Gustavo Petro and the Civic – Military Campaigns

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh looks at the new government in Colombia and how it talks of peace while increasing militarisation. English language version first published in Redline, 24th November, reprinted with kind permission of author.

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

The Petro–Márquez government is one which proposes to bring us to what they term Total Peace.

The term and the proposal as such have been subjected to justifiable criticism, not least because it places the insurgency of the ELN on the same footing as armed drug trafficking groups. 

But there is another aspect of their government that calls upon us to reflect on what Petro – Márquez understand as peace and a demilitarized society that breaks with the past and the present of a repressive state where the answer to everything is a military response. 

A first step would be to remove the military from civilian settings. But Petro has already made statements that indicate that neither he nor Márquez think that. 

Shortly after taking on the presidency, he declared that the answer to deforestation of the Amazon was not only military, but Yankee. 

In their electoral campaign their proposal was different, they did not talk about the military anywhere, but rather of democracy, autonomy, measures against drug trafficking and money laundering.

We will stop the deforestation and the burning of the jungle.  We will dismantle the engines of deforestation, amongst them: displacement of the unemployed and landless peasants from the interior of the country towards the Amazon; land grabbers and promoters of extensive cattle ranching and other monocultures; corruption in public bodies; laundering of foreign currency through the purchase of deforested land, a by-product of drug trafficking and corruption; the uncontrolled extraction of wood etc.[1]

And he also said that the pacts to protect the jungle would be with the communities and not national or foreign militaries.

We will build a broad national pact of regional and global importance for the environmental defence of the Amazon, Orinoco and the biogeographic corridor of the Pacific.  We will set up community agreements for the regeneration and ecological restoration of these eco-systems based on organisational processes, proposing to increase the size of collective territories, registry of plots and the strengthening of traditional and ancestral authorities.  We will recognise the rural communities’ own lifestyle in strategic eco-systems and their own ecological and economic forms of production in these habitats, as well as their own environmental management.[2]

It all sounds very nice, but it goes hand in hand with militarisation.  He proposed a sort of military alliance with the USA to avoid the burning of the jungle, copying the already existing model in Brazil where the USA has a base from which to put out fires. 

Of course, in Brazil the mining and logging companies, etc. invade the territory with the approval of the government.  The presence of north American troops never prevented any of the extractionist policies and less still poverty under the governments of Lula, Dilma and Bolsonaro.

As others have pointed out, it is nothing more than the militarisation of environmentalism and it is an old slogan of the imperialists that they should be in charge wherever they want and that includes the Amazon.

They used to brandish the anti-narcotics struggle as an excuse and now it is global warming.  Al Gore once said that “The Amazon is not their property, it belongs to us all”.  Of course, by us, this miscreant means Yankee imperialism: the USA. 

It is the same discourse they have in relation to oil; it does not belong to the countries that have it but rather to all of us i.e. the US and European companies.  Al Gore’s fame as an environmentalist is undeserved but his reputation as an old imperialist is completely justified. 

Other governments have come out with similar feelings, Gore’s was not an individual outburst.  Macron, NATO as such and the influential magazine Foreign Policy have argued for a military intervention in the region with the aim of protecting the planet.[3]

For the moment, Petro is not in favour of Colombia becoming a member of NATO, rather he proposes a regional military alliance.[4]  Against whom would this alliance fight is not at all clear, or whether it would simply be an unofficial appendage to NATO. 

We should be concerned and not just a little bit.  In November he met with representatives of the US Embassy and the Subsecretary of Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland.  Following the meeting Nuland tweeted.

Thank you, Gustavo Petro President of Colombia for our productive meeting reaffirming the importance of our continued partnership on security, peace, progress for Venezuela and protecting our planet.[5]

Bearing in mind the murky past of Nuland in Ukraine in 2014, we should be very careful with her, but there are those who believe that Petro is charge.

It is not the only issue where he proposes military rather than civilian solutions.  Faced with the lack of access to healthcare in the territories of the Pacific, he also proposed to militarise the response.  The Pacific is one of the regions with the worst indicators in the area of healthcare. 

Nobody doubts about the need for an urgent and comprehensive response for the region.  The military boat USNS Comfort visited Colombia to provide medical assistance. 

It was not the first time, the said boat has visited the country four times as part of the Continuing Promise[6] mission, a medical and public relations initiative of the US, deploying its Soft Power.

This boat also took part in the two wars in Iraq as a military hospital, and in the invasion of Haití in 1994.  Petro’s response on Twitter was:

I am grateful for this support in healthcare from the US government to the people of the Caribbean.  It is important that we think about the Pacific.  A mission for the National Navy, along with the building of the first frigate “made in Colombia” will be the building of a hospital ship.[7]

In a non-militarised state healthcare should be under the remit of the Ministry of Health and not the Ministry of Defence, but Petro – Márquez want to bring healthcare to the Pacific through military rather than civilian institutions.

Such incoherence with his public discourse!

In previous governments the military has used its economic power and civic-military days as part of its military and armed operations. 

The mobilisation of troops and the demand for collaboration from the civilian population is justified on the basis of access to medical services that are provided for by civilians in Bogotá and other parts of the country without the need to explain themselves to military institution in the midst of a war.

The Petro – Márquez government is also going to continue with the proposal of the Santos government to build a military base on the Gorgona Island. It is worth remembering that Santos was one of these other men of peace that are in abundance in Colombia: hawks dressed as doves. 

The Gorgona Island was, for many years, a penal colony, the Colombian version of the infamous Devil’s Island immortalised in Papillon film with Steve McQueen.  In 1982 it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO due to it high ecological value. 

A deserted beach in Gorgona National Park, an island 21 miles off Colombia’s Pacific coast and a UNESCO World Heritage ecological site — Petro plans to put a military base there. (Image sourced: Internet)

Now they want to go ahead with the plan to place a military base there.  What is new in the Petro – Márquez government is that there is a rumour that the USA will have access to the base. 

It is not an absurd idea, as the project has anti-narcotic aims and is financed by the US Embassy in the country.[8]  With absolute certainty, the DEA will at least have access to it. 

There are alternatives, such as a warship as a centre of operations.  Petro wants the Navy to build a hospital ship but is not up to telling them to build a ship for what does fall within its remit.

He says he wants peace but he wants to promote the military at every turn, even turning up every time he can wearing military caps. 

So far, he hasn’t acted ridiculous like Iván Duque dressing up as a police officer in the midst of the National Strike of 2021, but as his supporters point out he has only been president for a little more than 100 days and we have to give him time. 

In every circus you have to wait for the clowns to come in.  We can’t always see the lion-tamer but clowns and clownish antics are always there.

Some social climbers from social and human rights organisations ran to take up posts in the ministries of Defence and also the Interior. 

They used to be critics of the armed forces and police of the state, now they look out for its good name in the area of human rights and international humanitarian law.  They also promote the military at each turn. 

The recently appointed Alexandra González, a former functionary of the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners, who is now the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of National Defence published an effusive tweet full of praise of the Ministry of Defence that stated “Military engineers will build tertiary road to benefit the peasant population.”[9] 

She doesn’t understand that the armed forces are never for anything other than war, even in peace time they are preparing for war.  It is their only function.  In any case, no one can explain why the military have to the ones that are building those roads. 

But as a good political opportunist she claims as her own that which does not belong to her.  On twitter they replied to her, pointing out that those projects were old ones. 

A retired military officer and former advisor to the High Commissioner for Peace pointed her in the direction of an article in the regional newspaper El Quindiano written by himself, speaking of the beginning of these civic – military projects in the 1960s.[10]

All governments have carried out infrastructural projects through the Ministry of Defence and in all governments, they were referred to as peace projects.

Perhaps the fugitives from the human rights organisations feel the need to say that it is new in order not to make evident that there is a continuity between this government and all of the previous ones. 

I don’t understand why they signed up to the non-binding declaration on safe schools, if they are promoting the military presence in all other aspects of civilian life. 

The ideal situation would be to not permit the military to use schools as bases or human shields in the midst of fighting nor use the military to build infrastructural projects.

If the government was really progressive (an imprecise term) it would remove the civilian contracts from the military, healthcare would be the exclusive responsibility of health bodies and not the military, it would not propose a military alliance in a world with an excess of them.

And the symbols that Peto would put on a pedestal would be civilian ones, from the people, the communities, even from some trade union, even if it were just out of pure nostalgia, as when he was Mayor of Bogotá he didn’t think much of unions.

End.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Véase https://gustavopetro.co/programa-de-gobierno/temas/propuestas-por-territorio/amazonia/

[2] Colombia Potencia Mundial de la Vida, Programa de Gobierno 2022 – 2024 pp 14 y 15 (disponible en https://gustavopetro.co

[3] Harris, R. (28/10/2022) NATO in the Amazon: Petro Plays with Fire https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/10/28/nato-in-the-amazon-petro-plays-with-fire/

[4] See https://twitter.com/mperelman/status/1592165003154853889?s=20&t=lUaSWKgD_-bO6wY-w4ELQA

[5] See https://twitter.com/USEmbassyBogota/status/1593757340737601544?t=bRqM8J-icRG6EKJuQMhCZA&s=35  

[6] See https://www.msc.usff.navy.mil/Ships/Comfort/History/

[7] See https://twitter.com/petrogustavo/status/1592199983943802880?s=20&t=nEMFaz_35YUU4LQXXZz0zA

[8] El Tiempo (26/10/2022) Pese a cuestionamientos, la Armada construirá muelle en Gorgona https://www.eltiempo.com/vida/medio-ambiente/gorgona-pese-a-cuestionamientos-la-armada-construira-muelle-712305

[9] See https://twitter.com/alexandraG_Z/status/1593927119352078336?s=20&t=wY2X-DPk17I-e4hnsLAJ3w

[10] Castaño, C. (24/03/2022) Un plan militar para la paz https://www.cronicadelquindio.com/opinion/opinion/un-plan-militar-para-la-paz

The British Royal Family and its contribution to humanity

Delighted to repost with thanks another contribution to recent discussion of the British monarchy — delayed by technological difficulties.

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

11 September 2022

The British monarch Elizabeth Windsor, formerly Saxe Coburg Gotha, has died at the grand old age of 96, thanks in no small part to the subsidised lifestyle and medical care she enjoyed throughout her long life.  Her death has produced the usual outpouring of manufactured grief from the media and also “genuine” grief from a sector of that population groomed by that same media.

But what is to be said of her passing?  There has been some reaction to her death that concentrated on her being a mother and grandmother.  But we were not invited to mourn the passing of mothers or grandmothers, but the death of a monarch and all that monarchy represented.  So, before we look at the legacy of Elizabeth Windsor we should ask ourselves what is monarchy.  The Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed by the British state under the reign of George V, stated in relation to that same king’s visit to Ireland.

What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.(1)

In this, Connolly only described monarchies in general as the most ignorant and backward manifestations of humanity.  It is a point that bourgeois revolutionaries such as Rousseau and Voltaire would not have disagreed with.  In fact, it was a standard capitalist argument for much of history.  However, various capitalist nations hung on to their royal households, either as symbolic figures or as propaganda figures for their campaigns and conquests.

Much is now made of the contribution of Mrs Windsor to society, the arts, and even peace through her now celebrated handshake with Martin McGuinness, though who gave more in that handshake is not questioned.  Connolly was very clear about the contribution of monarchies to the progress of society.

Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the species. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanizing of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogized today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes.(2)

Connolly had no truck with royalty.  No time for tales of cute old grannies who shook the hands of erstwhile enemies.  Any evaluation of the queen of the British state has to go beyond her supposed personal qualities. Criticisms of royals are not well received.  When the then British diplomat and future Irish revolutionary, Roger Casement, exposed the atrocities of the Belgium king Leopold II in Congo and his mass murder of over ten million Congolese, the report was not well received initially and the descendants of the man who murdered more than Hitler are the actual monarchs in Belgium and are apparently a lovely couple and third cousins of Mrs. Windsor.  Discussions about royalty are not about the individual qualities of the monarchs but the system as such.  Though even on this point Mrs. Windsor comes a cropper.

In 1972 the British army murdered 14 civilians in Derry on what was to be the last Civil Rights march in the country.  The British quickly engaged in a cover up which basically blamed those murdered as having been armed members of the IRA.  Everyone now accepts that this was not true.  Even the Saville Inquiry which stopped short of blaming the British state directly for the murders accepted they were all unarmed civilians.  But Elizabeth Windsor nonetheless decorated Lt Colonel Derek Wilford, the man in charge on the day and has never apologised for that.  Her role in this is often forgotten.

So, any question of looking at the death of Elizabeth Windsor cannot be ahistorical.  Though Sinn Féin have issued statements that are breath taking in their servility.  The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted.

To the Royal Family and all who mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth, especially Irish Unionists, I extend sincere sympathy. She lived a long, full life. In her lifetime relationships between our countries were changed and changing. I salute her contribution to this transformation.(3)

She is of course, referring to the Peace Process and her handshake with Martin McGuinness. This says more about Sinn Féin than it does about Elizabeth Windsor.  As a monarch she never had a problem dealing with people she saw as her inferiors, or those bowed in deference to her.  Michele O’ Neill was equally effusive about the queen acknowledging the apparently profound sorrow of Unionists.  And added that.

Having met Queen Elizabeth on a number of occasions alongside my colleague, the late Martin McGuinness, I appreciated both her warmth and courtesy.(4)

Her courtesy is a diplomatic ploy, as for her warmth that is not the image given in any of her public engagements, not even when greeting her son Charles after a long trip.  The poor kid did not get a hug, he was made genuflect.  But we can take O’Neill’s word for it.  It is not important.  Neither her courtesy or alleged warmth are political evaluations.  Whether we should mourn a monarch does not depend on such personal qualities.  Henry Kissinger the Butcher of Cambodia and Chile comes across as an affable, even charming old man, and he may well be in real life, but that is not how we judge him.  Likewise, George Bush the Lesser (as Arundhati Roy dubbed him) also comes across as likeable, though it would be hard to convince the dead of Iraq that this mattered one jot: it doesn’t.

The press coverage of her death and much of the commentaries indicate that there is clear obfuscation on the part of the press and ignorance on the part of the population about the nature of the English royal family and the role of Elizabeth Windsor as queen.  One of the myths is that she is just a mere figurehead, with little or no power.  It is true that most power rests with Parliament and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.  But she has powers that she has exercised from time to time.  She has instructed governors of overseas territories not to sign laws. In 1975, through John Kerr, her governor general in Australia, she dismissed the then prime minister Gough Whitlam.(5)  It was a rarely used power, but it exists as do other powers she never had to invoke, like her control over the military.  She has invoked the Queen’s Consent more frequently to prevent parliament discussing Bills she was not happy with.  She also was the last port of call for those sentenced to death, when capital punishment was still on the statute book.

In the 1950s three Greek Cypriots were sentenced to death, Michalaki Karaolis, Andreas Dimitriou and Evagora Pallikaridis.  The last of these was a particularly notable case.  Pallikardis confessed under torture to carrying weapons.  His lawyers pleaded to Elizabeth Windsor for clemency.  She refused.  The warmth that Sinn Féin leader O’ Neill felt was not on display for the 18-year-old, nor was she the loveable old grandmother that others have referred to.  Likewise, the other two were also hanged.  On the rare occasions that she has had to exercise power she has shown herself to be of the same pedigree as her blood thirsty forebears who raped and pillaged their way across the planet.

She never spoke out about the situation in Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion, which kicked off early in her reign.  The Pipeline, as it was known, that the British set up in Kenya was a camp system in which prisoners were moved up and down it according to the degree of torture that was required to break them.  That matter was raised in Parliament at the time by some Labour MPs.  The prisoners even managed to smuggle out letters to MPs and other officials, amongst them Elizabeth Windsor.(6)  She knew what was happening.  She was fully aware.  She exercised no powers to bring an end to it.  She just didn’t talk about it publicly, ever.  It was not the only situation that she kept quiet about.  Her relationship with the issue of race has never been a good one.  She negotiated exemptions to racial and sexual discrimination laws and employs very few non-whites.

In 1990 the journalist Andrew Morton reported in the Sunday Times that “a black face has never graced the executive echelons of royal service – the household and officials” and “even among clerical and domestic staff, there is only a handful of recruits from ethnic minorities”.

The following year, the royal researcher Philip Hall published a book, Royal Fortune, in which he cited a source close to the Queen confirming that there were no non-white courtiers in the palace’s most senior ranks.(7)

In her Christmas speeches she tended to talk of banal matters and family.  However, she did wade into politics some times and these speeches, unlike the speeches when she opens Parliament, are hers.

In her Christmas speech of 1972, she referred to various situations around the world and also the North of Ireland.  Her take on it was simple.

We know only too well that a selfish insistence upon our rights and our own point of view leads to disaster. We all ought to know by now that a civilised and peaceful existence is only possible when people make the effort to understand each other.(8)

Exactly who was selfishly insisting on their rights was not explicitly spelt out, but it was obvious that she didn’t mean the British state, but uppity Paddies and others around the world.  This was made clear when in 1973 she awarded an OBE to Lt Col Wilford, the officer in charge of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972.  The families of those murdered and injured on that day called upon her to apologise.(9)  She did not do so.  The nearest she came to it was a banal statement on history during a visit to Ireland in 2011 when she stated “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss… with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.”(10)  She did not accept Britain’s actual role in that and there was no specific reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre.

There is no shortage of sycophants and royalists who claim she had no powers, when in fact, she did as her son Charles now has.  Others have preferred to go the route of she didn’t do it, it was others.  Not quite true.  She did preside over the dying days of Empire and gave succour to the troops busy murdering and torturing people in places she liked to visit on the Royal Yacht. But the many atrocities committed before she acceded to the throne are also hers.  The Irish revolutionary James Connolly said of the visit to Ireland of one of her predecessors in the role.

We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.(11)

And she did claim them.  One of her other forays into matters of Empire was her Christmas speech of 1982.

Earlier this year in the South Atlantic the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy enabled our sailors, soldiers and airmen to go to the rescue of the Falkland Islanders 8,000 miles across the ocean; and to reveal the professional skills and courage that could be called on in defence of basic freedoms.(12)

It should be remembered that Britain gained control of the Malvinas in a colonial war, in 1833, against the newly independent Argentina.  In 1982, what was at stake was mineral wealth in the sea.  She, like Thatcher, rejoiced at the sinking of the General Belgrano ship, lest we forget that those who now joke about her death are not that far removed from her own sense of mourning people she sees as enemies of her dwindling Empire.  She had no sense of shame. In 1990, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq she stated without any sense of irony that

The invasion of Kuwait was an example on an international scale of an evil which has beset us at different levels in recent years – attempts by ruthless people to impose their will on the peaceable majority.(13)

This was the queen of a country that had imposed itself on more of humanity than any other previous empire had ever done.  Of course, Hussein had been a friend of Britain.  In 1953, the CIA and the British overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, which had nationalised the oil industry dealing a blow to the Anglo Persian Oil Company, now known as B.P.  This set in motion a chain of events that would see Britain install another royal, the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi whose despotic rule would lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  Enter Saddam.  He launched a brutal and bloody war against Iran, invading it in 1980.  The war lasted 8 years and cost 500,000 lives.  It was bankrolled by the west through the Saudis.  There was no one claiming that he had imposed his will, nor were British troops sent to attack this important ally.

Part of her role is that of cheerleader for empire and war.  British troops serve under her, not Parliament.  They are called upon to serve Queen/King and country and a major part of her role is to encourage young men (and lately women) to throw their lives away in places like Iraq as part of imperial exercises in power and the theft of natural resources.

It is also laughable that the English monarch talks of the peaceable majority when Britain is one of the major arms manufacturers and exporters in the world, supplying despots around the world with the necessary wherewithal to keep local populations in line.  Her own son Andrew was appointed Special Representative for International Trade and Investment for the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in 2001 and in that role he promoted arms sales.  When he was forced by circumstances surrounding his role in the abuse of young girls alongside Jeffrey Epstein to step back from a public role, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade commented that:

The news that Prince Andrew will step back from Royal duties is unlikely to provoke feelings of sorrow or regret for most British citizens – but for despots, dictatorships and arms dealers around the world it will be a sad day. They have lost one of their most high profile and influential supporters.(14)

During Mrs. Windsor’s reign Britain exported almost 135 billion (in current prices for each year) of arms and is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world.(15)  Some British companies with operations outside of Britain also export arms.  These figures do not include what Britain manufactures for its own armed forces or what it buys from other countries.

Remarkably even feminists in Britain and Ireland have publicly lamented the death of Mrs. Windsor ignoring her role in her son’s abuse of young girls.  What little action she took against him was due to public outcry and pressure helped along by a disastrous interview in which his sense of entitlement oozed out of the pores he claims not to sweat from.  She also forked out part of the money that was paid as part of the settlement with Virginia Guiffre, one of his and Epstein’s victims, though her part could not be used directly to pay the victim but only for the part that went to charities.(16)  Not a minor point for feminists, you would have thought.  Nonetheless, they lament the death of the loving mother and grandmother. One who showed none of the warmth Sinn Féin claim she shows.

Monarchies are inherently reactionary, even without the atrocities committed by them or in their name.  They are hereditary positions occupied by parasites living off the public purse.  A lavish funeral and later coronation of Charles will be held, costing millions of pounds.  Other old grandmothers will go hungry this winter or die of hypothermia as energy prices soar, a fate Elizabeth did not face and neither will Charles.  The old grandmothers around England, who will die of hypothermia this year, through their taxes ensure that Charles will see the winter through, unless a horse-riding accident upsets his plans.  Monarchy is all that is rotten in society, the sycophantic outpouring of fake grief is of a people who do not seek a better society, who are enthralled to their masters and their betters, those who bow down to the great and the good.  But it was again James Connolly who had said “the great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise!”

The idea of rising off our knees has been abandoned by most.  Sinn Féin is lavish in its praise for her, one of the political and cultural shifts that results from the Good Friday Agreement.  The rot has even spread to their friends in Colombia.  Timochenko the former FARC guerrilla leader tweeted his condolences to the people of Great Britain and also mentioned that handshake with McGuinness.(17)  Britain’s trade unions through the TUC have also bowed down to the royals.  The ideological role of the Windsors in class conflict is ignored.  Even the otherwise militant RMT has called off strikes planned for September 15th and 17th.  There was a time calling for the abolishment of the monarchy was a no brainer for progressives.  In the 1980s Arthur Scargill made just that call and when questioned as to what the royals would do then, he replied, “they can work in Sainsburys”.  Though some of them have pilots licences, maybe they can do the Gatwick – Dublin route with Ryanair.

Those who mourn Elizabeth Windsor are complicit in what she represents: privilege, war, torture, racism.  There are no ifs or buts to that.  It is as Robespierre said, “The King must die so the country can live”.  It is time to abolish the monarchy and throw onto the putrid rubbish pile of history all that it represents and Charles and William can, as Scargill suggested, get a job and sycophants can go back to worrying about Madonna or Beyoncé.

Notes

(1) Connolly, J. (1910) Visit of King George V https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

(2) Ibíd.,

(3) See https://twitter.com/MaryLouMcDonald/status/1567945861354909696

(4) See https://twitter.com/moneillsf/status/1567931690873503744?s=20&t=nKj7EgPfa0WHJ6PEPdwQgQ

(5) The Guardian (14/07/2020) Gough Whitlam dismissal: what we know so far about the palace letters and Australian PM’s sacking
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/14/what-we-know-so-far-about-the-palace-letters-and-the-dismissal-of-australian-prime-miister-ough-whitlams-dism

(6) See Elkins, C. (2005) Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya. New York. Henry Holt and Company. paras 20.48 & 26.48

(7) The Guardian (02/06/2021) Buckingham Palace banned ethnic minorities from office roles, papers reveal https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jun/02/buckingham-palace-banned-ethnic-minorities-from-office-roles-papers-reveal

(8) Queen’s Christmas speech 1990 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1972

(9) The Irish Independent (31/01/1998) Royal apology would help right Derry ‘insult’ https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/royal-apology-would-help-right-derry-insult-26200165.html

(10) The Irish Examiner (19/05/2022) The Queen’s Speech https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-20155083.html

(11) Connolly, J. (1910) op. cit.

(12) Queen’s Christmas speech 1982 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1982

(13) Queen’s Christmas speech 1990 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1990

(14) Smith, A. (21/11/2019) With Prince Andrew in retirement, it’s a bad week for despots and dictators https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/prince-andrew-step-back-interview-arms-trade-jeffrey-epstein-gaddafi-a9212841.html

(15) Figures taken from https://www.sipri.org

(16) Time Magazine (17/02/2022) Who’s Paying Prince Andrew’s $16 Million Settlement to Virginia Giuffre? What to Know About Royal Finances https://time.com/6149123/prince-andrew-settlement-virginia-giuffre-royal-finances/

(17) See https://twitter.com/TimoComunes/status/1568243032679497728

Sinn Féin and their Queen’s Funeral

One of number of pieces on the recent media fest in relation to English monarchy delighted to be able to repost here with thanks.

Irish Dissent

The intensively mediated death of Elizabeth Windsor, accompanied by the relentlessly maudlin and invasive coverage of official mourning and her funeral, had an intensity that can only be described as imperial. Forced as it was into every corner of public discourse, this coercive atmosphere of state sorrow had a distinctly colonising thrust and meaning. Unleashed during a moment of total class warfare within her very disunited kingdom, it also marked an endpoint in the trajectory of her most obedient servants: the formerly Irish but now thoroughly British political party, Sinn Féin.  During Windsor’s reign colonial chickens came home to roost as the woman who presided over British forces while they rampaged across the six counties of British-occupied Ireland then became over the past decade and a half the queen of foodbanks in her own country. (1)  Her reign spanned a long period during which overt political violence in Ireland was…

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DUBLIN ANTI-FASCIST CLEARED OF “VIOLENT DISORDER”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Donal O Ceallaigh walked free on Wednesday to congratulations of his supporters after four years under the threat of a ten-year jail sentence and/ or unlimited fine. He had been charged with “violent disorder” arising out events in February 2016.

The charging of antifascists with “violent disorder” was a first use by the State against political activists of this vicious piece of legislation with such a heavy penalty and for which the burden of proof seems very slight.

All that seems required is for the State to prove that a situation of violence occurred or was threatened in which the accused were present (minimum of three) and “that would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at that place to fear for his or another person’s safety.”1

The background to the charges was the boast of fascist islamophobic organisation Pegida in 2016 that it would organise a public rally – and founding meeting – in every capital city in Europe and the rally they planned to take place outside the GPO on 6th February 2016.

In response, antifascists mobilised in Dublin with the intention of preventing Pegida’s launch.

IRELAND’S ANTIFASCIST RESPONSE

The mobilisation took a number of forms:

1) a large diverse group gathered outside the GPO, occupying the space well before the advertised time. A large proportion of these included religious and liberal organisations and individuals.

2) Another large group, of Republicans and Socialists of different organisations — and none — gathered in O’Connell Street, on the central pedestrian reservation and on the east side of the street.

3) Irish fascists arriving by Luas (tram system) were met on the tram itself by young antifascists.2

It appears that there were no confrontations between the GPO group and fascists which was fortunate, since some of the participants had publicly advocated non-violence and even encouraged bringing children to the event,3 no doubt in order to emphasise their pacifist nature.

The handful of known fascists of Irish background, whose intended movements were known in advance, apparently noticed or guessed the sympathies of some of the antifascist youth travelling in the Luas, addressed some unkind words to them and violence quickly resulted4.

The fascists concerned apparently abandoned their plan to attend the rally and some reportedly felt the necessity to attend A&E department in hospital instead.

There is no doubt that the longest-running conflict with the most people involved on both sides occurred around the east side of O’Connell Street and streets running off it, in particular North Earl Street and Cathedral Street.

The fascists who were involved there appeared to be all of East European origin. It seemed that they had not been spotted until some of them began to insult some women and when filmed, to make a negative comment along the lines of “your f..king communist filming”.

Once having identified themselves, a crowd of antifascists gathered around them and the situation developed quickly. The fascists were soon running, in the course of which one ran into a Euro-shop in North Earl Street with a number of anti-fascists behind.5

Some Gardaí lashed out with batons at people leaving the shop (which could clearly be seen on the police compilation of video footage shown in court), including an RTÉ cameraman.6

At least three of those fascists ran eastward down Talbot Street, which is a continuation of the short North Earl Street; two large white police vans appeared at the intersection with Marlsborough Street and the “robocops”, the Public Order Unit emerged.

The POU deployed with dogs in North Earl Street, clearing it and menacing both antifascists and shoppers.7

Shortly afterwards, word spread among the antifascists that some of the fascists were in a pub in the parallel Cathedral Street and had exchanged words with some antifascists who also happened to be in there;8 a crowd of antifascists flocked to the area concerned.

This area saw one of the sharpest confrontation between the Garda Public Order Unit and antifascists, with the former lashing out with drawn batons on largely unprotected hands and heads.

The Gardaí rescued the fascists from the pub and loaded them into one of their vans before driving off. A decoy Garda van was blocked in O’Connel Street by protestors and interested youth for a period but the fascists were spirited away to safety in another van.

Pegida had been prevented from holding their rally so the antifascists emerged victorious. The State actors sat down to decide how they would respond in the aftermath.

THE IRISH STATE SHARPENS ITS KNIVES

The first to be targeted by arrests were the antifascists in the confrontation on the LUAS tram. Visible in recordings of the CCTV camera which had remained uncovered throughout, they were identified, charged, convicted and heavily fined — as a deterrent, the judge made clear.

Next the Gardaí set about identifying antifascists active in the North Earl Street conflict and selected two Republicans from different organisations which, along with an independent antifascist from the pub in Cathedral Street, they charged with the serious offence of “violent disorder”.

This led to alarm in antifascist circles since, as outlined earlier the potential penalties with this charge are very high and it had never been used by the State before with regards to a situation of a political nature – in fact, it had hardly been used at all.

Two years after the events, one week to the day after he had been found “not guilty” on another political charge, Donal Ó Ceallaigh was charged with “violent disorder” in connection with the anti-Pegida protest too.

Through the intervening months and years, two of those charged with “violent disorder” separately agreed a deal to plead “guilty” to a lesser charge and avoid the danger of a ten-year sentence and this week at the commencement of the remaining two’s trial, another one did so.

Ó Ceallaigh then remained the only one of the original four on trial for “violent disorder”. His trial began on Monday 24th in Criminal Court No.7,9 six years after the events and four years after he was charged, with some supporters and his wife present in the public area.

TRIAL OF O’CEALLAIGH

Shortly after Ó Ceallaigh’s trial commenced, his defence counsel, Brian Gageby BL engaged by Sheehan & Partners, asked for a discussion in court in the absence of the jury and took the State’s witnesses through their process of protecting the chain of video evidence and identification of Ó Ceallaigh himself.

A compilation of six video clips was shown from: (1) the Euro Shop CCTV, (2) Garda cameras, the (1) TV cameraman’s footage (obtained by warrant) and (1) video taken by the shop’s security guard on his phone.

It emerged that 500 Gardaí have viewed the footage on an internal Garda system without identifying anyone on it.

The Garda officer responsible for ensuring identification then gave a convoluted account of how he had ended up going through associates of another activist to contacting another officer who had arrested Ó Ceallaigh in relation to water protests, who obligingly identified the activist.

That Garda said that he knew the defendant from a previous arrest and that it was he in a number of the videos, wearing a green hooded jacket and red scarf around his neck and that he has a tattoo there,10although only a very small portion of the man’s face is visible.

Another Garda who oversaw the identification claimed to have made his own statement a long time afterwards from memory alone but somehow included the exact times, in minutes and seconds on the video where the other’s statement had identified Ó Ceallaigh!

Defence counsel put it to him he could only have that precision from having written his statement to coincide with the other Garda’s, which he denied having done — of course that would have looked very much like conspiring to, as they say, “fit up” the defendant with regards to identification!

As Tuesday’s jury-less court session drew to a close, Defence counsel made two submissions to the Judge objecting to the challenged video identification evidence going to the jury, which Prosecution counsel defended and the judge retired to consider the arguments.

At resumption of the trial on Wednesday morning, the Judge announced her decision not to permit the challenged video evidence to go before the jury and the Prosecution counsel admitted that without that, effectively they had no evidence to place the activist at the scene.

The jury was then called in and the Judge directed them to return a verdict of “Not guilty”. Ó Ceallaigh was free to go and receive the embrace of his wife and congratulations of his supporters (and from some interested members of the public).

Though appearing glad he seemed to take it all quite calmly but admitted to the author that it had been “a bit of a strain”.

SUMMARY

As a result of the mobilisation and struggles on the day, Pegida was prevented from launching in Ireland, perhaps the only European country in which they failed to do so. This would have been important in any case but became especially so with the struggles around Covid to come.

The State had failed to protect the fascists’ “right” to hold their founding rally in Ireland and no doubt the Gardaí felt humiliated. They determined to recover ground and the State made a political decision of charging demonstrators with a very serious charge: “violent disorder”.

In that, the State hoped to establish a legal precedent with a view to its use against demonstrators in other situations in future. It did in fact establish the precedent in using the charge (and without an outcry from liberals and social democrats).

The State may have felt enough was gained for the moment in offering to accept a “guilty” plea to a lesser charge but when Ó Ceallaigh declined to accept the deal, they tried for a conviction, which would have given them the precedent they originally sought – but they failed.

However, many antifascist activists were punished and according to information received, 15,000 Euro in punitive fines was collected, not to speak of the worry and years spent in the shadow of the hanging sword.

Antifascists have hopefully learned the importance of going masked in similar situations and awareness of the role of CCTV cameras which are ubiquitous in the Dublin city area. The charge of “violent disorder” remains as a threat and punishment for demonstrators in future11.

The wording of the charge ensures that no actual violence need be used and the “fear” surrounding a situation remains open to subjective interpretation and even manipulation of witnesses by police.

The RTÉ’s camera footage – ironically in view of the fact of his assault by a Garda – was obtained by warrant which raises issues of concern with regard to press freedom and safety. If verified media’s film is to be used by the State, how then is the media to claim independence?

And if demonstrators know or believe that media footage of them is likely to be used by the State, are they likely to tolerate the presence of such camera operators? Will we not all be the poorer if the media cannot produce film and photos of events of a similar nature?

This is surely an issue on which the press, along with the respective trade unions should take a stand, if they truly believe in their independence and freedom and think it worth defending.

While there is no current evidence of a resurgent attempt to found Pegida in Ireland,12 a number of small fascist organisations have been founded in recent years, including Identity Ireland, the National Party, Irish Freedom Party and Síol na hÉireann.

History has shown that when the ruling capitalist class is in crisis, it suits it to use fascists as part of the repression of the people’s resistance struggles. Certainly there is something of a crisis in the capitalist system world-wide at the moment and repression is very much on the agenda.

Pegida does exist in Europe and as late as the 22nd, the Saturday before the trial in Dublin, planned to publicly burn the Koran in Rotterdam, Holland,13 to which the State there responded by arresting their leader and accusing Pegida of disseminating “hate speech”.14

End.

FOOTNOTES

1 The 1994 Public Order Act (see Sources) and this section at least uses even the same wording as the 1986 Public Order Act of the UK (see Sources).

2 That group was of Identity Ireland, led by Peter O’Loughlin, a long-time Irish fascist who apparently planned to be chairman of the Irish branch of Pegida. According to recollections of antifascists to the author, there were also much smaller groups of anti-fascists roaming the south city centre attempting to coordinate and collate information while searching for groups of fascists.

3 Pacifism in the face of potential fascist violence seems dangerously stupid to me but that pales into insignificance when compared to the criminal irresponsibility of putting children in danger of such attack.

4 This was one of the areas which the Gardaí used to bring charges against anti-fascists and footage from the LUAS CCTV was used against individuals. The antifascists involved seem to have been from Dublin soccer club supporters’ associations and those identified were fined within a relatively short period of time.

5 This site was one of those used by the Gardaí to charge a number of antifascists and footage from the security CCTV were used in evidence against the latter.

6 The management of the TV channel complained as did the cameraman. Quite some time later the Garda in question was found guilty of assault and, despite the viciousness of the assault on a clearly unthreatening person and his lack of remorse, was given a suspended sentence but remained in the police force without facing a disciplinary hearing.

7 “I was coming back from reconnoitring around the Connolly Monument in Beresford Place, in case fascists had gathered there. Cycling westward along Talbot St. I saw three young men running west; they appeared East European to me and had hair cropped very short. I assumed they were fascists but there appeared to be no-one in pursuit and three was too many for me so I passed them and at North Earl St. junction found a large crowd with Public Order Unit with barking dogs and batons drawn preventing people from entering the area. The crowd was of mixed shoppers, passers-by and anti-fascist demonstrations.” (Recollection of antifascist to author.)

8 This site too became one to attract police charges against at least one antifascist.

9 On Tuesday it was moved to No.12 instead, right next door, coincidentally, to the Special Criminal Courtroom where a trial is currently underway. The SCC was from its inception a no-jury political court for decades but recently began to try some high-profile criminal trials.

10 He does in fact but you’d need x-ray vision to see it through a scarf! There had been a mass campaign against the proposed additional water charges and the belief that the public water supply system in the Irish state was about to be privatised. Protesting in the context that water charges were already being paid through two different public taxes, hundreds of thousands marched and smaller groups mobilised to disrupt the installation of water meters outside people’s houses (the locations of those unused meters may still be seen around Dublin city in particular). Most arrests took place in this latter part of the struggle, though a number of defendants fought a successful battle to prevent the State convicting them of “kidnapping” a Government Minister while protesting against her ministerial visit to a school in Jobstown. The additional taxation and privatisation plan was abandoned in 2015 – at least for the moment.

11 Note that there have been many situations of actual violence by fascists wielding clubs in Ireland in recent years in which the State chose not to charge any of the perpetrators with “violent disorder” and in fact only with great reluctance charged one individual, Michael Quinn of the National Party with assault after widely-circulated video evidence refuted Garda public statements that no violence had occurred.

12 According to Anti-Fascist Action Ireland from people viewing the fascist communication traffic, the Eastern European fascists who participated on the day denounced the Irish fascists of Identity Ireland as cowards and declared they would never work with them again.

13 Religious book of greatest importance to Muslims, equivalent to the Bible for Christian and the Talmud for Jews.

14 (See Sources).

SOURCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Violent Disorder charge in Ireland: Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, Section 15 (irishstatutebook.ie)

In the UK: Public Order Act 1986 (legislation.gov.uk)

Pegida intent to burn the Koran in Rotterdam: Dutch police disperse planned Quran burning rally of Islamophobic group Pegida (yenisafak.com)

https://nltimes.nl/2022/10/23/anti-islam-group-pegida-attempts-burn-koran-rotterdam-leader-arrested

RTÉ cameraman struck by Garda at anti-Pegida protest: SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR GARDA WHO ASSAULTED RTÉ CAMERAMAN – rebelbreeze

“Oh. My. God!”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

That’s what she wrote — in response to a political statement I had written. And it was funny — but at the same time an expression of the gulf that separates people like her not only from people like me – but from reality too.

Her comment on a FB post was that the PSNI are not the same as the RUC, to which another woman had replied that the uniforms and the name are different but that’s all, the essence being still the same.

In turn, herself above had replied that anyone who thought that, didn’t understand the current realities and what the whole peace process is about.

To which I replied that I too agreed that all that happened was that the colonial gendarmerie had changed its name and uniform and what the pacification process (because let’s call it what it was and is) is about is holding on to the colony while dismantling the opposition.

And then she made that response, the “Oh. My. God!” — and quoth no more. I laughed but also recognised that her response, from her point of view (apart from the appeal to a nebulous deity, which I take as just an idiom to express shock), was entirely logical.

No, not her political position, which is entirely illogical – but her reaction, from where she stands, away on the other side of the chasm between us.

(Photo sourced: Internet)

AN UNBRIDGEABLE GULF BETWEEN WORLDS

She recognises the gulf that separates her world from mine and knows straight away that there is no bridge to cross it. There is no point in debate, not only because I may not be easily overcome in argument but because we don’t even agree on the reality of the world.

By which I mean the economic, political and philosophical reality of the world of humanity, rather than the physical world of gravity and weather.

In her world, I’m guessing, admittedly there were some horrible injustices in the history of “Northern Ireland” and then there was a horrible war which made things worse and now everything is changed (even “utterly”, perhaps!) and going in the right direction.

To call the “Northern Ireland” entity a colony is shocking to her, though she knows some people probably think that.

Seeing reality is useful for getting around but it can be very uncomfortable too. The Six Counties is of course a colony, taken by force and maintained by force since 1921.

PSNI raid and arrest of a pregnant woman in the Bone (‘nationalist’) area of Belfast March 2021 — this led to riot (Photo sourced: Internet)
Residents objecting to PSNI in riot gear invasion of Roseapenna Street (‘nationalist’), West Belfast, August 2015 (Photo sourced: Internet)

The whole of Ireland was a colony even when it had its tiny minority parliament1 and it continued to be one when that Parliament, under massive bribery, voted to abolish itself in 1800 without the vast majority of the population in Ireland, native AND planter, having any say in the matter.

When the level of anti-colonial struggle in Ireland rose to a certain level and the rulers of the UK were beset by difficulties on most sides, a deal was done with an Irish client bourgeoisie and the country partitioned.

Whatever the status of the Irish State thereafter, the status of the Six Counties was clearly that of a colony. That is and was so, regardless of whether it is sectarian or not, whether there are civil rights or not. It is part of our nation held for the Crown by force of arms.

Those arms were again very much in evidence during the fairly recent 30 Years’ War – in the hands of the formal British Army, formal colonial police and informal proxy murder gangs.

And yes, the PSNI today is an armed colonial police force – and it would be that even if it had no history, if it were created today. But as it happens, it does have a history. It is a variant of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. And the RUC was a variant of the Royal Irish Constabulary2. And the RIC was a gendarmerie.

RIC and British soldiers supporting an eviction in Galway during the Land War (Photo sourced: Internet)

A COLONIAL POLICE FORCE WITH A LONG HISTORY

Perhaps my opponent has heard the term before. Maybe she associates it with Turkey … or even with the Spanish state. But such things belong to foreign and authoritarian states, right? Couldn’t possibly be to do with here!

States that have conquered nations within them, resisting from time to time, or regions that are otherwise difficult to manage, need to control them by army or police. The first becomes problematical over time and the second needs to be coordinated from the centre, not mainly local.

The solution some states have found is to have a central quasi-militarised police force: the Guardia Civil of the Spanish State, the Turkish Gendarmerie, the Caribieneri of the Italian State, the French Gendarmerie.

Gendarmerie of the Spanish State: Guardia Civil in modern uniform (Photo sourced: Internet)

These forces typically live in barracks and are directly answerable to the central State. The Royal Irish Constabulary was such a gendarmerie also. And nothing like it existed in Britain.

It was a colonial armed quasi-militarised police force to spy on and suppress the Irish by force.

What was left of the RIC in Ireland became the RUC after Partition and the RUC became the PSNI after some reforms. They don’t live in barracks but they do sally forth from them and they are armed – still keeping ‘the natives’ down since 1836.3

All-Ireland gendarmerie Royal Irish Constabulary in front of their barracks, King Street, Dublin, viewed by local people after a Republican forces attack during the War of independence 1919-1921 (Photo sourced: Internet)

PACIFICATION FOR NORMALISATION

Then there was my shocking description of the role of the ‘Process’ that she described as for peace and I for pacification. She is shocked even by the title I give it, a title suggesting it is not about justice but rather about maintaining control, by trickery or violence.

And I actually stated that is its purpose! Oh. My. God indeed!

Any process which starts from the basis of normalising the colony is doing just that: normalising the foreign occupation of a part of the nation taken by force and which has never been accepted by the conquered population. It is “about is holding on to the colony”, as I described it.

But what is fundamentally abnormal can never be normalised.

That attempt requires pacification, by repression and coercion or by deception – or by a combination of both. The Occupier has used all but, since the late 1990s, mainly deception. The masking and twisting of reality, the blowing of smoke in eyes.

“Join the British Gendarmerie!” Recruitment drive for the PSNI supported by Unionists and Sinn Féin, February 2020 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Who is fooled? Mostly, those who want to be, some who see a workable future in the colony, under occupation.

The other deluded ones are those who are being deceived by their leaders, the latter who have given up not only the arms but any kind of struggle other than climbing into the elite.

Ultimately, the reality is so obvious that the deception is only possible when the deceived help it along themselves. Why do that? Because it’s comfortable, or seen as an alternative to hopelessness, or less frightening than the alternative – revolutionary struggle.

Oh. My. God! Yes indeed.

And yet we say, we who look at the reality, in the face of those who deny it, as Galileo is said to have muttered to his persecutors, who denied the world moved around the sun (rather than the reverse): “Eppur si muove”(“And yet it moves)”.4

We might also say, whether some find it shocking or just uncomfortable, something more mundane: Est quodcumque est. (It is what it is.)

end.

FOOTNOTES

1At various times Catholics were excluded from voting for representation in the Parliament and at all times from the Reformation onwards barred from being elected to the body or from holding high office. The vast majority of the Irish population were Catholics. Protestants other than Anglicans suffered discrimination too but not to the same degree.

2The PSNI themselves recognise that history – see https://www.psni.police.uk/about-us/our-history/history-policing-ireland

3And they got the “Royal” in their name in 1867 for their role in suppression of the Fenian rising that year.

4Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de’ Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer. He publicly ascribed to the theory of Copernicus before him that the sun’s position is static with the Earth revolving around it (heliocentrism) which had been attacked by the Protestant religions as contradicting the Christian Bible (Old Testament). But it was the Catholic Inquisition of which Galileo fell foul, firstly in 1616 when he was instructed not to hold that opinion. In 1633 he was forced to recant it after a long trial and lived under house arrest for the rest of his life.

SOURCES

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

RIC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Irish_Constabulary

BROADLY SPEAKING

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: One min.)

“Unity Is Strength” (Image sourced: Internet)

Oh, hey! We’ve started a broad front to fight this struggle.

Oh, who’s running it?

Just some of us. Independents mostly. How about you and your party joining it?

Is that (xxxxxxx redacted) party in your broad front?

They’re thinking about it.

We couldn’t join it if they were in it.

Funnily enough, the guy I spoke to said the same thing about your party.

Well, there you go.

What do you mean “there you go”? Are you interested in joining a broad front or not?

Yes, of course but ….

But only if your party is in charge, is that it?

Now, hold on! I didn’t say …..

….. ….. ….. ….. …..

Hey, we’ve started a broad front to fight this struggle. Lots of people are joining. How about you and your party?

Hmm … Who’s in it?

(xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx redacted).

Those Lefties are in it? They’re not serious – just middle class young people mostly, going through a stage ….

But weren’t you saying just last week that we need a united front? Of all kinds of people?

Yeah but not with the likes of them! It would be a waste of time.

….. ….. ….. ….. …..

We’ve started a broad front to fight this struggle. It would be good if you and your party joined it.

Those Republicans are in it, right? Some of them are being investigated for trying to organise an armed group.

Doesn’t mean they really are doing that, though. Besides, it’s their open political group that joined it.

No sorry, we can’t be associated with them.

But haven’t you been telling me for ages that we need a united front? Really need one?

Yeah but not with the likes of them! That would be too dangerous.

End.

IMPERIALIST NARRATIVE IN ‘OBJECTIVE REPORTING’

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 4 mins.)

“Palestinian gunman wounds two Israelis in Jerusalem shooting” proclaims the headline. We don’t have to worry trying to figure out whose side we’re expected to be on, who’s in the wrong and who in the right. It’s right there in the headline.

“Gunman” is a heavy clue and the fact that the two he wounded are just “Israelis” – we are led to believe just ordinary civilians – does the rest of the job. That is, if indeed we are not somehow already prejudiced against Palestinians and in favour of Israelis.

However, should we bother to read further, we find that two of the wounded were far from being harmless civilians but in fact an Israeli soldier and a security guard, certainly armed for their job (even Israeli Jewish civilians are routinely permitted to carry firearms).1

The2 report tells us that the soldier was a woman. Why is this relevant? Like male soldiers, she was a serving member of the Israeli Zionist occupation armed forces, misleadingly named “Defence Forces”. Zionist female soldiers are present at all levels and all theatres of war.3

It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that this is being inserted in order to mitigate the impact of revelation that it was a soldier who was shot, which might possibly lessen sympathy for the victims on that score.

Perhaps the fact that the Palestinian in question appears to have initiated the incident justifies the appellation of “gunman”? OK, when Israeli armed forces initiate an action, do we ever see “Israeli gunmen open fire on Palestinians”?

Scene of shooting of two Israeli Zionist armed forces on Saturday in Jerusalem, one fatally (Photo credit: PA Images)

Certainly not in mainstream western media. And not just because of bias towards state armed forces, because even when the shooters are Israeli Zionist civilians, they are never called “gunmen”. And such incidents occurred on a monthly basis recently.4

MOTIVE, BACKGROUND, CONTEXT

Moving away from the actual incident, what about the background and context? “Israel already has been carrying out daily arrest raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis” the report informs us.

So the Palestinian “gunman” could have had an understandable motive in responding to Israeli Zionist oppression and repression but in case we should sympathise with him, we are reminded that “Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis.”

After conditioning with that paragraph, the report gives us more recent possible motivation for the attack (even then, note the attempted justification for actions of “Israeli forces” fighting “gunmen” and “militants”).

“Earlier on Saturday, the Israeli military shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers during an arrest raid in the Jenin refugee camp, the site of repeated clashes between Israeli forces and local gunmen and residents. The camp is known as a stronghold of Palestinian militants.”

Body of 16-year-old Palestinian Ahmad Daraghmeh killed by Zionist Israeli soldiers carried in protest mourning. Also killed with him were Mahmoud as-Sous, 18. (Photo credit: Agence France Press)

“Palestinian officials said soldiers entered the camp early on Saturday and surrounded a house. In videos circulated on social media, exchanges of fire could be heard. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported two dead and 11 wounded, three of them critically.”

And let’s put that “killing of 19 Israelis” last spring in context too: Last year, “as a result of the violence, at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed … In Israel, at least 13 people were killed, including two children”5. A search of any year will find a similar or worse story.

SOME OF THE TRUTH

Occasionally, we are supplied with truth, as when the report informs us that “Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the area in a move that is not recognised internationally.”

“It considers the entire city, including east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important holy sites, to be its capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.” Nor is East Jerusalem the only area occupied by Israel judged illegally by “international law”.6

But even this is partial truth because, whether “recognised internationally” or not, the whole territory of the state of Israel is an occupation by force of Palestinian land by European settlers in 1948, backed by some world superpowers and a constant source of conflict there ever since.

MAKING SENSE OF CONFLICTS

Context is crucial to understanding events but justification is a moral and practical judgement7 according to the standpoint of those doing the judging and evaluation. Clearly the standpoint of an occupier and a person displaced — an occupier and the oppressor – can never be the same.

It follows that those who support the occupier and more certainly invest in its support, are going to be biased against the displaced, the oppressed and repressed. The world’s biggest superpower, the USA, supports Israel hugely militarily, financially and politically.

The states of the world and their controlling elites are well aware of the balance of power and, for the moment, most support the superpower. This is even more so in the case of the geo-political area designated “the West”, location of most mainstream media agencies’ headquarters.

The bias is clear if we take the trouble to analyse and we’ll find it not only in the reporting on the Israeli Zionist state and the Palestinians but on all other conflicts, to greater or lesser degree. What stand we take depends on whether we align ourselves with the oppressor or the oppressed.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1See “Gun-carrying for Israeli citizens” in Sources.

2She has since died and headlines are now including her gender.

3“ … today women make up only about 40% of conscript soldiers and 25% of the office (sic officer?) corps.” This despite Orthodox Jewish men objecting to serve in the company of female soldiers https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/israel-defense-forces

4See “Absence of “gunman” when an Israeli Zionist civilian is the shooter” in Sources. Note that all these reports were taken from media sources one might suppose not sympathetic to Israeli Zionism; a quick search of Reuters only brought up a 2012 reference to such an incident and of Associated Press, not even one on the first search page.

5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Israel%E2%80%93Palestine_crisis#:~:text=As%20a%20result%20of%20the,were%20killed%2C%20including%20two%20children.

6Syria’s Golan Heights are one such as are the settlements on lands grabbed after the founding of the Israeli state: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/03/israels-55-year-occupation-palestinian-territory-apartheid-un-human-rights

7Moral, as in do we think it wrong or right according to moral principles; practical as in whether we can show it works.

SOURCES

The report being analysed: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/palestinian-gunman-wounds-two-israelis-in-jerusalem-shooting-1374673.html

Gun-carrying for Israeli citizens: https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/israel-has-successful-gun-control-policy-gun-control-p-248-251-1992

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/9/12/israels-eased-gun-laws-palestinian-fear-over-new-gun-permits

Absence of “gunman” when an Israeli Zionist civilian is the shooter: https://www.dci-palestine.org/israeli_settler_soldier_shoot_and_kill_palestinian_boy

https://english.wafa.ps/Pages/Details/130104

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/palestinian-boy-shot-dead-israeli-settler-east-ramallah

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-palestinians-israel-violence-idUKBRE84P0BE20120526

Female Israeli Zionist soldiers: https://www.lawfareblog.com/female-service-idf-challenge-integrated-army

Recent background to current incident report: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-62445951

REVOLUTIONARY BLOC AS PART OF HUGE COST OF LIVING PROTEST

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4mins.)

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

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

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

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

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SPEECHES FOR REVOLUTION & AGAINST REPRESSION

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

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

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

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

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

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

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

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

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

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

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

MARCH TO BLACKWATER

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BLOC MEETS THE MAIN MARCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

end.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USEFUL LINKS

Anti-Imperialist Action:

End State Repression campaign:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 6 mins.)

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

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

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

SHORT HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY HOUSING LEAGUE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conor Owens is now Ireland Director for Hammerson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FUTURE

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

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

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

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

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

OVER 10,000 HOMELESS INCLUDING 2,503 CHILDREN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

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

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous high-profile housing activist occupations:

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

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

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

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

SINN FÉIN: BECOMING WHAT THEY IMITATE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stick insect (Image sourced: Internet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

FROM NATIONAL LIBERATION TO GOMBEEN PARTY

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

Dead Leaf Mantis (Image sourced: Internet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A JOURNEY OF MANY SIGNIFICANT STEPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

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

FOOTNOTES

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

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

SOURCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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