Is voting YES the same as voting SNP?

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By Gearárd Mac Giolla Méirleach  (aka The Bandit)

On March 21st the Scottish Government announced the date that the people of Scotland will be given a chance to vote for self-determination and independence.  This is a historic opportunity and a once-in-a-life time chance that must be grasped by both hands.  I have been both saddened and surprised at the number of Celtic fans that have changed their default opposition on independence since the introduction of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act.

Let me be quite clear on this issue; I am 100% opposed to the bill and I will proudly stand with Fans Against Criminalisation when they hold their demo on the 6th of April.  Politics is a game of swings and roundabouts; it would be highly unlikely if you agreed with one particular political party on all its decisions.

I could be described as a left-of-centre socialist libertarian. In an independent Scotland it would be highly unlikely that I would vote for the SNP, but at the moment they are a vehicle for change.  They are the one political party in this country capable of leading us to a Scotland that we can all be proud of.

People of Irish descent (including Irish republicans) and Scottish Catholics, who make up a large percentile of the Celtic support, have often struggled when it comes to self determination for Scotland.  Traditionally these elements gave their support to the Scottish British Labour Party.  This is the same Labour Party that has run much of Scotland for the last 50 years and which did not-a-lot to tackle anti-Irish racism, sectarianism or bigotry while in power, apart from resorting to the OSABATO line (one side’s as bad as the other) when under pressure.

In a British context, the Labour Party, which will be campaigning alongside the other Unionist parties for a NO vote, had its chance to make a difference when it was in government in the 1960’s, 1970’s and again in the late 1990’s and early ‘noughties’.  During this time they did little to guarantee permanent improvements to the lives of working class people.  What they gave with one hand they usually took away with the other.

The most recent Labour Governments under Blair and Brown presided over changes to the Social welfare system that were on a par with the governments of Margaret Thatcher. The very same Government oversaw the deregulation of the financial service industry that allowed the bankers to lead us into a double-dip recession and financial austerity.

I believe that an independent Scotland can be a prosperous, socially just, compassionate and inclusive society.  These are the principles that Celtic was founded upon and which we can all get behind.  It might seem far-fetched to say so, but I believe that if Brother Walfrid were with us today he would support such principles of justice and equality for the Scots and Irish-Scots in a democratic and independent nation.

Yes or NoI would urge all Celtic supporters to vote YES on September 18th 2014.  Ask yourself what have we got to lose?  Westminster Government is not working for the people of Scotland.  Scotland would surely be suited better if it were governed by the people who care most about Scotland; those who live here, day-in and day-out.

When Scotland achieves her independence the first parliament will be elected in 2016.  A year that will be particularly important to the Irish Republicans within our support.  It’s the time when we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Easter  Rising.  This is more significant because if Scotland breaks away from the Union it opens up the way for the Irish people across all 32 Counties and 4 Provinces to choose self-determination, a unified state and independence from British interference in Irish political matters.

In the past few days, since our date with destiny was announced, the Pro-Union parties have gone into overdrive with the old negative campaigning.  They have regurgitated the age old lie that Scotland gets more out of the Union than it puts in.  As a country we contribute 9.6% to the UK government in the form of taxes, in return we receive 9.3% back.   That’s the equivalent of us being better off to the tune of £500 better off per person per year.  In real terms that is a free season ticket book for some.

Scotland has 25% of the EU’s offshore wind  and tidal energy potential, which is estimated to be worth £30 billion pounds and has the potential to create up to 28,000 Jobs for the people of Scotland.  Over the weekend I noted rhetoric from the Tory party playing this down claiming that this was not a guaranteed source of energy.  This is Scotland, it’s windy 95% of the year.  This sounds like the same lie they have peddled from the 1960’s that oil and gas was running out in the North Sea.  Yet last year there was £7.5 billion of capital expenditure spent on drilling and excavation projects to find new streams of gas and oil.  BP has said as Recently as October 2012 that they believe oil and gas will flow from the North Sea for another 40 years.  At this present moment in time our oil and gas resources is  worth over £1 trillion.  When the cost of crude oil and gas increases, which it will, these revenues will to.

In an Independent Scotland there would be no need for nuclear bases on the Clyde. This will result in savings annually of over £250 million.  Think about where that money could be invested to help the people of this country who need it most; money that could be ploughed into education, social housing and healthcare projects.

We are poorer today than we were 5 years ago.  That is not something that is likely to change if we continue to be part of the Union.  In real terms our economy is struggling and the vast majority of us are suffering from financial hardship.  The latest cuts imposed on the people of Scotland by Chancellor Osborne – and those of his predecessors, Darling, Brown, Clarke, Lamont, Major, Lawson and Howe – show that Scotland is not better off as part of the Union.  We continue to be the poor relation while the recession was barely noticeable in the prosperous areas of London and the South East.  London was the last place in the UK to enter recession and it was the first to exit from the slump.

In today’s society our elders are being forced to work longer than ever before.  Our sick and unemployed are having benefits cut, our kids and families are facing cut backs in Child Tax and Working Tax credits.  Yet the rich continue to get richer and those who earn most are seeing their taxes cut.

It is worth mentioning also that although Scotland is gas and oil rich the UK Government don’t take these revenues into consideration when it talks about Scotland’s finances.  If it did we would be rated as the 6th Wealthiest nation per capita in the developed world.

Imagine the difference we could make to the everyday lives to our citizens if we had control over our own wealth and resources?

Think long and hard about how much fairer an independent Scotland could be for every single one of us?

Ask yourself who you would prefer to Govern you in an independent Scotland? It doesn’t have to be the SNP.  They are simply one of many political alternatives that would be standing for election to government post-independence. An independent Scotland needn’t be a one party state.

But please don’t let the  Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill be the deciding factor when choosing our destiny.

Mark Renton from Trainspotting said it was “Shite being Scottish” I say its shite being British.  Let’s make change happen and Vote YES in 2014.

In closing, I’d like to point out another excellent article written by Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society for TAL and the fantastic 107 Cowgate Blog – Independence: Should we stay or should we go?

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Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, White & MacGiollabhain

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Phil MacGiollaBhain – The Bhoy Who Cried Wolf?

by  Stiofán  Mac Giolla Tál Fhear

It is with increasing curiosity and incredulity that I have observed Phil McGiollabhain’s attempts to control and shape the dialogue and debate around matters relating to Celtic Football Club. In my next blog for TAL, I will address the points, posts and blogs of MacGiollaBhain and others who have guided the debate according to the prejudices of a section of white collar bigots among our own support. For now, I think it is appropriate to expand a little on my knowledge of Phil MacWhateverHisNameIs and the fantasy world that he occupies.

I didn’t meet the man now known as Phil MacGiollabhain until 1990. He was introduced to me by a committee member of the Republican Bands Alliance (Scotland) as ‘Phil MacGiollabhain’. However, when I mentioned him to other republicans I worked with on prisoner campaigns they didn’t recognise the name or seem to know who he was. It was only on actually seeing him that they realised that this was the guy that they had previously known as ‘Phil White’. Most people put down the name change to Phil having gone through some kind of ‘cultural epiphany’ (immersing himself in Irish culture and language). However, no-one in political circles seems to have ever known him by his real name (which is not MacGiollabhain or White, incidentally) and that is why we all assumed that his birth name was White.

I have spoken to activists who were involved in the republican movement in Scotland throughout the 1980’s and they have confirmed that Phil introduced himself, and was known to all, only as ‘Phil White’. It now appears that ‘Phil White’ was an assumed name that he used within political circles. There may be very good reasons why Phil wanted to be known by an alias, many of us write under pseudonyms for fanzines and on at least two occasions when dealing with the press, I have used a corruption of my own surname for reasons of personal safety. However, fanzines and press aside, it does seem strange that a person would introduce himself to like-minded political activists under a false name and for years lead them to believe that he was known by that name.

There are questions that need to be answered by White-MacGiollabhain as to why he lied for years to political activists about his real name?

His input with TAL always seemed to be very much oriented towards proving his thesis that rangers was a ‘fascist club’ from top to bottom, from the boardroom to the fans, without exception. TAL is a fanzine and I didn’t take a lot of it too seriously to start with. As editor I saw stuff like that as a bit of a wind-up (as all fanzines do with regard to their team’s biggest rivals) but there were some articles of his that were, in my opinion, borderline sectarian. He penned the Editorial Comment page (always on page 3) in the first few issues of TAL, which probably led to his delusion and false claims that he was the ‘editor of TAL’. In addition to the Editorial Comment he usually contributed a 2-page feature article. The layout, editing and the majority of the articles that went into TAL were contributed by others.

It appears that he used the fanzine as a stepping stone to An Phoblacht/Republican News, which in turn was his stepping stone to the NUJ Card… And the NUJ card is his stepping stone to his self-styled ‘rebel journalism’ and his cultivation of mainstream journalists, as well as contacts in the Celtic PLC boardroom.

My first contact with him in 14 years was in July, 2008 when he turned up unannounced and uninvited to a TAL Benefit gig in Dublin. He came in saying that he’d arranged to meet guys from the Celtic Minded forum at the gig, but there was no-one from Celtic Minded there and we weren’t expecting any members of that forum to support the gig. He greeted me like a long lost friend.

During the event he asked me to come outside for a chat. Standing on Westmoreland Street he requested that I remove the battery from my phone… He obviously thought that time had stood still for 18 years and that this was the same naive person from the early 1990’s that he was meeting again. He immediately launched into ‘Walter Mitty mode’ with all sorts of fantastical claims about the republican movement and his own place within it. He also made allusions that he was part of an unspecified ‘new movement’ that was opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and which was in the course of recruiting new members. I wasn’t impressed. In fact, based on past experience of Phil’s fantastical claims, which resulted in serious feuding between left republican groups in Scotland, I was more than a little skeptical of an apparent recruitment drive headed by him and, if his claims of ‘involvement’ were true, how any republican organisation worthy of the name could let this man anywhere near it?!?

This constructed fantasy world seems all the  more peculiar, but no less sinister, when you take into account that following public criticism and questioning of his motives on this blog, Phil has been making serious attempts to re-ingratiate himself with the republican newspaper AP/RN and Sinn Fein, a movement that he continues to privately claim is run by British military intelligence assets. This is a suggestion that I believe to be preposterous and poisonous, with the obvious intention of sowing confusion, mistrust and suspicion.

Meanwhile, back to July 2008. Phil approached me again later that evening in Dublin and asked if I wanted him to say anything as one of the co-founders of TAL. It wasn’t really a night for speeches  – my only appearances on stage that night were to introduce the acts and draw the raffle – but I said that he could speak if he wanted to. He got up on stage and made a speech, the gist of which was about why a fanzine like TAL was necessary to keep the republican tradition alive at Celtic Park, to defend the songs that we sing and, where necessary, to support THE ARMED STRUGGLE!

It was his overt reference to armed struggle that surprised me on the night, not withstanding his silly posturing during the ‘private conversation’ earlier in the evening.  I thought that it was an inappropriate speech and unnecessary showboating to a crowd that he had politically misjudged.  TAL’s position at that time (and now) is that armed struggle is not a viable tactic in the current political climate and that peaceful means should be employed to achieve republican ends, whether pro-GFA or anti-GFA.  Maybe the Guinness went to his head, maybe he was playing to the gallery, but it was a strange and eccentric intervention.

Republicans will see the contradictions in his private claims to be this, that and t’other as regards their movement and his public pronouncements via his blog with regard to the depoliticisation and social cleansing of the club’s fanbase. It’s time to ask just exactly where the self-proclaimed ‘rebel’ is trying to lead the Celtic support, because it certainly isn’t towards the republic.

Will the real Phil MacGiollabhain please stand up?

 

crying-statue-of-libertyNOTE: In American political circles the type of finger-pointing activities that ‘White-MacGiollaBhain’ engages in is known as ‘bad jacketing’ where a malicious individual by means of whispering campaigns and lies maligns the leadership, or particular members of a political organisation in an effort to create conflict and friction within that organisation, or between political organisations (feuding). For this to work effectively it also depends upon the naivety of other innocent members of an organisation to be taken in by the propaganda and to inadvertently aid the ‘bad jacketing’ process by repeating the rumours and lies, thus ensuring that the person or persons responsible are rarely confronted or brought to account for their actions.  Please see the excellent piece by the former Black Panther Party activist Larry Pinkney on today’s 107 Cowgate blog for further information about COINTELPRO and other state run counter intelligence programs. Whilst we are not accusing MacMadeUpName of direct links to the British or Irish state, it is our contention that his bizarre, ego-driven and disruptive political interventions over the years have ended with almost the same results as a state-run ‘bad jacketing’ operation would; confusion, disruption, splits, divisions and feuding. Who needs enemies with friends like this?

Slavery and Freedom

BandaSalmondThe recent celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of missionary and explorer David Livingstone and the visit to his birthplace in Blantyre by President Joyce Banda of Malawi to acknowledge Livingstone’s opposition to the slave trade gave rise to some discussion about the role of Britain and other European countries in the international slave trade of the 18th and 19th Centuries. TAL contributor HAL gives his view of the history of the slave trade.

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by Micheál Mac Giolla Houlihan

Recent research into the slave trade bolsters the argument that industrialisation in Britain to a large extent was paid for with blood money extracted from slave labour on Caribbean sugar plantations. Profits from the burgeoning Caribbean sugar industry were reinvested in Britain’s domestic economy by absentee landlords and slave trading merchants. Following the Slave Emancipation Act in 1834 £billions (estimated to be as high as £50 billion) in modern day terms was paid in compensation to slave-owning families (see article in Independent on 24 February – Britain’s colonial shame: Slave-owners given huge payouts after abolition). Slaves were regarded as the personal property of the slave-owners who were therefore compensated for their loss. Needless to say the slaves on the plantations received no reparation and indeed were ‘apprenticed’ to work for food and lodging for an additional five years as part of a transition process.

david-cameron-slave-historyPresent day descendants of the slave-owning recipients of this enormous wealth paid for out of the public purse include high-ranking politicians such as Prime Minister David Cameron and other members of the elites such as the current chairman of the Arts Council Peter Bazelgette. The scheme was partly financed by raised duties on sugar with the costs passed onto the domestic British consumer – sugar became part of the staple diet of the ordinary man and woman in the 1800’s. Sugar was imported from the slave plantations in the Caribbean so the slaves were effectively paying for their own emancipation in blood, sweat and tears.

Also included in the list of present day descendants of the slave-owning beneficiaries of the compensation scheme is Douglas Hogg, 3rd Viscount Hailsham to give him his full title, a former Tory cabinet minister under both Thatcher and John Major and exposed by the Telegraph in 2009 as having claimed in excess of £2,000 of taxpayers’ money to clean the moat around his country estate and have his piano tuned (MP’s expenses: Clearing the moat at Douglas Hogg’s manor). Where would such scions of the establishment be without the taxpayer? It was Douglas Hogg who declared in a speech to the Commons in 1989 that “certain solicitors in Northern Ireland were unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA”. Less than four weeks later the prominent Civil Rights Lawyer Pat Finucane was assassinated.

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The Independent article refers to a research database on the slave-holders compensation scheme run by University College London. The database tracing the payouts and the recipients is significant as it roots the wealth of the British establishment in the bloody business of slavery and exploitation. It is worth pausing to reflect on the nature of the slavery business. In the course of the 18th century 820,000 West African men, women and children were transported to an early death in Jamaica, the biggest of Britain’s Caribbean colonies. Thousands more died at sea on board slave ships en route to the Americas on the so-called ‘middle passage’. On average 20 per cent of slaves died en route.  Other European countries were also involved. The Portugal-Brazil connection transported the largest number of slaves but Britain dominated the trade at its height in the early period of industrialisation between 1760 and the early 1800’s. France was the next biggest slave trading nation until a prolonged revolt in its colony St Domingue culminated in the establishment of the slave free Republic of Haiti in 1804. Britain ended the slave trade in 1807 but did not abolish the slavery system. Already existing slaves remained slaves.

Slave_Auction_AdIn the course of the slave trade a total of 12 million Africans were transported to the Americas including the West Indies. Slaves were traded at auctions or ‘scrambles’ where plantation owners grabbed the slaves they wished to buy. New slaves had to be ‘broken in’ which was known as ‘seasoning’. There were high mortality rates among seasoned slaves mainly from disease and illness (the tropical West Indies was rife with disease), overwork and depression – many slaves just simply lost the will to live. There was also high infant mortality so there was a continual demand for fresh supplies of African slaves. High demand meant high prices. Slavery was a very profitable business.

Flogging and mutilation were routine punishments for absconding from the plantation. There was no discrimination between the sexes. Twelve hour shifts were the norm. There was a small window for the harvest of the cane sugar – only a few days before the sugar cane became unusable. The most arduous task involved turning the cane into unrefined sugar a kind of syrup by a process of boiling. The boiling houses were the scene of frequent accidents. During harvest time if a slave’s hand became trapped in the crusher it was cut off with an axe rather than shutting down the factory to extricate trapped limbs and losing valuable time for processing the sugar cane. Such was the hunger for profit.

Non-conformist and evangelical Protestants in particular Methodists, Quakers and Baptists who believed in ‘justification by faith alone’ and ‘the priesthood of all believers’ viewed slaves not as objects or as property but as souls in need of redemption and were influential voices in the abolitionist movement and Anti-Slavery Society. Thousands of missionaries left England in the early 1800s to work in the British Empire and many arrived in the Caribbean where they were met with suspicion by the plantation owners. slavetrade-end-slogan

In the end emancipation was precipitated by the slaves themselves with literate slave leader Sam Sharpe orchestrating the Great Jamaican Slave Rebellion in 1831/32. Hundreds of plantations were burned to the ground and hundreds of slaves were killed in the fields by local militia and Crown forces. Hundreds more rebel slaves were captured and the plantation owners were determined on vengeance. 320 rebel slaves were sentenced to death and the executions were carried out in Montego Bay, today a holiday mecca for affluent Westerners seeking a good time. The rebel leader Sam Sharpe was the last to be hanged on 23rd May 1832. The Protestant missionaries were chased out of the island by angry planters who accused them of spreading sedition. The crisis provoked by the rebellion expedited emancipation.

Much of this account resonates with the Irish experience of ‘punitive slavery’ or penal servitude especially in the 17th century following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The transatlantic voyage, the ‘mid passage’ carrying slaves from Africa to the Americas also brings to mind the harrowing experience of the starving Irish fleeing An Gorta Mor in ‘coffin ships’ en route to America in the 1840’s and of course Irish rebels were no strangers to rolling gallows. That is why it is senseless, worse self-defeating, for any Celtic fan sympathetic to the Irish struggle for freedom to harbour a racist or sectarian outlook. Celtic fans should continue to stand firmly in the proud tradition of anti-racism and non-sectarianism.

To continue the discussion on twitter:  @michael_hal

 

Offensive Behaviour law is the legacy left to Celtic fans by Paul McBride QC

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While most members of The Celtic Family are busy pointing fingers at the SNP and the Scottish Government for the harassment of the Green Brigade – and they do share responsibility as the party that championed the new laws – it appears to have been conveniently forgotten that the foremost proponent of the legislation was the now deceased, Celtic supporting, former Labourite turned Tory careerist, Paul McBride QC, who it appears may even have been contemplating joining the SNP just before he died.

We can only hope that, in the light of last Saturday’s events in the Gallowgate area, those sycophants who lauded him as the “Celtic QC” and produced T-shirts exalting his name are now hanging their heads in shame, because the legacy that Paul McBride QC left to Celtic fans is a law that is now being directed primarily against them. Paul McBride QC was working to a personal agenda that corresponded with the aims of the police and state. It has long been TAL’s opinion that on this issue he did not act in the best interests of the majority of Celtic supporters.

This video goes back to the start of the debate over the proposed legislation and features a discussion between McBride and the respected lawyer Iain Smart who opposed the legislation and regarded it as being completely unnecessary. Smart makes some good points about the pettiness of the legislation and argues that existing laws were sufficient to deal with any public disorder that might arise at football. McBride almost gives the game away at one point by referring to the ‘long process’ by which the police had been lobbying for this type of legislation. Going by the body language of the two lawyers there appears to have been no love lost between them, they can hardly look at each other during the debate.

It should also be remembered that McBride was a ‘legal adviser’ to Celtic PLC and whilst his claims in this programme that both Celtic and Rangers supported the legislation are wrong, it is clear that he felt some kind of moral authority to make such statements on the club’s behalf. We can only assume that he may have had the ear of some of those in senior positions at Celtic PLC.

There could and should have been even greater opposition to the bill from Celtic fans, but unfortunately it was the loudmouths like Paul McBride and Phil MacGiollabhain who were telling people to knuckle down and ‘obey the law’ that folk listened to. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that our community too often defers to its middle-class ‘high achievers’ who are treated like sages even when they are talking out of their arses.

The club, the Scottish government and the police managed to confuse and divide the supporters and now when our worst fears are confirmed it appears to be too late to do anything about it… But we can still raise hell about this legislation and the behaviour of the police.

There’s also a possible bargaining position to be advanced here visa vie the referendum on independence. Instead of folk going around slagging off the SNP in a religiously sectarian manner, referring to them as ‘Orangies’ on the internet, perhaps our own cause would be better served were we to negotiate a price for our support for independence? The price should be the repeal of this legislation and the disbandment of the FoCUS Unit. That would be the clever position to adopt.

* If you had problems accessing the video please go to the TAL You Tube channel and access it from there.  Copy and paste the following into your browser http://www.youtube.com/user/TALfanzineCeltic

Independence: should we stay or should we go?

 

 

republicanyesby Jim Slaven (James Connolly Society)

The referendum campaign in Scotland is well under way and almost all politics is dominated by the 2014 vote. Every political statement and decision is viewed through the prism of the constitutional debate. For Irish republicans in Scotland our position on the referendum is a key political decision. It has an impact on our future strategies in Scotland and in Ireland. Historically the Irish community have been split on support for Scottish independence and this continues to be the case. That is not a reason to shirk away from engagement in the referendum campaign, it merely highlights the need for republicans to take a principled position and show some leadership on this issue.

The British Labour Party and other unionists are engaged in a dreadful campaign promoting fear and confusion within our community. They attempt to conflate support for independence with support for the SNP. This must be challenged on two grounds. Firstly we must remember that when Labour ran Scotland like a one party state for fifty years they did absolutely nothing to combat anti-Irish racism or religious bigotry. They did nothing to improve the material conditions of the Irish community or the working class in Scotland. They did nothing to help those most in need because they were too busy helping themselves. The constitutional status quo offers us more of the same and no more. Republicans have nothing to fear from constitutional change and everything to gain.

Secondly this is not about support for the SNP. This is about self determination. The James Connolly Society have, since our formation over 25 years ago, supported the break-up of the UK state and the establishment of a Scottish Republic. Our members have been involved in various campaigns for Scottish self determination, from Scotland United to the referendum campaign of 1997. We supported the establishment of the Scottish Parliament when the SNP were still opposing it.

In our view it is our responsibility as Irish republicans to support, in practice, the right of nations to determine their own constitutional future. Not just in Ireland but here in Scotland too. The SNP’s plans for Dominion status are dreadful. However there is nobody better placed to offer a radical alternative than republicans aided by our analysis of the UK state and Connolly’s writing on what is now called neo-colonialism. Let me be clear this referendum will not deliver the Scottish republic we seek; it is, however, a necessary, if not sufficient, signpost on the road to the republic.

A Yes vote also opens up new vistas for republicans in a wider context. As Irish republicans who happen to be in Scotland we must also think strategically in an Irish context. The UK state’s continued denial of the Irish people their right to national self determination remains the cause of conflict. The task for republicans is to develop strategies for achieving Irish freedom and establishing the Republic envisaged in the 1916 Proclamation. In order to achieve our republican objectives we must first recognise where the centre of gravity in the struggle lies. The centre of gravity in this struggle lies with the Irish people. It is the Irish people who we must mobilise in a national, bottom up campaign for an all Ireland referendum on a new Republic.

Anyone watching the news coverage of the laughable British Planters poll in Malvinas will recognise that a Planters poll in the occupied Six Counties is not a serious democratic proposition. Only through an all Ireland referendum can the Irish people exercise their right to national self determination without outside interference or impediment. Let me go further by paraphrasing the Greek political theorist Nicos Poulantzas, the Republic will be established democratically or it will not be established at all.

So both in a Scottish and Irish context it is important that republicans in Scotland support a Yes vote in 2014. To stand on the sidelines is to take a side, the wrong side. Working, in Scotland, for an Irish republic but not supporting a Scottish republic is not serious politics. Republicans can and must be the catalyst for change within our communities. We have serious and profound differences with nationalist political parties and with the Yes Scotland campaign but they are not the enemy. The UK state is the enemy of working class people in Scotland and in Ireland. Republicans in Scotland, armed with the analysis of Connolly, MacLean and Sands, must now put that analysis into practice. The 2014 referendum is an opportunity to advance the struggle for freedom and independence in Scotland and Ireland.

Jim Slaven is a member of the James Connolly Society Scotland

Continue the debate on Twitter @JimSlaven

 

A Song For Hugo Chavez

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Friends and comrades,

I don’t know about you, but I feel a somewhat surprisingly personal sense of loss at the death of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  Anything else aside, this man and the popular social movement he has played a huge role in, not only within Venezuela but around the world, has been a massive, positive influence for untold millions of people.  He and the many positive aspects of the transformational process that has been underway in Venezuela and most of Latin America, really, especially since 1998, have changed the lives in a very physical way for millions of our sisters and brothers, and have been an inspiration for those struggling to make the world a better place in every corner of the Earth, very much including within the belly of the imperial beast, here in the USA.

For those of us who have spent much of the past 15 years protesting in one form or another at gatherings of the global elite — meetings of the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Forum, and other such spectacles — there was always one consistent voice within those meetings that denounced these elitist proceedings as eloquently and as firmly as his friends in the streets outside the halls of power.

And as the years have passed since his first landslide election victory in 1998, one after another Latin American country has seen the left come to power, with people like Evo Morales go from leading a union to leading a nation.  I don’t have any idea what those of us in places like the USA would have done over the past 15 years without the example of the Bolivarian Revolution shining its light in what often seems like an otherwise fairly dark room.  An imperfect light, to be sure — I can already imagine some of the emails I’ll be getting by tomorrow from some of my favorite anarchists — but a powerful light nonetheless, and Hugo Chavez has been at the center of it.

ALBAposterOne of the most memorable experiences of my life will probably always be December 17th, 2009, on a very cold, cloudy day in Copenhagen, when I had the privilege of being one of the performers to warm up for Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and other speakers at a large hall a short walk from the house I usually stay at when I’m in town.

Here’s a video someone took of me singing my “Song for Hugo Chavez” at that event, which was broadcast soon thereafter on Venezuelan television.  (I know this because I got emails from both supporters and detractors of the Commandante after it aired, which made reference to this song on the TV.)  On my blog I have a picture taken from the door to my bedroom here in Portland, Oregon.  It’s a tattered poster from that event 4 years ago.

And here is a video from the great Uruguayan songwriter, Daniel Viglietti, which I think sums up the spirit of the Bolivarian Revolution brilliantly, his song, “A desalambrar” (with English subtitles on this video)…

La lucha continua!

David Rovics

This article first appeared on David Rovic’s blog,  A Songwriter’s Notebook

Scotland: Impacting on the narrative of sectarianism

An Phoblacht/Republican News  3 March 2013

 ‘Seeing an entire community as being represented by the actions of an embittered loyalist element within the Rangers support would be like saying that all Protestants in the Six Counties are represented by the flag protesters’

THE Scottish Ministerial Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism, headed by Dr Duncan Morrow, the former chair of the NI Community Relations Council, is now entering its sixth month of activity. Whilst Dr Morrow hails from a well-trodden liberal path in the Six Counties, where deep-rooted political divisions are often dismissed as being of a religious and thereby ‘sectarian’ nature, his presence in Scotland and the group he chairs should not be entirely dismissed by republicans.

Among the academics, politicians and professionals who have been invited to present to the advisory group have been individuals and organisations as politically diverse as the Irish Football Association’s head of community relations, the liberal anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, and the republican James Connolly Society.

Some believe that without the precondition of the inclusion of anti-Irish racism in the definition of sectarianism, Dr Morrow and his colleagues might be ignored. It would, however, be a grave error for republicans in Scotland to do this.

A spokesperson for the James Connolly Society (JCS), which has campaigned on the issue of anti-Irish racism in Scotland for more than 20 years, commented:

“The key thing in our view is to challenge the ‘one side’s as bad as the other’ attitude. From the JCS perspective the debate is moving on to our ground. When we first raised the issue of anti-Irish racism back in 1992, even people in our own community scoffed at the idea. Now it is recognised as being part of the discussion.”

Without engagement we can make no impact on the political narrative of ‘sectarianism’, nor can we hope to alter the current definition. Republicans should take the lead on the issue of anti-Irish racism and demand that it is included in the Scottish Government’s definitions of ‘sectarianism’. But we can only do that by engaging with the advisory group. If not, it will be left to state-funded bodies like Nil By Mouth to promote current definitions and ensure the continuation of the political status quo.

The James Connolly Society’s spokesperson also made the point that with a referendum on independence for Scotland only 18 months away, now might well be an opportune time for republicans to mark their card for the future:

“The Scottish Government’s review is an acknowledgement of the failure of their current strategy on sectarianism. It is an opportunity for republicans to engage in the process and offer an alternative analysis. The politics of the referendum means that the SNP [the governing Scottish National Party] are not going to seriously address this issue before 2014 but there is the possibility that things could change beyond that.”

We should also avoid a one-dimensional approach to the issue of racism  forming a judgement of Scottish political character based on the fans of its two most famous football teams would be disproportionate.

It would be incorrect to extrapolate from the ‘Old Firm’ a picture of Scotland as a whole.

Whilst it is true that some of the worst manifestations of anti-Irish racism are to be found among hardline Rangers supporters, it would be wrong to see the attitudes of an entire community as being represented by the actions of an embittered loyalist element within the Rangers support. That would be like saying that all Protestants in the Six Counties are represented by the Union flag protesters.

Loyalist flag protests in the Six Counties and the grotesque anti-Irish songs and actions of a section of Rangers fans are not an expression of strength; rather they are demonstrations of powerlessness and alienation. These are the dying breaths of an intransigent ultra-unionist minority in Scotland and Ireland. Their reaction has been fuelled by the change brought by power sharing in the Six Counties and the moves towards independence in Scotland. Loyalist protests and manifestations of anti-Irish racism reflect a fear of further political progress in both countries.

With the debate around the forthcoming independence referendum in 2014 playing in the background, republicans should avoid playing into the hands of those who would raise the spectre of an ‘anti-Irish Scotland’ as an argument against independence. The worst outcome from the debate around the independence referendum would be for the Irish community to be perceived as an obstacle to political progress in Scotland.

This article appears in the current issue of AP/RN 

An Phoblacht/Republican News  3 March 2013