Dare Devil Rides to Jarama dramatizes Clem “Daredevil” Beckett’s life and sacrifice during the Spanish Civil war, and celebrates the 80th anniversary of the creation of the International Brigades.
Clem Beckett lived briefly, but what he made of his 31 years on this earth is quite extraordinary. A proud working class lad born in Oldham in 1906, a blacksmith by trade turned speedway rider during the depression of the 1920s, he was quick to identify the damaging nature of capitalism, leading him to embrace solidarity, anti-fascism and revolutionary socialism. He never shunned fighting the good fight and when the biggest fight of all against fascism in Spain started, he joined the International Brigades and died in 1937 in the battle to stop Franco from reaching Madrid.
Daredevil Rides to Jarama is a wonderful piece of working class theatre, with a brilliant script and an incredibly clever way of using cheap props and lighting to convey time, place, situations and moods. A wooden panel at the back of the stage is a wall of death, a factory gate, a door to a lovenest, a cinema screen, a wall in Spain; some steps are a podium for a political speech and for an award ceremony, a writing table, and a workshop bench. There are no special effects. Musical instruments appear and are played to accompany the singing of fighting ballads. And you never realise how bare and simple the stage is because with just a few props, some poetry, some songs, lighting, and above all an extraordinarily well-crafted script and two seriously talented men create more magic and evoke more reality than you ever thought was possible with so little.
David Heywood brings back to life a brave, determined, compassionate, cheeky and sharp Clem Beckett and leaves everything he’s got on stage. He really empties the tank. Neil Gore, who wrote the play, is everybody else, from the greyhound stadium owner who exploits young riders’ inexperience on deliberately dangerous dirt tracks for sensational shows that cause injury and death, to the landowner who tries to keep ramblers off the land, and many other characters, including Christopher St John Sprigg (aka Cauldwell), the upper middle class writer and poet who became Clem’s unlikely partner and died with him on February 12, 1937 in the Jarama Valley.
Offering inspired, nuanced performances and a genuine connection with the audience, David and Neil are also the stage hands, as they operate the lights and reorganise the stage between the two acts. The play is an intellectual and emotional tour de force through a compassionate life of political commitment in the fight against capitalism and fascism. Clem’s is the story of one of the many heroic men and women who understood what was at stake in Spain and decided that the ultimate sacrifice was not too high a price to pay and joined the International Brigades to fight on the side of the Spanish resistance.
Click here to make a donation – #matchthefineforpalestine
At the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva on 17 August 2016, the Green Brigade and fans throughout Celtic Park flew the flag for Palestine. This act of solidarity has earned Celtic respect and acclaim throughout the world. It has also attracted a disciplinary charge from UEFA, which deems the Palestinian flag to be an ‘illicit banner’.
In response to this petty and politically partisan act by European football’s governing body we are determined to make a positive contribution to the game and today launch a campaign to #MatchTheFineForPalestine. We aim to raise £15,000* which will be split 50/50 between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and to the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian creative cultural children’s centre in the Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem.
MAP delivers health and medical care to those worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement.
Working in partnership with local health providers and hospitals, MAP addresses a wide range of health issues and challenges faced by the Palestinian people.
With offices located in Beirut, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Gaza City, MAP responds rapidly in times of crisis, and works directly with communities on longer term health development.”
Aida is one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank and has for 66 years played temporary home to Palestinians forcibly expelled from their homes in Hebron and Jerusalem. Its residents live in the shadow of Israel’s apartheid wall, cut off from social and economic opportunities by the wall and neighbouring illegal settlements and military checkpoints.
For the young people of Aida, the Lajee Centre offers hope and an escape from the realities of life under Israeli occupation via its art and culture programmes and sport programmes.
The camp’s only football pitch was built last year by the Lajee Centre, at the heart of Aida. The pitch is now protected by metal netting after it was damaged by tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli Defence Forces. Residents had previously played on recreation ground stolen by the wall.
The money will be a much needed boost to the Lajee Centre who will be able to extend their activities to bring much needed relief via their arts, dance and football programmes. One such programme is that of youth football, with the Lajee Centre looking to organise a youth football team to take part in the Bethlehem Youth League.
There are no organised teams in Aida, with basic equipment like boots in short supply. Funds raised will provide equipment, strips and travel costs to enable the camp to enter a team in the Bethlehem Youth League.
In recognition of the show of support from Celtic fans and all those around the world Salah Ajarma, Coordinator of the Lajee Centre will name the team ‘Aida Celtic’: “It will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends. Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida”
Prior to last night’s match with Hapoel Beer Sheva a collective of Celtic fans and Palestinian activists in Glasgow called on fans to show our support for the Palestinian people and fly the flag for Palestine. Like many fans throughout the stadium, the Green Brigade answered this call. From our work with grassroots Palestinian groups in the West Bank and the refugee camps of Bethlehem, we know the positive impact international solidarity has on those living in the open prisons of the Occupied Territories. We also know that their suffering cannot be ignored by the international community and last night’s actions also sought to raise awareness of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) campaign which seeks to challenge the normalisation of the Israeli occupation.
Some have argued that football and politics do not mix, including European football’s discredited governing body. In Palestine, however, there is little dispute. The occupation has seen the Palestinian national stadium destroyed twice by Israeli bombs and footballers killed, maimed and imprisoned. In 2013 we were proud to welcome Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian international footballer detained without crime or trial for three years in an Israeli prison, to Glasgow. Mahmoud had only recently been released from prison after a 96-day hunger strike and widespread international protest.
The BDS campaign builds on the success of earlier anti-apartheid campaigns. In the 1980s fans and citizens protested against South African sports teams and ultimately shamed the authorities into excluding apartheid South Africa from sporting activity. The late anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, whose death was marked by a minute’s silence at European matches on UEFA’s instructions, famously remarked that ‘we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’.
Mandela was right, and like the wider Celtic support we will continue to fly the flag for Palestine.
The response we have had since last night has been overwhelming, with messages of support pouring in from our fellow fans, human rights organisations and the global Palestinian community. We would like to thank them sincerely for their backing and tonight re-iterate our support for justice and freedom in Palestine.
We also understand that a downmarket tabloid newspaper may tomorrow run a story suggesting our group in some way mislead Celtic plc and told them that we would not be displaying our support for Palestine. This is a complete fabrication and we condemn anyone who spreads smear stories attacking football fans to The Sun.
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…
As Arthur Montford might have described it in one of his legendary commentaries for STV’s Scotsport, there was a bit of a ‘stramash in the penalty box’ on Friday night when the 107 Cowgate blog published an article entitled, “Solidarity and the KKK Grand Wizard” exposing the presence of a former Nazi organiser in the ranks of Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity party. The blog concerned a certain Gareth Norman from Dundee, who is a former organiser with the BNP and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as his membership of fascist organisations dating back to the mid-1980’s. It seems that Gareth Norman has changed radically in his political outlook since turning his back on fascist politics and becoming a committed Christian and member of the Salvation Army, as well as becoming politically active with Solidarity. His is the 4th name on Solidarity’s 5 nominated List candidates for North East Scotland.
The questions raised in the 107 Cowgate article concerned the apparent lack of information sharing around Mr Norman’s change of heart and politics. It is not acceptable that one person should appoint himself, judge, jury and, apparently, ‘Father Confessor’ in this case, and the information of Gareth Norman’s acceptance into the ranks of the left should have been more widely shared, particularly with those anti-fascist organisations who came into direct contact with Mr Norman when he was on the side of our enemies. The indignation of Solidarity members at the audacity of the Cowgate Blog editor’s decision to publish the piece was a little misplaced considering that republicans have been on the receiving end of the attentions of Mr Norman and his former colleagues in the BNP, as well as their loyalist allies. The biblical quotes about ‘letting he who has not sinned cast the first stone’ might be appropriate in the Sally Army but not among ‘comrades’ on the left. Tommy Sheridan’s flippant remark, ‘It must be great never to have made a mistake…’ is rather fitting coming from Tommy, but is only appropriate if applied to a teenager who had flirted with the BNP at some point and been won over to our side, but he must surely see that there is a difference between the recruitment of someone on the periphery of fascism and a former fascist political organiser? If not, he risks the security of not only his own organisation but that of the entire left. Solidarity and others on the left in Dundee should have made this information known to the rest of the left and particularly to those who have been and still are involved in militant anti-fascist activities, at the very least in order to ensure Mr Norman’s personal safety and security should he venture further afield than Dundee and be recognised by those he once opposed on the streets alongside his former Nazi pals. Anti-fascists are not mind readers.
There is something of the confessional box about Gareth Norman’s statement, which we reproduce in full below – ‘Father Tommy’ has heard his sins and absolved him of them – but I believe it to be a genuine and sincere statement and accept it at face value. For what it’s worth, I think that he has genuinely changed, even if he is being cute with the facts around the length of time that he was actually involved with far-right groups – we make it about 12 years worth of fascism Gareth, not the brief interlude that you allude to. However, the statement makes it all the more curious as to why his recruitment wasn’t flagged up at the time and Norman given a public platform to state his reasons for leaving the far right? People are naturally suspicious if they think that something is being ignored or even covered up in politics. Transparency and timing is important in matters like this, he could have been given the benefit of the doubt at an earlier stage, but to offer explanation only after being challenged by other comrades on the anti-fascist left is not acting in the spirit of anti-fascism and only leads to further suspicion and speculation. Therefore, I believe that the Cowgate blog was perfectly within its rights to ask questions of Sheridan, Solidarity and Gareth Norman. You may disagree with how the story was reported on the website, but the questions it raises are politically valid ones.
* To clarify a point for the critics of the James Connolly Society since the 107 Cowgate blog published the article. Those who write for 107 Cowgate do so in a personal capacity and are not authorised to make statements on behalf of the JCS. Any official statement appearing on the blog that comes from the James Connolly Society has to be ratified by the whole committee before publication. The article was not a statement on behalf of the JCS, it was the member/author’s own view that was expressed. The society is quite firm about what goes out in its name, although there is obviously a political link between the blog and the group. The Cowgate Blog is a space for official statements, news, reports. discussion around political organisation, theory and political analysis, provided by members, supporters and associates of the James Connolly Society.
GARETH NORMAN – NOW & THEN
STATEMENT BY GARETH NORMAN
I am responding to recent information concerning my past involvement with reactionary right-wing groups like the BNP. I admit previous involvement with this sad group and I sincerely regret my involvement. I severed all links with them and their divisive, simplistic and poisonous solutions approximately 19 years ago. I think it is worth repeating this fact. It was 19 years ago when I realised how wrong and misguided I was. I broke away and tried to re-build my life with my family. I have for the last two decades promoted a multi-cultural and equal society based on compassion, radical wealth re-distribution and unity among the 99% who are exploited by the super rich and powerful 1% at the top of society.
Since becoming a Christian and active member of the Salvation Army, I have had a heart for those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged in society and founded a Scottish charity ‘Night Ministry’ working throughout the night taking care and compassion to the street homeless and rough sleepers throughout Dundee.
I have worked with socialists in Dundee to expose the activities of the far-right after leaving them and been subjected to threats of violence and death threats for doing so, including visits to my home by Combat 18 members intent on causing me harm. My mistakes in getting involved with these racist, Nazi and poisonous groups cannot be erased. I wish I could re-wind my life and decide in the mid-1980’s that the response to unemployment with children in the Whitfield estate of Dundee should have been to fight Thatcher from the left not join groups on the right who wanted to blame immigrants for my poverty instead of the real culprits, the rich and powerful.
I was wrong to follow the simplistic and repugnant views of the far right. I know that now. Wisdom after the fact is always easier than at the time. I have left all that behind me 19 years ago and tried to make amends by helping in progressive causes and movements. I supported the progressive pro-Independence campaign and am now convinced, after many years of thought and reflection, that socialism, equality, peace and human solidarity is the way forward for society. I was attracted to both the Communist Party and Solidarity. I have joined Solidarity and feature on their List for the North East region. I informed Tommy Sheridan of my past before applying to join his party. He asked me if I completely renounced the views and activities of the far right and I said yes without hesitation. He asked if I was sincere in my desire to build a new and better Scotland committed to radical wealth redistribution, peace, equality and welcoming refugees to our shores. I again said yes without hesitation. On the basis of my recantation of my former views of over 19 years ago and my support for Solidarity’s radical socialist programme Tommy agreed to me joining and standing as a List candidate. I have now offered to step down because of this latest publicity but Tommy has rejected my offer on the basis that what matters most is what I have stood for in the last 19 years and not what I did years ago. I thank Tommy for showing me such tolerance and compassion. I am not the person I was 19 years ago.
I reject that divisive and racist poison completely. I wonder how many times I will have to apologise before being allowed to move on. For the record, in answer to claims by the right wing, I was never a wizard, grand dragon of the KKK or a secret agent for the state.
I am now a member of a radical socialist party that believes in an independent socialist Scotland. A modern and democratic republic where the sovereignty of the nation is vested in it’s people, black and white, young and old not an unelected Monarchy. That is my politics and my philosophy of life now. Those who wish to throw mud at me and try and bring me down for the mistakes I made in life over 24 years ago are invited to ask themselves if they have ever made any mistakes in their lives. I have admitted mine and regret them. I now want to move on and fight for a better, fairer and nuclear weapon free Scotland.
The solution to the crisis in the Middle East today is not more European involvement but less. The ‘We must do something’ mentality says Europe must be proactive in taking sides in Middle Eastern conflicts on behalf of causes identified as progressive. For example against Assad and in support of the Palestinians against Israel. But this is wrong. Western involvement in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere has exacerbated and prolonged regional conflicts. The longer Western political activists meddle in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the less likely an enduring political solution will be found. A solution can only be found by the adversaries themselves free of outside interference. Playing to an outside audience prolongs local conflicts.
Compassion is not the equivalent of solidarity. The politics of pity exhibited by Western educated Muslim youth cum jihadi converts is emulated by handwringing liberal do-gooders demanding something must be done to alleviate suffering in the Middle East. The actions of both jihadi converts and liberal interventionists have had destructive consequences. Jihadists joining Isis are no more dangerous or pernicious than the humanitarian interventionists and their quasi-religious zeal to rid the world of bad guys.
Traditionally the vast majority of politically minded Celtic fans and supporters of Irish freedom were also committed advocates of the Palestinian cause. But things have changed in the Middle East just as surely as they have changed in Ireland. In the 70’s and 80’s when the PLO and its offshoots were fighting against Israel and its Western backers as part of a wider anti-imperialist struggle expressing solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination was a progressive step. The West used Israel as a proxy in pursuing its interests in the Middle East in the context of the Cold War and against Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran.
Today it seems that America and the West no longer know where its interests lie in the Middle East. Western meddling has made matters worse. The Middle East is unravelling before the eyes of the West and Western governments are powerless to stop it. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are bombing Yemen into the Dark Ages to prevent the Shia Houthi’s taking power. UAE crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed declared that “we will press ahead until we purge Yemen of the scum”. Despotism is alive and kicking. However, it is not our responsibility to take sides in the internecine warfare between Shia and Sunnis. Patrick Cockburn in his book ‘Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution’ traces the involvement of the Western backed oil rich Gulf States in the formation of Isis and the sponsorship of Sunni terrorism across the Middle East.
In this wider context the best thing anti-imperialists and progressives can do is to adopt a position of non-interference or the principle of ‘Do No Harm’.
The Palestinian liberation movement no longer exists. The cynical Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has not been a good servant of its people. The Palestinians need to break free from the straitjacket of perpetual victimhood. Similarly Israelis’ defensiveness and sense of victimhood does them no favours. It is a zero sum game. In Ireland Sinn Fein always refused to engage in what Martin McGuinness called ‘whatabouttery’ or ‘the politics of the last atrocity’. Focusing on alleged war crimes either by Israel or Hamas doesn’t contribute to breaking the cycle of violence. During the war in Ireland demands for Sinn Fein to condemn the latest IRA bombing didn’t move the situation forward. Similarly demands for reparations at The Treaty of Versailles crippled the new democratic German government in the Weimar Republic and created a legacy of bitterness which contributed to the rise of fascism. History tells us you reap what you sow.
We should be aware of promoting a politics that feeds into a system of retribution. That is not to say you should not express your support for justice or freedom for the Palestinians or any other oppressed group. But it is equally important to recognise what has changed in the world today. There is a correlation between Western born or home grown Islamic fundamentalists and their eagerness to fight in foreign wars and self-styled Western liberals and humanitarian interventionists eager to ‘do something’ and topple foreign tyrants. The laptop bombardiers have a lot to answer for. The refugee crisis spilling out of the Middle East and North Africa is in large part a consequence of the destabilisation of the entire region brought about by the Western invasion of Iraq.
Sunni militants are a local response to Shia expansionism in Iraq and Syria and now Yemen. Western intervention in the Middle East has exacerbated the bloody conflict between Shia and Sunni. It is an old slogan but it is one that is worth repeating: Hands Off the Middle East! Only today this message needs to be aimed not at old fashioned Western imperialists but at the new crusaders for global justice, the interfering moral authoritarians who arrogantly believe it is within their power to change the world for the better by invading and bombing foreign countries and deposing their governments.