Diarmuid Breatnach

Yes we do – or at least most of us do. There are a few who do not.

Some people think that those few who do not want change are our rulers, the big capitalists — but they are mistaken. The capitalist class forced change to overthrow the feudal system, which was hampering their growth and the development of industry and commerce. And capitalists know that change is inevitable, so it is better to go with it than to try to stop it. That is why they set up courses such as those called “Change Management” — if change is inevitable, then manage it, the thinking goes. Manage it so that it comes out to capitalist advantage, naturally.

(Source Internet, using "change management" as search words)

(Source Internet, using “change management” as search words)

Change Management courses, particularly those dealing with personnel, emphasise managing change as smoothly as possible, making it non-traumatic. In that way, it is assumed, there will be less reaction against the change, less opposition.

But in fact, sometimes capitalism wants the exact opposite – it wants change to be as traumatic as possible. These are the situations described under the title “Shock Doctrine” by economic/ environmental activist and theorist Naomi Klein (2007). This has two mechanisms: in the first, the shocking change taking place disarms people from the psychological ability to organise resistance; in the second, the speed of the shock (or shocks) of the economic and political manoeuvres of the capitalists moves faster than the opposition can organise, achieving their goals before opposition can coordinate an effective resistance.

Klein has described how huge natural disasters such as earthquake (Haiti), tsunami (Thailand, Indonesia) and flood (New Orleans, USA) are used to force foreign or native private takeovers of sectors of the national economy while the people and the regime in power are reeling under the impact of the disaster.

Political and economic disasters are also used in this model, such as the military coup in Chile and the collapse of the USSR (in the case of Poland), the economic collapse in Bolivia, the invasion of Iraq, the financial collapse of the “Tiger economies” of SE Asia. Even a potentially beneficial change of great magnitude may be used, such as the collapse of white minority rule in South Africa, during which the black majority won formal equality and citizenship but lost control of most of the economy (and lost a lot more which I do not intend to discuss here).

There is in fact a military precursor to this which has been called, in the context of US military strategy, “Shock and Awe”. This doctrine was described by its authors, Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade (1996), as “attempting to impose this overwhelming level of Shock and Awe against an adversary on an immediate or sufficiently timely basis to paralyze its will to carry on … [to] seize control of the environment and paralyze or so overload an adversary’s perceptions and understanding of events that the enemy would be incapable of resistance at the tactical and strategic levels”.

Of course there were many elements of this in the Blitzkrieg of the Nazi German army in its invasions of other countries and even the medieval invasions by the Huns and of the Mongols. Cromwell employed elements of it in Ireland in his army’s massacres at Wexford and Drogheda.

Aside from needing change to overcome feudalism, managing change to its advantage and use of shock doctrine to facilitate changes it wants, the capitalist system itself promotes change as part of its system. Small capitalists combine and form conglomerates, in which big capitalists come to power and, in turn, eat up smaller capitalists in order to dominate their sphere of economic activity. We have seen the growth of supermarkets and the decline of small shops, the rise of chain stores killing independent clothes shops, chain cafes and eateries driving indpendent cafes and restaurants out of business.

Capitalists also promote inventions and discoveries so as to increase their wealth but also in order to stay in front of the competition – a capitalist concern that stays at its original level will be taken over or driven out of business by its competitors. Our grandparents hardly knew about the possibility of mobile phones and computers, let alone small hand-held audio-visual connections to the Internet; our children today play with visual electronic games, films and music before they learn to talk. To be sure, monopolies also suppress inventions but they can only do so to an extent as some capitalist somewhere will break the embargo or consensus (if the discovery can be used to make sufficient profits making the attempt worth the risk).

OK, but we want change too and, we think, what we want is not the capitalist kind of change we’ve been talking about until now, although innovations and discoveries should continue and in fact accelerate – but for the benefit of the people, not the capitalists. Technological advances and innovations that do not make big profits may nevertheless be very valuable to us for all kinds of reasons.

So, yes, we want change. But what kind of change? Change to what? Change how? There a vast panorama opens.

We want to eliminate homelessness; have an efficient universally affordable health service; not to have to struggle for a decent standard of living in food, housing and small luxuries; to enjoy universal and affordable access to education at all levels; not to harm the environment; to have the positive aspects of our cultural inheritance, including history, valued and promoted. We want equal rights and respect between people regardless of race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability … and freedom of choice.

In 1930s Germany, people wanted those things too, except that a lot of people were convinced that the contents of the last sentence above were harmful and not what they wanted. But there were many, many people who did want those contents too. The issue was in doubt for awhile.

In the 1928 elections the Nazi Party achieved just 12 seats (2.6% of the vote) in the Reichstag (German Parliament) and in three areas the Nazi Party failed to gain even 1% of the vote. In the Presidential elections of March 1929, the Nazi candidate Erich Ludendorff gained only 1.1% of votes cast, and was the only candidate to poll fewer than a million votes.

We know that elections are not everything – but still.

Five years later, the Nazis were in power — but even after the Communist Party was declared illegal their candidates polled a million votes.

The people definitely wanted change and the established ‘democratic’ parties were unable or unwilling to deliver it. The change the people ended up with was not probably what most had imagined and for some time it spelt disaster for Germany – and unbelievable suffering for large parts of the rest of the world … and also for millions of German citizens.

To look closer to home, people wanted change here too and from 1917 onwards they showed that electorally by voting for the newly-reorganised Sinn Féin party. From 1919 a significant section of the populace took to arms to pursue change and had the active or tacit support of a huge part of the population. But in 1921 the movement and the people split about what kind of change they wanted. A civil war followed with a heavy level of brutality against civilians and combatants, particularly by the State side, which won the contest — and we ended up with the State we now have.

Bombardment of Republican-held Four Courts in Dublin by Free State forces from the bottom of Winetavern Street (with British artillery on loan) starts the Civil War on 28 June 1922 (Source Internet)

Bombardment of Republican-held Four Courts in Dublin by Free State forces from the bottom of Winetavern Street (with British artillery on loan) starts the Civil War on 28 June 1922 (Source image: Internet)

It is well to be fairly clear about the change we want and what we do not want. There was no such general clarity in the ranks of those fighting for change from 1916 to 1921. It turned out that many who were fighting for change were fighting for different things.

Differences must have come up over the years of struggle and we know from some evidence that they did. We also must assume from the political nature of prominent people in the struggle that there were differences. Even within the IRB itself, only one of the organisations involved, there were differences that surfaced in attitude to the 1913 Lockout, the control of the Volunteers in 1914 and the Treaty of 1922.

Of course, we need maximum unity against the principal enemy. But that is unity in action only. If we put unity in thought, principles or political or social program first, as some organisations have and some others claim to do, we end up with small organisations unable to effectively counter the resistance of the ruling class to the change we want and, in the end, unable to overcome that resistance. On the other hand, if we sacrifice everything to unity against the enemy, we leave ourselves hostages to events in the future and to what kind of society will emerge from the struggle.

Somewhere between those two is where we need to be, preserving the freedom to discuss, explore and proclaim differences of opinion and social program, while avoiding unnecessary squabbles and maintaining unity in action. It is a difficult balance to strike but it needs to be done. In the midst of fighting the common enemy and striving for unity in action against it, we must fight for that freedom also inside the resistance movement, the freedom to discuss, explore and yes, also to criticise.


“They Shall Not Pass — 80 years of fighting fascism” AFA Dublin conference


The speakers were Dr.Brian Hanley, Dr.Mark Hayes and Ciaran Crossey, with the event chaired by Helen Keane.


Poster for the event which used as its main image a section of the Battle of Cable Street mural.

I missed the beginning of the conference and unfortunately the whole of Ciaran Crossey’s presentation, arriving near the start of Brian Hanley’s to a packed conference room.

Brian Hanley gave a comprehensive history of the main components of the development of fascism in Ireland in the 26 Counties until the collapse of its impetus at the end of the 1930s. Hanley’s talk built on his Pamphlet: Ireland’s shame: the Blueshirts, the Christian Front and the far right in Ireland, (Belfast, 2016) by adding a review of Ailtirí na hAiséirghe, the minor but energetic organisation formed in 1942 under the leadership of Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin, which aimed for an anti-semitic Catholic and corporatist state.

Hanley packed all that into 45 minutes with apparently occasional deviations from his notes, full of interesting observations. Locating the thrust towards fascism in the strongly Catholic and anti-communist atmosphere of the 1930s in Ireland (with elements of anti-semitism), it was surprising to hear excerpts from speeches and right-wing periodicals of the period referring to the Fianna Fáil Government as “communist” and “under orders from Moscow”. It was interesting too to hear brief accounts of pitched battles between fascists and Republicans around the country during the height of the Blueshirt era, how much of a social base and energy the latter gave to the Fine Gael party and to accounts of the Soldiers’ Song (the Irish National Anthem) being attended to with the fascist salute (which led to violence in one cinema at least).  Another interesting if somewhat disappointing snippet was that the AT&G, a trade union with HQ in Britain, was the one that most prominently took a stand against Franco in the 1930s while many Irish union leaderships took the opposite side.

The Chair announced a short break immediately after Hanley’s contribution which sadly resulted in no questions on Hanley’s contribution when the conference reconvened with perhaps 80% of the earlier attendance.

The post-break session began with a talk by Mark Hayes, well-known in Britain in particular as a veteran anti-fascist activist and organiser.

Hayes began by seeking to establish a description of fascism and then went on to dissect and disprove a number of reasons given by commentators for its incidence – religion, psychology of the masses of certain countries, psychology of fascist leaders, the middle class — but concluded that fascism occurs when the ruling class of a country is ready to implement it and able to do so. During the 1930s and ’40s, the ruling classes of a number of European countries opted for fascism while others did not. Britain for example had leaders who admired fascism, including Churchill (and Hayes quoted some of the latter’s public statements) but could not tolerate a Europe under the control of one country, which explained, Hayes said, why Britain went to war with Hitler and Mussolini.

Some individuals apart, the profile of fascists and supporters was “depressingly normal”, Hayes maintained which demonstrates that a successful rise of fascism is potentially possible anywhere. There is no firewall between capitalist democracies and fascism and commentators who maintain that “it couldn’t happen here” or that its time has run out, as one prominent commentator claims, are sadly mistaken.

The growth of fascism is assisted by the capitalist State with increasing attacks on civil freedoms and on the rights of workers.  Hayes saw this as being particularly initiated in Britain under the Prime Ministership of Margaret Thatcher and her Government, with attacks on the legal rights of trade unions and the use of massed ranks of police. He drew attention to the “prevent” strategy in Britain today as a state-introduced oppressive and repressive measure.

Mark Hayes during his presentation. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Mark Hayes during his presentation.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Questions & Contributions

At the end of Hayes’ presentation the Chairperson Helen Keane opened up the floor to questions.

There were four contributions from the floor, only one of which was a question: it was about the content of the Prevent Strategy which Hayes’ had mentioned earlier. Hayes replied that managers of colleges in “the UK” now have a legal obligation to identify and report to the authorities anyone exhibiting “extremism” which is turning them into part of the police force, which was an aspect of fascist rule in society. “Extremism” is problematically identified as being in opposition to “British values” which are formulated as “moderation, fair play”, etc but those alleged values completely ignore the history of Britain’s colonial conquest and imperialism.

A contributor addressed the liberal dismay at the election of Trump, criticised the alleged feminist politics of Hilary Clinton with regard to the USA’s war policies and their effects on women elsewhere in the world; finally he expressed his belief in the necessity to stand by Russia and Syria.

Another contribution framed as a question but in reality more of a comment was made in relation to the history of the growth of state fascism in Britain, which the contributor ascribed to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, introduced by a Labour Government a year before Thatcher’s Conservative Party gained a majority. That year, 1974 was also the year of the killing by police of the first known anti-fascist martyr in modern times in Britain, Kevin Gately in Red Lion Square in London.

The contributor went on to express the view that although AFA had made a huge and the principal contribution to the defeat of modern fascism in Britain, the policy of “No Free Speech for Fascists” had been put forward by the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) in the very early 1970s1 before the formation of AFA2, a policy which no other political party on the Left would support at the time. That policy had been popularised through the action of the Afro-Asian Student Society, which had close links with the CPE (m-l) and which was influential in bringing about the “no platform for fascists” policy in the National Union of Students in Britain in 1974.


A section of the attendance after the break in the conference. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Hayes agreed that of course there had been earlier organisations and also stated that the actions of the Labour Government in Ireland had been fascist but felt that in Britain, Thatcher had brought about the definitive introduction of State fascism and that “in 30 minutes it’s not possible to cover every detail.”

The issue of the attitude towards “our only native ethnic minority”, the Irish Travellers, was raised by another contributor, attacking the endemic wrongs in the treatment of this group within the country and defending their need to be recognised as an ethnic minority.

The event ended with a reading by Máirín Ní Fháinnín of the translation into English of a short poem by Flor Cernuda, who after a period of post-war imprisonment in a concentration camp, worked for many years for the underground resistance against Franco’s regime.  The poem’s title is Las Brigadas Internacionales.


The conference was full of interesting information and the speakers I heard were of good quality in presentation, in knowledge of history and in analysis. There was undoubtedly a lack of discussion, which was a pity. In addition I was surprised that the Dublin anti-fascists’ victory in denying Pegida their Irish launch was not mentioned – small-scale though the battle was, Dublin was as far as I’m aware the only city in a European state which Pegida had targeted to launch their party and had failed to do so, being driven out of the city centre by vigorous action.

Máirín Ní Fháinnín reading Flor Cernuda's poem. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Máirín Ní Fháinnín reading Flor Cernuda’s poem.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)



11971 or ’72


PEGIDA PLANNED LAUNCH ENDS IN SINKING — survivors take to lifeboats

Diarmuid Breatnach

Saturday was the day selected by Pegida for their Irish launch, which they had planned to do at the Dublin GPO at 3pm on Saturday (6th February). Anti-Racist Network Ireland called a demonstration for the same location from 1.30pm but from around noon bands of antifascists were on the street hunting fascists and met them at various locations with painful results for the fascists.

Section of anti-racist rally on central reservation O'Connell Street, looking southward. (Photo from ENAR Ireland FB page).

Section of anti-racist rally on central reservation O’Connell Street, looking southward. The GPO building is to the right out of frame. (Photo from ENAR Ireland) FB page).


Founded in Dresden, in eastern Germany in October 2014, Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) is a broad European network of loosely linked groups opposed to what they claim is the “Islamisation of Europe”. Although Dresden remains its stronghold, the organisation has spread to a number of European countries.

In January last year, marches in German cities reportedly attracted up to 25,000 people at their peak, before numbers began to drop severely, rising again however in October as politicians and media stoked fears of a massive influx of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe from war-torn countries (countries, incidentally, where some European powers have played a major role in instigating or directly carrying out those wars).

Pegida claims to be not fascist and ‘solely’ against Muslims as has been the case with so many fascist organisations in the past – they have been ‘only against communism, or against Jews, or against blacks etc. The organisation has been frequently associated with general anti-immigration diatribes and in January last year derogatory descriptions of immigrants by its German leader, Lutz Bachman, in a closed Facebook discussion, were made public. He stepped down from the leadership after those revelations and the circulation of images appearing to show him posing as Adolf Hitler. The following month however he was reinstated with claims that the images were faked.

In Ireland the Blueshirts, popular name for the Army Comrades Association, mobilised and recruited in the 1930s. They were in part a response to the election of the new Fianna Fáil party, a split from Sinn Féin, in a popular national reaction to the hounding of socialists and republicans by the victors of the Civil War, 1922-1923. The Blueshirts presented themselves as Irish nationalists (even Republicans) with their targets being Communists, Jews and the IRA. Meanwhile elsewhere in Europe, fascist groups were organising, variously declaring their targets to be Jews, Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, trade unionists, Roma and Sinti, immigrants, gays and homosexuals and various religious groups.

The Blueshirts were fought on the streets by Republicans, Communists and some social democrats and, when they threatened a coup, their activities were banned by the De Valera government. It seemed that the majority of the Irish capitalist class had decided that Fianna Fáil were a safe pair of hands and would manage the country better and, besides Britain might go to war with some countries where fascists were in power.  The Blueshirts lost active members after that and with other right-wing organisations, formed the Fine Gael political party which became the principal mainstream opposition party from then on, occasionally going into Government in coalition with other parties. 

Blueshirts marching, 1930s (Photo sourced from Internet)

Blueshirts marching, 1930s (Photo sourced from Internet)



Saturday was chosen as “a day of action” for the groups that fall under the Pegida banner, with a number of anti-immigration and anti-Islam demonstrations planned to take place across Europe. The Irish far right anti-immigration organisation Identity Ireland supported Pegida on their Facebook discussions and claimed that Saturday would see the launch of the Irish branch of their organisation. According to a report by the Russian news agency RT, Identity Ireland’s leader addressed a Pegida rally in Dresden last month.

The ARN called for a large peaceful demonstration and even encouraged people to bring their children, advertising it as “a family affair”. Some debate between them and antifascists took place on the Internet and in person on what are the effective methods of resistance to fascism to employ. One of the anti-racist event organisers, Bulgarian Mariya Ivancheva, sociologist and anthropologist based at UCD, was reported in The Journal as calling for a “nice rally to celebrate diversity”. “When Pegida are there we are ready to face them but not to confront them,” she went on to say.

Anti-fascists referred to history to verify their case that fascism has always ultimately had to be stopped by physical force and that being the case, application of that approach at an early juncture was most effective and meant less suffering for working people, ethnic minorities and other targeted groups. The response of ARN to these antifascists was that the latter were not welcome on their rally.

Barricade against a Blackshirt march at Cable Street, East London, 1936. The attack was spearheaded by the police but the antifascists were successful.

Barricade against a Blackshirt march at Cable Street, East London, 1936. The attack was spearheaded by the police but the antifascists were successful. (Photo from Internet)

Many Republicans and Socialists were also angered by reports that the ARN had applied for police permission to hold their rally. Unlike in Britain or in the Six Counties, this is not required by law in the Irish state and the police are required to facilitate with traffic restrictions the right to march or rally on the streets or pavement. The antifascists’ disapproval was based on what was perceived as giving the police more power than they already had and which they often abuse. One veteran of demonstrations in Britain recalled that permission had once not been required in London either but liberals, social democrats and officials of the Communist Party of Great Britain had made it a practice to ask the police in order to cultivate good relations with them. In time, prior police permission became a requirement which at times was withheld or granted with conditions on times and changes of route.

However, subsequent to the publication of this report, I ascertained that ARN  had not asked permission of the police, one of them pointing out that such is not required.  The misunderstanding may have arisen from one person stating that he had informed the police that the event would be taking place.  This of course is quite some distance from asking permission.

The antifascists, composed of Irish Republicans from virtually all organisations and independents, along with a few socialist and anarchist independent activists, organised their own mobile forces.


The anti-racist rally at the GPO was attended by a couple of thousand, from the Spire almost to the Jim Larkin monument and covering the road from the GPO to the central pedestrian reservation. O’Connell Street was closed by the authorities to all northbound traffic and stewards were having difficulty in preventing the rally spilling into the southbound lanes. It was addressed by speakers from People Before Profit, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, Sinn Féin and a number of other speakers, including migrants.

Small section of crowd on east pavement, O'Connell St, with Misneach organisation flags visible (Photo D. Breatnach)

Small section of crowd on east pavement, O’Connell St, with Misneach organisation flags visible
(Photo D. Breatnach)

Clashes occurred at the pre-arranged Dublin meeting points of fascists on the Luas line with the handful of Irish fascists being attacked and some, including their leader Peter O’Loughlin and member Ian Noel Peeke being reportedly hospitalised. Clashes broke out again in the city centre at a number of points; one of the latter being at Earl Street North. It seems that some Pegida supporters had gathered at the junction with O’Connell Street and were watching the demonstration opposing them across the road and some were filming it.  There were reports of some of them abusing women supporters of the antiracist rally who were near the junction with North Earl Street. The Rabble independent media group reported them shouting anti-communist insults at them (see their video link at end of article). In any case, although generally free of visible insignia and carrying no banners, they began to attract an antifascist crowd, scuffles quickly broke out and the fascists ran down North Earl Street and Talbot Street. A couple of the Pegida supporters ducked into a nearby ‘poundshop’ apparently for safety but they were followed and received a pounding.

Police stormed the shop and evicted the antifascists, lashing out at almost anyone close by, as can be seen in the Irish Times video (see link at end of article). RTÉ has lodged a complaint about one of their camera operators being deliberately struck by a police baton. The riot police with batons drawn then set up cordons with barking German Shepherd dogs behind them and cleared North Earl Street of all pedestrians, allowing no others to enter from either direction.

North Earl St. after incident (facing westward). (Photo D. Breatnach)

North Earl St. after incident (facing westward). (Photo D. Breatnach)


This cordon was maintained until a few more Pegida supporters were permitted to escape through Malborough and Talbot Streets. All of the fascists in this area at least were identified by a number of sources as being of East European background, both by their accents and appearance. Some posts on fascist sites later on seemed to confirm this (see AFA Ireland statement link at end). Earlier reports gathered by antifascist intelligence had indicated that Pegida supporters from fascist Polish organisations were planning to support the Pegida launch.

 North Earl St. facing westward, Police and their vans (Photo D. Breatnach)

North Earl St. facing westward, Police and their vans (Photo D. Breatnach)


Subsequently, word reached antifascist patrols that 5-7 other Pegida supporters had gathered in a pub in Cathedral Street, again off O’Connell Street and scores of anti-fascists raced to arrive outside the pub almost at the same time as police. Another struggle with police took place outside the pub with riot police using their batons to jab and occasionally lash out, though with a degree more restraint than they had earlier at North Earl Street (perhaps due to an initial complaint from RTÉ having reached their senior officers by then). Police continued to violently push protesters and to jab with truncheons and one demonstrator showed a badly swollen and blue hand.

A standoff took place here for some time until the Pegida supporters appeared to be getting bussed out in police vans which sparked a rush of 50 or more antifascists southward down O’Connell Street. Riot police on foot and in vans followed them and at the intersection with Lower Abbey Street, drew up two cordons, one facing eastward down Lower Abbey Street and the other facing the Liffey, while crowds of antifascist gathered on the eastern pavements and Lower Abbey Street and mostly spectators gathered on the central pedestrian reservation. More police arrived and drew plastic shields out of their vans while a number of dogs were in evidence barking, one jumping up and straining on the leash towards antifascists.

Many spectators, natives and others, expressed bemusement and asked people near them what was occurring, evidence of the low level of advance news coverage by the mainstream media. Alternative, liberal, socialist and Republican media and independent sites on the other hand had given extensive coverage and encouraged people to attend the anti-racist demonstration or the antifascist action. Some among the crowd who were ‘in the know’ explained the events to one or two in their immediate vicinity. The overall atmosphere in the crowd seemed opposed to the fascists with mixed attitudes to the police and antifascists. These crowds offered fertile ground for being publicly addressed by word of mouth or leaflets but none seemed available to fulfill that role.

After some time in apparently purposeless deployment, given that nothing was moving, the Gardaí simply returned most of their forces and riot shields to their vans and most drove off. This seemed to indicate that the police maneouvre had been in the manner of a decoy while the fascists were spirited away quietly from the vacated vicinity of the pub. The Rabble video seems to confirm this.

Melee in Cathedral Street (photo from Internet)

Melee in Cathedral Street as riot police force antifascists away from pub where fascists are in hiding (photo from Internet)

Riot Squad police in Cathedral Street facing off antifascists. (Photo D.Breatnach)

Riot Squad police in Cathedral Street facing off antifascists.
(Photo D.Breatnach)

Standoff Abbey St. junction O'Connell St, facing westward (Photo D.Breatmach)

Standoff Abbey St. junction O’Connell St, facing westward (Photo D.Breatmach).

Many spectators -- view northwards along O'Connell St. from the William O'Brien monument (Photo D.Breatmach)

Many spectators — view northwards along O’Connell St. from the William O’Brien monument (Photo D.Breatmach)


The State, probably in anticipation of antifascist action, mobilised and deployed considerable forces. Garda vans moved through the city centre, sometimes in convoys, in addition to police on foot, mounted on horse and bicycle (though the horse police were often discreetly out of site in several locations around the demonstration area). Riot police waited in vans while other vans were stacked with plastic riot shields (which in the end were not needed, if a missile was thrown at the police it was a rare one).

In line with the general history of the relationship between capitalist states, their police forces and fascist movements, the police showed their determination to protect the fascists moving around the city centre. The eagerness of officers at times caused them some problems, including one of them striking a cameraman from the national broadcasting network, RTÉ, with a baton. On another occasion, a riot police officer can be heard calling “Hold the line!” at a time when the video shows the line is not under pressure – the only danger to the police line at that point is seen to be from over-eager officers breaking away to pursue and attack demonstrators.

A number of demonstrators and some spectators suffered bruises from police batons as well being violently shoved by police. In one video a police officer is briefly visible striking at a person lying on the ground – a visual echo of that famous photograph of Bloody Sunday during the 1913 Lockout, when the Dublin Metropolitan Police had run riot less than 100 yards away. In other footage police are seen shoving a man, apparently disorientated (perhaps by a blow to the head) to the ground at least three times although he is no threat to them and is not even resisting.

A feature of the antifascist active resistance was the unity in action across the Irish Republican spectrum, a feature that has been growing in solidarity work around Republican prisoners, in resistance to some features of repression and in the defence of the historical heritage represented by the struggle to save the 1916 Terrace in Moore Street. On this occasion however the unity in action included some SF activists. A sprinkling of independent socialists and anarchists were also among them. Some activists of the socialist, anarchist and communist organisations left the rally to join the antifascists blockading the fascists and their police protectors at Cathedral Street. There were a number of reports of football youth ‘casuals’, supporters of four Dublin soccer clubs, also cooperating in hunting for fascists. At least two of these were observed taking ‘selfies’ of themselves against a riot police background!

It is not known how many arrests were made nor what their outcome has been. Fascists were filmed being handcuffed as they were being put in police vans to take them to safety but it is unlikely they were charged. A number of fascists were reportedly hospitalised where no doubt their medical care teams will include a number of migrant background and perhaps even of Muslim religion.

The police and the Government will be considering their response but the ritual condemnations by their mouthpieces of antifascist force can be expected, as well as attempts to isolate the antifascists as some kind of hooligan or sinister element. The capitalist class will not be impressed with Pegida or Identity Ireland’s performance and, if considering building up a fascist movement in the future, will probably look elsewhere.

Both the ARN and the antifascists were pleased with the outcome of their respective efforts but liberal elements can be expected to condemn the antifascists for what the former perceive as marring the message of their demonstration. The ARN statement (see link at end of article) did so in fact albeit in muted tones, “regretting skirmishes”. In a parallel to some Jewish leaders in 1930s Europe during the rise of fascism, a Muslim religious leader was quoted criticising violent actions “by a minority” and called for defeating them by “dialogue”.

The fascists will be licking their wounds and trying to put a brave face on their defeat, also condemning the antifascists for using “undemocratic violence” or words to that effect. All fascist movements in history have been extremely violent while often, while in their growth period, presenting themselves in public as peaceful and condemning the violence of their opponents. This is a fact that liberal elements usually fail to appreciate, while other elements among the middle class are ultimately content to see their order being maintained, whether by the State or by fascists.

Whatever spin the fascists, the State, mass media or liberals may put on it, the fact remains that the fascists have been prevented from staging a publicity coup that would have raised the morale of their few recruits and encouraged more to join them. Fascist movements throughout history have required such morale-boosters and encouragement for potential recruits and, incidentally, intimidation of their opposition. What happened on Saturday in Dublin has been the reverse – the fascists and potential recruits have been intimidated and discouraged. Over 200 indicated intention to attend on the Pegida “Irish launch” Facebook event but reports on the ground in the city centre indicate a total of perhaps 30 fascists being chased around the city in small groups. The 170 or so, whether Irish or from elsewhere interested in supporting islamophobia, racism and fascism won’t be in a hurry to enlist now.

But should a new attempt be made to launch a mass fascist movement in Ireland, on whatever divisive basis, the antifascists are likely to turn out in even greater numbers.


Video and text links:

Irish Times video showing part of incident at North Earl Street which shows a number of unprovoked assaults by Gardaí on individuals, both by violent pushing and by baton blows. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/scuffles-break-out-at-launch-of-anti-immigration-group-in-dublin-1.2525530

Collage of video clips taken by independent film maker, including scenes of baton-swinging police: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHkQnkaqaoU

Great footage taken by filmer from Rabble alternative media organisation of a number of dramatic events including fascists’s faces: http://www.rabble.ie/2016/02/07/pathetic-pegida/

Short panoramic video clip of the AR demo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJNQW0pSYpY

Independent long video footage of confrontation on Cathedral Street posted on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_REls3JkxzQ#t=129

AFA statement and some other material on their site: https://www.facebook.com/afaireland/posts/1018094948250821:0

Irish Republican Left Action Against Fascism statement: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=913561958751080&id=912549568852319

ENAR Ireland photos and Anti-Racism Network statement: https://www.facebook.com/enar.ireland/posts/954399354642123

Rogues’ Gallery of fascists’ faces album: https://www.facebook.com/libertypics/media_set?set=a.10207283509858914.1073741835.1019818043&type=3&uploaded=1&hc_location=ufi


Supporting organisations (in alphabetical order):

Anti Austerity Alliance, Akidwa Ireland, Africa Centre Dublin Ireland, Anti Racism Network Ireland, Attac Ireland, Autistic Rights Together, Communist Party of Ireland, Conference of Religious in Ireland, Dialogue & Diversity, Dublin Calais Refugee Solidarity, Dublin City Centre Citizens Information Service, Doras Luimni, EDeNn, ENAR Ireland, Fighting for Humanity – Homelessness, Galway Anti Racism Network, Gaza Action Ireland, Gluaiseacht for Global Justice, Green Party of Ireland, Ireland Says Welcome, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Irish Anti-War Movement, Irish Housing Network, Irish Refugee Council, Irish Missionary Union, Irish Traveller Movement, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, National Traveller Womens Forum, Shannonwatch, Show Racism the Red Card – Ireland, SARI – Sport Against Racism Ireland, SIPTU, Sinn Féin , The Platform, Pavee Point, People Before Profit, United Against Racism, The Workers Party, Workers Solidarity Movement, You Are Not Alone.” (From their statement published on European Network Against Racism Ireland’s site)



Manus O’Riordan

J. K. O’Reilly (1860-1929) of 181 North Circular Road, Dublin, was author of of the patriotic ballad, “Wrap The Green Flag Round Me, Boys”. Not alone did he take part in the 1916 Rising but so did all his sons: Kevin (1893-1962), Sam (1896-1988), Desmond (1898-1969), Tommy (1900-1985) and Donal O’Reilly (1902-1968). J. K. and Kevin, Sam and Desmond served in the Irish Volunteeers, while Tommy and Donal served in Fianna Eireann.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgN4_DjAxEw&sns=em for Luke Kelly and https://lyrics.wikia.com/…/Wolfe_Tones:Wrap_The_Green_Flag_… for full lyrics.

This November 7th saw over 200 people turn out for the launch by the Cabra 1916 Rising Committee of a marvellous 156page historical publication. Among the Cabra residents honoured in “Our Rising: Cabra and Phibsborough in Easter 1916” are the O’Reilly family.


In March 1966 the “Irish Socialist”, publication of the then Irish Workers’ Party (now the Communist Party of Ireland), brought out a special issue to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. A highlight of that publication had been Party veteran Donal O’Reilly’s memories of how, as a 13 year old boy, he had followed his father and brothers into the Rising, to the horror of Rising leader Tom Clarke, who considered him far too young to be involved in war. It was subsequently republished by my father, Micheal O’Riordan, in his 1979 book, “Connolly Column”.

Included in Donal O’Reilly’s memoir was his own day-by-day account of Easter Week, 1916:

Monday, Easter Week: In our home it was the ordinary week-end mobilisation. There was the cancellation order by McNeill in the “Sunday Independent” of course, but somehow we didn’t seem to pay much attention to newspapers then. Certainly all the adult members of my family went on parade. At two o’clock, I knew there was a difference. A barricade was up at the Railway Bridge in Phibsboro, which was just a few hundred yards from our home. Houses were occupied and all sorts of guns were in evidence. 
Down I went into O’Connell Street.

“The Proclamation was up. The windows of the G.P.O. were barricaded. The looting had already started and despite efforts by a few Volunteers, shop after shop was destroyed. How fires were prevented by the few Volunteers that were on the streets seemed a miracle. 
Back through the barricades of Phibsboro I went home with wondrous tales to tell! Nobody was at home; all were out on their barricades!

“Tuesday, Easter Week: There was a silence that I had never known before or since. Nothing moved on the North Circular or Old Cabra Roads. I wanted to go into the city centre again, but how could I get across the barricade on the Railway Bridge? I knew Jim O’Sullivan, the officer in charge, but that would be of little value. I hung around and eventually nobody knew which side of the barricade I should be on. I discovered my own private route into O’Connell Street; down Mountjoy Square, into Hutton’s Place, across Summerhill, an area that was then teeming with life, all living in big and small tenement dwellings.

“I got to the G.P.O. The looting had ceased and the only movement now was of determined men that came and went. A few groups were gathered around the Post Office trying to get in, but were rejected. 
At three o’clock there was a movement at the side door in Henry Street and the “War News” made its appearance. I duly appointed myself as official newsboy to the Garrison. Within an hour-and-a-half, the “War News” was sold and I was back in the G.P.O. with my my official status and the money. I got into the main hall.

“Tom Clarke, whom I had met in his shop and at the lying-in-state of O’Donovan Rossa at the City Hall, saw me and was horrified. I was sent to Jim Ryan and he sent me off to Purcell’s with a parcel of bandages. At the Purcell’s post I stayed and there I met Cyl MacParland, a man who was to be very close to me for many years afterwards.

“Wednesday, Easter Week: The silence had gone. The occasional crack of a rifle had given way to the boom of artillery.
“Back at G.P.O: Thursday, I returned to the G.P.O; there was no difficulty in getting in now. The guns were battering away and all the women and youth were being prepared for evacuation. It was proposed that we should go via Princes Str
eet, Abbey Street and Capel Street. I left, crossing O’Connell Street, Marlborough Street and then up by Hutton’s Place. Eventually I got to old houses in Berkeley Road, and stayed there until Sunday morning.”


So ended Donal O’Reilly’s memoir. He went on to fight in Ireland’s War of Independence (1919-1921), and on the Republican side in the Civil War (1922-1923), serving in the Four Courts garrison and, on surrender, being imprisoned in Mountjoy Gaol. But Donie, as he was known among friends and comrades, went on to fight for a second Republic, accompanying Frank Ryan in the first group of Irish International Brigade volunteers he led out to fight in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War (1936-1939). If Easter 1916 in Dublin had been Donie’s baptism of fire for the Irish Republic, Christmas 1936 on the Cordoba front was to be his baptism of fire for the Spanish Republic.

Photograph taken of some of the Connolly unit in Spain

Photograph taken of some of the Connolly unit in Spain










(See http://www.irelandscw.com/part-IrDem3709-10.htm#371002Cordoba for his account of going into action, which was published in the “Irish Democrat” on 2 October 1937. In the opening two paragraphs the editor introduced Donal O’Reilly to readers, while his own account began with “Christmas time”).

Donal O’Reilly’s life both began and ended in the Cabra area of Dublin, and he ultimately resided at 31 Cabra Park. As the son of his fellow International Brigader Micheal O’Riordan, it was my privilege to have personally known Donie O’Reilly during my 1960s teens, and to have attended his 1968 funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery. Full military honours were rendered to this veteran of Ireland’s War of Independence, as the Irish Army fired a volley of shots at his graveside, before veteran Irish Republican Congress leader Peadar O’Donnell gave an inspiring funeral oration. Peadar was at that juncture Chair of the Irish Voice on Vietnam, on whose Executive I was the representative of the Connolly Youth Movement.

1966 Arno Herring GDR uniform veteran XI (Deutch) Brigade salutes Frank Ryan remains & 3 Irish veterans XV (English-speaking) International Brigade Donal O'Reilly Micheal O'RiordanFrank Edwards

This photograph of Donie O’Reilly was taken in 1966 in the German Democratic Republic, at the grave of Irish International Brigade leader Frank Ryan, in Dresden’s Loschwitz Cemetery. (Frank Ryan’s remains would subsequently be repatriated to Ireland, in 1979, for reburial in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery). In this photo, Arno Herring, in GDR army uniform, a veteran of the XI (German-speaking) International Brigade, salutes the memory of Frank Ryan, as three Irish veterans of the XV (English-speaking) International Brigade stand to attention: Donal O’Reilly, on the far left, and Mícheál O’Riordan and Frank Edwards, on the right.


Introduction with some very little additional text by Diarmuid Breatnach

Main text from East Wall History Group

Among the many events packed into History Week by the East Wall History Group was a walking history tour of the area on Sunday 27th September. Over a score of people took part in “East Wall and the Irish Revolution” to hear Joe Mooney, a long-time community activist, outline the relevant events of history at various points along the way, covering

Paul OBrien Merchants Road Mural playing

Paul O’Brien performing his 1913 Lockout song in front of mural marking the eviction of 62 families from Merchant’s Road in December 1913 by the Merchant’s Company.  (Photo: EWHG) 

local connections with the Fenians, docks and migrants, the Lockout, 1916 Rising and the Spanish Civil War. Appropriate songs and music accompanied the tour, Paul O’Brien performing compositions of his own at some of those points and Diarmuid Breatnach singing verses from Viva La Quinze Brigada at another.

Joe Mooney, the tour guide

Joe Mooney, the tour guide.  Photo: D.B

The East Wall History Group has been in existence for a number of year; they may be contacted through https://www.facebook.com/eastwallhistory and http://eastwallforall.ie/?tag=east-wall-history-group and it would not be a bad idea to get on their mailing list. The following account has been shamelessly looted from their FB page:

We set out from St Joseph’s School, originally opened in 1895. The first Principal of the Boys’ school was J.F. Homan, who served as a St. John’s Ambulance Brigade volunteer during the Rising and also during the Civil war. A number of former pupils from the school were involved in the revolutionary events of the time (the following decades) and of course in 1911 a schoolboys’ union was declared and a short strike ensued (complete with pickets!). Their demands included a shorter day and free school-books.

Part of crowd at the starting point

Part of crowd at the starting point.  (Photo: DB)

Our first stop was Merchants Road, where during the 1913 Lockout 62 families (almost the entire population of the street) were evicted by their employer the Merchants Warehousing Company (their yard was Merchant’s Yard on East Wall Road, just before the T-junction by the Port Authority. At the fantastic mural (erected by the community) Paul paid tribute to the families and the workers struggle with his song “Lockout 1913“. Amongst the evicted families were the Courtneys from number 1 – their son Bernard was a ‘Wharf’ school pupil and fought with the Jacobs garrison in 1916, before succumbing to TB in 1917.

Joe Mooney pointing out Jack Nalty's house

Joe Mooney pointing out Jack Nalty’s house.

Jack Nalty's house

Jack Nalty’s house.

Joe & Crowd from above

(Photo: DB)

Next we visited the East Road, where Diarmuid set the tone with a stirring rendition of the Christy Moore song “Viva la Quinze Brigada(explaining that Christy incorrectly called it “Quinta” but had since corrected it – as the lyrics in English make clear, it was the FIFTEENTH Brigade). Gathered opposite the family home of Jack Nalty, we heard the story of another former ‘Wharf ‘ school-boy who became an active Republican and Socialist, eventually losing his life fighting Fascism in Spain in 1938. Jack (who was also a champion runner) was amongst the last of the International volunteers to die, while his friend and comrade Dinny Coady was amongst the first. Many of Dinny Coadys relatives still live locally, and we plan to commemorate them properly in the future.

Jack Nalty in uniform of the 15th International Brigade

Jack Nalty in uniform of the 15th International Brigade. (Photo: Internet)


Next was a quick stop at the junction of Bargy and Forth Roads, which along with Shelmalier, Killane and Boolavogue were the names given to streets of Corporation houses erected here in the 1930’s and ’40s. They are of course synonymous with places in Wexford in the 1798 Rebellion.

At the rear of the former Cahill printers premises we learned how an innovative glassmaking factory (Fort Crystal Works) once stood there, perhaps the first industry in the area, but by the early 1800’s lay in ruins. As reported in newspapers as far away as New York, in 1848 a hundred men gathered here and spent an entire day in musketry practice, even setting up a dummy of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the Queen’s representative) to practice on. These were members of the Young Ireland movement, preparing for rebellion.

Joe speaking at the 'Scotch Block'

Joe speaking at the ‘Scotch Block’ — some of the crowd are out of shot, as is Paul O’Brien, who is just getting ready to play.  (Photo: DB)

On Church Road we remembered former resident Edward Dorin, a Sergeant in the IRA who was part of the operation to burn the Custom House during the War of Independence. Another former ‘Wharf’ school pupil (he started there the same year as Jack Nalty), he was shot dead alongside a young volunteer from Ballybough when they engaged a lorryload of Auxillaries at Beresford place (just by Liberty Hall). (They were covering the attacking party). There had been a suggestion in the 1950’s to rename Custom House Quay as Dorins Quay .

A short stop at the “Scotch Block”, Fairfield Avenue, where Paul played two songs recalling Glasgow immigrants to the area and also Edinburghborn James Connolly. An incident in 1918 when Union Jackwaving residents from these buildings attempted to disrupt a Sinn Féin election rally also got a mention.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing Viva La Quinze Brigada opposite house.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing “Viva La Quinze Brigada” opposite Jack Nalty’s house. (Photo: EWHG)

As we passed Hawthorn Terrace its most famous resident Sean O’Casey was briefly discussed, as was his former neighbour Willy Halpin, the diminutive Citizen Army man most famous for almost escaping capture at City Hall by climbing up a chimney.

As we passed Russell Avenue a dishonorable mention was given to those who attempted to raise a 5,000 strong Fascist militia from an address here in the late 1950’s. Thankfully they failed miserably, as did the Italian fascist sympathiser resident of Caladon road who was banned from the U.S.A. during World War Two and eventually arrested by the Irish state and handed over to British authorities via the Six Counties.

At Malachi Place the actionpacked tale of Fenian leader John Flood was recounted. He lived here in the 1860’s as he worked on plans to stage a rebellion against British Rule. After an audacious attempt to seize weapons from Chester Castle was betrayed, he was eventually arrested following a boat chase on the Liffey and deported to Australia on the last convict ship to sail there. A memorial stands above his grave, unveiled there in 1911, two years after his death. This story could be a movie script!

We finished off the day at the base of Johnny Cullens Hill at the block of houses formerly named Irvine Crescent (now incorporated into Church Road). It was here the Scott family lived and in 1916 their 8yearold son was shot from the gun boat Helga. He lingered on for months after his wounding before finally dying, making him the last of the child casualties of 1916. The same year his father died in an accident in the Port, leaving his mother to raise five children on her own while coping with this double tragedy.

Their nextdoor neighbours were the Lennon family. On Bloody Sunday 1913 Patrick Lennon was one of those injured in the baton charge on O’Connell Street. Bloodied but unbowed, he worked alongside Sean O’Casey to raise funds for the relief of strikers families, a project which eventually led to the establishment of the famous soup kitchen at Liberty Hall.

And finally on to Bloody Sunday 1920. Everybody knows the story of how the Squad under Michael Collins (and the Dublin Brigade of the IRA) targeted British Intelligence agents in the City but not many know of the East Wall operation. A house on Church Road was targeted but the agent had left the evening before and was in Cork when the IRA group arrived. The exact location is unknown but we suspect it was within this block here as many of the houses were sub-divided at that time.”

A coincidence in Merchant's Road, opposite the mural (note the date)

A coincidence in Merchant’s Road, opposite the mural (note the date).  (Photo: EWHG)

Even if they didn’t get to tell half the stories of East Wall and the Irish Revolution, it was an enjoyable and informative walking tour … and the weather was beautiful – and there’s always next year!




Diarmuid Breatnach

In the third week of the month of December two daring ambushes took place, one in Ireland and one in Spain. Both were carried out by national liberation organisations and both were very daring, aimed at extremely high-level military and state targets who were well-protected in cities controlled by the occupying state. The ambushes were one day on the calendar apart but 64 years separated them; the date of the Dublin one was December 19th 1919 and the the other took place on December 20th 1973 in Madrid.


The target of the Irish ambush was Field Marshal John French. No-one resident in Ireland could rank higher in the British Empire; the British Queen and state’s representative in Ireland, French had been appointed Lord Lieutenant and Supreme Commander of the British Army in Ireland in 1918. Of course, it was not the first time that the Irish resistance had set its sights so high – in 1882 in Phoenix Park in Dublin, the Republican group The Invincibles had assassinated the Chief Secretary for Ireland, at that time the Queen’s representative, along with Thomas Burke, the Permanent Undersecretary and the Queen’s most senior civil servant in Ireland.

Field Marshal John French had previously held the positions of Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Forces and, at the start of the First World War, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in France. Under General Maxwell, he oversaw the suppression of the 1916 Rising and subsequent executions. Had the British government imposed conscription in Ireland in 1918, as threatened, he would have been in charge of seeing it through and had in fact pressed for the measure to be introduced. In the event, the opposition to conscription in Ireland was so widescale, including from the Irish Catholic Church, usually so loyal to the British, that an insurrection was feared if they went ahead with it.

John French was from a Norman-English family settled in Wexford in the fourteenth century with large property in Roscommon and, though his family had gone to live in England in the eighteenth century and he himself was born in Kent, French always regarded himself as “Irish”. John’s father had been a Royal Navy Commander and John himself pursued a military career, first in the Royal Navy and later in the Army. His record in the Navy was below expectations, as was his initial Army career. However, he made his name on a number of military engagements in the Second Boer War and Second Morocco Crisis and with the help of some allies who had political and military clout, was appointed Chief of the Imperial Military Staff in 1912. He resigned his position over the Curragh ‘Mutiny’ incident in 1914 but was given command of the British Expeditionary Force in France and in Belgium during the First World War. He was later forced to resign over his handling of this command, particularly in regard to his difficult relations with high-level French officers, but was given command of the defence of Britain.

In May 1918, French was appointed Lord Lieutenant and Supreme Commander of the British Army in Ireland. The political situation in Ireland was unstable as the republican (or “advanced nationalist”) opposition was gaining ground against the old nationalist opposition. The latter had been embarrassed by the British failure to implement Home Rule, which was on the statute books but not enacted, while the former varied from those demanding Home Rule immediately to those who wanted complete national independence. The formerly Irish monarchist party Sinn Féin had been coopted by the Irish Republican Brotherhood after the 1916 Rising and it became a republican/nationalist hegemonising political force while at the same time being a coalition of different political viewpoints. Outside of this, Labour also had some sway, particularly in some areas and was also opposed to the Nationalist party; Sinn Féin and Labour Councillors cooperated with one another on many occasions. In the British General Elections of December 1918, in Ireland, the newly-changed Sinn Féin nearly wiped the Nationalist party off the electoral map and decided to set up their own parliament, or Dáil, in Ireland and not to attend the British Parliament in Westminster.

The Royal Irish Constabulary, the armed colonial police force in Ireland since 1822, was the subject of a boycott campaign and physical attacks on its members.

The Irish Republican Army, reorganised after the Rising, was in training in many areas. Some of its foremost soldiers and leaders, men like Dan Breen, Sean Treacey, Sean Hogan and Séamus Robinson were of the opinion that only through a liberation war could Ireland be freed from British rule; they were therefore eager for that war to start.

There was no indication that this was the dominant opinion among the elected representatives of Sinn Féin, the TDs (Teachtaí Dála) and, indeed, many were of the opinion that the British could be pressured into a negotiated settlement, without the need for any armed struggle. One of the latter was Arthur Griffiths himself, founder of the party. On the same day as the setting up of the Dáil and its declaration of independence from Britain, 21st January 1919, Breen, Treacey, Hogan, Robinson and five other less famous IRA volunteers ambushed a Royal Irish Constabulary escort for a consignment of gelignite in Tipperary, during which they shot dead both of the police escort and took their weapons as well as the explosives. The shooting dead of the RIC in the Soloheadbeg Ambush was a calculated act and Dan Breen later wrote:

…we took the action deliberately, having thought over the matter and talked it over between us. Treacy had stated to me that the only way of starting a war was to kill someone, and we wanted to start a war, so we intended to kill some of the police whom we looked upon as the foremost and most important branch of the enemy forces … The only regret that we had following the ambush was that there were only two policemen in it, instead of the six we had expected.

Nevertheless, they had begun the War of Independence, which was to last three years.

A number of times during 1919, the armed struggle advocates in the IRA carried out military operations through which they sought to provoke a response from the British that would launch the national liberation war and sweep the Dáil into going on a war footing too. Tens of RIC were killed along with a few British soldiers. The British responded by imposing martial law on particular areas and carrying out raids and arrests. The IRA however were moving towards a full war footing with the British and, in many areas, were already there. As 1919 moved on the British outlawed Irish political and cultural organisations: the Dáil, Sinn Féin, Conradh na Gaeilge and other nationalist organisations and publications had been banned, along with the Freeman’s Journal and some other weeklies. In addition, cattle fairs and other gatherings had been forbidden and all car licences apart from those for lorries had to be applied for to the police, a requirement which had occasioned a chauffeurs’ strike. However, neither Sinn Féin nor the Dáil considered itself at war yet.

The planned ambush on Ashtown Road on 19th December 1921 was intended to change that irrevocably for the target was none other than Field Marshal John French, Lord Lieutenant and Supreme Commander of the British Army in Ireland.


According to some sources, the IRA had set out to kill French on 12 separate occasions but each time something had intervened. One of those occasions was on November 11th 1919. Expecting him to pass in minutes on Grattan Bridge on his way to a banquet at Trinity College, Seán Hogan had pulled and thrown away the pins on two grenades and was holding down the timers with his fingers. French did not show and Hogan had to walk all the way to a safe house with his fingers holding down the timers on the grenades in his pockets. Luckily they had spare pins in the house.

Lord John French and General Macready, probably 1920

Lord John French and General Macready, probably 1920

In December, French had gone down to his family country estate at Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon, to host a reception there and was expected back in a couple of days. His movements were being monitored and the day he would set off by train for Dublin was reported to the ambush squad. He was expected to get out at Ashtown train station, the last one before the Broadstone terminus, and go from there with military escort to the Lord Lieutenant’s Residence (nowadays the US Ambassador’s) in Phoenix Park. An IRA party of 11, including Breen, Treacey, Robinson and Hogan set out to ambush the convoy and assassinate Lord Lieutenant French. The ambush party was already in place at Kelly’s pub (now called the Halfway House) on the Ashdown road as ‘chance customers’ when word reached them that French had alighted from the train. A Royal Irish Constabulary officer who had accosted them earlier had been knocked unconscious and dumped to one side. The information received was that French would be in the second car in the convoy.

A hay cart had been placed half-way across the road. As the first car and outrider passed it, the IRA Volunteers pushed the cart the rest of the way and engaged the second car with grenades, Mills bombs, rifles and pistols. However, French was in the first car and got away unhurt and the soldiers in the third car in the convoy arrived and began firing with machine guns and rifles at the Volunteers, along with the soldiers in the second car returning fire.

Martin Savage, a Volunteer who had met Breen and Hogan by chance the previous day and begged to be allowed to participate, was fatally wounded and his body had to be left near the scene. Several RIC and British soldiers were wounded with perhaps a fatality and the convoy withdrew towards Phoenix Park. The Volunteers knew that reinforcements would be sent soon so they dispersed to safe houses. Breen had been shot in the leg but managed to get away by bicycle.

Vol. Martin Savage

Volunteer Martin Savage

The next morning, the Irish Independent published an article which described the attackers as “assassins” and included other such terms as “criminal folly”, “outrage” and “murder.” Taking these terms as an insult to their dead comrade, on Sunday, at 9pm, between twenty and thirty Volunteers under Peadar Clancy entered the offices of the Independent and began to dismantle and smash the machinery.


Many of the Dáil TDs were shocked by the assassination attempt and among Irish Republicans who severely criticised the IRA within the movement was Charlotte Despard.

Charlotte Despard and Maud Gonne at prisoners' solidarity protest outside Mountjoy Jail

Charlotte Despard and Maud Gonne at prisoners’ solidarity protest outside Mountjoy Jail

This might have been expected since she was sister to Field Marshal French, except that Charlotte had developed Republican sympathies and had settled in Dublin after the War. She had a background in social welfare and socialist political activity in Britain, including active membership in the Social Democratic Federation, the Independent Labour Party and the sufragette Women’s Social and Political Union and was a fierce critic of her brother. During the Irish War of Independence, Charlotte Despard, together with Maud Gonne, formed the Women’s Prisoners’ Defence League which organised support for republican prisoners. Later, as a member of Cumann na mBan, she was to oppose the Anglo-Irish Treaty and to be imprisoned by the Free State Government during the Civil War.


The British military and police, under orders from French, of course replied to the assassination attempt with intensified repression and harassment of the civilian population in an attempt to drive a wedge between them and the IRA. The ambush and attempt on the life of the Lord Lieutenant and Supreme Commander of the British Army in Ireland no doubt helped Churchill, Secretary of War and Minister of the Air, push his idea of special counter-insurgency forces to act as auxillary police in Ireland, i.e. forces of state terrorism, who were to become known as the “Black and Tans” (abbreviated to “Tans”). Recruitment began that very month in London and the first recruits were in the field in January 1920. In July, the Auxillary Division of the RIC was set up, a much more efficient terror force composed almost entirely of British ex-soldiers of former NCO and officer rank.

With the “Tans” and the “Auxies” in the field, along with the crumbling RIC and the British Army, a full guerrilla war raged in many counties and cities of Ireland from 1920 to 1921, with torture and shooting or imprisonment of prisoners by the British, along with the burning of non-combatants’ homes and cooperatives.  The IRA were carrying out ambushes and assassinations of RIC and their special auxiliary forces, British soldiers and Irish spies. Ironically 1921 was the year the Dáil finally declared war on the British and also the year of the Truce, negotiations and the controversial signing of the Treaty by the Dáil’s delegation in London, in which they accepted Dominion status for a partitioned Ireland.

Dominic Behan wrote a song about the ambush.  It has been sung in different versions and with some verses added and omitted.  Dominic Behan’s version is on here on 30.23 mins: 

  Wolfhound did their own version here which, on the whole, I prefer, though a little too drawn out and finishing on a climax (which traditional songs never do, anywhere in the world, apparently) 



Like John French, Don Luis Carrero Blanco, 1st Duke of Carrero Blanco, Spanish Grandee, was a military career man. He entered the Spanish naval academy in 1918, at the age of 14 and participated in the colonial Rif War of 1924-1926. When General Franco and the other Generals led the military uprising against the Popular Front Government in 1936, Carrero Blanco was behind the Republican line and took refuge in the Mexican and later French embassies before working his way across the front to reach the fascist side in June 1937 and serving in their navy.

Admiral Luis Blanco Carerro, Gen. Franco's chosen successor

Admiral Luis Blanco Carerro, Gen. Franco’s chosen successor

After the victory of the fascist forces in April 1939 and the instalation of General Franco as Dictator, Carerro Blanco became one of his closest collaborators; he was made vice-admiral (1963) and admiral (1966); he held the post of Vice-President of the state council from 1967 to 1973 and commanded the Navy. On 8th June 1973 Franco named Carerro Blanco Prime Minister of Spain.

Carrero Blanco was very much a supporter of the Spanish military-fascist dictatorship of Franco, a monarchist (Franco had himself installed Juan Carlos de Borbón, the present monarch, as King of Spain) and close to the secretive Opus Dei organisation of Catholic technocrats. Opus Dei, although in favour of authoritarian control of society, was opposed to the fascist Falange and favoured liberalisation of some laws and the penetration of foreign capital, particularly from the US and Europe, to which the Falange were opposed.

It is said that Carrero also opposed the state entering into World War II on the Axis side, for which the Falange were pushing. In the event, neither the Spanish state nor Portugal, both under fascist dictatorships, entered the War and as a result were the only two European fascist regimes which were not overthrown by invasion of one or various of the Allied forces or by popular resistance around the end of the War.

In the 1970s the Spanish ruling class was under pressure to relax its fascist grip and bring in the trappings of capitalist democracy: legalised opposition parties, legalised trade unions, a “free” press, etc. But Spain was ruled by a coalition of various interests, including the fascist Falange, the military caste, Spanish aristocracy, arriviste capitalists, Catholic Church hierarchy …. And they faced not only demands for democracy but also for socialism, including from the rank-and-file of the Communist Party of Spain and of the social-democratic party, the PSOE. Other groups specific to regions or nations within the Spanish state also had demands for democracy and socialism. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and ETA had been raising demands for regional autonomy or independence and a similar desire was evident in Catalonia.

But most of the Spanish ruling class feared the breakup of the Spanish state and also feared socialism. Many opposed even social-democracy, from those who feared being held to account for their crimes against humanity during the Civil War to those afraid of a moral ‘loosening’ and loss of social control by the Church. But they were also increasingly aware that the military-fascist lid could not be kept on the pot forever – the pressure was building up and something would have to give. However, as Franco went into his old age and illness the Spanish ruling class also feared what would happen after his death. He had been such a central figure of authority, his face even on coinage and stamps, and a unifying force either through fear or loyalty. Although Carrero Blanco was not favourable towards the Falange they trusted him to keep the state going essentially the way it was and so Franco nominating the Admiral as his successor calmed a lot of fears.


Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, ETA, had been formed in the Basque Country in 1959 from socialist and Basque patriotic youth. A youth section of the Basque Nationalist Party, tired of the timidity and lack of action of the parent organisation, had been part of its forming and had accepted the socialist orientation of others graduating from the group EKIN. The young ETA organisation was subjected to the repression usual in the Spanish state after the Civil War and particularly harsh wherever the breakup of the State was threatened – and this was particularly so in the Basque Country. ETA’s supporters were watched and arrests and torture were a constant danger.

The ETA symbol: the axe for armed resistance and the snake for wisdom

The ETA symbol: the axe for armed resistance and the snake for wisdom (“bietan jarrai” = both always/ continuously)

In the late 1960s some ETA members began to carry arms. On 7th June 1968, ETA member Txabi Etxebarrieta faced a routine road check by the Guardia Civil. Txabi was armed and determined not to be arrested and tortured — he shot a Guardia Civil member dead and fled on foot; he was chased and himself shot dead. The next ETA armed action that year was however a planned operation. Chief of secret police Melitón Manzanas had a long record of torture inflicted on detainees and of hunting Jews escaping Occupied Europe over the French border and returning them to the Nazis. ETA killed him and from then on ETA was on a guerilla war footing.

In the summer of 1973, a group of Basques pretending to be sculptors rented a flat in Madrid to carry out Operación Ogro (Operation Ogre). Over five months they dug a tunnel under the street outside and filled it with 80 kgs of explosives which had been stolen from a government depot.

On December 20th, 1973, Carrero Blanco was being driven from attending mass to his home in Madrid and accompanied by his bodyguard. As it travelled down the road, a bomb exploded in a tunnel under it with such force that the vehicle was blown right over the roofs of nearby buildings and landed on a balcony on the other side. Both driver and bodyguard were killed immediately and Carrero Blanco died shortly after. One epitaph of macabre humour was that Carerro Blanco had lived a very complete life: he had been born on earth, had lived at sea and died in the air.

In an interview explaining their rationale for Operación Ogro, the ETA operation group said:

“The execution in itself had an order and some clear objectives. From the beginning of 1951 Carrero Blanco practically occupied the government headquarters in the regime. Carrero Blanco symbolized better than anyone else the figure of “pure Francoism” and without totally linking himself to any of the Francoist tendencies, he covertly attempted to push Opus Dei into power. A man without scruples conscientiously mounted his own State within the State: he created a network of informers within the Ministries, in the Army, in the Falange, and also in Opus Dei. His police managed to put themselves into all the Francoist apparatus. Thus he made himself the key element of the system and a fundamental piece of the oligarchy’s political game. On the other hand, he came to be irreplaceable for his experience and capacity to manoeuvre and because nobody managed as he did to maintain the internal equilibrium of Francoism.”

Julen Agirre, Operation Ogro: The Execution of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco (1975)

There was little criticism of the assassination from the Spanish opposition in exile or underground in the Spanish state. The Spanish ruling class of course condemned the action but it was thrown into disarray. In the confusion, the “modernising” and “liberalising” elements were able to take the initiative.

Franco & J.Carlos uniforms

Left to right: General Franco and his protege, King Juan Carlos de Borbón (who in June 2014 abdicated in favour of his son, Felipe)

Less than three months after Carrero Blanco’s assassination his successor, the new prime minister Carlos Arias Navarro, in his first speech to the Cortes (Parliament) on 12 February 1974, promised liberalizing reforms including the right to form political associations. He faced opposition from hardliners within the regime but the transition had begun (how much of a “transition” is another issue).

The assassination of Carrero Blanco was an action taken by ETA perhaps primarily for the Basque struggle for independence and socialism but it had a deep effect across the whole Spanish state. It hastened the “Transition” and turned out to be a Christmas present to the Spanish social democratic and reformist opposition. Later years were to witness how badly they were to repay the Basque resistance.



Diarmuid Breatnach

What tactics should we use in political resistance struggle? Physical action or not? If we think physical action is valid, what type do we support and when should we employ it? On the other hand, the same questions arise with regard to non-physical action ….

For most people in this country, the closest they come to physical action in politics is to present themselves at the polling booth. One of the primary declared objectives of most political groups, in fact, is to deepen the involvement in political action of the majority of the population of the country (although what each means by this and to what degree they are serious about it differs greatly).

Something of an ideological struggle has been taking part in the movement against austerity measures as to how best to increase public involvement in effective resistance. Some advocate participation in demonstrations and pickets as their main activity, with perhaps a sprinkling of public meetings. Others advocate civil disobedience and/or disruption as the most effective tactics. Curiously, most agree with participation in on-line petitions and “liking” particular ideological Facebook pages. Many agree with voting for candidates perceived to be in opposition to austerity measures, while some do not. For some, membership of a political party is an important step while for others it is of no value at all. Faced with this lack of general agreement across the spectrum opposed to the status quo, how are we to make decisions, to make reasonable choices?

I’d like to attempt to answer this question but first I’d like to give an example from which to learn, a parable, if you will.


Let us imagine a country called Awtaegin. Across the world in the 1960s and 1970s, youth and students were in a ferment, disenchanted with the dominant system as they perceived it and in this Awtaegin was far from being an exception. This disenchantment with the dominant system also extended to many of the oppositional political parties, such as the main social democratic opposition party (which we can call the “Labour Party”) and the USSR-aligned Communist Party (which we can call the UCP).

A number of organisations arose which were opposed not only to the existing order but also to those aforementioned political parties which they considered to be no more than a slightly alternative way to manage the same system and order to which they were opposed, in the case of the Labour Party and a hindrance to mobilising for real change, in the case of the UCP.

One of the opposition organisations to arise was a communist group advocating revolution but which did not support the system in the USSR, which it considered oppressive and imperialist. This group in fact supported the system in China and the politics of its leader at the time, Mao Tse Tung. At that time this leader and his country were very popular among revolutionary communist and national liberation organisations around the world. Let us call this group the MCP.

In its early days, the MCP was something of an object of derision for most of the Left organisations including those advocating revolution in Awtaegin. It was very small and put a lot of store in the Red Book of Mao’s sayings. The MCP popularised Chinese posters. The leaflets and newspapers produced by the MCP tended to contain many quotations from “Chairman Mao” (but also from Lenin and Marx, which the other revolutionary organisations liked to quote too) and the party insisted on using revolutionary political terminology which had gone somewhat out of fashion in Awtaegin.

No-one could deny that the members and supporters of the MCP were hard-working. They went on to the streets and door to door in working class areas with their newspapers and leaflets, attended demonstrations and strike pickets, held internal discussion meetings, organised public meetings, put up posters. Nor could anyone deny that they had guts – their activists often vigorously resisted arrest, they carried their political struggle into the courts instead of, as had become the norm, just trying to be found “not guilty” or to receive the least possible punishment. It was not long before some of them found themselves being sent to jail by the State and there too they often continued their struggle.

If the members and supporters of the other revolutionary organisations had a sneaking respect for those of the MCP, they did not show it. The commitment to work and resistance exhibited by the MCP was explained as fanaticism.

The MCP had built links with a loose network of ethnic minorities in Awtaegin, most but not all students. Mao and China were very popular among many of these ethnic minorities, particularly among the students from Africa, Asia and Latin America, whether on grounds of the national liberation of their home countries from imperialism and colonialism or on the grounds of overthrowing capitalism and of building socialism. Many of these students were organised into a broad organisation which we can call the Progressive Afro-Asian Association (PAAA).

The MCP developed fraternal links with the PAA, which had quite a large network. Through reading, through internal discussions and discussions with the PAA, the MCP developed a theory on racism and its relation to fascism in application to conditions in Awtaegin. In that country at that time racist ideology was dominant and also a number of organisations with an openly racist agenda were on the rise.

The MCP theorised racism as a product of and justification for colonialism and imperialism and also as a method of dividing the working class to facilitate capitalist exploitation. They characterised the organisations with a racist agenda as fascist, as both a concentrated reflection of the dominant racist ideology in Awtaegin and as organisations encouraged to attack revolutionary and progressive people and to intimidate ethnic minority people, in particular settled and migrant ethnic minority workers. MCP articles also analysed and criticised racist writings and statements by politicians and authors.

Although some of these attitudes were to be found in the rest of the revolutionary organisations to some extent, there was a general agreement among them that the racist organisations could not be termed “fascist” and the MCP was criticised for adopting the position that they were. The opposition to the MCP however arose to fever pitch when the party put forward the political position that “Fascists have no right to speak” and advocated this with regard to authors and politicians. The rest of the Left at this time was largely split into two camps: those who thought the racists should be ignored and those who thought they should be defeated in public argument.

But the MCP and PAA applied this policy in action, refusing public debate with racists and those they considered fascists and disrupting lectures, book launches and public meetings that featured speakers they considered racist or otherwise fascist. These disruptions tended to take place mostly in institutions of higher education, where space was being provided for racist and fascist idealogues but also where the PAAA had many members and supporters. The disruptive actions of the PAAA and MCP were criticised by both pro-establishment figures and by most of the Left in Awtaegin. But many people began to consider seriously the arguments put forward by the MCP and the PAA. In time, the position of “Fascists have no right to speak” became popularised as “No platform for fascists” and gained widespread acceptance across the Left spectrum in Awtaegin – it was even adopted as official policy for a year or two by the Students’ Union in that country.

The MCP had been studying, as related earlier, and attempting to popularise the teachings of Mao Tse Tung but they had also studied and discussed other writings and had examined specific contemporary conditions in Awtaegin about which Mao had written nothing. The MCP also investigated the history of earlier struggles against fascism and racism. They uncovered and popularised the history of the resistance to fascism and racism (mostly anti-Jewish racism in those years) in Awtaegin, which had been led for a period by the UCP, the same party that in the more modern struggle was leading people away from confrontation with racist organisations. In the 1930s, the anti-fascists had fought fierce battles with the fascists and with their police protectors.

A barricade against a fascist march in Awtaegin in 1936.  The alliance of ethnic minorities, communists and anarchists fought off thousands of police spearheading the intended fascist march.  One main barricade was breached but no others were and the fascist march had to retreat (being harassed along the way).

A barricade against a fascist march in Awtaegin in 1936. The alliance of ethnic minorities, communists and anarchists fought off thousands of police spearheading the intended fascist march. One main barricade was breached but no others were and the fascist march had to retreat (being harassed along the way).

The policy of “fascists have no right to speak” was applied by the MCP to the racist organisations organising outside the institutions of higher education. The public meetings of racist organisations were beginning to be picketed and their rallies met with counter-demonstrations. Such opposition now had to be taken into account by racist organisations planning public meetings and rallies, as well as by local authorities and other bodies considering hiring out venues to such organisations. By now the disruptive response was becoming popular among the revolutionary Left, with the exception of the UCP which generally tried to outnumber the racist organisations in counter-demonstrations but then lead a march away from them so as to avoid clashes. Another exception included some libertarians, who thought it wrong to deny even racists the right to free speech.

The policy of confrontation with racist organisations, now becoming widespread in the Awtaegin revolutionary movement and even among radical and democratic anti-racist sections of society, was largely confined in practice to peaceful demonstrations and pickets, with the exception of some ethnic minority youth taking actions into their own hands and opportunist physical attack by some members of the Awtaegin Left.

But the MCP took their policy to its logical conclusion and openly advocated physical attack on fascists in the street. When they could, the MCP also physically attacked members and supporters of the racist organisations, particularly during counter-demonstrations to fascist ones. Once again, the MCP appeared to be isolating itself from the rest of the revolutionary movement in Awtaegin. However, their position found favour with many in the PAAA and with ethnic minorities who were under attack by racist organisations, the racist state police force and by racist immigration legislation. In time, the MCP’s position was adopted by the fringes of some of the revolutionary organisations too (some of which were expelled or split from their parties as a result) and the broad anti-fascist and anti-racist ‘physical force’ organisations that arose at that time spent the next decade or so successfully beating the fascist organisations off the streets. The threat of fascist organisations gaining dominance in Awtaegin did not resurface for another two decades.

So what are we to make of this history of the MCP and of the revolutionary movement and the racist organisations at that time? First of all, is it true? Yes, it is, though a little simplified and with names of country and organisations changed.


Why and how did the MCP succeed in having their political line with regard to fascism and racism, at first so widely disparaged, adopted so widely later? It certainly was not due to the influence of numbers as the MCP was a very small party. Even with the support of the PAAA, their numbers were smaller than some other revolutionary Left organisations and the PAAA split and diminished after a few years anyway, leaving the MCP to depend totally upon itself.

The MCP had very few individuals within it who had fame as intellectuals or a personal following of any kind – any influence the MCP had came about as a result of their work. Revolutionary organisations opposed to the MCP’s line included in their membership well-known journalists, actors and public speakers.

I can see no reasonable alternative to the judgement that the MCP’s line of physical opposition to racist organisations and idealogues gained popularity because it was the correct one, at least for its time and that implementing it also proved effective, giving victories in the short term to the anti-fascist anti-racist movement.

OK, so if we can agree on that, how was it that the MCP came up with this correct line when so much of the rest of the revolutionary and radical Left in Awtaegin were in disagreement with it? Was it because the MCP’s political ideological position was so generally advanced that they could not help but be correct on the question of fascism and racism? Hardly – they were followers of Mao’s and his ideology has been rejected by most of the revolutionary Left today; China has become a state facilitating internal capitalist expansion and foreign imperialist penetration within a few years of the death of Mao. In Europe, the MCP supported Albania under Enver Hoxha’s leadership, a state the collapse of which took mere days with the bankruptcy of its political line exposed to the world. In fact, the MCP itself is no longer in existence and in real terms lasted little more than a decade after the death of Mao.

It seems to me that the MCP was correct on the question of fascism and racism in the 1970s in Awtaegin because they started from a position of ‘commitment to revolution, whatever it takes’. In that regard, their “fanaticism” worked in their favour. In addition, they studied not only the writings of Mao but also those of other writers on the topic and discussed their opinions internally and with other progressive people. Then they also studied the history of the world’s people in struggles against fascism and racism and that of Awtaegin in particular. Finally, they had the courage (or arrogance) to advocate their line publicly and to put it into practice when the opportunity presented. They used research, investigation and analysis to develop their theoretical position and they progressed it to practical application.

The MCP could have decided that the task of convincing the rest of the movement was too great and either abandoned it or thrown themselves into it in isolation. What they did was take on the task of convincing the rest of the movement with polemics and historical example and also putting it into practice themselves, seeking allies who agreed with that approach without necessarily agreeing with the rest of their ideology.


So, in deciding what are correct tactics in struggles in Ireland today, I suggest that we should use the same overall approach as did the MCP in the example given. Study writings on revolutionary tactics, research and study our own class and national history, study current circumstances, discuss ….. then advocate publicly and, when appropriate, apply in practice.

If we look around us in Ireland at the moment, we see that the majority of the population, as observed earlier, is not engaged in political struggle. The sector in opposition to the status quo that has the most people in it, with however a wide spread in ideology, is the Republican movement. This sector has revolutionary and non-revolutionary parts; the major part of it has become non-revolutionary and the rest of it is struggling with fragmentation and ideological confusion. Traditionally, with some exceptions, the Republican movement has concentrated on the struggle against British colonialism and left the rest of the political, social and economic issues more or less alone. As a movement, the revolutionary rump of the Republican movement has given virtually no leadership to — and organised little participation in — the current and recent mass struggles against the Household and Property Taxes and the Water Charge (though its members are clearly in sympathy with the resistance).

In the historically small Socialist sector in Ireland, revolutionaries and radicals sometimes occupy the fringes of the social democratic Labour Party while the rest operate as independents or belong to a number of small revolutionary Left organisations. Chief in size of the latter, although comparatively still very small indeed, are the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers’ Party, with their respective front organisations, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit. While these organisations exhibit little interest in the Irish anti-colonial struggle (other than to condemn periodically those engaged in it) or in the struggle against the repression of the anti-colonial movement, they have concerned themselves very much with social and economic issues.

Both the SWP and the SP have concentrated their activities in opposition to the recent and current taxes and water charge in trying to build large protest mobilising organisations and in electoral campaigns. The mobilising organisations for mass demonstrations and pickets have also been seen as areas of contention between the SP and the SWP. The electoral campaigning is also intended to promote one party or the other, as well as promoting the resistance to the economic and financial attacks upon the working people.

The mass mobilisation has yielded numbers which at first surprised even the activists, growing in thousands succesively from the first demonstration in October to the next in November and many predict even larger numbers this week, on the 10th December. These numbers have forced some recognition of the level of public dissatisfaction by the mass media along with significant initial water charge reductions from the Government. The latter concessions are clearly intended to mollify public discontent and reduce the oppostion to the water charge while the State and the media concentrate on driving a wedge between the general opposition to the charge and some of its more active elements.

Meanwhile, some activists, mostly independent of any political party, have been organising physical opposition to the instalation of water meters. Let us remember that mass non-registration coupled with the threat of non-payment defeated the Household Tax but that the Property Tax replaced it, with the change in the law permitting the Revenue Department of the State to collect the tax through people’s salaries and pensions. In order to levy a charge on water consumption, however, in the absence of a blanket same-for-everyone charge, the State has to install water meters. Currently this work is being undertaken by a private company on behalf of the State with widespread speculation that capitalists involved in that company (such as Denis O’Brien) will eventually buy the water “industry” cheaply from the State.

The resistance to the instalation of the water meters has been taking the form of groups of people turning out in some communities where the meter instalation teams are in operation and physically impeding them in carrying out that work. The tactics have involved parading slowly in front of the company’s vehicles, slowing down their progress enormously and also by physically blocking with their own bodies access to the spots outside houses or estates where the meters are planned.

The Irish state has responded to these physical but peaceful tactics in some cases by postponement of instalation but mainly by a physical repression of the resistance with methods varying from deployment of sufficiently large numbers of police to force the resisters aside, to assaults on those resisting. In one area in Clonmel, even armed police were deployed for a while. In addition, the State issued court injunctions against a number of activists but for the moment has suspended them, for fear of giving the movement some martyrs in jail and augmenting the resistance. This fear is a realistic one, given that public condemnations of the water meter resisters by two Government Ministers, backed up by a compliant media, have resulted mainly in antagonizing public opinion against the Government and the police. Detecting political opportunity in the changing breeze, a number of political parliamentary representatives, notably Sinn Féin TDs, who previously announced they were going to pay the Water Charge but under protest, have now indicated they will not be paying (though however being careful not to advocate a general campaign of non-payment and thereby ruining their party’s chances of integration into the system).

To sum up: the SP and SWP, to varying degrees, are concentrating on two main approaches, building mass demonstrations and electoral campaigning. A group of non-aligned individuals are concentrating on physical opposition to the instalation of meters. Which should we support?

The mass demonstration mobilisation approach is already idealogically split between insistence on non-payment one the one hand and on the other, a broader church tolerating payment under protest by its numbers. Increasing numbers at the cost of an important tactic such as non-payment, particularly at a time when the opposition to the meters is growing, seems a particularly retrograde step. On the other hand it seems tactically unsound, in the absence of a convincingly large presence in the resistance movement, to split on this issue rather than to remain inside it fighting for the line of non-payment.

It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the SWP, through its front PBP, has agreed to tolerate in the ranks of the mobilising organisation those who refuse to advocate non-payment, like for example Sinn Féin and the Unite trade union, even to dropping or muting the SWP’s own line of non-payment, in order to be the left-wing of a larger campaign – i.e. political opportunism. Since the SP and the AAA do not have anything like the numbers or connections necessary to have a significant impact on the resistance movement from a lone position, it is also hard to avoid the suspicion that they have left the broader campaign in order to posture at being more revolutionary than the SWP and, perhaps, if the broad resistance movement continues to grow, to gain in recruitment from its more militant Left members.

However, the general strategy of both the SP and the SWP is in any case wrong. Large demonstrations have a morale-building effect, of course; they give the resistance a physical presence representing many who could not be present and they strengthen the hopes of the resistance – up to a point. But building successively larger demonstrations will not in itself change the ruling class’ determination to make the people pay for the financial crisis. And at some point, demonstrations may peak and then begin to reduce in numbers as people perceive that nothing will be changed through this tactic. This in fact occurred a couple of years ago when the SWP tried to organise a programme of escalating demonstrations against austerity measures. The demonstrations then have a demoralising effect as those who continue to attend see them getting smaller.


The “Pink Ladies” in Coolock protest Garda violence against water meter resisters November 2014. A similar demonstration took place in Tallaght. (Photo John Ayres, published in The Broadsheet – see link for the issue and more photos).

Those who advocate physical resistance with regard to the meter installation seem to me to be on the right track but they are too few in numbers to have a decisive impact. They need the support of the rest of the resistance movement. It is the meter resisters who have widely exposed the connection between the State and private company installing the meters and the degree to which the State is willing to go in order to push its program through. They have done this through their actions and through filming police violence and disseminating the videos through the Internet. It is they who have rattled the Ministers into making ill-considered statements which in turn have deepened the mood of resistance. The rest of the resistance movement needs to find ways to support the physical resistance, physically if possible and ‘morally’ when not, e.g. by statements of support, pickets of news media demonising physical resisters as for example recently against Independent Newspapers and protest pickets of the police, as the “pink ladies” did for example in Coolock and in Tallaght (photos: http://www.broadsheet.ie/2014/11/20/the-pink-ladies/)

In the long run, of course, the Irish capitalist class can content itself with installing meters where it can do so without difficulty, then later isolating each area of resistance in turn, swamping it with police and installing the meters. But if the meter installation resistance were to be combined with large demonstration mobilisations and identified with by the broader movement, then the State would risk the development of a situation that could threaten its very existence unless it abandoned its Water Charge plan and thinks again about how to finance its debt. That is far from being all that revolutionaries would want but that kind of victory, transitory though it may be in the longer term, would provide a welcome respite for the people. It would also give rise to a huge boost in confidence for the ordinary people and lessons in effective tactics of resistance, as well as a sorting through of who are worthy to lead future struggles and who are not.