DREAMS of BURGLARY, COUSINS, and a CUBAN AUTHOR

Diarmuid Breatnach

          I awoke from a dream, unsettled.

          I and another man had been burgling a building, one which I later recognised as bearing a resemblance in part to a place in which I had once worked. My dreams are often located in scenarios reminiscent of my working life but usually they are of the industrial period, factories, vast or small and dilapidated. The building in my dream was in part from a later period and the office space was reminiscent of a hostel for the homeless in London, where my job had been that of the Deputy Manager.

That hostel had been of course in 24-hour operation, with staff on rota throughout all those hours but, in the dream, it was open only during the day (like some facilities for the homeless whose management have the confidence to tell those who run 24-hour operations how they should manage their establishments and whom they should not exclude).

In the first scene I remember I was in an alley outside the target building and my accomplice appears to have been inside already. The building’s doorway was near the mouth of the alley, which opened on to a main road. I shrank back into the doorway as someone left a nearby building, either at the corner or just around it, calling out something to whoever he was leaving behind. Then the door was opened by my accomplice and I stepped inside.

Having closed the door, I saw that somehow he was already in the office while I was in the entry passageway. Looking at him through the glass of the reception office, I saw he had the safe open already but was awkwardly keeping the office door open with an outstretched foot. He beckoned me in with an impatient gesture.

Entering the office, I kept the door open while he emptied the safe of money. I knew that if the door was allowed to close it would set off an alarm (yes, I know, crazy and why did we not just wedge it open?).

Soon, I was further down the corridor and opening up another safe and taking out bundles of currency notes. Closing the safe, since our intention was to delay discovery of the theft, I brought the money up to the reception office. Now, at this late stage, I began to worry about concealed video recording cameras and drew a scarf partly across my face.  I mentioned my fear to my accomplice, who commented that if CCTV cameras were installed, they already had our faces so why worry?

Of course, that was not very reassuring. I began to regret the whole operation.

“So what do you want to do?” he asked.

“I know what I feel like doing,” I replied. “I feel like leaving the money here and leaving. But I am not sure what I really want to do.”

“Leave the money, after all we’ve gone through to get in here?”

“I know, I know. OK, let’s just finish the job.”

“Just keep denying it and they can’t prove anything,” he replied and that is about when I awoke.

***   ***  ***

(Image source: Internet)

As noted earlier, I felt very unsettled by the dream and could not get back to sleep – so I switched on the bedside lamp to read awhile, a novel by a Cuban writer called Leonardo Padura.

Sometime later, I switched off the light and was soon back asleep. And dreaming again.

***   ***  ***

There is only one scene from that dream I remember: a plain room, perhaps a kitchen, a rectangular table, at my long side of which one woman sits on a chair, another on the other side and yet another on the short side, both also on chairs. There is another chair in front of me, empty, into which I am ushering a youngish and tall man I know to be my Irish cousin.

The woman to my left might be my mother but if so, much younger than matches my adult age. The other woman nearest is to my right, sitting back somewhat from the short side of the table and is in her early to mid-twenties. On the opposite side of the table to me, is a somewhat older woman who appears to be in her thirties. Again improbably, I think she is the mother of the younger woman.

I seat the young man on the empty chair and then go to the youngest woman, whom I now know to be a cousin also. She bends towards the older woman and whispers something to her but I take her by the elbow and steer her towards my male cousin, reflecting while doing so that maybe I should have done this the other way around.

As I reach him, I say to my male cousin that “I wish to introduce the delectable S—-” (I am uncertain about the exact adjective I used but it was something like that).

I think they shook hands and then she sat down again.

***   ***  ***

The mobile alarm woke me but I was tired, so reset it for another hour and was soon asleep. And dreaming again.

The scene this time was similar to that of an Asian buffet in Moore Street, Dublin, that I frequent from time to time. But the man behind the counter was Latin American, not Asian. I asked him about the Mexican Bay Tree – were its leaves used for flavouring as with the bay tree with which we are more familiar here in Ireland?

He seemed puzzled and asked me where I had heard about this tree.

I replied that it had been mentioned in a book by a Cuban author, Padura. He burst into scornful laughter and exclaimed something like “Ni vive, ni siquiera estuvo nunca ahi!” (“He neither lives nor was even ever there,” i.e in Cuba). And he called out in Spanish to another staff member of the restaurant.

I said then that I was not surprised, for Padura’s main character Conde comments quite negatively on the state of affairs in Cuba, which reflects badly on its management and I felt he could hardly continue doing so if he actually lived there.

The reset alarm went off and I awoke with the rapidly-fading memory of yet a fourth dream (now gone completely).

COMMENT

          I would have loved to take these dreams to my mother for analysis but she is dead a dozen years now. She followed the Jungean method and had done some amazing analyses of dreams for members of the family and also for some close acquaintances. Amazing, in terms of perceptiveness and apparent relevance to the individual concerned.

The basis of the Jungean system is to recognise that everything in a dream is from the subconscious, which speaks to the conscious mind in symbols. Therefore things, words and people dreamed of tend to be representing something else and people in particular, whether male or female, young or old, known or unknown to represent parts of one’s subconscious.  Carl Jung also spoke of archetypes, representations of events, figures and motifs which he believed all humans shared from the earliest beginning of the human race but which are also overlain with their own specific ethnic and period culture.

The Burglary

          So what would my mother have made of the burglary dream? She would of course consult the known archetypes but would also interrogate me about some of the dominant aspects, asking what they represented to me, personally.

What would she have made of the fact that the representation of my accomplice was an Irish “dissident” Republican known to me, along with my fear of discovery? The man could represent dissidence, disobedience of authority (in the conscious world of reality, both of State and of some party leaders) but also honesty, dedication, courage. And my fear? Maybe a real one, of danger from the repressive apparatus of the State. Nothing new there, however.

Then there was the reception office door that must not be closed!  I must be open to receive something?

The building in part represented a place in which I had worked once and had been treated very badly as an employee. In the course of my work there I had to take two separate grievances against my manager on the grounds of his impeding my professional development, in both of which I succeeded in gaining access to the steps I sought (training and practice). My manager had taken out two disciplinary procedures against me, both of which turned out to be unsuccessful but which naturally, caused me a lot of stress.

The background was that he had wanted another candidate to succeed in the interview procedure in which I had come highest and he had objected to the decision of the interviewing panel; subsequently they had announced that no-one had reached the required level. I sought feedback on this, seeking the scoring in my case and a senior manager ordered another round, this time with a union rep and an Equalities rep on the panel with the manager in question. Although, as I learned later, I had come highest again, due to the sitting manager’s insistence on another candidate, the panel recommended an isometric test to decide between the two top applicants and I had come out on top of that procedure too.

I was appointed to the post.

When I first met my manager-to-be some days later to discuss starting work at the hostel, he told me he had not been pleased with recruitment procedure. I replied that there were some aspects that had not pleased me either but that we had best leave all that behind us. It was subsequently clear that either he was unable to do that or did not wish to.

But a building in dream analysis often represents one’s own head or, more precisely, one’s brain ….

And stealing from it? I don’t know.

Ma! Are you there? Ma! Ma!

The Cousins

          The lack of detail apart from the figures in that dream is striking, forcing one to concentrate on the actors, without distraction.

In reality, on the Irish side of my antecedents, only one siblin of my father had children (six, five brothers and one sister, also just like ours). In the real world, my female cousin is actually named S— but although she might well be considered delectable, is not tall and fair-haired, as she was in my dream. And ALL my Irish cousins are siblings, which made the introduction of one Irish cousin to another ridiculous. In the real world, ridiculous yes – but in the world of symbolic representations?

There were three women in the dream and one male, other than myself. Two of the women played observing roles while the third seemed somewhat reluctant to be introduced to the male cousin. It seems to me that this represents a need for some female parts of my brain to come to greater ease with the male parts. The female represened is family, so is close but as a cousin, slightly distant; the mother figures, one very close (mother) and the other (aunt) slightly distant, observe rather benignly. The male cousin, willing to be introduced, would be a representation of a male part of myself.

The Cuban Author

           The book I had been reading was indeed by Padura and in reality I had been wondering about this “Mexican bay tree”, making a mental note to ask the Oracle (Google) about it. And I had wondered about Padura’s comments about Cuba (through his main character). Although I was sure Cuba was no paradise and had heard of a decline in revolutionary standards of the leadership and in society, I wondered whether a) things were as bad as Padura’s character Conde thinks and says and b) how or why Padura lives there if that’s how things are.

So, a straightforward carrying through of waking questions into a dream? Perhaps. But why would they be of such importance as to be dreamed about? It seems one should dig deeper.

The scene presented in the Asian buffet was familiar and yet exotic too, in the food on offer. Cuba is exotic to me as would be, I presume a Mexican bay tree, whatever that is. But the bay tree with which I am familiar has fragrant leaves and I use it often in cooking.

And that’s as far as I can get.

Ma! Are you there? Ma! Ma!

End.

Mexican Bay Tree
(Photo source: Internet)

POSTSCRIPT

According to Wikipedia

Leonardo de la Caridad Padura Fuentes (born on October 10th, 1955) is a Cuban novelist and journalist. As of 2007, he is one of Cuba’s best-known writers internationally. In his native Spanish, as well as in English and some other languages, he is often referred to by the shorter form of his name, Leonardo Padura. He has written screenplays, two books of short stories, and a series of detective novels translated into 10 languages. In 2012, Padura was awarded the National Prize for Literature, Cuba’s national literary award and the most important award of its kind. In 2015, he was awarded thePremio Principe de Asturias de las Letras of Spain, one of the most important literary prizes in the Spanish-speaking world and usually considered as the Iberoamerican Nobel Prize.[1]

The reference, mostly about the writer, has some passages which are critical of the regime. And yes, Padura does live in Havana, Cuba.

According to one site, the Mexican Bay Tree (Litsea glaucescens) is an uncommon shrub:

A small, evergreen tree growing to 15-20 feet. Leaves are leathery and elongated in shape, growing up to 3″. They are distinct in having a blue-green coloration to their undersides. Flowers are small, white-green in color. Fruits are small, at most 1/2″ across and ripen to a deep purple-black. There are supposedly a handful of varieties or variants of this species, though minimal attention seems to be given to propagating select types.

According to Wikipedia,

It grows in the mountains, on the banks of rivers and is planted in the garden of houses. It is used as seasoning. It is in danger of extinction,[3][citation needed] because it has been used extensively for various uses, medicinal and culinary purposes even religious during the celebration of Palm Sunday. The species is one of the most important non-wood trees of Mexico. This species has been exploited for different purposes: religious,[2] dietary and medicinal, where the young branches and leaf tissues are used. This has resulted in a considerable exploitation in virtually all their range.

Of course, these aspects of the plant would have brought a whole lot of other aspects into the dream analysis, except that I didn’t know them then.

Or did I, subconsciously somehow …..?

“IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED”

Diarmuid Breatnach

The indicator climbed the temperature gauges and the ice caps melted. The seas rose and in many of the more developed societies, the rich and better-off had to relocate from scenic coast sites further inland, having to move again as the seas moved higher still but some, the more cautious and far-seeing among them (not a trait in great supply among their kind), transferred to mountains.

Melting Artic ice threatens the Polar Bear but also raises sea level around the world.
(Photo source: Internet)

The prices of property rose and the construction industry had another boom, which was great for those who had directorships or investments in construction companies or materials. Or in banks, which gave out interest loans like they would be out of fashion the following year (which they well might, some said with a laugh – but a hollow one).

Far away from the Artic, a flooded village, probably in the Indian Subcontinent.
(Photo source: Internet)

In the less-developed parts of the world, all the fishing communities had to move further inland and fishing was harder, with lines and nets getting entangled or shredded on the branches of trees and shrubs that were now submerged. Besides, the waters were polluted with flooded sewers, drains, latrines, dumps ….. and plastic.

Some of the nuclear power stations had been built near coasts and they were flooded. Some had exploded, causing unimaginable disaster. Well, what used to be unimaginable. Vast areas of sea, including all that lived in them, from algae and plankton to the great whales, suffered radioactive contamination.

Wind and wave turbines were swamped too and wrecked by storms. Oh, the storms! The changing climate brought great heat to formerly temperate and cold climes while those that had been hotter grew sometimes cold, sometimes even hotter. Those changes created cyclones, hurricanes, great storms that destroyed so many constructions of all types.

Overall, the greatest impact of all this on the human population of the planet was a huge loss of generated energy. Oil and gas fields began to run out and remaining extraction installations to cease working as they were wrecked by storms, flooded or destroyed by climate protesters.

Power station polluting the air. But without power ….!
(Photo source: Internet)

Electrical energy became scarce. Entertainment companies, which would normally have done well in times of disaster, went bust since fewer people could receive their programs. The Internet was taken over by governments for civil defence. All kinds of sophisticated equipment could no longer work. Radio replaced TV in most homes and mobile phones went out of fashion. Bicycles soon outsold cars.

Human-powered friction generators of many types began to be produced. Batteries of all kinds were in great demand, especially the rechargeable ones. Solar panels reached astronomical prices on the black market, the only place they were available. People were killed over them: sometimes as gangs fought for control over a diminishing supply, sometimes as someone was sold a dud and went looking for the seller for a refund.

Now, a strange thing happened – they began to run out of oil-based material. Hard plastic was still around but leak-proof and waterproof polythene bags were hard to find. So too with oil-based material used in clothing, such as acrylic. Bark could be used for clothing but there weren’t enough trees to keep up with the demand. There was less wool and leather as the sheep and cattle herds diminished. After awhile, that was less of a problem as there were less humans to clothe anyway.

(Photo source: Internet)

Employees of State companies and departments considered essential – by their employers – lived in walled communities protected by watchtowers and armed guards. And the rich lived in there too. Being rich meant a lot less than it did in the good old days but still a lot more than most people had now: meals every day, hot and potable cold water in good supply, good shelter, access to waste disposal, available medical supplies and recreational drugs including alcohol, armed protection and transport for self and small family circle. Security workers of all kinds became highly valued and former gang members formed themselves into security companies. Some police departments became private security firms and so also did some military. Although they didn’t talk about it most of the time, the rich lived in fear that their security compounds, walled villages and high-rise fortresses would be overrun. Or that their security services would stage a takeover, which is why they generally employed two companies at the same time and kept them in competition with one another.

Another fear was that there would be no replenishing of their huge stocks of food and goods when they were all used up, which was going to happen someday. Not enough production was still going on and what there was tended to be exchanged in barter, rather than coin or scrip.

Dainfern, northern suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa, has a four-metre electrified fence with cameras and vibration sensors protecting more than 1,200 houses. Photograph: Jeffrey Barbee

The poor lived in fear too and not just of starvation or of getting sick without access to medical services but of gangs taking what little they had left or of abductions of self or of family members to supply services of all kinds to gang members. Of wars between gangs. Of being in the wrong gang area when a rival gang staged a takeover.

Huge sections of the human population were wiped out, through loss of essential services, starvation, exposure, dehydration, fire, heat, cold, drowning, epidemics, resource wars with other states or internally. Along with them went pets that did not succeed in becoming feral and cattle, sheep and horses. The pigs went feral pretty successfully, overall as did some chickens. Many, many specialised species or in fragile ecosystems became extinct. Over time, some new species began to evolve.

It is said, though the story might be apocryphal (a word perhaps suitable for an apocalypse), that in one of the compounds of the rich overrun by a gang or insurrectionary group, depending on which version one hears, a former petroleum magnate put on trial was asked why he and his kind had not stopped destroying the climate, even after it became clear to even the most stupid politicians (which can reach a very high level of stupidity) what they were doing to the world.

It is said he related the fable of the frog and the scorpion.

In case you don’t know the story, it goes like this: A scorpion wants to cross a river but knows he can’t swim well enough to do that, so he goes in search of a frog. When he finds him – the frog of course keeping his distance – he asks him to take him on his back across the river. The frog replies that as soon as lets him on his back, the scorpion will sting him and the frog is not ready to die yet.

The scorpion pleads with the frog, who sees that the scorpion really means it. And it would be very handy for a frog to have a dangerous animal like a scorpion in his debt. So he agrees.

The frog hops down to the shallow water and the scorpion gets on the frog’s back. The frog tenses in fear but nothing happens. The frog starts to swim, feeling more and more relaxed. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. As the poison courses through his body, the frog speaks to the scorpion: “Why did you do that? Not only did you break your promise and kill me but you will die now too, you will drown.”

“I know,” says the scorpion. “I just couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”

It is also said that in another compound overrun by hostile forces, as a couple of drug company executives were being taken out to be shot for crimes against humanity, including climate destruction, one of them turned to the other with a smile.

“Cheer up”, she said, “It was fun while it lasted.”

end.

“DIOS SALVE A IRLANDA!” GRITARON LOS HÉROES

Traducción del ingles del https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2019/11/23/god-save-ireland-cried-the-heroes/

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Tiempo de lectura: 5 minutos de texto)

El 23 de noviembre es el aniversario de la ejecución de los Mártires de Manchester por parte del Estado inglés en 1867, frente a la cárcel Belle Vue, Salford1, Manchester. Los “tres de corazón noble”2 eran Phillip Allen, William Larkin y Michael O’Brien. La página de Wikipedia sobre los Mártires de Manchester dice que fueron ahorcados por el asesinato del agente policial Brett, pero esto es completamente incorrecto. Aunque fue de hecho el veredicto, no ocurrió ningún asesinato y, dudoso si incluso un veredicto de homicidio hubiera sido correcto.

Representación artística del ahorcamiento público de los mártires de Manchester. (Fuente de la imagen: Internet)

El 18 de diciembre de ese año, el coronel Thomas J. Kelly y el capitán Deasy, oficiales de la Hermandad Feniano3 y veteranos del Ejército de la Unión de la Guerra Civil estadounidense4, que habían sido arrestados en Inglaterra, estaban siendo transportados en una furgoneta de prisión con caballos de la prisión del tribunal hacia la cárcel de Belle Vue. Manchester era una ciudad industrial con una gran población de clase trabajadora, de los cuales al menos el 10% era de origen irlandés. Un gran grupo de fenianos tendió una emboscada a la camioneta de la prisión en un lugar desde entonces llamado localmente “Arco Feniano”, mientras una línea de ferrocarril pasaba por encima. El grupo de rescate irlandés expulsó a la escolta policial montada por 12 hombres, pero no logró abrir la puerta de la furgoneta con hachas y palancas y uno de ellos disparó con una pistola a la cerradura.

Fue desafortunado que justo en ese momento, el agente Charles Brett estaba mirando por el ojo de la cerradura: la bala entró en su cerebro a través de su ojo y le mató. La cerradura no estaba rota y las llaves aún estaban adentro con el policía muerto, pero una prisionera las recuperó de su cuerpo y las pasó a la partida de rescate a través de una rejilla.

Artists’ impression of the rescue of the Fenian prisoners.
(Image source: Internet)

Kelly y Deasy se alejaron. Se ofreció una recompensa de £ 300 (£ 24,000 a partir de 2015, según Wikipedia, es decir al rededor de € 30,340 en el 2019) por información que conduzca a su recuperación, pero nunca se pagó. Friedrich Engels, revolucionario comunista vivía en Manchester en ese momento con su esposa patriota irlandesa, Mary Burns, y algunos dicen que estuvieron involucrados en ocultar a los fugitivos (Marx y Engels habían acogido a miembros de la Hermandad Feniana en la Primera Asociación Internacional de Trabajadores). Kelly y Deasy nunca fueron recapturados, y finalmente regresaron a los Estados Unidos.

Una placa patrimonial marca el lugar.
(Fot fuente: Internet)

UNA ONDA DE HISTERIA ANTI-IRLANDESA

Pero una gran ola de represión del Estado británico descendió sobre las áreas de la clase trabajadora de Manchester, en particular sobre “Little Ireland” (“Pequeña Irlanda”) y decenas de personas fueron arrestadas. Los medios de comunicación británicos llamaron a los eventos los “ultrajes de Manchester”.

Veintiséis fueron enviados a juicio en una ola de histeria anti-irlandesa y finalmente cinco fueron sentenciados por asesinato y condenados a la horca. Como se señaló anteriormente, sin ninguna intención de matar al oficial, no debería haber habido ni siquiera un cargo de asesinato, sin importar una condena. A Thomas O’Meagher Condon y Thomas Maguire se les revocaron las condenas; el primero a través de las oficinas de los EEUU (de los cuales era ciudadano) y el segundo era un soldado de infantería de la marina real y tenía una coartada de hierro fundido, como dicen y los testigos en su contra fueron expuestos en mentiras. Nunca se presentó evidencia convincente contra los tres restantes, Allen, Larkin y O’Brien y de ellos, solo uno probablemente había estado presente en el rescate. Pero los colgaron de todos modos.

Impresión artística del juicio de los cinco condenados, incluidos los tres mártires de Manchester.
(Fuente de la imagen: Internet)

Cuando el juez emitió sus sentencias, gritaron “¡Dios salve a Irlanda!” y fue eso lo que inspiró a TD Sullivan, un político nacionalista constitucional irlandés, a escribir la letra de la balada, conocida y cantada hasta el día de hoy (miren lo de bajo, cantado por Los Dubliners). TD Sullivan comentó que dentro de un mes de las ejecuciones, la canción se podía escuchar en pubs de Inglaterra e Irlanda, ¡una hazaña notable por un tiempo sin radio, sin hablar de teléfonos móviles e Internet!

“Recordemos de ellos.” (Fuente de la imagen: Internet)

Las conmemoraciones de los Mártires de Manchester se convirtieron en parte de los eventos en los calendarios republicanos y nacionalistas irlandeses y formaron parte de la tradición y la historia que ayudaron a formar los revolucionarios irlandeses Impresión artística del juicio de los cinco condenados, incluidos los tres mártires de Manchester.
(Fuente de la imagen: Internet)posteriores. La comunidad irlandesa en Manchester les encargó un monumento conmemorativo en el cementerio Mostyn, Manchester, que fue desfigurado varias veces por los fascistas y allí se celebró una marcha conmemorativa anual durante años (a veces demasiado chocando con los fascistas británicos). También hay un gran monumento para ellos en el cementerio Glasnevin de Dublín y hay monumentos a ellos también en otros cinco condados en Irlanda y además dos distintos en dos de ellos.

Fin.

El monumento erigido en el cementerio de Moston, Manchester, por la comunidad irlandesa. (Fuente de la foto: Internet)
La placa en el Monumento a los Mártires de Manchester en Glasnevin, obra de esa maravillosa organización voluntaria, “the National Graves Association” (la Asociación de Tumbas Nacionales). (Foto: Wikipedia)

NOTAS AL PIE

1Salford ha recibido una serie de referencias literarias no complementarias, una en La Condición de la Clase Trabajadora en Inglaterra por Frederik Engels (1845) y otra en la canción de Ewan McColl, Dirty Old Town (1949).

2Parte de la letra de la canción Irlandesa (pero en inglés) sobre sus ejecuciones.

3Organización republicana, independentista y revolucionaria, fundada en Irlanda y en los EEUU el 17 Marzo 1858.

4Los fenianos en los Estados Unidos alentaron la inscripción de sus miembros en las fuerzas armadas para ganar experiencia militar. La mayoría de los irlandeses se unieron a las fuerzas militares de la Unión, pero algunos, particularmente de la anterior migración de los Ulster-escoceses, se unieron al Ejército Confederado.

JARKI – NEW BASQUE ORGANISATION FOR INDEPENDENCE AND SOCIALISM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 15 minutes)

When Basque independentists celebrated Gudari Eguna this year, the Day of the Basque Soldier, some of the celebrants were affiliates of the Abertzale (Basque pro-Independence) Left while others were supporters of the Basque Nationalist Party, nominally at least and often in reality, political enemies. However, it is not the same day for each.

Flagpole with the ikurrina, Basque national flag, at Sollube, scene of a battle between the Francoist forces and the Basque Gudari during the Antifascist War. This was erected probably by the PNV for their commemoration but commemorations are also held at the site by ‘dissidents’ of the Abertzale Left.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)
A beech seedling (native tree, sacred in folklore, of reputed medicinal qualities, e.g in helping the body to resist infection) had been planted by ‘dissidents’ at the Sollube memorial and, although the surrounding protective netting had collapsed, was still alive. Subsequently Amnistia supporters returned and tidied up the area and left stone markers too.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)
Mount of sollube: the Francoist forces had invaded from that far background direction, coming in from Nafarroa, which had been taken over to Franco by the Basque Carlists.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

          The PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) commemorates the execution of 42 Basque fighters in one jail by the Franco forces on 28th October in 1937, whilst the Abertzale Left carries out their commemoration a month earlier, on the 27th of September, anniversary of the last executions under Franco (and, officially, in the Spanish state since): ETA martyrs Juan Paredes Manot (Txiki) and Ángel Otaegi Etxeberria, along with three members of FRAP (Revolutionary Antifascist Patriotic Front) Jose Luis Sanchez Bravo, Ramón Garcia Sanz and Humberto Baena, all shot by firing squads in 1975 (despite world-wide protests and riots outside Spanish embassies).

For much of the Abertzale Left, Gudari Eguna commemorates not only the martyrs of the 27th September 1975 but also all those who fought for Basque independence during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War and all who fought for it since, in particular those martyred in the struggle.

But even in agreement on that date and that purpose, there are differences too. For some years now some commemorations have been by supporters of Amnistia Ta Askatasuna (Amnesty and Freedom), who denounce the “Officials” for dropping the demand for an amnesty for political prisoners but also criticise them on many other political and cultural grounds: ceasing to push for the everyday use of Euskera (the Basque language), making political pacts with social democrats, etc.

Increasingly, ATA and the “Officials” find themselves incapable of sharing a commemoration or a platform as the latter move further down the path of accommodation to the Spanish regime, social democracy and the PNV, commemorating police killed, apologising for the ‘crimes’ of the now-defunct Basque armed organisation ETA.

A poster of the “Officials” highlights two ETA martyrs, one killed by the Policía Nacional and the other by the Guardia Civil. (Photo source: D.Breatnach)
A poster for Gudari Eguna of the ‘Official’ leadership, the party EH Bildu, next to a poster of the ‘dissident’ ATA listing six prisoners whose situation is being highlighted.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

JARKI – A COMPARATIVELY NEW ORGANISATION REJECTING THE ABERTZALE LEFT “OFFICIAL” LEADERSHIP

          In Ireland, though they themselves might reject that appellation, the equivalent to ATA would be called “dissident Republicans” and Basques are not as touchy about being counted part of the dissidencia. But one new group has emerged which does reject that term as descriptive of themselves, while at the same time very clearly against the positions of the “Officials” and resolutely for independence and socialism.

This group is called Jarki, (of various meaning: “Resist/ Stand fast/ Push back/ Commit”; the first letter is pronounced like the Spanish “j” or the Irish “ch”).

Among other posters of factions of the Abertzale Left proclaiming Gudari Eguna in the Basque Country this September, I had seen one, very large, side by side with a declaration of position against the subjugation of the Basque nation, for socialism and class struggle. Curiously, there had been no venue advertised for a commemoration ceremony to take place. Was this group, this Jarki, not intending to have one? I made discreet enquiries, someone spoke to someone ….. who perhaps spoke to someone else ….

Jarki poster for Gudari Eguna — note no venue details
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

On Gudari Eguna this year,

Text poster of Jarki’s alongside their image poster (Photo source: D.Breatnach)

27th September, I was met fairly early in the morning by my appointed guide. The mist gathered high upon the marshes and river and in the valleys as we drove higher, eventually coming out on a scenic site, the day cold but the climbing sun burning off the last of the mists. We rendezvoused with other carloads, then drove to another spot and parked. Asked to leave my mobile in the car, I accompanied my hosts on a long walk in unseasonal sun and heat to a field, where a temporary stage had been set up. It was to be a Gudari Eguna event organised by the Jarki organisation.

The security precautions were not excessive. This was taking place in the Spanish state, where fascism had never been defeated but had instead had a paint-over job in order to allow the Western states, after the death of Franco, to pretend it was a democracy. Until a few years ago, detentions of Basques had been like an epidemic, torture by police and army routine and just as routinely ignored by judges who sentenced the prisoners on the basis of their “confessions” or those of others to long years in jail. In contravention of EU and UN protocols for the treatment of prisoners, the political victims of the State had been dispersed to its furthest reaches, far from spouses, children, relatives and friends. And though the armed group ETA had ceased operation in 2012 and was now disbanded, persecution went on: that very month, 45 people of various organisations arrested in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for supporting the prisoners, including psychologists and lawyers, “supporting terrorism” according to the State, had been brought to trial1.

On the way to the rally, I saw many young men and women, in their middle-to-late teens or early twenties and also many others in ages ranging from late 50’s to 80s, also with a sprinkling of young adolescents. In other words, there were hardly any there of raising a family age. The sun was very hot now and I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist and, even so, was soon sweating.

I and one other were provided with a translator to Castillian (Spanish) for the speeches in Euskera – nobody else seemed to need one, a state of affairs that would not be matched in Irish Republican or Socialist circles with regard to our native language.

The heat beat down and I worried about getting sunburned, while at the same time very interested in what was going on. A large dragonfly wheeled above us, hovered a second then shot off. One of the folkloric Basque names for it translates as “Witch’s Needle” but it is important to recognise that in Basque society, sorgina or “witch” does not have the same negative connotations as can be found in much of western society, even today.

“THE STRUGGLE MUST CONTINUE — IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER”

          A man perhaps in his 60s took to the stage and recalled his years in guerrilla resistance (i.e in ETA), his capture and the killing of his comrades (one was executed on the spot by the Guardia Civil2). He went on to talk about his years being dispersed around Spanish jails throughout the territory of the State. Speaking about the historical memory of resistance, the man commented that it was necessary to keep that alive – both of the Antifascist War and of the resistance afterwards.

Euskal Herria3 was still divided and still not free, he continued and therefore the struggle had to continue in one form or another, despite the abandonment of the path of resistance by the current leadership of the Abertzale Left. Similarly the demand had to be maintained not only for an end to dispersal but for an amnesty for political prisoners.

After his speech, a young male bertxolari stepped forward to sing his composition. This is a cultural form of social and/ or political commentary, composed by those skilled in the art to fixed rules of rhyme, length of line and a selection of airs.4

He was followed by an elderly left-wing journalist who, apologising for her inability to speak in Euskara, did so in Castillian (Spanish). She referred to her family’s history of anti-fascist struggle, both in the War and in the resistance that followed the victory of the military-fascist forces. She too spoke about the need to continue resistance to unjust regimes and for the right to self-determination.

The journalist speaker was followed by the performance of another bertxolari, this time a young female.

Last to speak was a young woman, speaking on behalf of the Jarki organisation. She recalled the anti-fascist resistance in the Basque Country in ……….. (a nearby battle during the Anti-Fascist War) and elsewhere, also by ETA in the years following the victory of the military-fascist forces. While others might try to pacify the people and to wind down the resistance, the need for active participation in resistance is as great as ever, she said. The woman ended with the call “Gora Euskal Herria askatatua eta independentzia!” (“Long live a free and independent Basque Country!”), to which all the audience (myself included) responded with a roar of “Gora!”.

The young woman then led the audience with the song Eusko Gudariak (“Basque Soldiers”, similar in content to the Irish national anthem, the Soldiers’ Song), most of us who knew the words or not with raised fists, then a couple of women let out the irrintzi5 yell, raising goose pimples on my skin.

Obviously, given my presence, not all the attendance had been Jarki activists but on the other hand, not all its supporters had been able to come either, I was told on the long walk back to the car on tired leg muscles in the blistering unseasonal heat. I joked that if I’d had my mobile with me I’d have phoned an ambulance. Some cured sausage sandwiches and a few mouthfuls of ardoa (wine) from a traditional wineskin, kindly offered where the vehicles were parked revived me somewhat for the journey back to my pickup point that morning but thankfully, we also stopped on the way for lunch and a cold beer at a Basque bar (for which my attempts to pay were kindly but firmly refused by my other travelling companions).

“MOST OF THE RESISTANCE NEEDS TO BE AT STREET LEVEL”

          Later, at an appointment with a Jarki activist, I asked what the relationship with other Basque organisations was, given that his group will not accept the appellation of “dissident” and others will. He told me that they enjoy friendly relationships with a number of other Basque political and cultural organisations that have also broken away from the “Official” leadership. Jarki is a revolutionary socialist organisation for an independent Basque country and in support of the Basque language, he told me. “Although we do not at the moment put forward electoral candidates, we are not necessarily against doing so as a tactic”, he added, speaking quietly. “But the ‘officialistas’ are only interested in the electoral path and we think most of the resistance needs to be at street level”.

The organisation expects a disciplined commitment from its members, for which it also recognises the need for political education, especially of the youth. There had been wide criticism of the lack of this kind of education within the Abertzale Left since the 1990s and earlier, right up to the present.6

The national independence and socialism of the Basque Country is of benefit to the world and the independence and socialism of other countries is of benefit to our nation,” he said in reply to my question about the issue of internationalist solidarity. He admitted that the representative of Jarki at their Gudari Eguna commemoration had not mentioned that aspect.

Jarki call for rupture with the Spanish Constitution and demonstration on 6th December.
(Photo source: Internet)

CALL FOR RUPTURE WITH THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION

          A few days ago, while I was writing this long-overdue piece from contemporary notes, Jarki issued a national call to Basque society (translated by me from a Castillian version): “The Basque working-class people responds with rupture to the Spanish Constitution.”

The Spanish Constitution, despite not being accepted in the Basque Country7, is being imposed upon us. It is a document edited by the Francoists in a pact with the Spanish political parties. This document denies the self-determination of the peoples and besides accords to the military the role of guarantor of the union of Spain.

This Constitution designed the administrative separation of the provinces of the southern Basque Country.8

Faced with this imposition it is more important than ever that the working-class population of the Basque Country creates a revolutionary alternative which should be a political vision to lead the struggle for national construction and liberation and for socialism, the struggle for a united Basque Country, without classes.

For all those reasons we call for the organisation and mobilisation against the imposition, in which the Basque working-class population should follow its own path. Because of all that, we call for participation in the demonstration to take place on 6th December (Spanish Constitution Day) in Durango.

Although they wished to silence us, they will hear us. We have enough reasons. It is time to take to the streets. This people needs a revolutionary alternative.

End.

Poster by Jarki calling for demonstration against the Spanish Constitution (Photo source: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The day after 50,000 demonstrated for the right to support the prisoners and in solidarity with those on trial, Basque society was shocked when those charged admitted their “guilt” in exchange for walking free or a maximum sentence of five years’ jail for the “leaders” (instead of the up to 20 years normal from the Spanish court). The reverberations of that – the act of pleading ‘guilt’ itself but also permitting 50,000 to demonstrate in ignorance of the intention — are still travelling through the Abertzale Left and are likely to cost the “Official” leadership, who must have approved or perhaps even brokered the deal, very dearly. In contrast to the 45, another four, leaders of Askapena, Basque organisation for internationalist solidarity, charged with similar ‘crimes’, had fought the case earlier, for which they had won much respect and had beat the charges. Askapena, however, had quietly split from the Abertzale Left some years previously.

2The Guardia Civil is a militarised police force of the Spanish State with a very political role, the most active in the past against the Basque national movement and now similarly against the Catalonian. In addition the Spanish State has the Policía Nacional, also armed and active against movements for self-determination. Each region also has a separate police force, for example the Policía Foral in Nafarroa, the Ertzaintza in Euskadi, Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia, etc. And there are urban police forces too in every town or village.

3Meaning “the country where they speak Basque”, the term is now used to describe the whole Basque nation of seven provinces, three currently within the French state and four within the Spanish territory. “Euskadi”, the former term, now only describes the “Basque Authority” area of three provinces: Bizkaia, Alava and Gipuzkoa.

4This cultural form, at one time perhaps in danger of dying out, has become very popular and national competitions are broadcast on the Basque TV network. I have witnessed two bertxolari given pieces of paper laying out their respective roles (for example an Irish landlord and a Polish tenant) and, minutes later, engage in a battle of bertxos (verses) which had a Basque audience in roars of laughter and appreciation for the wit and skill of each. Close attention is paid by Basque listeners to bertxolari which, for a nation not culturally given to admiration for the song of the single voice (unless they can join to sing along), is truly remarkable. The Irish “comhrá beirte” is a similar performance art form but much less developed, certainly now, in Irish tradition.

5It is a long ullulating or yodelling cry, by males or females, said to be a call to war or to encourage Basques while fighting (it was also the name of a short-lived Basque resistance organisation functioning in the “French” Basque provinces). Such calls are common for communication of different kinds among mountain people, the sound carrying from one mountain to another and echoing but curiously enough it is also a feature of Arab culture in the desert and of some Native Americans. Example with a commentary in Castillian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcSaW6JUnUc

6That this has been neglected for decades in the Abertzale Left is a fact admitted even by many who remain within the “official” line.

7The Spanish Constitution was presented on a “take it or leave it” basis during the Transition period after the death of Franco, with much violence from police and fascist organisations and the fear of a return to the full-blown fascist dictatorship. The Spanish Communist Party with its huge and then militant trade union, Comisiones Obreras and the social-democratic PSOE, with its smaller Unión General de Trabajadores, were both legalised on condition they supported the monarchist and unitary state Constitution. In such circumstances it was hardly surprising that the referendum on 6th December 1978 brought in a huge majority for the Constitution – but not in the Basque Country, where it was rejected.

8Three of the four southern provinces, i.e those currently within the Spanish State, are under one regional government administration while the fourth, Nafarroa, has its own.

“GOD SAVE IRELAND!” CRIED THE HEROES

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 7 minutes)

Artist’s representation of the public hanging of the Manchester Martyrs. (Image source: Internet)

The 23rd November is the anniversary of the hanging of the Manchester Martyrs by the English State in 1867 in front of Belle Vue Gaol, Salford1, Manchester. The “noble-hearted three” were Phillip Allen, William Larkin and Michael O’Brien. The Wikipedia page on the Manchester Martyrs says they were hanged for the murder of Constable Brett but this is completely incorrect. Although it was indeed the verdict, no murder occurred and, it is doubtful if even a verdict of manslaughter would have been correct.

On the 18th December of that year, Colonel Thomas J. Kelly and Captain Deasy, Fenian Brotherhood officers and Union Army veterans of the American Civil War, who had been arrested in England, were being transported in a horse-drawn prison van from the courthouse to Belle Vue Gaol. Manchester was an industrial town with a large working class population, of which at least a 10% of the population was of Irish origin. A large group of Fenians ambushed the prison van at a place since called locally “Fenian Arch”, as a railway line ran overhead. The Irish rescue party drove off the 12-man mounted police escort but failed to break open the van door with hatchets and crowbars and one of them fired a pistol shot at the lock.

Artists’ impression of the rescue of the Fenian prisoners.
(Image source: Internet)

It was unfortunate that just at that moment, Constable Charles Brett was peering through the keyhole – the bullet entered his brain through his eye and killed him. The lock was not broken and keys were still inside with the dead policeman but a female prisoner recovered them from his body and passed them out to the rescue party through a grille.

Kelly and Deasy were spirited away. A reward of £300 (£24,000 as of 2015, according to Wikipedia) was offered for information leading to their recapture but was never paid. Friedrich Engels, communist revolutionary lived in Manchester at the time with his common-law Irish patriot wife, Mary Burns and some say they were involved in hiding the fugitives (the Fenian Brotherhood had been welcomed by Marx and Engels into the First International Workingmen’s Association). Kelly and Deasy were never recaptured, getting back eventually to the USA.

A heritage plaque marks the spot.
(Phot sourced: Internet)

A WAVE OF ANTI-IRISH HYSTERIA

          But a huge wave of British State repression descended upon the working class areas of Manchester, in particular upon “Little Ireland” and scores of people were arrested. The British media named the events the “Manchester outrages”.

Twenty-six were sent for trial in a wave of anti-Irish hysteria and and eventually five were convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. As noted earlier, without any intention to kill the officer, there should not have been even a charge of murder, never mind a conviction. Thomas O’Meagher Condon and Thomas Maguire had their sentences overturned; the first through the offices of the USA (of which he was a citizen) and the second was a Royal Marine and had a cast-iron alibi, as they say and the witnesses against him were exposed in lies. No convincing evidence was ever produced against the remaining three, Allen, Larkin and O’Brien and of those, only one had probably even been present at the rescue. But they hanged them all the same.

Artist’s impression of the trial of the five convicted including the three Manchester Martyrs.
(Image source: Internet)

When their sentences were passed down by the judge, they cried “God Save Ireland!” and it was that which inspired TD Sullivan, an Irish constitutional nationalist politician, to write the lyrics to the ballad, known and sung to this day. TD Sullivan remarked that within a month of the executions, the song could be heard performed in pubs in England and Ireland, a remarkable feat for a time without radio, not to speak of mobile phones and the Internet!  (Listen to Youtube video of the song being performed by the Dubliners ballad group).

(Image sourced: Internet)

Commemorations of the Manchester Martyrs became part of the events on the Irish Republican and Nationalist calendars and formed part of the tradition and history that helped form subsequent Irish revolutionaries; six Irish counties hold monuments to the three, two of those counties holding two each. The Irish community in Manchester commissioned a memorial to them in Moston Cemetery, Manchester, which was several times defaced by fascists and and an annual commemorative march was held there for years (sometimes too clashing with British fascists). There is a grand memorial to them too in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.

The monument erected in Moston Cemetery, Manchester, by the Irish community. (Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

The plaque on the Monument to the Manchester Martyrs in Glasnevin, work of that wonderful voluntary organisation, the National Graves Association. (Photo: Wikipedia)

1Salford has received a number of uncomplimentary literary references, one in Frederik Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845) and another being in Ewan McColl’s song Dirty Old Town (1949).

COLOUR, NOT CLUTTER – Grafton Street flower sellers

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 4 minutes)

 

We bring colour to Grafton Street, not ‘clutter’!” was the response of street traders in Grafton Street to a request from multinational property company Hines to Dublin City Council to remove the street trading stalls away from Grafton Street, to which Hines allege they bring “clutter”. The street traders also pointed out that they and their predecessors had been on that street much longer than Hines.

Catherine Claffey, a Grafton Street flower seller, from whom I took the “Colour, not ‘clutter'” quotation. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

          Although the request to Dublin City Council had been made in August, it only hit the news earlier this week and brought a swift response of outrage from the street traders, some public representatives and ordinary members of the public. Broadcaster Joe Duffy joined the chorus and also referred to the difficulties experienced by the street traders on Moore Street with an unhelpful DCC Management.

Hines PR people soon found themselves removing their feet from their mouths and eating not only their words in public but very humble pie.

Dublin architecture, history and soul is under constant attack by property speculators, both native and foreign, to whom everything is a potential ‘development site’ and a possible source of profit – and without the production of a single commodity.

Victoria Dempsey, Grafton Street flower-seller, hugs a friend.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

GRAFTON STREET THEN AND NOW

          Dublin’s Grafton Street was a premier Dublin residential street as the upper classes deserted the north for the south side of Liffey river in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Perhaps that was the spur for the street becoming known for prostitution in the period.  According to Wikipedia: “In the 1870s, 1,500 prostitutes were reputed to work in the street.”

When the O’Connell Bridge (then the Carlisle Bridge) was completed in 1795 (just in time to hang United Irishmen from it), it led not only to the doubling of the length of Drogheda Street, which then became Sackville Street but also to much traffic backwards and forwards across the river to both sides of the city centre. Grafton Street soon became a premier shopping street with many Irish-based companies selling fresh, preserved and tinned food, higher end male and female clothing, jewelry and ‘exotic’ imports such as coffee through Bewley’s Oriental Café (1927). This state of affairs persisted into the late 1960s but in the decades since then however, the profile of the street has changed to feature mostly British high street outlets and a Mac Donalds fast food place.

For two centuries there have been street traders selling a variety of products on the street, of which the flower-sellers, newspaper stand and a hat and jewelry stall are all that remains.

The street was very narrow to accommodate both pedestrian and vehicle traffic both sides of the street and pedestrianisation of Grafton Street began in 1971, however at an extremely pedestrian rate (pun intended), not being completed until 1983 and it was paved the following year, repaved in 1988 and then partially again more recently. The pedestrianisation facilitated performance by buskers (street musicians) and music and song of high quality may be heard any day in different genres from Irish traditional to world rock and classical. Perhaps they would have been the next to be accused of “clutter”?

Flower Sellers, Grafton Street by Norman Teeling.
(Image sourced: Internet)

The Dice Man (Thom McGinty 1952–1995) regularly carried out his performances there too. Dublin world-famous musician Phil Lynott (1949-1986) had a statue commemorating him placed in Harry Street, just off the north end of Grafton Street in 2005 while the statue of fictional sea-food street trader Molly Malone was moved from the north end of Grafton Street to a less crowded space in Suffolk Street in 2014.

The street features in much of Irish literature and some song but also in images: two are particularly striking: IRA men walking up a wet Grafton Street during the Civil War and Flower Sellers, Grafton Street by impressionist Irish artist (and musician) Norman Teeling (b. 1944). It was also the scene of the shooting dead by the IRA of a G-man, the political plain-clothes branch of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, in 1921.

Famous photograph of the IRA proceeding up a rainy Grafton Street in June 1922.

WE BRING COLOUR TO THE STREET, NOT ‘CLUTTER’

          Talking briefly to some street traders there on Wednesday about the threat to move them, one of them remarked: “We bring colour to Grafton Street, not ‘clutter’” and reiterated their declaration that they and their predecessors had been on that street long before Hines.

Another controversial recent initiative in Moore Street has been the changing of the traditional Irish-language Christmas lighting decoration and the ‘renaming’ of the street to “the Grafton Quarter”. Irish language comment on the new design? “Tá sé gránna!” Indeed. Sometimes it seems as though the poor property magnates can’t put a foot right.

Perhaps Hines had ideas of greater expansion, changing the street into a “quarter” which, as some Dublin City Councillors have pointed out, does not exist.

All that aside, doing away with Irish language Christmas lighting and wanting to get rid of flower-sellers doesn’t accord very well with Point Four of Hines’ own Guiding Principles: “Hines is committed to fostering an inclusive culture where diversity is respected and valued.” 

Another comment in Irish?  “Seafóid!”

end/ a chríoch

Irish language Christmas illumination now removed.
(Photo sourced: Internet)
The new Christmas lighting (Source image: extra.ie)

REFERENCES

https://www.98fm.com/news/grafton-street-flower-sellers-not-moving-927575?fbclid=IwAR0SX4Nn2Ujr1bOQjN9ao2tHt3lOz5C9nFTpqu4RvLX9C-PHKYF09I4rjxE

https://www.98fm.com/news/grafton-street-flower-sellers-not-moving-927575?fbclid=IwAR0SX4Nn2Ujr1bOQjN9ao2tHt3lOz5C9nFTpqu4RvLX9C-PHKYF09I4rjxE

https://www.hines.com/about

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

https://www.normanteeling.com/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/consumer/pressure-increases-to-remove-grafton-quarter-christmas-lights-1.4083339

 

 

 

 

CATALONIAN FIREFIGHTER AND TRADE UNIONIST SPEAKS IN DUBLIN

by Clive Sulish

A Catalonian firefighter and trade unionist addressed a Dublin audience to talk about the independence for Catalonia movement and the role of the trade unions in it, the repression from the Spanish State and the how the firefighters found themselves between the rampaging Spanish police and referendum voters on the 1st of October 2017.

Panel and screen at the Dublin meeting. Oriol is seated in the middle.

With some words in Irish and then speaking in English, the Chair of the meeting, Marc Loan of CDR Dublin welcomed the mostly-Irish audience to the meeting in Club na Múinteoirí (Teachers’ Club) on 13th November and outlined how the presentation would go, before opening up to questions and contributions from the audience. The meeting was part of a short tour of Irish cities by a Catalonian firefighter and trade unionist, organised jointly by three Ireland-based organisations in solidarity with Catalonia: With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin, ANC Ireland and CDR Dublin.

The room lights were dimmed and an electronic presentation operated by Carles Pujol of the Irish branch of the ANC (National Assembly of Catalonia) took the audience through dates in the history of Catalonia as a nation and its relationship with the Spanish Kingdom. Then the presentation switched to some dates in international recognition of the right to self-determination of peoples, before focusing on the fairly recent attempts of the Catalan Government to legislate for its needs, legislation reduced or eliminated by subsequent judgements of the Spanish court. And thence to the Referendum on Independence of 1st October 2017, at which point the Chair presented the guest speaker.

Section of audience in the meeting and presentation screen.

The Chair introduced the firefighter from Catalonia, a slim tanned man in his forties, with shaved and balding head and lively brown eyes. Oriol Duch had the previous day addressed an audience in Derry, hosted by Derry Trades Council and the day before that in Queen’s University Belfast, organised by Belfast ANC. Mr. Duch had worked at one job or another since the age of sixteen, had been a firefighter for 15 years and a member of his union, Intersindical CSC, for seven of those. From its website, Intersindical declares itself to be a class trade union, which is to say that it specifically excludes members of state repressive forces, senior officials of state departments or management officials of companies. Mr. Duch is employed as a firefighter at the Girona Airport, Catalonia but also volunteers for the firefighting service of the Catalan Government administration, the Generalitat.

Oriol Duchs posing for a photograph outside the family and business home of the Pearse family, home of brothers Patrick and William, executed by British firing squads in 1916.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

“WE ARE NOT HEROES”

          As Oriol Duch spoke about the involvement of the firefighters as a defensive screen for voters in the October 1st Referendum in Catalonia, the projection screen showed massive crowds marching and demonstrating for independence. Catalonian firefighters had taken part in uniform in a number of those demonstrations for the democratic right to self-determination and had organised a demonstration of their own (seen on the poster for the speaking tour). The firefighters had discussed what to do since the Spanish Government had threatened the Referendum organisers and social media was full of threats too from right-wingers, including Spanish police officers and Army members. They knew that among the masses coming out to vote, there would be vulnerable people including the elderly and children and decided that those who wished to would turn out voluntarily in their uniforms and stand between the Spanish police and the crowds wanting to vote.

Manus O’Riordan, whose father fought in the International Brigades at Gandesa, mentioned a song for Catalonia he had liked and sang his translation of it into English there and then. As the applause died down, an Irish voice called for the national song of Catalonia, a song of workers’ resistance, the Els Segadors (the Reapers), which all Catalans present sang, the whole audience standing in respect.

Bringing the meeting to a close, the Chair thanked the guest speaker, the panel and the audience for their attendance and contributions (a thanks separately expressed by Oriol Duchs too) and encouraged them to keep in touch with the three solidarity organisations. He also expressed the organisers’ gratitude to the Dublin Fire Brigade and to the Teachers’ Club.

Poster for the Catalan firefighter tour shows one of the events organised by Catalan firefighters in support of self-determination for Catalonia.
(Poster design: CDR Dublin)

On the day, the firefighters distributed themselves around in a number of places, Oriol Duch told his audience, by ad hoc arrangements, the organisers arranging by texts to send firefighters to areas where they were felt to be needed. On the Sunday in question, as voters queued outside the polling stations, mostly schools closed for the day, convoys of police arrived with Spanish police in riot gear who charged into the buildings, breaking down doors and windows, to beat people and seize ballot boxes. They also attacked people waiting to vote with batons, boots and fists, Oriol Duch said, as the firefighters attempted to stand between the unarmed civilians and the police. Over 800 people that day had required medical treatment, he said (including a number of firefighters).

As the firefighter from Catalonia spoke, the presentation began to show scenes of Spanish police beating people with their truncheons, throwing others to the ground, kicking and punching them, pulling people by their hair and putting them in choke holds

“People have called the firefighters heroes but we do not see ourselves that way,” he said. “We were doing what we could to protect people and save lives, which is what we do in our job.”

DFB officer showing Oriol some of the equipment in a DFB truck.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Carles Pujol, Oriol & Diarmuid Breatnach inside the Dublin Fire Brigade museum.

A MASS MOVEMENT FOR SELF-DETERMINATION

          The Catalonian movement for independence is a mass movement that has been built especially by grassroots organisations, which have pushed the Catalan independentist political parties forward. Chief among these grassroots organisations is the National Assembly of Catalonia (whose former President, Jordi Sanchez, is one of the independentist activists jailed recently by the Spanish court). Firefighters for the Republic, of which Oriol is an active member, is a sub-group of the ANC.

Since the police attacks, others have come forward to direct mass resistance, in particular after the jail sentences of 9-13 years on seven elected public representatives and two leaders of grassroots organisations (ANC and Omnium Cultural) were announced in October. The “Catalan Tsunami” organisation contacted supporters through social media and masses followed their direction. For example, when the call to flood the Barcelona Airport with people had gone out, thousands had walked kilometres to get there and despite police violence, had effectively shut the airport down for hours. More recently, people had for a weekend closed by blockade one of two main motorways from the French State into the Spanish one, which passes through Catalonia (the other, passing through the Basque Country, was more recently shut down by Basques also — CS).

Oriol Duchs told the Dublin audience that the repression of peaceful people by the Spanish State included heavy jail sentences for “sedition” and police attacks on people in the street, “including firing rubber bullets, the use of which are banned in Catalonia but that is ignored by the Spanish police”. News media has reported that victims of rubber bullets fired at close range directly at people, contrary to instructions on their use, have caused a number of people recently to lose an eye. However, the police cannot control the masses of people, Oriol said.

After the applause for the Catalan firefighter had died down, the Chair opened the meeting to questions and comments from the audience.

Among the comments was that of an Irish woman who had been in Catalonia during the Referendum and talked about the frightening advance of the Spanish police in their riot gear and with their weapons. She disagreed with what Oriol Duchs had said in only one particular: “You ARE heroes”, she said, to applause and cheering from the audience.

An Irishman who had been there too as an international observer spoke about the police attack, which he said was fascist in nature. Another Irishwoman who had been there in a similar capacity said that she had witnessed much police violence but that the scenes depicted on the screen had reminded her just how violent those had been. She asked what people in Ireland could do to help.

From the panel the advice was to support Catalonia solidarity activities, to stay in touch through of the Catalonian solidarity organisations in Dublin, whilst from the floor an Irishman said that people should tell the elected public representatives what was going on and call for statements of support and interventions to the Spanish Government.

This brought about discussion of the posture of the Irish Government, as in recent Dáil questions to the Depart of Foreign Affairs, the responsible Minister of State had reiterated the Government line, that it was an internal matter for the Spanish State, that the rule of law had to be maintained and that the Spanish State is a democratic one with separation of judiciary and government executive. An intervention from the floor pointed out that one of the TDs (parliamentary delegates) had pointed out that in 1919 the First Dáil (Irish Parliament) had declared its independence of Britain and issued a call to the democratic nations of the world asking for recognition, although it was in violation of British constitution and law. The First Dáil had been declared illegal a few months later and its delegates hunted, arrested and jailed. “Catalonia today is Ireland 100 years ago,” he had said. Without the stance taken by that First Dáil, predecessors of all other parliaments of Ireland since, the present Government would not even exist nor would that Minister’s Department, the man commented..

“The struggle in Catalonia and the repression by the Spanish State is not ‘an internal matter for the Spanish State’”, Oriol Duch said. “It is a problem for Europe.”

Manus O’Riordan, whose father fought in the International Brigades at Gandesa, mentioned a song for Catalonia he had liked and sang his translation of it into English there and then. As the applause died down, an Irish voice called for the national song of Catalonia, a song of workers’ resistance, the Els Segadors (the Reapers), which all Catalans present sang, the whole audience standing in respect.

Bringing the meeting to a close, the Chair thanked the guest speaker, the panel and the audience for their attendance and contributions (a thanks separately expressed by Oriol Duchs too) and encouraged them to keep in touch with the three solidarity organisations. He also expressed the organisers’ gratitude to the Dublin Fire Brigade and to the Teachers’ Club.

Some of the attendance stayed around in the bar area to discuss for another hour or so.

Oriol Duchs with Derry Trades Council and other Catalan solidarity supporters on 11th November.
(Photo: C.Pujol)

POSTSCRIPT

          According to information contained in a press statement issued more recently by the speaking tour organisers, Oriol Duchs the following day paid a fraternal visit to a fire station of the Dublin Fire Brigade, as well as to the DFB’s Training Centre and Museum and was given a conducted tour of all three facilities. Also in Dublin, the firefighter had visited Leinster House hosted by Independents For Change TD Thomas Pringle, where he had met TDs Maureen O’Sullivan (Ind4C), Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin) and Éamon Ó Cuív (Fianna Fáil) along with Senators Paul Gavan and Máire Devine (both Sinn Féin). In a related but separate building he had also met with TDs Gino Kenny and Richard Boyd Barrett (both members of Solidarity/ People Before Profit). Oriol Duchs also took part, shared with a Kurdish representative, in a seminar on international law organised by the Law faculty of Griffiths College, Dublin.

In Belfast on Monday he had spoken in Queen’s University Belfast without contact with any political representatives but in Derry had met Eamon McCann and Shaun Harkin, both members of Solidarity/ People Before Profit and public representatives on Strabane and Derry District Council, as well as Elisha McCallion, Sinn Féin MP for Foyle at Westminster,

He met too with Derry Trades Council which, indeed, had hosted his public meeting in that city. How was it then that, considering his publicity promotion as a trade unionist, member of a trade union that organised three general strikes in Catalonia since 2017, the press statement issued by the speaking tour organisers included no mention of engagement with Irish trade unionists in Dublin, in a city where so many Irish trade unions had their head offices?

“That was not for want of trying,” responded Diarmuid Breatnach, a member of With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin, to the question. “We contacted a number of trade union organisations in Dublin in order to host a public meeting or to meet with Oriol privately. One trade union quoted us commercial hire prices and failed to respond afterwards, another promised a meeting but failed to make arrangements, a number simply did not reply. It was sad, really, not only for solidarity with Catalonia, for I think Irish trade unionists would have benefited much from the interaction with Oriol and his trade union.”

Hopefully they will display a different attitude to any future such visits.

End.

Oriol in Leinster House with Carles Pujol, Cnclr. Micheál Mac Donncha (left) and Senator Paul Gavan (right).

CATALAN SOLIDARITY

Oriol in meeting with TDs Richard Boyd Barrett and Gino Kenny, also present are Diarmuid Breatnach and Tina McVeigh from With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin.
(Photo: C.Pujol)

ORGANISATIONS IN DUBLIN (joint organisers of the speaking tour)

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin FB: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/
ANC Ireland FB: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/

CDR Dublin FB: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/