A crowd gathered in Dublin today to commemorate the Free State opening fire on the Four Courts on 28th August 1922, an event that began what is usually called “the Civil War” which lasted until 1923 (with State assassinations until 1924). The UK supplied the cannons and shells used by the Free State’s “National Army” along with munitions, including small arms and ammunition, armoured cars, army lorries and even coastal naval vessels. The conflict has also been called a “counterrevolution” and “the UK’s proxy war” with more Republicans executed by the new Irish State1 in that conflict than had been by the British State over the whole 1916-1921 period.
One hundred years ago this month, the IRA under the command of Rory O’Connor occupied and fortified the Four Courts complex, last occupied as a fighting post during the 1916 Rising. The Anglo-Irish Treaty partitioning the country and giving the Free State the status of a Dominion country had been narrowly accepted by the delegates to the First Dáil, the Irish Parliament previously banned by the UK State. However by far the majority of the military part of the Irish resistance – the IRA, Cumann na mBan and na Fianna, along with the remnants of the Irish Citizen Army – were opposed to the Treaty. The occupation of the Four Courts was seen by the Free State government as a challenge to its authority and by the British Government as a threat of anti-colonial struggle being renewed. Both parties were hostile to any radical republican, socialist or socialist-republican program.
On 28th June the Free State opened fire from British cannon on the Four Courts from Bridge Street on the south side of the river and the Civil War – or Counterrevolution – had begun. By the time the Republicans conceded defeat (and some assassinations continued even after it officially ended) perhaps around 1,300 had been killed. From January 1922 to April 1924, according to the Republican Roll of Honour, 426 anti-Treaty Volunteers had been killed, some 25 of these died fighting British and Northern Irish forces. Most anti-Treaty dead were IRA Volunteers, but some were Na Fianna members and four were women of Cumann na mBan2.
On the Free State side just under 800 died, of whom 488 fell in enemy action, others due to accidents or illness, while seven were executed having deserted to the Republican side. “To this total should be added a small number of police, including four from the Civic Guard (later renamed Garda Síochána), four from the Criminal Investigation Department and two from the Citizens’ Defence Force, who were killed from 1922-19243.”
Dorney remarks on omissions in the Last Post record and concludes: “Even allowing for this, though, the total of anti-Treaty IRA dead in the Civil War is not likely to be much more than about 500, of whom 81 died before Free State firing squads and more than 100 were summarily executed in reprisals.”
Many Irish Republicans also emigrated to avoid repression or because they were being denied employment.
The Irish State today is a direct descendant, legally and in other ways, of the Free State of 1922 and all periods since.
The commemorative event in Dublin today was organised by the National Graves Association (Cumann Uaigheanna na Laochra Gael), an organisation which since its founding in 1926 has been maintaining the graves of Irish patriots, arranging for the installation of gravestones, plaques and monuments and also organising commemorative events.
Before marching to the Four Courts, participants formed up in groups in the road outside Croppies’ Acre, a public park over a mass grave of victims of the English state’s repression of the United Irishmen and their supporters in 1798, now across the road from the Collins Barracks National Museum. They were led by a lone piper and colour party, followed by people in double ranks flying Starry Plough flags and carrying banners of history and conservation groups, along with some other flags, including that of Cumann na mBan.
At the rally outside the Liffeyside of the Four Courts, the organisers had an MC with number of speakers to read out the 1922 Proclamation, the lyrics of The Soldiers of Twenty-Two4 and Tim Horgan to give a keynote oration. At least one floral wreath was laid in honour of those who fought there and a number of posters attached to lampposts commemorated the three Volunteers who were fatally wounded there: Thomas Wall, Joe Considine and Sean Cusack.
It is almost certainly the case that it is the NGA which has erected the majority of patriotic struggle commemorative plaques around the country, with most of the remainder being organised by local authorities, local history groups and old comrades’ associations – a very small proportion being the work of the State. As stated on its website, the objectives of the Association have always been: to restore, where necessary, and maintain fittingly the graves and memorials of our patriot dead from every generation; to commemorate those who died in the cause of Irish freedom; to compile a record of such graves and memorials.
The NGA’s general alignment is unequivocal: “Only a 32 County Irish Republic represents the true aspiration of those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.5“
One might assume that every participant at the event today was of a definite political bent, yet not a single party or political organisation banner was to be seen on the march or at the rally. This is because participants were asked in advance not to bring any banners or placards of political organisational allegiance. As the Chairperson of the rally informed the audience, the NGA is not affiliated to any political party or organisation and furthermore does not accept contributions from any such nor from the State – in order to continue to guarantee the NGA’s independence. In fact, members of its governing body are not even permitted to belong to a political party. A senior Garda officer however, of least at Inspector rank, took down details in his notebook as the rally was addressed by speakers.
Patriots of the United Irishmen, the Young Irelanders, the Fenians, the Land League, na Fianna Éireann, Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, IRA, Official and Provisional IRA, the Irish National Liberation Army etc have all been commemorated by the NGA. According to Wikipedia, since its founding, the NGA has erected, or accepted into its care, over 500 monuments and memorials throughout Ireland.
A number of other Civil War/ Counterrevolution commemorative and discussion events will be taking place at least during this year, two of which will take place next week (see photos of leaflet).
The Gardaí remained at the scene as people dispersed. Passing by again shortly afterwards, we found the floral wreath had been removed.
1Official executions are usually listed as 81 or 83, these having been subjected to some kind of military judicial process (but without any jury). However, apart from IRA fighters killed in battle, a number of captured combatants were murdered (such as those of the Ballyseedy Massacre on March 7th 1923) while known activists were assassinated by Garda-Army squads operating from Oriel House. Often, the murdered had been tortured first.
This year’s celebration of the Patum 2022 festival in Berga has sung and chanted for independence. With the square full of about 6,000 people on Thursday, the massive Catalan independence flag, the Estelada (with the white star in a blue triangle)1 was launched across the crowd as they sang the Catalan national anthem, Els Segadors2 (the Reapers).
With the song finished, some began to shout “independencia” (independence) and this was quickly taken up by the mass, revisiting the tradition of protest that existed before the pandemic. The Catalan independence movement has been somewhat becalmed of late, with serious divisions between the two main nationalist political parties and a lack of grass-roots activity.
The Patum festival is a traditional Catalan festival of great importance and is recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. “The fiesta coincides with Corpus Christi and includes a whole series of theatrical representations, characters and figures that fill the town of Berga every spring. It is a religious commemoration that dates back to the Middle Ages, which has managed to preserve both its religious and profane roots.
“La Patum de Berga has been held annually for centuries during Corpus Christi, and includes street entertainment and shows with different figures typical of these fiestas (giants, “big-heads”, eagles, guitas (dragons), plens (devils)). Fire and dance play a central role. The fiesta really gets underway on the Thursday of Corpus Christi, with the Ceremonial Patum. The salto de plens is the apotheosis of the fiesta. It represents an infernal orgy where fire devils jump to the rhythm of music. The following day is the Children’s Patum.”3
Berga is in the Barcelona region but over 107km from the city (and about half-way to Andorra). The Patum Festival of this year 2022, which began Wednesday, June 15 and will last until Sunday, June 19, was expected to be even more crowded than usual after two years in a row without being able to celebrate it due to the pandemic.
1The other Catalan nationalist flag commonly seen is the Vermelha, with a red star and no blue. The white X on a black background is also flown but more rarely, it draws on history also and signifies ‘death before surrender’.
2An anarchist, Emili Guanyavents won the competition to compose the national anthem lyrics in 1899 and based it upon a traditional historical cultural expression arising out of an uprising of Catalan rural workers in 1640 against the chief minister of Philip IV of Spain. The lyrics are, as might be expected, very militant and, since even the Catalan lanugage was banned, the song was of course banned during the four decades of the Spanish Franco dictatorship
On Wednesday (May 11th), a Palestinian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli military with one shot to the head. At the time of her murder, she was wearing conflict protective clothing clearly marked “PRESS” but the bullet entered her head under the helmet. Ms. Abu Akleh’s murder has caused outrage around the world, which has been intensified by the Israeli military’s attack on mourners, even on the bearers of her coffin (one of whom has since died) and their attempt to blame the Palestinian resistance for killing the journalist.
WHY THE OUTRAGE THIS TIME, ABOUT THIS JOURNALIST?
Ms. Abu Akleh was a journalist of nearly 25 years’ experience, employed since 1997 by the Qhatari-based news agency Al Jazeera and her reports were familiar to millions in the Arab and wider Muslim world. She was with other journalists, one of whom was also shot but wounded in the back and is expected to recover, covering an Israeli Army raid into the refugee camp in Jenin in Palestine. Both Al Jazeera and Associated Press agencies insisted that the shooters were Israeli military and mapping on-the-spot investigation has discredited the Israeli version firstly that the killer was a Palestinian fighter and then latterly, that it might have been.
“This is one person,” remarked a commentator, “ but hundreds are being killed in the Ukraine war!” Another commented that the Russians have shot journalists in the Ukraine.
Thousands and millions and thousands of millions of people are killed in wars and as a result of wars. Yes and in a way their very numbers makes that difficult to grasp. In the war in the Ukraine before the Russian invasion, 14,000 is the number of estimated dead. Since the invasion, 9,599–24,5991 civilians have been killed, such a wide disparity in estimates a reflection that the conflict is still ongoing and also of the propaganda battle being fought over almost every aspect of the conflict.
In Palestine, the conflict death toll began mostly from 1936 and rose to unknown numbers of Palestinians (due the huge expulsions and fleeing terror) in 1948 when the state of Israel was created, and between 2008 and 2020 alone the death toll is estimated at 5,8502, not counting of course this year and last, with another three added since Sunday, including Abu Akleh. The overall figure of Palestinian civilians killed between 1936 and 2020, with huge gaps where the numbers are unknown, is 2,816,410.3
All three of the latest of Israel’s victims (unless they’ve killed more before I finish writing and editing) were unarmed civilians. Unarmed civilians are the group most likely to be killed in war (10 million in WWI; 50–55 million in WWII, whilst 2,000,000 civilians is the estimate for the Vietnam War). Even though the killing of civilians is an automatic result of war, there are all kind of laws and conventions agreed by most states, including major warlike ones, against the deliberate killing of civilians. But it does seem as though some states have carte blanche in that regard, international law or not.
For many people, every killing of a Palestinian announced adds to that ongoing toll by Israel, year after year for nearly eight decades. That’s one important significance of the death of Shireen Abu Akleh – she comes to personalise, to give a face to the millions of victims of Israeli Zionism.
Another significance of this murder is that Abu Akleh is the most recent of at least 45 journalists killed by Israeli military since 2000 – that’s more than two per year. The UNESCO Observatory lists 22 journalists killed by Israeli military since 2002 and the case remains “unresolved” in 19 of Israel’s judicial investigation — with no investigation at all listed in two of them.
Raising the issue of Russian armed forces’ alleged deliberate killing of civilians and of reporters, whether true or not, just does not compare. The allegations might be true, of course — an invading army is likely to encounter opposition in the course of which some of its personnel may kill civilians by intention and without justification. Indeed, armies before now have killed even those of their own country, their own ethnic group. In the currently relentless onslaught of western commentary, often quoting Ukrainian or NATO sources without question, along with the banning of much alternative comment, it is — and will continue to be for some time – difficult to say which is true and which is not. But the two conflicts do not compare, neither in scale nor in length of existence, nor does the death toll of civilians including reporters.
When Russia invaded the Ukraine, anybody who raised the issue of Palestine with regard to the other conflict, e.g “what about the US/NATO support for Israel?” was accused of ‘whataboutery’. ‘Whataboutery’ is thought of as a device to distract from confronting the actual issues initially under discussion by introducing another different or tangential one.
Of course, people do such things and rational discussion is frequently undermined and even shattered by such practice. But, in this case, when US/NATO was saying that it was supporting the post-Maidan Ukrainian regime for reasons of democracy and self-determination, was it justified to point out its record of war and invasion in the Middle East and its support of Israeli Zionist aggression? It seems clear to me that it was but that would not in itself be proof that the Ukrainian regime was wrong. Was it right to point to the regime’s attacks on Russian-speakers and in particular on the Crimea and Donbas regions? It seems to me that it was, in that gave context to secessionist feeling in those areas to which the Russian regime could well want to give military support, whether that were for protection of ethnic kindred or for its own selfish reasons.
None of that “whataboutery” takes away from the tragedy of war in the Ukraine, of course not, but it is valid in considering motivation, given that the US, the leading power in NATO, is also the biggest supporter of the Zionist state and that the EU is not far behind. Palestine exposed that whatever the rights and wrongs in the conflict, NATO and the EU’s motives were not about justice and peace.
When international sporting and cultural organisations of the western capitalist world began to ban Russian teams and individuals from participation, were people justified in saying “Hey, what about Israel?” Surely they were, for that ongoing struggle in which Palestinian land has been ripped from the hands of its people, in which the latter are daily oppressed and from time to time massacred, in which they suffer military occupation, daily discrimination, ethnic cleansing, racism and apartheid – have they not been calling for decades for banning and boycotting Israeli and its sporting teams? And what was the response? They they were bringing politics into sport! And those who did show their solidarity in sports competitions were often penalised for doing so.
When states began to apply economic sanctions to Russia and to Russian individuals, were Palestinians and their supporters not justified in crying out “Hey, what about Israel?” Of course they were.
The strange thing is that those who accused others of “whataboutery” in the past for raising the issue of Palestine in the context of the war in the Ukraine have now begun to cry “what about the Ukraine?” in the context of the international outrage about the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh. Former critics of ‘whataboutery’ have themselves become ‘whatabouters’ now – and without even the shadow of the justification of their accused predecessors.
It’s worth asking what we mean by “international” in the case of the outrage over the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh. That “international” includes a large part of the Arab world. It includes a large part of the non-Arab but Muslim word4. It includes a large part of the non-Arab, non-Muslim world in western Europe and in the USA and in many other parts too. Certainly the Irish public in general has empathised with the Palestinians for decades.5
But it does not include what the western media mean when they use the words “the international community” – the outrage does not encompass the ruling classes of the Western European countries, much less of the USA, nor even the ruling classes of much of the Arab and Muslim world. In this they are being to a degree, honest. Because those ruling classes have either supported the Israeli Zionists directly, or have supported the USA which keeps Israel alive. Only seven elected representatives of the USA’s Democratic Party – out of the 225 it has in the US Congress, quickly expressed condemnation of the killing and called for a quick and independent investigation. Not one of the 210 Republicans expressed condemnation at the time – even though Shireen Abu Akleh was a citizen of the USA!
Leaders of a few countries expressed regret but could not bring themselves to even say that she had been killed by the Israeli military. The authorities in Berlin banned an attempt to hold a vigil over the death of the Palestinian journalist, including it in their ban on any Palestinian solidarity events at this time of year, when people commemorate the Palestinian ‘Nakba’. That is what Palestinians call the ‘Catastrophe’ that resulted from the seizure of Palestine by the Israeli Zionists, the creation of its state and the mass expulsion of Palestinians.
It is worth noting too that the media we are reading, which at first either ignored this murder, downplayed it or repeated the Israeli lies that Shireen Abu Akleh had been shot, not by Israeli military but by Palestinian resistance fighters, is compiled by journalists too. On the one hand this points to the severe loss to the world when a journalist who exposes injustice is killed (or persecuted and jailed for extradition to another country, as in the case of Julian Assange). On the other, it points to what a large contingent of hired liars and prevaricators is included among the ranks of journalists, that they cannot even stand up for the truth and protest the murder of one of their own occupation or trade.
And it teaches us how much our sources of information are mediated and manipulated by the national and corporative news media. Years ago we were being told that social media would free us from their manipulation or at least provide a viable alternative – independent news and commentary sources would flourish and we could be our own media. Yet the bans and exclusions put in place by Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and governments have shown us what an illusion all that was – in terms of information, we are generally even more controlled and manipulated now than we were before the advent of social media.
Hopefully, those who did not know this already will have learned, both from the coverage of the war in Ukraine and from the murder of this journalist. Those who thought that there was any justice in Israel or generally in the western governments towards the Palestinians, will hopefully have been disabused of that illusion too. Shireen Abu Akleh cannot be brought back to life nor can she be replaced. What we can do is strive to pull down that State that killed her and to knock away all its props around the world.
4Because a great many non-Arab Muslims sympathise with the Palestinians, who mostly ascribe to the faith of Islam and to Muslim culture. However, some Palestinians are Christian, some of Jewish (in the sense that a minority of the population of Palestine was Jewish for decades before the Israeli Zionist occupation) and some of no religion. Shireen Abu Akleh was baptised a Christian; her funeral service was held in a Catholic church and her remains were taken to a Protestant cemetery.
5The Irish cannot fail but be struck too by some parallels with the British occupation of Ireland – the impunity of the Zionist occupiers, for example and the attempt firstly to blame the resistance for those killed by the British Army, followed by a fog of conjecture and holding their own inquiry; the attack on mourners, the seizing of the national flag and attacking people for displaying it (the display of the flag was officially illegal under Israeli law in 1967 and unbanned in 1993 but as seen, is still often objected to by Israeli police).
Far from the battleground which drew their separate loyalties, on Sunday (8th) an area of the Basque city of Bilbao became for a short while another battleground as pro-Palistinians and supporters of the Israeli basketball team Hapoel U-NET Holon clashed. The confrontation gave no indication of having being organised as such but many accounts from the Basque side spoke of days of anti-Palestinian actions and provocations — including an assault on a Palestinian woman — without any police intervention.
The Israeli basketball team was taking part for the first time in a four-team basketball championship, the “Big Four Finals”, the other three being MHP Ludwigsburg (Germany), Lenovo Tenerife (Canaries, Spanish State) and Baxi Manresa (Catalonia, Spanish State).1
Although the Hapoel supporters (around 80 according to one report and 200 according to others) had received some jeers when walking through the city during the weekend, their numbers had faced no organised resistance to tearing down pro-Palestinian posters and signs. The main physical clash arose on Sunday after some Zionists on their way to the basketball arena tore a Palestinian flag from the front of a small bar in the old section of the city and set fire to it. The customers in the bar responded vigorously and the battle played out in that general area until the arrival of the Ertzaintza, the Basque southwest regional police force.
Short report from Bilbao Hiria (my translation from Castillian original):
As usual in these cases, the social networks were the ones that began reporting the violent behaviour of the Hapoel Holon ultras. For two days the media remained complicit in silence until the altercations went viral and they had to start up the story manipulation machinery.
Most of the media dealing with the subject have equated the aggressors and the attacked, presenting it as fights between fans, but perhaps the worst case is that of El Correo, which turned the situation around by calling the Bilbao population “pro-Palestinian terrorists” whom it accuses of having harassed and attacked the peaceful Israeli “fans” since they arrived in the city and of setting them up in “an ambush” that was the cause of the altercations on Sunday.
It is interesting to see the treatment of the media depending on who causes the disturbances. When they happen in a demonstration or a strike, they make sure to make known how much the destruction costs each citizen, because there is nothing more evil than wanting to fight for your rights. But, on the other hand, breaking street furniture because any team loses or wins a game is the height of democracy.
THE PEOPLE UNITED… Once again it was the people’s organization that faced the attacks, that protected the establishments and denounced the impunity of the Zionist ultras. The response was quick and for Sunday afternoon they organized a rally to show rejection of what happened. Interestingly, it was the only time that the Ertzaintza made an appearance and identified some attendees, arresting two (who have since been released).
As mentioned above, earlier on the Sunday, a Basque antifascist platform, Sare Antifaxista, had convened a demonstration in what may be considered the central area of Bilbao north of the river, the Unamuno square. The demonstration was organised under pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist slogans and, as stated above, here the Ertzaintza did intervene, detaining two pro-Palestinians and recording them on their database before setting them free later. Among the slogans shouted as they began to march was “Israel is a terrorist state” (in Basque).
The Haupol fans had either passed by or avoided that demonstration before, less than 10 minutes walking distance away from Unamuno, they crossed the Nervión river on the San Anton bridge on their way to the arena. In doing so, they had to pass a small Basque bar just on the very south side where a Palestinian flag was hung over the entrance.
Soon a group of Zionists rushed the bar, tore the flag down and set fire to it with a flare. There were only 15 customers inside or on the terrace but they responded quickly and bottles and even furniture began to fly at the Zionists (possibly the Hapoel fan reported hit on the head with a chair received his injuries here). The Zionists picked up tables, chairs and parasols too to launch at the bar, smashing window glass there and on the next-door entrance to an apartment building.
There are many migrants living in that area known in Basque and Spanish as “Bilbao the Old” and they began to arrive to assist the customers of the Basque pub, at which point the Ertzaintza also arrived and shepherded the Israeli fans towards the arena and afterwards, in two groups to their accommodation in the city2. The police reported no arrests or recording of identities arising from that battle and one Hapoel supporter required medical attention after being hit over the head with a chair.
That very day, the Israeli Occupation Forces shot dead a Palestinian for the crime of trying to pass through from the Jordan side.
THE MEDIA, THAT BAR AND THE BASQUE POPULATION
Although Bilbao social media had been buzzing with reports of Zionist provocation for two days, the mainstream media did not pick up on it until the battle at the bridge end. True to form the mainstream media either tried to represent both sides as equally at fault or, as with the case of a reporter for the right-wing El Correo3 – and ‘right-wing’ in the Spanish state usually means descended from fascist Franco supporters during the Civil War – to cast the Zionists as the unfortunate victims. It was she who alleged specifically anti-semitic insults had been thrown at the fans which though not impossible, would certainly be unusual in Bilbao. It is the fascist groups in the Spanish state (including in the Basque Country) who have a history of anti-semitism as did the fascist Falange, who fought alongside Franco’s forces in the coup against the Popular Front Government in 1936.
The Abertzale4 Left has always been socialistically-inclined, anti-fascist and anti-racist and the first planned victim of the armed Basque group ETA was Melitón Manzanas, chief of the political police division of the Guardia Civil in Donosti/ San Sebastian in 1968, a man with a record of torturing detainees but also of hunting down Jews escaping through France and handing them over to the Gestapo.
The Naiz.eus5 website had no report on the incident but its Facebook page carried a photo of the burning of the Palestinian flag by Zionists and a report which, however, did not mention the Palestinian solidarity demonstration (perhaps because its own movement had not organised it). It appears to have been the only publication to also draw attention to the shooting dead of a Palestinian by the Israelis that very day.
El Debate went even furthering misrepresentation than El Correo through the former’s manipulated video of interviews with two people. The first, a youth and alleged eye-witness, gave an account blaming “around ten youth shouting in Basque” for being the cause of the event with only an unclear reference to a flag-burning. His testimony in foreign-accented Castilian is so at variance with so many other accounts that one is inclined to take him as a plant, either by Zionists or anti-Basque popular movement interests. The other testimony, from an elderly lady, a resident next door, is sweeping in its condemnation – but of whom? She refers to a peaceful bar and people on the patio – including with children – before the clash; after the youth’s testimony one is led to believe that she is condemning those “Basque youth”. Hardly, from information received here she is in fact the owner of the bar’s mother and also much video footage shared on social media had been shot from above in her very building.6
That particular bar at the centre of the battle is right by the southern end of the bridge, very small, not much more than a passageway from door to toilet with a bar on the way but also containing a patio outside with tables and chairs of the light aluminium or plastic type. The clientele is varied in age profile from 20s right through to 50s and 60s, generally Left and pro-Basque independence — and I have never seen it empty (unlike the much bigger and well-lit nearby Taberna of the Abertzale Left which also has a patio).
If the Palestinian flag was not permanently attached7, the management or patrons may well have intended to make a point on that day. They could hardly have expected the reaction however but despite their gross disparity in numbers responded vigorously.
The final results of the Anton Bridge match ended in a draw with only one injury to a Zionist, thanks to the intervention of the very biased ‘referees’, the Ertzaintza (who also took down two players’ names from only one side). There was no extra time played. However the match will be long remembered with effect no doubt the next time any Israeli Zionist team brings its fans to Bilbao.
For those interested in the result of the other match, Lenovo knocked Hapoel out of the competition at a final score of 78-71.
1Apparently these are unwilling to support the boycott of Israel but like many others will no doubt flock to support the boycott of Russian teams declared by the International Basketball Federation, among a boycott of Russian competitors from participation in at least 27 international competitions ranging from canoeing and chess to paralympics and pentathlon.
2According to one report, that required an Ertzaintza commander speaking to them in English (a rare event in that police force, surely).
3The Courier, right-wing Basque Catholic newspaper closed down in 1936 by the Popular Front government, resuscitated under the Franco dictatorship and true to its pedigree since.
4Izquierda Abertzale, literally “Patriotic Left”, a broad movement (but centrally-led) of political party, daily newspaper, trade union, social centres and pubs (and formerly also armed organisation ETA). For generations it dominated the general Basque patriotic movement but for decades now has been losing support as its embracing of a non-existent “peace process” failed to end even the dispersal of its hundreds of political prisoners throughout the French and Spanish states, to say nothing of gaining their release under amnesty. There are also anarchists and other groups outside the formal Izquierda Abertzale, including some formed by its former members.
5Online representations of the Abertzale Left’s daily newspaper GARA.
6When the filming was being made, the bar was shut and the area deserted. One suspects the youth was there by arrangement with the reporters, whereas the elderly lady was videoed leaving the premises next door. Her recorded interview may well have been edited to remove clarification of the target of her denunciations; even if she had not made it clear herself it seems unlikely that she would not have been asked to clarify whom she was blaming. According to Wikipedia, the Spanish newspaper El Debate was a right-wing Catholic-conservative newspaper that, like El Correo, ceased publication in 1936 (year of the election of the Popular Front Government followed by the military-fascist uprising). However, an online search turns up the current newspaper’s own website, claiming its foundation in 1910 – the same year as that of its right-wing namesake and a quick review of even its headlines reveals its very right-wing and unionist editorial attitude. With the media with which it is provided it is hard to blame the average Spanish citizen for ignorance or bigotry.
7It was not so in years past but having not been there in two years can’t say whether prior to that day it had been.
In mid-April (2022) Gardaí, the police force of the Irish State, broke down the door of Mick Plunkett’s home. They would not have been able to claim he resisted their entry or arrest (the usual explanation for injuries on the detained individual) – he was already dead. To be fair to them, this time they were forcing entry in response to concerns from people that Plunkett had not been seen and wasn’t answering calls. Still, Mick Plunkett’s door had been forced by police a number of times before – by the Special Branch, at least once by the Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ and another time by the special ‘anti-terrorist’ Paris police.
Mick was born into a working class family of ten siblings in Dún Laoghaire, in Kelly’s Avenue in the small area of council houses built for rent to the seaward side of the town’s main road (without however overlooking the sea itself, a view reserved for the big houses and hotels, later somewhat ruined by the DART wires and towers). Dún Laoghaire1, long-imagined as a area in which only the affluent or at least comfortably-off lived, nevertheless contained such council (formerly ‘Corporation”) houses in the nearby bottom of York Road, also Cross Avenue, Glasthule, Carriglee Gardens, Monkstown Farm and Sallynoggin areas.
As many of that era, especially among manual workers, Mick’s father died relatively young which left his widow Lilly to care for ten children with all siblings able to work and find employment contributing to the care of the rest.
Mick followed his father Oliver into a skilled manual worker trade, trained and qualified as a gas fitter-plumber and, by reputation, a good one; later he would often carry out repair jobs for neighbours free of charge or in exchange for fish caught nearby or by trawlers that docked in the harbour. “We saw and ate fish that many other people never saw,” said one of his sisters at his funeral reception in the evening.
Amidst the student and youth upsurge of the 1960s around the world, of which Ireland was also a part, many Irish youth of the time became rapidly politicised. The Vietnam War, Black struggles in the USA and South Africa, Civil Rights in the British colony, lack of sufficient housing in the Irish state (just as today!) were issues that engaged lively interest and which to people like Plunkett, called for solidarity and, in Ireland, direct action. At his funeral, Niall Leonach2, formerly of the IRSP, related how Plunkett, at the age of 17, had resisted the neglect of the young apprentices by his union and won improvements by organising a sit-in at the union’s office.
HOUSING AND HISTORY
The Dublin and Bray Housing Action Committees were campaigning for an end to slums and affordable rental housing around the city and Dún Laoghaire soon had its own Housing Action Committee too. Nial Leonach, former comrade of Plunkett’s told the mourners at Mount Jerome that a large public housing building program was initiated as a result of this campaigning, a program that not only replaced derelict inner city tenements but created large new housing areas such as that in Ballybrack in south county Dublin.
The Housing Action campaigns not only squatted homeless families, they also fought evictions, held marches and public meetings. And in at least one case, became involved in a struggle for historical building conservation.
The Dún Laoghaire group joined with conservationists wishing to save Frescati House, a large derelict building on acreage of the property planned by Roches Stores to demolish and convert into a shopping centre. The original building dated from 1739 but had been purchased by the largest landowning family in Ireland at the time, the Fitzgeralds and had wings added and the grounds planted with exotic shrubs. The house had been the childhood residence and favoured retreat of Edward Fitzgerald3, a much-loved leader of the first Irish Republican revolutionary movement, the United Irishmen, as late as 1797, the year before their Rising.
The figures heading the campaign were not only conservationists but fairly conservative too (Desmond Fitzgerald, son of a father of the same name who was Minister in a number of Fine Gael governments, was its chairperson). But it was of course the activist supporters of the DHAC who occupied the building in protest at plans for demolition and were subjected to a baton-wielding police attack to evict them.4
Niall Leonach told the crowd in the Mount Jerome chapel that the criminal charges against the arrested were serious but that as a result of Plunkett’s stratagem of issuing a subpoena for Liam Cosgrave5 to appear as witness for their defence, for the politician had been part of the conservation campaign, the more serious charges were dropped and, on the lesser ones, the penalties were lower-scale fines.
Much of DHAC soon became the Markievicz Cumann of Sinn Féin6, then a very socialist Irish Republican party, particularly in Dublin. The Civil Rights campaign in the British colony of the Six Counties became a focus for activity and Leonach told his audience that Plunkett had been particularly affected by the colonial police killing of a child by indiscriminate fire from machine-guns at a nationalist housing estate, the Divis Flats.
In 1969 the IRA, the military wing of Sinn Féin, was caught unprepared and largely unarmed to face the pogroms in the British colony, which was one of the reasons for the 1970 split in the party, out of which emerged the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin.
Plunkett and others in the Markievicz Cumann, the three Breatnach brothers for example7, viewing the Provos as socially conservative, remained in what was now known as “Official Sinn Féin” but tried to change their party’s direction. Failing in that, they split, along with others such as the charismatic Séamus Costello8 and formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974.
It seems clear that the ruling elite of the Irish State viewed the IRSP and the associated INLA as a threat and decided to go beyond the standard and regular harassment, intimidation and petty and medium arrests9 with which they had been treating all Irish Republicans and some socialist activists.
FRAMED IN DUBLIN AND IN PARIS
On 31st March 1976 the Cork-Dublin mail train was stopped near Sallins, Co. Kildare and around £200,00010 was netted by armed men. The State decided to believe, at least officially that the operation had been carried out by the INLA and armed police raided the homes of 40 members of the IRSP and their families. The Gardaí beat up their victims and obtained “confessions” from a number of them – however, some who gave self-incriminating statements could not have been present and their prosecutions were dropped.11 Eventually, a trial in the political Special Criminal Court proceeded against Plunkett and another three IRSP members: Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly and Brian McNally.
After many abuses of the legal system and the longest judicial procedure in the State, three of the four were convicted on the basis of their tortured “confessions” which they had denied. Forensic “evidence” was provided against the only one who had refused to sign a “confession” – an alleged lock of Plunkett’s hair12 was claimed to have been found at the scene of the robbery; that was insufficient and Plunkett was finally discharged. The others were released after years of campaigning13 and were paid a financial compensation but an official enquiry into the arrests, trials and convictions was never held and currently a campaign for such is underway.14.
Mick Plunkett remained politically active but after his arrest in the vicinity of an armed training camp was charged with “membership” and scheduled to appear before the Special Criminal Court. Plunkett, knowing the chances of acquittal in “the Special” were next to nil, decamped to France.
In Paris he and Mary Reid, a poet-activist and also formerly of the IRSP, shared accommodation. In the summer of 1982, their door was kicked down by armed police of the new special “anti-terrorist” French unit. Both were arrested, along with another Irishman Stephen King and charged with possession of automatic weapons and explosives. This followed the bombing of a delicatessen in the Jewish quarter of the city which was later revealed to have had police complicity.
Plunkett, Reid and King were accused of being part of an Irish-Palestinian cell, a figment of the special unit’s imagination. All three denied the charges and the accusation and the existence of such a cell, insisting that if any weapons and explosives had been found in their accommodation, it had been planted there by the police. Niall Leonach commented to the mourners in Mount Jerome that Plunkett had gone from being involved in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the Irish state to being accused in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the French State’s modern history.
Fortunately for the Irish accused, the special police unit was in serious conflict with the main police force and that helped bring to public view the fact that the armaments had, indeed, been planted on the accused by the “anti-terrorist” police unit. All three were released after nine months in jail and Mary Reid’s nine-year-old son Cathal had been taken into care. The whole case was by then such as to convince the Irish state authorities to refrain from severely embarrassing their French counterparts by requesting Plunkett’s extradition to face his charges in the Special Criminal Court.
Working in London at the time, I read the news about the arrests of Irish political activists in Paris and was shocked to see names I recognised. I remembered the last time I had seen Mick; I had been back in Dún Laoghaire on holiday and with four of my brothers we set off in Mick’s brother Jimmy’s rowing boat from a pier, Mick himself in it too. We had fishing rods and lines and began to fish as we cleared the harbour. Hours later as the sun dropped to the west, we turned back with our varied catch. Once inside the harbour it was quite dark and a large ship entering the harbour appeared to be bearing down on us and we couldn’t find our flashlight. The incident provided more excitement than we had wished for but seemed to give extra taste to the pints in the local pub afterwards.
Mick found happiness for a time with Tracy out of which union came their daughter Natacha. After the Good Friday Agreement Mick felt safe to returned to Ireland but Tracy remained in Paris with their daughter, Natascha visiting him and his extended family by arrangement on occasion. Plunkett seemed to have retired from political activity and had also withdrawn from social contact with many of his former contacts. His health deteriorated significantly but nevertheless his death came as something of a shock to many.
Many came to pay their respects at the funeral parlour where his coffin lay and to watch the wonderful collection of photos collected by his ex-partner, Tracy. His daughter Natacha was there to receive condolences and to offer shots of Irish whisky over the coffin (where tobacco roll-ups were also placed irreverently on the crucifix attached to the woodwork – Mick was reportedly an atheist). Natacha was also at the cremation service in Mount Jerome cemetery with her mother Tracy, where Plunkett’s coffin was covered in the blue version of the Starry Plough flag15 before being removed from the hearse, carried by relations and with the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee, in uniform and white gloves, providing a small ceremonial guard of honour.
Mick’s nephew Karl chaired the event and in turn called Jennifer Holland to give a short talk on Mick and his times followed by Niall Leonach, former General Secretary of the IRSP and close comrade of Plunkett’s, for a longer oration on Mick’s background and activism.
Karl provided many personal anecdotes from his association with his uncle and from within family stories, many of them amusing and some hilarious. He did not however avoid the political and recounted that many of them were kept unaware of the reasons for Mick’s absence and his apparent inability to travel back to Ireland even to visit. It was by going through some papers in his mother’s room that he came across the IRSP pamphlet on the Sallins case and was shocked; confronting his mother, the story began to be told.16
Recollecting the family’s trip to Paris to present two children for baptism in Notre Dame Cathedral which Mick attended, Karl spoke about their warm reception there and being touur-guided around by Plunkett, who had acquainted himself with much of the city’s history. One wonders whether that included the “Wall of the Communards” where in 1871, revolutionaries of the Paris Commune were summarily executed by French firing squads under the command of Marshall Patrice McMahon, descendant of Irish “Wild Geese” refugees from Williamite-controlled Ireland. Plunkett would hardly have been unaware of that history and its irony for the Irish.
SOCIAL, SONG AND FLAG
Later that evening in a large reserved section of the Rochestown Lodge Hotel (formerly the Victor Hotel) just above the large Sallynoggin housing estate, mourners and celebrants gathered to eat, drink and talk. Some had not seen one another for decades. Among the many reminiscences of the social and music scene in Dún Laoghaire in the later decades of the last century, including the remark that “our harbour is a marina now”, one of Mick’s sisters spoke of raids by the Special Branch on their family home, where children would be ordered or pulled out of bed and the mattresses and beds tipped over, allegedly searching for weapons.
Strangely perhaps, there was no performance of musicians or singers or even sing-alongs at the event, though the traditional song The Parting Glass was sung to Plunkett’s daughter Natacha and a small unexpecting audience on the covered patio outside. Later inside, by which time some had left and following a query about a ceramic badge of the Starry Plough worn by one those remaining, a whole length of the original green-and-gold version of the flag was unfurled, causing much interest and queues forming asking to be photographed behind it. And a little later, a man sang Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? to much applause.
This was fitting for as the mourners had been reminded in Mount Jerome, Connolly17 had been a great inspiration to Mick Plunkett’s political activism and to the IRSP too. But not only that, for a building in Dublin city centre, formerly a hostel but empty for many years and very recently occupied by socialist Republicans in Dublin had been named Connolly House and had that very day witnessed a rally held outside it to resist a threatened Garda operation to evict the occupants.
It seemed to me that something other than the remembrance of a retired fighter alone had happened at the Plunkett memorial events, something more than the appropriate marker of a past and finished period in Irish history, as had been suggested by Holland in her oration. It seemed to me that the history of struggle in Ireland for national self-determination and social justice had to an extent been re-invoked, that it appeared to some extent as the ghost of struggles past but also as the gaining substance of struggles present and, in particular, yet to come. I think Mick would have been pleased and, in any case, in defiance of the declarations of Fukuyama and such idealogues, history is nowhere near finished or dead. As some have commented, it is not even past.
1A harbour town seven miles south of Dublin city centre, in Dublin County but administered by DL-Rathdown Council for some years now.
3He is more usually referred to as “Lord Edward Fitzgerald” which, apart from being somewhat historically inaccurate, does him a service. He was a republican, renounced his title and his sister Lucy said of him some years after his death in prison that “He was a paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this.”
4The Wikipedia entry on Frescati House and the campaign makes no mention at all of this sit-in, Garda attack or the subsequent court cases, of which there is ample documentary evidence. Hopefully someone will undertake its appropriate updating.
5Liam Cosgrave was a Fine Gael politician, son of the Leader of the Irish parliamentary Opposition from 1965 to 19873 and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1973 to 1977, W.T Cosgrave.
6The Sinn Féin party has gone through many metamorpheses, from being a reformist dual-monarchy party, to revolutionary republican to constitutionalist. Constance Markievicz was a socialist Republican who took part in the 1916 Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army – the name of a socialist revolutionary woman chosen for the cumann (‘association’, a branch of the SF party at the time) indicated an inclination towards revolution, feminism and socialism.
8Séamus Costello (b. 1939) was murdered by the Official IRA in Dublin on 5th October 1977.
9An example of the medium-seriousness was the charge of “membership of an illegal organisation” under the Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, introduced in 1972 which required only the unsupported word of a Garda officer at rank of superintendent or above for conviction and a virtually automatic jail sentence of one to two years.
10€237,389.81 –without taking into account inflation — for today’s value
11Notably John Fitzpatrick, who years later publicly challenged the State to charge him with the offence to which he had “confessed” – there was no response.
12If it had been Plunkett’s hair, it had to have been planted by the Heavy Gang, since Mick had been nowhere near that scene and, in fact, the robbery had been carried out by the Provisional IRA. In addition, without the later development of DNA testing, all a sample of hair could tell, apart from its natural colour, was the blood-type of its owner.
13Some of those involved at the time, whether as victims or as campaigners, were present at some of the funeral events too, including Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Caoilte and Peetera Schilders-Bhreatnach.
15The flag with a design in the shape of the constellation known as Ursa Mayor was of the Irish Citizen Army, formed to defend the workers during the strike and 8-month lockout of 1913 and later fought in the 1916 Rising. Originally the design was of the constellation in white or silver overlaid by the depiction of a plough in gold, with sword as the plough-share and all on a green background. A later version was the plain blue one with Ursa Mayor outlined in white stars. That version was the one in use by the short-lived Republican Congress of the 1930s and was for many years later, probably up to the end of the century, the main one displayed and therefore familiar to Republicans and socialists (even for years flown by the Irish Labour Party) but has now been largely supplanted by the original green version.
16This is not at all an unusual experience in Ireland and, whether by desire to protect the young, pain of reminiscence or even disapproval, much of our history has been concealed from generations for a time or even completely lost.
17James Connolly, revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, historian, journalist, song-writer and one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, was tried by British military court for his leading role in the Rising and executed by firing squad.
He planned the spectacular helicopter escape from Dublin’s Mountjoy Jail and, a year later, planned another escape from there, blasting their way out with smuggled-in explosives. Before he began planning escapes, he operated early in his IRA career as commander of an armed robbery unit, ‘fund-raising’ for the Movement. But when he began robbing banks for himself and his family, the Movement sent assassins to kill him. Up Like a Bird is the story of that man, Brendan Hughes, nowhere near as celebrated as his other IRA namesake but certainly deserving of much more fame than he has received to date.
Douglas Dalby’s handling of Hughes’ reminiscences, told in Hughes’ voice, is masterly. The book reads like a thriller, hard to put down; we are driven to turn the next page to see what will happen – even when, through history, we know the eventual outcome. We know, for example, that the helicopter escape was carried out and yet, as readers, we tense as Hughes does his investigations, tense tighter as he identifies the components of the plan, moan with frustration at a delay or last-minute hitch, hold our breaths as the action takes place.
The helicopter escape was carried out on 31st October 1973 and from the prison exercise yard three high-level IRA officers were flown to freedom: Chief of Staff Séamus Twomey and senior Volunteers JB O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon. The following year, on 18th August 1974, 19 prisoners escaped, blasting their way through a gate with a small amount of smuggled gelignite. Not only had Hughes planned that operation – he himself was leading the escapers.
Apart from the excitement in reading, the book gives us an insight into the world of IRA volunteers active in Dublin and surrounding areas in the 1970s – the ‘safe-houses’ and network of active supporters, the ‘fund-raising’, stolen getaway cars, false identification documents, high-level awareness of the hunted, carrying concealed weapons, the even better-armed police ….
The Mountjoy helicopter escape revealed something even more important and enduring – the cultural bedrock within the Irish state, the sharp division between the elite and the mass. Although the majority of politicians had voted in 1972 for repressive legislation against Republicans and special no-jury courts to sentence them, a song celebrating the escape reached No.1 in the Irish singles disc charts, selling 12,000 copies in the first week despite being banned by the national broadcaster, RTÉ! Composed by Sean McGinley from Castlefin, Co. Donegal and performed by the folk and ‘rebel song’ band The Wolfe Tones1, Up and Away (the Helicopter Song) became the most-played and most-purchased disc for four weeks until nudged out by Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody. It is tempting to think that if the escape had taken place a longer period before the approach of the festive season, that the recording might have remained at the top of the charts for months on end. The counterposing of the anger and embarrassment in elite circles, reflected in ranting of politicians, Garda sweeps and raids and media outrage on the one hand, with the delight and empathy at the lower levels revealed much of the tensions in Irish society and the opposing sympathies of different social classes.
Hughes was a maverick, revelling in the description and though for much of his career that was of value to the Provos, there came a time when it ceased to be so. A guerrilla army must have discipline, of course but it also needs volunteers who can quickly assess a situation and seize the initiative, without referring back to the command structure. The balance between both requirements must be very hard to strike — for individuals as well as for the organisation.
When he and other such activists fell out with their leaderships or “went solo”, they were shunned or worse. In Hughes’ final spell in Mountjoy jail, he was on the “non-aligned” wing of the jail, a Republican prisoner but not under Republican leadership control.
Hughes says that assassins were sent to kill him – he stayed low and carried a loaded .44 Magnum. The leadership of the Republican movement does not always shoot or beat up its dissidents – more usually, it seeks to isolate them. Friends, neighbours, former comrades and even relatives will be advised to shun those no longer welcome, they and their families.
The family feeling, the communal solidarity in the movement becomes its opposite when the leadership brands its pariahs.
Hughes feels he was betrayed to the political police, the Special Branch of the Irish State. But what he says he felt the worst was the treatment of his family while he was in jail. No space on a Republican prison visitor communal transport was made available to his wife and children and cars containing former friends and acquaintances would pass them at the side of the road, even in the rain.
It seems Hughes finds that unforgivable — and no wonder.
As a postscript, Hughes surprisingly declares his support for the Good Friday Agreement, the pacification process. He had been a man of action and, as he said himself, not one for thinking through ideology or politics. But it doesn’t take any great grasp of ideology or politics to see that today it’s more or less business as before in a partitioned Ireland occupied by a foreign power.
UP LIKE A BIRD, Hughes, Brendan; Dalby, Douglas (2022)
1Named after Theobald Wolfe Tone, a leader of Irish republican revolutionary organisation the United Irishmen, died in prison in 1798.
The revolutionary Basque socialist coordination organisation Jardun Koordinadora organised a celebration of Aberri Eguna, the Basque national day, combining political, social and cultural forms. Aberri Eguna takes place annually on Easter Sunday, a date chosen by its founder Elias Gallestegi based on a traditional commemoration day of the Easter Rising in Ireland. Aberri Eguna was first celebrated in Bilbo in 1932 attended by 65,000 people, including members of Emakume Abertzale Batza1, the Basque nationalist women’s organisation founded by Gallestegi also in emulation of the Irish organisation Cumann na mBan. Around 1,000 people, with a high representation of youth but also of veterans of the struggle, attended the events in Gernika2.
The Irish connection was reiterated on Sunday by the reading at the political rally of messages of solidarity from three Irish-based sources: Anti-Imperialist Action, Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland and Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee.
Jardun Koordinatora is a relatively new initiative which is a sharp departure from the trajectory in recent decades of the official leadership of the Abertzale Left, a trajectory which has served to dismember and dishearten the movement.
La Haine Report
(Translation by Dublin Basque with explanatory notes in italics)
The different organisations comprising this Coordination (Jardun) demonstrated in Gernika under the slogans “Aberri gorria, biharko Euskal Herria, “Independentzia eta Sozialismoa”, “Euskal Herrilangilea Aurrera”, “Presoak Kalera Amnistia osoa” and “Amnistiarik gabe bakerik ez” (“Bright future in tomorrow’s Basque Country” “Independence and Socialism”, “Forward Basque workers”, “Prisoners Free with Full Amnesty” and “No Peace Without Amnesty”).
This Sunday, April 17, the JARDUN Coordination convened the Aberri Eguna (Basque National Day) gathering some 1,000 people to claim the national objective of the Basque Working People.
Along with a Zanpantzar group (performers with bells in traditional costumes representing animals), the event began with a march starting from Plaza Mercurio and during the journey different acts were carried out to demand prisoner amnesty and rights for working women. The event ended with the speeches read in Pasealeku Plaza: the first two were messages of solidarity sent by Anti-Imperialist Action and Anti-Internment Committee (both of Ireland) and ended with the political statement of the JARDUN Coordination.
The demonstration went smoothly. However, the bus that departed from Irunea/ Pamplona had problems getting there because the National Police stopped it in Urdiain, taking details of the occupants.
To conclude, JARDUN Coordination stated that the only alternative for the Basque Working People will come from the hand of independence and socialism. To conclude, the Internationale and the Eusko Gudariak (Basque Soldier) were sung.
Jardun Statement for Aberri Eguna 2022 (Translated by D.Breatnach from text supplied in Castillian Spanish)
Under capitalism, we workers are condemned to survive. We build our lives around work and the exploitation we suffer in it, while the bourgeoisie lives at the expense of this work. Such is the dynamic of capital. This is the logic of the economic system currently in force in the world. That is why it is important to clearly identify and point out the adversary facing us; because the capitalist system, the bourgeoisie, normalises and legitimises the fears and the repression that it produces daily to absorb the blood of the workers.
But with 19 years in prison for the freedom of his people, the murder of Iván Colona, a direct consequence of the criminal French prison policy, is not normal. The situation of the working people of Ireland, suffering from crushing British occupation for more than 800 years, is not normal. After eight long years of war, the situation of the working people of Donbass, who experience bombings, murders and massacres on a daily basis, is not normal. And much more heinous, outside of the norm, are the attempts to whitewash and legitimise criminal institutions such as NATO murderers.
We must situate ourselves in that context, understand within that reality, the situation that Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) is experiencing. Today our country are controlled by both the French and Spanish states. Not only do both these states not recognise Euskal Herria but they carry out an oppression based on that denial against the working class of Euskal Herria. In effect, we must understand well that, beyond the national question providing the a joint market for the states, the working class can only use the political project of the bourgeoisie as an element of unity to support and protect it, promoting interclassist attitudes.
The aforementioned denial, as well as the attacks carried out by the Spanish and French States against the Basque Working People, must be understood as an ideological motivation of the national State. We must, therefore, situate the oppression of Euskal Herria in the very creation of the Spanish and French capitalist states; because the objective of the denial is clear, the assimilation of Euskal Herria. To do this, the states take advantage of the institutions aimed at creating divisions and gaps in the Basque consciousness. And to protect these institutions and guarantee the supremacy of the bourgeoisie, they take advantage of dogs of various colours to attack the working people. To promote alienation and renounce our identity, in addition to normalising the attacks against the language, they have turned the Basque language and culture into souvenirs of a territory that today wants to dedicate itself to tourism, since for the bourgeoisie everything is business, to the point of commodifying our places of residence.
This being the case, given that denial is a decision of a political nature, we must cover with a political character the oppression experienced by Euskal Herria to view it with a class vision. We have to be clear about the concept of the political nature with regard to Euskal Herria nationality. Therefore, we have to fight against normalised oppression. Along this path, it is up to the workers of Euskal Herria to build our own political project and in response to this we have to equip ourselves with our own institutions that have to arise out of the counter-power that we need to form. And for this it is necessary for a Workers’ Euskal Herria to break politically with the Spanish and French states.
These States offer the working people the use and threat of both persecution and violence, within the capitalist system that condemns the working class to servitude for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. For this reason, to carry out the aforementioned political rupture, political confrontation must be a valued concept in order to carry out the political project of the workers of Euskal Herria. Political confrontation must also be the engine of the revolutionary process aimed at achieving an independent and socialist Basque state in Euskal Herria.
For this, it is necessary to take the revolutionary process to the extreme and form a political body that must feed the revolutionary alternative. Specifically, a political body to be formed by organised workers in favour of national and social liberation and the sale of their labour power in the Basque Country. A political body that is committed to achieving an independent and socialist Basque State. Because the Basque Working People cannot be limited to the forms of work authorised by the capitalist system. These not only destroy the revolutionary potential of the working class, but are aimed at sustaining and reproducing the ideology of the bourgeoisie; because the enemy will not give, in any way, more than he is willing to give. The bourgeoisie will not voluntarily give up its privileges.
It is essential to set in motion the revolutionary process that must take place on the path of a classless society, towards the acquisition of political power by the working class; the aforementioned subject will only be achieved through the confrontation carried out with the capitalist state. Through the counter-power built in the confrontation, the Basque Working People must articulate revolutionary structures that wear down the centres of power of the oppressor and guarantee his liberation against the exploiters, to guarantee the achievements obtained during the revolutionary process. Because the political power of the Basque Working People must be based on counter power. In other words, the revolutionary alternative of the working people will be built and take root as the control and power of the capitalist states over the workers of the Basque Country is annulled. The revolutionary alternative must be a comprehensive political alternative that satisfies the needs of the Basque Working People.
It must be understood that this will be capable of leading struggles based on the activation and commitment of the workers. Therefore, in order to weave and build a revolutionary alternative at this time, the priority is the activation of workers aimed at promoting the ideological struggle and mobilization, understanding the JARDUN coordinator as an instrument to achieve this. In short, JARDUN is a framework created with the aim of promoting the organisation of bodies and militants to win the freedom of Euskal Herria. Its objective is that, under a common political project and strategic approach, each organisation carries out its contribution in specific political areas, but that all act within the framework of a common strategy and direction.
We have to be aware that this will be achieved through gradual activation and participation through the awareness of the Basque Working People. In this process, the revolutionary process itself will be carried out gradually, and the Alternative of the Basque Working People must carry out struggles based on the different forces, conditions and problems of the moment. As its political work deepens and Basque workers’ participation in the Coordination increases, JARDUN will create new framework organisations and acquire comprehensiveness and integrity, with the revolutionary movement’s priority being to create the conditions to achieve it.
When talking about the liberation of Euskal Herria, self-determination is a frequently mentioned term: self-determination, a term that appears many times when a nation is subjected to the sovereignty of another against its will. But when we speak of self-determination, considering the revolutionary process developed under a counter-power based on political rupture, we are not referring, in any way, to the vote marked, accepted and facilitated by the States that persecute Euskal Herria, but to the process of separation of one nation from the state structures of another nation. Self-determination as synonymous with the revolutionary process that must be carried out to achieve an independent and socialist Basque State, in the case of Euskal Herria.
Autonomism, because it is a struggle based on the management of the remains provided by the states, is not an option. It is not a legitimate choice on the table for the revolutionary movement, since this implies reformism and the strengthening of the position of power and subjugation of the States, together with the renunciation of the strategic objectives aimed at the liberation of the Basque Working People. However, it would be a serious mistake to believe that, through national liberation, the liberation of the workers will take place mechanically. This must be understood within the class struggle, in which we must place self-determination itself within the class conflict.
On the other hand, there exists the denial, underestimation or rejection of the national question, the strengthening of the repression that the capitalist states carry out and accepting the framework of the oppressive nation imposed, in the name of socialism, with the argument of unity of the workers. Regarding the national issue, the lack of correct position also allows the French and Spanish States to continue applying unjust laws and coercion, helping to hide the dimension of oppression suffered by the working class of Euskal Herria. Keeping silent before a crushing stomp, since taking a neutral position means protection from crushing; taking neutral positions allows oppressive power relations to continue unchanged over time and space, perpetuating them.
Consequently, the mere demand for independence only benefits the interest and political project of the bourgeoisie of the Basque Country. And the socialism that in Euskal Herria does not address the national question goes hand-in-hand with denial, denying in class parameters the revolutionary potential of the national question. The achieving of the independent and socialist State must be the result of the revolutionary process of Euskal Herria due to the national oppression suffered by the Basque workers. Revolutionary alternatives beyond the essential defence of independence and socialism must be the basis of the political position of the Basque Working People. They are only alternative for the Basque Working People, because it inevitably comes hand-in-hand with independence and socialism.
Long live a free Basque Country!
Long live a socialist Basque Country!
1A strong organisation in the antifascist resistance to the fascist-military uprising against the Spanish Republic but no longer in existence.
On 9th April, the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held another of its regular awareness-rising events in the city, this time on on the northside, at the junction of the busy shopping Henry Street and Liffey Street.
Supporters lined up with the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland banner and placards. In addition to the Starry Plough of the Irish working class, the Palestinian and the Basque flags were flown in symbols of solidarity and also as a demonstration that political prisoners are held in many countries around the world.
Going on for 200 of the AIGI’s leaflets were distributed, explaining that Irish Republicans continue to be held in custody without trial through the practice of refusal of bail and through revocation of licence. This practice by administrations on both sides of the British Border are anti-democratic suppression of the right to hold political opinions and to organise in their furtherance.
Recordings of relevant songs were played on a portable PA, such as The Roll of Honour, Viva la Quinze Brigada and Something Inside So Strong. Throughout the period of the event, two Special Branch (plainclothes political police) kept up an obvious surveillance which however did not deter the picketers.
The Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland is an independent broad and democratic committee, endeavouring to hold regular awareness-raising events and all democratic people are welcome to attend its public events, always advertised in advance on its Facebook page.
SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE RALLIES ORGANISED BY JARDUN IN RESPONSE TO THE MURDER OF CORSICAN POLITICAL PRISONER YVAN COLONNA (Se encuentra la versión anterior en castellano/español al fondo)
Yvan Colonna was from a young age a member of the Corsican liberation movement. After being forced to remain in hiding for four years, he was arrested in 2003, accused of participating in an action carried out by an anonymous group. The accusation was based on statements of several of the movement’s members detained at the police station, who later rejected the statements but Yvan was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Colonna was left in a very serious coma after the beating by a jihadist prisoner in Arles prison. On Monday of this week, Yvan passed away after three weeks in hospital. During that time there were riots denouncing the role of the French state in Yvan’s murder.
Yvan was murdereded by the penitentiary policy of dispersal and the conditions of the prison. We in the JARDUN Coordination charge that the beating and death received by Yvan was a direct consequence of the penitentiary policy of the French State. Likewise, we want to underline the need to create an organisation in support of the freedom of political prisoners and the fight against oppression and exploitation.
It should not be forgotten that in Corsica, the struggle for independence has been ongoing for decades with the aim of overcoming the political-economic system imposed by the French State and fighting for a popular and democratic government that would act in favour of the Corsican people. The struggle of the Corsicans is the struggle against French imperialism, against the oppression of the local working people and against the exploitation they suffer.
In Euskal Herria (the Basque Country – Trans.) we are well aware of the repression and oppression by oppressive states and we are witnesses to the massacres committed so many times by the French State. Because we cannot forget the imperialist attitude of the French State in Algiers and other colonies, becoming, together with the United States, the main promoters of contemporary torture.
All of this shows us nothing less than the need for the organisation of the working class. It is evident that both the imperialist power and the oppressive States exercise a monopoly on violence to defend their economic interests and, in every nation, those who pay are always the working class.
It is time to denounce the fraud of social peace, it is time to denounce the warlike attitude of NATO, in Donbass, the Sahara, Palestine, today they are waging endless wars in defence of the interests of imperialism and its servants — and in view of this, it is time to awaken internationalist solidarity!
For this reason, we in JARDUN proclaim that it is time to turn to revolutionary organisation for all working people! Because only the organised people can offer real help and, as far as we are concerned, only the Basque working people can obstruct the participation of the Spanish and French States, organizing themselves in Euskal Herria to face the enemy, working for a political system in favour of the Basque working people.
We are clear that struggle is the only way and we will loudly proclaim that we have to confront the enemy, exploitation and class oppression. That is why we encourage you to join the organisation, because it is time to fight, it is essential to resist!
AGUR ETA OHORE YVAN! (Farewell with Honour Yvan!)
GORA KORSIKAKO HERRI LANGILEAREN BORROKA! (Long live the struggle of the Corsican working people!)
GORA EUSKAL HERRIA ASKATUTA! (Long live a free Basque Country!).
Lectura lanzada en las concentraciones organizadas por JARDUN ante el asesinato de Yvan Colonna
Yvan Colonna era miembro del movimiento de liberación corso, en el que militó desde joven. Tras ser obligada a permanecer 4 años en la clandestinidad, fue detenida en 2003 acusada de participar en una acción llevada a cabo por un grupo anónimo. La acusación se fundamenta en la declaración de varios de los miembros detenidos en la comisaría, que posteriormente rechazaron la declaración, pero Yvan fue condenado a cadena perpetua.
Colonna quedó en coma muy grave tras la paliza de un preso yihadista en la cárcel de Arlés. El lunes de esta semana, Yvan falleció cuando llevaba 3 semanas hospitalizado. Con el objetivo de denunciar el papel del Estado francés en el asesinato de Yvan desde que ingresó en hospital, durante ese tiempo ha habido disturbios.
Yvan fue asesinado por la política penitenciaria por la dispersión vivida y las condiciones de la prisión. Desde la coordinadora JARDUN denunciamos que la paliza y la muerte recibida por Yvan ha sido consecuencia directa de la política penitenciaria del estado francés. Asimismo, queremos subrayar la necesidad de articular una organización a favor de la libertad de los presos políticos y de la lucha contra la opresión y la explotación.
No hay que olvidar que en Córcega, la lucha por la independencia se ha dado durante décadas con el objetivo de superar el sistema político económico impuesto por el Estado francés y luchar por un gobierno popular y democrático que actuara en favor del pueblo corso. La lucha de los corsos es la lucha contra el imperialismo francés, la opresión del pueblo obrero local y la lucha contra la explotación que sufren.
En Euskal Herria conocemos bien la represión y la opresión de los estados opresores y somos testigos de las masacres cometidas tantas veces por el Estado francés. Porque no podemos olvidar la actitud imperialista del Estado francés en Argel y otras colonias, llegando a ser, junto con los Estados Unidos, los principales impulsores de la tortura contemporánea.
Todo ello no nos demuestra más que la necesidad de la organización de la clase trabajadora.. Es evidente que tanto la potencia imperialista como los Estados opresores ejercen el monopolio de la violencia para defender sus intereses económicos, y en todo pueblo, su pagador, es siempre la clase obrera.
Es hora de denunciar el fraude de la paz social, es tiempo de denunciar la actitud guerrera de la OTAN, Donbass, el Sáhara, Palestina, hoy en día están dando un sinfín de guerras en defensa de los intereses del imperialismo y de sus siervos, ¡y ante eso es tiempo de despertar la solidaridad internacionalista!
Para ello, desde JARDUN proclamamos que es hora de volcarse en la organización revolucionaria para todo pueblo obrero!! ¡Porque sólo el pueblo organizado puede ofrecer una verdadera ayuda, y en lo que a nosotros se refiere, sólo el pueblo trabajador vasco puede interrumpir la participación de los Estados Español y Francés, organizándose en Euskal Herria para hacer frente al enemigo, trabajando por un sistema político a favor del pueblo trabajador vasco.
Nosotros tenemos claro que la lucha es el único camino y proclamaremos en voz alta que tenemos que enfrentar al enemigo, a la explotación y la opresión de clase. Por eso os animamos a uniros a la organización, porque es tiempo de lucha, ¡es imprescindible resistir!
The online publication Middle East Eye published on March 22nd an open letter from Palestinian political analyst As’ad Ghanem sharply criticising the Ukrainian President, Volodomir Zelensky, for the latter’s March 20th speech by Zoom before the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The Palestinian academic’s criticism was, at base, entirely irrational.
As’ad Ghanem is a senior lecturer at the School of Political Sciences, University of Haifa. Ghanem’s theoretical work has explored the legal, institutional and political conditions in ethnic states. He has covered issues such as Palestinian political orientations, the establishment and political structure of the Palestinian Authority, and majority-minority politics in a comparative perspective. His books include Palestinian Politics after Arafat: A Failed National Movement (Indiana Series in Middle East Studies). Ghanem has initiated several empowerment programs for Palestinians in Israel.
Ghanem’s opening paragraph, though a denunciation of Zelensky’s speech, seemed to display a misapprehension of the conflict in the Ukraine and of Zelensky’s role there: Your recent speech before the Israeli Knesset was a disgrace when it comes to global struggles for freedom and liberation, particularly of the Palestinian people. You reversed the roles of occupier and occupied. You missed another opportunity to demonstrate the justice of your cause and the broader cause of freedom.
Any hope that Ghanem’s words were some kind of subtle attack on imperialism in Eastern Europe, an exposure of its false defence of national sovereignty, democracy and freedom, were swiftly expelled in reading the third and fourth paragraphs of his letter:
I am angry and sad that Russia is seeking to occupy your country and to crush the rights of the Ukrainian people to self-determination and freedom, and I believe that every possible support must be given to Ukrainians as they resist this barbaric aggression……
And while I admire your success in building a large international coalition to support your struggle against Russian aggression, I wish we as Palestinians could persuade the world to mobilise in a similar fashion, and force Israel to abide by international resolutions.
But Ghanem wants to show that although he may be a liberal, he is also an anti-imperialist. So he adds the following line to his third paragraph: At the same time, I reject the policies of the US and its Nato allies around the globe.
What an irrational position to hold! “The policies of the US and its Nato allies around the world” being enacted are precisely what is causing the current conflict in the Ukraine and it is those forces that are backing Zelensky and employing him in their contention with Russia.
Asad Ghanem’s plaintive criticism and appeal to Zelensky and — by implication — to imperialism exposes the ideological bankruptsy of the liberal critics of imperialism1. He is disappointed by Zelensky’s support for the murderous and racist rule of Israeli Zionism and sees it as somehow in contradiction with his position in the Ukrainian state’s conflict with Russia.
TO GAIN UNDERSTANDING, ASK BASIC QUESTIONS
The answers to a few simple questions would have disabused Ghanem and other pro-Palestinian liberal critics of imperialism of any confusion or illusion about the situation: Which major imperialist military bloc is supporting the Ukraine in the current conflict? NATO. Which imperialist state controls NATO at least since 1951? The USA. Which power fundamentally props up and defends the Zionist state? US imperialism.
Even without any consideration of the reported Zionist state’s training and arming of the Ukrainian Azov, Zelensky’s stance towards Israeli Zionism is entirely in line with his alliances and Ghanem’s criticism completely irrational. If Zelensky is to be criticised politically for anything, it is for perhaps making his alliances so clear.
RATIONAL STANCE TOWARDS IMPERIALISM
Ghanem concludes his letter thus:
I know that most Palestinians are watching your stubborn struggle and wishing you victory over Russia’s brutal aggression. (Really? I sincerely doubt it – DB2). I also know that a Russian victory would be a great gift to Israel’s aggressive posture – a victory for its “Iron Wall” concept, which regulates its dealings with us until our complete defeat.
On the other hand, the struggle and victory of your people, even with the destruction of much of your country and the displacement of scores of Ukrainians, would give hope to other peoples struggling against oppression and erasure, rekindling our hopes for return and liberation. To this end, I urge you to stop supporting our oppressors.
The only rational stands towards imperialism are outright support or outright opposition — and the latter is the revolutionary position. Liberals want to criticise imperialism without being revolutionary, presumably because they feel more comfortable in the imperialist world than fear they would in a revolutionary one. They ask imperialism (which is what they usually mean by “the international community”) to remedy a situation here and there, a situation that usually only exists directly or indirectly because of imperialism.
Of course, imperialism regularly disappoints them but, like besotted lovers in an abusive relationship, they never learn, they never abandon their relationship but instead keep returning, asking their partner to behave better this time.
1Which is certainly no worse than that of the appalling stance of a major part of the Western Left
2“The two Arab Israeli (this is Zionist apartheid code for Palestinians – DB) parties chose to snub Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to the Knesset on Sunday night, with only one Arab lawmaker out of their 10 MPs showing up. Joint List chief Ayman Odeh skipped the speech, as did the two other lawmakers from his Hadash faction, party officials said. A spokesperson for Odeh did not respond to a request for comment. “Our position is that NATO and its leader America imposed this war,” said Mansour Dahamsheh, the Hadash party’s secretary-general, in a phone call with The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-israeli-mks-skip-zelenskys-knesset-speech-nato-imposed-this-war/