SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER – REALLY?

Diarmuid Breatnach

Again and again we come across activists, journalists, musicians and other artists who are lauded for “speaking truth to power”. They are often praised for that, even idolised. “Speaking truth to power” seems to be brave thing to do. And an important thing. But is it really?

First of all, let us think of who are those usually thought of as “Power”: governments, big companies, military dictators, church leaders, powerful individuals in the media or in the arts …..

Why is it considered a good thing to speak truth to them? It may well be brave to do so and often is. People who spoke the truth in certain situations throughout history and currently have had their careers destroyed, been the subject of all kinds of horrible allegations, been marginalised, lost their families and friends, been framed on charges, jailed as a result or just automatically, tortured, killed and “disappeared”. Yes, we could hardly deny the courage of many of those who chose to take that step. But whether it’s an important thing to do is another thing completely.

What? A courageous act against power not important? What can I be suggesting!

Let’s look at those in power again, taking for examples a government, a military dictatorship and the CEO of a powerful company. In our example, we set out to “speak truth” to them.

For the government, we send them an email, or a letter because there are too many Ministers and Secretaries to address verbally – unless of course we are in some kind of privileged position. They in turn ignore us or send us a dismissive reply (possibly tailored to be quoted) or they have us subjected to surveillance, just in case we should turn out to be a real problem in future. And any government in the world is capable of putting citizens under surveillance.

(Cartoon strip source: Internet)

We send the military dictator a letter and he has us arrested, detained for torture and questioning. Or we accost him when he is somewhere in public …. and his security guards shoot us dead. Or arrest us for torture and questioning.

With regard to the CEO, we send him an email. He ignores it but may have us put under surveillance – just in case. And he’ll have our employment and tax records, families and friends checked out too. Like governments, the CEOs of big companies can easily put people under surveillance and run background checks on them. And CEOs likely last longer in the power position than most governments. Or he might reply dismissively. Or he might have his legal services people threaten us with legal action which, as well as shutting us up, would cost us a lot of money we don’t have, probably bankrupting us.

This is the illusion of liberals and social-democrats but the reality is very different.
(Image sourced: Internet)

(image source: Internet)

In the military dictator’s case, we are out of the picture. In the case of the other two, nothing further may happen if we shut up now. But if not, well …. there’s that list of bad outcomes I listed above. Brave? Certainly – but to what effect? Have we changed anything?

Some people think we can change the essence of the way those in Power think by Speaking the Truth to them. If only we can say it powerfully enough. Nonsense. Those in the Power have already chosen who they want to be, what side they are on and understood the basic dynamics or been taught them along the way. Many choices made have confirmed them in their roles and ideology.  Furthermore they know that to break ranks with their own is a dangerous thing to do which can result in bad outcomes for them too and also expose them to painful and even fatal thrusts from their competitors or rivals. Remember the 1983 film Trading Places? Remember how the main hero falls at first, is shunned, loses his privileges, friends and associates? Unlike the film’s ending, there is no coming back from there.

If those CEOs and company owners ever took a progressive step it was because they were shown it would increase their profitability or at very least were shown it wouldn’t hurt it ….. or they were forced to do so by people’s resistance. Not ever by having “Truth Spoken” to them. Unless it was the truth of resistance (and we’ll come back to that).

I don’t see the point of Speaking Truth to Power … except in very exceptional situations. For example, if we are being sentenced in court, even if the public gallery has been cleared or packed with cops (which has happened even in this state on occasion), we might wish to raise a clenched fist and yell “Death to Fascism!” before the guards jump on us and bundle us to the cells, giving us a few punches on the way.

Or being tortured, if we are capable of it (and while we are still capable) we might want to shout something similar or just plain “Fuck you!” Or in front of a firing squad, to shout “Long live the revolution!” before the order comes to “Fire!”

Will it do any good, make any difference? Without an audience apart from those in Power, almost certainly not. It might affect some soldiers or police in the firing squad or some jailers but such results are usually negligible. But in doing so, we assert our humanity, our spirit against them and it is for ourselves alone, at that moment, that we Speak Truth to Power. Otherwise, there is no point, none at all.

I don’t want to Speak Truth to Power and what’s more, question why anyone else would. Is he or she suffering from some kind of liberal illusion that such words make a difference, can convert or subvert Power? Or from an inflated ego that convinces him or her that they have the gift, the eloquence, the importance to make Power change? Or that somehow, by force of their excellent will, they can overcome history and change reality?

Or even worse, are they signaling to the Power that they are articulate, eloquent even with “alternative” credentials and that they are worth recruiting by the Power?

The Naked Emperor. In Hans Christian Andersen’s subversive tale, an undoctrinated child remarks that, contrary to royal propaganda, the Emperor is naked and the people can then admit this to themselves. The child spoke Truth — but to the People.
(image source: Internet)

Speaking truth among the people. (Cartoon source: Internet)

I repeat: I don’t want to Speak Truth to Power. I want to Speak Truth alright … but to the PowerLESS! I want to expose the Powerful to the people. I want to show them the long list of the crimes of the Power and that it is unreformable. But I don’t want to just read the people a horror story; I want to show them how I think the monster can be killed. I want to show the people that THEY CAN DO IT! The people can grasp power with which to overthrow the Power. I want to show the people what their forebears have done in rebellions, uprisings, revolution, creation of resistance organisations, art, discovery of science, production ….. I want to share what I think with them, argue with them, encourage them, criticise them. And the only time I want to Speak Truth to Power is when they, the People, are listening, or reading what I am saying. Because then, it’s not to Power, in reality, that I’ll be Speaking Truth; the important audience is not Power at all.

So, Speaking Truth to the People is the thing to do. And will those who do so be safe from painful outcomes, that list given earlier? Having careers destroyed, being the subject of all kinds of horrible allegations, being marginalised, losing families and friends, being framed on charges, jailed as a result or just automatically, tortured, killed and “disappeared”? Alas, no, each of those is a distinct possibility: all have happened even to the people of our small island and nearly all of them fairly recently. Some very recently and even ongoing.

There is no safe way to Speak Truth. But at least this way, there is a chance that Speaking Truth will have some effect, will make a difference. It might even make a big difference. We hope so.

And the final Truth is that words, for all their power on people’s minds, don’t change the real world. People do that, through action.

End

(image source: Internet)

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Spanish Minister would rather free Catalan political prisoners on bail but is totally against independence

Diarmuid Breatnach

This is a short report of very interesting interview of Spain’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, who is both a Catalan and a convinced Spanish unionist.

He says that
§ he would rather have the Catalan political prisoners released on bail;
§ Catalonia is a nation, not a region (but does not have the right to self-determination in violation of the Spanish Constitution);
§ there is no automatic international right to national self-determination and
§ Scotland does not have the legal right to hold a referendum without the permission of the UK Parliament (for which he provides a very convincing argument).

 

Comment:

Borrelll is no friend of Catalan independence (he would hardly have been chosen by the Spanish Government as its Foreign Minister if he were) and has made some very disparaging remarks about the movement (liking it to “an infection”) and some individuals. He is no democrat either. However it is interesting that he is prepared to express a difference from Spanish Government policy.

His remark about Scotland will not be liked by many Catalan independentists who are fond of quoting Scotland and the referendum there as a model. But I think he is correct, both in his explanation and the situation at the time. It seems to me that the British conceded a referendum, expecting it to fail. It did fail but the result was closer than they expected. But, like self-determination of the occupied Six Counties of Ireland, any vote in favour would have to be ratified by the UK Parliament.

The main difference between the UK and the Spanish State on this is that the UK allowed a referendum but expected it to lose. The Spanish State will not permit a referendum because they know it would succeed.

The Catalan activists, politicians and intellectuals need to stop looking elsewhere for easy examples for comparison. They would be much better served, in my opinion, by examining the general history of imperialist-colonialist states against the struggles of subjugated nations and of course the history of the state in which they find themselves.

No imperialist or colonialist state has ever given up what it considered its property without resorting to violence.  When that desire for separation and independence comes from a part of what it considers its own base, the resistance is even stronger and violence highly predictable.  And the history of the Spanish State itself?  Violent acquisition of all of its neighbouring lands –until Portugal broke away and stopped at the French border (another major thief).  Violent suppression of peasants and workers and the overthrow of two democratically-elected Republican governments, followed by violent repression.  War conducted against the Basque independentists.  The Spanish state will use much more violence than it did on October 1st last year, repressing the Referendum on Catalan independence.  The only questions are § when and
§ will the Catalans be prepared for it.

End

http://www.thenational.scot/news/16835507.spains-foreign-minister-calls-for-government-to-bail-political-prisoners/?ref=fbshr

FASCISTS MARCH DEMANDING SPANISH UNITY

Death threat, fascist salute and Franco’s version of the Spanish flag, all illegal and displayed with impunity at this demonstration against Catalan independence and many other fascist events. (Photo credit: EFE/ Enric Fontcuberta 4651#Agencia EFE)

Some 2,000 people (according to the Urban Police) demonstrated this Sunday in Barcelona to reject any negotiation with Catalan sovereignty and in support of the unity of Spain.

(Translation from Catalan newspaper report — see link below end translation — by D.Breatnach)

The protest, called by real estate entrepreneur and former Guardia Civil (spanish state police — Trans) member Juan Manuel Opazo with the support of the ultra-royalist party Vox, crossed the Avenida del Paralelo under the slogan “No [pacts] with either terrorists or separatists.” Sixty associations and movements such as the Catalan Civic Convivencia, the Catalan Association of Victims of Terrorism, Catalonian Employers or Somatemps supported the event.

At the top of Avenida Mistral the demonstration came in sight of an anti-fascist protest called by anti-fascist movements and booing booing was exchanged from both sides. The Mossos (Catalan Police) kept both groups apart.

The march ended on Avenida María Cristina, where the Parliament is situated. Many of there asked the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, to not negotiate “with separatists” and to convene elections.

Coaches from 30 cities throughout Spain, such as Alicante, Malaga, Bilbao or Valladolid, among others, brought supporters to the protest.

Photo: Unionist march supporters give the fascist salute and threaten shooting at the anti-fascists and carry Spanish fascist symbols.

 

COMMENT (D. Breatnach):

The comparatively small size of the march and the fact that it was only possible by bussing in supporters from other parts of the state may be taken as an indication of how small the support base is for this far-right variety of Spanish unionism.

The monster march for independence Diada (Catalan National Day) on Tuesday will provide a useful comparison: one million marchers are expected.

The list of organisations supporting the march gives the lie to their frequent representations as “concerned citizens” who are “opposed to terrorism” etc, particularly the Catalan chapter of the “Association of Victims of Terrorism”, an organisation which for years has been hounding Basque independentist organisations with the assistance of the Spanish courts. To outsiders it might seem like a legitimate organisation held together in solidarity against terrorism but it is well known to be an extremely right-wing organisation, composed of ex-military and Spanish police (and no doubt serving members too) and their relatives. Some of them were indeed victims of armed Basque actions but it has to be acknowledged that was in a war which the Spanish state first launched against the Basques themselves, not only during Franco’s time but for decades afterwards too.

The impunity of fascists breaking the laws against fascist symbols, gestures, slogans and against threats, which has often been remarked upon throughout the Spanish state, was once again demonstrated. On the other hand even rap words, a poster, video or a verbal argument with police officers coming from a left-wing or independentist perspective can and have resulted in prison sentences.

Spanish unionism has a number of types and the one displayed in the reported march is the most extreme – the type that led to the creation of the fascist Falange, a military uprising, massacres of surrendered prisoners and civilians, rapes and other tortures and Franco’s dictatorship. But this could not exist on its own. With the collusion of the leaderships of the social-democratic PSOE and the Communist Party of Spain – and their respective trade unions – after the death of Franco, torture and all kinds of undemocratic laws and court rulings continued with the addition of death squads to force a rejected monarchy on the people and the obligatory unity of the state in the Constitution now in force. All of this together is what now confronts the Catalan independentist movement. But it also confronts any Spanish democrat and should call them to mobilise against Spanish unionism which is inextricably bound up with fascist ideology.

Report translated from: http://www.elpuntavui.cat/politica/article/17-politica/1464111-unes-2-000-persones-marxen-a-barcelona-per-la-unitat-d-espanya.html

 

NEWS AS PROPAGANDA

Diarmuid Breatnach

Very recently, a large and high-status media organisation published a news report with a headline to which a minister of state objected. The Minister made it an official complaint and the media organisation changed the headline. Nothing so startling in any of that, right? Wrong.

There are many things wrong with this scenario. Firstly, should a government minister be able to change news reporting by a media organisation? Isn’t media supposed to be independent? So they tell us, anyway.

Well, the media organisation in question, the British Broadcasting Corporation, is government-funded. Yes but at the same time it proclaims its independence nevertheless.

Anyway, the government to which the complaining Minister belonged wasn’t even the British Government – it was Israel’s.

So a minister of Israel’s Government made a complaint about a British Broadcasting Corporation’s news headline, and the BBC changed the headline to accommodate him and the Israeli Government? Yes, it happened on 9th August this year.

Well, maybe the complaint was justified? If so, the BBC should respond appropriately.

Perhaps they should – IF it was justified. But it wasn’t.

Firstly, the complaint was that the headline was inaccurate – and the complaint actually said that it was a lie! In other words, not just inaccurate but deliberately so.

Israeli war jet — Israel has 252 attack fighters and 48 attack helicopters. Palestinians have none.
(Source: https://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.asp?country_id=israel)

So what was the headline? It was as follows:

Israeli air strikes ‘kill woman and baby’”

Untrue, whether deliberate or not? No, it was completely true and attested to by reports of many other media, including Israel’s own. On 9th August, Inas Muhammed Khamash (9 months pregnant according to some reports) and her 18-month daughter Bayan Khamash were killed when, according to the Israeli Army, Israel bombed 140 sites in Gaza.  Not only that but the Health Ministry of Gaza confirmed the death of 20-year old Ali Al-Ghandour in the attack and the hospitalisation of another 12, two of which are in critical condition.

The Israeli Minister wanted included in the BBC headline that the Israeli bombing which did kill a mother and child, that it had been in response to rockets fired at Israel. Context is important, right?

 The message sent to the BBC on 9th August:

Emmanuel Nahshon

@EmmanuelNahshon

.@BBCWorld this is a formal complaint by @IsraelMFA .This title is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality ( that’s the polite equivalent of “ this is a LIE”, if you don’t get it). Israelis were targeted by Hamas and IDF acts to protect them.Change it IMMEDIATELY!!! @IsraelMFA

 

CONTEXT IN NEWS REPORTING

Well yes, of course context is important but one cannot always include context in a headline. Imagine putting context into a number of news headlines down through history: “Nazi invading army surrounded after failure to take Stalingrad due to courageous resistance for over five months and Red Army counterattack” instead of “Nazi Army surrounded at Stalingrad – five-month siege lifted.” Or “Banks bailed out with debts guaranteed by Government prepared to implement austerity cuts on most of the population” instead of “Banks bailout – who will pay?” The context can be provided within the story.

However, if the Israeli Minister wants context in headlines or even in stories, how about including in a report of any Palestinian demonstration or rocket attack the following information as to what gave rise to the action:

  • Zionists colonised a land in which Jews were about 10% of the population and created a State from which through terrorism they expelled thousands of non-Jewish Palestinians

  • The Zionist State extended its lands on which it plants Zionist settlers, stealing further Palestinian land and water

  • Zionist state law allow for any Jewish person in the world, with no connection whatsoever with the land, to become an Israeli citizen while banning original non-Jewish Palestinian exiles or their descendants from returning or from Israeli citizenship. And it has now legislated that Israel is a Jewish state, officially discriminating against the 20% of its non-Jewish citizens who are born and raised within the state.

  • Zionists are steadily making Jerusalem, a city holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews, a Jewish city by appropriation of buildings and areas and intimidation of Palestinian residents and worshippers of other faiths.

  • Palestinians are second-class citizens in their own land held up at Israeli checkpoints for hours

  • The Zionist state disagreed with the Palestinian election results years ago and made of Gaza what many have called “the largest concentration camp in the world”.

  • The Zionist Armed forces bombed Gaza several times with huge loss of Palestinian life including many children

  • The Zionist Armed forces bombed water treatment plants and much infrastructure in Gaza

  • The Zionist Armed forces bombed a hospital

  • The Zionist Armed forces regularly shoot unarmed demonstrators

  • The Zionist state has many children in jail and

  • holds adults for months on end without trial or even charge in “administrative detention”

  • The Zionist state attacked Palestinian places of culture and worship

Yes, there’s plenty there for context alright, if that’s what the Israeli Zionists want. And if the media corporations carried even a little of that, how would it weigh against the two fundamental, often-repeated lines of Zionist context:

  • God gave Palestine to the Jews

  • The Israelis are only defending themselves against Palestinians rocket attacks

Well, about the first one I have to say that I deny the validity of a document at most recent 300 years BCE (BC), commonly called the Old Testament (even if it were not full of the contradictions that exist within it) – and calling on an extra-terrestial being for its authority — to settle a question of ownership of land on Earth in the 20th and 21st Centuries CE (AD).

And I deny the validity of anyone, including an extra-terrestial being, to justify oppression, racism and murder. Of course, the extra-terrestial being in question has been silent for centuries and it is living men and women with human intentions that are using his alleged words and interpreting them to their advantage (and ignoring those who quote the same being to oppose them).

THE DEADLY ROCKETS

But what about the Palestinian rockets – they’re real, are they not? Yes, the rockets – let’s deal with that one now.

Given the way those rockets are commonly treated in reporting, one would imagine Israel suffering something like the London Blitz during WWII or the Allied bombing of Germany. How many Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets? Due to reporting methods of the Zionists and much of the Western media, it is not immediately easy to answer that question.

In an analysis of figures by Phan Nguyen of violent fatalities by Palestinian missiles for the Mondoweiss site, the total from 2000, when the Second Intifada began until 2014, were 44 Israeli fatalities, of which 14 were military and another two were civilians at an Army post. That is a rate of 3.1 Israeli fatalities per year from this fearsome weapon which requires the Israelis to slaughter tens of hundreds of Palestinians! In addition, only 23 deaths were caused by rockets, the rest being by mortars. In statistics of all homicides of the conflict for this year (2018) up to July 26 (given by a pro-Israeli site jewishvirtuallibrary.org), though 11 Israelis were injured, not a single Israeli has been killed by Palestinian rocket or mortar fire; during the same period, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, Israel killed 155 Palestinians (of whom 23 were under 18) and injured many others. And after that date they killed another thirteen.1

The most recent Israeli killed by a Palestinian, according to the IsraelPalestineTimeline database, was on July 27th this year (2018), father-of-two Yotam Ovadia and he was not killed by a Palestinian rocket. Yotam Ovadia was stabbed by a Palestinian who apparently managed to climb the security fence surrounding one of the many Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land, declared illegal by international law and by the United Nations.

The most recent Palestinian killed by an Israeli according to the same database was on 12th August this year, 30-year old Wisam Yousez Hijazi. He had been an unarmed demonstrator at the Great Return March and was shot by an Israeli soldier on 14th May, needed specialist treatment unavailable in Gaza and died near the Rafah Crossing into Egypt before he could get through the Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

Those two deaths typify the conflict in some ways: an Israeli participant in theft of Palestinian land (even according to the UN) and a Palestinian demonstrating against the theft of their land and denial of right of return to Palestinians. A Palestinian killed by an Israeli soldier using a modern firearm and an Israeli killed by a Palestinian civilian with a knife. And the Palestinian perpetrator will be jailed but nothing will happen to the Israeli perpetrator (unless he is commended for service to Israel).

But it is far from one for one. In fact the whole statistic table of homicides is hugely favourable to the Israeli Zionists, which is not surprising as they have an air force, a sophisticated land army and a navy with missiles, while all the military force the Palestinians have to fight back with are various groups of guerrillas (many not Hamas, incidentally) and some rockets and mortars the sites of which, once they fire, can be located and wiped out by the Israelis. And of course, the Palestinians have their own bodies: the unarmed demonstrators (on occasion, rioters), those who rush to help the victims of an Israeli munitions strike and are caught in the second strike and other civilians who just happen to be passing by or living where an Israeli bomb or missile strikes.

Violent deaths of Palestinians and Israelis from 2000-2014
(Source: Phan Nguyen, Mondoweiss.net)

And the imbalance in numbers of children killed is even more horrific – not that one would want to see a balance of any children killed (the israelpalestinetimeline site provides a number of other statistical charts).

TONE OF THE COMPLAINT AND BBC ACQUIESENCE

Having explored the issue of context sufficiently, I think, let us return to the Israeli Minister’s complaint and, setting aside the content, look at the tone of it:

Verified account

Emmanuel Nahshon‏ @EmmanuelNahshon

More

.@BBCWorld this is a formal complaint by @IsraelMFA .This title is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality ( that’s the polite equivalent of “ this is a LIE”, if you don’t get it). Israelis were targeted by Hamas and IDF acts to protect them.Change it IMMEDIATELY!!!

This suggests to the reader an arrogant figure, one in authority, ordering an underling. The arrogance may or may not have arisen through the individual’s life experience or through his position in Israeli society or through his culture – but what does he think gives him the authority to talk down this way to a world media corporation belonging to a major imperialist power?

I would speculate that the answer is that Zionist Israel knows that it is supported by an even bigger imperialist power than the one whose media organisation the Minister is addressing. Israel is backed by the USA, currently the biggest and strongest imperialist power in the world. And furthermore, since British imperialism lost its position at the top after WWII and later gave up or set aside its dream of returning to that elevation, it determined to partner the USA. This has been clear in its contribution of troops to Korea, in putting no obstacle to Australian troops to Vietnam, in contribution of troops and/ or military resources to the bombing of Libya and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and war in Syria.

The Israeli Minister seems to assume that he is speaking to one of his protector’s minor employees – and who can blame him for that? In addition, British imperialism has been, on the whole, backing US imperialist ambitions, strategy and tactics in Israel and in the Middle East, only very occasionally disagreeing on even tactics.

And when the BBC caved in, it confirmed that Israeli Minister’s opinion and, furthermore, made it the opinion of many others too!

And all of this will compound the belief among anti-imperialists around the world and among Arabs and Muslims, that news is propaganda, and that western media news is mostly anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda.

18-Month Bayan Khammash is carried in a funeral procession with the body of her pregnant Mother, Inas Muhammed Khammash, all killed by Israeli bombing of Gaza on August 9th.
(Photo source: Internet)

So how did the BBC amend their headline in the end? They changed it to Gaza airstrikes ‘kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel”.

So there you have it now: Gaza fired rockets at Israel and killed a woman and child, presumably in Israel!

End.

SOURCES:

Original event on which the BBC was reporting

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180809-israel-air-strikes-kill-3-including-pregnant-mother-toddler-in-gaza/

Reporting on the change of headline

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/BBC-Changes-Headline-After-Israeli-Complaint-20180809-0027.html

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/bbc-condemned-for-changing-headline-after-israeli-spokesman-demands-it

A Scottish take on the issue:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16410049.bbc-switch-off-campaign-goes-viral-but-is-the-publicly-funded-broadcaster-really-biased/

Statistics

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/palestinian-rocket-and-mortar-attacks-against-israel

https://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/rocket-deaths-israel/

https://israelpalestinetimeline.org/charts/

https://israelpalestinetimeline.org/yotam-ovadia/

https://israelpalestinetimeline.org/wisam-yousef-hijazi/

FOOTNOTES

1These figures were quoted by Wikipedia which is given to quoting Israeli propaganda, including statistics, without verification but can no doubt in this case be checked by going to the source.

AN OLD WAR WITH A LESSON FOR TODAY

Diarmuid Breatnach

August 9th is the anniversary of the last blows struck in the Battle of Annual, which took place in the Rif, in the Maghreb region of North Africa in 1921. The battle was a major defeat for the Spanish military and part of the Rif people’s resistance which was suppressed with genocidal weapons ferocity by the Spanish and French imperialists, including the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction by the Spanish.

Illustration of the death of a Spanish General Margalla in a much earlier colonialist venture into the Maghreb, 1893 (source of imageL

Many features of this struggle bear important lessons for us today wherever we are in the world but perhaps in particular to the Catalans struggling for independence. And although the struggle of the Rif people was apparently noted by Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara, who we are told learned guerrilla tactical lessons from it, it seems mostly forgotten and Wikipedia’s coverage (the Rif Wars) is modest.

THE BATTLE

In 1921 the Spanish State sent armed forces to extend their area of control beyond the coastal strip around Ceuta and Melilla and other bases in North Africa. They had penetrated 130 kilometres when they encountered light resistance of a skirmishing nature, which continued for five days.

At the end of that period, on August 22nd the Berbers attacked the Spanish Army’s encampment at Annual in force with 3,000 irregulars against Spain’s 5,000 soldiers. General Silvestre decided upon a withdrawal along the line of their earlier advance and that march began in order at 10am but soon turned into a rout, with Spanish soldiers killed by bullet or knife. The dead presumably included Silvestre, whose body was never found.

In the following days the Berbers overran more than 130 Spanish guard stations (containing up to 20 men), took a number of towns and reached the Spanish colony town of Melilla, which Abd el Krim did not attack for fear of other nations being drawn in to defend their resident nationals in the city, a decision he apparently regretted for the rest of his life. The Spanish evacuated fleeing colonists but soon reinforced some towns in particular Melilla, mainly with the Spanish Legion and Moroccan Regulares.

A somewhat menacing representation of the face of Abd el Krim in Time Magazine, 1925, during the life of the Rif Republic (image sourced: Wikipedia).

Analysis of the defeat tends to lay the blame on lack of military efficiency on the side of the Spanish without giving any credit to the tactics or leadership of the Berbers. If that were an accurate assessment one wonders why Guevara and Ho Chi Minh could be reputed to have learned lessons in guerrilla warfare from the conduct of the battle by the Berbers.

Wiki gives a Rifian casualty figure of 800 but reports that “final official figures for the Spanish death toll, both at Annual and during the subsequent rout which took Riffian forces to the outskirts of Melilla, were reported to the Cortes Generales (Spanish Parliament) as totaling 13,192 killed”; Wiki also says the Spanish may have lost up to 20,000.

As well as loss of men, the Spanish Army lost huge amounts of war material which were of course used against them later. Wiki: “11,000 rifles, 3,000 carbines, 1,000 muskets, 60 machine guns, 2,000 horses, 1,500 mules, 100 cannon, and a large quantity of ammunition.  Abd el Krim remarked later: “In just one night, Spain supplied us with all the equipment which we needed to carry on a big war.” Other sources give the amount of booty seized by Rif warriors as 20,000 rifles (German-made Mausers), 400 machine guns (Hotchkisses)) and 120–150 artillery pieces (Schneiders).”

Kaid Sarkash (Riffian leader) pictured in 1924 with another, both Berbers carrying captured rifles: Spanish Mauser & French Berthier Carbine.
(Photo sourced: Wikipedia)

The Spanish imperial-colonialists had lost all the territory they had gained in the region since 1909, lost some stature in the eyes of colonised people and lost face among its other imperialist and colonialist competitors, which might have mattered most to the Spanish authorities. Readers from the Spanish state can confirm or deny what Wiki states, that the defeat is seen there as the worst of the Spanish Army in modern times.

The victorious Berbers under Abd el Krim set up the Rif Republic in September 1921 and tried unsuccessfully for recognition from Britain and from France. There does not seem to be much written about the Republic or if there is, it is difficult to find.

Territory of the Rif Republic (outlined in red) next to “Spanish North Africa”
(image sourced: Wikipedia).

POLITICAL CRISIS AND CHANGE

In response to the Battle of Annual, PSOE delegate and prominent party member Indalecio Prieto declared in the Congress of Deputies: “We are at the most acute period of Spanish decadence. The campaign in Africa is a total, absolute failure of the Spanish Army, without extenuation.”  A War Ministry investigative commission (headed by a General!) although it detailed a number of military mistakes, due to political interference failed to lay the blame squarely on the Army.

The political crisis however led to a great fall of confidence in the Spanish feudal-type military caste ruling class and in the monarch, King Alfonso XIII which is credited with contributing significantly to the birth of the Second Republic (1931-1939 – the one that was overthrown by military uprising and led to the Franco dictatorship, from which the current State has evolved).

WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

However, the loss of face for the Spanish imperial State also led to a thirst for revenge in sections of the Spanish ruling class and military. In 1923 Miguel Primo de Rivera1 led a military coup d’etat in Spain, blaming all problems on parliamentary democracy (such as existed) and was supported by the King, Alonso XIII. From the following year until 1927, Rivera took command of the campaign in the Rif and in 1925 the French, although competitors with the Spanish, joined the offensive.

Spain was an early user of chemical weapons against civilian populations and according to Wiki, “between 1921 and 1927, the Spanish army indiscriminately used phosgene, diphosgene, chloropicrin and mustard gas (known as Iperita2). Common targets were civilian populations, markets, and rivers.  In a telegram sent by the High Commissioner of Spanish Morocco Dámaso Berenguer on August 12, 1921 to the Spanish minister of War, Berenguer stated:

I have been obstinately resistant to the use of suffocating gases against these indigenous peoples but after what they have done, and of their treacherous and deceptive conduct, I have to use them with true joy.

The gases were produced illegally in Germany and sold to and bought illegally by Spain and later produced also illegally in Spain. The German chemist concerned, Hugo Stoltzenberg, was later granted Spanish citizenship but joined the Nazi Party during WWII and after the War continued his chemical weapons research in Hamburg. He sold his factory in 1969 and died in 1974.

The war was fought with ferocity on both sides but the Spanish and French had superior armament, aircraft and the Spanish at least dropped chemical weapons on civilian centres, killed domesticated animals and poisoned drinking water and fish. In two years most of the Berber resistance was crushed and in July 1927, Abd el Krim surrendered to the French, who exiled him. The French and Spanish abolished the short-lived Rif Republic, the first in North Africa.

An Association for the Defence of Victims of the Rif War considers that effects of the use of those chemicals have persisted and account for the high incidence of cancers in the population of the area.

There is a Catalan independentist sequel; according to Wiki: “On February 14, 2007, the Catalan party of the Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) passed a bill to the Spanish Congress of Deputies  requesting Spain to acknowledge the “systematic” use of chemical weapons against the population of the Rif mountains. The bill was rejected by 33 votes from the governing PSOE and the opposition right-wing PP who form the majority in the Spanish parliament.”

BACKGROUND – IMPERIALISTS DIVIDING PLUNDER

The Treaty of Fez 1912 was one in which Sultan Abdelhafid ceded Morocco to the French, who shared the spoils out thus: for recognising the treaty and land gained, Germany, which they added to their Cameroon colony but German also ceded to France and area which is now part of Chad. The Spanish got part of the Rif area including an iron mine and permission to build a railroad to it, which was the cause of riots and the start of the First Rif War. The Battle of Annual took place in what is called the Second Rif War and the joint French-Spanish offensive and use of chemical weapons in the Third Rif War.

But already in 1904 the UK, France and Italy in secret treaties had divided between them the Maghreb (that area covering almost the whole of North Africa and today including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania and Western Sahara) into spheres of influence.

TODAY

What remains of that “Spanish North Africa” is Ceuta and Mellila, which Morocco demands Spain decolonise and the Spanish State denies are colonies at all. In 1965 the UN asked the Spanish State to decolonise the territory and in 1966 that it hold a referendum, neither of which it did. From 1973 the Saharawi people fought very successfully under the Polisario Front against Spanish occupation and in 1975/76 the Spanish State abandoned Western Sahara without handing it over to the Saharawi people but by agreement with Morocco and Mauritania which then moved in, since when Morocco has fought the Saharawi people without the latter’s surrender. Mauritania withdrew its claim in 1979 but Morocco has claimed the entire territory and its natural resources (which are significant) and attacked Saharawi settlements and jailed and tortured activists. Other Saharawi people live as refugees in Algeria. The UN does consider that the Saharawi are entitled to self-determination and recognises the Polisario Front as the legitimate representatives of the people and has stated that Morocco should withdraw; the UN maintains a post there but does not monitor Moroccan state actions towards the Saharawi, much less police them.

The UN does not list Ceuta or Melilla as areas in need of decolonisation.

Flag of the Rif Republic design (source: Wikipedia)

Currency note of the Riffan Republic – note conversion rate into English or French currency but not Spanish!
(image source: Wikipedia)

LESSONS

The Rif War has a fair bit of overall coverage on Wikipedia but very little on the Berber leader Abd el Krim and even less on the Berber Republic. I look forward to finding more material about it for my education. I came across this whole struggle by accident and indeed, by strange coincidences, I have family and personal connection to Arab and Berber anti-colonial resistance in the region.

However, the lessons for us and in particular for the Catalans are these, I believe and, given what is at stake now and the enormous human cost paid to obtain those lessons, we should be prepared to study them:

  • The Spanish ruling class was a ferocious one in modern times even before the Franco regime. It showed its ferocity again during the Franco years, during the Transition and, when it felt it necessary, in years since – including under a social-democratic government. It has not at all changed.

  • Capitalists and imperialists will cede no territory unless it is absolutely unavoidable to do so or unless they gain some alternative territory elsewhere. This was true of Spanish North Africa – how much more so will it be true of what they consider as their territorial base and one of the most economically successful parts of that ‘base’!

  • The imperialists of the world, including long-established democracies, come to mutual arrangements which are often kept secret from their own populations.

  • Even competing imperialists will join with other imperialists or their atrocities will be ignored by competitors when they find it in their imperialist interests to do so. As the EU President has already shown, there is no help coming from the European capitalist and imperialist states for Catalan independence – not even a public condemnation of Spanish police violence.

  • Liberals and social-democrats who espouse anti-colonial feeling have a tendency to end up, however reluctantly, supporting their state’s repression of colonialised people’s resistance. This has been seen and will continue to be seen in the PSOE but may also come to be seen in sections of Podemos – with the latter, one can certainly not expect energetic defence of self-determination.

  • A serious defeat for the ruling class can destabilise it sufficiently for revolution or radical reform to take place and to succeed. In this way, should the people of Catalunya succeed in establishing and defending an independent republic there, it could be the spark that sets off detonations throughout the state and allows a genuinely democratic Spanish Republic to emerge. Which means that all genuine democrats in that state should support and strive for the victory of the Catalonian people, both for the rights of the Catalan people but also in their own self-interest.

  • The imperialists violate rights but also language: just as they claimed then and still claim that Ceuta and Melilla are not colonies, so they claim that Catalunya and southern Euskal Herria are not either.

APPENDIX

COINCIDENCES

My father, Deasún Breatnach (1921-2007) worked in Tangiers in journalism for a short period, probably 1947-1949 (he married in Madrid in ’47 and seems to have been back in Ireland in ’49 or at least soon after). Tangiers at that time was by treaty (another imperialist one!) under the joint control of the British, French and Spanish. Deasún told a story that an Arab acquaintance contacted him saying he had an important friend who wished to meet him. Deasún attended by arrangement and the man, who was a muslim religious and temporal leader, wished to get a story of Spanish Army atrocities against people in the Rif, including electric shock torture, out to the world. Deasún took down the report and protest letter in English as requested and sent one copy to a world leader (I forget now but possibly Churchill) and another to the United Nations and filed a story about it to the Irish Press. The Press did not print it because, according to the Editor, they had no corroboration. Deasún said that the Gibraltar Times (if that is the correct name) had run a story on it also but by the time they had this discussion it was about a year later.

Unrelatedly, about a decade ago I joined a small group of activists in a solidarity campaign, Western Sahara Action Ireland, which ran a FB page and took a number of street actions (on a number of occasions harassed and threatened by thugs sent from the Moroccan Embassy). We also set up a “Sahara tent” at an Electric Picnic festival which was visited by Michael D. Higgins. The Coordinator of the WSAI group left to take up work elsewhere and, as a number of us were also active in other struggles we were unable to keep the group going but the page is still maintained and can be accessed at (see Links).

LINKS

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

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

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

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

Western Sahara: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Sahara

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/256377861125569/

 

FOOTNOTES

1Whose son Manuel Primo Rivera was a prominent fascist in 1930s Spain.

2After Ypres, where the Germans used it in WWI for the first time.

OREGON USA: NO FREE SPEECH FOR FASCISTS!

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Like fascists in many other parts of the world, those on the Oregon demonstration marched under the slogan of “free speech”.  NO FREE SPEECH FOR FASCISTS!

 

Police in Oakland, Oregon, went into riot police mode at a fascist march on Saturday (4th August 2018) which was opposed by anti-fascists. After maintaing a presence between the two forces for some time they eventually moved to break them up and employed ‘flash-bangs’ and other methods. The march without a permit by fascists was organised by the Patriot Prayer organisation led by Joey Gibson who is running for election to the US Senate and who declares that they are demonstrating for free speech.

Right-wing supporters of the Patriot Prayer group gather during a rally in Portland, Oregon, U.S. August 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart – RC1E0096DB40

Feelings in the town are already running high after a Patriot Prayer supporter was charged with stabbing a man who allegedly intervened to defend from harassment two women on a light-rail train last year, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

According to reports, Gibson declared to supporters that they were there “to teach a lesson to the country” minutes before they began to march. On June 30th, a previous Patriot Prayer event led to clashes with anti-fascist demonstrators, during which the Oakland police revoked the permit for the demonstration and declared a riot. Earlier on Saturday, in a response to Oakland Police reminding people of a city code banning carrying weapons in the public park, Gibson posted: We’ve always had guns at the rally. I cannot think of one rally when we didn’t have guns with us. Everywhere we go, we have guns.”

Anti-fascist opposition to Patriot Prayer march in Oregon USA. Note mixed attitudes of people wearing improvised riot gear and a placard apparently calling for peaceful opposition
(photo US Media).

Earlier, Portland Mayor Wheeler had expressed concern about the planned Patriot Prayer march, as had the Police Chief. Portland Police Bureau Chief Outlaw (yes, honestly) was appointed to post last year; an African-American woman, she started her career as a patrol officer and was appointed Deputy Chief to Oakland’s police department in 2013.

FASCISM AND FREE SPEECH ACROSS THE WORLD

In 2016 Tommy Robinson led a couple of hundred supporters in Birmingham, Britain to launch the anti-Muslim group Pegida UK, which he founded as part of a Europe-wide fascist initiative intending to launch Pegida in a city in every European state (they failed spectacularly in Dublin, see Rebel Breeze report in Links). Two years earlier, he had led the Islamophobic English Defence League which soon split and melted away.

(photo US Media).

Like Robinson, who was recently given a 13-month sentence for contempt of court in Britain and even more recently released on bail for retrial, the call of fascists when not in power or in position of strong dominance is always for “free speech”. Once dominance is achieved, the fascist call for “free speech” changes to slogans such as ending freedom of speech if it is considered “unpatriotic”, advocating “race-mixing” or “moral degeneracy” and, of course “communist propaganda”. When in power they enforce the elimination of what they consider undesirable free speech, including criticism of policies or leadership even from within their own ranks. When in a dominant position in a country, region or area, fascists enforce their control of “free speech” through terror attacks on their opposition or target communities, with or without collusion with the State, military or local police force. When fascists have state control, they limit free speech through laws, court and prison, in addition to extra-legal fascist attacks and assassination squads.1

Fascists seek to establish a safe “beach head” upon which to build and from which to extend. If successful, they attract more and more followers, while they intimidate their opposition and their targets. But in failure, as when driven off the street, their opposition and targets grow in confidence and the fascist organisations usually disintegrate in internal struggles between cliques and denunciations of their unsuccessful leaders.

That is the well-documented history of fascism which the fascists try to conceal while weak but in which they glorify when in power. Unfortunately, liberals, whose bodies exist in the real world but whose ideology lives in a world of make-believe, unknowingly collude with this trajectory. Again and again they insist that the fascists and racists which they abhor must be given freedom of speech and even accuse the anti-fascists of a kind of fascist authoritarianism.

When liberals do turn to wanting to control the freedom of fascists to organise, as some do at some stages, they always appeal to the State to carry out that task for them. Sometimes, according to its interests at the time, the State will oblige, with measures sometimes including a wholesale banning2 but will often simultaneously ban progressive resistance movements.  More often it will oblige liberals by fines or short prison sentences on fascists or by anti-racist or anti-”hate” legislation. And often, fascists attempt to turn these too to their advantage, projecting themselves as martyrs of “free speech”.

The only effective remedy is that anywhere and everywhere, fascists are denied free speech – not by the State (whose capitalist interests are anti-socialist and will often recognise the usefulness of fascists) but by the alliance of anti-fascist interests: ethnic minorities, LBGT groups, communists, women, trade unions. This thesis has emerged out of an ideological battle that has been largely won decades ago among the Left and Republican movement in Ireland but which the general Left at times fails to put into practice – had it been left to them, Pegida’s attempted Dublin launch would not have been quite the ignominious defeat it was.

In this context the stand of the “Resist Patriot Prayer” march must be applauded. Their Facebook event description included the following sentence: “We make no apologies for the use of force in keeping our communities safe from the scourge of right-wing violence.”


End.

LINKS

Oregon, Oakland events, report by PBSO News Hour: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/portland-police-city-officials-prepare-for-right-wing-rally-and-counter-protest

and Associated Press in ABC7 News: http://abc7.com/politics/heavy-police-presence-as-right-wing-rally-begins-in-portland/3883335/

Rebel Breeze report on failed Pegida launch in Dublin: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/pegida-planned-launch-ends-in-sinking-survivors-take-to-lifeboats/).

Attempted coordination of Fascist movement from USA across Europe: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/29/tommy-robinson-far-right-resurgence-steve-bannon-us-support

 

FOOTNOTES

1 Fascist movements and states are often plagued by splits, attempted coups and conspiracies. In June 1934, the Nazi SS and Gestapo attacked their former allies, the Nazi SA (Brownshirts), wiping out the leadership and dispersing the organisation in the event often called “The Night of the Long Knives”. They also wiped out a number of conservative anti-nazis. The death-toll has been widely debated, some estimates placing it between 700 and 1,000.

2  As by the British state of the British Union of Fascists during WWII, while their leader Oswald Mosely was placed under house arrest in a comfortable country house and land (or by De Valera of the Blueshirt movement in 1930s Irish state). However, less than a decade earlier in 1936, at the Battle of Cable Street when anti-fascists defeated the Blackshirts’ attempted invasion of London’s East End, the primary force fighting the anti-fascist resistance was 7,000 foot police and all the mounted police in London.

THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN REVOLUTION

Diarmuid Breatnach

          Most people here in Ireland and probably in large parts of the world, don’t believe in revolution, i.e in the act of overthrowing the social class in control. It’s not so much that they are against it, although a minority might fear the consequences or others might think that whatever gains they’d make would be transitory; it’s that they don’t believe it’s possible. Or they think it might be but in some distant future.

 

This is not surprising because if they did, if the mass of ‘ordinary’ people believed that a revolution was not only necessary but possible, it would already be occurring or at least well on the way.

What is surprising is that so many revolutionaries, or individuals, parties and organisations who think of themselves as revolutionary, or who would, if pressed, claim that they were – they don’t believe in it either!

By that I mean that they don’t see revolution as somewhere down the road, within sight if not necessarily close now, something to be moving towards that could well be reachable within their lifetimes. They might argue that it is not so, that they study revolutionary theory, try to conduct themselves according to revolutionary principles, study revolutionary struggles in history, organise, propagate revolutionary ideas ….. In general, I would not refute those claims but I would still say: They don’t believe in revolution.

And what’s more, that applies equally but in different ways to Irish socialists and to Irish Republicans.

I remember attending a small discussion group once organised by one of the small Irish socialist parties (small are the only kind we have in Ireland) at which the topic being discussed was the H-Blocks campaign. At one point, a prominent member of the organisation declared that the Republicans believe in armed struggle and that their party did not believe in that. Of course I pointed out Lenin’s position on this and the person backtracked but still …..

That was but a small indication of the general malaise but significant all the same. Both socialists and Republicans declare that they are not merely for reform but for the overthrow of the Irish native and colonial ruling classes. Objectively they would acknowledge that this endeavour would require an enormous effort and sacrifice. They would also concede that the ruling classes would not go quietly and, if pressed, would admit (some more readily than others), that the ruling class would resort to imprisonment, repressive legislation and, ultimately, armed power in order to prevent their overthrow.

If they believed the above and also believed a revolution was not only necessary but possible, they’d be preparing for that – but they are not.

Clearly an understanding of the theory of class, history, economics, culture etc. are all necessary. Principles of personal conduct and of organisation are very important too. But the application of principles of revolutionary organisation, the organisational preparedness for conflict and repression, the bringing of the objective into view as attainable – where is that? In the socialist camp, it is generally nowhere to be seen. In the Republican camp, it is visible only in very limited and restricted forms.

 

ORGANISATION

          Socialists accept on a theoretical level that the revolutionary organisation of at least a large section of the working class is necessary in order to achieve a socialist revolution. Many Republicans would probably agree. But the overall practice of both camps is in clear contradiction to that principle.

We can see that clearly if we investigate a little how the working class needs to be organised as a fighting movement in which a large section can become revolutionised, conscious of itself as the leading class of the revolution and not only preparing for but engaging in struggle to that end.

Clearly, an actual mass workers’ organisation is required, a mass organisation based on workplaces, industries, communities where workers live. For the moment, I don’t wish to discuss whether that mass organisation be a party, a movement, a trade union, or a federation of collectives — nor do I think it necessary to specify type in order to develop the point I am making.

OK, so what are the Republicans or socialists doing to achieve that mass organisation of the working class?

In Ireland the most readily-understood and ready-to-hand mass organisations for workers are the trade unions. They are led for the most part by bureaucrats from the top down to shop steward and often even there, the dominant societal ideology is some level of reformist social democracy, the higher leadership is dominated by careerists and opportunists, often linked to a political party of the capitalist system and, as if that weren’t enough, all those tendencies brought them into two decades of formal social partnership (sic) with State and Employers which totally atrophied whatever fighting muscle they may once have had.

Yes, all that. And even so, it is the place to begin.

On the whole, except for some exceptional individuals and perhaps some very short historical periods, Irish Republicans have not bothered with trade unions. Certainly, the Republican movement as a whole has not considered it an important area of struggle for the movement.

Socialists, on the other hand, have generally rated the importance of struggle in the trade union movement very highly. They have participated in elections to become shop stewards, organised industrial resistance action, at times combined to try to elect more militant higher officials, produced leaflets for and about workers’ struggles, sold papers on picket lines and brought speakers from strikes to speak at public meetings. But all those efforts have not produced a revolutionary or even a militant workers’ movement.

A shop steward represents the members who elected her and, her personality apart, they will have a range of views about her political ideology. A more militant trade union higher official may push for more militant action with more or less success – or may increasingly become part of the problem. Some workers may find an interest in some of the ideas expressed in newspapers of the Left and may or may not join this or that party. None of that is organising a worker’s mass movement.

How about then, organising a broad worker’s movement, across many different workplaces?

Now, that has actually been done. Such organisations have been given titles like “Broad Left” or “Grassroots”. And in terms of building a workers’ organisation, they were a colossal failure, the experience of them probably enough to put most workers off socialist politics for a long time, if not forever. The main reason for their failure is that various socialist organisations or parties used them as forums to fight for the dominance within the broader organisation of their party, their organisation, over others.

In one kind of work or large organisation, one of those parties became dominant while another party claimed dominance in another. Sometimes control of one “grassroots” union organisation shifted backwards and forwards, year after year, between different political Left parties as the latter’s fortunes waxed and waned, as they suffered splits, as they formed different alliances.

Pickets outside the Dublin depot of the Greyhound waste collection company in a 14-week dispute in 2014. Community and political activists organised support but there was no workers’ grassroots movement do the same.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Still, it does seem to me, as one who has been a worker in both the manual and what might be called the clerical types of work, as a revolutionary and active trade unionist, that the grassroots model is the one to follow, in order to create the nucleus for the mass workers’ movement. It needs to be based not in one union, not organised around electing different officials (though it may do that from time), certainly not around parliamentary electoral politics in general and not to be the fief or plaything of any political party or parties of the Left. It needs to be based in general on active resistance, on struggle, on solidarity across unions, across workplaces and across industries. It can develop participative democratic forms of membership and representation, its own mass media and in time, cultural and education groups, mutual aid etc, extending into the whole life of the working class.

But who is undertaking that work? Nobody.

REPRESSION & UPRISING

          Moving on to another area of preparation for revolution, if we accept that the revolutionary path necessarily incurs repression from the class (or classes) that we seek to overthrow, then we’d need to know something about street fighting, about being interrogated in detention, and prison life, right? At least here we find quite a few Republicans nodding in agreement. But the socialists? Blank looks from them.

Deviating from the rich literature on the Irish Republican jail experience, this is about the prison struggles of John Barker, an English political prisoner jailed with social criminals in British jails in the 1970s. (Image source: Internet).

However, not all is well here among the Republicans, either. Not all will be having any kind of training in resisting interrogation and hardly any at all in discussion of theory and practice in street fighting. Due to traditions in particular from the 1970s onwards, prison for Republicans in Ireland usually means segregation from people convicted of social crimes and segregation from other Republicans too, according to organisational membership or alliance. Still, a lot of experience has been accumulated in that kind of environment and extensively written and talked about in the Republican movement. But next to nothing about street fighting, unless we include in that the use of firearms or at least the construction of a Molotov cocktail. The engagements envisaged in that respect are of a hit-and-run nature, skirmishes and small battles ….. and not at all a popular uprising in which extended conflicts will become the rule, at least until revolution occurs or the ruling class, at least temporarily, gains the upper hand.

Two sides of street fighting — the people and the forces of repression — the Battle of the Bogside, Derry 1969. (Image sourced: Internet)

CONCLUSION

          If the areas I have pointed out are crucial areas of revolutionary preparation, we can perhaps agree on some principles:
A revolution in a developed capitalist society is not possible without a mass, militant and socially-politicised workers’ movement.

A revolutionary struggle entails physical confrontation, including large-scale street fighting and must expect repression; therefore revolutionary preparation must include training revolutionaries in conducting the first and resisting the second.

Those who are not undertaking work around those principles above, or at least considering how to do so, no matter how energetic or militant they may be, cannot be said to really believe in revolution; at most they can only see it as some distant thing, which perhaps another generation will undertake, some kind of life after their death.

And if they don’t believe in it, how can they expect others to believe?

End.