Archive for February, 2010

Death of a Soviet Hero

February 19, 2010

Spotted this in the Guardian, the death of one of the three Soviet soldiers photopgraphed hanging the Red Flag over the Reichstag (the picture was of course posed as a replacement had to be put up after the original flag was shot down). Abdulkhakim Ismailov died aged 93 on Tuesday in his native village. After the war, he was in the Communist Party and was a chairman of a collective farm. As time moves on, and we are left with fewer and fewer of the survivors of the Great Patriotic War, it is always worth taking a moment to recall the enormous sacrifices required of the Soviet peoples and their allies in order to defeat fascism.

Last year marked the 70th anniversary of the fall of the Spanish Republic, and next year marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War. Already, commemorative events are being organised by left groups in Ireland, such as the Charlie Donnelly commemoration and The Workers’ Party is organising a trip for next year as well. The Spanish Civil War of course remains a matter of great debate and not a little bitterness on the left. No need to go into the arguments now, but there is no doubt that that war proved the vicious and brutal nature of fascism – the last ditch defence of capitalism – and was a warning that too many people ignored, especially in the west.

2011 also sees the 70th anniversary of the Nazi assault on the Soviet Union – Hitler’s attempt to kick in the front door of Soviet socialism in the fundamentally mistaken belief that what he called the whole rotten structure would collapse with it. Instead the peoples of the Soviet Union rallied in defence of Socialism and against the fascist barbarians who were slaughtering their comrades in the occupied territories, with the all too enthusiastic support of local ultra-nationalists, anti-semites and fascists. It took an unpredecented effort to halt the Nazi advance and then drive them back to Berlin, the Red Army crushing their resistance the only way possible – ruthlessly. With the death of Abdulkhakim Ismailov, another link to that past is broken. But their sacrifice, their bravery and their heroism will never be forgotten. The smears of the enemies of the Soviet Union, then and now, can never tarnish the glory of the soliders of the Red Army.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Republican, Socialist, Leader, Comrade

February 4, 2010

From The Workers’ Party:

Tomás Mac Giolla (1924 – 2010)

The death has occurred early this afternoon of Tomás Mac Giolla, former President of the Workers Party, TD for Dublin West (1982-1992) and Lord Mayor of Dublin (1993/94). He was 86 and is survived by his wife May (née McLoughlin) and his sister Evelyn and his nephews and nieces.

Mr. MacGiolla passed away in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin early this afternoon. He had been ill for some time and had been in hospital for the last week.

Tomás Mac Giolla was born in to a farming family at Nenagh, Co. Tipperary on January 25th, 1924. He was a nephew of the Irish Parliamentary Party MP, T.P. Gill. He was educated at St. Flannan’s College, Ennis, Co. Clare and in University College Dublin where he completed a degree in Commerce. He subsequently worked as an accountant with the ESB from 1947 until he became a full time public representative for the Workers Party in the late 1970s.

Mr. Mac Giolla joined Sinn Féin around 1950 and stood unsuccessfully for his first election for Sinn Féin in North Tipperary in the 1961 general election. He was elected President of Sinn Féin in 1962 which was the same year in which the late Cathal Goulding became Chief of Staff of the IRA. Together they played a pivotal role in transforming the republican movement away from nationalist armed struggle towards socialism and into what would eventually become the Workers’ Party.

He was elected to Dublin City Council in 1979 and was Workers Party TD for Dublin West from 1982 to 1992. In 1993 Tomás Mac Giolla became Lord Mayor of Dublin. He remained active in politics after his retirement and was a member of the Ard Comhairle of the Workers Party until his death.

Paying tribute to Mr. Mac Giolla this afternoon, the current Workers Party President Michael Finnegan, who is Mr. Mac Giolla’s former director of elections in Dublin West, said that Tomás Mac Giolla was a greatly underestimated figure in Irish politics who played a major role in the struggle for civil rights and democracy in Northern Ireland and for people’s rights throughout Ireland and internationally.

Issued 4th February 2010

Tomás MacGiolla was, in every sense, a giant of a man. As anyone who met him knew, he was a man with a tremendous passion and zest for life, something he shared with May, his wife of so many years. They also shared a deep and strong commitment to the politics of Tone and Connolly, and were bound together by life-long activism. Tomás’ love for an teanga dúchais helped shape his life almost as much as his commitment to republicanism. Tomás was a man of tremendous vision. His was a pivotal role in the transformation of the Republican Movement in the course of the 1960s and 1970s that culminated in the adoption of the simple title of The Workers’ Party in 1982. Together with Cathal Goulding, he led the move away from sterile and narrow militarism towards a party of and for the working class. His was a strong and insistent voice that Republicans must make themselves and their struggle relevant to the people of Ireland. His was a powerful voice against sectarianism. He saw that the real enemy of the plain people of Ireland was not just partition but the rotten and oppressive political and economic system north and south that gave free rein to corruption and bigotry, that destroyed communities in cities as well as the countryside, that exiled the young, and that divided the people of Ireland. Without an end to economic exploitation, he told Republicans, there can be no freedom. To quote from his speech to the Ard Fheis of January 1970

Our objective is the re-conquest of Ireland from the Ground Landlords, the river barons, the speculators, the cartels and the monopolies and the struggle against them will now be intensified. If needs be, we must be prepared to win back our country farm by farm, river by river, mine by mine, shop by shop, and factory by factory.

Tomás was a tireless and fearless fighter for the Irish working class, no more so than in Dáil Éireann. It was Mac Giolla’s interventions in the Dáil that initiated the process that brought the coruption of the political elite into the light of day. But parliamentary politics was only ever one small part of his activism, only ever one front in his struggle for socialism. This is not the time for a full account of his career. But to me Tomás Mac Giolla was to me an inspiration. To hear Mac Giolla take hold of the microphone and talk about the unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter was to hear the authentic voice of republicanism. When he spoke about Iraq or Serbia, you understood clearly what internationalism meant. And when he spoke about the oppression inherent in the capitalist system, you were reminded of Swift’s saevo indignatio or Guerva’s statement that the revolutionary was motivated by the love of mankind. It brought back memories of why you became a socialist in the first place. Vivacious, passionate, human. This is the Tomás Mac Giolla I will remember. A visionary, a socialist, a Republican: a true leader and a giant of the Irish Left. This is what he was.