HOW TO WIN THE WAR – GETTING INTO POSITION

(Reading time: Introduction, one minute; Part One: 5 mins; Part Two 2 mins: Part Three: 3 mins; Part Four: 2 mins; Total: 13 mins.)

Diarmuid Breatnach

INTRODUCTION:

Although I often think about the big questions – and am generally guided by my philosophy on them, my mind and energy are usually too occupied with specific struggles to focus on them for long. Recently however I had the opportunity and the need to think about the war, the one we have yet to win.

Storming Bastille Painting Jean-Pierre Houel
The Storming of the Bastille (translation), French Revolution, 1789 by Jean-Pierre Houel. (Image sourced: Internet)

But to which war am I referring? The Irish war of national liberation that has been flaring up for centuries, being lost each time before flaring up again? Or the class war, which has had a few sharp Irish episodes but has been, for the most part in Ireland, in abeyance? The answer is BOTH, though it may seem that my emphasis in the discussion, certainly in the early part, is on the national liberation war.

In order to imagine how we might win, it is helpful to examine past struggles and analyse what went wrong with them. Pessimists love to focus on those things I know – but in order to push us towards reformism or just surrender; my approach instead is from a revolutionary perspective.

Generally, Socialists analysing the class struggle don’t even ask themselves why we have not had a revolution yet. From week to week, month to month, they tend to focus on this or that particular trade union or social struggle but without going into the big picture. It seems as though they can’t even imagine a socialist uprising in Ireland, it’s just too far away to think about, apparently. But if one can’t even imagine such a revolution, how could one consider the necessary steps to get there?

Communards Paris Barricade 1871
Communards at barricade, Paris Commune 1871. (Image source: Internet)

Irish Republicans on the other hand are often thinking in terms of revolution, usually including armed struggle. However it seems to me that Irish Republicans don’t like analysing past failures of the movement but when they do, their verdicts tend to be that the leaders betrayed the struggle or that taking part in public elections corrupted the movement; or that infiltration, spies and informers was the problem. And some other reasons. The thing is, although all those things played a particular part, they are not the fundamental reason.

Defeat Rebels Vinegar Hill Drawing George Cruikshank
“Defeat of the Rebels at Vinegar Hill” by George Cruikshanks, i.e United Irishmen last major position in Wexford overrun, 1798.

PART ONE: THE THIRTY-YEARS’ WAR – DOOMED TO LOSE

(Reading time this section: less than 5 minutes)

Free Derry Corner Gas Mask Images
Derry Monument and Mural of the Civil Rights struggle which preceded the armed struggle in the Six Counties. (Image sourced: Internet)

          The national liberation war that began in 1969 in the Six Counties and ended in 1998 (though some armed incidents continue from time to time) began as a civil rights struggle and changed into a war of communal defence and of national liberation. The military part of the struggle for the most part took place in the occupied Six Counties. The political element of the struggle was waged all over Ireland (and abroad) but in the main consisted of support for the struggle in the Six occupied Counties.

Fought in that way, the struggle was bound to lose. It could never win. How could anyone imagine that they could win a struggle fought against a world power in one-sixth of the country, where even the population there was divided against them? What could they have been thinking?

To my mind, there are only two possible sane replies to that question, which is that they believed: 1) that the British ruling class would get worn down by struggle and leave and/ or 2) that the Irish ruling class would intervene in some way to assist the struggle and make continued British occupation untenable.

1) ‘The British ruling class would get worn down and leave’: This theory must have depended on British repression being condemned abroad and being unpopular at home but had to rest fundamentally on the British having no great stake in continuing its possession of its colony there.

Anyone who thought that (and there were many who did and still many who do, not just Irish Republicans) made a fundamental error. Time and again the British ruling class has shown its determination to hang on to what might be considered its first colony, even as the ruling class’ composition changed from feudal-colonialist to capitalist-imperialist and as the world changed around it.

Collusion State Murder Mural
Mural in nationalist area in the Six Counties (Image sourced: Internet)

Even when the British ruling class, weakened by WW1 and facing an Irish guerrilla war which enjoyed the support of the vast majority of Irish people, with national liberation uprisings breaking out across its Empire and with its repression in Ireland increasingly unpopular at home, entered into negotiations with the Irish resistance, it held on to a foothold, the Six Counties.

Subsequently, it had that colony managed in a permanent state of emergency laws, with institutionalised sectarian discrimination at all official levels and outbreaks of pogroms in the street and workplace.

That became even more exposed during the civil rights struggle and the national liberation war that followed when the British State compromised whatever good international reputation remained to its Armed Forces, its judiciary, its legal establishment, its media and its very legal framework.

Even now, when many believe that the Good Friday Agreement means that a 50% plus-one-vote in favour in the Six Counties will be sufficient to end Partition, they do not realise that such a decision will have to also obtain a majority in the British Parliament and be endorsed by the British Monarch. They are also forgetting the broken promises that surrounded Partition in the first place.

British Soldiers Helmeted Belfast 1969
British Army in Belfast 1969 (bayonets and guns pointed towards nationalist area). (Image sourced: Internet)

When analysing what holding on to the Six Counties has cost the British State in terms of reputation, military and financial contributions, one can only rationally assume that continuing to hold on to that foothold is of great importance to the British State. One may speculate as to the reasons underlying that but the central fact cannot be denied.

2) ‘The Irish ruling class would intervene in some way to assist the struggle and make continued British occupation untenable’:

There was some basis for this belief in that a section of Fianna Fáil, a party that had emerged from a split in Sinn Féin in the 1930s and had become one of the mainstream parties in the Irish state, had retained some traditional commitment to seeking a united Ireland. However it was a thin enough basis on which to depend in a national liberation struggle since that section had no majority within the party itself, to say nothing of the foreign-dependent nature of the Irish native capitalist class, the Gombeens, as a whole.

The question came to a trial of strength in the Arms Crisis of 1970, in which at least two Fianna Fáil Government Ministers were involved in secretly buying arms for the defence of nationalist areas in the Six Counties (since the IRA had insufficient weapons at the time) from rampaging Loyalist mobs and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (including the part-time B-Specials). The Ministers alleged that they had acted in the full knowledge of the rest of the Government. By the time the whole affair was over, two Ministers had been sacked and another two resigned in protest.

If it had not been clear before that the Gombeens, the native Irish capitalist class was no patriotic capitalist class but rather a neo-colonial one, it should have been clear after that. But the armed struggle in the Six Counties intensified, especially after the massacres of unarmed civilians carried out by British Paratroopers the following year, 1971 in Belfast and again in Derry in 1972. And the war lasted until 1998.

If, as had been demonstrated to be the case that the British ruling class were determined to hold on to the Six Counties and the Irish ruling class was not going to seriously challenge that possession, did the Republican movement have any other option than to fight on a war that they could not possibly win?

I am clear that it did.

Clearly, in order to have a chance of success, the war had to be extended to the other five-fifths of the country, which is to say into the territory under the control of the Irish native capitalist class. This class had seized power after the War of Independence (1919-1921) and had beaten and suppressed its opposition during and after the Civil War (1922-1923) and furthermore was supported by a powerful ally, the Irish Catholic Church. Since the founding of the first Irish Republican organisation, the United Irishmen of the late 1790s, the Catholic Church hierarchy had opposed Irish Republicanism; it had condemned four Irish priests who participated in the uprising of 1798, excommunicated the Fenians, had at first condemned the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence only to latch on to it at the end along with the Gombeen class.

The general Irish population likely would not have supported or sustained an armed struggle in the 1970s against the Gombeen class but that class could have been fought politically, through agitation and mobilisation, on many social, political and economic fronts. Without going into the specific details of each, these were:

  1. against the huge wastage of Irish youth through emigration

  2. to remedy the shortage of affordable housing (which in part contributed to the above)

  3. to end unemployment (also contributing hugely to emigration)

  4. to raise the level of wages and lower wage earners’ taxation

  5. for the right to divorce

  6. for equality for women in law

  7. for the right to contraception devices and medication for men and women

  8. against decriminalisation and for equal rights for gay and lesbians

  9. to halt the decline of the Irish language, in particular of the rural Irish-speaking areas

  10. to improve services for the rural areas

  11. to oppose the open-door policy for foreign multinationals to exploit Irish natural and human resources

  12. to secularise the education service

  13. and the health service.

  14. to remove the privileged status of the Catholic Church within the state.

Irish Womens Liberation Connolly Station
Irish women photographed at Connolly Station 1971, about to board train to Belfast to purchase contraceptives to bring back to the Irish state, illegal at the time. There was no right to abortion either or divorce and a husband’s signed permission was necessary to take out a hire purchase agreement. (Image sourced: Internet)

The Republican movement in general, with some exceptions, declined to take on any of those struggles. They did not organise in the trade union movement, left the social struggles to others and most of all, declined to take on the Catholic Church on any issue except its opposition to the national liberation struggle. Even there, it was happy to publicly avail of the services of members of the Church clergy who supported them. Republicanism was, from its very beginning, as well as anti-monarchist, about separation of Church and State but it was difficult to see that in the Irish Republican movement, particularly after the War of Independence.

A full half of those fourteen points above (nos. 5,6, 7, 8, 12, 13 and 14) would have meant taking on the Church head-on and no doubt the hierarchy would have hindered the struggle over most of the others too, due to its strong links with the State and its ruling class.

Because of its tactical and no doubt ideological refusal to take up those struggles, the Republican movement could do little more in the 26-County state than to agitate for solidarity with the beleaguered nationalist population inside the British colony.

Though this could be effective for a time it could not become a mass movement, nor survive a long struggle, without any remedy being sought for the issues facing the population within the state.

The wonder is not that the majority leadership of the Republican Movement threw in the towel on the military struggle in 1998 but that they had waited so long to do it. Of course, they never admitted the true nature of what they were doing: abandoning the armed struggle and revolution in total and instead, using their negotiating position to advance themselves politically – not in the economic, social and political struggle envisioned above but rather in a political struggle to find themselves a place among the Gombeen political class in the Irish state and as accomplices in the governing of the colonial state.

PART 2: COLLECTING THE FORCES FOR REVOLUTION

(Reading time this section: 2 minutes)

          A successful revolution in Ireland, as in most places, would require the involvement of a mass movement. That mass movement would be unlikely to be one that had national self-determination as its only aim – certainly not in the 26 Counties (the Irish state). Mass movements arise at times around different issues and exist as long as the issue does or instead until the movement gets worn down or broken up. Such movements arose around the Household Tax and, later, around the additional Water Charges.

Water Protest Long View 29 Aug 2015
Section of protest against water charges, O’Connell Street, Dublin, 29 Aug. 2015 (Image source: Internet)

Even though the objectives of such movements are often not revolutionary, the participation in them by revolutionaries is necessary if, in the future, there is to be a revolution. Revolutionary activists can make contacts and prove themselves by the way they participate whilst at the same time pointing out that a revolution is necessary in order to resolve all these issues completely and permanently. Such activists can also influence the movement (or sections of it) to act in more revolutionary ways, so that the movement can be guided by – and imbued with — revolutionary spirit.

Working people in struggles come up against concrete problems which need to be resolved in order to move forward. Prior to 1913 in Ireland, workers learned the need for unity in struggle which was emphasised by the employers’ attempts to break the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in August 1913. The attacks on them by the Dublin Metropolitan Police illustrated the need for organised defence and Larkin and Connolly called for the formation of what became the Irish Citizen Army, which later also fought prominently in the 1916 Rising.

Packed Workers Liberty Hall 1913
Members and supporters of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union cheering outside the union’s HQ, Liberty Hall, August 1913. Later the union formed the ICA to defend themselves from the DMP; the ICA took a prominent part in the 1916 Rising. (Image source: Internet)

Trade unions are the only mass organisations of the working class in Ireland and it is necessary for revolutionaries to be active within them. Currently, other than social democrats, it is mainly members of both trotskyist parties and independent activists who engage politically with the trade unions. Those members are mostly in clerical work and their political work tends to concentrate on employment demands around wages and working conditions. When they introduce politics it is generally to get some motion passed by their branch. Also at times, they will campaign to get a perceived left-wing candidate elected to some position within the trade union bureaucracy.

None of the above are without value but they remain disjointed in terms of program and often confined to just one trade union. Not only that, but often the Left party involved will engage in order to recruit some new members and in order also to retain their own members by providing them with activity. When broad front trade union groups are formed, they tend to become an arena where the dominant trotskyist parties compete for dominance.

If we are to have a successful revolution – and in particular a socialist one – participation in the struggles of workers in the trade union movement is absolutely necessary. But participation should be primarily among the rank and file of the trade union and also across trade unions, focused on providing solidarity to members of whichever union is in struggle – in addition to encouraging unorganised workers to organise and become active. The objective is not to help make one trade union or one section more militant but rather to create a militant workers solidarity movement within the whole trade union movement. It is essential to have members in the ‘blue-collar’ work unions or departments as well as in the clerical unions or sections. And the cross-union organisation I advocated should be independent — the preserve of no political party.

Participation in such struggles provides an opportunity for revolutionaries to make contact with people who are activists but not yet revolutionaries and to give those people an opportunity to evaluate the revolutionaries in terms of their actual practice. Revolutionaries can support the people struggling for worthwhile reforms while at the same time pointing to their partial and temporary nature. Revolutionary activists can play an educational role in the mass movements while at the same time becoming educated themselves by the daily reality faced by the masses in this system.

PART 3: THE ABSOLUTE NEED FOR UNITY – BUT WHAT KIND?

(Reading time this section: 3 minutes)

          It is, most people would think, a ‘no-brainer’ (i.e an obvious truth) that unity is necessary in the struggle to overthrow the current system. It might be thought surprising, therefore, that disunity is more the rule among those who aspire to revolution.

Generally, those who claim to be revolutionary socialists will not unite with Irish Republicans. In addition, those socialists of one party will often fail to unite with those of a different party. The same dynamic is to be seen among Irish Republicans also.

There have been many attempts to overcome this problem. In the 1930s the Republican Congress sought to unite Irish Republicans with revolutionary socialists. In the face of hostility within the mainstream Republican movement and also with divisions among the communist element in Ireland at the time, faced in addition with anti-communist hysteria whipped up by the Catholic Church, the experiment failed. The leadership of the Sinn Féin and the IRA of the later 1960s tried to combine socialism and republicanism within one party and military organisation, an attempt that crashed when it was discovered that the arms necessary to defend ‘nationalist’ community areas in the Six Counties, particularly in Belfast, were unavailable, leading to an acrimonious split in the movement. A subsequent attempt to combine the socialist and republican elements in another organisation survived a little longer but also failed for a number of reasons, some internal and also due to Irish State repression.

Shankhill Rd Republican Congress WT Commemoration 1934
Socialist Republicans, members of Republican Congress from Shankhill Road, marching to annual Wolfe Tone commemoration, Bodenstown 1934. They were attacked by conservative Republicans. (Photo source: Internet)

There have been some attempts to unite the non-republican Left itself also, which usually failed due in part to ideological differences but also to political sectarianism and personality clashes. Currently both trotskyist parties have an uneasy working relationship, the small grouping of Independents for Change exists also, the Communist Party is very small too and the anarchists are scattered and unable for years now, for the most part, to mount united action.

Attempts to unite the various parts of the Irish Republican movement have, in general, focused on creating a new organisation or absorbing activists unhappy with one organisation into another.

A frequent approach has been for some people to sit down and produce what they consider solid policy and a constitution, then to propose this format to others around which to unite. Even when accepting amendments from the elements they seek to recruit, these attempts too have largely failed.

It seems a rational approach: if we want unity, surely first we have to agree on what for, how, etc, etc before we can go into action? I believe, contrary though it may seem, that actually we should unite in action first. Uniting in action tends to break down barriers of mistrust that are built on hearsay or suspicions fostered by sectarian elements. Action also tends to clarify certain questions that until then are theoretical only. Of course, at some point, action will need to be guided by worked out policy but initially the action itself can be sufficient guide, especially since approaching the question the other way around has been so generally unproductive.

Unity Is Strength Image copy

The question then arises: with whom to unite? In general, I would say that the answer is: with all with whom we can, in actual practice, unite: different types of revolutionary socialists (including anarchists), Irish Republicans, Left social democrats, human and civil rights activists.

There are some exceptions I think necessary to mention: fascists, racists, religious sectarians and parties that participate in Government. Fascists seek to impose an undemocratic regime completely hostile to the interests of working people and, far from our uniting with them, need to be defeated; racists and religious sectarians seek to divide the movement along lines of ethnicity or religious affiliation. Revolutionaries need to draw a clear line of distinction between the movements of resistance and those who participate in a native capitalist or colonial government, i.e the management organisations of the enemy.

Many issues lend themselves to united action but perhaps none more so, and none are more essential, than against repression.

PART FOUR: UNITY AGAINST REPRESSION

(Reading time this section: 3 minutes)

          All revolutionary movements – and many that are progressive but not revolutionary – face repression at some point in their existence. Not to recognise that fact and to have some kind of preparation for it, even if very basic, is indicative of a non-revolutionary attitude to the State. Nor have we any reason in Ireland to be complacent on this question.

The Irish State turned to military suppression in the first year of its existence as did also the colonial statelet. Detentions, torture, murders and official executions were carried out by Free State forces over a number of years, followed by censorship and arrests, all facilitated by emergency repressive legislation. In the Six Counties, in addition to similar even more repressive legislation, there were two sectarian militarised police forces and sectarian civilian organisations.

After a change of government, the Irish State introduced internment without trial during the Emergency (1939-1946), the Offences Against the State Act in 1939, Special Criminal (sic) Courts in 1972 and the Amendment to the OAS in that same year.

Bloody Sunday march Derry 2014
Poster for 2014 Commemoration of Bloody Sunday massacre, Derry 1972. The poster calls for unity. (Image source: Internet)

The Six County statelet had the Special Powers Act (1922) and brought in internment without trial in 1971 (the Ballymurphy Massacre that year and the Derry Massacre the following year, both by the Parachute Regiment, were of people protesting the introduction of internment). The statelet also introduced the Emergency Provisions Act and the no-jury Diplock Courts in 1973 and, though technically abolished in 2007, non-jury trials can and do take place up to today.

The British state targeted the Irish diaspora in Britain in 1974 with the Prevention of Terrorism (sic) Act and that same year and the following, framed and convicted nearly a score of innocent people of bombings in five different cases – had the death penalty not been previously abolished for murder, most of them would have been executed. It took the victims over 15 years to win their freedom, by which time one had died in jail. Brought in as a temporary measure, the PTA continued in force until 1989 but a general Terrorism Act was brought into British Law in 2000 and remains in force today.

Birmingham Six Photos Bruises
Photos of the Birmingham Six, Irishmen resident in England, showing bruises from police beatings after their arrest in 1974; they were also beaten by jailers. Also arrested, brutalised, framed and convicted were the Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Giuseppe Conlon and Judith Ward. (Photo source: Internet)

State repression rarely targets the whole population and, particularly in a capitalist “democracy” focuses on particular groups which it fears or feels it can safely persecute. However, we should also recall Pastor Niemoller’s words about the creeping repression which even the German Nazi state instituted, going after first one group, then another, and another …. Among the list of groups targeted eventually by the Nazis were Jews, Roma, Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, Social Democrats, Jehova’s Witnesses, Free Masons, Gays and Lesbians, Mentally Ill or challenged, physically challenged ….

It is in the interests of the vast majority of the population to oppose repression of different groups, whether those groups be based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, citizenship status or democratic politics. Not everyone recognises this of course but one might expect that political activists challenging the status quo would do so. Sadly, experience shows that they do not in practice (though they may acknowledge it intellectually).

Lineup Clenched Fists & Banner
Anti-Internment and political prisoner solidarity picket September 2016 at Kilmainham Jail, Dublin (a former place of detention and execution for political prisoners under both the British occupation and the Irish State, now a museum). (Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

With some periodic exceptions, socialist groups in Ireland do not support protests against repression of republicans. Furthermore, some republican groups will not support others when the latter are subjected to repression. Yet at any time, Republicans of any group can be and are regularly harassed in public or raided at home; their employers may be warned about them by the political police; they may be detained on special repressive legislation, denied bail, effectively interned; they can be easily convicted in the non-jury Special Criminal Courts or Diplock Courts; ex-prisoners released on licence in the Six Counties can be returned to jail without any charge or possibility of defence.

The Irish State’s non-jury Special Criminal Court is a tempting facility for putting away people whom the State finds annoying and it is widely thought it was considered for the trials of the Jobstown protesters. The result of the trial, where the jury clearly took a different view to the presiding judge, may well have justified the opinion of those in the State who considered sending the defendants to the SCC.

solidarity woodcut

Unity against repression is a fundamental need of a healthy society and of movements that challenge the status quo. Practical unity in any kind of action also tends to break down barriers and assists general revolutionary broad unity. Unity against repression is so basic a need that agreement with this or that individual is unnecessary, nor with this or that organisation in order to defend them against repression. Basic democratic rights were fought for by generations and have to be defended; in addition they give activists some room to act without being jailed. On this basis, all must unite in practice and political sectarianism has no place in that.

Without some basic unity in practice across the sector challenging the status quo, there can be no revolution. But more than that: we stand together against repression ….. or we go to jail separately.

End.

Diarmuid Breatnach is a veteran independent revolutionary activist, currently particularly active in committees against repression, in some areas of internationalist solidarity and in defence of historical memory.

Advertisements

MAJOR SPANISH UNION “BETRAYED WORKERS”

(Reading time text: 2 minutes; comment: 4)

(Translation from article in Castillian by Diarmuid Breatnach)

The Andalusian Union of Workers (SAT) has accused CCOO (Comisiones Obreras, major Spanish trade union – Translator) of “betraying” agricultural workers with the signing of an agreement with the Asaja employers — the signing took place last Thursday in Seville — where hard-won rights have been surrendered, including the 15-minute sandwich break. Accordingly, it will propose a common front to all trade unions to promote the fight for an (alternative) Andalusian agreement.

Migrant workers in a sweet potato plantation in Jerez, Andalusia.
(Source photo: Juan Carlos Toro, La Voz del Sur)

The SAT “cannot endorse an agreement where you give up the 15 minutes sandwich break, a workers’ victory from a long time back, which has been respected for generations, even during the Franco regime. An achievement that the employer, Asaja, has always wanted to eliminate and has succeeded now thanks to the betrayal of bureaucrats who never got their hands dirty or set foot on the field in their life”.

To this, adds the union, “you cannot endorse a de facto wage loss since the Pyrrhic rise of 1.25% per year does not compensate for the loss of the 15-minute sandwich break, which amounts to 3.8%. In other words, in reality, what CCOO has signed is a salary reduction of two and a half points” (per cent). “This is an outrage and a complete betrayal. There is no other name for it. We would like to say something very different, but above all our duty is to the workers who have been sold and betrayed once more”, they added.

The situation in the Andalusian countryside and the province of Seville, in particular, where some 120,000 people work in the sector, is very precarious. The economic crisis has hit the countryside and its workers hard. The working conditions implemented in the Andalusian countryside, according to the SAT, “seem from other times, thankfully now past.” Breach of agreements is the rule, piece-work predominates, which sometimes means that after a long day of work you only take 20 euros home, well below the salary established in the agreements.

Map showing Andalucia region (in red), Spanish State (in cream) also Canaries and part of coast of North Africa.
(Source image: Internet)

There are situations, they add, where fraud is evident by not declaring the workers employed. A fraud that can make a millionaire, since it can mean millions of undeclared euros that put health, pensions and our social protection system at risk. In addition to situations of genuine exploitation of workers — which in many cases border on pure slavery — there continues to be a significant reduction in income to Social Security, as well as a smaller amount of peonages that subsequently give the right to recognition of the subsidy and other benefits (? — Trans).

The reality that is being imposed not only affects labour rights, it is also “strategic suicide”. “The reality,” explains SAT, “is that with these mafia practices they are dropping the market price, so the product loses added value and undermines the market. The final result is to depreciate the product having a direct impact on the living conditions of day-labourers and on the economy of the towns. There have been innumerable complaints filed in the Labour Inspectorate, some of which have led to criminal proceedings being taken for crimes against the rights of workers.”

Accordingly, an Andalusian agreement that puts in place a minimum is necessary and urgent: six hours of work (sandwich break included); 60 euros for the normal working day; 84 on Sundays and holidays; effective ban on piece-work; wage of 69 euros for work with machinery; 96, on Sundays and holidays; on rainy days (when work is not possible) 50% will be paid for showing up at work, and the full wage from two hours of work; 0.27 euros mileage.

It is fundamental, they state in concluding their communiqué, to establish “a common front to fight for an Andalusian agreement with these minimums. It is also necessary and urgent to change the system of union elections in the field, a measure approved in the Congress of Deputies, and grant voting rights to non-permanent workers who represent more than 95% of the workforce in the Andalusian countryside.”

COMMENT:

Diarmuid Breatnach

The CCOO, Comisiones Obreras is one of the two mega-unions in the Spanish State, the other being the UGT. The CCOO was controlled by the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and the UGT by the social-democratic PSOE; both parties and their affiliated unions were outlawed during Franco’s time. When the Transition to “democracy” was being engineered after Franco’s death, it was considered necessary to legalise the PSOE in order to have a two-party system and therefore necessary to legalise the UGT. However, it was the other way around for the CCOO and the CP. The Comisiones Obreras were by far the largest and most militant trade union and, though illegal, had built up a substantial following among the workers of the Spanish State. To effect as smooth a Transition as possible, it was crucial to legalise the CCOO and therefore to bring the Communist Party on board. Both political parties agreed to a deal, including recognising a monarchy with a King chosen by Franco and publicly supporting a forced union of all nations within the state by a new constitution.

The southern Basque Country and Galicia have a majority of unions of their own nation but everywhere else within the state, the CCOO and the UGT have the majority of workers as members and the majority of elected representatives. Although the CP’s control of CCOO has slipped over the years, the UGT is still strongly associated with the PSOE. There are also some independent trade unions, like the SAT above and also some others based on specific work locations.

SAT has a history of militancy, fighting for its mainly agricultural work force in which, as it states above, the vast majority are migrant workers. The union also campaigns for efficient and socialised use of Andalusian land, much of which is owned by banks and left empty; in addition its spokesperson was arrested last year for “insulting the Monarchy”. It is worth remembering that Andalusia was in medieval times the famed Moorish caliphate of Al Andalus, in many ways the jewel of the Iberian peninsula.

When Franco’s troops were ferried to Andalusia from the Canaries by German Nazi transport, largely without armed opposition in 1936, they butchered 55,000 republicans, socialists, communists, communists, trade unionists and anti-fascists.

As soon as the “Transition” went through after the death of Franco, the PSOE was voted into power in the Andalusian regional government, where it has held the absolute majority ever since – until the regional elections this year. Years of corruption and complacency saw its voting base diminish and, though it still holds the most seats, a right-wing coalition of the Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and Vox, all of which can trace their origins to Franco, has taken over. Many observers think is therefore all the stranger that the CCOO should bring in this agreement at this time.

End.

LINKS AND REFERENCES:

Source article in Castillian: https://www.lavozdelsur.es/no-habra-15-minutos-de-bocadillo-para-los-jornaleros-del-campo-andaluz/?fbclid=IwAR1EwH5Uox-Qb87XNjZBvS1nlJ-YD21EbGHAQKqCPRkvFgEgZZOu_nI05bM

Arrest of SAT spokesperson in November 2018:

https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/union-spokesperson-arrested-for-insulting-the-monarch/

Right-wing coalition takes over Andalusia:

https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2018/12/14/gains-for-the-hard-right-in-andalusia-reason-to-panic/

Number of Andalusians murdered by Franco’s military-fascist forces:

https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2019/07/12/5131/

ANDALUSIAN CITY COUNCIL TO DIG UP MASS GRAVE OF FRANCO VICTIMS

(Reading time entire text 5-10 minutes)

Report by RAÚL BOCANEGRA in Publico.es (translation and comment by Diarmuid Breatnach).

Mass grave of victims of Francoist repression, Burgos.
(Photo source: Internet)

“The City Council of Seville has guaranteed on its own to provide the necessary funding — 1.2 million euros — to exhume the Pico Reja pit, in which historians believe that there are at least 1,103 bodies of of victims of the repression, led by the General Queipo de Llano, following the military coup of July 18, 1936.

This exhumation will be the largest ever to be undertaken in Spain, following that which that was carried out in Malaga, in the San Rafael Trench, between 2006 and 2009, and may indicate the path to take for the other capitals (of Spanish state regions – Trans).

The Mayor of Seville, Juan Espadas (PSOE), guaranteed that the grave will be exhumed throughout the mandate of the current Council. “It is a truly historic step in Seville and one of national importance, since it is perhaps the biggest mass grave that [at this moment] has a definite project for its exhumation,” the Councilor said at a press conference.

“And, therefore, it is also one of the most important projects in terms of Historical Memory to be undertaken in our land, due to the importance and volume of the Pico Reja mass grave. It was a commitment that this Government (i.e of the Andalusian region) gave during the past mandate to relatives and memorial groups and today it is made a reality with this tender,” added Espadas.

“Next Friday the City Council of Seville, through the Governing Board will approve the specifications and, therefore, the public tender for a technical service for the exhumation and genetic identification of the bodies of the Pico Reja mass grave, in the Cemetery of San Fernando,” reads a statement issued by the City Council. “The ultimate goal [of the exhumation] is to dignify the memory of the people who were thrown there, give them a dignified burial and attend to the requests of their families,” adds the Council (statement – Trans).”

Militia Women of the Anarchist FAI -CNT in Catalonia, early years of the Spanish Anti-Fascist War. Women in areas captured by the Franco forces were exposed to endemic rape and many female prisoners were shot after being raped.
(Photo source: Internet).

BEGINNING AND COMPLETION OF WORK

          “Accordingly, Espadas will not wait for the Council of Andalucía or the Regional Government to sign the agreement, to which they had committed themselves. Confirming now, at the start of the mandate, the works, the Mayor ensures that the exhumation will not be delayed and will be carried out throughout this term. Municipal sources assured Público of their belief that both the Council and the Andalusian Government will collaborate with the exhumation, the Andalusian Council not before September.

Should they contribute money, the amount would be deducted from the 1.2 million that the Council calculates as necessary to carry out the works. Espadas recalled that the signing of an agreement in this regard with the Board and the County Council to finance these works is still outstanding. “And let’s hope that it is signed as soon as possible.”

“This contract guarantees the beginning of the work and its conclusion, without waiting for the remaining public administrations –- provincial, Andalusian and national — to finalise their contributions,” reads the Council’s note.

Espadas and the Delegate for the Department for Equality, Education, Citizen Participation and District Coordination, Adela Castaño, related the details of this contract to relatives of the victims and to the different organisations involved in the area of Historical Memory in Seville. “Do not fear, the exhumation and the identification of bodies will be done,” the Mayor assured them.

THE DETAILS

          The company that gains the contract must include at least one historian, five professionals in Forensic and Physical Anthropology, five in Archeology and 10 auxiliary support workers. “With the maximum guarantees of scientific rigor, a survey will be performed, material collected on the surface, excavations made in the pit, exhumations and recovering of bodies and remains,” says the City Council in the note. “Likewise, it must preserve and safeguard, also with all scientific guarantees, the samples of bone remains and biological samples taken from the family members until delivery to the University of Granada for genetic identification,” the City Council insists.

The project will be be completed in three phases, explained the Council. The first concerns the exhumation itself and the identification of the bodies, along with works including: the archaeological excavation; dealing with the remains found (the excavation and the direct and individualized identification of these bodies will determine whether or not they are relatives); exhumation (identification, recording of traces of violence and individual extraction of each body or remains); forensic anthropology (that is, determining sex, age, pathologies or anomalies); anthropological analysis in a laboratory manner; and conservation and protection to preserve these skeletal remains and DNA analysis.

The second phase will consist of the presentation of a final report as a logical contribution to the history of Franco’s repression. And the last phase will be the final destination of the remains.

The City Council will respect at all times the wishes of relations about the identified remains. The unidentified remains and those which the relatives wish to remain in the same place, “will be buried in an authorised space with appropriate technical indications for future identification”.

After finishing the works, “the area will be restored as an expository and explanatory site of the historical significance of the Pico Reja pit”. The successful bidder must submit a proposal for reconstruction of the current site that includes a columned monument to honor the victims.

Exhumation work on mass grave of Franco’s victims in Burgos.
(Photo source: Unai Aranzadi)

COMMENT:

(Diarmuid Breatnach)

          According to official figures, 120,000 victims have been identified (not exhumed) from 2,591 unmarked graves around the Spanish state. The areas with the largest number of graves are Andalusia in the south and the northern regions of Aragón and Asturias – in Andalusia alone, 55,000.

Map of grave sites of victims of Francoist repression in Andalucia (Photo source: Internet)

A mapping work undertaken by the Council of Andalusia region, which was presented publicly in the regional capital in 2011, illustrates 614 mass graves in 359 Andalusian municipalities. Only around half of the 47,000 bodies that were discovered have been identified due to there being no relatives available for DNA tracing or because calcium oxide (quicklime) had been thrown over the bodies.1

In Malaga province alone there are 76 mass graves in 52 towns, containing the remains of 7,471 people who were killed by General Franco’s forces. The largest of these mass graves was discovered in Malaga city’s San Rafael cemetery. 2,840 bodies were exhumed in early 2010, although more than 4,500 are registered as having been buried there”.2

The usual figure given for the total of non-combat killing by Franco’s forces is 150,000 and which does not include those who died of malnutrition and lack of adequate medical care in prisons and “penal battalions” or through confiscations, or economic and financial sanctions in areas occupied by his forces. Nor does it include the civilian victims of bombing by military-fascist air force, whether of cities or of refugee columns.

Against that, the total figure for non-combat killings by the forces against Franco are estimated at around 50,000. Also, while the latter killings for the most part took place in the early months of the military uprisings, before Republican Government control could be established, most of the non-combat killings by Franco’s forces were carried out after they had beaten the resistance and occupied the area and much of it also after the war was over. Typically too, according to Paul Preston (The Spanish Holocaust (2012), Harper Press), women were routinely raped before they were shot.3

The issue of the executed after a cursory military trial or simply taken out and murdered by Franco’s forces is a live one in the Spanish state today. Before Franco’s death it was not even possible to discuss it publicly and bereaved relatives were not permitted to mourn publicly – to hold a funeral or to have a mass said for their souls according to Catholic custom or even to mark their graves.

The Transition process to convert Franco’s Spain into a “democracy” accorded legal impunity to the perpetrators of even the worst atrocities during the Civil War but unofficially extended beyond, to the years afterwards and even to murders carried out during the “Transición” itself. And why not, when all the upper echelons of police, army, judiciary, civil service, Church, media and business were and are for the most part the same people as before or their sons and daughters? When the Head of State and of the Armed Forces, the King Juan Carlos, was specifically chosen by Franco to be his successor and even after the Dictator’s death glorified him and his political trajectory.

‘LET THE DEAD STAY BURIED’

          The fascists and their descendants want the dead and their stories to stay buried and even when a very senior judge like Baltasar Garsón, who presided over the repression and torture of many Basque and Catalan political detainees (but is incredibly lauded as “a foremost human rights defender” by liberals!) decided to play a power and publicity game and and became a problem by authorising the opening of some mass graves in 2012, he was slapped with legal appeals, charges of wire-tapping and disbarred from office for 11 years.

The other graves they don’t want opened are the mausoleum of Franco himself and of Rivera, founder of the Spanish fascist Falange, who lie in the memorial park built by political prisoner slave labour to honour Dictatorship and Fascism, a shrine for fascists today. The order of the PSOE Government to exhume and transfer them to a family graveyard has been paralysed by the Spanish Supreme Court after protests by Franco’s descendants.

If the Pico Reja exhumation in Seville goes ahead and is properly documented, it will be as the PSOE-controlled Seville City Council says, of huge historical — but also of huge political – importance. Can this happen in the same region where the corrupt PSOE administration has lost power after decades without se

The “Valle de Los Caidos” memorial park, constructed by slave prisoner labour, which contains the mausoleum containing the bodies of Franco and Rivera
(Photo: Paul Hanna, Reuters)

rious challenge and is now ruled by a de facto coalition of all the main parties descended from Franco, the Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and Vox? The Seville City Council says it can and that if necessary they will fund it all themselves. We can hope.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1See “Mass graves in Andalusia” in References.

2As above.

3See Review of Paul Preston’s book in References.

REFERENCES AND SOURCES:

Main article: https://www.publico.es/politica/memoria-publica-alcalde-sevilla-garantiza-dinero-exhumar-mandato-fosa-pico-reja-hay-1100-represaliados.html

Review Paul Preston’s The Spanish Holocaust: https://elpais.com/elpais/2011/04/04/inenglish/1301894444_850210.html

Mass graves in Andalusia: http://www.surinenglish.com/20110107/news/andalucia/mass-graves-201101071754.html

Map of mass grave sites in Andalusia: https://www.theolivepress.es/spain-news/2011/01/14/terror-map/

SIGNIFICANT VICTORY FOR DELIVEROO RIDERS

The first great collective victory of the ‘riders’ against Deliveroo.

A judgment of the Social Court No. 5 of Valencia recognizes the existing contractual relationship between Roodfoods Spain S.L.U., parent company of the British multinational, and 97 delivery riders of València.

(Valencia is in the Paisos Catalans region but not part of the Catalonia region — Translator(

Translated from article in Castillian of PILAR ARAQUE CONDE @ pilarac4 in the on-line newspaper Publico by Diarmuid Breatnach.

 

The complaints presented by Social Security’s General Finance in different courts against the Deliveroo labour model begin to be resolved. A judgment from Social court No.5 of Valencia ruled that 97 riders of the delivery company are employees and not self-employed, this being the first great collective victory of the workers of the platform Riders x Drets (Riders for Rights) and Intersindical Valenciana, according to the collective’s statement on Thursday.

Some of the Riders for Rights, now recognised as employees of Deliveroo, pose for a photo.
(Source: Publico)

Last year, Víctor Sánchez became the first worker in Spain to obtain a final judgment against Deliveroo, after Social court Number 6 of València declared his dismissal “unfair”. Deliveroo then accepted the ruling that for the first time questioned the legality of the business model of the distribution firm, maintaing that the riders are falsely self-employed.

The titular magistrate of Social Court No. 5 of València now recognises the existing contractual relationship between Roodfoods Spain S.L.U., the company that owns Deliveroo, and the 97 workers in Turia city. The ruling states that the workers “provide their personal services, inserted in the business organization to which the means of production belong – Deliveroo’s digital platform – according to the criteria and distributions that it establishes and assigns, receiving remuneration, which also establishes the company “, according to the text accessed by eldiario.es.

The judge adds that “the real means of production in this activity are not the bicycle and the mobile phone that the rider uses, but the digital platform of matching supply to demand owned by the company and without which which the provision service is not feasible”. In this way, Deliveroo is the one who determines the orders and schedules of the workers, and not the employees themselves, despite being categorised and taxed as self-employed.

“It is intended that the rider is free or not to accept an order without unfavorable consequences, but it was proved that the service of the rider is valued at different grades, which obviously will be taken into consideration by the order allocation algorithms” explains the judge. And she refutes the argument used by Deliveroo: “The fact of being able to reject orders does not constitute a capability or power that can condition the business activity,” he stresses.

SEVERAL PENDING LAWSUITS

The ruling, made public this Thursday, responded to the lawsuit filed in April 2018 by Social Security against Deliveroo, following a notification from the Labour Inspectorate. The state agency claimed more than 160,000 euros for Social Security contributions that were not paid by the company. Later, the Labour Inspectorate offices in Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante and Zaragoza, among other cities, did the same in the various courts.

Social Court No. 29 of Madrid will be the next to rule on whether these workers should be considered salaried employees of the British multinational and not self-employed, since the trial, which affects more than 500 delivery people in the region, was held for sentencing on May 31st.

GLOVO’S LABOUR MODEL, ALSO CHALLENGED

Glovo’s labour model has also been challenged before the courts. In this case, several judgments have determined that the company’s distributors had an “employment relationship” with the company and ordered their reinstatement.

This digital platform is also involved in the controversy after a worker died when being run over by a garbage truck while delivering. The young man, 23 years old, “was not a collaborator” of Glovo, although he carried its backpack. His death sparked protests about the precariousness of the sector.

And the fact is that Glovo, Deliveroo and Uber Eats continue to operate without a regulation that guarantees the rights of their workers. Also, taking into account that the number of employees in the sector is around 17,000, UGT (one of the major trade unions in the Spanish state – Translator) estimates that Social Security loses a potential 93 million per year due to this situation, figures that it estimates will be three times greater in 2020.

SOURCE REFERENCE:

https://www.publico.es/sociedad/deliveroo-primera-victoria-colectiva-riders-frente-deliveroo-jueza-valencia-considera-97-repartidores-falsos-autonomos.html

NOT BLIND TO THE TRUTH – IVY MANAGEMENT CONTINUE TO TAKE TIP MONEY FROM STAFF

Diarmuid Breatnach

Solidarity protest picket lines up outside the The Ivy restaurant in Dublin city centre’s Dawson Street and, as management draw the blinds to hide the event from their customers, passers-by take photos and passing traffic sound horns in solidarity.

Solidarity protester with placard outside the Ivy Restaurant on Saturday.
(Photo image: protester)

          On Saturday afternoon (8th June) round a score of men and women participated in a picket outside the The Ivy restaurant in protest against management deducting a percentage of the waiting staff’s tips. The management are able to take this action when customers pay by bank card for their meals as well as the service charge. The protesters were also in solidarity with two sacked workers who protested the practice.

The business pays minimum wage every day except Sunday and staff expect to make a decent wage up from tips ….. but, much of the tips money is being taken by the management.

Picket line outside The Ivy restaurant on Saturday afternoon.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The protesters held up large placards bearing the slogans: “Ivy: stop robbing your staff!”, “Vote Ivy No.1 for unfair dismissal”; “Ivy, stop tip theft!”; “Solidarity with sacked workers” and also displayed a banner which, as well as reading “Stop tip theft” also called for “fair pay and union rights”. The picketers later also held up large letters to display the message STOP TIPS THEFT.

Dawson Street, in which the Ivy Restaurant is located, is an upper-class southside city centre street of mostly old architecture, filled with eateries, art galleries and bookshops and also containing the Mansion House, a historic building and the Lord Mayor’s business residence. It is one of two public bus routes from the south-east into the city centre and also contains a LUAS (tramline) stop.

Section of picket seen closer and front door of The Ivy (note the blinds!) (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

Drivers of a number of passing private and public transport vehicles sounded their horns in solidarity while passing the picket while tourists and others took photos and promised to post them on social media. A number of tourists from the Spanish state asked about the protest and I when I explained, were fully supportive.

Since I participated in this protest myself, I was able to identify participants from a range of political allegiances and independents and they included a number of recently-elected Dublin City Councillors (a previous picket I wrote about included a TD – member of the Irish Parliament).

ONGOING STRUGGLE

          This controversy has been going on for some time and has been reported in the Irish Times (see Links and References). Since the protests began, management of the once-highly-patronised restaurant had blinds installed so that they could shield their customers from the sight of the picketers but even so, they could not avoid hearing the bullhorns and the chanting outside.

Chants included “Shame, shame, shame on you; pay the workers what they’re due!”

Reports indicate that business at the restaurant in fashionable Dawson Street is down by as much as 40% on many days which bodes ill not only for the restaurant at present but also if the owners try to sell it, since the reputation associated with the business will be of a negative kind.

Catering workers through much of the world are typically unorganised into trade unions, have insecure employment, are often immigrants to the country and are particularly vulnerable to extra exploitation. Ireland is no exception to this rule and there are many examples of it in Dublin. Campaigners for better conditions of employment and pay for catering workers are aware that the Ivy is one among many but hope that breaking the tip-deducting practice at this high-visibility eatery will spread a beneficial effect around the rest of the industry.

Meanwhile the two workers sacked by The Ivy are awaiting their day in the Labour Court.

End.

LINKS AND REFERENCES

Explanation of many of the issues: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/restaurant-reviews/tips-at-the-ivy-restaurant-following-the-money-1.3714844

Link to Irish Times article (and photo): https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/protest-held-outside-ivy-restaurant-in-dublin-over-waiters-tips-1.3827055

More recent Irish Time article with good explanation: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/just-because-it-is-legal-for-restaurants-to-keep-tips-does-not-make-it-right-1.3917220?fbclid=IwAR3s_e1b9B4E0WZje04qTUGpbj9SL-BHyb0FWtcitYP6shyU-9pTPb2tuak

Previous article by me on this subject: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2019/05/02/tipping-the-bosses/

DISCURSO DEL COMÍTE ANTI INTERNAMIENTO DE DUBLÍN PARA LA CONMEMORACIÓN DE PASCUA ABRIL 2019

DISCURSO DEL COMÍTE ANTI INTERNAMIENTO DE DUBLÍN PARA LA CONMEMORACIÓN DE PASCUA ABRIL 2019

 

 

A Chomrádaith agus a chairde, go raibh maith agaibh (“Companer@s y amig@s, gracias”) al Acción Anti-Imperialista de Irlanda por invitar al Comité de Anti-Internamiento de Dublín a hablar en este evento.

Tradicionalmente este es un tiempo cada año de conmemoraciones.

Conmemoramos en primer lugar a las mujeres, hombres y chicos que salieron a luchar contra un Imperio, el más grande jamás conocido y, en ese momento, el militar más poderoso del mundo. Algun@s lucharon solo por la independencia de Irlanda, much@s lucharon también por la justicia social y otr@s lucharon contra la guerra imperialista. El nuestro fue el primer alzamiento contra la carnicería de la Guerra imperialista y el mundo tuvo que esperar un año antes de que hubiera otro, en Rusia, y dos años antes del alzamiento espartaquista en Alemania.

Pero también conmemoramos a aquell@s much@s otr@s que lucharon y much@s que dieron su vida contra el invasor a través de los siglos, contra el colonizador, los ladrones de tierras, contra la monarquía inglesa por una República, contra los traidores de la causa de la independencia, contra los Gombeen (capitalistas nativos). Los gobernantes de nuestro propio Estado y los gobernantes coloniales de la colonia inglesa restante en suelo irlandés.

Es correcto y apropiado conmemorar los hechos heroicos y el sacrificio del pasado.

Pero no se trata solo del pasado; también se trata del presente y del futuro. A chomrádaithe (“companer@s), la lucha aún no está terminada y sus objetivos aún no se han alcanzado. Vivimos en un país dividido por una frontera británica y también dividido entre ricos y pobres, donde una pequeña minoría de explotadores vive de los trabajadores y de la clase media baja, convirtiendo la miseria de much@s en los euros y libras de unos pocos.

A medida que el fascismo asoma su fea cabeza y destapa sus sangrientos colmillos nuevamente por todo el mundo, nuestros gobernantes aquí en Irlanda también se vuelven cada vez más a la represión. Recordamos a los que están en juicio ahora por oponerse exitosamente al lanzamiento del fascista Pegida en Dublín en 2012. Y los partidarios del Sinn Féin Republicano atacados en Newry mientras conmemoraban el mismo Alzamiento de 1916 el año pasado, también en juicio ahora, una repetición de los ataques del RUC bajo la Ley de Poderes Especiales. Y las redadas en los hogares de much@s republican@s de otras organizaciones a lo largo del año. Y aquellos que languidecen en la cárcel después de la condena por cortes especiales sin jurado en ambos lados de la Frontera.

Parte del arsenal de la represión ha sido tradicionalmente el internamiento sin juicio. Y camaradas, tras el Alzamiento de 1916, hubo una gran ola de detenciones en Irlanda. Más de 3.500 hombres y mujeres fueron arrestados y se dictaron noventa sentencias de muerte, aunque más tarde todas menos 16 fueron conmutados. 1,852 mujeres y hombres fueron internados en campos de concentración y prisiones en Inglaterra y Gales.

Los británicos recurrieron nuevamente al internamiento durante la Guerra de la Independencia, al igual que los gobiernos irlandeses durante la Guerra Civil y en los años 30 y 40, y los británicos en los Seis Condados en los años 70. Eso fue internamiento masivo, pero el internamiento continúa hoy de forma más selectiva, a través de la revocación de la licencia para ex presos y la negativa de la libertad a fianza para otros. Tod@s l@s republican@s deben oponerse a esta práctica represiva y no solo l@s republican@s, sino también l@s socialistas y, de hecho, todas las personas democráticas. La historia muestra una y otra vez que lo que el Estado se sale con la suya contra un grupo, lo usa más tarde contra otro.

El Comité contra el internamiento de Dublín se esfuerza por celebrar un piquete mensual de información en diferentes partes de Dublín y un evento anual en Newry. No somos sectarios y somos independientes de cualquier partido u organización política, lo que significa que TODAS las organizaciones republicanas deben apoyar nuestros eventos, ya que el internmiento nos afecta a todos. O nos oponemos juntos a la represión estatal, camaradas … o vamos a la cárcel por separado.

Go raibh maith agaibh (gracias a vos).

THE GREAT HUNGER COMMEMORATED IN SLIGO, DUBLIN AND CELTIC PARK

AN GORTA MÓR COMMEMORATED IN SLIGO, DUBLIN AND CELTIC PARK

(Reading time of article text: 5 minutes)

Clive Sulish

Michael and Olivia Blanch and piper halt the procession for a moment’s reflection outside the GPO building, HQ of the Easter Rising in 1916.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A small crowd gathered at the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin on Sunday afternoon to commemorate the Great Hunger, an Gorta Mór on National Famine Day.  Led by a lone piper, they marched through O’Connell St., the city’s main street, some of them in period costume, to the Great Hunger Memorial on the Custom House Quay, North Dock and later on to the iconic sailing ship, the Jeannie Johnson.

Participants proceed after a moment’s reflection at the GPO building, HQ of the Easter Rising 1916 and pass by Jim Larkin’s monument, “who also agitated for the poor of Dublin”.

With some adults and children dressed in period clothes, some of them tattered to represent the destitution of the starving poor, they marched down O’Connell Street led by the lone piper and turned left at the Bridge, proceeding along to Custom Quay’s North Dock and the Great Hunger memorial. There they were addressed by Michael Blanch of the organising committee and by Niall Ring, Lord Mayor (coming to the end of his year in that role), who had accompanied them from the Garden of Remembrance.

Lord Mayor Niall Ring speaking at the Famine Memorial.

Some sentences in Irish were spoken by the MC of the event and by the Lord Mayor, while Michael Blanch referenced the deadly impact the Great Hunger had on the Irish language (i.e with the depopulation of the main Irish-speaking areas of the western seaboard). The Irish Tricolour came in for a mention in the Dublin commemoration also; it had been presented to William Smith O’Brien by women in Paris during the revolution there of 1848 and the Young Irelanders had staged their own uprising that year also, small and certainly too late, easily crushed by the British colonial forces. The huge Irish diaspora was also mostly a result of the Great Hunger and had contributed significantly to the formation and membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, also known as the Fenians, founded simultaneously in 1858 on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and in New York. The IRB, in turn, had been the main driving force behind the 1916 Rising.

Section of crowd at Famine Memorial (and unintentional illustration of clashing architectural styles and building heights on the south quays opposite).
Piper playing lament and Michael Blanch at the Famine Memorial.
Michael Balanch and MC of proceedings at the Famine Memorial and banner of the Committee.

Tourists and other passers-by stopped to watch as wreaths were laid on on the statues of the monument and an Irish-language version of Amazing Grace was sung by a young girl in period costume. A currach (small traditional Irish sea-craft), containing a woman and two young girls in period costume and rowed by a man, pulled into place on the Liffey across from the group; one of the girls placed a wreath in a cardboard box into the river, to commemorate the Irish diaspora and those who had perished during their journeys. Participants then threw single red roses bouquets into the river also and floral wreaths were deposited around the statues of the 1977 memorial by sculptor Rowan Gillespie. And the piper played a lament, Hector the Hero.

Girl singing “Amazing Grace” in Irish.

The gathering moved on then to the sailing ship the Jeannie Johnson, to hear Evelyn Campbell sing her Famine Song and Diarmuid Breatnach sing Skibereen and Fields of Athenry. After that, some repaired to the Teachers’ Club, where tea, sandwiches, gur cake and biscuits were on offer. By coincidence, a Musical Society were relaxing there too and it was not long before songs from different parts of the world were being exchanged from different parts of the room.

Somewhat incongruous, the top floors of the International Finance Services Centre, which looms over the Famine Memorial, commissioned by Nora Smurfit of the Irish capitalist family.

Evelyn Campbell on board the Jeannie Johnson, accompanying herself on guitar while she sings her Famine Song.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR A NATIONAL IRISH FAMINE DAY

The currach on the Liffey near the Famine Memorial on the quay.

The commemorative wreath is lowered into the Liffey from the currach.
Participants prepare to throw stem roses into the Liffey to commemorate those who died during emigration and the diaspora that survived.
Some of the stem roses floating in the Liffey.

 

 

The Great Hunger is the preferred term in English by many for the terrible disaster that struck Ireland in the mid-19th Century, for people starved alongside what was for a while at least, an abundance of food.

Mast and some of the rope work of the Jeannie Johnson sailing ship.

For three successive years, a fungus-like oomycete infested the potato crop, staple diet of most of the population. Although Phytophthora infestans had attacked the potato crops on the European mainland and in Britain also, nowhere was the disaster of the dimensions it grew to in Ireland: nowhere else were the the majority of the population obliged to sustain themselves on the potato while yielding up every other edible product (except perhaps milk) to pay the landlord’s rent on land conquered from the ancestors of the starving, thousands of soldiers and police being on hand to ensure the hungry paid up. “The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight”, wrote Young Irelander journalist John Mitchell, “but the English created the Famine.”

Well over one million Irish starved or died of attendant diseases in less than five years during the reign of Queen Victoria, while ships left Irish ports laden with food and grain was fermented to make lucrative whiskey and beer. Another million emigrated and it is estimated that about one third of those also died – of drowning, of disease aboard ship or of the various dangers migrants faced. Five years after the potato crop failed, estimates put the population of Ireland at around six million, from the over 8 million of before. Over the next decade, another million would leave, paid to go, lied to go, forced to go, or gone out of desperation and loss of faith in any future in the country of their birth under foreign domination.

The floral wreath deposited from the currach earlier floats past the Jeannie Johnson.

In 2008 it was agreed by the Irish Government that there would be a national Famine Day in the Irish calendar of national events and it would take place on the third Sunday in May. The State commemoration this year was held in Sligo, attended by Leo Varadkar (who was met by a protest of the Sligo Women’s Cervical Smear Action Group). The ceremony was covered in the RTÉ news which was shown on TV in the Teacher’s Club. Michael Blanch told those present that the campaign he and his wife had started in 2004 through the Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims, had resulted in this national event and that it was also being commemorated by the Glasgow Celtic team in the special jerseys they wore that day (in their Scottish Premiership win 2-1 against Hearts). The symbol is black and white which are the colours of the Commemoration and he had also wanted GAA teams playing on this day to wear it on their jerseys (the Munster Hurling Championship match between Limerick and Cork was also being shown that afternoon on the TV screen in the Teachers’ Club).

End.

People commemorating stand among the ghosts of the victims who, as a result of the Great Hunger, died in Ireland or in emigration.

 

REFERENCES AND LINKS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Celtic game on Sunday: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/48242024

Celtic FC wearing Famine Commemoration logo on their jerseys on 19th May 2019: http://www.celticfc.net/news/16184

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

Presentation by Michael Blanch at the Oireachtas in support of a National Annual Famine Commemoration Day: https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/committee/dail/32/joint_committee_on_culture_heritage_and_the_gaeltacht/submissions/2018/2018-11-28_opening-statement-michael-blanch-chairman-committee-for-commemoration-of-irish-famine-victims_en.pdf

Sligo National Irish Famine Day commemoration event: https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2019/0518/1050300-national-famine-commemoration/