ANTI-MASKERS NOT GOING FAR ENOUGH

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 minutes)

For quite some time now certain people have been protesting inside shops and other spaces, along with marching up and down streets insisting on their right to enter places and to travel without wearing a mask or without displaying proof that they have been vaccinated. Those anti-maskers have been quite proud of what they see as their stand for personal freedom and against authoritarian rules. I on the other hand think they have been very tame and don’t go nearly far enough. So I’ve listed some other rules and regulations they should be rebelling against.

ADDITIONAL UTHORITARIAN RULES AND REGULATIONS TO REBEL AGAINST

Driving

  • Being obliged to have a driving licence
  • Being obliged to have motor insurance
  • Having to drive on one side of the road
  • Having to obey traffic lights and signs
  • Being obliged to have working lights on one’s vehicle and using them in dark conditions

Domestic(ated) animals

  • Having to clean up your dog’s excreta in a public place
  • Not importing pets without their vaccinations
  • Not importing wild animals without a licence
  • Not being allowed to keep animals in whatever condition one feels like

Children

  • Having to send children to school
  • Not being permitted to have children working full time
  • Not being permitted to serve underage children alcohol
  • Not being permitted to sell underage children tobacco and cigarettes
  • Having to take action in cases of bullying
  • Not being permitted to beat children in school

General social

  • Having to wear clothing covering sexual parts in public
  • Not being allowed to excrete in the street
  • Not being permitted to smoke in some areas
  • Not being permitted to drop trash wherever and whenever one feels like it
  • Being forbidden from playing loud music, operating power tools or creating noise in general in communities between certain hours
  • Being forbidden from emitting large amounts of smoke or other noxious gasses in a community
  • Not being able to say whatever one likes about anyone else without being subject to libel or slander laws (or a smack in the mouth)
  • Having to adhere to fire prevention and control regulations in communal or community living
  • Having to adhere to published standards in construction

Food hygiene

  • Not serving food past its advertised sell-by date
  • Food-preparation staff being required to be qualified in the practice
  • Food-serving premises being obliged to store food according to regulations
  • Food preparation and processing having to adhere to published standards
  • Being required to advertise the contents of products
  • Being required to advertise a safe “sell by” date on food products

Working Health & Safety

  • Workplaces having to adhere to Health & Safety regulations
  • Being required to wear safety helmet on construction sites
  • Being required to wear goggles or industrial spectacles and/or ear protectors for certain operations
  • Being required to clip on a safety line on boats in rough conditions
  • Being required to wear a flotation jacket on board boats
  • Not being permitted to smoke in some areas
  • Having to adhere to fire prevention and control regulations

Environmental

  • Having to avoid or control pollution from any procedures
  • Not being allowed to dump whatever material one wants to wherever one feels like it
  • Not being allowed to light open fires in certain areas at certain times of the year
  • Not being permitted to trim hedgerows during the bird nesting period
  • Being restricted in hunting or fishing during certain periods of the year

Hospital

  • Having to adhere to anti-contamination procedures in ICU and generally in hospital

DOWN WITH AUTHORITARIAN CONTROLS!

SUSPICION

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

I left the dentist’s feeling like my mouth was not my own. The anaesthetic lasted, as it always does with me, long beyond the work. I knew I couldn’t speak as clearly as I wished, because I had a very short conversation with the receptionist about my next appointment before I left. My tongue was having difficulty forming words and I was lisping.

The anaesthetic always takes ages to act on me and by the time it finally starts to take effect the dentist has got fed up waiting and has given me extra shots, gets through the work quickly and lets me out on to the street, one side of my face feeling like a dead football, if that makes sense, and an itch in half my lips and one ear that scratching only makes worse.

On my way home from the surgery, I called in to my local grocery shop to purchase some necessaries – I didn’t think I’d want to come out again for the rest of that day at least.

When I heard the assistant call to indicate it was my turn in the queue, I went to the counter and handed over the items. She scanned them electronically and told me how much to pay. I hardly heard her but automatically checked the electronic display.

“Two thixty-three?” I asked with difficulty, double-checkin; for some reason. I do that – don’t ask me why.

Yeth pleeth”, she replied with that look they often have which says they kind of see you but only kind of. I looked at her sharply. Was she taking the piss?

“Thanksh,” she said, taking the five note I gave her. My eyes narrowed but she was already ringing it up in her “done this a few hundred times today, a couple of thousand a week, could do it my sleep” kind of way. Then she gave me my change, her eyes sliding over me.

Two twenty-theven change, thank you,” she said. “Neksht!”

I stared at her but her eyes were already on the next customer, who was approaching and looking at me a little impatiently. I moved on and came to a halt near the doors.

By now I was chiding myself for being paranoid. Had I never met someone with a lisp before? Suspecting her of taking the piss? Come on! She was hardly aware of anyone except as bearers of items to ring up, give them their change, thank them, call out for the next customer. Eight hours a day with a couple of breaks. She’d have to notice someone first before she could take the piss out of them.

Shaking my head at my paranoia, I moved towards the doors, which opened automatically. Then I heard it. “That’ll be six sixty-seven please.” Clear as a bell. Then “Thank you. Next!”

Bitch! No lisp — she’d been mocking my affliction! I raged inwardly. I had a good mind to march up to her and …. say what? “Ethcuth me Mith. You were taking the pith out of me”? And how could I prove it? I’d sound like some kind of paranoid or psychopath …. or thycopath ….

Oh, fuck it! I barged out of the door, almost banging into someone coming in.

“Oh thorry!” we both said simultaneously and passed one another, each watching the other out of the corner of his eye.

End.

“BRITAIN OUT OF IRELAND!” ON ANNIVERSARY OF THE ANGLO-IRISH TREATY

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Socialist Republicans gathered in Dublin’s main O’Connell Street on Saturday 4th December to reaffirm their commitment that Britain has no right to be in Ireland. The event, taking place on the nearest weekend to the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation and supported by other socialist Republicans including the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland.

View of the picket with the GPO at the back of the photographer (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

One of the participants sang Irish revolutionary songs, accompanying himself by guitar, his unamplified voice ringing across the street and bouncing off the General Post Office opposite, location of the headquarters of the 1916 Rising. Another singer’s voice accompanied him in some of the songs.

Despite the cold, people passing on the street stopped to look, to take photos or video and, in some cases, to applaud. Some individuals also approached the participants to talk, while gestures of approval were being made from some passing public and private transport.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event concluded with the singing in Irish of the first verse and chorus of The Soldiers’ Song, a patriotic fighting song, the air of the chorus of which was adopted as the national anthem of the Irish state (but regarded by many as the property of the unfinished national liberation struggle).

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed on 6th December 1921 in London by negotiators of the Irish resistance movement. What was conceded by the British ruling class fell far short of what the armed movement had been fighting for since January 1919 and led soon afterwards to civil war (1922-1923). Clearly the negotiators should have brought back the terms for approval or rejection by the Dáil (the banned Irish parliament), instead of first signing the document, which is what they did.

The Treaty offered Dominion status for Ireland as a member of the Commonwealth under the British Crown, i.e akin to that of the “white”-governed colonies such as Australia, Canada and South Africa. It also offered the British Unionists in the north of Ireland the right to secede.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The subsequent debate on whether to ratify the Treaty was at times bitter. Some felt the terms were the best they were likely to get, other that they offered a base on which to build for greater gains while others still felt they were a betrayal of Ireland’s long struggle for independence and the sacrifices of two years of guerrilla struggle against state repression. The vast majority of the military organisations of the movement, the IRA and Cumann na mBan, were opposed to the Treaty terms but those in favour of signing gained a slim majority in the Dáil (64 in favour and 57 against).

The British unionists swiftly availed themselves of the terms, leading to the partition of Ireland early in 1922, six of the 32 Counties becoming a permanent British colony.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Some have seen the positioning around the Treaty in most of Ireland as signifying a trend led by the native Irish capitalist class and supported by the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy of putting the brakes on the national liberation movement and elements of its social content. From that perspective, the signing of the document in London signalled the first overt move of the counterrevolution which was sealed with armed force by the new neo-colonialist state through war, repression, imprisonment, kidnappings, torture and executions, both official and unofficial.

Both states in Ireland henceforth would be socially conservative, the colonial one religiously sectarian and the Irish one with the Catholic Church hierarchy as the regime’s arm of social control. The Irish state remained for decades under-industrialised and generally under-developed with constant emigration maintaining the population at its post-Great Hunger low point until near the close of the Century (and even today has not fully recovered).

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Since the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed there have been armed challenges by Irish Republicans during the Civil War of 1922-1923, during the 1930s, WWII, the “Border Campaign” of 1959-1962 and of course the more recent war of thirty years.

In addition there have strong struggles for social rights against censorship and around gender and sexuality: the right to purchase prophylactics, divorce, female equality, homosexuality, pregnancy termination and gay marriage. Struggles have also taken place around housing, wages and workers’ rights, in defence of natural resources, infrastructures and the environment.

The Six County colonial statelet remains socially conservative and sectarian religiously. Both administrations maintain no-jury special courts for dealing with some political cases.

Clearly, the Treaty left much unfinished business.

End.

A southward view of the banner and flags on the picket, the Starry Plough of the Irish Citizen Army and the Sunburst of the Fianna Éireann, with the Jim Larkin monument in the background. A LUAS tram is approaching to right of photo. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/AIAI-For-National-Liberation-and-Socialist-Revolution-101829345633677

https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743

DUBLIN HOSTS TURKISH REVOLUTIONARY MUSIC GROUP

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Last Saturday in the Teachers’ Club in Dublin (26/11/21), the revolutionary music Grup Yorum from Turkey, with some Irish musician input, played to an audience of up to two hundred. In between performing different numbers from their repertoire, band members spoke to the audience of the history of the struggles of their people and of the band.

The Irish tour of the band was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation; earlier that week Yorum played in a small music venue in Belfast to around 40 people. The attendance in Dublin was so large that the location had to be changed from a large room on the first floor to the much larger hall down below.

Grup Yorum performing in Dublin (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

BELFAST

In Belfast in the Sunflower Lounge, Bobby Fields from Armagh and Séan Óg from Dublin entertained those in attendance with songs of Irish resistance followed by Grup Yorum coming on afterwards. The Grup’s performance was enthusiastically received and was followed by a questions-and-answers session to learn more about the situation in Turkey.

The Grup members toured some of the area and visited the famous international solidarity wall along with the grave of Bobby Sands, where paying their respects included singing a song at the graveside.

DUBLIN

In the large hall in the Teachers’ Club, Dublin, Séan Óg took to the stage first, playing guitar to accompany himself on guitar to sing The Killmichael Ambush, Viva la Quinze Brigada, Back Home in Derry1 and The Internationale. Veteran activist and traditional singer Diarmuid Breatnach followed, singing unaccompanied the Anne Devlin Ballad, I’ll Wear No Convict’s Uniform2 and James Connolly’s satirical song Be Moderate3. Some of the audience sang along with some of the lyrics sung by each singer.

Be Moderate, satirical song by James Connolly, sung by Diarmuid Breatnach at the event (the link can be played on Facebook).

The four members of Grup Yorum present then took to the stage to huge applause and addressed the audience in Turkish, their words being translated into English by a member of their entourage. In the performance that followed, two guitars, flute and cajón were the instruments with a male and female leading voices. Each song was preceded by an explanation placing the piece in historical and political context.

Some of the songs in particular were clearly known to Turkish and Kurdish people in the audience and at some points they sang along, often waving an arm in the air. Towards the end of their performance the crowd got more and more excited and then Seán Óg joined them for a couple of numbers.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
oznor

The Grup’s interpreter made a special appeal for help from those in attendance to pressurise the Turkish authorities to release political prisoner Ali Osman Köse who has been in solitary confinement for 20 years and has multiple health issues. There are fears for the man’s life as he has had a cancerous kidney removed in May of this year without any follow-up treatment and despite everything has been pronounced “fit” to continue in jail.

This was followed by members of the Resistance Choir taking to the stage to join Grup Yorum in a rendition of the Italian antifascist Bella Ciao! Song before Diarmuid Breatnach returned to the stage to bring the evening to a close with the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann4 with members of the audience joining in (including some from Anatolia)

The Resistance Choir from Dublin on stage with Grup Yorum to perform the Bella Ciao song (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

THE GRUP YORUM BAND

A revolutionary music band from Turkey, Grup Yorum members compose their own material and the band has has released twenty-three albums and one film since 1985. The band has suffered repression with some concerts and albums banned and members have been arrested, jailed and tortured, two members also dying on hunger strike. The band is popular in Turkey and as well as their albums selling well in Turkey and internationally, it has also given concerts in Germany, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Greece and Syria.

Grup Yorum publishes an art, culture, literature, and music magazine entitled Tavir, and several group members manage a cultural centre called İdil Kültür Merkez in the Okmeydani neighbourhood of Istanbul.

Section of the crowd in Dublin saluting the Grup Yorum performers (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES:

1The lyrics and air of Viva la Quinze Brigada are by famous Irish folk musician Christy Moore, who also arranged Bobby Sands’ poem to the air of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (by Gordon Lightfoot) as Back Home in Derry.

2Diarmuid sings this song to an air he composed himself.

3Diarmuid sings this to the air of A Nation Once Again (by Thomas Davis).

4Written by Peadar Kearney originally under the title The Soldiers’ Song and sung by insurgents during the 1916 Rising, its chorus is the official national anthem of the Irish State. However, it is also sung by many who are opposed to the State, particularly by Irish Republicans. Normally only the chorus is heard, sung in Irish (translation).

USEFUL LINKS:

https://www.facebook.com/grupyorum1985

https://www.facebook.com/Anti-Imperialist-Action-Dublin-North-City-110852710835826

https://www.facebook.com/socialistrepublicanballyfermot

https://freealiosmankose.wordpress.com/

PROTESTS GREET PRESENTATION OF CHANCELORSHIP TO HILLARY CLINTON

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: mins.)

Queen’s University Belfast appointed Hillary Clinton as the institution’s Chancellor1. On 24th September 2021 the University authorities organised an event to mark her formal inauguration; however a large and voluble crowd gathered to protest the inauguration and the authorities’ choosing her as Chancellor of the University. Among the shouts of protesters were “War criminal!” and “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary – Out, out, out!” (This story is now “old”, apologies but nevertheless worth posting for those who might not be aware of it as media coverage was muted)

Although the Belfast Telegraph’s coverage of the event made no mention whatsoever of protests, they were reported in a number of other media. The protest saw Irish Republican and Left socialist groups come together to carry out the protest, with a number of them taking turns to speak.

The speakers at the protest included Pól Torbóid of Lasair Dhearg; Aidan Moran, a former ISM activist in Occupied Palestine, on behalf of Cairde Palestine; Conal MacMathúna on behalf of the Connolly Youth Movement; Local Councillor Michael Collins from People Before Profit; and Dr. Azadeh Sobout, Scholar of Transitional Justice and Peace building and Member of Academics for Palestine.

In addition to Irish organisations’ banners and flags, the national flags of Palestine and Cuba were also in evidence.

Hillary Clinton has been a member of the USA Congress from 2001 to 2009, followed by Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, having also held the ceremonial position of First Lady during her husband Bill Clinton’s tenure as President of the USA 1993-2001. The Secretary of State of the USA, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, is the President’s chief foreign affairs adviser. The Secretary carries out the President’s foreign policies through the State Department and the Foreign Service of the United States.

Lasair Dhearg’s Pól Torbóid, who helped organise and also spoke at the event, said, “Queen’s University’s complicity in the whitewashing of Hillary Clinton and her war crimes further epitomises the university’s role in an international framework of imperialism that sees it not only glorify warmongers like Clinton, but have immense financial investment in military contracts and companies guilty of immense environmental destruction.”

“Queen’s has facilitated the visitation of many war criminals and parasites over the years, but arguably none as big as the visit of Hillary Clinton as its chancellor. A proud Zionist and imperialist; with a war record as long as your arm, Clinton has helped oversee US bombing campaigns in over 9 countries.”

“As US secretary for war, she authorised over 400 drone strikes across multiple nations, which overwhelmingly killed civilians and even children at a proportion of almost 90%.”

“She labelled black men ‘super-predators’ when she helped lobby for the 1994 US Clinton Crime Bill, which was immensely important in creating the mass incarceration levels that exists today in the US to benefit the prison-industrial complex – which is a system of slavery by new means.”

Section of the protest as seen from the inside of the University (Photo sourced: Internet)

“A Zionist, Hillary Clinton has shown herself to be an enemy of Palestinian liberation, siding with the oppressor every time it mattered, like during the 2014 Israeli bombing campaign of Gaza. She increased annual US funding to Israel from 2.5billion, to 3.1 billion US dollars whilst she was US Secretary of State, and she stated that countering the BDS movement globally should be a priority for Israel’s defence.”

“All this – and Queen’s award her chancellor for her Peace and Reconciliation efforts. For all the books Queen’s have at its disposal, I don’t think their management have ever read one! PEACE IS SOMETHING HILLARY CLINTON CAN’T EVEN SPELL, NEVER MIND DISPENSE!”

Full video below (with thanks to Lasair Dhearg organisation):

(Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

  1. In the UK university system, the office of Chancellor is held by a distinguished individual, from academia or public life, who is not usually resident and does not hold any other University office.

SOURCES

https://www.thejournal.ie/hillary-clinton-installed-chancellor-queens-university-belfast-5557234-Sep2021/

https://www.v-c.admin.cam.ac.uk/chancellors-role

A CALL FROM PARIS TO VATICAN CITY

Paris: Ah, si. Hello? Buena tarde, your Holiness. Thank you for ….

Now former Archbishop of Paris Aupetit

Vatican: Bona sera, your Eminence. Or bonne après-midi, if you prefer. His Holiness regrets he cannot come to the telephone at this moment. He asked me to attend to you personally.

Paris: Oh. I see. The thing is …. I need to speak to His Holiness privately. The matter is …. personal … and private.

Vatican: I am aware of your situation, your Eminence. It is hardly private anymore, is it?

(strangled sound).

Vatican: Are you alright, your Eminence?

Paris: (Sigh) Yes. Please excuse me. It’s true, the matter is all over the French media.

Vatican: And no doubt on its way around the world by now.

Paris: Oui, je suis desolé. So ashamed.

Vatican: You wished to discuss the matter with his Holiness? He has been made aware of it even before he received your letter, offering your resignation. His Holiness has empowered me to respond to you – in confidence, of course.

Paris: Yes, I was wondering ….. whether a confession … public apology …. without needing to resign …

Vatican: I don’t think that would work, your Eminence.

Paris: Why not? Isn’t our faith centred on forgiveness?

Vatican: Well, forgive me, your Eminence but in your decades of service to the Church ..

Paris: Yes, decades! And this is in the past – nine years ago!

Vatican: As I was saying, your Eminence, in your decades of service to the Church …. how many public transgressions of a moral nature have you forgiven?

Paris: Is not the flesh weak? Am I to be punished for experiencing love? Is our faith not about love?

Vatican: Please, your eminence. We have all taken a vow of chastity, of celibacy. We can leave the Church anytime we wish if we feel that is too much. And besides, a great many of your priests have hardly been restraining themselves …..

Paris: My sin was not like theirs, this was a woman, adult and willing and not in an institution!

Vatican: Quite. But for all those clerics and religious orders to have got away with it for so long? Over 200,000 victims of 3,000 priests over the last 70 years in France, according to an investigation. They must have had some help at the top, don’t you think, your Eminence? I am sure the French public at least will be asking themselves that question. And last year His Holiness accepted the resignation of a French Cardinal! No, no, your Eminence. His Holiness accepts your resignation. And wishes you well, of course.

Paris: I …. all because I fell in love, like a human being.

Vatican: No, pardon me, your Eminence. Because you got caught.

(Click! – but somehow the connection remains unbroken. The ex-Archbishop hears, in Italian which he knows reasonably well:
“Well, Aupetit’s appetite …..”

and several sniggers. Then the line finally does go dead.)

REFERENCE:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/paris-archbishop-who-had-ambiguous-relationship-resigns/2021/12/02/d4340160-5363-11ec-83d2-d9dab0e23b7e_story.html

THE UNDERWATER BALLET DANCER

Diarmuid Breatnach

The first time I saw a live octopus, we were both underwater and I will never forget it.

On a holiday in the Balearic Islands I had booked a sub-aqua dive with one of those diving schools one finds in those kinds of places. After safety instruction on the sub-aqua gear and rules of conduct, I went out in a boat with another novice and the instructor. It was only my second dive and I was very nervous; the first had been terrifying at first and some echo of that remained.

Once down below and looking at the plants, fish and other life down there, I forgot about my fear and, dallying, began to lag behind the other novice, who was swimming close to the instructor ahead. Then I passed a black rock from which a golden eye looked at me.

Stopping in amazement, I saw that it was indeed an eye. And the black “rock” resolved itself into a dark octopus, draped over a dark rock. It looked at me and I back at it. With its body less than the size of a football, I was startled but not at all frightened. After a few seconds I shot off fast after the instructor, to bring him back and show him.

Almost as bad as the initial fear of going down, I had found the frustration of being unable to speak underwater. But I quickly managed to convey that there was something of interest back there and that I wished him to come and look. When they both swam back to the rock, I showed them the octopus, which had remained in place.

Wait. Watch this, the instructor signalled and gently pulled the animal away from its resting place. Knowing something about the power of its tentacles and suckers, I did wonder briefly how he had accomplished this. But a few seconds later I was enthralled and so was the other novice.

The instructor began to lob the animal gently from one outstretched hand to another, guiding it in a ballet through the water, the tentacles now flaring open like a flower, then trailing behind like a mane. The octopus appeared to be more than enduring the experience passively – it seemed to be cooperating. We were spellbound.

After I don’t know how long, the octopus decided it wished to leave the dance and, finding itself still being tossed by its ballet partner, released a plume of ink and departed.

The instructor, clearly pleased, looked at us, we at him and at one another. The inability to speak, to express the wonder at what we had seen, was for me intense.

(Image sourced: Internet)

I don’t remember now much more about that dive. I have learned a lot more about octopuses over the years. Their group is called cephalopods and there are around 300 different known species of octopus in the world, inhabiting all seas. They display behaviour associated with intelligence, can distinguish between some different humans and learn some skills quite quickly (watch videos of them unscrewing the lid off a glass jar to get at the crab inside or see the My Octopus Teacher documentary on netflix).

Wikipedia tells me that the species vary in adult size from “The giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) (which) is often cited as the largest known octopus species. Adults usually weigh around 15kg (33lb), with an arm span of up to 4.3m (14ft). The largest specimen of this species to be scientifically documented was an animal with a live mass of 71kg (156.5lb). Much larger sizes have been claimed for the giant Pacific octopus: one specimen was recorded as 272kg (600lb) with an arm span of 9m (30ft). A carcass of the seven-arm octopus, Haliphron atlanticus, weighed 61kg (134lb) and was estimated to have had a live mass of 75kg (165lb). The smallest species is Octopus wolfi, which is around 2.5cm (1in) and weighs less than 1g (0.035oz).

(Image sourced: Internet)

Many of the species are highly-appreciated items in the seafood cuisine of many countries on all the inhabited continents of the Earth.

But I have never been able to eat octopus since watching that underwater ballet.

End.

A WORKERS’ UNION IS ITS DEMONSTRATED STRENGTH

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 13 mins.)

Arising out of a recent discussion, I was thinking about what makes a workers’ union – when is an organisation a union and when is it not. And what does it have to do to prove that it is a union, as well as can what once was a union become defunct as a union while still not being defunct as an organisation. In the present time of low union activity as well as in higher activity periods, there are some fundamentals worth considering.

Picketers in the 2019 Stop & Shop strike (USA) in the rain in Natucket after their management forced them off company property. The workers won a victory in 11 days. (Photo credit NickleenF)

DEFINITIONS

Searching for definitions on line as to what constitutes a trade union, I came across the following:

Oxford on-line English Dictionary: an organized association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.

Citizens Information: A trade union is an organisation that protects the rights and interests of its members. Members are employees in a particular sector or job, for example, teaching or nursing.

A trade union can:

  • Be an important source of information for employees
  • Provide employees with protection on employment issues
  • Negotiate with the employer for better pay and conditions

A trade union must have a negotiating licence in order to negotiate on employee wages and other conditions of employment.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is the single umbrella organisation for trade unions, representing a range of interests of ICTU members, both in Ireland and in Northern Ireland. ICTU also run the website unionconnect.ie to facilitate people to join a union.

Companies Registration Office (registration as a Friendly Society1): Trade unions are registered under the Trade Union Acts 1871-1990. Trade unions are established to represent workers in their relations with employers or to act as representative bodies for particular interest groupings.

In order to register a trade union, the grouping involved, which must consist of at least seven people, must draw up a set of rules governing the operation of the union. The rules must as a minimum contain the matters required to be provided for by the First Schedule of the Trade Union Act 1871. The rules, together with the prescribed application form and fee are submitted to the Registrar for examination and, once the rules are found to be in accordance with statute, the union is registered.

Registration as a trade union does not guarantee that a union will receive a negotiation licence; this is a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in which the Registrar of Friendly Societies has no function. Application form is available by emailing rfs@enterprise.gov.ie.

Wikipedia: A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve common goals, such as protecting the integrity of their trade, improving safety standards, and attaining better wages, benefits (such as vacation, health care, and retirement), and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by solidarity among workers. Trade unions typically fund the formal organization, head office, and legal team functions of the trade union through regular fees or union dues. The delegate staff of the trade union representation in the workforce are made up of workplace volunteers who are appointed by members in democratic elections.

The trade union, through an elected leadership and bargaining committee, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers. The most common purpose of these associations or unions is “maintaining or improving the conditions of their  employment“.[1] This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, occupational health and safety standards, complaint procedures, rules governing status of employees including promotions, just cause conditions for termination, and employment benefits.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled workers (craft unionism),[2] a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism), or attempt to organize all workers within a particular industry (industrial unionism). The agreements negotiated by a union are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers. Trade unions traditionally have a constitution which details the governance of their bargaining unit and also have governance at various levels of government depending on the industry that binds them legally to their negotiations and functioning. ……………………………

A modern definition by the Australian Bureau of Statistics states that a trade union is “an organization consisting predominantly of employees, the principal activities of which include the negotiation of rates of pay and conditions of employment for its members.”[6]

Yet historian R.A. Lesson, in United we Stand (1971), said:

Two conflicting views of the trade-union movement strove for ascendancy in the nineteenth century: one the defensive-restrictive guild-craft tradition passed down through journeymen’s clubs and friendly societies, … the other the aggressive-expansionist drive to unite all ‘labouring men and women’ for a ‘different order of things’.

Karl Marx described trade unions thus: “The value of labour-power constitutes the conscious and explicit foundation of the trade unions, whose importance for the … working class can scarcely be overestimated. The trade unions aim at nothing less than to prevent the reduction of wages below the level that is traditionally maintained in the various branches of industry. That is to say, they wish to prevent the price of labour-power from falling below its value” (Capital V1, 1867, p.1069).

We can note, across these definition from different sources, some constants: Trade unions (henceforth referred to by me as “unions” or “workers’ unions”) are

  • representative associations
  • of workers
  • that represent them in negotiations with employers

So, they have to be representative of workers (employers have their own formal associations) and they must, in general represent their worker-members. Well, few would debate the first condition and for the moment we can accept the second (though we will return to discuss this further).

I would argue however that there is another essential qualification which has not been mentioned even though for some it may be taken for granted: A union must be able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary (whether that be strike, sit-down, go-slow, ban on certain kinds of work, etc.). In stating that I can quote for the moment no authority or source and yet I am adamant that if the association is not able to do so, it is not a union. I base my definition on experience and logic.

THREAT AND NEGOTIATION

We note that the “negotiation” with employers is mentioned in most if not all definitions. Present in every successful negotiation of workers with employers is a threat, that of action by the workers which will reduce or postpone the profits of the employers. This in turn is mediated by the threat of the employer to dismiss or otherwise penalise workers, to starve them into submission or to unleash private or State violence upon them2. The main reason for non-State employers to be in business of whatever kind is to make a profit and a substantial one at that and, in the case of an employer failing to avail of opportunities to do so, other employers, i.e other capitalists, will move in, outcompete and even take over the company3.

State companies have a responsibility to the ruling class to keep systems going, e.g public transport to deliver employees to work for private businesses, power supply to run the private enterprises, water and refuse collection to manage sanitation of working areas and reduce infections of the workforce, etc. So in successful negotiation with a State employer, the threat of workers’ action must be present also.

The threat may be implicit only but cannot remain effective if unrealised forever and every once in a while, employers will test it by a refusal (or procrastination) to accede to the demands of a union. In such a situation, the “negotiation” is ended or at least halted while both sides test the ability to resist of the other. If the employers are resolute and have enough resources but the workers are either not resolute or their resources are insufficient, the employers will win.

If the workers are resolute enough and are well-resourced and their action costs the employers enough so that the latter consider it better in the long run to accede to the demands, the workers will win. However, even when the workers are defeated in one battle, the action may have hurt the employers and next time there is a confrontation, they may be prepared to concede more. Even in failure in some cases, the threat of action has been shown to be a real one.

Picketers in the successful 2019 strike at the Stop & Shop chain by the United Food & Commercial Workers (USA & Canada). The Teamsters’ union instructed their members to respect the picket lines. After protracted negotiations failed, the strike began on 11 April 2019 and ended on April 21, 2019, after the company and the striking workers reached a tentative agreement, which preserved health and pension benefits and raised employee pay. The 11-day strike cost the company $224 million in lost sales and $90–100 million in lost profits. The tentative agreement was viewed by the union as a “powerful victory”.
In August 2019, Ahold Delhaize reported the 11-day strike resulted in a $345 million loss in sales, with an estimated 1 in 10 customers not coming back to the store as a regular customer after the strike. (Photo sourced: Internet) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Stop_%26_Shop_strike

If however over a number of years the unions do not exercise their muscle while at the same time enduring reductions in the working conditions and living standards of their members, the workers, they become more and more unions in form but not in content and the employers will pay less and less attention to their demands. Indeed, the only threat perceived by the employers in such situations is that the ineffective unions may be replaced by another or others more effective or lose control of their members to “unofficial” or “wildcat” action. Better the devil that they not only know but can manage, than the one they don’t.

I repeat: A union must be able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary (whether that be strike, sit-down, go-slow, ban on certain kinds of work, etc.). In that respect, the crucial condition is not whether the organisation is more or less democratic, or socialist, or egalitarian, more or less environmentalist etc, though of course all those attributes are desirable. It must be effective, able to threaten and make good its threat.

Therefore calling an organisation a “union” does not of itself make it one and indeed an organisation may conversely be a workers’4 union without calling itself one, providing it is able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary.

So I have extended the definition of a union: an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and that is able to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action and which does so when necessary.

Workers of the United Auto Workers on strike picket the John Deere Harvester Works facility on Oct. 14, 2021, in East Moline, Illinois.
 Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

But what is a “significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry”? Though this is more open to interpretation, it is nevertheless determined by two things, one of which is its ability to call an effective number of workers in the designated workplace into industrial action and the other is the relative size of the workplace, company or industry concerned. Of course, the workplace may be a shop or small garage or small farm, employing say around 50 people, in which all the workers are able to strike and do so, forcing the employer to accede to their demands or at least a significant (yes, that word again) number of them. The workers’ organisation in that case I would submit qualifies as a union on all grounds except one: the workplace is not a significant one in terms of industry or agriculture. It may go on from that initial success to extend to other workplaces but until it does so, it is a union only in the specific sense of that particular workplace.

However, if the organisation were to represent the majority of workers in one necessary part of a company’s production, willing to exercise its power and able to adversely affect the company’s output and profits, then that organisation would qualify as a union, according to my definition, even though it might represent only a small fraction of the total workforce.

Or if the one workplace in which the workers’ organisation is active is an extended one, for example a chain of stores or a major utility company. Or, as is sometimes the case, the workers’ organisation were to represent workers across an entire industry (“industrial unionism”), or groups of them in a number of different industries ( “general unionism”) or seeking to recruit all workers (“syndicalism”).

WHEN IS A UNION NOT A UNION?

It is important (and I would contend, crucial) also to define what a union is not. It is not

  • an organisation set up by a State and controlled by it
  • an organisation set up by employers
  • or the worker organisation’s offices, officers and other employees

Unions” set up by the State

States have set up “unions”, for example in the case of corporate states, i.e fascism and when they have done so, have banned real workers’ unions.

In Nazi Germany, workers’ unions were abolished. On 2nd May 1933, (after the large annual May Day marches), their leaders were arrested, their funds confiscated and strikes declared illegal. Workers lost the right to negotiate wage increases and improvements in working conditions and all workers had to join the German Labour Front (DAF) run by Dr. Robert Ley. Within two years, under various pressures, 20 million workers had joined DAF but they had no independent rights.5

Italian fascists waged war on the unions between 1920 and 1922 when Mussolini took power, burning trade union offices, and beating and torturing trade unionists. In Turin, the key industrial centre, fascist squads celebrated Mussolini coming to power by attacking trade union offices and killing 22 trade unionists”6.

“The Pact of Vidoni Palace in 1925 brought the fascist trade unions and major industries together, creating an agreement for the industrialists to only recognise certain unions and so marginalise the non-fascist and socialist trade unions. The Syndical Laws of 1926 (sometimes called the Rocco Laws after Alfredo Rocco) took this agreement a step further as in each industrial sector there could be only one trade union and employers organisation. Labour had previously been united under Edmondo Rossoni and his General Confederation of Fascist Syndical Corporations, giving him a substantial amount of power even after the syndical laws, causing both the industrialists and Mussolini himself to resent him. Thereby, he was dismissed in 1928 and Mussolini took over his position as well.

“Only these syndicates could negotiate agreements, with the government acting as an “umpire”. The laws made both strikes and lock-outs illegal and took the final step of outlawing non-fascist trade unions. Despite strict regimentation, the labour syndicates had the power to negotiate collective contracts (uniform wages and benefits for all firms within an entire economic sector).”7

In Spain the communists, anarchists and social democrats had organised trade unions which supported the Popular Front Government and mobilised against the military-fascist coup in 1936. Following the victory of the military and fascists the State, under General Franco, jailed or executed many of the trade union leaders and members and declared their unions illegal.

The Franco regime set up the “vertical union” (i.e controlled from above) officially known as the Organización Sindical Obrera (OSE); industrial resistance was illegal and in any case extremely difficult to organise, due to the defeat of the republican and socialist forces and the massive repression of all democratic and socialist trends.8

Union resistance under fascism

However, when workers of various kinds of socialist thinking joined these state unions either through being forced to do so or in conscious infiltration, many maintained their old allegiances and worked to subvert fascist rule and control of the workers.

“On 5 March 1943, workers at the giant FIAT Mirafiori car plant in Turin walked out on strike. As it became clear the dictatorship could not repress the strike it spread within Northern Italy, involving one hundred thousand workers. Mussolini was forced to grant pay rises and better rations, but in conceding he struck the death knell for the regime.”9

In 1947, eight years after the victory of the military-fascists, metal workers in the Basque province of Bizkaia went on strike in spite of repression by the authorities and a clandestine trade union movement began to organise. “Another historic year in the incipient union movement was 1951, when there were strikes and demonstrations in Barcelona, Madrid and the Basque Country in the early part of the year. These were mainly spontaneous, although the clandestine unions which had grown up since 1947 did support and take part in them. An important role was also played by the Spanish Communist Party PCE, and Roman Catholic workers’ groups.” “In a context of socio-economic change in Spain in the late 1950s, as industrialisation accelerated …. there was a significant growth in the Spanish working class. In 1962 miners and industrial workers began to hold strikes all over the country.”10

The two main trade unions in the Spanish state today, the CCOO (Comisiones Obreras) and the UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores), the first originally under Communist Party direction and the smaller second under the social democratic PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero de España) grew out of that resistance (although the UGT had been in existence prior to the military-fascist uprising). Activists had infiltrated the vertical union and workers began to elect militants to represent them in demands to the employers – this in particular was the origin of the Comisiones Obreras.

Employer-led ‘unions’:

Employers have also set up “unions” in order to undermine an existing union or in order to prevent a real union from organising workers in their enterprises.

These have been called “company unions”11 or “yellow unions”, the latter possibly after the French Fédération nationale des Jaunes de France (“National Federation of the Yellows of France”) which was created by Pierre Biétry in 1902.12

Up to the mid 1930s, ‘company’ or ‘yellow’ unions were quite common in the USA and after the Ludlow Massacre13, John D. Rockefeller had one created to improve his company’s image and to resist the struggles of mineworkers and of the United Mineworkers’ Union in Colorado; he called it the Employee Representation Plan.14

“In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act) was passed, dramatically changing labour law in the United States. Section 8(a)(2) of the NLRA makes it illegal for an employer “to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it.” Company unions were considered illegal under this code, despite the efforts of some businesses to carry on under the guise of an ‘Employee Representation Organization.’”15

Japan has company unions that are not in the RENGO federation of independent unions and the company ones appeal to an ideology of loyalty towards one’s paternalistic employer.16

In the 1930s, unions in Mexico organized the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de México, CTM). The state of Nuevo Leon, however, coordinated its workers into sindicatos blancos (“white unions”), company unions controlled by corporations in the industrialised region.

Naturally a “union” of this type is unwilling and indeed unable to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration conditions of work (my definition of a workers’ union). Therefore I contend that they are not workers’ unions.

UNIONS INACTIVE IN STRUGGLE TODAY

But there are unions that have built themselves up in membership (and incidentally by union dues revenue) by proving themselves willing and able to call their members out in action to enforce their demands of the employers – but who have not been doing so for some time. We are increasingly seeing these in Western Europe at least and often the reason quoted is that state legislation is making it harder for the unions to organise, or to take action effectively. And rather than jail for union activists as in the past, the threat of the State is sequestration of union funds. The union leaders, officers and clerical support staff view such threats as extremely serious, evoking the possibility of the demise of the trade union or at the very least its inability to maintain its functions and payment for its superstructure of staffing, buildings and equipment.

Those are of course real threats with some states proving their ability to carry them out in the past and consequently union leaders draw back from struggles that might result in such an eventuality – or even attempt to smother them. The union leadership become, in effect, the firefighters of the employers. When they reach that position, they are not really the union any more. The union is not the organisation’s offices, officers and other employees. Its leaders are forgetting that back in the history of this or of many other unions, its organisers and members maintained only a rudimentary bureaucracy while they fought for the gains to be wrenched from the employers — organisers and even ordinary members faced sacking, police baton charges, strike-breaker violence, deportation, transportation, jail, torture and even death. When safeguarding the superstructure of the union outweighs defending and advancing the members’ interests, it is time for the union leadership to retrace its steps – or vacate the spot.

A union may fail to be recognised as such by the employers and/ or the State but (based on my definition) that does not affect its status as a union, so long as it is an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and able to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary.

To be sure, an employer refusing to recognise the right of the union to represent its employees and to negotiate on their behalves does represent an additional challenge. But we should not forget that all workers’ unions once faced that initial obduracy but nevertheless in time became accepted by the employers. And it required a long process for some of those unions, with unsuccessful industrial action and many sacrifices as part of it.

The opposition of the State, acting in the first place for the capitalist class it represents and secondly in its own interests as an employer, is another serious obstacle for unions. Currently in most of Europe and certainly in Ireland, the State does not outlaw unions but it does place many restrictions around them and, in some cases, removes their protections.

The protection received by a union that is recognised by the State exists mostly in exemption from some legal procedures such as being sued for causing loss of profits for a company and exemption from arrest for picketing (“loitering”, “obstruction”, etc). However, the laws of none of the European states exempt workers from arrest for persistently obstructing the entry of strike-breakers or goods to a workplace where the workers are on strike. In most European countries, picketing, boycott and blockade in solidarity by “non-involved” unions – i.e “secondary picketing” etc — is against the law to a greater or lesser degree. Well, such laws are made by the capitalist class to protect themselves and then processed through a parliament where most of the elected public representatives are supporters of that same class. To receive legal protection from capitalist laws the union must be recognised by the capitalist State which entails meeting the necessary requirements in order to be registered as “a friendly association” and receiving “a negotiation licence”.

However, while these provisions affect very deeply the ease or otherwise of the organisation, they do not in my opinion have anything to do with whether it is or is not a workers’ union.

Another hurdle to get over for “recognition” is that of acceptance by the Irish Trade Union Congress. A union not recognised by the ITUC will receive no support from that body in application to the State for a “negotiation licence” and members of other “recognised” unions will be encouraged to cross any picket line of an “unrecognised” union. That is obviously a serious situation for a young union that is “unrecognised” but again, it does not define whether or not it is a union.

Say what the State, employers or the ITUC leadership may say, the reality remains that a union is an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and that is able to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action and which does so when necessary. Not whether it is — or is not — recognised or facilitated by those other bodies.

Funeral of James Byrne, shop steward of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union, who died as a result of his hunger strike in protest at imprisonment during the 1913 Lockout (Photo sourced: Internet). The workers were defeated in an 8-month struggle but the union recovered and bounced back. The ITGWU has gone through a number of changes resulting in the largest union in Ireland today, SIPTU. But is it carrying out its responsibilities as a union today, to say nothing of living up to its inheritance?

As the unions in many states have become more and more passive (in the Irish state particularly through the years of “social partnership”17) they have lost much of their accreditation in reality. As they fail further to justify their existence they will be replaced and for example the British-based union Unite is moving into the Irish arena. But the new union, despite its local leaders speaking militantly at rallies of some campaigns and investing some of its effort into building support in the community, is demonstrating the same reluctance to take determined action against the employers, whether private or State. Should that state of affairs continue then that too will fall and be replaced.

But by what and when?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1A friendly society has nothing necessarily to do with being friendly but is is a mutual association for the purposes of insurance, pensions, savings or cooperative banking. It is a mutual organisation or benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose.

2While some readers may be surprised or even dismissive of reference to “private or State violence”, there can hardly be a state which does not at least on occasion – some more often than others — employ police or judicial violence against striking workers. In the past in many countries and perhaps in particular in the USA, companies employed private security staff or company police to act against worker disobedience, in addition to agencies such as the Pinkerton not only to gather intelligence on union organisers but to attack them physically or to prepare cases for their conviction of law-breaking in court. In some parts of the world companies – often with their HQs in the “West” — continue to employ their own security staff against union organising, sometimes with fatal results for the union organisers.

3This applies even if the company should still be making a profit but is not maximising it. The company’s shareholders and investors, including institutions such as banks, trust funds, pension funds etc will begin to desert the company to a competitor offering a higher return on investments and said company may even engage in a “hostile takeover” bid, by bringing sufficient numbers of shareholders to vote in favour of its takeover. This is one of the laws of the operation of capitalism and one reason why it there is little point in appealing to the individual consciences of capitalists.

4Sometimes workers’ unions have called themselves by other names, including “society” and “association” in order to circumvent anti-trade union legislation for example.

5https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zxs2pbk/revision/8#:~:text=Trade%20unions%20were%20abolished.,which%20was%20run%20by%20Dr.

6https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/19778-why-fascists-hate-trade-unions

7https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Fascist_Italy

8https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Syndical_Organization

9https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/19778-why-fascists-hate-trade-unions

10https://www.surinenglish.com/lifestyle/201809/14/september-1964-birth-what-20180914090919-v.html

11To be confused with a genuine employee’s union built up within a particular company, for example in a power-generating monopoly or state service company, whether privatised or not.

12https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_unions (“Yellow” in opposition to the “Red” of socialism; however “yellow” also exists as a pejorative description of cowardice)

13Massacre by company guards and the National Guard of strikers and their children on 20 April 1914 during the Great Colorado Coal Strike, after which the workers took up arms. It was the subject of a song composed and sung by Woody Guthrie and others, e.g Jason Boland and Andy Irvine.

14Ibid.

15 Ibid,

16Despite this and generally not recruiting part-time workers, membership of workers’ unions in Japan stood at 18.5% in 2010 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_Japan

171983-???? In 2010: “Following 23 years of social partnership the Irish trades unions (ICTU) entered the new decade seriously weakened and with union employee density down to 31% compared to a density highpoint of 62% in the early 1980s preceding the series of seven corporatist social pacts.[2] Union penetration is highly imbalanced with a density approaching 80% in the public sector and around 20% in the larger private sector.”

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

Definitions of workers’ union:

https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/employment_rights_and_conditions/industrial_relations_and_trade_unions/trade_unions.html

https://www.cro.ie/Society-Union/RFS-Trade-Unions

Unions under fascism:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zxs2pbk/revision/8#:~:text=Trade%20unions%20were%20abolished.,which%20was%20run%20by%20Dr.

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

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

https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/19778-why-fascists-hate-trade-unions

Yellow unions:

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

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/18/boots-defeat-meek-unions

Social Partnership: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Partnership

The International Criminal Court Has Gone — Who Will Save Us Now?

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

There is a long tradition amongst NGOs, sectors of the reformist left, trade unionists and others in Colombia that someone outside the country will save us. The saviours are the North Americans (despite their role in the conflict), the European Union (despite their role as well and that of their companies), and international institutions such as the International Criminal Court, or the mechanisms set up in the peace accord (national ones but financed internationally). So, the decision by the ICC to shut down its preliminary investigation of Colombia was like a bucket of cold water to them. But it was to be expected.

Banner carrying faces and names of youth from Soacha and Bogotá murdered by the Colombian National Army. The banner was displayed in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

When Obama was elected as US president, various journalists and representatives of the left and NGOs announced that he would solve Colombia’s problems and now they have come back to say the same about Biden. A constant feature of this discourse of seeking a foreign saviour is the possibility of taking Uribe (not his Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos) to the ICC. They sold a false hope to the victims of the state that there they could obtain justice. They knew it was unlikely, as they knew what the ICC was like and its not very encouraging record in the matter.

To date the ICC has only convicted African leaders. It is not the case that these African leaders are saints or innocent, but rather that the ICC does not go after other criminals. It has procrastinated for many years on its case against Israel and has no authority to investigate the USA. The Court’s website currently indicates that it has 15 ongoing preliminary investigations, ten of them in African countries and five others in Georgia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh and the State of Palestine. This last case will not succeed, of that we can be certain. It has pursued a total of 30 individuals, resulting in 4 convictions.1 The ICC is the opium of the people, it has a soporific effect on people in the midst of their struggles and the NGOs promise Heaven and Divine Justice in a coming future.

A boy carries photos of victims in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

There were diverse reactions to the decision to shut down the preliminary investigation. Whilst the victims of the False Positives2 criticised the decision, others such as Senator Iván Cepeda and Eamon Gilmore, the EU envoy to the peace process celebrated it. The Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) lamented the decision, though in a very confusing manner. It continued to praise the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), when it is precisely the existence of the JEP that the ICC used as an excuse to shut down the case.3

Iván Cepeda stated that:

A direct consequence of the agreement signed by Duque’s government with the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is that once and for all the possibility of reforming the JEP has been discarded. It puts an end to that obsessive aim of the Uribistas. A victory for the peace process.4

A few years ago, he would have denounced the closure of the case as an act of impunity and now he claims it is a victory. As the Greek philosopher Plutarch put it, Another victory like this and all will be lost. Many of us denounced the impunity of the JEP, little did we think that not only would it guarantee impunity in the trials it deals with or excludes from its remit, but that its very existence would be the perfect excuse to shut down international cases against the regime. But the peace acolytes are determined to announce their defeat as a victory.

Protestors holding aloft photos of those murdered and disappeared in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL).

It seems that Senator Gustavo Petro didn’t have much to say about the matter and neither did Senator Alexander López. Piedad Córdoba, however, echoed the statements of Iván Cepeda and said:

They took issue with the JEP and tried to cut its budget, discredit it, dirty propaganda and all in order to cover their own backs. Today the ICC forced the government to strengthen it.5

A young woman carries photos of victims in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

It is clear that there are those who in the name of peace would justify any defeat, including a defeat of a proposal they themselves promoted. So, the ICC will not proceed against Colombia, but relax, we have the JEP where the military who, unlike the guerrillas, do not have to tell the whole truth about their crimes and where the businesspeople are excluded.

Of course, the president of the JEP, who once upon a time was the NGOs’ favourite said that he was very pleased with the ICC decision. According to Cifuentes the closure of the investigation against Colombia is a victory won by the JEP,6 i.e. those who for many years talked about how the ICC was going to put the Colombian State in its place, now tell us that the fact the ICC will not proceed against Colombia is a victory.

I really find it difficult to understand their logic, or better still I can’t understand their shamelessness. In the name of their pathetic peace accord, they justify everything and describe it as a victory. Poor Plutarch. If he had to deal with the leaders of the supposed left in Colombia today he would have been more vulgar, but he died many centuries ago, so allow me Plutarch: Another victory like this and the turncoats will be making money like never before.

So, to answer the question posed by this article, who will save us? The answer is no one, or rather, the Colombian people will save themselves, there are no international institutions, nor presidents in other countries who are going to fix the crisis that country has suffered for decades. The only ones who will put Uribe, Santos, Pastrana, Samper and the others in jail are the Colombian people.

“Forget them? That would be a crime against conscience” with images and names of the “disappeared” since 1998. The banner was carried on a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

Next year is an electoral one and some of those who told us the ICC would do miracles and now celebrate the slap in the face it gave to the victims, will be candidates. They will promise a thousand miracles and when some foreign institution or president says no, they will celebrate it and try to convince us that the defeat was a victory. Changing the saying by Mao, they go from victory to victory to final defeat. Plutarch is as relevant today as ever.

End.

“NOT FORGOTTEN” banner carried on a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

FOOTNOTES:

1 Information on cases can be consulted at https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Home.aspx

2 People shot dead by Colombian state forces who were untruthfully claimed as “positives”, i.e guerrilla fighters.

3 RCN (29/10/2021) Falsos positivos: víctimas rechazan cierre del caso contra Colombia en Corte Penal Internacional https://www.rcnradio.com/judicial/falsos-positivos-victimas-rechazan-cierre-del-caso-contra-colombia-en-corte-penal

4 https://twitter.com/IvanCepedaCast/status/1453792170855604235?s=20

5 https://twitter.com/piedadcordoba/status/1454135519194005504?s=20

6 Wradrio (29/10/2021) Gracias la JEP cierran el examen preliminar de la CPI: Eduardo Cifuentes https://www.wradio.com.co/noticias/actualidad/justicia-de-la-jep-esta-dando-resultados-dice-su-presidente/20211029/nota/4174696.aspx

FURTHER INFORMATION:

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

Ella Young, California’s Beloved Irish Druid

By Geoff Cobb

California has long been home to the eccentric and free spirits, so naturally the highly eccentric Irish mystic, poet and Celtic mythologist Ella Young found a home there. The first woman to hold an endowed lectureship in the English Department at the University of California at Berkley, Young left several enduring legacies on the Golden State’s literature, counterculture, and environmental movement.

Nearing old age in Ireland, Young helped spark a new age consciousness in the Bay Area. Young lived the first fifty-eight years of her life in her native land, but even before leaving for America, she traveled far from her conservative Ulster roots. Born in December 1867, in Fenagh, a townland near Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Ella was eldest of five daughters of a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to Dublin at an early age and Young graduated with a BA in History, Political Economy and Law from the Royal University of Ireland. Abandoning Christianity, Ella’s interest in the spirit world led her to join the Hermetic Society, the Dublin branch of the Theosophical Society, which sought to awaken the power and presence of Ireland’s ancient spirits. Young was greatly influenced by fellow Ulster mystical poet AE Russell, and she soon became one of his select group of protégés known as the “singing birds.”

Ella Young in Oceano, California, image in Princeton University of Art Museum.

She found her muse and published her first volume of verse in 1906, and her first work of Irish folklore, The Coming of Lugh, appeared in 1909. Young mixed with luminaries of the Celtic revival including J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne, with whom she might have had a romantic relationship. Like other writers of her day, Ella found great spiritual riches in the West of Ireland, where Irish was still the spoken language of the locals and where she was also able to hear what she called the Music of the Faerie, the ceol sídhe.

Ella completed a master’s degree at Trinity, but she would be drawn into the revolutionary fervor then sweeping Ireland. Young’s immersion in Celtic mythology and theosophy led her to promote a spiritually inflected Irish nationalism. A friend of Patrick Pearse, Ella became a member of Sinn Féin in 1912 and a founding member of Cumann na mBan in 1914. Ella witnessed the 1916 Rising in Dublin and is alleged to have hidden ammunition under the floorboards of her home and helped two fugitive Republican prisoners to escape Dublin. An anti-Treaty Republican, she strongly opposed the Anglo–Irish Treaty and, after supporting different sides, she and her mentor Æ Russell never spoke again. Because of her anti-Treaty stance, Young was interned by the Free State in Mountjoy jail and in the North Dublin Union.

An ardent cultural Nationalist, Young fervently believed the revitalization of Irish culture could be realized through a reconnection with its Celtic mythological roots. She taught in Dublin, but she came of age as an anti-Treaty woman at a time and in a state where her gender, politics and Protestant background severely limited her career opportunities. Young left Ireland for the US In the mid-1920s, where she would spend the rest of her life. Her emigration, she claimed, had been foretold in 1914 by a Romani fortune teller.

Ella Young 1930, Edward Weston Centre for Photography

Fortunately for Ella, Celtic studies scholar William Whittingham Lyman Jr. left his Berkley lectureship in 1922 and Young was hired to fill the vacancy in 1924. Ella, however, was almost forbidden entry into the United States. During an interview in Ellis Island, Young was detained as a probable mental case when the authorities learned that she believed in the existence of fairies, elves, and pixies. However, outrage by her American readers at the ban helped her finally gain entry.

Young fell in love with Berkley, California and Berkley loved her back. Young adored the college town, especially its exotic flora, breathtaking views, and its student culture. She quickly inspired a cult-like following in California. A striking woman, Young cut a dramatic figure with a noble forehead and face that seemed to shine with an inner light. She lectured in what she considered the traditional purple robes of a Druid bard, which she called her “reciting robes,” to visually portray an authentic Irish identity. She let her shoulder-length silver hair hang free and instead of shaking hands when introduced, she raised her hands high in the ancient druid greeting. Poet Padraic Colum compared her to the ancient “women who knew the sacred places and their traditions, who knew the incantations and the cycles of stories about the Divine Powers, and who could relate them with authority and interpret them wisely. . . She speaks of Celtic times as if she were recalling them.” A gifted speaker, Ella held her listeners spellbound with the heroic myths and sagas told in her lilting Irish voice – the voice of the bard, a keeper of the ancient teachings of her ancestors.

Young was above all a gifted storyteller and children’s author. She published The Wonder-Smith and his Son (1925), The Tangle-Coated Horse (1929), and The Unicorn with Silver Shoes (1932), stories for children, inspired by themes from Celtic myth, with beautiful illustrations and written in her delicate, carefully cadenced prose. The Unicorn with Silver Shoes was nominated for the American Newbery Prize for children’s literature in 1932; all her children’s stories were repeatedly reprinted until the 1990s.

(Image sourced: Internet)

Young was a frequent guest at the home of the celebrated California poet Robinson Jeffers, who was also deeply influenced by the Celtic revival. Jeffers and Young both identified the physical and spiritual similarities between California’s Big Sur and the West of Ireland. Ella considered dramatic Point Lobos in Marin County, where she communed with the dryads of the pine trees, the sea spirits, and the great guardian Deva who hovered over the sea with shining wings, to be the center of psychic power for the entire Pacific Coast. Young also became a close friend of Virginia and Ansel Adams, the renowned photographer of California’s wilderness, who made Yosemite Valley a symbol of the state. Adams took several dramatic portraits of Young in her “reciting robes.”

Ella Young lectured that an awareness of the supernatural world in Celtic folklore and literature could bring her listeners into a closer relationship with the natural world around them. Her love for the beauty of California made her an environmentalist long before it became fashionable, and also she saw the Earth as a great living being. She forged a close friendship with Dorothy Erskine, an early California environmentalist and advocate for limiting growth. Young also founded The Fellowship of Shasta, which became involved in environmental activism, working successfully to prevent developers from building on Point Lobos and also with the Save the Redwoods League, which preserved the remaining old-growth forests of California.

An enemy of materialism and egotism, Young espoused “the natural world and our relationship to it” as an alternative to consumerism. Ella moved to a Theosophic commune in Oceano, near San Luis Obispo in the early 1930s, and became part of a community of artists and writers living on the sand dunes, known as the Dunites. Thanks to her friendship with Ansel Adams, Ella stayed with the community of artists in Taos, New Mexico, where she met Georgia O’Keeffe and Frieda Lawrence and studied Native American and Mexican myths.

Back in California, Young assembled around herself a fascinating circle of artists, writers and freethinkers. She became close friends with the Irish-born landscape painter John O’Shea and other West Coast painters. Ella also became intimate with composer Harry Partch, who set several of her poems to music. Perhaps a lesbian herself, Young befriended California pioneers of sexual liberation, such as Elsa Gidlow, the British-born lesbian poet, and Gavin Arthur, a bisexual astrologer and sexologist whom Young first met in 1920s Dublin.

Young developed cancer. In the last year of her life, she claimed that she had been in communication with the occupants of a thimble-sized spaceship which came and hovered in her garden. Ella died in her cottage on July 23rd, 1956, aged eighty-eight. She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered in a redwood grove. She left the royalties from her books to a society that protected those redwoods.

End.

(Image sourced: Internet)