“The terrorist is always the one with the smaller bomb.”
– Brendan Behan
Today is not the day for long obituaries or to debate the pros and cons of the peace process, nor is it the time (as the British media have done all day long) to wheel out opponents of the IRA to dance on the memory of the leader of Irish nationalism.
TAL Fanzine has its views on all of the political twists and turns that have taken place as a result of the eternal peace process. However, on this day, we send our sincere condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Martin McGuinness.
A personal view of the US Election from our Bosnian correspondent, originally published on the Sahtijan blog
The election results in the United States are significant because of two things. One is that the defeat of Hillary Clinton means that another shot has been fired at the ‘moderate’ terrorists in Syria, which signifies the beginning of the end for them.
However, there is another issue exposed by the Trump win.
Victory for Trump is an indication of the powerlessness and stupidity of modern-day liberals and leftists. The main culprits responsible for Trump’s win are these same so-called liberals and leftists, who spent more time making fun of Trump and his supporters than they did in addressing the problems that are the root cause of discontent in the USA.
What lies at the basis of the vote? The problem is that left-wing liberals seem to be more concerned with rainbow colors, feminism and typing on their keyboards than with the real problems of ordinary people. They live in a bubble, totally cut off from reality, and when someone punctured this bubble they had no answer to it.
Why? Because they abandoned the working class. The moment that modern leftists turned their backs on the working class – they lost. They turned to the middle-class and addressed the concerns and problems of the middle and upper middle-class. And at that moment the working class became the target of the right wing. The right know that he who holds the working class, holds the power. Therefore, they peddled stories about immigrants, about how immigrants will steal jobs, how they will threaten the livelihoods of workers, etc. The image portrayed is that all who have come to the country to seek a new home in recent times did not come to work and therefore the narrative is that they live off the backs of the working class.
This liberal leftist movement is now harvesting the fruits of the seeds that they planted.
Former IRA blanketman, H Blocks PRO and author of ‘Blanketmen‘ & ‘After Lives’, Richard O’Rawe reviews the new film about Bobby Sands, ’66 Days’.
‘Drama at the absolute rawest edge it could possibly be,’ was how journalist Fintan O’Toole described the IRA/INLA hunger strike in Brendan Byrne’s new film, Bobby Sands – Sixty-Six Days. No one who was around at that time could argue with him.
I went to the premiere of this film in West Belfast along with my wife, Bernadette. Accompanying us were Dixie Elliott and his wife, Sharon. Dixie, a former cell mate of Sands’, had been interviewed for the film but his contribution did not make the final cut.
Unsurprisingly, the cinema was packed with Sinn Féin members and supporters. Equally unsurprisingly, many of those present cast their eyes into the darkest reaches of the cinema rather than in my direction. The reason why? Because I wrote a book called Blanketmenin which I said that a committee of republicans, led by Gerry Adams, had control of the hunger strike. I also said that, before the fifth hunger striker Joe McDonnell died, this committee rejected an offer from the British government that the prison leadership believed to be acceptable. Consequently, six more hunger strikers died on the fast.
Richard O’Rawe – ‘Was it (Sands’ death) worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.’
Notwithstanding the preponderance of Sinn Féin members in attendance at the premiere, this is far from a pro-Sinn Féin film. In fact, one viewer later said to me that he thought Byrne had gone ‘a bit too far’ by using Fintan O’Toole as linkman(O’Toole is not known for his Sinn Féin sympathies).
Byrne also afforded speaking rights to former prison officer, Dessie Butterworth, Tory Cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, and Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore. As well as that, he did not shirk from raising the despicable IRA murder of a young mother and census collector, Joanne Mathers, two days before the electorate of Fermanagh/South Tyrone went to the polls to elect either Bobby Sands or a Unionist as their M.P. To some of us prisoners, it seemed as if someone wanted to sabotage Sands’ chances of being elected.
I have to say, I found this film challenging. For example: Sands gave an interview to reporter Brendan O’Cathaoir of The Irish Times on the third day of his hunger strike.
Commenting on the interview, O’Cathaoir told Byrne: ‘He spoke fluently about how they felt compelled to start the hunger strike. And he made it pretty clear to me he was likely to die. He talked really in terms of laying down his life for his comrades, and of course I am conscious that his protest was in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi. His most memorial phrase before we parted was: “If I die, God will understand.”’
I later gave some thought to O’Cathaoir saying that Sands’ fast was‘in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi’. Ghandi and Sands certainly had things in common: they shared the same imperial foe, they had a great love of their people, and they had iron will.
But unlike the pacifist Ghandi, Sands was committed to armed struggle and, while both revolutionaries may have used the tactic of hunger strike to achieve a political aim, they were altogether different entities.
Another thing that struck me was Fintan O’Toole saying that, ‘Ultimately Bobby Sands’ life effectively marks the end of the tradition of armed struggle because what he said is: There is no justification or need to kill people.’
This is simply not true. The Bobby Sands with whom I lived for three years on the blanket protest was committed to the armed struggle tradition; he never, during any of his talks with his fellow-prisoners, gave the impression that he viewed constitutional politics as a viable alternative to armed struggle: he was a committed IRA man, with all its attendant violence.
He died believing that his death would enhance the armed struggle, not diminish it.
Moreover, he had absolutely no idea that his death would lead to the peace process. If he had known, I doubt if he would have given his life so freely.
Despite Byrne’s attempt to strike a balance by giving anti-republicans a wide platform, this film is about a republican who died on hunger strike and his testimony. There is skilful use of animation, historical newsreels, and an excreta-covered, H-Block prison cell, complete with two men covered with blankets and lying on dirty mattresses on the floor.
A powerful rendition of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike diary from actor, Martin McCann leaves one with a feeling of utter helplessness, as does Mrs Sands being interviewed beside a van outside Long Kesh where she tells the world that her son is dying and, holding back her tears, appeals for no violence when he dies.
This is a film that people should go and view if for no other reason than that it has very coherent insights into Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, from both sides of the argument. It is also thought-provoking.
And always, at the back of my mind as I was watching this movie, is the question: Was it worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.
Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.
BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Eleven years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.
For nearly seventy years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights and has refused to comply with international law.
Israel maintains a regime of of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people. This is only possible because of international support. Governments fail to hold Israel to account, while corporations and institutions across the world help Israel to oppress Palestinians.
Because those in power refuse to act to stop this injustice, Palestinian civil society has called for a global citizens’ response of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – it’s self-explanatory and it is the campaign that is supported and promoted internationally by the Palestinian liberation movement. Sinn Fein didn’t get an exemption to engage in talks with Netanyahu’s Likud party so their claims that they are working in solidarity with the Palestinians are disingenuous.
It’s apparent that Sinn Fein is a political party that is completely self-absorbed and which operates only in its own self-interest. It has continually used the so-called ‘peace process’ as a means of closing down political debate in the north of Ireland and as a means of enhancing its own inflated view of itself as an arbiter of peace in other conflicts.
In reality, Sinn Fein’s leadership have chosen a ‘side’; they’ve chosen the side of neo-liberalism against progressive liberation movements around the world. As if to prove their reliability and usefulness to the imperialist/colonialist powers their spokespeople and party apparatchiks tour the world’s hotspots preaching the gospel of ‘peace without liberation’ to the struggles of the Basques, the Colombians, the Tamils and the Palestinians, absurdly suggesting that they have a ‘one-size fits all’ solution to the complex problems of national and social liberation.
When Sinn Fein leaders refer to ‘conflict resolution’ it is code for the counter revolution that the party has presided over for the last two decades. It is the export of the counter revolutionary Trojan Horse of ‘conflict resolution’ that Sinn Fein is trying to sell to its former international partners in the liberation movements.
That they put their own self-interest – and the potential of economic contracts for the devolved ‘NornIron’ Assembly with the Israeli government and Israeli companies – before the liberation of the Palestinian people is an indication of just how low this party has now stooped and how much it has moved away from the struggle for genuine social, economic and national liberation.
Meanwhile the Palestinian political prisoner Bilal Kayed is on the 56th day of his hunger strike…
This article was written by a member of the Independent Working Class Association from the Blackbird Leys estate in Oxford. It outlines the fundamental anti-working class nature of the EU and the historic complicity of Tory and Labour politicians from both the Remain and Leave camps in the EU’s merciless rightward drift:
EU REFERENDUM IS A RED HERRING FOR THE WORKING CLASS
A plague on both their houses…
To a working class drained and exhausted by having been made to shoulder the weight and the cost of austerity and immigration (and being called bigoted and racist for its efforts), the ruling class is offering a choice between two very bad options, both of which will make life even harder for the working class. Because whoever wins will claim a mandate to carry on with their current identical agendas of privatisations and austerity (Boris Johnson and Michael Gove as defenders of the NHS? Please!). So even a victory for the Remain campaign would not be a victory for the status quo. This is a War of the Roses, the prize being whose friends get the rich pickings of privatisations (the Land Registry anyone?), academisation and anti-trade union legislation, with the working class being asked to pay for its consequences and validate the result.
Of course the EU is a cabal run by the Council (comprised of the heads of state) and unelected commissioners (with the European Parliament playing much the same role as the House of Lords) designed to serve the interests of multinationals at the expense of the workers in each member state. Nobody in their right mind can deny that. But the truth is that successive UK governments, far from being victims of these forces of darkness, have been the main actors in bringing about the most anti-working class policies that could be concocted that were then imposed on the whole Union. Here’s how the little scam they’ve been playing on us works:
1. We are watching the game, and suddenly there’s a scuffle, we follow the scuffle, and we don’t notice that the ball leaves the pitch; 2. A while later a ball is kicked back into the pitch, but it’s not the same ball that left it – and by the time we notice it’s weighted, it’s too late and we are told that now there is no other ball.
When the ball is smuggled out of the pitch, it’s taken to one or more of the four main transnational institutions of political and economic control: the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the EU. None of these have an elected decision-making body (the MEP’s that we elect have consultative powers), none of these have a transparent, democratically controlled system to address grievances. For example, any case of a country being sued by another country for breaching a WTO rule will be heard by a panel of 3-5 “experts” in Geneva. Their report can only be rejected by unanimous consensus and appeals be made only on points of law. The rules do not favour one country or another as such: they favour big business, and big business will use the countries with bigger muscles to enforce their will.
The famous “Banana Wars” of the 1990s are a case in point: the EU had given bananas from former Caribbean colonies protected access to the EU markets to stimulate their economy. Latin American producers, owned by giant US-based corporations, sued the EU because protective tariffs breach free trade principles. The WTO found against the EU, but the US were not satisfied with the changes the EU made, so they imposed retaliatory, non-WTO authorised 100% import duties (and got away with it) on a range of European products, some of which (on textiles) hit Scottish producers very hard (https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/mar/05/eu.wto3).
The rules transnational institutions make can and are broken, but only by the mightiest and in favour of the interests they serve, yet none of us gave them the power to make those rules, so we can’t vote them out to change the rules. As one anti-globalisation campaigner once said, “Free trade? What is it? Show it to me.”
The UK is a major player in all four institutions. It is true that at the WTO, IMF and WB it negotiates as an EU member, not independently, but, for example, from 2004 to 2008 the Trade Commissioner negotiating on behalf the EU at the WTO etc. was none other than Peter Mandelson.
In all four bodies, all UK governments of the last 25 years at least have aggressively pursued policies and trade deals that hugely strengthened multinationals’ interests and undermined democracy in general and the working class in particular, together with workers’ rights, the environment and the fabric of civil society. Here are some of the most pernicious and far-reaching:
Structural Adjustment Programs, that required developing countries to privatise their public services in order to qualify for the cancellation of debt they had already repaid many times over; these strengthened the hand of multinationals that could later be played at home;
GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services), that made it illegal for governments to impose “trade barriers” such as environmental and social safeguards, the obligation to train and employ local workers, the enforcement of workers’ rights including the right to organise through unions, democratic accountability, etc. – in practice, everything you would want to be protected by law, so when you hear “trade barriers”, reach for your wallet, as thieves are about – on companies interested in privatising public services. In practice, it stipulated that if a company wants to acquire a public service and run it for profit, it’s illegal for a government to stop them or favour companies that include protections amounting to “trade barriers” in their bid.
All EU directives about privatisation of public services, which are an application of GATS to EU member states, ranging from the “creation of a single market for postal services in the EU” (the operative term being market), to the Bolkenstein Directive. The Bolkenstein Directive is a diabolical and complicated piece of legislation created to ensure that a company providing a service in an EU country is automatically entitled to provide it in all other countries regardless of differences in standards and “trade barriers” between the country of origin and the host country. In its first draft it originally stated that when a company from one country provides a service in another country, the country of origin legislation applied, which would have resulted in a high-speed race to the bottom. Please note that the UK held the EU presidency at the time, and Tony Blair was pushing for the Directive to be adopted, and the Tories didn’t make a sound. However, there was some popular resistance in some countries (France, Germany, Italy, with the British trade unions spectacularly failing to campaign amongst their members and simply sending their bosses to Brussels) and the “country of origin principle” was removed. But it was not replaced with the “host country principle”, in a fudged, fiendish, final directive that therefore obfuscates the issue, doesn’t say which laws apply, and leaves it open to be battled out in courtrooms for lawyers to have a field day.
The UK negotiated an opt-out on the European Working Time Directive (the Directive meant to prevent employers from making workers work more than 48 hours a week). It is a standard clause in most UK contracts that you “agree” to opt out. The wording on www.gov.uk says, “You can choose to work more by opting out of the 48-hour week”, like it’s a freedom it negotiated for you, but doesn’t say that all overtime must be paid. It is of course true that in every country workers’ rights have been hard won by the organised working class but, truth be told, it has been EU regulations that have so far prevented successive UK governments from stripping off the last vestiges of them, and the UK employment law is the worst in Europe.
TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership), the next step from GATS being negotiated between the EU and the US, which is meant to allow multinationals to sue a government for “lost revenue” (???) if a government denies it permission or restricts its right to operate on its territory (through the imposition of “trade barriers”, of course), and CETA (which is the same as TTIP, but with Canada). Did you hear Cameron, Johnson or Gove or any of them (apart from, in fairness, the Green Party) denounce TTIP for the evil it is before it suited them for the purpose the referendum campaign?
It is fundamental to realise that all of the above trade deals and consequent policies, that ensured the transference of power from nation states and elected governments to multinationals and banks, were pushed for by all of the UK governments in the last 25 years: they were not imposed on the UK – they were pursued by the UK and imposed on other countries (such as the developing countries).
So that’s what happens to the ball when it leaves the pitch, and that’s why the ball that is kicked back on the pitch a bit later is never the same ball – it is one heavily weighted, and weighted against the working class and in favour of multinationals. And if somebody complained every time it happened, the UK government was able to play the victim and say its hands were tied by WTO/WB/IMF/EU regulations.
It is of course tempting to think that leaving the EU would at least remove one of the fig leaves the ruling class hides behind. Yet one look at the reality of the British economy (no manufacturing worth mentioning, a parasitic banking and financial sector, and a monstrously overblown, bloated housing market) explains why bilateral deals, like the disastrous one Osborne successfully negotiated with China a few months back and which would be the rule outside the EU, mean the sell-out of the UK in order to line the pockets of Osborne’s patrons and bleed the working class to death. It is true that Norway has been doing well outside the EU, but it was never inside and it hasn’t put its public services, infrastructure, power and working class through the mangle the way the UK has.
And let us not forget that, given that the UK still retains the £ pound and the power to set its own economic policy independently from the EU and the European Central Bank, the austerity that has been choking the working class was not imposed by the EU but is entirely of Osborne’s choosing. Again: did you hear Boris Johnson or Michael Gove complain against it?
So the truth is that the ruling class, in the UK and in the rest of the EU, doesn’t need the EU, not even its cover, to carry out its class war and this very dirty work. What is happening now is that, after blaming the EU for the muck on its hands for too long, a sector of the ruling class has seized the opportunity to exploit the other sector’s political miscalculation together with the anger of so many, and make another push to further their patrons’ and their own interests. The working class will not only gain nothing from either outcome, but will be subjected to a further squeeze whatever the outcome, when the portion of the ruling class that wins takes all.
“I do not see anything terrible in fans fighting. On the contrary: well done to our boys – keep it up!”
Russian MP, Igor Lebedev (Deputy Chair of Russian Parliament & Executive Member of Russian Football Union)
In light of these outrageous comments by an elected member, several other elected dicks have also added fuel to the fire… allegedly
‘England’s best option is to remain in the EUros, unless Wales jolly well kick our arses on Thursday, in which case we will all be stronger together and rally around the British team.’
David Cameron, British Prime Minister & leader of the campaign to remain in the EUros.
‘Crikey chaps! Those Ruskies are a rum lot. Head for Dunkirk immediately!’
The Man Who Would Be Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, leader of the ‘Get Me Out Of Here, I’m An Upper Class Twit’ Campaign.
‘We’re just glad to be here and taking part and as a net gainer from the EUros, we are firmly in favour of remaining on the gravy train all the way to the final (vote)’
Carwyn Jones, Prince of Welsh Labour and nothing to do with those mad Corbynistas down in that London.
‘The very fact that Scotland are not at the EUros only further demonstrates the oppression of our nation by the Westminster Elite (apart from our 59 revolutionary guerillas bravely elected to Westminster by a subjugated and downtrodden nation). It’s very clear that only a second referendum will now guarantee Scotland its rightful place at the head of a group that will fail to win a single argument in Europe. Wha’s like us, eh?’
Bonnie Nicola Sturgeon, Monarch of the Glen & Queen of the (nearly) Independent Scottish non-Republic in Europe.
‘I’ve always enjoyed the company of my many Russian friends, though I do draw the line at sharing a continent with them. Like the English, they love a drink and a cigarette inside a smokey pub, unlike this so-called EU-UEFA Elite who want to dictate that the beautful game – which we English invented incidentally – should be played in an entirely separate space to the drinking, smoking and fighting. It’s political correctness gone madski!’
Nigel Farage, man of the people, beer drinker, smoker and jolly well English & Drunk.
“Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.”
Given to his daughter Nora Connolly on eve of his murder by the British.
To the Field General Court Martial, held at Dublin Castle, on May 9th, 1916:
I do not wish to make any defence except against charges of wanton cruelty to prisoners. These trifling allegations that have been made, if they record facts that really happened deal only with the almost unavoidable incidents of a hurried uprising against long established authority, and nowhere show evidence of set purpose to wantonly injure unarmed persons.
We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire, and to establish an Irish Republic. We believed that the call we then issued to the people of Ireland, was a nobler call, in a holier cause, than any call issued to them during this war, having any connection with the war. We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland those national rights which the British Government has been asking them to die to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case, the cause of Irish freedom is safe.
Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.
I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest it with their lives if need be.
Commandant-General, Dublin Division,
Army of the Irish Republic