Index.

– For the repeal of the labor reforms of 2010 and 2012 and the recovery of all lost labor rights.

– For a Labor Inspection with adequate resources to deal effectively with rights violations.

– For the end of labor inequalities and the wage gap suffered by women, starting with the recovery of the annulled articles of the equality law and which referred to the world of work.

– For a Social Rescue Plan that guarantees free and universal public services, food and housing for the entire population, the comprehensive application of a guaranteed income for the citizenship and a plan for the internalising of public services which are now outsourced.

– For the application of a climate emergency agreement that reduces to zero as quickly as possible the net emissions of greenhouse gases, starting with the reinstatement of the law against climate change which was partially annulled by the Constitutional Court.

– For the approval of the scheduling of payment, unanimously agreed by Parliament, and the setting of a maximum rent level.

– For the reception of refugees, the closure of the Refugee Secure Centres and the repeal of the immigration law, to make Catalonia a truly host country and without second-class citizenship.

– For the recovery of all social laws and taxes approved by Parliament and nullified or suspended by the Spanish courts.

– For the repeal of the gag law

Intersindical-CSC http://www.intersindical-csc.cat G59792226

DUBLIN PROTESTS SPANISH SENTENCES ON CATALANS

DUBLIN PROTEST AT UNJUST AND SAVAGE SENTENCES ON CATALAN INDEPENDENCE LEADERS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time 5 mins)

Protests erupted on Monday across the world at the unjust and savage sentences by Spanish judges on the Catalan independence activists, elected politicians and grass roots leaders. Dublin was no exception and around two hundred people gathered in solidarity protest outside the Dáil (Irish Parliament). Then they marched from there to the General Post Office building in O’Connell Street, Dublin city centre’s main street, outside of which they held a short rally.

          In October 2017, after a build-up of some years, the Catalan regional Government, by majority approved the holding of a Referendum on an independent Catalan Republic. The Spanish State through its ‘justice’ court declared the referendum illegal and sent police into Catalonia to seize election literature, ballot papers and ballot boxes. In the latter case the police were unsuccessful and on October 1st the Referendum went ahead and, despite savage police attacks on voters and people protesting the invasion (a thousand injured — one losing an eye — and one dead), a majority of voters voted Yes. Subsequently pro-independence politicians and grass-roots leaders were arrested by the Spanish State while others went into exile. Those arrested were charged with organising a Rebellion, Sedition and Misuse of Public Funds (allegedly to fund the Referendum).

On Monday, while they were found not guilty of Rebellion, the nine received the following sentences (and bans from public office of many years):

Junqueras 13 years

Romeva, Turul and Bassa 12 years

Forcadel 11.5 years

Forn and Rul 10.5 years

Cuixart, Sanchez 9 years

Three others were fined and banned from public office for a period.

Part of the long banner outside Leinster House.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
One end of the long banner outside Leinster House.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

DUBLIN PROTEST

          Around 200 protesters gathered outside Leinster House today after hearing of the sentences. They were mostly Catalans and had been asked by ANC (National Assembly of Catalonia) en Irlanda and CDR (Committee for the Defence of the Republic) Dublin to stand by for the verdict and, if anything less than Not Guilty, to assemble there at 6pm. The protest was supported by the With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin committee. People were still arriving from work at 6.30 pm and later, while some had gone to collect their children to bring them there too.

Section of crowd to left of the Leinster House gates.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Though the vast majority were Catalans, not all were: there was a very light sprinkling of Irish, a few Basques and some people from other parts of the Spanish State. A Sinn Féin Councillor gave an interview in solidarity, as did an activist of WCLC and Manus O’Riordan, son of Brigadista Michael O’Riordan, who brandished a flag in Spanish Republican colours bearing the legend “Connolly Column”. A member of PBP was also noted there.

The flags displayed were the Estelada and the Vermelha, both standing for different trends in the Catalan movement for independence. One very long banner called for Freedom for Political Prisoners and Exiles while two shorter ones had bilingual English and Irish legends calling for freedom for the Catalan Republic and for political prisoners. A large home-made banner also called for freedom for political prisoners.

Another section of crowd to left of Leinster House gates.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

While outside Leinster House the crowd took turns chanting slogans in Catalan that translated into such as The Streets Will Always Be Ours!, Freedom for Political Prisoners! and Long Live Catalunya! to which the response was Free!

After some time the crowd was addressed in Catalan by the Coordinator of the ANC in Ireland.  He said that they were there to denounce the injustice of the Spanish State and to let the world know that the Catalan representatives cannot be imprisoned purely for pursuing the right of self-determination.

“We will continue until we cut the chains that the Spanish State puts on us,” he said in Catalan and vowed to continue to raise their voices until the Spanish State recognises that Catalonia is a sovereign country.

After the applause followed by cries of Visca Catalunya!  Lliure! died down, the crowd the sang the Catalan national anthem, Els Segadors (The Reapers), with its roots in a popular agrarian rebellion in the 17th Century.

It seemed then that an impromptu decision was taken to march.

THE PROTESTERS TAKE TO THE STREETS

          Chanting slogans in Catalan and in English, with banners in front, the crowd marched along Molesworth and into Dawson Street, then into Grafton Street and proceeded to the General Post Office building, which is located in the middle of O’Connell Street, main street of the city centre. Although at some junctions they stopped traffic and in some streets no traffic could pass them, no hostility was displayed to them. One bus driver beeped her horn in solidarity, as did some cars. In some places people stopped to applaud the marchers.

The crowd takes to the streets in marching order (Leinster House in far background).
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

When they reached the GPO, the marchers drew up in two lines on the central pedestrian reservation, facing the different streams of traffic with placards, many containing portraits of the sentenced activists. After a while they gathered for a short rally, where they were addressed by two representatives of the ANC, a man and a woman, to remind them of the solidarity walk to the Sugarloaf on Sunday (see FB event pages for details).

Another section of crowd marching from Leinster House.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

After that, they were addressed by an Irish representative of With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin, who told them that they were gathered opposite the headquarters of the Easter Rising in 1916.

The Irish had been ruled by a more powerful neighbour, he told the rally, that under its constitution, would not allow them independence. The Irish had had to fight for it and eventually was partly successful. The Catalans were also being denied their right to self-determination by a more powerful neighbour under its constitution and were resisting.

Section of crowd displaying placards
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Section of crowd to left of the Leinster House gates with estelada and placards. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

But were the nine jailed because they had hurt someone? he asked. Or lifted a weapon against anyone? Or even damaged buildings or property? To each question, the crowd shouted “NO!” They had been sentenced for upholding the Catalan right to self-determination, the speaker said, then applauded the Catalans for their continuing resistance and for their response here and in Catalonia to repression.

The crowd broke up after that, people talking about other solidarity actions, such as the paralysing tonight of Barcelona airport by thousands of protesters and the savage attacks on them there by police. Also that there are seven alleged CDR activists in jail awaiting trial in Madrid, 700 Catalan Town Mayors have been marked for investigation, as have also a number of school teachers.

BUT

          Borrell, the Spanish Minister for Europe commented after the sentences that now would be a time to return to normality, while the Spanish Prime Minister, PSOE (social democrat) part leader Sanchez, praised Spanish ‘democracy’.

End.

FB pages of organisations for more information

ANC en Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/

CDR Dublin: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

SF Cnclr Mac Donncha being interviewe outside Leinster House and behind him, displaying the Spanish Republic colours with the legend The Connolly Column, Manus, son of Brigadista Michael O’Riordan.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Carles Puigdemont, currently in exile in Brusssels, for whom the Spanish State have now issued an extradition warrant (also for other exiles).
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

BASQUE DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY IN EXCHANGE FOR LIGHTER SENTENCES – Spanish State avoids fighting on two fronts

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 10 minutes)

The idea of having to fight a war of repression simultaneously against two or more nations within the borders of its state must give the Spanish ruling class nightmares – it was only successful in doing so in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War with the assistance of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

So Spain’s rulers, blood-thirsty though they are, must have been happy to let off lightly the Basque pro-independence activists with a maximum of less than four years prison sentence. Not of course that three years in Spanish jail is a holiday, especially for political prisoners, who tend to get dispersed throughout the Spanish territory, hundreds or even a thousand kilometres from their friends and families – but it is way below the norm for activists accused of “assisting terrorism” in the Spanish state.

Most activities of the Basque pro-independence activists have been viewed by the Spanish State as “terrorism”, “assisting terrorism” or “exalting terrorism” at one time or another: producing a daily newspaper in the Basque language; running pro-independence radio stations or social media pages; managing pro-independence social centres; holding demonstrations and pickets; managing a prisoners’ solidarity campaign; organising an internationalist solidarity network1; commemorating martyrs; publicly welcoming political prisoners home after completion of their sentences; running pro-independence bars ….. etc, etc.

Huge demonstration in Bilbao on 14 September in solidarity with the 47 accused activists. Two days later, the accused pleaded guilty for lighter sentences.
(Photo source: Ahotsa) 

 

The Basque pro-independence activists before the Spanish National Court on 16th September had been accused in November 2013 of “assisting a terrorist organisation” but what they had done in actuality was to try to organise effective solidarity and legal representation for the Basque political prisoners who are part of the ‘official’ list2. Some of those charged are lawyers. All 47 of them in court on 16th September pleaded guilty and the judges handed down the sentences. It was clear that a deal had been agreed with the Public Prosecutor and Judge before they stepped into the Court. But not only with them – the virulent AVT (“Relatives of Victims of Terrorism”), most of them relatives of Spanish military or police, who were a party to the prosecution of the Basques3, stayed silent but afterwards stated they were happy with the outcome.

Reporting on the judgement, GARA, bilingual daily newspaper of the line of the official pro-independence movement’s4 leadership, seemed to see the settlement, despite the jail time, as some kind of victory and proclaimed that the proceedings had taken “not even five minutes” (perhaps the reporter meant per person, as the total was elsewhere reported as taking around 35 minutes).

Faces and names of the accused in solidarity publicity issued days before the court case (Image sourced: Internet).

“SUPPORTERS WERE TRICKED …. SHAMEFUL”

          That is not how all Basque pro-independence activists see it, however. Discussing the case with one long-time activist she commented that “It was shameful. It was hard. I knew them, some of them especially. I had campaigned with them in the past and we had campaigned for them (after their arrest). To see them meekly plead guilty ….!” She might be expected to be critical as she is what some call a ‘dissident’, having parted company with the organisation with which she grew up and is now a member of Amnistia Ta Askatasuna (ATA — Amnesty and Freedom). That organisation that same day issued a statement in Basque and Spanish condemning the deal, stating that pleading guilty actually criminalised all the work done in solidarity with and to assist the prisoners on all fronts.

That the Basque ‘Autonomous’ Government moved within weeks to ban as criminal acts any public welcoming home of Basque political prisoners seems to bear out their analysis.  And the Spanish State has announced that no electoral publicity in the forthcoming elections may use the words “political prisoners” or “exiles”.

Another life-time activist with whom I spoke, this one still loyal to the leadership, agreed that the deal and the act of pleading ‘guilty’ was “shameful”. She is not likely to be the only one; many remain within the organisation but are critical of the leadership’s twists and turns for some years now. Those who are critical but remain inside the organisation and are still active do so because they don’t like the alternative – either the fact of leaving the ‘family’ or of going to the ‘dissident’ group. But apathy grows among others – they may remain notionally within the organisation but attend less events than they used to.

A veteran and leading theoretician of the movement, Iñaki Gil de San Vicentes, in an interview with on-line newspaper Noticias Canarias, commented that the 50,000 who had demonstrated in solidarity with the accused a few days before the court case had been tricked, as the deal had been done “behind their backs”. This was “not permissable”, according to the veteran activist, who was not reported in GARA and might not be published there again.

GARA and the leadership of the Basque pro-independence movement may see the court deal as a good one or even part of the “Basque peace process” for which they have long been waiting (and some even claiming it was already in existence). Whatever the criticisms of the “Irish peace process” (sic) people may have – and there have been many – once the weapons had been decommissioned and they signed up to the Good Friday Agreement, at least most of the Republican prisoners left the jails, albeit under licence. The Basque armed resistance group ETA called a truce in 2012, decommissioned its weapons and finally disbanded itself in 2014, for which it seems to have won not the slightest of concessions – not for the prisoners nor for Basque pro-independence society. In 2017 a brawl in the town of Altsasu (Nafarroa/ Navarra) in a late-night bar between some Basque youth and off-duty Spanish police resulted in jail sentences for the accused youth and, even though the judges had rejected the Public Prosecutor’s bid to have the youth tried under anti-terror legislation, they were condemned to terms of between two and 13 years (reduced this week on appeal to between 18 months and nine years).

The five leading activists of the Basque internationalist organisation Askapena, also accused of “assisting terrorism”, pleaded Not Guilty and defended their actions. They walked free of charges in 2016.

NEUTRALISING ONE FRONT BEFORE MOVING ON TO ANOTHER

          The Altsasu case generated outrage throughout the Basque Country but also came to the notice of the Catalan public when they were dealing with the effects of Spanish repression on their own independence movement during and after the October 2017 referendum there. Catalan people with a banner proclaiming their solidarity with the Altsasu youth marched in Basque demonstrations. And Basques have marched in Catalan pro-independence protests against Spanish State repression too. Though the numbers displaying solidarity in each case were comparatively small, the potential was there for a coming together of both movements and no doubt the Spanish ruling class, though not noted for its political sensitivity, became aware of the danger.

As commented earlier, the Spanish ruling class were no doubt wishing to avoid having to renew a war of repression against the Basques at the same time as their current war against the Catalan independence movement. Even worse things could happen to them while engaged in such a two-front war – such as elements in other nations, like Asturias and Galicia seizing the opportunity to mobilise. Or some outbreak of class resistance across the State’s territory.

In the recent Basque case, the Spanish State, while punishing the Basque activists, did so in a comparatively light manner and avoided that case being shouted in both Basque and Catalan nations as yet another example of Spanish State injustice and repression. But it required the cooperation of the accused activists – and no doubt the agreement of the official leadership of the Basque pro-independence movement, Arnaldo Otegi and company.

As I was writing these observations, the Spanish State arrested nine Catalan activists under “anti-terrorist” (sic) legislation and held them incommunicado in Madrid5. These activists allegedly from the CDRs (Comites de Defensa de la Republica, set up after the momentary declaration of the Catalan Republic by then President Puigdemont after the 2017 October referendum) are in addition to those 10 grass roots activists and elected politicians currently awaiting verdicts on charges of “rebellion, sedition” and “misuse of public funds”. In addition also to the various Catalan elected politicians in European exile and the 700 or so town mayors under investigation. The more recent Catalan arrested are not charged with anything they have done but with their alleged intentions.

Now that Basque problem has been tidied away ….

end.

FOOTNOTES:

1 Leading activists of Askapena, which coordinated the activities of solidarity committees in a number of European countries (including Ireland) and Latin America, were accused as part of the sweep against Basque political prisoner solidarity campaigners. They did not plead guilty, fought their defence and were, eventually, found not guilty.

2 Which some have left, including six who did so publicly and are now part of a ‘dissident’ network.

3 The Spanish legal system permits civil society groups to take out a prosecution or to join the State prosecutions with their separate prosecutors, a provision almost exclusively availed of by right-wing groups such as the AVT. When the family of Inigo Cabacas took a case under this provision against the Basque police who had killed their son with a rubber bullet, the Basque Government’s Prosecutor had cooperated with the defence counsel of the accused.

4 The ‘official’ Basque pro-independence movement is comprised of the political party EH Bildu (formerly Batasuna, Herri Batasuna etc), the official political prisoners’ collective, the official organisation of relatives and friends of prisoners, the Gara newspaper, LAB trade union and smaller feminist and ecological organisations. It is also represented in some political coalitions and a number of broad fronts.

5  Two of the nine arrested were released the following day and seven remained incommunicado. This nightmare journey to Madrid for political detainees has been well documented by many Basque political prisoners, including threats of death, torture and even rape (the latter for female prisoners), stress positions causing difficulty in breathing within the vehicle, blows etc. Spanish “anti-terrorism” (sic) legislation permits as standard up to five days without access to the detainees’ lawyer, doctor or family and despite EU Committee Against Torture criticism, the practice continues. “Confessions” tend to be extracted after two or three days, which the prisoners withdraw as soon as they are in court and out of the hands of the police, alleging water torture, forced stress positions, threats to self and family, sleep deprivation, etc. As a matter of course, the judges ignore the allegations without ordering even a cursory investigation and proceed as though the “confessions” were voluntary and factual.

APOLOGIA FOR REPRESSION BY SPANISH STATE IN DUBLIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 10 minutes)

The “Global Spain” initiative of the Spanish State to 215 Spanish embassies and its sub-title “Touch Democracy” was presented to a small audience at the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin on Monday while Catalan and Basque solidarity demonstrators picketed outside.

While some people, perhaps in the know, were directed straight to the auditorium, a number of others, not regular users of the Instituto’s services, were asked to wait in another area but when the start time had been exceeded by 20 minutes without sign of the event, they went to make enquiries again at Reception and learned where the event was being held, entering to find it had already started.

Portraits of Catalan political prisoners and exiles displayed across the street from the Instituto Cervantes on Monday.
(Photo: D.Breatnach).

PROPAGANDA VIDEO         

          Mr. Ildefonso Castro,the Spanish State’s Ambassador to Ireland was speaking and shortly launched the event with a showing of a short video which, he said, would bring out the main questions in the initiative. In this video, Lucía Mendez, journalist for the right-wing Spanish daily El Mundo seemed to be interviewing Gabriela Ybarra about the novel she had written (The Dinner Guest). But actually later in the film Mendez began a speech about how good was the Spanish democracy while her interviewee was left with little to say. The author had said earlier that though her grandfather (a Mayor of Bilbao who had fought in Franco’s Army and supported the Dictator regime, not mentioned in the video), had been killed by the Basque armed group ETA in 1973, this was not discussed in her family. She felt that the memory of “terrorism” was disappearing and that children in school were not being taught about it, which is why she wrote her book.

In fact, Spanish media constantly refers in negative terms to ETA and a 2016 case of a brawl between Basque youth and off-duty Spanish policemen in a late-night bar, in which no-one was seriously hurt and no weapons used, was being treated in the media and by the State Prosecutors as a case of terrorism! Although the judge rejected the accusation of “terrorism”, in 2018 the youth receive a range of sentences between two and 13 years jail. An important part of the silence and lack of teaching children history is in fact about the almost four decades of Franco dictatorship and the conduct of the victors in the military-fascist uprising against the democratically-elected government of the Spanish Popular Front in 1936. And of the State assassinations and torture of captured ETA fighters and arrested Basque activists. And of the continued legal battles to uncover mass graves of Franco’s victims and try to identify the remains for the relatives.

Considering that ETA ceased its armed activities in 2012 and has since dissolved itself, the relevance and intention of the film seems to be to show an embattled Spanish “democracy”, fighting against Basque independentist “terrorism” in the past as it is now embattled with the Catalan independentists (seven activists of which it has also accused of “terrorism” a couple of weeks ago).

Some demonstrators and banner by Trinity College exit across the street from Instituto Cervantes on Monday.
(Photo: D.Breatnach).

DISCUSSION BUT NO DEBATE

          There was no discussion on the content of the film and, after its end, Víctor Andresco Peralta, Director of the Instituto Cervantes, cultural body of the Spanish Embassy, took to the stage and invited five people by name to take chairs laid out around a table. Launching into a chatty monologue full of jokey self-deprecatory comments (so many that they were actually self-promotional), he eventually asked his questions of his picked panel.

Questions included what were their earliest memories of consciousness of being Spanish, what reactions they had received about Spain from people in Ireland, or in other countries (positive and negative), what they valued about Spain, what they thought about the coup attempt in 1981 (lots of jokes about that), etc.

Referring to his father’s recent stay in hospital, Peralta asked for comparison of the Spanish health service with the Irish one (apparently the former is far better, which would not be difficult) and for other comparisons.

The discussion was skillfully managed by the showmaster to bring his group to paint a picture of a wonderful pluralist Spanish State, of freedom of expression, and of a democracy which had been able to defeat the coup attempt without much difficulty but even so, some discourse arose at times to shake the equilibrium, as when one referred to a relative telling him about the horrors of the Francoist suppression as they entered Barcelona and when another referred to the perception (mistaken, of course!) of many people outside Spain that the State was undemocratic and had violent police.

One of the panel, who appears to be an employee of the Spanish State, said she was proud of the defeat of ETA by the “Spanish democracy”.  Another said she was proud of Spanish history and culture, without explaining further. She might have meant the foremost writer of Castillian-language literature, Cervantes himself, who was exiled from the Spanish kingdom because of his anti-feudal views. Or the Andalusian poet Federico Lorca, who was executed by Franco’s soldiers; or the Malagan artist in exile Picasso, who created the famous painting of the Nazi and Fascist aerial bombing of Gernika (most of the poets, writers and artists of the era were against the military-fascist coup and the four decades of dictatorship that followed). Or about the dramatist Alfonso Sastre, whose distaste for the Spanish State’s behaviour towards the Basques was such that he moved to the Basque Country.

Perhaps the woman was proud of the defeat of the learned and tolerant Moorish colony of Al Andalus and its replacement by the racist Spanish Christian Inquisition, along with the expulsion of Arabs and Jews? Or of the centuries-long suppression of the governments of the Basques, Galicians and Catalans, along with their languages? Or of the invasion, massacre, enslavement and plunder of the indigenous people of America, the Caribbean and the Philippines? Or the invasion and colonisation of the Rif in North Africa, when the French saved the Spanish colony after the Spanish army had been wiped out by lesser-armed (and often less numerous) Berber guerrillas.

Of course she might have been referring to the revolt of the Reapers in Catalonia or of the Comuneros in Castille; or of the resistance of Spanish, Catalans and Basques to the military-fascist coup and the four decades of dictatorship …. We don’t know because she did not say.

A view of some of the protesters outside the Instituto Cervantes on Monday.
(Photo: D.Breatnach).

WHAT ABOUT THE RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION?

          The event had been advertised as a debate but no debate took place. Nor was there a question-and-answer session, nor engagement with the audience except to send them witty asides from Peralta and to thank them at the end.

This was too much for at least one of the small audience, an Irishman who interrupted the concluding remarks of the Director by saying, in Castillian (Spanish) that it was a pity that the question of self-determination had not been discussed. The event was taking place in Ireland, he commented, where another state had denied the people the right to self-determination on grounds of that state’s constitution also. Denied permission to exercise their right, the Irish people had to fight for it and eventually won part-independence.

Peralta commented that the Spanish people were cognizant of Irish history and appreciated it.

The Irishman replied that in the Spanish state things were the complete opposite.

Peralta commented that unfortunately there was no time left for that debate, thanked participants and audience and brought the event to a close.

Sticker on pole near the Instituto Cervantes on Monday.
(Photo: D.Breatnach).

WHAT WAS THE POINT?

          Outside the meeting up to dozen protesters had taken up positions on both sides of the street. On the Trinity College side a couple of protesters stood beside portraits of the Catalan grass-roots activists and politicians who are in jail awaiting sentence or in exile. On the Instituto side, a larger group of protesters held two banners and a Basque Antifa flag.

One of the Catalan supporters, an Irishwoman, addressed several of the panel participants as they exited. It emerged that they had not understood the nature of the event and that they thought it had to do with October 12th, which is a Spanish State celebration of its former empire and spreading of the Castillian language1 (and for which one of the panel, who seems to work for the Instituto, is organising an event in Rathmines). They said they had not seen the “Global Spain” publicity (81 pages of propaganda justifying the actions of the Spanish State and attacking the principle of Catalan self-determination and the pro-independence movement!).

There was in truth not much point in attending the event unless one wanted receive a smooth-talking patter about an imaginary State occupying most of the Iberian Peninsula. For the protesters, it was important to give a response to the paint-over job. For the producers of the show, the importance was to try to distract an Irish audience from the reality of what is an unreconstructed fascist state with a thin veneer of democracy that is constantly peeling away.

Poster seen on Dublin street near Instituto Cervantes on Monday.
(Photo: D.Breatnach).

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1 El Dia de la Hispanidad was formerly called “El Dia de la Raza Española” (Day of the Spanish Race). It is also the Spanish Armed Forces Day, obviously not inappropriately in context!

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Article by El Nacional, independent and pro-independence Catalan newspaper: https://www.elnacional.cat/en/news/global-spain-advertising-campaign-democracy_426827_102.html

The Instituto Cervantes, Dublin: https://dublin.cervantes.es/en/about_us_spanish.htm

CDR Dublin: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

ANC Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/
With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

Catalan resistance day celebrated in Dublin

(Reading time: less than 10 minutes)

Clive Sulish

The Diada, national day of Catalan identity and of resistance was celebrated in Dublin’s Merrion Square on Saturday 7th September with traditional food, drink, games and music. Catalan independentist flags and banners were also on display as were portrait placards of Catalan political prisoners of the Spanish State.

Lineup People Banners & Placards Diada Merrion Square 7 Sept 2019
Some of the attendance at the Dublin Diada lined up with banners etc (photo: D.Breatnach)

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THE DIADA

          The Diada Nacional de Catalunya (Diada for short) is the National Day of Catalonia, a one-day event celebrated annually on the 11th of September. It commemorates the fall of Barcelona during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714, which resulted in Catalonia’s institutions and legal system being abolished and coming under the domination of the Spanish crown.

The Army of Catalonia backed the Habsburg claim to the Spanish throne, believing thereby that Cataloni’s national autonomy would be respected. However, the army of the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain was successful and Barcelona fell after a siege of 14 moths.

It Diada first began to be celebrated in 1888 and gained in popularity over succeeding year and in 1923 was a mass event with events all over Catalonia. However clashes with the Spanish police resulted in 12 protesters and five police being wounded and a number of arrests. Primo Rivera’s dictatorship banned it but during the 2nd Spanish Republic (1931-1939) the Catalan Generalitat (Government) made it an institutional festival. With the fall of Catalonia to the military-fascist forces of Franco and others, it was banned and celebrated only in people’s homes.

The first renewed public celebration of the festival was in 1976, following the death of Franco the preceding year and in 1977 was the occasion for a huge demonstration demanding independence for Catalonia and in 1980 was made official by the Generalitat.

With the renewed growing push for Catalan independence, the day has been the occasion for huge demonstrations demanding self-determination. For some years now the ANC (National Assembly of Catalonia), which claims to be the largest grass-roots organisation not only in Catalonia but in the world, has been the main organiser of the Diada and has used it as part of its mobilisation for indpendence (which presumably is the reason the Spanish State has put its former President, Jordi Sanchez, on trial on charges of sedition and rebellion and in detention since 2017, the verdict expected this month or next.

Although the Diada commemorates a crushing defeat for Catalan self-determination, its celebration has become an occasion of re-affirmation of that desire, a public sign of resistance. Massive demonstrations once again have been held and, as in Dublin, expatriate and Catalan diaspora communities around much of the world have celebrated it publicly this year, particularly in Europe but also in Latin America and in the USA.

Diada 2019 aerial views: https://youtu.be/qewQSS3KWyw

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“So now you skip while I turn the rope.” (Photo: D.Breatnach)
child-bemused-skipping.jpg
“Ok — but what is ‘skip’?” (Photo: D.Breatnach)
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A good time to plan. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

THE DUBLIN EVENT

          Merrion Square, a public park in the Dublin city centre, was the venue for the Diada event organised by Catalans in the Irish branch of the ANC and by Dublin CDR (Comite de Defensa de la Republica) on a the 7th, which was a Saturday.

oznor
Photo: D.Breatnach

The area was decked out with estelladas (Catalan independence flags) and placards bearing portraits of the Catalan political prisoners (see following section on the Situation in Catalonia). Parents attended with their children and games were played with them as well as a traditional Catalan game being available for adults and a few engaged in a version of the poc fada Irish activity with camáin (hurley sticks).

flag-placards-jumble.jpg

Traditional food and drink was provided also.  Commenting on the event, a spokesperson for the organisers said:
“We had a festive and family-oriented Diada (National Catalan Day) in Dublin. We also publicised a call for freedom for the political prisoners and the right of self-determination for Catalonia.”

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Not a Catalan sport but when in Ireland …. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
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(Photo: D.Breatnach)

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SUMMARY OF SITUATION IN CATALONIA

          The Catalan Parliament has twice passed a number of legal measures which have been judged “unconstitutional” by the Spanish Court and therefore cancelled. These included:

  • Increased taxes on large companies

  • a “sugar tax” on sweet soft drinks

  • ban on bullfighting

  • access to public medical care for migrants

  • ban on evictions and high rents

The growing push for Catalan self-determination found expression in a number of growing public events and in October 2017 a referendum was held. The Spanish State banned the referendum and its police raided the Government offices and other places for ballot boxes. On the day of the Referendum, October 1st, Spanish police attacked voters and referendum supporters with a reported nearly one thousand seeking medical attention. They also fired rubber bullets, which are banned in Catalonia, at peaceful demonstrators.

The Catalan right-wing anti-independence parties had called for a boycott of the referendum and many ballots were confiscated by the Spanish police. The majority of those available gave a high majority for an independent Catalonian republic (there were no other options other than “No”).

The then President Puigdemont, backed by the pro-independence majority in the Catalan Parliament, acting on their mandate, in 2017 declared an independent Catalan Republic but immediately suspended it, urged by EU advisers to seek talks with Madrid (which he reflects now was a mistake).

Subsequently the Spanish State prorogued the Catalan Parliament until new elections were held and also charged a number of politicians and social activists with sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds (allegedly to fund the Referendum). Some, like Puigdemont, went into exile and others to jail without bail; their trial is now over and the verdict is expected later this month or next. In addition, numbers of secondary school teachers have been called to testify because of their responses to the questions of pupils about the Referendum and the destruction to their schools by police and around 700 town mayors are also called to testify for allegedly facilitating the Referendum.

The elections forced by the Spanish State returned a broad political backing for Catalan independence from right to left which finds expression in a number of coalition parties (Junts per Catalonia, Esquerra Republican and Candidatura d’Unidad Popular), opposed by a substantial but minority hard-right unionist opposition coalition too (mostly Ciudadanos). The coalition based on the Catalan version of Podemos also has seats but its actual position on independence is not easy to define.

Since then, the Spanish State elections and the European elections have also returned pro-independence candidates but EU senior officials blocked Catalan MEPs who are in exile from taking their seats and another is in Spanish jail, awaiting a verdict.

End.

Freedom for all Catalan political prisoners & exiles long banner
Message in Merrion Square (Photo: ANC Irlanda)

REFERENCES:

Diada: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day_of_Catalonia

ANC: https://assemblea.cat/?lang=en

USEFUL CONTACTS:

ANC Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya

CDR Dublin:  https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/
Casal Catalan d’Irlanda https://www.facebook.com/casalcatalairlanda/

SPANISH SECRET SERVICE AND TERROR CELL: INCOMPETENCE – OR SOMETHING ELSE?

Diarmuid Breatnach

Recently the left-wing Spanish on-line newspaper, Publico, got a scoop on other media when it broke the story of the Spanish secret service and the terrorist1 cell in Catalonia, the one that carried out the killing spree in La Rambla in Barcelona in October 2017. Publico revealed that the head of the cell had been recruited as an informant while in jail on drug smuggling charges and that the secret service had helped him become an imam, a Muslim priest, in the province of Girona. Not only that but that they had the photos and mobile phone numbers of a number of the Ramblas terrorists and had been following them up to days before the attack.

Aftermath Rambla Attack
Aftermath of terrorist attack in the Rambla, Barcelona in 2017. (Photo image sourced: Internet)

So why had the whole lot not been apprehended? It’s a question many people are asking, along with the Catalonian and many foreign newspapers – but, strangely, only one of the main Madrid newspapers.

THE LEADER OF THE TERRORISTS WAS WORKING FOR THE SPANISH SECRET POLICE

          Abdelbaki Es Satty came to the Spanish State in 2002 and was around 44 years of age when he died in an explosion in Catalonia. According to Wikipedia,

Es Satty was implicated in the 2006 Operation Chacal, in which five Islamists were arrested for sending jihadis to fight in Iraq. From 2003 he had shared an apartment with Islamists connected to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) and the 2003 Casablanca bombings.

In 2012, (he) completed a four-year prison sentence for drug trafficking in Castellón. While in prison, he is reported to have established a “special friendship” with Rachid Aglif, who was serving an 18-year sentence for his role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

He was convicted of drug smuggling in 2014 and was to be deported from Spain, but …… A successful asylum application in November 2014 facilitated him moving freely in the 26 EU countries of the Schengen area.

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Es Sattty, believed leader of the terror cell that carried out the attacks in Catalonia in 2017. He was an informant of the Spanish Secret Service (CNI). (Photo image sourced: Internet)

The suggestion in the Publico articles is that Es Satty was recruited by the Spanish secret service (CNI) while in jail and that they ensured that he was not deported, also that they assisted him in getting employed as an imam (a Muslim priest) at the mosque in Ripol in 2015, a post he suddenly resigned in June of 2017. Ripol is a town in the province of Girona, Catalonia.

Publico now reports that the CNI file on Es Satty has been “wiped”!

THE EVENTS

          On the evening of 16 October 2017, El Satys and another man were killed, presumably by a premature explosion while handling the material. There were over 120 gas canisters which appeared stored for a number of terrorist bombs. The explosion occurred in the town of Alcanar, the southernmost of Catalonia and almost on the border with the province of Valencia.

When other in the cell heard that El Satys had been killed and another with him while handling the explosives, it seems they decided on a ‘revenge’ spree to honour their ‘martyr’ and carried out the attacks on innocent civilians in Catalonia.

La Rambla is in Barcelona city centre, a medium-length wide street heading towards the port, with a tree-shaded pedestrian reservation down the middle, where stalls sell all kinds of ware and coffees, snacks etc. It is a favourite destination of tourists (and pickpockets).

Barcelona Rambla Packed
La Rambla, Barcelona, on a happier day.

On the late afternoon of 17 October, a member of the terrorist cell driving a van zigzagged down the Rambla, running down pedestrians and cyclists. During his escape from the scene, he hijacked a car and fatally stabbed the driver, bringing his total death-toll to 15 and injuring 131.

Later that evening, five men, apparently of the same cell, purchased knives and an axe and, at 1.00 am, drove into the Catalonian coastal town of Cambrils (not far from the popular tourist destination of Salou) and into a crowd of pedestrians, where they fatally stabbed a 63-year old woman and injured another six, before being shot by Catalan police. Four died at the scene and the fifth later of his injuries.

On 21st August, five days after the Alcanar explosion and four after the Barcelona massacre, the Rambla killer was fatally shot by the Mossos, the Catalan police, in Subirats, about 25 miles (40 Km) from Barcelona.

Initially, Catalan police believed the first violent event, the Alcanar explosion, had been caused by an accidental gas leakage but once they discovered the explosions and other events had occurred, connected them. Not only did the Spanish secret service, the CNI, fail to inform the Catalan police about the existence of this cell prior to the Alcanar explosion but it seems that at no time during the subsequent operations of the Catalan police did the CNI give them any information whatsoever.

Publico On Line Image
The on-line newspaper that broke the story. (Photo image sourced: Internet)

THE DIRTY WORLD OF STATE SECRET SERVICES

          Secret services penetrate cells and movements opposed to the status quo as a matter of course, whether they have an armed agenda or not. But when they do have such an agenda, typically they try to recruit some inside people for information, building up a wider and more detailed picture as time goes on. This takes time and meanwhile the informants’ ‘handlers’ will typically give their insider ‘asset’ money, protect him or her from prosecution, feed the informant’s fear or ego – or both.

As not-so-distant history shows with the British and US secret services (and probably all others around the world), these informants are permitted to break the law, even to kill, in order to keep up their cover. Yes and even to kill another, less-valued or more exposed informant, as the British had at least one informant do inside the Provisional IRA.

But it goes even further and informants or deep-cover agents also often act as agents provocateurs. They actually incite people around them to carry out armed actions. This can vary from encouraging them to attack where, unknown to the victims, the state forces are ready and waiting to kill them, as is believed happened at Loughgall, in occupied Co. Armagh in 1987. The informant can also be used to incite a group of political activists to carry out armed actions to facilitate the breaking up of the organisation2. Or to set off bombs that will, intentionally or not, kill uninvolved civilians, thereby losing insurgents popular support. Or that might set off inter-communal violence in an occupied country.

And religion-based organisations have long been recognised by secret services as useful opposition to leftist national liberation movements. Or against the USSR, for example, when the latter were invited into Afghanistan by the ruling circles. They may also be used to incite inter-communal violence in a country occupied by a foreign power or to help overthrow a ruling group which a foreign power wishes to replace with another more amenable to the power concerned — or in a country it wishes to invade.

The role of the Phalangist militias, Christian, in Lebanon is well-known, in their war against the growing power of the Muslim community. The CIA and Israel3 armed the Phalangists and encouraged them in their attacks Lebanese Muslims and on Palestinian refugee camps, not only against fighters but also massacres of the elderly, women and children. The CIA funded, supplied and even often trained Islamic fundamentalist jihadists4 and warlord bands in Afghanistan, Al Qhaeda among them, as they did also in Iraq. They did it in Syria too but ended up having to fight one such jihadist group, ISIS, which threatened to take the whole cake and the commanders of which were unpredictable in terms of future policy. But many of the war bands in the NATO-led Alliance fighting Assad and ISIS were themselves Jihadists too.

SUSPICIONS AND SILENCE

          There are many people within the Spanish state territory that distrust the State and Catalans, due in particular to their recent experiences, would figure prominently among them. When Publico broke the story about the CNI and their close connection to the terrorist cell, it was inevitable that speculation would take off and that it would not stop at the secret service’s ineptitude.

Some thought that the original intention had been to discredit the Mossos, who were later accused by some Spanish politicians of not cooperating fully with the Spanish police operations against Catalan independence campaigners. Presumably the explosions planned by the terrorist cell would leave the Catalan police looking useless.

Another theory went that explosions would be blamed in some way on the Catalan independence movement, which has until the present been remarkably peaceful in the face of Spanish police violence. In fact Aznar, the Spanish Prime Minister at the time of the Madrid train bombing by another cell, immediately blamed the bombing on the Basque armed group ETA. When it was proven to be an Islamist fundamentalist cell, his false claim contributed to his party losing the elections soon afterwards.

No doubt there were other theories speculated also and the response from Madrid did not help to quell them.

Many commentators have wondered at the Spanish state’s silence on the matter but even more so at the silence of all but one of the Madrid main newspaper. Surely this is a really big story? If the Government says that “it’s not a big issue (for them) to investigate”, would one not expect the Spanish media to be hounding them? That media silence is, really, the most puzzling aspect. One can readily see that the Government might not want to expose the ineptitude and dirty work of their State’s secret service … but the media?

The only answer that makes any sense is its Catalonia connection, that all locations in which the events occurred are in Catalonia. And that the independence movement for Catalonia is locked in a struggle with the Spanish unionist State. Therefore reporting on Spanish secret service ineptitude in Catalonia could well go to justify separatist wishes in Catalonia.

Or have the editors been made aware that this terrorist cell had an important role to play in that independentist conflict and asked to keep quiet? What if a campaign of terrorist massacres in Catalonia gave a plausible excuse for the Spanish State to impose emergency legislation on Catalonia, an excuse that would be thought convincing not only within the Spanish state but abroad also?5 Of course, if that was the gameplan, it did not work out for the Spanish State since the cell messed up and it was finished off by the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Escuadra.6

So, to answer the question in the title of this piece: in my opinion it is incompetence – and something else. But probably not the various “something elses” that are being most widely speculated.

However, the Spanish media silence tells us something about the Spanish state too. In what other European state would its media remain silent about its secret service penetrating a terrorist cell but then failing to prevent attacks on its citizens by members of that cell?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1The word “terrorist” is frequently applied in the mass media to a wide range of organisations employing armed, from small cells to popular movements, of a wide variety of ideological motivation ranging from fascist to communist or just national liberationist. There can even be paid terrorists, such as the Contras run by the CIA against the Sandinista-run Nicaragua. Even some animal liberation organisations have come under this term and, indeed individuals without an organisation backing them (such as the Australian who carried out the massacre in New Zealand last year). In addition, some states have been labelled “terrorist” by others. Therefore the term cannot have a precise definition and I use it here only to describe small or larger organisations that target uninvolved civilians in order to cause terror among a population and instability among the rulers.

2British secret services did this in a case in England where they got a member of the local Sinn Féin branch (the party had branches in Britain at the time) to incite them to raise funds for the cause by carrying out a bank robbery, during which the robbers were arrested. Then he incited breaking them out of jail and that group got arrested too. After that he feared he was exposed and confessed to, strangely enough Jazz musician George Melly and then to the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty). Very shortly after that he was killed, whether by the IRA or by his handlers is unclear. Though a famous case at the time several Google searches have failed to turn it up for me.

3The French may well have done so too as many of the Lebanon Christians had their origins in former French colonisation.

4From Jihad, a term meaning “struggle”, usually used in religious contexts. It can mean a moral struggle in society, within oneself or against “the enemies of Islam”, when it is sometimes characterised as a religious war, which may be defensive, or offensive (as with the Christian Crusades). In the political sense, especially when used in the West, it can be either defensive (e.g repelling or overthrowing a non-Islamic invader) or aggressive (e.g invading territories under non-Islamic rulers or under a different Islamic sect, or overthrowing such) but is always military and that is the sense in which I am employing it here.

5After the Twin Towers and other bombings by Al Qhaeda, US legislators were able to introduce the Patriot Act 2001 which gave the US State wide powers violating many civil rights.

6Whose Chief is currently on trial in Madrid, accused of undermining Spanish police operations against Catalan independentism through lack of cooperation.

REFERENCES

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/spanish-intelligence-knew-of-terror-cell-ahead-of-barcelona-attack-say-reports-1.3959554

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

THE FIRST AND LAST WORDS

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Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins)

The Basques have a saying in their language which means “The first and last words in Euskera” (Basque language: “Lehen eta azken hitzak euskeraz”). The Irish would do well to adopt the slogan or dictum for their own: “Na céad focail agus na focail deiridh i nGaeilge”.

The Basques developed their slogan (the word is from the Irish, slua-ghairm: to call the crowd/ multitude/ troop) in their movement to conserve their native language and spread it among those who had lost it. The Basque homeland (certainly once larger than it is now) is today situated on the north-west of the Spanish state and the south-west of the French one. Their language is considered an older arrival than all other languages extant upon the continent, to be not of Indo-European origin and so not of the same family group as any of the nearby Romance languages: Galician, Asturian, Castillian, Languedoc (Occitan), French, Catalan.

Within the territories they control, Spanish and French state administrations have dominated and suppressed all the languages other than respectively Castillian and French; they have done so through official disregard, censure, shaming, even physical punishment and jail. But the Basques have struggled to keep their language alive and to spread it among those who have lost it. And they have been much more successful at doing so than we Irish have at doing the same thing with an Ghaeilge. The Catalans have done even better yet, certainly in Catalunya itself1.

So, why the slogan of “first and last words in Euskera” and what happens in-between? Is it intended like the “cúpla focal” (“couple of words”) of Irish politicians (and increasingly, not even that many), a kind of mini-lip-service? Not at all, its intention is restorative towards the language and is a practical measure which anyone can adopt — indeed we in Ireland should embrace it for our own language.

Dia dhuit

When we meet someone, we greet them and, in Ireland, the majority of us do so in English. Having done so, the rest of the conversation is likely to continue in English too. Taking our leave of them, naturally, we tend to do so in English also.

The impression on anyone within hearing of this exchange and so many like it is that Irish does not exist or, if it does, hardly anyone in Ireland knows it or, if they do, don’t use it in their daily life. Not far from the truth, one might comment. Indeed but the reality is that a lot more know the language (or some of it at least) than one might think.

Let’s return to that interaction touched upon earlier, when one person meets another. It could be a customer in a bar, restaurant or shop. One of them says “Hello”, the other replies likewise and from there onwards the verbal communication is all in English. Or another scenario, a friend or acquaintance of one, introduces another in English and both who are strangers proceed in English also.

Introductions (Source photo: Internet)

Perhaps the customer and the shop assistant, waiter or bartender in the first example were fluent Irish-speakers or at least competent – none knows this about the other and they continue in the dominant language, English; each may return home later without having spoken a word of Irish that day. The strangers being introduced to one another by a mutual acquaintance, perhaps at work on in a social setting, may have a similar experience.

THE FIRST WORDS

Suppose that instead the customer or person being introduced had greeted in Irish? The recipient of the greeting now has the choice, assuming some knowledge of the language, to respond likewise. Should this occur, they can now proceed to the limits of their knowledge of the language or of the situation in which they find themselves. Other factors govern the choice being made but we can discuss those later.

What of the impression on those others within hearing? They might be surprised or even astonished, impressed or embarrassed; however everyone is reminded that Irish exists, that it is a medium of verbal communication and that some people in Ireland use it, even outside the shrinking Irish-language reserves.

Gloine, le do thoill (Source photo: Internet)

Of course, that was perhaps only two people heard speaking it in a whole month or even a year. But what if more people did the same? Why, some of those who overhear might even adopt the same habit, na céad focail in nGaeilge! Gradually at first and then suddenly, everybody would seem to be greeting in Irish! Why, it might even be worth learning a little oneself! At least enough to reply and take the conversation a sentence or two forward ….

In addition, sometimes the experience flushes out other Irish speakers too. On the top deck of a bus heading into the city centre one day, I could hear some young lads at the back of the bus (where else!) speaking in Irish. I could tell that they were not fluent but one at least was doing reasonably well. As they passed me to get off in Sráid Uí Chonaill, I remarked in Irish to them that it was great to hear the language being spoken in public. While they stumbled over a reply to me, the man across the aisle from me addressed them also, in fluent Ulster Irish. What an experience that must have been for the young lads but certainly for us, two Irish speakers a few feet away from one another and totally unaware, until that moment, of the other’s existence.

On another occasion at a demonstration in Dublin, I and another holding a banner between us were conversing in Irish – loudly as of necessity. Ahead of us, another group began to call back in Irish too. Spreagann Gaeilge Gaeilge, commented the comrade on the other end of our banner (“Irish [language] inspires Irish”).

AND THE LAST WORDS

What about the last words being in Irish – just a courtesy or a whim of some kind? Well, imagine one greeted the stranger, shop assistant, waiter or bartender in Irish and the reply came in English (which at the moment would probably be the case)? Thereafter the conversation flows in English but, as the Irish speaker is leaving, she says “Slán”. By now, the other has recovered a little from being somewhat wrong-footed by being addressed in Irish and furthermore, since the customer is leaving, is not worried about exposing what he considers to be his shamefully little knowledge of the language, so he replies also in Irish, “Slán”.

Slán!

Of course, that situation was not momentous for the survival of the language but neither was it totally negative. The Irish speaker draws a little comfort from it. The other feels perhaps a little pride, is maybe even encouraged to respond in Irish should he see that person again or if some other addresses him in Irish. How hard can that be? He’d do it in Greek in Crete, in Spanish in Torremolinos or in Cancun, even though all he has is a few phrases from the tourist guidebook.

SHAME

Of course, it is not the same. In the first place, the linguistic environment in Greece is Greek, in Torremolinos and Cancun, Spanish. Even migrant workers there will have learned the language. Not everyone around one in Ireland is speaking Irish in public, in fact, in most places, almost no-one is.

Secondly, there is no expectation of the English-speaker to be fluent in Greek or in Spanish. No expectation that the Irish person can speak Irish either, one might think. But actually, there kind of is. Inside the head of every Irish person there is the knowledge that this is their language and a feeling, buried deeply or lightly, that perhaps they should be able to speak it.

This feeling or knowledge can manifest itself in a reluctance to expose one’s limited knowledge of Irish to the perverse but understandable extent of refusing to speak it at all. Or of responding aggressively. Those are possible outcomes but so are more positive ones.

A person who has very little Irish may think: “But if I reply ‘Dia’s Muire dhuit’ and she lets loose with a flood of Irish, I won’t know what she’s saying and I’ll be mortified! Better to say nothing at all and not be so ashamed.” Of course, that is one choice. But it is not the only possible one. He could, instead, after she spoke to him some sentences in Irish he did not understand, reply in a sentence learned off by heart: “Gabh mo leithscéil ach níl ach cúpla focal agam” (“Excuse me, I have but a few words”). She might in turn reply: “Go raibh maith agat, úsáid a bhfuil agat” (“Thanks, use what you have”).

And why should the initiative be only with the person fluent in Irish? The person who knows only a few words is just as capable of making greetings and farewells in Irish — in fact I would go further and say that the language needs them to do that, to make that the norm.

In those kinds of exchanges, there will be a positive outcome for each participant. Not a huge step forward for the language in general but for anyone overhearing, a reminder that the Irish language does exist and perhaps that in this case, a person who did not seem know it well, still chose to learn a few words and use them. All of that goes to the credit side of the ledger in the psychological struggle for the maintenance and restoration of Irish.

IMPOLITE

An issue that is often raised with regard to speaking in Irish in the company of non-speakers, is one of politeness. It is generally considered rude to speak in a language that other people in the company do not understand. Strangely enough, people tend to think that more about people speaking Irish in Ireland than they do about people speaking French, German or Spanish among themselves here.

The issue must be faced. Neither of those languages is in any danger but Irish is – and in serious danger. Despite the growth of nurseries, primary and some secondary schools teaching through Irish, the actual daily use of the language is in decline. And the Gaeltachtanna — those areas where the language of the home has always been Irish – are shrinking at an alarming rate.

We need to find social strategies for linguistically-mixed company, whether it be occasional translation for the non-Irish speakers, or the tolerance of the latter – or conversing parts in Irish and parts in English. For the sake of the language we cannot allow the rules of politeness to deprive us of every social occasion to speak in the language other than some tiny domains hidden away somewhere, small groups of us meeting like conspirators in places where we are unlikely to meet anyone we know.

Another issue often raised is related to foreigners, whether they be migrants or visitors. I would say that the same rules apply. Most of those have their own language as well and speak it among themselves, in public too. And they must surely wonder why we don’t speak our own. The children of migrants are learning Irish at school and many are competent, some fluent in it. Some of their parents know a few words too: a Nepalese in a bar serves me through Irish and a Pakistani in a shop thanks me or tells me I am welcome, in Irish also.

SMALL STEPS

In the public library, you may wish to greet in Irish and hand the returned books towards them saying: “Isteach”; the likelihood of you being misunderstood is minimal. Then, with the books you are borrowing, “Amach”. In the Post Office, you can ask for “Stampa i gcóir Sasana, le do thoill” or “Stampa i gcóir na hEorpa”. To the question “Payment by cash or card?” when you present your utility bill, you may wish to show notes and reply “Le h-airgead” or, displaying your card, “Le cárta”. “Do you want a bag?” “Níl, go raibh maith agat”, with a shake of the head. Leaving the bus or the taxi, you could say: “Go raibh maith agat, slán”. Sometimes, you will hear a reply in Irish and it will probably lift your heart a little. And the world around you will hear a little too …. and wonder.

“Dia duit/ Sé do bheatha” — Passengers getting on a bus in Dublin (Photo credit: Leah Farrell, Rolling News)

None of that on its own, of course, will save the Irish language. But I think it will help. And now, on the crest of a small wave, might be a good time to do it: when the number and percentage of students attending all-Irish language schools is at an all-time high; when a survey of third-level students, whatever their feelings about how it was taught, show a majority supporting the retention of Irish as a compulsory subject on the curriculum. However, studies in the 1980s revealed a pattern of fall-off in Irish competency outside the Gaeltachts as the years went by; they need an environment encouraging the regular use of the language – use it or lose it.

The pro-independence political parties in the southern Basque Country make their public speeches either totally in Euskera or bilingually, in Euskera and Castillian. It is the same with the majority Basque trade unions. Also with the feminist and environmental movements, those against repression, against animal abuse, etc. In their public discourse, all organisations and parties in Catalunya that are not specifically Spanish-unionist (and even some of those), use Catalan first in public and Castillian secondly, if at all.

None of Ireland’s political parties (mainstream or oppositional), trade unions or campaigns (other than those specifically for the language) does anything much to promote the Irish language and some are hostile to it. That means it is up to us as individuals – everything we do for it can help at least a little.

So, as the Basques say, the first and last words in the language.

Do ye likewise; go out and multiply.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1Catalan is spoken elsewhere than in Catalunya, for example in the Paisos Catalans (“Catalan Countries”) such as Valencia and the Balearic Islands, where it is not as strong as it is currently in Catalunya, also in part of Sardinia.

SOURCES AND REFERENCES:

Statistics on Irish-immersion education as of 2018: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaelscoil

2019: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/number-of-primary-school-pupils-taught-through-irish-at-record-level-1.4011570

Plans to double number of Gaelscoileanna in the state: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/plan-to-double-number-of-pupils-in-irish-speaking-schools-1.4127379

Majority second-level students support retention of compulsory Irish on curriculum (but will they use it outside school?): https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/majority-of-third-level-students-support-irish-remaining-a-compulsory-subject-1096298.html

CATALONIA — WHO BEST TO EXPLAIN? QUI ES MEJOR PER EXPLICAR?

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Outside of Catalonia or the Paisos Catalans (“Catalan Countries”, which includes the Balearic Islands and Valencia), who best to explain the realities and the controversies concerning the current independence bid of Catalonia? (Version in Castillian follows this one)

There are of course many unionist Spanish commentators but for the most part they rely on denunciation rather than explanation. When they do supply some explanation it either relies on a legalistic explanation of the Spanish State Constitution of 1978 or of a misreading of Catalan society (or both together).

Inside the Spanish State there are other groups which may well provide an adequate explanation, such as for example the Basques, the Galicians and small groups in other parts.

Outside the Spanish State, there are those struggling for the national liberation of other small nations in Europe who may well have studied the Spain-Catalonia question or have quickly informed themselves and, along with them, anti-fascists and revolutionary communists or socialists.

Catalan independence solidarity groups can of course collect accurate information and disseminate it but they are comparatively small and with little influence in the societies around them.

Undoubtedly, the largest and generally best-informed group of people are the Catalan diaspora – Catalans living in other states.

Of course, these Catalans may have a wide range of views among themselves on whether Catalonia would best be independent of the Spanish State, in a federal arrangement or totally independent. They may disagree on which political party is best – or on whether any should be supported. Socialism or not might be issues for discussion, as might whether to get independence first and resolve those other questions later. Even on the issue of whether armed resistance is justified or viable, there might be considerable variation in opinion.

But anyone from Catalonia can give the lie to the Spanish unionist propaganda that the Spanish language and those who use it are under attack in Catalonia, and also to the lie that the Catalan independence movement is of a racist-nationalist kind. Anyone from Catalonia who is being honest will say that the violence of the Spanish police on the day of the Referendum, 1st October 2017, was inexcusable and a crime against civil rights (indeed some Catalans who wanted to vote ‘No’ to independence would now vote ‘Yes’ as a result of that attack). Catalans for ‘Si’ or for ‘No’ can explain many things that are not available to most people outside Catalonia.

Man and child, faces painted in the colours and symbols of the estelada, a pro-Catalan independence flag. (Image source: Internet)

This reservoir of information about the struggle around Catalan independence is the largest outside Catalonia – but is it being used? These Catalans living abroad have partners, children, workmates, fellow-students, neighbours and friends they have met in the country in which they are living. In many states of Europe these Catalans are free from the fear of deportation and therefore free to speak out to those around them about what is happening in Catalonia and in the Spanish state.

 

AN EXAMPLE

It might be instructive to examine a historical example with some parallels.

In 1968 a struggle broke out in the British colony in Ireland, the Six Counties, as a struggle for civil rights for the Catholic community (mostly descendants of the pre-colonial inhabitants). The British colonial statelet responded with great violence from its armed force, backed up by the British Army and was responded to with armed guerrilla resistance.

It may surprise many to realise that initially, the civil rights struggle often received truthful and even sympathetic coverage in the British media. Once the British army went in, this began to change noticeably and with the first British Army casualties there was no longer any real pretence of unbiassed reporting.

British media reporting then wished not only to justify the actions of the British State to the world but also to its own population. But in the latter case, it faced a serious obstacle – the Irish community in Britain.

As well as being the longest-establish migrant community in Britain, it was by far the largest. Many of these people knew their history and also at least something about conditions in the Six Counties. It was less than 50 years since the creation of the Irish State after a guerrilla war of national liberation following 800 years with many armed uprisings and cruel English repression. And these Irish – including first-generation born in Britain and even second-generation – were capable of undermining the effect of the colonial discourse on partners, friends, work-mates, neighbours and trade-union members.

Old anti-Irish racism embedded in British culture could disturb the Irish diaspora’s counter-discourse but not, it seemed, sufficiently. The Irish not only undermined the State discourse by speaking what they knew to those around them, they also organised solidarity campaigns, held pickets and demonstrations – sometimes huge ones.

The IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain could have weakened the reception for the Irish voice but, though it certainly did it no good, it did not weaken it sufficiently. The British State decided to gag that voice with state terror and prepared legislation, waiting for the appropriate moment to introduce it, which they received with the 1974 massacre resulting from an IRA bomb in a Birmingham pub and problems in communicating a warning.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced under a Labour Government and passed in a few hours, allegedly as a only a temporary measure but was renewed every year under different party governments until 1989. The Act permitted banning of Irish Republican organisations; 5-day detention without charge (which could also be extended); search without warrant; detention for questioning at airports and ports under which many thousands were interrogated, often missing their flight or boat as a result; deportation; exclusion to the Six Counties (amounting to internal exile). And of course, not officially permitted but tolerated, frame-ups, threats, beatings and torture.

Nearly 20 innocent members of the community and their friends were arrested and framed on bombing-related charges in five different cases and all convicted of murder and terrorism, to spend long years trying to establish their innocence, most of their marriages destroyed, their mental health severely injured, one to die in jail. That, and the ongoing repression of arrests-and-release, raids etc, was enough to silence, for the most part, the Irish community.

Until the Hunger Strikers of 1981 brought them out in mass again.

 

THE REASON

Why am I telling you this history? To frighten you? To make you feel sorry for the Irish in Britain in those years? No, I am retelling this history to illustrate the potential power of the diaspora to tell the truth about what is happening in its country of origin. That power was so great against the British propaganda machine that the State felt obliged to weaken it, to terrorise the Irish community, to take hostages from it.

Women with faces painted in Catalan national colours, one with the estelada design and the other with the ensenyera
(Photo credit: JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, the Catalan diaspora outside the Spanish state has a similar power but it is not “in the belly of the beast” as the Irish in Britain were nor in most cases is it subject to threat of imprisonment or other state terror.

To have that power implies a responsibility to use it, to explain things to those around them in whichever country they find themselves.

 

End

(VERSION IN CASTILLIAN FOLLOWS)

 

Fuera de Cataluña o de los Paisos Catalans (lo cual incluye a las Islas Baleares y Valencia), ¿quiénes son los mejores para explicar las realidades y las controversias sobre la actual candidatura de independencia de Cataluña?

Por supuesto, hay muchos comentaristas españoles unionistas, pero en su mayor parte se basan en la denuncia más que en la explicación. Cuando ofrecen alguna explicación, se basa en una explicación legalista de la Constitución del Estado español de 1978 o en una mala interpretación de la sociedad catalana (o ambas juntas).

Dentro del Estado español hay otros grupos que pueden proporcionar una explicación adecuada, como por ejemplo los vascos, los gallegos y grupos pequeños en otras partes.

Fuera del Estado español, hay quienes luchan por la liberación nacional de otras naciones pequeñas en Europa que bien pudieron haber estudiado la cuestión España-Cataluña o se han informado rápidamente y, junto con ellos, antifascistas y comunistas o socialistas revolucionarios.

Los grupos de solidaridad con la independencia catalana, por supuesto, pueden recopilar información precisa y difundirla, pero son comparativamente pequeños y con poca influencia en las sociedades que los rodean.

Sin lugar a dudas, el grupo de personas más grande y generalmente mejor informado es la diáspora catalana: los catalanes que viven en otros estados.

Some european cities where Catalans may be found
(map source: Internet)

Por supuesto, est@s catalan@s pueden tener una amplia gama de puntos de vista sobre si Cataluña sería mejor independiente del Estado español, en un acuerdo federal o totalmente independiente. Pueden estar en desacuerdo sobre cuál es el mejor partido político, o si se debe apoyar a alguno. El socialismo o no puede ser un tema de discusión, ya sea si obtener la independencia primero y resolver esas otras preguntas más adelante. Incluso en la cuestión de si la resistencia armada es justificada o viable, puede haber una variación considerable en la opinión.

Pero cualquiera de Cataluña puede desmentir a la propaganda sindicalista española de que el idioma español y los que la usan están bajo ataque en Cataluña, y también a la mentira de que el movimiento independentista catalán es de tipo racista-nacionalista. Cualquier persona de Cataluña que sea honesta dirá que la violencia de la policía española el día del Referéndum, el 1 de octubre de 2017, fue inexcusable y un crimen contra los derechos civiles (de hecho, algunos catalanes que querían votar “No” a la independencia ahora votarían “Sí” como resultado de ese ataque). Los catalanes para ‘Si’ o para ‘No’ pueden explicar muchas cosas que no están disponibles para la mayoría de las personas fuera de Cataluña.

Esta reserva de información sobre la lucha en torno a la independencia catalana es la más grande fuera de Cataluña, pero ¿se está utilizando? Est@s catalan@s que viven en el extranjero tienen compañer@s, hij@s, compañer@s de trabajo, compañer@s de estudios, vecin@s y amig@s que han conocido en el país en el que viven. En muchos estados de Europa, est@s catalan@s están libres del temor a la deportación y, por lo tanto, pueden hablar libremente con quienes les rodean sobre lo que está sucediendo en Cataluña y en el Estado español.

UN EJEMPLO

Podría ser instructivo examinar un ejemplo histórico con algunos paralelos.

En 1968 estalló una lucha en la colonia británica en Irlanda, los Seis Condados, como una lucha por los derechos civiles de la comunidad católica (en su mayoría descendientes de los habitantes ante coloniales). El estadito colonial británico respondió con gran violencia de su fuerza armada, respaldado por el ejército británico y fue respondido con la resistencia guerrillera armada.

Puede sorprender a muchos darse cuenta de que inicialmente, la lucha por los derechos civiles a menudo recibió una cobertura sincera e incluso simpática en los medios británicos. Una vez que entró el ejército británico, esto comenzó a cambiar notablemente y con las primeras bajas del ejército británico ya no hubo ninguna pretensión real de informar sin sesgos.

Los medios de comunicación británicos entonces deseaban no solo justificar las acciones del Estado británico ante el mundo, sino también ante su propia población. Pero en este último caso, se enfrentó a un serio obstáculo: la comunidad irlandesa en Gran Bretaña.

Además de ser la comunidad de migrantes más antigua en Gran Bretaña, fue, con mucho, la más grande. Muchas de estas personas conocían su historia y también al menos algo sobre las condiciones en los Seis Condados. Pasaron menos de 50 años desde la creación del Estado irlandés después de una guerra guerrillera de liberación nacional, después de 800 años con muchos levantamientos armados y la cruel represión inglesa. Y estos irlandeses, incluyendo la primera generación nacida en Gran Bretaña e incluso la segunda generación, fueron capaces de socavar el efecto del discurso colonial en los socios, amigos, compañer@s de trabajo, vecin@s y miembros de sindicatos.

El viejo racismo antiirlandés incrustado en la cultura británica podría perturbar el discurso en contra de la diáspora irlandesa, pero no, al parecer, lo suficiente. L@s irlandes@s no solo socavaron el discurso del Estado al decir lo que sabían a quienes los rodeaban, sino que también organizaron campañas de solidaridad, celebraron piquetes y manifestaciones, a veces enormes.

La campaña de bombardeos del IRA en Gran Bretaña podría haber debilitado la recepción de la voz irlandesa pero, aunque ciertamente no le sirvió, no la debilitó lo suficiente. El Estado británico decidió amordazar esa voz con terror estatal y preparó una legislación, esperando el momento adecuado para introducirla, que recibió con la masacre de 1974 que resultó de una bomba del IRA en un pub de Birmingham y problemas para comunicar una advertencia.

La Ley de Prevención del Terrorismo se introdujo bajo un gobierno social demócrata y se aprobó en unas pocas horas, supuestamente como una medida temporal, pero se renovó cada año bajo gobiernos de diferentes partidos hasta 1989. La Ley permitió la prohibición de organizaciones republicanas irlandesas; 5 días de detención sin cargos (que también podría ampliarse); búsqueda sin orden judicial; detención por interrogatorio en aeropuertos y puertos en los que se interrogó a miles de personas, por lo que a menudo perdieron su vuelo o bote; deportación; exclusión a los Seis Condados (equivalente al exilio interno). Y, por supuesto, no está permitido oficialmente, pero se tolera, enmarañamientos, amenazas, golpizas y torturas.

Cerca de 20 miembros inocentes de la comunidad y sus amigas fueron arrestados y acusados ​​de atentados con bombas en cinco casos diferentes y tod@s condenad@s por asesinato y terrorismo, por largos años tratando de establecer su inocencia, la mayoría de sus matrimonios destruidos, su salud mental gravemente herido, uno para morir en la cárcel. Eso, y la continua represión de detenciones y liberaciones, redadas, etc., fue suficiente para silenciar, en su mayor parte, a la comunidad irlandesa.

Hasta que los huelguistas del hambre del 1981 los sacaron a la calle de nuevo en masas.

LA RAZÓN

          ¿Por qué les estoy contando esta historia? ¿Para asustar les? ¿Para hacer les sentir mal por los irlandeses en Gran Bretaña en esos años? No, estoy contando esta historia para ilustrar el poder potencial de la diáspora para contar la verdad sobre lo que está sucediendo en su país de origen. Ese poder era tan grande contra la maquinaria de propaganda británica que el Estado se sintió obligado a debilitarlo, a aterrorizar a la comunidad irlandesa, a tomar rehenes de él.

Hoy en día, la diáspora catalana fuera del Estado español tiene un poder similar, pero no está “en el vientre de la bestia” como estaban l@s irlandes@s en Gran Bretaña ni en la mayoría de los casos está sujeta a amenazas de encarcelamiento u otro terror estatal.

Tener ese poder implica la responsabilidad de usarlo, de explicar las cosas a quienes los rodean en cualquier país en el que se encuentren.