Colombia: Paramilitaries, Businesses and the “Truth”

Text by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (images and video chosen by Rebel Breeze)

29 July 2022 (first published in English in Socialist Democracy)

The Colombian Truth Commission’s (CEV) report Findings and Recommendations aims to be a text that reveals a truth, that up to now was hidden or partially hidden from Colombian society.

It is true that in Colombia, after decades of a conflict that began before many of those actually alive were born, along with propaganda from the media, the churches and political parties, there are many aspects that are not well known to everyone.

That is not to say that it is a document that reveals or uncovers these truths. If we look at the issue of paramilitaries and how the CEV treats it, various problems with this commission are evident.

It comes out with some truths about the paramilitaries that initially give one hope about the content of the Report.

Paramilitarism is not just an armed actor – understood as private armies with terror strategies aimed at the civilian population – but rather a network of interests and alliances also associated with economic, social and political projects that managed to impose an armed territorial control through terror and violence and also through mechanisms to legitimate it, the establishment of rules and norms.(1)

It is true that the paramilitaries are about more than just massacres, but the CEV not only fails to explain what the interests at stake are, but it gets it back to front about who is in charge and who serves.

It inverts the roles many times and though it acknowledges the role the State played, or still plays, the State is presented almost as just another victim of the paramilitaries.

The CEV accepts that the USA played a role in the 1960s.

The recommendations of US missions that visited the country during the administration of Alberto Lleras Camargo (1958-1962) led to Decree 1381 of 1963, Decree 3398 of 1965 and National Defence Law 48 of 1968, through which the involvement of civilians in the armed conflict was institutionalised.(2)

But it doesn’t explore this role that much further, it would seem as if various north American governments played no further role than that, that they have not been the one constant factor in the history of the conflict, as if their support to all the Colombian governments, the training of the Colombian military in the School of the Americas did not count for anything, and of course there is Plan Colombia which is dealt with by the report.

Neither do they explore the role of the state that passed those laws. It would seem as if the laws appeared through magic. They accept that paramilitaries enjoyed legal status for a long time, but they put no names to the matter, nor who benefitted from those laws or what were the interests of the presidents and congresspeople involved in passing those laws and decrees.

We are told of how Virgilio Barco suspended the legality of the paramilitaries in 1989, but according to the CEV it was revived in practice through the rural security cooperatives known as the Convivir.(3)

It is dubious to say that the Convivir were the paramilitaries in practice and not paramilitaries de jure, as it is not the case that these cooperatives were corrupted.

It was always the intention to legalise the paramilitaries through this figure and in that, President Cesar Gaviria and his Minister for Defence, Rafael Pardo both of whom signed the degree that brought them to life, played an important role as did President Samper who implemented the decree during his government.

These people are not spoken of as promotors of paramilitaries.

To the CEV the paramilitaries are a type of loose cannon, independent of the State, with a life of their own. The ills of the country are the result of the actions of this loose cannon and how it infiltrates the state, the institutions, including the military and how it co-opts spaces.(4)

Thus, the institutionalisation – through various governments – of armed groups legally at the service of private interests, as well as their legitimation from the 1960s show not only the tolerance but also the promotion by state of the outsourcing of public security (bold not in the original). The legal cover and political legitimation have allowed for the maintenance and expansion of the paramilitaries, structures that were co-opted by paramilitary bosses.(5)

To the CEV, the paramilitaries were an outsourcing of security to private bodies that went wrong. Dr. Frankenstein thought he was creating life and his creation turned into a monster despite his wishes.

Paramilitaries are referred to in this manner throughout the document, they exist and act with the approval of named sectors, but the responsibility does not lie with any known person. They are incapable of saying that Samper and Gaviria legalised the paramilitaries.

Samper was fully aware of what the Convivir were and defended them tooth and nail during his government, and lashed out at those who denounced the Convivir as paramilitary structures.

Ernesto Samper, President of Colombia from 1994 to 1998, representing the Liberal Party. Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) 2014-2017. He defended the Convivir and later pretended the paramilitary terrorism had been done behind his back. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Samper never put an end to the Convivir, rather it was the Constitutional Court that declared that they couldn’t use arms reserved for the State’s military, so the paramilitaries had no need to use this cover any more if they couldn’t obtain arms legally.

The paramilitaries were a state policy as can be seen from the laws and decrees enacted, in the promotions of military officers involved in massacres and also in the persecution of social actors, human rights organisations and in a number of cases the systematic murder of witnesses.

The CEV talks about these things but does not connect them together as a state policy. It shamelessly accepts the excuses of Uribe that everyone lied to him, the face Santos put on of it wasn’t me, or the “it was all done behind my back” of Samper.

A real truth commission would try to tell us not only what happened but who did it (with full names) and also why.

The same complacent attitude it takes with the State is extended to the business people. It talks of interests but does not put a name to them. But thanks to the decades long work of social organisations we can put a name to many of the cases.

The CEV doesn’t do that and goes on with its tale of some sectors. But these same sectors have been more honest than the CEV. The CEV names the cattle rancher’s association in Puerto Boyacá, Acdegam, as a key player in the founding of the paramilitary groups.(6)

But it does not mention the role played by Texaco. Carlos Medina Gallego in his book Autodefensas, Paramilitares y Narcotráfico in Colombia describes the birth of this group.

The USA-based petroleum company was present in the meeting that set up the paramilitary murder group. (Image sourced: Internet)

The process in the region began with the creation of a private army or paramilitary group alongside the army to jointly combat the subversives.

This group was set up during the military mayorship of Captain Oscar Echandía, in a meeting which, in addition to the Mayor, was attended by representatives of the Texas Petroleum Company, members of the Cattle Ranchers Committee, political leaders, the Civil Defence, members of the armed forces and other special guests.(7)

Neither does it mention the National Federation of Cattle Ranchers, Fedegan. The president of Fedegan, however did acknowledge the role they played. In 2006, in an interview given to Cambio magazine, he said that they had paid paramilitaries, as had others such as flower and rice growers amongst others.(8)

National Federation of Cattle Ranchers in Colombia — part of the group that set up the paramilitary murder group — their president admitted in 2006 that they had paid paramilitaries, as had some large agricultural interests. (Image sourced: Internet)

Around the same time, 10,000 cattle ranchers, traders and industrialists signed a letter acknowledging and justifying their financing of the paramilitaries.(9)

The CEV describes paramilitarism as something unstable and changeable in nature and that “it has had diverse actors, motives and modus operandi, which leads to difficulties when it comes to trying to come up with a static definition.”(10)

Yes, it is true that the paramilitaries have changed over time, as has the army, the state, the political parties, the guerrillas and even society. Nothing stands still, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with an approximation of what it is, taking into account the variables.

That is what the study of history, politics and also any branch of knowledge is about. So, the CEV doesn’t describe the paramilitaries as a state policy, not because it is a changing phenomenon, but rather because it doesn’t want to.

It deals with various paramilitary forms and leaves out one very clear telling example: the AAA (American Anti-Communist Alliance).

One of the founders of the Triple A (American Anti-communist Alliance) paramilitary terrorists, at the time Lt-Col. Harold Bedoya of the Charry Solano Battalion, later Commander of the Colombian Armed Forces. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The AAA was a paramilitary structure founded by the commanders of the Charry Solano Battalion, amongst them Lieutenant Colonel Harold Bedoya, who would later become the Commander of the armed forces.

The existence of such a paramilitary structure operating within the battalion was public knowledge as five soldiers reported it to the presidency, the Procurator, the Organisation of American States and the news was even published in the Mexican press. This structure is not mentioned in the CEV report.

Another paramilitary structure that is dealt with partially in the Report is the 07 Naval Intelligence Network. However, it does not delve into the reality of the Network and the significance of its activity as a state policy.

2017 video

The case of the 07 Naval Intelligence Network based in Barrancabermeja that operated in part of Bolívar and Cesar stands out due to the seriousness of it. According to the ordinary criminal justice system, the network functioned as a powerful “death squad” with logistical means, personnel trained to kill and was responsible for dozens of murders, forced disappearances and massacres whose victims were mainly trade unionists, politicians, community leaders and activists.  The network financed paramilitaries using secret funds.(11)

But the network was the paramilitary structure par excellence. Despite the CEV’s quote, they do not go into great detail as the issue cannot be dealt with and conclude that it was just some functionaries and not the military unit as such.

The Network murdered at least 68 people, though some estimates put the figure of 430. The soldiers implicated were exonerated by the commander in chief of the official armed forces of the state, General Fernando Tapias. To the CEV this is just another case of rotten apples.

But, can 60 years of violence be explained as the result of the actions of some soldiers, some politicians, some business people? We are talking about tens of thousands of dead, tortured, disappeared and the outcome follows from the actions of some… and not from a state policy?

the paramilitary phenomenon has maintained a role in components of the state such as the armed forces, security and intelligence agencies, collegiate state bodies (Congress, assemblies and councils), judicial institutions and oversight bodies, as well as economic sectors such agri-industrial, extractive industries, public servants and candidates in elections. It has also permeated sectors of the church and the media. Without the close link between this body of sectors and the armed paramilitaries, this phenomenon would not have unleashed the deep wounds that it inflicted nor would it have lasted as long.(12)

Colombian paramilitaries working with the army and paid by big growers, these in “the Banana Bloc” in Colombia (Photo: Huffington Post)

There are no policies here, no state-backed dirty war but rather a compendium of massacres carried out by blood thirsty types that co-opted everyone else, i.e. Colombia is an open-air lunatic asylum.

Politicians and functionaries were another sector that was widely implicated in the paramilitary plan to “penetrate all political power: mayors, councillors, deputies, governors, congress people from the zones that we managed […] ultimately, regional powers that together guaranteed a national power for the self defence groups”. The relationship between politics and paramilitaries went in both directions as many politicians and functionaries in turn sought out the commanders of the paramilitary groups to benefit from their armed power.(13)

In this repugnant discourse, the paramilitaries are the ones who penetrate the state and some politicians seek them out, the paramilitaries are not a counter-insurgency strategy of the state nor a policy to implement “development” projects they want, but rather the excuse is “the paramilitaries made us do it”.

It comes across like crying children trying to blame the other for breaking the window, but they are not broken windows, rather tens of thousands of broken bodies. And the CEV does not want to blame who it should. It accepts that the State played a role, but limits it to individual behaviour and private interests but not part of a strategy.

Not even the genocide committed against the Patriotic Union (UP) is seen as a state policy, once again the State is a victim of the paramilitaries. The CEV describes it in the following terms.

It was during the attempts at a democratic aperture and the peace policies of the government of Belisario Betancur (1982-1986). It is in this context the paramilitary network from Puerto Boyacá sought to contain the democratic and peace initiatives through systematic violence (persecution, extermination and displacement) against members of left wing political groups such as the Patriotic Union and the Communist Party, trade unionists and social leaders.(14)

The reality is that no one expected the UP to be successful and the oligarchy took fright and responded as it always does: with violence. The extermination of the UP was not an attempt to contain supposed democratic measures from President Betancur, but rather an attempt to suppress a left-wing political group.

The CEV forgets that Betancur allowed the military to attack and burn the Palace of Justice in 1985, which was only a few metres from the Presidential Palace. He was not a just man whose peace initiatives were undermined by the unjust.

Lastly, we should look at how they describe the business people.

The economic agents were a key part of the paramilitary web. Some national and international business people, local and regional economic powers and productive sectors supported them in different ways because they had interests in the war.(15)

We shouldn’t be surprised that the CEV, led by the favourite child of the bourgeoisie reaches such conclusions. De Roux wrote an executive summary of the report before he even formally took up the job of President of the CEV.

In March 2017, shortly before he began working for the CEV he wrote a column in the El Tiempo newspaper with a simple headline I ask for forgiveness.(16) The column makes various assertions, amongst which the following stand out:

I incur in a generalisation when I write that the paramilitaries were financed by businesspeople. When, in truth, some paramilitary groups were financed by businesses, whilst the majority of women and men to whom we owe the production of goods and services in this country did not finance the paramilitaries.(17)

That is to say, as the CEV report does, that it was only some of them.  He continues with another assertion that some of them did it as a response to guerrilla violence, repeating one of the great lies of the business associations and the State about the nature of paramilitarism.

Gustavo Petro, newly-elected President of Colombia (R) shaking hands with Francisco de Roux (L), who outlined the executive summary of the Truth Commission’s Report in his column before the latter was even published. (Image sourced: Internet)

Others out of rage, following the kidnapping and payment of the ransom, supported the AUC to attack the kidnappers. Others did so because they didn’t trust the state’s security forces.(18)

And lastly, this little gem which reduces the dirty war to the behaviour of just some.

I must also acknowledge that I have been unfair when I have generalised about soldiers and police officers in Colombia. I admit that I have an intellectual and emotive abhorrence of weapons on all sides. I am a follower of Jesus who once and for all separated God from all wars and preached efficient non-violence. But I know there have been many and increasing numbers of men and women in the Armed Forces who see service to the homeland as a service to the dignity and rights of every human being and the collective good of peace.(19)

A question arises. Given that De Roux through his column outlined an executive summary of the future report of the CEV, why did he not save us time, money and the effort by writing, on his own, a report 100% to his liking? It would have had the advantage of not selling false hopes to the victims of the conflict.

End.

Notes

(1) CEV (2022) Hallazgos y Propuestas. CEV p.296

(2) Ibíd., p.303

(3) Ibíd., pp 304 y 305

(4) Ibíd., p.299

(5) Ibíd., p.305

(6) Ibíd., p.310

(7) Medina Gallego, C. (1990) Autodefensas, Paramilitares y Narcotráfico en Colombia. Editorial Documentos Periodisticos. Bogotá p.173

(8) El Cambio No 704 diciembre 2006/enero 2007 Diez Preguntas (Entrevista con José Félix Lafaurie) p.48

(9) El Espectador (17/12/2006) La hora de los ganaderos, p. 2A

(10) CEV (2022) Op. Cit. P.296

(11) Ibíd., p.502

(12) Ibíd., p.299

(13) Ibíd., pp. 345 & 346

(14) Ibíd., p.310

(15) Ibíd., p. 350

(16) Francisco de Roux (01/03/2017) Pido perdón https://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-16832051

(17) Ibíd.,

(18) Ibíd.,

(19) Ibíd.,

“Civil War to Avert a Workers’ Republic” – Peadar O’Donnell Forum talk in Dublin

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

Historians and political activists gave talks in Dublin presenting a review of the conduct of what is more usually called the Irish Civil and its effect since on life in Ireland. All the speakers described that conflict as “a counterrevolution”, to overturn many of the gains made in the period of struggle immediately before it and to head off any possibility of yet further gains in Irish political, economical and social life, having a braking effect on such progress up to this very moment.

Liz Gillis speaking (Photo: D.Breatnach)
L-R: Fearghal Mac Bloscaidh, Mags Glennon, Ciaran Perry (Photo: D.Breatnach)

BACKGROUND

The event on 26th June, held in the function room of The Cobblestone, was organised by the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, itself established in early 2013, the result of a number of meetings and seminars organised over the course of 2012. It combined communists and socialist Republicans to organise discussions on a number of issues, such as Irish state neutrality, Irish national independence, working-class programs in struggle etc.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

SPEAKERS

Ciaran Perry, a socialist Republican and Independent Dublin City Councillor, also a local history activist, introduced the event. He talked about the importance of history and in particular local history, the traditions of struggle and how some of those had been weakened in the trade unions and communities over the years.

Reading the account of the Ballysheedy Massacre (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Perry introduced the MC for the meeting, Mags Glennon who is also a socialist Republican activist and history enthusiast.

Glennon introduced historian Fearghal MacBhloscaidh from Tyrone who began in Irish and then continued in English, his presentation laying out clearly his position that the Civil War was a planned counterrevolution, quoting Cabinet papers and correspondence and supplying figures on the arms and equipment supplied to the Free State ruling elite by the British. MacBhloscaidh also maintained that the De Valera Government, though supported by the wider Republican movement at the time, was also a counterrevolutionary measure when subjected to a class analysis.

Sorry, slightly out of focus Jimmy Doran (Photo: D.Breatnach)

A woman (whose name I did not catch) was called to stage. In a clear voice she read an account of of the horrific Ballyseedy Massacre. Free State soldiers, after torturing their Republican prisoners, brought nine of them out to a road barricade, in which they had placed a landmine which they exploded. One survived by some miracle but spent the rest of his life needing frequent medical intervention.

At intervals between speakers, Pól MacAdaim performed his music, singing accompanied by guitar. Among the songs he sang were Tipperary So Far Away and Take It Down From the Mast (in the chorus of which some members of the audience could be heard joining).

Pól Mac Adaim performing at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Mags Glennon then introduced historian Liz Gillis from Dublin who talked about the reaction of women to the Treaty and to the Civil War. The vast majority of Cumann na mBan members rejected the Treaty and many actively supported the Republicans in the following conflict. Gillis also spoke about how the women, who had been active in the struggle in 1916 and briefly to the fore in public life with the elections of 1918 and the War of Independence, were driven back to almost invisibility by the Free State Government and also the De Valera government and the 1937 Constitution. Gillis lauded Kathleen Clarke whom she said continued to fight the struggle for the rights of women in representational politics and criticised the De Valera Constitution of 1937.

Mags next introduced Jimmy Doran, a communist and long-time trade union activist, who talked about the contribution of the organised Irish workers to the struggle against British colonialism and for the advance of the working class. Doran went on to comment on the trade unions’ history and current situation in the Irish state. I had to go to the toilet and when I returned stayed near the entrance so as not to distract the audience by retaking my seat near the front and unfortunately, due to the lack of a PA system and the acoustics of that location, I was unable to hear the rest of his presentation.

Poster for the event.
Supporters and organisers (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Although the meeting was thrown open to questions or contributions, little was forthcoming although there was a short debate on whether the Irish bourgeoisie prepare well into the future and whether they prepare better than their opponents in the Republican movement.

The proceedings ended with announcements of forthcoming events, thanks from Mags to the speakers, audience and to Pol Mac Adaim who ended the day on a musical note.

End.

Upcoming events:

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/people/Peadar-ODonnell-Socialist-Republican-Forum/100057585515589/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057585515589

Ciaran Perry: https://cieranperry.ie/

Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh blog: https://blosc.wordpress.com/

Pol Mac Adaim: https://www.antiwarsongs.org/artista.php?id=9761&lang=en&rif=1#:~:text=Pol%20MacAdaim%20is%2038%20years,%2C%20Rock%2C%20Soul%20and%20Contemporary.

Ballyseedy massacre: https://stairnaheireann.net/2016/03/10/what-really-happened-at-ballyseedy/

Liz Gillis: https://www.champlain.edu/academics/champlain-abroad/champlain-abroad-dublin/faculty-and-staff-dublin/gillis-liz

Jimmy Doran: https://www.peoplesworld.org/authors/jimmy-doran/

PROMINENT FASCIST CLAIMS ASSAULTED BY DISABLED WOMAN – THEN FAILS TO ATTEND COURT

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: mins.)

Niall McConnell, Director of the fascist organisation Síol na hÉireann failed to attend court in Dublin on Friday in pursuance of his claim of being assaulted by disabled antifascist Aisling Butler. Gardaí asked for a continuance in order to make further attempts to contact McConnell, including by registered letter but hearing that he had already been sent a letter and also failed to reply to a phone call, the presiding judge struck out the case. Also struck out for failure to appear was another charge by Ciaran Reddin, former right-hand man of McConnell’s (but with whom he has apparently fallen out since). Ms. Butler, who had attended as required, was embraced by supporters.

Devoutly sectarian — part of the Islamophobic protest praying the rosary (Photo: Dublin Republicans Against Fascism)

In July 2020 fascists and other racists objected to the hire of the national Gaelic sports stadium Croke Park in Dublin to a Muslim congregation to celebrate their annual Eid religious festival. The fascist organisation Síol na hÉireann called for a prayer-protest outside the stadium and announced their intention of reciting the Catholic prayer collection of the Rosary there. Their protest was supported by other fascists and racists including Phillip Dwyer of the National Party, Gemma O’Doherty and some others calling themselves Stand Together and QAnon, in emulation of the Trumpist far-Right movement in the USA1.

Dublin Republicans Against Fascism organised a counter-protest and attended with placards in Irish and in English quoting from the 1916 Proclamation2 “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty to all” and also chanted those words at the fascists.

“Five of us turned up early, mostly women,” said a spokesperson for the anti-fascist group outside the court “and only McConnell and another two were there with a banner. They took fright when they saw us, folded up their banner and called to the Gardaí for protection. But as more of their sort arrived, they got more confident, opened their banner out and began their prayers and racist chants and so on. When there were a lot more of them than us they got aggressive and there were a couple of scuffles when they assaulted a few on the sly or provoked us by pushing their video cameras near our faces. Some local people came out to stand with us against them but the fascists were arriving from all over.”

Photo of Síol early during the islamophobia protest (three in white shirts and black trousers — note their banner folded and Garda protection). Ciaran Reddin furthest to left of their group and McConnell furthest to right. (Photo: Dublin Republicans Against Fascism)

McConnell claimed he had been assaulted by Ms. Butler but apparently the Gardaí on the spot were unimpressed by his claims so he took his complaint to GSOC3, which agency charged Ms. Butler with assault. As a result she has been required to attend court a number of times over the intervening years while McConnell and GSOC got their case together.

The Síol organisation is registered as a company rather than as a political party4 and sells fascist and far-Right material on line, causing some of their opponents to call them, along with general far-Right individuals who seek on-line funding: “PayPal Paytriots”. The latter is because of the claim of the fascists and far-Rightists that they are true Irish patriots with Irish Tricolours and “Irish Republic” flags proliferating at their protests.

Islamophobes with antifascist in foreground holding placard with text quoting the 1916 Proclamation (Photo: Dublin Republicans Against Fascism)

Referring to the words of the 1916 Proclamation displayed and chanted by the antifascist counter-protesters, the spokesperson for the antifascist Republicans said: “One of the fascists had a Tricolour flag with the text of the Proclamation printed on it. We kept inviting her and her friends to actually read the words but of course they ignored us. They wave Irish flags and play patriotic ballads but they don’t know anything about Irish history or what the people who went out against the British Empire in 1916 stood for. The fascists promote Catholic religion dominance in opposition to the secular Republic that was fought for and in denial of the historic role of Protestants in founding and fighting for Irish Republicanism.”

Aisling Butler photographed leafleting in Dublin in 2017 (Photo sourced: Internet)

A repeated feature of the Síol protest outside Croke Park5 was the reciting of prayers of the Rosary loudly through a megaphone. Another was the sprinkling of salt and holy water and vinegar near the feet of the anti-fascists: “They think antifascist women are witches and that will ward them off” Ms. Butler said, smiling.

As Muslims – including children – began to arrive for their ceremony, the antifascists welcomed them and attempted to screen the fascists from the arrivals, while the chants of the fascists grew louder. After the ceremony, the Gardaí arranged for the muslim congregation to leave by another exit and once they were gone, the antifascists left also, some of them to nearby houses.

The Islamophobic protesters later in the day (after more arrived from further away) with placard by local counter-protesters to the right of photo (Photo sourced: Al Jazeera)

Spreading fears about “Ireland being swamped by Muslims” is one of the regular activities of the fascists, in contradiction to the statistical facts6. They also claim that asylum seekers are being treated more favourably than the native Irish, being given houses and money, etc. This is also in contradiction of the established facts which are that asylum seekers are housed in rooms in Direct Provision hostels for years in conditions that have been denounced by human rights activists and where a number of suicides have taken place.

Fascists and other far-Right individuals and organisations were very prominent during the height of the Covid pandemic, some propagating unlikely conspiracy theories and others protesting at the perceived limitations of their civil rights.7 Antifascists counter-protested them on a number of occasions, partly in defence of equal rights but also out of concern that following the epidemic, fascists will be used by the ruling elites as historically to crack down on resistance to austerity measures.

In September 2020 a prominent LGBT campaigner was beset by National Party supporters near Leinster House and a member clubbed her to the ground.8 In October that year, antifascists stormed a rally of the same party, causing the latter to ask for Garda protection to escort them away9. Some confrontations took place outside the GPO10 building in O’Connell Street against “Stand Together” and QAnon also and on Custom House Quay two weeks before the assault of the LGBT activist, at a rally organised by the far-Right organisation Irish Yellow Vests, fascists wielding lengths of metal and wood disguised as flags attacked counter-protesters who were then also attacked by riot police. The general tolerance of police towards the fascists – the latter in clear breach of pandemic restrictions — has been remarked upon by a number of observers.

The celebration of Eid in Croke Park last year drew less than a half-dozen fascist protesters. As the Covid restrictions were relaxed, the fascist and other far-Right protests began to fade, though the organisations are still there, regularly seizing on some issue in the media to promote racism, homophobia etc. Some of the participants have a track record of protesting against all kinds of equality legislation over decades and all of them promote the Catholic religion (though some don’t accept the authority of the Papacy). Niall McConnell himself, like most public fascists, is a practitioner of the big lie: addressing a far-Right gathering in Europe some years ago he claimed that Ireland has more migrants than indigenous; on another he claimed on social media that James Connolly had been born in Ireland.11

End.

FOOTNOTES

1These could be seen every Saturday for months outside the General Post Office building in Dublin city centre’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street.

2The Proclamation was issued by insurgents in 1916 and is a remarkable document for its time.

3Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

4Since the organisation declines to declare its funding sources, it cannot by Irish law register as a political party.

5And also on a number of other occasions.

6According to the 2016 Census, the percentage of the population in Ireland that are muslims is 1.33%.

7E.g that the virus was not real but the restrictions part of a Jewish plot, the vaccination were to inject nanobots into people to pacify them; that the Communist Party of China was secretly running the world through the UN and the EU, that the latter (or Jews) was working to replace white people with people of colour, partly through encouraging homosexuality; the masks were to separate people from one another and damage them through inhalation of carbon dioxide ….

8The Gardaí on that occasion ordered the victim — blood streaming from her head — to leave the area and claimed to the media that no incidence of importance had occurred. In the face of video evidence they later changed their statement and eventually, on a registered complaint by the victim, charged NP member Michael Quinn with the assault. In October 2020, Quinn pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison, the third year suspended.

9https://twitter.com/wsmireland/status/1314903351503523840

10The imposing General Post Office building in Dublin city centre was used as a headquarters by the insurgents in the 1916 Rising and the area outside it is regularly used for political rallies, commemorative events and, in recent years, for feeding homeless or otherwise hungry people.

11The claiming by fascists of the revolutionary socialist James Connolly may seem bizarre but is also an indication of the rank opportunism of fascists generally, in this case because of the high regard in which Irish people hold Connolly. James Connolly was born in the working-class Cowgate area of Edinburgh to parents of the Irish diaspora and both he and his brother became socialist activists, James travelling in later life alternately to Dublin and New York as a socialist writer and organiser. Returning to Dublin, Connolly became a trade union and socialist organiser, historian and journalist, co-founder of the workers’ militia the Irish Citizen Army in 1913 and overall Dublin Commandant in the 1916 Rising. He was executed by British Army firing squad in Kilmainham Jail on May 12th 1916.

SOURCES:

Dublin Republicans Against Fascism: https://www.facebook.com/people/Dublin-Republicans-Against-Fascism/100067893558778/

The Rosary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosary#:~:text=The%20Holy%20Rosary%20(%2F%CB%88r,to%20count%20the%20component%20prayers.

The Beacon’s report (doesn’t mention DRAF but you can hear the “religious and civil liberties for all” quotation from the Proclamation being shouted on the video): https://the-beacon.ie/2020/07/31/tensions-at-croke-park-as-far-right-gathered-to-protest-against-eid-celebration/

Another report: https://rebelbreeze.com/2020/08/04/civil-and-religous-liberty-vs-religious-bigotry-and-racism/

The Beacon report on conviction of NP member attack on LGBT activist (the mass media omitted to mention his NP membership when reporting on his sentencing but the Beacon omitted the early statement of the Gardaí that nothing of concern had occurred): https://the-beacon.ie/2021/10/19/national-party-member-gets-prison-for-attack-on-lgbtqia-activist-izzy-kamikaze/

PICKET PROTESTS ONGOING INTERNMENT WITHOUT TRIAL AND EXTRADITION OF IRISH REPUBLICANS

The Dublin Committee of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland held a picket yesterday to highlight the ongoing internment without trial of Irish Republicans and to protest the recent extradition of Liam Campbell to Lithuania, a country to which he has never been. The picket was held in Temple Bar, a tourist quarter of the Dublin’s south city centre.

(Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)
(Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)

Afterwards, the AIGI issued the following report (reposted with kind permission): “Tourists, Irish shoppers and young people socialising in Dublin city centre were interested to see the banners and placards against internment in Ireland, along with a banner against extradition of Irish Republicans. They also noted the various placards of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland and the flags of Palestine and the Basque Country, in addition to the Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army, representing three of the many nations holding political prisoners.

(Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)

Supporters distributed up to 200 leaflets and had a number of engagements with people wanting to know more. People were surprised and angry to learn that internment under another name continues in Ireland on both sides of the British Border.

A portable PA machine played resistance music and an AIGI speech from a previous public event which attracted some interest.

(Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)

The AIGI’s Facebook page lists approximately 60 political prisoners held in Ireland, mostly in Portlaoise Prison in the Irish state and Maghaberry Jail in the British colony in the north-east of the country. All of those were convicted in special no-jury courts created for the purpose of sentencing political prisoners — i.e nearly always exclusively Irish Republicans. Frequently some charged and facing trial in those special courts are denied bail and are held in custody until their trial comes up, two or three years later and if then chance to be found ‘not guilty’, they will still have spent that time in jail. When granted bail on the other hand it is always under restrictive conditions that prevent them continuing their political activity: e.g night curfew, wearing an electronic tag, banned from attending political activities, etc.

Liam Campbell, an Irish Republican from Dundalk, Co. Louth, was extradited to Lithuania last week to face charges relating to trying to obtain arms in that country. Campbell says that he has never been in that country, which Lithuania and the Irish State both seem to accept yet, after a legal battle of almost 12 years up to the Irish Supreme Court, the Irish Republican was extradited. According to unconfirmed reports Campbell has been granted bail in Lithuania but under what conditions is currently unknown.

The group campaigning against what it sees as ongoing “internment by different names” developed from the campaign to free Marian Price around six years ago and, apart from monthly pickets, has also organised conferences and concerts and representatives have travelled to Belfast, Cork, Derry, Newry and Glasgow. The group has sent messages of solidarity to a Basque liberation group which was read out at the latter’s public event and also to the Mumia Al Jamal and Leonard Peltier campaigns in the USA, Munir Farooghi campaign in England (for which AIGI spoke at public meetings in Ireland), to prisoners in Turkey, Palestine and Latin America. Its street pickets, though legal, have frequently been subject to police harassment on both sides of the British Border — in the Irish state nearly exclusively by the plain-clothes political police, the Special Branch.

The picket yesterday in Temple Bar, view southward towards the Liffey River. (Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)

The AIGI report concluded: The Anti-Internment Group of Ireland is a democratic group independent of any political party or organisation that holds monthly awareness-raising pickets, as well as a few special public events every year. It is organised by a democratic committee composed of people who attend our pickets and who would like to become involved in running the group.

NÍ NEART GO CUR LE CHÉILE. AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.

End.

Contact link for the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/Anti-Internment-Group-Of-Ireland-581232915354743/

UKRAINIAN BLOGGER ARRESTED IN SPAIN FOR EXTRADITION TO UKRAINE

Anatoly Shariy, a popular blogger who opposes Zelensky but also the Russian invasion, accused of being “pro-Russian” and of “high treason” to Ukraine, has been arrested in Spain for extradition to Ukraine, where he has been threatened by nazis. He has also been threatened by Zelensky supporters at his Catalonian address, where he has registered a complaint with the police. Shariy is considered “not a flight risk” by the Spanish State and is out on bail while his extradition warrant is processed. This is at least the second occasion of Spanish State involvement with the Ukrainian authorities against critics – Spanish secret service agents questioned the family and friends of Pablo González, the Basque reporter on the conflict threatened by the Ukrainian intelligence service and later arrested by Poland on charges of “spying” for the Russians, now in his third month of detention without yet a judicial hearing.

Reporting on the arrest and accusations, most right-wing and conservative media outlets follow what has become their standard practice of mirroring Ukrainian official opinion and refer to him as “pro-Russian” in their headlines and it seems clear that if extradited, Shariy would have little chance of a fair trial.

D. Breatnach

5th May 2022

The following is mostly translation by D.Breatnach from article in Castillian Spanish

According to the Ukrainian government, the Spanish National Police arrested the Ukrainian journalist Antoli Sharíy who has been persecuted by the Kyiv government and threatened with death by the fascist groups that operate under its protection.

Anatoli Sharíy and Olga Bondarenko live with their son in Roda de Berà (DB: near Tarragona, Catalonia, Spanish state) and, for two years, have been harassed at their doorstep by people close to the government of Volodomír Zelenski. The Mossos d’Esquadra (DB: Catalonia police) are aware and prevent physical assault but the threatening messages – also in the image of a blood-stained cradle – have not stopped.

All this is related to the public activity of this Ukrainian couple, who have not set foot in their country for several years. Anatoli Sharí has a YouTube channel with almost three million subscribers and is one of the most influential journalists since even before the Maidan revolt in 2014.

Neo-Nazis have not only leaked the address of his home but also posted the identity of the son, a minor to which, according to his mother Olga Bondarenko, only the Ukrainian Consulate could have access. The last protest took place before Easter, but they fear for their safety especially when the men are allowed to leave Ukraine once the conflict ends.

Until now, all the extradition attempts have been unsuccessful, but after Pedro Sánchez’s visit to Kyiv it seems that everything has been reactivated. The Spanish Government has given way to the bizarre accusation made by the Zelensky government: high treason.

Government-connected investigations

Before leaving the Ukraine, Shari was a journalist based in Kiiv who worked for the Obozravatel outlet. He investigated issues related to illegal casinos, the sale of drugs in pharmacies, murders … Some of them, as he explained in an interview given a few days ago to Nació Digital, “had a connection with the Ministry of the Interior, which covered up the crimes.” At that time, Viktor Yanukovych ruled, a president considered pro-Russian and originally from Donbass.

As a result of some pressure, in 2012 Shari went into exile, passing through the Netherlands and ending up in Barcelona. In 2015 he decided to move to Roda de Berà, albeit without refugee status.

the euromaidan

Between the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, the Euromaidan revolt broke out, a series of protests especially concentrated in the capital that sought to oust the then president, Viktor Yanukovych, to force a rapprochement with the European Union. Anatoli watched it from exile, but it was shortly before he began his careeras a political journalist.

The events of May 2, 2014, in Odessa, in which 48 people were killed by the launch of Molotov cocktails when they took refuge from the neo-Nazis in the so-called “House of Trade Unions”, raised alarms. This mass murder carried out by the Pravy Sektor (‘Right Sector’, neo-Nazi) caused Anatoli to start posting videos on the networks expressing his opinion and at the same time communicating information about his investigations.

Olha Bondarenko and Anatoly Shariy (Photo sourced: Internet)

There has never been as much corruption as now”

Anatoly is accused of treason by supporting Russia on you Tube … but contrary to the accusation, YouTube is known to ban all videos that support Russia.

The first months of the Zelensky government did not meet the expectations of a part of the population, who saw him as a leader who could command respect among the different political outlooks that existed in the country. “We wanted Zelensky to be elected because in Ukraine there are many problems with the battalions and the neo-Nazis,” explains Olga.

Beside her, Anatoli denies that these are few: “It is very easy to control the population with weapons even if they are only 10 out of 100,000.” “They have a lot of power, they have weapons, they attack journalists, a lot of people are afraid and the Government does nothing about them,” he adds. One of the best-known battalions in this sense is the Azov, which has even welcomed among its members different international fighters with extreme right-wing ideology, one of them a resident of Segur de Calafell (DB: in Tarragona, Catalonia).

Break with Zelensky

Although before the elections a good relationship existed between Anatoli Sharí and Volodomír Zelensky, the situation changed drastically in 2020. Cases of corruption, such as speculation with the sale of protective masks that arrived in the country during the pandemic were denounced by Anatoli. He declares that “there has never been as much corruption as there is now, not even with Poroshenko.”

The military operation of the Russian government is considered by Anatoli a “gift” for Zelensky, who was steadily declining in popularity before it occurred. One of his rivals in his political career was Anatoli himself, who since June 2019 has led his own party, with a liberal ideology and a discourse against corruption and against neo-Nazi groups.

Supporters of Shariy’s party in 2019 (Photo sourced: Internet)

“The three main opponents of Zelensky are Viktor Medvedchuk, Poroshenko and Anatoli,” says Olga, who points out that this would be one of the reasons why he was accused of high treason in 2020 and, later, once the war had already started, had his party banned, along with others. “Zelensky is a little tyrant and now he has won the lottery to do whatever he wants,” she says.

The accusation of high treason was used by Zelensky to block Anatoli’s and Olga’s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram profiles, and not only that, but he has also imposed various sanctions such as prohibiting them both and also Olga’s mother from having a bank account.

Alternative media

With the blocking of opponents’ (of Zelensky) social networks, thousands of Ukrainians have had to look for alternatives from which to receive information of all kinds. Views of Anatoli’s YouTube channel every time he uploads a video are almost instantaneous, apart from live broadcasts, and most are either from residents in the country — through VPN services — or from Ukrainians who have had to leave. Through these spaces, they get in touch to help one another, for example when someone needs some medicine, according to Olga.

Meanwhile, the Zelensky government continues to try to narrow Anatoli’s circle more and more. One of his followers, arrested and later fled the country, assured him that, during his arrest, he had been tortured…

************************

Prominent blogger and critic of the Ukrainian government, Anatoly Shariy, has been detained by Spanish police as part of an international operation, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced on Thursday.

Shariy was arrested on Wednesday in a joint operation by Spanish and Ukrainian police officers, as well as international “partners”, the SBU said in a statement.

The agency, Kyiv’s successor to the Soviet KGB, said the opposition figure is wanted on charges of treason by Kyiv, among other things. Shariy has been infringing Ukraine’s national security through his media activities, while allegedly acting on behalf of “foreign” forces, it insisted.

The case against the YouTuber with almost 3 million subscribers began in February 2021.

Shariy’s arrest “is one more proof that every traitor to Ukraine will sooner or later receive the deserved punishment from him. It is unavoidable,” the SBU said.

Anatoly Shariy (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Ukrainian announcement was confirmed by the Spanish police

The Ukrainian announcement was confirmed by Spanish police, who told RIA-Novosti that Shariy was arrested in the coastal city of Tarragona on May 4 on an international arrest warrant.

Shariy received political asylum in the EU in Lithuania in 2012. At the time, he said he was fleeing persecution from the government of Viktor Yanukovych, who was branded as pro-Russian by Western media.

Yanukovych was deposed after the Maidan coup in 2014, but the blogger remained a harsh critic of the authorities in Ukraine, be it President Petro Poroshenko or his successor Volodymyr Zelensky.

He condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine after it was launched in late February, but continued to point to what he saw as flaws in Kyiv’s conduct during the ongoing conflict.

The blogger’s political asylum was canceled by Lithuania in January this year.

Shariy was absent from social media on Wednesday, but on Thursday he used Telegram to share a photo of his wife feeding parrots in Barcelona, ​​accompanying it with a comment that read: “This is really a comedy.”

In his Twitter account, according to Publico report, in which Shariy related he had been threatened by a Ukrainian government adviser, the blogger commented: “The only crime I have committed is not to have exposed enough thieves.”

end.

REFERENCES

https://elpais.com/espana/2022-05-05/la-policia-detiene-en-tarragona-al-periodista-y-politico-ucranio-anatoli-shari-por-una-orden-de-detencion-cursada-por-kiev.html

https://venezuela-news.com/espana-detienen-a-periodista-ucraniano-por-pedido-de-zelenski/

https://www.publico.es/politica/audiencia-nacional-decreta-libertad-provisional-periodista-ucraniano-acusado-traicion-prorruso.html

https://venezuela-news.com/espana-detienen-a-periodista-ucraniano-por-pedido-de-zelenski/

https://www.publico.es/politica/audiencia-nacional-decreta-libertad-provisional-periodista-ucraniano-acusado-traicion-prorruso.html

ANTI-INTERNMENT MESSAGE GOES OUT UNDETERRED BY POLITICAL POLICE SURVEILLANCE

(Reading time: 1 minute)

Clive Sulish

On 9th April, the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held another of its regular awareness-rising events in the city, this time on on the northside, at the junction of the busy shopping Henry Street and Liffey Street.

Section of the anti-internment picket in Dublin last week (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Supporters lined up with the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland banner and placards. In addition to the Starry Plough of the Irish working class, the Palestinian and the Basque flags were flown in symbols of solidarity and also as a demonstration that political prisoners are held in many countries around the world.

Going on for 200 of the AIGI’s leaflets were distributed, explaining that Irish Republicans continue to be held in custody without trial through the practice of refusal of bail and through revocation of licence. This practice by administrations on both sides of the British Border are anti-democratic suppression of the right to hold political opinions and to organise in their furtherance.

Plainclothes political policeman (in blue top, far left of photo) stood a little distance away facing the picketers but they were not intimidated (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Recordings of relevant songs were played on a portable PA, such as The Roll of Honour, Viva la Quinze Brigada and Something Inside So Strong. Throughout the period of the event, two Special Branch (plainclothes political police) kept up an obvious surveillance which however did not deter the picketers.

The Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland is an independent broad and democratic committee, endeavouring to hold regular awareness-raising events and all democratic people are welcome to attend its public events, always advertised in advance on its Facebook page.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

POLITICAL POLICE QUESTION AND FILM PEOPLE AT ANTI-INTERNMENT PICKET IN DUBLIN

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Clive Sulish

The Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held a well-attended picket on Saturday (5th March) against the continuing practice of interning Irish Republicans without trial and also in support of human rights for political prisoners. At one point the picket was subjected to the unwelcome attention of the Irish political police.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

The event was in furtherance of the Committee’s advertised intention to hold monthly public events to highlight the deprivation of civil rights from Irish Republicans — on both sides of the British border — through the operation of special legislation and in particular of the no-jury political courts (Special Criminal Courts in the Irish state and Diplock Court in the British colony). The Committee has admitted that it does not always succeed in holding a public event every month and in fact its most recent public appearance was during the December festive season, in solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners, when it was supported by a number of organisations and independent activists.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

WHY THESE PUBLIC EVENTS?

The Dublin Committee holds these public events because it believes that most people are unaware of the abuse of civil rights in Ireland, the civil right to belong to an organisation that criticises the State and seeks profound change. The reaction of people receiving a leaflet at their public events would seem to bear this out.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

Choosing a couple of extracts from their current leaflet: ‘At various times in Ireland’s history, people have been rounded up and jailed without bothering with a trial – people whom the government found troublesome and wished removed. Today the same process carries on although they don’t call it “internment” now – other names such as “due process”, “remanded in custody” are used ….”

‘Even when Republican activists are granted bail, it is on outrageous conditions such as not being permitted to reside in their own home, having to observe a curfew and wear an electronic tag, not being permitted to attend meetings and demonstrations …..’

The leaflet text makes the point that one doesn’t have to agree with the politics of Irish Republicans to see that these injustices are profoundly undemocratic abuses of civil rights — and “are ultimately a danger to all oppositional movements, whether Republican or not”. One aspect of their protest was against the denial of open family visits to Republican prisoners in the jails of the British colony in the north-east of Ireland — a violation of human rights.

The surprise in learning the facts is not confined to Irish people because often it is expressed by tourists or migrants, even if they have encountered such practices in their own countries of origin.

INTERNATIONALIST DIMENSION

An example of the interest from abroad on Saturday was of a Basque man and, separately, of two young Basque women, reacting warmly to seeing the Basque flag among the picketers. The Dublin Committee objects not only to the incarceration of Irish Republicans but also of people seeking freedom in many other parts of the world, for which reason the Palestinian and Basque flags are frequently flown on their pickets, next to the revolutionary Irish workers’ flag of the Starry Plough.

A person who expressed support for the right to campaign without state repression was, interestingly, from Barcelona. However he did not wish for Catalan independence, wanting instead a unitary but democratic Spanish state – a position held by some communists and the main socia-democratic parties there. Although his position did not concur with that of the picketers, who tend to support the struggles for self-determination, the conversation was conducted without hostility.

Not so with another individual, who approached some picketers to argue for their support for the Ukrainian state in the current armed conflict there, a question that has deeply divided the Irish Left and Republican movements. He went further and announced his support for the Azov Battalion, an East European fascist organisation integrated into the Ukrainian state’s military, at which point the tolerance of the picketers for his intervention ended and he was urged to depart.

Starry Plough flags next to Palestinian and Basque Ikurrina flags at the picket in Temple Bar. (Photo: C.Sulish)

POLITICAL POLICE INTIMIDATION

Another temporary presence unwelcome to the picketers was of three members of the Irish State’s political police. These are members of what used to be called the Special Branch but are now officially called the Special Detective Unit, formerly C3 and successor to the CID when the Irish State was created. This type of political police force is modelled on the Irish Special Branch of Scotland Yard, the HQ of the British police, founded to spy on the influence and activities of the “Fenians” (i.e the Irish Republican Brotherhood) in the cities of Victorian-era Britain. However, in Dublin under British occupation, their parallel force was the G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, known as “G-men”; it was they who identified many Republican and other prisoners of the British military after the 1916 Rising, ensuring death sentences for many (though most commuted to life imprisonment) and jail sentence for many others. During the War of Independence (1919-1921 they were identified as the intelligence service of the British occupation and many were selectively assassinated by the IRA of the time.

The Garda “Branch” (as they are known colloquially) of the Irish State have a long history of harassment of and spying on Irish Republicans, sometimes associated with violence and often with perjury in court. Their unsupported observations through the mouth of a Garda officer at the rank of Superintendent has been enough “evidence”, in the no-jury Special Criminal Court, to send many Irish Republicans to jail on a charge of “membership of an illegal organisation.”

Two picketers confront the plainclothes political police officer harassing a young leafletter on Saturday (Photo: C.Sulish)

One of these gentlemen on Saturday approached the youngest supporter of the picket, who was distributing leaflets to passers-by, identified himself as a Gárda officer in plain-clothes and demanded the young activist’s name. His accosting of the leafletter attracted the attention of others on the picket and two went quickly to support the subject of State harassment. The Branchman demanded no further information and sone moved away. However, when he had reached about half-way along the picketters, he stopped and began filming them.

At that point one of the picketers began to call out to passers-by, many of whom were tourists, that this man was a member of the secret political police, who was filming and attempting to intimidate people on a legal political protest, that this is the kind of ‘democracy’ that exists in the Irish state, etc, etc. Shortly thereafter, the Branchman departed, along with another two of his colleagues that had been observed further down towards Temple Bar.

A picketer loudly denounces the political policeman’s filming of the picketers. (Photo: C.Sulish)

According to picket participants this intervention of the political police represented an escalation of their attentions in recent times, though not in the least unusual in the past, when every picketer might have their name (and even their address) demanded and jotted down.

A spokesperson of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee stated that it is independent of any political party or organisation and that it welcomes the participation at its public events of democratic individuals, whether independent activists or members of organisations and had distributed many of its leaflets. It regrets that a number of political activists — who should have an interest, even if only in self-preservation – in defending the democratic rights to organise and to protest, decline to support their events.

(Photo: C.Sulish)
(Photo: C.Sulish)
Picketers and leafletters (Photo: C.Sulish)

End.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Anti-Internment Group of Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743

Azov Battallion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azov_Battalion

POLITICAL PRISONERS’ SOLIDARITY PICKET IN DUBLIN

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 minutes)

Amidst festive season lights, passing Santa Clauses on horse-drawn carriages and hungry people being fed by volunteers in the Dublin city centre, Irish Republicans and Socialists gathered to send a public message of solidarity to political prisoners in Ireland and elsewhere.

Photo: Rebel Breeze

The event is an annual one organised by the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland, an independent non-aligned group raising awareness that internment without trial continues in Ireland, through revoking of licence of ex-prisoners and through refusal of bail in the no-jury courts both sides of the British Border. The Dublin committee of the AIGI holds monthly public awareness-raising pickets in the city centre.

The annual picket on Thursday early evening was supported by activists of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association and of the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation, along with some independents and took place in front of the iconic GPO building, on Dublin’s main street.

Photo: Rebel Breeze

The picketers and passers-by were addressed by a representative of the Anti-Internment Group outlining the participants’ presence to send solidarity greeting to political prisoners in Ireland and around the world. The speaker drew particular attention to three prisoners: Leonard Peltier, Native American, 45 years in jail and Black American Mumia Al Jamaal, 40 years in prison, both framed by police in the USA. Also highlighted was the case of Ali Osman Kose, 37 years in jail, 21 of which he has spent in solitary confinement. The speaker informed the audience that those three political prisoners, apart from their very long years of incarceration, have multiple health issues and should be released, he said on humanitarian grounds alone. “But no ….. they want them to die in jail”, he said.

Photo: Rebel Breeze

Going on to speak about political prisoners in Ireland, the speaker said that they and hostages had existed almost from the moment Ireland had been invaded by its neighbour and from the defeated United Irishmen up to the Fenians, had included not only dungeons and prison cells but also penal colonies on the other side of the world, after which they had been confined in special prisons and concentrations camps.

The creation of the Irish State on a partitioned Irish country a century ago this month had not brought freedom nor an end to the struggle, the speaker said and pointed out that the Irish State had executed 80 Irish Republicans during the years of the Civil War, which was more than the British had done during the War of Independence preceding it.

Photo: Rebel Breeze

“Whether we are religious or not ….. in our culture at this time of year we expect to be with our families, our partner, children and friends,” the AIGI representative said but pointed out that this opportunity is not available to the prisoners, which makes this a particularly difficult time of year for them, which is why the Group and others hold this event every year.

The speaker then called a young boy forward “to send a message to the prisoners from this younger generation who hopefully will see a free and united Ireland with social justice and equality. The young boy stepped forward and through the PA, asked all at this time of year to think of the Republican prisoners.

Photo: AIGI

The Starry Plough, the Palestinian flag and the Basque Ikurrina were flown by participants and among the banners of the IRPWA and Dublin Committee of the AIGI there was also one displaying the Carlos Latuff graphic of Palestinian and Irish Republican prisoner solidarity. The centrepiece in the picket line was the word Saoirse (‘freedom’ in Irish) picked out by lights on a dark background. Appropriate music was also played during the picket from a PA system, except while being addressed by the speaker.

The event concluded with thanks to all the attendance and the singing the first verse and chorus of the battle-song Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song in Irish, which is also the National Anthem).

It is understood that seasonal greeting cards have also been sent by AIGI to political prisoners in prisons in the Irish state and in the colonial statelet.

End.

Photo: Rebel Breeze
Signing Christmas cards for the prisoners. (Photo: AIGI)
Photo: Rebel Breeze

Further information:

https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743

The International Criminal Court Has Gone — Who Will Save Us Now?

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

There is a long tradition amongst NGOs, sectors of the reformist left, trade unionists and others in Colombia that someone outside the country will save us. The saviours are the North Americans (despite their role in the conflict), the European Union (despite their role as well and that of their companies), and international institutions such as the International Criminal Court, or the mechanisms set up in the peace accord (national ones but financed internationally). So, the decision by the ICC to shut down its preliminary investigation of Colombia was like a bucket of cold water to them. But it was to be expected.

Banner carrying faces and names of youth from Soacha and Bogotá murdered by the Colombian National Army. The banner was displayed in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

When Obama was elected as US president, various journalists and representatives of the left and NGOs announced that he would solve Colombia’s problems and now they have come back to say the same about Biden. A constant feature of this discourse of seeking a foreign saviour is the possibility of taking Uribe (not his Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos) to the ICC. They sold a false hope to the victims of the state that there they could obtain justice. They knew it was unlikely, as they knew what the ICC was like and its not very encouraging record in the matter.

To date the ICC has only convicted African leaders. It is not the case that these African leaders are saints or innocent, but rather that the ICC does not go after other criminals. It has procrastinated for many years on its case against Israel and has no authority to investigate the USA. The Court’s website currently indicates that it has 15 ongoing preliminary investigations, ten of them in African countries and five others in Georgia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh and the State of Palestine. This last case will not succeed, of that we can be certain. It has pursued a total of 30 individuals, resulting in 4 convictions.1 The ICC is the opium of the people, it has a soporific effect on people in the midst of their struggles and the NGOs promise Heaven and Divine Justice in a coming future.

A boy carries photos of victims in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

There were diverse reactions to the decision to shut down the preliminary investigation. Whilst the victims of the False Positives2 criticised the decision, others such as Senator Iván Cepeda and Eamon Gilmore, the EU envoy to the peace process celebrated it. The Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) lamented the decision, though in a very confusing manner. It continued to praise the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), when it is precisely the existence of the JEP that the ICC used as an excuse to shut down the case.3

Iván Cepeda stated that:

A direct consequence of the agreement signed by Duque’s government with the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is that once and for all the possibility of reforming the JEP has been discarded. It puts an end to that obsessive aim of the Uribistas. A victory for the peace process.4

A few years ago, he would have denounced the closure of the case as an act of impunity and now he claims it is a victory. As the Greek philosopher Plutarch put it, Another victory like this and all will be lost. Many of us denounced the impunity of the JEP, little did we think that not only would it guarantee impunity in the trials it deals with or excludes from its remit, but that its very existence would be the perfect excuse to shut down international cases against the regime. But the peace acolytes are determined to announce their defeat as a victory.

Protestors holding aloft photos of those murdered and disappeared in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL).

It seems that Senator Gustavo Petro didn’t have much to say about the matter and neither did Senator Alexander López. Piedad Córdoba, however, echoed the statements of Iván Cepeda and said:

They took issue with the JEP and tried to cut its budget, discredit it, dirty propaganda and all in order to cover their own backs. Today the ICC forced the government to strengthen it.5

A young woman carries photos of victims in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

It is clear that there are those who in the name of peace would justify any defeat, including a defeat of a proposal they themselves promoted. So, the ICC will not proceed against Colombia, but relax, we have the JEP where the military who, unlike the guerrillas, do not have to tell the whole truth about their crimes and where the businesspeople are excluded.

Of course, the president of the JEP, who once upon a time was the NGOs’ favourite said that he was very pleased with the ICC decision. According to Cifuentes the closure of the investigation against Colombia is a victory won by the JEP,6 i.e. those who for many years talked about how the ICC was going to put the Colombian State in its place, now tell us that the fact the ICC will not proceed against Colombia is a victory.

I really find it difficult to understand their logic, or better still I can’t understand their shamelessness. In the name of their pathetic peace accord, they justify everything and describe it as a victory. Poor Plutarch. If he had to deal with the leaders of the supposed left in Colombia today he would have been more vulgar, but he died many centuries ago, so allow me Plutarch: Another victory like this and the turncoats will be making money like never before.

So, to answer the question posed by this article, who will save us? The answer is no one, or rather, the Colombian people will save themselves, there are no international institutions, nor presidents in other countries who are going to fix the crisis that country has suffered for decades. The only ones who will put Uribe, Santos, Pastrana, Samper and the others in jail are the Colombian people.

“Forget them? That would be a crime against conscience” with images and names of the “disappeared” since 1998. The banner was carried on a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

Next year is an electoral one and some of those who told us the ICC would do miracles and now celebrate the slap in the face it gave to the victims, will be candidates. They will promise a thousand miracles and when some foreign institution or president says no, they will celebrate it and try to convince us that the defeat was a victory. Changing the saying by Mao, they go from victory to victory to final defeat. Plutarch is as relevant today as ever.

End.

“NOT FORGOTTEN” banner carried on a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

FOOTNOTES:

1 Information on cases can be consulted at https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Home.aspx

2 People shot dead by Colombian state forces who were untruthfully claimed as “positives”, i.e guerrilla fighters.

3 RCN (29/10/2021) Falsos positivos: víctimas rechazan cierre del caso contra Colombia en Corte Penal Internacional https://www.rcnradio.com/judicial/falsos-positivos-victimas-rechazan-cierre-del-caso-contra-colombia-en-corte-penal

4 https://twitter.com/IvanCepedaCast/status/1453792170855604235?s=20

5 https://twitter.com/piedadcordoba/status/1454135519194005504?s=20

6 Wradrio (29/10/2021) Gracias la JEP cierran el examen preliminar de la CPI: Eduardo Cifuentes https://www.wradio.com.co/noticias/actualidad/justicia-de-la-jep-esta-dando-resultados-dice-su-presidente/20211029/nota/4174696.aspx

FURTHER INFORMATION:

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

HOWARD ZINN — US INTELLECTUAL CRITIC AND ACTIVIST

By Geoff Cobb

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Like many Brooklyn Jews of his generation, Howard Zinn, an icon of the American left, questioned laissez fair American capitalism and American nationalist glorification of country. He was the author of “A People’s History of the United States,” a best seller which sold more than two million copies and inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history. He was also a strong supporter of the civil rights movement and an opponent of the Vietnam war, as well as being a much-loved professor. Proudly, unabashedly radical, Zinn delighted in debating ideological foes, including his own college president, and in attacking conventional ideas, not the least that American history was a heroic march toward democracy.

One of the many different jacket covers for reprints of Zinn’s most famous book — this one abridged for teaching purposes (Image sourced: Internet)

Born Aug. 24, 1922, Howard Zinn grew up in Bedford Stuyvesant. His parents were Jewish immigrants who met in a factory. His father worked as a ditch digger and window cleaner during the Depression. His father and mother ran a neighborhood candy store for a brief time, barely getting by. For many years his father was in the waiter’s union and worked as a waiter for weddings and bar mitzvahs. “We moved a lot, one step ahead of the landlord,” Zinn recalled. “I lived in all of Brooklyn’s best slums.”

“NO LONGER A LIBERAL”

His parents were not intellectuals and Zinn recalled that there were no books in his home growing up. At some point his parents, knowing his interest in books, and never having heard of Charles Dickens, sent in a coupon with a dime each month to the New York Post and received one of ultimately twenty volumes of Dickens’ complete works. He became interested in fascism and began to read about its rise in Europe and to engage in political discussions and debates with some young Communists in his neighborhood. Zinn was radicalized thanks to a peaceful political rally in Times Square, where mounted police charged the marchers, hit Zinn knocked him unconscious. Zinn explained, “From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. . . The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society—cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.”

After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School, Zinn became an apprentice shipfitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he and a few other apprentices began to discuss books and strategize about how to improve their dangerous working conditions. Excluded from the craft unions of skilled workers, they formed their own Apprentice Association. On an overnight boat trip he organized to raise money for the association, he met his future wife, Roslyn Shechter, who shared Howard’s progressive views and was also a Jewish child of immigrants. Zinn joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, eager to fight the fascists, and became a bombardier in a B-17. While in the Air Force he was disturbed by the race and class inequality among the servicemen. It wasn’t until years after the war that he questioned the necessity of the bombs that he dropped.  But at the end of the war, back in New York, he deposited his medals in an envelope and wrote: “Never Again.”

View of students and faculty carrying signs during a strike by faculty and staff of Boston University, on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 1979. Historian Howard Zinn, then a professor at BU, is just visible in the centre foreground. (Photo by Spencer Grant/Getty Images)

“I would not deny that [WWII] had a certain moral core, but that made it easier for Americans to treat all subsequent wars with a kind of glow,” Zinn said. “Every enemy becomes Hitler.”

After the war, he went back to interview victims of the bombing, and later wrote about it in two books. His own experience and his subsequent interviews led him to conclude that the bombing had been ordered more to enhance the careers of senior officers than for any military imperative, and he later wrote about the ethics of bombing in the context of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tokyo and Dresden, as well as Iraq.

Zinn and Roz married in 1944. While Zinn worked various jobs after the war, they lived on meager income in a rat-infested basement apartment in Brooklyn. Their daughter Myla was born in 1947 and Jeff in 1949. They moved to new public housing in 1949 and Zinn went to New York University for his B.A in history.

Thanks to the GI Bill, which paid the tuition of veterans, Zinn went to Columbia, where he earned an MA in 1952 with a thesis about a famous coalminers’ strike in Colorado, then obtained his PhD with a dissertation about the career in Congress of Fiorello LaGuardia, the reforming mayor of New York. He studied at Columbia under Richard Hofstadter who taught Zinn that American liberals were not as liberal as they thought they were, and that the two common threads in all American history were nationalism and capitalism.

PROFESSOR ZINN

In 1956, Zinn accepted a professorship at Spelman College, a traditionally black college for women in Atlanta, Georgia. Among his students were Maria Wright Edelman, the campaigner for children’s rights, and the future novelist Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple. At Spelman, he was a mentor to and later the historian of the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC), the radical student wing of the civil rights movement. Zinn took part in many civil rights protests, and he encouraged his students to join him in these marches, which angered Spelman’s president. Zinn angered the authorities at Spelman over his insistence that its students should not be trained to be ladies, but should be actively involved in politics. “I was fired for insubordination,” he recalled. “Which happened to be true.” Zinn moved to Boston University in 1964, where he quickly became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. He angered many Americans, including Boston University’s president, by traveling with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi to receive prisoners released by the North Vietnamese, and produced the antiwar books “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967) and “Disobedience and Democracy” (1968). When Daniel Ellsberg, a previously gung-ho John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson administration official, came out against the war, he gave one copy of the Pentagon Papers (officially titled United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, the government’s secret history of the war) to Zinn and his wife, Roslyn. Zinn and Noam Chomsky edited what became known as the Mike Gravel edition, published in Boston in 1971-72 by the Beacon Press.

In 1980, he published his most successful work, A People’s History of the United States, which was a highly controversial revision of American history. Instead of the usual congratulatory tone of most American history textbooks, his work concentrated on what he saw as the genocidal depredations of Christopher Columbus, the blood lust of Theodore Roosevelt and the racial failings of Abraham Lincoln. He also highlighted the revolutionary struggles of impoverished farmers, feminists, laborers and resisters of slavery and war. Bruce Springsteen said the starkest of his many albums, “Nebraska,” drew inspiration in part from Mr. Zinn’s writings.

For decades, he poured out articles attacking war and government secrecy. 

When President Ronald Reagan bombed Tripoli in 1986, Zinn wrote: “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.” He denounced the invasion of Iraq and also criticized President Barack Obama’s intensification of the war in Afghanistan. He was sharply attacked in Israel and by many of his fellow American Jews for saying that war was morally the equivalent of terrorism.

Howard Zinn (Photo sourced: Internet)

Mr. Zinn retired in 1988, concluding his last class early so he could join a picket line. He invited his students to join him. Zinn also wrote three plays: “Daughter of Venus,” “Marx in Soho” and “Emma,” about the life of the anarchist Emma Goldman. All have been produced. Zinn died in 2010.

Zinn always believed in standing up to injustice and fighting for oppression. He said near the end of his life, “Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.”

End.

POSTSCRIPT from Rebel Breeze:

TRUMP ATTACKS ZINN AFTER LATTER’S DEATH

“If you want to read a real history book,” Matt Damon’s character tells his therapist, played by Robin Williams, in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” “read Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States.’ That book will knock you on your ass.”

It is very unlikely that President Donald Trump knew who Howard Zinn was before he saw the name on his teleprompter. And it is even less likely that he’s read “A People’s History of the United States.” But that didn’t stop him from saying — at the White House Conference on American History on Thursday — that today’s “left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.”

Quoted from https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/09/23/rights-long-war-howard-zinn-reaches-white-house