A new periodical has emerged from the Irish Left. At the time of writing two issues of Rupture have been produced and Parts I and II of this article consist of a political overview (but of course from my individual viewpoint) of a number of issues discussed in the magazine. While the assessment of some is highly critical, overall my opinion is that Rupture is a welcome introduction to socialist analysis of conditions in Ireland.
Rupture is a quarterly magazine format produced by RISE, a group of socialists whose most publicly-prominent individual is Paul Murphy (see Appendix) who is also a TD, i.e a member of the Parliament of the 26 Counties. The formation of the party RISE was announced in September 2019 when Murphy announced his departure from the Socialist Party and his joining this new organisation, of which he is a founding member.
Rupture espouses “eco-socialism”, a drive to organise the production of food and fuel under socialist control while dramatically reducing its harmful impact on the environment. Most of its contributors address issues from a Marxist perspective but interviews with activists from some other perspectives are included.
The magazine’s two issues to date included features on public health and private services, the environment and food production. In addition there have been a number of articles on developing a broad socialist front, combating racism and fascism, multi-national companies and neo-liberal capitalism, Big Pharm and trade union struggle. For the first time, the latest issue (November 2020) addressed the issue of the national question (and struggle) in Ireland. PART I of this article deals mostly with the magazine’s discussion of a) the Environment and b) the National Question, while PART II focuses on its coverage of c) the Health Service and d) the Broad Front and Anti-Fascism. As a consequence each Part contains both positive and negative evaluation.
For another aspect, the layout is generally attractive and mostly easy to read with photography and artwork which is interesting (if its relevance is not always clear). Some articles are perhaps on the longer side for some tastes but then these are big issues being discussed, in many cases literally of life-and/or-death dimensions.
An annual subscription costs €40 all Ireland or €60 international and I would recommend taking out one for 2021).
As with most serious commentators on the environment, the articles in Rupture point to an accelerating crisis and the need for urgent action right now. At the same time they point to the unwillingness or inability of the capitalist system – which means the governments of most states today — to take the necessary steps. In fact, unwillingness and inability are almost the same thing with the capitalist system because if one capitalist does not maximise his profit he will be undercut and crushed – or taken over – by another who will do “what is necessary” according to the rules and logic of the system. Even if in the longer term (or the medium term, in this case) the scramble for profit maximisation destroys the very resource — cod and herring, for example or rainforest. In this case, without the slightest exaggeration, it is the whole civilisation-sustaining environment that is at stake.
Not Fun Facts
“In 2017 a habitat area the size of a football field was lost every second.” “Eirgrid has projected that 2027 as much as 31% of Ireland’s electricty could by consumed by data centres” (most of it for cooling the servers to prevent them overheating). “In Ireland a fairly normal herd of pigs consists of 3,000 animals — only 2% of pigs are living in small herds of 5 or less. ….. a flock of chickens can normally be around 3,000.” Diseases due to overcrowding of animals enter the food chain for humans, causing infections of “bird ‘flu” and “swine ‘flu” through ‘zoonotic spillover’ (remember that term — you’ll be hearing more of it in future).
The prediction a fairly long time ago that the choice, rather than being between socialism or capitalism is in reality socialism or barbarism, is facing us now as an urgent practical question. Because when civilisation crashes the remaining groups of humanity around the world, assuming their survival, will indeed be thrust back into barbarism.
The contributors to Rupture quote writings of Karl Marx and Engels which one never hears from non-Marxist environmentalists and rarely either from Marxists themselves. These early developers of Marxist thought studied not only economics, class struggle and philosophy but also (and dare I say it, necessarily), history, science and culture too.
Mental health is an issue discussed in the magazine not only in respect to the appalling lack of health services in that area or the stresses and strains of work under capitalism but also in the divorcing of most humans in cities from nature. The agricultural landscape, having been moulded by humanity is far from natural and yet retains much of nature, the environment in which humanity first came to exist and in which it developed …. but most people in the West are not employed in agriculture. In these times of fear of infection along with isolation from our regular social contacts, even a walk in a park, in woods, on hills or botanic gardens can be rewarding and a reminder of what we have lost and are losing.
It is a challenge to radically change the way we produce food and generate power in a long-term sustainable way but only a socialist system, with overall benefit replacing profit as the ruling motivation has the possibility of bringing an end to the ruthless exploitation of not only labour but the very environment.
THE NATIONAL STRUGGLE
This is a question rarely dealt with by the socialist parties in Ireland, a situation which surprises revolutionary socialists across Latin America and much of Europe in particular. Some might ascribe that to the British origin of a number of those parties, particularly the main Trotskyist ones which in that respect established a tradition very far from the theory and personal practice of Karl Marx. So although I have much to disagree with in this article, the fact that it is being discussed at all should be encouraged.
I hope it will serve to encourage further discussion rather than its opposite when I summarise the piece as containing partial history and poor analysis with however one important recommendation. This critique really deserves a treatment all of its own but since this evaluation of the magazine has already got appreciably longer than was my original intent, I will have to be brief and therefore blunt.
The brief overview of history does not even mention that the United Irishmen (and therefore the uprisings of 1798 and 1803) was led almost exclusively by a section of the colonist-descended bourgeoisie, which is why the leadership was virtually all of various Protestant religious backgrounds. This is important because this is not the same bourgeoisie that rules the Irish state today. The article also omits any mention whatsoever of the linguistic genocidal legislation and practice of the conquerors of Ireland and for any treatment of “the national question” one would have to wonder how or why one would omit that. In dealing with the occupied Six Counties, the treatment of the civil rights movement is poor, even for a very brief overview – it was not only “anti-Unionist unity” that drove or characterised it but opposition to the violent response of the Unionist statelet, Loyalist mobs and paramilitaries and their resolute backing by the armed force of the British State.
The article remarks on the“weak capitalist class” in Ireland. But what is the nature of the weakness of this class? In other words, towards which forces are they weak? Not towards the working class, with programs of austerity funding bank bailouts, decades of emigration, slow adoption of equal social rights, high homelessness. Not towards the working class, with the Army used to undermine the Dublin Bus strikers in 1963 and 1979 or the restrictions on the right to strike and solidarity action. Not towards the Irish Republican movement with its Civil War history, special non-jury courts, its repressive legislation and armed police.
No, it is not those towards which the Irish capitalist class is weak. But it is weak in developing its own industry and developing an independent political line. Its weakness economically is marked by the takeover by big foreign capitalists of nearly all of its industry and telecommunications network, along with chunks of its transport infrastructure and services, its health services (private religious and foreign companies) and its national airline and large pieces of its agriculture. Its weakness is demonstrated in failure to develop its own natural resources and selling them off or giving them away.
The weakness of the Irish capitalist class is demonstrated in its firstly accepting the partition if its national territory and going to war with the independence movement rather than join it gaining total independence. The same weakness manifested itself in its inability to unite its territory and subsequently abandoning any claim to do so. The weakness of the Irish capitalist class is demonstrated in its permitting atrocities committed against its citizens at home and abroad by the occupying power, only once taking a case against it to the European Courts of Human Rights and never to the European Court of Justice or the United Nations. And it permitted without protest the intelligence services of that occupying power to bomb its capital city many times, including in 1974, with the murder of 26 people (and another eight in Monaghan). And there are many other examples too.
The article admits that the Irish capitalist class has been “acting to facilitate the exploitation of people and resources by foreign capital”. What would we call a capitalist class that behaved like that in Latin America, Asia or Africa? Yes, neo-colonial. Or in Latin America, possibly “comprador”. The difference is not just in location but in the minds of the Irish electoral Left – but none of any significance in the reality on the ground. As the contributor from Talamh Beo points out, “even though we’re geographically in Europe, our land history is radically different.” Of course defining the Irish capitalist class as neo-colonial might give one a very different outlook on the national struggle, right?
And also on socialist revolution, which we would understand to be opposed in Ireland not only by the majority native and the minority colonial capitalist classes and their apparatus, not only by our powerful imperialist neighbour, but also against economic interests in the imperialist USA and EU.
In addition, despite the officially neutral status of the Irish State, its armed forces are being integrated into the European imperialist military alliance. Ireland has not (yet) joined NATO but has the EU Battlegroups, as part of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union (EU).
The truth is that in the above respects, Irish Republicans in general have a much better understanding of the Irish State, the representative of that neo-colonial capitalist class, than do the electoral left parties in Ireland. The Republicans have traditions and history and recurring practical experience that teaches them.
The electoral socialist Left, far from joining with the Republicans, chooses instead to snipe at them on occasion and to ignore them the rest of the time. And to permit their civil liberties and human rights to be attacked for the most part without protest.
The positive recommendation in the article regards the projected Border Poll. While not wishing for any kind of capitalist Ireland, whether partitioned or united, the article recommends voting YES in any such referendum. I myself must agree with that and along with them find it difficult to imagine how any socialists could advocate any other position.
Recommending a NO vote even if for the best of reasons would isolate any party from the majority of the Irish people, while recommending abstention would leave the party on the sidelines not only regarding the poll but in important debates about what kind of Ireland we should have. Even the British & Irish Communist Organisation deviation of the 1960s and 1970s with their two-nation theory, although it generated much discussion, never looked likely to grow to any size, much less become a mass party of the Left.
I am far from convinced however that a genuine poll on the reunification of Ireland will ever be agreed by the ruling classes of the UK and of Ireland or, should it be held and have a majority for reunification, that the ruling classes will implement the verdict.
(See also Part II published separately)
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO PAUL MURPHY (RISE)
Formerly an activist and TD of the Irish Socialist Party, an Irish child of the British Trotskyist organisation the Socialist Party (and formerly, Militant, the largest among a number of entrist groups into the British Labour Party), Murphy left them gently in September 2019 to form the RISE group. It may be remembered that Clare Daly, also a TD, left the SP in August 2012 in a somewhat more acrimonious dispute and became part of Independent Left with some other socialist TDs and municipal councillors, since when she and her partner Mick Wallace were elected Members of the European Parliament and virtually disappeared from the Irish political scene (to be missed by many without allegiance to either group). Paul Murphy has also been an MEP in the past, from 2011-2014. Although now a member of a different political party, he has remained in the Solidarity-People Before Profit coalition of SP and PBP which retains another five TDs (four essentially of the Socialist Workers’ Party but no longer any of the SP).
Murphy has a long record of activism and has been violently handled by the Gardaí (Irish state police force) on a number of occasions and also arrested as part of the celebrated Jobstown case defendants in 2015 (all acquitted two years later). His international activism includes participation in the Gaza blockade flotilla in 2011 and high seas capture by the Israeli Zionist state, detention and deportation. His production of regular video broadcasts to date during the Covid19 crisis, both from home and of his interventions in the Dáil have included lashing the Government on placing accommodation of capitalism above the lives or ordinary people, denouncing its “yo-yo policy” of precautionary restrictions followed by much-too-early relaxation and also demanding the nationalisation of private health facilities.
An antifascist and anti-racist march in Dublin on Saturday 12th September ended without any major incident. However a handful of counter-protesters who attended a negationist protest outside Leinster House were assaulted by a mob of fascists, a woman being struck on the head with a blunt object causing an injury requiring hospital treatment. Photographs and some video footage shocked many as the Gardaí were seen to take no action against the assailants and instead, to usher the counter-protesters further away from the fascists, with a woman bleeding copiously from her head.
The Irish Yellow Vests, led by notorious islamophobe Glen Miller and the fascist Catholic fundamentalist and racist organisation Síol na hÉireann, led by Niall McConnell, cooperated in staging a rally and march from Custom House Quay to Government Buildings in Merrion Street. Custom House Quay was the scene of another IYV-organised event on 22nd August when a counter-protest of men and women was attacked by mob of masked and often gloved men (supporting an anti-mask rally!), many armed with clubs and metal bars. On that occasion too the Gardaí had arrested none of the attackers but pushed and shoved the counter-protesters away, threatening them with uplifted batons. On that occasion too a counter-protester had required hospital treatment, having been knocked unconscious.
The anti-fascist demonstration on O’Connell Street was called by the United Against Racism organisation and the People Before Profit/ Anti-Austerity Alliance and, since it had received threats of attack from fascists, it was supported too by independent antifascist activists from Anarchist, Republican and Socialist backgrounds.
A number of speakers addressed the rally though the sound did not carry very well towards the rear of the rally but also many were distracted by keeping an eye out for fascists. One IYV activist approached the rally to photograph participants and soon got into an altercation with them, whereupon Gardaí arrived and removed him to the side of the road. Another brandished a placard, which was promptly seized by antifascists and torn. Some fascists were seen passing by, presumably on their way to Custom House Quay or Leinster House – one was observed carrying a thick length of wood with the Irish Tricolour attached to it — but did not engage with the antifascists.
Across on the other side of the road, at the corner with Princes Street, two or three older people had set up a couple of banners protesting about ill-treatment of the elderly in nursing homes — an entirely justified cause for protest however it is known to have been adopted by the Far-Right in Ireland. A very high proportion of Covid19 deaths in Ireland were in nursing homes and linked to Covid19 infection through lack of effective controls, which is a strange issue for the Far-Right to embrace since they variously claim that Covid19 is a hoax or that it is not at all a serious virus.
LED BY FAKE PATRIOTS BUT REAL FASCISTS
The rally on Merchants Quay, organised by the Irish Yellow Vest seemed somewhat larger than the one in O’Connell Street but a number were brought in from other parts of the country. Their promotional video showed the crowd being addressed in an energetic style by a man with a North American accent. His message was to refuse to wear masks, using exceptions permitted in the legislation, not to be afraid and to remain united. At one point he seemed to be arguing for anti-racism, which was somewhat bizarre while standing next to him was the mc of the event, Glen Miller, notorious racist and islamophobe.
After a little, the crowd formed up behind the colour party of Síol na hÉireann, a tiny fascist, racist and fundamentalist Catholic party from Donegal led by Niall McConnell. Apparently without any sense of irony, the party flew the Irish Tricolour, the “Irish Republic” flag and the golden Harp on a green field flag, with “Erin go bragh” (sic) of the Fenians.
The Tricolour signifies cooperation between Irish of different religions which, as we will see, is something McConnell will have no truck with; in addition the original pattern was sewn by French revolutionary women and presented to Thomas Meagher in 1848. Meagher was a member of the “Young Irelanders”, composed of Irish nationalists of both Protestant and Catholic religious backgrounds and he himself led a Union Army brigade in the American Civil War.
The Harp on a green field was modelled on the flag of the United Irishmen who rose against the British in 1798 and 1803 – nearly every one of their leaders was Protestant. The Fenians were a mixture of religious backgrounds (and perhaps none) and were excommunicated by the Irish Catholic hierarchy. The Fenians in England were accepted into the First Socialist International, led by Marx and Engels.
The “Irish Republic” flag was prepared in the home of Constance Markievicz for display in the 1916 Rising; she was a Socialist Republican and fought in the Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army, the first working class army in the world.
COLOUR PARTY LEADER REVEALS HIS TRUE COLOURS
Approaching the four Gardaí standing by a couple of unsecured crowd barriers at the end of the Quay, a little farce was played out in which the Gardaí seemed unwilling to move and then were “forced” to do so by the crowd. Those who have participated in protests over the years and seen the Gardaí in action and their barriers, when they truly wished to stop a march, would laugh to see the video recorded by the Far-Right of the event.
At a junction the procession stopped for people to catch up (some participants even complaining at Miller’s exhortation to give consideration to the elderly and children) and were addressed by a number of speakers. The man with the North American accent was in action again in revivalist style and Ben Gilroy, Miller’s lieutenant, also spoke. In a video during the week, Gilroy had minimised the Covid19 deaths by stating that all but 100 of them had been of people with underlying health issues. Given that according to the HSE over 30% of Irish people suffer from underlying conditions of ill-health, it was a shockingly uncaring statement to make in support of the negationist cause.
Here Niall McConnell spoke too, announcing himself as the leader of “Síol na hÉireann, a hard-line Catholic Irish nationalist party”, having the effrontery to quote, completely out of context James Connolly, revolutionary socialist and Republican. McConnell insisted that Ireland is for the Irish and, attacking the EU, hinted at the “Replacement” conspiracy theory, in which the EU is allegedly trying to replace Irish people with migrants. He also accused it of spreading “LGBT ideology”. “Ireland is a Catholic country”, he insisted and, in total contradiction to at least 220 years of recent history, ascribed the Catholic faith to the motivation of our ancestors in fighting for freedom. Then he got down on his knees and recited The Lord’s Prayer in Irish!
It was noticeable that only a small number followed him on to their knees and also that a number of his statements drew uncertain responses. Following his speech, Lorraine Eglinton of the Irish Yellow Vests spoke, stressing the need for unity, which might be taken as an implied criticism of McConnell for introducing religion and race into the equation or perhaps just for stating his beliefs so baldly at a shared event.
FASCIST ATTACK ON WOMAN COUNTER-PROTESTER
While the major part of the Irish Yellow Vests march went to rally outside Government Buildings in Merrion Street, a smaller group of maybe 40 or 50 people went to protest a block away outside Leinster House, seat of the Irish state’s Parliament. This was apparently a split in the Far Right.
If this split was trying to attract less fascist and racist people what followed was truly bizarre. A couple of people who attended in a counter-protest but at some remove were approached by Far-Right supporters who appeared to argue with them, which is recorded on video. This soon attracted a mob, some masked (!) and one of which can be seen grasping a length of wood attached to an Irish Tricolour. They begin to push the couple of counter-protesters roughly and then one of them strikes the woman on the head, opening a wound with much blood running down her face and knocking her to the ground. She regains her feet and continues to stand as Gardaí move in and gently usher the fascists back, making no attempt to arrest any of them and soon pushing the counter-protesters down the road.
The woman received hospital treatment later, being released the following morning. In a press release following the event the Gardaí reported that no arrests or serious incidents had occurred! When they were contacted by journalists and shown video taken at the scene they changed their story to say that “some demonstrators had to be separated” and ultimately changing it again to say that “they are investigating the incident” and “had not received a complaint”. Are the Gardaí saying that although they witness an assault, or at least the immediate aftermath of one, they can take no action unless they receive a complaint?
Ms Izzy Kamikaze, an LGBT campaigner and writer, who had received the head injury, said that she intended to make a complaint, not just about the assault but also about the behaviour of the Gardaí. Some photos have appeared on social media allegedly identifying two of the attackers by name and as members of the fascist National Party. According to media journalists, the Gardaí have video camera footage tracing one of the assailants also which would be no surprise as the area around Leinster House is one of the most highly covered by CCTV video cameras in Dublin.
A PATTERN OF GARDA COLLUSION
This is not the first occasion in recent times that the Gardaí have been accused of collusion with fascist violence. On July 11th a small counter-protest to the large homophobic rally outside Leinster House was physically attacked and their banners ripped without Garda interference for a period and, when they did intervene, arrested none of the assailants. On two different occasions fascists within the QAnon negationists outside the GPO attacked a peaceful counter-protester without being arrested by the Gardaí. However when, following these attacks, antifascists surged into the Qanon crowd, the Gardaí quickly intervened and arrested at least one of the antifascists. On August 22nd at Custom House Quay a mob of over 50 men, many of them masked and gloved (supporting an anti-masking rally!) and carrying wooden clubs and metal bars, attacked a peaceful smaller counter-protest and knocked one antifascist unconscious. A few Gardaí then gently shooed the fascists back while more, including the Public Order Unit, began to scream at the antifascists to get back, threatening them with raised batons and pushing them violently, knocking some over and preventing them from even assisting their unconscious comrade. Those scenes too were recorded on video and shared on social media, both by fascists glorying in their actions and by antifascists exposing the fascist violence and Garda collusion.
A Parliamentary Question about Garda behaviour to the Minister for Justice from Independents for Change TD Catherine Connolly was refused, she being told that this is an area within the competence of the Garda Commissioner.
The construction of an Independent and Socialist State that integrates Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Lapurdi, Nafarroa Behera, Nafarroa Garaia and Zuberoa.
(On the 18th I reported on the launch of the Basque organisation Jardun, a coordinating body seeking to unite Basque left-national organisations and collectives in a revolutionary movement. Since then they have published a fuller manifesto of their aims, here translated from the Castillian version.)
The construction of a society based on the power of the Basque working class, on overcoming the class struggle and on the socialization of the means of production.
Overcoming all oppression against working women.
Reunification of Euskal Herria.
Remaking Euskal Herria Basque-speaking.
The new alternative of the Basque Working People is a pro-independence and socialist political project whose ideological principles have six main points:
The national question is framed within the various oppressions suffered by the Basque Working People, oppression that in the opinion of this coordinating organisation can only be overcome through independence. In other words, when we speak of self-determination, we are referring to the undeniable right of the Basque Working People to separate from the states that oppress them and to undertake a process of building an independent and socialist state.
Before talking about socialism, it is convenient to specify what we mean when we speak of the Basque Working People. The Basque Working People is made up of everyone who lives and sells their labour power in Euskal Herria. Every worker within the Basque Working People, from the moment they suffer exploitation and oppression, that is, from the moment they suffer the blow of capital in a crude way in their day to day life, has the potential to organize the revolution. Therefore, when we speak of socialism, we refer to overcoming the class oppression suffered by the Basque Working People, on the way to creating a classless society.
We must understand that the Basque Working People cannot undertake the fight against capital alone. It is necessary to maintain contact with the different oppressed peoples and to acceptmutual aid. Even so, JARDUN will always set down an unpassable red line, that the national framework of the Basque working people can never be doubted. (Translator’s note: I was unsure about what exactly was meant by this sentence but one Jardun’s supporters told me it means that any struggle expecting solidarity from Jardun must accept the Basque people as a nation).
It is necessary to overcome the sex-gender dichotomy and the reproductive role that capital imposes on working women, in order to overcome the oppression suffered by working women and the structural reasons that originate it.
Amnesty is a strategic term that, going beyond confining itself to the freedom of all those fighterswho have worked for the freedom of Euskal Herria, implies political recognition in the eyes of working people of the struggle they have carried out and placing at the disposal of popular justice those who have systematically oppressed them.
Within the current capitalist production model, the environment suffers from overexploitation, responding to the logic of obtaining the highest possible economic performance, generating more waste than can be managed and creating a degradation that in many cases puts living conditions at risk. That is why the environmental struggle can only be approached from a root change in the production processes.
The six points outlined above that define the ideology of JARDUN cannot be understood or addressed in an isolated way, since if their achievement does not go hand in hand with the others, the only thing that we will achieve will be to perpetuate the oppression suffered by the Basque Working People. In the same way, only by addressing these points from a class point of view will the workers of Euskal Herria be able to obtain control of the productive processes and political power, neutralizing the bourgeoisie.
Although the Basque Working People have the potential to carry out the revolution, only by acquiring awareness of their situation and organizing themselves in pursuit of national and social liberation can they begin the revolutionary process, forming the Basque Revolutionary Proletariat. JARDUN needs to be the organizational space of the Basque Revolutionary Proletariat. At the same time, the working people at an organic levelshould be composed of different sectoral organizations working under the same strategic objectives, for the construction of an independent and socialist Euskal Herria.
In the same way that our predecessors faced the oppression that this people has suffered and fought against fascism in Albertia, today, it is up to us to confront the oppression that working people suffer and for that, unity is necessary, it is necessary join forces. It is time to start joining forces. It is time to start adding forces. It is necessary to get together with different groups in Euskal Herria and defend a common project. It is necessary for different groups to join JARDUN, so that each one from their own fighting trenches can contribute what they can, with a firm commitment, and thus respond as a people, as a working people to capital. Since we are very clear about the way forward and what strategy has to be carried out. And let there be no doubt that we will continue working in that direction. For those who have given their lives, for Euskal Herria and for the workers of Euskal Herria.
On 26th July 1914 there was unusual crowding on the East Pier of the fishing harbour of Howth, Dublin and great excitement which grew as the sail of yacht was spotted making for the harbour. Among those gathered on the pier were members of the Irish Volunteers and of Na Fianna Éireann, the Irish Republican youth organisation. As the yacht, the Asgard, maneouvered to pull into position along the pier, mooring ropes thrown were quickly made fast. Then an amazing number of Mauser rifles and ammunition began to be unloaded into eager hands.
On Sunday 26th July this year the annual commemoration of the historic event was organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action group to take place in Howth. A group of people formed up at the start of the pier and proceeded along to the end, where the commemorative plaque is and where the ceremony was to be held. A small colour party preceded the procession, followed by a banner against the extradition of Liam Campbell, in turn followed by another banner stating: “This Is Our Mandate, This Is Our Republic” (from the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil, 1919), with the rest of the procession following behind.
The idea of arming the Irish Volunteers to counter the arming of the Ulster Volunteers, who had declared their aim to prevent the limited autonomy of Home Rule being given to Ireland by the British Government, had been discussed in 1914 by a group that could best be described as Anglo-Irish, middle class and including even an aristocrat – nearly all of Protestant background. The eventual sailing of the gun-laden yacht from off the Belgian coast to Dublin was accomplished by a crew of the Asgard assembled for the purpose: Erskine and Molly Childers, Molly Spring-Rice, Conor O’Brien and two seamen from Gola in Donegal: Patrick McGinley and Charles Duggan. Apart from the Captain, Erskine Childers, they all had some Irish in their backgrounds but only Conor O’Brien and the Donegal men were of indigenous stock, with only the latter two native Irish speakers.
The rifles were successfully landed and were used effectively during the 1916 Rising, though only single-shot against the five-shot magazines of the British Army’s Lee-Enfield rifles, of which the Volunteers had only a few (and no machine-guns at all).
When the commemorative procession reached the pier head, the attendance fanned out in a square with an open end facing Margaret McKearney, who was to chair the event. The colour party stood to to one side, the flags bearing the designs of the Irish Citzen Army and Na Fianna Éireann, along with the Tricolour, fluttering in the gentle sea-breeze.
McKearney called for a minute’s silence in remembrance and honour of all those who had given their lives in the struggle for Irish independence, during which the colour party performed the presentation, lowering and raising of the flags. Floral wreaths on behalf of Anti-Imperialist Action and Spirit of Freedom Westmeath were then laid underneath the commemorative plaque to the historic landing of the weapons.
McKearney, a life-long Republican from a Republican family in East Tyrone, had once been described by Scotland Yard as “possibly the most dangerous woman terrorist in Britain” but had legally defeated extradition attempts to extradite her from the Irish state in 1975. Two of her brothers had been killed on active service and another murdered by Loyalists during the three-decades war in the Six Counties; another brother had barely survived 53 days of the 1980 hunger strike upon its termination.
Recounting the events of the obtaining of the rifles and ammunition and their landing at Howth in 1914, McKearney went on to tell of the failure of the colonial Dublin Metropolitan police and British Army to confiscate the weapons and how at Bachelors’ Walk, the King’s Own Scottish Borders opened fire on a crowd mocking their failure and bayoneted at least one, killing four and injuring 38.
The guns had been used in the 1916 Rising, McKearney related and went on to refer to the long struggle for Irish independence since, still uncompleted, with the Good Friday Agreement seeking to draw a line under it and preserve the status quo.
Referring to the growing danger of fascism in Ireland and in the world, McKearney pointed out that as the financial losses incurred during the Covid19 epidemic mounted, the ruling class in Ireland and its government would be seeking to break the resistance of the people in order to impose austerity upon them and it was then that they might well turn to the fascists.
The chair then introduced historian Peter Rogers of the Spirit of Freedom who delivered a lengthy speech on the nature of Irish Republicanism and the struggle for independence. Rogers referred to Good Friday Agreement as having failed to resolve the situation with even Francis Molloy (a Provisional Sinn Féin TD, i.e member of the Irish Parliament) remarking that they “had been sold a pup”. The speaker concluded saying that Sinn Féin must be given time to fail in the Dáil when the option of a united Ireland would be more easily embraced.
A speaker from Macra – Irish Republican Youth was then called forward and delivered a short statement.
Diarmuid Breatnach, representing the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland, was next to speak. Pointing out that internment without trial of Republican activists was continuing albeit under other forms, Breatnach related how Irish Republicans were being charged and refused bail prior to being brought before non-jury special courts on both sides of the British Border. In the unlikely event of their being found not guilty subsequently, they had nevertheless spent two years in jail. Also the practice of rearresting without trial or even charge of Republican prisoners released on licence constituted a form of internment, Breatnach said.
Going on to speak of the historic Howth event, the speaker remarked upon the varied nature of those who had planned and carried out the operation, including a number who would not have satisfied the criteria for “Irishness” of the current crop of Irish racists and fascists of the Far-Right in Ireland. Yet some involved in the gun-running had made that contribution before leaving the struggle, while most had gone on to fight in the 1916 Rising, joined there also by the workers’s Irish Citizen Army. Many had gone on the fight in the War of Independence and while some had sided with the Free State in the split and Civil War in 1922, most of the fighters had remained on the Republican side.
The lesson he drew from that, Breatnach continued, was that the fight for freedom had to be extended in as broad an alliance as possible but also remaining aware that some of that alliance would be temporary and to prepare accordingly.
The speaker commented on the historical importance of possession of weapons when facing an armed enemy and concluded by saying that though the time for weapons might not be now, the lesson of history is that such a time would come in the future.
McKearney thanked the organisers, attendance and all the speakers for their contributions and announced the handing over of a donation from Anti-Imperialist Action to the Loughgall Memorial Martyrs’ fund.
The event then concluded with the singing of a verse and chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish national anthem, sung in Irish by Breatnach.
HISTORICAL POSTSCRIPT: THE ASGARD TODAY
The boat was built in Norway by an acclaimed Scottish migrant boat-builder and sold in 1904 to the Erskine Childers and his USA bride, Molly (Mary Alden Osgood), with the interior built to the specifications of Erskine and Molly. Childers, though English and had volunteered for the British armed forces during WWI, nevertheless took up the cause of Irish independence, joining the IRA in the War of Independence and continuing on the Republican side. He was captured by the Free State forces and executed by the State in 1922 (his son Erskine Hamilton Childers was elected the 4th President of the State in 1973).
The Asgard was sold and in 1961 Journalist Liam Mac Gabhann discovered the vessel in the River Truro, Cornwall and wrote about it. After lobbying, the Irish State purchased and overhauled the ship and sailed back to Howth in 1961, where the original event was re-enacted with surviving members of the Irish Volunteers. The Irish Navy used her as a sail training vessel but in 1974 the Yacht was dry-docked in what was in essence a large shed in Kilmainham, partly open to the elements, until new restoration work began in 2007. In 2012 the yacht was moved to the National Museum complex at Collins Barracks, where it has resided since in a separate and permanent exhibiton, along with memorabilia and related information and photographs. In normal times the National Museum is open six days a week and entry is free to both the Asgard exhibition and the general Museum exhibitions.
Basque independentist militant Itxaso Zaldua was arrested on Tuesday in Hernani, in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa and according to media is to be charged with complicity in the killing of a senior right-wing politician in 2001. She has spent only three years at liberty in the southern Basque Country after nearly twelve in a French jail and is now back in custody pending trial. Her arrest has been denounced by both wings of the Basque pro-independence movement but from different perspectives.
As according to the bilingual GARA newspaper Zaldua was not held incommunicado, i.e without access to friends and relations, lawyer or doctor of choice, it is not likely that she will be tortured. Until a few years ago the use of a variety of types of torture during the five-day incommunicado period under the “anti-terror” (sic) laws was the rule rather than the exception. However, all detainees charged under the terrorism laws of the Spanish State are always taken to Madrid for interrogation by the Guardia Civil and then for court appearance, the distance from their homes placing an additional burden on friends, relatives and supporters (it is 450 km from Hernani). Some of those will be given temporary accommodation and support by Madrid organisations in solidarity.
TWELVE YEARS IN JAIL
Back in April 2005 Itxaso Zaldua was arrested in the Lannemezan area of the Occitan region of the French state, along with her comrade José Segurola Querejeta. They were charged with membership of ATAKA (sub-structure of the armed Basque resistance organisation ETA), of which she was accused of leading and duly convicted and jailed in the French system (which also disperses political prisoners to jails throughout the territory).
Zaldua was released in 2017 and right-wing Spanish unionist organisations including the “Association of Victims of Terrorism”, many of their members relatives of Spanish police or military, complained at the traditional honouring reception she received upon her return home from French jail. Zaldua walked hand-in-hand with her young daughter down a street with well-wishers on both sides cheering, was presented with a floral bouquet, two women danced the aurresku (honour dance) before here and another shouted the irrintzi, the high-pitched yodeling cry reputed to have been a battle-cry (see embedded video) and the Eusko Gudariak (“Basque Soldiers”, similar to the Irish “Soldiers’ Song”) was sung by all.
The “official” Basque independentist movement responded quickly to the ex-prisoner’s new arrest: the Sare organisation convened a demonstration in Hernani the same afternoon demanding Zaldua’s release and the trade union works committee of her place of employed also denounced her arrest. The official movement’s political party EH Bildu (headed by Arnaldo Otegi), issued a statement that “It is time to be emptying the jails, not filling them,” a reference to the nearly 250 Basque political prisoners still in jail.
The party’s statement called the arrest “another obstacle in the path chosen by this nation towards peace, coexistence and freedom; a path which, cost whatever it may, we are determined to follow”.
However the ‘dissident’ organisation Amnistia (Movement for Amnesty and Against Repression), which also condemned the arrest, issued a statement declaring that “There will be no peace until the reasons that are at base of the conflict are resolved and until all the militants who are punished as a consequence of said conflict are free.
Both organisations called the people to action, with EH Bildu referring to “the participation and activation of Basque society” and Amnistia in contrast stating that “the working class need to organize”.
“THEY WANT TO HUMILIATE THE BASQUE COUNTRY”
The Basque organisation ETA ended its armed struggle in 2012 as part of a unilateral bid for a peace process of the movement under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi. However, a peace process requires the participation of at least both antagonists and the Spanish State has shown no interest in negotiation. Whatever one may say about such processes in Ireland or in South Africa, the resistance organisations in those countries ensured the freedom of their imprisoned members before they signed up to the deal. This was not so in the Basque case.
It is no doubt difficult for observers to understand why the Spanish State is now pursuing an ex-prisoner for alleged complicity in an assassination nineteen years ago when State has gained not only the ETA’s abandonment of armed struggle but even its dissolution. Nor is there any sign that Zaldua is a sympathiser of the “dissident” movement; the statements in her support from across the “official” movement and the speed of response is in stark contrast to the “officials’” response to the hunger and thirst strike of political prisoner Patxi Ruiz in May. Ruiz had denounced the “official” leadership some years ago and been expelled from the collective that leadership controls (and which precipitated the resignations of another four Basque prisoners in solidarity).
Ironically, it is the assessment of the “dissident” Amnistia which seems correct: “This arrest, like other previous ones, shows that the States (i.e French and Spanish) want to humiliate the Basque Country. By means of life sentences against a specific against a specific model of resistance, they want to intimidate the new generations that join the struggle.”
Whatever the eventual outcome of the judicial process against Zaldua in the no-jury National Court in Madrid, it is clear that the struggle against the Spanish State is far from finished in the southern Basque Country, though its armed stage seems over at least for the present.
The “official” leadership has been following an electoral path and quoting the support of external political figures such as Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, Kofi Anan, Tony Blair and Brian Currin of South Africa.
In the Euskadi regional government elections on Sunday in the southern Basque Country, the “official” party led by Otegi, EH Bildu, as expected came in second. The PNV, the Basque Nationalist Party, came in first and the PSE, Basque version of the Spanish unionist PSOE, in third place. Despite periodic approaches by the EH Bildu leadership, the PNV will govern the three provinces either in coalition with the PSE or in “confidence and supply” agreement with the party.
Even if EH Bildu in years to come were able to reach first place in Euskadi regional elections, what of the other region, Nafarroa? And the three northern provinces of the Basque Country, under French rule? And, even with an eventual majority in all seven provinces, if the Spanish State were still to deny independence, as it does with an independentist majority in Catalonia, what then?
Over to the Amnistia movement, which advocates street power: “If we are to achieve peace, it will come from the full implementation of total amnesty, with the unconditional release of prisoners, refugees and political deportees, with the expulsion of the occupation forces and with the overcoming of the reasons that pushed so many people to fight. That will be the only guarantee to end arrests like today and other similar repressive actions.”
That seems a realistic enough assessment. But as to how to achieve their objectives against the opposition of the Spanish and French states, neither section of the Basque independentist movement seems to have an answer.
According to a report by the left-wing Spanish on-line media Publico.es, the fascist Spanish Catholic Movement1 plans an event glorifying the fascist dictator Franco and the only restriction placed upon them by the city council of Madrid has been to “wear masks and maintain social distancing”. At the time of publication, the Council had yet to reply to enquiries from Publico.es.
José Luis Corral, leader of the fascist Spanish Catholic Movement says all is organised for this Saturday the 18th with a rally at the Arco de la Victoria (“Victory Arch”) to celebrate the “national uprising”: the first military attempted coup against the elected Spanish Government was on 18th July 1936 but was defeated.
The rally is to be followed by a procession to where Franco’s remains now lie, at Mingorrubio Cemetery. The Movement also asked supporters to attend mass (Catholic religious service) at the church in the Valley of the Fallen, the monument and mausoleum to Franquism built by the labour of political prisoners from where finally, after many unfulfilled promises by the PSOE party, Franco’s remains were removed. This took place in October last year among protests by fascists and followed by national TV services in a style reminiscent of an act of national mourning.
Also planned to honour in the event at that cemetery is the memory of the fascist Admiral Carrero Blanco, whose body was also removed from the mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen. Carrero Blanco was Franco’s nominated successor but he was assassinated in Madrid by the Basque armed group ETA in December 1973, two years before the death of the Dictator.
FASCISM IN SPAIN WAS NOT DEFEATED
In 1936 General Franco led a military-fascist uprising against the elected left-republican Popular Front Government which resulted in a war that did not end until 1939, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths by violence. Following the victory of his forces, which had been aided by Italian Fascist and Nazi German armament, transport and men, a fascist dictatorship was established in which thousands of men were imprisoned, shot out of hand, executed after summary court martial or sent to penal battalions. Women were jailed and shot too, many were raped and publicly humiliated. All of the above was with the full support of the Catholic hierarchy in Spain, in Ireland and in most of the world. Only Cambodia has more mass graves than the Spanish State.
After Franco died, the Transition to “democracy” deal with the social-democratic PSOE and Communist Party leaderships ensured impunity for the fascist perpetrators of tortures and murders and a curtain of silence drawn over the whole history, with mass graves remaining unexcavated or even unmarked for decades. Monuments to Franco and his followers remained throughout much of the state. The Transition also imposed a monarchy on the populace and a unionist Constitution which has been the cause of conflict with the Basque Country and Catalonia for decades.
The display of fascist Franco symbols or glorification of fascism has been forbidden by law in the Spanish State for years but fascists regularly hold events, display fascist symbols, sing fascist songs and shout fascist slogans without any police intervention, to say nothing of facing charges in court. This is certain to be repeated on Saturday.
The Fascist leader admitted to Publico’s reporter that he had not applied for permission to hold an event celebrating a military-fascist coup but rather “as a protest against the Historical Memory Law2 and a demand that they care for the Victory Arch3, which is very neglected.”
Also on the same day as the Franco glorification event in Madrid, the ultra-conservative Traditionalist Carlist Communion also plans a commemoration of their own. The ultra-Catholic Carlists took the Basque province of Nafarroa into alliance with the Franco military-fascist forces in 1936, massacring around 3,000 Republicans, Socialists, Communists, Anti-Fascists and Basque Nationalists in the province.
The organisers claim that they are commemorating the 111th anniversary of the death in exile of Carlos VII Borbonne and East Austria (their choice for Monarch of Spain, which was part of the cause of the Carlist Wars) and that the only flags or banners permitted will be the those of the “Cross of St. Andrew”, with or without “the Sacred Hearts” and the “Spanish Flag with the Sacred Heart”. However, the organisers have also let it be known that there are “additional reasons” for the event.
Fascism in the Spanish State was never defeated but instead an accommodation was reached with it. Now, in common with much of the world, the fascist movement is rising again but incensed at the national independentist claims of the Basques and Catalans and also at what they perceive as defilement of the memory of their fascist heroes. The Spanish State, even under a Left-Social Democratic government, at the very least exhibits a tolerance towards the fascist movements and their activities which is far from its response to the independentist movements or to the militant Left.
1This is but one of the organisations in the Spanish state that reveres the memory of Franco. I call them “fascists” because that is what they are but Publico calls them “far-Right”.
2 The Historical Memory Law seeks to remedy some of the silence and fear around the history of the Spanish Anti-Fascist War and of the Dictatorship and is one of the regular targets of fascist diatribes
3The Victory Arch monument celebrates the victory of the military-fascist forces over those of the elected government in 1939.
On June 24th, as the repressive Offences Against the State Act was up for debate in the Dáil, it was voted for renewal by TDs of the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green parties, along with Labour, while only a Solidarity/People Before Profit and two Independent TDs voted against. For the first time since Sinn Féin had TDs present in the Dáil in 1997, they abstained in the vote. They failed to vote against an undemocratic Act that was brought into being precisely to repress their own political ancestors.
The Offences Against the State Act was made law by the De Valera Government (Fianna Fáil) in 1939 and 1940 to nullify the writ of habeas corpus served by Seán McBride (Irish Republican, former IRA officer and later one of the founders of Amnesty International) which gained the release of IRA prisoners interned without trial under the previous Emergency Powers Act 1939. The Act established the Special Criminal Court which processed the rearrested internees and sent them back to prison and concentration camp in the Curragh.
BRITISH INTELLIGENCE FATAL BOMBING HELPED TOUGHEN LAW AGAINST REPUBLICANS
In 1972 the Fianna Fáil Government sought to strengthen the Act even further, among other attacks on civil liberties to permit an inference of guilt by the Special Criminal Court from refusal to answer questions by the Gardaí, along with the taking of a senior Garda officer’s word, unsupported by any substantial evidence, as the main “proof” of membership of an illegal organisation. However, the forecast looked bad for the Government since the Labour Party and Fine Gael were predicted to vote the Amendment down. During the debate, two bombs exploded in Dublin killing two Dublin public transport workers and injuring a number of others, some horrifically (two years later a similar bombing team was to kill 33 and injure around 260 in Dublin and Monaghan). The 1972 explosions, most likely the work of Loyalists working with British Intelligence, were blamed on the IRA and the opposition to the Amendment crumbled, ensuring it passed into law — and there it has remained.
The Act empowers the Government to bring internment without trial into force by order (i.e without debate, even if the Government should be a minority one). Among its powers the OAS permits the State to ban organisations and subsequently (with its 1972 Amendment) jail people for membership of said organisation, the unsupported testimony of a Garda not below the rank of Chief Superintendent being considered prima facie evidence of said membership.
In a state where trials of all indictable offences under criminal law are by jury with a judge presiding, the Special Criminal Court is a non-jury court. Virtually all Irish Republicans serving time in prisons of the State have been convicted in the SCC, where even the unsupported word of a senior Garda officer is considered important proof and the standard of additional evidence required is very low. As one might expect in such conditions, the conviction rate is unusually high. On the charge of “membership of an illegal organisation” and largely on the word of senior Garda officer, conviction is almost certain and becomes an easy way to remove Irish Republican activists from circulation for the standard two years.
“GREATEST MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE IN THE IRISH STATE”
In two trials in 1978, the Special Criminal Court, in what has been called “the greatest miscarriage of justice of the Irish State”, tried and sentenced three Republicans to long terms of imprisonment for a mail train robbery at Sallins in which they had played no part. The judges in the Court chose to believe what 12 jurors would likely not have done: that the defendants had voluntarily confessed to actions they had not committed, that they had not been beaten by Gardaí and that the defendants’ bruising had been self-inflicted. The Garda “Heavy Gang” went on to obtain “voluntary confessions” from others, including Joanna Hayes and her relations in the “Kerry Babies” case, later also cleared and recipients of a Government apology in 2019. Those convicted of the Sallins mail train robbery were eventually cleared and released. The circumstances of those false “voluntary confessions” accepted by the SCC have never been investigated.
In 2001 Colm Murphy was convicted in the Special Criminal Court of conspiracy to cause a bombing on the basis of Garda evidence which Murphy said was untrue — but the judges chose to believe the Gardaí. The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial when it was shown that the Gardaí’s notes had been fabricated and Murphy was cleared in the SCC in 2010.
In 2003 Michael McKevitt was convicted in the Special Court of leadership of the Real IRA on evidence widely believed not to have met the standard necessary for conviction, including that given by a paid informer. McKevitt is still serving his 20-year sentence.
Although the title of the Court includes the word “criminal” it was clearly created for political purposes and until 1998 all but one of its trials have been of Irish Republicans. That did not prevent the TDs of the Greens, a party with a record of previous opposition to the Act, using gang crime along with Labour as an excuse for voting for the Act’s renewal during the recent debate.
“THE SPECIAL BRANCH ACT”
The granting of wide powers to the State to use against their political opponents has resulted in even those powers being regularly exceeded. Without ever even charging anyone with any crime, the Act has been used by generations of the Special Branch, the political police renamed the Special Detective Unit, to harass and intimidate Republican activists and their supporters. People have been approached and their contact details demanded by these secret police when they have attended a protest picket or rally, public meeting, visited a Republican office or were observed talking to a Republican. People have been searched in the street, had their vehicles stopped and searched also.
Sellers and distributors of Republican newspapers have been harassed and threatened. Without any authorisation even by the Act, officers have approached parents of young activists and their school or college, as well as the place of employment of older activists, to express their concern at the activity or associations of the activists concerned. Officers of the special unit, all of which go armed, have displayed their weapons on occasion to intimidate Republicans (on one famous occasion discharging their firearm in a busy shop). They have filmed and photographed Republicans without any legal right to do so, followed them around, sat obtrusively outside their offices and even their homes, often day after day for months or even years. So widely have the secret police of the Irish State come to see the Act as entitling their intimidation and file-building that when, at a recent Dublin picket about political prisoners, a Republican asked what legal authority the officer had for harassing him, the man replied in all seriousness: “Special Branch Act.”
But on the 24th June, only three TDs voted against the Act’s renewal: Mick Barry (Solidarity/ People Before Profit), Michael MacNamara (Independent, formerly Labour) and Thomas Pringle (Independent). Two TD abstentions were recorded: Pa Daly and Martin Kenny (both Sinn Féin).
“UNTENABLE IN A DEMOCRACY”
Traditionally, Sinn Féin, along with other Irish Republicans, have opposed this undemocratic repressive legislation. But not just SF, also the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, Irish and international jurists and UN Rapporteurs and Committees on democratic rights of the United Nations. And not just once but a number of times. The following statement was released by the ICCL in the week before the debate.
23 June 2020
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), ahead of the mooted renewal of the Offences Against the State Act next week and the Dáil debate tomorrow, renews our call for repeal of the Act and with it the abolition of the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
There is no jury at the Special Criminal Court and it accepts secret evidence from gardaí. This is in violation of our right to a fair trial, our right to trial by jury and our right to equality before the law. ICCL has opposed both the Act and the Court since their introduction to deal with a terrorist threat in 1972. We continue to strongly oppose these emergency measures which have now become the norm in dealing with organised crime.
ICCL’s Executive Director, Liam Herrick, said:
“It’s untenable that in a democracy like ours, which prides itself on its human rights record abroad, a law and court like these can exist.
The State contends that it needs the Special in order to protect juries but it has never considered alternatives to abandoning jury trial.”
The protection of jury members is of deep concern to ICCL. But the State has never demonstrated, as required by human rights law, that alternatives to a non-jury trial are ineffective. There are a number of obvious options for protecting juries such as anonymising juries, the use of video link for juries, or granting special protections for juries.
Last year at the Special Criminal Court, Judge Tara Burns acquitted two men of IRA membership after the head of the Garda Special Detective Unit refused to disclose underlying evidence pertaining to “belief evidence” to the prosecution. This meant gardaí were seeking a conviction without disclosing evidence to the defendant’s legal team, the Court or the DPP. ICCL welcomed the Judge’s decision but the case revealed some concerning attitudes and practices at the Court.
ICCL is not alone in our opposition to the Special Criminal Court. Various UN human rights independent experts and the UN Human Rights Committee have repeatedly declared the State to be in violation of its human rights obligations because of the continued use of the Court beyond the emergency it was designed to address. Eminent Irish legal experts, Mr. Justice Hederman, Professor Dermot Walsh and Professor William Binchy have also called for abolition of the Court.
At its introduction in 1972, the Special Criminal Court was considered a radical and purely temporary departure from the norm. Forty years have passed since then. It’s time for its abolition. Statement ends.
Defenders of Sinn Féin have said that dropping opposition to the OAS from their election program for government and even after their party won the highest number of elected TDs (delegates) in the February 2020 General Election, was purely a temporary tactical one. Presumably this decision was in response to Mícheál Martin’s statement last year that Sinn Féin was not a legitimate choice for government because they were against the Act.
Not a legitimate choice for whom? one might ask. Do the mass of working people in the country want this undemocratic Act in place? Not that they were ever asked by any Irish Government! Now there was an opportunity to put this before the electorate — but it is not the opinion of the mass of working people that Sinn Féin worries about but that of the ruling class and their media hounds.
When however the two main parties of the Irish Gombeen capitalist class went into coalition with the “alternative” Green Party in order to exclude Sinn Féin from government – and one might have thought SF had nothing now to lose by voting against the renewal of the OAS – even then they failed to oppose it. Some say SF’s tacticians expected the negotiations between the other parties to collapse and then to be able to put themselves forward as a credible alternative. But again, credible to whom?
For years now, Sinn Féin has been at pains to demonstrate that it is a safe pair of hands for Irish capitalism (which entails also being safe for foreign capitalism and British colonialism). It is not necessarily a question of supporting armed struggle or not but to enter into the administration of an invader, as SF did in 2007 when it became part of the British colony’s government, would for most patriots and anti-imperialists be considered a clear crossing of the line. After WW2 many liberated countries executed a number of those who had taken part in such administrations and from one example, a new adjective entered the English language: “quisling”.
Sinn Féin has gone even further now to show the Irish ruling classes and both states that their panoply of repression on both sides of the British Border is safe: undemocratic legislation granting special powers to the police, politicised police forces and special non-jury courts with low quality “proof” required for convictions.
It is understandable with so little viable alternative choice that so many voted for SF candidates in February and in fact, would probably have elected even more had the party fielded sufficient candidates. All the other main parties and even the Greens have been in Government previously, all have approved bank bailouts and austerity budgets.
Sinn Féin is the only major party who had not been in Government and those who wanted to see them in practice had a reasonable point. But seeing them in “opposition” is also instructive. A political party that is so afraid of the ruling class and its media that even in opposition it will not vote against undemocratic repressive legislation and instruments, that were brought in precisely against its own earlier members and supporters – is not going to be braver in government, when it will inevitably be in a coalition with a capitalist party or parties.
However, the undemocratic Offences Against the State Act and its non-jury Special Courts remain and must be opposed. The struggle against them will continue to be waged by its victims, currently the “dissident” Republicans and by people and bodies concerned with civil rights. As the State encounters increasing resistance to austerity measures it may well be that it will widen the list of targets of this Act to include social and economic campaigners, as it was rumoured considering against the Jobstown water protest defendants in 2017, all of whom were cleared by the jury who did not believe Garda witness lies (exposed by recordings).
It is essential to oppose this Act and a wider opposition to it needs to be built – one that does not depend on false friends.
After repeated claims from from a woman speaking through a loudhailer that their right-wing rally at the GPO was “peaceful” and would “not respond to your violence” (this addressed to their peaceful opponents on the other side of the road!), right-wingers crossed the road a number of times to insult and threaten their opponents, eventually assaulting one well-known Republican who defended himself vigorously. Gardaí separated assailant and victim but declined to take any action against the fascist.
BACKGROUND, BUILD-UP AND ATTACK
The above took place on Saturday 4th July. Earlier, at 1pm, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign had hosted at the Spire a very well-attended rally in solidarity with Palestine and against the recently-announced plans of Israel to annex the Palestinian West Bank.
Many of the Palestine supporters were still on the pedestrian reservation when the far-Rightists arrived to set up their weekly protest against social distancing, with claims that Covid19 is not real (or, a variation, that it is exaggerated) and that the restrictions are being used to bring in a “New World Order”.
As the Far-Right were setting up, two members of the Special Detective Unit (in the past called the “Special Branch” as they remain known by many, along with less kind names) were seen chatting to them. These political Gardaí in plainclothes were easily identified since some who had attended the earlier demonstration at the Lithuanian Embassy against the threatened extradition of Liam Campbell (see separate report by Clive Sulish on Rebel Breeze) had seen them there, standing near the uniformed Gardaí, watching the protesters. The nature of the conversation of these undercover political police with the Far-Rightists is not known but appeared cordial and certainly they were not asking them for their names and addresses as they had done recently to people protesting in solidarity with political prisoners.
Soon jeers and cat-calls were crossing the street in each direction. The Right-wingers had a loudspeaker advantage for awhile but then one appeared among their opponents too. Even before that, the speaker for the Far-Rightists was accusing their opponents, not one of whom had crossed the road towards them, of being “violent” and claiming that the Rightists were peaceful and were “not going to respond to the violence” of the other side.
It was not long however before some of the Far-Right militants were crossing the road to throw insults and threats at their opponents at closer quarters who of course responded verbally. Gardaí then arrived and gently asked the Far-Rightists to return to the GPO side and one of the Rightists, pointing at the their opponents, who were still on the pedestrian reservation, actually demanded of the cops “Why don’t youse tell them to go back?”
This went on a number of times with the Gardaí intervening less and less. At one point I had one unmasked ginger-haired thug a few inches from my face photographing me, repeatedly calling me a “scumbag” and a “terrorist” (interesting) but when he told me I was destroying his country (!) I couldn’t resist asking “How am I destroying the country?” He declined to reply to my repeated question, moving on to express his aggression to someone else.
At this point I had become distracted by one of their supporters who was trying to have a conversation with me. I obliged and it was quite revealing on the disparate nature of many of the elements in these right-wing rallies. She told me that she was not racist and was bisexual and not right-wing and her friend (also present) was half-German, so why were we calling them racists and fascists? I was engaging her on some of the things that have been said by some of the group she was with and pointing out some individuals I had seen in support of Gemma Doherty, explaining to her that if she attends rallies of those people, she is going to be subjected to calls against fascists and racists.
Shortly I became aware of a disturbance behind me which, on turning I could see was a fight that was moving towards the east side of O’Connell St. (southbound traffic) where both ended up fighting fiercely on the ground. Before I could see who they were, five or six Gardaí then intervened and separated them, at which point I could identify both combatants: one was a Republican whom I had seen a little earlier sitting on the base of the flagpole in the middle of the pedestrian reservation (apparently where he was when attacked) and his assailant was the very one who had earlier been venting aggression at me and trying to provoke me into physical retaliation.
Once they had separated them the Gardaí were treating this matter as one of equal blame on both sides and saying things like “Don’t be silly now” whereas it was clearly the case that a fascist had crossed the road with aggressive intent and had then taken that further into physical aggression.
Later, when I remonstrated with some of the Gardaí that if we had crossed the road and behaved in that way, they would have at least pulled us out, “Go over there if you want,” said one of them, “I can’t stop you.” I pointed out to him that an antifascist who had approached Gemma Doherty supporters at the Dept. of Justice some months earlier had been threatened by a Garda Sergeant with arrest under the Public Order Act. (On that occasion too, the Gardaí had allowed the Far-Rightists to walk among the counter-protesters).
It seems from recent cases that the line the Gardaí are following is that if it looks like being a serious all-out fight they will police it hard and keep the two sides apart but, if smaller scattered fights break out they will break them up without arrests, especially if Republicans are being attacked and possibly, in future, use these occasions to arrest antifascists who defend themselves or respond to provocation.
It is historically true that police forces in capitalist states favour fascist movements, a fact seen throughout Europe. In London, in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, fought to prevent a march of the fascist “Blackshirts” through a largely Jewish East End, the main confrontation was between the antifascists on the barricades and the escort for the 2,000-3,000 fascists: 7,000 Metropolitan Police, along with the whole of the London mounted police force.
“WE ARE NOT RACISTS AND WE ARE FOR THE PALESTINIANS”
The above was one of the claims of the speaker of the Far-Rightists, made repeatedly. This is a new development in their rhetoric and they claimed to have some Polish and also a Palestinian among their number. This last at least appeared to be true and a big man of Middle-Eastern appearance was among them and was seen later chatting to some Gardaí. A man I know informed me that this man is a Palestinian but a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (right-wing Islamic fundamentalist group).
Gemma Doherty has posted much racist material (and outright lies), as has Justin Barrett of the National Party, both of them objecting to the election of Councillor Hazel Chu as Lord Mayor, Barrett going so far as to say that he would remove Ms.Chu’s nationality if he were in power, even though she was born in the Mater Hospital and raised and educated in Dublin.
The Far-Right, which is a mixed bag in any case, were happy to use O’Doherty’s notoriety to push their movement further but perhaps they are finding her a bit of a liability now and are remodeling themselves as some kind of inclusive alternative movement for civil freedoms etc. They are still promoting their opposition to the idea of legislation against “hate speech” discussed by the previous Government and demanding their right to “free speech”. This actually does hearken back to O’Doherty’s campaign against Google, who closed down her Youtube channels because of alleged racist abuse.
If they are going to drop the racist rhetoric and claim multi-culturalism, presumably they will have to abandon the “Replacement” conspiracy theory, whereby the EU allegedly has a plan to replace all the Irish with migrants! However the challenge with which their militants first approached their opponents on Sunday of “Are you Irish?”, just as they did at the O’Doherty rallies, hardly exudes multi-culturalism.
The other elements of Far-Right rhetoric and propaganda remain, however: that they are “Patriots” (sic – hence the strutting around with the Tricolour and “Irish Republic” flags); they are Christians (“walking in the steps of God” according to their speaker that day); that their opponents areall in an organisation called “Antifa” and funded by the millionaire Soros (also according to their speaker); and that governments are assisting in a coming to power of a “New World Order”.
CANNOT BE TOLERATED
It is not acceptable that Republicans or any kind of antifascist can be attacked on our streets and it must not be tolerated. Apart from anything else fascists will use incidents like that to promote themselves as some kind of “warriors” to build up their fascist thug forces while at the same time part of their movement will be playing the victim and proclaiming their “peacefulness”, as was amply demonstrated today. This is exactly the dual road of the advance of fascism historically.
There is something wrong with our organisation in the broad sense too, it seems to me, if our opponents, at least some of whom wish us harm, can walk among our ranks with impunity. In some places today they were blocked and one youth was even pursued until he returned to his group but in many places they just walked in and it was one of those who assaulted the Republican today.
On another issue, as I have pointed out in the past, these confrontations may tend to have the Far-Right appear as patriotic to onlookers, since it is they who are waving the Tricolour and “Irish Republic” flags and some wearing green tops too. For the sake of educating the public, the antifascists need to fly their flags too, whether these be tricolours as well and/or Starry Ploughs, Red, Red-and-Black or Black flags, including those with the Antifascist symbol, or that of the LGBT movement or indeed others. Placards countering the fascist and racist propaganda and exposing fake patriotism should also be visible.
The most crucial thing is that the Far-Right movement with its fascist core be not permitted to appear a viable option for the Irish ruling class to choose. We have had some successes, for example in preventing Pegida launching in Dublin in 2016 and some confrontations with the Far-Right – but it is clear that there remains a deal of work to be done.
Dublin has a Lord Mayor of Chinese descent. According to some, this is some kind of disaster. Apparently to them, she is a migrant (though born, bred and educated in Ireland) and even an advance scout for a takeover by Chinese Communists (because, of course, all Chinese are communists, even those from Hong Kong – but wait, didn’t Gemma O’Doherty also tweet approvingly that some Chinese Hong Kong businessman wants to have the Communist Party of China declared a terrorist organisation?).
Speaking after her election (on 43 votes against the nine for the other candidate, according to RTÉ), Ms Chu said she wanted the Dublin Agreement parties who had backed her election) to tackle the housing and homeless crisis which has seemed like “filling a hole in a sinking ship”.
Her other priorities are making Dublin a liveable city, fighting discrimination and protecting the vulnerable. In her speech, she said she wondered if her mother – who had worked washing dishes in a restaurant off O’Connell Street – dreamed that her daughter would one day become Lord Mayor.
Since being elected a public representative on to Dublin City Council in 2019, on the highest first-preference count of any Irish local authority councillor (perhaps Pembroke constituency is a Chinese Communist base?), also receiving the highest percentage vote of any first-time candidate, Hazel Chu has reportedly been subject to racist harassment, vilification and even threats, both on social media and by telephone calls to her home. Not because of her views or her political party – purely because her parents are Chinese who met and settled in Dublin in the 1970s.
When Hazel Chu was nominated for the position and before her election, racist and right-wing conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty recorded herself on video attacking her and claiming that Chu is a supporter of pedophilia (because she allegedly supported the closure by Google of O’Doherty’s Youtube channels) and in Gemma-World apparently a Chairperson of the Green Party can also be “a hard-core Communist”.
After Chu’s election, O’Doherty tweeted, above a highly dubious “news” item claiming that a property developer plans to build a new city in Ireland for Hong Kong refugees (!): It’s fitting Dublin now has a Chinese Mayor when millions more are to be planted in our home in the coming years. You wanted Communism. You’ve got it. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! But the Reds know it will only make the patriot movement grow and grow.
O’Doherty has become notorious not only for her anti-immigrant rhetoric but also for claiming that the the whole Covid19 pandemic was fake and part of a plan to put in place a New World Order (apparently the existing Order is not bad enough) and that the EU has a plan to replace Irish people with migrants. One of her heroes is Donald Trump and her opponents she claims are all “Reds” who are “funded by Soros”, as is the Black Lives Matter movement, “Antifa” etc. Along with the Right in the USA she defends the statues of racists and conquistadors (even though the latter were armed immigrants and definitely dangerous to the locals!).
Justin Barrett, founder of the National Party (sic) and former member of far-Right organisation Youth Defence has said that if he were to get into power he would strip Hazel Chu of her citizenship. It is hardly surprising to see a proposal straight out of Nazi Germany coming from this former campaigner against divorce and abortion and for a “Catholic Ireland” that would ban muslims from entering the country because apparently muslims are a serious threat to our lives and Irish liberty (Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, William of Orange, Lord Castlereagh, King George III and Lloyd George must’ve all been muslims!). Barrett is on record as being an admirer of the anti-semitic Fr. Denis Fahey and writer Hilaire Beloc (a French immigrant to Britain!).
BEYOND THE CRAZY PARANOIA – FASCISM
Beyond the craziness, the paranoia and ludicrous theories of conspiracy (as distinct from the real conspiracies in the world), what we have here is virulent racism and lurking in among those sad and mad people and raving racists …. are the handful of organised fascists. Those who dare not at the moment come out and declare their wish to have a corporate state in Ireland, one to outlaw oppositional organisations and demonstrations and suppress the resistance of the working class. A REAL conspiracy. A kind of State that becomes increasingly attractive to the capitalist ruling class as it finds itself in difficulty to keep up its profit levels and feels it needs to squeeze the working people harder. A REAL possibility.
Which is why we need to take these matters seriously. Such organisations as Anti-Corruption Ireland (sic), Yellow Vests Ireland and the National Party are the means by which the fascists mobilise a stream in which they can swim – and collect others to swim with them.
They must not be given an inch.
That the ruling Gombeen class would turn to them if they looked like a viable option is entirely possible if viewed historically. The State was set up by that ruling class in a vicious Civil War in which it not only repressed its opposition and the population but executed 80 Republicans with barely a court martial, shot prisoners and exploded them on landmines, kidnapped and murdered activists.
A large part of the opposition to that State at the time became coopted by the ruling class and that process has come into full development with the current Fianna Fáil/ Fine Gael coalition Government. And we can already see the straws in the wind in the behavior of the Gardaí, who appear in and out of uniform to harass peaceful Republican pickets and Debenham’s worker picketers while on the other hand, weekly demonstrations of the far-Right, violating in every way pandemic precautions, remain untouched by those same Gardaí.
The far-Right in Ireland have been trying for some time to present themselves as “patriots”, flying the Irish Tricolour, playing the Soldiers’ Song, etc. They do not have a history of promoting the Irish language or fighting for the rights of Irish speakers, nor of campaigning against English colonialism in the Six Counties, nor for Reunification of the country. Nor have they a track record of even defending areas of historical importance from rapacious Gombeen and foreign property speculators. They were not active in the struggle against British Petroleum in the Erris area nor in preventing the selloff of Irish forestry. So what actually is this “patriotism” of theirs? Nothing. Nothing but racism.
It is not even enough apparently for these racists that a person be born in Ireland – they have to be “ethnically Irish”. Would that be like the Pearse brothers, shot by British firing squads, whose father was English? Like Constance Markievicz, founder of the Na Fianna and officer in the 1916 Rising, one of the Gore-Booth planter family? Like Thomas Davis, Young Irelander author of A Nation Once Again and other songs, whose father was Welsh? Like Theobald Wolfe Tone, founder of the United Irishmen, a descendant of planters? Like Erskine Childers, fourth President of Ireland and son of an Englishman who died for Ireland, executed by this very State?
And while we are about discussing things “ethnically Irish”, should these “patriots” not return that flag they keep waving, the Tricolour, to the descendants of the Parisian revolutionary women who first presented it to Thomas Meagher in 1848?
Brothers and sisters, greetings! Your valiant struggle is now at a pause. Although in revolutionary struggle it is important to keep up the momentum, nevertheless a pause gives time for reflection. A useful time to look at what worked and what did not, to review the lessons learned in the struggle so far and also to compare with other historical periods.
YOU CANNOT STAND ALONE AND WIN
It is clear to most people that Catalonia cannot, as things stand, win independence on its own efforts alone. The total population of Catalonia, rather like that of Ireland, is a little over 7.5 million, while the population of the rest of the Spanish state comes to just under 45.5 million. Even with the populations of the rest of the Paisos Catalans, Valencia, Balearic Islands and Pau, the numbers are stacked against you. And not all Catalans are in favour of independence either, even if the majority in Catalonia favour it. Not to be ignored either is the French State, which sits on your northern border and claims dominion over Pau.
The French and Spanish states are powerful and also prominent members of economic and military alliances, chief amongst which in our discussion perhaps is the European Union. Many of you appealed to the EU for support when the Spanish State sent its police forces to attack you at the time of your Referendum on Independence in 2017. You received your reply when then President of the EU Commission Claude Juncker declared that they “don’t want a European Union of 99 states” and also indicated that some EU existing member states might face similar problems to the Spanish State’s (clearly having in mind France, Italy, the UK at the time and Belgium, states that include subject nations or conflicting national identities). The answer was repeated when Catalan MEPs Puigdemont and Comin were for a period banned from entering the European Parliament.
Those of you who expected something different from the EU were disappointed, some of you bitterly so. It was so unjust. Yes, it was very unjust – yet entirely predictable. The EU is an alliance which is not only capitalist, not only dominated by a neo-liberal approach to economics but also dominated by imperialist states. And it should not have been expected that they would encourage the breakup of one of those states, however they might wish that it behaved itself with more cunning and less brutal force. By the way, they prefer cunning to brute force not because they believe the latter is wrong but because once one resorts to brute force the mask is off and then the outcome of the contest depends on which side has the most force. The rulers of states are very few in numbers and their close supporters few also. The ruled people on the other hand constitute a huge mass.
This brings me back again to the question of numbers and how few you are. You have courage and intelligent innovations but you need allies. There are many places in the world to look for allies but the most obvious and effective places are the nearest – in the very states that oppress you. Let us for a moment concentrate on the territory of your main oppressor here – the Spanish State.
THE CLOSEST AND MOST OBVIOUS ALLY
When looking for potential allies there is an obvious one that springs to mind: the Basque Country. That nation’s population is not even half the size of yours and it is divided much more than is your nation by the border with the French State. Yet, after the victory of Franco’s fascist-military forces, that small nation fought a hard struggle against the Spanish State throughout the Dictatorship, through the Transition and afterwards. Though the armed side of that struggle is what observers often focus upon, the struggle was also and mainly one might say, social, linguistic, ideological and trade unionist. An obvious partner, one might think. Yet things have not, so far, turned out that way. It might be worthwhile examining why.
One reason I believe was the rejection by much of the Catalan independence movement of the armed side of the Basque struggle, even though that had already ended by 2012. One of the exiled Catalan leaders, for the moment an MEP, even stated publicly that “We Catalans are not like the Basques; our struggle is a peaceful one.” She was repeating what countless Catalans have said about their struggle being a peaceful one, though of course the insult to and alienation of another struggling nation was gratuitous.
Firstly, even if the struggle of the Catalans for independence was going to be a peaceful one, forever and ever amen, that was no reason to reject the assistance of an ally and furthermore one that had abandoned armed struggle over five years earlier. I am sorry to say and you would be ashamed to admit that those comments disparaging the Basques and the armed part of their history of resistance were in order to make yourselves, as you thought, more attractive to the EU. It didn’t work, as you know now and in fact could never work because it is the very consequences of your struggle for a member state to which the EU objects, not whatever your methods.
Secondly, from a historical and practical point of view, it is illogical to forever commit oneself (or one’s people) to one method of struggle alone. It flies in the face of the history of Catalonia as well as the history of practically every other nation on Earth opposing an invading or colonising force. It ignores too the history of the Spanish State itself which from its beginning has been one of violent suppression of not only every people it invaded outside the peninsula and also the nations within its current territory but also every democratic, liberal and socialist movement that arose among its own core population. But let us leave that question aside for the moment and return that of allies.
Knowing the history of the Basque people, many expected some kind of popular rising there in 2017 in support of Catalonia, to stretch the forces of repression and give the Spanish State an even more serious headache. It did not happen. Apart from a demonstration or two and messages of support, we only saw the blocking for a short while of one of the main commercial motorways into the Spanish State. Many were surprised or even shocked at such a weak response from a movement that had not long before been capable of putting tens of thousands on to the streets in protest against the State.
Whether the Catalans asked for that kind of support or didn’t does not, in essence matter. The opportunity was there, the enemy the same – but the Basque pro-independence movement leaders chose not to act.
Does this mean that the Basques will never support the struggle of Catalonia for independence? I do not think so ….. but the issue requires a little deeper investigation.
A CHANGED LEADERSHIP
Had this crisis arisen in the 1970s or 1980s, the practical support from the Basque Country would have been enormous and stretched the forces of Spanish State repression to breaking point. Perhaps so even in the early 1990s. By the end of that decade however, most of the leaders of the Abertzale Left, the Basque pro-Independence Left, were looking to give up armed struggle completely and were attracted by what they saw as the success of the pacification processes in Ireland, Palestine (for a short period) and South Africa. Unlike the Irish and South African examples, they dissolved the military side of their organisation without getting a single thing in return from the Spanish State (except more repression). It soon became apparent that the armed aspect was not the only form of struggle that they were giving up and that henceforth they would focus nearly completely on the electoral path.
One may wonder at a leadership which once declared itself for the independence and socialism of an entire Euskera-speaking nation now settling for electoral campaigns in which, even in the highly unlikely event of becoming a majority party in one part of of its nation, it would still be on territory divided by two powerful states. It does seem ludicrous but perhaps they just wanted to have ‘normal lives’ for a change and felt unable to admit their true motivation.
Meanwhile, the Catalans, now having risen in struggle, have lives far from what might be considered “normal”. Their pro-independence organisations are preparing for the next stage of the war and their people wondering what that will be and whether their leaders have the capacity to take the right decisions; other leaders in jail or in exile on framed charges, well over another 700 activists facing charges in future – and all arising out of struggle against a State that has backed down not one inch.
The need for effective allies has if anything increased. There are still the Basques. Yes, I say that despite the abandonment of struggle by their movement’s leadership. The heart of resistance still beats there, though the head is somewhat confused and uncertain.
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOLIDARITY
Over four weeks ago, Patxi Ruiz Romero, a Basque political prisoner who would be considered a “dissident” by some, went on hunger strike, 12 days of which were also a thirst strike.
A Basque movement that would be considered “dissident” by some people too, Movement for Amnesty and Against Repression, has mobilised public protests in solidarity with Patxi Ruiz and public fasts, pickets and marches have taken place across the Basque Country, including each of its five cities: Gastheiz/ Vitoria, Irunea/ Pamplona, Donosti/ San Sebastian, Baiona/ Bayonne and Bilbo/ Bilbao. All of this has happened despite not only a lack of support from the Abertzale Left leadership but its condemnation of the mobilisation on the streets. And you Catalans, you know the importance of the streets! Isn’t Els carres seran sempre nostres (“The streets will always be ours”) one of the popular slogans of your movement?
I ask you now to stretch the public hand of solidarity to this movement (as was done last Friday in Barcelona). Both out of solidarity for human rights and also for a partnership in struggle with the Basque Country. Some will say that they don’t agree with the path chosen by Patxi Ruiz which led to his arrest. I reply that you don’t have to support that but you SHOULD SUPPORT HUMAN RIGHTS to self-determination, against torture, against beatings in prison and in support of serving one’s sentence near one’s family (remember when the Catalan political prisoners were being held in Madrid?).
Others of you may object that the “dissident” movement is a small one. I would reply that a small movement that will fight is worth much more than a huge one held back by its leaders. Also that the Abertzale Left was once also a small movement.
Some may say that your movement will be accused of being supporters of ETA and you are not. Firstly, ETA no longer exists. Secondly, what is one more accusation thrown at you by Spanish unionists and fascists?
You should not need me, an insignificant activist though of many years’ experience to be telling you this. The truth is clear in this case. And at this late stage, perhaps even your support will be insufficient to save Patxi’s life. But it would be remembered and would help in forging a unity in action against a common enemy, a unity to which other forces, at the moment more or less quiet, would come and help to break up this fascist State and bring freedom for all. From wherever he is then, I am sure Patxi would thank you. And so would your own people. And many other struggling people around the world.
Dublin 9th June 2020.
CARTA OBERTA AL MOVIMENT INDEPENDENTISTA CATALÀ
(Temps de lectura: 5 minuts)
Germans i germanes, salutacions! La vostra valent lluita és ara en pausa. Encara que en la lluita revolucionària és important mantenir l’impuls, de vegades una pausa dóna temps per a la reflexió. Un moment útil per veure què funcionava i què no, per revisar les lliçons apreses fins ara en la lluita i també per comparar amb altres períodes històrics.
NO PODEU GUANYAR SOLS
És evident per a la majoria de la gent que Catalunya no pot, tal com estan les coses, obtenir la independència només pels seus propis esforços. La població total de Catalunya, aproximadament similar a la d’Irlanda, és gairebé de 7.500.000, mentre que la població de la resta de l’estat espanyol ascendeix a gairebé 45.500.000. Fins i tot amb les poblacions de la resta dels Països Catalans, València, les Illes Balears i Catalunya Nord, les xifres no sumen prou. Ni tampoc tots els catalans estan a favor de la independència, tot i que hi ha una majoria parlamentària que li pot donar suport. Tampoc ha d’ignorar-se l’estat francès, que es troba a la vostra frontera nord i reivindica la dominació sobre la Catalunya Nord.
Els estats francès i espanyol són poderosos i també destacats membres de les aliances econòmiques i militars, entre les quals, en aquest debat, sens dubte destaca la Unió Europea. Molts de vosaltres vau demanar suport a la UE quan l’estat espanyol va enviar les seves forces policials per atacar-vos amb motiu del vostre referèndum d’independència el 2017. Vau rebre la vostra resposta quan el llavors president de la Comissió, Claude Junkers, va afirmar que “no volen una Unió Europea de 99 Estats”, i també va indicar que alguns dels estats membres de la UE podrien enfrontar-se a problemes similars als de l’estat espanyol (en clara referència a França, Itàlia, Regne Unit – en aquell moment – i Bèlgica, estats que inclouen nacions o identitats nacionals en conflicte). La resposta es va repetir quan als eurodiputats Puigdemont i Comin se’ls va impedir durant un període de temps d’entrar al Parlament Europeu.
Aquells de vosaltres que esperàveu de la UE alguna altra cosa vau quedar decebuts, en alguns casos de forma molt amarga. Va ser tan injust. Sí, va ser molt injust… però totalment previsible. La UE és una aliança que no només és capitalista, no només està dominada per un enfocament neoliberal de l’economia, sinó que també està dominada pels Estats imperialistes. I no era d’esperar que fomentés la ruptura d’un d’aquests Estats, fins i tot si haurien preferit que es comportés amb més astúcia i menys força bruta. Per cert, prefereixen l’astúcia a la força bruta no perquè creguin que aquesta última està malament, sinó perquè una vegada que s’ha recorregut a la força bruta, cauen les màscares i després el resultat de l’envit depèn de quin costat té més força. Els governants dels Estats són molt pocs en nombre i els seus partidaris propers també. En canvi, la gent governada constitueix una massa enorme.
Això em torna a la qüestió dels números i com sou d’escassos. Teniu valor i innovacions intel·ligents, però necessiteu aliats. Hi ha molts llocs al món per buscar aliats, però els llocs més evidents i eficaços són els més propers, dins els mateixos estats que us oprimeixen. Ens concentrarem per un moment en el territori del vostre principal opressor aquí: l’estat espanyol.
L’ALIAT MÉS PROPER I EVIDENT
Si esteu buscant possibles aliats, n’hi ha un de ben evident que ve a la ment: el País Basc. La població d’aquesta nació no és ni la meitat de la vostra, i està molt més dividida que la vostra per la frontera amb l’estat francès. No obstant això, després de la victòria de l’exèrcit feixista de Franco, aquesta petita nació va lluitar contra l’estat espanyol durant tota la dictadura, durant la transició i després. Tot i que els observadors sovint se centren només en el seu vessant armat, es podria dir que la lluita era també, i principalment, social, lingüística, ideològica i sindicalista. Un soci evident, es podria pensar. No obstant això, les coses no han funcionat, fins ara, d’aquesta manera. Sembla interessant analitzar el perquè.
Una de les raons, crec, va ser el rebuig de gran part del moviment independentista català a la vessant armada de la lluita basca, tot i que ja s’havia acabat el 2012. Un dels dirigents catalans exiliats, actualment Eurodiputada, va afirmar públicament que “els catalans no som com els bascos; la nostra lluita és pacífica.” Estava repetint el que molts catalans també han dit sobre el caràcter pacífic de la seva lluita, encara que per descomptat l’insult i l’alienació amb relació a un altre país en dificultats van ser del tot gratuïts.
En primer lloc, fins i tot si la lluita dels catalans per la independència es mantingués pacífica pels segles dels segles amén, això no seria cap raó per rebutjar l’ajuda d’un aliat que, a més, havia abandonat la lluita armada feia ja més de cinc anys. Lamento dir, i no us agradarà admetre, que aquests comentaris distanciant-se dels bascos i del vessant armat de la seva història de resistència tenien com a objectiu fer-se més atractius per a la UE. No va funcionar, com bé sabeu ara, i de fet mai no podria funcionar, perquè és la conseqüència esperable de lluitar per un estat propi al qual la UE s’oposa, independentment dels mètodes utilitzats.
En segon lloc, tant des d’un punt de vista històric com pràctic, és il·lògic comprometre’s (o comprometre el teu poble) per sempre a un únic mètode de lluita. Contradiu la història de Catalunya, així com la història de pràcticament qualsevol altra nació del planeta que s’hagi resistit a una força invasora o colonitzadora. També ignora la història de l’estat espanyol que des dels seus inicis ha estat repressor violent no només de cada poble que ha envaït fora de la península, així com de les nacions dins de les seves actuals fronteres, sinó també de tots els moviments democràtics, liberals i socialistes sorgits d’entre la seva pròpia població. Però deixem de banda de moment aquesta qüestió i tornem a la dels aliats.
Coneixent la història del poble basc, molts el 2017 esperaven que s’hi alcés algun tipus de moviment popular en suport de Catalunya, per pressionar a les forces repressores i augmentar el mal de cap a l’estat espanyol. No va passar. A part d’una o dues manifestacions i missatges de suport, només vam veure el bloqueig per un curt temps d’una de les principals carreteres comercials de l’estat espanyol. Molts van quedar sorpresos, per no dir impactats, per la resposta tan feble d’un moviment que poc abans havia estat capaç de posar desenes de milers de persones als carrers en protesta contra l’estat.
Si els catalans van demanar aquest tipus de suport, o no, és realment el que menys importa. L’oportunitat hi va ser, l’enemic era el mateix, però els dirigents del moviment independentista basc van optar per no actuar.
Vol dir això que els bascos mai no donaran suport a la lluita de Catalunya per la independència? No és això el que penso… però el tema requereix una mica de recerca més profunda.
UN CANVI DE LIDERATGE
Si aquesta crisi hagués sorgit en els anys 70 o 80, el suport pràctic del País Basc hauria estat enorme i hauria tensat moltíssim a les forces repressores de l’estat espanyol. Potser fins i tot en la dècada de 1990. Al final d’aquesta dècada, però, la majoria dels dirigents de l’esquerra abertzale estaven tractant d’abandonar per complet la lluita armada i van ser atrets pel que van veure com l’èxit dels processos de pau a Irlanda, Palestina (per un curt període) i Sud-àfrica. A diferència dels exemples irlandesos i sud-africans, van dissoldre el costat militar de la seva organització sense obtenir de l’estat espanyol ni una sola cosa a canvi (excepte més repressió). Aviat es va fer evident que l’activitat armada no era l’única forma de lluita a la que estaven renunciant, i que des de llavors es centrarien gairebé de forma exclusiva en el camí electoral.
Sembla lògic fer-se preguntes sobre un lideratge que un dia es va declarar a favor de la independència i el socialisme de tota una nació al voltant de l’euskera, i que ara es conforma amb campanyes electorals en les quals, fins i tot en l’improbable cas de convertir-se en un partit majoritari en una part de la seva nació, encara tindria el seu territori dividit entre dos estats poderosos. Per ridícul que pugui semblar, potser només els venia de gust tornar a tenir “vides normals” i els va faltar coratge per admetre la seva veritable motivació.
Mentrestant, els catalans, ara alçant-se en lluita, tenen unes vides lluny del que es podria considerar “normal”. Les seves organitzacions independentistes s’estan preparant per a la pròxima etapa de la guerra i la seva gent es pregunten en què consistirà aquesta, i si els seus líders tenen la capacitat de prendre les decisions adequades; altres líders a la presó o a l’exili per acusacions manipulades, més de 700 activistes que s’enfronten a càrrecs, i tot això arran de la lluita contra un estat que no ha cedit ni un mil·límetre.
La necessitat d’aliats efectius, en qualsevol cas, és ara encara més gran. Encara hi ha els bascos. Sí, dic això malgrat l’abandonament de la lluita pels líders del seu moviment. Allà el cor de la resistència encara batega, encara que el cap estigui una mica confús i incert.
PELS DRETS HUMANS I LA SOLIDARITAT
Fa més de quatre setmanes, Patxi Ruiz Romero, un presoner polític basc que podria ser considerat per alguns com ser un “dissident”, va començar una vaga de fam, de la qual 12 dies van ser també una vaga assedegada. Un moviment basc que alguns també consideren “dissident”, el moviment per l’amnistia i contra la repressió, ha mobilitzat protestes públiques en solidaritat amb Patxi Ruiz i dejunis, mítings i marxes han tingut lloc a tot el país Basc, incloent-hi cadascuna de les seves cinc ciutats: Gasteiz / Vitòria, Iruñea / Pamplona, Donosti / Sant Sebastià, Baiona i Bilbo / Bilbao. Tot això ha passat no només sense el suport de la direcció de l’esquerra abertzale, sinó fins i tot amb la seva condemna de la mobilització als carrers. I vosaltres, catalans, sabeu de la importància dels carrers! No és “els carrers seran sempre nostres” un dels eslògans més populars del vostre moviment?
Ara us demano que doneu la mà de la vostra solidaritat amb aquest moviment (com vau fer divendres passat a la concentració de Barcelona). Tant per la solidaritat pels drets humans com per la fraternitat en la lluita amb el País Basc. Alguns direu que no esteu d’acord amb el camí escollit per Patxi Ruiz i que va conduir a la seva detenció. Jo responc que no teniu per què donar suport a aquest camí, però sí que HAURÍEU DE RECOLZAR ELS DRETS HUMANS a l’autodeterminació, contra la tortura, contra les pallisses a la presó i a favor de complir amb la seva sentència a prop de la seva família (recordeu quan els presos polítics catalans van ser detinguts a Madrid?).
Altres podeu objectar que el moviment “dissident” és petit. Jo respondria que un petit moviment que lluita val molt més que un altre de grans, però frenat pels seus propis líders. També respondria que l’esquerra abertzale va ser també, en algun moment, un moviment petit.
Alguns podreu dir que el vostre moviment serà acusat de ser partidari d’ETA, quan no ho sou. En primer lloc, ETA ja no existeix. En segon lloc, quina importància té encara una acusació més contra vosaltres llançada per feixistes i unionistes espanyols?
No hauria de necessitar-me a mi, un militant insignificant encara que amb molts anys d’experiència, per entendre això. La veritat és evident en aquest cas. I a hores d’ara, potser fins i tot el vostre suport serà insuficient per salvar la vida del Patxi. Però seria apreciat i recordat, i ajudaria a forjar una unitat d’acció contra un enemic comú, una unitat a la qual altres forces, en aquest moment més o menys inactives, acudirien i ajudarien a trencar aquest estat feixista i portar la llibertat per a tots. Des d’on estigui en aquell moment, estic segur que el Patxi us ho agrairia. I també el vostre propi poble. I moltes altres persones que estan en lluita arreu del món.
CARTA ABIERTA AL MOVIMIENTO INDEPENDENTISTA CATALÁN
(Tiempo de lectura: 5 minutos)
Hermanos y hermanas, ¡saludos! Vuestra valiente lucha se encuentra ahora en una pausa. Aunque en la lucha revolucionaria es importante mantener el impulso, a veces una pausa da tiempo para la reflexión. Un momento útil para ver lo que funcionó y lo que no, para repasar las lecciones aprendidas hasta ahora en la lucha y también para comparar con otros períodos históricos.
NO PODÉIS GANAR SOLOS
Está claro para la mayoría de la gente que Catalunya no puede, tal como están las cosas, ganar la independencia solo por sus propios esfuerzos. La población total de Catalunya, más o menos similar a la de Irlanda, supera por poco los 7,5 millones, mientras que la población del resto del Estado español asciende a casi 45,5 millones. Incluso con las poblaciones del resto de los PaïsosCatalans, Valencia, Baleares y Catalunya Nord, los números no suman suficiente. Y tampoco todos los catalanes están a favor de la independencia, aunque la mayoría parlamentaria la pueda apoyar. Tampoco debe ser ignorado el Estado francés, que se encuentra en vuestra frontera norte y reclama el dominio sobre la Catalunya Nord.
Los Estados franceses y españoles son poderosos y también miembros prominentes de las alianzas económicas y militares, entre las que, en lo tocante a esta discusión, destaca sin duda la Unión Europea. Muchos de vosotros pedisteis apoyo a la UE cuando el Estado español envió sus fuerzas policiales para atacaros con ocasión de vuestro referéndum sobre la independencia en 2017. Recibisteis su respuesta cuando el entonces presidente de la Comisión, Claude Junkers, declaró que “no quieren una Unión Europea de 99 Estados” y también indicó que algunos de los estados miembros de la UE podrían enfrentarse a problemas similares a los del Estado español (en clara alusión a Francia, Italia, el Reino Unido – en ese momento – y Bélgica, estados que incluyen naciones o identidades nacionales en conflicto). La respuesta se repitió cuando a los eurodiputados catalanes Puigdemont y Comin se les prohibió durante un período la entrada al Parlamento Europeo.
Aquellos de vosotros que esperabais de la UE algo diferente sufristeis una decepción, en algunos casos muy amarga. Fue tan injusto. Sí, fue muy injusto… pero era totalmente previsible. La UE es una alianza que no sólo es capitalista, no sólo está dominada por un enfoque neoliberal de la economía, sino que también está dominada por Estados imperialistas. Y no se esperaba que alentaran la ruptura de uno de esos estados, aun cuando hubieran preferido que se comportara con más astucia y menos fuerza bruta. Por cierto, prefieren la astucia a la fuerza bruta no porque crean que ésta última está mal, sino porque una vez se ha recurrido a la fuerza bruta, caen las máscaras y entonces el resultado del envite depende de qué lado tiene más fuerza. Los gobernantes de los estados son muy pocos en número y sus partidarios cercanos pocos también. En el otro bando, el pueblo gobernado constituye una enorme masa.
Esto me lleva de nuevo a la cuestión de los números y lo pocos que sois. Tenéis valor e innovaciones inteligentes, pero necesitáis aliados. Hay muchos lugares en el mundo para buscar aliados, pero los lugares más obvios y efectivos son los más cercanos, en los mismos estados que os oprimen. Concentrémonos por un momento en el territorio de su principal opresor aquí: el Estado español.
EL ALIADO MÁS CERCANO Y OBVIO
Si se buscan aliados potenciales hay uno obvio que viene a la mente: el País Vasco. La población de esa nación no es ni siquiera la mitad del tamaño de la vuestra y está dividida mucho más que la vuestra por la frontera con el Estado francés. Sin embargo, después de la victoria del ejército fascista de Franco, esa pequeña nación luchó una dura lucha contra el Estado español a lo largo de la dictadura, durante la Transición y después. Aunque los observadores a menudo se centran sólo en su vertiente armada, se podría decir que la lucha fue también, y principalmente, social, linguística, ideológica y sindicalista. Un socio obvio, podría pensarse. Sin embargo, las cosas no han resultado, hasta ahora, de esa manera. Parece interesante analizar el por qué.
Una razón, creo, fue el rechazo de gran parte del movimiento independentista catalán a la vertiente armada de la lucha vasca, aunque ya hubiese terminado en 2012. Uno de los líderes catalanes exiliados, por el momento eurodiputada, incluso declaró públicamente que “nosotros los catalanes no somos como los vascos; nuestra lucha es pacífica”. Estaba repitiendo lo que innumerables catalanes han dicho también sobre el carácter pacífico de su lucha, aunque desde luego el insulto y la alienación respecto a otra nación en dificultades fueron gratuitos.
En primer lugar, aunque la lucha de los catalanes por la independencia vaya a ser pacífica por los siglos de los siglos amén, eso no sería razón para rechazar la ayuda de un aliado que, además, había abandonado la lucha armada hacía ya más de cinco años. Lamento decir, y no os gustará admitir, que esos comentarios de distanciamiento de los vascos y de la vertiente armada de su historia de resistencia tenían como objetivo hacerse más atractivos para la UE. No funcionó, como bien sabéis ahora, y de hecho nunca podría funcionar, porque es la consecuencia propia de luchar por conseguir un Estado propio al que la UE se opone, independientemente de los métodos usados.
En segundo lugar, desde un punto de vista tanto histórico como práctico, es ilógico comprometerse para siempre a uno mismo (o a su pueblo) a un solo método de lucha. Contradice la historia de Catalunya, así como la historia de prácticamente cualquier otra nación del planeta que se haya resistido a una fuerza invasora o colonizadora. Ignora también la historia del propio Estado español que desde sus inicios ha sido represor violento no sólo de cada pueblo que ha invadido fuera de la península, así como de las naciones dentro de sus fronteras actuales, sino también de todos los movimientos democráticos, liberales y socialistas que surgieron entre su propia población. Pero dejemos esta cuestión a un lado por el momento y volvamos a la de los aliados.
Conociendo la historia del pueblo vasco, muchos en 2017 esperaban que surgiese allí algún tipo de movimiento popular en apoyo de Catalunya, para presionar a las fuerzas represoras y dar al Estado español un mayor quebradero de cabeza. No sucedió. Aparte de una o dos manifestaciones y mensajes de apoyo, sólo vimos el bloqueo por un breve tiempo de una de las principales autopistas comerciales del Estado español. Muchos quedaron sorprendidos o incluso impactados ante una respuesta tan débil de un movimiento que poco antes había sido capaz de poner a decenas de miles de personas en las calles en protesta contra el Estado.
Si los catalanes pidieron ese tipo de apoyo, o no, en realidad es lo de menos. La oportunidad estaba ahí, el enemigo era el mismo, pero los líderes del movimiento independentista vasco optaron por no actuar.
¿Significa esto que los vascos nunca apoyarán la lucha de Catalunya por la independencia? No es eso lo que pienso… pero el tema requiere una investigación un poco más profunda.
UN CAMBIO DE LIDERAZGO
Si esta crisis hubiera surgido en los años 70 o 80, el apoyo práctico del País Vasco habría sido enorme y habría tensionado enormemente a las fuerzas represoras del Estado español. Tal vez incluso a principios de la década de 1990. Sin embargo, al final de esa década la mayoría de los líderes de la izquierda abertzale estaban tratando de abandonar por completo la lucha armada y se sintieron atraídos por lo que veían como el éxito de los procesos de pacificación en Irlanda, Palestina (por un corto período) y Sudáfrica. A diferencia de los ejemplos irlandés y sudafricano, disolvieron la vertiente militar de su organización sin obtener del Estado español ni una sola cosa a cambio (excepto más represión). Pronto se hizo evidente que la actividad armada no era la única forma de lucha a la que estaban renunciando, y que a partir de entonces se centrarían casi completamente en el camino electoral.
Parece lógico hacerse preguntas sobre un liderazgo que en su momento se declaró a favor de la independencia y el socialismo de una entera nación en torno al euskera, y que ahora se conforma con campañas electorales en las que, incluso en el muy improbable caso de convertirse en un partido mayoritario en una parte de su nación, todavía tendría su territorio dividido entre dos estados poderosos. Por ridículo que parezca, tal vez sólo tenían ganas de volver a tener “vidas normales” y les faltó valor para admitir su verdadera motivación.
Mientras tanto, los catalanes, ahora alzándose en lucha, tienen vidas lejos de lo que podría considerarse “normal”. Sus organizaciones independentistas se están preparando para la siguiente etapa de la guerra y su gente se pregunta en qué consistirá y si sus líderes tienen la capacidad de tomar las decisiones correctas; otros líderes en la cárcel o en el exilio por acusaciones amañadas, más de 700 activistas que se enfrentan a futuros procesos, y todo ello a raíz de la lucha contra un Estado que no ha cedido ni un milímetro.
La necesidad de aliados eficaces, en todo caso, es ahora mayor. Todavía están los vascos. Sí, lo digo a pesar del abandono de la lucha por los líderes de su movimiento. Allí el corazón de la resistencia todavía late, aunque la cabeza esté algo confusa e incierta.
POR LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS Y LA SOLIDARIDAD
Hace mas de cuatro semanas, Patxi Ruiz Romero, un preso político vasco que podría ser considerado por algunos un “disidente”, inició una huelga de hambre, durante la cual 12 días fueron también una huelga de sed. Un movimiento vasco que también algunos consideran “disidente”, el Movimiento por la Amnistía y Contra la Represión, ha movilizado protestas públicas en solidaridad con Patxi Ruiz y han tenido lugar ayunos, concentraciones y marchas en todo el País Vasco, incluyendo cada una de sus cinco ciudades: Gasteiz / Vitoria, Iruñea / Pamplona, Donosti / San Sebastián, Baiona / Bayona y Bilbo / Bilbao. Todo esto ha ocurrido no sólo con la falta de apoyo del liderazgo de la izquierda abertzale, sino incluso con su condena de la movilización en las calles. ¡Y vosotros, catalanes, sabéis de la importancia de las calles! ¿No es “Els carresseransemprenostres” (“Las calles siempre serán nuestras”) uno de los eslóganes populares de vuestro movimiento?
Os pido ahora que tendáis públicamente la mano de vuestra solidaridad con este movimiento (como hicisteis el viernes pasado en la concentración de Barcelona). Tanto por solidaridad por los derechos humanos como por hermandad en la lucha con el País Vasco. Algunos diréis que no estáis de acuerdo con el camino elegido por Patxi Ruiz y que llevó a su arresto. Yo respondo que no tenéis por qué apoyar ese camino, pero sí que DEBERÍAIS APOYAR LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS a la autodeterminación, contra la tortura, contra las palizas en prisión y a favor de cumplir su condena cerca de su familia (¿recordáis cuando los presos políticos catalanes estaban detenidos en Madrid?).
Otros podéis objetar que el movimiento “disidente” es pequeño. Yo respondería que un pequeño movimiento que lucha vale mucho más que otro enorme pero frenado por sus propios líderes. También respondería que la izquierda abertzale fue también, en algún momento, un movimiento pequeño.
Algunos podéis decir que vuestro movimiento será acusado de ser partidario de ETA, cuando no lo sois. En primer lugar, ETA ya no existe. En segundo lugar, ¿qué importancia tiene una acusación más contra vosotros lanzada por fascistas y unionistas españoles?
No deberíais necesitarme a mí, un militante insignificante aunque con muchos años de experiencia, para entender esto. La verdad está clara en este caso. Y a estas alturas, tal vez incluso vuestro apoyo será insuficiente para salvar la vida de Patxi. Pero sería apreciado y recordado, y ayudaría a forjar una unidad de acción contra un enemigo común, una unidad a la que otras fuerzas, en este momento más o menos inactivas, acudirían y ayudarían a romper este Estado fascista y traer la libertad para todos. Desde dondequiera que esté en ese momento, estoy seguro de que Patxi os lo agradecería. Y vuestro propio pueblo también. Y otras muchas personas que están en lucha en todo el mundo.