(Report reading time: 3 minutes)
The above was the title of an event as part of the James Connolly Festival 2019 and was held in the Bohemians FC Members’ Bar in Dalymount Park, Phibsborough, Dublin on 7th May. The event was chaired by Spark Podcast and had three speakers, one from a Direct Provision asylum seeker’s hostel, another from a Brazilian immigrant community and a third from Kerala state in India but resident in Ireland.
The first speaker was Bulelani Mfaco who introduced himself as a South African, gay and an asylum seeker. Speaking about racism, he said that it was necessary to stand up to it and quoted the example several times of Mary Manning, who was one of eleven strikers (“Ten Young Women and One Young Man”, song by Ewan McColl) in Dunne’s Stores in Dublin in pursuance of their union’s policy (IDATU) not to handle South African goods while the white racist regime was in power.
Bulelani said that fascists mean what the say in their threats about their targets, blacks, gays, asylum seekers, women who won’t act as the fascist think they should …. and so they should be prevented from coming to power. He said that as a black man he is aware of racism often on the street.
Speaking about the conditions of asylum seekers and the conditions imposed on them, including being asked to prove that he was gay (!!!), he said they do not come as freeloaders but are prevented from working while their cases are examined, which can take years, therefore the Government’s system forces them to be recipients of aid. Once a judgement is given, which in 9 out of 10 cases is a rejection of the application to stay, they can appeal and racists say they are just doing that to delay the process of their expulsion. In reality, many cases are successful on appeal as the reasons stated for rejection at the first stage were so irrational.
He also pointed out that seeking asylum has no necessary link to war but is about a person “having a reasonable fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion and is expelled or chooses to leave their country because of one of those factors”. A “social group” under threat could mean and often does, being one lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender.
Eloquent and with wide knowledge about people seeking asylum in different countries, Bulelani was at times in danger of leaving the other speakers without enough time for their own contributions.
Rafaela Ferracuti (Brazilian Left Front) spoke about the fascist and racist policies of the current regime in Brazil and the harmful reforms of workers rights’ and open justification of attacks on indigenous people. Ferracuti spoke also about the situation of Brazilian migrants working in Ireland and referred to a fairly recent attack on some of them by Travellers. Asking for people to support Brazilian workers here, Rafaela also spoke about links with the Workers’ Party (which I assumed incorrectly at the time to be a generic term or a Brazilian party I had not heard of).
Manoj Mannath (of Kranthi organisation) talked about the slow climbing to power in an Indian state of a fascist party and talked about the process they had followed to do so, using Hindu religion in a supremacist way and also targeting those of the “untouchable” (sic) class.
Both Ferracuti and Mannath were speaking with difficulty in a language other than their own and I found it quite hard to follow them at times.
During questions and contributions, the following points were made or clarified:
The attack on Portuguese migrants by Travelers was wrong but some of the response by Portuguese migrants had been to leave racist graffiti, which would not help matters.
Irish Travelers are or have been for a long time the most discriminated-against section of Irish society with hard living conditions and high infant mortality and as often happens with people pushed to the bottom, some of them have turned to drugs and feuds are breaking out between rival gangs.
One person opined that the Government does not want to stop immigration but to control it and keep migrants insecure and with little rights, the easier to exploit them. The trade unions should recruit migrants to help them and also to prevent them being used as cheap labour to undermine any conditions won by Irish workers.
The Irish have been migrants to many countries and some had joined the oppressors while others became prominent in workers’ resistance.
Another ascertained that Rafaela had been referring to the Irish organisation the Workers’ Party and she stated that it is an anti-immigration party.
Another contribution stated that as well as the work of attacking racist policies and statements, fascists had to be prevented from establishing themselves and referred to the prevention in Dublin a few years ago of the launch of Pegida, a Europe-wide fascist organisation targeting Muslims. The Irish and Polish components had been physically prevented from holding their rally and anti-fascists are currently being taken through the courts on serious charges. He felt that these people should be supported.
Yet another responded that although that action was good, when one got to that stage, it was already too late.
The use of religion to divide people in India was compared to its use by the British occupation in Ireland but also by the same British colonisers in India and in some other lands.
Another said that the real target of fascists was the indigenous mass of people and that the other targets were being put up as diversions. As the economic situation worsens, the capitalists need to suppress the struggles of the working class and sections are targeted in order to divide the opposition.
There was general agreement that the various targeted sectors and the Irish working people needed to support one another.
The James Connolly Festival is an annual week-long event of talks on political events and sometimes cultural performances organised in the month of May in Dublin by the Communist Party of Ireland and open to the public. There is a program of other events continuing every day until Sunday: http://jamesconnollyfestival.com/#about
Overall, I felt quite disappointed. I had assumed the talks and the meeting would concentrate on the practical and ideological struggle against fascism and the rise of the far-right in Ireland and perhaps in Europe, with some lessons from further afield. Or possibly even on concrete actions that might be taken to support asylum seekers. Perhaps that was an unwarranted assumption but in any case, apart from the contribution of Bulelani Mfaco, the South African asylum seeker, the examples (as far as I could understand them), though of interest, seemed to have little direct relevance to the struggle here in Ireland.