In late November last year the UK’s Home Secretary1 referred to refugees and migrants entering Britain as “an invasion”, for which a Hollocaust survivor, 83-year-old Joan Salter, challenged her, likening her speech to that of the Nazis.
An NGO working with refugees, Freedom From Torture, posted some of the exchange on Twitter. In turn, the NGO came under pressure from the Home Office to retract the video.
This month, not only did the charity refuse but did so publicly, fully endorsing the content of the video.
Anyone would well understand the difference between invading a country and entering it as a refugee, asylum seeker or even economic migrant. Those come unarmed, fleeing to safety or trying to make a living for themselves and their family.
A minister of a British Government should be extremely well-placed to understand the distinction. After all, there is no continent and very few countries, including its near neighbours, which the British ruling class has not caused to be invaded at some time or other.2
From the time the descendants of the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Celtic England merged with the descendants of the later Norman invaders, England has gone from being a major invading and colonising military and naval power to being a major imperialist one.
Imperialist action did not always end in invasion; pressure could be applied in other ways, through bribery — or open threat. The term “gunboat diplomacy” was coined to describe imperialist actions short of actual invasion and Britain was renowned for actions of that type.
The ruling class of Britain has waged war against people to take over trade routes, to colonise land and extract resources, in competition with other colonial powers, to quash resistance and even for the right to sell opium in China.
In the course of those colonial and imperialist activities, Britain has carried out many invasions. In fact, Suella’s parents themselves come from former colonies.
Braverman is a child of migrants
Suella Braverman is the daughter of parents of Indian origin who emigrated to Britain in the 1960s: Uma (née Mootien-Pillay) from Mauritius and Christie Fernandes, from Kenya. Both those countries have indeed been invaded by Britain.
Kenya in particular from 1952-1960 had one of the worst experiences of colonial treatment by the British military, including wide-scale murder, torture and rape. India and Pakistan had their infrastructure and manufacture undermined by Britain leading to regular country-wide famines.
Suella should know about invasions, refugees and migrants but is on record as saying that the British Empire was on the whole a beneficial experience for its conquered. This is a prime example of the “slave mind” that apes the invader and wants to collaborate with it.3
Such “slave-minded” people can be even more vicious and callous in their attitudes than the conquerors themselves and Braverman certainly fills that bill. And it’s not just in occasional choice of words that Braverman nears Nazi appearance.
During Braverman’s unsuccessful campaign for selection as leader of the Conservative Party last July, she said her priorities would have included to “solve the problem of boats crossing the Channel” and “to withdraw the UK from the European Convention of Human Rights.”
In October 2022, Braverman said that she would love to see a front page of The Daily Telegraph sending asylum seekers to Rwanda4 and described it as her “dream” and “obsession.” No doubt she includes human rights and legality concerns as “all of this woke rubbish.5”
A courageous NGO
Holocaust survivor Joan Salter, the woman who accused Braverman of Nazi-like speech, is the daughter of refugees from Nazi persecution who survived but endured imprisonment and hazardous journeys. She has an MBE for her work on Holocaust education.
In response to a Home Office accusation that the clip is only partial and therefore misleading, the NGO’s CEO Sonya Sceats pointed out the full exchange is available in video on its website and said the charity will not remove the Twitter clip.
“As an organisation providing therapy to torture survivors who feel targeted by her language and who know first-hand where such dehumanising language can lead, we will not do so. She has used language she should be ashamed of, and we won’t be pressured into helping her hide it.”
Non-Governmental Organisations nearly always rely on government funding, whether directly or indirectly and as a result tend not to rock the boat too much, in case they find their boat getting smaller or their team even being tossed overboard.
As a result, in public the CEOs of those organisations tend to vary from generally totally compliant6 to cautiously critical on certain occasions. In that context, the actions of Salter in the initial video and of the Freedom From Torture NGO in militantly backing her can only be admired.
1This is the UK’s equivalent to Minister for Home Affairs, these days normally restricted to Britain (i.e excluding the colony in Ireland) and in particular England and Wales (i.e often excluding even Scotland).
3The concept of the ‘slave mind’ or ‘colonised mind’ has been addressed by a number of writers on national liberation, notably Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) from Ireland and Franz Fanon (1925-1961) from Martinique.
4That plan has been condemned by many human and civil rights organisations and also denounced as illegal.
5A quote dating from her attempt at Leader of the Conservative Party.
For the moment, and only for the moment the purchase of warplanes with which Petro and Márquez hoped to cuddle up to the military, leaving aside the basic needs of the Colombians has collapsed.
But Petro and Márquez have not given up the ghost. So, they bought the Barak MX air defence system.(1) It is a system for defence against aerial and missile attacks. We don’t know who the enemies that the country has are, nor who they hope to use this system against, but they bought it.
To cap it all, they manufacturer is Israel, as if the country hadn’t had enough of the Zionist state’s interference.
It is worth remembering that it was Israeli mercenaries at the request of the then Colombian government who trained paramilitary groups in the Magdalena Medio region in the 1980s.
Though really, if you wanted to buy death, there are no angels in the market. The main suppliers of weapons to Colombia are the USA and the European Union, i.e. the butchers of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and other recent wars.
Colombia’s military expenditure is significant, accounting for around 3.4% of GDP in 2021, i.e. 10.006 million dollars (constant prices of 2020).(2)
We have to go back as far as 1995 to find a year in which military expenditure was less than 3% of GDP, though in that year it represented 14.8% of the national budget. It was almost always above 10% of the total budget.
Israeli sales to Colombia are not new. All governments have bought arms from Israel, except Duque’s. The purchase by Petro and Márquez is another sign that they have no intention of breaking with the past, with the military or any sector the bourgeoisie.
A progressive government would not buy an air defence system to protect against an imaginary enemy. The country needs more pencils, stethoscopes and less missiles. But Petro and Márquez are determined to please the military.
In all their press conferences the military turn up, Petro and Márquez have not broken with that practice, more suited to a military dictatorship, that not even the Biden government does.
The military pose as statues or caricatures of The Simpsons in press conferences, regardless of the topic, but Petro and Márquez want them by their side.
They talk a lot about total peace, and a change, but a civil government feels the need to put the military besides them at every turn and never misses a chance to waste the health and education budget etc. on weapons.
The remains of more than 1,700 victims have already surfaced, twice as many as expected
Report from Info Libre, by Angel Munarriz, Seville — January 6, 2023 7:39 p.m. @angel_munarriz (translation and editing for publication here, also Footnotes and Glossary by D.Breatnach)
The mass graves in the Seville cemetery are a puzzle. Historiographical research has concluded that thousands and thousands of victims of Francoism lie dumped without order or recognition, but there is hardly full certainty of a few hundred names registered in the municipal registry.
What is underground is a sordid totum revolutum1 of bones of those shot right there and on nearby walls, of those killed in prisons and concentration camps or in confrontations with the rebel troops, or of victims of hunger and poverty who were was buried free of charge along with those who suffered repression.
Today the puzzle is still far from complete; it will probably never be so, because part of the mission of the placing of graves in the San Fernando cemetery was to erase the traces of the crime.
But some pieces are beginning to fit. It is even possible already to glimpse some forms. What is observed goes beyond any hypothesis.
Not everything in this story is summed up in numbers, because behind each number there is a human being. But numbers are essential to understand its dimension.
There they go: the search in the mass graves of the Franco regime led by the Seville City Council is now extended to more than 4,000 possible victims, according to the calculations of the consistory itself, based on historiographical sources.
In the first excavated burial, Pico Reja, the remains of more than 1,700 victims have already surfaced, twice as many as expected, making it “the largest open mass grave in Western Europe since Srebrenica”, as the City Council highlights.
In the second, called Monumento, pending opening, there could be more than 2,600. The horror revealed in what was the fiefdom of Gonzalo Queipo de Llano2 seems to have no end.
Overflowing forecasts in Pico Reja
The exhumation work in the Pico Reja grave, which began a little less than two years ago, is nearing completion.
“The idea [of the City Council] is to carry out an act of symbolic closure of the pit before the end of January. We are going to do everything possible,” explains Juan Manuel Guijo, director of the excavation, which is in charge of the science society Aranzadi, a benchmark in this field.
Guijo is not certain about the deadlines.”The pit must be left clean, without remains,” he says. In addition, “a huge amount of funerary material is coming out.”
The anthropologist uses scientific jargon: “Huge amount of funerary material.” They are human bones.
The initial forecast for the number of deaths was just over 1,100, of which between 850 and 900 would be victims of Franco’s repression, according to the City Council. But reality has broken any forecast.
Guijo advances to InfoLibre the figures as of December 30: the remains of 8,600 individuals have been located, almost eight times more than previously thought; of these, 1,718 are victims of the Franco regime, around twice as many as expected.
The two figures, says Guijo, “will be exceeded” at the end of the excavation.
“We can reach 9,000 people exhumed. All this was impossible to foresee. It is beyond any possible forecast,” he says.
The mayor of Seville, Antonio Muñoz (PSOE), has said it in other words: “The reality was much worse than what was estimated in the initial forecasts.”
An explanation? The grave “was not filled up shortly after the coup, as was thought, but was open until 1940, or at least it was opened punctually in 1940,” explains Councilor Juan Tomás de Aragón.
The remains –wires and shackles– or the posture allow us to conclude that a victim was tied up, either with the wrists together or with the hands behind the back. Clips found appeared to hold several in a row with rope or wire.
The skull is the most frequent area of impact of the projectile, especially from behind, but also on the face. There is an abundance of long-arm projectiles used for the Mauser rifle, as well as short-arm bullets, mainly 9 mm.
In addition to the unmistakable bullet holes, there are “simple” fractures that point to “illtreatment” and “cruelty,” Guijo explains. The extreme fragmentation, mutilation, shrapnel and grenade remains seem to be attributable to “high energy trauma”, typical of combat.
500 families waiting: from Blas Infante to Horacio Gómez
One of the pieces of the puzzle fell into place in June.
The technicians confirmed the existence of evidence that certifies the remains of at least thirty of the victims who were members of what is known as the Mining Column, a group of volunteer fighters from the Huelva mining area that arrived in Seville bringing dynamite.
The characteristics of some burials –bodies without a coffin, grouped and face down– and the evidence that they had been retaliated against –shots to the neck, ties, perimortem fractures– allowed, together with some specific findings, to outline the hypothesis that they were members of the Miners Column.
There was a way to confirm it. How? These workers breathed, drank and ate in a mining environment without current security measures, so there could be a transfer of heavy metals to their bodies.
Indeed, the analyses carried out at the University of Santiago de Compostela have ratified it.
Much remains to be confirmed. Some 500 relatives have offered DNA samples, which must be compared with the remains of the victims, especially femurs, with signs of repression. You can’t always. There are more than 300 victims who do not present viable skeletal remains.
They are practically pulverized. This, added to the fact that the percentage of identifications with respect to the total number of bodies exhumed in this type of work is usually around 10%, caution is advised.
This same month of December, Horacio Hermoso, son of the former mayor of the city of the same name, a member of the Republican Left, assassinated in September 1936, died. Horacio Jr. gave his DNA, but did not arrive in time to see the end of the remains matching process.
Among the relatives who are still waiting is Estanislao Naranjo, grandson of Blas Infante, considered the father of Andalusianism, murdered in August 1936. “Things are going slowly, because it is a difficult grave,” he says.
Do you see the identification of his grandfather as possible? “In theory, yes. Due to the dates, they had to throw it into that pit. Now, it is difficult to know who was victimised and who was not. If the bullet hit a bone, you can see it. If it only touched soft parts, no,” he says.
Historical investigations maintain that, in addition to Infante, the remains of other political and union figures of the time rest in the grave, as well as loyal soldiers – Captain Ignacio Alonso – and assault guards3.
Councilor Juan Tomás de Aragón (PSOE) emphasises that all the victims will have a “dignified burial.” The City Council will build a memorial and a columbarium over the grave.
The Mayor tries not to generate excessive expectations about the identifications, so as not to pivot on this last phase the success or failure of the works. The truth is that the exhumation of Pico Reja has involved much more than exhumations and possible identifications.
For example, it has led to the making of several documentaries, such as Pico Reja. The truth that the earth hides. Students from schools, institutes and universities, from Seville and abroad, have organized visits to the work area.
Numerous university researchers have taken an interest in the process.
Monumento: the emblematic grave of Cruz de Lolo
The opening will not be limited to Pico Reja. The City Council plans to put out to tender in 2023 the excavation work for a second grave. It is known as the Alpargateros or Monumento pit.
According to available studies, it was open between September 1936 and January 1940 and no less than 7,440 bodies of deaths from different causes were deposited there, of which some 2,613 would be victims of Francoism.
Among them are believed to be the eight convicted of a plot against General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, during which Concha Morón was arrested as part of The Resistence in Sevilla. An attempt to overthrow Queipo (Aconcagua, 2013).
Carmen Díaz may also be there, sister of the general secretary of the PCE, José Díaz.
If the forecasts of victims of the Franco regime in the Monumento pit are met, the total of the two burials would easily exceed 4,000. After Pico Reja‘s surprise, no one dares to say so. Perhaps, says the archaeologist Guijo, bodies attributed to Monumento were in Pico Reja.
Graves (and more matters) pending
The City Council trusts that the collaboration of the Diputación, the Junta de Andalucía4 and the Government in Pico Reja, where they have invested 1.5 million euros, will be repeated in Monumento, so called because of a commemorative monument raised there in 2003 by initiative of the Association of former Political Prisoners and Victims of the Franco regime.
Almost everyone who remembers that in this entire area crime reached inhuman levels hovers around the Monument pit.
In addition to the monument, in its paved area there is a cross placed by a communist blacksmith in the early 50s, tolerated by the authorities and known as the Cruz de Lolo. For the rest, no one would say. Seville has lived for decades in a democracy with back turned to the memory of its horrors.
The remains of Blas Infante, named by Parliament “father of the Andalusian homeland”, was not begun to be searched for until 2020.
Those of Queipo, head of the repression in southern Spain, the coup leader who called for “raping Reds”, have only recently left the place of honour they occupied in the basilica of La Macarena,5 in compliance with a state law.
This was without the confraternity with the most members in the city acting on its own initiative. Apart from this exhumation, the honours granted to him still stain the city.
Councilor Juan Tomás de Aragón highlights the “normality” with which the exhumation of Pico Reja has been carried out, which he is sure will be repeated in the Monumento.
“Nobody has clutched their heads in their hands. People are more intelligent and mature than is sometimes thought,” he says. He believes that the key has been respect: “We have not hidden what we were doing, nor have we used it to confront anyone.”
There are more graves in the complex, in addition to Pico Reja and Monumento. Antigua –delimited and where it has been verified that there are no remains of victims, according to the councilor–, Rotonda de los Fusilados, Disidentes y Judíos, some extensions of filled graves…
“Francoism never admitted that there were graves, that’s why they were known by popular names. If it had admitted them, they would be called San Rafael, Santa Águeda …”, explains Juan Morillo, a reference to the memorialist movement in Andalusia.
He sees the exhumation process of Pico Reja as “exemplary”, but at the same time stresses: “All this, it must be remembered, has been done due to the pressure of family members and associations. No party had it on their pprogram.
“Memory continues to be the great democratic deficit in this country, where there are still unopened graves and streets with Francoist names”.
The City Council does not plan to disinter these graves, at least not while the largest ones are open. According to the available evidence, they have much fewer victims than Pico Reja and Monumento.
Comment byDiarmuid Breatnach
It is important to note that most of the executions by the fascist-military forces during the Civil War took place outside combat zones, in which the fascist-military were in no danger whatsoever. They were punishing not only soldiers of the Second Republic but political activists and functionaries.
This is in contrast to the much lower number of executions in the zones under control of the Republic and, furthermore, as their authorities exercised greater control, the executions were reduced considerably.
Many executions also took place after the fall of the Republic and the terrible conditions of the vastly overcrowded jails and prison camps added their contribution to the fascist military harvest. Their purpose was revenge, deterrence of others and elimination of a democratic generation.
Generations growing up afterwards knew little of the extent of the horror unless informed by their family and communities, though may of these in turn felt obliged to remain silent unless they – or their sons and daughters – were to also become victims.
The subject is not taught in the schools and during the Dictatorship children were taught and expected to salute the icon of the Dictator Franco.
Unlike in Germany and even in Portugal, fascism was never defeated in the Spanish state and the Transition from Dictatorship brought the military, police, judges, civil servants, media moguls, university dons and Catholic hierarchy safely into the new “democracy”.
In addition, most of those who seized land, buildings, machinery and equipment, vehicles and personal wealth of the victims of the coup and war, were allowed to keep them
As Juan Morillo reminds us (see article), it is not the Spanish State that has pushed the process of disinterment and documentation of these mass graves, but relatives, communities and concerned citizens. And for a long time it was even dangerous to pursue such activities.
Fascism remains alive and strong in the Spanish state.
2Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Sierra (5 February 1875 – 9 March 1951) was a Spanish military leader who rose to prominence during the July 1936 coup and soon afterwards the Spanish Civil War and the White Terror that followed. Capturing Seville with a force of at least 4,000 troops and ordering mass killings, he later made ridiculous claims, including that the city had been defended by 100,000 armed communists and that the fascist military troops had taken the city with as few as fifteen men. Quiepo de Llano publicly called for women of the Republican opposition to be raped.
3From Wikipedia: The Cuerpo de Seguridad y Asalto (English: Security and Assault Corps) was the heavy reserve force of the blue-uniformed urban police force of Spain during the Spanish Second Republic. (for more, see Glossary)
Andalusia: One of the ‘autonomous regions’ of the Spanish state, large southern region, from Al Andalus, province of the Moorish conquest of large areas of the Spanish state. After the Canary Islands it was the easiest for Franco’s troops to reach from the Spanish colony in North Africa; its defenders lacked time to prepare and did not last long against a well-armed and large invasion force.
Assault Guards (From Wikipedia): The Cuerpo de Seguridad y Asalto (English: Security and Assault Corps) was the heavy reserve force of the blue-uniformed urban police force of Spain during the Spanish Second Republic.The Assault Guards were special police and paramilitary units created by the Spanish Republic in 1931 to deal with urban and political violence. Most of the recruits in the Assault Guards were ex-military personnel, many of which were veterans.
At the onset of the Spanish Civil War there were 18,000 Assault Guards. About 12,000 stayed loyal to the Republican government, while another 5,000 joined the rebel faction. Many of its units fought against the Franco supporting armies and their allies. Their siding with the former Spanish Republic’s government brought about the disbandment of the corps at the end of the Civil War. The members of the Guardia de Asalto who had survived the war and the ensuing Francoist purges were made part of the Policía Armada, the corps that replaced it.
Diputación: Regional administrative body in most regions of the Spanish state.
Izquierda Republicana Republican Left (from Wikipedia, translated): Izquierda Republicana (IR) was a Spanish left-wing republican political party founded by Manuel Azaña in 1934. It played a prominent role during the Second Spanish Republic and in the moments preceding the start of the Civil War. Azaña became President of the Republic between 1936 and 1939. During the Franco dictatorship the party practically disappeared from the political scene except in the sphere of Republican exile in Mexico, where it continued to have some activity. As of 1977 it was reconstituted in Spain again, although without having the (degree of) importance of the historical party.
La Macarena: Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza Macarena (Our Lady of Hope of Macarena, base of the Holy Week Confraternity of that Catholic church. The procession on the early morning of Good Friday is one of the largest, most popular, and fervent in the whole of the Spanish state. The wooden statue of Our Lady of Hope of Macarena dates from the 17th century.
PCE:Partido Comunista de España (Communist Party of Spain) is a communist party, banned by Franco but supported the Transition from the Dictatorship and the monarchist Constitution, subsequently experiencing a number of splits. Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), one of the two main trade unions in the Spanish state, its associated trade union movement was the main underground workers’ element in forcing the change from dictatorship but is no longer under its control.
PSOE:Partido Socialista Obrero de España (Socialist Workers Party of Spain) is a social-democratic party, banned by Franco but supported the Transition from the Dictatorship and the monarchist Constitution, subsequently one of two main parties of government in the Spanish state, at the time of writing the senior member in coalition government with the Podemos party. Its associated trade union, Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), is one of the two main trade unions in the Spanish state.
Working people have experienced many betrayals in history and the struggle for self-determination of the Irish nation has been – and is being – betrayed also.
When such betrayals occur, a range of common reactions is evoked; thinking about those responses may help the betrayed at least to moderate the harm and turn the experience to some benefit.
Equally, some ways of handling the experience can magnify and deepen the harm already caused.
Betrayal is a difficult experience for the betrayed certainly but not without some cost to the betrayer too and each has a number of common responses. This applies to the personal as well as to the political but there are some differences.
The betrayers have their followers to different degrees and these too have psychological reactions to the betrayal — and to criticism of the betrayal. We can observe these reactions in a number of recent historical cases of high levels of resistance subsequently betrayed.
The most recent phase of high degree resistance in Ireland took place largely in the British colony of the Six Counties, beginning with mass struggles for civil rights before passing through protracted guerrilla war and intense struggles of political prisoners in the jails.
In the Basque Country, the corresponding phase began with ideological-cultural struggle and mass industrial actions against the Franco dictatorship, quickly developing into a guerrilla campaign combined with street battles, resistance to conscription and struggles around prisoners in the jails.
The leadership of the Irish struggle came to political agreement with the colonial occupier, disbanded and decommissioned its guerrilla forces and acceding to its right of conquest, joined the occupier’s colonial administration, concentrating thereafter on building up its electoral base.
A similar process took place in the Basque Country but with important differences: the imprisoned activists were not released and the movement’s political leadership was not even admitted into joint management of the colonial administration.
Each nation witnessed splits, recrimination, dissidence, repression on groups continuing resistance but also a range of psychological responses which at best did not assist recuperation and in fact often deepened the harm of betrayal by the leadership.
STANDARD RESPONSES BY THE BETRAYED
DISMAY is a common reaction: How could he/ she/ they? I never thought they would. We’re finished now.
BLAME is another also common response: It was that leader’s or leadership’s fault. We didn’t fight hard enough. Those comrades criticised too much.
SELF-CENSORSHIP And EXCESSIVE CAUTION: We can see the harm in some of the leadership’s actions but we must be careful not to step too far out of the movement, where we will be marginalised and unable to have an effect1.
DESPAIR: That’s the end of everything. There’s no way out of this. It was all for nothing – all those sacrifices, all that pain.I’ll never trust people or get involved again.
APATHY: So I/ we might as well forget about it all. Just think about ourselves/ myself/ family. Drop out. Drink. Take drugs.
DENIAL: We’ve not really been betrayed. It’s just another way to go for the same thing. This is the only reasonable choice. We couldn’t keep on that way any longer, this is just a change of method. We’re just having a pause. The leadership is clever and has tricks up their sleeves. This is just to fool the authorities. It’s just going to take a little longer to win than we thought.
Those are defensive constructions in emotion and, in so far as that takes place, in thinking. But defensiveness can turn to aggression – and frequently does. The betrayers – and often the duped also – resent being reminded of what and where they are. It makes them uncomfortable.
HOSTILITY: How dare those people criticise us/ the leadership? They don’t understand and just want continual conflict. They’re endangering our secret plan. Who do they think they are? They’re just wrecking everything, undermining our new plans. They need to be taught a lesson.
PERSONAL ATTACKS: That critic is no great activist. S/he hasn’t suffered as some of us have. They were always troublemakers. Jealous, that’s what they are. They’re not very bright; no idea about real politics. They are in fact traitors, helping our enemies.
MARGINALISATION: We are not going to listen to those critics. We will not allow them space on our media. We’ll try to make sure they don’t get venues in which to spread their poison. If people are friends with them they can’t be our friends too. Such people will not enjoy our hospitality or invitations to our events. People should not even talk to them. If the authorities attack those dissidents, we are not going to trouble ourselves about them – it’s their own look out.
MANAGING THE BETRAYAL
PROMOTING LEADER ADULATION is a useful tool in shutting down the opportunities for criticism and in repressing them when they arise. “Who are we to criticise this great comrade’s thinking or actions?” becomes an implicit question, clearing the way for betrayal.
SEEKING COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY ALLIANCES is engaged upon so as to appear to its members to make the organisation’s influence greater, or to outflank and isolate more revolutionary tendencies and often ultimately to make the leadership acceptable to the ruling circles.
BEGGING FOR CONCESSIONS when the revolutionary path has been abandoned can often be observed, as in “we’ve abandoned our militant struggle, please stop repressing us”, for example, a frequent response to repression of the Basque leadership once it abandoned the revolutionary path.
COLLUDING WITH THE OCCUPIER becomes a new second nature to a leadership abandoning revolution, not only in abandoning armed struggle, for example but in destroying weapons and suppressing elements still in resistance.
PROVING THEIR READINESS TO COLLUDE FURTHER, revolutionaries turned collaborators denounce continued resistance, try to convince revolutionaries to desist (or threaten or physically attack them), promote the repressive arms of the State such as the police and so on.
INTOLERANCE OF CRITICISM becomes default position; such criticism tends to expose the contradiction between the original purpose of the organisation and its concrete actions in the present. Censorship, expulsion and misrepresentation become common.
MARGINALISATION OF CRITICS follows from intolerance of criticism – the individuals or groups must be made pariahs so as to nullify or at least reduce their influence. Association with them, socially or politically – even in agitating around civil rights – must be discouraged.
REPRESSION OF DISSIDENTS finally becomes necessary, whether by threats or by actual violence or, when admitted to governing circles, by use of repressive state machinery.
DEALING WITH BETRAYAL RATIONALLY
The first necessary step is to analyse how the betrayal came about: how was it organised? What were the conditions that made it possible? What were the early signs?
Then, proceed to: what could we have done differently? What WILL we do differently in future?
One common assumption here in Ireland, especially in Irish Republican circles, is that the rot began with standing in elections. This is not logical and it is in effect making a negative fetish of electoral work, a taboo to be avoided.
It is often useful to the revolution in many ways to have representation in the parliament and local authorities, for example in promoting or blocking practical or legislative measures, getting media air time, visiting prisons — all without ever promoting reformism as a way forward.
Certainly the prioritisation of electoral work over other aspects is a sign that something has gone wrong: the strength of the popular revolutionary movement is on the street, in workplaces, communities, places of education, rather than in parliaments and local authorities.
The drive towards electoral representation can encourage bland slogans of the soap powder kind (“new improved” or “washes even better”) rather than those with revolutionary content and also the promotion of more bourgeois individuals in preference to grass-roots organisers.
But none of that means that representation in those bodies cannot be used to further the popular struggles or that such aberrations cannot be avoided. And in fact, the concentration on criticism on the electoral factor served to distract from a more fundamental error.
Of course, electoral work should never, for revolutionaries, be about entering government under the current socio-economic system, i.e sharing in the administration of the State.
Leader adulation & intolerance of criticism
If criticism is not tolerated when errors are committed, they can hardly be corrected. Again and again it has been observed that the party/ organisation faithful refuse to accept external criticism from non-enemies. Internally the leadership inhibits criticism by the members.
The cult of the leader also inhibits criticism and therefore correction of errors. And behind this image others can hide and also commit errors. Problematic as dead icons may be, living ones are many times more dangerous – deceased ones at least do not change their trajectories.
Such created living icons have been Mandela in South Africa, Yasser Arafat among Palestinians, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in Ireland, Arnaldo Otegi in the Basque Country and Abdullah Ocalan among Kurds (particularly in the Turkish and Syrian states).
Nobody knows everything or is always right. Bothersome as being criticised may be, its total absence is worse, allowing us no opportunity to question ourselves as activists and in particular as revolutionary organisations.
The revolutionary leadership, party or organisation is not the people
The revolutionary leadership, party or organisation does not have all the answers and is not the people. This might seem obvious but from the behaviour of such leaderships and their followers in the past it is clear that the opposite philosophy has been dominant.
Confusing the organisation with the people or with revolution itself, we assume that what is good for the organisation is also good for the people and the revolution. This however is not always so and leads to placing the perceived well-being of the organisation above the needs of the revolution.
Indulging this confusion leads to political opportunism and sectarianism, bad relations with other revolutionaries, ignoring all external criticism and placing the needs of the leadership higher than those of the membership and of the membership higher than those of the mass movement.
In internationalist solidarity work we build the unity of the people across borders and against the same or different enemies than those against which we are struggling.
One feature observed in a number of organisations where the leadership is moving towards betrayal is a reduction or elimination of such work.
To those in our ranks seeking an accommodation with imperialism and capitalism, those internationalist solidarity alliances are either a) unimportant or b) a hindrance to the alternative reactionary alliances to which they aspire.
The latter was very much the case with the Provisionals’ attitude to US imperialism. For decades, their leadership maintained apparently mutually-contradictory positions on what is the biggest imperialist superpower in the world.
On the one hand, for example, there could be involvement in solidarity with Cuba against the US economic blockade and, in the past, against US sabotage and terrorism against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
On the other hand, the leadership sought the support of the US elite against British colonialism, which is occupying a part of Ireland and against which the movement was waging, in that colony, an armed and popular struggle.
Seeking support from the US imperialist elite entailed distancing from left-wing Irish USA and dropping support for even long-term inmates of US jails, such as American Indian Leonard Peltier and Black American Mumia Abu Jamal, arising out of popular struggles inside the US.2
Another warning sign is the founding of unprincipled alliances with other organisations in struggle. For example, although it is correct to have a position of support for the Palestinian people, that should not necessarily bind us to exclusively support the fighters of one organisation only.
The Provisionals made their alliance with the Al Fatah organisation to the exclusion of all others in Palestine but worse was to come, for Al Fatah shoved aside the idea of a free Palestine and the right of return in exchange for administrative partial autonomy and funding.3
From there, Al Fatah became so corrupt that the Palestinian people, that had long supported a secular leadership, voted overwhelmingly for an islamic fundamentalist party, Hamas4. The unprincipled alliance with Al Fatah and the ANC was used to ‘sell’ the GFA to Irish Republicans.5
In the Basque Country, the mass movement’s leadership developed close links with the leadership of the Provisionals and refused links with Irish Republican organisations that dissented from the Provisionals’ position or with Republican prisoners after the Good Friday Agreement.
That should have sounded alarm trumpets in the Basque movement but if it did, it remained largely without practical effect. Askapena, the Basque internationalist solidarity organisation did split from the main movement but did not go so far as to support ‘dissident’ Irish Republican prisoners.
On the basis of the preceding I think we can draw a number of primary lessons.
LESSON ONE: ANALYSE THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST AND SEEK TO AVOID REPLICATING THEM
The type of struggle, location, timing, peripheral situation, long, medium and short-term objectives, experience and expertise of personnel, resources … all need to be analysed, in conjunction with the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy.
In carrying out this kind of analysis on the Irish struggle, we see that we faced one of the military superpowers, also well linked into the western imperialist world. The Republican movement’s battle area was in total one-sixth of the nation’s territory and the location deeply divided.
The rest of the nation was ruled by a weak foreign-dependent ruling class.
A movement cannot choose when it has to step forward in defence but it can choose how it develops the struggle afterwards. It seems obvious that in order to be victorious, at the very least the struggle would have to be spread throughout the nation.
That in turn would entail putting forward social and economic objectives to attract wider support which, in turn, would mean taking on the Catholic Church hierarchy.
In addition, the question of effective external allies was relevant here but even more so in the Basque Country, located across the borders of two powerful European states.
The total population of the portion of the Basque nation within the Spanish state is far short of three million, that of the rest of the state over 44 million.
Clearly allies external to the Basque nation would be essential for victory and these would have to come from across most of the Spanish state at least.
Such an assumption would entail, in turn, outlining objectives to attract considerable numbers from across the Spanish state which in turn would mean creating alliances with revolutionary and other progressive forces across the state.
LESSON TWO: REFRAIN FROM PERSONALISING THE ISSUES
When criticism of the counter-revolutionary line put forward by individual leaders becomes personalised, the political essence of the criticism becomes lost or at least obscured. It can seem as though the critics have personal reasons for their hostility or even jealousy of the individuals.
Much of what one sees publicly posted by opponents of pacification programs in Ireland and the Basque Country often seems more about hostility to the personalities of MaryLou MacDonald, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness or Arnaldo Otegi than about specific policies and actions.6
Crucially, focusing criticism on individual leaders serves to conceal other underlying causes of failure and betrayal that are usually more fundamental: problems in objectives, errors of strategy, in particular and also of tactics along with unhealthy organisational dynamics.
LESSON THREE: DEVELOP INTERNATIONALISM AND AVOID UNPRINCIPLED ALLIANCES
In the face of imperialist and other reactionary alliances, revolutionaries need internationalist solidarity, the basis for which should be revolutionary positions and action. Exclusive alliances are generally to be avoided as is uncritical support or unquestioning approval of all actions.
LESSON FOUR: CONTRIBUTE TO BROAD FRONTS WITHOUT SURRENDERING THE REVOLUTIONARY LINE
A broad front is essential not only for successful revolution but also often for defence against repression. Such fronts should be built on a principled basis with respect for the participating groups and individuals but without surrendering the revolutionary line.
At the same time, the possibility of betrayal, opportunism or sabotage and marginalisation by partners in broad fronts need to be guarded against and, if occurring, to be responded to in a principled and measured manner.
Broad fronts not only increase the numbers in resistance in a unified manner but also expose the activities of the constituent groups to the members of other parts of the broad front. Activists can then evaluate organisations and one another on the basis of experience rather than of reputation.
The revolutionary line should not be abandoned or concealed when in a broad front with organisations and individuals who have varying lines. At the same time, it is not necessary to be pushing the revolutionary line every minute.
LESSON FIVE: DON’T GIVE UNCONDITIONAL TRUST TO LEADERS
Of course, our leaders and activists must be trusted – but always in the knowledge that no-one is perfect or above the possibility of error. The shutting down of opportunity to voice criticism should sound alarm bells in any revolutionary movement.
There are of course “time and place” considerations in criticism; for example, the capitalist mass media, police interrogation or trial in court are hardly appropriate places to criticise a revolutionary movement’s leadership.
LESSON SIX: TOLERATE INTERNAL CRITICISM AND CAUCUSES IN BALANCE WITH COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
The above touches upon this area too. People who follow us without question may equally do so with another.
The right to caucus, i.e to collect around a particular revolutionary trend or focus needs to be acknowledged and formalised. Like-minded people will naturally associate and it is far healthier to have this occur in the open rather than in secret.
At the same time, when a discussion reaches democratic decision, the minority whose positions were rejected need to present a common front with the rest of the organisation or movement.
Similarly, political and organisation criticism needs to be welcomed or at least tolerated within the organisation or movement because it may be correct and point an alternative way forward and even if it isn’t, the discussion around the criticism will help to clarify matters.
Such openess to criticism and discussion encourages a conscious and thinking membership which by that measure alone and organisationally makes it more difficult for some individual or clique to manipulate the membership.
3With the Camp David (1978) and Oslo Accords (1993 & 1995).
4In 2006 (the most recent) Palestinian parliamentary elections, Change and Reform (Hamas) won 74 seats and Al Fatah 45. In Gaza Al Fatah rejected the result and tried to seize power but were defeated in a short battle, though Hamas did not battle their assumption of power in the West Bank. All dates for elections to Palestinian Parliament since have passed without polling.
5And since then, unprincipled alliances with Provisional Sinn Féin have been used by the main Basque organisation leadership and ditto with Colombia to ‘sell’ pacification processes in those countries (which have been even worse for them than has the GFA been in Ireland).
6As a historical note, it is said that some of the delegates who voted for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922 were moved to do so by the nature of the attacks of Cathal Brugha, for the anti-Treaty side on Michael Collins, leader of those for the Treaty. The majority of delegates voting in favour was only seven.
Whilst many of the Wokerati repeat uncritically any statement from the Western media or even NATO on Ukraine, wokeness itself was not to be found in Ukraine.
The rabid right wing homophobic sentiment expressed at gay rights marches before the war, was not a fertile ground for the Wokerati.
Homophobia abounds, as does racism, something we saw when black people were taken off or prevented from boarding trains leaving Ukraine at the start of the war.
Gay rights and racism are not woke issues per se, in fact the Wokerati in the West have abandoned gay rights, particularly Lesbian rights, in favour of male heterosexuals invading women’s spaces. But you get the general idea about Ukraine being a hostile terrain.
Not any more, wokeness and its methods have come to Ukraine. How it has done so, and on what issue, is illustrative of the reactionary nature of wokeness. When Russia invaded Ukraine, ridiculous calls were made to ban everything from Tchaikovsky to Tolstoy.
In doing so, they emulated woke calls for authors to be banned from the airwaves and also the rewriting of history with long dead authors being judged by current understandings of society on issues like race, but not class.
Class was still fair game, in fact it is the target of many woke comedians, whose middle-class audiences like to show their social sense of rightness by frowning on historical authors on issues, like race, women (to a degree only) and others.
So, we are only a few steps from Shakespeare, John Donne and others getting chopped, but they have no problem with working class people being the target of their jokes.
Now the Ukrainians have got in on the game with calls for the closure of a museum in Kiev dedicated to the writer Mikhail Bulgakov.1 Yes, I had to look him up too. I have to confess to the woke literati that he was never on my radar before this moment.
I mean, he is not Tolstoy, is he? And he is certainly not anything closer to home like Beckett, or even the English author Thomas Hardy, both of whom have survived the woke banning spree so far, but this might be because their stuff is a little dense and maybe they haven’t read them yet.
I know I haven’t, though as a child my Da would read them and sometimes out loud. So, I knew not to bother with them at an early age, unless you were going to get very serious.
Bulgakov’s crime was that he wasn’t enamoured with Ukrainian nationalism and so he must be expunged from the record.
Ukraine’s national writers’ union has called for the museum at number 13A Andriivskyi Descent – a historic cobbled street linking the upper town with the district of Podil, on the banks of the Dnipro River – to be closed down.2
Apparently, he even criticised some Ukrainian nationalists of his time and Stalin was fond of some of his plays, though he censored him at the same time. Bulgakov opposed the idea of an independent Ukraine.
And even The Guardian acknowledges that this was a common position at the time. He was not alone.
The museum’s director, Lyudmila Gubianuri, has also hit back against criticism, calling Bulgakov “a man of his time”.
“He was born and lived in the Russian empire. Bulgakov had an inherent imperial mindset, but neither he nor his family were ever Ukrainophobes,” she stressed. “Bulgakov did not believe in the reality of an independent Ukraine, like quite a lot of people at that time.”3
Were we to do this in Ireland, lots of people would come a cropper. Seán O’Casey would get it in the neck. Joyce would be frowned upon as well, not for the views that saw the Catholic Church come down upon him, but perhaps his general view of Ireland.
Brendan Behan was certainly in favour of Irish independence, but he joined the IRA and was arrested on bombing charges, so in the new climate of blessing the British government for taking up the White Man’s Burden in relation to us, he might also get it.
There is no end of writers who might be banned. Roddy Doyle, is no friend of Irish independence. His unpublished play My Granny Was A Hunger Striker, written shortly after the 1981 hunger strike which saw ten men die, gives you an idea of where he stands.
Maybe in the future someone might call for his works to be removed, no more The Van or Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha, or his work on violence against women in the home, The Woman Who Walked into Doors. I knew I should never have read him or even Behan, Joyce or Casey.
Yes, I actually read them, unlike Beckett.
The reactionary nature of wokeness can be seen in its arrival in Ukraine. It is about stifling dissent and debate and generally promoting reactionary ideas. It is something more at home in an authoritarian regime like the Ukrainian one.
Russia has been more straightforward in its censorship, though now a capitalist regime, its take on repression and censorship, has been borrowed straight out of the Soviet era book.
The Wokerati under the guise of liberalism also want to shape a view of society on the basis of authoritarian methods, such as social shaming and the banning of literature to the literary equivalent of Outer Mongolia and have had some success.
Liberals ban books and place authors in quarantine, Ukrainian nationalists adopt the same tactics. Tells you everything you need to know about both.
Though, that the Western Wokerati were streets ahead in the book burning club probably means they have the edge over the zealots of the East and this is also telling.
On February 28, Pablo González was detained by the Polish secret services on the border with Ukraine while he was covering the migratory crisis caused by the war. 1
Since then, 10 months have passed without the authorities of that country having publicly presented evidence, detailing accusations against him or bringing him to trial.
This length of time in pretrial detention is generating significant expenses for the people around the journalist who pay for the defence and send money to him in prison.
For this reason, friends and colleagues of the reporter with Spanish and Russian nationality have founded the #FreePabloGonzález Association to raise funds to pay for legal coverage, launch initiatives to support the journalist and channel the fight for his rights.
One of the main problems in the case is that, a few hours after his arrest and just before being sent to prison, he was interrogated without legal assistance.
This, together with the fact that Poland accuses him of spying for Moscow — a very serious crime punished by the Polish penal code with up to 10 years in prison — explains why it has been necessary to strengthen the defence of Pablo González throughout the process.
At times, the journalist has had three legal teams, due to the complexity of the case and the impediments that the Polish courts have placed in his defence process. From the day of his arrest, Pablo González has been assisted by Gonzalo Boye, the lawyer who announced his arrest.
In April, thanks to collaboration in the journalist’s location, Polish lawyer Bartosz Rogala was hired, after the two lawyers assigned ex officio by the authorities of that country resigned from the case.
Since October, González also has, according to the family, a group of Polish criminal lawyers experienced in complex processes.
The financial burden of the process on the family
“Until now we have drawn on savings and the help of relatives and close people, but the situation has reached such a point that we are forced to request help from society.”
These are the words of Oihana Goiriena, mother of Pablo González’s three children,2 who stresses that part of the income will also go towards improving the conditions of the journalist in prison.
Faced with this situation, the friends who make up the #FreePabloGonzález collective have promoted the creation of the association, which is registered in the General Register of Associations of the Basque Country.
The association is chaired by Oihana Goiriena. She is accompanied on the management team by Maribel Martínez and Gabino Martínez Terán, friends from Bilbao and Elantxobe, respectively.
For his part, Juan Teixeira, a photojournalist and friend of Pablo’s with whom he has been working for more than a decade, is the spokesperson. The others of the platform are friends from different backgrounds of the Basque journalist.
Legal expenses beyond attorneys’ fees
As explained by the journalist’s circle, most of the contributions received will be used to cover the cost of González’s legal defence. In addition to paying the different legal teams, it is necessary to cover the daily and travel expenses of their representatives and necessary bureaucratic procedures.
Radom prison is located 100 km from Warsaw and the representatives travel there regularly.
Funds collected will be used also to pay for Pablo González’ maintenance in prison.
As he has detailed in letters to his family and friends and in complaint he filed before the Strasbourg Court, the food he is provided in prison is quite deficient and he needs food and vitamin supplements. “They cost around 300-400 euros per month,” says Goiriena.
The #FreePabloGonzález platform members request that contributors send an email to the address email@example.com, with the basic contact information so that in the coming weeks all those people who helped the journalist can be personally thanked.
González had been covering the war in Ukraine apparently without difficulty for some time prior to his address but was named in a hostile published list, along with over a hundred other public commentators in the Spanish State, as “pro-Russian”.3
It seems suspicion was aroused when a broadcast of one of his La Sexta (TV) reporting pieces experienced a transmission breakdown and he was left facing a blank camera with Ukrainian troops in the background for half an hour while attempts were made to reconnect.
His detention by Ukrainian state security followed soon afterwards and among the issues for his interrogators, he reported after release, were his holding of two passports, one Russian with a Russian surname, the other Spanish with a Spanish surname.
González’s Russian passport names him as Pavel Rubtsov, using his father’s surname; his Spanish document identifies him as Pablo González Yagüe, using his mother’s two surnames4. Pablo is the Hispanicised version of the Russian name Pavel (Paul in English).
The reporter is the grandson of a Spanish Civil/ Antifascist War refugee who sought asylum in Russia, where his daughter married Gonzaléz’ father. Subsequently Pablo’s parents divorced and his mother went to live in the Basque Country in the Spanish state, taking Pablo with her.
According to his reports, among other sources of suspicion for Ukranian state security against him were that his employers include the Spanish left-wing on-line publication Publico.es and the Basque newspaper GARA– and that he had a bank card from Caja Laboral, a Basque workers’ cooperative bank.
While the passports issue might raise an eyebrow, dual nationality is legal in many state administrations and even the use of two versions of a name are known — no doubt a Russian passport and Russian surname smooths Gonzaléz’ periodic visits to his father.
The other issues raised by his early Ukrainian interrogators however are indicative of right-wing paranoia. Publico.es and GARA are moderately left-wing but have hardly departed far from the wsm’s (western mainstream media) line on the war in the Ukraine.
It is of course possible that this reporter has not sufficiently toed that wms line in his reporting or that right-wing state security paranoia was sufficient; in any case he reported that his interrogators made it clear he was not welcome to continue in Ukraine.
González left but seemed determined to continue his reporting and went to Poland from where he was about to enter Ukraine again with a group of reporters when he was arrested by the Polish state security service, accusing him of spying for Russia but to date having produced no evidence.
Shortly after his Ukrainian detention, the reporter’s friends and family in the Basque Country were visited by Spanish State security also.
This latter provided grounds for WSWS5 to accuse the Spanish Government coalition of PSOE-Podemos of collusion but its report neglected to mention that Podemos’ co-founder Pablo Iglesias6 wrote publicly in defence of González and ridiculing the accusation against him.
The Polish state is entitled to charge González with any crime for which they have evidence but no administration is entitled to lock up someone because they don’t like him or what he writes — or because of some vague suspicion.
A number of journalist defence organisations have raised concerns but strangely, in its annual report for 2022, the Reporters Without Frontiers organisation has not listed him among last year’s victims of attacks or threats to journalists — because he has not yet been tried.7
This seems extraordinary, that a 10-month detention without trial does not count as an attack on a journalist. However the International Press Institute and other press freedom organisations have called for his release and application of due legal process.
The Guardian reported in May that a spokesperson for Polish state security claimed to have amassed “vast evidence”8 and yet seven months later, there are still no specific charges or evidence produced with which to confront González or his lawyers.
1Although González has been a reporter for Spanish printed and TV media, his is a case of detention and harassment of journalists that has received little attention in the mainstream western media. His detention by the Polish state security services follows interrogation by state intelligence services in Ukraine, where he had been based for some time reporting on the war there.
2In the Basque Country, to where his mother emigrated from Russia and where Gonzaléz and his family are domiciled.
3As we have learned during this conflict, such a designation can mean anything from what it says to “not wholly convinced by the Ukrainian authorities or NATO” and the reporting and censorship aspect of the war has been as prominent as the military aspect.
Despite complaining of stomach pain, political prisoner and rapper Pablo Hasel waited over a year for a medical examination, according to excerpts of a letter of his being shared on social media, in which he complains of medical neglect.
Hasel, a Catalan marxist, was jailed for the content of videos in which he denounced the Spanish State, its history and its former King. He was also convicted of a physical attack with others on Spanish fascists.
In the past the rapper has also created a video rap in which he celebrated Irish resistance to English colonialism and promoted the IRA. Hasel’s description of the former King as a criminal has been largely vindicated by what is known publicly.
Hasel views his ongoing medical neglect, despite frequent complaints of stomach pains, as additional punishment by the system. Although according to public penal policy the deprivation of liberty is the full content of sentence, to that is being added humiliation and neglect, he says.
The rapper had to refuse a scheduled colonoscopy because the Mossos d’Escuadra, Catalan regional police, insisted they would have to be present in the room with him while he was naked with a tube inserted into his rectum and during which although sedated he would be handcuffed.
Indeed, though serious enough, deprivation of liberty is rarely the only content of penal punishment. For political prisoners in particular, humiliation, as in strip searches is a frequent attendant, as also can be violence by guards or by social prisoners.
Other frustrations are known too as solitary confinement, harassment, refusing access to educational or creative opportunities or materials, blocking visits by family and friends, harassing the visitors themselves, even deliberate dispersal to prisons located far from their social environment.
Medical neglect can have consequences beyond worry for the prisoner and their friends and family but can also be the cause of pain, discomfort and even early death. Hasel says that he is “being treated worse than rapists or paedophiles.”
Political prisoners often endure these privations silently in the knowledge of the intentions of their tormentors and of the reality of their powerlessness as prisoners of the State. However, resistance against the conditions in prison is also a well-documented part of revolutionary struggle.
In solidarity with political prisoners, those on the outside disseminate information about the prisoners’ conditions, organise pickets and demonstrations, write to or visit prisoners. Complaining to the responsible authorities is also another avenue, informing them that they are under scrutiny.
When prisoners concerned are within the administration of another state, it can sometimes be effective to register a complaint with the embassy of the relevant state. Embassies are obliged to inform their state of concerns about their government raised in the state where they are located.
Good news from the Free Pablo Hasel Facebook page in Catalan but translation here:
👋 Good news! 🗣 Pablo Hasél, will have a visit from a specialist on January 23, respecting his right to privacy. We achieved it with the pressure in the streets. We will have to be alert so that Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya does not violate any rights again ❗ 🔥 Thanks to all the supporters, like Plataforma Antirepressiva de Barcelona, for making it possible ❗ 💥 Today as yesterday, solidarity is our best weapon ❗
NB: ERC, the Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left) de Catalunya party is currently in power in the Government of the Catalunya autonomous region of the Spanish State.
Spanish Embassy in Ireland, 17A Merlyn Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 Ireland
(+353) 1 269 1640 / 2597 (+353) 1 283 9900
(+353) 1 269 1854
Writing to Pablo Hasel: Pablo Hasel, Centre Penitenciari Ponent, Módul 7, Victoria Kent, s/n 25071, Lleida, Catalunya, Spanish State.
(Translated from Publico report by Danilo Albin and with comment by D.Breatnach)
A few days before Nazi bookseller Pedro Varela’s date for trial in Malaga for the continued crime of provoking hatred and discrimination, the Hitlerite activist gave a talk in which he called for founding “cells of Christian, white, and European men.”
The audience listened in silence. On stage was Pedro Varela, the great leader of Spanish neo-Nazis and one of the few Hitlerites tried in Spain for spreading genocidal ideas.1
It was the morning of Sunday, November 6, there were a few days left before another trial for spreading hate and Varela, in his usual style, had not planned to move an inch from his script.
“You go down a street in Madrid or Barcelona and you see black boys, handsome, tall, stocky, who measure 1.90. They are going to be the owners of the situation and the owners of the country. Do you think they are going to pay your pensions?”2
That was one of the statements made by the owner of Librería Europa during the conference held that day, according to a video that has just seen the light.
The Nazi activist’s speech, organized by the far-right publishing house Fides, was made on November 6 within the framework of the XVI Days of Dissidence3.
The event, which was initially going to be held in a conference room on Calle Hilarión Eslava in Madrid, had to change location after the publication of a news item about said meeting by Público4.
That change of location angered Varela, who did not hesitate to lash out at this newspaper. “As you know, lovers of freedom of expression and democracy have tried and succeeded in cancelling the room in Madrid that for years we used for this rally,” he said.
“The Público newspaper, a pamphlet from the extreme left5, announced the address where the Sixteen Days of Dissidence were going to take place, and encouraged the anti-fascist mobs to call, bother, and outrage the owners of that place so that they finally barred us access to it for holding the ‘Dissidents’,” he continued.
This veteran Nazi activist also referred to an episode of the Cuéntame series in which there was an allusion to his bookshop, located in Barcelona and dedicated to the sale of National Socialist materials.
“The propaganda against this small group of 200 or 300 people here today is tremendous. A newspaper like Público, a television program like Cuéntame, dedicate part of their efforts to combat the spread of our thought and our struggle,” he warned.
As established by Court Number 11 of Barcelona in 2010, this “thought” and this “fight” imply the crime of spreading genocidal ideas. Varela was imprisoned between December 2010 and March 2012.
In 2016, after a raid on the Nazi bookstore in which the Mossos d’Esquadra seized 15,000 books glorifying genocide, the activist spent a few days on the run until he turned himself in at a police station.
He then paid a bail of 30,000 euros and returned to the street. Currently he is awaiting a new trial.
The Prosecutor for Hate Crimes and Discrimination requested 12 years in prison for exaltation, justification and denial of the Holocaust and for crimes of incitement to hatred against Jews, migrants, Muslims and homosexuals, among others, as well as the permanent closure of its business, the Europa bookshop in Barcelona.
“Do not fear prison or persecution”
“Whoever had something interesting to say who has not been in prison for that? Do not fear prison or persecution, because they are medalsto your credit in the afterlife,” he said during the conference on November 6.
The latter was held a few days before he was due to face another trial in Malaga as a result of a complaint made by the Movement against Intolerance directed by Esteban Ibarra.
The prosecutor in this case – which is now pending resolution – requested three and a half years in prison for Varela for the continued crime of incitement to hatred and discrimination as a result of the content of some conferences held in Seville and Malaga.
This was given that his rallies created “an evident feeling of hostility towards the affected groups (African, Muslim or Jewish migrants, basically) that generated an objective dangerous to peaceful coexistence”, affirms the Public Ministry.
In the talk on November 6 in Madrid, Varela returned to raise similar issues. Among other things, he linked the number of migrants to the “increase in rape on the streets of Spain, including Valencia.”
“The Spanish are peaceful people6, almost all of them have a partner, a girlfriend, a family… they have a culture of respect for women, something that does not happen with these immigrants.”7
At another point in his speech, he asserted that “60 million blacks are needed to take the place of 100,000 abortions per year that Spain has.”
He also alleged out that immigrants “go to look for a partner in Spain, and if Spanish women do not decide to become their partner, what is happening happens.”
Varela not only did not hesitate to refer to himself as “National Socialist”, but also claimed the role of the ‘Napola’, the male boarding schools of the Hitler Youth that served as a school for the Nazi elites.
In these centres “they educated them in austerity, order and discipline” and offered them “a sense of mission in life”, according to his interpretation.
He encouraged the founding of “those cells of Christian, white, European men”
“What do we have to do to face this world? We cannot organize the Napola, because they are going to be banned, but yes, you can form a Napola among yourselves, in your family, in your circles of friends.”
“You have to mould the youth, your family, the children and yourselves” – he remarked – “in the character of the Napola kids”.
The Nazi bookseller proclaimed that “resistance must be not only political, ideological and human, but also familial, ethical and religious”, while encouraging his followers to have children and “found those cells of Christian, white and European men who, with respect and good neighbourliness with other races and cultures, prefers to defend his own than to succumb”.
“What Happened at Auschwitz”
He alleged that in Spain there is a “gradual loss of freedom of expression” and condemned the Democratic Memory Law8, which he compared to the German laws against Nazi apology.
“In Germany, as you know, the whole question of what happened, what did not happen or could have happened in Auschwitz is not debatable, it is not debatable,” he indicated. “Any German who claims to defend his own identity is suspicious of Auschwitz.”
In his opinion, “this dictatorship against freedom of expression also exists here. This law of historical memory and cancellation of white culture9 is carried out in all Western countries.”10
He even asserted that the legal persecution against Nazi broadcasting in Germany is a “sword of Damocles that hangs above all Germans so that any possible resistance to the cultural and ethnic invasion of the country does not take place.”
“Where do the transsexuals go?”
His speech was also loaded with transphobia. “I read a very curious joke the other day. – Hey dad, women go to the gynaecologist, right? – Yes. – And do men go to the urologist? – Yes.
And where do transgender people go? – I don’t know, kid, probably to the psychiatrist“. As can be seen in the video, the transphobic joke was followed by laughter and applause from the ultra-rightists who inhabited the room.
“This is of course a joke, because otherwise transgender people are going to sue me.11 Humour is what it is, but that is the biological reality. You can feel whatever you want, but biology says what you are.
You are a man or a woman, or to the urologist or the gynaecologist, you cannot go anywhere else,” he concluded.
COMMENT by Diarmuid Breatnach
Fascism in Spain, then and now
The first thing to take into account is that unlike anywhere else in Europe, there was no overthrow of fascism in the Spanish State.
A cosmetic job of painting over four decades of the savage Franco dictatorship with pseudo-democracy was managed by the fascist ruling class with all their politicians, senior military and police officers, judges, bishops, bankers and media moguls remaining in place.
The second thing to note is that despite antifascist laws being passed as part of that “Transition” process, fascist glorification continued to be rampant in the Spanish state with fascist salutes and iconography regularly displayed in public and on photographs and video.
And fascist speeches too, all with impunity. Except in this case, which is why the report states that Varela is one of the few Hitlerites to be tried: not because there are only a few of them but because the State has decided to make Varela an exception to the rule.
Varela complains about the “dictatorship” that he feels being exercised against him and his rhetoric. Fascists always raise the flag of democracy, which they despise, only when they feel unable to use the mailed fist. Once in power, they give democracy to none except their own12.
It’s not a little amusing that the State is trying to close Varela’s fascist bookshop through the court because they closed Basque social centres, newspapers and social media sites merely be decree and even when their own Constitutional Court made them recant, are yet to pay a cent in compensation.
Hollocaust denial is one pretty frequent plank in the fascist platform, wherever in the world it is erected.
This too is curious, in a way because in the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis and other fascists boasted about what they were doing, in particular to the Jews in Germany, Austria and in Occupied Europe.
True, they did not admit publicly to the mass exterminations but all the rest of it, expropriations, mass round-ups, concentration camps were no secret and they corresponded among themselves and reported to authority about the rest – the story the photos, film and survivors told the world later.
Vulnerability of the fascist male ego
Varela’s worries about Spanish women’s vulnerability to men of migrant background is another area of irony, given the problem of Spanish gender violence (see below).
Whilst there have been prominent female fascists, historically the cult of the superior male has been prominent in most fascist movements. Indeed Hitler’s Nazis proclaimed the correct areas for women’s activity to be “kinder, kuche und kirke” (‘children, kitchen and church’).
Most fascist movements and organisations have denounced homosexuality and many gays and lesbians have been killed by them, including an estimated 60% fatalities of the 50-60,000 sent to concentration camps by Nazi German courts.
In their hetero-sexual male insecurity, fascists and other racists often fear “their” women being attracted to other men, specifically to men of other ethnic groups13.
Conversely, fascists regularly see themselves as the “defenders” of “helpless females” while simultaneously detesting any exhibition of female independence or assertiveness.
Those circumstances encourage acts of rape and other sexual violence towards women: last year in the Spanish state 37 women died in violence by men and 46 the previous year.
People still remember the “Manada” (‘wolf-pack’) case where five men videoed themselves raping a young woman whom they left in a doorway after they stole her mobile phone. Although it occurred in the Basque province of Navarra, all the assailants were Spanish.
What’s more, one was a Spanish policeman while the other was military and some had previously videoed themselves in a van with an unconscious woman, talking about their intentions. The “Manada” was the name of a WhatsApp group of which they were members.
Historical memory and mass graves
Many people hope that changes in Spanish law, such as the Law of Historical Memory in 2007 and more recent practical steps herald a coming to terms with the state’s fascist past.
Some mass graves of fascist victims have been exhumed and removal Franco’s remains in October 2029 and projected removal of Primo de Rivera’s from their mausoleum in the Valle de Los Caidios gives hope to some14.
The remains of General Queipo de Llano, believed personally responsible for the execution of poet and dramatist Garcia Federico Lorca in 1936, were removed from the La Macarena basilica in Seville on 2nd November this year.
After Cambodia, the Spanish state remains the one with most mass graves in the world and the majority of those have not been exhumed15. The names of fascists still decorate streets and, as noted earlier, fascist events continue with public displays of fascist affiliation.
The fascist political party Vox continues in existence with currently 52 (out of 250) members of the Congress (lower house) of the Spanish Parliament.
There exists a deep fascist pool which has reflected at various times the political parties Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and now Vox with the votes of the pool being divided among those parties according to the wishes of the day.
As is usually the case, Spanish fascism is combined with a reactionary ‘nationalism’ of a unitary Spain based on Castille and León but including all its current territories.
They tack on to that a fictional concept of Spain with Flamenco in Andalusia and holidays in the Balearics and Canaries but seek the suppression of any national self-determination.
The Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia have all historically declared for self-determination but all three were murderously suppressed during the Civil War and the Dictatorship, with the former two suffering heavy repression in the post-Franco ‘democratic’ Spain.
Any move towards self-determination in those nations stirs a fascist hornet’s nest to venomous buzzing and threats.
Overall, the signs are not favourable for a future Spanish state cleansed of fascism – at any rate not by moderate and peaceful means.
2A variation of the “white replacement” irrational anxiety of racists.
316 Days of activism against gender-based violence:16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign held every year. It begins on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, Human Rights Day. It is ironic, to say the least, for fascists to locate their events within this framework.
The removal of objects which exalt the July 1936 coup, civil war and Francoist repression from public buildings and spaces. Exceptions may be given for artistic or architectural reasons, or in the case of religious spaces.
State help in the tracing, identification and eventual exhumation of victims of Francoist repression whose corpses are still missing, often buried in mass graves.
12And not even to their own, on occasion, as with the violent suppression of the whole leadership of the Browshirts by the Gestapo in The Night of the Long Knives 30th June-2 July 1934 in Germany.
13This has been nowhere more observable perhaps than in the ‘Deep Southern’ states of the USA, where black men were regularly lynched for alleged rape of white women without any proof. Conversely, the evidence of rape of black women in the same area during and after slavery is legion.
14Franco was the fascist dictator of four decades and Primo de Rivera was the founder of the fascist Falange, executed by the Spanish Republic.
15Holding the remains of an estimated 100,000 men and women.
First published in “Socialist Democracy” December 2022, republished here with kind permission of author.
The death of Vicky Phelan on November 14th was announced by the media. They were full of praise for a woman who was a victim in the cervical smear scandal.
She was one of over 200 women whose cervical smear tests were outsourced to a private US company, which gave back erroneous results.
Women who could have received treatment went on to develop cancer and in the case of Vicky Phelan die. But she didn’t just die. She was murdered.
Engels in his famous tract The Condition of the Working Class in England stated that
When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder.
But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission.(1)
The Irish state has for a long time deprived its population of the necessaries, as Engels put it, of life in relation to health care. One of the first politicians to wreak havoc in the health system in pursuit of her ideology and profit was Mary Harney.
She and her party the Progressive Democrats were ideological in their commitment to the privatisation of health care. Under her rule and that of successive governments, the health service was privatised.
First, they ran it down, closing hospital wards and reducing the number of beds in the health service, paying Consultant Doctors extravagant salaries, allowing them to moonlight as private consultants, whilst there are now around one million people on public waiting lists.
The system is a shambles and compares poorly in terms of speed and quality of care to even Third World countries.
At the same time a private health care sector has arisen and expanded, all the time promoted by the state through tax breaks and discounts for the companies with affiliates being able to write off part of their private health insurance against tax.
In other words, a public subsidy to the health companies paid for through the taxes of many people who cannot afford to use these services. The Irish health service does not exist to provide health care but rather to generate profit. It is important to understand what this means in practice.
If profit is the motive, then the law of supply and demand takes over and prices and the quantity of services are calculated on the same or similar basis to the sale of a car. It also means that in order for some to be treated and live, others must die.
It is an intrinsic part of the system and they know it. For health care to be profitable some must not have full access to it, some must die in order for others to make profits. If everyone can access cancer treatment without problems then there is no need for private medicine.
This is not the situation in Ireland. Public services are run down in order to encourage private medicine and profit.
It is in this context that the Health Service Executive outsourced the testing of cervical smear tests not only to a private company, but to one in another jurisdiction. Money was to be made, and to hell with the consequences.
Dr David Gibbons, a former member of the screening programme, said he expressed concerns about the outsourcing of smear tests to the US in 2008 but they were dismissed.
Gibbons, chair of the cytology/histology group within the programme’s quality assurance committee, brought up his worries with Tony O’Brien, then chief executive of the National Cancer Screening Service and director general of the HSE until 2018, but they were not listened to.
Dr Gibbons resigned as a result. O’Brien defended the decision to outsource the testing saying that tests would have otherwise been left idle for a year or been examined by doctors “on their kitchen table”.(2)
Why would they lie idle for a year? Because they had decided not to spend money on it. Why would doctors end up examining them on their kitchen table? Because the facilities weren’t there.
When it all went wrong, they dragged their heels on informing the women, and this is where Vicky Phelan comes in.
She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, but only informed of the false negative from the unapproved labs used by the HSE in 2011 and sued the US company and the HSE, but her case against the HSE was struck out.
The cat was out of the bag, however, but they continued to drag their heels on informing women that they may in fact have cancer and they stuck by their accountancy guns and continued to outsource the tests.
As Engels stated they know these victims will perish and yet permit the conditions to continue.
When she died, the great and good in Irish society expressed their praise for her. The murderers came back to the crime scene in a perverse act to say “It wasn’t me, I didn’t do it”. The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin stated on Twitter
Very saddened at the passing of Vicky Phelan, a woman of great courage, integrity, honesty & generosity of spirit. She will be long remembered as someone who stood up for the women of Ireland, & globally.(3)
The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, for his part, was brazen in his Janus-like abilities.
Today Ireland has lost a woman of limitless courage, compassion and strength. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Vicky’s family, particularly to her children on the loss of their incredible mother.
Vicky was a shining example of the power of the human spirit. Her fight to uncover the truth and the courage with which she faced her illness made her an inspiration to us all. We mourn her as a nation, as a society, and as individuals.(4)
Both of these men bear responsibility for what happened. To listen to them you would swear they were talking about some social justice warrior in a far-off land who stood up to a government that the Irish state is not on good terms with.
Varadkar was a government minister in 2011 when Vicky Phelan was tested. He was Minister for Health when she was diagnosed with cancer and he was Minister for Social Protection when she was eventually informed about the mess up with her results.
Martin has been a T.D. in the Irish parliament (Dáil) since 1989 and has served as a minister on and off since 1997 and is the current Taoiseach.
They oversaw the dismantling of the health system, they made up the rules and implemented them. What happened to Vicky Phelan was on their watch. In other jurisdictions functionaries can be held liable for decisions they take, but not in Ireland.
They took decisions on the health service which affect the lives of millions, not just Vicky Phelan. Every year countless patients die in Ireland due to a lack of access to proper healthcare; Varadkar and Martin know this and yet they proceed with their actions.
In a criminal court case where a person carries out an act knowing it could result in the death of a person and decides to proceed nonetheless, they would be liable for that person’s death through recklessness.
Yet, politicians take decisions that kill people knowing that this is the likely outcome. They are guilty of what Engels termed social murder.
Vicky Phelan didn’t just die, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil along with the Greens murdered her. No amount of praise from Vlad the Impaler a.k.a Leo Varadkar can hide the fact that he bears responsibility for death.
The news that there has been corruption at a high level in the EU will have shocked no-one except the most ignorant and credulous. It is endemic in the capitalist system for large organisations to become corrupt.
We’ve heard of corruption in police forces, in domestic international sports and culture boards, even in management of charities and, of course, in governments. Those high places occupied by elites bring to their occupants a sense of entitlement beyond even the usual rewards.
WHICH CULPRIT STATE – OR STATES?
When the news first began to break, the reports were saying that the responsible state was unknown, though some speculated on Qatar. We certainly knew was that it wasn’t Israel, since that state gets access to the EU and other bodies without difficulty – but that’s political corruption, which is different.
The speculation is now solidifying around Qatar as the foreign power buying influence but increasingly Morocco is getting mentioned too. What results exactly Qatar is trying to buy is not clear at the moment and the same can be said for Morocco.
The latter state has been trying to normalise its occupation of Western Sahara despite Saharawi political and guerrilla resistance and the EU agreed to exploit Saharawi natural resources as “Moroccan” – until the EU Court of Justice ruled that agreement illegal last year.
Difficult to see what other gain Morocco can get from EU politicians with regard to Western Sahara – unless it’s going to buy some judges which, if it could, it would surely have done before now.
Meanwhile the USA has recognised Moroccan occupation in exchange for its recognition of Israel1.
“UNDERMINING EU DEMOCRACY”
Among the expressions of concern and shock that were expressed from within the EU was the amusing one that the corruption was in danger of undermining democracy in the EU, which would presuppose that the organisation is a democratic one.
Some years ago, the Ministers of Labour of each member of the EU voted to extend the working age before pension entitlement. Of course, that was unanimous and therefore democratic – except that not a single one of those ministers took the question to their own electorate.
Of course not, knowing that the vote would be a resounding NO. Already too many people die before receiving their pension and those statistics are worse as one goes ‘down’ the social scale to manual workers and people in the ‘lower’ social groups2.
CONCERN ABOUT LOBBYING
It was also amusing to see the concern about money being spent on lobbying, which ALL big capitalist companies do – anywhere they hope to reap benefits, the EU being one of them. In 2017, Google spent nearly $ 7 million on lobbying in the EU, Microsoft tipping on $6 million.
But in lobbying terms, these sums would be considered small.
In the USA, an estimated 3.73 billion U.S. dollars was spent in 2019 -an increase from the 3.53 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 on lobbying its parliament, the House of Representatives.3
Much larger quid pro quo arrangements are made gaining access to markets and facilities through USA state politicians or, in the EU, through individual national states.
Irish politicians may for example offer a good factory site in Ireland, low tax, rent-free years, tax evasion in the company’s home state and of course access to an English-speaking highly-educated workforce. Would those politicians then vote against the company in the EU?
Since just about everything except air (so far) is a market commodity under capitalism, which is the world system, can it ever be possible to eradicate corruption anywhere in the world? It cannot and legislators know this; they seek merely to control it at an “acceptable” level.
Which means that even a socialist country is going to have corruption as long as it exists in a capitalist world.
CORRUPTION IN CURRENT AND PROSPECTIVE EU STATES
Finally, discussing corruption and the EU reminds us that some European states have been criticised by the EU higher circles because of their endemic corruption. One of those is Hungary, which of course rejoiced in the ongoing scandal, declaring that the EU is no position to lecture them.
But it should remind us too that some years ago another European state was judged more corrupt than Hungary – in fact the most corrupt state in Europe. That was the Ukraine, whether under the control of pro-Western or pro-Russian oligarchs.
One of Zelensky’s election platform positions to depose Petro Poroshenko, the West’s choice for Ukranian President in the 2014 coup was to be anti-corruption. Has he cleaned up Ukraine? Hard to say since he controls the media and the opposition groups and individuals are banned or in jail.
But on the other hand, we do know from a number of sources that large amounts of western arms supplied to the Ukrainian regime are believed to be finding their way on to the black market. Yet opposition to Ukraine’s membership of the EU has suddenly melted away.
Which might be an appropriate point at which to remind ourselves again that there is another kind of corruption, other than financial, usually linked to the latter but not always directly — and that’s political corruption.
Corruption is inevitable in fruits of the system because the very seed is contaminated.
1One of Trump’s last decisions on his way out in 2020 but not rescinded by Biden.
2 “Research for former pensions minister Malcolm Wicks has shown that 19% of men from the lowest social classes, including cleaners and manual labourers, die before the age of 65 compared to just 7% of men from the highest social group. It also highlighted that 10% of women from poorer backgrounds die before they reach 60 compared with 4% of women from a better off demographic.” Fifth of men die before state pension age – Investment Sense
3 “In 2021, the total lobbying spending in the United States amounted to 3.73 billion U.S. dollars. This is an increase from the 3.53 billion U.S. dollars spent on lobbying in 2020.” Total lobbying spending U.S. 2021 | Statista