On 2nd June a number of Left anti-imperialist organisations and individuals held a public rally in Bilbo/ Bilbao. The municipal authority refused them use of a building and they held it in the open air in the Etxebarrieta Square. The organisers issued a statement in Euskera (Basque language) and Castillian (Spanish) calling for unity against the war plans of NATO and the EU and denounced the equivocating posture of the ‘official’ left Basque movement, denounced also the militarism of the Spanish coalition Government and advertised a joint demonstration for 18th June in Moyua, on the south side of the river in Bilbao1.
STATEMENT ISSUED BY COORDINATING GROUP (translated by D.Breatnach from Castilian Spanish version published in Ecuador Etxea)
For several weeks, various people and groups from Bilbao, Meatzaldea, Uribe-Kosta, Ezkerraldea and Busturialdea2 have been coming together in this broad initiative to respond to the escalation of war that we are seeing around us. An escalation of war promoted by NATO, with the aim of shielding the world hegemony of the United States against the rise of emerging powers such as China, India, Iran or Russia. A strategy that is doomed to failure, but that will cause, if we do not prevent it first, destruction, misery and death throughout the planet.
In relation to the conflict in Ukraine, we believe that in no case can one speak of an inter-imperialist struggle between the NATO countries and Russia. Rather, it is an offensive planned for years to overthrow the legitimate government led by Vladimir Putin and gain control of Russian energy resources and markets. A policy of looting and plundering that the current Russian President put a stop to, no matter how hard it is for some to admit it. Ukraine is nothing more than the operations base and the cannon fodder of Atlanticist imperialism against its historical enemy, Russia.
Many on the Left say that the Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. And they are completely correct. The problem is that even the slightest economic planning for social purposes by any State has become an obstacle to the viability of the parasitic capitalism that we live under. There we have the cases of Slovdan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, sadly imprisoned and/or executed in the face of complicit silence or the enthusiastic support of what they call the “international community.”
Those of us who are here today have already learned our lesson: first they demonize the currently out of favour ruler through the media, and then they justify military offensives and imperialist massacres. That is why at this time we cannot make the mistake of placing ourselves at equidistance. Both Russia and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have every right in the world to defend themselves against the aggressions of NATO and the EU, which conspire and supply weapons to fascist governments like Zelensky’s to harass Russia and destabilize the region. Not to mention the openly Nazi battalions captured in Azovstal, whose release France and Germany now demand in order to advance in the negotiations. What do European governments owe the Nazis in Azov? What do they have to hide and why do they intend to buy their silence?
The truth is that we still do not know the exact reason why the States of the European Union have completely bowed to the interests of the United States. It is evident that the sanctions against Russia and the new oil and gas supply routes imposed by the US only benefit the Yankee tycoons, the Arab sheikhs and the absolutist monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. NATO vassals like Borrell have definitively cast the old European project into History’s dump. They prioritize profit and military spending to the detriment of the health and living conditions of the broad masses and announce a future of misery and sacrifice for a war in favor of a capitalism that is against us. The European Union is definitely a rotting political corpse, in case anyone ever thought that it could have been a progressive alternative or for oppressed nations like ours.
Precisely here in the Basque Country, the official position of the institutional Abertzale Left3 regarding what is happening in the Ukraine is especially embarrassing. It seems unbelievable that those who proclaim themselves heirs to the historic struggles of the Basque Working People, a people of which the majority in 1986 opposed remaining in this criminal organization4, now wave the flag of “no to war” and of ambiguity. It seems immoral to us, both the pacifism that denies the just right to defense of those who are attacked by imperialism, as well as the lukewarm posture of those who do not take a stand, thus facilitating the advance of imperialism. Anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism must be cultivated day by day, if we do not want the ideological and cultural offensive of NATO and the EU to continue having effect, in particular among the sons and daughters of the working class. Thirty-six years later we unambiguously reaffirm ourselves in NO to NATO, no to FASCISM, no to GENOCIDAL IMPERIALISM.
As we said, we are witnessing an implacable propaganda to make us part of this imperialist strategy, so that we do not rebel against what is happening. While they continue to spread one-sided thinking through the big media, television channels that question the official story — such as Russia Today — are closed without the slightest shame, content on the Internet is censored by appealing to supposed “verified information”, journalists like Pablo González5 are imprisonedor political information is systematically eliminated from our streets. They not only want to indoctrinate us, they directly deny us the right to be informed. Where are the defenders of freedom of expression? Are we already living in a hidden state of emergency?
It is our obligation, therefore, to denounce, not only the rise of international fascism, but also the fertile ground that the fascists have in the Spanish State of the bannings, the GAL6, the closure of newspapers and the systematic torture of political dissidents7. Atlantic capitalism will never be able to find a better ally than the PSOE8, veritable experts in the art of manipulating and deceiving the working and broad masses. Sadly, there are times when collective memory seems too fragile. Of course, for this new phase they have found a faithful shield-bearer, the party of Yolanda Díaz9. Seconds were never good, we are already seeing where these wolves in sheep’s clothing are leading us…
We said at the beginning that different people have come together to counteract this hegemonic discourse that manipulates consciences and protects the sequestration of rights and freedoms. From Muskiz to Gernika we rebel today here against this ominous imperialist offensive. All this suffering is not necessary, there is no reason to accept the misery and the war to which NATO and the EU want to condemn us. It is also not the time to stay at home watching, or to follow the war as if it were a video game.
We therefore issue a call to all the towns and neighborhoods of Euskal Herria and other nations to continue organizing the fight against imperialism, capitalism and fascism. And we also invite all the people who are against the imperialist offensive of NATO and the EU to participate in the demonstration that we will carry out in Bilbao, on June 18 at 6:30 p.m. from the Plaza Elíptica.
NO TO NATO! NO TO THE EUROPEAN UNION! NO TO IMPERIALISM!
1Which is also the location of the representation of the Spanish State in Bizkaia and guarded by armed police.
2A number of towns and districts across the SW Basque province of Bizkaia.
3The ‘official’ leadership of the left-Basque independence movement, e.g the EH Bildu party under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi and others.
4In the 1986 referendum on whether to remain in NATO, the Basque Country gave the highest majority for No, with the Canaries and Catalonia coming behind. For the whole Spanish state, nearly 57% voted Yes against 43.15%.
5Basque freelance journalist reporting for Publico (Spanish left online media) and La Sexta, threatened and advised to leave Ukraine by state intelligence services, which he did but arrested by Polish intelligence on 28 February as he was about to re-enter Ukraine with a group of journalists. Poland has charged him with spying for Russia but to date produced no evidence and even denied him access to his lawyer. The Spanish State sent intelligence service agents to question his wife, mother and friends.
6GAL: A Spanish state terror and assassination organisation of the 1980s operating against the Basque resistance which was exposed as led by the Prime Minister (though never even questioned) Felipe Gonzales and directed operationally by the Minister of the Interior and senior Army and Police officers, a number of which received prison sentences.
7The Spanish state has long been accused by human rights organisations of torturing political dissidents and convicted in the European Court of Human Rights a number of times of failure to investigate complaints of torture. The State has closed newspaper and social media sites, jailed rappers, banned political parties, banned demonstrations, closed political cultural centres, disqualified political activists from representation in elections and jailed political activists.
8The main Spanish social-democratic party, currently in coalition government with Podemos.
9Yolanda Díaz resigned from Izquierda Unida (United Left – a broad coalition) but remained a member of the Communist Party of Spain; she is currently Deputy Prime Minister in the Spanish coalition government.
Many public figures have been condemning the content of a video live-streamed from an Orange Order Hall in which people were singing lyrics mocking the murder of an Irishwoman on her honeymoon in Mauritius.
There is nothing new I can add to the condemnations of this disgusting exhibition. But what a great many of the condemnations lack is context; i.e they treat this exhibition as though it were some aberration from the norm of Loyalism – it was not, it was exactly in line with and an expression of the backwardness, sectarianism, right-wing racism, homophobia and general phobia that is the very essence of Loyalism.
BACKGROUND OF LOYALISM AND THE ORANGE ORDER IN IRELAND
The planters and settlers that English1 colonialism installed on Irish soil were intended to control the indigenous population along with those “gone native” descendants of the Norman conquerors. A number of attempts were made to correct those Normans who had been ‘corrupted’ by the Irish and had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves” and one of the most infamous attempts through law, the Statutes of Killkenny in 13662 laid out a long list of behaviours expected of the “degenerate English”, mostly in terms of things they were to cease doing: in sum they were to cease integrating with the indigenous people in custom, language and law.
Outside of the Pale3, the cities, such attempts failed in the main and the next big effort was the Plantations. Using the failure of the Norman Irish and Gaelic lords to adapt to the Reformation, now an English state religion, their lands were confiscated and parcelled out to big landlords who then rented them out to smaller landlords and small-holders – and none of those were to be Irish. In fact, they were required to be English-speaking, Protestant in religion and to build their towns and important buildings as strongholds4. And not to even employ native Irish, in case these should corrupt the settlements from within.
The intentions of the Plantations were made quite clear and the settlers were, from the outset to be a means for a tiny minority of feudal and financier elites to control and exploit the vast majority indigenous population through the use of a middle stratum which was to be separate from and considered superior to natives in religion, culture, custom, landholding, legal rights – and allegiance.
These plantations met with mixed success – one of the problems being the scarcity of labour against a prohibition to employ the natives – but the problem of a conquered but not reconciled native majority remained, even after its cultural, legal, political and military leadership had been eliminated. And then a section of the settlers themselves, many descendants of Cromwellian conquerors and their supporters, began to have aspirations to control their own markets. They attempted to expand the Irish Parliament – then open only to adherents of the State religion, the Anglican communion — to include representation from the larger group of dissenting Protestant sects5 and of the huge majority of Irish Catholics.
The attempt, under the leadership of the moderate and ultimately Crown-loyal Henry Grattan failed, through a mixture of sectarianism, fear of being eventually dispossessed of their stolen lands – and outright Crown bribery. The most determined of the Protestant patriots then turned to revolution and led the United Irishmen in the uprisings of 1798 and 1803, with a credo of unity for an independent and republican Ireland, regardless of religion6.
CREATION OF THE ORANGE ORDER
But the British ruling elite saw which way the wind was blowing, foreboding its overthrow in Ireland if its garrison population joined with the majority and, as well as making military and spying preparations, the British took important ideological and social action.
Created in 1795 as what might be seen today as a kind of independent Ku Klux Klan organisation to keep down the ‘uppitty native niggers’7, the Orange Order quickly became (as the Klan did in some areas too) a police force on its own dissidents. And, as the Klan enjoyed the tacit support of the patrician Southern US elite, the Orange Order has been supported by the settler elite in Ireland from its inception. This was formalised with the Order’s central control over all previously independent lodges in 1798, the year of the first United Irish uprising.
After the defeat of the United Irish uprisings, the Order became an active persecutor of any sign of resistance not only among the native Irish majority, the Catholics but also – and in some areas chiefly – a hunting down of any signs of Protestant allegiance to the United Irish or other ‘suspect’ behavour such as tolerance of Catholics. Those Protestant followers of “Unitedism” that did not emigrate to the USA and Canada had to keep their heads down or face the consequences, as did Roddy McCorley, hanged on Toombridge in Co. Antrim on 28th February 1800.
REACTIONARY IN INSPIRATION AND TRADITION
The Orange Order drew its colour and other visual paraphernalia in association with William of Orange (1650 – 1702), who was crowned King William III by the British Parliament, the forces of which, along with his own Dutch ones, he led in the British civil war against those of King James II of England and the latter’s Irish and French allies. Orange was the colour of the Dutch royal family of Orange-Nasseau and therefore of the royalist party in Holland, in opposition to the republican party there8.
Following his defeat of the Jacobite forces in Ireland William III brought in the Penal Laws, the body of Anglican supremacy and anti-Catholic legislation which were to survive in greater or lesser form from 1695 to 1829.
Loyalists celebrate annually with sectarian triumphalist parades in the Six Counties the victory of the Williamite forces at the Battle of the Boyne on July 12th 16909. Loyalists imagine the Boyne victory was of the Protestant religion over Catholic “Papism”, unaware that the victory was celebrated by special mass in the Vatican and in some other Catholic cities. The Jacobite war in Ireland was part of the Nine Years’ War in Europe and forces of Protestant principalities and kingdoms could be found on either side, as could those of Catholic persuasion.
Their unequivocal message to their non-unionist neighbours is “This is our place, not yours. If you want to live here, accept what we give you and keep your heads down.” This fostered sectarianism has penetrated even trade unions, ensuring that wages and social conditions in the Six Counties have been the worst in the whole of the UK.
WHY THE LOYALIST MOCKERY OF THIS MURDER?
The video which directed such recent public attention on the behaviour of some Loyalists was of a song sung communally in which the lyrics mocked the murder of Michaela McAreavey who apparently surprised a thief in her Mauritius hotel room on 11th May. Probably not a single person celebrating that murder knew the woman or had any reason to hate her for anything she had done. What they knew was that she was the daughter of Micky Harte and that he was the manager of the Tyrone County Gaelic Football team10. Gaelic football11 is an Irish traditional sport and, since Loyalists eschew anything knowingly Gaelic, Harte is also probably of Catholic background; therefore almost certainly would have been his daughter Michaela too. Incredible though it may seem to many, that was enough to inspire that outpouring of hatred – a hatred that is always and has always been there in Loyalism.
It seems clear that the song, the lyrics with which much of the audience in the video seem familiar, was sung in the Orange Hall in Dundonald12, Co. Down which, like Tyrone, is one of the Six Counties currently forming the British colony in Ireland.
According to media reports, “a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland criticised the video and also confirmed that an investigation would now take place.“The video currently circulating on social media relating to the murder of Michaela McAreavey is utterly abhorrent and the Orange Institution condemns the content without reservation,” a statement read.“The behaviour of those involved and their actions have no place in our society and certainly do not reflect the ethos of our organisation.”
On the contrary, as people who live in or near areas where the Orange Order holds sway will know, the behaviour exactly “reflects the ethos of the organisation” and of the general ideology of Loyalism.
The central ideology of the Orange Order has always been not only a phobic hatred of Catholics but also of anything that might smell of egalitarianism, equality or progressive social ideas. It and its adherents for generations have held triumphalist sectarian marches deliberately routed to march through predominantly Catholic residential areas and past Catholic churches, these marches escorted by the sectarian colonial gendarmerie13, often forced through against local opposition.
For decades, the Orange Order and Loyalism in general opposed equal treatment and civil rights for Catholics in terms of employment, housing, franchise, education and law. That breeding ground gave rise to the Loyalist terror murder squads, operating for decades in conjunction with colonial police and British Army14.
True to its reactionary origins, the Orange Order and Loyalism in general have a strong emotional attachment to British Royalty and to an ethos of British Empire and colonialism. But Loyalism has also opposed all progressive social innovations and legislation, even those emanating from its supposedly ideological homeland, the rest of the UK and, in many cases delayed its implementation in the colony for years15.
Loyalism has been a sectarian influence in the game of soccer not only in Ireland but in Britain, with a triple alliance of sectarianism and racism between fans of football clubs Linfield, Rangers and Chelsea.16 The racism and reactionary ideology of “Hillbillies17” in the USA are also attributed to origins in Irish Loyalism.
Loyalism has also been characterised by racist attitudes and attacks on ethnic minorities in parts of the Six Counties independently of religion. Loyalism lines up to oppose anything they feel that is supported by the hated “taigues” or “Fenians” (their codewords for Catholics), for e.g Palestinians, Basque nationalists, inquiries into killings by the British Army ….
Despite the scrambling of Unionism – the Orange Order, politicians, Linfield FC management — to disassociate itself from the disgusting exhibition of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic hatred expressed in their ‘humorous’ mocking of the murder of a young woman, the song and video were a completely cogent expression of Loyalism, the social prop of Unionism. They were a true reflection of the history and underlying ethos of the Orange Order and of the sectarian statelet created by the British ruling class as a garrison and permanent foothold in Ireland.
1Later one can talk of British colonialism and imperialism but in the beginning it was the English feudal and financier classes that set out to conquer their neighbours in Britain and across the sea in Ireland. The Crown was always primarily the English Crown, even when it became also formally that of Scotland and, later, of Ireland.
2i.e not even two centuries after the Norman invasion in 1169.
3The area of administration of the occupation, originally a fortified area with Dublin Castle at its centre.
4One can still see the pattern of settler towns with the buildings constructed around a square or “diamond” becoming easily converted into the walls of a fort, the main roads leading in and out fairly easily barricaded even with carts and waggons. Native Irish towns had no such construction, often running along a street or gathered around a crossroads, river bank, port etc.
5In particular the Presbyterians but also Methodists, Unitarians, “Quakers” (Society of Friends) and others.
6The unity of “Protestant (i.e Anglican), Catholic and Dissenter”.
7“Uppitty niggers” was a racist white term in the USA to describe Americans of African descent who were unwilling to be treated as second-class citizens or even worse. For such people to become thought of as “uppitty” frequently meant a range of punishments that included beating, jail and lynching. The Ku Klux Klan is a white Protestant supremacist and extremely right-wing organisation in the USA, formed after the defeat of the Confederacy and understood as having three distinct phases, the last one being also current. Despite a history of using extreme violence, it is not banned in the USA.
10 Mickey Harte (born 1952) is a Gaelic football manager from County Tyrone, Ireland who currently manages the Louth county team, having managed the Tyrone county team from 2002 and, at his resignation in 2020, was the longest-serving manager then active with the same team in inter-county competition.
11Gaelic football is one of four traditional sports regulated by the Gaelic Athletic Association/ Cumann Lúthchleas na hÉireann, with 2,200 clubs spread over all of Ireland and, with high community involvement is the largest amateur sporting association in the world
13Armed police force, formerly the Royal Irish Constabulary, later the Royal Ulster Constabulary, currently “Police Force of Northern Ireland.”
14See for example Lethal Allies – British collusion in Ireland (2013) by Anne Cadwaller. Loyalists killed the most people in one day during the 30 years’ war with the Dublin & Monaghan Bombings, 17 May 1974. Despite their self-promotion as fighters against the IRA, nearly all of their victims have been unarmed civilians, often randomly-chosen in Catholic residential areas.
15For example, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act only applied to England and Wales – it was resisted in Scotland and the Six Counties colony. Decriminalisation reached Scotland in 1980 and, after a complaint to the European Court of Justice and a judgement against the statelet in 1981, homosexuality in private was finally decriminalised in the Six Counties the following year – 15 years after its original decriminalisation in England. Similarly with lesbian and gay rights to civil marriage, introduced in England and Wales in 2013; in Scotland in 2014 but couples in the Six Counties had to wait until 2020, seven years after its introduction in England.
16Linfield FC is based in south Belfast in the British colony, Rangers FC in Glasgow and Chelsea FC in SW London. But there are also sectarian divisions among fans such as those of Rangers/ Celtic to be found also in Edinburgh between and Hibernian and Hearts (Midlothian) clubs and even between Everton and Liverpool as well as Manchester City and Manchester United.
17As in “Billies”, i.e followers of King Billy (William of Orange) who are living in the hills.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The fascists and racists are going about in fear (or whipping up fear) of the replacement of whites by people of colour and this is particularly so in some of the places colonised by people of European background. David Rovics looks at the fascist conspiracy theory and the very real replacement of indigenous people by colonialists in a number of those places.
The 1974 British Intelligence and Loyalist bombing of Dublin and Monaghan towns, with the highest number of people killed in one day during the 30 Years’ War, was commemorated in Dublin today at the Memorial in Talbot Street, near the corner with Amiens Street. The commemoration, organised by the perennial Justice for the Forgotten campaign, was addressed by the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) and elected representatives of Dublin and Monaghan municipalities. A poet and two musicians performed, wreaths were laid and one former politician gave a strong oration highly critical of the Irish, British colonial and British authorities.
On 17th May 1974, around the work-leaving and shopping-ending busy time of 5.30pm, three car bombs exploded within minutes of each other in the centre of Dublin. The car bombs had been parked in the mainly working and lower-middle class sParnell Street, Talbot Street, and South Leinster Street (as distinct from such streets as Henry, Grafton or Dawson streets, for example). Twenty-six people were killed in Dublin. To cover their way back across the British border, another car-bomb was set off in Monaghan Town, killing another seven. Even excluding a full-term unborn child, the total death toll was 33, the highest number killed in any one day of the three decades of conflict. Around 300 were injured.
Suspicion should naturally fall in the first place on the British Loyalists, since they had been planting bombs in Dublin since 1969 and in 1972 and 1973 their bombs had killed Dublin public transport workers. But the authorities had pretended to believe that the IRA was responsible for the 1972 bombing and used the panic around it to steamroll repressive political legislation through the Dáil, thereby setting up the no-jury Special Criminal Courts to sent Irish Republicans to jail.
However, it is believed that Irish Army Intelligence and Garda Intelligence were quickly aware that the Dublin and Monaghan bombers had in fact been Loyalists of the Ulster Volunteer Force and even knew the names of a number of them.
“No one has ever been charged with the bombings. A campaign by the victims’ families led to an Irish government inquiry under Justice Henry Barron. His 2003 report criticised the Garda Síochána‘s investigation and said the investigators stopped their work prematurely. It also criticised the Fine Gael/Labourgovernment of the time for its inaction and lack of interest in the bombings. The report said it was likely that British security force personnel or MI5 intelligence was involved but had insufficient evidence of higher-level involvement.” (Wikipedia)
Incredibly, despite long-standing allegations of collusion between the colonial police, the RUC (now the PSNI) and Loyalists, the Gardaí sent the car-bomb remnants to the RUC for analysis. Shortly after that, Ned Garvey rose from the Deputy position to Gárda Commissioner and met with a British secret agent in his office – without informing his superiors. When the agent began to blow the whistle on his past activities he exposed Garvey as a British “asset” – Garvey of course denied it but had to admit he had indeed met clandestinely with the agent in his office. When the Fianna Fáil goverment came in, they sacked Garvey as “not having confidence” in him but did it so baldly and outside established procedures that Garvey was able to take the Government to court, have his pension secured and have damages awarded to him!
BRITISH POLICY OF COLLUSION WITH LOYALIST MURDER GANGS
Most experts have been clear that construction of the type of bomb used was beyond the capability of the Loyalists at that time and, in any case, it is clear that British Intelligence and military were working with Loyalist gangs, as were the RUC (some of whom were members of the gangs) and RUC Special Branch. In addition there were reports of British accents in connection with suspects.
Collusion of that type had been openly advocated by a British military expert on counter-insurgency, Major (later Brigadier) Frank Kitson, for example in his “Gangs and Counter-gangs” (1960), based on his experiences in fighting the Kenyan insurgency for national liberation.
Brigadier Frank Kitson was operational commander of the occupation forces in the British colony from 1970-’72 and left a substantial legacy of military assassinations and collusion with Loyalist murder gangs, along with other “dirty war” operations before he went on to lecture at British military training college.
“….. the de Silva Report (2013) on collusion with loyalist paramilitaries led to two further ‘unconditional’ British apologies for the behaviour of its security forces in Northern Ireland. In November 2013, a BBC ‘Panorama’ investigation into British counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s revealed that members of a special covert operations unit known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF) admitted to the murder of suspects and unarmed Catholic civilians. These admissions by the state or its agents confirm previous claims by critics dating back many decades. Such abuses were not merely low-level tactical excesses by undisciplined and racist troops but were institutional, systematic, and approved or covered up at the highest levels ….”1
The British State has admitted it has secret papers relating to this atrocity but has refused to hand over copies to successive Irish goverments.
“THE LARGEST MASS MURDER IN THE HISTORY OF THE STATE”
Maureen O’Sullivan, ex-TD (Member of Irish Parliament) for the local area gave the main oration for the Justice for the Forgotten Campaign and called the bombing “the largest mass murder in the history of the State”. She went on to castigate successive governments and most of the political class for their lack of interest in pursuing the planners and perpetrators of the massacre over the years. In her repeated reference to their “ignorance”, O’Sullivan inferred that the legislators’ lack of interest was such that they could not even be bothered to inform themselves of the known facts.
In addition to the Taoiseach, the Ard-Mhaora of Dublin and Cathaoirleach of Monaghan Council spoke and a Catholic priest delivered a short blessing. The event was chaired throughout by a representative of the Justice for the Forgotten campaign group.
Rachael O’Hegarty introduced and recited one of her collection of poems about the victims, this one about Maureen Shields who was 44 years of age when she was killed in Talbot Street.
Cormac Breatnach and Eoin Dillon on whistles played Sí Beag, Sí Mór and later Dillon playing the lament known as Táimse I Mo Chodhladh (I Am Asleep), accompanied by Breatnach on whistle, concluded the event.
THE BOMBINGS EXPOSED THE NEO-COLONIAL NATURE OF THE IRISH CAPITALIST CLASS
In summary, a foreign power — which is also occupying by force one-sixth of Ireland — carried out a number of terrorist attacks in the capital city of the Irish State culminating in a massacre intended to cause maximum loss of life and limb – “the largest mass murder in the history of the Irish State”, as Maureen O’Sullivan correctly characterised it.
The Irish ruling elite failed to stop the escalating attacks and turned the investigation of the massacre into a farce. The Irish ruling elite failed to prevent the foreign power subverting the highest rank of its police force (and no doubt other levels in other areas).
The Irish ruling elite failed to take a full range of diplomatic and legal action to condemn the UK, the foreign power over its actions and failure to respond to requests for release of relevant secret papers. The ruling elite continues in that failure today as can be read into the weak speeches of Government Ministers at this ceremony – this time by the Taoiseach and last time the Minister for Justice.
No self-respecting elite or ruling class of any independent state would permit such violations of the security of its capital city and citizens without taking resolute and persistent action. The Irish ruling class is a neo-colonial capitalist class, undeserving even within capitalist terms to be in charge of any Irish state.
Around two thousand demonstrators, including a high proportion of women, held a rally on Saturday afternoon outside Leinster House, the building housing the Irish Parliament. They were protesting the lack of clarity around whether the new maternity hospital will carry out pregnancy terminations on demand — with the suspicion that it will not.
But speaker after speaker went further still and demanded the secularisation of the Irish health service and of society in general.
The issue arises in the first place due to the necessity to relocate the Dublin maternity services currently based at Holles Street due to the inability of the latter to meet the demand. However, the Government decided to relocate the facility to land near St. Vincent’s Hospital, owned by a Catholic Church organisation, which in turn formed a company to buy the land and lease it to the State at a nominal annual rate. It is the perceived Church veto on some procedures that has raised so much concern.
A SECULAR SOCIETY – A REPUBLICAN DEMAND
A secular society is a fundamentally republican demand, up there with opposition to monarchy. English Republicanism failed to achieve1 it even after the execution by Parliament of Charles I in 1649 but the French revolution did not, which was one of the reasons why the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy was against La Republique and against the United Irishmen too.
Irish Republicans after the United Irishmen have had at best an ambivalent attitude to the Catholic Church – although the Young Irelanders and even more so the Fenians were decidedly anti-clerical, the Republicans in the first two decades of the last century were not so in general and many actually courted the support of the Church. The fact that the Irish Republican movement during the rest of the century failed to lead social struggles is adequate testimony to its leadership at the very least not wishing to earn the hostility of the Catholic hierarchy. That in turn was one of the factors ensuring that the Republican movement failed to broaden its struggle to encompass the majority of the nation … a factor sufficient on its own to ensure its defeat.
On the whole it has been left to writers, revolutionary socialists, social democrats and liberals to fight the secularisation battles – but above all, left to women. Control of fertility, access to contraceptives, personal sexual freedom, gender equality in law, equal pay, and termination of pregnancy were all hard battles won over decades by women. And often at huge personal cost. Most of those battles confronted the authority of the Church Hierarchy and even when some did not so directly, they did so by implication, undermining its basic judgement that the role of a woman is as wife to husband and mother to children.
The position of the Church hierarchy in Irish society was one of moral judge, jury and practical punisher and when punishment failed to correct, the State took over. In fact, we can view the Irish State in social and political terms as a partnership of native capitalist class – the Gombeens – and the Church hierarchy. In return for its role in social control, the State permitted the education, health and social care systems to be run by the Church either wholly or in part. Which in turn increased the power and authority of the Church hierarchy further. And it was that unquestioned (and unquestionable) authority that fostered the decades of physical, mental and sexual abuse carried out by so many clergy, in particular on women and children.
Women are still to the forefront of the struggle for the secularisation of the State and they are too in this struggle over an important branch of the health service. The people need a well-resourced national health service, with free access – but it needs to be secular also. Irish Republicans who do not actively support this struggle are failing not only the society they hope one day to lead but, in secularisation, failing also a fundamental principle of republicanism. That one of the issues with regard to Church influence on the maternity hospital is a suspicion that it will not carry out elective pregnancy termination should not prevent even those Irish Republicans opposed to elective termination from supporting its secularisation.
Quite simply, one is either a Republican and therefore in favour of a secular health service — or one is not a Republican.
Since 1524, not only is the UK a monarchy but the monarch, the Head of State, is also the head of the (Anglican) Church of England.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
1A strong organisation in the antifascist resistance to the fascist-military uprising against the Spanish Republic but no longer in existence.
Yes, indeed, we have been. Let us look back over the campaign of misinformation about conflict in Ireland for it has much to teach us about the mass media, about human credulity. We don’t need to go back over 800 years – just to the recent the 30-Year War.
In 1968 a civil rights campaign1 took off in the British Six-County colony in Ireland to include a number of marches and sit-ins, which was regularly met with violence from Loyalist2 mobs and the State. As part of the campaign, in 1969 a march from Belfast to Dublin was organised under the slogan “Civil Rights – North and South”. One of that march’s stops was in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, where the marchers sat at a crossroads and were instantly attacked by the armed British colonial police (then the RUC3, now the PSNI).
Some of the marchers had come from Britain to support the campaign and after being attacked in Lurgan, they bought an English newspaper to see whether the incident had been reported. An occurrence in the town had been reported alright but not what had occurred – the report told their readers that a fight between Catholics and Protestants had been broken up by the RUC, keeping the two sides apart. “There wasn’t a Protestant in sight,” commented a marcher angrily, “except those in RUC uniform …. or unless he was one of us4.”
Later that year, in August, the RUC killed four civilians, including a child, in the Divis Flats area of Belfast by firing at the area with a machine-gun mounted on an armoured car. Their claim they were returning fire from the area was widely refuted by local people but repeated in the media. The incident was not investigated until decades later when the claims of family and local witnesses were vindicated in an Ombudsman’s report.
The representation of the RUC as a force for peace between two groups in a sectarian conflict was to be a repeated media disinformation line through the ongoing conflict, as the struggle became an armed one — although to a large degree the honest broker ‘peacemaker’ cloak shifted from the colonial police on to the British Army.
British troops were sent in to the colony (by a Labour Government, in case we had illusions) in August 1969 and were initially greeted by many people in the ‘nationalist’5 community as saviours, sent to keep the sectarian RUC and Loyalist mobs (often enough amounting to the same thing) away from them. Most politicians and the media represented them as peace-keepers. For most nationalists the illusions did not last long as the Army turned their guns on them.
Although no British soldier had been killed in the Six Counties by the IRA as yet6, on 3rd July 1970 the British Army invaded the staunchly nationalist area of the Lower Falls and forced their way into homes, saying they were searching for arms. Local youths mobilised and attacked the soldiers with stones and petrol bombs7. The soldiers responded by pumping CS gas into the area and soon gun-battles between the IRA and the British Army broke out.
‘After four hours of continuous clashes, the British commander sealed off the area, which comprised 3,000 homes, and imposed a curfew which would last for 36 hours. Thousands of British troops moved into the curfew zone and carried out house-to-house searches for weapons, while coming under intermittent attack from the IRA and rioters. The searches caused much destruction, and a large amount of CS gas was fired into the area. Many residents complained of suffering abuse at the hands of the soldiers. On 5 July, the curfew was brought to an end when thousands of women and children from Anderstonstown8 marched into the curfew zone with food and other supplies for the locals.
‘During the operation, four civilians were killed by the British Army, at least 78 people were wounded and 337 were arrested. Eighteen soldiers were also wounded. Large quantities of weapons and ammunition were (allegedly – DB) captured. The British Army admitted afterwards that some of its soldiers had been involved in looting.’9
At the time, most of the media reported the clashes as unruly elements irrationally attacking the Army who were there to protect them and were only doing their job. However, the opinion of the nationalist community, though ignored by the media had undergone a huge shift and the first serving British soldier (of many to follow) was killed by the IRA the following year.10
Later in 1970, during riots in Derry, the Army shot two men from the nationalist area, Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie, claiming afterwards that they were armed, a claim local people denied. There was no investigation by the authorities, obliging the constitutionalist SDLP11 to withdraw from the colony’s parliament in protest.
On 4th December 1971, an explosion in the Catholic-owned McGurk’s Bar in Belfast killed 15 people and injured 16. Due to the bar’s ownership and location, the most logical attribution would be to Loyalists or British forces. It would be hard to pin it on the IRA – unless it could be said to have been an accidental explosion of an IRA bomb during storage or transportation. That was what the “security forces” came up with, which of course was repeated by the media. An alternative media theory was that in some manner it was a result of a feud between the Official and Provisional IRA. In order to construct that theory, the denials of the IRA had to be discounted12, despite the organisations’ track record of taking public responsibility for its actions.
The explosion had occurred in the pub’s doorway, which would have thrown doubt on the “IRA bomb in transit” story but somehow, the RUC’s forensic examination did not determine that. But even worse, the evidence of an eyewitness had to be dismissed.
‘On 6 December, however, the RUC took a witness statement from an 8-year-old boy. He said that a car had stopped outside the pub with four men inside and “a wee Union Jack stuck in the back window”. He said one left a package in the Great George’s Street doorway and ran back to the car, which sped off just moments before the package exploded. A man and a woman backed up his story, although they did not witness as much as the boy.’13
‘In March 1976 the RUC received intelligence that linked UVF member Robert Campbell and four others to the McGurk’s bombing. Campbell was arrested on 27 July 1977 and held at Castlereagh RUC base. He was interviewed seven times during 27 and 28 July. He admitted his part in the bombing but refused to name the others.Campbell’s story matches that given by the young boy witness.’14
On 29 July 1977, Campbell was charged with the 15 murders and 17 attempted murders and in September 1978 pleaded guilty to all charges (he also had a separate conviction for the murder of a Protestant delivery driver in 1976). He eventually served fifteen years in prison, being released on 9th September 1993.15
Despite the 1978 convictions and even Campbell’s confessions, the “own goal bomb” theory of responsibility lingered and relatives sought for years to have the case properly investigated, some also alleging that the RUC had colluded in helping the killers get away out of the area and in the false atrributions later, possibly even with the intention of setting the two IRA organisations at one another’s throats.
In what has become a depressingly familiar story, the relatives campaigned on in the face of police inaction and media disinterest for years, during which many of the directly-affected died through natural causes, to receive partial vindication at last in an Ombudsman’s report which laid the blame squarely on a Loyalist gang and castigated the RUC for a biased and inadequate investigation. The report was published in February 2011– it had taken the campaigners only 40 years16.
The introduction of internment without trial in August 1971 was, according to the media, a necessary measure to deal with political violence from all sides. Not one Loyalist was arrested that year, or the next and it was not until 1973 that a single Loyalist had been interned, the total by December 1975, when the measure was ended, having been 107 against 1,874 from the Nationalist community.17
The Paratroop Regiment, British Army shocktroops, were sent into the colony that year too18. Between 9th and 11th August in the Belfast area of Ballymurphy, the Paratroopers caused the deaths of 10 men and a woman and wounded many19. The Paratroopers claimed they had been shot at and were returning fire and that all their targets had been “terrorists”20. The media repeated these lies and, if reporters interviewed wounded and other witnesses, their accounts were not published. There was no investigation and, as with the deaths of many victims of RUC and British Army, there was no inquest concluded until decades later (2021 for these victims21).
The nationalist community called a demonstration in Derry for 30th January the following year to protest the massacres and against the introduction of internment. The Paratroopers were there again and they and other British Army soldiers shot down unarmed demonstrators, causing the deaths of 14 and injuring at least another 15. The Army claimed they had been returning fire from Irish Republicans and had shot only gunmen and bombers and on the whole, the media parroted their claims.
The British put their top judge, Lord Chief Justice Widgery, to hold an inquiry and in April that year his verdict upheld the Army’s version and also blamed the organisers of the march. The media of course promoted that verdict too. It was not until the extraordinarilyy long and hugely expensive Bloody Sunday Inquiry set up 1998 22 produced the Saville Report in 2010 that the British officially (and then of course also the media) accepted what all of Derry and much of Ireland already knew, that the Paras had opened fire in a non-threatening situation and selectively targeted and killed unarmed civilians23.
British soldiers shot another five unarmed people dead in the Springhill area of Belfast on July 9th, yet again as in Ballymurphy the previous year, including a priest administering the last rites but this time their tally was also an thirteen-year-old girl24. The original ‘official’ account of the shootings— that those shot were ‘gunmen’ — was almost immediately discredited, and was changed shortly after; the claim then became that those murdered were simply caught in the crossfire. Again the media covered the Army story without investigation or challenge.
In 1988 on Sunday 6th March British SAS soldiers shot dead three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar. When it was revealed that the three had been unarmed, firstly the media claimed that they had been about to trigger an explosion but some time later the British found the explosives in a car in a Spanish carpark across the border without any electronic link to the dead volunteers. When the British claimed that the Volunteers had made threatening moves, eyewitnessed testified that not only had they been unarmed when shot but had been extra-judicially executed as they lay on the ground with their hands up in surrender position. One of the eye-witnesses was Gibraltar resident Carmen Proetta, who then became a target for British media slurs, even going to the extent of suggesting that she was a sex-worker.
On Monday 7 March all eleven British national daily newspapers reported the story that a bomb had been found. Many gave detailed information about the size (mostly 500 pounds), purpose and type of the bomb as well as how it was defused. The Daily Mail suggested that the bomb might have a ‘video timing device’, while Today and the Independent mentioned ‘remote control’. The Daily Mirror told us that ‘a controlIed explosion failed to set off the bomb’ whilst the Daily Mail added ‘RAF disposal men defused it later’.25
On 28 April 1988, almost two months after the Gibraltar shootings, the ITV television channel defied British Government pressure and threats of legal action to broadcast “Death on the Rock” an episode of its current affairs series This Week, produced by Thames Television, based on investigations of three journalists and many interviews. This led to a ferocious media attack on the documentary, its programers and the IBA, the governing watchdog authority.
‘Over the following weeks, newspapers repeatedly printed stories about the documentary’s witnesses, in particular Carmen Proetta, who gave an account of seeing McCann and Farrell shot without warning by soldiers who arrived in a Gibraltar Police car. Proetta subsequently sued several newspapers for libel and won substantial damages. The Sunday Times conducted its own investigation and reported that “Death on the Rock” had misrepresented the views of its witnesses; those involved later complained to other newspapers that The Sunday Times had distorted their comments.’26
A great number of situations arose during the 30 Years War in the British colony that were either unreported or misrepresented by the mass media, including “confessions” obtained through torture, RUC and British Army collusion with Loyalist murder gangs, inhumane treatment of political prisoners, Army shooting of unarmed civilians, extra-judicial executions of Republican Volunteers and blackmailing individuals for information or to carry out agent-provocateur actions.
WITHIN THE IRISH STATE
In 1969 the grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown was blown up by Loyalists27 and between 1971 and 1974 there was a series of bombings in Dublin by Loyalists and British Intelligence. The bombing campaign began by aiming at symbolic structures and went on to target civilians which cost the lives of 36 civilians (and a full-term unborn child) and injured around 490, presumably to pressurise the Irish Government into increased repression of Republican paramilitaries.
In January 1971 the O’Connell Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery was damaged (not repaired finally until 2019, 47 years later)28, presumably as an attack on a prominent Irish Catholic29 icon. But in February 1971 the Wolfe Tone30 monument in Stephen’s Green was also blown up, like the blowing up of the grave, an attack on Irish Republicanism and its rebellious Protestant origins31. Bombings now aimed at civilians in Dublin followed and between 26 November 1972 and 20 January 1973, there were four paramilitary bombings in the centre of Dublin, claiming the lives of three public transport workers and injuring 185.
The first suspicion of responsibility for those bombings should naturally have fallen on the Loyalists and perhaps, by extension, on a British intelligence agency. It didn’t though; in the media and political circles, it was projected on to the IRA.
That could not have made logical sense, since such explosions could only have harmed the IRA among the Irish population. However there was another specific reason why it made even less sense, (if possible): in 1972 Leinster House32 was about to debate repressive legislation that would set up special no-jury courts to convict Republicans with the word of a police officer (at the rank of Superintendent or above) sufficient to convict of “membership of an illegal organisation”, with an automatic two-year jail sentence. The proposed legislation was being put forward by Fianna Fáil but Fine Gael and the Labour Party were mustering to vote against it and if they did, the new legislation would fall.
In the midst of the horror about the bombing, the opposition crumbled and the bill went through, against protests of many human and civil rights agencies33; it became law, has sent many people to jail on dubious ‘evidence’ and is in force to this day.
Not only that, but the failure to energetically investigate the 1974 bombing meant that some of the Loyalist perpetrators were free to murder many civilians in the following years – some of the bombers were members of the infamous Glennane Gang, a Loyalist-RUC-British Intelligence group of killers responsible for up to 120 murders of civilians35.
The events in Ireland were of course being felt by the Irish diaspora in England too. Marches, pickets and public meetings protesting the RUC’s repression of marches for civil rights were held in many British cities, as they were against sending the British Army into the Six Counties, introduction of internment without trial and shooting protesters dead. Some groups on the British Left were also attending these events and occasionally organising their own. Irish solidarity was becoming a major issue for anti-imperialist solidarity in Britain and abroad, in addition to being in a sense a major domestic issue in Britain too.
The IRA began to extend Britain’s war to their homeland in a bombing campaign in 1971, at first targeting property. However, in 1974 bombs in two pubs in Birmingham killed 21 people which was difficult to understand but according to an alleged perpetrator, the warning intended by the bombers was frustrated through out-of-order public telephone boxes. The Guildford and Woolwich bombs, aimed at pubs frequented by British soldiers, killed five soldiers and two civilians overall and injured 101 people.
The horror and outrage resulting from that carnage gave the British State the environment in which they could launch a wholesale clampdown on the Irish diaspora. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was rushed through the Westminster Parliament in 1974, specifically targeting the Irish community. The Act empowered the police to raid homes, to hold suspects without access to a solicitor for up to five days and longer on special application and to summarily deport Irish people from Britain – even to their own colony. It also empowered the police to stop and question Irish people without warrant or having to show cause and thousands were stopped and questioned at ports and airports as they travelled from Ireland to Britain or vice versa, sometimes missing their flights or boat as a result. People were questioned on the street too and on Irish solidarity demonstrations.
In that atmosphere, of which the media was the main facilitator in British society, it was fairly easy for the State to frame nearly a score of innocent people on bombing charges and to sentence them to many years in jail on the flimsiest of “evidence”, later to refuse their right to appeal, later still, granting that right but denying the justice of their cases.
Judith Ward was arrested in February 1974, sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years in October 1974 and her conviction overturned in May 1992.
The Birmingham Six were arrested in November 1974, sentenced to jail for life in August 1975, their convictions finally overturned in March 1991.
The Guildford Four were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to imprisonment for life in October 1975, their convictions finally overturned in October 1989.
Giuseppe Conlon and the Maguire Six were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to 4, 51, 12 and 14 years in 1976, their convictions overturned in 1991. By that time Vincent and Patrick had already served their sentences and Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four, had died in jail.
1Patrick Maguire was only 14 at the time and Vincent only 17.
The UK media in particular played a huge part in setting the atmosphere in which these unjust convictions could take place and in making the struggle of the innocent for justice difficult. Even after their acquittal, some of the media insinuated that they had been guilty and had got free through some kind of legal loopholes.
Could the media have known differently? Yes, certainly, not one of the cases would stand up to reasonable inspection. The Guildford Four were hippies living in a squat, the Birmingham Six were escorting the body of a deceased IRA man to Ireland when the bombs exploded, the Maguires were a Tory-voting woman with teenage children, Giuseppe was only in London to help his son after the latter’s arrest and Judith Ward was mentally ill, homeless and penniless37. Their ‘confessions’, obtained through torture and intimidation38, were admitted as evidence against them, although they all retracted them and declared how they had been obtained. The forensic evidence was faulty and besides recording a false positive and even though the defence team had a forensic expert to refute it during their trial, the Prosecution’s expert was the one accepted.
The February 1977 confession by an IRA unit to the Woolwich and Guildford bombing after their capture in the Balcome Street siege was not accepted, although they were able to give details of the bombing. So tortured and retracted ‘confessions’ were acceptable whereas one voluntarily given was not.
Apart from the logical doubts that should have arisen in even a light examination of the cases, the media also had access to detailed refutation of the case against the Birmingham Six. Although much has been made recently of the investigation of the case by Chris Mullin, the publication of his book Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings (1985), the research for which went into the earlier 1984 ITV World in Action documentary, a detailed challenge to the convictions had been published much earlier. Only two years after the arrest of the Birmingham Six, Fathers Murray and Faul had published The Birmingham Framework39, which they had sent to British politicians and media agents. In 1982 the Irish in Britain Representation Group40 also publicly called for the freeing of the framed prisoners and continued to do so for every year thereafter. Other organisations such as the Troops Out Movement41 called for their release also and trade union branches began to support such calls.
It suited the State that the British public think the prisoners guilty and the British media played their part in that purpose. In a way, it also suited the State if the Irish community knew the prisoners were innocent since, if even the innocent could be jailed so easily, how could any Irish person be safe except by keeping his or her head down low? Irish solidarity activities declined in occurrence and in numbers attending. With few exceptions, the Irish community in Britain was cowed from 1974 until the Hunger Strikes of 1981 brought them out on the streets again, the terror broken by the spirit of solidarity and outrage.
The above examples are only a selection of situations in Ireland during the period under discussion about which we and the world were misinformed or censored. Throughout the 30 Years’ War so many accusations against the British armed forces, including their armed colonial police, have been ignored or recorded disbelievingly by the media – in particular the British section but within the Irish state also – and repeated by media services abroad, to be picked up by other media …. and so on, and on. And likewise with accusations against British intelligence services and their domestic police force.
Why then are the current claims of the Ukrainian government published through the mass media being accepted without question on every count? Why is everything the Russian government says discounted or ignored without checking? Why are we not concerned at banning of alternative media and censorship of commentators who are not repeating the party line? Why are we not outraged at the agreed delivery of Julian Assange by the UK to the USA on charges of “spying” because he exposed their lies and murderous activities in Iraq and Afghanistan? Given our own experience over 30 years of the UK media’s dismal record of reporting on the conflict in Ireland – and its equally dismal repetition in the western media – why are we now believing without critical examination the western media reporting on the war in the Ukraine?
1The civil rights campaign in the Six Counties was in pursuance of equal rights for the Catholic minority with the Protestant majority there, in the electoral franchise, in housing and employment, along with the repeal of the repressive Special Powers Act.
2‘Loyalists’ is a term describing militants – always of Protestant community background – in various organisations — who insist on remaining within the UK. The first armed actions in the 30 Years War were by Loyalists.
3Although the Royal Ulster Constabulary was created in 1922, when Ireland was partitioned, it was in effect a continuation of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British occupation’s gendarmerie (nation-wide semi-military police force, such as exists in Spain, Turkey, Italy, France, etc) in existence throughout all of Ireland since 1822. Although the personnel of the RIC had been mostly Catholic in background (usually with Protestant senior officers), the RUC was determinedly Protestant from the start, both in its full-time and part-time membership. However, a minority of the civil rights campaigners were also from Protestant backgrounds.
4As part of the control structures in the Six Counties, the authorities had recruited only non-Catholics into the colonial police force, which helped unionist politicians and media represent an attack on the police as a sectarian attack. Though a few Catholics have been recruited since the 1990s and Sinn Féin has been supporting recruitment drives in nationalist areas, the PSNI personnel remain overwhelmingly of Protestant background.
5A convenient term used to describe the large minority community, mostly of Catholic background, mostly of the original population but with some earlier intermarriage into the majority community, which is of mostly colonist/ settler origin.
11The Social and Democratic Labour Party, advocating reform through legal and constitutional methods.
12Two days after the explosion, on December 6th, both the Official and Provisional IRAs issued statements condemning the bombing and denying any involvement. Local people also denied any association between the pub and either of the armed organisations.
18Despite some time searching online I have not come across the exact date they were there by May 1971 and it may be that they had been sent there as part of plan that included the introduction of internment without trial later that year.
20The fact that one fatal victim was a mother of eight children and another, a local priest, should have alerted media to the fact that the Paras were likely lying and local people likely telling the truth.
22Likely initiated as as a payoff to the Provisionals for buying into the Peace/ Pacification Process, the other being the early release on licence of their members in jail, the inquiry lasted twelve years and cost £195 million.
23No senior Army officer or senior politician of the time has even been charged for those murders. One lower-ranking soldier was eventually charged but in July 2021, the Public Prosecution Service decided it would no longer prosecute him either.
29Daniel O’Connell, a constitutional Irish nationalist politician and Catholic, campaigned for the repeal of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws in which he was largely successful in 1869 and unsuccessfully for repeal of the Act of Union, which had transferred the internal legislation of Ireland through its Parliament to Westminster instead in 1801.
30Theobald ‘Wolfe’ Tone was an Anglican campaigner for reform of anti-Catholic legislation (only Anglicans could be elected to the Irish Parliament) who became a revolutionary Irish Republican when those attempts failed. He was a founder of the revolutionary republican United Irishmen organisation. He was captured by the British after surrender of the French naval ship on which he was travelling on 12th October 1978. Although an officer in the Army of France he was tried for treason and sentenced to be executed; on 19th September 1798 he died in prison of wounds, apparently self-inflicted to deny the State his public execution.
40The IBRG was formed late in 1981 as an independent community organisation, among the issues it took up were those of anti-Irish racism, access to resources for the community, an end to strip-searching of prisoners, freedom for the framed prisoners and British withdrawal from Ireland.
41The Troops Out Movement was founded in 1973 as a broad organisation to mobilise the British public for withdrawal of British troops from Ireland; with branches in many parts of Britain, it organised marches, pickets, public meetings and published pamphlets. The relevant Wikipedia incorrectly claims it was “an Irish Republican organisation” — though it naturally did contain Irish Republicans, it also contained British revolutionary left and social-democratic elements. Though maintaining its independence for decades, it did towards the end of the 1990s become closely linked to Provisional Sinn Féin.
We are a people – or nation – that has been invaded; we have resisted and suffered in that resistance. Naturally we tend to sympathise with other countries who have been – or are being – invaded too. Many other peoples have been invaded more often than has Ireland; the Book of Invasions and Occupations of some of those would run to many pages. Few however have been occupied for nearing a millenium by what has been essentially the same invader – as has our little nation. So the question as to whether invasions are always wrong is bound to arouse an emotional feeling of rejection in us, of hostility to the questioner, even. Still, I ask the question and turn to history for the answer, our own history and that of other places.
INVASIONS OF IRELAND
The Vikings invaded Ireland (a sovereign state or collection of states) in successive waves from Norway and Denmark areas, took people to be sold as slaves, pillaged and looted and in time occupied parts of our land. They were hardly welcome but after their defeat at the Battle of Clontarf (sic) in 1014, left little permanent damage.
The Normans, invading in 1169, were a different matter, with less pillaging but wreaking far-reaching adverse changes, especially as they became the English ruling class, a mixing of Norman and Anglo-Saxon elites. Our land was turned into a colony, competing industries destroyed, the majority population turned into second-class subjects, our produce used to fuel the British industrial revolution, followed by famine here, mass emigration, our resistance repressed ……
In our strivings to be free from the English Occupation, we invited an invasion from the Spanish Kingdom to Ireland and one arrived in 1601, which was followed by the Siege and Battle of Kinsale (2nd October 1601-3rd January 1602) between Irish clans and their Spanish allies against the English. The latter’s victory resulted in English conquest over the whole island and the destruction of the remains of the Gaelic social and legal order in Ireland.
During the Jacobite War (1689-1691), the Irish and Anglo-Irish clans invited Royal French forces to invade Ireland in order to assist them in supporting King James II his bid to regain the English Crown1 and that too ended badly for the Irish with the Limerick Treaty, the flight of the Wild Geese and the religious Penal Laws.
In the late 1790s, the United Irishmen once again invited the French forces — but this time Republican – to assist them in overthrowing English rule in Ireland in what was a semi-sovereign state. The planned French invasion failed due to adverse weather conditions in 1796 and a smaller force successfully landed in Mayo in the closing weeks of the 1798 Rising, joined with Irish insurgents and defeated English military units but was soon surrounded and, massively outnumbered, surrendered.
During WWI sovereign states in large areas of the world, in particular in Europe and in the Middle East, were invaded by the armies of many states, comprising those of the Central Powers of Germany, Austro-Hungary and Turkey on one side and those of the Entente — UK, France, USA, Turkey, Russia, Italy and Japan – on the other. The cause of the war was contention between imperial powers and no side could be said to have been justified in the alliance they joined or in invasions carried out as a result. One revealing example of the gap between justication propaganda and reality was that the UK claimed that it was waging war with Germany in defence of the little nation of Belgium, while it repressed a rising of the little nation of Ireland. Likewise, the USA, which claimed to want a post-war world of peace and security for small nations, refused to receive the delegations of a number of small or weaker nations, including that of Ireland, to the Paris Peace Conference2.
In the runup to WWII and during it, parts of Africa, Asia and most of Europe, including many sovereign states3, were invaded by the Nazis and Fascist powers of Germany, Italy or Japan4, with horrific consequences for the people who lived in the invaded lands.
Would we have countenanced an invasion of Nazi Germany to prevent what it was going to do? In any case, during the War, the counter-attack of the Allies also invaded huge parts of the world, including sovereign states that had colluded with the Nazis, as well countries totally dominated by them: the USSR invaded Eastern Europe beyond the USSR’s earlier borders, also sovereign Germany and sovereign Austria; the USA and UK invaded France (part-sovereign, part-occupied) and Italy (part-liberated by popular revolt) and all three invaded sovereign Germany and Austria too, but also North Africa; the USA invaded the Phillippines and Indo-China. Had we been alive then, most of us would have cheered those invasions – they brought down the terrible Axis forces, liberated death camps, freed people from fascist rule.
But the UK and France retook their colonies, where they had been suppressing and repressing the people for generations.5 The UK and USA prevented the Greeks from stopping the return of their monarch (their sovereign) and, combining former fascist police with their own armed forces, suppressed the Greek rising. And the USA installed themselves in the Phillippines, making them their neo-colonies. The USA also began to cultivate elites as clients in Indo-China, particularly in Korea and Vietnam.
The reoccupations of colonies and transfer of control to new masters were the cause of a wave of anti-colonial struggles and wars of repression in India and Malaya with the UK; in North Africa with the French; in Korea with the USA; in Vietnam with the French first and then with the USA; in the Middle East and West Africa with the UK and France. They also facilitated the creation of the Zionist state of Israel with horrific consequences (including invasions by it) that continue to be played out to this day.
The struggles of people resulted in the eventual national liberation of areas of the world, including part of Korea and later, Vietnam, creating states. Cambodia and Laos, having been bombed by the USA in its war with the Vietnamese people, came under new national regimes. But the new rulers of Cambodia’s sovereign state, under the Pol Pot regime, developed a new kind of horrific rule resulting in the distinction of becoming the country with most mass graves in the world6. That sovereign regime was toppled by an intervention of Vietnamese forces and those of us alive then cheered that invasion.
The Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique were freed by liberation struggles but in Mozambique were assisted by Cuban troops, which also helped them resist invasion by South African troops and proxies.7
Much closer to our own time, the UK and USA/NATO, leading coalitions of other states, invaded Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, destabilising them and destroying for years the development potential of those countries8. They attempted the same with Syria and that conflict is ongoing. The excuse given was always along the lines of countering a threat to the world (Iraq: “Weapons of mass destruction”, “Al Khaeda”) or liberating their populations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria).
INVASIONS GENERALLY — AND WHAT ABOUT UKRAINE?
So, reviewing the historical record, very few would say that invading another region — even a sovereign state — is wrong on every occasion. Most would say, I think, that it would depend on the motivation for the invasion, how it is conducted and what the invaders do afterwards.
Hopefully this can help us to mediate the automatic Irish sympathetic reaction to the war in the Ukraine and with regard to the Western-dominated discourse that Russia is automatically wrong – purely because its troops invaded the Ukrainian sovereign state. Russia may indeed be wrong – but not purely on the fact that it invaded.
Which then moves the evaluation on to a more productive and rational basis. Was the reason for the invasion justified? How did Russian troops conduct themselves during the invasion? What is intended as the longer-term outcome of the invasion?
Here, unfortunately we are in a marsh of propaganda, fake news, partial accounts, censorship9 ….. and the war has not yet concluded. But we can try to navigate our way across this marsh relying on the fairly firm patches we can find and hopefully avoiding getting stuck or even sucked down.
Justification for the invasion?
Russia says it invaded because it was being encircled and threatened by NATO, while the latter denies this. The evidence is however on the side of Russia in this disagreement10.
Putin also says that he did so to “de-nazify” the Ukraine. Considering the number of active fascists in Russia, this does not ring true, though the presence of nazi militia in the Azov Battalion is undeniable and the the Ukrainian regime is certainly glorifying Nazis in its past.
Conduct during the invasion
When Russia invaded it says that it fought to confront military units and to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. In the early days of the war this does seem to have been the case. As the fighting grew fiercer around Kyiv and Mariupol, it was harder to ascertain the truth, with Ukranian claim the Russians were targeting civilian structures and Russian counter-claim that, in Mariupol in particular, the Ukrainian forces were firing from civilian structures, which naturally attracted Russian return fire. And of course, bombardment of any large area is going to result, whether intended or not, in damage to civilian structures.
Another Ukrainian accusation, widely covered in the western media, is that the Russians were kidnapping civilians and transporting them back to Russia. The latter responded that they were facilitating the evacuation of civilians from danger areas. A similar Ukranian removal of civilians, on the face of it, is represented as a humanitarian action. Humanitarian evacuation or kidnapping? By one or the other, or by both?
There have been Ukranian accusations that the Russians executed captured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians and the Western media and political leaders have repeated those accusations. What appears to be bodies of civilians have been photographed in the streets of Bucha and Irpin after the Russians forces retreated, some of which appeared to have their hands tied behind their backs.
The Russians have rejected the whole story as fake news, pointing out that the Mayor of Bucha had smilingly recorded a video message after the Russian military evacuation of his town, during which he had made no mention at all of any such executions. Also that the reports of the alleged executions did not emerge until four days after they had evacuated the town.
However the Ukrainians also say that a mass grave containing 410 bodies has been uncovered outside Kyiv. Russia has said it wants the issue discussed at the UN Security Council11 but so far have been blocked by another permanent member, the UK (the latter holds the Presidency of the Security Council at the moment)12.
We must await some kind of even semi-independent investigation but if any of these allegations turn out to be true it will certainly be a powerful indictment of Russia’s conduct during the invasion.
We do not know for certain what the situtation will look like post-conflict but it looks likely that Russia will withdraw from most of the Ukraine, which will remain outside NATO and with much-reduced armament, which was part of what Russia was seeking even years before the conflict. But it also looks as though Russia will retain the Crimea and the Donbas area.
To judge whether that retention is just or not, one has to choose between two narratives (or some synthesis of both).
The Russian narrative is that after the change of government in 2014 there was a campaign against ethnic and linguistic minorities, in particular Russian-speakers, by the Ukrainian authorities, aided by fascist forces. These attacked the Russian-speaking areas, the latter mobilised to defend themselves and asked Russia to come to their defence.
The Western narrative is that Russia egged on Russian speakers to fight the Ukrainians and to secede and that the whole thing was just a Russian land grab.
But one way or another, the bare fact of Russian invasion is not sufficient to decide against them, much less to agree with what is essentially the dominant US/NATO discourse of the western media – the bigger and longer picture needs to be examined.
1Both Irish and Anglo-Irish sought an end to religious oppression of Catholics and retention of their lands; the Irish clans may have also sought recovery of some of their ancestral lands.
2More about the division of the world between victorious powers and punishing the losers, than about peace.
3The Austrian state was subverted under threat by the Nazis, as was also the Norwegian, followed quickly by invasion.
4Nazi Germany also recruited fascist units from Spain, Ukraine and Romania into their army and Japan recruited Koreans; in addition an Indian natiolal liberation army fought the English occupation in coalition with the Japanese.
5The Japanese were asked to hold on to their conquered territory in parts of SE Asia until the French could move back in, for example in Vietnam.
6Spain is the second, dating from its Civil War/ Anti-fascist War, a sovereign monarchical state evolving from a successful fascist-military coup against an elected Republican government.
7A highly simplified description, as there were civil war elements also with fighting for control between different factions of the former liberation movement.
8The UK holds the record for countries invaded, while the USA holds the record for involvement in military conflicts since WWII.
9Twitter has taken down an archive of six years of Chris Hedges’ Contact programs, Netflix has removed the Oliver Stone documentary “Ukraine Is Burning”, the US and UK has banned RT and Russia then banned BBC, China has banned BBC and Facebook, the latter has unbanned the fascist Ukrainian Azov Battallion …. And the Western Left is ignoring Naom Chomsky.
10Just Google “Map NATO states in Eastern Europe”.
11The United Nations is a body containing essentially two general decision-making bodies, the General Assemby of every full member nation — currently 193 – and the 15-member Security Council, which makes the only binding decisions. However, the decisions of the rest can be vetoed by any of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council: USA, UK, France, Russia and China.
12Any entering of the words “Russia” combined with “war-crimes” or “executions” into a search engine will bring an avalanche of western reporting of the allegations but scant treatment of the Russian response. As balance I have included only two rare more balanced western reports in the Sources section.
The online publication Middle East Eye published on March 22nd an open letter from Palestinian political analyst As’ad Ghanem sharply criticising the Ukrainian President, Volodomir Zelensky, for the latter’s March 20th speech by Zoom before the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The Palestinian academic’s criticism was, at base, entirely irrational.
As’ad Ghanem is a senior lecturer at the School of Political Sciences, University of Haifa. Ghanem’s theoretical work has explored the legal, institutional and political conditions in ethnic states. He has covered issues such as Palestinian political orientations, the establishment and political structure of the Palestinian Authority, and majority-minority politics in a comparative perspective. His books include Palestinian Politics after Arafat: A Failed National Movement (Indiana Series in Middle East Studies). Ghanem has initiated several empowerment programs for Palestinians in Israel.
Ghanem’s opening paragraph, though a denunciation of Zelensky’s speech, seemed to display a misapprehension of the conflict in the Ukraine and of Zelensky’s role there: Your recent speech before the Israeli Knesset was a disgrace when it comes to global struggles for freedom and liberation, particularly of the Palestinian people. You reversed the roles of occupier and occupied. You missed another opportunity to demonstrate the justice of your cause and the broader cause of freedom.
Any hope that Ghanem’s words were some kind of subtle attack on imperialism in Eastern Europe, an exposure of its false defence of national sovereignty, democracy and freedom, were swiftly expelled in reading the third and fourth paragraphs of his letter:
I am angry and sad that Russia is seeking to occupy your country and to crush the rights of the Ukrainian people to self-determination and freedom, and I believe that every possible support must be given to Ukrainians as they resist this barbaric aggression……
And while I admire your success in building a large international coalition to support your struggle against Russian aggression, I wish we as Palestinians could persuade the world to mobilise in a similar fashion, and force Israel to abide by international resolutions.
But Ghanem wants to show that although he may be a liberal, he is also an anti-imperialist. So he adds the following line to his third paragraph: At the same time, I reject the policies of the US and its Nato allies around the globe.
What an irrational position to hold! “The policies of the US and its Nato allies around the world” being enacted are precisely what is causing the current conflict in the Ukraine and it is those forces that are backing Zelensky and employing him in their contention with Russia.
Asad Ghanem’s plaintive criticism and appeal to Zelensky and — by implication — to imperialism exposes the ideological bankruptsy of the liberal critics of imperialism1. He is disappointed by Zelensky’s support for the murderous and racist rule of Israeli Zionism and sees it as somehow in contradiction with his position in the Ukrainian state’s conflict with Russia.
TO GAIN UNDERSTANDING, ASK BASIC QUESTIONS
The answers to a few simple questions would have disabused Ghanem and other pro-Palestinian liberal critics of imperialism of any confusion or illusion about the situation: Which major imperialist military bloc is supporting the Ukraine in the current conflict? NATO. Which imperialist state controls NATO at least since 1951? The USA. Which power fundamentally props up and defends the Zionist state? US imperialism.
Even without any consideration of the reported Zionist state’s training and arming of the Ukrainian Azov, Zelensky’s stance towards Israeli Zionism is entirely in line with his alliances and Ghanem’s criticism completely irrational. If Zelensky is to be criticised politically for anything, it is for perhaps making his alliances so clear.
RATIONAL STANCE TOWARDS IMPERIALISM
Ghanem concludes his letter thus:
I know that most Palestinians are watching your stubborn struggle and wishing you victory over Russia’s brutal aggression. (Really? I sincerely doubt it – DB2). I also know that a Russian victory would be a great gift to Israel’s aggressive posture – a victory for its “Iron Wall” concept, which regulates its dealings with us until our complete defeat.
On the other hand, the struggle and victory of your people, even with the destruction of much of your country and the displacement of scores of Ukrainians, would give hope to other peoples struggling against oppression and erasure, rekindling our hopes for return and liberation. To this end, I urge you to stop supporting our oppressors.
The only rational stands towards imperialism are outright support or outright opposition — and the latter is the revolutionary position. Liberals want to criticise imperialism without being revolutionary, presumably because they feel more comfortable in the imperialist world than fear they would in a revolutionary one. They ask imperialism (which is what they usually mean by “the international community”) to remedy a situation here and there, a situation that usually only exists directly or indirectly because of imperialism.
Of course, imperialism regularly disappoints them but, like besotted lovers in an abusive relationship, they never learn, they never abandon their relationship but instead keep returning, asking their partner to behave better this time.
1Which is certainly no worse than that of the appalling stance of a major part of the Western Left
2“The two Arab Israeli (this is Zionist apartheid code for Palestinians – DB) parties chose to snub Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to the Knesset on Sunday night, with only one Arab lawmaker out of their 10 MPs showing up. Joint List chief Ayman Odeh skipped the speech, as did the two other lawmakers from his Hadash faction, party officials said. A spokesperson for Odeh did not respond to a request for comment. “Our position is that NATO and its leader America imposed this war,” said Mansour Dahamsheh, the Hadash party’s secretary-general, in a phone call with The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-israeli-mks-skip-zelenskys-knesset-speech-nato-imposed-this-war/