ÓRÁID — CATHAL BRUGHA — ORATION

Tá Rebel Breeze fíor-bhuíoch do Kerron Ó Luain as cead foillsithe a óráid ag comóradh scaoileadh marfach an tSaor Stát le Chathal Brugha a thabhairt dúinn. Rebel Breeze is most grateful to Kerron Ó Luain for permission to publish his oration on the occasion of the fatal shooting by the Free State of Cathal Brugha.

(Reading time: 11 mins.)

Óráid a tugadh ag Comóradh Chathail Uí Bhrugha, 7ú Iúil 2022, Baile Átha Cliath

Oration given at a Commemoration for Cathal Brugha, 7 July 2022, Dublin

Buíochas leis an gcoiste as an gcuireadh a thabhairt dom labhairt ag an ócáid stairiúil seo. Tá tábhacht ar leith go líonfar an bhearna maidir le stair an Chogaidh Chathartha, óir tá an stát tar éis na maidí a ligeadh le sruth.

Ba mhaith liom an chaint ghairid seo a thabhairt in ómós do Mhícheál Ó Doibhilin, an staraí a bhásaigh an tseachtain seo.

Rinne Mícheál neart oibre ar leithéidí Anne Devlin agus d’fhoilsigh sé neart saothair tríd Kilmainham Tales, a thug léargas ar ghnéithe den stair poblachtach a ligeadh i ndearmad.

Le linn 2016, agus comóradh céad bhliain ar Éirí Amach 1916 faoi lán seoil tháinig sé chuig mo bhaile dúchais, Ráth Cúil, áit ar thug sé caint ar Josie McGowan, a bhí mar bhall de Chumann na mBan, agus a mharaigh na póilíní in 1918.

Micheál Ó Doibhlin giving a talk on Irish women in the struggle, 1918 (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Thanks to the committee for the invitation to give this short talk. It’s important to mark events such as these to do with the Civil War since the State has not seen fit to do so.

I’d like to dedicate this talk to Mícheál Ó Doibhlin, the historian who died just this week.

Mícheál carried out a great deal of work on the likes of Anne Devlin and he published numerous works through Kilmainham Tales which provided an insight into lesser known aspects of republican history.

During 2016, with the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Rising in full swing, he came to my hometown of Rathcoole, where he have a talk on Josie McGowan, who was the first member of Cumann na mBan to be martyred when she was killed by police in 1918.

I’d like to speak about Cathal Brugha first and then the impact of the Civil War/Counter-Revolution.

CATHAL BRUGHA – EARLY YEARS

In terms of the historical sources, it is not easy to find a wealth of material on Cathal Brugha online. Unlike Michael Collins, for example, there is not an abundance of accessible sources online pertaining to Brugha.

He is referred to in the Bureau of Military History sources such as the Witness Statements, and these have been digitised, but his private papers, held in UCD, await digitisation.

The recently published biography of Brugha by Daithí Ó Corráin and Gerard Hanley, entitled Cathal Brugha: “An Indomitable Spirit”, will hopefully go some way to popularising a fuller and more nuanced account of his life and politics.

Kerron Ó Luain ag caint ag an comóradh i Sr. an Ard-Eaglais, 7ú Iúil 2022 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Cathal Brugha was born as Charles Burgess in Dublin in 1874. He was born into a middle-class family, his father a cabinet maker. Brugha was born into a large family, which was not unusual at the time. Perhaps less common, was that he came from a mixed Protestant and Catholic marriage.

There is a good chance his father was a Protestant Fenian during the 1860s and 70s.

The crucial politicising force of this mid-twenties was Conradh na Gaeilge. He joined Craobh an Chéitinnigh in Dublin in 1899. And it was through the Conradh he met his wife Kathleen Kingston whom he married in 1909.

It was in this Gaelic revivalist and republican milieu that he met the likes of Seán Mac Diarmada, Tom Clarke and Piaras Béaslaí, and this influenced his move towards militant republicanism.

It is worth noting, at this point, that six of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation were members of Conradh na Gaeilge, as were fourteen of the sixteen men executed in the wake of the Rising.

Photo-portrait of Cathal Brugha in IRA uniform. (Photo sourced: Internet)

PREPARATION FOR RISING, PREPARATION FOR WAR — AND FURTHER

In 1908, Brugha joined the IRB. He was employed as a travelling salesman with a candlestick company during those years and so, like many within Fenianism before him, was able to disguise his organising and recruitment under the cloak of his business activities.

Brugha was later instrumental in the setting up of the Irish Volunteers and then the Howth Gun Running. He was second in command to Éamon Ceannt at the South Dublin Union (now James’s Street Hospital) during the 1916 Rising.

He held a detachment of the British Army at bay singlehandedly with his ‘Peter the Painter’ revolver and nearly died from the wounds, including a lacerated nerve, he sustained in the feat. For the remainder of his life he walked with a limp and had to have a special boot made so that he could walk.

In the wake of the 1916 Rising Brugha was central to the re-organisation of the Irish Volunteers, which during these years, along with the Irish Citizen Army, began to coalesce into the Irish Republican Army.

In terms of his rejection of the Treaty in 1921 and death during 1922, we get a snapshot of the trajectory of his politics in 1917.

He was central to the debates over the formation of the Sinn Féin constitution in 1917, and he clashed with the dual-monarchist Arthur Griffith over the insertion of the word “Republic” into the document, which Brugha ardently supported.

Later, at the outbreak of the Black and Tan War in 1918 another indication of his politics can be seen. Brugha, as President of the Dáil, and later as Minister of Defence, was anxious that the IRA would do nothing that might effect Ireland’s case at the Peace Conference underway in Paris.

These were not the actions of a militarist fanatic, as state and revisionist historians have often portrayed him, but the strategic calculations of a principled political republican.

His dedication to the cultural and linguistic revolution is a feature of his activities during 1919 — particularly during the reading of the 1919 Democratic Programme.

Rinneadh gach rud trí Ghaeilge an lá sin agus ba é Brugha a bhí chun cinn.

During that day all the business was conducted through Irish and Brugha was very forthright about that. He understood not only the political importance of announcing the advent of the Dáil at an international level, but in doing so through Irish.

Another indication of his desire to advance the Irish language was that his plan for Conradh na Gaeilge be given sanction by the newly emergent state. “It was essential”, he said “that the authority of Dáil Éireann should be placed behind the Gaelic League”.

Plaque over the spot where Cathal Brugha was fatally shot at the junction of Cathedral and O’Connell Streets. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

LESSONS OF HISTORY

It is our duty as historians and as republicans who want to learn from the mistakes of the past to analyse things as they were and not gloss over them.

Brugha was less advanced when it came to other social questions, such as that of the land.

When a loan scheme was set up by the Dáil in 1919-1920 Brugha viewed it as “a scheme that would be a perfectly sound business proposition, and offer a good field to Irishmen who desire to invest their money”.

This speaks to the class composition of much of that era’s Irish Republicanism – with over-representation from the lower-middle and middle classes and under-representation from the urban and rural working-class.

There was a consequent lack of a radical social programme that might have attracted the masses, particularly during 1922.

Liam Mellows, according to a recent publication by Conor McNamara, only really came towards socialism late in the day whilst imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail.

In a similar vein, the great socialist-republican Peadar O’Donnell, remarked that during the occupation of the Four Courts in July 1922 there existed a gulf between the republicans inside and the workers outside.

Hammam Hotel after Free State attack. (Photo sourced: Internet)

We can also point to a lack of militancy within the leadership of the labour movement, as we can to a lack of socialism within the republican movement.

However, and despite a climate of soviets springing up, land agitation and general strikes over the course of several years, socialism and republicanism failed to fully synthesise into an organised and militant socialist and anti-imperialist movement.

Nevertheless, this is not to take away from Brugha, Mellows or any of his comrades. The picture that emerges of Brugha is one of a dedicated and political Irish Republican. A man of principle, honour and integrity.

It isn’t the picture of a mindless militarist, or “a fanatic”, as a recent review of the above-mentioned book Indomitable Spirit in the Irish Independent characterised Brugha. Likewise, some historians have derided Brugha essentially as a man of “no politics”.

However, as JJ O’Kelly, better known as Sceilg, said of Brugha, he was “showered with intellectual gifts of a high order, coupled with an exquisite literary taste; was a good linguist, a powerful writer, a fluent and convincing speaker, a pleasing singer and exquisitely fond of good music”.

Previously, during a potential split in Craobh an Chéitinnigh in 1908 Brugha was seen as a force for reconciliation, rather than as an apolitical “splitter”.

At its core, the realisation that the Treaty represented a half-way house between Empire and Republic that was doomed to failure informed Brugha’s actions during 1921 and 1922.

The mainstream historical narrative is that the “militarists” couldn’t see sense and get behind the so-called “empty formulas” of the oath. But, harking back to his dispute with Griffith in 1917, I think Brugha knew the importance of the term “Republic”.

Brugha understood that the wording and principles laid down in such documents would influence the character of any Irish state which might emerge. Thuig sé, creidim, go gcuireadh na prionsabail a leagfaí síos ag an bpointe criticiúil cruth ar an stát a bhí le tíocht.

Brugha had also pushed for an Oath to the Republic to be adopted by the IRA in 1919. The context for him doing so was the long tradition of oaths stretching back through Fenianism and other oathbound secret societies.

Oathbound secret societies were common throughout Europe in opposition to feudal and absolutist monarchies from the Enlightenment era onwards.

But in Ireland such secret societies, whether agrarian, nationalist or republican, or an admixture of each, represented an opposition to colonialism and their oaths were a necessary offering of allegiance to the community and the Irish body politic rather than to the invader.

Brugha’s dedication to the Republic and rejection of imperialism was shown again during the Treaty debates of 1921 when he spoke thusly:

“if …. instead of being so strong, our last cartridge had been fired our last thinking had been spent and our last man was lying on the ground and his enemies howling around him and their bayonets raised, ready to plunge them into his body, that man should say – true to the traditions handed down – if they said ‘will you come into the Empire?’ he should say and he would say : ‘No, I will not!’

That is the spirit which has lasted the centuries and you people in favour of the Treaty know that the British Government and the British Empire will have gone down before that spirit dies in Ireland”.

CIVIL WAR/ COUNTERREVOLUTION

Civil War eventually began in 1922 with the shelling of the Four Courts with British guns by Free State forces. Again, busting the myth that he was only out for war, Brugha had actually been reluctant to enter the Republican garrison with Mellows, Rory O’Connor, and Joe McKelvey.

Likewise, Oscar Traynor; he and Brugha occupied Hamman Hotel and Buildings on Upper O’Connell street as a secondary garrison. As the Battle of Dublin raged the buildings occupied by Brugha went ablaze.

Free State soldiers shouted at him to surrender, to which he replied “níl aon chuimhneamh agam ar a leithéid a dhéanamh” (I have no notion of doing so). After asking his own garrison to surrender Brugha approached the Free State soldiers and was shot dead.

The Civil War has often been over-simplified into a cartoonish clash of “brother against brother” and “the Big Fellow” (Collins) versus “the Long Fellow” (De Valera). This negates the aspects of it which were clearly counter-revolutionary in nature, and it can just as easily be labelled the Counter-Revolution of 1922-23.

The results of the Counter-Revolution in which Brugha died and which deepened in the years after, especially during the 1920s, speak for themselves.

Free State troops preparing artillery emplacement for British field-gun at Nelson’s Pillar (now location of the Spire) in the Battle of Dublin, Civil War/ Counterrevolution July 1922. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Republican men carry the coffin of Cathal Brugha with an honour guard of Cumann na mBan. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Counter-Revolution:

Sided with Empire over Republic. The acceptance of the Treaty meant the acceptance of White Dominion status along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In doing so the counter-revolutionaries severed the nascent anti-colonial links with the Third World which had existed throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This move, according to Bill Rollston and Robbie McVeigh in their recent publication Anois ar Theacht an tSamhraidh: Ireland, Colonialism and the Unfinished Revolution, informs the nature and perseverance of Irish racism today.

It sided with Rich over Poor. The infamous quote from the good Catholic and Christian W.T. Cosgrave about “people being reared in work houses taking it in their minds to emigrate”, resonates here.

This is the mentality which laid the blueprint for how the State facilitated and turned a blind eye to the horrors of the industrial schools and laundries – horrors which were inflicted against women and children mainly from the urban and rural working class.

It sided with Partition over Unity. The nationalists of the North were abandoned to the mercy of the Orange state, despite knowledge among the emergent conservative republican elite like Cosgrave and Kevin O’Higgins of the pogroms which had been going on in Belfast between 1920-22.

The lame duck Border Commission of 1925 was never going to challenge the economic or political viability of the Six Counties

It sided with Anglophone Ireland over what was left of Irish speaking Ireland. There was over half a million, or 543,511 to be precise, native Irish speakers in the state in 1926. Today there are less than 10% of that, roughly 20,000.

The Free State in the 1920s implemented a symbolic cultural programme – state departments used the cúpla focail, schools were superficially Gaelicized, post boxes were painted green.

This was also a means of shoring up support for the State against republicans and other “subversives” in the 1920s and 30s by capturing and channelling one ideological aspect of the revolutionary years. But no radical social programme was devised.

Rather than re-distribute wealth and local power to the West, a symbolic and centralised pseudo-revival was implemented, while Conradh na Gaeilge, which Brugha had been so loyal to, went into rapid decline naively thinking that the conservative state would somehow act as a genuine custodian of the language revival.

Tá go leor leor samplaí den leanúnachas seo leis an impiriúlachas le fáil.

Other examples of a continuity and no real break with imperialism abound. In law, the Free State remained wedded to British common law over a potential new system.

Brehon Law had been mooted as having communal benefits different from the individualist and property focussed British law by cultural nationalists and by Marxists such as James Connolly. But this mode of thought was not considered.

In administration, according to historian J.J. Lee, 98% of civil servants from the old British colonial administration were kept on during the years of the early Free State.

In finance, Ernest Blyth’s conservative fiscal policies were carbon copies of Westminster’s and the punt was shackled to the sterling.

Even down to seemingly innocuous cultural traits such as dress – W.T. Cosgrave and his ilk adopted the top hat and coat-tails of the British once in office – there were continuities.

While this last point may seem minor, it was a signifier of the whole ideology and culture of the state – Conservative, Catholic, Anglophone, with only a veneer of Gaelic symbology.

Little wonder then that the State lurched from dependence on one empire from the 1920s into dependence on others in the 1960s and 70s in the form of the US empire and the emergent EU empire — via the policies of Foreign Direct Investment and the Common Agricultural Policy.

The legacy then of the counter-revolution still weighs heavily on our people.

It is our duty to analyse the different forces – be they political, class or cultural – which defeated the Republic in 1922-23 and to work towards defeating them and breaking fully with Empire, as Cathal Brugha sought to do.

An Phoblacht Abú!

Kerron Ó Luain, staraí, Ráth Cúil, Co. Átha Cliath.

Section of the crowd at Cathal Brugha’s funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery. (Photo sourced: Internet)

PROTEST ABOUT POLICE EVICTIONS AT STORE STREET GARDA STATION

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 1 min.)

Passers-by on foot and on the Luas tram lines watched curiously as housing activists and others held a picket outside Store Street Garda station in Dublin on the evening of 13th June 2022. The picket was called for by the Revolutionary Workers Union, protesting the taking by over 80 Gardaí of a house on Eden Quay and arresting of two occupants, followed by the arrest of another two activists near another address.

Poster advertising the event on social media. (Image sourced: Internet)

The picket was called at fairly short notice and supported by people from a variety of political backgrounds, all with what were clearly home-made placards. Picketing a police station is somewhat counter-intuitive, given that’s to where the police take their prisoners and most people want to stay away from those places, with good reason. However, the station is the location of the police symbolically and in reality and Store Street is one of the main ones in Dublin so, when one wants to protest about the police …… Once having protested at a police station, the apprehension is never quite the same again.

Some passers-by stopped to ask what the protest was about, some of whom expressed anger at the actions of the Gardaí and a reporter from an independent media interviewed some of the participants.

Picketers outside Store Street Garda Station, Dublin City centre on Monday. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Some time later the picketers were addressed by Seán Doyle of the RWU who spoke about the morality of the landlords and speculators and the Gardaí who work for them. Doyle contrasted that morality with the one that saw provision for need instead of profit. During the course of his address, Doyle pointed out that the RWU knows people who work in emergency interventions such as with people attempting suicide, who are then brought to agencies to help them but who are soon out again and homeless. “This is not ‘ethnic cleansing’,” the activist said, “it’s class cleansing.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The RWU spokesperson at the picket remarked on the use of the law and the Gardaí against housing activists while speculators and landlords make big profits out of the misery of homelessness. A law that upholds and defends that kind of practice must be defied, he stated as he drew to a close.

Some of the picketers on Monday (Sean Doyle is second to the right). (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Seán Doyle was one of two activists that were removed recently by over 80 Gardaí from a one-and-a-half years empty homeless hostel which the RWU had “acquisitioned” and renamed “James Connolly House”. Another premises subsequently acquisitioned, also empty for a long period, the RWU renamed “Liam Mellowes House” and the Gardaí arrested two activists near there also, despite any occupation of the building being a civil law matter and outside the remit of the Gardaí.

The RWU on a number of occasions have called on people to “take back empty buildings” and have declared that they will not be intimidated by arrests but will continue to fight for the right of people to a secure home.

Another view of part of the picket on Monday (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
One of the home-made placards at the event. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

End.

A placard denounces the recent 80+ Garda eviction of “James Connolly House” and arrest of two occupants (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollyHouse

https://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryworkersfront/

COLOMBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS — ANY CHANGE?

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh, political activist and analyst for many years in Colombia, was interviewed by Dimitris Givisis about the current presidential elections there and a candidate presenting as Left; published in https://www.rednblack.gr/arthra/kolomvia-o-petro-oikodomei-mia-eklogiki-symmachia-kai-ochi-mia-koinoniki-dynami/

1) What do you think the elections of May 29th will mean for the future of Colombia? What are the stakes of these elections?

The elections are not as key as some commentators would like to make out in terms of profound changes in Colombia. Though, the reaction in some sectors and fears about the transparency of the elections are well founded and even some fears of a violent reaction from some sectors of the bourgeoisie and the army. So, on one level the elections are about the degree to which the bourgeoisie, including the narco-bourgeoisie are willing to accept electoral defeat. This election is likely to bring about a long period of uncertainty in the country as Petro tries to manage the expectations and demands of the bourgeoisie and contain the hopes of his own supporters.

People displaced in the north of Santander by ongoing violence try to get by as best they can (Photo cred: GÓ Loingsigh)

2) What is the political scenery like, one week before the elections? These elections take place midst what kind of atmosphere?

The atmosphere oscillates between one of hope that Petro will be elected and bring an end to a long conflict that has been going on for almost 60 years and one of fear. No one knows what the far right are capable of doing and thinking at the moment. General Zapateiro intervened in the election campaign, which is unconstitutional as the military don’t even have the right to vote in Colombia. There are other fears about electoral fraud, a portal has been set up to report electoral fraud. Already it has tallied 3,500 incidents and no one has cast a vote yet. Leading businesses have stated they will sack any workers who vote for Petro and have demanded that their employees take photos of the electoral card that they mark and send it to them. It is expected that Petro has the ability to win in the first round, sufficient electoral fraud to force a second round run off with any candidate other than Fico would make matters more complicated for Petro as people may vote against him out of fear were it to come to a second round against one of the other candidates other than the reincarnation of Uribe that is Fico.

The Colombian military are not permitted to vote but there is always the possibility that they will intervene militarily (Photo cred: GÓ Loingsigh)

3) In the surveys, we see that Gustavo Petrois is ahead. How do you interpret this? What are the social alliances he has created? What are people’s expectations from him?

Petro has been around for a long time and this is not his first but third outing as a presidential candidate. After 20 years of Uribe as the leading figure in Colombian politics, there is a growing tiredness coupled with really serious levels of poverty, whilst kleptocrats openly steal the resources of the state. However, he hasn’t built social alliances as such. There has been a confluence of various social organisations and sectors more out of a hope that there might be some change. Petro for example opposed the wave of protests that erupted in the country last year. At a moment when Duque looked very weak, Petro came out to say that he didn’t want Duque to fall through the protests and demanded that the protests be called off. He more than anyone was responsible for the defeat. Petro is building an electoral alliance not a social force and his electoral alliance includes the bourgeoisie. He has long called for a programmatic agreement with the bourgeoisie and his alliance includes people from various previous governments, including Uribe’s governments. Leading functionaries from the Santos government play lead roles in his campaign, such as Alfonso Prada, who is also a close friend of Santos. Former president Samper, the man who implemented the decree that gave us the Convivir, the legal façade for the paramilitaries in the 1990s is also involved in his campaign. This is not a minor point, Samper managed to reinvent himself as a man of peace, even though he more than any president bears responsibility for the blood bath of the mid 1990s to the early years of the 21st century. He also tried to include the former president Cesar Gaviria, the man who gave us the economic aperture of the neoliberal period. It was opposition from his electoral base which forced him to rethink that one. These people play a greater role than any social movement.

Marchers on the annual Victims’ Day in March with placards of murdered trade union and human rights activists (Photo cred: GO’Loingsigh)

4) If Gustavo Petro wins the elections, what possibilities/room does he have to implement a progressive/social democratic policy for the people΄s classes, the workers, the poor, the precarious, etc?

This goes back to the last question and his programmatic alliance with the bourgeoisie. So, there are two elements, to what degree does he actually want to implement a progressive policy? He has spoken about reforms in health and education, some of which sound almost Keynesian, but Petro is not Keynesian. His programme does not contemplate a break with neoliberalism but to work within it, controlling deficits etc, subsidies for industry etc.. His economic policies are a continuation of the last 30 years, with one difference, he wants to move away from mining and oil exploitation, the former coming to an end in any case with various coal mining companies announcing their withdrawal from the country, though some gold mining companies are staying and these companies have legal guarantees on continuing with mining prospecting and exploitation that Petro will not and cannot legally bring to an end. He has however, said that he will promote agribusiness and continue with the policies that are in place, again with some minor tweaking.

Gustavos Petro campaigning (Photo cred: Financial Times)

5) How do you see the next day, after the disaster that the four years of Duque’s neoliberal policy has brought? What are the most important problems that the new government will face? What are the difficulties?

The next day, the one problem Petro will have is how the right will react to destabilise his government. A situation similar to that of Allende of a long drawn-out phase of destabilisation from some sectors is a possibility, though unlike Allende, Petro’s campaign is electoral, he does not believe in organising people and is in fact opposed to it. Part of his base has been bought off with the promise of jobs for the leaders of organisations and access to the public purse, which is normal for Colombian elections. Offers of jobs and government contracts in communities is the normal way elections are bought in Colombia.

Colombian military looks towards a protest demonstration (Photo cred: GO’Loingsigh)

Petro also does not have a majority in Congress, in fact he is very far from it. And will have to negotiate many things, which will push his programme further to the right as he will not use popular mobilisation to counter any blocking of policies by Congress. In the long term, this presents a problem for him and we will almost certainly see another wave of protests like those of last year, but this time against the Petro government. I also predict that his Vice President, Francia Márquez will not complete her term of office and will resign at some point in the face of the reality of Petro’s government as opposed to the expectations.

He has proposed renegotiating the free trade agreements, a task that is just not possible. He will also face problems in reforming the health sector as many international health companies have invested heavily in the sector and will most like sue the government for any changes that affect their profits, something he will be forced to back down on. In fact, within his campaign there have already been retreats on this point, as he no longer proposes to abolish the role of these companies, just to change how much of the public purse they have access to.

end.

People fishing in Cesar Department, Colombia (Photo cred: G.Ó Loingsigh)
Coal miner in Colombia (Photo cred: G.Ó Loingsigh)

MESSAGE OF DEFIANCE FROM CONNOLLY HOUSE RALLY

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

The Salvation Army went to court yesterday to obtain a court order against the Revolutionary Workers’ Union, the latter currently occupying a building on Dublin’s Eden Quay since earlier this month. The RWU occupied the building — which had been empty last year — in order to house the homeless and as a public protest against continuing homelessness in the city, property speculation and high rents. The RWU were not represented in court, which granted the Salvation Army the order they sought, but some RWU supporters held a protest picket outside the court and held a rally outside the Eden Quay building a few hours later, their speakers and songs expressing determination to continue the struggle and defiance of the authorities.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The occupied building formerly known as Lefroy House and now renamed James Connolly House by the occupiers, in honour of the celebrated revolutionary socialist James Connolly executed in 1916, was constructed on the site in 1925 (all the terraces along Eden Quay had been demolished by British artillery and fire during the suppression of the 1916 Rising). Extended in 1948, the legend “Seamen’s Institute” suggests it served for a time as a seamen’s hostel but in more recent times served as hostel for young people run by the Salvation Army1 organisation, which closed the facility last year when their government funding was cut.

The Salvation Army organisation hold a long lease on the building and claimed in court that they had been renovating the building to house Ukrainian refugees, for which one assumes they have funding. However, a quick independent inspection of the building’s interior found it in good repair but with no sign of ongoing renovation work of any kind. Their claim was repeated in media reports without any attempt to check its veracity. The RWU in a statement date the 17th and of which copies were handed out supporters attending the rally yesterday headed off any attempt to use racism in their support, stating that: “The Revolutionary Workers’ Union is a pro-refugee and migrant organisation” and went on to call for housing for all residents, regardless of nationality and “an end to the shameful prison system of direct provision”.

In common with previous statements, it went on to call on people across the country, all 32 counties, to take similar action. This seems a new departure from housing occupation actions in recent years, of which the most famous was that of the large formerly NAMA building Apollo House in December of 2016. That occupation received a lot of activist support and media attention, the latter due at least in part to the participation of celebrity personalities such as the musicians Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey and support from actress Saoirse Ronan and film-maker and author Jim Sheridan. After the building was abandoned to its owners for demolition however no similar action followed – except for a protest concert outside Leinster House the following year — and the housing crisis continued to intensify. Some minor occupations have occurred without usually any follow-up action after the occupants were evicted and protest marches have taken place – but the crisis continues to worsen.

Section of the crowd at the rally (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

A wide public housing program is urgently needed to address the crisis but, although by no means a revolutionary solution, has the support of not one of the major political parties, in or out of government. Not only should the sale of any public land to private concerns by declared illegal but other facilities and empty buildings need to be seized for conversion into public housing to rent according to means. Those rents would not only fund repairs and maintenance but new building also.

But any local authority wishing to carry out this program is starved of the necessary funding from the State, which feeds it instead into private landlords and speculators, who then use it to further deepen their grip on the housing market. Not only is the problem not resolved but it gets worse.

According to Department of Housing, there were more than 9,800 people experiencing homelessness in Ireland at the end of March, representing an increase of 3.5% in one month and a 23% increase compared to the same time last year.

Of the 9,825 homeless people, 2,811 were children and there were 5,143 single adults and 1,238 families in emergency accommodation. Youth homelessness is more than double other categories as there was a 58% increase in the number of homeless people aged between 18 and 24 (1,230) when compared to last year.

The Simon Communities of Ireland said it was “the highest level of adult homelessness and young person homelessness ever recorded” by the Department of Housing.2

In addition, the number of homeless people dying is sharply increasing: a total of 115 homeless people died in Dublin last year, more than double the number who died in 2019. In 2020, there were 76 deaths recorded while in 2019 and 2018, the number was under 50.3

Part of the building under occupation on Eden Quay (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

RALLY ON THE QUAY – SPEECHES AND SONG

The rally yesterday evening outside “Connolly House”, which had been called at fairly short notice, started a little late but was fairly short, concluding even as people were still arriving. The average age profile was noticeably young and a number of political tendencies seemed to be represented.

A man chairing the rally apologised for the lack of a PA system and asked people go gather closer. He informed the audience that the Revolutionary Workers’ Group has occupied “a second long-term vacant property in Dublin City, naming it Liam Mellows House, “the great socialist Republican executed by the Free State counterrevolution in 1922 …. which we continue to live with the consequences of and continue to fight to this day.”

A speaker addressing the rally (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Apart from the man chairing the event, there were two speakers from the RWU, one of whom gave his entire speech in fluent Irish. The message in summary from all was that the housing crisis is artificially created for the benefit of landlords and property “vulture” speculators, that the buildings belong by right to all of us, that housing is a human need that requires fighting for and the time for fighting – “to shake off the paralysis” — is now. All the speeches were cheered.

A performer accompanying himself by guitar sang a new resistance song while a giant banner was waved, reading “EVICTIONS KILL — HOUSE THE PEOPLE ”.

Musician performing for the rally (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event concluded with a man singing a cappella The Larkin Ballad4 (also known as the Lockout Song). He introduced his performance by saying that on that very Quay in August 1913 the police had killed two workers and that the Irish Citizen Army had been formed as a result, which had gone on to participate in the 1916 Rising — with the lyrics referencing both periods.

Following that, the chairperson invited those who wished to do so to enter the building but to treat it with respect in general and to abide by the rules of the occupiers of which he mentioned in particular that there were to be no photographs taken. A long queue formed for admittance even as some latecomers still arrived to join it.

End.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The Salvation Army is a Protestant religious charity and temperance organisation and its funding by the State to address homelessness is another example of the ubiquitous private status of social services in Ireland whether through different faith organisations or other NGOs.

2https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2022/0429/1295183-homeless-ireland-latest/#:~:text=In%20Dublin%2C%20approximately%20413%20families,not%20surprised%22%20by%20the%20figures.

3https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40853996.html#:~:text=A%20total%20of%20115%20homeless,the%20number%20was%20under%2050.

4In Dublin City in 1913, the Boss was rich and the workers slaves ….” The original lyrics were composed by Donagh McDonagh, son of Thomas McDonagh, Signatory of the Proclamation of Independence and executed by British firing squad in 1916, with some further lyrics by his own son.

REFERENCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

“Connolly House” Court case: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/high-court/salvation-army-secures-injunction-requiring-alleged-trespassers-to-vacate-dublin-building-1.4882076

Revolutionary Workers’ Union: https://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryworkersfront/

https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/50010312/lefroy-house-12-14-eden-quay-marlborough-street-dublin-1-dublin

Apollo House occupation in 2016: https://www.thejournal.ie/homeless-occupy-3143274-Dec2016/

Number of homeless and age breakdown: https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2022/0429/1295183-homeless-ireland-latest/#:~:text=In%20Dublin%2C%20approximately%20413%20families,not%20surprised%22%20by%20the%20figures.

Homeless deaths: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40853996.html#:~:text=A%20total%20of%20115%20homeless,the%20number%20was%20under%2050.

SPANISH STATE ARMS MADRID AGAINST PROTESTS AT NATO SUMMIT: €37 million (including the purchase of 6,000 Taser pistol chargers)

From La Izquierda Diario (the Daily Left) by Carlos Rubio (Translated by D.Breatnach)

Foreign Affairs and Interior Departments spare no expense when it comes to strengthening the Atlantic Alliance summit, scheduled for June 29 and 30th. The budget increase of 1.95 million euros for the State Security Forces includes the purchase of 6,000 Taser chargers for the convened protests.

On October 8, 2021, the next NATO summit meeting in Madrid was officially announced, where Prime Minister Sánchez announced that “they would have all the capabilities” to “guarantee security”, at a key “historic moment” for the organisation.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Two months before the official date, Ministers of the Interior Marlaska and Exterior Albares are already anticipating some of the measures to be taken to prepare for the Summit. €37 million will be the budget limit, which will include the cost of assembly and adaptation of Ifema (Madrid festival organising consortium — DB), the catering and the security of the meeting.

More specifically, the State Security Forces will have almost 2 million euros to reinforce their equipment, which includes the purchase of 6,000 chargers for Taser pistols, to guarantee “a safe environment in the face of a possible threat”, according to the Marlaska himself.

Together with this acquisition, the purchase of metal detector arches, parcel inspection scanners, digital personal video cameras and computer graphics equipment for the preparation of three-dimensional plans of complete buildings is expected.

(Image from Social Revolution): “70 years of war, NATO no, bases out”

The National Police will be the body deployed for this summit, which will be involved in “establishing a comprehensive security arrangement for it that will cover, in addition to the place where the meetings are held, travel and all those places of accommodation where the delegations of different countries that are planning their assistance will be staying”.

According to the Government, all these measures are a priority since “several organisations and social groups are already announcing protests.”

The leading issue at this summit, given the context, is the war in Ukraine and the position that NATO is to take against Putin’s reactionary invasion. This time, there will be 50 delegations, some of them invited from outside NATO but close to it, as in the cases of Ukraine, Sweden or Finland.

At this summit, it is foreseeable that the main trend that has already been taking place in recent months and has been justified by the war between Kyiv and Moscow will be strengthened: imperialist rearmament.

In recent months, from the various partners of the alliance and from the EU, weapons have been sent successively to Ukraine, defending the interests of the alliance, arming the Ukrainian Security Forces and militias, among which are groups such as the well-known Azov Battalion and the Pravy Sektor, to name a few examples. While Russian troops remain… on their battlefronts, these armed far-right groups are strengthening their hegemony and repression in the parts of the country they control.

(Image from Social Revolution)

In this regard, as Sánchez stated: “Madrid and Spain are going to play a determining role”. Last Thursday, the President of the Government announced that Spain was going to double military aid to Ukraine, at the same time that the Army ship “Ysabel” is sailing to Poland with 200 tons of ammunition and war material of various kinds.

Since March 2nd, when the first shipment of weapons by the Spanish State was approved in Congress, the efforts of the “progressive government” (i.e social-democrat and Podemos coalition – DB) to actively participate in the escalation of war have continued uninterruptedly.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Sánchez seems to reinforce his intention to turn the Spanish state into one of the main partners of NATO and the US in Europe. In accordance with the positive historical diplomatic relations between the US and Morocco, Spain legitimised less than a month ago the illegitimate occupation of Western Sahara by the Alaouite monarchy, selling the Saharawi people in exchange for a diplomatic relationship that maintains a strong border policy between Africa and the EU; and to ensure the economic interests of Spain over her former colony.

(Image from Social Revolution)

Spain is the seventh ranking country in contribution of money to the organisation and which, in line with the other members of the Treaty Organisation, raised its defence budget by 1.5 billion euros between 2020 and 2021, which is still far from the 2% requested by “the White House” from its partners.

With the 2018 budgets the “progressive government” approved from the beginning an increase of almost 11% in defence and 6.5% in the National Police and Civil Guard, so it is expected that this trend will continue to rise.

End.

“Prime Minister Sanchez and his master” (Image from Social Revolution)

AESOP UPDATED – the Grasshopper and the Ant

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2mins.)

The grasshopper was enjoying the early May sunshine, playing his fiddle a bit, eating succulent new grass a bit, just enjoying life – a lot. Now and again, the grasshopper noticed an ant scurrying by but at first paid it no attention. Eventually though, he began to be a little curious and also, probably, a little irritated by this constant scurrying to and fro.

“Hey, Ant,” the grasshopper called out, the next time the busy insect passed him, “Why are you so busy? Why can’t you just enjoy life?”

The ant stopped and looked around to find out where the voice had come from.

“Ah, Grasshopper …. sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked why be so busy, why not just enjoy life?”

“Because food has to be gathered while it’s growing,” replied the ant, disbelieving anyone could be so stupid as not to know that. “And stored.”

“But Ant,” said the grasshopper indulgently, “there’s plenty of food around. No need to store it at all.”

“Yes, there’s plenty of food now, Grasshopper. But when the winter comes, hardly anything will grow. We gather the food now and store it so we won’t starve come winter.”

“Oh Ant, let winter look after itself. Now is the time to enjoy life.”

How can anyone be so stupid, thought the ant, shaking her head.

“Please yourself”, she said, hurrying on.

“Don’t worry, I will,” replied the grasshopper, striking up a merry tune.

He’ll only learn when it’s too late, thought the ant.

But she was wrong. The grasshopper began to think about the coming winter and absence of food. In between chewing the juicy grass-stems and playing tunes on the fiddle, the grasshopper went about making arrangements.

Summer turned to Autumn and Autumn turned to Winter. Most growing plants either died or went dormant. Cold winds blew through leafless branches.

Underneath the ant-hill, inside the ant-nest, it was warm and there was plenty of food, thanks to the hard work of the ant colony throughout the Summer and Autumn. The ants were enjoying their food, warmth and old stories.

A thunderous knocking announced someone at the main door. When the ants cautiously opened the door, whom should they see but the grasshopper, looking cold and hungry.

“I need some of your food,” he said. “Hunger is making me cold. And when I get cold, I get hungrier.”

“Too bad,” chorused the ants in the doorway.

“You should have listened to me in the Summer,” exclaimed one ant smugly.

“Oh, I did,” replied the grasshopper, even more smugly and let out something like a whistle, whereupon a large and aggressive crowd of blue beetles jumped out of hiding and ran for the door, overcoming the ants there in minutes. Into the the ant-nest they poured and sounds of fighting and injury could be heard within.

The blue beetles had been hiding but at the Grasshopper’s command, stormed the ant nest.

After a while, an injured but surviving ant at the doorway saw a blue beetle come staggering back out and approach the grasshopper.

“We need reinforcements, Master,” it whined. “The ants are massed and fighting hard defending their food stores. We threatened their young but they’re protecting them too.”

The grasshopper seemed unsurprised, almost as though he could have predicted that. He gave a different kind of whistle and a horde of dark green beetles poured out of hiding and into the nest. The noise of fighting grew louder and then ceased.

When the blue beetles ran into stiff resistance, the Grasshopper sent in the green beetles to finish off the opposition.

Any hope the ant had that the silence meant the elimination of the beetles was destroyed as a steady stream of beetles began to emerge, most of them carrying bundles of food.

“Lazy scum!” cried the surviving ant at the nest’s door. “You’re leaving us to starve!”

“No such thing,” scoffed the grasshopper. “If you all died of starvation, who would gather the food and store it next year? And the year after? You will probably go hungry – but you won’t starve. Not most of you anyway.”

The ant said nothing in reply, just watched the food parcels being carried out of the nest.

When they were all ready to leave, the grasshopper turned to the ant.

“No fighting next year, Ant. You just give us what you gather and we’ll give you back enough to live on and to raise new ants. No need for all that fighting, is there?”

The grasshopper turned away without a backward glance and followed the long lines of his food-carrying beetles in dark green and blue, his personal security platoon of blue beetles around him.

End.

The Grasshopper and Ants (Source image: illustration in book Aesop’s Fables, Library of Congress)

JARDUN CALL FOR REVOLUTION ON BASQUE NATIONAL DAY IN GERNIKA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 10 mins.)

The revolutionary Basque socialist coordination organisation Jardun Koordinadora organised a celebration of Aberri Eguna, the Basque national day, combining political, social and cultural forms. Aberri Eguna takes place annually on Easter Sunday, a date chosen by its founder Elias Gallestegi based on a traditional commemoration day of the Easter Rising in Ireland. Aberri Eguna was first celebrated in Bilbo in 1932 attended by 65,000 people, including members of Emakume Abertzale Batza1, the Basque nationalist women’s organisation founded by Gallestegi also in emulation of the Irish organisation Cumann na mBan. Around 1,000 people, with a high representation of youth but also of veterans of the struggle, attended the events in Gernika2.

Jardun-organised Aberri Eguna procession passing through Gernika (Photo courtesy Jardun)

The Irish connection was reiterated on Sunday by the reading at the political rally of messages of solidarity from three Irish-based sources: Anti-Imperialist Action, Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland and Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee.

Jardun Koordinatora is a relatively new initiative which is a sharp departure from the trajectory in recent decades of the official leadership of the Abertzale Left, a trajectory which has served to dismember and dishearten the movement.

La Haine Report

(Translation by Dublin Basque with explanatory notes in italics)

The different organisations comprising this Coordination (Jardun) demonstrated in Gernika under the slogans “Aberri gorria, biharko Euskal Herria, “Independentzia eta Sozialismoa”, “Euskal Herrilangilea Aurrera”, “Presoak Kalera Amnistia osoa” and “Amnistiarik gabe bakerik ez” (“Bright future in tomorrow’s Basque Country” “Independence and Socialism”, “Forward Basque workers”, “Prisoners Free with Full Amnesty” and “No Peace Without Amnesty”).

This Sunday, April 17, the JARDUN Coordination convened the Aberri Eguna (Basque National Day) gathering some 1,000 people to claim the national objective of the Basque Working People.

Along with a Zanpantzar group (performers with bells in traditional costumes representing animals), the event began with a march starting from Plaza Mercurio and during the journey different acts were carried out to demand prisoner amnesty and rights for working women. The event ended with the speeches read in Pasealeku Plaza: the first two were messages of solidarity sent by Anti-Imperialist Action and Anti-Internment Committee (both of Ireland) and ended with the political statement of the JARDUN Coordination.

Tradition Zapantzarak lead the procession (Photo courtesy Jardun)

The demonstration went smoothly. However, the bus that departed from Irunea/ Pamplona had problems getting there because the National Police stopped it in Urdiain, taking details of the occupants.

To conclude, JARDUN Coordination stated that the only alternative for the Basque Working People will come from the hand of independence and socialism. To conclude, the Internationale and the Eusko Gudariak (Basque Soldier) were sung.

Spanish armed police stopped the contingent from Irunea/ Pamplona heading for Gernika and recorded their details. (Courtesy of Jardun)


Jardun Statement for Aberri Eguna 2022
(Translated by D.Breatnach from text supplied in Castillian Spanish)

Under capitalism, we workers are condemned to survive. We build our lives around work and the exploitation we suffer in it, while the bourgeoisie lives at the expense of this work. Such is the dynamic of capital. This is the logic of the economic system currently in force in the world. That is why it is important to clearly identify and point out the adversary facing us; because the capitalist system, the bourgeoisie, normalises and legitimises the fears and the repression that it produces daily to absorb the blood of the workers.

(Photo courtesy Jardun)

But with 19 years in prison for the freedom of his people, the murder of Iván Colona, a direct consequence of the criminal French prison policy, is not normal. The situation of the working people of Ireland, suffering from crushing British occupation for more than 800 years, is not normal. After eight long years of war, the situation of the working people of Donbass, who experience bombings, murders and massacres on a daily basis, is not normal. And much more heinous, outside of the norm, are the attempts to whitewash and legitimise criminal institutions such as NATO murderers.

We must situate ourselves in that context, understand within that reality, the situation that Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) is experiencing. Today our country are controlled by both the French and Spanish states. Not only do both these states not recognise Euskal Herria but they carry out an oppression based on that denial against the working class of Euskal Herria. In effect, we must understand well that, beyond the national question providing the a joint market for the states, the working class can only use the political project of the bourgeoisie as an element of unity to support and protect it, promoting interclassist attitudes.

“We, the organized women workers, will overcome all oppression!” (Photo courtesy Jardun)

The aforementioned denial, as well as the attacks carried out by the Spanish and French States against the Basque Working People, must be understood as an ideological motivation of the national State. We must, therefore, situate the oppression of Euskal Herria in the very creation of the Spanish and French capitalist states; because the objective of the denial is clear, the assimilation of Euskal Herria. To do this, the states take advantage of the institutions aimed at creating divisions and gaps in the Basque consciousness. And to protect these institutions and guarantee the supremacy of the bourgeoisie, they take advantage of dogs of various colours to attack the working people. To promote alienation and renounce our identity, in addition to normalising the attacks against the language, they have turned the Basque language and culture into souvenirs of a territory that today wants to dedicate itself to tourism, since for the bourgeoisie everything is business, to the point of commodifying our places of residence.

This being the case, given that denial is a decision of a political nature, we must cover with a political character the oppression experienced by Euskal Herria to view it with a class vision. We have to be clear about the concept of the political nature with regard to Euskal Herria nationality. Therefore, we have to fight against normalised oppression. Along this path, it is up to the workers of Euskal Herria to build our own political project and in response to this we have to equip ourselves with our own institutions that have to arise out of the counter-power that we need to form. And for this it is necessary for a Workers’ Euskal Herria to break politically with the Spanish and French states.

Photo shows a substantial following by veterans of the struggle (Photo courtesy Jardun)

These States offer the working people the use and threat of both persecution and violence, within the capitalist system that condemns the working class to servitude for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. For this reason, to carry out the aforementioned political rupture, political confrontation must be a valued concept in order to carry out the political project of the workers of Euskal Herria. Political confrontation must also be the engine of the revolutionary process aimed at achieving an independent and socialist Basque state in Euskal Herria.

For this, it is necessary to take the revolutionary process to the extreme and form a political body that must feed the revolutionary alternative. Specifically, a political body to be formed by organised workers in favour of national and social liberation and the sale of their labour power in the Basque Country. A political body that is committed to achieving an independent and socialist Basque State. Because the Basque Working People cannot be limited to the forms of work authorised by the capitalist system. These not only destroy the revolutionary potential of the working class, but are aimed at sustaining and reproducing the ideology of the bourgeoisie; because the enemy will not give, in any way, more than he is willing to give. The bourgeoisie will not voluntarily give up its privileges.

(Photo courtesy Jardun)

It is essential to set in motion the revolutionary process that must take place on the path of a classless society, towards the acquisition of political power by the working class; the aforementioned subject will only be achieved through the confrontation carried out with the capitalist state. Through the counter-power built in the confrontation, the Basque Working People must articulate revolutionary structures that wear down the centres of power of the oppressor and guarantee his liberation against the exploiters, to guarantee the achievements obtained during the revolutionary process. Because the political power of the Basque Working People must be based on counter power. In other words, the revolutionary alternative of the working people will be built and take root as the control and power of the capitalist states over the workers of the Basque Country is annulled. The revolutionary alternative must be a comprehensive political alternative that satisfies the needs of the Basque Working People.

It must be understood that this will be capable of leading struggles based on the activation and commitment of the workers. Therefore, in order to weave and build a revolutionary alternative at this time, the priority is the activation of workers aimed at promoting the ideological struggle and mobilization, understanding the JARDUN coordinator as an instrument to achieve this. In short, JARDUN is a framework created with the aim of promoting the organisation of bodies and militants to win the freedom of Euskal Herria. Its objective is that, under a common political project and strategic approach, each organisation carries out its contribution in specific political areas, but that all act within the framework of a common strategy and direction.

We have to be aware that this will be achieved through gradual activation and participation through the awareness of the Basque Working People. In this process, the revolutionary process itself will be carried out gradually, and the Alternative of the Basque Working People must carry out struggles based on the different forces, conditions and problems of the moment. As its political work deepens and Basque workers’ participation in the Coordination increases, JARDUN will create new framework organisations and acquire comprehensiveness and integrity, with the revolutionary movement’s priority being to create the conditions to achieve it.

(Photo courtesy Jardun)

When talking about the liberation of Euskal Herria, self-determination is a frequently mentioned term: self-determination, a term that appears many times when a nation is subjected to the sovereignty of another against its will. But when we speak of self-determination, considering the revolutionary process developed under a counter-power based on political rupture, we are not referring, in any way, to the vote marked, accepted and facilitated by the States that persecute Euskal Herria, but to the process of separation of one nation from the state structures of another nation. Self-determination as synonymous with the revolutionary process that must be carried out to achieve an independent and socialist Basque State, in the case of Euskal Herria.

Autonomism, because it is a struggle based on the management of the remains provided by the states, is not an option. It is not a legitimate choice on the table for the revolutionary movement, since this implies reformism and the strengthening of the position of power and subjugation of the States, together with the renunciation of the strategic objectives aimed at the liberation of the Basque Working People. However, it would be a serious mistake to believe that, through national liberation, the liberation of the workers will take place mechanically. This must be understood within the class struggle, in which we must place self-determination itself within the class conflict.

On the other hand, there exists the denial, underestimation or rejection of the national question, the strengthening of the repression that the capitalist states carry out and accepting the framework of the oppressive nation imposed, in the name of socialism, with the argument of unity of the workers. Regarding the national issue, the lack of correct position also allows the French and Spanish States to continue applying unjust laws and coercion, helping to hide the dimension of oppression suffered by the working class of Euskal Herria. Keeping silent before a crushing stomp, since taking a neutral position means protection from crushing; taking neutral positions allows oppressive power relations to continue unchanged over time and space, perpetuating them.

The political rally of Jardun’s celebration of Aberri Eguna in Gernika (Photo courtesy Jardun)

Consequently, the mere demand for independence only benefits the interest and political project of the bourgeoisie of the Basque Country. And the socialism that in Euskal Herria does not address the national question goes hand-in-hand with denial, denying in class parameters the revolutionary potential of the national question. The achieving of the independent and socialist State must be the result of the revolutionary process of Euskal Herria due to the national oppression suffered by the Basque workers. Revolutionary alternatives beyond the essential defence of independence and socialism must be the basis of the political position of the Basque Working People. They are only alternative for the Basque Working People, because it inevitably comes hand-in-hand with independence and socialism.

Long live a free Basque Country!

Long live a socialist Basque Country!

End.

FOOTNOTES

1A strong organisation in the antifascist resistance to the fascist-military uprising against the Spanish Republic but no longer in existence.

2Guernica, in Spanish.

SOURCES

Jardun Koordinadora: https://www.facebook.com/Jardun_koordinadora-100598125431163

https://eh.lahaine.org/eusk-cast-jardun-koordinadorak-2022ko

NAVIGATING PROPAGANDA TO ARRIVE AT TRUTH

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 9 mins.)

We are surrounded by propaganda: to favour this or that political and economic system, those products, accept this way of life and to reject that other, to emulate or aspire to be like those people or to reject others …. The propaganda is constant but perhaps most evident in times of conflict: social conflict and wars in particular. We cannot be free of it but we can attempt to navigate it, to reach that fabled destination, the port of Truth.

Political propaganda by Cartoon: Left, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak shown as superhero, saving the economy and Right, former Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn shown as a Russian, suggesting he is a communist. (Images sourced: Internet)

OUR OWN PERSONAL BIAS

Firstly, we need to be aware of our own personal bias. Are we for reasons of culture, position, location or habit likely to incline to one side rather than to the other? Of course, that might be the right (or least bad) side but ….. are we being blinded by our own bias?

Our own personal biases are formed through our familial group, our schooling, training and experiences but some are engendered through the wider society, our culture.

Our cultural bias in the western world and, in particular in the English-speaking one, is towards the USA. We watch films in which the admired characters have UStater accents and even employ UStater turns of phrase and idioms1; their life-styles are recogniseably western. These cultural products cover a range from comedy to thriller or tragedy, their situations varying from urban to rural life, their genres from romance to crime to war to science fiction. In fact, both latter genres tend to present us with war-heroes who not only speak like UStaters but evoke the armed forces of the United States, whether in past real armed conflicts or in imagined ones to come. Earlier Irish generations were familiar with the dramatised plight of European settlers in the western regions of the USA being attacked by Indigenous people, only to be saved by the arrival of the US military – in that genre, the US Cavalry.2

Another major cultural influence on the English-speaking world is the UK and, to a lesser extent3, Australia. Although in Ireland there is a certain residual historical resistance to UK acculturation, some UK cultural products gained a large enough following, particularly the Coronation Street and EastEnders series4.

In comics the characters and often their environments are identifiably Western — usually of the USA5 — and even the popular Asian-based ones tend to have their facial features shaded towards European ones. Many of the electronic games also have a Western cultural bias.

And of course, we speak English. A high proportion of the Irish population is English-monoglot and even among Irish/English bilinguals, either the English is dominant or at least easily-accessible. From childhood to adulthood we see signs in English, hear it on the street, use it daily in most places, read it, are educated and instructed through it, access the Internet through it – in fact, we mostly think in English. All of which makes the pathways for accessing US and UK cultural products easy and our acceptance of the dominant discourse more probable.

Dominant discourse is of course a fact of life, some aspects of which are necessary for our social existence but other aspects of which are laden with unhelpful cultural and even political bias. We need to be alert to those aspects and prepared to investigate and analyse them.

Sometimes it looks like just about everyone is in agreement with a particular opinion and it is also the one that accords with our own inbuilt bias. Now we need to be REALLY careful, because those are two factors working together to put us at our ease on one side of a conflict and making it very difficult for us to even investigate the fact that the dominant discourse, on at least this occasion, might be mistaken. And clearly at times in history widely-accepted views HAVE been wrong – the literal seven-day creation belief, the sun going around the earth, the divine right of monarchs, the unsuitability of women for equality, the unnatural inclination of gay and lesbian people ……

OUR SOURCES

In conjunction with being aware of and taking into account our own bias and prejudices, we need to the same with our sources of information, which in industrial and post-industrial cultures – apart from educational establishments — is mostly the mass media: television, newspapers and the Internet (in particular social media).

All the owners of non-State-owned mass media that we access (and that in turn accesses us) are capitalists and not only that but monopoly capitalist. Although he has recently exited his media empire6, this was the situation six years ago: “Denis O’Brien, reputedly Ireland’s richest man, is the largest shareholder in the country’s largest newspaper publisher, Independent News & Media (INM). That company has now agreed a deal to add seven more newspaper titles to its stable by acquiring the Celtic Media Group (CMG). They include the Anglo-Celt in Cavan, the Meath Chronicle and the Connaught Telegraph in Mayo. In all, it extends INM’s footprint to five more counties.

“INM is already the major player at national level. It publishes Ireland’s two largest-selling titles, the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent, plus the Sunday World and the Dublin Herald. It also has 50% of the Irish Daily Star. O’Brien’s other media company, Communicorp, owns Ireland’s two leading commercial radio talk stations: Newstalk and Today FM. In addition, it owns Dublin’s 98FM, SPIN 1038, TXFM and SPIN South West.”7

Media companies in the USA went from 50 1984 only six conglomerates controlling 90% of the United States’s in 2011: GE/Comcast (NBC, Universal), News Corp (Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Post), Disney (ABC, ESPN, Pixar), Viacom (MTV, BET, Paramount Pictures), Time Warner (CNN, HBO, Warner Bros.), and CBS (Showtime, NFL.com).8

“Take the UK’s newspaper industry: in a national market of 20 daily and Sunday newspaper titles, just three companies control 90 percent of newspaper circulation. Lord Rothermere’s DMG Media—publishers of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, the Metro, and the i—accounts for almost 40 percent of all national newspapers sold each week in the UK, while Rupert Murdoch’s News UK and Reach (which publishes the Mirror and Express titles) command one-third and one-fifth of the market, respectively.

“When online readers are included, the same companies control a four-fifths market share among the major newspaper groups, giving these publishers an unparalleled influence for setting the agenda across the rest of the news media.”9

“Most of the social media we use on our laptops, Iphones or tablets is owned by five conglomerates in the USA: Meta Platforms, Inc., doing business as Meta and formerly known as Facebook, Inc., …..is the parent organization of Faecebook, Instragram and WhatsApp among other subsidiaries. Meta is one of the world’s most valuable companies. It is one of the Big Five American companies, alongside Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.”10

It should not surprise us if that media exhibits a strong bias towards capitalism, for example in praising businessmen (capitalists) and businesses (exploitation operations) and in criticising or slanted reporting on strikes (workers’ resistance) or on what they might term ‘terrorism’ (but is often oppressed people’s resistance).

The State-owned media, in the UK the BBC and RTÉ in Ireland, are not of course the property of capitalists, however the states in question are capitalist states. It would be surprising therefore if such media were to take a stance in opposition to that of their state and their dominant classes and, by an large they do not. If, in times of conflict elements within the program-making sections of the State-owned media veer significantly away from the State’s line, official reprimands, cuts in funding, sackings and outright censorship may follow.11

This mass media, as well as being orientated in defence of monopoly capitalism, is also orientated towards the expansion of monopoly capitalism beyond its origins, i.e imperialism. And imperialists have their alliances, by far the largest of which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO in acronym. That alliance is led by what is still the largest imperialist superpower in the world, the USA.

We may note that the antithesis of capitalism is socialism but a capitalist or imperialist system of one state may be in contention with that of another such state which in fact often happens, even occasionally breaking out in war, as was the case with WWI, when the then-dominant imperialist alliance led by the UK and France was challenged by the weaker one of Germany and Turkey.

And mentioning socialism brings to a consideration of alternative media, including that of the Socialist and Irish Republican movements. Briefly we can note that just because they declare their opposition to the status quo does not mean necessarily a) that they are indeed so opposed, or b) that they have examined and challenged their own bias or c) therefore that their analysis is correct. Indeed both the Irish Socialist and Republican movements have made huge mistakes over the last hundred years or more and, in addition, during the height of the Covid19 pandemic we saw a plethora of misinformation ranging from the fascist and racist to the fantasticaly paranoid from sources opposed to the status quo12.

NAVIGATION

With the preparations and precautions entailed in the above completed, we are ready to sail, to navigate the propaganda ocean on board the MV Investigator. Let us take the stormy propaganda seas around the Ukraine conflict for our voyage.

According to the Russian Government, ethnic Russians were under attack in parts of the Ukraine after a coup overthrew the Ukrainian Government in 2014. Furthermore, it claims that US/NATO supported that coup and, in addition, has been gathering up states to its military alliance to encircle Russia, which it sees as a threat to the existence of the Russian state. In addition, Russia claims the Ukrainian government has fascist elements in its polity including a nazi battalion incorporated into its national military. Therefore it has invaded Ukraine in order to protect its own state and to “de-nazify” the Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian Government and the USA, along with most Western governments, all of Russia’s claims are lies and just an excuse for it to grab land in the Ukraine, in order to extend its dominion further.

The Western media supports the Ukrainian Government and USA discourse on these issues and, on the rare occasion when it quotes the Russian one, negates it or casts doubt upon it.

So, to the navigation. The first thing is that we cannot trust the Western discourse but on the other hand can we totally discount it? We cannot trust it because it is part of a capitalist and imperialist bloc centred around the USA and NATO. On the other hand, Russia might be lying and the Western media might be correct on this occasion. After all, Russian troops HAVE invaded the sovereign state (something we usually see from the USA or NATO) of Ukraine.

Map showing Nato states in Europe (Image sourced: Internet)

So, let’s investigate! A look at the map will in fact show a large number of states in East Europe that have progressively become part of NATO and Ukraine, which shares a border with Russia, was heading that way, according to even non-Russian analysis.13 And Russia has been complaining about this for years. In addition, the elected neutral Ukrainian government WAS overthrown by a violent coup in 2014, one which was welcomed by western media. And fascists WERE active in that coup and the Azov Battalion IS full of fascists and nazis (even according to US and Canadian government circles along with human rights groups, including in Israel, only a few years ago).

But the Russian regime anti-fascist? That is something else. Far-Right groups including openly Nazi ones have proliferated across Russia since the collapse of the USSR and there is little evidence that the Russian regime has been trying to eliminate them. De-nazification should start in your own territory first, right?

So a reasonable conclusion on the available evidence is that Putin’s statement about de-nazification is mere propaganda for international and domestic consumption but his real and primary motive for the invasion is the security of Russia and the withdrawal of NATO from its borders.

Might there be an element of acquiring some more Ukrainian territory and stragic locations there? Of course there might. So how to test that? What about if NATO agrees to withdraw, Ukraine declares its neutrality but demands withdrawal from its recently-conquered territory? Russia would have to comply or to expose its supposed territorial ambitions.

However, NATO is currently refusing to withdraw from Russia’s borders and the Western media is supporting it ideologically as well as pouring arms into Ukraine; NATO denies Russia’s declared motivation but declines to put it to the test.

Mentioning “land-grabbing” also raises the issues of the Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Those regions had a high proportion of ethnic Russians — the Crimea in particular nearly totally Russian-speaking — and according to numerous sources, came under attack from Ukrainian nationalist forces from 2014. The Western media says that Russia “annexed” the Crimea; however Crimea had an autonomous parliament and voted to secede from the Ukraine – it was not overthrown in a violent coup as was the neutral Ukrainian one. Subsequently Crimea asked for Russian protection from attack by the Ukrainian military (including in particular those Azov fascist fighters). Donetsk and Luhansk regions also asked for protection, according to the Russians while, according to the West, they were also annexed by Russia.

Ethnic map of the region (however not including Gypsies, Jews and Poles). The brown peninsula bottom centre is the Crimea; two top right regions are Donestk and Luhansk. (Image sourced: Internet)

CONTINUING THE NAVIGATION

Those are the fundamental points to think about during the conflict but we will be presented with reports of “kidnapping” of thousands of civilians by the Russians from the battle-zones on the one hand, with the “rescue” of thousands by the Ukrainian military on the other. Of course, any war impacts severely upon civilians in the war zones, as we have seen in conflicts from Vietnam to ireland to the Balkans, from Palestine to Yemen. What is happening in the Ukraine is a war, with bullets and missiles being fired by both sides and, furthermore, most of the fighting is taking place in and around heavily-populated areas. But are civilians and civilian buildings really being targeted by the Russians? They may or may not be but certainly the damage and casualties would be much higher if, as a matter of course, that were the case. Are civilians being used as hostages and shields by the Ukrainian military as some have alleged? They may be but it is difficult to prove or disprove that when the battle is taking place in an urban area.

We have to seek the actual causes of the war, rather than its features, to seek a workable and hopefully long-lasting solution.

WHAT ABOUT CENSORSHIP?

The fact is that all sides are practicing censorship. While the western media was quick to tell us that Russia had banned the BBC’s news service, it took a bit of searching to find out that had occurred after the UK banned RT, the Russian broadcasting service. We now learn that China has also banned Facebook and the BBC – the latter perhaps in response to the banning of RT but Facebook perhaps for lifting its ban and Tier 1 classification14 of Azov, the neo-nazi fighters incorporated into the Ukrainian military.

Currently, as an example of Western censorship, the Oliver Stone documentary Ukraine On Fire (2016) has been taken down off Youtube and according to users, rarely lasts more than a day if posted up anew.

And Naom Chomsky, veteran US-based anti-imperialist, who would normally be widely quoted in the Socialist media, is hardly ever heard or seen. Oh, he’s talking and writing alright but his discourse does not match the dominant one in the West — nor currently in the Western Left — and therefore he is excluded from their media.

Naom Chomsky, linguist and critic of imperialism often quoted by the Western Left but mostly silenced by them during the Ukrainian conflict. (Photo sourced: Internet)

CAN WE MOVE, PROCEED, ACT?

Obviously we cannot proceed through life in a permanent doubt – that would paralyse us, make us incapable of movement in any direction. We must come to a decision, at least for the time being, to allow us to act. But while we proceed on the basis of our certainties or at least assumptions, we need to be able to keep a part of our mind alert, questioning, challenging and – at some point – ready to dissent from the ideological environment in which we find ourselves and ready to consider taking a different – even oppositional – opinion and path.

This is the way we can navigate through the sea and storms of propaganda to a the desired landing on Truth. However, we need to remember that “truth” is an approximation, that it changes shape and what was true yesterday may not be true tomorrow. It is a floating land, not necessarily where it was when last charted, even when the most recent cartographers were not dishonest. Nevertheless, we are required to act, to act in the real world and therefore must reject paralysis. We find the nearest we can to the truth, test it and act upon it – but ready to amend our understanding if necessary.

We set sail.

End.

Chart for navigating the Propaganda Seas (Image: D.Breatnach)

FOOTNOTES

1The interjection of irrelevant “like” in conversations (e.g “I was like just leaving …”), the grammatically incorrect “I’m good” response to query-greetings, ‘hip’ interjections such as “dude” and even the “OK” for positive confirmation (in our lexicon since the 1950s), have all reached us from the USA.

2That film trope has led to a popular saying regarding last-minute deliveration, probably even employed by people who are unaware of its origin: “Saved by the Cavalry”. Of course, the Indigenous, who are having their lands stolen, their way of life and other parts of their culture destroyed and their resistance massacred, never have a last-minute salvation, neither in fiction nor in reality.

3Though we still hear “No worries” in reassurance, a phrase introduced by Australian soap-operas such as “Neighbours” screened on UK television channels in the 1980s and ‘90s.

4These two in particular propagated a very biased view of working class and lower-middle class people in Britain. The Coronation Street (note the monarchical tone of even the title) series, based on the Salford area near Birmingham, despite being an area settled by successive waves of migrants such as Irish (Engels even referred to them in his 1845 Condition of the Working Class in England), Caribbean and South Asian, did not include characters of migrant background for decades and it was not until 2019 that it introduced its first Black family characters. When the British soaps first provided characters of Irish background, both Coronation Street and EastEnders produced negative types without positive Irish characters to balance them.

5In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s the majority of the comics bought in Ireland were English, from the younger age-orientated Dandy, Beano to the older-orientated range of Bunty, Judy and June for girls and, for boys, Eagle, Hotspur, Victor and the exclusively military Commando and War Picture Library series along with the Amazing Fantasy series. The US contributed super-hero series Marvel Comics and a range of both cartoon and realistic characters in Dell Comics. There was no competition from any Irish-focused publisher (nor is there yet to any real degree).

6https://www.irishtimes.com/business/media-and-marketing/o-brien-exits-irish-media-after-30-years-of-mixed-fortunes-1.4495046

7See News & Current Affairs Monopolies in Sources at the end of this article

8Ibid.

9https://tribunemag.co.uk/2021/04/britains-media-monopoly-is-a-threat-to-democracy

10https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta_Platforms#:~:text=Throughout%20its%20existence%2C%20Facebook%2C%20Inc,billion%20in%20cash%20and%20stock.

11Perhaps the most extreme (or the most pulblic) such cases were the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher criticism of the BBC for the content of its drama and current affairs programming, going so far as to ban interviewing of prominent Irish Republicans from 1988 to 1994 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_controversies#1988%E2%80%931994:_Sinn_F%C3%A9in_broadcast_ban, a ban also promulgated by Irish Governments on RTÉ in 1971 and again during the 1976-1994 period https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2021/0507/1217560-section-31-broadcasting-ban-censorshop-troubles/

12It is also worth noting that censorship, misrepresentation of different views and verbal abuse towards those who challenge the views of the alternative media make using them to arrive at the truth more than problematic and this has been nowhere more evident than in the coverage and discussion of the conflict in Ukraine.

13In fact we can see a similar US-led encirclement of Russia in the Middle East too.

14 A classification that included ISIS and bars users from engaging in “praise, support, or representation” of blacklisted entities across the company’s platforms.

SOURCES

“Saved by the Cavalry”: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheCavalry

Comics in 1950s and ‘60s Ireland: 1https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/just-dandy-26629681.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/the-joys-jolts-and-jingoism-of-old-children-s-books-1.1877172

News & Current Affairs Monopolies

Ireland: https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/sep/07/should-ireland-allow-denis-obriens-media-empire-larger

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/media-and-marketing/o-brien-exits-irish-media-after-30-years-of-mixed-fortunes-1.4495046

USA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_conglomerate#:~:text=By%202011%2C%2090%25%20of%20the,Showtime%2C%20NFL.com).

UK: https://tribunemag.co.uk/2021/04/britains-media-monopoly-is-a-threat-to-democracy

Social Media: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta_Platforms#:~:text=Throughout%20its%20existence%2C%20Facebook%2C%20Inc,billion%20in%20cash%20and%20stock.

News & Current Affairs Censorship

In the UK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_controversies#1988%E2%80%931994:_Sinn_F%C3%A9in_broadcast_ban

In the Irish state: https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2021/0507/1217560-section-31-broadcasting-ban-censorshop-troubles/

From the USA, over the world: Oliver Stone documentary trailer: https://www.imdb.com/video/vi4058495257?playlistId=tt5724358&ref_=vp_rv_ap_0

Facebook lifting its ban on Azov Batallion: https://theintercept.com/2022/02/24/ukraine-facebook-azov-battalion-russia/

1922 Unemployed Workers’ Occupation of the Dublin Rotunda Commemorated

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 4 mins.)

On Saturday 22nd January 2022 an event was held to commemorate the centenary year of the occupation of the Rotunda building in Dublin by 150 unemployed workers led by Liam Ó Flaithearta, a Republican and Communist and writer from Inis Mór (off the Galway Coast). The occupation took place two days after the formation of the Free State and was attacked by an anti-communist crowd while after a number of days the occupiers were forced out by the police force of the new state of the dismembered nation1. The event last week was organised by the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society.

The event began with a gathering at 1.30pm in North Great George’s Street, where the Manifesto had been printed in 1922.2 People then proceeded to the nearby Rotunda, site of the occupation in 1922.3

Copy of the manifesto available at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Seosamh Ó Cuaig (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Seosamh Ó Cuaig from Cill Chiaráin, Carna, Conamara, opened the proceedings as Chairperson, ag cur fáilte roimh dhaoine i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla, briefly introducing the historical occasion and recounting how some companies, including Boland’s, had supplied bread, sugar and tea to the occupiers, before he introduced published historian and blogger Donal Fallon.

Fallon not only recounted the events of that occupation 100 years ago but also placed it in context of a number of other factors: the unemployment then in the State (30,000 in Dublin) and to follow through into the 1930s, the upsurge in workers’ occupations and local soviets, the reactionary nature of the government of the new state and of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church at the time, which was very supportive of the new regime and extremely hostile to any kind of socialism, along with the cultivation of a reactionary social and political attitude among sections of the population.

Donal Fallon speaking at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Fallon also commented on the censorship and otherwise neglect of Liam Ó Flaithearta as an accomplished modern Irish writer and hoped for his writing to become more popularised now.

Alan O’Brien reading O’Flaherty’s Manifesto (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Alan O’Brien, Dublin poet and dramatist, was welcomed on to the stage to read the Manifesto which had been issued at the time, copies of which were available at a nearby stall. One of the aspects of that document was a call for Dublin City Council to set up public works to provide paid employment for those out of work in exchange for services to the community.

Diarmuid Breatnach, singer and blogger was invited to the stage to sing “The Red Flag” because it had been sung there during the occupation. No doubt those in the Government, Church hierarchy and generally among reactionary people at that time would have been horrified by the lyrics and would have asserted that they were foreign to Irish culture and thinking. However, as Breatnach explained, the lyrics had been composed by an Irishman (see Appendix 1), Jim Connell from Meath. Connell wrote the lyrics to the air of The White Cockade and was appalled to hear it sung to the air of Oh Tannebaum, a Christmas carol. Breatnach had never heard it sung to the White Cockade air but had been practicing it for days and hoped he would be faithful to the original air.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing The Red Flag to the air of The White Cockade

Called by the Chairperson to sing a follow-up song, Breatnach sang most of the verses of “Be Moderate”, satirical lyrics published by James Connolly in 1907 in New York. There had been no air published for the song and it has been sung to a number of airs but he would sing it to the air of A Nation Once Again, which provides a chorus:

We only want the Earth,
we only want the Earth,
And our demands most moderate are –
We only want the Earth!

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=637274744281164

The event was later reported by RTÉ briefly in English on the Six O’Clock News and also by video on TG4’s Nuacht in Irish including interviews with Fallon an a number of participants.

End main report.

Early arrivals at the event with the plinth of Parnell monument in background centre left (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Section of the crowd and media filmers at event (anti-vaccine etc march in background) (Photo: D.Breatnach)

APPENDIX 1:

THE RED FLAG: AUTHOR, LYRICS AND AIR

After the Rotunda occupation was terminated, Liam Ó Flaithearta emigrated to London, which is where the Red Flag lyrics had been composed twenty-three years earlier. The lyrics were composed by Meath man Jim Connell in London in 1889 to the air of the Scottish Jacobite march The White Cockade — he was reported livid when he learned that it was being sung to the air of Oh Tannebaum, protesting: “Ye ruined me poem!”

Jim Connell was a Socialist Republican (he had taken the Fenian oath), activist and journalist who emigrated to England in 1875 after being blacklisted in Dublin for his efforts in unionising the docks in which he worked. Apparently he began to write the song lyrics on his way home from a demonstration in London city centre, on the train from Charing Cross to Honor Oak in SE London, where he lived and completed it in the house of a fellow Irishman and neighbour, Nicholas Donovan.

Photo of Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The lyrics have been sung by revolutionary and social-democratic (the latter less so now) activists all over the English-speaking world but also in some other languages in the years since.

Not mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on Jim Connell is the fact that he also wrote a book, apparently a best-seller in his time, called something like “The Poacher’s Handbook“. I’ve been looking for that book for years without success (DCC Library could find no reference to it).

UNVEILING PLAQUE ON JIM CONNELL’S HOME

Today there is a plaque on the two-storey house where Connell lived until his death in 1929, having been awarded the Red Star Medal by Lenin in 1922.

Plaque on house in which Jim Connell lived in SE London when he wrote the lyrics (Photo: D.Breatnach, sorry about the shadow)

In the late 1980s a history archivist with the London Borough of Lewisham contacted the Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, of which I was Secretary, to consult us about the erection of a history plaque on the house and the wording to use4. We attempted to have the words “Irish Republican” added to “Socialist” after his name on the plaque and were successful with “Irish” but not with “Republican”.

There was a handful at the unveiling at midday on a weekday, including a representative of the local Council, a couple from the Greater London Council including its Irish section, a trumpeter (who played the Oh Tannebaum air) and Gordon Brown (then just an MP). I believe this was 1989, the centenary of the song being written.

Brown’s speech did not mention Ireland once but as he finished, I jumped up on a nearby garden wall and while thanking those in attendance said that it was sad to see the country of Jim Connell’s birth omitted along with his views on Irish independence, particularly at a time when British troops were fighting to suppress a struggle for that independence.

This was during the age before mobile phones and I have no photos, sadly. So no big deal but the next edition of the Irish Post, a weekly paper for the Irish community in Britain, carried a report on the ceremony and my intervention. It was written by the columnist Dolan, who was the alter ego of the Editor, Brendan Mac Alua (long dead now) and a supporter of much of the IBRG’s activities.

I lived in Catford then, five minutes by bicycle from the site of the house and have photographed the plaque.

FENIAN CONNECTION BETWEEN LYRICS ACROSS TWO DECADES

The words and sentiment “Let cowards flinch or traitors sneer” in the Red Flag mirror some in a song celebrating Irish political prisoners, The Felons of Our Land: “While traitors shame and foes defame” and “Let cowards mock and tyrants frown”. Arthur Forrester wrote that song 20 years before Connell’s and it would be surprising indeed had Connell not consciously or unconsciously borrowed the construction and sentiment.

Arthur Forrester was himself of great interest as were his poet sisters, both raised by their Irish nationalist mother, also very interesting person and poet in her own right, in Manchester, known to Michael Davitt. Arthur was a Fenian and did time in prison for it5. He was also for a period proof-reader for the Irish Times! Frank McNally wrote an article about the song but I don’t have access to anything except the first few lines.

T-shirt worn by one of those in attendance (Photo: D.Breatnach)

APPENDIX 2:

Lyrics of The Red Flag:

The People's Flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead, 
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold, 
Their hearts' blood dyed its every fold. 
Chorus: 
Then raise the scarlet standard high. 
Beneath its shade we'll live and die, 
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, 
We'll keep the red flag flying here. 
 
Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze, 
The sturdy German chants its praise, 
In Moscow's vaults its hymns were sung,
Chicago swells the surging throng. 
(chorus)
It waved above our infant might, 
When all ahead seemed dark as night; 
It witnessed many a deed and vow, 
We must not change its colour now. 
(chorus)
 It well recalls the triumphs past, 
It gives the hope of peace at last; 
The banner bright,  the symbol plain, 
Of human right and human gain. 
(chorus) 
It suits today the weak and base, 
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place 
To cringe before the rich man's frown, 
And haul the sacred emblem down. 
(chorus) 
With head uncovered swear we all 
To bear it onward till we fall; 
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim, 
This song shall be our parting hymn.

FOOTNOTES

1Not long afterwards, the new Free State’s National Army, under the orders of Michael Collins, attacked a protest occupation by Irish Republicans of the Four Courts which began the Civil War of the State against the IRA, lasting until 1923 with over 80 executions of Republicans by the State along with many kidnappings and assassinations (such as Harry Boland’s and of course others killed in battle (excluding the shooting of surrendered prisoners, which the National Army also did on occasion). Some were even murdered AFTER the war had ended, for example Noel Lemass, his body left in the Dublin mountains.

2Possibly this was the same location which had housed the James Connolly College (raided by the Auxiliaries in 1921).

3Also the location of the first public meeting to launch the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and where much of the GPO garrison and others were briefly kept prisoner after the surrender in nearby Moore Street in 1916. And just beside it the Parnell Monument, across the street the location of the founding of the Irish Ladies Land League (where members were arrested) and diagonally in SE direction, Tom Clarke’s tobacconist and newsagent shop (occupied by the British Army during the Rising).

4The Lewisham branch of the IBRG had been founded in 1986 and founded the Lewisham Irish Centre in 1992, I think. It was a very active branch in campaigning, community and political work, ceasing to exist around 2002. The IBRG itself was founded in 1981 and was active on many issues, including anti-Irish racism, representation for the diaspora, release of the framed Irish prisoners, British withdrawal from Ireland, against anti-Traveller racism, plastic bullets and strip-searches. It was also for equality in general, being against all racism, gender discrimination and homophobia and one year shared a march with the Broadwater Farm campaign.

5 Despite the Irish diaspora having given the working class in Britain its anthem (The Red Flag), its classic novel (The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists) and, among many social and trade union activists and leaders, two leaders of the first genuine mass workers’ movement in Britain (the Chartists — O’Brien and O’Connor), and having fought against the Blackshirts at the Battle of Cable Street, there is no BA in Irish Studies alone available in British Universities. The Irish diaspora is also the first migrant community in Britain and for centuries the largest, has made significant contribution to the arts and a huge one to rock, punk and pop music. It would seem that the British ruling class does not want its population to know in any depth about the Irish.

SOURCES

https://www.facebook.com/OFlahertySociety

Report before the event by TG4: https://www.facebook.com/NuachtTG4/videos/247647487386768

Report after the event by TG4 and clips of the singing of The Red Flag: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=637274744281164

The chorus of The Red Flag sung to the original air, i.e of The White Cockade: https://www.facebook.com/OFlahertySociety/videos/459751325864989

Jim Connell and The Red Flag

The Felons of Our Land song: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/the-felons-of-our-land-frank-mcnally-on-the-various-lives-of-a-republican-ballad-1.4185803

Ellen Forrester, nationalist and mother of Arthur Forrester: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Forrester

FIRE!

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Fire is an important source of heat and so facilitates life but it can also be a killer. Fire safety is particularly important in multi-occupied buildings but essential safeguards are often not provided or when they are there, are ignored or misused. One can see evidence of that frequently in news reports and even on many occasions in one’s own life and, on a number of occasions as a manager of accommodation services, I have certainly seen examples all too often. Buildings are being constructed to greater heights than can be reached by the ladders of fire-fighters. Those responsible for lack of fire safety procedures or of violating them should face severe penalties.

Fire at tower block in Tower Hamlets in London last year. (Photo: Supplied to Guardian newspaper).

When it is being destructive, fire kills in many different ways, not just by extreme heat. Smoke inhalation is another killer, as are toxic fumes emitted by some materials when burning. People can be killed by falls when attempting to escape a fire or be crushed by falling parts of the building, beams etc. And fire can also cause explosions when it encounters volatile liquids or gasses. Whether we live, work or relax in a building, we should never be blasé about the dangers, never disregard precautions and in fact be prepared to insist on adherence.

There are various headings under which we can discuss fires safety but Prevention, Detection, Suppression and Evacuation cover most of them — to which we can add Educated Awareness.

Prevention has to do mostly with safe design, use of safe materials and with safely operating processes that generate heat or produce flame, classically cooking and smoking but also many others — in industry all such procedures should be clearly advertised.

In Detection, apart from what to do when one smells burning or personally encounters flames or smoke, it is with systems such as smoke and heat detectors and alarms that we are concerned.

With regard to Suppression, although of course occupational fire-fighters may use other means, we are interested in fire extinguishers (more rarely fire hoses) and sprinkler systems and, in Evacuation, in the means of safe escape and subsequent assembly, along with indications of when one should do so, which of course are linked to detectors and alarms.

SUPPRESSION

How often we see a fire-extinguisher being used to prop open a door! This is a serious misuse of a piece of fire-fighting equipment and its use in that way may mean it will not available in the appropriate place or malfunctions when required. Often too the door being propped open is very close to a staircase, with the danger of the heavy extinguisher being dislodged and rolling or bouncing down the stairs to strike someone.

International Fire Extinguisher pictogram sign (Image sourced: Internet)

Fire extinguishers in buildings are usually installed by a fire-protection company, under contract to check and service them once a year. Does that sound safe enough? In a team of which I was a member, we checked the fire extinguishers on each shift, to ensure they had not been tampered with and we lifted the water-filled ones to check, by weight, that they still contained water. Those checks were written into our work rotas and we were required to sign off on them. We had developed those safety routines as a team and I carried them forward into subsequent management roles. In the case of an extinguisher we found too light or with the seal removed, that was recorded and the urgent task was to have it replaced by the fire-protection company under contract.

Sprinkler systems should have a means of checking that they are functioning well and should be regularly checked.

Fire alarms and smoke detectors need to be regularly checked also. In the case of smoke detectors they can be checked by spraying with an aerosol and the fire alarms have a facility for testing — though an arrangement with the fire-fighting service that alerts them to a test being carried out is advisable.

Blackbird Granary fire, Oregon, last October (Photo: Statesman Journal)

EVACUATION

I’v worked in places where I never experienced a fire drill. That is terrible, when you think about it. In a good team of which I was a member we made sure we carried out drills but we also had to balance the need for fire drills with the possibility of injury during evacuation to the hostel residents, who were drinkers and many of whom were infirm. We compromised by holding drills for the staff and local management while informing the residents of what we were doing. When I came to manage a hostel, I arranged to have a member of staff with a pen and clipboard follow the fire evacuation drill in action, which is when we discovered that a wheelchair-bound resident could not be got out the main door at all quickly. How had that not been noted previously? Not only that but for security reasons, the team members were not using the emergency exit. And then it was discovered that a member of staff was keeping his bicycle in the passageway leading to the emergency exit, potentially a hazard to people trying to escape a fire. Incredibly, the individual concerned was the team’s elected health and safety representative, which made for an interesting discussion with him later.

As a team, we resolved all those issues — but only because we carried out the drills and observed what happened during them.

During a fire there may be a power cut so the provision of emergency lighting is important, along with luminous signs indicating the evacuation route. That lighting too should be checked.

Worse things than obstacles in the path to emergency exits occur, when building owners or management lock or chain emergency exits for reasons of building or product security or in some cases even to imprison workers. As children some of us would “bunk in” to cinemas: one who had purchased a ticket would go to the toilet to open a nearby emergency door and admit others. The cinema management ended that practice by chaining the emergency doors shut. It is understandable that a commercial business might wish to discourage evasion of their admission charges but certainly not at the cost of putting lives in danger — many other means can be developed, including monitoring systems and alarms. In north Dublin’s Artane suburb, the management and owners of a nightclub had locked some fire exits and on 14th February 1981 a fire broke out during a dance attended by 841 young people, causing the deaths of 48 and injuries to 214. Exit doors were also locked in the Summerland leisure centre on Douglas on the Isle of Man on 2nd August 1973, when a fire caused the deaths of over 50 and serious injuries to 80.

One organisation I worked for had a stipulation that they would hold fire drills once every six months while another held them once every three months. As a team member I advocated them to be monthly at least and as a manager made that a requirement, marking the date for them in advance into our diary. Also, some drills should be carried out without warning and, as in the case outlined earlier, with an observer following the procedure and recording its progress.

Shift fire safety inspections should check or test the emergency lighting and emergency exits, while periodic drills should check the functioning of the fire alarm and display panel, by activating the alarm at a different location for each drill (there are keys supplied for that purpose).

Can the ladder reach?

It would be no bad thing for every person to attend a fire prevention course but it is essential for some kinds of work, in particular for people working in buildings with others or where people live. Such training not only deals with prevention best practice but also with how to act upon discovering a fire or in response to a fire alarm, what are the appropriate extinguishers in different circumstances, etc. The cost of such training (and of replacing staff while on training, if necessary to maintain the service) should be built into the operational budget of the facility.

One fire prevention course I attended had us consider what to do if we were trapped on an above-ground level of the building and unable to proceed to the fire exit. In most cases, if the fire-fighting service has been summoned (by the service-linked fire alarm or by other means), it is usually safest to retire to a room facing on to an area with a window which the fire tender can access easily enough, then close the door and stuff cloth around the bottom to limit the ingress of smoke. In the case of residents being trapped on that floor with us, we were to encourage them to come into the room we had chosen and to remain there with us until evacuated.

Speaking of evacuation, in a scenario such as the one just described, we might have to be brought out through a window by firefighters who would normally gain access to us by one of their ladders. It is a fact that the maximum ladder available to fire tenders in Dublin is 100 feet long but since a ladder cannot be used at right angles to the ground, the effective height is around 75 feet. Yet Dublin City Council and many other local authorities around the country regularly permit the erection of buildings with floors that are higher than 75 yards from the ground. How can that be allowed?

Grenfell Tower ablaze, West London 14 June 2017; 72 were killed and more than 70 injured (Photo sourced: The Telegraph)

Earlier in this article, we saw the example of a fire extinguisher being used to prop open a door. This is sometimes compounded by the door in question being a fire door, in other words a door the function of which is to retard the spread of fire. Such doors should be kept closed at all times when people are not passing through the doorway and should have automatic closing mechanisms. The should also have a slot of glass in them so that one can look through without having to open the door, the latter being an action which in some cases might have lethal consequences. The material of the doors should be such that they can resist actual flames and heat without burning for one hour but unfortunately it is not unknown for such doors to be constructed of inferior materials which might be discovered only in an emergency — i.e too late to be of use. A reputable supplier is the only safeguard against such unfortunate discoveries but their production batches should be regularly and randomly tested by State or local authorities too.

Documentation

A work team should have appropriate procedures in place to deal with contemplated dangers and with regard to fire, a separate file detailing them is recommended. As a team we developed one (model fire precaution files can be purchased also) that listed the suppliers of our alarm systems and fire extinguishers, recorded their checks or replacements, referred to daily checks, training courses attended and by whom, recorded the fire drills; as a manager I ensured our team had duplicate files, one for staff access at any time and a backup copy in the management office.

A new member of staff or management should be introduced to that file as part of their induction.

International emergency exit pictogram sign, displaying its nature and direction; these are usually lit from behind by emergency lighting. (Image sourced: Internet)

Arson

The attractions of fire are well known with children having to be cautioned about it, so much so that “playing with fire” has entered the language as a metaphor. People who live on the street, especially in ‘western’ countries tend to contain a certain proportion of mentally-ill people or others with social behavioural issues. For some of those fire holds a substantial attraction and, when in a multi-occupation building, they can constitute a very real danger. In one hostel there were a series of small fires deliberately set and we never found the culprit in the act. We did have our suspicions and some circumstantial evidence and on that basis I instructed the individual’s eviction. That seems harsh but the series of incidents indicated that we might have a very serious one eventually either because he was building up to it or through it unintentionally going out of his control. With the lives of a number of other residents and also of staff at risk I felt obliged to take that action and informed the organisation’s head office of what I had done and why. DCC’s Homeless Agency tried to force us to revoke our decision but we stuck to it. Agencies responsible for housing homeless people but without sufficient funding often try to shoehorn individuals or families into unsuitable accommodation. Of course there should be a housing option available to everyone but the one we provided just wasn’t suitable for what we considered a serious arson risk.

Similarly as workers or residents we should not tolerate behaviour of our peers that puts us in danger or neglect of laid down fire precautions. In an example referred to earlier, I could do nothing about the incredible attitude of a safety representative elected by the staff team but as a manager I could act on a member of staff endangering the team and he was of course instructed to remove his bicycle from the premises and to risk it locked on the street (as indeed I risked mine). I have heard of places where team members had a battle using fire extinguishers which is no doubt great fun but incredibly irresponsible.

Dealing with staff health and safety representatives as a manager reminds me of the time I had been such a representative myself. Wanting a bit of a break from confrontations with management, I declined nomination as shop steward and accepted nomination as staff health & safety representative instead. To my unpleasant surprise I found myself in more confrontations with the management than did the shop steward. And that was with a local management team that was quite progressive.

Owners and managers of buildings, along with companies employing people to work in them, have serious responsibilities with regard to comprehensive fire prevention, detection, suppression and evacuation procedures and should be rigorously inspected and pursued when they fail to ensure sufficient safety standards. When deaths are caused due to failure to ensure safety, the least they should face are manslaughter charges. A homeless person suspected of arson can be evicted without too much trouble but neither the owners of the Summerland leisure centre on the Isle of Man nor the Butterly family, owners of the Stardust nightclub in Artane have ever faced a single charge in a court of law.

End.

REFERENCES

https://www.dublincity.ie/residential/dublin-fire-brigade/fire-prevention-and-community-fire-safety/fire-safety-businesses/fire-safety-advice-and-responsibilities/passive-fire

Fire Door Inspection and Compliance

https://www.thejournal.ie/dublin-fire-brigade-high-ladders-3675543-Nov2017/

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

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvolodzko/2019/03/05/bangladesh-and-the-fire-next-time/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/14/killed-fire-engulfs-building-southern-taiwan-kaohsiung