GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH!

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

The above would have been the headline 100 years ago1. Well, not the main one, perhaps, which would have been MASSACRE AT BACHELOR’S WALK – TROOPS OPEN FIRE ON CIVILIANS – 4 DEAD, MANY WOUNDED2.

Then, probably, GUNS LANDED AT HOWTH! POLICE AND SCOTTISH OWN BORDERERS FACED DOWN — REPORTS OF 1,500 GERMAN RIFLES LANDED FROM AMERICAN YACHT.

JOINT OPERATION OF IRISH VOLUNTEERS, IRISH CITIZEN ARMY, CUMANN NA MBAN AND FIANNA ÉIREANN — DUBLIN CASTLE FURIOUS.

MAYOR SHOCKED AT CIVILIAN DEAD AND WOUNDED — DEMANDS INQUIRY.

Speakers at a commemoration on the West Pier, Howth on Saturday 23rd July commented on all those features of the landing of 1,500 German rifles, single-shot Mauser Model 71 (M1871), their collection by the organisations of the broad revolutionary movement — and the army massacre that followed.

The event was organised by Irish Socialist Republicans and Anti-Imperialist Action organisations. A colour party of two men and two women led the march up to the pierhead where the event was held.

The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign banner was displayed along the way.

Event about to begin, Margaret McKearney in distance, colour party in foreground, mostly bystanders to the right, attendance out of shot behind and to right of camera person. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The event was chaired by Margaret McKearney, a veteran Republican from Tyrone once described by Scotland Yard as “the most dangerous woman in Britain” and who lost three brothers in the struggle (one in SAS ambush at Loughgall and another murdered by UVF).

McKearney recalled the need of Irish nationalists for weapons when the Loyalists were arming to prevent Home Rule3 being granted to Ireland and the Loyalists with British elite complicity had received a huge shipment at Larne.

Speakers, songs and a laying of a floral wreath were the main content of the event.

THREE SPEECHES – DETAILED, DIRECT AND DEFIANT

McKearney called Phillip O’Connor to speak, a historian and local resident with a particular interest in the revolutionary period in Howth4.

O’Connor began with a quotation from C.J. O’Connell in his Lordship of the World (1924) that “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.

Phillip O’Connor speaking at the event — the plaque at the pier head behind him. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The speaker went on to relate how our rulers demote and distort our nation’s history and how for various reasons even families and communities neglect to pass on that history to following generations.

O’Connor went on to relate the extensive instances of local people’s participation in our nation’s revolutionary history. He brought out names of local people who had been active in Cumann na mBan and the Irish Volunteers and the Sinn Féin party of the time.

The speaker also drew attention to the Irish Citizen Army unit in the locality – the only one outside Dublin – that went on to participate in the 1916 Rising in Dublin and in Fingal. Of course many of that spread of revolutionary organisations had participated in the Howth guns landing.

O’Connor concluded by repeating the quotation: “Every Nation, if it is to survive as a nation, must study its own history and have a foreign policy”.5

McKearney then called on Seán Doyle, a veteran socialist Republican who spoke on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League, focusing on the housing crisis in Ireland and quoted Roger Casement1 at his trial in London in 1916:

Where all your rights become only an accumulated wrong; where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruits of their own labours…

then surely it is a braver, a saner and a truer thing, to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as these than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men. Doyle went on to recall James Connolly’s admiration for the struggle of the Land League and for Michael Davitt2.

However, Connolly, the speaker reminded his audience, had excoriated those who were outraged by the eviction of a tenant farmer but with “the working person locked out from his workplace or evicted from his home”, remained “at best silent if not critical.”

“We need to engender the same passion ourselves because the system does not care or share the plight of working people,” Doyle asserted and lashed “anyone who says he loves Ireland and can witness people dying on the street homeless while 180,000 houses are boarded up vacant”.

The speaker declared that the RHL would no longer remain silent, confined or recognise the ruling class’ self-serving laws or allow them to prosper, would no longer accept homelessness, nor “see our children rent an mortgage slaves for the rest of their lives”.

“We in the RHL believe that a roof over your head is not a commodity but an essential of life like water or oxygen. Houses make homes, make communities and a society we aspire to”. Doyle went on to call for a realisation “that pleading and appealing to a non-caring ruling class is futile.”

Seán Doyle speaking on behalf of the Revolutionary Housing League (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Concluding, Doyle called on people to join the Socialist Republicans in action and quoted James Connolly6:We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times. These are exceptional times, and called on people to “Build the Revolution!”

Cáit Trainor, an independent Republican activist from Armagh was called and stepped forward to give a rousing speech.

Reviewing as others had done the impelling of the arming of the Irish Volunteers by the arming of the Unionists against the prospective Irish “Home Rule”, Trainor went on to recall some of the other participants in the revolutionary movement of the time.

“Cumann na mBan with upwards of 1500 members was formed to assist the Volunteers, though some of the most radical women republicans, such as Helena Moloney and Constance Markievicz, elected to join the socialist Citizen Army instead, where they were given equal standing with the men.

“The Volunteers also had a ready-made youth wing, the Fianna Éireann, founded by Constance Markievicz7 in 1903 as an alternative to the ‘imperialist’ Boy Scouts. The Fianna were in fact to provide many of the most militant Volunteer activists.

“All of these groups would work together in the lead up to and including the 1916 rising, working together while maintaining their own autonomy with a unity of purpose.” “The Irish Volunteers had the men, the women and the youth, the next move was to secure the arms.”

Trainor referred to the arduous journey of guns-carrying yacht which included a stop in Holyhead to repair damaged sales after the Boat was hit with one of the worst storms to hit the area for decades.

The speaker attributed the success of the Howth landing to “the working together of various sections of Irish society.” “They came from varying religious backgrounds, not all were even Irish born and — even more surprising for the time — women took a leading role.”

Cáit Trainor speaking at the event on the Howth pier (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Taking the 1916 Proclamation as an example, with its address to “Irishmen and Irish Women”, Trainor maintained that “Irish Republicanism has always been and remains to be a modern forward-thinking ideology in comparison with the outdated imperialist mindset of unionism.”

Cáit Trainor compared that address with the opening line of the unionist Ulster proclamation of 1913 that opens with “Whereas Ulstermen” and continued without any reference to women anywhere in the document.

Trainor stated that today Irish Republicanism needed to “get every section of society more involved in the struggle” and that “anyone who makes their home in Ireland must be encouraged to make their contribution and to be as passionate about Ireland and its success as an independent nation as anyone else.”

The speaker recalled Thomas Davis’ words: “It is not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish Nation.8

“Irish Republicanism”, stated Trainor “stands in stark contrast to the archaic outlook of British imperialists and Irish reactionaries by boasting of a diverse membership” bringing “fresh and original insights, talent and ingenuity” unlike the paradigm of “Christian, male and white”.

Trainor remarked that “Revolutions are a dirty business and revolutionaries must be armed to meet the might of their opponent” and that “the revolutionaries of today … come from the same tradition”, that “the cause and goal has not changed for any true Irish Republican.”

“Republicans in the early part of the last century did not set out to simply smash an orange state, or replace one flag for another; they were out for the Republic, an independent state for all the people, Republicans and the political prisoners who currently reside in prisons both north and South are out for the same thing9.

“It is an absolute travesty that the Republican prisoners are widely ignored by greater society, indeed most people would not even know they exist, believing falsely that with the signing of the GFA all prisoners were released and that political prisoners in Ireland were consigned to history.

“The media and constitutional nationalists along with pseudo socialist groupings like to skirt over the truth of the matter, they are more concerned with political prisoners in far-flung places around the world than political prisoners on their own doorstep.

“…. we understand that while Ireland remains occupied there will always be men and women willing to resist it, that this inevitably will ensure that political prisoners remain a reality in Ireland, and these prisoners will always have the decided and unfaltering support of Irish Republicans.

“Surrendering for seats in the enemies parliament isn’t a victory of any kind,” said Trainor, “it’s an utter defeat, the idea is to pacify with false power and notions of equality with your overlords, imperialists have used this strategy for centuries to quell rebellion and unbelievably it still works.”

Trainor dismissed the “alternatives to the Irish Republic” and condemned “reformism or British and Free State parliaments.”

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Pointing out that it was not an easy road for revolutionaries in the past no more than in the present, Trainor declared that “Revolutions are not won in the halls of parliaments but on the streets with the ordinary people”.

Coming back to the Howth landing of guns 100 years earlier, she said that “there is again an increase in militarism internationally and also nationally with unionist paramilitaries evidently armed and threatening violence.”

While constitutional nationalists sit on their laurels begging for British concessions unionist paramilitaries supported by unionist parties are organising again to secure their dominance and Irelands submission.

Cáit Trainor concluded with another quotation from Pádraig Pearse10: “The Orangeman11 with a gun is not as laughable as the nationalist12 without one”.

Living flowers in a pot are laid in remembrance of those who have given their lives in the struggle. (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

SONGS

Diarmuid Breatnach sang the ballad Me Old Howth Gun, written by James Doherty under the name of ‘Séamas McGallowgly’ and collected in 1921, with words that seemed extremely prescient for its time, with the civil war to come the following year:

…… There was glorious hope that we
Would set old Ireland free
But now you’re parted far from me, oh me old Howth gun.

Oh, the day will surely come,
Oh me old Howth gun,
When I’ll join the fighting men,
Oh me old Howth gun;
In some brave determined band
I will surely take my stand
For the freedom of my land,
Oh me old Howth gun.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing at the Howth event (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Afterwards many people commented that they had not heard the song before and Breatnach replied that Pádraig Drummond had sent him the lyrics to learn for the event (which he had half-managed to do, he commented ruefully).

The event ended with the lowering of the colour party’s flags in honour of those who died for Irish freedom and, introducing it as “a fighting song, sung during the Rising”, Breatnach sang the first verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song).

End.

View of colour party with the harbour behind them (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

FOOTNOTES

1The guns were landed in Howth Harbour on 26th July 2014 by Erskine Childers and crew in his yacht The Asgard (which has its own room with the original yacht in the National Museum at Collins Barracks, Dublin).

2On their return from Howth, the revolutionary forces were confronted by a force of Dublin Metropolitan police but they were unsuccessful in having the rifles surrendered, as were also a unit of the British Army, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The latter were jeered by a Dublin crowd on their empty-handed return and at Bachelor’s Walk on the quays they opened fire on the crowd and bayoneted at least one victim. A woman and three men were killed and many wounded.

3A kind of partial autonomy that was on offer but within the British Commonwealth.

4See ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE – Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle play their part (2016) by Phillip O’Connor.

5The point about studying our history is often made at Irish Republican events but the one about having a foreign policy, though so important, is rarely if ever mentioned. Having a sound revolutionary foreign policy would have militated against the Provisional organisation’s seeking an accommodation with the leaders of US Imperialism 1970-1999 or expecting better of the World imperialist leaders at the “Paris Peace Conference” in 1919. Today the broad Republican movement has no coherent foreign policy except currently for Irish State neutrality.

6Roger Casement (1864-1916), of Anglo-Irish background, British diplomat (CMG) then Irish nationalist, member of the Gaelic League, poet, important role in organising the purchase of rifles that were transported to Howth and Wicklow. He was hanged in Pentonville Jail 3rd August, the last of the 1916 executions by the British.

7Thomas Davis (1814-1845), foremost among the Young Irelanders, publisher and contributor to The Nation, composer of A Nation Once Again, The West’s Awake and other notable songs and poems; his father was Welsh.

8James Connolly (1868-1916), revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, journalist, historian, songwriter), Commandant of the insurrectionary forces in the 1916 Rising, executed by British firing squad.

9Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), (1868-1927), socialist Republican revolutionary, suffragist, founder member of the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, fought as officer of the Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Rising, sentenced to death (commuted), joined Sinn Féin, took the Republican side in the Civil War, founder member of Fianna Fáil. She was the first woman elected to Westminster Parliament (on abstentionist ticket), first Cabinet Minister in Europe (in the First Dáil) and first Minister of Labour in the world.

10There are currently around 60 Irish Republican prisoners in prisons on both sides of the British border.

11Pádraig Mac Piarais/ Patrick Pearse (1879-1916), writer, poet and journalist in English and Irish, educationalist, revolutionary Republican, Commander-in-chief of the 1916 insurrectionary forces, executed by British firing squad.

12British loyalists, followers of the anti-Catholic sectarian ideology of the Orange Order (founded 1796).

13At the time most Irish Republicans, despite the long existence of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, were seen as part of the broad nationalist spectrum but at its most militant end and were described as ‘advanced nationalists’.

Different view of colour party, against the lighthouse at the East Pierhead (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

USEFUL LINKS:

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

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

ABSTRACTED IN GREYSTONES

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading and viewing time: 3 mins)

On a sunny but windy day in Greystones, lá grianmhar ach gaofar, nature put on an abstract art show. The sunshine brought out intensely the yellow of the lichen on the limestone rocks, while the black lichen encrustation on some rocks contrasted sharply with a neighbouring section of bare grey. Some trick of the camera and light brought out a gorgeous blue in the rock-shadowed sea which had not been visible to the eye.

Yellow lichen incrusts the tops of stones in foreground like paint daubs while in background, a trick of light or camera turns blue the shadow on the sea. the lichens and plants here are extremophiles, living on the front line (or the beachhead). (Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Lichens are an amazing life form, being an integrated symbiosis of an alga and a fungus. A cross between a frog and a goose would not be more bizarre in concept – fungi are not even plants, while algae are. The fungus provides a relatively strong skeleton while through photosynthesis the alga produces sugars to feed the fungus.

Although not all are easy to distinguish, there are over 1,165 species of lichen in Ireland, varying from the common to the rare. The yellow-orange one, Xanthoria parietina, is one of the common ones in Ireland. The white and often off-white or grey Ochrolechia parella can be mistaken for bird excreta at a distance, or even as the ground-in chewing gum that costs Dublin City Council so much to remove from street surfaces every week. The black one, Verrucaria maura if I am identifying it correctly, covers rocks that are wave-lapped or hit by sea-spray on a daily basis.

Limestone rock covered with black lichen contrasting with bare grey limestone in upper centre of image (Photo: D.Breatnach)

These are all hardy adventurers, extremophiles, living in zones exposed to great variations of temperature, all even in one day, as the sun beats down between rain showers or windy spray. And they are very tolerant of salinity, without at the same time being dependent upon it. Perhaps not these species but their ancestors, or other forms like them, were the early colonisers of the land on our planet. Terraformers too, as they slowly abrade the rock upon which they cling, helping to create soil, while black lichen attracts heat to warm up surfaces and the alga in the symbiotes releases oxygen into the atmosphere.

Lichens can live attached to rock, wood and metal, some species even inside stone and on snow.

Plaque commemorating the public launch of the Votes for Women campaign with Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington and Hilda Webb confronting Chief Secretary for Ireland (for the Crown) Augustine Birrell at Greystones Harbour in 1910. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

No plaque or monument celebrates these hardy adventurers but down on the harbour wall was a plaque to another hardy life-form, celebrating the 1910 confrontation there of Chief Secretary Birrell, one of the Crown’s main representatives in Ireland, by Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington and Hilda Webb. They were kick-starting the militant Votes for Women campaign which was later brought into conflict with the Irish Parliamentary Party too but influenced the 1916 Proclamation’s advanced and stirring address: “Irishmen and Irishwomen ….”. That Rising six years after the Greystones confrontation would shock Birrell and sadly, would see Hannah’s pacifist husband Francis murdered by a British Army officer during that momentous week.

Earlier, in a Dublin train station, I photographed a wall of varied limestone, where algae and moss, also terraformers, had made an abstract art collage.

An abstract collage of shapes and colours: limestone wall with moss and algae, train station, Dublin. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

End.

REFERENCES

https://www.irishlichens.ie/

http://www.biology.ie/species.php?m=lichens-ie&s=2140

BASQUES MARK THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BURGOS MILITARY TRIALS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Basques marked the 50th anniversary of the Burgos military trials by the Franco dictatorship of 16 members of ETA, the armed Basque socialist independentist organisation. A few days ago a group went to the town of Burgos itself and posted slogans on the wall of the Spanish Ministry of Defence building there declaring that the Spanish State had not succeeded in its repression in 1970 and would not do so in future. In the Basque Country itself events were also held in commemoration.

The military trials of 16 members of ETA took place between 3rd and 9th December 1970 in the Spanish city of Burgos in Castille (north-central Spain). The trial concluded on the 28th with sentences of death on six and sentences up to 70 years on the remaining ten. Intended to be a mortal blow to ETA and to Basque resistance the trials instead inspired greater and more united resistance in the Basque Country and became an international publicity debacle for the Franco dictatorship.

Within the Basque Country, demonstrations and pickets took place and a general strike saw 100,000 workers there out on strike. ETA distributed pamphlets and leaflets among the people and in its repressive measures the Spanish police beat many workers and killed a number, as in Etxarri in Nafarroa (Navarra) province.

Internationally, protest demonstrations took place across Europe and other parts of the world, particularly outside Spanish Embassies, often leading to battles with the police of the host country. Pope Paul VI appealed for the death sentences to be commuted and Jean-Paul Sartre, a leading intellectual of the French Left and with an international literary reputation congratulated the defendants on having brought the situation of the Basque Country under Franco to international attention.

ETA hired prominent lawyers of Left and Human Rights reputation to defend the sixteen. The organisation also kidnapped the German honorary Consul as a hostage (and later released him unharmed). The defendants themselves used the trial politically, turning it into an exposure of the Franco regime and its repression. A number described the tortures to which they had been subjected, all of them declared their commitment to socialist freedom and some even stated that they were fighting for the rights of all working people.

Protest demonstration in front of Spanish Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela in December 1970 (Photo sourced: Internet)

The military judges, aware that the publicity of the trial was going against the Dictatorship, began to clamp down and restrict the defendants from saying anything that was not directly, as they saw it, pertinent to the charges, after which the defendants refused to speak at all. At one point during the trial the defendants all stood and sang the battle-song and national anthem of the Basque nation, Eusko Gudariak1. An even greater sensation occurred in a brief incident when the final defendant to speak, Mario Onaindia, attempted to attack the judges with an axe.2

Demonstration in Barceloneta, Catalonia in solidarity with Burgos defendants, December 1970
(Photo sourced: Internet)

BACKGROUND

A military-fascist uprising against the elected Popular Front government of Spain took place in 1936 and in the Spanish Antifascist War that followed, the Spanish Republic was defeated by the military with substantial assistance from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the UK and France blockaded the Republican forces.

Hitler and Franco reviewing invader Nazi troops in Hendaye, French Basque Country. (Photo source: Internet)

A military-fascist dictatorship with the strong assistance of the Spanish Catholic Church followed amongst huge repression, making Spain the state with the most mass graves in Europe and second only to Cambodia in the world.

The Popular Front Government had granted autonomy to the Basque Nation (and to Catalonia) for the first time in centuries of the Spanish State, although Nafarroa province had sided with the military-fascist forces. Any notion of autonomy was withdrawn under the Dictatorship and even use of the Basque and Catalan languages in public or in education was forbidden.

Some guerrilla resistance continued for a period in the mountains of the Basque Country, Catalonia and other parts of the Spanish state territory but the fighters were hunted down or fled the Spanish state. The Communist Party and some socialist organisations continued an underground existence and built illegal trade unions but the CP of Spain did not support independence for the Basque Country or for Catalonia, on the theory that this would “break up the Spanish working class” (however later they all mobilised against the Franco Dictatorship and in solidarity with the Burgos defendants).

Euskadi3 Ta Asakatasuna (Basque Land and Freedom) was formed in 1959 out of a coalition between a left-wing Basque youth group and the youth wing of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) who were discontented with the lack of action of their elders. In June 1968 ETA carried out its first armed action against Spanish police when killing a police officer asking for their identification papers at a checkpoint and shortly afterwards one of the ETA pair was gunned down by police. Two months later the organisation carried out its first planned attack when they killed Melitón Manzanas, Commander the Political Police Brigade in Alava Province. Manzanas was a notorious fascist and torturer who had hunted down Jewish refugees to turn them over to the Nazis during WWII.

The Burgos trials was intended to smash ETA completely but as outlined above, had an entirely opposite effect. The death sentences were commuted in an attempt to reduce the damage the trials had caused the international reputation of the Spanish State.4

Solidarity with Burgos Defendants in Paris, Dec. 3rd 1970 (Photo sourced: Internet)
Angry Brigade Communique on machine-gunning of Spanish Embassy, London on 3rd December 1970. (Photo sourced: Internet)

AFTER BURGOS AND TODAY

ETA continued its armed and non-military actions and other revolutionary armed communist resistance began to take shape elsewhere in the Spanish territory.

Despite the huge success of the Basque solidarity mobilisations to prevent the executions in 1970, five years later a similar wave failed to prevent the executions of another two ETA members and three FRAP (Revolutionary Anti-Fascist Patriotic Front) members: Ángel Otaegui Etxeberria; Juan “Txiki” Paredes Manot; José Humberto Baena; Ramón García Sanz; and José Luis Sánchez Bravo.

French solidarity with ETA defendants 1975. This time the international campaign was unsuccessful and the Spanish State executed the two ETA and three FRAP activists (Photo sourced: Internet)

ETA counted some actions notable for the harmful effect on them but also some spectacular successes in its armed campaign. Included in the latter were the assassination in Madrid in 1973 of Admiral Carrillo Blanco, Franco’s appointed successor and the abandonment of the nuclear reactor project in Lemoiz5 in Bizkaia in 1983. Blanco’s assassination and the death of the Dictator Franco in 1975 hastened the Transition of the Spanish State to an alleged democracy and a monarchical and unitary state constitution in 1978.

The Basque resistance constructed a network which beyond the armed group consisted of trade unions, youth organisation, social centres, daily bilingual newspaper and political parties. The Spanish State waged war against that movement with repressive laws, arrests, torture, jailings, closure of organisations and media, along with armed action against ETA. In addition, it organised and funded a terror and assassination campaign over a period of 26 years6.

In the late 1990s the Basque Left-Independentist movement began a process of unilateral disarmament and change in political direction which led first to an indefinite ETA truce in 2010, then to decommissioning of arms and finally to the dissolution of ETA in 2018. However around 250 Basque political prisoners remain in jail, a tiny group of which have declared their dissidence from the leadership’s path and are supported outside the jails by a growing movement which has a very different line to that of the “official” leadership.

The Spanish State insists that the only possible relaxation of prison conditions, end of dispersal7 or granting of parole for the prisoners is “if they recant their beliefs and apologise to the victims.”

Political repression continues at some level within the Basque Country. There is no indication that there is any intention in Spanish ruling circles to grant independence to the southern Basque Country – quite the contrary (as seen also in Catalonia).

THE 50th ANNIVERSARY

A group of activists from the official Abertzale Left carried out a publicity commando raid in Burgos recently (see video below) and attached a banner poster to the Spanish Ministry of Defence building which read: “NEITHER WERE YOU ABLE to repress the struggle of the people NOR WILL YOU BE ABLE” and LONG LIVE THE REPUBLIC!

A number of public meeting and on-line events were also held this month, including the commemoration in Etxarri of two Basques who were killed by Spanish police during the Burgos Trials protests.

In Eibar city in Gipuzkoa province around 100 people assembled despite Covid19 restrictions in the open air to mark the anniversary and included one of the Burgos trial defendants who, along with another woman, read out a manifesto which has been signed by many in the Basque independentist movement.

Burgos Trials 50th Anniversary Commemoration in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, Dec.2020. (Photo source: Naiz.eu)

“The Franco regime wanted to prosecute, punish and subdue again a people that in the darkness of the dictatorship had dared to rise from the ashes of war,” they read, introducing the manifesto.

Recalling the moment when the defendants rose in court and with upraised clenched fists sang the Eusko Gudariak, the manifesto commented: “With their courage, that handful of young militants taught us to stand up even when it seems impossible, and their example lives on today in us and in the future in the actions and dreams of the new generations.”8

The manifesto also states that the Burgos Trials were “a milestone” for the survival of Euskal Herria. However today, 50 years later, the substantive process has not concluded, since “they continue to take Basque youth to court, thinking that by disciplining them they will quench the desire for freedom of this people, and the states that surround us have not abandoned their strategy against the independence movement.”

The anniversaries of milestones in the struggle, of successes and failures, of martyrs, continue to be marked. And the journey is far from finished.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1“Soldiers of the Basque Country”, very similar in title and theme to the Irish national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann/ The Soldiers’ Song.

2How Onaindia managed to get his hands on an axe in court is one question but the significance of the axe cannot be underestimated – it was a traditional tool of foresters but also of ancient Basques in war and formed one part of ETA’s emblem, the other being the snake, representing wisdom.

3Formerly used to describe the whole Basque nation, “Euskadi” nowadays mainly describes the Basque Autonomous Region of the provinces of Bizkaia, Alaba and Gipuzkoa. “Euskal Herria” (The Country of Basque Language”) is more commonly used today to describe the whole seven provinces of the Basque nation, four currently within the Spanish and three within the French states.

4It also increased the pressure on the Spanish ruling class from the USA and European states to become more moderate politically and less vulnerable to revolution.

5This was in addition to frequent large protest mobilisations.

6Much more than the notorious GAL – see for example https://rebelbreeze.com/2020/12/23/november-month-of-murders-of-basque-activists/

7The vast majority of the prisoners are in jails dispersed throughout the Spanish and French states, between hundreds and even a thousand kilometres from their homes, placing a huge burden on their families and friends in visiting them.

8Comment: One wonders whether they felt any sense of irony in reading that out, considering that only in September last year 47 Basque prisoner solidarity activists pleaded guilty in a plea deal that ended their trial in 25 minutes with suspended sentences for all except for a few months’ jail for a couple of them. The deal came as a total shock to the estimated 50,000 people who had, only two days earlier, marched in solidarity with the accused, defending their right to do solidarity work without being persecuted or prosecuted.

SOURCES

https://www.naiz.eus/eu/info/noticia/20201228/ni-pudieron-ni-podreis-mensaje-en-la-an-y-el-gobierno-militar-de-burgos-50-anos-despues

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

https://www.naiz.eus/en/info/noticia/20201129/personalidades-del-ambito-independentista-recuerdan-el-50-aniversario-del-proceso-de-burgos