GAINS FOR THE HARD RIGHT IN ANDALUSIA – REASON TO PANIC?

Diarmuid Breatnach

Summary: Alarm is being expressed in a number of quarters, especially within the Spanish state’s territory, at the gains made by the hard right in the regional elections in the southern Spanish province of Andalucia. Held on 2nd December this year, a fairly new party, hard-right Vox won seats for the first time – 12 of them. Ciudadanos, another hard-right party which has been around longer, increased their share of the seats by twelve to 21. Should we be afraid? I think not …. we should certainly be alert – but for other reasons.

Vox supporters celebrate their party’s results in Andalusian elections (Photo source: Internet)

NB: This is not a deep analysis but rather a look at some of the circumstances in Andalusia in relation to those of the Spanish state as a whole and in the context of its history and current situation.

On 2nd December, elections were held in the Andalusian region, one of the 17 ‘autonomous communities’ of the Spanish state. At the time, the social-democratic PSOE controlled the regional government but only with the ‘confidence and supply’ support of the very right-wing party Ciudadanos; the latter withdrew their support and the PSOE called a snap election. The extremely right-wing (to use the most neutral description applicable) political party Vox for the first time had some electoral success and took 12 seats.

Vox is opposed to the right to choose abortion and also to equal same-sex marriage, proposing instead a different “civil union” for gay and lesbian couples. Like all the main Spanish political parties (and many smaller ones), Vox upholds the territorial integrity of the Spanish state but unlike most others opposes also the Statute of Autonomy which created regions with a degree of autonomy (which was part of the deal of ‘Transition’ from the Franco dictatorship, mainly to placate the nations within the state’s territory). The party is critical of multi-culturalism and immigration policies in general and regarding Islam in particular.

The election of those 12 Deputies has caused a wave of panic across many left-wing and democratic sectors across the Spanish state and one hears and reads comments that “this is the first time a party of the extreme right has gained seats in the Spanish state since the end of the Franco Dictatorship.” If that is true, it is so only in the perception of those commentators.

NOT ONLY FASCIST DEPUTIES HAVE BEEN ELECTED SINCE FRANCO BUT FASCIST GOVERNMENTS TOO

The fact is that fascism was never defeated in the Spanish state after the Popular Front Government was overthrown by Spanish military-fascist coup, aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, in 1938. For four subsequent decades, there was a fascist dictatorship. After that, there was a fake “Transition”1 in which political groupings directly related to the dictatorship formed political parties and the first two governments (September 1975-July 1976) were of unashamed fascist background followed by two of the UCD (July 1976-December 1982), also of fascist background but wearing the veneer of being ‘centre-right’. One of UCD’s most important movers and shakers was Manuel Fraga, the director of murderous State repression of all antifascist, anti-monarchical and independentist resistance during the “Transition”, his slogan being “The streets are mine”.

The next Government was of the social-democratic PSOE, which swept the board, assisted by a panic about the restoration of a fascist dictatorship, aroused by a somewhat farcical very minor attempt at a military coup, the supporters of which entered the Parliament while it was in session and took it over for a while before they surrendered when it was clear they were out on their own.

The PSOE and its associated trade union, the UGT, had been illegal under Franco. The attempt to rebrand the Spanish State as a “democracy” required a bipartisan social democratic party and also a restraining hand on the illegal trade unions (i.e all that were not fascist). But legalising the PSOE and the UGT would be insufficient if the Communist Party of Spain and its allied trade union, the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) were left out in the cold, where they would certainly cause a lot of trouble. Both parties were anti-monarchist — would they agree to to monarchy being foisted on the public after more than four decades without one? Could they guarantee not to go after any fascists for crimes of torture and murder? Would they support a unionist constitution? Would they control their unions? They could, would and did, even putting up with the murder of union lawyers (PCE/CCOO) and bombing of the UGT headquarters during the ‘Transition’.

The PSOE was in government from December 1982 to May 1986, during which time it ran assassination and terror squads (GAL 1983-1987) against the Basque left-wing pro-independence movement with the aid of high-ranking Spanish military and police officers directing Spanish and foreign fascist mercenaries.

A number of scandals including the one about GAL helped push the social democrats out of government and next in was a new party of the ‘centre-right’. Well, a new name anyway: Partido Popular — its founder was “The-streets-are-mine” Manuel Fraga, leading a split from the UCD. The PP has been consistently alternating in government of the Spanish State with the PSOE ever since: 1996-2004; 2011-2018.

The PSOE got into government of the state again in 2004-2011 and is in once more at the moment, in a minority government, having unseated the PP on a vote of no confidence on a corruption scandal.

THE 2018 ELECTIONS IN ANDALUCIA

The first thing to note perhaps is that the total turnout was under 57% which indicates a high level of disenchantment with the electoral and political system. The PSOE had been in government there for thirty-six years, i.e since the incorporation of the regional government in 1982. What had it delivered for the people in those years? One need only look at the region’s place in the Spanish state’s economic tables – second from bottom.

The election results gave the the PSOE a drop of 7.4% in votes on their last performance and they lost 14 seats. However, with 33 seats they remain the party with the most deputies in the regional Government, with a seven-seat majority over their nearest rival, the Partido Popular and its 26 seats.

Diaz with PSOE party faithful after making statement on the party’s results in Andalusian elections (Photo source: Internet)

The other social-democratic party, a coalition around Podemos, also took a drop: 5.57% in votes and lost three seats.

The combined or total loss of seats to parties of social-democracy was 17 and the sum of their loss of votes was 12.61%.

As it happens, the right-wing Partido Popular also dropped votes and seats, -5.99% and seven respectively.

Ciudadanos, a newer party than the PP but just as hard right, benefitted with 12 additional seats and 8.99% increase in their votes. And then Vox took the remaining 12 seats from a previous zero on only a 10.51 % increase in their percentage of votes (they had stood before but got no deputies elected).

Where did the other votes go? Apart from the 1.8% invalid votes (exactly the percentage drop of voters on the last turnout, curiously), they were spread between 22 other parties or platforms, of which no less than 15 were totally new in elections. Some of those are right-wing but most, going by their titles, seem to represent a band varying from soft to hard Left to Independentist or regional.

In conclusion, the election results show no sudden far-right advance in reality but a newish party of the far right, competing with other far-right parties, took 22 seats it had not had before, while the social democrats, though losing votes, remain in government for the moment.

Some commentators, including many on the Left, have sought to ascribe the rise in the support for Vox as a reaction to insecurity around the fear of the secession of Catalonia from the Spanish state. This is bit rich from often the very commentators who have tried to portray the popular Catalan movement for independence as an elitist movement, motivated by selfishness to keep their wealth and not share it with poor regions like Andalusia.

So we can all relax, we needn’t worry? No, we DO need to worry but not so much for the reason of these election results. We need to worry because of the fascist nature and history of the Spanish ruling class and its State; because fascist groups are on the rise in the Spanish territory; because the Left has real problems in countering fascism and because fascism is on the rise in Europe in general.

The fact is that most of the Spanish Left, from social-democracy to ‘revolutionary’ socialists, are also totally committed to Spanish territorial integrity. That, and their reluctance to mobilise the masses to take decisive firm action against fascist mobilisations and provocations, makes it very hard for the Left to build a mass and effective anti-fascist movement.

ANDALUCIA

Map of Spanish state (yellow) including Canary Islands with Andalusia in red. (Source image: Wikipedia)

The southernmost part of the Spanish state is where to find Andalucia, sharing a land strip with the Rock of Gibraltar; it is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities in the state and its capital is Sevilla (Seville). It is the only European region with coastline on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Parts of the province record the highest temperatures of the state but other parts see quite high rainfall.

The earliest known paintings of humanity have been found in the Caves of Nerja, Málaga.2. The region has been under Phoenician, then Carthagenian control, later under the Visigoths, followed by the Romans and even by the Eastern Roman Empire. For three-and-a-half centuries Andalusia became a Moorish domain from which comes the name (Al Andalus) the region bears today. It was an area of great culture and learning and Christians and Jews were tolerated and protected. The Spanish Christian conquest employed divisions among the Moors, conquered Al Andalus and eventually forced all Muslims and Jews to convert to Christianity or suffer expulsion, allowed only to take the clothes on their backs.

Andalucia in the early-to-mid 20th Century was ruled by a landed aristocracy in a semi-feudal relationship with the mainly rural working population. The region got an early visit from Franco’s military invasion in 1936 and, although there was little armed resistance apart from Malaga and that ill-equipped, an estimated 55,000 were killed deliberately, in executions of thousands of workers and activists of the leftist parties during Franco’s repression3

The region is characterised by a variety of climatic conditions and topography, inhabited by a great biodiversity of flora and fauna, although some of the latter are quite threatened, such as the Iberian Wolf, Iberian Lynx and the Ibex.

Agriculture and husbandry have traditionally been the main products, with olives, citrus fruits, stone fruits, nuts, alongside some other produce in lower percentages; there is also a depleted but active fishing industry. Andalucia is the single largest producer of olive oil with about 40% of the world market. “One-third of Andalucía’s agricultural land is planted with olive trees, and sales of Andalucian olive oil grew a staggering 56 per cent between 2011 and 2015, to a million tonnes, worth 2,000 million euros. Nearly 500 companies export their olive oil from Andalucía, with Britain the fifth-largest market at nearly 100 million euros.

Another world-renowned product from Andalucía which is exported all over the world is jamón ibérico de bellota, gourmet air-cured ham made from Iberian acorn-fed pigs, nothing less than a religion for Andalucians, while sustainably-caught bluefin tuna caught off the coast is frozen and sent to Japan to be served as delectably tender sushi.

In total, one-fifth of all Spanish food and drink exports originate in Andalucía, where the number one area is fruit and vegetables – and tomatoes are the top product”.4

What cause would people in that province have for dissatisfaction that right-wing parties could then exploit? Well, there are no shortage of reasons.

Andalucia is the second-poorest administrative region in the Spanish state. Although unemployment has taken nearly a 4% drop over the previous year, it still stands at an average of 24.4%. Averages conceal other realities and though average male unemployment is almost 3% lower, the female average share is higher than the average by 3.5%. As they age profile drops below twenty-five, the unemployment figures soar to almost 50%.

Table unemployment statistics in Andalucia

Unemployment rate (LFS)

24.4%

28.3%

Male unemployment rate (LFS)

21.6%

25.7%

Female unemployment rate (LFS)

27.9%

31.4%

Unemployment rate less than 25 years

47.9%

57.8%

Unemployment male less than 25 years

48.9%

55.0%

Unemployment rate female less than 25 years

46.6%

61.3%

Unemployed rate over 24 years

22.7%

26.2%

Male unemployment rate over 24 years

19.6%

23.6%

Female unemployment rate over 24 years

26.5%

29.3%

Unemployment rate less than 20 years

66.4%

78.2%

Male unemployment rate less than 20 years

66.8%

76.4%

Female unemployment rate less than 20 years

65.7%

80.5%

(Source: see link for “Unemployment statistics Andalucia)

The situation then in Andalusia may be characterised as one where about every fourth person is unemployed as is every second one under the age of twenty-five. Where paid employment is hard to find, wages are likely to be low, trade union victories harder to achieve and conditions therefore far from the optimum obtainable from the system.

Between 2000–2006 economic growth per annum was 3.72%, one of the highest in the country. Still, according to the Spanish Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE), the GDP per capita of Andalusia (€17,401; 2006) remains the second lowest in Spain, with only Extremadura lagging behind.” (Wiki)

Traditionally a region known for agriculture and husbandry, these sectors are now the lowest contributors to GDP in Andalusia. Construction for the tourist industry siphoned off many workers but the collapse of the construction boom left most of those workers with nowhere to go, much of their old agricultural employment mechanised or replaced with migrant labour. Despite agriculture’s very low position in GDP, 45.74 percent of the Andalusian territory is cultivated. That does not mean that those areas are efficiently5 cultivated however and one of the activities for which one Andalusian trade union movement6 has become known is the occupation of agricultural land which is not being adequately or at all maintained, due to absentee owners or land held by banks but not in production.

The large landowner past of Andalusia has not changed substantially although the banks and some companies now own much of what belonged to semi-feudal aristocrats. “The agrarian census of 1982 found that 50.9 percent of the country’s farmland was held in properties of 200 or more hectares, although farms of this size made up only 1.1 percent of the country’s 2.3 million farms. At the other end of the scale, the census showed that 61.8 percent of Spain’s farms had fewer than 5 hectares of land. These farms accounted for 5.2 percent of the country’s farmland.”7

In May of this year the trade union SAT (Andalusian Union of Workers) published a denunciation of a new Land Law proposed by the PSOE in which they also pointed to some structural problems and their impact on the working people of the region8.

The most recent act of savagery is the new Land Law that they (PSOE) intend to approve, to finish hanging any dream of Agrarian Reform for our working people of Andalusia. Andalusia is not understood without the struggle for land, and this is more recent than it seems, much more real and topical than we would like.

The concentration of land ownership is a problem that annihilates our people, currently in Andalusia, 2% of the owners have more than 50% of the arable land, and the worst is that this figure is increasing.

If we go to Jaén, this figure is even more scandalous, because 4% have 66%, and much of it without giving a job, as is the case of Cortijo del Aguardentero, our Cerro Libertad, one of more than 150 farms, the majority underutilized by the BBVA9 in the Jaén de Piedras Lunares and Olivares de Miguel Hernández areas.

These figures contrast with the alarming fact that in Andalusia every three days a worker dies, or that more than 60% of Andalusian employees earn less than € 1,000 per month. Also alarming are the number of marginalizations, risk of poverty and lack of school resources, all at more than 40%.

There are laws that can put an end to all this, but there is no political will in a government that is more a plug-in factory than a socialist party, which only seeks to perpetuate itself in power, being supporters of corrupt banks, all at the cost of death of our land.

There are alternatives:

1 ° Repeal of this Land Law proposal.

2 ° Implementation of Law 8/1984 of Agrarian Reform of the Statute of Autonomy of the Junta de Andalucía on farms that can be clearly improved.

3 ° The land has to fulfill a social function, for the human and sustainable development of Andalusia.

4th Comprehensive Agrarian Reform, which allows the Usufruct and Land work in Andalusia. Work in the labor force, in the sowing and harvesting, in the primary sector. We do not want property, which must be of a public entity, we want to work and live in peace.

5th Creation of productive, industrial and agro-sustainable Andalusian fabric, generating employment in the transformation and packaging of the product collected.

6 ° Domestic consumption and export of the sown, harvested and agro-transformed product, giving employment and work in the tertiary sector, services.

This would suppose a Revolution of our earth, a valorization of what we were, of what we are and what we want to be: A FREE PEOPLE WITH FREE PEOPLE.

This is possible, but political will is needed, and for that, and more importantly, we need the human will to mobilize, as we are defending with our sweat and our lives El Humoso in Marinaleda, Somonte in Córdoba and Cerro Libertad in Jaén10.

Challenge to the Andalusian society to face with arguments and mobilization the nonsense and unreason of the government of the PSOE of the Junta de Andalucía.

We announce mobilizations this summer for this, and we call for you to join.

Andalusians and Andalusians, get up, ask for land and freedom.”

And then, on top of capitalist exploitation and mismanagement, there is corruption. “A recent probe revealed the extent to which PSOE officials exploited their power in the region of Andalusia, where the party has governed without interruption since the return to democracy. Two former regional presidents, Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán, are currently on trial for their alleged part in a scam that included fraudulent early retirement packages, company subsidies and commissions handed out to the tune of €136 million.11

CONCLUSION

There was no huge swing to the hard right although considering how the social-democrats had abused the votes the people gave them, it would not have surprising if there had been (and there still might be).

Despite their appalling record, the PSOE got 33 seats, the party with the most in the regional Government. That is worth thinking about – despite the crap the working people of Andalusia have had to put up with from the PSOE, they still gave most of their votes to the social democrats. Since this cannot logically — on the performance of the party for the people – be as a result of great affection for the PSOE, it seems likely to indicate at least a dislike or fear of the right-wing parties.

What actually happened is that in a regional election in an impoverished region, on a low turnout and with many candidates; within a state where fascism was never overthrown, with huge legal and illegal repression, with the Partido Popular — a part of the Franco heritage — regularly in government and other right-wing parties snapping at its heels, where social democracy and the established communist party colluded most shamefully with fascism and an imposed monarchy, where the history of the Anti-Fascist War is not taught: a new version of the bedrock Right in Spanish politics won seats in a regional government which it had never won before.

That is what happened. But that is far from being the first time the hard Right won seats in the Spanish state – it has done so regularly in all elections outside parts of the Basque and Catalan countries and has regularly been in government.

Those on the Left who are now wailing about Vox’s success have been and are upholding the myth of Spanish democratic politics since the Transition. They are colluding in the decades of suppression of the Basque and Catalan national movements and the propaganda against them. And many of them have marched with the Right – including fascists – in demonstrations in support of permanent Spanish union, against ‘terrorism’, etc.

Those on the Right who are complaining about Vox are being disingenuous too: they marched with Vox and other fascists for a ‘stronger Spain’ and against the independence of the nations; they saw the fascist salutes and emblems and heard the fascist slogans (whether they joined in with those or not). They were happy to have Vox take out prosecutions against Catalan independence activists and politicians.

NEVERTHELESS, WE SHOULD BE WORRIED. Because generally throughout the Spanish state, the fascists are mobilising on the streets. The fascists are particularly worried by the independentist movements in Catalonia and in the southern Basque Country as well as by proposals to demolish the shrine to Franco and Riveras12 and to remove their remains to a common graveyard. The fascists have strong links with the Spanish police and armed forces and the latter have shown themselves particularly tolerant of the behaviour of fascists on the streets. And in preparation for the repression of the working class in economically austere times to come, fascists have been mobilising throughout Europe with state laws and procedures becoming more repressive. Migrants are being targeted both for extra exploitation and for attack by word and action. We need to do more than worry – we need to mobilise and find ways to unite in effective action.

End.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Parties standing for election in December 2018 and their share of votes and number of elected deputies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Andalusian_regional_election#Results

Political parties in government in Spanish state since the Franco Dictatorship https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Prime_Ministers_of_Spain

Vox political party: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vox_(Spanish_political_party)

Unemployment statistics Andalusia:

https://countryeconomy.com/labour-force-survey/spain-autonomous-communities/andalusia

Andalusia, political and history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andalusia

http://www.andalucia.com/spain/government/politicalparties.htm

http://www.andalucia.com/history/civilwarandalucia.htm

Andalusia production: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/spain/ultimate-andalucia/andalucia-food-and-drink/

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

SAT (Andalusian Union of Workers): http://sindicatoandaluz.info/

Corruption in Andalusia: https://www.politico.eu/article/spain-corruption-country-of-thieves-high-court-trial/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/10770712/Spain-investigates-1.5bn-embezzlement-of-EU-funds.html

FOOTNOTES

1All the fascist police commanders, senior armed forces officers, judiciary, lawyers, clergy, senior civil service administrators and academics retained their positions. All the business men and media barons continued and kept whatever plunder they had managed to appropriate during the war and after.

3Executions: “ …. in the city of Cordoba 4,000; in the city of Granada 5,000; in the city of Seville 3,028; and in the city of Huelva 2,000 killed and 2,500 disappeared. The city of Málaga, occupied by the Nationalists in February 1937 following the Battle of Málaga experienced one of the harshest repressions following Francoist victory with an estimated total of 17,000 people summarily executed” (Wiki).

5To be confused with “intensively” which usually implies large-scale monoculture, chemical fertilizers and chemical sprays of fungicides, pesticides and insecticides, along with very advanced mechanisation.

6Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (SAT, ‘Andalusian Union of Workers).

9 Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, the second-largest bank in the Spanish state.

10Lands occupied and worked by SAT supporters

11See Corruption in Andalusia links

12Valle de los Caídos, a park built in part by political prisoner labour, containing a mausoleum for Franco and Rivera’s remains, a site of frequent fascist demonstrations in homage to the memory of both men.

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AGAINST INTERNMENT AND SPECIAL COURTS!

Clive Sulish

 

Tens of protesters against undemocratic state repression through internment and special courts gathered at the Wolfe Tone Monument in Dublin’s Stephen Green on Saturday before proceeding through the park to the Irish state’s Department of Justice building at 94 Stephen’s Green.

 

The sun shone weakly through at times on bare branches of deciduous trees and their autumn leaves, along with the dark green of the evergreen foliage of holly tree and invasive bay cherry.

Wolfe Tone Monument by Edward Delaney (d.2009) at an entrance to Stephen’s Green (image sourced: Internet)

The Wolfe Tone Monument stands in the approximate location of the Irish Citizen Army’s trenches in 1916, fired on by British soldiers with machine guns who had occupied the Shelbourne Hotel opposite, killing one of the Volunteers below. The statue had been blown up by British Loyalists in the 1970s and some of the surviving remnant had been added to in order to rebuild the statue (a fact generally not known or conveniently forgotten).

As is invariably the experience of Irish Republicans, they were under surveillance by some Gardaí in plain clothes and also from a marked police car. Some of the participants were also harassed by them and required to supply their names and addresses.

One of the placards held by protesters across the road from the Department of Justice. (Source image: Abolish the Special Courts campaign FB page)

The event, jointly organised by two fairly recent organisations on the Irish Republican scene, the Abolish the Special Courts campaign and the Irish Socialist Republicans organisation, was supported mostly by Irish Republicans, some independents and some belonging to a number of Irish Republican organisations other than the organisers: activists from the Irish Republican Prisoner and Welfare Association, Saoradh and the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee were also in attendance.

View of a section of the protesters in front of the Department of Justice with Stephen’s Green in the background (Source image: Abolish the Special Courts campaign FB page)

With their banners and placards the protesters stood on the median strip in the road opposite the Department of Justice, passing pedestrians and drivers slowing down to read the texts displayed, some drivers tooting their horns in support. Some, apparently visitors, took photos or video footage.

Later, supporters of the protest crossed the road to the pavement outside the Green to hear speakers. Ger Devereux of the Abolish the Special Courts thanked people for attending and introduced Brian Kenna from Saoradh to speak.

 

“NOT CONVICTED FOR ANY CRIME BUT FOR BEING …. IRISH REPUBLICANS”

Kenna gave a detailed and comprehensive account of how the Offences Against the State Act has facilitated the imprisoning of Irish Republicans not for any crime they have committed but for being just who they are – Irish Republicans. Observing that half those Republicans in jail in the Irish state are serving time on conviction of allegedly “being a member of an illegal organisation”, the speaker emphasised that the only ‘evidence’ necessary for the Department of Public Prosecutions to secure such a conviction under the Offences Against the State Act is the word of a Garda at the rank of Superintendent or above, along with some vague additional ‘evidence’ that could mean lots of different things.

Brian Kenna speaking to protesters on behalf of Saoradh organisation, across the road from the Department of Justice. (Source image: Abolish the Special Courts campaign FB page)

Brian Kenna warned that not only scheduled offences1 can be tried in the Special Criminal Courts as of now but should the DPP wish it, also other minor offences such as allegedly criminal damage or against public order and he believed that except for the existence of a few factors, including the presence of an MP among the accused, the Jobstown water-protesters would have been tried in the Special Courts, where convictions are the almost automatic result. Kenna called on all people to stand up against these undemocratic laws.

Devereaux then introduced Mandy Duffy, national Chairperson of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.

One section of the protesters listening to speakers, Mandy Duffy, Chairperson of the IRPWA in the foreground. (Source image: Abolish the Special Courts campaign FB page)

“HUMILIATION, VIOLENCE AND ISOLATION”

Mandy Duffy spoke about the conditions under which Irish Republicans are being held in a number of prisons in Ireland on both sides of the Border. In Maghaberry in particular, which Duffy said was much more modern than Portlaoise (in the Irish state), Republican prisoners are guarded by a prison staff recruited from among Loyalists2, who hate Irish Republicans and are determined not only to keep them in jail but to make them suffer while they are there.

Duffy focused on the practice of continually strip-searching prisoners every time they are taken from the prison or returned as one of humiliation and of violence when the prisoner is non-compliant.3 The speaker also referred to unreasonable and additional punishments such as keeping prisoners in isolation.

A banner and two placards in front of the Department of Justice. (Source image: Abolish the Special Courts campaign FB page)

Mandy Duffy concluded by calling for solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners and in thanking those present for giving her their attention.

Devereux then called on Diarmuid Breatnach to speak on behalf of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee.

 

“WE STAND TOGETHER OR WE GO TO JAIL SEPARATELY”

Diarmuid Breatnach addressing the protesters across from the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee. (Image source: Abolish the Special Courts campaign FB page)

Diarmuid Breatnach began in Irish by thanking the organisers for the invitation to speak which he then repeated in English. Breatnach said that their Committee held pickets around Dublin mostly on a monthly basis and did so in order to raise awareness on the ground, among the public, that internment without trial continues in Ireland long after it was allegedly terminated by the British in the mid-1970s. He also reminded the protesters that people had resisted internment and protested it in Ireland and in many places around the world, including in Britain. In the Six Counties the Ballymurphy Massacre had been inflicted on people protesting internment in 1971 and again in 1972, the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Derry.

Stating that internment is essentially jailing people without a trial, Diarmuid Breatnach stated that returning a former Republican prisoner who is at liberty under licence to jail without any trial, as has happened for example to Tony Taylor, is effectively internment, albeit of a different kind. Refusing a Republican bail for no good reason when on a charge awaiting trial, which might take up to two years, is also internment of a different kind, the speaker said, stating that the only justifiable reasons for opposing bail are supposed to be a likelihood of the offence being repeated or the charged person absconding, for both of which credible evidence should be produced. Breatnach also drew attention to the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights which castigated Turkey for their two years of preventive detention (or refusal of bail) of a Kurdish Member of the Turkish Parliament while awaiting trial, on the principle that the period of detention was unreasonably long and was being done deliberately for political reasons.

A small section of protesters across the road from the Department of Justice. (Source image: Abolish the Special Courts campaign FB page)

The speaker also referred to the unreasonable bail conditions when bail was granted, which included non-attendance at political demonstrations, pickets and meetings which, he said, made it clear what the whole intention of the repression was about.

Breatnach reiterated what an earlier speaker had said about the potential of these forms of repression being used against a wider section of opposition to the State and referred to recent arrests of Republicans who had allegedly mobilised against the launch of the fascist group Pegida in 2012. The speaker urged unity across the board against State repression because they either stood together now or later would “go to jail separately”.

Devereaux thanked the participants and encouraged them to keep in touch with the Abolish the Special Courts campaign and the street meeting broke up into informal groups as people began to collect placards, banners, etc getting ready to disperse.

End.

Another small section of the protesters with the Department of Justice in the background. (Source image: Abolish the Special Courts campaign FB page)

 

 

LINKS:

Dublin Anti-Internment Committee: https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743/

Abolish the Special Courts campaign: https://www.facebook.com/Abolish-The-Special-Courts-208341809705138/?

Socialist Republicans are a part of Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland:  https://www.facebook.com/AIAIreland2/

FOOTNOTES

1In Ireland this normally means ‘crimes’ which are associated by the State with subversive intent (source: http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/justice/courts_system/special_criminal_court.html)

2The term “Loyalist” in an Irish context and especially in the occupied Six Counties means “British Loyalists” usually understood not only as those who support the Union with England but as those who do militantly and with bigoted hatred of Catholics (in particular Irish Catholics or people from that community who might well be atheists).

3There is a graphic and accurate depiction of this practice employed on non-compliant Irish Republicans on the “Dirty Protest” in the Steve McQueen film “Hunger” (2008). In the film, the prisoners were nearly naked already but in more ‘normal’ prison conditions, the practice also involved removing the prisoner’s clothes – by force if he or she is non-compliant.

WHAT ARE WORDS? “MILITANT” AND “DISSIDENT”

Diarmuid Breatnach

Recently someone objected to my use of the word “militant” to describe a movement with which I am in solidarity, saying that the word implied “violent”. My initial reaction was that I disagreed.

          I understand “militant” to mean “determined, assertive, courageous, not awed by confrontation” and that one could even be a “militant pacifist”.

But I decided to look up some dictionary definitions online. The first two or three did indeed include violence as a possibility but not necessarily integral. Another two came closer to my way of thinking:
“aggressively active (as in a cause) : COMBATIVE “(Miriam-Webster).

You use militant to describe people who believe in something very strongly and are active in trying to bring about political or social change, often in extreme ways that other people find unacceptable.
Militant mineworkers in the Ukraine have voted for a one-day stoppage next month.
…one of the most active militant groups.
Collins Dictionary.

The meaning of words shifts from language to language, culture to culture and across time. One of the most obvious and startling examples of this is the word “gay”, up to the 1970s probably understood in English by most people as meaning “happy, light-hearted” etc but now, the first interpretation in the English-speaking world would be “homosexual” (in a non-pejorative way).

Tramp” was a verb in the 19th Century to the extent that a famous marching song of the Union Army in the American Civil War was known as “Tramp, tramp, tramp”1. By the 20th Century its use as a verb was in decline but it was becoming better known as a noun, the meaning of which was understood variously as “vagrant” or even “beggar”.

And one could fill volumes with similar examples, I am sure.

“MILITANT”

          But returning to “militant”, was I the only one who understood its meaning in the way that I had? Well, apparently not, as Wikipedia showed, for example in descriptions of “militant trade unionists” and even a political organisation within the British Labour Party before its expulsion, calling its group “Militant Labour” and its newspaper “Militant”, probably drawing a parallel with those very same trade unionists2.

It would not take much pondering to guess that “militant” had some relation to “military” and apparently the word does indeed have such an origin, from Latin “miles”, ‘a soldier.3 But over the years, as with many other words, its meaning has changed.

But apparently, violence is again becoming associated with the word, more so than in the second half of the 20th Century. How did this happen? I am not sure but it appears to have been a spin-off from the more recent imperialist wars of, in particular, the United States. It seems that organisations resisting USA control or dominance in the Middle East, most of which were Muslim in religion, began to be termed “militant” in US and western reporting. Why this became so seems hard to fathom – it was not a word that these organisations applied to themselves — but it has had that spinoff effect on the word “militant”, so that “militant trade unionists” and “militant feminists”, for example, are now likely to be associated with violence, i.e the use of physical force.

How loaded and partisan usage of the word can become is well illustrated in the definition supplied by the Oxford living Dictionary: Favouring confrontational or violent methods in support of a political or social cause.
the army are in conflict with militant groups’.

The example given is very interesting. Conflict requires, one supposes, at least two parties and both sides are listed in that quoted phrase. But the impression given is one where “the army” is an authoritative, legitimate force which is being opposed by groups that are none of those things. One almost feels that the source of “the conflict” is the “militant groups” (especially with the current loading of ‘violence’ into definition of the word “militant”).

The ‘army’ is an armed organisation at the very least latently violent (training with deadly weapons) and in this context, almost certainly practicing violence by invasion. Yet it is portrayed as somehow neutral and the opposition as violent. This is further accentuated when the army and armed police are termed “security forces”. How could one be against security? Don’t we all want to be secure? Obviously quite a lot of people don’t want whatever security is being offered by these military and militarised forces and the question of “security for whom?” is hardly ever explored in such discourse, leaving us with the impression that the good guys are the army and police, deserving of our support, while whoever opposes them must be bad and we should line up against them.

As the meaning of words shifts, we have to decide whether to stick with the meaning we had and insist on its primacy, or to adapt and move with it. Up until the 1960s it was generally considered ill-mannered among white and black people to refer to people of noticeable African descent as “black” or as “negro” and Martin Luther King’s campaigning organisation was called the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Back earlier, in the 18th and early 20th centuries, “negro” would have been acceptable to most. Nowadays, “coloured” or “negro” would generally be considered either offensive or ignorant and “black” is the word, unless one is to use the Africa-derived word, e.g Afro-American, Afro-Caribbean, etc.

And in a strange reversal, whether in self-mockery or appropriation, many Afro-Americans began in the 1970s and 80s describing themselves with the word “nigger”, a word long associated with racism4.

DISSIDENTS”

          Leaving those examples and dealing with Ireland, a number of organisations advocating Irish independence and unity and denying the legitimacy of the administrations of either side of the partition Border, would happily term themselves and one another “Irish Republicans”. That term came first to exclude the supporters of the Irish Free State, who waged a Civil War against those who would not accept the British terms, including Partition, of the 1921 Treaty. Not much over a decade later, it excluded also the Fianna Fáil party, which had split from Sinn Féin, got elected into government and at different times interned Republicans without trial, executed some and passed emergency-type legislation against them.

Subsequent splits in later years were still all described, along with various versions of the Sinn Féin party, as “Irish Republicans”. After the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by what had been Provisional Sinn Féin and they subsequently became part of the administration of the British colony of the Six Counties, all those Irish Republicans who did not agree with them on that came to be called “dissidents” in the media and in much political discourse.

Those who are called “dissidents” however did not, for the most part, agree with the term. As far as they are concerned, they are sticking to the “official line” or at least the original one and it is the Provisional Sinn Féin (which now terms itself just Sinn Féin) which has diverged from the line and furthermore, departed from the ranks of Irish Republicans.

Let’s do a trawl for definitions similar to what I did with “militant” but this time for “dissident”.

Wiktionary:A person who formally opposes the current political structure, the political group in power, the policies of the political group in power, or current laws.

(Christianity) One who disagrees or dissents; one who separates from the established religion.”

Mirriam-Webster:disagreeing especially with an established religious or political system, organization, or belief

dissident elements in the armed forces”.

Collins:people who disagree with and criticize their government, especially because it is undemocratic.

Dissident people disagree with or criticize their government or a powerful organization they belong to”

Oxford:A person who opposes official policy, especially that of an authoritarian state.

a dissident who had been jailed by a military regime’”.

And one I hadn’t used before, but which caught my eye, Vocabulary.com: If you are a dissident, you are a person who is rebelling against a government. Dissidents can do their work peacefully or with violence.

Dissident is closely related to the word, dissent, which means objecting. People who are dissidents show their dissent5. Catholic priests who advocate allowing women into the priesthood could be called dissidents, as could the Puritans who left England to live in colonial America. As an adjective, a dissident member of a group is one who disagrees with the majority of members.”

Since it is not a religious movement, one who separates from the established religion” would seem non-applicable (though when one sees how many Republicans cling to certain practices like non-recognition of the court trying them, or refusal to stand in elections, it is tempting to think of those prohibitions as religious dogma rather than tactics for particular times and place).

Most Irish Republicans would consider themselves as in opposition to the “established (political) order” of the country, i.e Ireland partitioned, with one part run by an anti-Republican Irish ruling class and the other by a colonial ruling class. They would consider the relevant governments as “authoritarian” and “undemocratic”, certainly in their treatment of Irish Republicans by harassment, intimidation, detention, subjecting them to special emergency-type legislation, non-jury courts and prison.

In that sense of “dissident”6, the Sinn Party in its various encarnations has until recently always been a party of dissidents, first against a foreign monarchy subjecting Ireland without an Irish king (the party founded by Arthur Griffiths), then to a Republican party campaigning against British rule (the coalition that was the reformed post-Rising party 1918-1921), after that a party against the Irish Free State Government and the colonial administration of the Six Counties, subsequently a Republican socialist party opposing the same forces, then after a split, a Republican party with similar objectives but supporting an armed resistance to the the British occupation. To that can be added the existence of the Republican Sinn Féin party from a split and at least one other group of similar construction for a time but with more socialist emphasis.

Clearly (formerly Provisional) Sinn Féin can no longer legitimately describe itself as dissident, should it want to, as it is now party to that repressive colonial government to which it was previously vehemently opposed and also now straining to become part of a coalition in government of the Irish state.

Many people who left the SF party did so precisely because they opposed those policies and actions7 and on most terms could legitimately claim to be “dissidents” – if they wished to. Not just dissidents recently within the party but dissidents against the State and British colonialism.

Clearly then descriptions such as rebelling against a government” and disagree with and criticize their government, especially because it is undemocratic” are not going to be the problem and formally opposes the current political structure, the political group in power, the policies of the political group in power, or current laws” seems just tailor-made for Irish Republicans.

The objection to the appellation of “dissident” then must surely be based on either a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word or a concept of some kind of historical Irish Republican authority. If the latter, then the SF party can been seen as having gone against that authority and those Irish Republicans not following the SF path as being the true and loyal followers, faithful to that historical authority. This would be an entirely understandable attitude – but is it helpful? Aren’t the most important things the aims that Irish Republicans have and how they conduct themselves in working towards them, rather than whether they are called “dissidents” or not? After all, there is nothing fundamentally pejorative in the term.

There is no doubt that “dissidents” is a handy catch-all term to describe Republicans who belong to a number of political groups or who are independent activists (the latter of which Ireland and especially Dublin has a great many) but is it conferring some kind of implicit legitimacy on the collaborationist and now constitutionalist Sinn Féin party? And if so, legitimacy in the eyes of whom? Remember how one time there was an “Official Sinn Féin” (and IRA) and the “Provisional Sinn Féin (and IRA) who split from them? It was the latter that went on to gain dominance in the Republican movement while the “Official” organisation split again and shrank to a tiny remnant.

If I were to count myself among the ranks of Irish Republicans8, would I object to the term of “dissident”? I don’t think so.

End.

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

Meaning of “militant”:

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/militant

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/militant

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/militant

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

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/militant

Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tramp!_Tramp!_Tramp!

Meaning of “dissident”:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissident

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dissident

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/dissident

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dissident

https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/dissident

FOOTNOTES

1Coincidentally, the word “gay” is employed in its older sense in the lyrics of the song. A lot of interesting information is contained in the Wikipedia page on this song (see link in Sources and References).

2This was an organisation run by the entryist British Trotskyist organisation which later became the Socialist Party (like its great rival, the Socialist Workers Party, it too has an offshoot in Ireland).

3Through Latin into French and from there into English. However, the word may have been of an older root, possibly Celtic: “ ‘Míle’, word in Irish, meaning ‘a warrior, a champion, a hero’” given p.23 in How the Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy (2007).

4The term is not accepted equally among black people: I recall a black workmate of mine telling me that he had punched another black man who had referred to him as “nigger”.

5Actually, as Wiktionary tells us, it means more correctly “not in agreement” and comes from the Latin word for “to sit apart”

6Lest it be thought that I dissent from this opinion, let me put on record that this is one of the things about which I entirely agree with Irish Republicans. I suspect however that this definition is generally only used by media and mainstream commentators to describe regimes other than the ‘western democracies’.

7Some people had left that party already by that time, some because they perceived its direction and some because they objected to procedures within the party, especially those they considered undemocratic. Others left over time due to decisions to contest elections in the Irish state or to take their seats in the parliaments if elected, or because of rapprochement with the colonial police, over alleged harassment, party promotions or personal reasons.

8“Irish Republican” is a specific political designation and does not describe me, although I am Irish and I do aspire to a Republic of social equality. I am a revolutionary and a socialist as well as being anti-imperialism; I am many other things as well but that will do as a basic platform on which to seek others of like mind. In the course of struggles I do of course join in a front of one or the other of those tendencies but always with an eye to the full objective. Or so I try, at least.

SPANISH FASCISM EXTENDS ITS CLAWS

Diarmuid Breatnach

This weekend fascist activities took place across the Spanish state with some more to follow next week. In Madrid fascists demonstrated on two different occasions, i.e to commemorate the dictator Franco and the founder of the fascist Falange, Primo Rivera. They also demonstrated for the unity of the current Spanish state territory and against any interference in General Franco’s shrine. These demonstrators flew Spanish fascist flags, gave fascist salutes and shouted fascist slogans – all illegal under Spanish law — but the Spanish police stood quietly by. Wait! They did intervene — to remove antifascist Femen demonstrators (see El Nacional photo and NBC video link)!

          The weekend included anti-fascist events also. On Saturday afternoon there was a march organised by Dignidad Antifascista (‘Antifascist Dignity’), with a rally on Sunday at the entrance to the fascist shrine, the Valley of the Fallen, called by the campaign #NiValleNiAlmudena (‘Neither Valley nor Almudena’, i.e that Franco be buried neither in the Valley nor in the Almudena, the largest cemetery in Madrid).

Fascist Spanish-nationalist regalia and fascist salutes during the Primo Rivera homage on Friday evening in Madrid. Much of this is illegal according to Spanish law but, as usual, the police take no action. (Photo source: Internet)

The specific occasion for the fascist (and hence, the anti-fascist) events are the anniversaries of the deaths on 20th November of the dictator Franco (1975) and of Primo Rivera (1936), the founder of the Spanish fascist organisation, the Falange.

The Falange began with their traditional march of homage to Rivera (yes, the fascist Falange have “traditional” public events in the Spanish state), leaving Madrid around 9pm on Friday night to arrive at the Valley on Saturday morning.

Fascist women in the uniform of the Falange during the Primo Rivera homage on Friday evening in Madrid.
(Photo source: Internet)

“The Falange returns to the streets to show that the flag of the Homeland and Social Justice is upheld and is more necessary than ever,” they declared in a statement.

On Saturday, the Madrid Antifascist Coordination held its own anti-fascist traditional march under the slogan of Dignidad Antifascista, changing their route to start from Plaza del Sol to arrive at Plaza de España, apparently because of the location of the neo-Nazi group Hogar Social Madrid (Social Home Madrid) in the former HQ of the Comisiones Obreras trade union (see History of the Spanish State Appendix), Plaza de España (see video in media link).

Illegal fascist salutes but as usual no action from Spanish police on Friday evening in Madrid.
(Photo source: Internet)

On Sunday a number of groups gathered at the entrance to the Valley of the Fallen to call for “the removal of the tombs of Francisco Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the withdrawal of fascist symbols from the Sierra de Madrid, the converting of the site into an anti-fascist memorial and the dismantling of the Cross of the Valley,” according to a statement by the Forum for the Memory (historical) of the Madrid Region in a statement. This action is part of the campaign #NiValleNiAlmudena and it was the thirteenth time that the Forum for (historical) Memory and the Social Forum of the Sierra have demonstrated against the graves of Franco and Primo de Rivera in the Valley of the Fallen.

On the other hand, the Abbey of the Valley of the Fallen organised a praying of the holy rosary also on Sunday, at 10.30a.m in the basilica, “for the hope of youth and family in Spain,” as they do every Sunday (this might seem harmless but these are specifically traditional concerns of fascists, the traditional patriarchal family and a fascist youth movement). Also, the (fascist) Association for the Repeal of the Historical Memory (Law) convened a demonstration at 11.30a.m on Sunday to take place between Callao and the Plaza de Oriente, to hold their traditional act of Franco homage. A Femen group who tried to disrupt this demonstration, stripped to the waist and with anti-fascist statements painted on their upper bodies were violently thrown to the ground by fascists in the crowd and repeatedly kicked and punched while the women shouted defiance. Spanish police removed the anti-fascist Femen demonstrators and took no action against the fascists.

Masses will be celebrated throughout Spain for the soul of the dictator and, in Madrid, a “Legionary Mass” (i.e for a fascist organisation descended from the Spanish Foreign Legion) is scheduled to take place in the church of Santiago on Tuesday the 20th and the same day at 8:00 pm in the parish of San Francisco de Borja on Serrano Street, as reported by the Francisco Franco Foundation on its website, in which they also announced an annual dinner on November 30th somewhere in El Pardo.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

          Is all this just the strutting of some crackpots we don’t need to worry about, as some liberals and social-democrats think? Or the last gasps of a dying creed as some others believe?

Some of the participants may be crackpots and the creed may be expiring but that does not make it less dangerous – the lashings of a dying monster’s tail are capable of killing and maiming many people. And it may not be dying.

Fascism has been part of the Spanish State since the 1930s (see following section) and only underwent an essentially cosmetic transformation (or “Transition”) in the 1970s but now it feels itself threatened by important counter-trends within the state. Chief among these in practical content is undoubtedly the strong grassroots Catalan independentist movement but in symbolic content, the democratic demand that Franco’s tomb be removed and his current resting place ended as a rallying shrine for Spanish fascists (hence the events that took place around it this weekend) is huge.

Symbols are important for all peoples and movements and Franco’s mausoleum at the Valle de Los Caidos is one very important for Spanish fascists. For anti-fascists, it is an abomination, built through the sweat of half-starved and abused political prisoners to the glory of their oppressor, an unknown number of which died doing so.

The bunch of arrows and that double-headed eagle on their version of the Spanish flag are also symbols of Spanish fascism, as is the straight-arm salute. Accordingly, these were made illegal in the Spanish state, not without some resistance but everyone knowing that no action was going to be taken against the actual fascists. And so it has proven. The Spanish fascists march, display their fascists symbols, give their fascist salutes, shout fascist slogans and they are never arrested for doing so.

On the other hand anti-fascists, revolutionaries, independentists are constantly under surveillance, often detained and tortured and from time to time jailed for long sentences, often for comparatively minor offences or actions or words that would not be classed as a criminal act anywhere else in Europe.

But of course, Europe is growing more fascist too, in governments in the East and in the rise of fascist movements across most of Europe. And Spanish fascism will inevitably give encouragement to those movements as well as drawing encouragement from them.

Across the Spanish state there are streets named after fascists and monuments to them and some of the regular events glorifying fascism there were listed earlier. Add to that a section of the national media that is very right-wing and legal organisations that are fascist in all but name and most of the support structures for a fascist state are in place. All, if one adds the military and police.

The main Spanish police forces, the Guardia Civil and the Policía Nacional, have a history of brutality on the street and torture in their police stations. The GC is actually a militarised police force. The military itself has a history of violent suppression of colonial resistance and, according to the Constitution, is the guarantor of the territorial integrity of the State. And that integrity is threatened by the pro-independence movements of Catalonia and of the southern Basque Country.

“Long live the Unity of Spain” slogan on Spanish flag colours at the Primo Rivera homage on Friday evening in Madrid. The Spanish Right and much of the Left share this objective which is opposed by some of the Left and the Catalan and Basque independence movements.
(Photo source: Internet)

The Spanish fascists are not just defending their symbols and history but also the integrity of the State of the whole Spanish ruling class. And fear, dislike or even hate the fascists as they may, many on the Spanish Left find themselves here on the same side as the fascists. Neither the PSOE, nor Podemos, nor the CPE, nor many sections of Izquierda Unida (the misnamed “United Left”) support the independentist movements, whether from “the good of the economy” or from the credo of “the unity of the working class”. And many of them go further, accusing the independentists of being “nazis”, an accusation which is also thrown, hilariously, by the Spanish Right.

This of course makes any genuine resistance to the fascist movement very complicated for large sections of the Spanish Left, i.e those that actually agree with them on one central plank of Spanish fascism – the territorial unity of the Spanish state.

End.

APPENDIX: SHORT HISTORY OF THE MODERN SPANISH STATE

          Like within a number of European states, fascism was the chosen way to go of the majority of the Spanish bourgeoisie, the ruling class, in the 1920s and 1930s. At first this involved military coups and dictatorships but in 1936, a full-blown military-fascist uprising against the elected Government of the state took place, with sections of the Basque and Catalan middle and ruling classes in support. Other sections of Catalan and southern Basque Country society stood by the Republican elected government and fought hard against the military-fascist coup. And the anti-fascists would have won but for the assistance of transport, bombers, weapons and men from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the other European states (apart from the USSR) enforced a “non-interventionist” blockade of the fighting Republic.

The Republic overthrown, there followed a period of intense repression of any form of leftist or democratic ideology as well as of the Basque and Catalan languages and national aspirations and, though the intensity faded in time, the repression was always very much there during the 40 years of the Franco dictatorship (and increased in the Basque Country).

The Franco-fascist repression was not only physical, with imprisonment, torture and executions; was not only against national cultures but also moral and political, intensely patriarchal and pro-fascist and with the very enthusiastic support and at times leadership of the Spanish Catholic Church hierarchy and most of its clergy, monks and nuns, imposed through school and church. And of course the judicial and legal system.

As Franco’s life-term was clearly drawing towards its end, concern began to be raised about his successor and how Spain would be ruled afterwards. These concerns were expressed not only internally but also from abroad, especially by the USA which was building military bases across the state and by the EU, which was concerned to have an ultimately unstable state on its southern flank. Franco had designated Admiral Carrero Blanco as his successor and Juan Carlos, of the Bourbon royal dynasty, to be King. In 1973 ETA, the Basque armed leftist national liberation organisation, assassinated Carrero Blanco in Madrid and a few years later, in 1975, Franco died.

The rush was on now by modernist elements of the Spanish ruling class, in particular advised internally by Opus Dei, to carry the State through this crisis. This was achieved by the legalisation of the banned political parties, the social-democratic PSOE and the Communist Party, which was absolutely necessary for the project since they controlled the two biggest trade unions, the Unión General de Trabajadores and the Comisiones Obreras (these were being legalised too). And Juan Carlos was made king of a country that had been without one for over four decades with the agreement of both those formerly republican parties.

The Basque and Catalan nationalist parties were also legalised but, although the new Constitution being pressed on the people was accepted overall, it was rejected by majority in the Basque Country. The Constitution made secession illegal without a majority in the Spanish Parliament in favour.

And this “Transition” was also accompanied by repression, including even the murder of its union lawyers which the CPE tolerated.

Subsequently the PSOE got elected into Government, replacing the Francoist party but showed itself fit to govern an essentially unreconstructed fascist state by running assassinations squads (“GAL, BVE”) against the Basque independence movement. And of course implementing whatever economic measures required by the Spanish ruling class.

The UGT and Comisiones Obreras are the main trade unions in the Spanish State, the largest in membership everywhere but in Galicia and the Basque Country, with their leaderships generally following the social-democratic lead, colluding with the ruling class, mounting mostly show strikes from time to time but no real resistance. One can expect somewhat more resistance from them when the other main political party, the formerly Francoist Partido Popular, is in government, but as soon as the PSOE is back in, even that dies down.

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

https://www.infolibre.es/noticias/politica/2018/11/16/manifestaciones_muy_distinto_signo_discurriran_por_madrid_este_fin_semana_por_20n_88913_1012.html

https://www.elnacional.cat/es/politica/incidentes-manifestacion-fascista-madrid_325803_102.html

Video of fascist demonstration and disruption by anti-fascists (including violence towards them by fascists and no police action against them): https://www.facebook.com/NBCNews/videos/517780425363019/

Short media report which includes video of anti-fascist demonstration on Saturday in downtown Madrid: https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/11/18/580334/Spain-Antifa-march-on-Madrid-ahead-of-anniversary-of-Francos-death

RECENT HISTORY: DEEP SOUTH & DEEP NORTH

Report by Diarmuid Breatnach

Two very interesting talks were given last night as part of a series of history talks at the Sean O’Casey Community Centre in East Wall, Dublin. The theme was black civil rights in the USA and Catholic civil rights in the Six Counties of Ireland (‘Northern Ireland’ according to some).

Joe Mooney of the East Wall History Society introduced the speakers and chaired the question-and-answer session afterwards.

The session opened at 8pm and Cecilia Hartsell had a lot of ground to cover. She spoke on the history of the Civil Rights movement of blacks in the USA, going through the history of seminal events, illustrated with Powerpoint slides and recordings of two White House phone calls between President JF Kennedy and Ross Barnett, Governor of Mississippi and key figure trying to prevent the historic enrollment of James Meredith, a black man, into the University of Mississippi.

Cecilia Hartsell delivering her talk on the black civil rights movement in the USA

Recalling that in the first two years of his term, JF Kennedy had little to say about black civil rights but was focusing on other issues,Cecilia Hartsell somewhat undermined the (incorrect) image we tend to have in Ireland of Kennedy as an ardent civil rights fighter. In fact he was enforcing Federal legislation on equality and trying to go slowly, while the black campaigners were pushing the agenda along and white racist reaction was holding the USA up to international ridicule and opprobrium during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

When Brian Hanley took the floor for his talk he fairly zipped along, which he does very well. Hanley undermined some myths or wrong impressions too. Early organisers of the civil rights marches and other events such as the Dungannon house occupation were Irish Republicans; Loyalists had killed four people before the first Civil Rights march. The rhetoric of SDLP and Labour Party notables was much more militant in the early years and Fine Gael was agitating more about issues of discrimination in the Six Counties than was Fianna Fáil, the party in government. And FF had been pushing a referendum to do away with the proportional representation electoral system at the same time that the PR system was among the demands of civil rights campaigners in the Six Counties.

Brian Hanley delivering his talk on the civil rights movement in the Six Counties.

In the session for questions, answers and contributions later, Hanley pointed out that the Southern Democratic Party was the pro-slavery party historically and, after the Civil War, anti-integration and civil rights, whereas the Republican Party was anti-slavery (debunking another false image we tend to have in Ireland).

Both historians made the point that a hundred years is not as long as some might think (this is especially true in ‘historical memory’).  The 1940s, when some historians would say, as Hartsell told us, is the date from which to date the renewed fight for black equality in the USA, as surviving black soldiers returned from WWII, was only 80 years from when Federal troops were withdrawn from the former Confederate states.  The partitioning of Ireland had been carried out less than 50 years before the Civil Rights protests broke out in the Six Counties, Hanley reminded his audience and many Catholics still lived who remembered vividly the fierce repression that had accompanied it.

It also emerged that albeit there were many similarities, there were also profound differences between the two movements. The black campaigners in the USA were saying that they were citizens of the USA State and demanding the same rights as other citizens, they often marched with the Stars and Stripes flag and even called for the intervention of US troops to defend their rights. The Catholics marching for civil rights in the Six Counties mostly saw themselves as Irish citizens and would never march with the Union Jack. Some did call for the intervention of British troops but many did not; it was mostly Irish troops they hoped would intervene.

The importance of the presence of news photographers at events and their covering in newspaper reports and on television broadcasts was an important factor in both struggles.

USA soldiers facing unarmed marchers for black civil rights.  (Source: Internet).

Cecilia Hartsell did not feel that the Black Power movement could have survived Southern racist repression in the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s and most of the big gains on desegregation of education, public transport, eateries and voter registration and effective right to vote in the Southern States were won during those years with peaceful marches and pickets and legislation (which however were met by much racist violence, including a number of murders). By the time the Black Power movement was coming on to the political stage, so was the Vietnam War and huge changes were taking place in the US, including many mass violent struggles on race and other issues.

Section of march for civil rights in the Six Counties (Source: Internet).

TERMINOLOGY AND DEEPER MEANING

Wikipedia: “Though often used in history books to refer to the seven states that originally formed the Confederacy, the term “Deep South” did not come into general usage until long after the Civil War ended. Up until that time, “Lower South” was the primary designation for those states. When “Deep South” first began to gain mainstream currency in print in the middle of the 20th century, it applied to the states and areas of Georgia, southern Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, north Louisiana, and East Texas, all historic areas of cotton plantations and slavery. This was the part of the South many considered the “most Southern”.”

Later, the general definition expanded to include all of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and often taking in bordering areas of East Texas and North Florida. In its broadest application today, the Deep South is considered to be “an area roughly coextensive with the old cotton belt from eastern North Carolina through South Carolina west into East Texas, with extensions north and south along the Mississippi”.

Lower South” probably originally referred to its location on the typical north-orientated map of the USA. But I speculate that “Deep” has another meaning – a deeper psychological one, in fact. It suggests that this is a place difficult to understand for people not from there, which means most people. Different rules apply there, we might believe.

I speculate further that after the initial first years of the Civil Rights movement in the Six Counties, that area and the people living in it came to be seen as “different” too. Of course, it was different in that it was a colony (as had the whole country been only 50 years earlier) and that it was run along blatantly sectarian lines, the Catholics a minority there, unlike in the rest of Ireland. And of course, people in a different environment respond differently. But they were still people and the substantial Catholic minority were so clearly oppressed in a statelet into which the Irish ruling class had delivered them. For many people in the 26 Counties it became easier to think of them as somehow foreign in a foreign kind of land, hence my description as “Deep North”.

Cecilia Hartsell and Brian Hanley during the question-and-answer session.

THE SPEAKERS (as posted by EWHG)

Cecelia Hartsell is a researcher of American history. She has been a contributor to the RTE History Show and Radio Kerry on topics in U.S. history and frequently gives U.S. history talks for the Dublin Festival of History and in the Dublin Public Libraries. Cecelia has a Masters degree in U.S. history from Fordham University and a Masters degree in History from UCD.

Brian Hanley is an historian and author. He is currently a Research Fellow at the School of Classics, History and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh . He has lectured at a number of major Irish universities and was Historian in Residence at Dublin City Library and Archives . His books include “A Documentary History of the IRA, 1916-2005” (Dublin, Gill and MacMillan, 2010) with his most recent being “The impact of the Troubles on the Republic of Ireland, 1968-79: boiling volcano?” (Manchester University Press, 2018).

NEXT HISTORY TALK

There will be another talk in the series next week when Dr. Mary Muldowney will present a talk on “The 1918 Election – the Woman Who Stood for a Worker’s Republic.”

SPANISH TV CHANNEL COMPARES CATALAN INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT WITH NAZI POGROM

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

On the anniversary of Kristalnacht, the Spanish TV channel Telecinco showed a program about the Nazi attack on Jewish premises and people on 9-10 November 1938 which, because of the breaking of shop windows and looting, came to be be known by that name, which translates as Broken Glass Night. In showing the program, they inserted shots of Catalan independentist events, drawing a clear parallel between the two.

 

A journalist at a German television channel denounced the Spanish TV station for this and challenged them to explain their actions.

https://www.elnacional.cat/ca/politica/esbroncada-periodista-tele5-senyeres-nazis_323184_102.html

KRISTALLNACHT: NAZI ANTI-SEMITIC GENOCIDAL POGROM

Wikipedia: Estimates of the number of fatalities caused by the pogrom have varied. Early reports estimated that 91 Jews were murdered during the attacks. Modern analysis of German scholarly sources by historians …. puts the number much higher. When deaths from post-arrest maltreatment and subsequent suicides are included, the death toll climbs into the hundreds. Additionally, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.

Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. The rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland, and over 7,000 Jewish businesses were either destroyed or damaged.

SPANISH UNIONISTS CALLING CATALAN INDEPENDENTISTS “NAZIS”

Spanish unionists have often accused the Catalan independentist movement of being Nazi or Fascist. No evidence has ever emerged of the Catalan pro-independence movement being anti-semitic or even right wing. A few years ago the Catalan Parlament, with a pro-independence majority, passed a law to give migrants equal access to health care with Catalan nationals but the Spanish High Court ruled the law illegal. The Parlament passed the law again this year. Giving migrants equal rights in health services hardly sounds typical of fascists.

But logic has nothing to do with this. Nor has history.

In accusing the Catalan movement of being fascist in nature, Spanish unionists not only exhibit their ignorance of the nature of Catalan society and the independence movement, but also their ignorance of the history of the Spanish State.

It is in fact the Spanish unionist forces which have a very close connection with fascism.

It was the military coup and fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War (or more correctly, the Anti-Fascist War) which sought the overthrow of the democratically-elected Popular Front Government and which, in order to succeed, called in the German Nazis and Italian Fascists for military assistance. Catalonia ndependentists were a major component of the anti-fascist alliance but Barcelona eventually fell to the fascist forces and a fascist dictatorship under General Franco followed. After Franco died, the right-wing forces put together a political party to participate in forthcoming ‘democratic’ elections and named it the Partido Popular.

Franco & Hitler reviewing fascist troops in the northern Basque Country during the Iberian Antifascist War
(Image source: Internet)

This party gathered most of the old regime and die-hard fascists into it and is one of the two main political parties of the Spanish state. From December 2011 until it was unseated recently in a no-confidence vote due to corruption scandals, the PP was in Government of the Spanish state. It was that Government that sent Spanish police searching for referendum ballot boxes in September last year and on 1st August 2017 to attack voters with truncheons, boots, fists and rubber bullets. It was the PP Government which charged and jailed without bail Catalan independence activists and began proceedings against hundreds of others including a great many Catalan town mayors, which the current PSOE Government is processing.

The PP has been nearly eliminated electorally in Catalonia but another political party with similar ideology is strong there, also Spanish unionist, criticising the Catalan independence movement at every opportunity and supporting Spanish repression of the movement.

There are also actual openly-fascist organisations in the Spanish state which have representation inside the police and military and which regularly flaunt their banned fascist emblems, salutes and slogans with impunity. As well as being anti-semitic and otherwise racist, Spanish state unity is a central them with these too.

(Source of image: Internet)

All of these elements – along with many Spanish unionists of other political types, such as many in the PSOE – have denied the democratic right to self-determination of the Catalan people and supported fascist-type attacks on their activists and movement.

In summary then, although of course one may – as anywhere else – find some anti-semites and nazi types in Catalan society, even in the independence movement, the greatest number and natural home of this type is to be found in the Spanish unionist movement and its various political parties – the very ones who are accusing the Catalans of being fascists.

But drawing parallels, no matter how irrational, between the Nazi Kristalnacht and the democratic Catalan independence movement is a new low, even for them.

End

 

REFERENCES

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

Short news report on the issue: https://www.elnacional.cat/ca/politica/esbroncada-periodista-tele5-senyeres-nazis_323184_102.html

 

TRUE WORDS FROM A RIGHT-WING EX-MINISTER

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Quite a few pro-Catalan independence people have expressed horror and indignation at the statements of Spanish politician José Manuel García-Margallo in an interview recently. They should instead that be grateful that he spoke much of the truth and dispelled unrealistic illusions about the way forward for Catalonia.

Ex-Foreign Minister of the Spanish State José Garcia-Margallo, photographed recently.
(Photo source: VilaWeb)

Did he threaten the independence movement with violence? Yes and not too subtly. That was no doubt his purpose as well as perhaps reassuring Spanish unionists, whether fascist or otherwise.  But nevertheless, he spoke an important truth.

Spanish ex-Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said that Spain would not withdraw ‘peacefully’ from the Principality. ‘It will not deliver the keys to the dependencies and furl up the flag’, he told ‘El morn de Catalunya Ràdio’. He expressed support for the accusations of ‘rebellion’ against the Government of Puigdemont, President Forcadell, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and the General Secretary of ERC, Marta Rovira. According to him, the unilateral way to achieve independence ‘necessarily’ implies violence.

His statement may be listened to on the link.

https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/audio-lex-ministre-margallo-amenaca-que-lestat-no-es-retirara-mai-pacificament-de-catalunya/?fbclid=IwAR0aUcpJzPkLdVhJ3g-qakPXRrjq36stNhcJ2_TYUteBm0ta2Yys9Wgw_3Y

Margallo was raised in a family with close military relatives, two of which died in the anti-colonial Rif uprising, one of whom was a colonial Governor of a town there. The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs was educated (and presumably brought up in) a part of the occupied Basque Country which must have helped condition him and his early adult life was spent under the Franco dictatorship. His early political career was there too and took shape during the Transition and since.

His statement may be listened to on the link.

http://https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/audio-lex-ministre-margallo-amenaca-que-lestat-no-es-retirara-mai-pacificament-de-catalunya/?fbclid=IwAR0aUcpJzPkLdVhJ3g-qakPXRrjq36stNhcJ2_TYUteBm0ta2Yys9Wgw_3Y

Translation of the transcript of the excerpt below:

-Mónica Terribas: Crime of ‘rebellion’, does it exist there are or not, José Manuel? (DB: one of the charges against the Catalan activists but which requires the use of violence).

-García-Margallo: I think there is a crime of rebellion. I share the theses of Llarena, that is, I believe that what we saw on the streets during the course of the (events outside the) Ministry of Economy was violent. I think that, by definition, unilateral secession can only be achieved by violence. That is, I say that hypothetically this leads to violence. Because? We have discussed it many times and we all agree: the Constitution does not allow secession. Therefore there will be no referendum agreed. Secondly, the Spanish state will not withdraw peacefully, that is, it will not deliver the keys to the dependencies and furl up the flag. So how is the Catalan Republic proclaimed? If it cannot be by agreement and it can not be by unilateral abandonment, then it will have to be by violence. And that necessarily leads to rebellion.”

Margallo’s political party, the Partido Popular is of course a coalition of a number of Franco-fascist organisations, put together to operate in the ‘new’ Spanish state. But the greater truth about the Spanish ruling class is more important than all this.

The Dictatorship ruled as the only face available of the Spanish ruling class – representing “old money”, from the expropriation of the labour power of workers and the plunder of its colonies but also “new money”, appropriated from the losers in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War.

In the 1960s and 1970s the Spanish State began to receive substantial US and other investment, particularly in military form. But the concern of investors was that with the rise of national liberation movements and the upsurge of the youth and student movement around the world, that an unyielding dictatorship would lead to revolution, so pressure began to be applied, although it was understood that attempts at reform after so much repression could also precipitate a revolution. Given the prevailing circumstances within the Spanish state, such a revolution could only be a socialist one.

When General Franco died in November 1975 two years and one month after his chosen successor Admiral Carerro Blanco had been assassinated, the reformers got room to move (internally Opus Dei and externally the US and others, especially the EU or Common Market as it was then). Reform and normalisation of control meant bringing on board of the ship of State two significant political forces with their corresponding large trade unions, illegal until then: the social-democratic PSOE with their UGT trade union and the Marxist CPE with their more militant Comisiones Obreras union. And imposing a Monarchy.

Both those illegal opposition forces agreed, accepted the monarchy and were legalised; then controlled and even sacrificed their own members. They pushed for agreement of the monarchist and unionist Constitution of 1978, in which the majority of a dazed and hopeful population of the state (but not in the Basque Country) voted in favour of it (and which is now being used to illegalise Catalan bids for independence).

Subsequently the PSOE gained an electoral majority and while in government in the 1980s ran assassination squads against the Basques (chiefly GAL and BVE groups, although foreign fascist gunmen were also brought in for individual jobs).

Under alternating governments of the PSOE and of the PP, the State forces regularly used repression, particularly in the Basque Country, including torture of detainees and jailing people on the basis of ‘confessions’ tortured from them and which they repudiated in court. And they dispersed political prisoners throughout the jails of the State, hundreds or thousands of kilometres from their families.

This Spanish State is one that had at one time ruled much of the world and never ceded territory without a fight — with the English, the French, the Dutch, the North Americans; with native resistance and liberation movements from the Canaries to the Caribbean, to America, the Philippines and Africa. As a monarchy and feudal system, it overthrew the Arab colony of generations and expelled Arabs and Jews, brought in the terror of the Inquisition (the worst of all the states that had it), suppressed the rising of the Comuneros and resistance of the Basque and Catalan nations. As a semi-feudal capitalist monarchy, it overthrew a Republic and then raised a military coup with foreign fascist aid to overthrow another.

So this José Manuel García-Margallo is being on the whole brutally honest here and shattering the illusions many people had, especially those of a liberal or social-democratic turn of mind, that somehow Catalonia would win genuine independence without having to fight a Spanish military repression. But they should look on his utterances as doing them a favour, forcing them to look at reality.

In fact, for all that I have recounted about the particular nature of the Spanish State and its history, the more general historic truth is also that NO capitalist state (not to mention an imperialist one) is going to stand by and see itself being dismembered and losing huge chunks of what it considers its territory and economy.

Nations that won true independence had to fight for it. In the last century alone, how did Algiers win independence from the French? How did Kenya in Africa and Aden in the Middle East expel the British occupation forces? How did the Vietnamese expel the French occupation forces and defeat the US aggressors? How were the Nazi and Italian fascist and Japanese invaders of so many countries defeated?

People who hear the truth, no matter how bitter it tastes, should spend no time in bewailing it but instead concentrate on preparation.

End.