WAR, IMPERIALISM AND ‘PEACE PROCESSES’

Diarmuid Breatnach

As news reaches us of wars in various parts of the world it behoves us to try, not only to discern who did what when to whom but to see whether there is an overall pattern behind them. A religious explanation might be that there is much evil loose in the world but that analysis will advance us little.

The fact is that there are powerful imperialist powers ‘loose in the world’ and they are either directly causing these wars or exacerbating them, not because the men and women dominating these powers are evil as such but because they strive to control resources, markets and strategic areas. This striving brings these powers into conflict not only with the interests of millions of people in the respective areas but also into competition with other imperialist powers – and this competition has led to two World Wars and many smaller ones in the last century alone.

In the first of those on a World scale, 1914-1919, Britain (or the UK, if one prefers) went to war with Germany. The Austro-Hungarian Empire lined up with Germany as did the Ottoman Empire. Russia, France, the USA and other powers lined up with Britain. And many other states and colonies and territories got pulled into the conflict.

The British Empire in 1916 excluding territories of influence, for example Latin Amarica, where it was then dominant. Source internet

WHAT WAS THE WAR ABOUT?

It was about many things – and not exactly the same things for each participating state – but basically it was about who would have the lion’s share of the resources of the less-developed world, in particular Africa and who would control the markets for selling those resources and also the industrial goods produced in the “home countries”. And, in order to control those things, which power would control strategic areas in the world – which included ports for navies and forts along certain overland trade routes and coasts.

What brings other countries and territories in?

Smaller players join with great powers for a share of the spoils or have been bound to them by treaties – perhaps they were themselves brought to heel in earlier times by the power to which they are now joined. Colonies and “dependent” territories contributed huge numbers of people on both sides, either recruited in preference to poverty, by war-excitement or by misleading propaganda that their sacrifice would buy their freedom or greater autonomy after the war.

Germany was defeated eventually and the French and British imposed a punitive surrender condition on them, allowing them to plunder Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley. This injured national pride so much that Hitler was able to use it to whip up an aggressive German nationalism which facilitated another war, 1939-1945.

THE SECOND WORLD WAR

This war also pulled in allies, colonies and other territories. But what was the war actually about? Essentially the same things: which power would control the markets for selling those resources and also the industrial goods produced in the “home countries”. And, in order to control those things, which power would control strategic areas in the world.

The German industrial and financial ruling class, which supported Hitler, was not going for war out of injured pride – they wanted to control the oilfields and land to the east and Middle East and to knock out their main competitors in world domination – once again, the British and French but also now the USA, which had been a much smaller player in WWI. By now Holland and Belgium were mostly small fry and Imperial Russia had, along with a number of other countries, become the USSR. Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan were prominent players with their own objectives but joined with Nazi Germany.

Map on which one can see the encirclement of Russia: Turkey in NATO, Ukraine is hostile to Russia, Georgia tried to break away, Afghanistan is occupied, Pakistan is hostile, Syria is embattled, Iran awaits.
(source Internet)

WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST TODAY

Nowadays, the USA strides the world as almost unchallenged superpower, supported enthusiastically by a reduced UK and with varying degrees of enthusiasm by its other allies in the EU and elsewhere across the world. Only one challenger on the world power level exists, which is Russia, now a capitalist country, certainly with colonial and no doubt with imperialist ambitions.

The USA (with the assistance of its allies) seeks to surround Russia with regimes allied to itself. Not so long ago, this was impossible in the Middle East, where a number of strong regimes were opposed to US domination: Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran. The US and allies have succeeded in knocking out the first two of these and the third is fighting to defend itself from multi-pronged attacks. If Syria falls, Iran will be next and then, from the Middle East, Russia will be totally blocked. So of course, Russia decides not to wait for that to happen and gives military aid to the Syrian regime.

THE FUTURE?

The struggle for world domination is being played out in other areas of the world too, of course but this is the most intense area at the moment and the Israeli Zionist v. Palestinian struggle also plays a part in it.

It is difficult to look too far ahead in order to predict the various local and overall world outcomes. However, from the history of empires in general it seems inevitable that at some point the power of the USA must wane.

There are a number of contradictions besetting the USA but one of its potentially most disastrous is its external debt. In the typical pattern of imperialist capitalism, the financial capital of the USA has merged inextricably with industrial and military capital, leading to the description of “the US military-financial-industrial complex”. That in itself does not perhaps make the USA too vulnerable but its borrowing abroad to sustain this complex does: according to a number of sources on the Internet the foreign debt of the USA is nearly 18 trillion dollars: $17,910,859,000,000.

Well, we may think, the USA is an enormous country with huge resources and controlling huge amounts of resources around the world. Yes, it is – but that debt keeps growing. And the interest payments on it are huge – so huge that each year they are not repaid in total and are added to the debt.

Of course, if creditors were to call in the debts and the US financial system collapsed, the creditors would end up with very little in terms of repayment. That leaves the USA safe for the moment but each year it becomes more vulnerable. 32.5% of the total foreign debt is held by China and that huge country may at some time in the future find it in its interest to bring the USA down or to use that finance to pressure greater penetration into US markets (above the current level which US manufacturers are already complaining about). At the moment, President Trump is talking about getting the USA’s foreign creditors to accept lower interest repayments. He may or may not get his way but for the US, it is a bad sign.

USA national debt 2016 (source Internet)

The domestic debt of the US is over $12 trillion and 47% of that is foreign-owned too.

The USA’s economy is in many ways a military one. It needs wars – not just to fight itself but by its proxies. Since WW2 alone, it has been involved in 24 offensive military conflicts, from Korea to Syria.  Without wars, how can the USA justify its military expenditure? And without that expenditure, what happens to the military-financial-industrial complex?

For the continuing extraction of resources, the USA needs compliant regimes – compliant with US needs, that is. Inevitably this results in support for dictators or regimes who are massively corrupt and who get armed to the teeth by the USA and repress their own populations, resulting in poverty, torture and violation of human rights. It also results in resistance, in popular movements which at times turn to armed struggle. Overall, the US, which seeks stability for its extraction of natural resources, creates massive INstability in the world.

THE MEANING FOR US

So what does all this mean to us? Firstly, that we should oppose imperialism. The question of “how” is a different one but the objective is unavoidable. Secondly, that to talk of achieving “peace” without eliminating imperialism is at best an indulgence in wishful thinking, at worst a cruel duping of people. Any kind of “peace” deal without the removal of imperialism is at best a temporary one only.

Peace with imperialism (sourced on Internet)

As for “peace processes” in areas of strong popular resistance, where ironically we often see major representative of imperialism enthusiastically engaged, since they never remove the central reasons behind the conflict, those processes merely buy a short-term stability for imperialism and capitalism to continue, more or less as before. For that reason, “pacification” is a much more correct term than “peace process”. The effect of pacification processes on the imperialist, colonialist and capitalist systems is often undramatic, not so the scale of their detrimental effect on the movements of popular resistance – but that’s another topic.

A chríoch

THE MOORE STREET TERRACE — A WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Diarmuid Breatnach

The terrace of houses in Moore Street, No.s 10–25, in the Irish capital of Dublin, much in the news of late, is of great importance to the world and should be recognised as such by Irish people and internationally. The terrace is of great importance in terms of being

  • an urban WWI battlefield

  • of opposition to imperialist war

  • of the struggle of the working class

  • of women’s struggle for equality 

  • of the struggle of the world’s people against colonialism and

  • a surviving centuries-old European street market.

In this article I intend to develop this argument and these points.

In the closing days of Easter Week, in the cancelled and hurriedly rescheduled Easter Rising in Dublin, after five days of fighting, siege and a number of days of artillery bombardment, the garrison of the General Post Office, the Headquarters of the Rising, evacuated their burning building and occupied a terrace of sixteen houses in Moore Street. They broke into No.10 and tunneled from house to house up to No.25, until the whole of the terrace and back yards had been occupied.

Meanwhile, a charge of a dozen Volunteers on the British Army barricade at the northern end of that street, at the junction with Parnell Street, had failed to reach its objective; machine-gun fire had injured some and killed others. The leader of that charge, mortally wounded in a side-street, wrote a note to his wife as he lay dying there (the words are reproduced on a plaque in the laneway named after him: O’Rahilly Parade).

That history, and of it as a market in childhood memory, is what engages many people — perhaps most – of those campaigning for the preservation of that terrace of houses and of the thousands who support their efforts. But there are aspects of international importance to that 1916 Rising not usually alluded to and which deserve to be noted, celebrated and commemorated.

A RISING AGAINST WORLD WAR

James Connolly, the revolutionary socialist or communist and trade union leader, had been calling for an uprising for years and his public exhortations intensified with the onset of WWI. A section of the Irish Republican Brotherhood was also anxious to engineer an uprising during that War — “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity” was a well-known saying among Irish nationalists. But for Connolly, the issue was much more than that – the dispute between some capitalists about which of them would control the Earth’s resources and markets was sending millions to die, workers fighting workers in battlefields in which the instigators of the slaughter would never set foot. While millions died, those big capitalists would continue to make great profits, supplying armies with weapons, transport and equipment, fuel, clothing, food …..

A declaration of war against war -- banner on the old Liberty Hall, HQ of the Irish Transport & General Workers' Union. A parade of a section of the Irish Citizen Army is drawn up in front of it. (Photo from Internet)

A declaration of war against war — banner on the old Liberty Hall, HQ of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union. A parade of a section of the Irish Citizen Army is drawn up in front of it. (Photo from Internet)

A few years earlier, an international socialist conference had threatened revolution on their capitalist masters should they dare to start a world war. Indeed, some revolutionary socialists saw war as an opportunity to instigate socialist revolution. Unfortunately they were outnumbered by social democrats who, despite their earlier militant words, when it came to the crunch, lined up the workers of each country behind their capitalist masters against their own class brothers in other countries.

There were few socialist parties and prominent socialists that took the opposite stand but one of those who did was James Connolly. Among the other things that characterised the 1916 Rising was that it was the first significant uprising of the 20th Century against World War. The next uprisings of that kind would be the 1917 Revolutions of February and October in Russia, with another in Germany in 1918.

IRISHWOMEN”

The Proclamation of the insurgents in 1916 addressed itself to “Irishmen and Irishwomen”. Although not one of the seven signatories was a woman, there were a number of them prominent in the command structures of the Rising and in the preparations also. And also of course in the lower ranks during the Rising itself.

Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth) of the ICA was, despite her planter family and quasi-aristocratic background, third-in-command of the Stephens Green/ College of Surgeons area. Kathleen Lynne, also of the ICA was Chief Medical Officer for the Dublin insurrectionary forces and third in command in the Dublin Castle/City Hall garrison. It was at the premises of Cumann na mBan founder member Jenny Wyse-Power, No.21 Henry Street, that the 1916 Proclamation was signed in secret a week before the Rising.

Constance Markievicz, Irish Citizen Army, second-in-command of the Stephen's Green/ College of Surgeons garrison

Constance Markievicz, Irish Citizen Army, second-in-command of the Stephen’s Green/ College of Surgeons garrison

Kathleen Clarke was de facto a member of the IRB, work and powers delegated to her on the eve of the Rising by her husband, Tom Clarke, one of the architects of the Rising and first of the seven signatories. Elizabeth O’Farrell was one of the Cumann na mBan nurses accompanying the men in the GPO and one of three to proceed to occupy Moore Street; she carried the short truce communications to the British and back to the leaders on the Rising surrender day, accompanied Pearse to the surrender point in Parnell Street and then carried Pearse’s and Connolly’s surrender instructions to a number of garrisons in Dublin. And Winifred Carney, James Connolly’s secretary, was in the GPO and later Moore Street with her typewriter and a Webley revolver.

Winifred Carney was the first woman into the GPO, accompanying Connolly and carrying a typewriter and a Webley revolver

Winifred Carney was the first woman into the GPO, accompanying Connolly and carrying a typewriter and a Webley revolver

It is difficult for us today perhaps to realise how progressive it was for any general public document 16 years into the 20th Century to address itself specifically to “Irishwomen”. No country in the whole world had given all its women the right to vote by 1916 although the suffragette movement was in full flow throughout most of Europe and in the European colonies. While it is true that New Zealand gave European women the right to vote as far back as 1893, it was for European settlers only and also linked to a reform movement against the sale and consumption of alcohol. Elsewhere in the world outside the colonial Antipodes and the Scandinavian democracies, the extension of the franchise to women did not seem close in 1916. Nevertheless, in Canada, women got the vote in 1917 – but again, women of European descent only. In Britain, women did not receive full rights to vote until 1928. Yet in a large part of the United Kingdom, a cross-section of people making a bid for independent nationhood, were ostensibly recognising women as citizens with equal voting rights as early as 1916.

Given the preponderance of males in all organisations of all shades of Republican and Nationalist outlook, the inclusion of women in the address had to have been agreed by the men in the top leadership. No doubt women, through their agitation for full franchise as well as by their active participation in so many facets of the movement, helped to convince the men. Connolly is often credited with responsibility for this inclusion but there is no reason to believe others among the signatories would not have taken that position themselves (although Kathleen Clarke did allege that one of those would not). Patrick Pearse had previously supported the vote for women and a number of men in the leadership had female partners who were active on that issue, as for example was Grace Gifford, Joseph Plunkett’s fiancee. The 1916 Proclamation was the first insurrectionary proclamation of the 20th Century (and almost first ever) to specifically include women in its address on a basis of gender equality.

The participation of women in the Rising however had a much sharper illustration than their inclusion in the Proclamation – they were present in most of the fighting posts throughout the Rising, whether as members of Cumann na mBan or of the Irish Citizen Army – several were killed or injured, many were arrested and one was sentenced to death (though sentence was commuted later).

The participation of Cumann na mBan made the 1916 Rising the first uprising of the 20th Century (and probably prior to that) in which women participated in their own organisation, in their own uniform.

The participation of women in the Irish Citizen Army, where they shared equal status with men, made the 1916 Rising the first uprising of the 20th Century (and almost first ever) in which women participated in an armed and uniformed organisation, and in equal status with their male comrades.

HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE PEOPLE OF THE COLONIES

The British Empire in 1916 was huge – around 13 million square miles of territory in 1916, nearly a quarter of the world’s area. It was said that the “sun never set” upon the Empire because at any moment during 24 hours, some part of the Empire would be receiving light from the sun. Around 450 million people were under the Empire’s dominion.

Map of the British Empire in 1914 (of course the British ruling class had dominant influence over many other areas, for example over much of Latin America). (Image sourced from Internet)

Map of the British Empire in 1914 (of course the British ruling class had dominant influence over many other areas, for example over much of Latin America).
(Image sourced from Internet)

And of course, there had been resistance. Even after resistance had been beaten, there had been further uprisings – in fact, some areas such as that of the present-day Afghanistan were in almost constant rebellion. But rebellions were mostly localised and even when they took on a more sweeping character, such as the Mahdist War of 1881-’89 in the Sudan or the Boxer Uprising in northern China in 1900, they had been crushed by British military might.

The news of the Easter Rebellion in Dublin ran around all parts of the British colonial world, from the nearer to the most remote. And some of the news was carried by the Irish in the British armed forces. Tom Barry, later to be undefeated guerrilla leader in the War of Independence in West Cork, read about the Rising while serving in the British Army in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). The Connaught Rangers, hundreds of which were to mutiny in India in 1920, were also in Mesopotamia in 1916. These Irish units of the British Army and Irish men in British units serving outside the United Kingdom, served not just next to English, Welsh and Scottish soldiers but also next to soldiers drawn from colonial peoples; they were often serviced too by colonial people in auxiliary roles and mixed to a degree with the colonial populations among which they were stationed, in markets, eating houses, bars and sex-houses. Just four years later, during the mutiny of the Connaught Rangers, it is recorded that Irish rebels in British Army uniforms had communicated their mutiny and their reasons to the Indian traders.

The 1916 Rising took place in what had been considered, the previous century, the second city of the British Empire. Now past those ‘glory days’, Dublin was still a city of the Empire’s “home base”, the United Kingdom. And the Empire’s Army had been obliged to shell one of the UK’s own cities in order to suppress that Rising! To many a colonial subject contemplating resistance or even outright revolt, it must have seemed like a signaling bonfire, one that proclaimed that the end of the Empire was nigh and called the peoples under subjugation to revolt, to finish it off. And, indeed during the War of Independence, the Nehru and Ghandi families were to make contact with Irish Republicans and Ho Chi Minh is reported to have been inspired by the Irish struggle.

Nor was it only those colonial people in the British Empire who were inspired but those in the French, Dutch, Belgian, Portuguese and Spanish colonies too. Ho Chi Minh, as a Vietnamese, was under the French empire and led his people in armed resistance to the Japanese and French occupation in 1941. Over the three decades following the Easter Rising, anti-colonial struggles around the world intensified and pushed the former colonial powers into “de-colonisation” — i.e. imperialism and neo-colonialism.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD

The Irish Citizen Army had been founded in 1913 as a workers’ armed organisation to defend against the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. The DMP carried no firearms then, though they were well able to kill and maim with their truncheons, a fact they demonstrated during the 1913 Lockout. But it was clear that Connolly at least knew that at some point the workers would come up against the full force of the State which, at that time, meant the British empire and the Colonial regime in Ireland. He called publicly for the ICA to train in and to carry firearms. The Royal Irish Constabulary, policing the rest of the colony outside Dublin, was indeed armed. And British Army units were stationed across the country, many of the garrisons in Dublin alone.

The ICA fell into a kind of disrepair after the workers’ defeat in the Lockout but was soon enough dusted off and reorganised. WWI began the same year the last striking workers of the Lockout, the Jacobs girls and women, marched back to work. It was certain that Connolly would try to stage a rising during the war and suspected that the Republicans, or “advanced nationalists” as they were called then, would do so too. As the war dragged on and the bodies heaped higher, Connolly grew increasingly impatient, contemptuous and even desperate, berating the “nationalists” for not rising and threatened to bring out the couple of hundred ICA on their own.

Irish Citizen Army on the roof of Liberty Hall during a flag-raising activity (Photo sourced from Internet)

Irish Citizen Army on the roof of Liberty Hall during a flag-raising activity
(Photo sourced from Internet)

But the Irish Republican Brotherhood had been planning to rise and in late January 1916, alarmed by Connolly’s threats, brought him into secret negotiations. When he emerged a few days later after what many thought had been his kidnapping, he had been sworn into the IRB and was part of the Military Council, planning the Rising for the Easter weekend. And that would mean that the ICA would also commit to the Rising.

On Easter Monday morning, around 220 men and women of the Irish Citizen Army marched out of Liberty Hall or mobilised elsewhere in Dublin. Two of the important fighting areas in Dublin were given over to their command, Dublin Castle and Stephens Green. ICA members fought elsewhere too, including the GPO. One account has them as the first to occupy the top of the GPO’s roof and another as hoisting the “Starry Plough” on top of William Martin Murphy’s Imperial Hotel in Clery’s building (the last flag of the Rising to remain flying). At least one was killed in the fighting evacuation of the GPO and a number took part in the occupation of the 1916 Terrace in Moore Street. The 1916 Rising was the first occasion of the 20th Century when a workers’ unit rose in their own units, in their own uniforms and under their own commanders.

SURVIVING STREET OF A CENTURIES-OLD MARKET QUARTER

Authorisation was granted for the development of a market in the Moore Street area by the Dublin and General Markets Act of 1831. But the Act mentioned the location as being around “Coles Lane market”, which means there was already a street market in the area. It is probable that street trading had been going on in that area for centuries before that. Moore Street was something of a modern street of its time in the area, laid down around 1763 (and, it is worth noting, before the Great Hunger and earlier than the city’s main street, O’Connell Street), mainly as a residential street with some businesses. In following decades Moore Street would become the main street of a whole market area which included the aforementioned Coles Lane along with many other streets, laneways, cul-de-sacs (“turnings”) and mews.

The streets and lanes of the old street market quarter now buried under the ILAC (Image cropped by Save Moor Street From Demolition from J Roques Map 1754, sourced on Internet)

The streets and lanes of the old street market quarter now buried under the ILAC (Image cropped by Save Moor Street From Demolition from J Roques Map 1754, sourced on Internet). In 1754 the street across the top was called “Great Britain Street” but by 1916 it had been renamed “Parnell Street”.

All of that was demolished and buried by the 1970s ILAC “development” of Irish Life ltd.(later joined by  Chartered Land, which dispossessed the households, shops, stalls and workers for a paltry compensation, to the benefit not only of the ILAC partners but also of Dunne’s Stores and Debenhams. All that remains of that street market quarter is Moore Street, with street traders struggling in difficult circumstances to make a living, harassed by Dublin City Council officials, along with small shops, granted short leases or expensive longer ones by Chartered Land or the ILAC – and under constant threat of demolition or of ILAC expansion.

CONCLUSION

Since the 1916 Rising has all those aspects of international importance listed above, clearly the Moore Street terrace also embodies them all, being the last fighting place of the Rising’s HQ garrison and containing around 300 men of the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers and three members of Cumann na mBan.

On the basis of those points alone, the site should be a recognised world heritage site. That the terrace and surrounding streets are, according to the National Museum of Ireland the most important historic site in modern Irish history’and ‘a surviving urban WWI battleground … beyond price’ (as stated by the Imperial War Museum) and they include the last street of a centuries-old European street market adds icing to the cake – a cake that should be made available for the world to share.

End.

Documents consulted include

  • various accounts of the 1916 Rising,

  • including biographies and Witness Statements of participants (latter now available on line),

  • along with Moore Street – the story of Dublin’s market district (2012) by Barry Kennerc and

  • Moore St: A Report (UCD 1974)

  • When I first wrote and published this article, though I knew about some Indian and Irish revolutionary connections, I was unaware of some very strong other connections about which I have just been made aware:  https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/the-moore-street…ld-heritage-site/ ‎E

COMMEMORATING THE RISING AND WWl

Diarmuid Breatnach

I WAS INVITED TO SING A COUPLE OF SONGS AT THE LAUNCH OF “OUR RISING – CABRA AND PHIBSBOROUGH IN 1916″. Of course I was honoured to accept; the songs I chose to sing were “Sergeant William Bailey” and “Where Is Our James Connolly?” I chose them as important to the events around the Irish Volunteers and hoped they would be considered appropriate to the book launch event also.

 

These years are the centenaries of many things in our history and it is right that we should remember them. Among those things we are told that we should remember the First World War. I think the people who say that are right – we should, but not in the way most of those people mean. We should remember that in a dispute about what markets of the world should be dominated by which World powers and which resources they should have a monopoly on stealing, they sent millions to their deaths and millions more to injury and tragedy. And of course, the capitalists, the class that controlled those Powers were not among those dead and injured millions.

When those people tell us that we should commemorate the First World War and collect songs and memorabilia they don’t mean that we should sing songs against the War, collect anti-War leaflets and honour those brave few who dared speak out publicly against the war stampede of their countries. And who paid the price for doing so. And yet those things too are the history of the War and to my mind the parts of that history that, among all the wars of the past and the present, hold out a hope for the future.

Peadar Kearney, author of "The Soldiers' Song", "Sgt. William Bailey" and many other songs

Peadar Kearney, author of “The Soldiers’ Song”, “Sgt. William Bailey” and many other songs

Peadar Kearney was an Irish Republican of a Dublin skilled working class background born not far from Phibsborough – in Dorset Street, around the corner from Inisfallen Parade, where Sean O’Casey was reared. When Kearney taught night classes in Irish, O’Casey would be one of his pupils.

Kearney wrote many songs that are still sung today, the most famous of which is the Soldiers’ Song, on which he cooperated with Patrick Heeney, from Railway Street, off Gardiner Street. When the Irish Volunteers was formed in 1913, Kearney was a co-founder and his song was one of a number sung by other Volunteers during the 1916 Rising, in which Kearney also fought.

Peadar Kearney also wrote a three-verse song mocking a recruiting sergeant for the British Army, who apparently had a pitch at Dunphy’s Corner. According to a local historian, that was outside what is now Doyle’s pub, at the Phibsboro crossroads. I added two verses to that song, in order to give Sergeant William Bailey a bit of a background story.

Of course, the 1916 Rising is a part of the history of the First World War too – and not only because it took place during that War. For some, undoubtedly, it was a case of “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. But for some others, including Connolly, as he made clear a number of times in writing, the Rising was necessary to interrupt the War, to stop the bloodshed of class brother killing class brother across Europe.

James Connolly, a revolutionary socialist, wanted revolution against world war

James Connolly, a revolutionary socialist, wanted revolution against world war

Connolly was a revolutionary socialist. At the end of the 19th and very early 20th Centuries, the standard position of the international socialist movement had been against imperialist or colonialist war. In 1912, on November 24–25, the congress of world socialist parties at Basel in Switzerland, including revolutionaries and reformists, had come out clearly against imperialist war. Their manifesto was unanimously adopted at the congress. In the context of the situation created by the war in the Balkans that had begun in October 1912 and the increasing threat of world war, the Basel Manifesto called called for an unrelenting struggle against war and those responsible for it, the ruling classes of the capitalist countries. It stated that that war, if it began, “would create an economic and political crisis,” which should be utilized to “hasten the downfall of the rule of capital.”

British Army recruitment poster aimed at Irish men

British Army recruitment poster aimed at Irish men

As we know, the leadership of those parties that we now call the social democrats abandoned this position completely and championed their own ruling classes two years later as WWI broke out, cheering the workers of their countries on into uniform, to kill and be killed. There were some uprisings against the capitalists and against war but the first of any significance — and indeed of great significance — was the 1916 Rising in Ireland. The next revolutionary blow to war would not be until be a year later, with revolution in the Russian Empire.

Of the two better-knowns songs about James Connolly, the song “Where Is Our James Connolly?” is I think the best and truer to Connolly’s ideology. It was written by Patrick Galvin who was, among other things a writer, playwright, screen writer and singer. Galvin died only four years ago. Christy Moore remembers learning the song around 1970 which is probably not long after it was written – or at least published.

Patrick Galvin, author of "Where Is Our James Connolly?"

Patrick Galvin, author of “Where Is Our James Connolly?”

REMEMBER

Famine emigrants monument on the north quays of the river Liffey, Dublin, with superimposed image of African woman and children. Image from Memet Uludag on Facebook.

The Great Hunger (1845-1849) emigrants’ monument on the north quays of the river Liffey, Dublin, with superimposed image of African woman and children (image from Memet Uludag on Facebook).

Diarmuid Breatnach
Remember? Remember when we were migrants?
Remember when we fled murder and rapine
and many another terrible scene
When death and torture were at hand
and we sought succour in other lands?
Remember?
Remember when our little nation
was devastated by starvation.
disease and desolation,
our hope in emigration ….
Remember?
Remember when we died by
mountain, valley and sea
and we braved
the rolling waves
to go where we might be free?
Remember, oh do you remember?
Escape, the vote,
in leaky boats
in anything to float,
fear in throat,
today they launch
for our shores.
Remember? We must remember!
end

THE WOMEN STARTED IT

Diarmuid Breatnach

We celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th but are we aware that on that day in 1917, women started the Russian revolution?

There were many causes of discontent with the ruling regime in Russia in 1917: it was monarchic, autocratic, repressive, incompetent. It had put the country into a war with Germany and Austria, which was in its third year. People were very hungry with food shortages for a number of reasons including the trains being used to transport war materials and soldiers rather than to bring food into the city. Nationalities within Russia and Greater Russia were denied self-determination. Peasants were serfs to the aristocracy, who could beat, imprison and even hang them. Officers, always from the aristocracy or — to a lesser degree — from the professional classes regularly struck ordinary soldiers or had them whipped. The officers were also for the most part grossly incompetent. The Christian Church (Russian Orthodox) was allied to the regime and corrupt. Free speech was suppressed and the secret police could be anywhere; the regular police were brutal and could not be challenged by ordinary people. Wages were often barely enough to live on.

Petrograd was the Imperial capital city of Russia (the name had been changed in 1914 from St. Petersburg, which sounded too German) and in February and March 1917 a number of factories there were on strike for better wages.   In particular, on March 7th (February 22 according to the calendar in use in Russia then), workers in the large Putilov works went on strike. The factory owners sacked the workers but not had not yet replaced them; there were some clashes with police.

The following day, March 8th (by our calendar), International Women’s Day, women in Petrograd organised a number of meetings and rallies. Led by no political party but in an atmosphere of deep discontent throughout the city, the women’s activities became increasingly energetic and militant. Demonstrations began to march, demanding bread and the women went to factories not yet on strike, calling on the workers to down tools and join the demonstrations. As as many as 50,000 did. Two days later, a general strike had siezed Petrograd’s manufacturing industries, much of the city’s services and even some commercial business, bringing clerks, teachers and students to swell the numbers in protests. Everywhere there were street meetings, marches; red flags and banners began to appear among the crowds. Slogans hardly considered before were shouted and became current, including calling for the monarch, the Tsar, to abdicate or to be deposed.

Demonstration during the "February Revolution" 1917. Note the prominence of women in the demonstration.

Demonstration during the “February Revolution” 1917

The Petrograd police were powerless to control the demonstrators who would have turned on them had they intervened. On the 11th, three days after the women’s mobilisation, the Tsar called on the Russian Army to intervene and to shoot demonstrators.

Russia had the largest single army in the world and despite the war, thousands were still in Petrograd. They had been used in the past against the workers and in 1905 had massacred people on a demonstration to petition the Tsar. But now, after three years of war and shortages, they were not keen to do so and particularly reluctant to open fire on women. Soldiers began to mutiny and, when threatened by officers, often shot them instead.

On that day, the Chairman of the Duma, the parliament which the Tsar Nicholas had kept powerless, sent an emergency telegram to the Tsar, who was at the Headquarters of the Russian Army, asking him for urgent action. The Tsar’s reply was dismissive – his wife, the Empress Consort Alexandra, had written to him that the problems in Petrograd were being exaggerated.

A Russian Army barricade during the "February Revolution" -- the soldiers refused the orders of their officers to shoot demonstrators.

A Russian Army barricade during the “February Revolution” — the soldiers refused the orders of their officers to shoot demonstrators.

But the garrison of Petrograd, including elite units, had mutinied by the 12th, four days after the women’s marches and demonstrations. In addition the Cossack troops, usually reliable in shooting and sabring demonstrators and rioters, were disobeying the orders of their officers to attack the people (although they had not joined the mutiny). Officers began to go into hiding as more of them were being shot by soldiers from their own units. Symbols of Tsarist rule were being torn down in public places.

Two days later, on the 14th, the socialist parties and organisations established the Petrograd Soviet, last seen there twelve years previously, in 1905, before it was crushed by the Russian army. The Petrograd bourgeoisie were frightened but were unused to ruling except as permitted to by the Tsar, who himself now seemed unable to control events. Their powerless Duma (parliament), although ordered closed down by the Tsar that morning, set up a temporary committee to restore law and order and later, their Military Commission as part of the Provisional Government they created. Thus began a period of dual authority in the city – the revolutionary workers, soldiers (and later, sailors) through the Soviet on the one hand and the bourgeoisie through their Military Committee on the other.

The Petrograd Soviet set the tone for what was to come by approving a number of points in Order No.1, effectively the first law drawn up by the Soviet, point 4 of which stated:

The orders of the Military Commission of the State Duma shall be executed only in such cases as do not conflict with the orders and resolution of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

The Soviet was making sure it could not be overruled by the new unelected body which the bourgeoisie had set up, the Provisional Government, or by its Military Commission.

Senior Army and political appointees advised the Tsar to do what just over a week previously would have been unthinkable – to abdicate. On the 15th, the Tsar abdicated on his own behalf and of his son, nominating instead his brother, the Grand Duke Alexandrovich, to be Tsar. But he in turn knew he had no support as things stood and refused the “crown”.

July Days Russia 1917

Demonstrating workers shot down by Army units in the Russian “July Days”, 1917

The Russian monarchy of centuries had been overthrown — only seven days after the women’s mobilisation in Petrograd. Manoeuvers by the different sides continued during May and June, including an attempted military coup by senior officers commanding army units away from Petrograd. The fortunes of the revolution swayed back and forth across the country until demonstrations in July supported by the Anarchists and the Bolsheviks were suppressed by army units loyal to the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries political parties in power.

Workers were being disarmed, soldiers re-submitted to the old discipline and revolutionary leaders were being hunted; the War was also ongoing. In October, the Bolsheviks seized power, ended Russia’s involvement in the War and began to construct a socialist state. Two years later the people had to fight to defend it against a right-wing military uprising supported by eight states, including the Allies but were successful in the end.

But it was the women who had started the ball rolling seven months earlier on March 8th, with their rallies and demonstrations and calling the workers out from the factories. Henceforth too, they played their part in government, in building the country and in the armed forces, particularly during the war against fascism and in defence of the USSR from June 1941 to the fall of Berlin and Nazi Germany in 1945.  Nearly 200,000 were decorated and 89 eventually received the Soviet Union’s highest award, the Hero of the Soviet Union. Some served as pilots, snipers (some of the ace snipers at the famous battle (or siege) of Stalingrad were women), machine gunners, tank crew members and partisans, as well as in auxiliary roles of nursing, construction, administration, factory work and of course food production.

end.

Soviet female combat pilots in WW2. The USSR was the only state to have female combat pilots.

Soviet female combat pilots in WW2. The USSR was the only belligerent state to have female combat pilots during WW2.

The London Visit — Family, Song, Kurdish Solidarity, the Red Poppy, Architecture, History.

Diarmuid Breatnach

I recently went to London in order to visit my daughter and son, their partners and their children. My son and his wife Natalie had recently had a baby girl; and my daughter and her husband Irwin have a boy and a girl. It turned out for a number of reasons that I had more spare time than I expected, so with the help of a friend I got in some sight-seeing and with the help of another, attendance at quite few singing sessions. I also attended one political rally. The following is an account of those events with the least said about my family and friends since their lives are private, with the exception of my host, Jim Radford, who has a very public side with regard to political and community activism and singing.

Archictecture and Transport System

Visiting London, where I spent 30 years of my life was strange, in particular staying about ten minutes’ walk from where I had lived for about half of my time in that city. I had a sense of being an observer at a familiar place but of which I was no longer part, something like a ghost, perhaps.

Not only Kings Cross Station but the whole area around it has been redeveloped and changed so much. In the early ’90s I worked shifts as a Project Worker in a ‘wet hostel’ (one where street drinkers are permitted to continue drinking), very near to St. Pancras Hospital and about fifteen minutes’ walk from the station (if one walks very fast, which I often did to get in for my early shift). On a late shift, walking down St. Pancras Road, on my way to the Underground to head back to SE London, I would often pass a solitary sex worker or two hoping for custom. Displaying the goods on sale is a trade requirement and I felt especially sorry for them in cold or wet weather.

The area was well-known for a high level of sex work and illegal drugs – selling and buying. Four years later, after two years as a Deputy Manager in a number of hostels in other parts of London, I was back in the area again, with a different NGO, as Manager of a hostel for active drug users (most of them injecting). The area had been very familiar to me then but visiting now I could hardly recognise it. The train and Underground stations have been remodeled and an international train station connecting with the Channel Tunnel has been built. In addition the areas in front of them and to the side are unrecogniseable. A big plaza fronts the station and around the side and back is another plaza with the de rigueur converted warehouses and similar-type buildings also around the back of the station now hosting eateries and fashionable offices.

No doubt the area is much more heavily policed now in order to present a clean image for tourists and the middle class young eating and drinking there but I am sure that sex work and drug commerce continues. Perhaps much more cocaine rather than heroin or crack is sold now for the new client group. But though I was there on a weekend night, I observed many of the restaurants and winebars only half-full.

I went out to Stratford too to see the Olympic Stadium and surrounding area. I had worked in that area as a community development worker for six months and taught an adult education beginners’ class in Irish for some years there too — but again, would not have recognised the area now. Like King’s Cross, it had changed completely but unlike the former, in almost unbelievable ugliness. The shopping centre wasn’t too bad but very much of the UStater “mall” type. Apparently many people in the US spend much of their free time in such places and, indeed, there seemed little other choice in Stratford now, especially for teenagers, unless they were of the outdoor type and accessed the Lee Valley, Wanstead Flats etc.

The observation tower/ sculpture by London Olympic Stadium, near Stratford, East London.

The observation tower/ sculpture by London Olympic Stadium, near Stratford, East London. (Photo DB)

An observation tower which is also a sculpture or “installation”, apparently, stands outside the the Olympic Stadium. It was chosen in competition but aesthetics can hardly have been one of the required features. I once saw metal girders and joists twisted in the aftermath of a very hot fire – the sculpture instantly brought back the memory.

 Unfortunately that was not the only ugly construction in the vecinity: almost in any direction one cared to look, other ugly and often grotesquely-shaped buildings came into view. It was in truth almost impossible to credit that not only was I in the same country but in the same city as the work that had been done around Kings Cross.

But sadly, it was not the only place for ugly buildings. Just by London Bridge I had seen a few others and indeed could see the same ones as part of the distant skyline from Stratford too. The “Shard” is one of them, looking like some kind of unsafe rocket about to take off. Another building reminds me of one of those free-standing electric fan heaters.

Some pieces of metal fell off the Shard recently – perhaps the beginning of a suicide attempt by the building, prompted by shame – and would have killed anyone they had struck. The various companies involved, both in its construction and in renting space in it, have said that there is no danger and everything is being checked again. I’m sure that is very reassuring to people working there and to passers-by.

Weird building near Stratford

A strange but not pleasing building near Stratford — in Dublin this would probably have earned a nickname like “The Handball Alley”. (Photo DB)

Long block Stratford

A barrack-looking building near Stratford. (Photo DB)

Another strange building near Stratford, East London

Another strange building near Stratford, East London. — Maybe it would have been called “The Cheesgrater” in Dubln? (Photo DB)

Various Tall Buildings Stratford

View from overpass, Stratford, looking south-westward (Photo DB)

London Olympic Stadium, Stratford, East London

London Olympic Stadium, Stratford, East London (Photo DB)

It occurred to me at some point that an Irishman taking photos of buildings around the Olympic arena could get into trouble, even these days — so took myself off inside the ‘mall’ to eat.

On a positive note about London other than the Kings Cross development, the new Overground system links up with much of the Underground and throws a public travel net around the city and outskirts, linking up a great many areas which were previously only accessible by using a combination of public transport systems often taking hours.

Irish tricolour in someone's yard right next to an Overground station in NW London

Irish tricolour in someone’s yard right next to an Overground station in NW London (Photo DB)

London Overground logo

I was told about the Overground and even used it but it was some time before I noticed that both that system and the Underground use exactly the same logo design, the difference being the word written across the bar and perhaps the colour. Once one becomes used to a symbol, one no longer reads the words on it or notices anything except very different colours. That didn’t matter until the day I had to catch an Overground train at a station not organically connected to the Underground, on which I was travelling. My ticket was good for both and the Overground station was less than a minute’s walk away down the street. Seeing what looked like the same design and taking it for another entrance to the Underground station I had left earlier, I walked past it three times and once almost got on to the nearby British Rail (intercity trains) platform and wondered why everyone was giving me wrong directions!

It was going down to an Overground station in NW London that I saw a big Irish tricolour in someone’s yard, flying right next to the station.

Family

Kian

Kian, absorbed in an electronic game (Photo DB)

Although I had prepared myself, I was a little shocked at how tall my grandson Kian had become. He is (of course) a very bright lad and was doing tests and making applications for different secondary schools.

Caitlin Rose, his little sister, seemed very excited to see me and I only had to look at her to make her break out in laughter. Grandad is very funny, apparently. Sadly, they have only two living grandparents now – me and my ex-wife. Their other grandfather died shortly before Kian was born and their other grandmother only recently.

  Caitlin Rose was born prematurely – I dashed to London at the time and remember holding her in the palm of my hand fpr a little while out of the incubator. She did well but was later diagnosed as suffering from cerebral palsy – the most obvious way it affected her was that her muscles spasmed and drew the tendons in her calves and feet tight, bending her legs and putting her on tiptoe so that she could hardly walk. The condition can be aleviated but so far is incurable. But she is very competitive and determined as well as being very bright (of course). In addition, she had the SDR operation in the USA, a relatively new surgical technique, after which she improved enormously.  (See this incredible footage taken about a year after the operation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6SGhuYzng8, from the blog recording her progress and others in the family and promoting the SDR operation http://caitlinroseford.com)

Caitlin dancing

Caitlin dancing (Photo DB)

Caitlin Rose on her daily exercise treadmill

Caitlin Rose on her daily exercise treadmill in her gym, paid for by fundraising (Photo DB)

I didn’t get to spend much time during the day with my son-in-law, Irwin, who was busy figuring out how to plumb their new washing machine in to the waste water disposal system.  I am not familiar with the closed system so didn’t offer too much advice.  But later we went out to eat so I could chat to him a bit more.

The "plumber", my handsome son-in-law

The “plumber”, my handsome son-in-law Irwin. (Photo DB)

Eating out

We went out to a tapas restaurant not too far from where they live and I ordered the fish skewers from the menu, imagining them to be the size of pintxos in the Basque Country or chicken satay skewers one sees over here. When the skewers arrived I was shocked to see each contained three large pieces, each one the size of an individual fish portion in many expensive and niggardly restaurants, with what looked like a dagger or bayonet pushed through them, mounted on a stand.

The most surprising thing for me however was that all the staff were actually from the Spanish state1 with the exception of one from Latin America. In Dublin, I had become used to these places being staffed by people from non-Castillian-speaking countries.

In a Latin American restaurant in Camden to which a friend took me, allegedly Patagonian and with some beautiful enlarged photographs of that area on the wall, I asked our table attendant whether he knew any Welsh. There had been a Welsh-speaking colony in Patagonia, founded in 1865 and there is still some Welsh spoken there today. “Que va, hombre!” he exclaimed. “De eso no sé nada. Yo soy de Andlalucia” he concluded, smiling. (“Not at all, man! I know nothing about that — I’m from Andalucia”).

I queried some of the wines I didn’t recognise, not sure whether I wanted a glass or not, so he brought some for us to try and …. left the bottle! Of course it would have been discourteous to refuse such good fortune and, the wine being fine, we had a few glasses before he remembered and returned for the bottle. We paid for some of it, of course. I had a feeling he might have left it that long deliberately.

In a Turkish restaurant in Dalston, I wondered whether I might have a taste of a Turkish lager, which I had never previously tasted, before deciding whether to have a pint. The attendant paused and then nodded, coming back with a half-pint. I looked at her perplexed — “It’s on the house,” she said with a little smile. She was half-Scottish and half Egyptian, it turned out. I did like it and ordered some more.  Turkish food is nice enough but not one of the world’s more impressive cuisines, in my experience (and I have eaten it there too, including in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan).

Food from Everywhere, apparently on sale in this shop in Dalston

Food from Everywhere, apparently on sale in this shop in Dalston.  The smaller lettering along the bottom of the awning, lists that the shop caters for “English, Turkish, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Greek, French” food. (Photo DB)

Stoke Newington and Dalston are multi-ethnic areas but especially prominent are Kurdish and Turkish businesses. Without a doubt however the most visible ethnic minority are the Hassidic Jews, the men with their long black coats and homburgs, boys with skull caps and side-locks. This sect is anti-Zionist and they are known, on occasion, to demonstrate against the state of Israel. However, I was shocked to learn that the women shave their heads upon marriage and wear wigs when they go out.

Family again

Elora Mae -- I forgot to take any other photos of her :-(

Elora Mae — I forgot to take any other photos of her 😦

At the other end of London from my daughter and her family and also far from where I was staying, it was great to see my son Kevin and his wife Nat and the baby – Elora Mae. London is huge and a return ticket covering the zones on Underground and train cost nearly £10 each time. The Oyster Card they are introducing, like the Leap Card in Dublin, in an attempt to eliminate cash exchanges, makes the journeys a little cheaper but I hadn’t known about that.

I’m usually OK with babies but Elora Mae wouldn’t let me hold her for long before she started to cry. On my last visit, however, she seemed ok with me (or probably my smell) and even gave me a few lovely smiles. Smiling, by the way, as well as focusing on the face, are responses genetically built in to us. Babies do not “learn” to smile, which is instinctive programming but may learn different types of smiles, as well as appropriate times for smiling.

Songs and Singing in London

I was staying with a long-time folk and shanty singer, Jim Radford and he took me along with him to his weekly singing events. In one, an “open mic” event, I was not a little disturbed at the amount of noise in the bar in which it was held. Noise is distracting and I tend to sing louder to get over it, straining my voice and maybe also singing at the wrong pitch and key and therefore not at my best.  I got more and more apprehensive as my turn to sing, indicated by the MC to me, approached and in trepidation when my turn came, went up to the microphone to sing two songs as expected. I sang Danny Farrell as an Irish (and Dublin) song unlikely to antagonise anyone there and to my relief the noise level dropped somewhat. My second song was the Pat O’Donnell Ballad, which although it involves the the “Invincibles” and the British administration in Ireland, was not too confrontational, I thought. Besides, it the story is interesting as it may be the first recorded “witness protection” operation in history, though one that went very badly wrong for the “witness” (or traitor) in question.

I was asked to sing a third song, as a courtesy to a visiting guest, I thought. Into the second line of Go and Leave Me, the silence around me became profound – so much that it scared me a bit. But I took confidence from it too. The lyrics are not bad and the air is lovely, especially in my opinion when it’s sung the US version way. It’s a reasonably well-known song about love and desertion in preference for someone richer and is one in my regular repertoire. “Regular”, by the way, might mean “sung two or three times a year”, since I don’t like to sing the same song too often and, like many other frequent singers, I have quite a few others. My host has about 250 …. I might have around a hundred, built up over years. And a few discarded along the way too.

The following week, back at the venue, I was asked to sing three songs and chose the Jim Larkin ballad by Donagh Mac Donagh (son of the executed 1916 Proclamation, Thomas Mac Donagh) and The Ludlow Massacre, by Woody Guthrie. A lot connects these two songs to one another and although in general I dislike song introductions (or “spoken sleeve notes”), I briefly explained a few of those connections before singing them.

Both the Southern Colorado Coal Strike and the Dublin Lockout/Strike began in the same year, only a month apart, although the Colorado strike didn’t end until December 1914. Both strikes involved attacks by state forces and scabs on the workers resisted, in Ireland forming the Irish Citizen Army, although many more were killed in Colorado (and in turn were killed by workers fighting back too). Evictions from company houses were a feature throughout both strikes as was general media and court hostility with open collusion between the forces of the ‘justice’ system and the employers. And, of course, both strikes essentially lost in the short term but, in the longer term, the trade unions involved, the ITGWU and the UMA, far from being broken, came out stronger.

For the third song my choice was Back Home in Derry, lyrics from a poem by Bobby Sands organised into a song by Christy Moore but to my own air. With this song I break my general rule about not singing the same song often, because I want to popularise my air with the lyrics. The lyrics are currently mostly sung to the tune of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and I thought they deserved an air of their own.

At the various events, as one would in Dublin, I heard some good singers and some bad ones and some who were not particularly good but were interesting. However the general standard seemed noticeably lower than what I would encounter in the singing circles and sessions around Dublin – I have no idea why that should be but it can hardly be due to physiological differences. Also, many read from sheets while singing, a practice rarely seen in the Dublin singing circles (although prompts by mobile or IPad are not unknown).

On this trip I heard Jim sing a number of songs and a couple I remember in particular: The Shores of Normandy, Song for Stephen Lawrence and Home Boys Home. The last of those is about horses and English rural men in WWI and based on a poem, a lovely song which I have slowly started to learn. Jim wrote the other two himself.

Stephen Lawrence was a British Afro-Caribbean youth walking home in SE London with his friend in 1993 when they were both pursued by a gang of white racist young men. Stephen was mortally stabbed and left to bleed to death. Within a week the names of the murderers were on the lips of all the young people in the area. I can personally testify to that since the daughter of a friend was attending a school in that area at that time. First the police questioned Stephen’s surviving friend, treating him as a suspect. Then they couldn’t find the culprits, they said. But it turned out that the house in which some of the racists lived had been under police surveillance for some time and was actually being video-taped inside. It was a long time before that came to public knowledge.

Eventually five men were brought to trial but the incompetence (or sabotage) of police trial preparation allowed them to escape. In a long saga of the fight for justice by the Lawrence family and their supporters, two of the five racists were finally re-tried in 2012 and convicted, receiving long sentences. In the interim the McPherson Enquiry found the Metropolitan Police force to be “institutionally racist” (which Black, Asian and Irish people had been saying for decades) and later a former undercover police officer revealed that he had been tasked by his senior officers to find material with which to discredit the family and the campaign. The Lawrence family broke up under the strain and at least one of them left to go back to Jamaica. Jim’s song contains a powerful indictment of the racist murderers and of the police.

The Shores of Normandy was written by Jim when he visited the beach that he had last seen as a teenage seaman on D-Day on 6th June 1944. Jim was a merchant seaman on a tugboat, many of which were leased by the British Navy and their crews paid merchant seaman rates (which were higher than those of the Royal Navy). Over a few evenings sharing Jim’s whiskey and tea, he told me some things about the tugs’ role. They were of great importance to Britain in the War – they accompanied convoys and towed many torpedoed ships to safety, mainly merchant marine vessels (2. After some time the tugs themselves became targeted by submarines as they were saving so many tons of shipping to be repaired and re-outfitted to go to sea once more and 24 British naval rescue tugs were sunk.

Sherman tanks landing from transporting ship on to pier assembled at Normandy beach.  The sections were towed across the sea from Britain by tugboats then assembled under fire.

Sherman tanks landing from transporting ship on to pier assembled at Normandy beach during D-Day, WWII. The sections were towed from Britain by tugboats across the sea then assembled under fire at the beaches. (photo sourced on the Internet)

In some of the photographs of the Normandy landings one can clearly see piers being used to disembark vehicles, equipment and men. As Jim says: “Those piers didn’t drop from the sky”. (No, but death was dropping from the sky and scything across the beaches too. I thought). The piers were made of concrete caisons, hollow cubes that could float and were towed across the Channel by the tugs. When they reached Normandy they were maneuvered into position at the correct depth and the sea allowed to enter them until they sank in a line on the seabed, making a pier. All this was done under fire at least some of the time.   Over a year earlier, the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk had broken the Nazi advance and turned the war in East Europe, now the Sicily and Normandy Landings combined with the advances from the East towards the liberation of Western Europe and the final defeat of Nazi Germany. The air Jim chose for his lyrics is The Dawning of the Day.

Among the events at which Jim was to sing was the launch of Confronting a Culture of Militarism by David Gee, in Housmans Radical Bookshop.  The shop, a little like Connolly Books in Dublin, stores a wide variety of radical and socialist book, pamphlets and periodicals.  Looking at the many different British periodicals there, I reflected how much more impact they could have if many of them were to amalgamate.

The bookshop was soon crowded, with some late arrivals having to stand. First off was what I thought an impressive monologue performance by Steve Pratt, ex-SAS and now against war, also a painter. After that, David Gee, the author, spoke – a little too long but interestingly. Finally, Ben Griffin spoke, ex-Paratroopers and also SAS but now Secretary of Veterans for Peace. Ben referred to the vilification that soccer player James McClean had endured when playing for Sunderland and Wigan, for refusing to wear the Red Poppy. (3 He spoke about a visit Veterans for Peace had made to the Six Counties of Ireland in October and how people had spoken to them about harrassment, raids and shootings by the British Army during the recent 30 Years War; Ben asked how anyone could reasonably expect someone from one of those communities to wear the Poppy? (4

Jim was plugging the upcoming Cenotaph anti-war commemoration by Veterans for Peace and sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, inviting the audience to attend the ceremony and to sing the song with them. He also sang Eric Bogle’s famous anti-war song, No Man’s Land (better known to us as The Green Fields of France, thanks to the Fureys); he sang it in full to underline what a speaker had earlier said about the Joss Stone song promoted by the British Legion, a truncated version that sentimentalised the war and ripped the strong anti-war heart out of Bogle’s song.

Jim singing at the launch of David Gee's book at Housemans Radical Bookshop.

Jim singing at the launch of David Gee’s book at Housemans Radical Bookshop. (Photo DB)

Although a veteran libertarian socialist activist who considers the Royal Family to be “spongers”, Jim had accepted an invitation to sing The Shores of Normandy at the Albert Hall as part of the annual “Remembrance” concert, with members of the Royal Family present. He was wearing a Red Poppy too. I argued with him about the latter but his line is that the militarists and Royals have usurped Remembrance, which was intended to mark the terrible sense of loss after WWI with so many men dead in every town and village4.

The day after the concert, on “Remembrance” Sunday, when processions march in Whitehall and lay wreaths at the Cenotaph, Jim marched with comrades of Veterans for Peace there, with a banner declaring “Never Again!” They and their supporters sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone, an anti-war song, one recited a poem strongly attacking war and its financial foundations and they laid a wreath made entirely of White Poppies with two Red Poppies inside it. (5 Their bugler played The Last Post. I’d have been there to support them and to add my voice to the song but I was already several days back home in Dublin.

Jim brought me to a music session in The Jolly Farmer pub, right next to Lewisham Hospital. I had attended sessions there when I lived in Catford, 20 minutes’ walk away, and the pub now had another name. In those years there had been three, sometimes four weekly Irish traditional music sessions in the Borough of Lewisham, none very far from one another, in which I had played percussion and sung. There had been a few in the next borough, Greenwich, too. None of those seemed to be currently functioning.

The core of the Jolly Farmer session is formed by “Flaky” Jake on accordion, Guillermo on guitar and Jim on percussion (spoons and bodhrán), with other musicians and listeners in attendance. Jake has a huge repertoire of songs from rock to cajun, including songs in French and in Spanish. Guillermo knows some of the French ones and is from Mexico. During the course of the session we heard – and often sang – Rolling Stones, Irish ballads, Cajun songs, English shanties and music-hall, Woody Guthrie ….

Guillermo, Mexican musician at the Jolly Farmer session.

The core of the Jolly Farmer session: Flaky Jake on accordion, Jim Radford on bodhrán an spoons, both facing and Guillermo, guitar, seen from behind. Each also sings. (Photo DB)

Jim, Jake and violinist (whose name I can't remember)

Jim, Jake and violinist (whose name I can’t remember) at the weekly music session at the Jolly Farmer pub. (Photo DB)

Jolly Farmer session, looking down from higher up.

Jolly Farmer session, looking down. (Photo DB)

A few strange incidents occurred around that time in that pub. The first week, there was a man there with an undiscliplined German Shepherd dog on a leash which his owner kept yanking to get the dog to stay by him. A man entered in a wheelchair and the dog went up to him and stuck his nose in the man’s crotch, whereopon the offended man slapped the dog across the muzzle (but not too hard – the dog did not yelp but just went back to his master). The dog’s owner, who I think had not seen where the dog had put his nose, was livid and began to swear and act out how if the man were not in a wheelchair he would do this … and that …. The man in the wheelchair turned and wheeled himself out of the pub. The atmosphere continued somewhat tense for a while but eventually the man and dog left.

Later that evening, I went to the toilet and saw legs sticking out of the cubicle next to the urinal. I pushed open the door to see a man lying in there on the floor, apparently very drunk. I informed the landlady and left her to it, as she requested. Later, at a music party, we heard that after we had left the pub, there had been some kind of disturbance with a drunk breaking glasses and furniture and that the police had been called!

Jolly Farmers trio 2014

Another night at the music session at the Jolly Farmer. The guy on guitar there sang some interesting songs and was a good guitar player. Leaning back, black cap on head at extreme right of photo is Guillermo. (Photo DB)

The house party invitation came through afficionados of the session. Attendance at the house felt strange at first since I didn’t know the people but then I realised I did know one of them, although not well, a fiddle player. And later another person recalled that she remembered me from music sessions over a decade previously. When the music and singing got going it was great and again we covered a wide range. We went through a huge range of songs and tunes with accordion, guitar, fiddle, banjo, spoons and bodhrán. In honour of our hosts, one of whom was German, I sang Mus I’ Den and The Peat Bog Soldiers combined with Hans Beimler.

The first is a German folk song of departure by one promising to return and to be true to the other in the meantime. Such songs are fairly common and we have more than our fair share of them in Ireland. Elvis Presley’s songwriters used the tune for Wooden Heart in one of his many badly-acted and badly-scripted films GI Blues.   The first of the remaining two is a song that was sung by German political prisoners in Nazi concentration camps; somewhat allegorical, it was tolerated by the guards for awhile but eventually earned a death sentence for anyone heard to sing it. Hans Beimler was a German communist who was imprisoned by the Nazis but escaped and went to the Spanish state in 1936 to fight fascism there where, like many other International Brigaders, he was killed. Because of the history of each as well as because the Beimler song is a very short one, I like to precede it with two verses of the The Peat Bog Soldiers.

It happened that the “Return to Camden Festival” took place during my London visit, spread around a number of venues in the borough, including of course the Camden Irish Centre, which is where I went with a friend. I knew the Centre from a long time past, a social and welfare agency for Irish migrants run by the Catholic Church for many years and notable through much of my time in London for steering clear of politics. Of course one can never really do that and one ends up supporting one kind of politics or another. The Centre gradually secularised itself in a time of grants for ethnic minority support work but did not raise issues uncomfortable for the British state such as the unjust murder convictions of a score of Irish people in five different cases during the mid-1970s, the iniquities of the Prevention of Terrorism (sic) Act, nor the prevalence of anti-Irish racism in treatment by many state and local authority agencies and its wide acceptance in news and entertainment media.

Gradually during the late 1980s (or perhaps early 1990s) the Camden Irish Centre was pulled into some of those issues but in an NGO-type of way and within such parameters and re-branded itself as “The London Irish Centre” (there were by then another five Irish centres in different parts of London but none claiming to be The Irish Centre). By that time the Centre’s management was connecting itself to the Federation of Irish Societies, an organisation that infamously at its AGM in 1981, as news of the death of Bobby Sands reached delegates, failed to even table a vote of sympathy for the family of the deceased. (7

  The “Return to Camden Festival” at the Camden Irish Centre seemed to be owned by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (often mistakenly called “Ceoltas”), a huge largely volunteer organisation promoting Irish traditional music, song and dance. The Centre was heaving and service at the bar was quite slow. The bar staff were all young and someone told me that they were on job schemes, all employed by a contractor who manages the catering for the Centre. It was hardly suprising therefore that they understood not one word in Irish, not even go raibh maith agat.

We sat and listened to a large number of musicians playing together, some as young as eight or nine, then peeked in at the céilí, after which we set off for the singing session. It is run by a Connemara man who sings sean-nós style, who was very welcoming and encouraging; we sat in a circle and sang (or declined) in turn. Again I met people who remembered me from music sessions or from other Irish community activity. The singing was interesting and some singers were exceptional, especially a couple of young female musicians who had to leave early to play their instruments and a few others. I heard a couple of songs I had not heard before, which is always welcome, as well as some I had not heard in a long time. But after about two hours the session came to an end; time then to get something to eat and start the journey back across the city by Underground, changing to Overground at Canada Water station. Reaching Honor Oak Park and walking up to Jim’s house, I passed by foxes twice; the London ones probably became urbanised long before their Irish cousins did.

Solidarity with Kobane’s resistance to ISIS

I knew from an email notification that there was to be a Kobane solidarity demonstration scheduled for a Saturday in central London while I was there and, since this was not one of the days I was visiting grandchildren, I headed out to Charing Cross station, next to Trafalgar Square. Kobane is defended by a Kurdish guerrilla resistance organisation composed of the PKK, some Kurds within the Syrian state’s borders and the few Peshmergas who didn’t flee ISIS. There are probably some Assyrians and Yezidi involved in the defence too.

The Kurds are a huge nation of around 30 million people, spread over territory currently within the borders of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Azerbaijan, with a sizable diaspora also in parts of the US and in some parts of Europe, notably in Germany and France. The politics of the Kurds within Turkish and Syrian borders tend to be secular and the PKK has always espoused some kind of socialism. Kobane, a town in the northern part of the Syrian state, is run mostly by Kurds from there and from the Kurdish resistance movement inside Turkey’s borders. Despite the hype about the Peshmergas (Iraqi Kurdish guerrillas), it was the PKK and Syrian Kurds who rescued the Yezidi and some other religious and ethnic minorities from ISIS in Sirjan and opened up a 100-Km long corridor to bring them to safety in Rojava (Kurdish northern “Syria”). A large proportion of these Kurdish guerrila fighters are women, perhaps as much as 30%, fighting inside their own units under the overall leadership of the PKK-affiliated organisation the YPG.

Kobane is under attack and surrounded on three sides by ISIS (“Islamic State”). The fourth side is the heavily-guarded Turkish border and the Turkish state is hostile to the Kurds, both within their own borders and within Syria. Based on ISIS behaviour to date, should Kobane fall, massacre of civilians and defenders will follow, along with enslavement of women as prostitutes or concubines.

Nelson during Kobane rally

Nelson looks down from his pedestal at the Kurdish solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square. (Photo DB) (A similar column and statue in Dublin was blown up in 1966 and the “Spire” now stands on the spot.)

Wide view Koban Rally Trafalgar Square

Wide view of the Kobane solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square, London. (Photo DB)

While living in London I had been to Trafalgar Square many times for rallies on different causes that I supported (including of course Ireland, until that plaza was banned to Irish solidarity demonstrations). Nelson stands tall on a pillar there, reminiscent of the one we had in Dublin city centre until it was blown up in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Rising. I wondered whether I would meet people I knew, either from the British Left or from Kurdish solidarity work, in which I had been pretty active during the early 1990s (8. The area was a-flutter with various Kurdish organisational flags and some from the Turkish left, also some banners and a number of placards were on display.

A speaker at the Kobane solidarity rally (

A speaker at the Kobane solidarity rally (identity unknown) (Photo DB)

Another speaker at Kobane solidarity rally, London (idenity

Another speaker at Kobane solidarity rally, London (identity unknown to me).  (Photo DB)

Most of the crowd looked like they came from the Kurdish part of the world. The stage seemed to be taking a long time to get set up but eventually the Kurdish MCs, a man and a woman, began to announce the reason for the rally and to introduce a list of speakers to the crowd. I was suprised to hear an Irish priest, an O’Brien, I think, introduced as having been a long time active in Kurdish solidarity, although in the 1990s I had never come across him nor heard his name mentioned. I had the same reaction to a few others introduced in similar terms.

A Kurdish traditional musician, seemingly well-known, played a short percussion piece on what looked like a slim but wide bodhrán. Looking for it on Google, I would say it was the Daf, which apparently is in wide use across a number of Near and Middle Eastern regions by a number of ethnic groups. There was no song sung throughout the rally before I left.

The Irish priest introduced as a good friend of the Kurds

The Irish priest introduced as a good friend of the Kurds (Photo DB)

The speakers were from a number of British Left and ethnic minority organisations, one MEP and a number of elected representatives. There was also a report from Kobane itself broadcast through speakers. Mark Thomas, a left-wing comedian, spoke emotionally on the issue. Peter Thatchell spoke strongly as well. One Left-wing woman with an English accent, in the course of her speech, attacked the SWP for supporting Islamicism in the past. The next person to speak, also a woman with an English accent, declared that she was in the SWP and that her organisation is strongly in solidarity with Kobane and with the Kurds.

Comedian and political activist Mark Thomas speaking at the rally

Comedian and political activist Mark Thomas speaking at the rally (Photo DB)

MEP maybe Kobane Rally London

Another speaker at the rally (identity forgotten) (Photo DB). Images of the imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, can be seen.

Some of the speakers praised the Kobane ‘government’, saying it was secular, egalitarian, socialistic …. The speakers all attacked ISIS and called for solidarity with Kobane. Some called for British Government intervention (to drop weapons and supplies to Kobane) while others called for military intervention against ISIS. Some called for the unbanning of the PKK and some for the release of Ocalan. The PKK was declared a “terrorist” organisation by the EU years ago, a totally unjustified action by any means of definition, since the organisation was engaged in armed resistance against the attacks of the Turkish state, which is still not a part of the EU; furthermore it was not engaged in any armed action outside its part of the world and nearly all of that within Turkey’s borders. (9

DB Kobane Rally London 2014

Me, holding a placard I borrowed from a Kurdish couple I had been talking to. The YPG is the Syrian Kurdish resistance, organised and led by Kurds but attracting some Arabs and Assyrians also. It contains large numbers of women fighters, organised in their separate units.

Kobane Rally near stage

Another speaker whose identity I cannot confirm. (Photo DB)

Abdullah Ocalan (pronounced “otch-al-an”) was the leader of the PKK when he was kidnapped in Nairobi by the CIA in 1999, taken to Turkey, sentenced to death and, after Turkey abolished its death penalty to gain EU entry, sentenced to life in prison. He is kept on an island prison – the only prisoner there, at least for 10 years. Prior to his incarceration, Ocalan had a position within the PKK that arguably went considerably beyond recognised leadership. Nicknamed “Apo” (“uncle” in Kurdish), his image was carried on Kurdish solidarity demonstrations and pickets by many Kurds in London and in Dublin.

Ocalan

Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned leader of the PKK (image sourced on Internet)

After Ocalan’s capture he declared that the Turkish government should engage in peace talks with the Kurds, that the PKK were not seeking immediate independence but some kind of regional autonomy. Furthermore, he declared that his own release was a necessary prerequisite to carry this process through. This is not too disimilar to the position of Arnaldo Otegi, of the Basque independence movement’s leadership, also of the Sortu party and of many of their new allies since they renounced armed struggle and ETA declared a “permanent and verifiable ceasefire”.

Ocalan’s change of tack surprised many on the Left; I don’t know how the PKK’s own followers reacted at first but soon they were issuing statements along the same lines, (although they have given no hint of intention to disarm). That position of the PKK and of Ocalan explains to me the relatively sudden interest in them within much of liberal and Left quarters. The other factor is the Left and liberal fear of ISIS and the fact that the only coherent and effective defence of Kobane and the rescue of the Yezidi in Sinjar is and was carried out by the PKK, not the “Peshmergas” loudly praised by the Western media (but only mentioned by one speaker at the rally) or by the US, imaginatively claimed by some media.

Another Anarchist banner at the Kobane solidarity rally in Lon

Another Anarchist banner at the Kobane solidarity rally in London, October 2014. (Photo DB)

Anarchist banner at Kobane so

Anarchist banner at Kobane solidarity rally, Trafalgar Square, October 2014 (Photo DB)

The “Peshmergas” are Kurds and guerrillas, but of the tribal factions of Bardani and Talibani within Iraq’s borders. On one occasion years ago, they cooperated with a huge Turkish military operation against the PKK by attacking them simultaneously from their side of the border. During the war of the Western states against Iraq around Kuwait, the Peshmergas followed the call of the West to rise against Sadam Hussein; the Western powers then left them to be slaughtered by the Iraq military. During the Western powers’ invasion of Iraq, the peshmergas formed war bands that as well as attacking the Iraq military, looted the Iraqi hospitals, museums, commercial enterprises and people’s homes. At times they even fought among themselves and there were many accusations of murder of military and civilian prisoners, kidnapping for ransom and even of rape. Among much hype, some moved to the rescue of the Yezidi in Sinjar but most quickly withdrew after armed contact with ISIS, totally abandoning the Yazidi, although Sinjar is within Iraq’s borders.

Turkish AKP=ISIS Kobane Rally

Placard accuses Turkey of directly assisting ISIS (Photo DB)

Many speakers at the London rally denounced Turkey for their indirect assistance to ISIS by harrasssing PKK guerilla reinforcements trying to get through to reinforce their Kurdish brothers and sisters in Kobane. Some alleged more direct assistance to ISIS and called for the NATO and the EU to pressure Turkey into ceasing their obstruction of reinforcements for Kobane. Some spoke against Assad and one for him but mostly neither he, his government nor the war there were discussed.

I recognised not one of those speakers present as having been active on the Kurdish issue in London back in the early 1990s. This would be understandable of younger people who had not yet become politically active then, perhaps – but the others? No, Thatchell and others like him had not been. Back then, the PKK had been in armed struggle against the Turkish regime and was being looked to by national liberation activists around the world. But Turkey was – as it is now – an ally of the West, a member of NATO, so the EU did not want to attack it for its widescale abuse of human right among the Kurds, although it considered Turkey too unstable to admit it to the EU. The Left organisations were campaigning on other issues and had no time – or perhaps tolerance – for Kurdish solidarity.

Sun effect Trafalgar Kobane rally

Not a nuclear explosion over London but an interesting effect of the declining sun. (Photo DB)

Contrasting flags seen from Trafalgar Square -- and a spying eye in the sky

Contrasting flags seen from Trafalgar Square — and a spying eye in the sky (Photo DB)

But now that that the PKK has indicated a willingness to enter a “peace” process, they seem to have many friends in left and liberal quarters than they had before. They may even end up, like the Abertzale Left of the Basque Country and like Gerry Adams and Co. of Sinn Féin, having lots of capitalist and imperialist friends too. Some may say that is one important reason for entering a “peace process” but the problem seems to be that in order to keep those new friends on board one has to abandon so much of the goals about which one’s movement was that it becomes something very different, the goals hugely reduced and arguably bringing not peace but co-opting of resistance and a deferment of struggle, probably to another generation (as happened in Palestine, after Arafat’s and Al Fateh’s agreement at Oslo).

One or two of the speakers called for Western armed intervention to assist Kobane, most notably Peter Thatchell, who called for NATO intervention. It was noticeable that this call garnered hardly any applause from the crowd, as distinct from calls to pressurise Turkey to stop trying to block the PKK sending reinforcements to the beleaguered Kobane and for the EU to drop arms to the Kurdish resistance. The London Kurds seem to be quite politically sophisticated and know that NATO is far from being a friend of the Kurdish people. I expressed some of my opinions to a Kurdish couple in their 30s or early 40s and they indicated agreement, particularly the man, who confided many of his own opinions. After hearing about a dozen speakers, I shook hands with the Kurdish couple and bade them farewell, taking a similar journey back to my friend’s house as had Jim Connell, while writing The Red Flag in 1889.

The Red Flag, written by an Irishman in London

Although he had lived in the area for decades, Jim was not aware that Jim Connell, the author of the communist anthem The Red Flag, had been living nearby for many years and had in fact been on his way to his earlier address, also in SE London, by train from a Trafalgar Square demonstration, via Charing Cross, when he began to compose the song. Jim Connell was from Kells in Co. Meath and a member of the Socialist Democratic Federation and later of the Independent Labour Party. He put the lyrics to the Jacobite air The White Cockade. For some reason it began to be sung to the air of Tanenbaum, a German Christmas hymn, which upset Jim Connel: “Ye ruined me poem!” he stormed.

The plaque commemorating Jim Connell who lived in this house for many years, including when he wrote "The Red Flag".

View of former address of Jim Connell, the house with the tall hedge, from across the road (Photo DB)

Jim Connell plaque London

The plaque commemorating Jim Connell who lived in this house for many years. (Photo DB)

The house upon which the plaque

No. 22 Stondon Park, the house upon which outer wall the plaque to Jim Connell is affixed. (Photo DB)

Jim Connell plaque large

Lewisham IBRG influenced the wording of the plaque but unknown to them the words “Labour Party” were inscribed on the plaque. (photo sourced on Internet)

I knew a good bit about this because the Lewisham branch of the IBRG, of which I was Secretary, had been in correspondence with a local history employee of the local authority about putting a plaque on the house. The plaque had been the council employee’s idea but we had influenced the wording (10) and in 1989, the centenary of the writing of the song, attended the small unveiling ceremony outside the house. A little-known MP called Gordon Brown had spoken and never once mentioned Jim’s wish for a free Ireland or the war then going on in the Six Counties, so I felt obliged to jump up on a garden wall and in a short speech, supply the missing information. There were no police present and I was not interfered with although the applause was scattered. The event and the fact of my speech was covered in the Irish Post soon afterwards. A half-hour before I was to catch the train to Gatwick Airport, Jim drove me to Stondon Park and I found the house and photographed it and the plaque (and also Jim in front of it, for his own album).

It would probably be another year before I would see my kids, their spouses and my grandchildren in the flesh.  Of course, there is always Skype ….

Back home

Waiting for either the number 16 or 41 bus home from Dublin Airport, I noted the inadequate shelters from weather, the general lack of Dublin information and the tatty state of the one map of Dublin that someone had thoughtfully sticky-taped to one of the shelters.  Even the Bus Átha Cliath timetable for the 16 route was tattered and flapping in the breeze.  Ireland, I do love you but sometime you disgust me too.

Torn Dublin Bus poster airport

Tattered Bus timetable in inadequate weather shelters at Dublin Airport, Nov. 3014. (Photo DB)

Tattered Dub tourist map bus shelter

A tattered Dublin tourism map which someone had thoughtfully sticky-taped to the inside of one of the inadequate weather shelters at the No.s 16 and 41 route stops at Dublin Airport, Nov. 2014. (Photo DB)

I arrived home to find that in delaying paying my Eircom bill, they had without notice cut my ability to reply to emails but strangely the Facebook connection continued. I got some money together and paid my bill.

A chríoch/ Ends

Footnotes

1 I don’t like to say “Spain” as the term is objected to by people in a number of nations within the borders of that state, some of which want total independence and to create their own states.

2  Despite this, 2,426 ships of the British Merchant Marine were sunk with 25,070 men killed, including of course many Irish but also others from the British Commonwealth and many Chinese. In 1942 a special camp for merchant marine seamen prisoners was built at Westerimke ten miles north of the German port city of Hamburg. Around 5,000 men, including 2,985 from 211 British ships, were interned at this camp commonly known as ‘Milag Nord’.

3  McLean, from Derry, said that if the Poppy were just to commemorate the dead British soldiers of WWI and WWII, he would wear it. But as it was not, and in memory of Bloody Sunday in 1972, he could not do so. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2826306/I-m-not-anti-British-wearing-poppy-act-disrespect-people-Derry- born-footballer-James-McClean-says-anger-Bloody-Sunday-decision-shun-poppy-embroidered-shirt.html

4  One wonders whether the footballer is aware of John Maclean (24 August 1879 – 30 November 1923), Republican Communist from Glasgow who was jailed in 1918 for “sedition” due to his anti-war activities and force-fed while on hunger strike.

5  I have written my reasons of disagreement with this line in an article, published in the Rebel Breeze blog: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/the-blood-red-poppy-remembrance-or-war-propaganda/

6  Video: Veterans for Peace at the Cenotaph, Remembrance Sunday 2014 (Jim Radford, white-bearded, wearing mariner peaked cap): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t34dnIabsGw

7  There had been many pickets and demonstrations in Britain to try to save Sands’ life and those of the nine hunger-strikers to die subsequently. The 1981 Hunger Strikes had a huge effect on the Irish community in Britain, breaking the terror stranglehold of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the neglect of the Federation of Irish Societies was answered by the formation of the Irish in Britain Representation Group.  See https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/how-to-silence-an-ethnic-community/

8  Including a trip in a small delegation of trade unionists in the early 1990s across much of the Kurdistan lying within Turkey’s borders.

9 From Wikipedia: “…NATO has declared the PKK to be a terrorist group;[121] Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, and fields the group’s second-largest armed contingent. Closely tied to NATO,[122] the European Union—which Turkey aspires to join—officially lists the PKK as having “been involved in terrorist acts” and proscribes it as part of its Common Foreign and Security Policy.[123] First designated in 2002, the PKK was ordered to be removed from the EU terror list on 3 April 2008 by the European Court of First Instance on the grounds that the EU failed to give a proper justification for listing it in the first place.[124] However, EU officials dismissed the ruling, stating that the PKK would remain on the list regardless of the legal decision.[125] Most European Union member states have not individually listed the PKK as a terrorist group.” Three Permanent Members of the EU Security Council list it so but the remaining two, Russia and China, do not.

10  We had not been told that the words “Labour Party” would be affixed and only noticed it on the plaque much later.