(Note: It was intended to post this on the anniversary of MacSwiney’s death but technical problems prevented that.)
(Reading time text: 15 mins.)
Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork died in Brixton Prison, London, on October 25th 1920: it was the 74th day of his hunger strike. His struggle brought international attention not only to his sacrifice but also to an Ireland in the second year of its War of Independence, a political and guerrilla war against the occupying power, the British State.
Between 1917 and 1981, twenty-two Irish people died on hunger strike against the injustice of British occupation of Ireland.1
HEROISM AND SELF-SACRIFICE
MacSwiney exhibited heroism and self-sacrifice in a number of steps he took before he embarked on his fatal hunger-strike. He did so first of all in putting his liberty and very life in jeopardy in opposing the colonial occupation and domination of his land. He took a second step towards endangering his liberty and life by joining the Irish Republican Brotherhood, an organisation dedicated at the time to the overthrow of British rule in Ireland.
Thirdly, he took the trend further still by not only joining the Irish Volunteers in 1913 but by being one of the founders of the Cork Brigade. Fourthly, MacSwiney opposed Redmond’s offer of the Volunteers to the British imperialist Army and stood with the dedicated minority in the subsequent split.
Fifthly, he joined the IRA after the 1916 Rising.
His sixth step was to take the Lord Mayor position in which his predecessor, Tomás Mac Curtain, had recently been murdered by Crown forces. Seventh, he embarked on his hunger-strike to the end.
That trajectory reminds us all that the path of revolution is a dangerous one, requiring courage and sacrifice, though not necessarily always to that same degree.
Because he chose in the end to offer up his life in a hunger-strike to the death, Terence MacSwiney is often held up as the ideal example of pacifism and especially so when a particular phrase of his is quoted: It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most who will conquer.
Of course, the reality is that both are absolutely necessary. No struggle can be won by endurance alone, no more than a struggle can be won merely by inflicting damage upon the enemy.
There are genuine pacifists and fake ones. I don’t agree with either but I have some respect for those who put their liberty and even their lives at risk in a pacifist struggle. For the others, the social democrats and liberals who enjoin us to have all our resistance be peaceful, while they support the violence of the ruling class and their states at home and abroad, we should have nothing but contempt. It would indeed suit our enemies if we set out to endure every attack and made them pay nothing in return!
Those who remind us only of that quotation from MacSwiney, or of the one from that other hunger-striker and poet Bobby Sands, that “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children”, choose to forget – and try to make us forget – a very important fact about Sands and MacSwiney: each was a revolutionary soldier. Each was arrested because he was known to be a member of an armed force of resistance – the IRA.
For some people, internationalist solidarity is almost all, ensuring that they don’t become any danger to the State in which they live or to its ruling class.
For some others, internationalist solidarity is something kind of extra, to be indulged in now and again.
I think both those tendencies are wrong. We need to confront our own ruling class and State, not only for the benefit of our own working class but also as a contribution to the world. But at the same time we need to pay attention to questions of solidarity with other struggles around the world.
And that can serve as a barometer too – for I have noticed in a number of organisations that when the leadership was heading towards giving up on revolution, inconvenient internationalist solidarity was one of the first things they threw out the window.
MacSwiney’s hunger strike drew the eyes of much of the world to his struggle and to that of his people. In India, the Nehru and Gandhi families made contact with MacSwineys and those connections were maintained for decades afterwards. It is said that Ho Chi Minh was working in a hotel in London when he heard of MacSwiney’s death and remarked that with such people as that, Ireland would surely win her freedom. In Catalonia, people fought daily battles with the Spanish police outside the British Legation in Barcelona. The story reached the Basque Country too and the example of Cumann na mBan was taken a little later to create the female section of the Basque Nationalist Party.
Photo Ho Chi Minh
In Britain too, there was great solidarity, a fact not often spoken about; 30,000 people walked in his funeral procession from the jail to St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark. Who were these people? Certainly many were of the Irish diaspora, the longest-established and largest ethnic minority throughout most of Britain’s history. But there were English socialists too.
At that time, the London Borough of Poplar – not far from the area where the anti-fascist Battle of Cable Street was fought, the anniversary of which we celebrated recently — was in dispute with the Government, who were expecting the rates to be collected there to be on the rental value, which meant the poor East London borough had to pay more than rich boroughs of West London.
The Councillors were planning to refuse to set the expected rates and were threatened with jail, whereupon their leader, George Lansbury said they would be proud to go to the same jail where MacSwiney was being kept. British socialists of that kind marched in the funeral procession (besides, at least two of the Poplar Councillors bore Irish surnames: Kelly and O’Callaghan).
In my opinion, it is a great pity that the leaders of the Irish struggle for independence did not work on building links with the British working class. In 1920 the British ruling class was in serious trouble – it had thousands of military conscripts wanting demobilisation after WWI but the British didn’t want to let them go as they felt they would need them to suppress risings in many parts of the British Empire. The working class in industry was building a strike movement and in 1919 the Government had sent soldiers to shoot strikers in Liverpool and to threaten strikers in Glasgow. The great coal strike of 1925 was not far off, nor was the General Strike of 1926.
If the leaders of the Irish independence struggle had made those connections, not only might the history of Ireland have turned out differently but that of the very world.
The preceding is a very close approximation to the speech I gave on the 25th October 2020 by the Hunger Strike Memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery at the Terence MacSwiney commemoration organised by Anti-Imperialism Action Ireland.
FUNERALS AND FUNERAL PROCESSIONS IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
The working class Irish, who had had some scuffles with the police during vigils at the jail, were there in their thousands at the funeral procession in London in their Sunday best, with the middle class represented too. Some of the Irish women could be identified at a distance, wearing their traditional shawls of Irish city and countryside. The Mayor of Poplar was not the only town mayor to walk in the procession. British socialists took part as did visitors from abroad and the world media was well represented. Aside from the procession, huge crowds lined the South London streets as the cortege passed.
World media interest was intense. The funeral procession, the vast majority walking, travelled the 3.5 miles (nearly 6 kilometres) from Brixton jail northwards to the cathedral where McSwiney’s body was to be received for requiem service the following day.
The church where Terence Mc Swiney’s body was laid out under IRA guard of honour, with 30,000 filing past was St. George’s, on the south side of the river, near Southwark Bridge. It had been formally opened in 1848, known as “the year of revolution” in Europe and Ireland had its own contribution with the Young Irelanders’ brief rising. St. George’s was the first Catholic Cathedral of London until the Catholic Westminster Cathedral opened up in 1903. The English Catholics, who were a very small minority in their country had not dared challenge the anti-Catholic restrictions for generations but under the influence of large Irish Catholic congregations became more assertive; however that did not mean that the mostly aristocratic English Catholics were eager to rub shoulders with their largely plebeian Irish brethren and also, north of the river were the main desirable areas. So in 1903 they built the Catholic Cathedral in Westminster and left St. George’s to the Irish plebs on the south side of the Thames.
The Bishop of Westminster in 1920, Cardinal Francis Bourne, head of the Catholic Church of England and Wales, did not comment publicly on the hunger-strike but let it be known in private that he considered it suicide. The London inquest however, at the insistence of his widow Muriel and the evidence of the Governor of Brixton Jail, had recorded the cause of death as heart failure. A week after MacSwiney’s funeral mass in Southwark, Bourne conducted a mass in Westminster for Catholic British Army officers killed in Ireland.
The next day after the removal of the body from Brixton Jail, Bishop William Cotter of Portsmouth gave the Solemn Requiem with Bishop Amigo, Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne, and Archbishop Anselm Kennealy of Simla, India, in attendanc. It was a ticket-only even; six of those who had tickets were a close group of men, all wearing long coats – once inside they stripped these off and revealed their IRA uniforms. After the previous Republican guardians departed, McSwiney’s body was guarded by six men in the uniform of the army to which he had belonged and of which he had co-founded its Cork element. The Bishop of Southwark might or might not have been pleased but it would not be for long.2 Certainly Peter Emmanuel Amigo, originally from Gibraltar, Bishop of Southwark from 1904 to 1949, had pleaded publicly for MacSwiney’s release before he should die, writing to politicians at Westminster petitioning his release. In a telegram to prime minister David Lloyd George on September 5th, Bishop Amigo warned: “Resentment will be very bitter if he is allowed to die.”
After the service a large entourage accompanied the body in its coffin to Euston Station for the train journey to Hollyhead. From there it was to go on to Dublin, to be received by the people of the Irish capital and then onwards to his home city and final resting place. But it was not to be.
The train left Euston station early with many police on board. At Hollyhead the grieving relatives and friends were informed that the boat they had engaged would take them and the body instead to Cork. The funeral party protested, produced their contract of shipment — to no avail. Porters were called to remove the coffin but were resisted and left. The police were summoned and, manhandling the protesting mourners, seized the coffin (sadly it was not the only kidnapping of an Irish rebel’s body in history, one of the other occasions being by the Irish State with Vol. Michael Gaughan’s body in 1974).
The British authorities feared fueling the fire of patriotic fervour already burning in Dublin at the news of MacSwiney’s death and the impending execution by hanging of Volunteer Kevin Barry. The funeral party were determined to travel to Dublin as arranged and had to engage another ship, which they finally succeeded in doing. While McSwiney’s body travelled on to Cork, the reception was held in Dublin, a city in official mourning declared by the First Dáil and in the midst of an urban guerrilla war against a foreign military occupation.
Mourners in Boston, Chicago, Melbourne, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Manchester held symbolic funerals with empty caskets.
When the Rathmore dropped anchor in Cobh harbour, the coffin containing MacSwiney’s body was transferred to the Mary Tave tug to travel on to Cork to deliver the body to a waiting funeral party. The deck was packed with Auxies, murderers of his predecessor, the final indignity.
A special meeting of Cork Corporation was convened where councillors (those not “on the run”) expressed their condolences and raw emotion at losing the City’s Lord Mayor.
The Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Donal Óg O’Callaghan, revealing that he had received death threats, issue a defiant statement, decrying that despite Terence’s death, the merit of Republicanism would still linger and pass on:
“The only message that I on behalf of the Republicans of Cork give today over the corpse of the late Lord Mayor is that Cork has definitely yielded its allegiance to the Republic, that the people of Cork will continue that allegiance unswervingly and that those of us who man the Municipal Council will attempt as far as in us lies to follow the noble and glorious lead of the two martyred Republican Magistrates.
“The Republican hold on the Municipal Chair of Cork ceases only when the last Republican in Cork has followed Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney into the Grave. Death will not terrorise us”.
After a funeral service in Cork Cathedral a massive crowd accompanied his coffin to the cemetery, with Republican organisations and ordinary citizens in the procession. The occupation authorities had banned marching in uniform or even in military fashion, or display of flags.
Nationalists under colonial occupation of European powers (including nations within Europe) would be taking inspiration from the Irish struggle for decades. The war of resistance in Ireland would continue, with Cork County and City seeing more than its share. The special terrorist units of the British and their regular army would burn the City on the night of 11th-12th December of that same year. Irish Republicans in Britain would concentrate on supplying intelligence and arms to the struggle at home, in addition to organising some prison escapes. Some British socialists would continue solidarity activities on a publicity level and liberals and social democrats would protest the British reprisals on the Irish civilian population.
But the body of Terence McSwiney had come home.
MacSwiney’s Free, composed and performed by Pat Waters, with video footage:
Footage London & Cork funeral processions Terence MacSwiney:
Terence MacSwiney Cork funeral only footage:
1Some, like MacSwiney and the ten in 1981, died of the depletion of the body through the hunger-strike while some were killed by force-feeding, like Thomas Ashe in 1917, Michael Gaughan in 1974 and Frank Stagg in 1976. Others survived hunger strike and force-feeding but their bodies (and sometime their minds) suffered for the rest of their lives, such as the Price sisters (1973-1974).
2Part of that journey was marked in reverse by the Terence MacSwiney Commemoration Committee with a march in 1989. The idea as far as I can recall had been Brendan O’Rourke’s, an Irish solidarity activist and at that time Manager of the Lewisham Irish Community Centre, the Management Committee of which I was Chairperson and with a few others, Brendan and I led that Commemoration Committee.
The march, supported by Irish Republicans and some English socialists, rallied at Kennington Park, on the lookout for National Front or police attack but knowing that in Brixton itself, an area of high Afro-Caribbean settlement, both those misfortunes were unlikely. We were led by a Republican Flute Band from Scotland and applauded by people as we marched past the police station (the State garrison of the area) and through the centre of Brixton. The march proceeded without incident up Brixton Hill to the entrance of the road leading in to the Jail, held a moment’s silence there and marched down to the centre of Brixton Town, ending there for people to proceed to a reception at Fr. Matthew Hall.
It was the last such march as we could not get another band from Scotland to lead us. We were independent of Provisional Sinn Féin and Scottish RFB members told us that the bands had been told, unofficially of course, that participating in our events would adversely affect their chances of being invited to play at annual events in the Six Counties, which for those bands was the high point of their annual calendar.
Around 30 Irish Republican prisoners in Roe House, a wing of Maghaberry Prison in Co. Antrim (occupied Six Counties) and in Portlaoise Jail in the Irish state announced a two-week hunger strike on Wednesday 16th in solidarity with Dr. Issam Hiijawi, a Palestinian, who is also on hunger strike within Maghaberry jail. Over 30 attended a solidarity picket this evening in Dublin, which was harassed by Garda Special Branch.
A number of Irish Republicans in the Six Counties were arrested some weeks ago in what was admitted to be an operation fed by MI5 intelligence and which involved entrapment with a British agent named in a number of reports as Dennis McFadden. Dr. Issam Hiijawi, a Palestinian, was arrested along with them.
All the arrested were remanded in custody and went through solitary confinement in a different block to the usual one for Republican prisoners, allegedly for Covid19 quarantine but have been back in Roe House for some time. Dr. Issam Hiijawi had been waiting for an MRI scan due to his medical condition but, after finally being taken to an outside hospital for the scan, was returned to solitary confinement once again upon his return to the prison. This is in Foyle House, which the prisoners describe as “filthy and dilapidated” and point out that Dr. Hiijawi could easily have been quarantined in Roe House, in communication with other political prisoners but was not permitted to do so. The prison guards who accompanied him to the hospital are under no restrictions. Vindictive harassment and oppression and not health requirements appear to be the real motivation here and Dr. Hiijawi went on hunger strike.
The Irish Republican prisoners of Maghaberry Jail, Roe House and Portlaoise Jail landings E3 and E4 said in a statement that Dr. Hiijawi has been subjected to “concerted, petty targeting ……. since entering Maghaberry” and took their action in solidarity with him. The IRPWA called on “the Maghaberry regime to step back from confrontation and apply common sense by transferring Issam to Roe House ….”
DUBLIN PICKET HARASSED BY POLITICAL POLICE
Over 30 Irish Republicans and independent socialists responded to a short-notice call by Saoradh and the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association to assemble in Dublin to highlight the hunger-strike. The picket was held on O’Connell Bridge and received some support from passing vehicle drivers and pedestrians, with others interested in reading the leaflet being distributed or hearing the reason for the picket.
There were a number of uniformed Gardaí hanging around on both sides of the Bridge, including some in plainclothes, i.e the specifically political section known as “the Special Branch”. It was not long before two of the latter force began to accost picketers, demanding their names and addresses under threat of arrest if they refused, under the Offences Against the State Act. This Act is supposed to be used by the police to prevent a crime being committed but these Branchmen were using it to build up profiles on peaceful and legal political activists and also as an act of intimidation.
Some passers-by took notice when one of the picketers began to shout out to them explaining what was happening but the Branchmen just ignored him and carried on filling their notebooks.
The Dublin protest was the first on this issue but others are planned in various towns and cities in Ireland, in particular in the occupied Six Counties.
The construction of an Independent and Socialist State that integrates Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Lapurdi, Nafarroa Behera, Nafarroa Garaia and Zuberoa.
(On the 18th I reported on the launch of the Basque organisation Jardun, a coordinating body seeking to unite Basque left-national organisations and collectives in a revolutionary movement. Since then they have published a fuller manifesto of their aims, here translated from the Castillian version.)
The construction of a society based on the power of the Basque working class, on overcoming the class struggle and on the socialization of the means of production.
Overcoming all oppression against working women.
Reunification of Euskal Herria.
Remaking Euskal Herria Basque-speaking.
The new alternative of the Basque Working People is a pro-independence and socialist political project whose ideological principles have six main points:
The national question is framed within the various oppressions suffered by the Basque Working People, oppression that in the opinion of this coordinating organisation can only be overcome through independence. In other words, when we speak of self-determination, we are referring to the undeniable right of the Basque Working People to separate from the states that oppress them and to undertake a process of building an independent and socialist state.
Before talking about socialism, it is convenient to specify what we mean when we speak of the Basque Working People. The Basque Working People is made up of everyone who lives and sells their labour power in Euskal Herria. Every worker within the Basque Working People, from the moment they suffer exploitation and oppression, that is, from the moment they suffer the blow of capital in a crude way in their day to day life, has the potential to organize the revolution. Therefore, when we speak of socialism, we refer to overcoming the class oppression suffered by the Basque Working People, on the way to creating a classless society.
We must understand that the Basque Working People cannot undertake the fight against capital alone. It is necessary to maintain contact with the different oppressed peoples and to acceptmutual aid. Even so, JARDUN will always set down an unpassable red line, that the national framework of the Basque working people can never be doubted. (Translator’s note: I was unsure about what exactly was meant by this sentence but one Jardun’s supporters told me it means that any struggle expecting solidarity from Jardun must accept the Basque people as a nation).
It is necessary to overcome the sex-gender dichotomy and the reproductive role that capital imposes on working women, in order to overcome the oppression suffered by working women and the structural reasons that originate it.
Amnesty is a strategic term that, going beyond confining itself to the freedom of all those fighterswho have worked for the freedom of Euskal Herria, implies political recognition in the eyes of working people of the struggle they have carried out and placing at the disposal of popular justice those who have systematically oppressed them.
Within the current capitalist production model, the environment suffers from overexploitation, responding to the logic of obtaining the highest possible economic performance, generating more waste than can be managed and creating a degradation that in many cases puts living conditions at risk. That is why the environmental struggle can only be approached from a root change in the production processes.
The six points outlined above that define the ideology of JARDUN cannot be understood or addressed in an isolated way, since if their achievement does not go hand in hand with the others, the only thing that we will achieve will be to perpetuate the oppression suffered by the Basque Working People. In the same way, only by addressing these points from a class point of view will the workers of Euskal Herria be able to obtain control of the productive processes and political power, neutralizing the bourgeoisie.
Although the Basque Working People have the potential to carry out the revolution, only by acquiring awareness of their situation and organizing themselves in pursuit of national and social liberation can they begin the revolutionary process, forming the Basque Revolutionary Proletariat. JARDUN needs to be the organizational space of the Basque Revolutionary Proletariat. At the same time, the working people at an organic levelshould be composed of different sectoral organizations working under the same strategic objectives, for the construction of an independent and socialist Euskal Herria.
In the same way that our predecessors faced the oppression that this people has suffered and fought against fascism in Albertia, today, it is up to us to confront the oppression that working people suffer and for that, unity is necessary, it is necessary join forces. It is time to start joining forces. It is time to start adding forces. It is necessary to get together with different groups in Euskal Herria and defend a common project. It is necessary for different groups to join JARDUN, so that each one from their own fighting trenches can contribute what they can, with a firm commitment, and thus respond as a people, as a working people to capital. Since we are very clear about the way forward and what strategy has to be carried out. And let there be no doubt that we will continue working in that direction. For those who have given their lives, for Euskal Herria and for the workers of Euskal Herria.
The monthly picket of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee on Saturday attracted broad support across the spectrum from Irish Republican to Anarchist and revolutionary Socialist. Shoppers and passers-by on Dublin’s busy Henry Street observed the picket with interest, some stopping to engage the picketers in discussion. Several hundred leaflets were distributed explaining that, albeit under another name, internment without trial continues in Ireland on both sides of the British Border.
Just prior to that event, a mostly young Black Lives Matter campaign group had held a lively protest also in Henry Street and the Debenham’s sacked workers’ campaign were demonstrating outside the entrance to the store from which the staff were sacked while they were out due to the pandemic lockdown. The BLM group protest then moved to the Spire and apparently there had been a protest about political prisoners in Belarus outside the GPO, while the Far-Right and fascists gathered to support an Irish Yellow Vests demonstration outside the Custom House on the north quays. Earlier there had also been a protest in Molesworth Street at the auctioning by Whyte’s of a large number of artifacts of Irish history, including a Wolfe Tone’s handwritten notes for his address to the court that sentenced him to hang in 1798.
As well as about the practice of jailing Republican activists without jail, the picket today focused on the cases of three Irish people being extradited to other states and of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, 36 years so far in a French jail.
A spokesperson on the issue of extradition pointed to, apart from Liam Campbell, another two Republicans: Ciaran Maguire, currently in Port Laoise jail fighting extradition to the Six Counties British colony and Sean Farrell, who was extradited there fairly recently from Scotland. The spokesperson conveyed solidarity greetings to their families and supporters and, in regard to Maguire and Farrell, to stated their attendance in order to “highlight injustice by the British and the the ineffectiveness of the ‘Free State’ Government” in allowing these.
Liam Campbell is a veteran Irish Republican whom the Lithuanian state seek to extradite to face charges of arms smuggling but he has never been nor is he accused of ever having set foot in that country. For a state to be able to extradite a person who has never been in their country is a serious precedent to set — it would have permitted the USA for example to extradite Julian Assange to face trial there for what a number of their politicians have described as “spying” — i.e exposing many dark secrets of human rights violations through “Wikileaks” In fact the USA military brought prisoners to an illegal jail they ran in Lithuania for which they were heavily criticised. Nevertheless a judge in the Irish High Court has agreed to the extradition and Campbell, currently in custody, awaits to appear in court to be served with the warrant and flown abroad. During this week Donegal Council passed a motion condemning the extradition of Campbell and will be writing to the Government to ask that the extradition be not permitted.
36 YEARS IN JAIL, SEVEN YEARS PAST RELEASE DATE
According to the End Internment FB page, this month’s international focus was on Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Lebanese but “in a French jail for 36 years now due to fighting in defence of Palestine during the 1982 Lebanon War. 14 January 2013 was the scheduled date for Abdallah to be released and deported to Lebanon after almost 30 years of imprisonment in France.”
BIG POWER INFLUENCE
There are allegations that both the extradition demands and the ongoing keeping in jail of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah are influenced by the interventions of other powerful states. It is claimed that Campbell’s extradition to Lithuania is influenced by the UK authorities, although similar charges against Campbell have already failed to have him convicted by a British court. In Abdallah’s case, after a number of legal cases his release date was set for six years ago but the USA objected, the French Minister of the Interior then refused to sign his release papers and Abdallah remains in a French jail.
Commenting on the picket today, a spokesperson for the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee indicated that the organisers were pleased with the numbers attending and the broad spread of political ideology represented there.
“We are an independent committee and we welcome the participation of all who are genuinely concerned with civil rights, in particular the right to organise and to protest to affect change” said the spokesperson. “Today there are Irish Republicans, Anarchists and revolutionary Socialists here, many of them independent activists and we view “that very positively. Indeed there are other bodies that we think should be represented here too – the protection of civil rights is a concern for all democratic people.”
The Dublin Anti-Internment Committee expects to organise another picket on similar issues next month, the details as usual to be announced on the End Internment FB page.
Mick Healy of the Irish Marxist History Project was kind enough to interview me about some of the issues about which I have been active. Parts I and II were published together a couple of months ago and here’s Part III now.
Mostly its snippets about the founding of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, my involvement in the foundation of the Lewisham branch of IBRG in SE London and from there, the Lewisham Irish Centre. Also my participation in Kurdish solidarity and a trade union delegation to Turkish-occupied Kurdistan (the YPG placard photo is of me in Trafalgar Square, London a couple of years ago when I was over visiting kids & grandkids) and the anti-water charge campaign in Ireland.
Two separate political prisoner solidarity pickets took place Saturday 13th in Dublin City centre, one on O’Connell Bridge and the other at the Instituto Cervantes, the cultural arm of the Spanish Embassy, on the one-way traffic system at Lincoln Place, linking Nassau Street and Westland Row.
The first, at 2pm on the pedestrian reservation on O’Connell Bridge, was the fourth weekly one organised by a broad coalition in solidarity with Patxi Ruiz, who had ended his hunger strike in a Spanish jail on its 31st day earlier in the week. The second picket, outside the Instituto Cervantes at 3pm, was organised by the Irish Republican group Saoradh, not only in solidarity with Basque prisoners but with all political prisoners, although Patxi’s struggle had given the original impulse for a picket at this time. In addition, Irish Republican prisoners in Port Laoise had on Friday embarked on a 72-hour solidarity fast.
Patxi Ruiz is one of around 200 Basque political prisoners serving sentences in the Spanish and French states, almost invariably, in jails far from their homes, their families and friends, if not too sick, elderly or too young, having to travel long distances to visit them. Ending the dispersal policy was one of Ruiz’s demands, the end of beatings by warders another. He also called for the automatic right to attend funerals of close family (he had been denied permission to attend his father’s funeral) and the resumption of family visits. It is not known whether any of those demands have been conceded but thought unlikely.
Although Ruiz is one of five prisoners who have publicly rejected the new path of their movement’s official leadership announced in 2012, his struggle was supported during the hunger-strike by protest mobilisations across the Basque Country, involving pickets, solidarity fasts and sit-ins, protest marches and car-cavalcades. After ten days the official leadership criticised his following through statements by the political parties Sortu and EH Bildu (the latter may be seen as a successor to Herri Batasuna). More recently, the leader of EH Bildu Arnaldo Otegi, generally seen as the main architect of the shift in 2012, publicly attacked the hunger-striker and his support movement, including the Amnistia group, accusing them of directing the whole thing against his party. Amnistia, whose full name translates as “Movement for Amnesty and Against Repression”, replied that they had more important things to focus on than damaging that party’s electoral chances, such as conditions in the prisons, the liberation of their nation and of the working class.
Patxi Ruiz’s struggle found support internationally: a monster petition in Argentina, a rally in Italy, a mass picket in Barcelona and a number of public expressions of solidarity in Ireland. An ad-hoc coalition of four groups composed of Anti-Internment Group of Ireland, Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee and Anti-Imperialist Flying Column, all in Dublin, along with Derry Anarchists mobilised to support the prisoner’s hunger and thirst strike. A hunger strike can be sustained by a healthy individual for a number of weeks without irreparable harm, however going without fluids is not only painful but hastens collapse of a number of bodily organs. Fortunately Patxi Ruiz decided to end the thirst part of his strike on the 18th of May.
“The method political prisoners choose to protest is their choice, not ours,” one of the organisers said in Dublin on Saturday; “our role is to support them and publicise their situation. We don’t have access to the mass media, so if we need to highlight something, what we have is our social media along with whoever shares our posts — and our presence on the street.”
Their first picket was on O’Connell Street in front of the GPO on May 23, the second by the Jim Larkin monument in the same street on the 30th and the last two on O’Connell Bridge in June, while in Derry people gathered at the Free Derry Corner monument every Saturday. Each week photos were taken, some sent to the Basque Country and some published on social media, with an update on the situation.
SECRET POLICE HARASSMENT IN DUBLIN
One of the secret policemen who was harassing the protesters on Saturday. (Photo credit: Clive Sulish)
During a number of those pickets, participants were approached by plainclothes Gardaí, of the political surveillance section colloquially known as “the Special Branch” and required to give their names and addresses. Although the Special Powers Act does give the Gardaí quite extensive powers to question and even detain suspects, they are supposed to have a reasonable suspicion that the suspects are committing – or about to commit — a crime. It is hard to imagine in this case that such reasonable suspicion existed in the minds of these Gardaí and much easier to believe that the purpose is a cross between intimidation and amassing files on people who are carrying out a peaceful protest and breaking no law. Meanwhile a vocal group of far-Right people demonstrating against pandemic restrictions have been staging protests in front of the GPO, reportedly without any interference by the Special Branch. A number of participants commented that the Irish Council for Civil Liberty should be doing something about this abuse of Garda powers.
The secret political police were again very much in evidence at the second political prisoner solidarity picket on Saturday. Organised by the Irish Republican organisation Saoradh, it began at 3pm and soon collected a half-dozen of these gentlemen who proceeded to demand names and addresses from all present. Unable or unwilling to state which crime they suspected the picketers were committing or about to commit ensured that in the case of a couple of strong-willed individuals who understood the provisions of the quoted Act, the ‘Branch officer was unsuccessful. In a couple of other cases their inability to question in the Irish language left them also without success when confronted with some who were fluent and insisted upon their Constitutional right to have the whole exchange conducted “i nGaeilge”. Some of those problems the ‘Branch had encountered before with the picketers in O’Connell Street and on O’Connell Bridge.
Neither Gardaí nor protesters remarked upon the irony of the presence of Oriel House less than 100 metres away on the corner of Westland Row. The building, which operated as a police station during the Irish Civil War, was notorious for the torture inflicted on detainees within, as well as being used as an operations base for kidnapping and murder by the Free State Army and Gardaí.
IRISH REPUBLICAN PRISONERS IN PORTLAOISE ON 72-HOUR FAST
The protesters, who included some from the earlier protest on O’Connell Street, were spread following the curve of the pavement outside the Instituto, which was closed. A number of Basque flags were in evidence, along with a Palestinian one and a number of Irish ones too. Banners and placards completed the display.
Some time into the protest, the picketers gathered to hear a statement read out on behalf of the Irish Republican prisoners in Portlaoise prison, Co.Laois, Ireland. The statement had been published on social media earlier in the week as part of an announcement of a 72-hour fast of Republican prisoners en Portlaoise, commencing on Friday and expressed solidarity with Patxi Ruiz and other political prisoners arising from the struggles of the Basques, Catalans, Palestinians, Kurds and socialists in Turkey.
The Portlaoise prisoners’ statement went on to point out that they too are political prisoners as are those in Maghaberry and to denounce the strip-searching and sectarian abuse in the latter, along with the antiquated conditions in Portlaoise, as well as the special courts that are used to jail them on both sides of the Border. It also criticised people who campaign about faraway struggles without seeing those at home, along with some ex-prisoners who had signed a recent appeal in solidarity with Patxi Ruiz but who, according to the statement, did nothing about the current Irish political prisoners. (The End Internment Facebook page of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland lists around 70 Irish Republican prisoners, mostly in Portlaoise or in Maghaberry).
A statement from the Saoradh group was read out too which, though shorter, covered much of the same ground. Both statements were applauded by those present and the protesters dispersed soon afterwards.
Brothers and sisters, greetings! Your valiant struggle is now at a pause. Although in revolutionary struggle it is important to keep up the momentum, nevertheless a pause gives time for reflection. A useful time to look at what worked and what did not, to review the lessons learned in the struggle so far and also to compare with other historical periods.
YOU CANNOT STAND ALONE AND WIN
It is clear to most people that Catalonia cannot, as things stand, win independence on its own efforts alone. The total population of Catalonia, rather like that of Ireland, is a little over 7.5 million, while the population of the rest of the Spanish state comes to just under 45.5 million. Even with the populations of the rest of the Paisos Catalans, Valencia, Balearic Islands and Pau, the numbers are stacked against you. And not all Catalans are in favour of independence either, even if the majority in Catalonia favour it. Not to be ignored either is the French State, which sits on your northern border and claims dominion over Pau.
The French and Spanish states are powerful and also prominent members of economic and military alliances, chief amongst which in our discussion perhaps is the European Union. Many of you appealed to the EU for support when the Spanish State sent its police forces to attack you at the time of your Referendum on Independence in 2017. You received your reply when then President of the EU Commission Claude Juncker declared that they “don’t want a European Union of 99 states” and also indicated that some EU existing member states might face similar problems to the Spanish State’s (clearly having in mind France, Italy, the UK at the time and Belgium, states that include subject nations or conflicting national identities). The answer was repeated when Catalan MEPs Puigdemont and Comin were for a period banned from entering the European Parliament.
Those of you who expected something different from the EU were disappointed, some of you bitterly so. It was so unjust. Yes, it was very unjust – yet entirely predictable. The EU is an alliance which is not only capitalist, not only dominated by a neo-liberal approach to economics but also dominated by imperialist states. And it should not have been expected that they would encourage the breakup of one of those states, however they might wish that it behaved itself with more cunning and less brutal force. By the way, they prefer cunning to brute force not because they believe the latter is wrong but because once one resorts to brute force the mask is off and then the outcome of the contest depends on which side has the most force. The rulers of states are very few in numbers and their close supporters few also. The ruled people on the other hand constitute a huge mass.
This brings me back again to the question of numbers and how few you are. You have courage and intelligent innovations but you need allies. There are many places in the world to look for allies but the most obvious and effective places are the nearest – in the very states that oppress you. Let us for a moment concentrate on the territory of your main oppressor here – the Spanish State.
THE CLOSEST AND MOST OBVIOUS ALLY
When looking for potential allies there is an obvious one that springs to mind: the Basque Country. That nation’s population is not even half the size of yours and it is divided much more than is your nation by the border with the French State. Yet, after the victory of Franco’s fascist-military forces, that small nation fought a hard struggle against the Spanish State throughout the Dictatorship, through the Transition and afterwards. Though the armed side of that struggle is what observers often focus upon, the struggle was also and mainly one might say, social, linguistic, ideological and trade unionist. An obvious partner, one might think. Yet things have not, so far, turned out that way. It might be worthwhile examining why.
One reason I believe was the rejection by much of the Catalan independence movement of the armed side of the Basque struggle, even though that had already ended by 2012. One of the exiled Catalan leaders, for the moment an MEP, even stated publicly that “We Catalans are not like the Basques; our struggle is a peaceful one.” She was repeating what countless Catalans have said about their struggle being a peaceful one, though of course the insult to and alienation of another struggling nation was gratuitous.
Firstly, even if the struggle of the Catalans for independence was going to be a peaceful one, forever and ever amen, that was no reason to reject the assistance of an ally and furthermore one that had abandoned armed struggle over five years earlier. I am sorry to say and you would be ashamed to admit that those comments disparaging the Basques and the armed part of their history of resistance were in order to make yourselves, as you thought, more attractive to the EU. It didn’t work, as you know now and in fact could never work because it is the very consequences of your struggle for a member state to which the EU objects, not whatever your methods.
Secondly, from a historical and practical point of view, it is illogical to forever commit oneself (or one’s people) to one method of struggle alone. It flies in the face of the history of Catalonia as well as the history of practically every other nation on Earth opposing an invading or colonising force. It ignores too the history of the Spanish State itself which from its beginning has been one of violent suppression of not only every people it invaded outside the peninsula and also the nations within its current territory but also every democratic, liberal and socialist movement that arose among its own core population. But let us leave that question aside for the moment and return that of allies.
Knowing the history of the Basque people, many expected some kind of popular rising there in 2017 in support of Catalonia, to stretch the forces of repression and give the Spanish State an even more serious headache. It did not happen. Apart from a demonstration or two and messages of support, we only saw the blocking for a short while of one of the main commercial motorways into the Spanish State. Many were surprised or even shocked at such a weak response from a movement that had not long before been capable of putting tens of thousands on to the streets in protest against the State.
Whether the Catalans asked for that kind of support or didn’t does not, in essence matter. The opportunity was there, the enemy the same – but the Basque pro-independence movement leaders chose not to act.
Does this mean that the Basques will never support the struggle of Catalonia for independence? I do not think so ….. but the issue requires a little deeper investigation.
A CHANGED LEADERSHIP
Had this crisis arisen in the 1970s or 1980s, the practical support from the Basque Country would have been enormous and stretched the forces of Spanish State repression to breaking point. Perhaps so even in the early 1990s. By the end of that decade however, most of the leaders of the Abertzale Left, the Basque pro-Independence Left, were looking to give up armed struggle completely and were attracted by what they saw as the success of the pacification processes in Ireland, Palestine (for a short period) and South Africa. Unlike the Irish and South African examples, they dissolved the military side of their organisation without getting a single thing in return from the Spanish State (except more repression). It soon became apparent that the armed aspect was not the only form of struggle that they were giving up and that henceforth they would focus nearly completely on the electoral path.
One may wonder at a leadership which once declared itself for the independence and socialism of an entire Euskera-speaking nation now settling for electoral campaigns in which, even in the highly unlikely event of becoming a majority party in one part of of its nation, it would still be on territory divided by two powerful states. It does seem ludicrous but perhaps they just wanted to have ‘normal lives’ for a change and felt unable to admit their true motivation.
Meanwhile, the Catalans, now having risen in struggle, have lives far from what might be considered “normal”. Their pro-independence organisations are preparing for the next stage of the war and their people wondering what that will be and whether their leaders have the capacity to take the right decisions; other leaders in jail or in exile on framed charges, well over another 700 activists facing charges in future – and all arising out of struggle against a State that has backed down not one inch.
The need for effective allies has if anything increased. There are still the Basques. Yes, I say that despite the abandonment of struggle by their movement’s leadership. The heart of resistance still beats there, though the head is somewhat confused and uncertain.
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOLIDARITY
Over four weeks ago, Patxi Ruiz Romero, a Basque political prisoner who would be considered a “dissident” by some, went on hunger strike, 12 days of which were also a thirst strike.
A Basque movement that would be considered “dissident” by some people too, Movement for Amnesty and Against Repression, has mobilised public protests in solidarity with Patxi Ruiz and public fasts, pickets and marches have taken place across the Basque Country, including each of its five cities: Gastheiz/ Vitoria, Irunea/ Pamplona, Donosti/ San Sebastian, Baiona/ Bayonne and Bilbo/ Bilbao. All of this has happened despite not only a lack of support from the Abertzale Left leadership but its condemnation of the mobilisation on the streets. And you Catalans, you know the importance of the streets! Isn’t Els carres seran sempre nostres (“The streets will always be ours”) one of the popular slogans of your movement?
I ask you now to stretch the public hand of solidarity to this movement (as was done last Friday in Barcelona). Both out of solidarity for human rights and also for a partnership in struggle with the Basque Country. Some will say that they don’t agree with the path chosen by Patxi Ruiz which led to his arrest. I reply that you don’t have to support that but you SHOULD SUPPORT HUMAN RIGHTS to self-determination, against torture, against beatings in prison and in support of serving one’s sentence near one’s family (remember when the Catalan political prisoners were being held in Madrid?).
Others of you may object that the “dissident” movement is a small one. I would reply that a small movement that will fight is worth much more than a huge one held back by its leaders. Also that the Abertzale Left was once also a small movement.
Some may say that your movement will be accused of being supporters of ETA and you are not. Firstly, ETA no longer exists. Secondly, what is one more accusation thrown at you by Spanish unionists and fascists?
You should not need me, an insignificant activist though of many years’ experience to be telling you this. The truth is clear in this case. And at this late stage, perhaps even your support will be insufficient to save Patxi’s life. But it would be remembered and would help in forging a unity in action against a common enemy, a unity to which other forces, at the moment more or less quiet, would come and help to break up this fascist State and bring freedom for all. From wherever he is then, I am sure Patxi would thank you. And so would your own people. And many other struggling people around the world.
Dublin 9th June 2020.
CARTA OBERTA AL MOVIMENT INDEPENDENTISTA CATALÀ
(Temps de lectura: 5 minuts)
Germans i germanes, salutacions! La vostra valent lluita és ara en pausa. Encara que en la lluita revolucionària és important mantenir l’impuls, de vegades una pausa dóna temps per a la reflexió. Un moment útil per veure què funcionava i què no, per revisar les lliçons apreses fins ara en la lluita i també per comparar amb altres períodes històrics.
NO PODEU GUANYAR SOLS
És evident per a la majoria de la gent que Catalunya no pot, tal com estan les coses, obtenir la independència només pels seus propis esforços. La població total de Catalunya, aproximadament similar a la d’Irlanda, és gairebé de 7.500.000, mentre que la població de la resta de l’estat espanyol ascendeix a gairebé 45.500.000. Fins i tot amb les poblacions de la resta dels Països Catalans, València, les Illes Balears i Catalunya Nord, les xifres no sumen prou. Ni tampoc tots els catalans estan a favor de la independència, tot i que hi ha una majoria parlamentària que li pot donar suport. Tampoc ha d’ignorar-se l’estat francès, que es troba a la vostra frontera nord i reivindica la dominació sobre la Catalunya Nord.
Els estats francès i espanyol són poderosos i també destacats membres de les aliances econòmiques i militars, entre les quals, en aquest debat, sens dubte destaca la Unió Europea. Molts de vosaltres vau demanar suport a la UE quan l’estat espanyol va enviar les seves forces policials per atacar-vos amb motiu del vostre referèndum d’independència el 2017. Vau rebre la vostra resposta quan el llavors president de la Comissió, Claude Junkers, va afirmar que “no volen una Unió Europea de 99 Estats”, i també va indicar que alguns dels estats membres de la UE podrien enfrontar-se a problemes similars als de l’estat espanyol (en clara referència a França, Itàlia, Regne Unit – en aquell moment – i Bèlgica, estats que inclouen nacions o identitats nacionals en conflicte). La resposta es va repetir quan als eurodiputats Puigdemont i Comin se’ls va impedir durant un període de temps d’entrar al Parlament Europeu.
Aquells de vosaltres que esperàveu de la UE alguna altra cosa vau quedar decebuts, en alguns casos de forma molt amarga. Va ser tan injust. Sí, va ser molt injust… però totalment previsible. La UE és una aliança que no només és capitalista, no només està dominada per un enfocament neoliberal de l’economia, sinó que també està dominada pels Estats imperialistes. I no era d’esperar que fomentés la ruptura d’un d’aquests Estats, fins i tot si haurien preferit que es comportés amb més astúcia i menys força bruta. Per cert, prefereixen l’astúcia a la força bruta no perquè creguin que aquesta última està malament, sinó perquè una vegada que s’ha recorregut a la força bruta, cauen les màscares i després el resultat de l’envit depèn de quin costat té més força. Els governants dels Estats són molt pocs en nombre i els seus partidaris propers també. En canvi, la gent governada constitueix una massa enorme.
Això em torna a la qüestió dels números i com sou d’escassos. Teniu valor i innovacions intel·ligents, però necessiteu aliats. Hi ha molts llocs al món per buscar aliats, però els llocs més evidents i eficaços són els més propers, dins els mateixos estats que us oprimeixen. Ens concentrarem per un moment en el territori del vostre principal opressor aquí: l’estat espanyol.
L’ALIAT MÉS PROPER I EVIDENT
Si esteu buscant possibles aliats, n’hi ha un de ben evident que ve a la ment: el País Basc. La població d’aquesta nació no és ni la meitat de la vostra, i està molt més dividida que la vostra per la frontera amb l’estat francès. No obstant això, després de la victòria de l’exèrcit feixista de Franco, aquesta petita nació va lluitar contra l’estat espanyol durant tota la dictadura, durant la transició i després. Tot i que els observadors sovint se centren només en el seu vessant armat, es podria dir que la lluita era també, i principalment, social, lingüística, ideològica i sindicalista. Un soci evident, es podria pensar. No obstant això, les coses no han funcionat, fins ara, d’aquesta manera. Sembla interessant analitzar el perquè.
Una de les raons, crec, va ser el rebuig de gran part del moviment independentista català a la vessant armada de la lluita basca, tot i que ja s’havia acabat el 2012. Un dels dirigents catalans exiliats, actualment Eurodiputada, va afirmar públicament que “els catalans no som com els bascos; la nostra lluita és pacífica.” Estava repetint el que molts catalans també han dit sobre el caràcter pacífic de la seva lluita, encara que per descomptat l’insult i l’alienació amb relació a un altre país en dificultats van ser del tot gratuïts.
En primer lloc, fins i tot si la lluita dels catalans per la independència es mantingués pacífica pels segles dels segles amén, això no seria cap raó per rebutjar l’ajuda d’un aliat que, a més, havia abandonat la lluita armada feia ja més de cinc anys. Lamento dir, i no us agradarà admetre, que aquests comentaris distanciant-se dels bascos i del vessant armat de la seva història de resistència tenien com a objectiu fer-se més atractius per a la UE. No va funcionar, com bé sabeu ara, i de fet mai no podria funcionar, perquè és la conseqüència esperable de lluitar per un estat propi al qual la UE s’oposa, independentment dels mètodes utilitzats.
En segon lloc, tant des d’un punt de vista històric com pràctic, és il·lògic comprometre’s (o comprometre el teu poble) per sempre a un únic mètode de lluita. Contradiu la història de Catalunya, així com la història de pràcticament qualsevol altra nació del planeta que s’hagi resistit a una força invasora o colonitzadora. També ignora la història de l’estat espanyol que des dels seus inicis ha estat repressor violent no només de cada poble que ha envaït fora de la península, així com de les nacions dins de les seves actuals fronteres, sinó també de tots els moviments democràtics, liberals i socialistes sorgits d’entre la seva pròpia població. Però deixem de banda de moment aquesta qüestió i tornem a la dels aliats.
Coneixent la història del poble basc, molts el 2017 esperaven que s’hi alcés algun tipus de moviment popular en suport de Catalunya, per pressionar a les forces repressores i augmentar el mal de cap a l’estat espanyol. No va passar. A part d’una o dues manifestacions i missatges de suport, només vam veure el bloqueig per un curt temps d’una de les principals carreteres comercials de l’estat espanyol. Molts van quedar sorpresos, per no dir impactats, per la resposta tan feble d’un moviment que poc abans havia estat capaç de posar desenes de milers de persones als carrers en protesta contra l’estat.
Si els catalans van demanar aquest tipus de suport, o no, és realment el que menys importa. L’oportunitat hi va ser, l’enemic era el mateix, però els dirigents del moviment independentista basc van optar per no actuar.
Vol dir això que els bascos mai no donaran suport a la lluita de Catalunya per la independència? No és això el que penso… però el tema requereix una mica de recerca més profunda.
UN CANVI DE LIDERATGE
Si aquesta crisi hagués sorgit en els anys 70 o 80, el suport pràctic del País Basc hauria estat enorme i hauria tensat moltíssim a les forces repressores de l’estat espanyol. Potser fins i tot en la dècada de 1990. Al final d’aquesta dècada, però, la majoria dels dirigents de l’esquerra abertzale estaven tractant d’abandonar per complet la lluita armada i van ser atrets pel que van veure com l’èxit dels processos de pau a Irlanda, Palestina (per un curt període) i Sud-àfrica. A diferència dels exemples irlandesos i sud-africans, van dissoldre el costat militar de la seva organització sense obtenir de l’estat espanyol ni una sola cosa a canvi (excepte més repressió). Aviat es va fer evident que l’activitat armada no era l’única forma de lluita a la que estaven renunciant, i que des de llavors es centrarien gairebé de forma exclusiva en el camí electoral.
Sembla lògic fer-se preguntes sobre un lideratge que un dia es va declarar a favor de la independència i el socialisme de tota una nació al voltant de l’euskera, i que ara es conforma amb campanyes electorals en les quals, fins i tot en l’improbable cas de convertir-se en un partit majoritari en una part de la seva nació, encara tindria el seu territori dividit entre dos estats poderosos. Per ridícul que pugui semblar, potser només els venia de gust tornar a tenir “vides normals” i els va faltar coratge per admetre la seva veritable motivació.
Mentrestant, els catalans, ara alçant-se en lluita, tenen unes vides lluny del que es podria considerar “normal”. Les seves organitzacions independentistes s’estan preparant per a la pròxima etapa de la guerra i la seva gent es pregunten en què consistirà aquesta, i si els seus líders tenen la capacitat de prendre les decisions adequades; altres líders a la presó o a l’exili per acusacions manipulades, més de 700 activistes que s’enfronten a càrrecs, i tot això arran de la lluita contra un estat que no ha cedit ni un mil·límetre.
La necessitat d’aliats efectius, en qualsevol cas, és ara encara més gran. Encara hi ha els bascos. Sí, dic això malgrat l’abandonament de la lluita pels líders del seu moviment. Allà el cor de la resistència encara batega, encara que el cap estigui una mica confús i incert.
PELS DRETS HUMANS I LA SOLIDARITAT
Fa més de quatre setmanes, Patxi Ruiz Romero, un presoner polític basc que podria ser considerat per alguns com ser un “dissident”, va començar una vaga de fam, de la qual 12 dies van ser també una vaga assedegada. Un moviment basc que alguns també consideren “dissident”, el moviment per l’amnistia i contra la repressió, ha mobilitzat protestes públiques en solidaritat amb Patxi Ruiz i dejunis, mítings i marxes han tingut lloc a tot el país Basc, incloent-hi cadascuna de les seves cinc ciutats: Gasteiz / Vitòria, Iruñea / Pamplona, Donosti / Sant Sebastià, Baiona i Bilbo / Bilbao. Tot això ha passat no només sense el suport de la direcció de l’esquerra abertzale, sinó fins i tot amb la seva condemna de la mobilització als carrers. I vosaltres, catalans, sabeu de la importància dels carrers! No és “els carrers seran sempre nostres” un dels eslògans més populars del vostre moviment?
Ara us demano que doneu la mà de la vostra solidaritat amb aquest moviment (com vau fer divendres passat a la concentració de Barcelona). Tant per la solidaritat pels drets humans com per la fraternitat en la lluita amb el País Basc. Alguns direu que no esteu d’acord amb el camí escollit per Patxi Ruiz i que va conduir a la seva detenció. Jo responc que no teniu per què donar suport a aquest camí, però sí que HAURÍEU DE RECOLZAR ELS DRETS HUMANS a l’autodeterminació, contra la tortura, contra les pallisses a la presó i a favor de complir amb la seva sentència a prop de la seva família (recordeu quan els presos polítics catalans van ser detinguts a Madrid?).
Altres podeu objectar que el moviment “dissident” és petit. Jo respondria que un petit moviment que lluita val molt més que un altre de grans, però frenat pels seus propis líders. També respondria que l’esquerra abertzale va ser també, en algun moment, un moviment petit.
Alguns podreu dir que el vostre moviment serà acusat de ser partidari d’ETA, quan no ho sou. En primer lloc, ETA ja no existeix. En segon lloc, quina importància té encara una acusació més contra vosaltres llançada per feixistes i unionistes espanyols?
No hauria de necessitar-me a mi, un militant insignificant encara que amb molts anys d’experiència, per entendre això. La veritat és evident en aquest cas. I a hores d’ara, potser fins i tot el vostre suport serà insuficient per salvar la vida del Patxi. Però seria apreciat i recordat, i ajudaria a forjar una unitat d’acció contra un enemic comú, una unitat a la qual altres forces, en aquest moment més o menys inactives, acudirien i ajudarien a trencar aquest estat feixista i portar la llibertat per a tots. Des d’on estigui en aquell moment, estic segur que el Patxi us ho agrairia. I també el vostre propi poble. I moltes altres persones que estan en lluita arreu del món.
CARTA ABIERTA AL MOVIMIENTO INDEPENDENTISTA CATALÁN
(Tiempo de lectura: 5 minutos)
Hermanos y hermanas, ¡saludos! Vuestra valiente lucha se encuentra ahora en una pausa. Aunque en la lucha revolucionaria es importante mantener el impulso, a veces una pausa da tiempo para la reflexión. Un momento útil para ver lo que funcionó y lo que no, para repasar las lecciones aprendidas hasta ahora en la lucha y también para comparar con otros períodos históricos.
NO PODÉIS GANAR SOLOS
Está claro para la mayoría de la gente que Catalunya no puede, tal como están las cosas, ganar la independencia solo por sus propios esfuerzos. La población total de Catalunya, más o menos similar a la de Irlanda, supera por poco los 7,5 millones, mientras que la población del resto del Estado español asciende a casi 45,5 millones. Incluso con las poblaciones del resto de los PaïsosCatalans, Valencia, Baleares y Catalunya Nord, los números no suman suficiente. Y tampoco todos los catalanes están a favor de la independencia, aunque la mayoría parlamentaria la pueda apoyar. Tampoco debe ser ignorado el Estado francés, que se encuentra en vuestra frontera norte y reclama el dominio sobre la Catalunya Nord.
Los Estados franceses y españoles son poderosos y también miembros prominentes de las alianzas económicas y militares, entre las que, en lo tocante a esta discusión, destaca sin duda la Unión Europea. Muchos de vosotros pedisteis apoyo a la UE cuando el Estado español envió sus fuerzas policiales para atacaros con ocasión de vuestro referéndum sobre la independencia en 2017. Recibisteis su respuesta cuando el entonces presidente de la Comisión, Claude Junkers, declaró que “no quieren una Unión Europea de 99 Estados” y también indicó que algunos de los estados miembros de la UE podrían enfrentarse a problemas similares a los del Estado español (en clara alusión a Francia, Italia, el Reino Unido – en ese momento – y Bélgica, estados que incluyen naciones o identidades nacionales en conflicto). La respuesta se repitió cuando a los eurodiputados catalanes Puigdemont y Comin se les prohibió durante un período la entrada al Parlamento Europeo.
Aquellos de vosotros que esperabais de la UE algo diferente sufristeis una decepción, en algunos casos muy amarga. Fue tan injusto. Sí, fue muy injusto… pero era totalmente previsible. La UE es una alianza que no sólo es capitalista, no sólo está dominada por un enfoque neoliberal de la economía, sino que también está dominada por Estados imperialistas. Y no se esperaba que alentaran la ruptura de uno de esos estados, aun cuando hubieran preferido que se comportara con más astucia y menos fuerza bruta. Por cierto, prefieren la astucia a la fuerza bruta no porque crean que ésta última está mal, sino porque una vez se ha recurrido a la fuerza bruta, caen las máscaras y entonces el resultado del envite depende de qué lado tiene más fuerza. Los gobernantes de los estados son muy pocos en número y sus partidarios cercanos pocos también. En el otro bando, el pueblo gobernado constituye una enorme masa.
Esto me lleva de nuevo a la cuestión de los números y lo pocos que sois. Tenéis valor e innovaciones inteligentes, pero necesitáis aliados. Hay muchos lugares en el mundo para buscar aliados, pero los lugares más obvios y efectivos son los más cercanos, en los mismos estados que os oprimen. Concentrémonos por un momento en el territorio de su principal opresor aquí: el Estado español.
EL ALIADO MÁS CERCANO Y OBVIO
Si se buscan aliados potenciales hay uno obvio que viene a la mente: el País Vasco. La población de esa nación no es ni siquiera la mitad del tamaño de la vuestra y está dividida mucho más que la vuestra por la frontera con el Estado francés. Sin embargo, después de la victoria del ejército fascista de Franco, esa pequeña nación luchó una dura lucha contra el Estado español a lo largo de la dictadura, durante la Transición y después. Aunque los observadores a menudo se centran sólo en su vertiente armada, se podría decir que la lucha fue también, y principalmente, social, linguística, ideológica y sindicalista. Un socio obvio, podría pensarse. Sin embargo, las cosas no han resultado, hasta ahora, de esa manera. Parece interesante analizar el por qué.
Una razón, creo, fue el rechazo de gran parte del movimiento independentista catalán a la vertiente armada de la lucha vasca, aunque ya hubiese terminado en 2012. Uno de los líderes catalanes exiliados, por el momento eurodiputada, incluso declaró públicamente que “nosotros los catalanes no somos como los vascos; nuestra lucha es pacífica”. Estaba repitiendo lo que innumerables catalanes han dicho también sobre el carácter pacífico de su lucha, aunque desde luego el insulto y la alienación respecto a otra nación en dificultades fueron gratuitos.
En primer lugar, aunque la lucha de los catalanes por la independencia vaya a ser pacífica por los siglos de los siglos amén, eso no sería razón para rechazar la ayuda de un aliado que, además, había abandonado la lucha armada hacía ya más de cinco años. Lamento decir, y no os gustará admitir, que esos comentarios de distanciamiento de los vascos y de la vertiente armada de su historia de resistencia tenían como objetivo hacerse más atractivos para la UE. No funcionó, como bien sabéis ahora, y de hecho nunca podría funcionar, porque es la consecuencia propia de luchar por conseguir un Estado propio al que la UE se opone, independientemente de los métodos usados.
En segundo lugar, desde un punto de vista tanto histórico como práctico, es ilógico comprometerse para siempre a uno mismo (o a su pueblo) a un solo método de lucha. Contradice la historia de Catalunya, así como la historia de prácticamente cualquier otra nación del planeta que se haya resistido a una fuerza invasora o colonizadora. Ignora también la historia del propio Estado español que desde sus inicios ha sido represor violento no sólo de cada pueblo que ha invadido fuera de la península, así como de las naciones dentro de sus fronteras actuales, sino también de todos los movimientos democráticos, liberales y socialistas que surgieron entre su propia población. Pero dejemos esta cuestión a un lado por el momento y volvamos a la de los aliados.
Conociendo la historia del pueblo vasco, muchos en 2017 esperaban que surgiese allí algún tipo de movimiento popular en apoyo de Catalunya, para presionar a las fuerzas represoras y dar al Estado español un mayor quebradero de cabeza. No sucedió. Aparte de una o dos manifestaciones y mensajes de apoyo, sólo vimos el bloqueo por un breve tiempo de una de las principales autopistas comerciales del Estado español. Muchos quedaron sorprendidos o incluso impactados ante una respuesta tan débil de un movimiento que poco antes había sido capaz de poner a decenas de miles de personas en las calles en protesta contra el Estado.
Si los catalanes pidieron ese tipo de apoyo, o no, en realidad es lo de menos. La oportunidad estaba ahí, el enemigo era el mismo, pero los líderes del movimiento independentista vasco optaron por no actuar.
¿Significa esto que los vascos nunca apoyarán la lucha de Catalunya por la independencia? No es eso lo que pienso… pero el tema requiere una investigación un poco más profunda.
UN CAMBIO DE LIDERAZGO
Si esta crisis hubiera surgido en los años 70 o 80, el apoyo práctico del País Vasco habría sido enorme y habría tensionado enormemente a las fuerzas represoras del Estado español. Tal vez incluso a principios de la década de 1990. Sin embargo, al final de esa década la mayoría de los líderes de la izquierda abertzale estaban tratando de abandonar por completo la lucha armada y se sintieron atraídos por lo que veían como el éxito de los procesos de pacificación en Irlanda, Palestina (por un corto período) y Sudáfrica. A diferencia de los ejemplos irlandés y sudafricano, disolvieron la vertiente militar de su organización sin obtener del Estado español ni una sola cosa a cambio (excepto más represión). Pronto se hizo evidente que la actividad armada no era la única forma de lucha a la que estaban renunciando, y que a partir de entonces se centrarían casi completamente en el camino electoral.
Parece lógico hacerse preguntas sobre un liderazgo que en su momento se declaró a favor de la independencia y el socialismo de una entera nación en torno al euskera, y que ahora se conforma con campañas electorales en las que, incluso en el muy improbable caso de convertirse en un partido mayoritario en una parte de su nación, todavía tendría su territorio dividido entre dos estados poderosos. Por ridículo que parezca, tal vez sólo tenían ganas de volver a tener “vidas normales” y les faltó valor para admitir su verdadera motivación.
Mientras tanto, los catalanes, ahora alzándose en lucha, tienen vidas lejos de lo que podría considerarse “normal”. Sus organizaciones independentistas se están preparando para la siguiente etapa de la guerra y su gente se pregunta en qué consistirá y si sus líderes tienen la capacidad de tomar las decisiones correctas; otros líderes en la cárcel o en el exilio por acusaciones amañadas, más de 700 activistas que se enfrentan a futuros procesos, y todo ello a raíz de la lucha contra un Estado que no ha cedido ni un milímetro.
La necesidad de aliados eficaces, en todo caso, es ahora mayor. Todavía están los vascos. Sí, lo digo a pesar del abandono de la lucha por los líderes de su movimiento. Allí el corazón de la resistencia todavía late, aunque la cabeza esté algo confusa e incierta.
POR LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS Y LA SOLIDARIDAD
Hace mas de cuatro semanas, Patxi Ruiz Romero, un preso político vasco que podría ser considerado por algunos un “disidente”, inició una huelga de hambre, durante la cual 12 días fueron también una huelga de sed. Un movimiento vasco que también algunos consideran “disidente”, el Movimiento por la Amnistía y Contra la Represión, ha movilizado protestas públicas en solidaridad con Patxi Ruiz y han tenido lugar ayunos, concentraciones y marchas en todo el País Vasco, incluyendo cada una de sus cinco ciudades: Gasteiz / Vitoria, Iruñea / Pamplona, Donosti / San Sebastián, Baiona / Bayona y Bilbo / Bilbao. Todo esto ha ocurrido no sólo con la falta de apoyo del liderazgo de la izquierda abertzale, sino incluso con su condena de la movilización en las calles. ¡Y vosotros, catalanes, sabéis de la importancia de las calles! ¿No es “Els carresseransemprenostres” (“Las calles siempre serán nuestras”) uno de los eslóganes populares de vuestro movimiento?
Os pido ahora que tendáis públicamente la mano de vuestra solidaridad con este movimiento (como hicisteis el viernes pasado en la concentración de Barcelona). Tanto por solidaridad por los derechos humanos como por hermandad en la lucha con el País Vasco. Algunos diréis que no estáis de acuerdo con el camino elegido por Patxi Ruiz y que llevó a su arresto. Yo respondo que no tenéis por qué apoyar ese camino, pero sí que DEBERÍAIS APOYAR LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS a la autodeterminación, contra la tortura, contra las palizas en prisión y a favor de cumplir su condena cerca de su familia (¿recordáis cuando los presos políticos catalanes estaban detenidos en Madrid?).
Otros podéis objetar que el movimiento “disidente” es pequeño. Yo respondería que un pequeño movimiento que lucha vale mucho más que otro enorme pero frenado por sus propios líderes. También respondería que la izquierda abertzale fue también, en algún momento, un movimiento pequeño.
Algunos podéis decir que vuestro movimiento será acusado de ser partidario de ETA, cuando no lo sois. En primer lugar, ETA ya no existe. En segundo lugar, ¿qué importancia tiene una acusación más contra vosotros lanzada por fascistas y unionistas españoles?
No deberíais necesitarme a mí, un militante insignificante aunque con muchos años de experiencia, para entender esto. La verdad está clara en este caso. Y a estas alturas, tal vez incluso vuestro apoyo será insuficiente para salvar la vida de Patxi. Pero sería apreciado y recordado, y ayudaría a forjar una unidad de acción contra un enemigo común, una unidad a la que otras fuerzas, en este momento más o menos inactivas, acudirían y ayudarían a romper este Estado fascista y traer la libertad para todos. Desde dondequiera que esté en ese momento, estoy seguro de que Patxi os lo agradecería. Y vuestro propio pueblo también. Y otras muchas personas que están en lucha en todo el mundo.
Mick Healy interviewed me about a number of my experiences in revolutionary work over the years and this is Part 1 (Part 2 will shortly be published), nearly all about some of my three decades in London. It contains a number of errors by me, for example the apartheid rugby team was South Africa’s one which were not called the “All Blacks”, that being New Zealand’s. Also I believe the giant Hunger Strikers solidarity march in London was to Michael Foot’s home, not Tony Benn’s. Still, here it is for what it’s worth with many thanks to Mick.
Diarmuid a long time political agitator was active in London from 1967, in interview part one, he talks about his involvement with Marxism-Leninism-Anarchism. His involvement in the Vietnam and Rhodesia solidarity campaigns, Anti-fascist mobilisation, solidarity Ireland, family squatting. In addition the campaign against the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the 1969 Peoples Democracy march from Belfast-Dublin.
The 5th of March is the anniversary of the naval Battle of Cape Machichaco (cabo matxitxakoko borroka, in Euskera/ Basque), which took place on 5 March 1937 off Bermeo (Bizkaia province, Basque Country), during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War, between the Spanish Military-Fascist heavy cruiser Canarias and four Basque Navy trawlers escorting a Republican convoy. The trawlers were protecting the transport ship Galdames, which was sailing to Bilbao with 173 passengers.
(The following account of the battle is from Wikipedia; the section titles and comment are mine)
On 4 March, four armed trawlers of the Basque Auxiliary Navy section of the Spanish Republican Navy, Bizcaia, Gipuzkoa, Donostia and Nabarra departed from Bayonne, France. Their intention was to defend Galdames‘s mail, passengers, machinery, weapons, supplies and 500 tons of nickel coins property of the Basque government.
Canarias sailed from Ferrol with Salvador Moreno as the captain, with orders to stop the transport ship. Galdames, which was steaming up with the lights and the radio switched off, and was unknowingly left behind by Bizcaya and Gipuzkoa.
FOUR CONVERTED TRAWLERS AGAINST A BATTLE CRUISER
Next morning, while all the trawlers were watching for Canarias, Galdames rejoined them. Bizcaya‘s captain was Alejo Bilbao, Nabarra‘s Enrique Moreno Plaza from Murcia, and Gipuzkoa‘s Manuel Galdós. The trawlers had the intention of luring Canarias close to the Biscay coast to have the assistance of the coastal batteries.[
The first trawler to spot Canarias was Gipuzkoa, 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of Bilbao. The Basque trawler was hit on the bridge and the forward gun. Return fire from Gipuzkoa killed one Canarias seaman and wounded another. The armed trawler, with five fatalities and 20 injured aboard, managed to approach the coast, where the shore batteries forced Canarias to retreat.
Nabarra and Donostia tried to prevent Canarias from finding Galdames and engaged the cruiser.
Donostia withdrew from the battle after being fired on by Canarias, but Nabarra faced the enemy for almost two hours. She was eventually hit in the boiler and came to a stop; 20 men abandoned the sinking trawler, while other 29 were lost with the ship, including her captain, Enrique Moreno Plaza.
The transport Galdames, which was hit by a salvo from Canarias and lost four passengers, was eventually captured by the military-fascist cruiser.
Gipuzkoa arrived at Portugalete seriously damaged and Bizcaia headed for Bermeo, where she assisted the Estonian merchantman Yorbrook with a load including ammunition and 42 Japanese Type 31 75 mm mountain guns, previously captured by Canarias and released.
Donostia sought shelter in a French port.
The 20 survivors from Nabarra were rescued by the military-fascists and taken aboard Canarias. Instead of the expected hostility and mistreatment, they were given medical assistance, and both the cruiser commander, future Francoist Admiral Salvador Moreno and Captain Manuel Calderón interceded with Franco when the Basque seamen were sentenced to death in retaliation for the shooting of two crewmembers of the armed trawler Virgen del Carmen, captured by Republican sympathizers and diverted to Bilbao in December 1936. The survivors were eventually acquitted and released in 1938.
In contrast, one of the passengers aboard Galdames, Christian Democrat politician Manuel Carrasco Formiguera, from Catalonia, was imprisoned and executed on 9 April 1938.
COURAGE, COWARDICE AND CRUELTY
The story is one of incredible bravery of a number of converted trawlers and their Basque crews, in particular that of the Nabarra and her Captain from Murcia. One account I read related that her Captain consulted his crew and they agreed to fight to the death or the sinking of their ship. Their valour and stubbornness (two qualities which commentators often associate with the Basques) was of such magnitude as to impress even their military-fascist opponents, to the extent of their interceding with Franco to save their lives.
It is also the story of the cowardice of at least the captain of the Donostia.
And of the bestiality of the military-fascists in the execution of a member of the Catalan Governmentreturning to his country with his family, guilty of no crime but to serve his the administration of his elected republican government (one of hundreds of thousands of such crimes of the miiltary-fascists coupists and their victorious regime).
VISIT TO CAPE MATXITXAKO
I visited the land part of the location on a number of occasions in recent years. Access by public transport is by a bus every hour but I was driven by friends.
On a windy promontory on private land I saw one of the shore artillery battery sites (which has had nothing done to conserve it) and, close enough, the monument to the battle. Not far from there is a local bar-restaurant which is popular and a short trip by car, the iconic hermitage of Gastelugatxe. Many tourists visit the area but I wonder how many get to hear of the story.
Thinking of the determination and courage of those crews, not even trained for war, in converted trawlers, facing a trained naval crew of a huge battle cruiser, I am not ashamed to say my eyes fill and my lip trembles.
Alberto Sicilia in Publico.es, translated by D.Breatnach
Alberto Sicilia in Publico.es, translated by D.Breatnach (Reading time: 3 minutes)
For original version in Castillian (Spanish) click on link.
Greece today suspended the right to asylum. An unprecedented measure in the history of Europe.
How soon we forget. During World War II, thousands of Greeks crossed the Mediterranean in the opposite direction and sought refuge in Middle Eastern countries. That was the most accessible route of escape from Nazi troops.
A program called “Organization for Refugees in the Middle East”, launched in 1942 and led by the United Kingdom, helped tens of thousands of Greeks, Poles and Yugoslavs escape eastbound.
The refugees were taken to camps located in Syria, Egypt and Palestine. The city of Aleppo, (yes, you have not misread, Aleppo) became one of the main reception centers.
A number of official reports on the state of the camps were written in March 1944. A study conducted by Public International Radio includes the protocol for the entry of refugees and their daily lives:
“Once registered, newcomers made their way through a thorough medical inspection. The refugees were heading to what were often makeshift hospital facilities, usually tents, but occasionally empty buildings reused for medical care, where clothes and shoes were removed and they were washed until the authorities believed they were sufficiently disinfected.
“Some refugees, such as the Greeks who arrived at the Aleppo camp from the Dodecanese islands in 1944, could expect medical inspections to become part of their daily routine.
“After medical officials were satisfied that they were healthy enough to join the rest of the camp, refugees were divided into homes for families, unaccompanied children, single men and single women. Once assigned to a particular section of the camp, refugees enjoyed few opportunities to venture outside. From time to time they could leave under the supervision of camp officials.
“When refugees in the Aleppo camp made the multi-mile trip to the city, for example, they could visit shops to buy basic supplies, watch a movie at the local cinema, or simply distract themselves from the monotony of country life.
“Although the camp at Moses Wells [in Egypt], located on more than 100 acres of desert, was not within walking distance of a city, refugees were allowed to spend time each day bathing in the nearby Red Sea. “
The “Organization for Refugees in the Middle East” was part of a network of refugee camps around the world that were administered by governments and international NGOs.
And refugees arrived not only in the Arab region: Iran received 200,000 Poles between 1939 and 1941.