Israel’s gymnastics gold medalist in the Tokyo olympics of this year, Artem Dolgopyat, only the second ever in the Jewish state’s 70 years, cannot marry in Israel. Taking advantage of the happy publicity surrounding his triumph, his mother brought the question out into the public arena. In an interview with 103FM Radio, Dolgopyat’s mother Angela Bilan said: “The state does not let him get married. He has a girlfriend and they have lived together for three years, but he cannot get married.”
The problem is not that Dolgopyat emigrated to Israel as a child – his father was the product of generations of Soviet Jews and he automatically has entitlement to Israeli citizenship. His difficulty is that his mother is not Jewish and so, according to religious law, nor is he, for the purpose of marriage.
The fact is that you can’t marry a Jewish person in Israel unless you’re Jewish too. Or a Muslim unless you’re a Muslim, Catholic unless you are a Catholic, etc. Marriage is considered exclusively a religious ceremony and mixed-religion marriages are not permitted. In a state that promotes itself as being “the only western country in the Near East”, it does not have a civil marriage ceremony or status, the only “western” state not to have such. Indeed, a number of countries of mainly Muslim population do have civil marriage too.
So what do Israelis do if one of the partners in a long-term relationship is not considered “Jewish” but wish to be married?
The answer is that they leave the state to marry outside or live as partners without marriage. Apparently both options are popular and many Jews do leave the State for a holiday and get married outside it – Cyprus is quite a popular destination for this and 1,500 to 2,000 Israelis a year get married there. That compares with about 28,000 weddings performed last year by Orthodox religious authorities in Israel. Israel does recognise civil marriages made elsewhere and indeed would get into a lot of trouble with other states if it did not.
But with regard to just living together one imagines that in the case of a relationship breakup and the absence of a recognised civil relationship, property ownership and child custody could become difficult issues to resolve. This would also be the case with same-gender marriage, since this “modern democratic state” does not recognise that class of marriage either – of course not, since its marriage service is based on Hebrew religious law.
Israel for all its modern protestations and some features is a religious state. Qualification for its citizenship is based on Judaism and the State’s recognition of that ethnicity, which is of at least one Jewish grandparent, no matter where born or raised. But for a Jew to marry in Israel both must be Jewish by Rabbinical – i.e Jewish religious – law; any child of a mixed union is not Jewish unless their mother was Jewish. Or one goes through a fairly lengthy period of religious indoctrination to be recognised by the State as Jewish.1 In effect, Israel’s citizenship and marriage laws are not only religious but racist too.
Dolgopyat’s difficulty won support from Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, himself an immigrant from the former Soviet Union and an Olympic athlete, which he expressed in a tweet: “Israeli citizens, no matter where they are born, should not need to undergo a tedious and humiliating process in order to get approval or rejection from the Rabbinate in order to get married.”
“The pride of Israel on the podium, but a second class citizen under the hupa,” he said referring to a Jewish wedding canopy.2 “It is not logical that the Rabbinate of the same country that Artem Dolgopyat represents with honour does not allow him basic civil rights like getting married in Israel,” Razvozov tweeted.
No doubt many Israeli Jews find all this archaic and irritating. Even though 74.2% of the population of the state is registered as “Jewish”, that number however contains four major sections, ranging from the ultra-conservative to the secular. The largest group is the “traditional” Jewish one, which would have a range of opinions within it on religion and society, some quite liberal and “let and let live” (at least for Israeli Jews). In in the Pew survey3, one in five Jews replied that they do not even believe in the existence of a God.
But the fact is that for the sake of the political nature of the state, most of them have made a compact with the devil, the religious fundamentalism of the Zionists, a portion of which has infected every single Israeli administration and government coalition since the state was founded in 1948. While it is true that the religious fundamentalist part of Israel cannot get rid of the society’s more liberal and secular sections or rule without it, nor can the latter overthrow the fundamentalist religious dictatorship. Not without joining completely with the oppressed Palestinians and overthrowing the Zionist State – and even liberal and most socialist Israelis are not prepared to go that far.
1Despite the strong historical suggestion that Ashkenazi Jews are actually the result of mass conversion to Judaism in the first place.
2Obviously oblivious to those who are the most comprehensively second-class people in Israel, the Palestinians – but then they are not “citizens”, are they?
A leaflet from the Socialist Party of Ireland distributed at the antifascist rally in Dublin on Saturday 12th made a correct analysis of the source of the problems in Irish society of which the Far-Right are taking advantage in order to mislead people but also grow. But the leaflet text failed shamefully when it came to outlining the next steps to take.
Titled “OPPOSE RACIST DIVISION — Organise to stop the far right”, the leaflet correctly identified the haphazard Government restrictions as the cause of insecurity and confusion about the Covid19 virus, which fed the negationist movement. It also stated that the Far-Right was manipulating these people and working to infect them with racism and homophobia.
It was correct also to point to the need for socialists to expose the real issues and organise to resolve them.
However, the leaflet text went on to state: “Recent experiences have shown that small counter demonstrations with confrontational tactics have jeopardised the safety of anti-fascist protestors and can drive some some people further into the arms of the far right.”
Perhaps the Socialist Party can tell us what kind of counter demonstration would not be seen as having “confrontational tactics”. In fact since to their credit for the first time some of their comrades actually took part in one such counter-protest, on Custom House Quay on the 22nd August, they couldinform their party that the counter-protesters were attacked almost as soon as they stepped on to the Quay, before anything at all was said by them. Also, the Far-Right have been staging regular street protests since last year, many of them centred around the racist and conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty, who recently unfurled a banner calling to “Make Ireland Catholic Again”. Should the Far-Right have been permitted to continue without public opposition?
The counter-protests were small because the majority of the antifascist movement did not participate in them. It was independent anarchists, socialists and Irish Republicans who first took up that task and at that time the Far-Right protests were quite small. When the Far-Right called a larger one for Leinster House, in a coalition of fascist parties and organisations, a fairly large force of Irish Republicans and independent antifascists confronted them and a number of the Republicans were arrested. Following that event, on 14th December 2019 a larger combined force of antifascists including Irish Republicans, Antifascist Action and socialist parties occupied the protest ground planned by the Far-Right outside Leinster House and outnumberedthe latter by about ten to one.
The small ad-hoc antifascist coalition of various political and social threads has been left to confront all the other fascist gatherings on their own. A Far-Right group called QAnon occupied the GPO forecourt for Saturday rallies as soon as the Covid19 restrictions were introduced and were left largely unmolested by antifascists to establish themselves as a weekly event, supported by fascist activists who travelled from different parts of the country to attend it. They were left unmolested by the Gardaí too, who nevertheless used Covid19 powers to harass Debenhams picketers around the corner in Henry Street and also by the Special Branch, Ireland’s political police, who harassed pickets held in solidarity with Irish Republican and Basque political prisoners, demanding the names and addresses of the picketers.
All subsequent rallies, pickets and meetings of the Far-Right were left entirely to the small aforementioned coalitions to oppose but when the Debenhams workers staged their march and rally on 8th August, the QAnon group abandoned their Saturday spot and took to Phoenix Park instead, showing the antifascist potential of a large gathering of the Left.
HISTORY OF ANTIFASCIST STRUGGLE IN IRELAND
The rise of the fascist movement in Ireland in the 1930s was defeated by Irish Republicans, who confronted them physically on the streets to the extent that the ruling class feared revolution and mostly acquiesced with De Valera’s government banning a Blueshirt march, after which the Blueshirts became integrated into the Fine Gael party and ceased to have a separate existence.
Every attempt to establish a fascist party since then has been promptly squashed by antifascists. In 2016 the European islamophobic fascist organisation Pegida tried to launch itself in Dublin and was driven off the street by massive mobilisation of both those advocating peaceful opposition as well as those favouring physical confrontation (by the way four Republicans still face serious charges arising out of those events). The tiny group of native Irish fascists was attacked on its way into the city centre and the East European contingent had to run or be brought to safety in Garda vans.
The fascist movement of Sir Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirts was physically opposed in numerous battles on the streets of British cities throughout the 1930s and after WW2, Moseley himself being knocked to the ground in Manchester and hit by a flying brick in Liverpool. Numerous battles took place in London too of course, the most famous being at Cable Street, where a coalition of Irish and Jewish antifascists, along with local Communist Party activists, fought a battle of several hours on 4th October 1936, principally with 7,000 London Metropolitan Police and all the mounted police of the city. The police got through the first barricade but failed to penetrate the second and the Blackshirts had to turn away, many being ambushed at other points such as at Hyde Park Corner.
After WW2 all attempts of Moseley and other fascists to organise were suppressed by robust action on the streets, the most serious being in 1958 in London’s Notting Hill area. Many of the post-war migration of Afro-Caribbean people to London lived in that area. Moseley’s Union of Fascists and the White Defence League organised and whipped up gangs of white youths to attack first migrant Caribbean males, then the white wife of a Caribbean man and finally Caribbean families. The Caribbean migrants and Irish and British antifascists organised defence and battles went on for two weeks. According to Wikipedia: “The riots caused tension between theMetropolitan Police and the British African-Caribbean community, which claimed that the police had not taken their reports of racial attacks seriously. In 2002, files were released that revealed that senior police officers at the time had assured the Home Secretary, Rab Butler, that there was little or no racial motivation behind the disturbance, despite testimony from individual police officers to the contrary.” (That pattern of police denial of racism and neglect of targeted communities became a repeated pattern and has also been seen in many other countries).
When fascists began to organise again in Britain at the end of the 1960s, the parties of the Left first advocated ignoring them and when they did eventually mobilise counter-demonstrations, marched them away from confrontation with the fascists. Meanwhile fascists were attacking sellers of socialist papers, socialist meetings, migrants and ethnic minorities. Some elements of the Left after a while adopted the slogan of “no platform for fascists” which became popularised among students and some staff in institutions of third-level education, eventually becoming policy of the National Union of Students.
A coalition of antifascists of various political backgrounds, including some acting unofficially outside their party discipline, mainly in AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) and small groups of revolutionary communists, anarchists, Irish Republicans and antifascists expelled from their parties (e.g. Red Action) took on the National Front, the League of St. George and the British National Party in numerous battles and smashed the ability of the fascists to take possession of any significant physical space in order to organise. On September 13th we passed by the anniversary of one of those battles in Lewisham, SE London in 1977 and we are nearly at the the anniversary of another,on the 18th in 1992 at Waterloo (the London Underground and train station, not the site of the 1815 battle in Belgium).
Throughout that period the main parties of the left (with the exception for a period of the SWP and the IMG) refused to confront the fascists physically and instead concentrated on organising events to attract youth away from fascism, principally through the Anti-Nazi League. It was however clearly the physical confrontations by antifascists on the streets, as had been the case in the 1930s that again defeated the rising fascist threat in Britain – for a time. Clearing the fascists from the street not only prevented the intimidation of Left activists and ethnic minorities and prevented the creation of fascist areas but also made it much more difficult for fascists to recruit and marshall forces.
LEARNING THE LESSONS?
Rather than draw on the lessons of those struggles in Ireland and in Britain, the leaflet text advocates repeating the mistakes. In effect, the leaflet advocates leaving the antifascist mobilisations for the moment and concentrating on the class struggle against the system. That strategy entails allowing the fascists to become established and grow unhindered, making it much harder to root them out later. But not only that – the Left in Ireland has a pretty poor record of taking on the capitalist system and is particularly weak at the moment, with the trade union movement largely supine. The leaflet points to the just struggle of the Debenhams workers, with which the SP is particularly closely connected, at least in Dublin; however it is well to note that those workers have been sacked, their workplaces closed and the struggle is a last-ditch defensive one for redundancy pay. In other words, we are nowhere near a situation where the overall struggle against the capitalist system is such as to cut the ground from under the Far-Right.
Because those loose antifascist networks currently active are not under the control of the SP and are hardly likely to heed their call, the effect of the leaflet text is to advocate a continuation of the current situation, where counter-protests will be outnumbered by mobilisations of the Far-Right, despite the fact that the fascist parties actually have tiny support, bussing in people to swell the numbers. Fascist attacks will continue and may well even escalate. Fascists will continue to arm with Garda impunity for their attacks but it is certain that when the antifascists arm likewise, they will be arrested for “possession of offensive weapons” and even jailed.
Finally, the leaflet failed to give any specific indication of a short or medium-term way forward except to “join the socialists”, i.e the Socialist Party. The leaflet could have advocated building a broad antifascist front and called on people to help in that work, to bring in people not currently active, to ensure large turnouts to counter mobilisations of the Far-Right. But it didn’t.
An antifascist and anti-racist march in Dublin on Saturday 12th September ended without any major incident. However a handful of counter-protesters who attended a negationist protest outside Leinster House were assaulted by a mob of fascists, a woman being struck on the head with a blunt object causing an injury requiring hospital treatment. Photographs and some video footage shocked many as the Gardaí were seen to take no action against the assailants and instead, to usher the counter-protesters further away from the fascists, with a woman bleeding copiously from her head.
The Irish Yellow Vests, led by notorious islamophobe Glen Miller and the fascist Catholic fundamentalist and racist organisation Síol na hÉireann, led by Niall McConnell, cooperated in staging a rally and march from Custom House Quay to Government Buildings in Merrion Street. Custom House Quay was the scene of another IYV-organised event on 22nd August when a counter-protest of men and women was attacked by mob of masked and often gloved men (supporting an anti-mask rally!), many armed with clubs and metal bars. On that occasion too the Gardaí had arrested none of the attackers but pushed and shoved the counter-protesters away, threatening them with uplifted batons. On that occasion too a counter-protester had required hospital treatment, having been knocked unconscious.
The anti-fascist demonstration on O’Connell Street was called by the United Against Racism organisation and the People Before Profit/ Anti-Austerity Alliance and, since it had received threats of attack from fascists, it was supported too by independent antifascist activists from Anarchist, Republican and Socialist backgrounds.
A number of speakers addressed the rally though the sound did not carry very well towards the rear of the rally but also many were distracted by keeping an eye out for fascists. One IYV activist approached the rally to photograph participants and soon got into an altercation with them, whereupon Gardaí arrived and removed him to the side of the road. Another brandished a placard, which was promptly seized by antifascists and torn. Some fascists were seen passing by, presumably on their way to Custom House Quay or Leinster House – one was observed carrying a thick length of wood with the Irish Tricolour attached to it — but did not engage with the antifascists.
Across on the other side of the road, at the corner with Princes Street, two or three older people had set up a couple of banners protesting about ill-treatment of the elderly in nursing homes — an entirely justified cause for protest however it is known to have been adopted by the Far-Right in Ireland. A very high proportion of Covid19 deaths in Ireland were in nursing homes and linked to Covid19 infection through lack of effective controls, which is a strange issue for the Far-Right to embrace since they variously claim that Covid19 is a hoax or that it is not at all a serious virus.
LED BY FAKE PATRIOTS BUT REAL FASCISTS
The rally on Merchants Quay, organised by the Irish Yellow Vest seemed somewhat larger than the one in O’Connell Street but a number were brought in from other parts of the country. Their promotional video showed the crowd being addressed in an energetic style by a man with a North American accent. His message was to refuse to wear masks, using exceptions permitted in the legislation, not to be afraid and to remain united. At one point he seemed to be arguing for anti-racism, which was somewhat bizarre while standing next to him was the mc of the event, Glen Miller, notorious racist and islamophobe.
After a little, the crowd formed up behind the colour party of Síol na hÉireann, a tiny fascist, racist and fundamentalist Catholic party from Donegal led by Niall McConnell. Apparently without any sense of irony, the party flew the Irish Tricolour, the “Irish Republic” flag and the golden Harp on a green field flag, with “Erin go bragh” (sic) of the Fenians.
The Tricolour signifies cooperation between Irish of different religions which, as we will see, is something McConnell will have no truck with; in addition the original pattern was sewn by French revolutionary women and presented to Thomas Meagher in 1848. Meagher was a member of the “Young Irelanders”, composed of Irish nationalists of both Protestant and Catholic religious backgrounds and he himself led a Union Army brigade in the American Civil War.
The Harp on a green field was modelled on the flag of the United Irishmen who rose against the British in 1798 and 1803 – nearly every one of their leaders was Protestant. The Fenians were a mixture of religious backgrounds (and perhaps none) and were excommunicated by the Irish Catholic hierarchy. The Fenians in England were accepted into the First Socialist International, led by Marx and Engels.
The “Irish Republic” flag was prepared in the home of Constance Markievicz for display in the 1916 Rising; she was a Socialist Republican and fought in the Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army, the first working class army in the world.
COLOUR PARTY LEADER REVEALS HIS TRUE COLOURS
Approaching the four Gardaí standing by a couple of unsecured crowd barriers at the end of the Quay, a little farce was played out in which the Gardaí seemed unwilling to move and then were “forced” to do so by the crowd. Those who have participated in protests over the years and seen the Gardaí in action and their barriers, when they truly wished to stop a march, would laugh to see the video recorded by the Far-Right of the event.
At a junction the procession stopped for people to catch up (some participants even complaining at Miller’s exhortation to give consideration to the elderly and children) and were addressed by a number of speakers. The man with the North American accent was in action again in revivalist style and Ben Gilroy, Miller’s lieutenant, also spoke. In a video during the week, Gilroy had minimised the Covid19 deaths by stating that all but 100 of them had been of people with underlying health issues. Given that according to the HSE over 30% of Irish people suffer from underlying conditions of ill-health, it was a shockingly uncaring statement to make in support of the negationist cause.
Here Niall McConnell spoke too, announcing himself as the leader of “Síol na hÉireann, a hard-line Catholic Irish nationalist party”, having the effrontery to quote, completely out of context James Connolly, revolutionary socialist and Republican. McConnell insisted that Ireland is for the Irish and, attacking the EU, hinted at the “Replacement” conspiracy theory, in which the EU is allegedly trying to replace Irish people with migrants. He also accused it of spreading “LGBT ideology”. “Ireland is a Catholic country”, he insisted and, in total contradiction to at least 220 years of recent history, ascribed the Catholic faith to the motivation of our ancestors in fighting for freedom. Then he got down on his knees and recited The Lord’s Prayer in Irish!
It was noticeable that only a small number followed him on to their knees and also that a number of his statements drew uncertain responses. Following his speech, Lorraine Eglinton of the Irish Yellow Vests spoke, stressing the need for unity, which might be taken as an implied criticism of McConnell for introducing religion and race into the equation or perhaps just for stating his beliefs so baldly at a shared event.
FASCIST ATTACK ON WOMAN COUNTER-PROTESTER
While the major part of the Irish Yellow Vests march went to rally outside Government Buildings in Merrion Street, a smaller group of maybe 40 or 50 people went to protest a block away outside Leinster House, seat of the Irish state’s Parliament. This was apparently a split in the Far Right.
If this split was trying to attract less fascist and racist people what followed was truly bizarre. A couple of people who attended in a counter-protest but at some remove were approached by Far-Right supporters who appeared to argue with them, which is recorded on video. This soon attracted a mob, some masked (!) and one of which can be seen grasping a length of wood attached to an Irish Tricolour. They begin to push the couple of counter-protesters roughly and then one of them strikes the woman on the head, opening a wound with much blood running down her face and knocking her to the ground. She regains her feet and continues to stand as Gardaí move in and gently usher the fascists back, making no attempt to arrest any of them and soon pushing the counter-protesters down the road.
The woman received hospital treatment later, being released the following morning. In a press release following the event the Gardaí reported that no arrests or serious incidents had occurred! When they were contacted by journalists and shown video taken at the scene they changed their story to say that “some demonstrators had to be separated” and ultimately changing it again to say that “they are investigating the incident” and “had not received a complaint”. Are the Gardaí saying that although they witness an assault, or at least the immediate aftermath of one, they can take no action unless they receive a complaint?
Ms Izzy Kamikaze, an LGBT campaigner and writer, who had received the head injury, said that she intended to make a complaint, not just about the assault but also about the behaviour of the Gardaí. Some photos have appeared on social media allegedly identifying two of the attackers by name and as members of the fascist National Party. According to media journalists, the Gardaí have video camera footage tracing one of the assailants also which would be no surprise as the area around Leinster House is one of the most highly covered by CCTV video cameras in Dublin.
A PATTERN OF GARDA COLLUSION
This is not the first occasion in recent times that the Gardaí have been accused of collusion with fascist violence. On July 11th a small counter-protest to the large homophobic rally outside Leinster House was physically attacked and their banners ripped without Garda interference for a period and, when they did intervene, arrested none of the assailants. On two different occasions fascists within the QAnon negationists outside the GPO attacked a peaceful counter-protester without being arrested by the Gardaí. However when, following these attacks, antifascists surged into the Qanon crowd, the Gardaí quickly intervened and arrested at least one of the antifascists. On August 22nd at Custom House Quay a mob of over 50 men, many of them masked and gloved (supporting an anti-masking rally!) and carrying wooden clubs and metal bars, attacked a peaceful smaller counter-protest and knocked one antifascist unconscious. A few Gardaí then gently shooed the fascists back while more, including the Public Order Unit, began to scream at the antifascists to get back, threatening them with raised batons and pushing them violently, knocking some over and preventing them from even assisting their unconscious comrade. Those scenes too were recorded on video and shared on social media, both by fascists glorying in their actions and by antifascists exposing the fascist violence and Garda collusion.
A Parliamentary Question about Garda behaviour to the Minister for Justice from Independents for Change TD Catherine Connolly was refused, she being told that this is an area within the competence of the Garda Commissioner.
This series of short pieces sets out to demonstrate not only that the “patriotism” claimed by the Far-Right in Ireland is profoundly fake but that so also are their chief symbols. It is not that the flags and songs are false in themselves – far from it — but that they are being employed falsely, i.e in disregard of their origins and in total contradiction to their historical context and meaning. The “patriots” displaying them are fake, not only in their use of the flags and songs but in the contexts in which they employ them, their discourse and the direction in which they wish to take the Irish nation.
OTHERS TO FOLLOW SEPARATELY:
Flag: The “Irish Republic” flag
Flag: The “Starry Plough”
Flag: The Harp on a green field flag
Patriotic song: Amhrán na bhFiann
Patriotic song: A Nation Once Again
The Far-Right creed of fake patriotism
1. THE IRISH TRICOLOUR
This is the flag design most commonly associated with Ireland and the official one of the Irish State, though it was not officially adopted by the State until the Constitution of 1937. The flag gained prominence during the 1916 Rising, when it was flown on the Henry Street corner of the GPO roof and was the flag of the Republic during the War of Independence (1919-1921). The Free State which came into being in 1922 controlling five-sixths of Ireland was not the Irish Republic most people had fought for and, in fact, it went to war against those who upheld that Republic. However, the neo-colonial State feared to leave all the symbols of Irish nationalism in the exclusive hands of its enemies and therefore eventually appropriated the flag, adopted the Irish language as its symbolic first language and the Soldiers’ Song to represent it.
On the other hand its display in public in the Six Counties colony was held to be illegal under the Flags and Emblems Act of 1954 until its repeal in 1987 and a number of street battles took place there when colonial police moved in on people to confiscate it.
Although the first use of the colours of green, white and orange as a tricolour arrangement (on cockades and rosettes) was in 1830, when Irish Republicans celebrated the French revolution of that year restoring the French Tricolour as the flag of France, their first recorded use on a flag was not until 1848.
On 28th July 1846 a group of progressive Irish nationalists had broken from Daniel O’Connell’s movement to Repeal the Union, i.e to give Ireland an Irish parliament again but under ultimate British rule. Meagher was one who led the breakaway, opposing the Repeal Association resolution to refuse the option of armed resistance in any and all circumstance, in a famous speech about the right to use weapons in the struggle for freedom, which earned him the nickname Meagher “of the Sword”.
The group became known disparagingly as The Young Irelanders but, like many mocking names, became fixed with respect in Irish history. One of its leaders was Thomas Davis, co-founder of The Irish Nation newspaper and composer of such iconic works as A Nation Once Again, The West’s Awake (songs) and Fontenoy (poem).
During what became known as “the Year of Revolutions:, 1848, Meagher went to Paris, which was in the hands of revolutionaries as an envoy to the Provisional Government and was there presented by revolutionary women with the Irish Tricolour, which they had sown in fine silk. They explained that its design was intended to reflect the revolutionary ideal of peace, represented by the colour white, between the Catholic Irish (indigenous and Norman descendants), represented by the colour green and the Protestants, descendants of planters and other colonists, represented by the colour orange. But an active peace, a collaboration in national liberation from English rule and the establishment of a secular Republic.
It would not be surprising had those women been aware of Les Irlandais Unis (the United Irishmen), who had risen less than fifty years earlier for a secular and independent republic and had sought military assistance from the French Republic.
Returning to Ireland with the flag, Meagher unfurled it in public for the first time on 7th March 1848 while speaking from an upper-floor window of the Wolfe Tone Club in Wexford to people celebrating the revolution in Paris. In Dublin it was unfurled in the Music Hall in Lwr. Abbey Street on 15th April 1848 but there was another Irish flag which at the time was more popular and the question of which flag was to represent an independent Ireland (or the movement to achieve such) was left undecided.
Meagher was sentenced to transportation to Van Demien’s Land (now Tasmania), later freed on condition of not returning to Ireland and emigrated to the USA. He supported the Union in the American Civil War for the abolition of slavery and he and his wife actively recruited for the Union Army; he served as a Brigadier General in the Irish Brigade, of which one regiment, the 88th New York, became known as “Mrs. Meagher’s Own”. The Irish Brigade fought many important engagements against the Confederacy and suffered 4,000 dead in the course of the war; two of its commanding officers including Meagher were wounded and three killed. Meagher was believed drowned from a Missouri riverboat on a trip on 1st July 1867, leading some to suspect that he had been murdered, possibly by the nativist anti-migrant organisation known as the “Know Nothings”.1
The Far-Right in Ireland, composed as it is of racists, fascists, Catholic conservatives and religious sectarians, seeks an Ireland far removed from the republican ethos of the flag, presented by French republican revolutionaries to their Irish republican counterparts. It is a flag symbolising inclusion rather than exclusion and explicitly, in its colours, rejecting religious sectarianism. It flies in declared opposition to those who seek an Ireland “made Catholic again”2, oppose immigration and seek an Ireland based on “Irish ethnicity” (meaning blood), a prescription that would have had no place for Thomas Davis’ Welsh father, nor for Meagher, who led thousands of Irish migrants who fought against slavery of Africans in the USA. Their Ireland would have had no place for the Young Irelanders who, like Thomas Davis, were mostly Protestant Republicans.
1A nickname they earned through their habit of saying that they knew nothing in answer to questions by the police or in court.
2Slogan put forward by notorious racist and conspiracty theorist Gemma Doherty in preparation for an islamophobic rally outside Croke Park on 31st July, supported by fascist organisations Síol na hÉireann and the National Party, both parties opposed to immigration and promoting a racist concept of “Irishness” based on blood.
Republicans and other local antifascists countered a Far-Right rally and “prayer circle” who were protesting a Croke Park letting on Friday to some Muslims to celebrate their religious festival of Eid. When confronted by a handful of antifascists, the early fascists folded up their banner and cowered behind police protection, unfolding it later when many more reinforcements arrived. Later still there were some scuffles and a number of arrests.
The first shot fired on social media against the Croke Park letting was by Niall McConnell, leader of the tiny “Síol na hÉireann” group calling for a protest at the venue, followed by Gemma O’Doherty of “Anti-Corruption Ireland”, with other Far-Right posters quickly getting on the bandwagon. The main claim was that they were going there to prevent “creeping Sharia law” but alsotacked on being against ritual animal slaughter, child brides, pedophilia etc. What they were really about however was Christian or even Catholic fundamentalism, racism and fascism and this became crystal clear during the morning.
WHO THEY WERE AND WHAT THEY SAID
In contrast to many of the counter-protesters, none of the Far-Right seemed to be local and indeed many had travelled some distance to be there, some known to have come from Donegal and Mayo.
When calling out the responses of the Catholic prayer cycle of the Rosary1, Niall McConnell was roaring them out through a megaphone. McConnell, a founder of the tiny “Síol na hÉireann” group based in Donegal, believes in an Ireland built solely on Irish ethnicity (by which he means of Irish blood) and that its ethos should be Christian. How Irish blood “ethnicity” is to be judged is not explained, given that the Irish people are a mix of the Celtic population with many others, including Viking, Norman, Scottish, English, Welsh, possibly Basque, Italian, Polish etc. This is being “patriotic” according to McConnell, who is never seen campaigning for an end to the partition of Ireland nor of foreign occupation of one-sixth of the country.
Patrick Pearse’s father being an English migrant did not prevent his two sons from being true patriots, promoting the Irish language, progressive education, national drama and literature and fighting for independence. Thomas Davis’ father being Welsh did not prevent his son from founding The Nation newspaper or from composing such songs as “A Nation Once Again” (a recording of which the Far-Right played!) and “The West’s Awake!” Erskine Childers being English did not prevent him sailing a yacht into Howth to deliver Mausers to the Irish Volunteers in 1914 nor in joining the IRA during the War of Independence and the Civil War and being executed by the Free State junta. And a missionary called Patricius being Welsh did not prevent him ending up as St. Patrick, a patron saint of Ireland!
Although billing himself as an “Irish Patriot”, McConnell calls for an alliance of “nationalists across Europe” and has posed for a photograph in a line-up of Far-Right European figures that included Nick Griffin, former leader of the fascist British National Party2. McConnell’s party’s website calls on people to join to “resist and turn back the new plantation”, a reference to a paranoid conspiracy in which the Far-Right claim to believe that the EU plans to replace Irish people with migrants.
Apart from promising any new members of “Siol nah Eireann” (sic, no such words in Irish) the fantasy of joining “local cumans” (they have none and there is no such word in Irish either), they intend to provide them with “education” (i.e propaganda), “ideology” (fascism), “physical fitness and self-defence” (training in being bootboys) in Ireland and abroad …..!
Another who believes in an “ethnic Ireland” is Gemma O’Doherty who started off as an investigative journalist but turned into a proposer of illogical conspiracy theories and propagandist of racism. Protesting in a tweet against the recent election of Hazel Chu as Lord Mayor of Dublin, she ranted that Ms. Chu, born and raised in Ireland, is part of the Communist Party of China (!) takeover of Ireland. Parts of the Far-Right claim to believe that CPC is taking over the world through the UN (where China has ONE seat on the permanent Security Council out of FIVE!3) and on the other hand, President Trump is wonderful.4
Gemma O’Doherty has at times been caught out posting lying statistics to whip up racial fears and had two of her Youtube sites shut down by Google due to her continuous attempts to whip up race-hate. Since then she has been campaigning for “free speech” but for whom? Outside Croke Park she said that the country needs to become “a Catholic Ireland once again”. In this “Catholic Ireland” of her dreams, would there be “freedom of speech” for dissenting Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists or agnostics? The “Catholic Ireland” State of the recent past censored films, banned books and newspapers and forbade not only abortion in all circumstances but also contraception and divorce, not to mention LGBT rights.
O’Doherty is another fake “patriot” who told her listeners that “our patriots died for a Catholic Ireland”, despite the fact that nearly every single leader of the United Irishmen was a Protestant, as were many of the Young Irelanders and not a few prominent members of the Irish Volunteers — and she totally ignored the words of the 1916 Proclamation.
Near the end of the event, some members of the National Party appeared, wearing green golf shirts with “NP” marked on them. Although their “Vision” for Ireland on their website claims to include “an Ireland united, Irish and free”, they have never been seen engaged in struggles against British colonialism and the partition of the country. The NP is against “replacement-level immigration”, i.e that racist conspiracy theory again and wants capital punishment for serious crimes, in which they include carrying out a pregnancy termination. Like most of the Far-Right, they oppose the “Black lives matter” campaign and the party’s founder, Justin Barrett (not there on Friday), tweeted that if he gets into government he will remove the Irish nationality of Hazel Chu, a woman who was born in the Mater Hospital in Dublin, was educated in Ireland and spent most of her life here.
Also missing were racist and islamophobe leaders of the “Irish Yellow Vests” Glen Miller and Ben Gilroy, also Herman Kelly, founder of the tiny Irish Freedom Party, another “patriot” who believes in a “Christian and ethnic Irish Ireland”. Kelly has shared a platform with British fascist and Loyalist Jim Dowson and Irish fascist Rowan Croft (aka “Gran Torino”).
Aside from all that, on Friday one woman ‘innoculated’ the ground around the Far-Right protesters with sprinkled salt, apparently proof against “witches” (anti-fascist women). A few of them shook their rosary beads at the protesters while another woman seemed to go into ecstasy, praying with arms alternately raised high or spread. “I don’t know anything about politics,” she said to one of the counter-protesters, “I just come here to pray.” Of course, the handball alley entrance to Croke Park is a well-know prayer venue! (Perhaps for fans of other county teams hoping Dublin won’t win the All-Ireland yet again ….)
One of their leaders, Dee Wall frequently seen at their rallies at the GPO, claimed she supported religious liberty for all but failed to explain how that squared with protesting at Muslims celebrating Eid at Croke Park. Unless that is she was in agreement with those whose reply to the slogan of “religious and civil liberty for all” was “for the Irish” and meant not only that, for some Muslims ARE Irish, but rather “for Christian, Catholic, several generations Irish only”. Another woman called an antifascist a paedophile(the Far-Right regularly call antifascists “paedophiles”) and told him that the Coronavirus was only in his head, i.e in his imagination – many of them believe that the coronavirus is just a scare to bring about “a one-world government”, one woman commenting that mask-wearers are part of the plot.
One of the Far-Rightists shouted that he never saw the antifascists protesting against the Government, which brought a chorus of incredulous protests from his opponents, the most telling being: “You’ve never seen us because you weren’t there!”
After the Muslims had left by another exit and as the antifascists were leaving, one woman called out antifascists that they were being funded by the millionaire Soros – another fantasy they pretend to believe. One of the antifascists shouted ironically back at her: “I haven’t received my cheque yet – can you have a word with him for me?”
Calling antifascists “paedophiles” might be useful in demonising their opponents but if believed by some could cause people real problems in their community. It is also ironic, given that these ultra-Catholics defended the Church hierarchy and its paedophiles right to the last, some even still maintaining that the scandal institutions were innocent and the targets of malicious accusations. Herman Kelly of the INP was for a time Assistant Editor of the Catholic Herald and maintained that the allegations were ‘fake news’. Also many of the Far-Right in Ireland and in Britain have been convicted in court of …. guess what? Yes, pedophilia.
WHAT WAS THE FAR-RIGHT FUSS ABOUT?
There was never going to be ritual slaughter of any animals in Croke Park, of course, nor any of the other scares being thrown by racists and fascists.
Just as the venue has been let for other large gatherings, in particular pop concerts, a Muslim religious organisation obtained permission from the GAA to hold a celebration of their festival of Eid there in the stadium.
The feast Day of Eid is an important one in the Muslim religious calendar and its main features are obligatory acts of charity towards the poor, communal prayer followed by social feasting and visiting of relatives and friends. Areas of large capacity are usually required (and more so if observing social distancing), such as large mosques, community centres or hired halls. A sermon is preached by a religious leader, after which a prayer is recited asking for Allah’s forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings for all living beings across the world.
As to “creeping Sharia law”, since Muslims account for less than 2% of the population of the Irish state, the fascists and other islamophobes have to talk them up into something bigger as a threat, hence the “creeping”. Nor is it the case that all Muslims would support fundamentalist Muslim law any more than all Christians support fundamentalist Christian law or all Jews support Jewish Orthodoxy.
With regard to “child brides”, an unfortunate feature of many civilisations, including past European ones and parts of the United States, there is an age of consent in Ireland maintained by law and, furthermore, a law supported by the vast majority of the population of all religions and of none.
The Catholic Arch-Bishop of Ireland and leading clerics of the Anglican and Jewish community attended the event, as did Government Minister O’Gorman whose car was surrounded by Far-Right protesters screaming at him and banging on the car despite a walking Garda escort. Among the speeches at the Croke Park event – in a mix of English, Arabic and Irish – was a talk by 21-year-old Abood Aljumaili, encouraging the attendees to try out the native Irish sport played at the stadium, like hurling.
SCUFFLES AND ARRESTS
In a headline on a video posted on line by one of her supporters, Gemma O’Doherty exclaimed: “Antifa tried to attack me” but the video shows nothing of the sort. It does show a minor confrontation far from her between an antifascist and a fascist, the one doing the filming. In reply to a question, the fascist can be heard saying that Protestants will be admitted to their movement if they convert to Catholicism. It appears that the fascist pushes the antifascist, who pushes back and then the police are separating the two. The rest of the video records O’Doherty talking, talking ….
A month ago a Far-Right poster claimed that the homophobic rally outside Leinster House had been attacked by “Antifa”. However video footage showed a large crowd of rally participants, some of them threatening a tiny group of antifascist counter-protesters. A fortnight ago the leader of theFar-Right organisation the Irish Yellow Vests told a crowd on Custom House Quay that “the Antifa” had attacked the Far-Right with petrol bombs – another fantasy. But it was some of his supporters’ crowd of 500 that attacked the 40 or so counter-protestors. And McConnell of the tiny “Síol” group claimed at a Far-Right gathering in Europe recently that the Israeli secret services were threatening him due to his lip-service support for the Palestinians (in his case, based on anti-semitism rather than Palestinian solidarity).
While regularly practicing violence, fascists like to portray themselves as victims, especially on their way to taking power. A few weeks ago a fascist crossed the road from their rally at the GPO to attack a Republican while their speaker was shouting in her microphone that they would not be provoked by the violence of the antifascists! They also like to pretend that the police are on the side of the antifascists, while historically and in recent times, the reality is otherwise. After all, the police have been facing Republicans and Socialists in protests for decades, on issues as diverse as Republican prisoners, political repression in both administrations, gender and sexuality rights, the BP oil pipeline in Mayo, lack of housing, cuts in welfare …..
This was underlined when one of the Far-Rightists outside Croke Park shouted that he never saw the antifascists protesting against the Government, which brought a chorus of incredulous protests from his opponents, the most telling being: “You’ve never seen us because you weren’t there!”
There were a number of incidents, one when a Far-Rightist threw water at a video photographer and, after the latter complained to the Gardaí, was taken aside and eventually could be seen walking away from the scene.
Altogether there were three arrests: an antifascist woman who was attacked by a woman on the Far-Right fought back. The police dived in but the Far-Right woman did not want to let go of her opponent’s hair even when the police were trying to separate them. It took three police about five minutes to get her away and into a police van. The antifascist woman walked calmly with a police officer to a patrol car. Some time later a young lad who seemed to be a local person but had not been with the counter-protest, pulled the cord on the Far-Right’s amplifier, silencing it temporarily. The police pounced on him and took him away. According to information received, all were released without charges and a Garda report is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN AND WHAT NEXT?
All over Europe and the USA, the Far-Right is on the rise, as they sense an opportunity in ruling class austerity measures and popular dissatisfaction and disaffection. The latter is demonstrated in street mobilisations but also electorally, as votes for traditional political parties fall and the main parties in Government or otherwise are forced to abandon their false opposition and resort to ruling in coalitions of various forms.
Fascists attempt to mobilise the popular discontent against the established political class but to misdirect the popular anger and throw it against ethnic or social minorities, creating a false unity based on a notion of purity of blood and, in some cases, religion. If they can be seen to build a strong enough movement that seems capable of both mobilising people and attacking the resistance movements of the people to austerity and repression, the ruling class turn to them as they did in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.
Aside from the difficult circumstances, it is generally accepted by historians that a number of errors were made by the antifascist forces in the past. The leaders of targeted communities often counseled not responding to the threat as that would draw further attention and hostility towards them, some even denouncingthose in their communities who were organising resistance to the police. Some sections of targeted groups did not mobilise until it was too late, others argued that the fascists were a diversion from the anti-capitalist struggle. The antifascists did not all unite across ideological barriers. The fascists were permitted to get a grip at street level and intimidate some areas of their opposition, eventually receiving the full support of the ruling class and their State.
Those errors must not be repeated.
A HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS OPPRESSION
Ireland has suffered different religions imposed upon it but none of those have been Muslim.
Presumably Christianity was imposed on a pagan Ireland of many centuries, although that seems to have been a largely painless process (unlike in many other parts of Europe). Subsequently the Celtic Church was suppressed across Europe by Rome and in 1155 Pope Adrian IV authorised King Henry II to invade Ireland, allegedly to bring the Irish Christian Church into conformity with Rome.
When Henry VIII of England broke with Rome in 1532 he tried to impose his religion not only on England but also on Ireland, a project continued by his daughter Elizabeth I and most other English monarchs. The administration of the Plantations of Ireland by colonists tried to ensure English-speaking Protestants were given the land taken from the Irish and that no indigenous Irish were allowed to live or work there. For a time priests and bishops were outlawed and hunted.
The Penal Laws (1607 in some degree right up to the 1840s) robbed Catholics of most civil and religious freedom and penalised also non-Anglican Protestant sects. The colonist Irish Parliament excluded Catholics and Presbyterians even after some were permitted to vote. From the moment the Irish Catholic Church stopped being persecuted, it collaborated with the foreign occupation of Ireland and its leaders condemned the Republican uprisings of 1798 and 1803 and every Irish resistance organisation since.
After the Irish national capitalist class joined with the Catholic Church leadership to agree to the partition of the country and Irish membership of the British Commonwealth Dominions and slaughtered those who had fought against foreign occupation 1922-1923, a puritanical conservative Catholic Church dominated the 26-County State while a sectarian, puritanical Presbyterian ethos dominated the 6-County statelet. Elements of anti-semitism were observed in the Church during the 1930s and the hierarchy supported Franco’s military-fascist uprising in Spain and blessed the fascist Blueshirts as they went to support Franco but condemned the Irish Republicans and Socialists who went to support the elected Popular Front Government. The Civil Rights movement in the Six Counties began a fight-back against sectarian oppression there at the end of the 1960s, about the same time as a slower struggle was breaking out in the rest of Ireland against the social and political domination of the Catholic Church.
The Irish people overall have shown that they wish to be free to make their own choices and decisions in matters of faith and social practice without being dominated by any religious authorities. The 1916 Proclamation of Independence declared that “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberties to all” and, though that has yet to be realised, it seems to be what most people agree with. But clearly not the “patriots” of the Far-Right.
1The prayers that compose the Rosary cycle are arranged in sets of ten Hail Marys, called decades. Each decade is preceded by one Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father”) and traditionally followed by only one “Glory Be” and five decades are recited per rosary. Rosary beads are an aid towards saying these prayers in the proper sequence. There have been several Catholic devotional movements in Ireland that have emphasised praying the Rosary and, in modern times, most associated with Fr. Peyton’s “Rosary Crusade” beginning in the 1940s. In the 50’s and 60’s it was influential in Ireland and the phrase “The family that prays together, stays together” became well-known, which might be considered ironic at least in the physical sense, given the very high rate of emigration from Ireland, which included Fr.Peyton himself and his siblings. According to historian Hugh Wilford, “Peyton himself was deeply conscious of the political dimension of his mission, proudly proclaiming in a 1946 radio broadcast, ‘The rosary is the offensive weapon that will destroy Communism—the great evil that seeks to destroy the faith'” (Living memory and Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Peyton).
2 In addition to being a racist organisation against immigration, the BNP cultivated links with Ulster Loyalists in the Six Counties, Scotland and elsewhere, also with Nazi groups in Europe. It supported white colonist regimes in Africa and organised attacks on Irish community organisations in Britain and on Irish solidarity demonstrations.
3 The Security Council is the only body of the EU that can decide policy and any one of the five Permanent Members can veto a decision. The Five are France, UK, USA, Russia and China; the UK and France tend to vote in line with the USA.
4 The other permanent seats are held by the UK and France, which normally vote with the USA and Russia.
The Far-Right, including racists like Gemma O’Doherty and fascists like Niall McConnell, have called for a protest against the hire of Croke Park for a celebration of the Muslim festival of Eid on Friday. These clowns posing as “patriots” who strut around waving the Tricolour and “Irish Republic” flags seem to have forgotten the words of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence (if indeed they ever bothered to read it): “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all …”.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE – A FUNDAMENTAL REPUBLICAN PRINCIPLE
A fundamental principle of republicanism is the separation of church and state – it is as fundamental as the elimination of monarchic rule. It is what the Anglicans Wolfe Tone, Edward Fitzgerald and Robert Emmet believed in, along with the Presbyterians Anne and Henry Joy McCracken – and what they died for, along with independence from England. Anne Devlin and Michael Dwyer were typical of the Catholics who supported the republican ideal. No government should be telling its people what religion they must or must not follow — nor indeed that they have to be religious at all.
Gemma O’Doherty is calling for “a Christian prayer circle” at Croke Park at 9am as a protest against the muslim celebration. Christian prayers for intolerance, racism and fascism? These “patriots” think they have the right to decide which religion is acceptable and which not. That they dislike Muslim religion is their privilege but what is outrageous is that they think they have the right to dictate to people what their religion should be. These are the same people, let us not forget, who have been so stridently shouting about the “right to free speech”!
They say that they are doing this to “prevent Sharia law in Ireland”. Apart from the fact that the only religious domination we’ve had in Ireland has been various forms of Christianity, what kind of paranoia makes them think that there are enough Moslems in Ireland to get a Sharia party elected, even if Moslems wanted that, which many of them don’t? Not all Moslems are supporters of Sharia law any more than all Christians are fundamentalists — or all Catholics support the right of religious orders and clerics to abuse people over which they have control.
It was the Christian Pope Adrian IV in the 12th Century who, with the Laudabiliter document ‘authorised’ the invasion of Ireland by King Henry II of England. From the 15th Century we had Protestantism forced on us by the English Crown by the sword and plantation. In the second half of the 18th Century, Irish Republicanism sought to separate Church and State and to unite Catholic, Protestant (i.e the dominant Anglicans) and Dissenter (i.e Presbyterians, Methodists, Unitarians, Quakers). They failed but gradually Presbyterians and then Catholics won their rights (although Catholics continued to suffer discrimination in the Six Counties). In the 1930s the Blueshirts in the 26 Counties scapegoated Jews in order to divert the people from their real enemies and to build a fascist state, until they were beaten off the streets by Irish Republicans and socialists.
None of that religious persecution or strife was inflicted on us by Muslims.
TELLING US HOW TO LIVE OUR LIVES
In the 26 Counties from 1921 we had a Catholic State and the Church dominated public and secular life, dictating laws and social rules about marriage, birth control, sex and sexuality, dance and socialisation, controlling also the education, welfare and health system. That would have been unhealthy enough but they abused their trust, not only physically, mentally and sexually abusing children, adolescents and adults, and exporting orphans abroad – but denying the victims and covering up for the abusers.
They told us what books and newspapers we could read, what films we could watch and what political parties we must not support. This is the kind of “free speech” sought by the fascists.
A fascist tweeter called Rionach has threatened to burn Croke Park down with the Muslims inside it!
All democratic forces need to oppose these reactionary gatherings, whatever the cover story under which they are calling them but under which the fascists are trying to organise their future stormtroopers. Already there have been a number of attacks on antifascist individuals and small groups.
If you disagree with what this collection of the bad, mad and sad are doing, with what they want to do to our country, you know where to be early on Friday morning. Bailligí le chéile!
I observed in Language Is a Treasure Chest 1 that it is full of wonders but that it has some horrors in it too. And I found it to be so again.
I was reading a novel in which the word “Cimarron” appeared and, doing some quick research on the word, I came across a 2004 query in an email website or page called Word Wizard:
What is the etymology of the word cimarron? I’ve always been told that it means “runaway slave” in Mexican Spanish. Can anyone verify this?
The reply is dated the same day:
From Greek. It refers to people who live in perpetual mist and darkness, akin to the ‘land of the dead’. Latin ‘Cimmerius’, Greek ‘Kimmerios’, Assyrian ‘Gimirri’ even the bible ‘Gomer’ Gen.10:2 and Esk. 38:6. In Western United States it refers to a stretch of land that gets rainfall when other near by areas are desert year round.
Apart from the topographical reference, I thought the expert’s explanation highly dubious. And in fact I happen to know something about the Spanish-language origins of the word.
The searcher replied:
Thanks, Jim. I just wonder what connection this word has to Hispanics of Mexican origin because it shows up in their surnames (although not as common as Lopez or Vargas or Garcia). Is it just Mexican in origin or did that also come from Spain? So the “runaway slave” theory has no foundation then?
The expert’s reply did come back with a Spanish-language connection and he may be on to something with the topography, though I think he has it the wrong way around (as we shall see).
The “runaway slave” theory is not so obsolete.
Mexico did not have slaves (Outlawed in 1810)but
American slaves who fled to Mexico had to pass
through lands with water, or else parish (sic).
When relating their tales of woe to the locals
the word ‘cimmaron’ arose to describe their flight
through the South West desert.
Very curiously, there was no further contribution to the discussion. I tried to leave my own but had to register, which I have done (though wondering if worth the trouble) and am now awaiting confirmation1.
THE FOLK MEMORY WAS TRUE
Continuing with a little light online research I find that the Castillian-language (Spanish) origin is the explanation most often given, with rarely a reference to Greek or other classical or archaic languages. For example, in yourdictionary.com:
American Spanish cimarrón, wild, unruly ( from Old Spanish cimarra, thicket): probably origin, originally referring to the wild sheep (bighorn) found along its banks
(Latin America, of animals) feral (having returned to the wild)
Synonyms: alzado, bagual, feral
(Latin America, of people) rural; campestral
(Latin America, of plants) of a wild cultivar.
But …. what about the “runaway slaves”? Under the title Cimarron People, Wikipedia has this to say: The Cimarrons in Panama were enslaved Africans who had escaped from their Spanish masters and lived together as outlaws. In the 1570s, they allied with Francis Drake of England to defeat the Spanish conquest. In Sir Francis Drake Revived (1572), Drake describes the Cimarrons as “a black people which about eighty years past fled from the Spaniards their masters, by reason of their cruelty, and are since grown to a nation, under two kings of their own. The one inhabiteth to the west, the other to the east of the way from Nombre de Dios”. (location in Panama — DB)
While we may indulge ourselves in a sardonic smile at commissioned pirate Francis Drake talking about the cruelty of others, or about slave-owning by a country other than England in 1570, we remember also that at the time Spain was the main competitor with England in the rush to plunder the Americas – and had got there well before them.2 Both colonial powers were already plundering Africa for raw materials and slaves.
The meanings of animals having gone “feral” or “returned to the wild” would easily have been applied by the society of the time to escaped African slaves, a society which, despite evidence to the contrary including agriculture in Africa, would have considered indigenous inhabitants of Africa as people living in the “wild”. Once escaped and no longer under European control, they would be seen as “returning to the wild”.
So what happened to the Cimarron People? Their settlements were subject to punitive raids by the Spanish, killing people and burning crops, so that in the end they came to a treaty with their old enemy. The Wikipedia entry says no more except that the “Cimarrons” and the English quarreled (not surprising, given that they were of no further use to the latter). I believe some of their settlements in Florida were raided and burned by US “pioneers” and soldiers and that the remainder became part of the Seminoles, a native American tribe that resisted the USA in the longest and most costly of the USA’s wars against the indigenous people, the Native (North) Americans. The Seminole had many tribe members of part-African origin in their midst.
And here – a surprise: The word “Seminole” is derived from the Muscogee word simanó-li, which may itself be derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning “runaway” or “wild one”!
So, in line with what that on-line searcher back in 2004 had heard, no doubt a folk belief, the word cimarronis, in Mexico (and in the USA), of Castillian (Spanish) language origin and is connected to escaped slaves of African origin.
Some of the sources for “cimarron” also give us “marron” or “marrón” which is also related to escaped slaves and, in English, became “Maroons”. The Maroons, escaped slaves who inhabited mountainous regions of Jamaica and elsewhere became a great problem to the English settlers (after they took the island from the Spanish) which they failed totally to quell, the Maroons emerging victorious in many military engagements. In the Cockpits area of Jamaica, I have read, there is a place called Nanny Town, which is believed to be one of the settlements of the Maroons; their chief was said to be a woman called “Granny Nanny”3, whether because of her former slave occupation or for other reason4. In the end, like the Spanish with the Cimarron People, the English had to treat with them. Sadly the treaty required the Maroons to return newly-escaped slaves, which they did and for which they received payment.
However if instead of being a voluntary escapee to go to a wild place you were forced by people or circumstance, well then, like Alexander Selkirk’s “Crusoe”, you’d be “marooned”!
Well then, what about the “cimarron strips” in the southwest of the USA? Could the word refer to strips of land “gone wild”? Or could the expert replying to the question in 2004 have been on to something?
If the slaves escaping through the desert from the USA to Mexico did indeed make their way through strips of watered land (not just for the water, as the expert speculates but for vegetation to conceal them), then there is a connection between escaped slaves and these strips of land. But not as the expert sees it, rather the other way around: since the escaped slaves, the “cimarrones” were travelling the strips, they would be called by those who knew about it (escapee hunters, escapee helpers and just observers), “cimarron strips”, i.e “those strips through which the runaway slaves travel.”
CHRISTIAN ETHNIC PREJUDICE
However, if the word comes from Castillian (Spanish) what were the origins of the word in that language?
Perhaps a year ago, I was reading a book that described the Spanish State as having been characterised, contrary to many other European states, by mass expulsions and exiles on a number of occasions throughout its history5. Naturally enough, first on the list of expulsions was the well-known example of the Moors and the Jews. Those who were not slaughtered by the forces of the “Christian Monarchs” of Ferdinand and Isabella in the “reconquest” were obliged to convert to Christianity or to leave “with only the clothes on their backs”. This also occurred in Portugal.
Those Jews who left were the Sephardim or Sephardic Jews, who spoke Ladino, an archaic kind of Iberian Romance6language with Aramaic and Hebrew words, along with the Moors, who spoke an Iberian-Arabic mixture or Arabic. The key of their houses or gates have been handed down to this day in families of both groups.7
Many converted, often referred to by Christians as “conversos” (Jews) or “moriscos” (Arabs) but were constantly under suspicion of reverting to their old religion even with the threat and constant trials and torture of the Spanish Inquisition. According to what I have read they too were sometimes called “marronos”, i.e in the eyes of the Spanish Christian ruling class, those who had been “domesticated” (Christianised) but had “returned to the their wild way”, (Moslem) i.e “gone feral”.
Wikipedia on Marrones in Iberia confirms:The (Spanish) Inquisition was aimed mostly at Jews and Muslims who had overtly converted to Christianity but were thought to be practicing their faiths secretly. They were respectively called marranos and moriscos. However, in 1567 King Phillip II directed Moriscos to give up their Arabic names and traditional dress, and prohibited the use of Arabic. In reaction, there was a Morisco uprising in the Alpujarras from 1568 to 1571. In the years from 1609 to 1614, the government expelled Moriscos.
THE BUSH FROM THE NUT?
And is “ci” or “cy” in “cimarron” then merely a prefix? The word “marrón” exists as a colour in Castilian and a number of Romance languages and came into English as the colour “maroon”. Its development is taken as originating from the colour of the large ripe chestnut, rather than given to it later. Of course there are a number of words for colours or tints which have a botanical origin, “orange” being an obvious one.
Alright, then the nut and tree might have been associated with uncultivated or “wild” areas, similar to those to which the “cimarrons” would escape. But where did the “ci” suffix come from? Somewhere in the midst of what I have been researching I came across an explanation, derived from Latin, meaning “towering”, “high” etc. But can I find it now?
The online sources are telling me that the relevant pages are up for deletion and I can join the discussion. No thanks, I do not have anything like sufficient knowledge to enter a debate on that, nor the patience of an academic to research it thoroughly.
But “high” and “wild” could easily correspond, given that valleys and plains lend themselves more easily to cultivation, as a rule, than mountainy areas, which might remain wooded or with with thick undergrowth. And that might also give us the “bush” or “thicket” referred to in a number of references for “cimarron”, which in turn might describe the “cimarron strips”. In parts of Latin America (and for all I know, in all of them) such as Chile, a “cimarra” is also a thicket or densely-grown area. The article in the Language Journal (see reference) comments that the “arra” cannot be a Romance language word-ending but even if true it seems to me that the author (or authors quoted) might be unaware that among those from Iberia who colonised or settled in the Americas, Romance language speakers were not alone. There were also Basques who spoke Euskera/ Euskara and for evidence, they applied a number of toponomics and left family names from the Basque Country (Basque descendants make up to 10% of the population of some Latin American countries). And “-arra” would be a common enough suffix or word-ending in Euskera.8
OKLAHOMA PANHANDLE AND THE CIMARRON STRIP
In the 19th Century wars between the Mexican Republic, the USA and the Native Americans in the area, it was carved up with less and less left to the Native Americans. Prior to the American Civil War, white Texas wanted to join the Union as a slave state and due to a US federal law prohibiting slavery north of 36°30′ parallel north, white Texas surrendered a strip of land north of that latitude. The settlement (temporary of course), left a strip as “Neutral Territory” (one can only imagine the temptation for African slaves in Texas to make for there). After the Civil War big cattle ranchers moved in, disregarding treaties and named the area the Cimarron Strip.
But that was because the word Cimarron was already in the area, from the “Cimarron Cutoff” leading to a crossing of the Cimarron river. And yes, there was a popular 1967-1968 TV series called “Cimarron Strip”, starring Stuart Whitman. But, though I used to watch it, that is only faintly related to the story of the word that set me out on this journey.
1Which days later had still not arrived – perhaps the site is no longer in operation, which would explain the silence after those two posters.
2Columbus voyage to America 1641 and Spain’s first colonial settlement 1565 (now Florida); Mayflower expedition to America with English settlers 1587 (now Virginia). However, Europeans had founded settlements much earlier, as with the Norse in the 10th Century and very likely Irish monks in the 6th Century. But it was the English and Spanish who conquered most, the Dutch, French and Portuguese less. The descendants of the English settlers after gaining independence from England completed the seizure and colonisation of most of the North American continent, while English colonists remaining loyal to the English Crown seized land to form what is now Canada.
4All the folk tradition, albeit conflicting on some points, declares that she had not been a slave which leaves one to wonder how she might have reached Jamaica from Africa without having been enslaved.
5 I borrowed the book from the public library and cannot remember its title at the moment.
6“Romance languages” is the name give to the group on Indo-European languages such as Castillian (Spanish), Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, Romanian, Italian and French. They are sometimes called “Latin-based” or “Latin Languages” but there is some dispute about the origins and developments of these languages.
7 Ironically, the door or gate “key” is also a symbol of return for Palestinian refugees driven from their homes by Zionist massacres, threats and fear during the founding of the State of Israel.
8 Among toponomics of North America’s southwest Durango (Colorado and Mexico), Navarro and Zavala Counties (Texas) are perhaps the best known; while Aguirre, Arana, Bolívar (Bolibar), Cortazar (Kortazar), Duhalde, Echevarria (Etxebarria), García, Guevara (Gebarra), Ibarra, Larrazábal, Mendiata, Muzika, Ortiz, Salazar, Ugarte, Urribe and Zabala are but some among a host of family names of Basque origin from the American south-west to Latin America. And of course the country of Bolivia, from Simon Bolívar, a Basque surname from a Basque toponomic.
A recent article of the Belfast Telegraph, a British-Unionist paper, reports that nationalist youth have built a bonfire and decorated it with, among other things, a banner representing the Parachute Regiment and another representing “Soldier F”. The article reports that the Police Service of Northern Ireland are treating this as “a hate crime”.
The newspaper comments also that this bonfire is associated with “anti-social behaviour” the nature of which however they neglect to specify. Although the article treats the PSNI statement as unremarkable and neglects to interrogate it as responsible journalism should do, the police statement is actually not only totally inaccurate in terms of law but also discriminatory and oppressive.
One definition of “hate crime” from an on-line dictionary is a crime, typically one involving violence, that is motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds.
Wikipedia posts at greater length and depth:A hate crime (also known as a bias-motivated crime or bias crime is a prejudice-motivated crime which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of their membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group or race.
“Hate crime” generally refers tocriminal acts which are seen to have been motivated bybias against one or more of the social groups listed above, or by bias against their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, mate crime or offensivegraffiti or letters (hate mail).
Now, how does placing an emblem or banner to represent the Paratroop Regiment constitute a “hate crime” under any of those definitions? First of all, is it a crime to burn the banner? Not in itself, no and therefore it cannot be a hate crime. But even if burning a banner were defined in law as a crime, how would it fit the definition of “hate crime” as given above? It is none of those categories above that leads to the Parachute Regiment being reviled.
It is interesting, since the issue of “hate crimes” was brought into law, how incorrectly they are being ascribed by people in authority and by mass media and, curiously, applied to people struggling for national self-determination against repressive states and also to those opposing fascists. In other words, it is progressive forces that are being accused of “hate crimes” because of their resistance to oppression and resistance. Not the reactionary forces one might suppose were the object of the classification.
Certainly, it is the discriminatory and repressive behaviour towards its large Catholic minority of the ‘Northern Ireland’ statelet since its formation which clearly fits into the definitions of “hate crime”, although often its actions were not defined as crimes since they were authorised by its repressive legislation. Nevertheless, even within the parameters of that body of legislation the Statelet and its police committed thousands of crimes, including petty harassment, beatings, torture, perjury, arson, collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries and murder.
The British Army became an active participant in those crimes when it was sent into the Six Counties to bolster the crumbling government and exhausted sectarian police. Chief among those in criminality was the Parachute Regiment, responsible for an admitted list of unarmed civilian fatalities which includes 10 in Ballymurphy in August 1971, 13 in Derry in January of 1972 and another five in July of that year on the Springfield Estate.
It is perfectly reasonable, natural and, I would say healthy to hate the people who carried out those massacres. And to hate them cannot reasonably be called a crime.
“Soldier F” is the only member of that regiment to have been charged with the crime of murder and to be facing trial. As a representative of that murderous regiment he did not become a public target of hate until the Loyalists chose to publicly flaunt their support for him with banners, graffiti and badges. None of those, motivated by hate for the nationalist community, were charged with committing a hate crime. However, when nationalist youth, responding to that hateful campaign of the Loyalists, place the soldier’s alias on a bonfire, suddenly it is they who are accused of perpetrating a “hate crime”.
Unfortunate it may be that the nationalist youth have focused on this individual soldier but it is not a hate crime. They are targeting him not because of race, ethnicity, colour, religion, sexuality, disability etc, etc but because of his membership of a murderous regiment and, furthermore, in response to a campaign of provocation by Loyalists against which the sectarian PSNI and Statelet authorities have taken no action whatsoever.
And you know what? Although I am not from Derry or Belfast, I hate the Paratroop Regiment too.And the sectarian Statelet and its sectarian police force and the Loyalist bigots who support it and try to suppress the democratic rights of the nationalist population, as well as of migrants, women and LBGT people.
I could get to hate the Belfast Telegraph as well.
(Reading time: Introduction, one minute; Part One: 5 mins; Part Two 2 mins: Part Three: 3 mins; Part Four: 2 mins; Total: 13 mins.)
Although I often think about the big questions – and am generally guided by my philosophy on them, my mind and energy are usually too occupied with specific struggles to focus on them for long. Recently however I had the opportunity and the need to think about the war, the one we have yet to win.
But to which war am I referring? The Irish war of national liberation that has been flaring up for centuries, being lost each time before flaring up again? Or the class war, which has had a few sharp Irish episodes but has been, for the most part in Ireland, in abeyance? The answer is BOTH, though it may seem that my emphasis in the discussion, certainly in the early part, is on the national liberation war.
In order to imagine how we might win, it is helpful to examine past struggles and analyse what went wrong with them. Pessimists love to focus on those things I know – but in order to push us towards reformism or just surrender; my approach instead is from a revolutionary perspective.
Generally, Socialists analysing the class struggle don’t even ask themselves why we have not had a revolution yet. From week to week, month to month, they tend to focus on this or that particular trade union or social struggle but without going into the big picture. It seems as though they can’t even imagine a socialist uprising in Ireland, it’s just too far away to think about, apparently. But if one can’t even imagine such a revolution, how could one consider the necessary steps to get there?
Irish Republicans on the other hand are often thinking in terms of revolution, usually including armed struggle. However it seems to me that Irish Republicans don’t like analysing past failures of the movement but when they do, their verdicts tend to be that the leaders betrayed the struggle or that taking part in public elections corrupted the movement; or that infiltration, spies and informers was the problem. And some other reasons. The thing is, although all those things played a particular part, they are not the fundamental reason.
PART ONE: THE THIRTY-YEARS’ WAR – DOOMED TO LOSE
(Reading time this section: less than 5 minutes)
The national liberation war that began in 1969 in the Six Counties and ended in 1998 (though some armed incidents continue from time to time) began as a civil rights struggle and changed into a war of communal defence and of national liberation. The military part of the struggle for the most part took place in the occupied Six Counties. The political element of the struggle was waged all over Ireland (and abroad) but in the main consisted of support for the struggle in the Six occupied Counties.
Fought in that way, the struggle was bound to lose. It could never win. How could anyone imagine that they could win a struggle fought against a world power in one-sixth of the country, where even the population there was divided against them? What could they have been thinking?
To my mind, there are only two possible sane replies to that question, which is that they believed: 1) that the British ruling class would get worn down by struggle and leave and/ or 2) that the Irish ruling class would intervene in some way to assist the struggle and make continued British occupation untenable.
1) ‘The British ruling class would get worn down and leave’: This theory must have depended on British repression being condemned abroad and being unpopular at home but had to rest fundamentally on the British having no great stake in continuing its possession of its colony there.
Anyone who thought that (and there were many who did and still many who do, not just Irish Republicans) made a fundamental error. Time and again the British ruling class has shown its determination to hang on to what might be considered its first colony, even as the ruling class’ composition changed from feudal-colonialist to capitalist-imperialist and as the world changed around it.
Even when the British ruling class, weakened by WW1 and facing an Irish guerrilla war which enjoyed the support of the vast majority of Irish people, with national liberation uprisings breaking out across its Empire and with its repression in Ireland increasingly unpopular at home, entered into negotiations with the Irish resistance, it held on to a foothold, the Six Counties.
Subsequently, it had that colony managed in a permanent state of emergency laws, with institutionalised sectarian discrimination at all official levels and outbreaks of pogroms in the street and workplace.
That became even more exposed during the civil rights struggle and the national liberation war that followed when the British State compromised whatever good international reputationremained to its Armed Forces, its judiciary, its legal establishment, its media and its very legal framework.
Even now, when many believe that the Good Friday Agreement means that a 50% plus-one-vote in favour in the Six Counties will be sufficient to end Partition, they do not realise that such a decision will have to also obtain a majority in the British Parliament and be endorsed by the British Monarch. They are also forgetting the broken promises that surrounded Partition in the first place.
When analysing what holding on to the Six Counties has cost the British State in terms of reputation, military and financial contributions, one can only rationally assume that continuing to hold on to that foothold is of great importance to the British State. One may speculate as to the reasons underlying that but the central fact cannot be denied.
2) ‘The Irish ruling class would intervene in some way to assist the struggle and make continued British occupation untenable’:
There was some basis for this belief in that a section of Fianna Fáil, a party that had emerged from a split in Sinn Féin in the 1930s and had become one of the mainstream parties in the Irish state, had retained some traditional commitment to seeking a united Ireland. However it was a thin enough basis on which to depend in a national liberation struggle since that section had no majority within the party itself, to say nothing of the foreign-dependent nature of the Irish native capitalist class, the Gombeens, as a whole.
The question came to a trial of strength in the Arms Crisis of 1970, in which at least two Fianna Fáil Government Ministers were involved in secretly buying arms for the defence of nationalist areas in the Six Counties (since the IRA had insufficient weapons at the time) from rampaging Loyalist mobs and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (including the part-time B-Specials). The Ministers alleged that they had acted in the full knowledge of the rest of the Government. By the time the whole affair was over, two Ministers had been sacked and another two resigned in protest.
If it had not been clear before that the Gombeens, the native Irish capitalist class was no patriotic capitalist class but rather a neo-colonial one, it should have been clear after that. But the armed struggle in the Six Counties intensified, especially after the massacres of unarmed civilians carried out by British Paratroopers the following year, 1971 in Belfast and again in Derry in 1972. And the war lasted until 1998.
If, as had been demonstrated to be the case that the British ruling class were determined to hold on to the Six Counties and the Irish ruling class was not going to seriously challenge that possession, did the Republican movement have any other option than to fight on a war that they could not possibly win?
I am clear that it did.
Clearly, in order to have a chance of success, the war had to be extended to the other five-fifths of the country, which is to say into the territory under the control of the Irish native capitalist class. This class had seized power after the War of Independence (1919-1921) and had beaten and suppressed its opposition duringand afterthe Civil War (1922-1923) and furthermore was supported by a powerful ally, the Irish Catholic Church. Since the founding of the first Irish Republican organisation, the United Irishmen of the late 1790s, the Catholic Church hierarchy had opposed Irish Republicanism; it had condemned four Irish priests who participated in the uprising of 1798, excommunicated the Fenians, had at first condemned the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence only to latch on to it at the end along with the Gombeen class.
The general Irish population likely would not have supported or sustained an armed struggle in the 1970s against the Gombeen class but that class could have been fought politically, through agitation and mobilisation, on many social, political and economic fronts. Without going into the specific details of each, these were:
against the huge wastage of Irish youth through emigration
to remedy the shortage of affordable housing (which in part contributed to the above)
to end unemployment (also contributing hugely to emigration)
to raise the level of wages and lower wage earners’ taxation
for the right to divorce
for equality for women in law
for the right to contraception devices and medication for men and women
against decriminalisation and for equal rights for gay and lesbians
to halt the decline of the Irish language, in particular of the rural Irish-speaking areas
to improve services for the rural areas
to oppose the open-door policy for foreign multinationals to exploit Irish natural and human resources
to secularise the education service
and the health service.
to remove the privileged status of the Catholic Church within the state.
The Republican movement in general, with some exceptions, declined to take on any of those struggles. They did not organise in the trade union movement, left the social struggles to others and most of all, declined to take on the Catholic Church on any issue except its opposition to the national liberation struggle. Even there, it was happy to publicly avail of the services of members of the Church clergy who supported them. Republicanism was, from its very beginning, as well as anti-monarchist, about separation of Church and State but it was difficult to see that in the Irish Republican movement, particularly after the War of Independence.
A full half of those fourteen points above (nos. 5,6, 7, 8, 12, 13 and 14) would have meant taking on the Church head-on and no doubt the hierarchy would have hindered the struggle over most of the others too, due to its strong links with the State and its ruling class.
Because of its tactical and no doubt ideological refusal to take up those struggles, the Republican movement could do little more in the 26-County state than to agitate for solidarity with the beleaguered nationalist population inside the British colony.
Though this could be effective for a time it could not become a mass movement, nor survive a long struggle, without any remedy being sought for the issues facing the population within the state.
The wonder is not that the majority leadership of the Republican Movement threw in the towel on the military struggle in 1998 but that they had waited so long to do it. Of course, they never admitted the true nature of what they were doing: abandoning the armed struggle and revolution in total and instead, using their negotiating position to advance themselves politically – not in the economic, social and political struggle envisioned above but rather in a political struggle to find themselves a place among the Gombeen political class in the Irish state and as accomplices in the governing of the colonial state.
PART 2: COLLECTING THE FORCES FOR REVOLUTION
(Reading time this section: 2 minutes)
A successful revolution in Ireland, as in most places, would require the involvement of a mass movement. That mass movement would be unlikely to be one that had national self-determination as its only aim – certainly not in the 26 Counties (the Irish state). Mass movements arise at times around different issues and exist as long as the issue does or instead until the movement gets worn down or broken up. Such movements arose around the Household Tax and, later, around the additional Water Charges.
Even though the objectives of such movements are often not revolutionary, the participation in them by revolutionaries is necessary if, in the future, there is to be a revolution. Revolutionary activists can make contacts and prove themselves by the way they participate whilst at the same time pointing out that a revolution is necessary in order to resolve all these issues completely and permanently. Such activists can also influence the movement (or sections of it) to act in more revolutionary ways, so that the movement can be guided by – and imbued with — revolutionary spirit.
Working people in struggles come up against concrete problems which need to be resolved in order to move forward. Prior to 1913 in Ireland, workers learned the need for unity in struggle which was emphasised by the employers’ attempts to break the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in August 1913. The attacks on them by the Dublin Metropolitan Police illustrated the need for organised defence and Larkin and Connolly called for the formation of what became the Irish Citizen Army, which later also fought prominently in the 1916 Rising.
Trade unions are the only mass organisations of the working class in Ireland and it is necessary for revolutionaries to be active within them. Currently, other than social democrats, it is mainly members of both trotskyist parties and independent activists who engage politically with the trade unions. Those members are mostly in clerical work and their political work tends to concentrate on employment demands around wages and working conditions. When they introduce politics it is generally to get some motion passed by their branch. Also at times, they will campaign to get a perceived left-wing candidate elected to some position within the trade union bureaucracy.
None of the above are without value but they remain disjointed in terms of program and often confined to just one trade union. Not only that, but often the Left party involved will engage in order to recruit some new members and in order also to retain their own members by providing them with activity. When broad front trade union groups are formed, they tend to become an arena where the dominant trotskyist parties compete for dominance.
If we are to have a successful revolution – and in particular a socialist one – participation in the struggles of workers in the trade union movement is absolutely necessary. But participation should be primarily among the rank and file of the trade union and also across trade unions, focused on providing solidarity to members of whichever union is in struggle – in addition to encouraging unorganised workers to organise and become active. The objective is not to help make one trade union or one section more militant but rather to create a militant workers‘ solidarity movement within the whole trade union movement. It is essential to have members in the ‘blue-collar’ work unions or departments as well as in the clerical unions or sections. And the cross-union organisation I advocated should be independent — the preserve of no political party.
Participation in such struggles provides an opportunity for revolutionaries to make contact with people who are activists but not yet revolutionaries and to give those people an opportunity to evaluate the revolutionaries in terms of their actual practice. Revolutionaries can support the people struggling for worthwhile reforms while at the same time pointing to their partial and temporary nature. Revolutionary activists can play an educational role in the mass movements while at the same time becoming educated themselves by the daily reality faced by the masses in this system.
PART 3: THE ABSOLUTE NEED FOR UNITY – BUT WHAT KIND?
(Reading time this section: 3 minutes)
It is, most people would think, a ‘no-brainer’ (i.e an obvious truth) that unity is necessary in the struggle to overthrow the current system. It might be thought surprising, therefore, that disunity is more the rule among those who aspire to revolution.
Generally, those who claim to be revolutionary socialists will not unite with Irish Republicans. In addition, those socialists of one party will often fail to unite with those of a different party. The same dynamic is to be seen among Irish Republicans also.
There have been many attempts to overcome this problem. In the 1930s the Republican Congress sought to unite Irish Republicans with revolutionary socialists. In the face of hostility within the mainstream Republican movement and also with divisions among the communist element in Ireland at the time, faced in addition with anti-communist hysteria whipped up by the Catholic Church, the experiment failed. The leadership of the Sinn Féin and the IRA of the later 1960s tried to combine socialism and republicanism within one party and military organisation, an attempt that crashed when it was discovered that the arms necessary to defend ‘nationalist’ community areas in the Six Counties, particularly in Belfast, were unavailable, leading to an acrimonious split in the movement. A subsequent attempt to combine the socialist and republican elements in another organisation survived a little longer but also failed for a number of reasons, some internal and also due to Irish State repression.
There have been some attempts to unite the non-republican Left itself also, which usually failed due in part to ideological differences but also to political sectarianism and personality clashes. Currently both trotskyist parties have an uneasy working relationship, the small grouping of Independents for Change exists also, the Communist Party is very small too and the anarchists are scattered and unable for years now, for the most part, to mount united action.
Attempts to unite the various parts of the Irish Republican movement have, in general, focused on creating a new organisation or absorbing activists unhappy with one organisation into another.
A frequent approach has been for some people to sit down and produce what they consider solid policy and a constitution, then to propose this format to others around which to unite. Even when accepting amendments from the elements they seek to recruit, these attempts too have largely failed.
It seems a rational approach: if we want unity, surely first we have to agree on what for, how, etc, etc before we can go into action? I believe, contrary though it may seem, that actually we should unite in action first. Uniting in action tends to break down barriers of mistrust that are built on hearsay or suspicions fostered by sectarian elements. Action also tends to clarify certain questions that until then are theoretical only. Of course, at some point, action will need to be guided by worked out policy but initially the action itself can be sufficient guide, especially since approaching the question the other way around has been so generally unproductive.
The question then arises: with whom to unite? In general, I would say that the answer is: with all with whom we can, in actual practice, unite: different types of revolutionary socialists (including anarchists), Irish Republicans, Left social democrats, human and civil rights activists.
There are some exceptions I think necessary to mention: fascists, racists, religious sectarians and parties that participate in Government. Fascists seek to impose an undemocratic regime completely hostile to the interests of working people and, far from our uniting with them, need to be defeated; racists and religious sectarians seek to divide the movement along lines of ethnicity or religious affiliation. Revolutionaries need to draw a clear line of distinction between the movements of resistance and those who participate in a native capitalist or colonial government, i.e the management organisations of the enemy.
Many issues lend themselves to united action but perhaps none more so, and none are more essential, than against repression.
PART FOUR: UNITY AGAINST REPRESSION
(Reading time this section: 3 minutes)
All revolutionary movements – and many that are progressive but not revolutionary – face repression at some point in their existence. Not to recognise that fact and to have some kind of preparation for it, even if very basic, is indicative of a non-revolutionary attitude to the State. Nor have we any reason in Ireland to be complacent on this question.
The Irish State turned to military suppression in the first year of its existence as did also the colonial statelet. Detentions, torture, murders and official executions were carried out by Free State forces over a number of years, followed by censorship and arrests, all facilitated by emergency repressive legislation. In the Six Counties, in addition to similar even more repressive legislation, there were two sectarian militarised police forces and sectarian civilian organisations.
After a change of government, the Irish State introduced internment without trial during the Emergency (1939-1946), the Offences Against the State Act in 1939, Special Criminal (sic) Courts in 1972 and the Amendment to the OAS in that same year.
The Six County statelet had the Special Powers Act (1922) and brought in internment without trial in 1971 (the Ballymurphy Massacre that year and the Derry Massacre the following year, both by the Parachute Regiment, were of people protesting the introduction of internment). The statelet also introduced the Emergency Provisions Act and the no-jury Diplock Courts in 1973 and, though technically abolished in 2007, non-jury trials can and do take place up to today.
The British state targeted the Irish diaspora in Britain in 1974 with the Prevention of Terrorism (sic) Act and that same year and the following, framed and convicted nearly a score of innocent people of bombings in five different cases – had the death penalty not been previously abolished for murder, most of them would have been executed. It took the victims over 15 years to win their freedom, by which time one had died in jail. Brought in as a temporary measure, the PTA continued in force until 1989 but a general Terrorism Act was brought into British Law in 2000 and remains in force today.
State repression rarely targets the whole population and, particularly in a capitalist “democracy” focuses on particular groups which it fears or feels it can safely persecute. However, we should also recall Pastor Niemoller’s words about the creeping repression which even the German Nazi state instituted, going after first one group, then another, and another …. Among the list of groups targeted eventually by the Nazis were Jews, Roma, Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, Social Democrats, Jehova’s Witnesses, Free Masons, Gays and Lesbians, Mentally Ill or challenged, physically challenged ….
It is in the interests of the vast majority of the population to oppose repression of different groups, whether those groups be based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, citizenship status or democratic politics. Not everyone recognises this of course but one might expect that political activists challenging the status quo would do so. Sadly, experience shows that they do not in practice (though they may acknowledge it intellectually).
With some periodic exceptions, socialist groups in Ireland do not support protests against repression of republicans. Furthermore, some republican groups will not support others when the latter are subjected to repression. Yet at any time, Republicans of any group can be and are regularly harassed in public or raided at home; their employers may be warned about them by the political police; they may be detained on special repressive legislation, denied bail, effectively interned; they can be easily convicted in the non-jury Special Criminal Courts or Diplock Courts; ex-prisoners released on licence in the Six Counties can be returned to jail without any charge or possibility of defence.
The Irish State’s non-jury Special Criminal Court is a tempting facility for putting away people whom the State finds annoying and it is widely thought it was considered for the trials of the Jobstown protesters. The result of the trial, where the jury clearly took a different view to the presiding judge, may well have justified the opinion of those in the State who considered sending the defendants to the SCC.
Unity against repression is a fundamental need of a healthy society and of movements that challenge the status quo. Practical unity in any kind of action also tends to break down barriers and assists general revolutionarybroad unity. Unity against repression is so basic a need that agreement with this or that individual is unnecessary, nor with this or that organisation in order to defend them against repression. Basic democratic rights were fought for by generations and have to be defended; in addition they give activists some room to act without being jailed. On this basis, all must unite in practice and political sectarianism has no place in that.
Without some basic unity in practice across the sector challenging the status quo, there can be no revolution. But more than that: we stand together against repression ….. or we go to jail separately.
Diarmuid Breatnach is a veteran independent revolutionary activist, currently particularly active in committees against repression, in some areas of internationalist solidarity and in defence of historical memory.
Well, I can see that it would be for Britain, to leave the European Union, the European Economic Community, the Common Market …… It will impact in particular on trade and they’ll have to leave the euro currency ….. no, wait, they never joined that anyway, kept their own currency throughout. In fact, British ruling circles were never that keen to join a “community” that they were not in charge of and, even worse, that Germany was.
And I can see that the Brexit drama has has had quite an unsettling effect on the leadership of the Conservative Party (sorry, Conservative and Unionist parties), with one Prime Minister getting sacrificed so an apparently worse one can step into the vacancy.
I can also see that it has rocked the shaky Union, with the majority of Scotland and the Six Counties voting to stay in the EU and (unproven) concerns among many in Britain that the vote in favour of leaving was dominated by right-wing, jingoistic and even racist elements.
But why is it a problem for the population of Ireland, as we keep being told it is – or will be?
Well, apparently we might get a “hard Border” around the British colony of one-sixth of our nation. There might be customs and military controls, checkpoints, watch towers ….. And this will all undermine the Good Friday Agreement. Apparently.
Why would it? Apparently the illusion of normality around the armed occupation of our country will disappear, once we have to go through checkpoints and pay tax on shopping from one side of the Border or the other. Once that illusion is swept away, those “dissident” Republicans will take arms and launch another war of resistance, or campaign of terrorism, according to how you feel about it.
Really? Border checkpoints will do that? Amazing!
So, was that what started the last three decades or so of armed conflict in what some geography-challenged people call “Northern Ireland”? Well, no, not really. Firstly, it was that fifty years earlier, those six counties (hence the title of “The Six Counties”) had been hijacked when the rest of the nation was being given a measure of independence, then had been put under a police state run by sectarian religious bigots. Yes I know it’s not nice to say that but when you go into a hardware shop to buy a spade, you don’t ask for “a spoon”.
And then those people who were at the receiving end of that bigotry and police state treatment felt a wind of change blowing around the world and had the temerity to demand an end to sectarianism in the allocation of work, housing and voting rights, along with wanting ordinary civil rights that were available in the rest of the UK but not for the people in the Six Counties, despite the colony being, we were told, “as British as Finchley”.
Naturally the police and the sectarian bigots set upon those marchers with batons, rocks and toxic tear gas – and even live rounds – but still couldn’t get them to give up their outrageous demands. The poor cops were getting worn down so, naturally again, the colonial power sent in the troops, with guns and fixed bayonets. And so the war started.
It wasn’t the checkpoints that led to war, honestly. It was other things completely.
Of course, it is possible that something different from before might trigger another war. That’s the thing about occupation forces and indigenous populations – the relationship usually begins with violence, has a number of recurrent bouts of violence …. and is ended by violence.
So, the Good Friday Agreement – a great achievement, right. Er … why? Oh, it brought peace. Actually no, it didn’t. It brought a pause in the armed resistance struggle is what it did. And that’s only something like peace if it holds. I don’t think it will, nor do I think border controls are what will undermine it. And even if it stayed as it is, it would be pacification, not peace.
The Good Friday Agreement amounts to this, in crude essence:
Colonising power: We can kill you and you can kill ours – but you can’t send ours to prison for decades and make their families suffer. We can’t beat you but we can outlast you and outhurt you.
Republican organisation: We will resist.
CP: Yes, you have been. But you are not going to win. Why not do a deal?
RO: What deal is on offer?
CP: Peace process.
RO: What does it involve?
CP: 1. We get to keep the colony. 2. You stop fighting. 3. You destroy your weapons.
RO: What do we get out of it?
CP: 1. You get your prisoners out (but under licence of good behaviour). 2. You get to build a political career, if you want it. 3. And if you do, one day you could help us manage this colony.
RO: Hmmm. OK, we’ll take it.
In all the discussion about the Brexit question, particularly by mass media pundits and establishment politicians (and wannabe establishment politicians like SF’s), when do we hear it being said that the Six Counties is a colony occupied by force?
This isn’t another country with which we happen to have a border, such as between Germany and the French state, for example, or between the French and Spanish states. They aren’t people of another nation on the other side of that Border — they are Irish. It is a part of our country and for nearly eight centuries the British invaders and colonisers saw it as one country too — until they had to pull out and decided it was important to keep a foothold in it.
So, coming back to the question of the people in Ireland, why should we be too concerned, one way or another with regard to Brexit? Apart from people in the Border areas who need to travel regularly across it and are going to be greatly inconvenienced by it, I don’t think we should.
Maybe we can find some real problems for us to deal with instead. Apart from the colonial status of those Six Counties, along with its continuing dominant sectarianism and bigotry, which is not even mentioned in the dominant discourse, we have a continuing bank bailout debt, a massive social housing deficit, a crumbling health service, public services and natural resources being plundered and a corrupt police force …..