THIRTEEN ROSES ….. AND 43 CARNATIONS

MILICIANAS 2

RAFAEL NARBONA

(Translation by Diarmuid Breatnach; original version published in Spanish in Rafael Narbona’s blog August 2013, also republished by kind permission in Rebel Breeze https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/trece-rosas-y-43-claveles/)

On the morning of August 5th 1939 thirteen women were shot dead against the walls of the Eastern Madrid Cemetery.

Nine were minors, because at that time the age of majority was not reached until twenty-one. Ranging in age from 18 to 29, all had been brought from the Sales women’s prison, a prison that was designed for 450 people and in 1939 contained 4,000. Apart from Brisac Blanca Vazquez, all belonged to the Unified Socialist Youth (JSU) or PCE (Communist Party of Spain). Although they had not participated in the attack that killed Isaac Gabaldon, commander of the Civil Guard, they were charged with being involved and conspiring against the “social and legal order of the new Spain”.

The trial was held on August 3rd and 56 death sentences were issued, including the perpetrators of the attack. The Thirteen Roses went to their execution hoping to be reunited with their JSU comrades. In some cases it would have meant a boyfriend or husband but their hopes crumbled upon learning that the men had been shot already.

conesa

The brick wall clearly showed the bullet holes and the earth had been turned dark by blood. Some days, the death toll exceeded two hundred and machine guns were used to facilitate the work. Between 1939 and 1945, four thousand people were shot in the Eastern Cemetery, including Julián Zugazagoitia, Minister of the Interior with Juan Negrín and remarkable writer and socialist politician.

According to Maria Teresa Igual, prison officer and eyewitness, the Thirteen Roses died with fortitude. There were no screams or pleas. In an eerie half-silence, only the steps of the firing squad were heard, the sound of the guns striking the straps and the voice of the commanding officer. Lined up shoulder to shoulder, after the shooting all received the coup de grace, which was clearly heard in the Sales women’s prison. Apparently, one of the condemned (whether Anita or Blanca is not known), did not die immediately and had shouted, “Am I not to be killed?”

Antonia Torre Yela was spared execution by a typing error.  In transcribing her name, the letters danced and became Antonio Torres Yera. The error only postponed death for Antonia, a member of the JSU and only 18. She was shot on February 19th, 1940, becoming the 14th Rose. In her farewell letter, Julia Conesa, nineteen and member of the JSU, wrote: “Let my name not be erased from history.” Her name and that of her comrades has not been forgotten, unlike those of their tormentors, who enjoyed impunity for 38 years of dictatorship and a shameful amnesty which only helped to deepen the hurt suffered by all victims of Francoism.

The PSOE (main social-democratic party — DB) tried to appropriate the Thirteen Roses, concealing that at the time of the executions the PSOE had split from the JSU to found the Socialist Youth of Spain (JSE), with the purpose of clearly distancing themselves from the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). In fact, the Law of Historical Memory of Zapatero’s government (the first PSOE government after Franco — DB) did not even consider overturning the dictatorship’s judicial verdicts. It should be remembered that nearly fifty men were also shot dead that sad August 5th, the “43 Carnations”. Franco showed the same ruthlessness to men and women.

A hell

Sales jail was a hell, with children, elderly and mothers with children huddled in hallways, stairs, patios and bathrooms. Manuela and Teresa Basanta Guerra were the first women executed against the walls of the Eastern Cemetery. They shot them on June 29th 1939 along with a hundred men. Some historians claim that other women preceded them but their names were not recorded in the cemetery’s files. Like others on death row, the Thirteen Roses could only write to their families after receiving confession. If they did not take confession, they gave up the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Brisac Blanca was the eldest of the thirteen and active in no political organization. Catholic and one who voted for the Right, she nevertheless fell in love with a musician who belonged to the PCE, Enrique Garcia Mazas. They married and had a son. Both were arrested and sentenced to death in the same trial. In fact, Enrique was in Porlier prison and would be shot a few hours before her. Blanca wrote a letter to her son Enrique, asking him not to harbour ill-will towards those responsible for her death and to become a good and hardworking man.

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In postwar Madrid there was vicious persecution and resentment of any citizen suspected of “joining the rebellion”, the technicality that was used to reverse the law, accusing supporters of the Second Republic of violating the law in force. Only the military, the clergy, the Falange and the Carlists could breathe easily. No one dared to walk around in workers’ overalls or wearing the traditional local bandanna (worn by men around the neck and by women as a kerchief around the head, it is still worn today at festival in Madrid — DB).

The city was a huge prison where “hunt the red” was taking place. The earlier militia-women aroused particular animosity. The Arriba newspaper edition of May 16th 1939, featured an article by José Vicente Puente in which his contempt does not mince words: “One of the greatest tortures of the hot and drunk Madrid were the militia-women parading openly in overalls, lank-haired, with sour voice and rifle ready to shoot down and end lives upon a whim to satiate her sadism. With their shameless gestures, the primitive and wild, dirty and disheveled militiawomen had something of atavism, mental and educational. … …. They were ugly, low, knock-kneed, lacking the great treasure of an inner life, without the shelter of religion, within them femininity was all at once extinguished.”

In this climate of hatred and revenge, denunciations proliferated — they were the best means of demonstrating loyalty to the fascist Movement.

The interrogations …. copied Gestapo tortures

The interrogations in police stations copied Gestapo tortures: electric shock on the eyes and genitals, the “bathtub”, removing fingernails with pliers, mock executions. Women suffered especially because the torture was compounded by sexual abuse, castor oil and hair cut down to the scalp. In some cases they even shaved eyebrows to further depersonalize. Rapes were commonplace.  The testimony of Antonia Garcia, sixteen, “Antoñita” is particularly chilling: “They wanted to put electric currents on my nipples but since I had no chest they just put them in my ears and burst my eardrums. I knew no more. When I came to I was in jail. I spent a month in madness”.

Among those responsible for the interrogations was General Gutierrez Mellado, hero of the Transition and Captain in the Information Service of the Military Police (CPIS ) during the toughest years following the war. He regularly attended executions, seeking last-minute confessions. On August 6th 1939 he pulled Cavada Sinesio Guisado, nicknamed “Pioneer”, military chief of the JSU after the war, out of the execution line. “Pioneer” had been lined up against the Eastern Cemetery wall and was awaiting the discharge of lead along with the rest of his comrades. Gutiérrez Mellado stepped forward and ordered his release. He forced him to witness the executions and asked for more information about PCE clandestine activity. Although he was cooperative and diligent, he was shot in the end on September 15th. Some claim that Gutierrez Mellado witnessed the execution of the Thirteen Roses but I was not able to verify the data.

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The women’s prison in Sales was run by Carmen Castro. Her inflexibility and lack of humanity found expression in the conditions of life of the children in prison with their mothers. No soap or hygienic facilities — almost all had ringworm, lice and scabies. Many died and were placed in a room where the rats were trying to devour the remains. Adelaida Abarca, JSU activist, said the bodies were only skin and bones, almost skeletons, for hunger had consumed them slowly. Another prisoner said: “The situation of the children was maddening. They were also dying and dying with dreadful suffering. Their glances, their sunken eyes, their continuous moans and stench are branded on my memory.” (Testimony given to Giuliana Di Febo in Resistance and the Women’s Movement in Spain [1936-1976] , Barcelona 1979).

The prisoners lived within the shadow of the “pit”, the death penalty. Since the execution of the Basanta Guerra sisters, they knew that the regime would have no mercy on women. On the morning when the Thirteen Roses were shot, Virtudes Gonzalez ‘s mother was at the jail doorway. When she saw her daughter climbing into the truck that was carrying prisoners to the cemetery walls, she began shouting: “Bastards ! Murderers ! Leave my daughter alone!” She chased the truck and fell. Alerted by the commotion, the Sales jail officers went outside and picked her off the ground, taking her into the prison. She was kept inside as yet another prisoner.

“If I had been sixteen they would have shot me too”

No less dramatic were Enrique’s repeated attempts to find out the whereabouts of his parents, Blanca and Enrique Garcia Brisac Mazas. In an interview with journalist Carlos Fonseca , author of the historical essay Thirteen Red Roses ( Madrid, 2005 ), Enrique gave his bitter account: “I was eleven years old when they shot my parents and my relatives tried to conceal it. They said they had been transferred to another prison and therefore we could not go to see them, until one day I decided to go to Salesas and there a Civil Guard Brigadier told me they had been shot and that if I had been sixteen they would have shot me too, because weeds had to be pulled up by the roots.

My grandmother and my aunts, my mother’s sisters, who had fallen out with my mother, ended up telling me that if Franco had killed my parents it would be because they were criminals. They even concealed my mother’s farewell letter for nearly twenty years.”

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I will not end this article by invoking reconciliation, because the Transition was not based on repairing the pain of the victims, but rather on the acquittal of the executioners. In fact, the reform of the criminal dictatorship was designed by those as low as Manuel Fraga, Rodolfo Martín Villa and José María de Areilza. Martín Villa concealed and destroyed documents to bury the crimes of Francoism and the dirty war he organized against anarchist and pro-independence activists of the Basque, Catalan and Canaries areas, from his post as Minister of the Interior between 1976 and 1979. Among his achievements one should list the Scala case (an attack that killed four workers, which was blamed on the CNT), the attempted assassination of Canaries independence leader Antonio Cubillo, the machine-gunning of Juan Jose Etxabe, historic leader of ETA and his wife Rosario Arregui (who died from eleven bullet wounds), also the murder of José Miguel Beñaran Ordeñana, “Argala”.

The impunity of the perpetrators

He is now a successful businessman, who gets excited talking about his role in the Transition. He lives quietly and no one has called for his prosecution. His example is an eloquent one of the impunity of the perpetrators, who continue to write the narrative while demonizing those who dared to stand against the miseries of the dictatorship and false democratic normalization.

No justice has been done. So it is absurd to talk of reconciliation, because nobody has apologized and repaired the damage. Franco committed genocide but today Manuel Gonzalez Capón, Mayor of Baralla (Lugo), of the Partido Popular (the main right-wing party), dares to declare that “those who were sentenced to death by Franco deserved it.” The Biographical Dictionary of the Royal Academy of History, funded with nearly seven billion euros of public funds, says Franco “set up an authoritarian but not totalitarian regime”, although in his speech in Vitoria/ Gastheiz, Franco himself said that “a totalitarian state in Spain harmonises the functioning of all abilities and energies of the country …”. The current scenario is not a reconciliation but instead is a humiliation of the victims and society, obscenely manipulated by a media (ABC, El País , El Mundo, La Razón), playing a similar role to newspapers of the dictatorship (ABC, Arriba, Ya, Pueblo, Informaciones, El Alcázar), covering up and justifying torture cases and applauding antisocial measures that continue reducing working class rights.

Let us not remember the Thirteen Roses as passive and submissive but instead for their courage and determination. With the exception of Blanca, trapped by circumstances, all chose to fight for the socialist revolution and the liberation of women. I think that if they were able to speak out today, they would not talk of indignation and peaceful disobedience, but would ask for a rifle to stand in the vanguard of a new anti-fascist front, able to stop the crimes of neo-liberalism. Let us not betray their example, forgetting their revolutionary status, they who sacrificed their lives for another world, one less unjust and unequal.

rosario dinamitera

TRECE ROSAS …. Y 43 CLAVELES

MILICIANAS 2

RAFAEL NARBONA
(originalmente publicado en su blog Agosto 2013)

(Encabezemientos por Rebel Breeze)
(versión traducido al inglés aquí https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/thirteen-roses-and-43-carnations/)

La madrugada del 5 de agosto de 1939 fueron fusiladas trece mujeres en las tapias del Cementerio del Este de Madrid.

Nueve eran menores de edad, pues en aquellas fechas la mayoría no se alcanzaba hasta los 21. Con edades comprendidas entre los 18 y los 29, todas procedían de la cárcel de mujeres de Ventas, una prisión que fue concebida para 450 personas y que en 1939 albergaba a 4.000.

Salvo Blanca Brisac Vázquez, todas pertenecían a las Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (JSU) o al PCE. Aunque no habían participado en el atentado que costó la vida a Isaac Gabaldón, comandante de la Guardia Civil, se las acusó de estar implicadas y de conspirar contra “el orden social y jurídico de la nueva España”. El juicio se celebró el 3 de agosto y se dictaron 56 penas de muerte, que incluían a los autores materiales del atentado. Las Trece Rosas acudieron a su ejecución con la esperanza de reencontrarse con sus compañeros de las JSU. En algunos casos se trataba del novio o el marido, pero sus expectativas se desmoronaron al saber que ya habían fusilado a los hombres.

conesa

La tapia de ladrillo visto mostraba claramente los agujeros de bala y la tierra se había vuelto negra por culpa de la sangre derramada. Algunos días, el número de  víctimas superaba los dos centenares y se empleaban ametralladoras para facilitar el trabajo. Entre 1939 y 1945 se fusiló a 4.000 personas en el Cementerio del Este, incluido Julián Zugazagoitia, Ministro de la Gobernación con Juan Negrín y notable escritor y político socialista.

Según María Teresa Igual, testigo presencial y funcionaria de prisiones, las Trece Rosas murieron con entereza. No se produjeron gritos ni súplicas. En mitad de un silencio sobrecogedor, sólo se escuchaban los pasos del piquete de ejecución, el sonido de los fusiles al chocar contra los correajes y la voz del oficial al mando. Alineadas hombro con hombro, todas recibieron un tiro de gracia después de la  descarga, que se oyó nítidamente en la cárcel de mujeres de Ventas. Al parecer, una de las condenadas (no sé sabe si Anita o Blanca), no murió en el acto y gritó: “¿Es que a mí no me matan?”

Antonia Torre Yela se libró de la ejecución por un error mecanográfico. Al transcribir su nombre, bailaron las letras y se convirtió en Antonio Torres Yera. El error sólo aplazó el fin de Antonia, militante de las JSU y con sólo 18 años. Fue fusilada el 19 de febrero de 1940, transformándose en la “Rosa” número 14.

En su carta de despedida, Julia Conesa, diecinueve años y afiliada a las JSU, escribió: “Que mi nombre no se borre de la historia”. Su nombre y el de sus compañeras no ha caído en el olvido, pero sí el de sus verdugos, que disfrutaron de la impunidad de 38 años de dictadura y de una vergonzosa amnistía que sólo contribuyó a profundizar el agravio de todas las víctimas del franquismo.

El PSOE intentó apropiarse de las Trece Rosas, ocultando que en el momento de la ejecución ya se había desligado de las JSU para fundar las Juventudes Socialistas de España (JSE), con el propósito de manifestar su alejamiento del PCE. De hecho, la Ley de Memoria Histórica del gobierno de Rodríguez Zapatero ni siquiera se planteó anular los juicios de la dictadura.

Conviene recordar que ese triste 5 de agosto se fusiló además a casi medio centenar de hombres, los 43 Claveles. El franquismo mostró la misma crueldad con hombres y mujeres.

Un infierno

De hecho, la cárcel de Ventas era un infierno, con menores, ancianas y madres con hijos, hacinadas en pasillos, escaleras, patios y baños. Manuela y Teresa Guerra Basanta fueron las primeras mujeres ejecutadas en las tapias del Cementerio del Este. Se las fusiló el 29 de junio de 1939, con un centenar de hombres. Algunos historiadores sostienen que otras mujeres las precedieron, pero sus nombres no figuran en los archivos del cementerio.

Al igual que otras condenadas a muerte, las Trece Rosas sólo pudieron escribir a sus familias después de confesarse. Si no lo hacían, perdían la oportunidad de despedirse de sus seres queridos.

Blanca Brisac era la mayor de todas y no militaba en ninguna organización política. Era católica y votaba a la derecha, pero se enamoró de un músico que pertenecía al PCE, Enrique García Mazas. Se casaron y tuvieron un hijo. Ambos fueron detenidos y condenados a muerte en el mismo proceso. De hecho, Enrique se hallaba en la Cárcel de Porlier y sería fusilado unas horas antes. Blanca le escribió una carta a su hijo Enrique, pidiéndole que no guardara rencor hacia los responsables de su muerte y que se convirtiera en un hombre bueno y trabajador.

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En el Madrid de la posguerra, se persiguió con saña y encono a cualquier ciudadano sospechoso de “adhesión a la rebelión”, el tecnicismo jurídico que se empleó para invertir la ley, acusando a los partidarios de la Segunda República de atentar contra la legalidad vigente. Sólo los militares, los curas, los falangistas y los requetés podían respirar tranquilos. Ya nadie se atrevía a pasear con un mono de obrero o un pañuelo castizo. La ciudad era una enorme cárcel donde se ejercía la “caza del rojo”.

Las antiguas milicianas despertaban una especial inquina. En el diario Arriba, el 16 de mayo de 1939 aparece un artículo de José Vicente Puente, que no escatima palabras de desprecio: “Una de las mayores torturas del Madrid caliente y borracho del principio fue la miliciana del mono abierto, de las melenas lacias, la voz agria y el fusil dispuesto a segar vidas por el malsano capricho de saciar su sadismo. En el gesto desgarrado, primitivo y salvaje de la miliciana sucia y desgreñada había algo de atavismo mental y educativo. […] Eran feas, bajas, patizambas, sin el gran tesoro de una vida interior, sin el refugio de la religión, se les apagó de repente la feminidad”. En ese clima de odio y venganza, proliferaban las denuncias, pues eran el mejor recurso para demostrar la adhesión al Movimiento.

Torturas copiadas de la Gestapo

Los interrogatorios en las comisarías se basaban en torturas copiadas de la Gestapo: descargas eléctricas en los ojos y los genitales, la bañera, extracción de las uñas con alicates, simulacros de ejecución. Las mujeres sufrían especialmente, pues a las torturas se sumaban las vejaciones sexuales, el aceite de ricino y el corte del pelo al cero. En algunos casos, se les afeitaban incluso las cejas para despersonalizarlas aún más. Las violaciones eran moneda corriente. Es particularmente escalofriante el testimonio de Antonia García, de dieciséis años, “Antoñita”: “Me quisieron poner corrientes eléctricas en los pezones, pero como no tenía apenas pecho me los pusieron en los oídos y me saltaron los tímpanos. Ya no supe más. Cuando volví en mí estaba en la cárcel. Estuve un mes trastornada”.

Entre los responsables de los interrogatorios, se encontraba el general Gutiérrez Mellado, héroe de la Transición y capitán del Servicio de Información y Policía Militar (SIPM) durante los años más duros de la posguerra. Solía ser un testigo habitual de las ejecuciones, buscando confesiones de última hora. De hecho, el 6 de agosto de 1939 sacó de la hilera de condenados a Sinesio Cavada Guisado, “Pionero”, jefe militar de las JSU al acabar la guerra. “Pionero” había sido alineado en la tapia del Cementerio del Este y esperaba la descarga de plomo con el resto de sus compañeros. Gutiérrez Mellado se adelantó y ordenó su liberación. Le obligó a presenciar el fusilamiento y le pidió más información sobre la actividad clandestina del PCE. Aunque se mostró colaborador y diligente, el 15 de septiembre sería finalmente fusilado. Algunos afirman que Gutiérrez Mellado presenció la ejecución de las Trece Rosas, pero no he conseguido verificar el dato.

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La cárcel de mujeres de Ventas estaba dirigida por Carmen Castro. Su intransigencia y falta de humanidad se reflejaba en las condiciones de vida de los niños encarcelados con sus madres. Sin jabón ni medidas de higiene, casi todos tenían tiña, piojos y sarna. Muchos morían y eran depositados en una sala, donde las ratas intentaban devorar los restos. Adelaida Abarca, militante de las JSU, afirma que los cadáveres sólo eran huesos y piel, casi esqueletos, pues el hambre los había consumido poco a poco. Otra reclusa afirma: “La situación de los niños era enloquecedora. También estaban muriendo y muriendo con un sufrimiento atroz. Tengo clavadas sus miradas, sus ojitos hundidos, sus quejidos continuos y su olor pestilente” (Testimonio recogido por Giuliana Di Febo en Resistencia y movimiento de Mujeres en España [1936-1976], Barcelona 1979).

Las presas convivían con la “pepa”, la pena de muerte. Desde la ejecución de las hermanas Guerra Basanta, sabían que el régimen no tendría misericordia con las mujeres. La madrugada en que fusilaron a las Trece Rosas se hallaba en la puerta de la cárcel la madre de Virtudes González. Cuando vio cómo subían a su hija al camión que trasladaba a las reclusas a las tapias del cementerio, comenzó a gritar: “¡Canallas! ¡Asesinos! ¡Dejad a mi hija!”. Corrió detrás del camión y cayó de bruces. Alertadas por el escándalo, las funcionarias de la cárcel de Ventas salieron al exterior y la recogieron del suelo, introduciéndola en la prisión. Quedó ingresada como una reclusa más.

“Si yo hubiera tenido dieciséis años también me habrían fusilado a mí”

No fueron menos dramáticos los reiterados intentos de Enrique de averiguar el paradero de sus padres, Blanca Brisac y Enrique García Mazas. En una entrevista con el periodista Carlos Fonseca, autor del ensayo histórico Trece Rosas Rojas (Madrid, 2005), Enrique cuenta sus amargas peripecias: “Yo tenía once años cuando fusilaron a mis padres y mi familia trató de ocultármelo. Me decían que habían sido trasladados de prisión y por eso no podíamos ir a verlos, hasta que un día fui decidido a las Salesas y allí un Brigada de la Guardia Civil me dijo que los habían fusilado, y que si yo hubiera tenido dieciséis años también me habrían fusilado a mí, porque las malas hierbas había que arrancarlas de raíz. Mi abuela y mis tías, hermanas de mi madre, con quien estaban enemistadas, llegaron a decirme que si Franco había matado a mis padres sería porque eran unos criminales. Incluso me ocultaron durante casi veinte años la carta de despedida de mi madre”.

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No voy a terminar este artículo invocando la reconciliación, pues la Transición no se basó en la reparación del dolor de las víctimas, sino en la absolución de los verdugos. De hecho, la Reforma de la dictadura fue diseñada por criminales tan abyectos como Manuel Fraga, Rodolfo Martín Villa y José María de Areilza. Martín Villa ocultó y destruyó documentos para enterrar los crímenes del franquismo y organizó la guerra sucia contra anarquistas e independentistas vascos, catalanes y canarios desde su cargo de Ministro de la Gobernación entre 1976 y 1979. Entre sus hazañas, hay que mencionar el caso Scala (un atentado atribuido a la CNT que causó la muerte de cuatro trabajadores), el intento de asesinato del líder independentista canario Antonio Cubillo, el ametrallamiento de Juan José Etxabe, dirigente histórico de ETA, y su esposa Rosario Arregui (que murió a consecuencia de once balazos), y el asesinato de José Miguel Beñaran Ordeñana, “Argala”.

La impunidad de los verdugos

Ahora es un empresario de éxito, que se emociona hablando de su papel en la Transición. Vive tranquilamente y nadie ha planteado su enjuiciamiento. Su ejemplo es una muestra elocuente de la impunidad de los verdugos, que siguen escribiendo la historia, mientras demonizan a los que se atrevieron a resistir contra las miserias de la dictadura y de una falsa normalización democrática.

No se ha hecho justicia. Por eso, es absurdo hablar de reconciliación, pues nadie ha pedido perdón ni se ha reparado el daño causado. El franquismo cometió un genocidio, pero hoy mismo Manuel González Capón, alcalde de Baralla (Lugo) por el PP, se atrevía a declarar que “los que fueron condenados a muerte por Franco se lo merecían”.

El Diccionario Biográfico de la Real Academia de la Historia, costeado con casi siete millones de euros de fondos públicos, afirma que Franco “montó un régimen autoritario, pero no totalitario”, pese a que en el Discurso de la Victoria el propio Franco afirmó que “un estado totalitario armonizará en España el funcionamiento de todas las capacidades y energías del país…”. El actual Estado español no es un escenario de reconciliación, sino de humillación de las víctimas y de la sociedad, obscenamente manipulada por unos medios de comunicación (ABC, El País, El Mundo, La Razón) que desempeñan un papel semejante a los periódicos de la dictadura (ABC, Arriba, Ya, Pueblo, Informaciones, El Alcázar), encubriendo y justificando los casos de torturas y aplaudiendo las medidas antisociales que no cesan de restar derechos a la clase trabajadora.

No recordamos a las Trece Rosas por su pasividad y sumisión, sino por su coraje y determinación. Salvo Blanca, atrapada por las circunstancias, todas eligieron luchar por la revolución socialista y la liberación de la mujer. Creo que si hoy pudieran alzar su voz, no hablarían de indignación y desobediencia pacífica, sino que pedirían un fusil para ocupar la vanguardia de un nuevo frente antifascista, capaz de frenar los crímenes del neoliberalismo. No malogremos su ejemplo, olvidando su condición de revolucionarias que inmolaron sus vidas por un mundo menos injusto y desigual.

rosario dinamitera

 Agosto 2013

LETTER TO MEMBER NY ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE COMMITTEE

To: Patrick Brian Boru Murphy                                             From: Cornelius McSclawvey,
NY St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee                                            Teernagoogh.
New York.                                                                                                  Republic of Ireland.

20th March 2014.

Re. invitation to PSNI to march in NY Parade

 

Dear Patrick Brian Boru Murphy,

I’m so sorry to hear of all the abuse you had to endure over your Committee’s decision to invite the Police Service of Northern Ireland to participate in the NY City’s Parade this year. To be honest, it was an overdue decision – even Sinn Fein accepted the PSNI years ago!  And of course urged your Committee to stand by the invitation — fair play to them although I’ve never liked them, I have to say.

But just who do these yobbos think they are? Those Irish-Americans who objected are living behind the times. And the gall of them to remind you of Peter King, selected Grand Marshall for the 1985 NY Parade, visiting IRA man Joe Doherty when he was in NY jail fighting extradition back to the UK! And the Philadelphia Parade committee making the same Joe Doherty Grand Marshall of their Parade back in 1989. Sure are we not all permitted a mistake or two in our lives?

Of course it was from the Irish Consulate that the suggestion first came to invite the PSNI. Some people, like that Larry Kirwan (of “Black ’47” musical notoriety), accused the Consulate of catering only for the rich Irish-Americans, the lace-curtain crowd. Yes, he did – he even put it in one of his books! Or so I’ve been told – I wouldn’t waste my time reading any of his rubbish. What’s wrong with lace curtains anyway? They let in light and keep your nosy neighbours’ eyes out – not that any neighbours live on our couple of acres of garden anyway, but still …

The cheek of that Wexford blow-in! And even if it were true, aren’t the successful Irish-Americans the ones who really matter? The likes of the Kennedys, O’Neill and even Republicans like Reagan (I mean the US political party), the ones who made — and keep on making – the USA great! Sure you couldn’t expect a country’s consulate to be looking out for the likes of building workers, bar and hotel staff, nurses and nannies! And even computer programming is pretty run of the mill these days.

Anyway, the Consulate lobbies for more green cards for Irish migrants, allowing them to emigrate to the USA legally, helping to sustain the economy back home through relieving us of paying them social welfare benefits and allowing them to earn money to send back home instead. Of course we know there are not enough green cards and a lot will still be illegal migrants but what can one do? And no doubt that helps keep the wages down … and stops them going on demonstrations and the like ….

Sorry, I’ve been drifting off topic. Your critics have been saying that the PSNI are just the RUC under a different name – that they are the same repressive and sectarian force as always. Well, maybe, but some things we have to just grin and bear, don’t we? And as for repression, sure they’re only persecuting dissidents, people who don’t agree with the Good Friday Agreement. The dissidents say that they’re being persecuted because of their legal political activities and not for breaking any laws. But if you stand against the tide, you must expect a good soaking, I always say.

Anyway, I just wanted to say “well done!” to you and to the rest of the Parade Committee. Hopefully next year you can not only invite the PSNI again but the Ulster Defence Regiment as well! As you know, they were formed from the B-Specials, much as the PSNI were from the RUC. It’s healthy to change the name of organisations every once in a while ….  And maybe the year after that, you can invite the British Parachute Regiment! They will probably never change their name but they are so colourful, with their red berets and wing badges … Fág an Balaugh!

Yours most sincerely,


Cornelius Mc Sclawvey

 

CAPTAIN BARTHOLOMEW TEELING, UNITED IRISHMEN HERO (buried in Croppies’ Acre, Dublin ).

This is a somewhat edited version of an article which first appeared on the Croppies Acre Rejuvenation FB page on 10th March 2014 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Croppies-Acre-Rejuvenation/691560670864090?fref=ts

French landing Kilalla

Republican French soldiers landing near Killalla 1798 (artist unknown).

CAPTAIN BARTHOLOMEW TEELING (1774-1798)

Teeling is mostly remembered for being an envoy of the United Irishmen to revolutionary France, later landing with Humbert’s expeditionary force in Mayo and for an amazing act during the battle of Collooney.  He was captured after the defeat of the revolutionary forces at Ballinamuck, after which most of the French were treated as prisoners of war but the Irish were either slaughtered or taken prisoner for trial on charges of treason.  Teeling was tried and sentenced to death; he was hanged at Arbour Hill on 24th September 1798 and faced death, as he had lived, like a hero.

Teeling monument

Teeling monument at Carrignagat, Co. Sligo

In 1898, the centenary year of the uprising and a year of many commemorations, statues, plaques and the writing of songs, a statue of Teeling was erected in Carricknagat. One of Sligo Town’s main streets, in which stand perhaps ironically the Sligo Courthouse and main police station, was also later named Teeling Street in his honour.

Bartholomew Teeling, a son of Luke Teeling, a Catholic linen merchant who lived in Chapel Hill, Lisburn, was educated at the Dubordieu School in Lisburn and at Trinity College Dublin. His younger brother Charles Teeling (1778–1850) went on to be a writer.

In 1796 Bartholomew enlisted in the United Irishmen and travelled to France to encourage support for a French invasion of Ireland.

The United Irishmen Directorate had intended to lead an armed insurrection with the support of a French landing.  France had a republican government, having had its own republican rising in 1989, during which the French King and Queen and many aristocrats had been executed.  A French fleet consisting of 43 ships carrying 15,000 troops including Theobald Wolfe Tone had set sail for Ireland in December 1796. The fleet had divided into smaller groups to avoid interception by the Royal Navy and were to reform at Bantry Bay.  Most did so but several ships, including the flagship Fraternité carrying General Hoche, leader of the expedition, were delayed; bad weather then set in and, combined with a lack of leadership, to the frustration and fury of Wolfe Tone, who commented that they were so close they “could have tossed a biscuit” ashore, the decision was made to return to France.

BLIAIN NA BHFRANCACH/ THE YEAR OF THE FRENCH

In August, when the other uprisings in Ireland had been suppressed or were stalling, another  French landing to assist the Irish rebellion finally took place in Mayo but it was a much smaller one.  On the 22nd August 1798, almost 1,100 troops under the command of General Humbert landed at Cill Chuimín Strand, Bádh Cill Ala (Killala Bay), Co. Mayo.  The numbers were too few to counter those being massed by the British and some of the other centres of the uprising had already been defeated or were hard-pressed and blocked; still, Humbert hoped for enough Irish to join and to raise other areas in insurrection.

French musketry Mayo reenactment

French soldiers fire muskets at British troops (re-enactment in Mayo).

The remote location allowed a landing away from the tens of thousands of British soldiers concentrated in the east in Leinster, engaged in mopping-up operations against remaining pockets of rebels in the province. The nearby Mayo town of Cill Ala was quickly captured after a brief resistance by local yeomen and two days later, Béal an Átha (Ballina) was taken too, following the defeat of a force of cavalry sent from the town against the French.  Irish volunteers began to come into the French camp  from all over Mayo following the news of the French landing.  A victory over General Lake’s 6,000 at Castlebar followed, by which time General Humbert had gained 5,000 Irish recruits.

Battle of Killala1798

Print depicting battle of Killalla

“Killala was ours at midnight and high over Ballina town
Our banners in triumph were waving before the next sun had gone down.
We gathered to speed the good news boys, we gathered from near and afar
And history can tell how we routed the redcoats from old Castlebar.”
(Men of the West, by William Rooney).

“Seo sláinte muintir an Iarthair daoibh, a chruinnigh le cúnamh san áir;

mar sheas siad in aimsir an ghéar-chaill — seo sláinte fear Chonnacht’ go brách!”

                                           
(Chorus Fir an Iarthair, Gaeilge translation of the same song by [researching at present]……..)

Castlebar Races

Mocking print depicting short battle at Castlebar, dubbed “the Castlebar Races” due to the speed of the British forces’ retreat.

But meanwhile a British army of some 26,000 men was assembled under Field Marshall Lord Cornwallis, who had just been appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (i.e. the British Queen’s representative) and was steadily moving towards the insurrectionist forces.

Abandoning Castlebar (where the victorious French held a ball to draw in the locals “of substance”), Humbert moved towards Ulster via Sligo hoping to link up with United Irishmen there, although the United Irishmen in Antrim had been beaten in a number of battles, the last one being at Ballynahinch on June 12th.

Plaque Castlebar Ball

Plaque recording General Humbert holding a ball after the Castlebar victory

ONE MAN AGAINST MUSKETS AND CANNON

The combined Franco-Irish forces marched north-eastwards towards Sligo on their way to County Donegal in Ulster.  On 5th September 1798 their progress was blocked by a unit of British troops from the garrison in Sligo, from approximately five miles to the north of Collooney. The British had installed a cannon above Union Rock at Carricknagat, a small townland to the immediate north of Collooney (hence the alternate name for the battle: the Battle of Carricknagat).  The cannon was protected by a screen of infantry including a sharpshooter by the cannon itself.  Charging the cannon would mean the death of many by cannon shot and by musket fire.   On the other hand, a detour would cost valuable time with large British forces following behind.

Suddenly Bartholomew Teeling broke from the Franco-Irish forces and charged forward on his horse.  One may imagine the scene: the British at first watch incredulously, then a scattered fire of muskets.  Teeling is unharmed, galloping onwards.  The British sharpshooter by the cannon coolly takes aim.  Teeling eyes him and suddenly swerves his horse; the shot goes past him.  The sharpshooter curses and reloads.  Another ragged volley from the infantry and again they miss.

The French and the Irish are cheering but they can’t believe he will make it.  Teeling’s horse leaps a ditch and gallops on past the infantry, foam flying from the animal’s body  – the sharpshooter looks up at him, loses his nerve and fumbles the charging of his musket …. Teeling is up at the gun, he has drawn his pistol and shoots the sharpshooter dead.  He draws another pistol and shoots the gunner.    The Irish and French are ecstatic and charge forward.  The British are stunned; some stand but most of the British infantry flee from the superior numbers and leave the cannon in the hands of the insurrectionist forces, as well as 60 dead and 100 taken prisoner.

Strangely, Colonel Charles Vereker, who commanded the Limerick militia in the stand-off, was awarded a peerage for his role in the battle.

NEW HOPE – AND DEFEAT

Hearing of a renewed United Irish offensive with risings in Westmeath and Longford, and perhaps with hopes of gathering support for a march on Dublin, Humbert turned and crossed the Shannon at Baile an Trá (Ballintra) on 7th September, stopping at Cloone that evening.  He was halfway between where he had originally landed and Dublin.  But that evening some survivors reached his camp to tell of the defeats of the insurgents at Wilson’s Hospital and at Granard.

Cornwallis was blocking the road to Dublin with a huge army and General Lake, smarting from his defeat at Castlebar, was expected with his forces soon.  In addition, Humbert’s rearguard was being constantly harassed and due to sabotage they had lost two cannon.

Humbert knew he was finished but felt military honour obliged him to make some kind of a stand, which he did at Ballinamuck, on the borders of the counties Longford and Leitrim.  About half an hour into the battle, Humbert signalled his surrender.  The British gave the French prisoner-of-war status but there was no such thing for “rebels”.  The 1,000 or so Irish forces and Teeling, perhaps knowing their fate, held on to their weapons but they were charged by British infantry and then dragoons; as they broke, they were hunted down.

Soon the bodies of about 500 Irish lay dead on the field and 200 prisoners were taken in mopping-up operations; almost all were later hanged, including Matthew Tone, brother of Wolfe Tone.  Most of the prisoners were marched to Carrick-on-Shannon, St. Johnstown (Ballinalee today), where they were executed in what is known locally as Bully’s Acre (there is also a Bully’s Acre in Dublin, part of the Royal Hospital of Kilmainham grounds, across the Liffey and a little to the west from Croppies’ Acre and Arbour Hill).  For some reason, Teeling and Matthew Tone were taken to Dublin.

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The Monument in Ballina, Mayo

Humbert and his men were also taken to Dublin, by canal, to be sent back to France. The British army then slowly spread out into the “Republic of Connacht” in a campaign of atrocities and destruction.  Many more were hunted down and hanged.

The catastrophe at Ballinamuck made a strong impression on social memory and was strongly represented in local folklore. Numerous statements in the oral tradition were later collected about this event, most of them in the 1930s by the historian Richard Hayes and by the Irish Folklore Commission.

“PERSEVERE, MY BELOVED COUNTRYMEN. YOUR CAUSE IS THE CAUSE OF TRUTH. IT MUST AND WILL ULTIMATELY TRIUMPH.”

As Ireland was under martial law after the uprising, Bartholomew Teeling was tried by court-martial as an Irish rebel, the charge being treason for which the sentence was death.   He was identified to the British by William Coulson, a damask manufacturer from Teeling’s home town of Lisburn.  Although Teeling had the rank of Captain in the French Army, to the British he was a British subject engaged in treason and Humbert was unsuccessful in his attempt to have Teeling treated as a French officer.  The condemned man was hanged at Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin (no longer in existence but the graveyard/ and 1916 memorial is still there), in his French uniform adorned with an Irish tricolour in his hat.

“Neither the intimation of his fate, nor the near approach of it, produced on him any diminution of courage. With firm step and unchanged countenance he walked from the Prevot to the place of execution, and conversed with an unaffected ease while the dreadful apparatus was preparing.”  (330. United Irishmen, their Lives and Times: Third Series: Robert R. Madden, M.D. 3 vols. Dublin, 1846).

Painting Bart Teeling

Portrait of Bartholomew Teeling

Teeling attempted to read the following statement from the scaffold, but was not permitted to:
“Fellow-citizens, I have been condemned by a military tribunal to suffer what they call an ignominious death, but what appears, from the number of its illustrious victims, to be glorious in the highest degree. It is not in the power of men to abase virtue nor the man who dies for it. His death must be glorious in the field of battle or on the scaffold.

“The same Tribunal which has condemned me — Citizens, I do not speak to you here of the constitutional right of such a Tribunal — has stamped me a traitor. If to have been active in endeavouring to put a stop to the blood-thirsty policy of an oppressive Government has been treason, I am guilty. If to have endeavoured to give my native country a place among the nations of the earth was treason, then I am guilty indeed. If to have been active in endeavouring to remove the fangs of oppression from the head of the devoted Irish peasant was treason, I am guilty.

“Finally, if to have striven to make my fellow-men love each other was guilt, then I am guilty. You, my countrymen, may perhaps one day be able to tell whether these were the acts of a traitor or deserved death. My own heart tells me they were not and, conscious of my innocence, I would not change my present situation for that of the highest of my enemies.

“Fellow-citizens, I leave you with the heartfelt satisfaction of having kept my oath as a United Irishman, and also with the glorious prospect of the success of the cause in which we have been engaged. Persevere, my beloved countrymen. Your cause is the cause of Truth. It must and will ultimately triumph.”

It is the very least we can do to honour the memory of this great man, cut down by oppression at 24 years of age in what would surely have been a life full of achievements, to ensure that where he and many comrades are buried, Croppies’ Acre, is maintained in an appropriate manner and open to visitors, from Ireland and from abroad.

POSTSCRIPT:

In 1800 the Irish Parliament, which was open to Anglican Protestants (Church of Ireland) only, had met in the current Bank of Ireland building at College Green) agreed to the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland and voted itself out of existence through Crown bribery and fear.

General Charles Cornwallis

Painted portrait of Field Marshall Lord Cornwallis, leader of the forces suppressing the uprising, also Lord Lieutenant of Ireland during the period

Cornwallis was later to surrender to a combined American and French force in 1781 at the Battle of Yorktown, which ended the American War of Independence in defeat for Britain.

After many adventures, Humbert  settled in New Orleans, where he was once again to fight the British at the Battle of New Orleans in the 1812 War.

humbert head memorial

“Agus gairim na Franncaigh breá láidre, do tháinig le Humbert anall,
Mar thug siad dúinn croí agus misneach nuair a bhíomar go brónach sa ngabháil.”

 

General Lake was to have a successful imperial military career with Britain; he was also made an Irish MP (as well as being an MP in England) in the run-up to the vote for the Act of Union 1800 which abolished the Irish Parliament and made Ireland part of the United Kingdom.

Did Mandela really change South Africa?

[Article by TOM, a contributor to Socialist Voice, newspaper of the Communist Party of Ireland and reprinted with their kind permission.  In essence it agrees with the analysis of Mandela and South Africa given by Stephen Spencer and Diarmuid Breatnach in an article reviewing statements of the Irish Left and Republican movement following the death of Mandela — Rebel Breeze]

The presence of such friends of genuine democracy as the war criminals George W. Bush and Tony Blair, David Cameron, Bill Clinton and such right-wing media hangers-on as Sir Bob Geldof and Sir Paul Hewson (Bono) at Nelson Mandela’s funeral raises questions about the real content of the new South Africa that appeared in 1994, when the apartheid elite seemed to cede political power to the African National Congress.

Twenty years later, given the continuing racial inequality in present-day South Africa, the much lower life expectancy of blacks and their much higher rate of unemployment, the increased vulnerability of the country to world economic fluctuations and accelerated environmental decay during his presidency, did Mandela really change South Africa? And, if not, how much room had he to manoeuvre?

For many are still remembering the Mandela years as fundamentally different from today’s crony-capitalist, corruption-riddled, brutally securitised, eco-destructive and anti-egalitarian South Africa. But could it be that the seeds of the present were sown earlier, by Mandela and his associates in government?

Ending the apartheid regime was, undoubtedly, one of the greatest events of the past century. But, to achieve a peaceful transition, Mandela’s ANC allowed whites to keep the best land, the mines, manufacturing plants and financial institutions, and to export vast quantities of capital.
The ANC could have followed its own revolutionary programme, mobilising the people and all their enthusiasm, energy, and hard work, using a larger share of the economic surplus (through state-directed investments and higher taxes), and stopping the flow of capital abroad, including the repayment of illegitimate apartheid-era debt. The path chosen, however, was the neo-liberal one, with small reforms here and there to permit superficial claims to the sustaining of a “National Democratic Revolution.”

The critical decade was the 1990s, when Mandela was at the height of his power, having been released from jail in February 1990, taking the South African presidency in May 1994 and leaving office in June 1999. But it was in this period, according to the former minister for intelligence services Ronnie Kasrils, for twenty years a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party, that “the battle for the soul of the African National Congress was lost to corporate power and influence . . . We readily accepted that devil’s pact and are damned in the process. It has bequeathed to our country an economy so tied in to the neo-liberal global formula and market fundamentalism that there is very little room to alleviate the dire plight of the masses of our people.”

Nelson Mandela’s South Africa fitted a pattern, that of former critics of old dictatorships—whether from right-wing or left-wing backgrounds—who transformed themselves into neo-liberal rulers in the 1980s and 90s: Alfonsín (Argentina), Aquino (Philippines), Arafat (Palestine), Aristide (Haïti), Bhutto (Pakistan), Chiluba (Zambia), Kim (South Korea), etc. The self-imposition of economic and development policies, because of the pressures of financial markets and the Washington-Geneva multilateral institutions, required insulation from genuine national aspirations—in short, an “elite transition.”

This policy insulation from mass opinion was achieved through the leadership of Mandela. It was justified by invoking “international competitiveness.” Obeisance to transnational corporations led to the Marikana Massacre in 2012 and the current disturbances on the platinum belt, for example. But the decision to reduce the room for manoeuvre was made as much by the local principals, such as Mandela, as it was by the Bretton Woods institutions, financiers, and investors.

Much of the blame, therefore, for the success of the South African counter-revolution must be laid at the door of the ANC leadership, with Nelson Mandela at its head. Hence the paeans of praise for the dead leader from the doyens of international reaction.
[TOM]

TONY BENN (1925-2014)

Tony Benn

Tony Benn

He was a friend of Ireland, it is true — I often heard him speak on Irish solidarity platforms in England. I don’t remember him supporting the hunger strikers in 1981, however. You may recall that Concannon, representing the Labour Party, visited the dying Bobby Sands to tell him that Labour would not support him or his comrades. In London, we marched to Benn’s house (VERY long, hot  march) to get him to break with Labour on this but I don’t remember whether we were successful.

In the balance must also be put that when Secretary of State for Energy in a Labour Government, along with the rest of the Gvt, he conspired to break the embargo on apartheid South Africa by covertly selling them oil routed through Portuguese African colonies.

Someone referred to him as an “Ant-fascist fighter” — I don’t know about that.  He served as a pilot in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa during the war.  Hundreds of thousands joined up during those years and many others were conscripted.  His reasons for joining could have been any, whatever  he may have said afterwards.  He certainly didn’t fight fascists on the streets of Britain as some did, both before and after the War.