Archive for the ‘Seán Garland’ Category

International Solidarity for Coca Cola Workers and Seán Garland

October 27, 2009

greekcocacolademo

This post also appears over at Cedar Lounge Revolution.

The strike by Coca Cola workers over plans to sack 130 workers and outsource their jobs pits Irish workers against Coca Cola HBC Ireland Ltd, which is a subsidiary of the Greece-based Coca Cola HBC. Following a request from the International Department of The Workers’ Party, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the workers’ organisation PAME organised a protest in solidarity with the Irish workers at a recent shareholders’ meeting of Coca Cola HBC in Athens. The KKE has also been a strong supporter of Seán Garland, with a delegate from their international department who was present at the 2005 Ard Fheis when Seán was first arrested taking part in protests, and protests taking place in Athens within days. The KKE also raised the issue in the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, two musical giants have added their voice to the campaign against the extradition of Seán Garland, who is due to appear in court again tomorrow. The 90-year old folk music legend Pete Seeger has been active in left-wing politics since the 1930s. Like the Hollywood Ten, he refused to plead the fifth amendment against the McCarthyite House Un-American Activities Committee, and was subsequently convicted of contempt of Congress, a conviction subsequently overturned. Seeger opposed the Vietnam War, and was active in the US Civil Rights movement. He was one of those who helped popularise its anthem “We Shall Overcome”. His is a powerful voice to be added to the campaign against the extradition, and hopefully will help raise the profile of the issue in progressive circles and beyond in the United States. Christy Moore, who of course needs no introduction here, has also added his support to the campaign, another sign of his long-term commitment to progressive causes. Both of their signatures are signs that the injustice of attempting to extradite Seán Garland to the US is plain for all to see.

And the British branch of the Campaign to Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland is holding an awareness music and social night to raise the profile of the case in Britain. It will addressed by Councillor Ted Tynan of The Workers’ Party. It takes place in the Green Room in Lewisham High Street on Saturday October 31st at 8pm.

Internationalism is alive and well.

US abandons Bush’s missile shield: real change in US foreign policy?

September 17, 2009

Good news announced by the Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer that the US is dropping its provocative Bush-era plans for a European missile shield. The plans had caused a great deal of anger and tension in Russia, and fear among populations in central Europe. The BBC report, citing the Wall Street Journal, says that the logic being given by the US regime is an acceptance that Iran might not actually be planning to build a nuclear weapon at all. I suspect that the cost factor may also have been an important one. The US is talking about moving more towards regional anti-missile technology using existing technology such as ship-based interceptor missiles. Added to the fact that the US seems to be set for direct talks with the DPRK, and the easing of sanctions on Cuba, it could just be that President Obama is delivering the real change he promised. It does certainly look like Obama is radically altering the direction of US foreign policy in some areas.

However, we must bear in mind the expansion of the US military presence in Colombia, a move clearly aimed at intimidation of the populations electing progressive governments in the region. And also perhaps to force states like Venezuela to spend money that could be better spent elsewhere on weapons, with the lessons of the collapse of the USSR in mind. A great deal of the restrictions on Cuba remain, and in fact Obama signed the embargo into effect for another year, to justified Cuban criticism. Proof of a real change in US intentions could be given by Hilary Clinton striking down Condaleeza Rice’s extradition warrant for Seán Garland which was done primarily to frustrate moves towards better understanding on the Korean peninsula. Justice demands that the extradition request be dropped. Let’s hope that the Obama regime does so.

The Lost Revolution Book

September 2, 2009

I put the following up on Cedar Lounge Revolution yesterday, having read the new book by Scott Millar and Brian Hanley on the history of The Workers’ Party.

And so the wait is over. Having got my copy, I’ve finished the book within 24 hours, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The book is extremely easy to read, and time flies by. Given the anticipation surrounding the book, and the amount of discussions we’ve had at CLR about it already, I had expected to write a long review of it (one of several that will appear here I’m sure), but to be honest I don’t really feel the need. That’s not at all to say that I agree with everything the book says. Far from it. So instead, I’ll just give a few thoughts on the book itself, and what it can tell us about the nature of Irish politics, past and present.

The book is extremely well-researched, and includes huge amounts of new detail on some of the major events in Irish history, and the history of the Irish left, in recent decades (I’ve already noted one of these issues, namely Fianna Fáil’s desire to split the IRA in 1969). The authors deserve a huge amount of credit for the research that has gone into this book, and for the attempt to provide a comprehensive account. At 600 pages, it’s massive, but you can see where sections have been edited from longer accounts, so there must also have been a lot left out. It is a strenuous attempt to tell the story as the authors see it of the political and organisational development of The Workers’ Party fully and impartially. The fact that the authors were granted access to Workers’ Party internal documents has made that job a great deal easier, and the authors have certainly taken full advantage of that opportunity. It is certainly not a hatchet job, nor does it sneer at the aims of the people involved the way much writing on the history of socialist republicanism tends to do. Every one interested in Irish politics or the left should read this book.

It seems to me that the bits that add the most to our understanding of modern Irish society, and the history of The Workers’ Party, deal with the political development of the Party as the Republican Movement undertook the process of transforming itself into a revolutionary party from the early 1970s. There is some really good information on the challenges faced by those driving this change, and the bases on which the successes that were achieved were built. I’m thinking especially of the sections on the PAYE protests and the success with which the authors communicate the dedication, effort, vision and sense of purpose that animated the transformation from Republican Movement to Workers’ Party. The feeling that there was an opportunity for changing the nature of Irish politics (in the south at least) and creating a serious party of the working class emanates from the page. If the book brings out some of the verve and positive aspects of being a member of The Workers’ Party, it also demonstrates the risks and dangers too, especially in the north. I suspect that the fact that the 1983 election produced gun attacks on Workers’ Party members’ homes in Belfast will come as a shock to some CLR readers. And yet that was the reality of trying to sustain socialist politics in a sectarian society with different sets of authoritarian sectarian terrorists. People ought certainly to bear that and similar events in mind when they are reading the other parts of this book. The attitude of The Workers’ Party to the northern state is something that can still raise a great deal of debate. It seems to me that many people outside The WP – especially those who have grown in the changed circumstances since 1994 – find it hard to fathom – why did The WP talk to loyalists, why was it so strong in its opposition to violence, how could it support the police, deeply-flawed as it was, etc. Page 311 of this book quotes from a debate in Mornington in 1975 that seems to me to capture the essence of thinking in the North. Three of the four pragmatic considerations listed there shaped policy in a society where workers were being killed for their religion:

(b) To save as many lives as possible (c) To save our personnel and the movement (d) To ensure the continuity of our political line

In terms of Irish politics and society more generally, the book makes clear the extent to which the working class and the poor were ignored, and were voiceless in Irish politics and society. The corrupt and venal nature of the Irish political elite, and the other institutions of society -especially the media and the church heirarchy – also comes across strongly. The book details – albeit without explicitly saying that this is what it is doing – the ways in which many of the scandals that engulfed the south’s ruling elites in the 1990s were brought to light by The Workers’ Party in the Irish People, in the Dáil and elsewhere, sometimes years before the compliant media finally chose to publish the truth. The extent to which the revolutionary socialist vision of The Workers’ Party terrified the establishment also comes across clearly in the book, whether it was the Catholic priests in rural Northern Ireland promoting the Provisionals, or Haughey meeting people from RTÉ on how to handle the “nest of sticky vipers”, or conservative trade union leaders seeking to deprive WP members of the chance to stand for election by refusing leaves of absence, or Fianna Fáil setting up a group tasked with rebuffing The WP threat. It’s clear that the pillars of Irish society since independence – in other words those responsible for the poverty, conservatism, and reactionary nature of a state and society that could not sustain its own population – rightly recognised that the success of The Workers’ Party would mean an end to Ireland as it existed; and that they mobilised their resources against it.

To go back to the book itself then. I have to say I was surprised at times at how little analysis there actually is. I suspect this is due to issues of space, but as I noted above the reader is left to make connections for themselves that might be obvious to people very familiar with this period, but not to everyone. Writing this type of book, where so much depends on anonymous sources, presents major challenges for any author. We need only look at the controversy over Peter Hart’s account of the Kilmichael ambush to see the potential pitfalls. In essence, a book like this involves the authors choosing to provide one or more of competing versions of the same story. In a book that is a narrative such as this one, that can be a problem, because quite often one version is given without much acknowledgement that there are others.

To those of us who are or have been members of The Workers’ Party, we will be able to place the names of those quoted in this book on the spectrum of the various splits, and judge the quotes accordingly. While a person’s politics is sometimes related, this is far from being always the case. And the consequence is that we are often presented with a version drawn from one side or the other, but presented in a straightforward manner. For example, it will be obvious to the likes of me that such and such a person is part of a group of people who decided in the late 1990s to reject the political development of the previous 20 years and who failed in an attempt to take over the Party, and that therefore anything they say about The Workers’ Party and its attitude to policing is deeply coloured by their hatred for the Party leadership; but without the affiliations of interviewees being given, it is not obvious to the average reader. I would have liked the authors to have at least commented on these difficulties somewhere and how they selected what to believe, or given the political affiliation of the named people quoted not only at the time, but subsequently. It is also often unclear when someone is described in the source notes at the end whether someone labelled a WP member is so now, or was at the period under discussion. I assume it’s the latter, but I’m not sure. The book is somewhat different to what I had expected. I had expected there would have been more explanation of people as to why they stayed or went at any given time. Again, I assume this is due to reasons of space and perhaps style. There is a wealth of fascinating material about the differences of opinion within the Republican Movement and Workers’ Party at various stages, and in these accounts, the authors do use their interviews to great effect.

For me, the book offers one overriding lesson. It shows that the only way the working class in Ireland has ever had an effective voice is when there has been a committed, disciplined and organised political party dedicated to the working class above all. As we know before the rise of The Workers’ Party, and since its collapse, the bourgeoisie in Ireland have run the state completely in their own interests, unchallenged. They have got rich on the backs of the workers. The book demonstrates how it was only a Workers’ Party active at the community, political, and social levels that was capable of threatening the consensus that shaped the state, and to which we have returned. Swingeing cuts, workers ripped-off to subsidise the rich, the failure of capitalism to provide sustainable economic growth and employment. Sectarian division allowing reaction to flourish. These were the consequences of an island without class politics. And these are the conditions we face now. The need for a militant party of the working class has never been stronger. The responsibility on those of us on the left to build it has never been greater.

Lying about Seán Garland

August 25, 2009

Here is the text of a thread I’ve started over on Politics.ie

Yesterday’s British Independent contained an article that contained a number of outright and ridiculous lies against Seán Garland, written by a journalist with a track record of writing stories that promote the discredited neo-con agenda. The lies contained in the article reveal the real truth about the attempt to extradite Seán Garland, and why we must oppose the Extradition.

The article claims that The Workers’ Party is a “far-left faction…that had never elected a single one of its members to any mainstream political body.”

This is a lie. In fact, The Workers’ Party at its height had 7 TDs and an MEP, as well asmany councillors north and south. It retains elected councillors to this day.

The article claims that “Garland was a lifelong terrorist who had personally engaged in deadly attacks on British soldiers and police in Northern Ireland since the 1950s, and whose exploits were said to have inspired Tom Clancy’s novel Patriot Games…in the 1990s, Garland…rejected the idea of a peace deal in favour of the continuation of bombings, bank robberies and other politically-motivated crimes.”

This is a lie. In fact, Garland was central to securing the (Official) IRA ceasefire in1972, and the transformation of the (Official) Republican Movement into a democratic socialist party. The Workers’ Party for decades has promoted Peace, Work, Democracy and Class Politics, and supported the Good Friday Agreement. Reverend Chris Hudson, the Chair of the campaign against the extradition and former organiser of the Peace Train movement, has stated that it is Garland’s long-term efforts to bring peace that persuaded him to become involved in the campaign.

The article claims that “Bills from the same series turned up a year later in Lebanon’s Bekka Valley, leading to suspicion that the supernote was being printed in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which needed foreign currency to fund an estimated $100 million a year in donations to Hezbollah and other terrorist organisations – who, as it happened, were being trained in bomb-making in Lebanon by Sean Garland. Intelligence analysts noted that Iran had taken delivery of two intaglio printing presses shortly before the fall of the Shah, who had sent a team of 20 master engravers to be trained by the Federal Bureau of Engraving in the US.”

This is a lie. In fact, Seán Garland is a revolutionary socialist. The Workers’ Party aims at the creation of a democratic, secular, socialist unitary state on the island of Ireland – a Republic. The Workers’ Party has been prominent in pushing for the secularisation of Irish society north and south. The idea that Seán Garland had any links to militant Islamists is laughable. And the idea that he was out in Lebanon teaching anyone how to make bombs is beneath contempt. The attempt to link Seán Garland to Islamism is designed to distract attention from a plausible alternative origin for the counterfeit notes that undercuts the neo-con case.

The rest of the article offers no evidence against Seán Garland, and is based largely on the assertions of a man so dedicated to neo-con politics that he resigned from the Bush regime on the grounds that it had gone soft.

The neo-cons lied to us all to start the war in Iraq. And they are lying to us to try and frustrate efforts to secure a peaceful settlement and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, and using lies against Seán Garland to further their agenda. We must remember that one of Condeleeza Rice’s last acts in the dying days of the Bush regime was to sign the extradition request against Seán Garland, knowing full well that it would raise tensions on the Korean peninsula, and make efforts at a peaceful settlement by the Koreans and the Obama regime more difficult. We must not be fooled by their lies.

The case against Seán Garland is non-existent – the neo-cons know that it would never stand up in an unbiased court. That is why they sought his extradition. Mention the words “Korea” and “Communism” in an American court, and a conviction is guaranteed. There is no chance of a fair trial. Garland is 75, and suffering several severe medical problems, including two forms of cancer. The attempt to extradite is a violation of natural justice.

That is why the campaign against the extradition has secured widespread support, from MEPs, TDs and Senators across the political spectrum, from FF, FG, Labour, SF and the SP. Garland has also secured the support of unionist politicians, as well as the trade unions, and prominent figures from the cultural sphere. The attempt to extradite Seán Garland is unjust. Add your voice to those opposing it. As we can see from this article, it is built on lies, and aimed solely at promoting the agenda of neo-cons whose lies have resulted in war before.

Click on the link to the Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland campaign to learn more, and sign the online petition against the extradition.

Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland: Update

March 30, 2009

See here at Cedar Lounge Revolution for an update on the formation of a National Committee to Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland. The post details some progress made on the campaign at home and abroad, and contains links to the Campaign’s petition, which I urge people to sign. I also urge people to involve themselves in the Campaign in whatever ways possible.