A new socialist Irish Republican hardcopy newspaper has appeared in Ireland in recent months. January and February 2023’s editions, believed to be nos. 3 & 4 are reviewed here.
While today, at least in the developed world, the production of Internet media is of great importance for the revolutionary movement as much as it is for the capitalist system, the hard-copy newspaper disseminated by hand still has an important role.
Hardcopy newspaper distribution entails contact in the real world with real people, answers given to questions asked and challenges made, contacts made between the potential organisers and potential activist supporters, can go from hand to hand and be left for a random reader.
Online media has no equivalent to this.
Lenin observed that the revolutionary newspaper is an organiser, not only in its calls to action but in the necessary tasks of production and distribution. Ireland has very few revolutionary newspapers and not even one weekly one, to say nothing of daily editions.
An Phoblacht Abú is produced and distributed by Irish Republican Socialists, whose activist manifestations have been seen in the Revolutionary Housing League’s occupation of empty buildings and its calls for a general emulation of such actions.
Another manifestation has been the activities of Anti-Imperialist Action, notably in protest pickets against imperialism and neo-colonialism, antifascist actions and anti-spiking campaigns, also in commemorations of Republican martyrs, often supported by sticker and leaflet campaigns.
CONTENT, FORM AND PRICE
Both issues reviewed contained 16 sides of A4 pages, composed of two A3 sheets folded in half, one inside the other. They sold at 2 euros per issue – less than one-third the price of most pints in Dublin and much longer to consume!
In general the articles are well-written and with few typographical errors. The editions reviewed here covered national and international news and the overall line in the content is of revolutionary overthrow of the ruling class and eschewing electoralism.
With regard to coverage of national issues, anti-fascism, anti-racism, building a broad front, opposition to NATO and the British occupation of the Six Counties and the neo-colonial and neo-liberal ruling class of the Twenty-Six Counties have figured prominently.
Apart from such regular themes, January’s issue documented the struggle against student fees and treachery of the student union executive in Maynooth and reported a joint Republican Prisoners’ solidarity picket in Dublin along with the release of a known Loyalist sectarian murderer.
Commemorations of Irish Republicans murdered by the Free State during the Irish Civil War/ Counter Revolution (1922-1923) figured in both issues.
In foreign news coverage, actions of peoples’ guerrilla forces in the Philippines and India, for which one would search the main dailies in vain, are covered in both issues and, in January’s, Scottish independence and John McLean and Israeli expulsion of Palestinian campaigner Salah Hamouri.
The environmental struggle in Germany figured in February’s issue.
Regarding economic questions, the rise in “cost of living” and housing crisis attacks on working people were addressed in short articles. Wider pieces on action were included on class struggle and community representation and action in the February edition.
The appearance of An Phoblacht Abú is welcome and it is hoped can be sustained. Hopefully further issues will deal with questions of culture and the Irish language, the war in Ukraine (on which the Left seems deeply divided), historical-cultural conservation, trade union organisation and education of the people.
AVAILABLEat 2 euro per copy (back issues sometimes free) from sellers and supporters or from firstname.lastname@example.org
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (with kind donation of photos)
(Reading time: 7 mins.)
08 March 2023
Photo Coca Plants Northern Colombia: G.O.L.
The drugs issue in Colombia supposedly occupies the time of and is a concern to the government.
It has been an important issue for all the governments and as was to be expected it is one that has come up again in the dialogues with the ELN, despite this organisation denying any links to the drugs trade.
In the peace process with the FARC, agreement was reached on the issue. What was agreed to in Point 4 of the Havana Accord was abysmal and showed that the FARC did not understand the problem nor the possible solutions.
Of course, there could be a difference between what the FARC understood and what it agreed to, as at the end of the day the state won the war and imposed the greater part of what the FARC signed up to.
Following the agreement in the declarations of the main FARC commanders there is nothing to be seen that indicates that they really understood the problem. Will it be any different with the ELN?
One of the main concerns of the ELN has been to put a distance between themselves and the drugs trade.
Whilst it is true that the ELN is not the FARC, it is also true that in their areas of influence or those contiguous there are coca and poppy crops and the USA is not going to believe them that they have nothing to with it, whether they like it or not. The ELN accepts that it places taxes on economic activities and for the USA that is drug trafficking.
So, some time ago, the ELN issued a statement where they restated that they have nothing to do with drugs and invited an international commission to visit the country to see the reality for itself.(1) They ask that a UN delegate take part in the delegation. They also make a series of proposals in relation to the issue as such.
On the first point, the ELN feels sure of itself regarding its ability to show in practice that they are not drug traffickers. The ELN correctly states that:
When the Colombian government and the USA accuse the ELN of having an active role in the trade, they are lying, but above all they are covering up for those really responsible and the deep-seated problems, which indicate their unwillingness to take real and effective measures.(2)
But for the USA, it is not about whether they are guilty or not, it is a political tool and weapon and to give them a voice and vote in the affair is extremely dangerous. When the USA accuses the ELN of being drug traffickers, it is not making a mistake.
A mistake on their part would be to say something they believe and be wrong about it, but they accuse the ELN for political reasons on the basis of their strategic needs and the legal basis to their accusations is the least of it: it is just propaganda. By inviting them into the country, the ELN falls into their trap.
The UN participated in the commissions of investigation for supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The lack of evidence of such weapons wasn’t of much use.
The USA played around with supposed or real non-compliance by Saddam and did what they always wanted to do: invade Iraq. In this they counted on the explicit support of Great Britain and the tacit support of others.
There is a myth in Colombia that the only baddies are the USA and that other imperialist powers such as Canada (a country that is not seen as imperialist by many sections of the “Colombian left”), and other countries of the European Union are good, or at least not really that bad to the point they are friends of the Colombian people.
In the case of Colombia, the EU competes with the US in almost everything. The EU is Colombia’s second commercial partner and its companies are dominant in sectors such as mining, health and oil, amongst others.
The ELN also asks for the legalization of drugs. The demand is justified and quite opportune, but their counterparts i.e. the Colombian state is not sovereign in the matter and furthermore there is a need to clarify what is understood by legalization.
If by legalization they mean legalizing production for medical purposes, the bad news is that medical production is already legal. The thing is, that it is controlled. In fact, in many jurisdictions they don’t talk of illegal drugs but rather controlled substances.
Cocaine is a controlled substance. Its production for medical reasons is authorized by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and production is almost exclusively carried out in Peru. And the market is quite small, not even reaching 400 kilos per year as I pointed out in an earlier article.(3) It solves nothing in relation to Colombia.
If on the other hand, they are talking about legalizing recreational use, something which could positively impact the Colombian countryside, then it is a matter of international jurisdiction. Colombia cannot legalise it on its own.
Colombia is a signatory to the Single Convention of 1961 that holds sway in the matter and in addition there are power relationships at play.
It doesn’t matter whether it legalises production for recreational use, it will never be able to legally export it, not only without the consent of the other country, but also the whole setup of the UN and its bodies such as the INCB i.e. at the end of the day, the USA.
Even if it is legalized for internal consumption, there are other problems that have already arisen in countries such as Uruguay which legalised recreational use of marijuana or some of the states in the USA.
The banking system dare not receive funds from those legalised markets and the producers resort to old methods more akin to money laundering to deposit legal funds in legal accounts in a legal banking system.
Even in the hypothetical case of the USA and the EU agreeing, the legalisation of cocaine would go far beyond Colombian cocaine and would include other drugs such as opium and its derivatives such as heroin. It is worth looking at the drugs market and its production.
According to the UN, cocaine is produced directly or indirectly in eight Latin American countries (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia account for almost all of it), whilst 57 countries produce opium, the Asian countries being the largest producers (Afghanistan, Myanmar and Mexico dominate the market).
Cannabis, which is the most widely consumed drug in the world is produced in 154 countries.
For 2020, the UN calculated that there were 246,800 hectares of opium and 234,000 of coca.(4) They also calculate a production of 7,930 tonnes in 2021(5) and 1,982 tonnes of cocaine in 2020.(6) We are not talking about small quantities of production or land. Almost half a million hectares between these two drugs and 64 countries.
Any proposal of legalisation has to include these countries and their peasantry.
The number of drug users is also large. The UN calculates that in 2020 there were 209 million cannabis consumers, 61 million people who had consumed opiates, 24 million amphetamine users, 21 million cocaine consumers and 20 million users of ecstasy.(7)
They say that in 2020, they had calculated that 284 million people between the ages of 15-64 years used drugs, i.e. one in every 18 people in this cohort.(8)
There are consequences to this, in economic but also cultural terms regarding the use and abuse of substances. But there also consequences in terms of health. Some 600,000 people received some treatment for drug problems.(9)
So when the ELN says that “Drug addicts are ill and should be cared for by the states and not pursued as delinquents”(10) their idea is correct, however, the size of the problem is greater than the real capacity of the health systems in the countries that have large numbers of users.
Photo Opium Poppy Nariño Colombia: G.O.L.
The total number of people injecting drugs is 5,190,000 in Asia, 2,600,000 in Europe and 2,350,000 in the Americas (almost 75% of which is in north America).(11)
Of those who inject, 5.5 million have Hepatitis C, 1.4 million are HIV positive and 1.2 million are HIV positive and also have Hepatitis C.(12) These are not minor problems and are high-cost illnesses.
Of course, these figures do not include the unlawful abuse of legal pharmaceuticals. In the USA almost 80% of the overdoses are from the consumption of legal opiates such as fentanyl, which caused 78,238 deaths in 2021 in that country.
But the issue does require legalisation and not other means that the FARC aimed for. The peasants of Colombia did not make a mistake in choice of crop when they planted coca. Coca was and continues to be a very profitable crop, despite all the difficulties that it generates.
There is no need to substitute it with another crop such as cocoa or African palm etc. It is not about the crop but rather the production model and the political and economic context.
The increase in coca production in Colombia, is not due to subjective factors such as the decisions of peasants, not even of the drug barons and less still of the insurgencies but rather objective economic factors.
This is a key point. It was the decisions of northern countries that impacted the countryside and pushed thousands of peasants around the world to grow opium poppy and coca. The neoliberal cutback policies in the north also contributed to the dramatic rise in problem drug use due to the increase in misery in those countries.
In any discussion we should distance ourselves from the idea that the drugs problem can be solved in a negotiation with the ELN, although they could negotiate some points that would contribute positively to a solution.
But the problem is political and the free trade agreements and other measures that had a negative impact on the countryside have to be looked at again.
Also, they have to reach an agreement with the Colombian government, not for some perks for peasants nor corrupt projects and budgets such as those the FARC agreed to, but rather a political agreement where the government argues and campaigns for the derogation of the Single Convention of 1961.
We began the previous manifesto talking about emergencies. We said that it was essential to reclaim an anti-imperialist and internationalist Euskal Herria2.
And that urgency, that need, is what has brought together comrades from all corners of Euskal Herria here today. Well done all of us!
Capitalism is going through a systemic crisis. They speak to us of a “extraordinary period” but the truth is rather that we find ourselves in a permanent crisis. As we have supposedly departed one, they have already placed us in another.
As of 2020, moreover, we have entered a phase of exceptionality in which States take advantage to impose economic, social and disciplinary policies that point towards a war scenario. Therefore, we cannot separate the capitalist decomposition from the increase in repression and censorship.
The rise of fascism that is taking place throughout Europe is a direct consequence of the bourgeoisie’s fear of losing the control it exercises over an increasingly exploited and angry population.
In the field of international relations, we are also witnessing the increasing loss of hegemony of the Empire that has controlled the world practically without opposition for the last 30 years.
The bloc led by the United States and NATO, far from accepting the end of its historical cycle, seems determined to increase armed conflicts. In addition to giving a boost to the arms industry, they intend to hinder the growth of emerging powers such as China or Russia.
For this phase of confrontation, they have finally achieved the support of the lobby led by Ursula Von der Layen, the “gardener” Borrell3 and company.
NATO and the EU, together with the Zionist entity that redoubles its attacks on the Palestinian people, are today the main props of this dark period in history.
As far as NATO is concerned, we have to understand that its role goes beyond being a mere military organization. It is true that it is mainly the army of the bourgeoisie (and it is demonstrating this in Donbass, as it has also demonstrated in Yugoslavia, Libya or Syria).
But it has the superior function of being the military arm against anyone who opposes the policies of capital. Today these translate into the over-exploitation and precarity of the working class (especially women and people of colour).
And changes in labour rights to deprive us of material concessions wrested through class struggle, change of laws to increase the repression of those struggles, etc.
A clear example of this is the latest General Budget of the Spanish State, supported by all the social democratic parties4.
The budget supports the deterioration of the material conditions of working peoples to benefit NATO, giving it more control capacity and recognizing their right to appropriate civil infrastructures to defend the interests of the bourgeoisie.
The support for these militaristic policies, at the dawn of a world war, is a real shame and demonstrates the total lack of commitment of the leadership of these parties to the future of the Working Peoples of the world.
In Euskal Herria we are well aware of what NATO represents:
in addition to the military training industrial estate in Las Bardenas or the military exercises carried out at the Araka base (Gasteiz), we have recently witnessed blatant support from the Government of Gasteiz for war industries such as SENER or SAPA.
Nor can we forget the historical support of NATO, through the Gladio network, to the Spanish and French States in their legal and illegal repression5 against the struggle in Euskal Herria.
If we add to this the economic and social exception measures imposed on us by Brussels (private pension funds, increase in the retirement age, dismantling of public health) …
It becomes increasingly clear to us that neither as a nation nor as working class do we have a future within NATO or the EU. The need to destroy these instruments of domination by the bourgeoisie, as well as the Spanish and French States, is more than evident if we aspire to build a future in freedom.
These are not good times, of course not. The situation is becoming more and more complicated throughout the world. And that is why we here today are calling for the activation in each town and each neighborhood of the anti-imperialist Euskal Herria.
Today, we not only reaffirm this rejection, but we once again make an urgent call to join forces with the rest of the working peoples and oppressed nations of the world to stop the imperialist offensive promoted by this criminal organization along with its allies in the European Union.
From Chile to Donbass, passing through Laos, Mali or Vietnam…
LONG LIVE THE STRUGGLE OF THE WORKING PEOPLE!
AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST BASQUE COUNTRY!
COMMENT: A GIANT STEP FORWARD
(Reading time:One min.)
The estimated 2,000 turnout in support of this demonstration must have exceeded the expectations of the organisers and greatly encouraged them. Two thousand is not a huge number in the highly-politicised Basque Country, even with a total population of less than three million, north and south.
But this is a nation which has for decades been under a political leadership, the surviving members of which have now taken the road of pacificaction, of accommodation to capitalism and the Spanish and French states, of social-democratic ‘opposition’.
This movement had a united national political leadership, an armed guerrilla movement, a daily newspaper, a trade union and smaller affiliated groups; it had café/bars/social centres throughout the southern provinces.
Though in decline and fragmented with the leadership’s embracing of the pacification process (through which, unlike the Provos, they did not even gain the release of their hundreds of imprisoned comrades), it still exercises a heavy influence on politics in the Basque Country.
That is today the ambit of Otegi, EH Bildu and Geroa Bai and neither did their parties participate in Saturday’s demonstration nor as an individual any of senior responsibility in their structures, though certainly individuals in their social and cultural sectors were seen in the march.
In that context and after 25 years of pacification, 2,000 in open attendance is a giant step forward for the Basque resistance. ‘Tús maith, leath na hoibre‘, it is said in Irish: ‘A good beginning is half the work’ and indeed, a beginning is how the organisers view the event.
“Dissident” groups such as Amnistia ta Askatasuna, Amnistia Garrasia, Tinko and Jardun have arisen in the last decade and youth have been very prominent in these and others disparate groupings, which is important for any revolutionary movement.
The photos and videos of Saturday’s demonstration show older and mature faces too, veterans of the struggle and also those active during the pacification period and this too is important, for it brings a certain continuity to the movement and the awareness of mistakes made in the past.
More than 50 organisations in the Basque Country supported the call for this demonstration.
The road ahead will not be easy (when has it ever been for the Basque nation or the working class in general?) but a giant step forward has been taken.
1Askapena is the internationalist arm of the Basque movement for independence and was responsible for a number of years for maintaining a network of Basque solidarity organisations (which in some cases it founded) in Mexico and across a number of European cities, including Belfast, Dublin and Cork. In 2011 five of its leading activists were arrested on charges of supporting the guerrilla organisation ETA, through Askapena’s solidarity with political prisoners. The five defended their right to work with prisoner and internationalist solidarity and were finally acquitted in 2016 earning much admiration for their stance (in stark contrast to the 47 activists in a number of prisoner support organisations who apologised for their activity in a Spanish court in September 2019 in exchange for non-custodial sentences for the majority).
2The current Basque name for their nation, “the Basque-speaking country”, replacing the former “Euskadi”, now used to refer only to the three-province ‘autonomous’ region of Bizkaia, Araba and Gipuzkoa.
3Josep Borrell, Foreign Minister of the EU Parliament who has described the EU as “a garden”. A Catalan member of the PSOE, hostile to Catalan independence who after five minutes stormed out of an English-language interview by Tim Sebastian on the German TV program Conflict Zone regarding the struggle in Catalonia.
4This is a reference not only to the social-democratic coalition government of the PSOE and Podemos but also of the Basque EH Bildu and Catalan ERC, the votes of which MPs supported the Budget.
5A reference not only to banning of parties, organisations and demonstrations but also to routine torture and the kidnapping and assassinations of the State-sponsored GAL of the 1980s.
6In the 1986 Referendum on whether the Spanish state should join NATO, the southern Basque Country gave a majority vote against, the only region to do so (though the vote against was high in some regions), the total vote being 52.54% in favour.
The Irish State nominally rules over the 26-Counties land territory and its corresponding sea and airspace. Yet these have been and are repeatedly violated by the US and UK military with Irish ruling class secret collusion.
Now a Senator in Leinster House is seeking a hearing in the High Court to have the behaviour of successive Irish Governments in allowing UK military overflights declared unconstitutional.
The Sea, oh the sea … and the air!
As stipulated by international law, a sovereign state’s area includes the sea up to 12-miles from its border1 and therefore Ireland has a 12 mile territorial sea, a 200 mile exclusive economic zone before any additional claims are made to the continental shelf including the Rockall Bank.2
According to media report, a comprehensive survey of the Irish State’s territorial waters was not undertaken until 2014, i.e nearly a century after its foundation, which in itself is an indictment of an allegedly independent island state.
According to The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) says potential territorial waters stretch to 898,442km sq – an area bigger than the oil rich North Sea.3
Through the decades when Ireland was a fishing nation and fresh fish was eaten weekly in most homes, Irish fishing boats had to compete with those from many other states fishing illegally inside Irish sea limits.
The Irish Navy was the only policing enforcement agency and through much of that time it had only three corvettes to patrol 12 miles out from the whole coastline of the Irish state. Subsequent EU legislation then left Irish seas more open to foreign-based fishing than it did to Irish boats.
The sovereign air space of a state corresponds to that over its land and 12-miles out to sea from its coastline.4
The use of Shannon airport by the US military in transit of troops, weapons and prisoners has long been known and protested.
Shannon Airport protests
Over the years there have been many highly-publicised protests over the US military use of Shannon, ranging from mass protests outside the airport buildings to deliberate trespass and even damage to a US warplane.
The response from the Government Minister to questions in Leinster House is always that the US is not violating Irish sovereignty, arms, military and prisoners are not being transported through there – because the US authorities have assured the Irish Government that they are not.
In February 2003 five members of the Catholic Workers’ Movement under the name Pitstop Ploughshares gained access to a hanger in Shannon Airport and damaged a USAF warplane there. They were Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon, Ciaron O’Reilly and Damien Moran.
They were jailed for up to 11 weeks awaiting committal for trial to which they were finally sent in Dublin Circuit Court in March and October 2005 on two counts of criminal damage, €100 and US $2.5 million. The faced a maximum 10 years if convicted.
Two aborted trials followed as one judge after another revealed their bias and partiality. In July 2006 after twelve days a mixed male and female jury acquitted the accused on all charges on the grounds that they had taken the action to save lives in Iraq and were justified in doing so.
In October 2012 dramatist, writer, former Republican prisoners and veteran activist Margaretta D’Arcy was arrested with Niall Farrell for scaling the fence and entering the grounds of Shannon Airport.
In June 2014 at the age of 80 and suffering from Parkinson’s disease D’Arcy was jailed for two weeks in Limerick Prison for refusal to pay the fine and remained defiant.
In July 2014 then members of the Irish Parliament Clare Daly and Mick Wallace5 used a rope ladder to climb over a perimeter fence and enter the grounds of Shannon Airport and made no attempt to avoid arrest.
They were both fined by a court for trespass in February 2015 and refused to pay the fine, eventually being taken to Limerick jail by Gardaí in December 2015 and released less than two hours later.
On 25 April 2017 anti-war activists Edward Horgan, a retired Irish soldier of 78, and civil servant Dan Dowling, 39, were arrested in the airport grounds and charged with criminal trespass and malicious damage (felt-tip graffiti slogan on a warplane).
In a very low-level publicity case in January this year (2023), a jury in Dublin found both guilty of trespass but not of criminal damage at the airport and were ordered to pay €5,000 each to a women’s refuge in Co Clare.
On St. Patrick’s Day 2019 two ex-USA military Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, now anti-war campaigners of the US chapter of Veterans for Peace, cut a hole in the airport’s perimeter fence, entered Shannon airfield with a banner and were arrested.
In May last year, a majority jury verdict found Mayers (85) and Kauff (80) guilty of interfering with the running of the airport but unanimously not of criminal damage to an airport perimeter fence and of trespassing the airport with the intent to commit an offence or interfere with property.
The judge fined the anti-war activists 5,000 euro each. Both had spent 11 weeks in prison and had been required to spend nine months in Ireland awaiting trial, despite clear indications that they had no intention of absconding and indeed were looking forward to the trial to publicise the issue.
Senator Craughwell’s case to the High Court.
Less well-known is that successive Irish governments have for decades by secret agreement permitted permitted UK air force planes to fly over Irish airspace and to interdict, i.e. force or shoot down other aircraft. This is what has led to Senator Craughwell’s taking a case to the High Court.
The Independent Senator maintains that although not the case of a formal military alliance, granting permission to fly over Irish State airspace, unless validated by referendum, is a violation of Ireland’s neutrality and sovereignty and is seeking a number of declarations from the Court.
Craughwell, who is a former member of the Irish Defence Forces and the British Army, as well as being an ex-President of the Teachers Union of Ireland, said that his belief in the existence of a secret agreement is based on a reply from then Taoiseach Brian Cowen to Enda Kenny in 2005.
The Senator seeks High Court declarations including that the agreement between Ireland and the UK allowing armed British military aircraft to intercept aircraft over Irish airspace amounts to an impermissible dilution and breach of Articles 1, 5, 6, 13, 15, and 28 of the Irish Constitution.
He also seeks a declaration that the Government’s failure to exercise control over Ireland’s territorial waters, airspace and exclusive economic zone breaches Article 5 of the Constitution which declares that Ireland is a sovereign independent democratic state.
Craughwell further seeks an order restraining the government from bringing in legislation to give effect to the agreement, unless it has been passed by a referendum.
Irish State Neutral?
Most Irish people mistakenly believe that Ireland’s military neutrality is specifically enshrined in Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Irish Constitution. However Article 29, section 4, subsection 9° underlines the neutrality of the Irish State in respect of a military force of the EU:
The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union where that common defence would include the State.6
“This was originally inserted by the 2002 amendment ratifying the Treaty of Nice and updated by the 2009 amendment ratifying the Treaty of Lisbon. An earlier bill intended to ratify the Treaty of Nice did not include a common defence opt-out, and was rejected in the first Nice referendum, in 2001.”7
It is fairly clear that the citizens of the Irish state are generally in favour of retaining Irish neutrality but there are elements within the state frequently trying to undermine that policy, chiefly the native Gombeen ruling class.
The Irish State has never been truly independent; it came into existence agreeing to the partition of the nation and in waging war against the forces of national liberation, during which it executed more Irish Republicans than the British had during the War of Independence.
Subsequently, the Irish State has been characterised as neo-colonialist, dominated firstly by British capital, then by the US and finally by the EU.
There are elements within Irish upper circles who long to join the EU military and political club while some others share a nostalgia for the British Empire and Commonwealth and the kind of supporting and sharing role to which John Redmond and his Irish Nationalist Party aspired.
Finally, there are of course elements in the Irish armed forces that are attracted by career advancement through joint military operations with other armed forces along with greater weaponry, such as would be available in a joint European armed force or as part of NATO.
Worryingly, Mícheál Martin during questions in Leinster House some months ago denied that the population would have to be consulted in referendum before the State could join some military alliance.
Whatever formal position the State may take on neutrality in future, it has been undermining it for decades and doing so in secret.
Why the secrecy? Presumably because the ruling class is aware that most Irish people want to remain militarily neutral and would wish to get rid of a government that was trying to ditch the neutrality policy.
Ireland needs to be independent of all imperialist alliances. Should the Gombeen ruling class succeed in committing the State’s armed forces to some military alliance, the choice is certain to be either imperialist NATO or imperialist EU.
In the latter case, it is entirely possible that Irish troops would be sent to suppress social or national risings in Europe – for example in Catalunya or the Basque Country, with Spanish troops being sent to quell mass protests in Ireland.
Or in either case, that Irish troops would become part of some joint imperialist force in Latin America, Africa or Asia.
Meanwhile the Gombeens, because of the State’s allowing US and UK military aircraft over Irish skies and in Shannon airport, are potentially painting a target for retribution on to the Irish population.
The stage production of Tales From the Holywell, written and performed by Damien Dempsey, is currently running at the Abbey until the 18th – and possibly beyond. Once advertised it was booked out for three weeks (with possible access through cancellations).
It was through cancellations that I and a few others faithfully waiting got in to see the performance on the 7th (it was closed on the bank holiday of the 6th). I really enjoyed it and cried laughing at times.
The whole audience gave him a standing ovation at the end and joined in singing one of his songs during his encore.
The stage set was bare and without background, with stage lighting showing Dempsey alone at times and at others, revealing players of keyboard, violin, double bass and percussion. Dempsey accompanied himself, alternating between two guitars.
The production consisted of Dempsey talking about his upbringing, his difficulties with his father but with whom he went to live when his mother left home, childhood and adolescent battles, his struggles and desires as an artist – all interjected with humorous cracks and songs.
He comes across as a man committed to his art and with integrity.
Dempsey was raised in Holywell Crescent, a collection of local authority houses constructed on the site of an ancient holy freshwater well. This was one of probably thousands of wells across Ireland, each thought to be inhabited by a pagan spirit and then given a saint’s name by Christianity.
The well after which Dempsey’s street was named was St. Donagh’s Well (probably misnamed, see Links below) near Killbarrack and as the area became anglicised, called only “the Holy well”, then “Holywell” and the pool itself filled in and built over.
Whether he can speak it or not I have no idea but the Irish language made an appearance from time to time in Dempsey’s narrative, always with respect and, one might say, even reverence. And I was amazed to hear him sing a verse from An Cúlfhionn a capella, totally in Irish.
His song Colony – some might say masterpiece – gives a clear indication of what Dempsey feels about the long colonisation of Ireland and its parallels elsewhere in the world. I hoped he might take the opportunity to comment on the growing racist mobilisations in Ireland but was disappointed.
Conor McPherson directed the production which was written and performed by Damien Dempsey.
Apart from Dempsey’s, other music was provided by Lucia McPartlin (fiddle, vocals), Aura Stone (double bass) and Courtney Cullen (drums, percussion, vocals). I noted no name given in the theatre program for the keyboard and vocals performer.
I’m a great fan of Damo’s lyrics but less so of his singing; a question of musical and cultural taste, I suppose. But still I rose, wholeheartedly with the rest, to applaud his performance.
Whether its run will be extended I don’t know but currently it’s advertised to end on 18th February. If you haven’t booked, it’s well worth getting there early and hoping for a cancellation.
In late November last year the UK’s Home Secretary1 referred to refugees and migrants entering Britain as “an invasion”, for which a Hollocaust survivor, 83-year-old Joan Salter, challenged her, likening her speech to that of the Nazis.
An NGO working with refugees, Freedom From Torture, posted some of the exchange on Twitter. In turn, the NGO came under pressure from the Home Office to retract the video.
This month, not only did the charity refuse but did so publicly, fully endorsing the content of the video.
Anyone would well understand the difference between invading a country and entering it as a refugee, asylum seeker or even economic migrant. Those come unarmed, fleeing to safety or trying to make a living for themselves and their family.
A minister of a British Government should be extremely well-placed to understand the distinction. After all, there is no continent and very few countries, including its near neighbours, which the British ruling class has not caused to be invaded at some time or other.2
From the time the descendants of the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Celtic England merged with the descendants of the later Norman invaders, England has gone from being a major invading and colonising military and naval power to being a major imperialist one.
Imperialist action did not always end in invasion; pressure could be applied in other ways, through bribery — or open threat. The term “gunboat diplomacy” was coined to describe imperialist actions short of actual invasion and Britain was renowned for actions of that type.
The ruling class of Britain has waged war against people to take over trade routes, to colonise land and extract resources, in competition with other colonial powers, to quash resistance and even for the right to sell opium in China.
In the course of those colonial and imperialist activities, Britain has carried out many invasions. In fact, Suella’s parents themselves come from former colonies.
Braverman is a child of migrants
Suella Braverman is the daughter of parents of Indian origin who emigrated to Britain in the 1960s: Uma (née Mootien-Pillay) from Mauritius and Christie Fernandes, from Kenya. Both those countries have indeed been invaded by Britain.
Kenya in particular from 1952-1960 had one of the worst experiences of colonial treatment by the British military, including wide-scale murder, torture and rape. India and Pakistan had their infrastructure and manufacture undermined by Britain leading to regular country-wide famines.
Suella should know about invasions, refugees and migrants but is on record as saying that the British Empire was on the whole a beneficial experience for its conquered. This is a prime example of the “slave mind” that apes the invader and wants to collaborate with it.3
Such “slave-minded” people can be even more vicious and callous in their attitudes than the conquerors themselves and Braverman certainly fills that bill. And it’s not just in occasional choice of words that Braverman nears Nazi appearance.
During Braverman’s unsuccessful campaign for selection as leader of the Conservative Party last July, she said her priorities would have included to “solve the problem of boats crossing the Channel” and “to withdraw the UK from the European Convention of Human Rights.”
In October 2022, Braverman said that she would love to see a front page of The Daily Telegraph sending asylum seekers to Rwanda4 and described it as her “dream” and “obsession.” No doubt she includes human rights and legality concerns as “all of this woke rubbish.5”
A courageous NGO
Holocaust survivor Joan Salter, the woman who accused Braverman of Nazi-like speech, is the daughter of refugees from Nazi persecution who survived but endured imprisonment and hazardous journeys. She has an MBE for her work on Holocaust education.
In response to a Home Office accusation that the clip is only partial and therefore misleading, the NGO’s CEO Sonya Sceats pointed out the full exchange is available in video on its website and said the charity will not remove the Twitter clip.
“As an organisation providing therapy to torture survivors who feel targeted by her language and who know first-hand where such dehumanising language can lead, we will not do so. She has used language she should be ashamed of, and we won’t be pressured into helping her hide it.”
Non-Governmental Organisations nearly always rely on government funding, whether directly or indirectly and as a result tend not to rock the boat too much, in case they find their boat getting smaller or their team even being tossed overboard.
As a result, in public the CEOs of those organisations tend to vary from generally totally compliant6 to cautiously critical on certain occasions. In that context, the actions of Salter in the initial video and of the Freedom From Torture NGO in militantly backing her can only be admired.
1This is the UK’s equivalent to Minister for Home Affairs, these days normally restricted to Britain (i.e excluding the colony in Ireland) and in particular England and Wales (i.e often excluding even Scotland).
3The concept of the ‘slave mind’ or ‘colonised mind’ has been addressed by a number of writers on national liberation, notably Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) from Ireland and Franz Fanon (1925-1961) from Martinique.
4That plan has been condemned by many human and civil rights organisations and also denounced as illegal.
5A quote dating from her attempt at Leader of the Conservative Party.
Working people have experienced many betrayals in history and the struggle for self-determination of the Irish nation has been – and is being – betrayed also.
When such betrayals occur, a range of common reactions is evoked; thinking about those responses may help the betrayed at least to moderate the harm and turn the experience to some benefit.
Equally, some ways of handling the experience can magnify and deepen the harm already caused.
Betrayal is a difficult experience for the betrayed certainly but not without some cost to the betrayer too and each has a number of common responses. This applies to the personal as well as to the political but there are some differences.
The betrayers have their followers to different degrees and these too have psychological reactions to the betrayal — and to criticism of the betrayal. We can observe these reactions in a number of recent historical cases of high levels of resistance subsequently betrayed.
The most recent phase of high degree resistance in Ireland took place largely in the British colony of the Six Counties, beginning with mass struggles for civil rights before passing through protracted guerrilla war and intense struggles of political prisoners in the jails.
In the Basque Country, the corresponding phase began with ideological-cultural struggle and mass industrial actions against the Franco dictatorship, quickly developing into a guerrilla campaign combined with street battles, resistance to conscription and struggles around prisoners in the jails.
The leadership of the Irish struggle came to political agreement with the colonial occupier, disbanded and decommissioned its guerrilla forces and acceding to its right of conquest, joined the occupier’s colonial administration, concentrating thereafter on building up its electoral base.
A similar process took place in the Basque Country but with important differences: the imprisoned activists were not released and the movement’s political leadership was not even admitted into joint management of the colonial administration.
Each nation witnessed splits, recrimination, dissidence, repression on groups continuing resistance but also a range of psychological responses which at best did not assist recuperation and in fact often deepened the harm of betrayal by the leadership.
STANDARD RESPONSES BY THE BETRAYED
DISMAY is a common reaction: How could he/ she/ they? I never thought they would. We’re finished now.
BLAME is another also common response: It was that leader’s or leadership’s fault. We didn’t fight hard enough. Those comrades criticised too much.
SELF-CENSORSHIP And EXCESSIVE CAUTION: We can see the harm in some of the leadership’s actions but we must be careful not to step too far out of the movement, where we will be marginalised and unable to have an effect1.
DESPAIR: That’s the end of everything. There’s no way out of this. It was all for nothing – all those sacrifices, all that pain.I’ll never trust people or get involved again.
APATHY: So I/ we might as well forget about it all. Just think about ourselves/ myself/ family. Drop out. Drink. Take drugs.
DENIAL: We’ve not really been betrayed. It’s just another way to go for the same thing. This is the only reasonable choice. We couldn’t keep on that way any longer, this is just a change of method. We’re just having a pause. The leadership is clever and has tricks up their sleeves. This is just to fool the authorities. It’s just going to take a little longer to win than we thought.
Those are defensive constructions in emotion and, in so far as that takes place, in thinking. But defensiveness can turn to aggression – and frequently does. The betrayers – and often the duped also – resent being reminded of what and where they are. It makes them uncomfortable.
HOSTILITY: How dare those people criticise us/ the leadership? They don’t understand and just want continual conflict. They’re endangering our secret plan. Who do they think they are? They’re just wrecking everything, undermining our new plans. They need to be taught a lesson.
PERSONAL ATTACKS: That critic is no great activist. S/he hasn’t suffered as some of us have. They were always troublemakers. Jealous, that’s what they are. They’re not very bright; no idea about real politics. They are in fact traitors, helping our enemies.
MARGINALISATION: We are not going to listen to those critics. We will not allow them space on our media. We’ll try to make sure they don’t get venues in which to spread their poison. If people are friends with them they can’t be our friends too. Such people will not enjoy our hospitality or invitations to our events. People should not even talk to them. If the authorities attack those dissidents, we are not going to trouble ourselves about them – it’s their own look out.
MANAGING THE BETRAYAL
PROMOTING LEADER ADULATION is a useful tool in shutting down the opportunities for criticism and in repressing them when they arise. “Who are we to criticise this great comrade’s thinking or actions?” becomes an implicit question, clearing the way for betrayal.
SEEKING COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY ALLIANCES is engaged upon so as to appear to its members to make the organisation’s influence greater, or to outflank and isolate more revolutionary tendencies and often ultimately to make the leadership acceptable to the ruling circles.
BEGGING FOR CONCESSIONS when the revolutionary path has been abandoned can often be observed, as in “we’ve abandoned our militant struggle, please stop repressing us”, for example, a frequent response to repression of the Basque leadership once it abandoned the revolutionary path.
COLLUDING WITH THE OCCUPIER becomes a new second nature to a leadership abandoning revolution, not only in abandoning armed struggle, for example but in destroying weapons and suppressing elements still in resistance.
PROVING THEIR READINESS TO COLLUDE FURTHER, revolutionaries turned collaborators denounce continued resistance, try to convince revolutionaries to desist (or threaten or physically attack them), promote the repressive arms of the State such as the police and so on.
INTOLERANCE OF CRITICISM becomes default position; such criticism tends to expose the contradiction between the original purpose of the organisation and its concrete actions in the present. Censorship, expulsion and misrepresentation become common.
MARGINALISATION OF CRITICS follows from intolerance of criticism – the individuals or groups must be made pariahs so as to nullify or at least reduce their influence. Association with them, socially or politically – even in agitating around civil rights – must be discouraged.
REPRESSION OF DISSIDENTS finally becomes necessary, whether by threats or by actual violence or, when admitted to governing circles, by use of repressive state machinery.
DEALING WITH BETRAYAL RATIONALLY
The first necessary step is to analyse how the betrayal came about: how was it organised? What were the conditions that made it possible? What were the early signs?
Then, proceed to: what could we have done differently? What WILL we do differently in future?
One common assumption here in Ireland, especially in Irish Republican circles, is that the rot began with standing in elections. This is not logical and it is in effect making a negative fetish of electoral work, a taboo to be avoided.
It is often useful to the revolution in many ways to have representation in the parliament and local authorities, for example in promoting or blocking practical or legislative measures, getting media air time, visiting prisons — all without ever promoting reformism as a way forward.
Certainly the prioritisation of electoral work over other aspects is a sign that something has gone wrong: the strength of the popular revolutionary movement is on the street, in workplaces, communities, places of education, rather than in parliaments and local authorities.
The drive towards electoral representation can encourage bland slogans of the soap powder kind (“new improved” or “washes even better”) rather than those with revolutionary content and also the promotion of more bourgeois individuals in preference to grass-roots organisers.
But none of that means that representation in those bodies cannot be used to further the popular struggles or that such aberrations cannot be avoided. And in fact, the concentration on criticism on the electoral factor served to distract from a more fundamental error.
Of course, electoral work should never, for revolutionaries, be about entering government under the current socio-economic system, i.e sharing in the administration of the State.
Leader adulation & intolerance of criticism
If criticism is not tolerated when errors are committed, they can hardly be corrected. Again and again it has been observed that the party/ organisation faithful refuse to accept external criticism from non-enemies. Internally the leadership inhibits criticism by the members.
The cult of the leader also inhibits criticism and therefore correction of errors. And behind this image others can hide and also commit errors. Problematic as dead icons may be, living ones are many times more dangerous – deceased ones at least do not change their trajectories.
Such created living icons have been Mandela in South Africa, Yasser Arafat among Palestinians, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in Ireland, Arnaldo Otegi in the Basque Country and Abdullah Ocalan among Kurds (particularly in the Turkish and Syrian states).
Nobody knows everything or is always right. Bothersome as being criticised may be, its total absence is worse, allowing us no opportunity to question ourselves as activists and in particular as revolutionary organisations.
The revolutionary leadership, party or organisation is not the people
The revolutionary leadership, party or organisation does not have all the answers and is not the people. This might seem obvious but from the behaviour of such leaderships and their followers in the past it is clear that the opposite philosophy has been dominant.
Confusing the organisation with the people or with revolution itself, we assume that what is good for the organisation is also good for the people and the revolution. This however is not always so and leads to placing the perceived well-being of the organisation above the needs of the revolution.
Indulging this confusion leads to political opportunism and sectarianism, bad relations with other revolutionaries, ignoring all external criticism and placing the needs of the leadership higher than those of the membership and of the membership higher than those of the mass movement.
In internationalist solidarity work we build the unity of the people across borders and against the same or different enemies than those against which we are struggling.
One feature observed in a number of organisations where the leadership is moving towards betrayal is a reduction or elimination of such work.
To those in our ranks seeking an accommodation with imperialism and capitalism, those internationalist solidarity alliances are either a) unimportant or b) a hindrance to the alternative reactionary alliances to which they aspire.
The latter was very much the case with the Provisionals’ attitude to US imperialism. For decades, their leadership maintained apparently mutually-contradictory positions on what is the biggest imperialist superpower in the world.
On the one hand, for example, there could be involvement in solidarity with Cuba against the US economic blockade and, in the past, against US sabotage and terrorism against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
On the other hand, the leadership sought the support of the US elite against British colonialism, which is occupying a part of Ireland and against which the movement was waging, in that colony, an armed and popular struggle.
Seeking support from the US imperialist elite entailed distancing from left-wing Irish USA and dropping support for even long-term inmates of US jails, such as American Indian Leonard Peltier and Black American Mumia Abu Jamal, arising out of popular struggles inside the US.2
Another warning sign is the founding of unprincipled alliances with other organisations in struggle. For example, although it is correct to have a position of support for the Palestinian people, that should not necessarily bind us to exclusively support the fighters of one organisation only.
The Provisionals made their alliance with the Al Fatah organisation to the exclusion of all others in Palestine but worse was to come, for Al Fatah shoved aside the idea of a free Palestine and the right of return in exchange for administrative partial autonomy and funding.3
From there, Al Fatah became so corrupt that the Palestinian people, that had long supported a secular leadership, voted overwhelmingly for an islamic fundamentalist party, Hamas4. The unprincipled alliance with Al Fatah and the ANC was used to ‘sell’ the GFA to Irish Republicans.5
In the Basque Country, the mass movement’s leadership developed close links with the leadership of the Provisionals and refused links with Irish Republican organisations that dissented from the Provisionals’ position or with Republican prisoners after the Good Friday Agreement.
That should have sounded alarm trumpets in the Basque movement but if it did, it remained largely without practical effect. Askapena, the Basque internationalist solidarity organisation did split from the main movement but did not go so far as to support ‘dissident’ Irish Republican prisoners.
On the basis of the preceding I think we can draw a number of primary lessons.
LESSON ONE: ANALYSE THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST AND SEEK TO AVOID REPLICATING THEM
The type of struggle, location, timing, peripheral situation, long, medium and short-term objectives, experience and expertise of personnel, resources … all need to be analysed, in conjunction with the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy.
In carrying out this kind of analysis on the Irish struggle, we see that we faced one of the military superpowers, also well linked into the western imperialist world. The Republican movement’s battle area was in total one-sixth of the nation’s territory and the location deeply divided.
The rest of the nation was ruled by a weak foreign-dependent ruling class.
A movement cannot choose when it has to step forward in defence but it can choose how it develops the struggle afterwards. It seems obvious that in order to be victorious, at the very least the struggle would have to be spread throughout the nation.
That in turn would entail putting forward social and economic objectives to attract wider support which, in turn, would mean taking on the Catholic Church hierarchy.
In addition, the question of effective external allies was relevant here but even more so in the Basque Country, located across the borders of two powerful European states.
The total population of the portion of the Basque nation within the Spanish state is far short of three million, that of the rest of the state over 44 million.
Clearly allies external to the Basque nation would be essential for victory and these would have to come from across most of the Spanish state at least.
Such an assumption would entail, in turn, outlining objectives to attract considerable numbers from across the Spanish state which in turn would mean creating alliances with revolutionary and other progressive forces across the state.
LESSON TWO: REFRAIN FROM PERSONALISING THE ISSUES
When criticism of the counter-revolutionary line put forward by individual leaders becomes personalised, the political essence of the criticism becomes lost or at least obscured. It can seem as though the critics have personal reasons for their hostility or even jealousy of the individuals.
Much of what one sees publicly posted by opponents of pacification programs in Ireland and the Basque Country often seems more about hostility to the personalities of MaryLou MacDonald, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness or Arnaldo Otegi than about specific policies and actions.6
Crucially, focusing criticism on individual leaders serves to conceal other underlying causes of failure and betrayal that are usually more fundamental: problems in objectives, errors of strategy, in particular and also of tactics along with unhealthy organisational dynamics.
LESSON THREE: DEVELOP INTERNATIONALISM AND AVOID UNPRINCIPLED ALLIANCES
In the face of imperialist and other reactionary alliances, revolutionaries need internationalist solidarity, the basis for which should be revolutionary positions and action. Exclusive alliances are generally to be avoided as is uncritical support or unquestioning approval of all actions.
LESSON FOUR: CONTRIBUTE TO BROAD FRONTS WITHOUT SURRENDERING THE REVOLUTIONARY LINE
A broad front is essential not only for successful revolution but also often for defence against repression. Such fronts should be built on a principled basis with respect for the participating groups and individuals but without surrendering the revolutionary line.
At the same time, the possibility of betrayal, opportunism or sabotage and marginalisation by partners in broad fronts need to be guarded against and, if occurring, to be responded to in a principled and measured manner.
Broad fronts not only increase the numbers in resistance in a unified manner but also expose the activities of the constituent groups to the members of other parts of the broad front. Activists can then evaluate organisations and one another on the basis of experience rather than of reputation.
The revolutionary line should not be abandoned or concealed when in a broad front with organisations and individuals who have varying lines. At the same time, it is not necessary to be pushing the revolutionary line every minute.
LESSON FIVE: DON’T GIVE UNCONDITIONAL TRUST TO LEADERS
Of course, our leaders and activists must be trusted – but always in the knowledge that no-one is perfect or above the possibility of error. The shutting down of opportunity to voice criticism should sound alarm bells in any revolutionary movement.
There are of course “time and place” considerations in criticism; for example, the capitalist mass media, police interrogation or trial in court are hardly appropriate places to criticise a revolutionary movement’s leadership.
LESSON SIX: TOLERATE INTERNAL CRITICISM AND CAUCUSES IN BALANCE WITH COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
The above touches upon this area too. People who follow us without question may equally do so with another.
The right to caucus, i.e to collect around a particular revolutionary trend or focus needs to be acknowledged and formalised. Like-minded people will naturally associate and it is far healthier to have this occur in the open rather than in secret.
At the same time, when a discussion reaches democratic decision, the minority whose positions were rejected need to present a common front with the rest of the organisation or movement.
Similarly, political and organisation criticism needs to be welcomed or at least tolerated within the organisation or movement because it may be correct and point an alternative way forward and even if it isn’t, the discussion around the criticism will help to clarify matters.
Such openess to criticism and discussion encourages a conscious and thinking membership which by that measure alone and organisationally makes it more difficult for some individual or clique to manipulate the membership.
3With the Camp David (1978) and Oslo Accords (1993 & 1995).
4In 2006 (the most recent) Palestinian parliamentary elections, Change and Reform (Hamas) won 74 seats and Al Fatah 45. In Gaza Al Fatah rejected the result and tried to seize power but were defeated in a short battle, though Hamas did not battle their assumption of power in the West Bank. All dates for elections to Palestinian Parliament since have passed without polling.
5And since then, unprincipled alliances with Provisional Sinn Féin have been used by the main Basque organisation leadership and ditto with Colombia to ‘sell’ pacification processes in those countries (which have been even worse for them than has the GFA been in Ireland).
6As a historical note, it is said that some of the delegates who voted for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922 were moved to do so by the nature of the attacks of Cathal Brugha, for the anti-Treaty side on Michael Collins, leader of those for the Treaty. The majority of delegates voting in favour was only seven.
Delighted to repost with thanks another contribution to recent discussion of the British monarchy — delayed by technological difficulties.
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
11 September 2022
The British monarch Elizabeth Windsor, formerly Saxe Coburg Gotha, has died at the grand old age of 96, thanks in no small part to the subsidised lifestyle and medical care she enjoyed throughout her long life. Her death has produced the usual outpouring of manufactured grief from the media and also “genuine” grief from a sector of that population groomed by that same media.
But what is to be said of her passing? There has been some reaction to her death that concentrated on her being a mother and grandmother. But we were not invited to mourn the passing of mothers or grandmothers, but the death of a monarch and all that monarchy represented. So, before we look at the legacy of Elizabeth Windsor we should ask ourselves what is monarchy. The Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed by the British state under the reign of George V, stated in relation to that same king’s visit to Ireland.
What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.(1)
In this, Connolly only described monarchies in general as the most ignorant and backward manifestations of humanity. It is a point that bourgeois revolutionaries such as Rousseau and Voltaire would not have disagreed with. In fact, it was a standard capitalist argument for much of history. However, various capitalist nations hung on to their royal households, either as symbolic figures or as propaganda figures for their campaigns and conquests.
Much is now made of the contribution of Mrs Windsor to society, the arts, and even peace through her now celebrated handshake with Martin McGuinness, though who gave more in that handshake is not questioned. Connolly was very clear about the contribution of monarchies to the progress of society.
Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the species. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanizing of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogized today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes.(2)
Connolly had no truck with royalty. No time for tales of cute old grannies who shook the hands of erstwhile enemies. Any evaluation of the queen of the British state has to go beyond her supposed personal qualities. Criticisms of royals are not well received. When the then British diplomat and future Irish revolutionary, Roger Casement, exposed the atrocities of the Belgium king Leopold II in Congo and his mass murder of over ten million Congolese, the report was not well received initially and the descendants of the man who murdered more than Hitler are the actual monarchs in Belgium and are apparently a lovely couple and third cousins of Mrs. Windsor. Discussions about royalty are not about the individual qualities of the monarchs but the system as such. Though even on this point Mrs. Windsor comes a cropper.
In 1972 the British army murdered 14 civilians in Derry on what was to be the last Civil Rights march in the country. The British quickly engaged in a cover up which basically blamed those murdered as having been armed members of the IRA. Everyone now accepts that this was not true. Even the Saville Inquiry which stopped short of blaming the British state directly for the murders accepted they were all unarmed civilians. But Elizabeth Windsor nonetheless decorated Lt Colonel Derek Wilford, the man in charge on the day and has never apologised for that. Her role in this is often forgotten.
So, any question of looking at the death of Elizabeth Windsor cannot be ahistorical. Though Sinn Féin have issued statements that are breath taking in their servility. The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted.
To the Royal Family and all who mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth, especially Irish Unionists, I extend sincere sympathy. She lived a long, full life. In her lifetime relationships between our countries were changed and changing. I salute her contribution to this transformation.(3)
She is of course, referring to the Peace Process and her handshake with Martin McGuinness. This says more about Sinn Féin than it does about Elizabeth Windsor. As a monarch she never had a problem dealing with people she saw as her inferiors, or those bowed in deference to her. Michele O’ Neill was equally effusive about the queen acknowledging the apparently profound sorrow of Unionists. And added that.
Having met Queen Elizabeth on a number of occasions alongside my colleague, the late Martin McGuinness, I appreciated both her warmth and courtesy.(4)
Her courtesy is a diplomatic ploy, as for her warmth that is not the image given in any of her public engagements, not even when greeting her son Charles after a long trip. The poor kid did not get a hug, he was made genuflect. But we can take O’Neill’s word for it. It is not important. Neither her courtesy or alleged warmth are political evaluations. Whether we should mourn a monarch does not depend on such personal qualities. Henry Kissinger the Butcher of Cambodia and Chile comes across as an affable, even charming old man, and he may well be in real life, but that is not how we judge him. Likewise, George Bush the Lesser (as Arundhati Roy dubbed him) also comes across as likeable, though it would be hard to convince the dead of Iraq that this mattered one jot: it doesn’t.
The press coverage of her death and much of the commentaries indicate that there is clear obfuscation on the part of the press and ignorance on the part of the population about the nature of the English royal family and the role of Elizabeth Windsor as queen. One of the myths is that she is just a mere figurehead, with little or no power. It is true that most power rests with Parliament and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. But she has powers that she has exercised from time to time. She has instructed governors of overseas territories not to sign laws. In 1975, through John Kerr, her governor general in Australia, she dismissed the then prime minister Gough Whitlam.(5) It was a rarely used power, but it exists as do other powers she never had to invoke, like her control over the military. She has invoked the Queen’s Consent more frequently to prevent parliament discussing Bills she was not happy with. She also was the last port of call for those sentenced to death, when capital punishment was still on the statute book.
In the 1950s three Greek Cypriots were sentenced to death, Michalaki Karaolis, Andreas Dimitriou and Evagora Pallikaridis. The last of these was a particularly notable case. Pallikardis confessed under torture to carrying weapons. His lawyers pleaded to Elizabeth Windsor for clemency. She refused. The warmth that Sinn Féin leader O’ Neill felt was not on display for the 18-year-old, nor was she the loveable old grandmother that others have referred to. Likewise, the other two were also hanged. On the rare occasions that she has had to exercise power she has shown herself to be of the same pedigree as her blood thirsty forebears who raped and pillaged their way across the planet.
She never spoke out about the situation in Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion, which kicked off early in her reign. The Pipeline, as it was known, that the British set up in Kenya was a camp system in which prisoners were moved up and down it according to the degree of torture that was required to break them. That matter was raised in Parliament at the time by some Labour MPs. The prisoners even managed to smuggle out letters to MPs and other officials, amongst them Elizabeth Windsor.(6) She knew what was happening. She was fully aware. She exercised no powers to bring an end to it. She just didn’t talk about it publicly, ever. It was not the only situation that she kept quiet about. Her relationship with the issue of race has never been a good one. She negotiated exemptions to racial and sexual discrimination laws and employs very few non-whites.
In 1990 the journalist Andrew Morton reported in the Sunday Times that “a black face has never graced the executive echelons of royal service – the household and officials” and “even among clerical and domestic staff, there is only a handful of recruits from ethnic minorities”.
The following year, the royal researcher Philip Hall published a book, Royal Fortune, in which he cited a source close to the Queen confirming that there were no non-white courtiers in the palace’s most senior ranks.(7)
In her Christmas speeches she tended to talk of banal matters and family. However, she did wade into politics some times and these speeches, unlike the speeches when she opens Parliament, are hers.
In her Christmas speech of 1972, she referred to various situations around the world and also the North of Ireland. Her take on it was simple.
We know only too well that a selfish insistence upon our rights and our own point of view leads to disaster. We all ought to know by now that a civilised and peaceful existence is only possible when people make the effort to understand each other.(8)
Exactly who was selfishly insisting on their rights was not explicitly spelt out, but it was obvious that she didn’t mean the British state, but uppity Paddies and others around the world. This was made clear when in 1973 she awarded an OBE to Lt Col Wilford, the officer in charge of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972. The families of those murdered and injured on that day called upon her to apologise.(9) She did not do so. The nearest she came to it was a banal statement on history during a visit to Ireland in 2011 when she stated “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss… with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.”(10) She did not accept Britain’s actual role in that and there was no specific reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre.
There is no shortage of sycophants and royalists who claim she had no powers, when in fact, she did as her son Charles now has. Others have preferred to go the route of she didn’t do it, it was others. Not quite true. She did preside over the dying days of Empire and gave succour to the troops busy murdering and torturing people in places she liked to visit on the Royal Yacht. But the many atrocities committed before she acceded to the throne are also hers. The Irish revolutionary James Connolly said of the visit to Ireland of one of her predecessors in the role.
We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.(11)
And she did claim them. One of her other forays into matters of Empire was her Christmas speech of 1982.
Earlier this year in the South Atlantic the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy enabled our sailors, soldiers and airmen to go to the rescue of the Falkland Islanders 8,000 miles across the ocean; and to reveal the professional skills and courage that could be called on in defence of basic freedoms.(12)
It should be remembered that Britain gained control of the Malvinas in a colonial war, in 1833, against the newly independent Argentina. In 1982, what was at stake was mineral wealth in the sea. She, like Thatcher, rejoiced at the sinking of the General Belgrano ship, lest we forget that those who now joke about her death are not that far removed from her own sense of mourning people she sees as enemies of her dwindling Empire. She had no sense of shame. In 1990, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq she stated without any sense of irony that
The invasion of Kuwait was an example on an international scale of an evil which has beset us at different levels in recent years – attempts by ruthless people to impose their will on the peaceable majority.(13)
This was the queen of a country that had imposed itself on more of humanity than any other previous empire had ever done. Of course, Hussein had been a friend of Britain. In 1953, the CIA and the British overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, which had nationalised the oil industry dealing a blow to the Anglo Persian Oil Company, now known as B.P. This set in motion a chain of events that would see Britain install another royal, the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi whose despotic rule would lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Enter Saddam. He launched a brutal and bloody war against Iran, invading it in 1980. The war lasted 8 years and cost 500,000 lives. It was bankrolled by the west through the Saudis. There was no one claiming that he had imposed his will, nor were British troops sent to attack this important ally.
Part of her role is that of cheerleader for empire and war. British troops serve under her, not Parliament. They are called upon to serve Queen/King and country and a major part of her role is to encourage young men (and lately women) to throw their lives away in places like Iraq as part of imperial exercises in power and the theft of natural resources.
It is also laughable that the English monarch talks of the peaceable majority when Britain is one of the major arms manufacturers and exporters in the world, supplying despots around the world with the necessary wherewithal to keep local populations in line. Her own son Andrew was appointed Special Representative for International Trade and Investment for the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in 2001 and in that role he promoted arms sales. When he was forced by circumstances surrounding his role in the abuse of young girls alongside Jeffrey Epstein to step back from a public role, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade commented that:
The news that Prince Andrew will step back from Royal duties is unlikely to provoke feelings of sorrow or regret for most British citizens – but for despots, dictatorships and arms dealers around the world it will be a sad day. They have lost one of their most high profile and influential supporters.(14)
During Mrs. Windsor’s reign Britain exported almost 135 billion (in current prices for each year) of arms and is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world.(15) Some British companies with operations outside of Britain also export arms. These figures do not include what Britain manufactures for its own armed forces or what it buys from other countries.
Remarkably even feminists in Britain and Ireland have publicly lamented the death of Mrs. Windsor ignoring her role in her son’s abuse of young girls. What little action she took against him was due to public outcry and pressure helped along by a disastrous interview in which his sense of entitlement oozed out of the pores he claims not to sweat from. She also forked out part of the money that was paid as part of the settlement with Virginia Guiffre, one of his and Epstein’s victims, though her part could not be used directly to pay the victim but only for the part that went to charities.(16) Not a minor point for feminists, you would have thought. Nonetheless, they lament the death of the loving mother and grandmother. One who showed none of the warmth Sinn Féin claim she shows.
Monarchies are inherently reactionary, even without the atrocities committed by them or in their name. They are hereditary positions occupied by parasites living off the public purse. A lavish funeral and later coronation of Charles will be held, costing millions of pounds. Other old grandmothers will go hungry this winter or die of hypothermia as energy prices soar, a fate Elizabeth did not face and neither will Charles. The old grandmothers around England, who will die of hypothermia this year, through their taxes ensure that Charles will see the winter through, unless a horse-riding accident upsets his plans. Monarchy is all that is rotten in society, the sycophantic outpouring of fake grief is of a people who do not seek a better society, who are enthralled to their masters and their betters, those who bow down to the great and the good. But it was again James Connolly who had said “the great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise!”
The idea of rising off our knees has been abandoned by most. Sinn Féin is lavish in its praise for her, one of the political and cultural shifts that results from the Good Friday Agreement. The rot has even spread to their friends in Colombia. Timochenko the former FARC guerrilla leader tweeted his condolences to the people of Great Britain and also mentioned that handshake with McGuinness.(17) Britain’s trade unions through the TUC have also bowed down to the royals. The ideological role of the Windsors in class conflict is ignored. Even the otherwise militant RMT has called off strikes planned for September 15th and 17th. There was a time calling for the abolishment of the monarchy was a no brainer for progressives. In the 1980s Arthur Scargill made just that call and when questioned as to what the royals would do then, he replied, “they can work in Sainsburys”. Though some of them have pilots licences, maybe they can do the Gatwick – Dublin route with Ryanair.
Those who mourn Elizabeth Windsor are complicit in what she represents: privilege, war, torture, racism. There are no ifs or buts to that. It is as Robespierre said, “The King must die so the country can live”. It is time to abolish the monarchy and throw onto the putrid rubbish pile of history all that it represents and Charles and William can, as Scargill suggested, get a job and sycophants can go back to worrying about Madonna or Beyoncé.
(Edited from a longer in-depth piece published in 2014 and divided into parts).
(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)
The dominant class in the UK and in some of the British Commonwealth will shortly be calling people to join in a cultural festival which they call “Remembrance” – but that’s not at all what it’s really about.
The organisation fronting this festival in the ‘UK’ is the Royal British Legion and their symbol for it (and registered trademark) is the Red Poppy, paper or fabric representations of which people are encouraged to buy and wear.
And in some places, such as the BBC for personnel in front of the camera, or civil servants in public, or sports people representing the UK, forced or bullied into wearing.1
In many schools and churches throughout the ‘UK’, Poppies are sold and wreaths are laid at monuments to the dead soldiers in many different places. The pressure to wear and display one of the symbols is intense and public figures declining to do so are metaphorically pilloried2.
Prominent individuals, politicians and the media take part in a campaign to encourage the wearing of the Poppy and observance of the day of remembrance generally and for a decade now, to extend the Festival for a yet longer period.
This alleged “Festival of Remembrance” includes concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and the military and veterans’ parades to the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London, on “Remembrance Sunday”.
The Royal Albert Hall concert is replete with military uniforms, British Royals’ presence and “Poppy” symbols everywhere. The big Saturday evening concert starts and ends with the UK state’s anthem, God Save the Queen/ King played by military bands.
Tickets for the big event are restricted to members of the Legion and their families, and senior members of the British Royal Family (the reigning monarch, royal consort, Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex). The event is televised.3
BUT WHAT IS IT ALL FOR?
We are told it’s for charitable purposes – the money raised from the sale of the “Poppies” and associated merchandise is to be used to support former military service people in need and the families of those killed in conflict.
We surely can’t object to that, can we? And isn’t putting up with the military and royal pomp a small price to pay for such charitable and worthwhile purposes?
Yet the main purpose of this festival and the symbol is neither remembrance nor charity but rather the exact opposite: to gloss over the realities of organised deadly violence on a massive scale, to make us forget the experience of the world’s people of war.
Worse, its purpose is to prepare the ground for recruitment of more people for the next war or armed imperialist venture – and of course more premature deaths and injuries, including those of soldiers taking part.
PARTIAL REMEMBRANCE – obscuring the perpetrators and the realities of war
The Royal British Legion is the overall organiser of the Festival of Remembrance and has the sole legal ‘UK’ rights to use the Poppy trademark and to distribute the fabric or paper poppies in the ‘UK’.
According to the organisation’s website, “As Custodian of Remembrance” one of the Legion’s two main purposes is to “ensure the memories of those who have fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces live on through the generations.”4
By their own admission, the purpose of the Legion’s festival is to perpetuate the memories only of those who fought and sacrificed in the British Armed Forces – it is therefore only a very partial (in both senses of the word) remembrance.
It is left to others to commemorate the dead in the armies of the British Empire and colonies which the British ruling class called to its support: in WWI, over 230,500 non-‘UK’ dead soldiers from the Empire and, of course, the ‘UK’ figure of 888,246 includes the upper figure of 49,400 Irish dead.5
The Festival of Remembrance excludes not only the dead soldiers of the British Empire and of its colonies but also those of Britain’s allies: France, Belgium, Imperial Russia, Japan, USA – and their colonies.
Not to mention thousands of Chinese, African, Arab and Indian labourers, mule drivers, porters and food preparation workers employed by the army.
No question seems to arise of the Festival of Remembrance commemorating the fallen of the “enemy” but if the festival were really about full “remembrance”, it would commemorate the dead on each side of conflicts.
German soldiers playing cards during WWI. Photos of Germans in WWI more readily available show them wearing masks and looking like monsters. (Photo sourced: Internet)
That would particularly be appropriate in WWI, an imperialist war in every aspect. But of course they don’t commemorate both sides; if we feel equally sorry for the people of other nations, it will be difficult to get us to kill them in some future conflict.
CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN WAR
A real festival of remembrance would commemorate too those civilians killed in war (seven million in WWI), the percentage of which in overall war casualty statistics has been steadily rising through the century with increasingly long-range means of warfare.
Civilians in the First World War died prematurely in epidemics and munitions factory explosions as well as in artillery and air bombardments, also in sunk shipping and killed in auxiliary logistical labour complements in battle areas.
They died through hunger too, as feeding the military became the priority in food production and distribution and as farmhands became soldiers.
In WWII 50-55,000,000 civilians died in extermination camps or forced labour units, targeting of ethnic and social groups, air bombardments, as well as in hunger and disease arising from the destruction of harvests and infrastructure.6
Air bombardments, landmines, ethnic targeting and destruction of infrastructures continue to exact a high casualty rate among civilians in war areas: a Reuters study gave over one million killed by the war in Iraq and another study gave between 184,382 and 207,156 civilians killed in Iraq during the war and aftermath.7
That figure for Iraq does not include dead from pre-US invasion western trade sanctions (yes, economic sanctions frequently kill) or the 46,319 dead civilians in Afghanistan8.
The number of civilians injured, many of them permanently disabled, is of course higher than the numbers killed. Most of those will bring an additional cost to health and social services where these are provided by the state and of course to families, whether state provision exists or not.
Real and impartial “remembrance” would include civilians but not even British civilians killed and injured are included in the Festival of Remembrance, revealing that the real purpose of the Festival is to support the armed forces and their activities.
The 2014 slogan “shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces” underlines that purpose9 while contributing at the same time to a certain militarisation of society and of the dominant national culture.
The propaganda is more sophisticated this year: “Our red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future” but “Poppies are worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces Community.”10
WEAPONS AND INJURIES
If the Festival were really about “remembrance”, they would commemorate the numbers of injuries and detail the various types of weapons that caused them.
But that might reflect unfavourably on the armaments manufacturers, who run a multi-trillion industry11 in whatever currency one cares to name, so of course they don’t. And if really concerned about death and injury in war, they would campaign to end imperialist war.
But then how else would the various imperial states sort out among themselves which one could extract which resources from which countries in the world and upon the markets of which country each imperial state could dump its produce?
So of course the Royal British Legion doesn’t campaign against war.
SANITISED HISTORY, MILITARY PROPAGANDA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
Partial remembrance was indeed embodied in the song chosen by the British Legion to promote its Festival in the WWI centenary festival in 2014.
No Man’s Land, sung by Joss Stone, is actually a truncated version of the song of the same title (better known in Ireland as the Furey’s The Green Fields of France), composed by Scottish-raised and Australian-based singer-songwriter Eric Bogle.
The Joss Stone version contains the lyrics of the chorus as well as of one verse and one-half of another, omitting two and-a-half verses of Bogle’s song.
Some of the British media created a kind of controversy, at the behest of who knows whom, to have the British Legion’s song included top of BBC’s Radio One playlist. The song is reproduced in entirety below, with the lines sung by Joss Stone in italics and those she omitted in normal type.
I. Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride?
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,
I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?
(Chorus) Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?
II. Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
Although, you died back in 1916,
In that faithful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enclosed forever behind the glass frame,
In an old photograph, torn, battered and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?
III. The sun now it shines on the green fields of France;
There’s a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance.
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds
There’s no gas, no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.
To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.
IV. Ah young Willie McBride, I can’t help wonder why,
Do those that lie here know why did they die?
And did they believe when they answered the cause,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying, were all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
It’s easy to see why the Royal British Legion might shy away from the omitted lyrics, which would hardly encourage recruitment or support for war.
Interviewed on video, Joss Stone herself said how important it was to be “true to the lyrics” and that “the last thing one would want to do would be to disrespect the lyric”.
Incredibly, she and John Cohen, the record producer, both separately claimed that they had captured the essence of the song lyrics in the British Legion’s version.12
Although Bogle stated that he did not think the Joss Stone version glorifies war, he did say that it did not condemn it and was ultimately a sentimentalised version that went against the intention and central drive of the lyrics.
“Believe it or not I wrote the song intending for the four verses of the original song to gradually build up to what I hoped would be a climactic and strong anti-war statement,” Bogle said.
“Missing out two and a half verses from the original four verses very much negates that intention.” (apparently in a reply from Bogle to a blogger’s email and quoted in a number of newspaper reports).13
The truncation of the song and the removal in particular of the anti-war lyrics epitomises partial “remembrance” and stands as a metaphor for it, the production of a lie by omission and obscuration.
Sanitised history, military recruitment propaganda and public relations is what this “Remembrance” is about.
Videos containing quotations from Joss Stone and John Cohen about how they have stayed “true to the song” or “lyric” of No Man’s Land by Eric Bogle were accessed at the following in 2014 but now appear to have been taken down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez1WBJaZZ7U#t=10and
I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear of the prompt action of the Irish Government in closing down an alleged Chinese police station operating in Dublin’s Capel Street.
It’s very important to keep Ireland neutral.
If those Chinese had been allowed to get away with that, next you’d have some country thinking they could run their warplanes and prisoners through Shannon airport. Or some other country allowed to fly over Irish airspace in their military helicopters. Or thinking they could set up a militarised colony on Irish soil.