Archive for the ‘Ireland’ category

Audio of 2017 Peter Graham Commemoration: Rayner O’Connor Lysaght & Alan MacSimóin

February 21, 2017

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Below is the audio of a public meeting commemorating the life of Irish revolutionary activist and militant Peter Graham, who was tortured and murdered by persons unknown in 1971 at the age of just 26. The meeting took place in the Cobblestone on Saturday 18th February 2017. The audio also includes contributions from the floor from people who knew Peter Graham.

LISTEN: Download the MP3 here (hosted by Archive.org)

Politically Trotskyist, Dublin-born Graham was an activist with Saor Éire and the International Marxist Group. He was tortured and shot dead in a near St. Stephen’s Green on 25 October 1971. As Come Here to Me note in their short piece on Graham, “a cloud of mystery, silence and betrayal still hangs over the incident to this day.”

The talk was introduced and chaired by longtime Dublin anarchist activist Alan MacSimoin (also of the Stoneybatter & Smithfield People’s History Project) and the main speaker was historian Rayner O’Connor Lysaght, a close friend of Graham’s who shared the flat in which he was murdered. O’Connor Lysaght is a member of Socialist Democracy. The talk was organised by the Irish Republican and Marxist History Project.

In 2013 a talk covering some of the stories of this era in Irish history, ‘Radical Politics of the late 1960s-70s: Marxists, Anarchists & Saor Eire’, was also hosted by the same same organisers (and features the same two speakers as well as other contributions ). It can be viewed on YouTube here PART ONEPART TWO.

Once more, Irish media silence and elision as Minister’s Gaza visit deemed barely newsworthy

February 17, 2015
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Charlie Flanagan in Gaza (Photo: UNRWA)

Of the three Irish media outlets that deemed it newsworthy to mention the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan’s, visit to Gaza yesterday, none of them deemed it necessary to go beyond reporting what was in the government press release on the matter.

Well that’s not entirely true, while the Irish Examiner managed to omit entirely that he was in Gaza, and just reported the €4.7m blood money thrown at UNRWA, the Irish Times gave a little bit of background, noting that:

“[Last summer] Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza. More than 10,000 Gazans and some 700 Israelis were wounded while some 20,000 homes in the strip were estimated to have been left uninhabitable by shelling and air strikes.”

Let’s deconstruct these two sentences which say so much (about the Irish Times‘ method) while saying very little (about what happened in Gaza last summer).

1) “Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead”

No mention of the Israeli ground invasion, which was brutal and saw many Palestinian civilians being killed by Israeli troops on the ground, not merely by means of bombardment.

2) “left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza.”

Why not give the figures, for what does “the great majority” mean in real terms? The UN (via UNOCHA) gives the figure of 2,205 killed (1,483, or 67%, civilians). The Palestinian Center for Human Rights gives the figure of 2,191 killed (1,660, or 75%, civilians). So two reputable human rights monitoring NGOs give the figures for Palestinians killed as being in the low 2000s.

The official figures from the Israeli government meanwhile give the figures for killed Israelis as 72 (6, or 8%, civilians).

Taking the average between the UN and PCHR numbers, we thus have 2,198 dead Palestinians stacking up against 72 dead Israelis. In percentage terms that is 97% and 3%. And when we take civilians (again using the average) we have 1,572 Palestinian civilians and 6 Israeli civilians – in percentage terms 99.6% to 0.4%.

These are the grim realities the Irish Times hides with it’s bland statement that the “the great majority of the [dead were] Palestinians in Gaza”.

It is also important in understanding that when the Irish Times says “rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza”, even after we take the time deconstruct the actual figures, this phrase could potentially be understood to mean that “many” or “the majority” of the dead on the Israeli side were caused by Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Yet the breakdown provided by the Israeli government shows that 92% of the Israelis killed were military personnel – this tells us that in fact the “great majority” of these casualties were caused either inside Gaza or along the border where the military was besieging the enclave.

A similar massaging of facts is noticeable when the Irish Times cites the figure of “some 700 Israelis” being wounded, with the same qualifier of being caused “by rocket attacks on Israel”. The Israeli government gives the official Israeli wounded figure as 556 (“some 550”, not “some 600”, but let’s ignore that). Of those, 496 (82%) were military operatives, while 87 (18%) were civilians, which tells us, once again, that the “great majority” of these casualties were caused either inside Gaza or along the border where the Israeli military was besieging the enclave, not merely by “rocket attacks on Israel”.

The piece also helpfully tells us that:

“[UNRWA] runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region while building infrastructure and maintaining camps. During the war in Gaza last summer, its schools gave shelter to hundreds of thousands of families forced to flee their homes. Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed.”

So let’s briefly deconstruct that too.

1) “[UNRWA] runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region”

These Palestinians are merely “displaced… across the region”. How they became displaced, what forces compelled them to become displaced, what their rights as displaced people are and who keeps them displaced is all a mystery, and seemingly irrelevant. As is the fact that the “great majority” (some 80%) of people living in Gaza are in fact refugees and their descendants from the 1948 Zionist ethic cleansing and colonisation of Palestine that gave birth to the State of Israel.

2) “Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed”

This is essentially accurate, but also leaves out a giant important fact about homelessness in Gaza. Yes, UNRWA buildings are currently sheltering some 12,000 people – but this is only about 10% of the total population that is still homeless almost six months after the end of the Israeli assault. Why are over 100,000 Gazans homeless, thousands of them living in UNRWA shelters? This question is neither asked nor answered, but the reason is of course the illegal Israeli imposed, Egyptian-enforced, and UN-facilitated siege of Gaza.

That only three mainstream media outlets in Ireland felt that the Minister for Foreign Affairs’ visit to an area of the world that was headline news half a year ago was newsworthy, and that all played up the “Ireland gives almost €5 million to Palestinian refugees” angle that framed the government press release, rather than some other angle –  for example, the continued devastation of the region, the ongoing illegal siege, the routine Israeli ceasefire violations and so on – tells us that the mainstream Irish media continues to be part of the problem. The silence and the elisions represent, quite simply, complicity with the ongoing Israeli policies of occupation, colonisation, war crimes and apartheid.

If you’re interested, here are the three pieces, and the official Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and UNRWA press releases on the matter. Note that RTE, the Irish regime broadcaster, did not deem this visit newsworthy, which places it in the unenviable position of being worse at news than the Chinese regime news service Xinhuanet, which did pick it up:

Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/government-pledges-4-7m-to-help-palestinian-refugees-1.2106185

Irish Examiner: http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/government-announces-nearly-euro5m-in-funding-for-palestinian-people-662459.html

Newstalk: http://www.newstalk.com/Foreign-Affairs-Minister-announces-47m-of-funding-for-Palestinian-people

DFA Press Release: https://www.dfa.ie/news-and-media/press-releases/press-release-archive/2015/february/funding-for-the-palestinians-announced/

UNRWA: http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/irish-foreign-minister-announces-new-%E2%82%AC500000-contribution-during-gaza-visit

Xinhuanet: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/europe/europe/2015-02/17/c_134001457.htm

The Derry Civil Rights Song – 7″ Single from 1968

January 11, 2015

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Once upon a time this blog was about vinyl records. That was a long time ago, but occasionally I still post the odd… oddity. I came across this the other day while digging in the crates. A topical song by a group called The Moonlighters (presumably a reference to Captain Moonlight, rather than working two jobs) concerning an incident in the north of Ireland on 5th October 1968 which saw a violent attack by British state police on a civil rights march in Derry. If you’re interested in the historical background to the song, check out the CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) page here.

Regarding the song itself, I can’t find much – ‘The Moonlighters’ throws up only one reference on Discogs.com, and that’s to this same release. Billboard magaizne from 7th December 1968 says the following “Gerry Devin’s Monaghan-based Shamrock label released “The Derry Civil Rights Song,” promoted [sic] by the incidents of Oct. 5 when marchers and police clashed on the streets of Derry. It is by a folk group, the Moonlighters. . .”

monnlite1It would appear they were an ad hoc folk group formed for the specific purpose of releasing this single, which was released at some stage in November 1968, within in two months of the attack on the marchers. According to Discogs.com, Shamrock Records only released four other singles in its lifespan, though the IrishRock.org says of it that it was “active from the 60s onwards. Many colour vinyl releases. Similar to Glenside Records in content.” Of Glenside Records, IrishRock.org says it produced “a high incidence of very old fashioned renditions of folk ballads, with a high kitsch and sentimentality factor, and is probably of little interest to most collectors.”

The B-Side is a jaunty selection of Irish reels (instrumental songs for folk dancing to); The Sally Gardens, The Bag O’ Spuds and The Copperplate.

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I couldn’t find an upload (either video or audio) anywhere, so I’ve stuck it up on YouTube and TinyUpload (in MP3 format).  So here’s the song and its B-side. The lyrics (as best as I can make out) are posted below.


Download MP3


Download MP3

The Derry Civil Rights Song
(1968, Written by J. Doherty – Performed by The Moonlighters)

It was the fifth day of October and the sun was beaming down
And the people had assembled to march in Derry town
The police were there in hundreds and on mercy they did frown
As they freely used their batons that day in Derry town.

They’d assembled at the station as all free people might
And they peacefully marched up Duke Street as was their civil right
The police had formed a barricade and they told them turn around
Then they batoned men and women on the streets of Derry town

Oh come on ye Ulster policemen for its you that are to blame
Oh come on ye Ulster policemen you should hang your heads in shame
The shame that will go with you though you told the wide world round
How you freely used your batons on teh streets of Derry town.

Take heart you Derry people all the world knows of your plight
And that government in Stormont that denies you civil rights
The day is fast approaching when these men they must stand down
On that day we’ll march triumphant through the streets of Derry town

Some reflections on a demonstration (and by extension, the Irish left)

July 4, 2013
James O'Toole of the Socialist Workers Party address a 'Jail the Anglo Bankers' rally. Photo Credit: Paul Reynolds/Rabble

James O’Toole of the Socialist Workers Party address a ‘Jail the Anglo Bankers’ rally in Dublin. Photo Credit: Paul Reynolds/Rabble

Note: This is a post I published on Facebook earlier this evening. A few people suggested that I also publish it on this blog, as my Facebook is set to Private. So here it is for your perusal, along with some of the discussion from the comments thread. Enjoy. Or not.

Here are some thoughts on yesterday evening’s ‘Jail the Anglo Bankers‘ protest, organised by the SWP/People Before Profit (or perhaps by one of the front groups like Enough, I don’t really know to be honest – EDIT: It seems the group is in fact called ‘Jail the Anglo Bankers’, and would appear indeed to be a SWP front group). Note this is not an attack on any one group, or individuals, just some musings how I felt after the demo. If you think I’m unfairly attacking an organisation, then be assured I’m an equal opportunities complainer!

The first thing to say is that I was disappointed by the numbers. Despite over 2,000 people ‘joining’ on Facebook, less than 500 people turned up (and I think I’m being generous there). Of course, Facebook ‘attendees’ are not a particularly reliable gauge, but can show a certain mood – and I thought given the high number of ‘attends’ in such a relatively short period of time, spurred by the Anglo recordings, that there would be a big turnout. Of course, I was wrong, but one can’t blame the organisers for that. Or can they?

One thing that struck me was the absence of other groups at the action. The only organised groupings in attendance were SWP/PBPA (obviously), flag waving delegations from the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and Republican Sinn Fein, and the Dublin Says No/Occupy Dame Street remnants (more on the latter later). I spotted a couple of Socialist Party members seemingly selling their paper The Socialist, two members of Sinn Féin (one taking photos for An Phoblacht) and one member of the anarchist Workers Solidarity Movement. Sinn Fein, it should be noted, have a similar protest this Saturday, themed ‘Jail the Bankers’.

This appears to have been a solo run by the SWP/PBPA, based on the relative success of a demo they held last week were “400” people marched through Dublin (I wasn’t at the demo, so can’t say whether that’s an accurate figure) – and was reflected in the make up of the speakers – James O’Toole, Richard Boyd Barrett, Memet Uludag, Madeleine Johansson, Kieran Allen (I think the latter two spoke anyway) and a few random punters and/or people I didn’t know. That I could see, there were no representatives from any of the other Left groups given a platform – perhaps they would have been had they shown up, I don’t know.

Anyway, the bigger point about this is, was any outreach done with other groups to try and build for this protest? Or was it merely a case of one left group (in this case the SWP) running with the idea? I wasn’t involved in the building, so I can’t say. But surely, it would have made more sense to try and bring as many groups (political, community and NGO-types) and left independents together as possible, to maximise the message and attendance? I know it was a short space of time to organise things, but I think a genuine effort could have been made.

This brings me to the actual message of the protest, namely the demand for jailing the Anglo bankers. This is a very timid demand, barely reformist and far from revolutionary. ‘Punish people for breaking the law’ was the gist of the demo, something I think even a moderately sensible Blueshirt could support. Personally, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it was a very good demand. Notably absent from the speeches of these revolutionaries (or at least the ones I heard) were any concrete demands about the actual economy. For example, no one said anything about nationalising the banks, thereby taking the control of major finance away from these criminals once and for all. Jailing a few bankers and crooked politicians won’t change anything fundamental, in fact it probably won’t even change behaviour; it’s never worked for the mafia, for example. Personally, while sending the likes of Drumm and Bowe to prison for a few years might have a certain schadenfreudian appeal to it, I would rather see these people walk free in a world where the method they chose to perform their criminality no longer exists. Of course, the two outcomes aren’t mutually exclusive!

Another demand that could, and should, have been made in my opinion, was for the repudiation of the socialised private debt foisted upon the people of Ireland by this criminal and craven congealment of bankers and politicians. “It’s not the people’s debt” to use the Communist Party slogan. As with Ecuador, who successfully repudiated their odious debt, there is a strong (now even stronger, in light of the Anglo recordings) case to be made for the southern Irish state to attempt such a move – if the political will were there of course.

But this leads on to the question of the effectiveness of this type of ‘let’s march from A to B and listen to some speeches’ protest in general. Or in this case, let’s listen to some speeches, then march from A to B with greatly diminished numbers cos lots of people have fucked off during the seven or eight speeches. Of course, protests are important and have a significant role to play in the struggle. I think however, that ‘protest politics’ is pretty much a dead end. And before you point to Egypt or wherever, there people are mobilised with fairly coherent aims, and are mobilised in large numbers. I really don’t think the anger – or at least the anger-translated-to-action – exists in Ireland for such a protest movement at present, and as such these constant calls to take to the streets to voice our outrage are kind of useless – even the biggest mobilisations (eg the CAHWT march on the Fine Gael conference, or the ITCU demo) have achieved little to nothing. The one exception I can think of is the X Case stuff, where relatively large mobilisations are undoubtedly responsible for the government legislation, as crappy as that legislation is in reality. The government’s back down on the sell off of Coillte was mentioned by Richard Boyd Barrett yesterday as a victory for people power. I have to admit to not knowing a lot about that campaign, so I can’t say if that’s true one way or the other. Regardless, presuming it’s true, these (limited) victories had clear, basically reformist, demands and don’t really challenge anything fundamental about the capitalist state.

However, when it comes to economics and ‘big picture’ politics, I think the left falls down badly in its coherency. What exactly should be the demands of a mass movement (for if there is to be a mass movement that has a chance of success even in a limited reformist manner, there must be surely be demands to organise around, no)? I have suggested two above – which I think should be the staple of any left economic protest movement/organisation. There are plenty of others I can think of – I’m not saying I have the answers by the way, just that for the left to be credible in people’s eyes, it should have some concrete and coherent positive answers, rather than just being against cuts, austerity, or whatever. To be fair, Sinn Féin have done this relatively successfully – though I would disagree with many of their economic policies. In addition, the implosion of the ULA and the seeming disarray that the CAHWT/CAPTA campaign is in and the ultimate failure of the boycott strategy, doesn’t lend the far left any credibility, to say the least.

Anyway, back to protests. It seems that in this case the SWP’s answer to the question ‘what is to be done?’ is as predictable as being asked to buy a copy of Socialist Worker at a SWP-organised action: ‘Let’s have another demo! More people on the streets!’ And so we’re asked to come out again in two weeks, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, to stand around outside the Dail and listen to speeches. If we’re lucky there might be a bit of argy-bargy with the cops to keep us mildly entertained for ninety seconds. The ultimate aim of this protest is actually to build for the next protest in September, which one speaker last night suggested could be our Tahrir Square moment, where we would “surround the Dail”. Another speaker (or perhaps the same speaker) asked the crowds to raise their hands if they wanted to achieve and Irish version of Tahrir Square. Of course, almost everyone present raised their hands. Who wouldn’t want a progressive mobilisation on that scale here? However, I was compelled to shout out “but hands up who thinks that’s going to happen?” Alas, I didn’t have a microphone, so probably only about ten people actually heard me. Of course, we’re not going to achieve a Tahrir Square moment in Ireland in the near future.

Let’s just break down the figures for a moment. Cairo has a population of 9 million or so. Let’s say at a minimum the renewed Tahrir movement has mobilised around 1 million unique people on a sustained basis (though I have seen estimates of up to 3 million). That is 1/9th of the population of the capital city – not counting other mobilisations around the country. Applied to Dublin, 1/9th of the 1.1m-odd people in Dublin is 123,400 people. The last couple of these protests have seen around 400 of these people turn up. Where are the other 123,000 going to come from? Ok, I’m being a bit mechanical here, but it’s a serious point. If you are telling people that an Irish Tahrir is possible in the near term, I just don’t think you’re being honest. Yes it would be great if such a thing happened (the closest we’ve ever come was probably the outpouring of relatively spontaneous anger against the war on Iraq on 15th February 2003, ten years ago – but let’s not open that can of worms right now), but realistically will it? I think the answer is no, unfortunately, and I think we should be honest with people about that.

But even if it were possible, then we must ask ourselves – around what political program, around what demands, would such a protest be built, and could 120,000 people on the street actually change anything? It didn’t stop the war on Iraq of course (anyone who thought it could was deluding themselves I think), but it didn’t even achieve the limited aim of ending US imperialism’s use of Irish airports and airspace to carry out their vicious wars, and transport their torture victims. Of course there’s the argument about direct action vs mass mobilisation vs both, but I’m not going to go into that here. The upshot was that 100,000 or so people marching for a day changed nothing then, why would we think it would change anything now? At least not on its own and in and of itself. Now maybe I’ve created a strawman here, and am accusing the SWP and/or others of a perspective they don’t actually hold. Maybe, maybe not. However, what I think is clear is that any such mobilisation – were it even possible in the first place – must be coupled with a strong, relatively disciplined and coherent genuinely non-sectarian leftwing organisation (be it a party – unlikely, given the history of groups on the left – or a coalition/federation type thing) united around a series of progressive demands that are both achievable and desirable. They don’t even have to be revolutionary demands as such (and here is where I’ll probably get called a reformist, sellout, social democrat, or worse, petite bourgeois), eg the demand for nationalisation of the banks is not in and of itself revolutionary. However, such a demand can – and should – be made and organised for by revolutionaries. And should it happen, the nationalisation of the banks, and/or our national resources for example, could have revolutionary consequences, allowing people to believe that yes, ‘another world is possible’, and indeed, ‘necessary’, to use the slogans of a decade ago. In essence, what I’m trying to say, I think is that a protest shouldn’t be a goal, it should be an outcome and auxiliary action of successful organisation towards a goal. Or something.

Anyway, alas, for now, it seems the strategy will remain (at least for the SWP), as one Anarchist wit once put it to me, “organise a relatively successful demonstration, repeat until demoralisation”.

In fact, what I found most disheartening about last night’s demo was the disempowering nature of it. I’ve already talked about the barely-reformist demand it was organised around, ie, ‘jail the Anglo bankers’, but the demo actually did propose a concrete action that people could take. They were asking people to fill out Garda complaint forms – to me, this is asking people to ask the armed wing of the state, the enforcers of capitalism, to take action against the people who they basically serve (in a broad sense I mean) – the rich and powerful of society. I think there may also have been a petition floating around as well, but forgive my scepiticsm regarding that – you can probably count the amount of lefty petitions ever handed in to their prospective recipients on one hand. And so, after being told to turn up in two weeks, and again in September and to build(!), build(!!), build(!!!) the protests(!!!!), a somewhat frenetic and fairly small march made it’s way to Pearse Street Garda Station (I presume) to hand in loads of these forms for consideration by the 100%-totally-free-of-political-interference police. I and the people I was with didn’t follow it down, we’d all had enough by then.

No, instead I stayed to have a look at what the Dublin Says No/Freemen/Anonymous/Occupy remnants-type people who sat down on the road afterwards were doing. This gathering of maybe 40 or so people, complete with jazz hands, brought back some piercingly painful memories of Occupy Dame Street at its worst. I’m tempted to make a comment about tragedy and farce here actually. Anyway, they held a consensus based ‘general assembly’ type discussion, with Liam Mac An Bhaird seemingly facilitating it. At one point some be-suited people left Leinster House and were chased and heckled by some of those present – whether they were politicians, civil servants or just people in suits I have no idea, I didn’t have a great vantage point. Then Liam called them back to the circle. The discussion seemed to consist of a slagging of the Socialist Workers Party/leftwing political parties (“all parties are the same, they just want money and power”), a lot of shouting about how awful things were, a constant heckling by one man who may or may not have been drunk, and an exhortation to join the “real protest” (I think that was the phrase used, forgive me if I misremember) that the recently formed ‘Dublin Says No’ group hold every Sunday afternoon. Dublin Says No, it seems, tries to model itself on Ballyhea Says No – I can’t say I know enough about them to speak with any authority, but I would guess they are of the “we’re not rightwing or leftwing” anti-politics type of protester. Anyway, that was even more depressing than the demo in some ways.

So basically, that’s some of my rambling thoughts about yesterday’s action. They may not be coherent, they may be contradictory, they may be full of logical errors and unrelated thought processes; you may agree enthusiastically or fumingly disagree; but they’re what I think at this point in time. Thankfully, things are fluid, and I hope to be proven wrong by the process of events.

TL:DR? Went to protest, came away even more downhearted, but maybe I’m wrong.

So, I’ll end on a joke – yesterday I found myself wondering what the collective noun for Trotskyists should be, and after the sixth or seventh time I was offered a copy of Socialist Worker, it became clear, it’s obviously ‘a paper sale of Trots’.

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Some of the comments and exchanges (slightly abridged):

Garrett M: Excellent critique and it certainly gives a downbeat picture of Ireland protest movements but the problem is there is no positive alternative emerging and you do not suggest one.

Citizen Partridge: Yes you’re probably right, it’s a bit stream of consciousness-y. I think I’m arguing for what I said about a coalition united around a series of progressive demands that are both achievable and desirable, maybe. I am dispirited I have to admit, not just with yesterdays’ demo, with the Irish left in general. This is me basically thinking out loud.

Garrett M: You are entitled of course to feel dispirited. It is a dispiriting picture. My spirits are not raised with the Left Forum or anything else really.Maybe what we need to do is get the left on a big long bus trip to the next G8 summit in Russia and use the trip to discuss ‘where we are now’ – politically speaking of course. The prize for a coherent answer is flights home and for not coming up with something that amounts to a left vision which will be respect is the bus journey home.

Christopher L: I would go for a ‘programme of Trotskists’ myself! But that debate is for another day! Suffice to say I agree with 90% of what you said there Kevin. Very good post. I just do not see any strategy for the future development of the left, at least not from any of the organised far left. All of them are hidebound by past practice, sad but true.

Raymond D: All very well, but what’s the point of going on at length about such matters on Facebook? Are there not other fora, or even forums, at which to voice such a critique? Speaking as someone who didn’t turn up for the demo, for various reasons. And I don’t actually believe in “jailing the bankers” ‘cos I don’t really believe in jail – except for homicidal maniacs. Put them to work on the roads instead.

Citizen Partridge: I would agree with your final comment there Chris. Raymond, Facebook is as good a place as any to post this I think. I’m not sure any lefty blog would be interested in posting it, and I steer clear of political forums in general for the good of my health!

Christopher L: I just feel like a complete fetish of organisational form has been adopted by the far left, with very little evidence or supporting reasons for why such a form has been adopted. The left, as a whole, has always been most successful when it has been at the forefront of the fight for democracy and democratic rights. That is the great legacy 200 years of socialist struggle has left us. Really though, the significance of what you are saying is ‘we do not have a f****** clue’. We need to be adult and human enough to admit that. Once you know where you are, you can begin to navigate away.

Christopher L: I think it is worthwhile to draw a balance sheet up of where the left actually is and in fairness I would not dedcribe the ‘left’ as anything other than the fairly small number of individuals named above. There is a potential resevoir of millions of progressives to mobilise in Ireland, how we get there is the other question. Personally, I think some form of far-right victory may be the only thing which may conceivably shake a number of people into action. The ‘whip of counter-revolution’ and all that.

Garrett M: No Christopher- many people thought that an economic crisis ‘which confirms our perspectives’ would galvanise the left but it didn’t and nor would a right wing government. In the UK, Labour moved to the right after Thatcher’s second election victory. I think [the piece] nails it in his first or second paragraph when he asks ‘was there any outreach done’. The collapse of the ULA has left a vacuum but arguably the ULA was not a very honest venture. The ‘partners’ did not respect each other, nevermind like each other. As for Raymond asking why post on FB, well if we don’t then we all think that we are the only one’s thinking like that.

Raymond D: I seem to remember that view was current in 1933.

Christopher L: I am not talking about a right-wing government though Garrett. I think something much more dangerous, frightening, and conceivably galvanising may reignite the left.

Garrett M: Like Nazis???

Christopher L: I wouldn’t say Nazis. But the crises occuring in Europe right now mean there are parallels. Fascism will never re-emerge in its open C.20th form. However, as we all know there are right-wing, neo-fascist and populist organisations mobilising across Europe.

Citizen Partridge: Unfortunately it seems many on the far left think that the organisational form of a revolutionary party in 2013 should mirror the Bolshevik party of almost a hundred years ago – or rather, their sometimes imagined view of what that party was like. (I’ll admit I’m far from an expect on the internal workings of the Bolsheviks). And indeed, Menshevik, a term denoting a section of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party which was outlawed and basically ceased to exist by 1921, is still seemingly considered to be a valid term of abuse to be thrown at ‘rival’ leftwing organisations. It’s kind of a little bit strange.

What does ‘the left’ – however one describes it’s constituent parts, and however much of the ‘left spectrum’ one wants to include – want a fairer more equal society to look like? That is indeed a good question.

For years I used to believe “[insert some generalities about workers control, economic and political democracy, right of recall] and ah sure everything will sort itself out after the revolution, be grand sure”. But I’ve come to think that that simply isn’t enough of an explanation for people when you are trying to convince them a socialist/communist society would be materially better for them. Some kind of speculative empiricism is needed (if that’s not too much of a contradiction in terms) in terms of future models. At a very basic level, what would an election look like in a socialist society? What would the decision making process entail in a workplace? How would we concretely plan the economy so there isn’t underproduction or that everyone isn’t wearing the same fucking clothes? Again, I’m just thinking out loud here – I’m not saying I have the answers to such questions, cos I don’t. But expecting Russian Revolution Mk II, or a Cuban or Chinese style guerilla war, in an industrial country in 2013, is expecting the improbable/impossible.

I wouldn’t be that optimistic about people organising in the face of a far right threat to be fair Chris. People have already mentioned the Nazis, but then again, in France and Italy after the fall of fascism in those countries (brought about by years of total war it must be said) , there did emerge strong and respected communist parties. Of course, that didn’t end up too well either. Maybe we need years of brutal repression and fightback by lefty partisans to earn the trust of the masses… oh fuck I don’t know!

Fearghal O: I’m surprised I actually agree with so much of this. Our model of organising is fundamentally broken, and continuing to flog this very, very dead horse is only going to demoralise and burn-out the ever shrinking core of activists even further. The fact that those who perhaps have realised this failing are actually the anti-politics ODS\Independent\Sovereign types does make me feel even more uncomfortable.

A – B marches with abstract or unachievable demands are completely pointless. Our aim should be to empower people and give them confidence in their own ability to take action, direct their own lives, and protests ending with the same big talk, meaningless boring speeches does nothing to empower people.

RTE: Contextless and vacuous

February 26, 2013
Protesters tear gassed outside Ofer Military Prison

Protesters tear gassed outside Ofer Military Prison

Today, RTE News online ran a story about Palestine, headlined ‘Rocket fired from Gaza explodes in southern Israel’. This in itself would be a perfectly factual way to frame the story if, for example, RTE had been following the Gaza ceasefire story since last November.

However, this is the first mention of a ceasefire breach since 1st December 2012. In fact, before today’s piece, there have only been two stories about ceasefire breaches published since it came into effect. Those were on 23rd November and 1st December. The former was a report headlined ‘Israeli gunfire kills man near Gaza border’, and the latter was a one line report about the killing of a Palestinian man in Gaza as an aside to a piece on British and French reactions to Israel’s announcement that it was planning more illegal settlements.

For those who have been following the aftermath of the last Israeli attack on Gaza, this lack of coverage will probably seem bizarre, and infuriating. Since the ceasefire, there have been 4 Palestinians shot and killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, and 91 injured. The Israeli military has carried out 63 shooting attacks, 13 armoured incursions, and 30 attacks on Palestinians fishermen at sea.

Of these, RTE deigned to report only two, and both of those in the near immediate aftermath of the ceasefire. And of those, one was merely a nameless statistic in a report about the ‘real’ news – two imperialist powers’ lightly rapping Israel on the knuckles for announcing it was planning to commit yet another violation of the Geneva Convention by building more illegal settlements.

The only other stories that mentioned Gaza in that three month period were as follows: Hamas’ leader-in-exile Khaled Mesha’al’s visit to Gaza on 8th December, headlined ‘Hamas leader vows to never recognise Israel’; a report entitled ‘Egypt floods Gaza tunnels cutting vital lifeline’ on 13th February; and a piece about the winner of the World Press Photo Award called ‘Swedish photographer wins World Press Photo award’ (the photograph was a harrowing image of the funeral of two children and their father killed in Israel’s November 2012 bombing campaign).

Frankly, it should be incredible that RTE, the Irish state’s public service broadcaster, could ignore constant violations of the ceasefire by Israel and then run a story like this; nowhere in the piece does it mention any of Israel’s numerous ceasefire violations, not even the meagre two it had previously reported. Should be, but alas, isn’t.

For the sake of accuracy, let’s deconstruct the piece , line-by-line:

Rocket fired from Gaza explodes in southern Israel

The headline immediately frames the piece with Palestinians carrying out an act of unprovoked violence.

A rocket has exploded in southern Israel in the first such attack by militants in Gaza since a truce ended a week of cross-border fighting in November.

No mention is made that would suggest this rocket comes after three months of ceasefire violation by Israeli forces.

The rocket caused some damage to a road near the city of Ashkelon but no injuries, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The first quote is given to an Israeli official.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank-based Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the strike, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency said.

Fatah is not “West Bank-based”; it the oldest Palestinian political faction, active in all the occupied territories and the diaspora. The only Palestinian voice in this piece is that of a Ma’an news report, citing a Palestinian group as claiming responsibility for a violent incident; apparently RTE doesn’t believe Palestinians should have agency or even give us the group’s own rationale for the attack.

There was no military response from Israel.

This rocket, if it was anything, was a response to constant ceasefire violations in Gaza and violent Israeli provocations in the West Bank, including the deaths of six people since November, three of them children. Yet RTE infers: ‘Israel is letting it go without a military response, aren’t they very restrained?’ I believe I’ve yet to see an RTE report that says ‘Today a Palestinian was killed by the Israeli military – there was no response from Palestinian fighters’.

The attack came after the death on Saturday of a Palestinian detainee in Israeli custody, which triggered protests in the West Bank.

This is the first piece of information we get about Israeli actions against Palestinians. This one death is apparently the trigger – but note, the attack did not come “in response” to the death, for only Israel “responds”. The rocket simply could not have been a reaction to the constant Israeli ceasefire violations or other acts of violence in the West Bank. But what does RTE tell us of this death it has chosen as the rationale for this attack?

The death in disputed circumstances of Arafat Jaradat and a hunger strike by four other Palestinian inmates have stoked tensions ahead of a planned visit next month by US President Barack Obama.

First, there are 12 hunger strikers at present and, incidentally, I believe this is the first time RTE have mentioned the hunger strikes since May 2012. Second, this tells us nothing of the death, other than it was “in disputed circumstances”. What are these circumstances? Well, according to the Palestinian Authority Minister for Detainees, Issa Qaraqe, the detainee was tortured to death while in Israeli custody. Tortured. To. Death. In case you missed that. By the self-proclaimed only democracy in the Middle East. This is not worth reporting it would appear.

Israeli troops shot and wounded five Palestinians during confrontations with protesters in the Bethlehem area yesterday and a 15-year-old boy was in critical condition. At the end of last year, Egyptian mediators helped achieve a truce after eight days of Israeli air strikes amid rocket attacks from the coastal territory.

This is factual, as fas as I can tell – although I have seen a report that says 10 others were injured by by shooting outside the Ofer military prison, near Ramallah.

Remember folks, if you have a television and you live in Ireland, you’re paying for this crap. Almost, as if to add insult to injury, recently the Irish government announced that it doesn’t even matter that if – like my good self – you don’t own a television, you’re going to have to pay for a television license anyway.

According to the Irish Independent, “Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte [said] that a huge number of people now got their news, not from sitting in front of the 9pm news, but from other services offered by the national broadcaster”. No, Minister, nobody gets their “news” from RTE – not on the screen, not on the airwaves, not online. We get half-truths, misinformation and propaganda. And it’s just not good enough.

[A note on RTE Online News stories – it is possible that in a single day RTE online will run the same story, sometimes slightly edited, sometimes exactly the same, re-posted several times throughout the day – usually as ‘updates’ at 1pm, 6pm and 9pm. For the purposes of this examination, I have taken multiple virtually identical stories on the same subject as being a single story.]

Israeli Deputy Ambassador/Culture Officer in Dublin advocates intimidation and smearing human rights activists; suggests humiliating them by associating them with Mossad and ‘sexual identity problems’

June 13, 2012

In an exposé by Israel’s Channel 10 News, it has been revealed that Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to Ireland, Nurit Tinari-Modai, advocates a campaign of intimidation, smears and falsification against Israeli human rights activists who campaign in solidarity with Palestinians, and suggests that “sexual identity problems” lie behind such activism. (Press Release from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign – original here)

Ms. Tinari-Modai, who is also the Culture Officer of the Israeli Embassy in Ireland and wife of the current Ambassador Boaz Modai, made the proposals in a diplomatic communiqué sent to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. According to the Channel 10 report, translated into English by Dena Shunra, Ms. Modai advocates working “directly against those Israeli activists, [to] humiliate and shame them”. She suggests publishing the names and photographs of Israeli activists to embarrass their family and friends, and implying that they are agents of Mossad to undermine trust between Palestinian, international and Israeli solidarity activists.

Ms Tinari-Modai’s cable says that “it is possible to obtain names of the Israelis… you have to try and hit their soft underbellies, to publish their photographs, maybe that will cause embarrassment from their friends in Israel and their family, hoping that local activists would understand that they may actually be working on behalf of Mossad [Israel’s spy agency].”

Ms Tinari-Modai also goes on to make the bizarre claim that “the activity of those activists against the state is, in my evaluation, not necessarily ideological, but grounded in psychological reasons (generally of disappointment with the parents, [or] sexual identity problems).”

Martin O’Quigley, Chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) condemned the proposals saying, “this type of behaviour is indicative of the mindset of apologists for Apartheid Israel. They have no legal, political or moral arguments. Instead of questioning Israel’s illegal actions and occupation, they opt to attack human rights activists’ characters and motivations. Such tactics fit with the recommendations of the Reut Institute, an Israeli government-linked think-tank, which advocates a campaign of ‘sabotage’, ‘attack’ and ‘naming and shaming’ against Palestinian solidarity activists. While the Israeli Foreign Ministry has distanced itself from the proposals, calling them “deranged”, it is hard to believe this is a serious disavowal – more likely it is because the cable was leaked to the press and has become a political embarrassment.”

Mr. O’Quigley called for the Irish Government to take action on the issue. “That these kind of proposals are being seriously touted by the Israeli Embassy in Ireland is incredibly worrying, and the Irish government should, at the very least, demand Ms. Modai be withdrawn immediately. Support for such intimidatory behaviour, interference and personalised attacks on human rights activists by a foreign diplomatic mission should be unacceptable in a democratic and sovereign country.”

Mr O’Quigley pointed out that Ms. Modai has been a prominent opponent of the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel. “As Culture Officer of the Israeli Embassy, Ms. Tinari-Modai has been a vocal opponent of the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel. Indeed, Ms. Modai organised an Israeli Embassy sponsored propaganda film festival in Dublin last year, which was attended by both An Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter”.

Mr. O’Quigley concluded by saying that “in recent weeks, there has been an unprecedented attack on both the campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel and the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) in the Irish media, much of it based on inaccurate and misleading reporting. These attacks have often been highly personalised against individual IPSC members. While this would fit with the modus operandi of the Israeli Embassy, whether or not the embassy has influenced such reporting is impossible to say. However, there is no doubt that the Israeli Embassy can only have been happy with the skewed misrepresentation of the campaign.”

Ali Abunimah, Palestinian author and human rights activist noted that “Nurit Tinari-Modai’s emphasis on alleged “sexual identity problems” of those to be smeared, indicates an innate homophobia that is at odds with Israel’s efforts – known as pinkwashing – to portray itself as supportive of the rights of people who identify as LGBTQ.”

Notes:

The Channel 10 News report (text and video in Hebrew only) can be viewed here: http://news.nana10.co.il/Article/?ArticleID=903347

A professional translation of the report is published here on Electronic Intifada: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israels-dublin-embassy-planned-smear-palestine-activists-sexual-deviants-and

A second translation from Hebrew can be found here on the Israeli website 972 Magazine: http://972mag.com/deputy-ambassador-to-ireland-pro-palestinian-activists-have-sexual-identity-problems/48180/

For more information on the Reut Institute, see: http://electronicintifada.net/tags/reut-institute

Audio: 21st Century Republicanism (McKearney, Leeson, Ó Broin & Redmond)

April 16, 2012

L-R: Tommy McKearney, Eoin Ó Broin, Mary Cullen, Brian Leeson & Tom Redmond

On Saturday 14th April 2012, a very interesting meeting took place upstairs in Connolly Books, Dublin. The meeting, entitled ’21st Century Republicanism’, brought together some important thinkers and activists from the Irish republican and socialist left. A standing room only crowd packed in to see former IRA prisoner Tommy McKearney (author of The Provisional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament), Eoin Ó Broin of Sinn Féin (author of Sinn Féin and the Politics of Left Republicanism), éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson and Tom Redmond of the Communist Party of Ireland. The meeting was chaired by Mary Cullen of the Ireland Institute and editor of The Citizen magazine. Following the contributions of each of the speakers, there was a very interesting Q&A session. I think the Communist Party should be thanked for hosting this much needed discussion, which will hopefully be the merely the first in a series teasing out the issues involved in left republicanism.

For those who were unable to make it along, you can listen to a recording of the talk that I made. Download it by clicking here (right click and ‘save target/link as’ – mp3, 2hrs35mins). The CPI also made a video of it, but I’m not sure when that will be online.

Here’s the poster for the event, which, incidentally, was designed by a certain Citizen of this blog.


This is the first in a short series of meeting being hosted by the Communist Party over the next couple of months. The next, on the topic of ‘Culture & Class’, will take place on Saturday 28 April at 2pm, again upstairs in Connolly Books.