REVOLUTIONARY BLOC AS PART OF HUGE COST OF LIVING PROTEST

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4mins.)

Many thousands marched through Dublin’s city centre yesterday in protest against the soaring cost of living, pushed in particular by rising energy costs. Most mass media avoided estimating numbers except the ridiculous ‘estimate’ of 3,000 by the Irish Times daily1.

As the Cost of Living Coalition convened a mass protest demonstration in Dublin, the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation called for a Revolutionary Bloc to meet at the James Connolly monument2 in Beresford Place.

In mid-July, statistics published showed the average cost of living had risen above 9%. The average figure conceals the higher percentage rise in daily consumables such as food and drink that will rise higher still with price hikes by energy supply companies.

Companies are raising their prices steeply across at least the western world in a trend that began, despite much media discourse, prior to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. But Ireland emerges as the most expensive country in the EU with Dublin the most expensive city there by far3.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SPEECHES FOR REVOLUTION & AGAINST REPRESSION

At the Connolly monument, people gathered with banners about the housing struggle and against NATO, along with placards and flags, of which latter the most common was the green-and-gold version of the “Starry Plough”, flag of the Irish Citizen Army4.

The cathaoirleach (chairperson) welcomed people, introduced the purpose of the meeting as being to protest the soaring cost of living and introduced the first speaker, from the Revolutionary Housing League. The RHL speaker outlined their program of direct action.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

“What can be more direct than to occupy empty buildings?” he asked those assembled. He recounted some of the recent actions of the RHL and said that they are attracting attention and support, ending by calling on others to get involved5.

The second speaker, introduced as a revolutionary socialist anti-imperialist, went through a list of ills brought by the capitalist system, including lack of housing, selling off our resources and infrastructure, disregard for our language, environmental destruction and danger of nuclear war.

For all said the speaker, the Irish national bourgeoisie are guilty, “the Gombeens, a class unable even to free their own country”. “We need broad fronts to fight all these attacks of class war”, he said “but they must be directed openly against capitalism and imperialism.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The final speaker, a socialist Republican, represented the newly-formed End State Repression campaign group. Those wanting to oppose rising prices, he emphasised, could not share their struggle with those intending to enter a coalition with Fiann Fáil or Fine Gael.

He also recalled how when protests against the bank bailouts and student fee hikes were getting going in 2010, they were met with state violence through the Gardaí. As the resistance builds, it will get attacked, he said but “we can’t allow them to drive us off the streets again.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Many drivers passing the rally in vehicles, private and of work – including public transport — sounded their horns in solidarity, giving rise to cheers from the protesters.

MARCH TO BLACKWATER

The assembled then set off in two lines along Custom House Quay, across Talbot Memorial Bridge and then eastward along the quays. On the way they shouted slogans including “One, two, three, four – Housing crisis no more!” and “Only solution: Revolution!”

Revolutionary Bloc outside Blackwater’s offices (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Other slogans include “Whose streets? Our streets!” “Whose Republic? Our Republic!” and “High rent, high taxes – fight back!”

The marchers stopped upon reaching the offices Blackwater Asset Management Company which boasts its background in “coming from the following sectors, Police Force, Legal Profession, Defence Forces, Financial Services & Private Security sectors”.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The crowd expressed its disapproval of the actions of this company. A speaker assured all that any attack on housing activists will be met with resistance. Two songs were sung there too, including Connolly’s Be Moderate/ We Only Want the Earth.6

THE BLOC MEETS THE MAIN MARCH

The Bloc marchers passed through the high-rise apartment blocs in the area before going on to Pearse Street and marching to the junction with D’Olier Street, where they met the main march of many thousands7 rounding Trinity College and still coming down from O’Connell Street.

Here the revolutionary bloc displayed their banners and placards and chanted some slogans. Many in the crowd marching past gave signs of appreciation and people in an anarchist bloc shouted “Solidarity”, raising clenched fists, giving rise to equal response from the Bloc8.

Section of the main cost of living protest march in D’Olier Street and rounding junction with Pearse Street. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The large Sinn Féin9 section aroused shouts of “No Collusion! One Solution! Revolution!” from the Bloc. The earlier slogan of “1,2,3,4 – Housing crisis no more!” segued for awhile into “5,6,7,8 – Smash the Free State!”

The main Dublin march was organised by the Cost of Living Coalition of 30 organisations, including People Before Profit but also Sinn Féin, which is on a clear trajectory to enter Government in the near future but in coalition with traditional neo-liberal capitalist political parties.

Revolutionary Bloc meets main march at junction Pearse Street and D’Olier Street. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The CLC also includes trade unions which many accused of not mobilising for the protest.

Derry city saw a small protest against the rising cost of living also.

A far-Right march in Cork which was addressed by a representative of the fascist National Party attracted little more than 150. Ostensibly against the housing crisis, speakers of course attacked immigration despite it having no connection to the State failure to build affordable public housing.

FB speeded up video of entire main march (recommend mute the sound): https://www.facebook.com/michael.caul.56/videos/3279662202295870

A marcher in Dublin carrying a placard calling for an end to immigration until the housing crisis were solved gave rise to a chorus of “Home for All!” from the Revolutionary Bloc, calls echoed by some among the passing marchers.

Anarchist section in the main march indicating solidarity with the Revolutionary Bloc. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Gardaí on foot and in patrol cars tailing the main march were greeted, as they passed the Revolutionary Bloc, with shouts linking Drew Harris10, Commissioner of the police force of the Irish State, to the British Intelligence Service MI5.

A notable feature of both marches was the patience with the interruption to their journeys of private and public transport drivers and, indeed, the signs of support from many, including beeping of horns and hand signals such as the ‘thumbs-up’ and even the occasional clenched fist.

end.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The Irish Times has a track record of drastically reducing the estimated numbers in reports of anti-government demonstrations, demonstrated most strikingly during the giant water protest marches. It gave the figure 3,000 in leading paragraph to its original twitter report but more recently amended that on line to “several thousand”. The Sunday Mirror reported 20,000 and supporters estimated between 15,000 and 20,000.

2The monument includes a representation in bronze of the Scottish-Irish revolutionary James Connolly, across the road from where he had his office in Liberty Hall (the two-storey building was destroyed by British shelling in 1916 and has since been replaced by a tall man-storey building, HQ of the SIPTU union. Connolly was one of 16 executed by the British in 1916 after the Rising that year.

3See statistics in Useful Links, including https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/irelands-cost-of-living-soars-above-eu-average-as-new-report-reveals-just-how-much-prices-are-rising-41774596.html

4The ICA was formed to defend striking workers from police attacks during the 1913 Lockout in Dublin. It was based on trade union membership and took a prominent role in the 1916 Rising, with a much-reduced one in the War of Independence (1919-1921) and the ensuing Civil War (1922-1923). The ICA recruited women as well as men and some of the women held officer positions, possibly the first revolutionary organisation, certainly the first socialist-based one to do so.

5See https://rebelbreeze.com/2022/09/22/concert-in-occupied-building-murals-pickets-and-court-cases-the-revolutionary-housing-league-spreads-the-fight/

6The lyrics were composed by James Connolly and published in hist Songs of Freedom in New York in 1907. The title was the ironic “Be Moderate” but has come to be known from the refrain as “We Only Want the Earth”. Furthermore, arranged to the air of “A Nation Once Again”, it provides a chorus of “We Only Want the Earth!”

7Most media would only state “thousands” or “many thousands”, but the Irish Times had the audacity to claim the ridiculously low number of 3,000! Estimates by participants varied from 10,000 to 20,000 (latter also figure of the Sunday Mirror).

8It seemed likely that had the Revolutionary Bloc been widely publicised earlier that it would have been supported by many individuals and at some other organisations.

9The former revolutionary republican party rarely mobilises its large membership for street protests as these days it is more concerned with votes in elections. However, SF is part of the Cost of Living Coalitionand SF’s President, Mary Lou MacDonald, was one of the scheduled speakers at the main march rally.

10Immediately prior to his current appointment, Drew Harris was Deputy Chief Constable of the sectarian British colonial gendarmerie, the Police Force of Northern Ireland which, until 2001, was the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

USEFUL LINKS

Anti-Imperialist Action:

End State Repression campaign:

Mass media march reports: https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/cost-living-protest-live-updates-28070843

https://www.sundayworld.com/news/irish-news/crowd-of-20000-march-through-dublin-city-centre-in-massive-protest-over-cost-of-living-crisis/1154985225.html

Other reports: https://www.facebook.com/michael.caul.56/videos/3279662202295870

Cost of living statistics: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/ireland

https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/irelands-cost-of-living-soars-above-eu-average-as-new-report-reveals-just-how-much-prices-are-rising-41774596.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/2022/07/14/inflation-hits-38-year-peak-of-91-as-cost-of-living-crisis-worsens/

THE REVOLUTIONARY HOUSING LEAGUE SPREADS THE FIGHT — concert in occupied building, murals, pickets and court appearances

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 6 mins.)

For a group that first came into public view on May 1st with an occupation of a building empty for two years, the Revolutionary Housing League has certainly been busy. At least two further acquisitions1 have followed since.

In addition, a hundred police with vehicles and helicopter have been videoed in one eviction of two activists; four activists have appeared defiantly in court in different cases and the High Court has granted injunction to companies against activists.

As I write this another eviction is being planned, resistance is being organised and further repression through courts and jail seem certain. The RHL are fighting the system, fighting a fundamental social wrong acknowledged by almost everyone.

SHORT HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY HOUSING LEAGUE

In 1st May 2022 activists acquired Lefroy House on Dublin’s Eden Quay, formerly used by the religious-based NGO, the Salvation Army to provide night-beds for young homeless people but empty for two years. The activists renamed the building Connolly2 House.

A decorated tile at the door of Connolly House in May/June 2022 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

At that time the occupiers were calling themselves the Revolutionary Workers’ Union though their council subsequently formed the Revolutionary Housing League.

The Salvation Army took the occupants to court, claiming the SA had been renovating the house in order to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Despite the absence of evidence of any renovation work and the presence of a leaky roof (fixed by the activists!), the court granted the injunction.

The occupiers called for a rally against eviction on 2nd June and a large crowd of people of various political backgrounds, organisations and independents, arrived to support but of course, the eviction forces could wait and choose their time.

Musician performing and section of crowd at rally against eviction outside Connolly House (Photo: D.Breatnach)

On June 9th at 5.45 a.m early passers-by were amazed to see 100 Gardaí3 with a number of vehicles, supported by a helicopter, including armed police4, assault the building to take posession of it for the SA and to arrest two activist occupants. A video of the event taken by a passer-by went viral.

Eviction video: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse/videos/2172514896242639

Both activists were later released on their own surety bail to await court process and the building was fortified against being retaken. To this date it remains empty.

On 13th June, the housing activists convened a protest picket outside Store Street Garda station.

Picket on Store Street Garda Station following eviction of James Connolly House (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Story of Connolly House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSL453gVHAg

The RHL had acquired another site5, this one having been a building for homeless people of the municipality, Dublin City Council, but also empty for a long period. On June 10th Gardaí arrested two activists near the building and they too are being processed by the courts.

After that, the RHL occupied a large warehouse-type building on the very north bank of the Liffey by Sean Heuston Bridge which they named, naturally enough, Ionad6 Seán Heuston. They opened it as emergency accommodation and held talks and discussions within it.

Parkgate Street front of Ionad Seán Heuston in early September 2022 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Employees of Pinnacle Security company with bolt-cutters entered the site on 3rd September but failed to evict residents and on the 5th September RHL activists picketed the company which, as a consequence, withdrew from acting as security for Chartered Land, owners of the site.

Pinnacle Security staff, one armed with bolt-cutters, entered Ionad Seán Heuston on 3rd September but failed to intimidate the residents into leaving. Two days later, RHL picketed their HQ and were given a written undertaking that the company would no longer carry out security for Chartered Land on the site. (Photo: Revolutionary Housing League)

The building owner’s interests are managed by Davy Platform ICAV, acting on behalf of its sub-fund the Phoenix Sub-fund but ultimately, the owner is Chartered Land which intends to build high-rental apartments on the site.

Joe O’Reilly is the property speculator tycoon behind Chartered Land, once the biggest debtor to NAMA whose responsible officer Conor Owens permitted O’Reilly to transfer his Moore Street, ILAC and Dundrum Shopping Centre holdings to Hammerson, a British-based property company.

Plan of Joe O’Reilly’s mansion while he owed NAMA €3 Billion which paid him a salary of €200,000 to ‘order his affairs’ (Image source:https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063815/3bn-debtor-living-life-OReilly-Developer-sprawling-Dublin-mansion.html)
Joe O’Reilly after appearing as a witness in criminal court in 2015 (Photo: Irish Independent)

That transfer gave Hammerson control of properties O’Reilly’s planning permission from Dublin City Council for a giant “shopping mall” there which they have now changed but again approved by DCC’s Planning Officer and which is under appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Conor Owens is now Ireland Director for Hammerson.

Lawyers for O’Reilly named a number of individuals as being in occupation of the property, at least two of them apparently on the basis of photographs of the interior shared by the them on social media. Last Thursday a number appeared in court on applications for injunctions against them.

One who had not been named, a homeless individual, made an emotional appeal for he and his partner to be allowed to stay and the occupants to provide services to more homeless people. Another denied he had been an occupant but had merely shared photos on social media.

That latter individual had the injunction against him removed but was asked to sign an undertaking he would not enter the building, which he declined to do, remarking that he should not even have had to attend the High Court in the first place.

Sean Doyle of the RHL declared that the action they were taking was necessary and quoted James Connolly: We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. “These are certainly exceptional times”, Doyle remarked.

The judge went ahead and granted the injunction and required all occupants to evacuate building by Wednesday 21st (i.e as this piece was being concluded).

The RHL organised a picket and temporary protest occupation of Davy stockbrokers, who were handling procedures for Joe O’Reilly, the property tycoon owner of the site of Ionad Seán Heuston.

RHL picket and temporary occupation of Davy stockbrokers (Photo: Revolutionary Housing League)

Last weekend the RHL organised a solidarity concert at Ionad Seán Heuston with somewhere between 150 to 200 in attendance and with at least two bands posting on social media their delight at having performed there.

O’Reilly’s legal team claimed “a flagrant breach of the court order”.

The RHL have called a solidarity rally against the eviction at the site for tomorrow at 10am.

Band performing to crowd at Ionad Seán Heuston — “a flagrant breach of court order” according to property tycoon’s lawyers. (Photo: Revolutionary Housing League)

THE FUTURE

Whatever the outcome of the eviction intended for this particular building or the eventual result of court cases, it seems clear that the RHL are on a collision course with the State and its protection of landlords and property speculators.

While some may look askance at such a contest, one may ask legitimately what other course of action is effective and viable?

Marches and short-term symbolic occupations of individual buildings, including the high-profile Apollo House one supported by prominent individuals in December 2016, though possibly raising awareness, have not made a single dent in the homeless crisis.

Section of the crowd at rally outside Apollo House 11 January 2016. Events such as these mobilised opinion but did not change the situation as indeed it worsened (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Indeed, the situation seems to have got steadily worse – at least for those seeking accommodation; while on the other hand clearly landlords, letting agencies, property speculators, vulture funds and the very banks are raking in their profits.

OVER 10,000 HOMELESS INCLUDING 2,503 CHILDREN

Earlier this year the State admitted that homeless figures had passed ten thousand, for the first time since the covid pandemic7, a statistic that includes the shocking figure of 2,503 children.8

And a recent report states that the levels of homelessness are under-estimated because of the accounting system used by the State, which focuses on rough sleepers and those accessing emergency accommodation9.

Mural representing revolutionary Irish socialist Republican Constance Markievicz and the outline in red stars of “the Starry Plough” (Ursa mayor), one of the impressive murals inside Ionad Seán Heuston (Photo: Rebel Breeze).

Sofa-surfing, rotating between friends and family, precarious rental arrangements all figure in homelessness but are not measured or accounted for by the State. Indeed these features of homelessness have been known for decades.

Clearly too, the obvious solution, the release of substantial funds by the State to local authorities to build public housing for affordable rent, is not favoured by any of the Government political parties.10

Apart from the general inclination of the ‘political class’ to serve big business many have direct interests in the housing situation, as an audit of TDs (member of the Irish Parliament) found over 80, i.e more than half, are landlords or own property – or both.11

Faced with such a situation it is clear that only a very substantial shock to the political system has any hope of having a serious impact on the housing crisis. Though the solution need not be revolutionary, all the evidence is that the methods do indeed have to be so12.

An interesting side-aspect of the RHL’s occupation has been the use of innovative and highly-effective art in banners and murals. Also the holding of a concert and some trad music sessions in acquired buildings, along with educational talks, discussions and Irish language classes.

Another of the murals in Ionad Seán Heuston, a representation of the profile of Pádraig Mac Piarais/ Patrick Pearse, revolutionary Irish Republican, writer, educator, executed by British firing squad in 1916. His slogan translates as: “A country with out its language (is) a country without a soul”. (Photo: Revolutionary Housing League)

The RHL is a small organisation fighting the State Goliath which is representing the Philistines of property speculators, vulture funds and banks. They deserve our support in whatever measure we are able to give, in attending events and spreading the word.

Indeed, they have called for wider action – the RHL has on a number of occasions called on people to do what they are doing, to occupy the thousands of empty buildings which, if people did, would transform this struggle into a mass movement.

With no other viable solution in sight, surely we should support the RHL? Do we not owe it to those on the street or struggling to pay mortgages or high rents? Do we not owe to the children now, the future generation that will be blighted unless we act?

End.

The Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army in the early decades of the 20th Century flies above Ionad Seán Heuston (Photo credit Revolutionary Housing League, taken from Seán Heuston Bridge)

FOOTNOTES

1The RHL call their taking of empty properties “acquisitions” in the name of the people.

2After notable socialist revolutionary, trade union organiser, journalist, historian and writer James Connolly, executed by British firing squad in 1916.

3The police force of the Irish State is called An Garda Síochána and the plural of its members, “Gardaí”, singular “Garda”.

4The Garda Síochána is essentially an unarmed police force with an armed response section, the latter which however seems to be growing and more in evidence in different situations.

5They named that one Liam Mellows House in honour of socialist Irish Republican and former member of the Irish parliament, the Dáil, executed during the Civil War by the Irish State in retaliation on 8th December 1922.

6Ionad in Irish means “place/ location/situation”.

7https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/over-10000-people-homeless-in-ireland-for-first-time-since-pandemic-1311934.html

8https://www.independent.ie/news/homeless-figures-rise-to-10325-including-3028-children-41787023.html

9https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/narrow-definition-of-homelessness-failing-to-respond-to-true-nature-of-crisis-1365817.html

10Sinn Féin’s latest housing policy indicates a crash building program for “affordable homes” but unclear whether to rent or own. Election promises tend to be taken with a pinch of salt by commentators; SF Councillors on Dublin City Council voted public land sold to developers. In addition, a future government including SF would almost certainly include a former government party in the coalition.

11https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2022/08/24/almost-80-tds-and-senators-are-landlords-property-owners-or-both/

12The State has the power to put empty properties to use to eliminate all homelessness immediately and the Government can divert funds towards starting a big housing construction program which would give everyone good quality affordable homes in a couple of years. It does not do so because that would upset the profits of the property speculators, property management companies and the banks, their lenders.

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

Revolutionary Housing League: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse

on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rhlireland/status/1562495657814138880

Video interview as RHL awaits eviction force: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse/videos/435978475290460

Official homeless figures: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/over-10000-people-homeless-in-ireland-for-first-time-since-pandemic-1311934.html

https://www.independent.ie/news/homeless-figures-rise-to-10325-including-3028-children-41787023.html

A total of 115 homeless people died in Dublin 2021, more than double the number who died in 2019: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40853996.html

Discussion of number of empty buildings per homeless people: https://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-16-vacant-homes-per-homeless-person-ireland-5801978-Jul2022/

https://www.thejournal.ie/200-asylum-seekers-without-accommodation-ireland-5862168-Sep2022/?

Narrow definition of homelessness by Irish State: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/narrow-definition-of-homelessness-failing-to-respond-to-true-nature-of-crisis-1365817.html

RWG/ RHL acquisition of Connolly House: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/workers-group-occupying-eden-quay-property-to-defy-court-order-1.488610

Property speculator seeks eviction of occupants Seán Heuston House: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/high-court-injunction-sought-for-alleged-illegal-occupation-of-dublin-building-1361850.html

Joe O’Reilly (Chartered Land): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063815/3bn-debtor-living-life-OReilly-Developer-sprawling-Dublin-mansion.html

Property Speculator seeks further legal action agains RHL: https://www.thejournal.ie/high-court-revolutionary-housing-league-parkgate-house-5871136-Sep2022/

Concert a “flagrant breach of court order”: https://www.msn.com/en-ie/news/newsireland/concert-held-in-property-occupied-by-homeless-campaigners-a-flagrant-breach-of-court-order/ar-AA122xZA?li=BBr5KbJ

Ex-NAMA senior officer now Director of Hammerson Ireland: https://europe-re.com/hammerson-appoints-connor-owens-as-director-of-ireland/68421#:~:text=Hammerson%20has%20appointed%20Connor%20Owens,ILAC%20Centre%2C%20and%20Swords%20Pavilions.

Previous high-profile housing activist occupations:

Apollo House December 2016: https://www.thejournal.ie/apollo-house-glen-hansard-hozier-performance-homeless-3151048-Dec2016/

Frederick Street: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/what-happened-who-is-involved-and-why-are-activists-occupying-vacant-properties-1.3627980

“Almost 80 TDs are landlords, landowners or both”: https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse/photos/a.104667018908396/149716974403400/

https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2022/08/24/almost-80-tds-and-senators-are-landlords-property-owners-or-both/

BELLA CIAO – ORIGINS AND CONTROVERSY

Main article by CHEMA MOLINA@CHEMAMOLINAA in Publico.es, translation and comment by Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time entire: 4 mins.)

The origin of the Bella Ciao song is uncertain and there are different theories about how this mythical popular song came about.

Over the years it has acquired a meaning closely related to the anti-fascist protest movements and in defence of democracy.

However, the Italian artist Laura Pausini refused to sing it during the El Hormiguero1 (show), reasoning that it is “very political”.

The piece has a clear political nature that goes beyond the success which the Money Heist series has given it and that has made it one of the most listened-to Italian songs in the world.

Italian partisans had already employed verses of this hymn against Mussolini’s fascism and the Nazi occupation during World War II.

Armed Italian anti-fascist Partisans in Pistoia, Tuscany (central Italy) Dec 1944 (Photo credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

Specifically, it was the partisans of the Maiella Brigade, in the Abruzzo region (east of Rome), and the Garibaldi Brigade, in the Marche area, a territory located between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic Sea, who began to sing it, mixing traditional melodies with militant lyrics.

But there are other theories that suggest that the beginning of this song dates back to the 19th century.

Line of Mondinas at their back-breaking work (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Mondinas, women who worked in the rice fields of northern Italy, recited the lyrics of this song as a sign of protest against the harsh working conditions they experienced every day.

In fact, the historian Cesare Bermani explains that the origin of Bella Ciao comes from a song called Fior di tomba (Flower of the grave) and that the poet Costantino Nigra had previously mentioned it in the second half of the 19th century.

One of the versions of this song reached the Mondinas of the provinces of Vercelli and Novara, both in the Piedmont region.

The Mondines’ (Italian female rice workers) song.

Another theory points out that the anthem could have Ukrainian roots. The musician Mishka Ziganoff, born in Odessa in 1889, moved to New York and composed a piece that could have been the origin of the start of the Bella Ciao air2.

Later, Italian migrants spread the air of this song when they returned to their country3.

Apart from its origin, the song began to become popular and to take on a political meaning due to the festivals organized by communist youth in different European countries. In the summer of 1947, the World Festival of Youth and Students took place.

There, the partisan version of the anthem was promoted, which later reached the Festival of the Two Worlds (also called the Spoleto Festival) in 1964.

The Bella Ciao show was performed at that event, organised by the Italian group Il Nuovo Canzoniere Italiano. The singer-songwriter Giovanna Marini, an artist who also helped to popularise the song, participated in the performance.

Bella Ciao has crossed borders and has been translated into many languages. In Spanish, one of the best known versions is that by the author Diego Moreno, who published his interpretation in 2014 on the album Bella Ciao! Adios Comandante!

COMMENT

THERE IS NO NEUTRAL POSITION ON FASCISM by Diarmuid Breatnach

The current controversy over a prominent Italian singer’s refusal to sing Bella Ciao at a kind of game show was predated by controversy over the origin of the song.

Most authorities now seem to refute the popular belief that it had been sung by Italian partisans, instead dating its emergencer as an antifascist song soon after WWII.

All are agreed however that it was predated by “Alla mattina appena alzata” a song with different lyrics of women rice-planting labourers, the Mondines, bewailing their extremely hard working conditions, their exploitation and expressing their hope in liberation.

Its origins therefore in women workers’ resistance is noble but so also is the antifascist sense in which it is usually sung today.

Woman Singing ‘Bella Ciao’ from window in Bologna Italy on Liberation Day 2020 (Photo credit FTimes)

Laura Pausini, when declining to sing the song, excused herself by saying that “it is very political”. Yes, it is and Pausini needs to realise that neither in the world of today nor in the past is there, nor has there ever been, a neutral position on exploitation of labour or on fascism.

The responses to Pausini recorded by Publico on Twitter were mostly negative towards her decision and rationale but also revealed a fair amount of confusion.

Laura Pausini in 2009 (Photo sourced: Internet)

The most common critical response was along the lines that anti-fascism is fundamental to democracy and therefore above politics, one commentator going so far as to state that Pausini is confusing position or stance on the one hand with ideology, on the other.

Fascism is a political ideology and so therefore is anti-fascism. Of course, anti-fascism is normally associated with the Left of the political spectrum but some conservative individuals and groups have been known in history to be actively anti-fascist too.

However that does not change the fact that anti-fascism is a political position whether ascribed to by revolutionary communists and anarchists, social-democrats or conservatives.

As the world capitalist system in crisis turns to making the workers pay more through rising costs of essentials and wage controls, along with cuts in state social services, the masses will resist. In many states, it is then that the ruling class turns to fascism to repress the resistance.

Neither Pausini nor anyone else can rise above that struggle. One may certainly attempt to be neutral but circumstances will not permit it, will certainly frustrate the attempt. Objectively one’s actions and words will either favour fascism or work against it.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1El Homiguero (“The Anthill”) is a Spanish television program with a live audience focusing on comedy, science and guest interviews running since September 2006 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Hormiguero

2Without listening to the air, I am unable to venture an opinion on this. However, thinking about it, Bella Ciaodoes evoke Eastern European Jewish music to me. According to Wikipedia, Ziganoff was a Christian Roma from Odessa, Ukraine but well familiar with Yiddish and Klezmer music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishka_Ziganoff

3This is a well-known process of the dissemination of song airs and even lyrics by migrant workers or sailors (or even soldiers). For example the air of the ballad Once I Had a True Love may be found on an Alan Lomax collection of traditional songs from Extremadura, central-western part of Spain.

SOURCES

Original Publico article: https://www.publico.es/sociedad/origen-bella-ciao-tema-laura-pausini-rechazo-cantar-hormiguero.html?

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

The Mondines (women workers): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondina

Pausini controversy: https://www.wantedinrome.com/news/italy-laura-pausini-refusal-to-sing-bella-ciao.html

The Hormiguero show: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Hormiguero

The Money Heist (La Casa de Papel): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_Heist

SO SORRY, YOUR MAJESTY

Nearly completely reprint from Rebel Breeze eight years ago

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

Your Most Exalted Majesty, Queen of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, Commander-in-Chief of the UK Armed Forces, Head of the Church of England, Queen of the Commonwealth.

We trust this letter finds your Highness well, as we do also with regard to Your Highness’ large family and of course your trusted corgis.

I am tasked with writing to yourselves in order to make some embarrassing admissions and to ask your Royal forgiveness.

No doubt your family carries the memory of an uprising in Dublin in 1916? Yes, of course one’s family does, as your Highness says.

Well …. the embarrassing thing is this ……. it’s so difficult to say but no amount of dressing up is going to make it better so I’d best just come out with it: that was us. Well, our forebears. Yes, it’s true.

Not just us, of course. There were a load of Reds in green uniforms too, Connolly and Markievicz’s lot. And of course our female auxiliaries, and the youth group.

But most of that rebellious band was us, the Irish Volunteers (that became the IRA). I can’t adequately express to your Highness how ashamed we are of it all now.

Your government of the time was quite right to authorise the courts-martial of hundreds of us and to sentence so many to death. Your magnanimity is truly astounding in that only fifteen were shot by firing squads and that Casement fellow hanged.

But were we grateful? Not a bit of it! Does your Highness know that some people still go on about that Red and trade union agitator, James Connolly, being shot in a chair? What would they have your Army do? Shoot him standing up? Sure he had a shattered ankle and gangrene in his leg!

One can’t please some people – damned if one does something and damned if one doesn’t. If the Army hadn’t kindly lent him a chair, those same people would be saying that the British wouldn’t even give him a chair to sit on while they shot him.

And how did we repay your Highness’ kindness and magnanimity in only executing sixteen? And in releasing about a thousand after only a year on dieting rations?

By campaigning for independence almost immediately afterwards and starting a guerrilla war just three years after that Rising! A guerrilla war that went on for no less than three years. Your Majesty, we burn with shame just thinking of it now!

Our boys chased your loyal police force out of the countryside, shot down your intelligence officers in the streets of Dublin, ambushed your soldiers from behind stone walls and bushes ….. but still your Highness did not give up on us.

Some people still go on and on about the two groups of RIC specials and auxiliaries and the things they did, referring to them by the disrespectful nicknames of “Black and Tans” (after a pack of hunting dogs) and “Auxies”. They exaggerate the number of murders, tortures, arson and theft carried out by them.

Of course, your Highness, we realise now, though it’s taken a century for us to come to that realisation, that sending us that group of police auxiliaries was a most moderate response by yourself. But we were too blind to see that then and shot at them as well!

That fellow Barry and his Flying Column of West Cork hooligans wiped out a whole column of them. Your Highness will no doubt find it hard to believe this, but some troublemaker even went so far as to compose a song in praise of that cowardly ambush! Oh yes, indeed!

And some people still sing it today – in fact they sing songs about a lot of regrettable things we did, even going back as far as when we fought against your Royal ancestors Henry and Elizabeth 1st! Truly I don’t know how your Highness keeps her patience.

Then we went on and declared a kind of independence for most of the country but …. some of us weren’t even satisfied with that! It was good of your Grandfather George V to have your Army lend Collins a few cannon and armoured cars to deal with those troublemakers.

King George V of the UK, who kindly lent Collins some of His Army weapons and transports.

And then some time later, even after those generous loans, some of us declared a Republic and pulled the country (four fifths of it, at any rate), out of the Commonwealth. Left the great family of nations that your Highness leads! Words fail me ….well almost, but I must carry on, painful though it is to do so.

A full confession must be made – nothing less will do. And then, perhaps …. forgiveness.

Of course your government held on to six counties …. You were still caring for us, even after all our ingratitude! It was like hanging on to something left behind by someone who stormed off in an argument – giving them an excuse to come back for it, so there can be a reconciliation.

How incredibly generous and far-sighted of your Majesty to leave that door open all that time!

Fifty years after that shameful Rising, it was celebrated here with great pomp and cheering, even going so far as to rename railway stations that had perfectly good British names, giving them the names of rebel leaders instead.

Then just a few years later, some of our people up North started making a fuss about civil rights and rose up against your loyal police force, forcing your government to send in your own Army. And was that enough for the trouble-makers?

Of course not – didn’t they start a war with your soldiers and police that lasted three decades!

No doubt your Majesty will have noted that some of those troublemakers have changed their ways completely and are in your Northern Ireland government now.

They’ve been helping to pass on the necessary austerity measures in your government’s budgets, campaigning for the acceptance of the police force and for no protests against yourself.

Indeed, their Martin McGuinness has shaken your hand and rest assured were it not considered highly inappropriate and lacking in decorum, he would have been glad to kiss your cheek, as he did with Hillary Clinton when she visited. Or both cheeks, in your Majesty’s case!

Your Majesty can see, I hope, that we can be reformed.

Our crimes are so many, your Highness; and we have been so, so ungrateful. But we were hoping, after you’d heard our confession, our humble apologies, after your Highness had seen how desperately sorry we are, that you’d forgive us.

And if it’s not too much to hope for, that you’d take us back into the United Kingdom. Reunite us with those six counties, and so into the Commonwealth. Is there even a tiniest chance? Please tell us what we have to do and we’ll do it, no matter how demeaning. Please?

Your most humble servant,

P. O’Neill Jnr.

SINN FÉIN: BECOMING WHAT THEY IMITATE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Quite a few animals have developed a skill to imitate something else in order to extend their life and procreation options. However, they remain in essence what they are, just disguised or camouflaged.

Human beings and their political parties, on the other hand, are quite capable of becoming what they imitate and thus transforming themselves, as we can see with Sinn Féin, for example.

In fact, when humans imitate something different to what they are, they often can’t help the process of becoming what they mimicked, even should they want to. This is often not understood by the party’s followers, who think the act’s only a temporary tactic.

One of the many species of Hover Fly in Ireland, mimicking a wasp but harmless to humans. (Image sourced: Internet)

Hovering over shrubbery or flowers at this time of year, we might see a small fly, its black-banded yellow body evoking the bee or wasp. The hover-fly however has no sting at all, having developed the “keep away, I’m dangerous” colours for its protection.

The stick insect imitates stems of foliage not only in colour but in shape, in order to hide itself from predators. The praying mantis also imitates foliage but mainly in order to remain concealed in ambush before grabbing its prey.

Stick insect (Image sourced: Internet)

There’s a spider that imitates an ant, holding two of its eight legs over its head to resemble the antennae of the six-legged insect and has been known even to imitate the ant’s halting scurrying gait. A stonefish imitates a stone on the sea bed while it lies in wait for its prey.

But for all their amazing expertise, they have not – nor can they – become the actual thing they imitate. The stick insect remains an insect, a mantis a mantid, the spider an arachnid, the stonefish a fish.

On the other hand, Sinn Féin, which some years ago began to imitate a political party of the neo-liberal, neo-colonial Irish ruling class, the Gombeens, is becoming what it imitated, transcending what it was into what it wants to be.

People who say that the SF party doesn’t stand for or believe in anything, do it an injustice. The party leaders do indeed stand for something – they stand for getting into government. And they believe in that very strongly indeed, dropping more and more of their old form to do so.

But what do they want to get into government for? Well, just to be the governmentthat’s it. And if not the current government at any point in time, to be in the wings to replace it soon afterwards.

This, of course, entails adopting the dominant colouration and shape of the Irish ruling class environment: neo-liberal capitalist and neo-colonial, i.e foreign-dependent.

FROM NATIONAL LIBERATION TO GOMBEEN PARTY

If we were able to look back through the evolutionary history of animal mimics, we might be able to see stages, a time for example when the mantis and stick insects were beginning to be green and brown but didn’t quite look the part yet.

Dead Leaf Mantis (Image sourced: Internet)

Perhaps the stonefish, though it had not quite got there yet, was beginning to look kind of lumpy. The hover-fly might have been developing dark bands but was not yet showing bright yellow in between them.

With Sinn Féin we can however look back over its evolution from a national liberation organisation to an aspiring gombeen party. I would disagree with those who pinpoint the start of the change with the party deciding in 1986 to stand candidates in Irish state parliamentary elections.

Whether to stand in bourgeois parliamentary elections or not isn’t, in my opinion, a question of principle but rather of tactics. The important issues are the reasons for doing so, the hoped-for objectives and how one goes about the election campaign and after election, if successful.

Certainly however taking part in a government, i.e the executive or management board of the ruling class, is a different question completely.

And when that government is a colonial one, the party cannot even claim to be of a nationalist bourgeois type – it is managing the colony for the colonialist, the highest political level of collusion.

That then for me was the defining shift in Sinn Féin. To be sure, there were many signs along the journey to that point, but that was a step about which there could be no equivocation. And from which there could be no turning back.

One of number of species of Stone Fish (Image sourced: Internet)

A JOURNEY OF MANY SIGNIFICANT STEPS

That step was followed by many others: first calling on people not to oppose and then actually welcoming to both administrations of Ireland the British Queen, the commander-in-chief of the occupying forces; then also supporting recruitment to the colonial gendarmerie.

Abandoning the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry was an earlier stage, when Martin McGuinness claimed that the results of the Saville Inquiry, establishing that the victims were unarmed (a fact already known to all of Ireland and probably most of the world) was sufficient.1

Refusing to preclude going in to coalition government with gombeen parties was another step on that journey, as was abandoning its annual opposition to the no-jury Special Criminal Courts2 in the Irish state – whether because it wants to show its loyalty to the Gombeens or plans to use it against its dissidents in future is not clear.

Another step was the honouring in Belfast of those who were killed in the British armed forces in WWI, a straightforward imperialist war during which the Provo’s political ancestors, far from supporting the British State, rose up in arms against it in 1916.

The stand taken by the SF leadership towards the British Monarch and Royal Family is another significant change of the party’s position and was marked publicly by statements of sympathy for the death of the Royal Consort, Prince Phillip last year.

At the same time, the leadership apologised for the assassination in 1979 of leading member of the Royal Family and life-long colonialist and imperialist, Lord Mountbatten.

Just recently, another step was taken when condolences were sent to England on the death of the Monarch, Elizabeth Windsor, and Irish people were instructed to be “respectful” to the institution while the media was awash with monarchist propaganda and servile nonsense.

One might wonder why an erstwhile Irish Republican party would seek to accommodate itself with another state’s Royal Family, never mind one which also includes the head of the State which is in armed occupation of a fifth of Irish territory. But SF’s purpose is entirely logical.

In this, the SF party leadership is adapting itself to the nature of the class it seeks to join and represent. The Irish bourgeoisie has been foreign-dependent since its independent nationalist aspirations were smashed in 1798 and 1803.

The Irish capitalist class confirmed its client nature in the process of the creation of the Irish State through 1921 to 1922, in its civil war 1922-1923, armed by the colonial power against the forces for independence ….. and forever since.

The foreign master was first British capitalism and colonialism, later US imperialism and more recently EU capitalism and imperialism. That is the loyal club that SF is preparing to join by imitating its existing members.

End.

Sinn Féin party leadership photographed at funeral in Belfast of ex-IRA political prisoner Bobby Storey in 2020 (Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The Bloody Sunday Massacre, one of a series of British Army massacres in the Six Counties (Ballymurphy, Springhill and Derry), was always claimed as the result of a battle with armed insurgents. The timing of the Saville Inquiry (established in 1998) suggests that it was a part of the Good Friday Agreement (also 1988) deal with the Provos: in exchange for their giving up armed struggle, their members in the jails would be released and, for the wider nationalist population of the Six Counties, the British would end up admitting the Derry victims were unarmed. Provisional SF abandoned the annual march on the strength of that verdict but no-one was ever prosecuted for the murders, even when Lord Saville stated that some of the soldiers had lied in their evidence.

2The special political trial courts in both administrations have no juries; in the Six Counties the Diplock Court and in the Irish State, the Special Criminal Courts.

SOURCES

Mimicry: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/mimicry#:~:text=Mimicry%20occurs%20when%20one%20species,otherwise%20capture%20and%20eat%20it.
https://a-z-animals.com/blog/10-animals-that-use-mimicry-to-survive/

Stonefish: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synanceia

Spider mimicking ant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant_mimicry
https://www.antwiki.org/wiki/Ant-Mimicking_Spiders

SF welcoming British Queen to Ireland: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-59489930
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-fein-and-a-tale-of-two-state-visits-1.1599356

SF supporting recruitment to colonial police force: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/sinn-fein-presence-at-psni-recruitment-event-seismic-and-historic-1.4161267

SF condolences on death of Royal Constort, Prince Phillip: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/politics/top-sinn-fein-figures-lead-effusive-tributes-to-prince-philip-praising-his-public-service-and-support-for-the-queen-3198149
https://www.independent.ie/news/sinn-fein-leader-mary-lou-mcdonald-has-written-to-queen-elizabeth-to-formally-express-condolences-over-death-ofprince-philip-40336994.html

SF no longer opposing the the no-jury Special Criminal Court: https://www.thejournal.ie/special-criminal-court-review-2-5803404-Jun2022/
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/sinn-fein-drops-opposition-to-special-criminal-court-1.4715275

SF on British Army dead of WWI: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-62008152

SF on death of British Queen: https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/64262

WHO IS RISKING A NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE FOR WAR GAINS?

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

According to the media, the nuclear power plant in Ukraine is controlled by the Russian military and being bombed by artillery.

The Ukrainian state spokespersons accuse the Russians of bombing it themselves while the Russian state spokespersons blame the Ukrainian military. Both warn of the danger of a nuclear disaster.

Amidst the trading accusations, about what can we all be sure?

Well, really only of a few things about which there is (or seems to be) agreement:

  • The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, although it is being maintained in operation by the Ukrainian State’s employees is within the area occupied by the Russian military very soon after the Russian invasion.
  • The plant is being bombed by someone.
  • Due to the bombing, there is a danger of nuclear disaster, initially in the Donbas region where the plant is located but quickly affecting large areas of at least the Ukrainian and of the Russian states and ultimately affecting other areas of Europe1.
  • The bombing of the plant should stop immediately and all possible efforts should be expended in that direction.

To go beyond that and arrive at a reasonably safe conclusion about who is doing the bombing, we need to employ critical deductive analysis and to set aside as far as we can our prejudices. We can’t help but have those but we can set them aside for a moment.

Using critical deductive analysis means looking at aspects like what is logical, who benefits from what, what other evidence is available ….

Russian or Donbas military Guard Outside Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Russian-controlled Enerhodar City Zaporizhzhia Region, Ukraine August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo

CRITICAL DEDUCTIVE ANALYSIS

Who could benefit from the bombing? In theory, either.

The Ukrainian authorities say the Russian do because they wish to blame their opponents.

Since the Ukrainians have demanded the Russians – apart from withdrawing their military entirely – remove themselves from the area of the nuclear plant, presumably the Ukrainians would benefit from blame attaching to the Russians.

Interestingly, “The US, United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear complex, Europe’s largest, to ensure it is not a target.”2

The Ukrainian state already has US/NATO and the western mass media on its side but a threatened nuclear disaster would inject much greater urgency into the Ukrainian State’s regular calls for more and greater weapons.

Presumably the Russian state, if they were seen to be innocent of this bombing, could use the danger of nuclear disaster to rally greater support within its state and among its allies too.

Who faces the greatest risk in the continued bombing?

Both face a risk of a nuclear disaster, initially and later from fallout. However, initially at least, it is the Russian military in the immediate area, along with the Ukrainian staff of the plant at greatest risk.

But very close behind that in high risk come the civilian population of the Donbas, from which Luhansk militia are drawn – in other words, friends, families, relations, lovers of the Luhansk militia.

Who knows the truth?

Undoubtedly, in the immediate first instance, the Ukrainian military, the Russian military, the people of the locality including the Luhansk militia and, presumably, the staff of the nuclear plant. But also the intelligence services of US/NATO.

The mainstream western media is not publishing interviews with the people of the locality and have slanted their general reporting against Russia, which leaves the Ukrainian State side with the most impact3 in the controversy.

And the intelligence services of US/NATO, who have kept quiet on this issue.

Another accusation which the Ukrainian authorities have made against the Russian side is that they have installed artillery around the nuclear plant from which they have been firing at the Ukrainian military.

This would be against rules of conflict that military should avoid installing their personnel, weapons or material in or around civilian facilities.4

Accusing the Russian military of installing artillery around the site would also seem to provide the Ukrainian military with a reason for shelling the area themselves.

There is a strong inconsistency in the Ukrainian accusation, ignored by the media. We are asked to believe that the Russian military is shelling the facility but also firing from next to it?

One of a number of aerial photos published after missile strike very near the nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe (Image sourced: Internet)

Is it possible? Fire from the position, move all the weapons and personnel out, then bomb it themselves, repeat the whole operation and repeat again? Hardly.

And such movements would surely show up in intelligence reports of US/NATO but they are not confirming it. In fact, the Russian side showed their satellite photos of the site in which no artillery could be seen and also pointed out that the US had their own satellite images but was saying nothing.

Satellite imagery was published recently showing smoke from artillery strikes on the site and would surely be available to show alleged Russian artillery installations there and, in fact, their firing from there5.

And very clear satellite imagery was readily available and published in the media to support the Ukrainian authorities’ claim that Russian planes in the Saky airbase in the Crimea had been destroyed on 9th August.6

Aerial Photos Crimean Airbase Before & After Ukrainian Missile Strikes Ukraine War August 9 2022

Another inconsistency of the allegation that the Russians are risking a nuclear disaster is in reconciling it with Russian state war aims.

The Russians say they invaded to prevent the Ukrainian state from becoming an outpost of the US/NATO offensive military alliance along their border and b) to protect the largely Russian-speaking population of the Donbas area from attacks by the Ukrainian fascists and military.

The Ukrainian State, backed up by US/NATO and the media7 say that all of it is to do with Russian imperialism and land-grabbing.

In either case, is it likely that the Russians would risk nuclear contamination of the whole area they wish to occupy or to defend? And is it likely that the Luhansk militia, drawn from the people of the area, would permit their homes and family to be put in such a terrible risk?

CONCLUSION:

Having employed critical deductive analysis of the available evidence, the logical conclusion must be that

  • The nuclear facility is being bombed by the Ukrainian military
  • They are bombing it hoping to force the Russian military evacuation out of the area and/or to accuse the Russian military of doing the bombing and to employ it in propaganda against the invading Russian military
  • and to create a sense of environmental danger from the latter
  • in which they are accustomed to expect uncritical cooperation from the mainstream western media and from US/NATO
  • to assist in having states within NATO send them more and more weapons

WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN?

  • Clearly, the Ukrainian military should cease bombarding the nuclear installation immediately
  • and to assist in that, the western media should make clear who is responsible.
  • And the International Atomic Energy Agency should send as neutral a team as possible (including perhaps officials and experts from China, Iran and India) to inspect the site and publish their results8.
  • The USA/ NATO should break their silence on their satellite surveillance and photos of the site.

This process and conclusion will be difficult for a number of key players and for many commentators. The process will expose the Ukrainian military as having been engaged in activity with potential to cause an environmental disaster.

It will expose their political leadership as having lied while trying to blame their opponents. The US/NATO block and their allies will be put in an awkward position for having supported the Ukrainian authorities while they were engaged in that activity.

The whole affair may switch – or at least weaken — wide western public sympathy away from the Ukrainian state. Many people may have to reappraise their positions in part or even completely.

Difficult, yes – but is that any justification for collusion in the possibility of a nuclear disaster?

End.

IAEA Mission Setting Out for Nuclear Power Plant Ukraine 29 August 2022 (Source image: IAEA’s website)

FOOTNOTES:

1Although assessments of the likely affected range of the disaster differ strongly (see Sources)

2https://www.rte.ie/news/ukraine/2022/0829/1319298-ukraine-russia/ (emphasis in bold is mine)

3At least in the Western world

4Both sides have been accused of violating those rules but in terms of hard evidence, mostly the Ukrainian military, as was revealed in the recent report of the more usually pro-western Amnesty International.

5See image with https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/russia-and-ukraine-trade-claims-of-nuclear-plant-attacks-1356286.html

6Not only that but before and after the explosion images https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/11/russian-warplanes-destroyed-in-crimea-saky-airbase-attack-satellite-images-show

7And large sections of Western liberal and Left opinion.

8As I write this I read that a IAEA team has begun their journey there but without information about its composition https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-support-and-assistance-mission-sets-out-to-zaporizhzhya-nuclear-power-plant-in-ukraine

SOURCES:

A recent media report which on this subject is unusually even-handed: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/russia-and-ukraine-trade-claims-of-nuclear-plant-attacks-1356286.html

Satellite imagery of and report on strikes against Russian airbase in the Crimea: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/11/russian-warplanes-destroyed-in-crimea-saky-airbase-attack-satellite-images-show

Extremely biased report on degree of danger of and from nuclear fallout, emphasing the danger to the local area: https://www.politico.eu/article/how-real-is-the-danger-from-ukraines-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-power-plant/

Also biased report but claiming much greater danger: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/52459/nuclear-hazards-zaporizhzhia-plant-ukraine-military-invasion/

IAIA team departs for inspection of the plant: https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-support-and-assistance-mission-sets-out-to-zaporizhzhya-nuclear-power-plant-in-ukraine
https://www.rte.ie/news/ukraine/2022/0829/1319298-ukraine-russia/

Wikipedia entry on the IAIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Atomic_Energy_Agency#Criticism

Colombia: Paramilitaries, Businesses and the “Truth”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These people are not spoken of as promotors of paramilitaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

Notes

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

(2) Ibíd., p.303

(3) Ibíd., pp 304 y 305

(4) Ibíd., p.299

(5) Ibíd., p.305

(6) Ibíd., p.310

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

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

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

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

(11) Ibíd., p.502

(12) Ibíd., p.299

(13) Ibíd., pp. 345 & 346

(14) Ibíd., p.310

(15) Ibíd., p. 350

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

(17) Ibíd.,

(18) Ibíd.,

(19) Ibíd.,

REPORTING & COMMENTING GUIDELINES FOR WAR IN UKRAINE

By Sharoos Iroewin

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Conflict reporting requires special skills, especially when doing so far from the the actual battleground (as is often the case and usually with western media reporting on the conflict in the Ukraine). Also journalists naturally want to eat, pay their mortgages and university fees for their children etc so it is important to write what is likely to get published which, in the last analysis and usually the first, will be decided by the editors of the news media paying them.

I’ve put together some dos and don’ts to help with that from my experience. Social media also plays an increasingly important role in public opinion and I’ve also provided some brief guidelines for interaction there.

MEDIA REPORTING

  1. DO NOT give any credence to constant reports of Ukrainian military using Ukrainian civilians as human shields. Now that Amnesty International has verified that pattern, publicise all the politicians and military criticising that report.
  2. LOOK FOR and repeat quotes of politicians accusing the Rusians of “targeting civilians”, practicing “terrorism” or even “genocide”.
  3. Any DAMAGE TO CIVILIAN HOMES or other buildings by artillery must always be by the Russian military to the Ukrainian state side of the conflict, never to the other side by Ukrainian artillery. Your editors do not want to read or hear about damage to the other side’s homes or civilian buildings.
  4. However, IT IS GREAT TO REPORT damage to Russian military or Donetsk People’s Militia and Luhansk People’s Militia, because it makes the Ukrainian state forces (and NATO weapons) look good.
  5. DAMAGE TO UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES claimed by the Russians may be reported but always as an unverifiable claim, unless confirmed by Ukrainian state sources.
  6. DAMAGE TO RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES claimed by Ukrainian state sources should always be reported in as fact-seeming a manner as possible (though from time to time some agencies will insert the caveat of being “unable to verify the claims of either side at this time”).
  7. HUMAN INTEREST and emotional stories should always be from the Ukrainian state side. Dog-saving stories did very well but might have been overdone. Refugee or otherwise victim children, old people and women tend to make sympathetic subjects. Your editors are not interested in dogs, children, old people or women from the other side; they will only confuse the picture for readers.
  8. ALWAYS REPORT HUMANITARIAN SUPPLY OR EVACUATION corridors as at Ukrainian or external initiative and if failing, should always be reported as with Russian culpability.
  9. ALWAYS refer to the Donetsk People’s Militia and Luhansk People’s Militia as “pro-Russian” forces and never as defensive in origin.
  10. ALWAYS reference the conflict as beginning in 2022 with the Russian invasion.
  11. IF USING AN EARLIER TIME reference, write that it began with the “annexation of Crimea by Russia” in 2014
  12. NEVER refer to the Russian-speakers in the Donbas region being attacked in 2014 by Ukrainian fascists and military and in some areas successfully defending themselves.
  13. NEVER refer to the Russian-speakers in the Crimea holding a referendum in which a huge majority voted to ask to become part of Russia.
  14. AVOID REFERRING to political parties banned in Ukrainian state territory, reporters arrested or threatened, news media censored or closed and films and books banned. The same can however be freely reported when the Russian state is the one doing it.
  15. ALWAYS refer to the Ukrainian state as a democracy and the 2014 riots and abrupt change of government as a democratic one, never as a coup nor with reference to attacks on LGBT people, Roma, Left-wingers, Russian-speakers or any other group. Do not under any circumstances mention the burning alive of 42 people in a trade union hall by Ukrainian fascists.
  16. ALWAYS precede any reports on Russian military advances as being a response to “setbacks” or “failure” in a supposed “attempt to capture Kyiv”. Never give any credence to claims that the Russian military advance on Kyiv was in order to limit the Ukraine state’s ability to direct, supply and support Ukrainian state military elsewhere in the region. Or that Russia had nowhere enough troops there to try to take Kyiv.
  17. AVOID mentioning the Azov Regiment when possible (this was not possible when reporting on Mariupol, of course, since they were the core of the Ukrainian state forces there) but if doing so, NEVER call them “fascists” or “fascist-led”. It is of course permissible to refer to them as “nationalist” and sometimes as “having some far-Right members”.
  18. ALWAYS refer to Ukrainian state military fighting as “heroic” and any defeats due merely to Russian military equipment superiority. NEVER mention that the Russian invading force were outnumbered by Ukrainian military by four to one OR that the Russian military were not battle-hardened while the Ukrainian military had been fighting the defensive Russian-speaking areas’ militia for eight years.
  19. OCCASIONALLY refer to “demoralisation” or “war-weariness” among the Russian military (NEVER among the Ukrainian armed forces, least of all about their desertions).
  20. FREQUENTLY quote Premier Zelenski at length and Putin, if unavoidable, in brief.
  21. FREQUENTLY quote heads of state and prominent public figures etc of NATO countries, especially its leader, the USA in support of the Ukrainian state and against Russia.
  22. NEVER QUOTE public figures of those same states in criticising NATO or the Ukrainian state – doing so will only confuse people.
  23. ALWAYS present NATO as “a defensive military alliance which is no threat to anyone”.

SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTING GUIDELINES ON THE WAR IN UKRAINE

ANY TIME someone posts an item which shows the Ukrainian regime in a nasty light, respond by posting comments

  • attacking them personally as “Putinistas” or “Putin whores”
  • as pro-Russian imperialism or as “Russian shils”
  • or attack their sources as of “Kremlin origin”, “Russian-funded”, etc
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

RIDICULE any consideration of Russian claims that NATO has been steadily circling Russia ever-closer (despite the maps appearing to show this is what has been happening). Respond to the person making those claims

  • attacking them personally as “Putinistas” or “Putin whores” or as “Russian shils”
  • as pro-Russian imperialism
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

ATTACK any reference to fascist forces such as the Azov by claiming

  • that they are just “nationalist” or
  • they have been broken up and spread through the rest of the forces (not to “infect” the rest, of course not)
  • accuse the commentators of being “Putinistas” or “Putin whores”
  • and pro-Russian imperialism or as “Russian shils”
  • or counter with reference to Russian use of the Wagner group
  • or post links to articles attacking Russia’s conduct in the Ukraine conflict as a reply.

JUSTIFY BANNING AND CENSORSHIP of journalists and media platforms

  • by saying they are “Russian shils”
  • or liars
  • “not real journalists”
  • or “because there’s a war on”

TURKEY’S PAYOFF FROM NATO LOOKS BAD FOR ROJAVA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Against the bigger war going on in the Ukraine, a smaller one hotting up has been getting little attention. Turkey started shelling a region in Syria which the inhabitants call Rojava and killed some of those inhabitants, including military leaders, who have had mass funeral protests.

Salwa Yusuk, a deputy commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, was killed in a Turkish drone attack in Syria on Friday. Also killed in the same vehicle were Joana Hisso, 30, also known as Roj Khabur, and Ruha Bashar, 19, also known as Barin Botan. (Image sourced: Internet)

The Kurds’ representatives were blaming the USA and Russia but most of all the former, saying it’s part of a deal for Turkey to lift its objections to Sweden and Finland for membership of Nato.

The official quid pro quo was for those countries to repress their Kurdish diaspora and to remain silent on repression in Turkey. But it seems an unofficial part of the deal was to let Turkey set its military loose on Rojava, the inhabitants of which are now living in fear of a full Turkish invasion.

Far indeed do the consequences of the war in the Ukraine reach around the world – Rojava is over 2,000 km from the Donbas region (and they will reach much further than this before it’s over)!

The Kurdish-led Rojava sector fought ISIS from 2014 to March 2019, at first without any external help and later assisted by NATO bombing runs.

The USA’s earlier policy had been to boost Islamic jihadism as a counter to left-wing nationalism and Russian influence (for example in Afghanistan) – until jihadism threatened western interests also. Then it waged war to eradicate it and, in the course of that, supported the Kurds in Rojava.

But US/NATO wants a solid block facing (not to say encircling) Russia – so now previous bets are off and the Rojava region can be thrown to the wolves – or to Turkey; first by Trump to screams of outrage from US Democrats but now by Biden, to probable silence.

BACKGROUND

But why does the Turkish military want to shell Syria? Why specifically shelling the Rojava region? If you know, you know but if you don’t, a little background might help.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey, comprising around 18% of Turkey’s population; the largest concentration (2 million) of which lives in Istanbul. The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslim, with Alevi Shi’a Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Yezidi communities.

Together with Kurdish populations in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia (all “Kurdistan”) the Kurds number between 25 and 35 million in the Middle East (with a very large diaspora in Europe, the USA and other areas).

The area occupied by Kurds in the Middle East is of huge strategic and resources importance and none of the major states in the area have agreed to their having a state.

After World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.

However the new leader of Turkey, Kemal Attaturk, the “father of modern Turkey” rejected a reduction in the size of the state and the subsequent imperialist Treaty of Lausanne set the boundaries of modern Turkey without any reference to the Kurds (“mountain Turks”, according to Attaturk).

Also in 1920, the Royal Air Force of the UK bombed the Kurds with chemical weapons and machine-gunned them during the Iraqi (then Mesopotamia) uprising,

In 1946 the USSR supported a Kurdish state in a part of what is Iran today but in the face of the western powers’ opposition and support for the state of Persia’s (then a client state of the West) claim to the territory, the USSR withdrew its support and the Kurdish state was suppressed.

Every attempt to set up a Kurdish state since then has been violently suppressed and, in Turkey, even an autonomous Kurdish region was beyond contemplation by the authorities, who suppress even Kurdish language and music.

THE KURDS IN SYRIA

In 2013 an uprising began against the Assad regime which, though it had some popular elements quickly became dominated by Jihadists and NATO proxies. The Syrian part of the Kurdish liberation movement saw an advantage for itself here and set up its own liberated areas.

Also in 2013 the fundamentalist islamist group ISIS burst on to the scene and, taking advantage of the Assad regime’s beleaguered situation, attacked large areas of Syria, to overthrow the regime but also to subjugate all peoples in the region, including the Kurds and Arabs of any kind.

The Kurds of Rojava fought to protect their areas from ISIS but also carried out a heroic rescue action to save Yazidis, opening and defending a corridor for Yazidi refugees to reach safety in the Kurdish liberated area where they built a cross-community alliance with Yazidis, Turkmen and Arabs, in which they state that all its citizens have equal rights.

Whether this is as true as they (and as their supporters in parts of the European Left) say or not, certainly women have a formally equal status and women are elected – and also appointed — to positions of high administrative and military responsibility.

Demonstrators in Stockholm against the NATO deal with Turkey and in solidarity with the Kurds (whose flags are also visible (Image sourced: Internet)

The Turkish regime has been at war with the Kurds within the state’s territory led by the PKK since 1974 and viewed the setting up of an independent republic under Kurdish leadership across the border in Syria with great alarm.

In 2014 Turkey began attacking support and supply lines from Kurds in Turkey to Rojava, which caused outrage among the extended Kurdish diaspora and other opponents of ISIS in the West.

London rally November 2014 in solidarity with Kurds in Syria and condemning Turkish attacks. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

And in fact, although Turkey is an important member of NATO, Turkish military attacked the enclave a number of times, both directly and through the use of muslim fundamentalist jihadists.

Nevertheless, NATO’s concentration on wiping out the ISIS threat in the area had to have a restraining effect on Turkey. And then there was Russia too, also supplying air cover — but to the Syrian regime.

MY ENEMY’S ENEMY IS ….” — an understandable but dangerous philosophy

At first in 2013 it seemed that the Kurds around Rojava were merely taking advantage of the Syrian regime’s trouble to go for establishing their own republic, in addition to fighting the dire threat of ISIS.

In the latter struggle, they would of course gladly accept NATO bombing of ISIS and liaise with NATO commanders on where ISIS forces were gathering – for the Kurd’s own safety and for destruction of a dangerous enemy.

However some years ago an interview with the Kurdish commander of the Rojava military forces was published in which he said that the intentions of the Rojava military went further and involved overthrowing the Assad regime, an objective that they shared with NATO.

At a meeting organised by socialist Irish Republicans about five years ago, while expressing admiration for the Kurd’s struggle for self-determination in general and specifically against ISIS, I questioned from the audience a Kurdish speaker from London.

When I commented on what seemed a clear alliance with western imperialism and in particular the USA, the biggest imperialist power in the world, the speaker replied that they were merely accepting necessary aid for their defence against ISIS.

But when I pointed him towards the Kurdish military commander’s interview on the regime change objectives of his forces and of NATO, all he had to say was that I should visit Rojava.

Mass funerals (despite fear of further Turkish drone strikes) of three fighters of the Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ) killed recently (Image sourced: ANHA)

CONCLUSION

This situation and its history once again highlights the dangers of revolutionaries doing any deal with imperialism, most of all one where the long-term survival of one’s people depends on the continued support of an imperialist power.

It also raises the question of whether it is justifiable or at least wise in the longer term to use a major world power’s assistance in order to remove a smaller power.

The main Kurdish liberation movement of the PKK fought a heroic struggle for decades, in particular against the ferocious Turkish regime, with many martyrs and political prisoners.

One of its weaknesses was the almost deification of their leader Oçalan and the way his attempted embracing of the proposed “peace process” undermined the movement, as similar processes have done wherever they have been introduced.

Of course, as with the Spanish state, another fascist but supposedly democratic regime, the Turkish regime is not interested in any “peace process”, a slow sapping of the resistance movement. For its ruling elite, crudely crushing the resistance with brute force is the only way .

The Kurdish movement in Syria was seen as a spinoff from the PKK which supported it in its struggle against the Syrian regime but in particular in its heroic struggle against the Islamic State/ ISIS/ Deish.

However the Turkish state would view any independent Kurdish area, let alone one in nearby Syria as encouragement to Kurds within its territory. The ISIS movement threatened some Western interests and so NATO went to war with it, the Syrian Kurds linked themselves with NATO not only to defeat ISIS but also to overthrow the Assad regime.

US-led NATO wanted to overthrow the Assad regime but as part of its Middle Eastern encirclement of Russia (which is why Russia came to the aid of Assad against ISIS). Iraq and Libya had fallen already and, after Syria, Iran would be next on the list.

Thousands of people joined a demonstration in Tel Rifaat town of the Shehba Canton on Sunday 10th Nov 2019 in protest at the Turkish state’s invasion and genocidal practices in northern Syria. 40% of the population of Efrin (Afrin) having to survive in a semi no-man’s land, defended by the multi-ethnic SDF of AANES, after expulsion by the Turkish invasion, plantation and Turkification of their homes and properties.

But as the ISIS threat and the likelihood of deposing Assad faded, NATO support for the Rojava fighters declined. In October 2019 the SDF had to conclude an agreement with the Syrian regime to have it move into their area to end five days of attacks by Turkey.

When their protection from Turkey could be dropped in exchange for a US/NATO advantage in Eastern Europe, nothing stood against a Turkish all-out attack on Rojava. Nothing, that is, except the Russian airforce.

If Turkey is to attack Rojava with ground troops it will need to use air cover both in manned and unmanned vehicles, which would require Russia not policing the no-fly zone in Syria near the Turkish border.

In February 2021, a Russia-brokered agreement between the SDF and the Syrian regime to lift the SDF’s siege of regime-held towns showed strains. But last month, at a summit in Tehran between leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey, the other two warned the latter not to attack the Kurds in Syria.

However, despite Turkey’s NATO membership, Russia does get along with the state’s rulers from time to time and the recent discussions between the ruling elites of Russia and Ukraine on unblocking the flow of grain and fertiliser out of the war zone were held in Turkey.

The Syrian regime does not want an autonomous area within the territory of its state and Russia’s leaders will be anxious to keep on good terms with its ally – but it will also wish to wean Turkey away from NATO.

The Rojava enclave, though never as wonderful as it was proclaimed to be from a socialist point of view, is nevertheless an interesting experiment in federalism and multi-ethnic administration.

It will be sad if Rojava falls to Turkish aggression and a mean repayment for their heroic struggle to rescue the Yazidis and to hold off the advance of ISIS which cost them 10,000 dead fighters. It may also be yet another disastrous byproduct of the proxy war NATO is waging in the Ukraine.

End.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING:

Turkish military attacks on Rojava: https://thefreeonline.com/2022/07/12/mass-funerals-as-terrorist-turkey-shells-towns-and-refugees-before-new-rojava-invasion/
https://thefreeonline.com/2022/07/23/sdf-says-two-of-its-female-commanders-one-fighter-were-murdered-in-turkish-drone-strike-video/

NATO dumps the Kurds: https://www.lemonde.fr/en/international/article/2022/06/28/nato-says-turkey-has-agreed-to-support-finland-and-sweden-joining-alliance_5988282_4.html

Trump dumps the Syrian Kurds: https://progressive.org/latest/foreign-correspondent-trump-kurds-empire-crumbles-erlich-101918/

Russia blocks Turkey’s plans to attack Rojava: https://www.irishtimes.com/world/middle-east/2022/07/20/iran-and-russia-warn-turkey-against-military-offensive-against-syrian-kurdish-forces-in-syria/
https://thefreeonline.com/2022/07/26/turkish-invasion-cancelled-did-putin-just-save-rojava/

Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led Rojava alliance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Democratic_Forces

Long history Turkish State conflict with Kurds: https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-between-turkey-and-armed-kurdish-groups

A modern history of the Kurds: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29702440

The Irish Prime Minister and the Fall of Singapore

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

The media informs us of the visit on the 22nd July of Mícheál Martin, Prime Minister of the Irish state, to the concentration camp where his uncle was a prisoner of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in World War II.

Many Irish fought in the UK and British Commonwealth armies against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.

But there is another strong and ironic Irish connection to the fall of Singapore. The Lieut.-General Arthur Percival who surrendered the Singapore fortress to the Japanese Army in 942 had been Intelligence Officer (and torturer) for the Essex Rifles against the IRA in West Cork 1920-’21.

Major (then) Arthur Percival, C/O 1st Company Essex Regiment (later Intelligence Officer) in Ireland with senior officer of the colonial gendarmerie, the Royal Irish Constabulary, c.1920/21. (Image sourced: British Imperial War Museum)

PERCIVAL IN IRELAND

Percival served first as a company commander then as Intelligence Officer of the Essex Rifles in Kinsale, Co. Cork, where he “stood out for his violent, sadistic behaviour towards IRA prisoners, suspects and innocent civilians……

“He also participated in reprisals, burning farms and businesses in response to IRA attacks,” according to a USA historian. General Tom Barry, IRA commander in West Cork, said that Percival was “easily the most vicious anti-Irish of all serving British officers”1.

Two victims in particular were IRA Brigade Commander Tom Hales and Quatermaster Patrick Harte. Both reported being beaten and tortured with pliers to private parts and extraction of nails. Percival got an OBE for their capture; Harte died in a mental hospital in 1925.

Tom Barry recorded that after a number of ignored warnings, the IRA in Cork placed the Essex Rifles on the same status as the Black ‘n Tans and the Auxilliaries – they could depend on no mercy if captured.

Percival was also the man who unconditionally surrendered Singapore to a much smaller invading force of Japanese in 1942, thereby condemning thousands of soldiers and civilians to a terrible fate.

British Army prisoners of the Japanese after the surrender of Singapore (Image sourced: Internet)

LARGEST BRITISH SURRENDER IN HISTORY — AND TO LESSER NUMBERS

Singapore had been a British colonial possession since 18262. At the time of WWII the British considered it a strong fortress, a thick jungle and hills on the landward side and with huge 15” cannon facing out to sea against a possible naval invasion.

The British High Command considered no navy in the world could survive an assault on the island and no army capable of penetrating the thick jungle. Apparently no-one told the Imperial Japanese that for come through the jungle they did, marching or riding on bicycles.

The UK and Commonwealth troops on the landward side fought but were outgunned and badly commanded. After seven days of fighting, Percival decided to surrender unconditionally, with most of the 85,000 troops on the island not yet having engaged the 36,000 of the enemy.

Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival (right), led by Ichiji Sugita, walks under a flag of truce to negotiate the capitulation of Commonwealth forces in Singapore, on 15 February 1942. It was the largest surrender of British forces in history (Wikipedia).

The surrender of Singapore delivered 80,000 UK and Commonwealth troops, along with a million civilians, into captivity in the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army. Three days after the British surrender, the Japanese began the “Sook Ching” purge, killing thousands of civilians3.

The day before the surrender, Japanese soldiers also invaded the Victoria Hospital and murdered over 250 soldiers, doctors, male staff and patients.

Most of the soldiers taken captive had not been given a chance by Percival to even fire a shot at the advancing Japanese Army, to the contempt of their captors, led by officers with a strong military tradition and pride (not to say arrogance).

Whether that fact contributed to the cruel and inhumane treatment of the prisoners by their captors and guards is not certain but it seems to have done. In any case, many who died day by day and month by month building the Burma Railway would no doubt have preferred to die fighting.

Most of the civilians massacred would probably also have preferred to die fighting.

Around 30,000 Allied Prisoners of War of the Japanese died in captivity of cruel treatment including inadequate food, disease and overwork; working from statistics R.J. Rummel estimates a death rate of around 29% for POWs4. Huge numbers of civilians died similarly also.

Australian Russell Braddon, who wrote about his experiences in the Japanese concentration camp at Changi and on the slave-labour construction of the Burma railroad5, was extremely bitter about the surrender and the general Allied High Command management of the war in Malaya.

IN CONCLUSION

I do not, as many Irish Republicans do, criticise the Irish who joined the UK and Commonwealth Armies during WWII (9,100 combat dead perhaps https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/number-of-irish-in-both-wars-unknown-1.1825013).

Many no doubt did so out of a desire to fight fascism — surely an admirable motivation6.

But once the War ended, any Irish remaining in the British armed forces anywhere could not claim to be doing anything else than helping the domination of many nations and millions of people by what was at the time the world’s biggest imperialist power (though soon to be eclipsed by the USA).

Mícheál Martin at Changi concentration camp where his uncle was a POW, now a museum (Photo: RTÉ)

If anti-fascism motivated his uncle and that is what Mícheál Martin appreciates about him, one would wonder why the police of the state which he leads protected fascists in Ireland and attacked antifascists on a number of occasions in recent years.

Of course there may be a more sinister aspect to Martin’s publicised visit. It may be a public expression of the desire among the Irish elite to be part of a western military alliance, either the US-NATO or an EU such, which would in the end amount to much the same thing.

And such an alliance in these times would not be fighting — even in part – against fascism but rather alongside it.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Guerrilla Days in Ireland (1949 and many reprints since) by Tom Barry.

2Singapore became an independent republic on 9 August 1965.

3People from all ethnic groups were massacred but the Chinese most of all. Though the Japanese government years later paid some compensation to relatives of victims, it has never accepted responsibility for the events. Nor has the UK. “Since 1998, Singapore has observed Total Defence Day on 15 February each year, marking the anniversary of the surrender of Singapore. The concept of Total Defence as a national defence strategy was first introduced in 1984, which serves as a significant reminder that only Singaporeans with a stake in the country can effectively defend Singapore from future threats.” (Wikipedia)

4https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

5The Naked Island (1952) sold over a million copies. Russel Braddon (1921-1925) had a breakdown soon after the war and felt suicidal but, once recovered, became a successful writer of novels, articles and TV scripts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Braddon

6I met one of those, curiously enough a Corkman in a lodging house in London. Denis was a decent man, very big, who rarely talked about the war except sometimes when he had drink taken. Strangely, he never had a bad word to say against the Japanese – even the concentration camp guards.

SOURCES

Mícheál Martin’s visit to Changi Jail Museum: https://www.thejournal.ie/martin-singapore-visit-prison-5824033-Jul2022/

Surrender of Singapore: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Singapore

https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/prisoners-of-war-of-the-japanese-1939-1945

https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

Arthur Percival: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Percival