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Well Fancy That..! A continuing series of insights into Irish political life. Today – so how’s that reform thingy working out for you? March 29, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
6 comments

Fair dues to the sharp eyes of the person who forwarded the following to me on seeing some recent political news.

Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell hires his wife…..

And yet in one of his election leaflets he writes...

Excellent!

Interview with Seán Kelly March 29, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
4 comments

Seán Kelly has announced he’s seeking the Fine Gael nomination in the upcoming Presidential election. And maybe he’ll get it. Certainly being a former head of the GAA shouldn’t serve as too much of an impediment – if any at all. Nor will, according to some cynics, the fact that his cousin happens to be married to one E. Kenny. 
Jason O’Toole has an interview in the Mail with him which is well worth reading.

Surprisingly, for someone accused of being ambitious, he didn’t run in the general election because he wasn’t ‘going to push out’ another candidate or ‘take on’ a sitting Fine Gael TD. But perhaps he was also already plotting his presidential bid.

I like that ‘perhaps’.

Regardless, he insists, ‘I don’t go in for cutthroat politics. I didn’t go into politics for that. I did it to make a positive contribution. ‘And knifing people in the back, I just wouldn’t go down to that level. If there was a genuine opening and people said, “We want you to run”, I’d have considered it. But there wasn’t a genuine opening.’

I like this too…

But just hold on a minute – didn’t Seán cause considerable friction when he decided to run against his party colleague, Colm Burke, then the Fine Gael sitting MEP? Didn’t he knife his colleague in the back that time? ‘But the difference there was – and this is what the party said to me – that Simon Coveney had been elected and came back to national politics, Burke hadn’t. He’d only been filling in for two years and, in that sense, I wasn’t taking anybody’s seat,’ he reasons. ‘We were trying to retain the seat held by Coveney. They felt that if I was to run I had a better chance of holding it and possibly getting a second seat. As it turned out with the surplus I got, if we’d got another two per cent or less we would have got two seats.’

As to his achievements, the sort of thing that would qualify him for the highest office in the land (temporal, that is)…

It was his determination to change Rule 42, which prohibited so-called ‘foreign games’ from bring played in Croke Park, that propelled him front and centre as a national figure. In taking on Rule 42, Seán polarised opinion and was even branded a Judas by traditional GAA supporters who were vehemently opposed to opening Croke Park to rugby and soccer. ‘People remember that because it was very emotional at the time. Everybody had an opinion on it. It was the right thing to do – even though I made enemies it didn’t worry me that much. You’re always going to have a certain amount of people who are going to opposed to any change.

And he believes he may have played a role in even more momentous change…

Even though the contentious Rule 21, which prohibited RUC/PSNI officers from playing GAA, was changed before his period as president, Seán insists he should get some credit for that too. ‘In actual fact it never went into practice until I was president because the clubs didn’t make the players welcome. I said, “Lads, this can’t continue”. I think historians have yet to give prominence and the credit that changing it [Rule 21] deserves. Because, once members of the PSNI were accepted in the GAA games they were accepted into the community. If they weren’t accepted into GAA teams and couldn’t play with their local club then they would have never been accepted. ‘And Sinn Féin came around to that way of thinking. And I think it kind of pre-empted Sinn Féin’s acceptability of the PSNI, leading to the Good Friday Agreement. Not so much the agreement itself but the implementation of it and power-sharing.’

Hmmmm…

He’s getting the language right…

Seán says his message will be about ‘reconnecting with one another’ as we face into an uncertain economic future with the country still desperately grappling with a never-ending financial crisis. ‘The Celtic Tiger and its demise has created an increasingly divided society – “haves, have little, have nothing left”. We need to reconnect with one another and rediscover the qualities and values that made us special. The old tradition of meitheal (co-operation) encapsulates it best. ‘The president could be a catalyst in reconnecting us with one another, create a feeling of people being valued, regardless of status or wealth. That’s our heritage and natural disposition.’


But it’s not all touchy feely…oh no.

He also believes that the president should be given a ‘more relevant role’ in Irish politics. ‘I wouldn’t be interested in protocol and being chauffeur-driven around the place just for the sake of it. I would look at the role and see how you could change it.

Such as?

‘I suppose you could do a lot in terms of the image of the country, which isn’t great at the minute. You could do a lot to help tourism by promoting the count ry. Those things would be very important. And possibly promoting business. For example, Mary McAleese went to Russia and China. I’d be interested in those [trade delegations] if I was president. I’d like to say, “Listen, as a result of my going here we can get jobs back here”.’

Okay.

And he is nothing if not honest. ‘It would be a fantastic honour to be president of the country. I’d like to think that I’d make a difference,’ he says. ‘I’d probably get the shivers, first, if the party was to ask me,’ he says, adding that the idea of him putting his name forward was first ‘mentioned without me encouraging it’. ‘Quite a number of TDs have said it to me now. People have been saying it for a while. I’ve plenty of vibes. But the party hasn’t discussed it formally yet. It’s been hotting up over the next month now’. He doesn’t have to say it, but it’s clear from listening to Seán speak about the presidential election that he would be ecstatic if his parents had the opportunity to see him making history by becoming our next president. ‘If Áras an Uachtaráin was in Killarney it would make it much easier for me,’ he jokes.

This election may be marked by a reversion to the traditional template of the Presidency, at least in part, one where it is middle aged and older Irish males who contest. That may change, perhaps we’ll see some new and unexpected candidate appear (although on that point I was entertained, to some degree, by the idea raised yet again – this time on the Sam Smyth show – that Eamon Ryan should run, though not yet).

Of course it won’t be exactly the same, not with the field currently declared. But it won’t be that different.

In some respects this is a contest which is more open than might have been thought. It will be very very interesting to see who FF push and prod forward into the cold light of day on their behalf. It’s almost impossible to see that candidate having a whisper, which means that Kelly, or Norris, or A.N.Other has a better chance than they might have anticipated even eighteen months ago.

Sean Russell, the British and de Valera March 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
4 comments

Here’s a possibly interesting one. This evening Document, the history documentary is broadcast on BBC at 8 pm. It deals in part with Sean Russell.

Mike Thomson explores newly released documents which suggest that Éamon de Valera’s Fianna Fáil government secretly co-operated with the British to crush the IRA in the 1930s.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded the information.

More from the Lux Occulta Archive March 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Religion, The Left.
2 comments

Here’s more documents from the fascinating Lux Occulta blog and its attendant archive which deals with documentation from the Catholic Church in Ireland.

These are just a sample of documents that engage with Communism, but to be honest the broader material is of equal interest.

The Anti-God Front of Bolshevism

The Irish Rosary from July/August 1953 - article on Science Under Communism, page 593

Well worth a regular look.

Left Archive: The Counter-Revolution in Ireland, Van der Straeten and Daufouy, Pamphlet, Black and Red Press, 1974 March 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Politics, Miscellaneous Documents, The Left.
5 comments

B&R DOC

This is an unusual addition to the Archive, a pamphlet from the anarchist tending Black and Red Press in Detroit.

It is a reprint of an article, written by Serge Van der Straeten and Philippe Daufouy and translated by Rut Nybakken and Lorraine Perlman, which appeared as ‘La Contre-revolution Irlandaise’ in Les Temps Modernes in 1972.

The document starts with a quote from Henry Joy McCracken ‘The rich always betray the poor’. It takes an interesting line on the situation in Ireland, North and South, providing an history and overview that ranges back to the 18th century. It has a fairly sharp tone, consider this footnote on page 11.

The prospect of a socialism built by workers and small farmers seems to have held little attraction for Marx. His hatred for the manure pile, the henhouse, the yokel, would have put him in a good position to analyze the history of the Irish Republic and to accurately evaluate the Irish Left.

For a flavour of the analysis consider the following, taken from pp.38 and 39.

The geographic location of the Catholic ghettos, particularly in Belfast, favoured the military intervention of the Provisionals, who implemented themselves in view of the permanent threat which hung over these districts. The I.R.A. claimed to be a useful weapon of self-defense against the constant terror in which the Catholic population lived. But along with the Protestant paramilitary organizations supported by the Orange Order, the I.R.A.’s attacks are the cause of the veiled civil war and consequently, of the terror.

The forms of popular organization which arose during this nationalist phase of the conflict (popular tribunals, health clinics, ‘national’ and public meetings, workers’ productive co-operatives, etc) which some people want to see as proletarian forms of organization, are only direct consequences of the civil war.

This leads to the following provocative conclusion:

They are no more proletarian than the French ‘popular tribunals’ set up after the Liberation, which set out energetically to liquidate the revolutionary elements and to shave women’s heads in the public square. Due to its military weakness, the I.R.A. is incapable of winning the war against the Protestants and British Army and is reduced to proposing constitutional solutions of compromise. Whether they favor a federalist solution which includes four provincial parliaments, or a centralized solution (a ‘republic of workers and small farmers’), both wings of the I.R.A. offer the worst solution for the Irish proletariat: namely, an alliance with the least progressive classes around a populist economic program. In practice, this solution can only mean fascism, conceived as a military dictatorship with the mobilization of workers into unions.

However, this is merely a diversion in respect of the ultimate proposals that the document makes.

Along the way there are harsh words for a range of familiar formations including, but not limited to, People’s Democracy and the Irish Communist Organisation.

It’s also worth looking at the Black and Red Press itself which was founded in 1968 and in particular Fredy Perlman.

After scanning this it came to our attention that the text is available here on libcom.org. Those of us involved in the Archive believe that posting the full original documents gives a better sense of them as political artifacts positioned within a specific place and time as well as providing a one stop easily accessible repository for these materials.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week March 27, 2011

Posted by Garibaldy in Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week.
50 comments

Emer O’Kelly suggests a solution to the staffing costs of the public sector.

The Minister has announced that he will bring plans to Cabinet within the next couple of weeks for a “root-and-branch review” of all public spending. It may seem cruel to suggest it, but perhaps he should just send the books to the heads of a few major companies like Intel.

Not cruel, Emer, just stupid, seeing that the state doesn’t function like a private sector company, and so the attempt to make an equivalence between them is foolish.

The Moriarity report has unleashed a wave of hostility, with many Sindo columnists wondering what the puprose of the tribunal was, and could in these straightened straitened times, the money not have been better spent elsewhere. Were times straightened straitened 14 years ago when things began? Anyway, John Drennan cuts to the core of a matter involving accusations of corruption within Fine Gael, and fudged by other parties with their own culture of corruption. And at the core – why of course, it’s our old friends, the trade unions.

It is generally believed that social partnership represents the apotheosis of the capacity of FF and the Progressive Democrats (we haven’t forgotten you, Mary or Michael) to degrade standards of governance to such an extent they have turned the country into an Eastern Bloc state.

But when it comes to the most dramatic symbol of the poisonous culture of FF/PD-style solutions to Irish problems, tribunals run the bearded union leaders close.

A quite astonishing column from Eoghan Harris, which deserves to be read in full, especially for anyone interested in his views throughout the years of a certain magnificiently moustachioed Georgian.

Finally, I do not think Sarah Carey deserves the abuse heaped on her head. At 23 years of age, we are all vulnerable to charismatic leaders — in my case Cathal Goulding, in her case Denis O’Brien. She has learned a hard lesson and it will make her a better writer.

Like me, Sarah Carey does not lightly abandon friends or patrons to suit politically correct fashions. Accordingly, if I find myself at social gatherings and Sir Anthony O’Reilly or Bertie Ahern are attacked, I always speak up. Join the army, wear the boots.

Goulding the same as O’Brien? Harris not following political fashions? Hmmmmm.

To finish on a different note, and one that had to be aimed at the other people writin in the paper, Anthony Cronin offers the following critique of

the proponents of the sort of crazy, late capitalist finance that we are up against. They too base their notions of what is and what ought to be on fantasy which they mistake for a reality.

But it is a fantasy far more dangerous to themselves and others than our poor little notions ever were. Especially since it masquerades as common sense and hard, down-to-earth economics.

Are you reading Shane Ross?

Left Candidates from the 1981 General Election March 26, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Left Candidates from ....
Tags: , , , ,
5 comments

As an election junkie , one the the annoying things, is the classification of Small parties into the ‘Independent’ or ‘others’ bracket. Electionsireland.org is a fantastic resource but often smaller parties are not listed or all of their candidates are not listed, especially from the pre internet age.

I’ll do a series of these posts, each covering a different election.

So I’m going to start with the 1981 General Election and list all the candidates from the Socialist Labour Party, The Socialist Party , the CPI and as many Left leaning Independents as I can.

Socialist Labour Party
Noel Browne -Dublin North Central 5031 votes  **Elected
Michael O’Donoghue -Dublin North East 309 votes
Billy Keegan -Dublin North West 473 votes
Matt Merrigan -Dublin North West 209 votes
Ivor Andreas Nolan -Dublin West  63 votes
Dermot Boucher -Dun Laoghaire 575 votes
John Teehan  -Wexford 447 Votes

Communist Party of Ireland
John Montgomery -Dublin West 202 votes
John Curley -Dublin North Central 156 votes

Socialist Party
Eamonn Farrell -Dublin North West 236 votes
Denis O’Connor -Dublin South 335 votes

SFWP candidates are listed here , Joe Sherlock won a seat for them in Cork East.

That 1981 Election also saw the election of two H-Block TDs and of course Left Independent Jim Kemmy in Limerick.

Amongst other Left leaning Independents who stood were Declan Bree , Tony Gregory, Paddy Healy, Anthony Coffey and Joe Harrington. There was also Liz Noonan who stood on a Gay Rights platform in Dublin South East.

Claiming Our Future Ideas – ‘Reducing Income Inequality’ March 26, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Inequality, Ireland.
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I received the following by email.

We are delighted to invite you to our next big national event, a creative, participative discussion on how we can create a more equal Ireland, by reducing income inequality. Please keep this important date in your diary – Saturday May 28th, N.U.I. Galway. We would advise booking early to secure your place – booking is now open on our website.

Claiming Our Future Ideas – ‘Reducing Income Inequality’

In: Bailey Allen Hall, N.U.I. Galway
On: Saturday 28th May 2011

Registration from 10.00 am

Event: 11.00 am to 17.30 pm

Entry: Free

Claiming our Future is organising its second national discussion for people to share their ideas on reducing income inequality. At our first event in the RDS last October over 1,000 people voted and identified eight policy priorities (also please see our priorities poster). One of these was to ‘Achieve greater income equality and reduce poverty through wage, tax and income policies that support maximum and minimum income thresholds’. This second creative and participative event in Galway will focus on how we can make this policy goal a reality.

In this national event we aim to:

  • Share information, knowledge and perspectives on income inequality and strategies to address this issue.
  • Stimulate and support ongoing work and campaigns across the country to debate this issue and to build support for policies to reduce income inequality.
  • Identify a number of demands that could be made to leverage political engagement with the challenge of income inequality.

The event will involve discussion on what principles could guide our approach to income equality, on the income, tax and welfare policies that could be implemented to reduce income inequality and on what local action can be taken to make progress on this far-reaching issue.

The day will also involve creative breaks and visuals along with some guest performances.

EVERYONE WELCOME!

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Blondes March 26, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Music functions on a nostalgic level much of the time and for obvious reasons. When listening there’s the inevitable effort to put shape on a piece, to cross reference it as it were, to seek similarities with previous music that we’ve heard, or to find differences. It’s pattern recognition, but of course it’s more than that, otherwise we’d find the efforts to rework three chords, or whatever, near unlistenable in its predictability when it seems there’s always something new to be found.

Electronica has had to face this problem too with varying degrees of success, taking a variety of paths from rigid formalism to more expansive material.

Touched, released last Summer, by New York based electronic duo Blondes is, on first listen a curious blend of the simple and chaotic. There are obvious reference points. I think I hear a lot of Boards of Canada in there and given that they remixed a Harald Grosskopf track from Synthesist they’re not unaware of their history. But even to make those connections is to do the music an injustice because it’s considerably more than that.

Touched is meant to be an EP, there’s only five tracks, but when one of them, ‘Moondance’, stretches 11 minutes long and the total running time tops 40 minutes this is effectively a mini-album.

‘You Mean So Much to Me’ starts of the EP with a mid-tempo subtle sound, vocal samples phasing in and out of hearing set against hand claps. And here’s where nostalgia comes into effect, you’ve heard this or something like this before, but somehow it sounds quite different. Perhaps it’s just the sheer weight of layers that this music is made up of. And while it is melodic, hugely so, the droning sound at the end of the track tips the listener out of it unceremoniously. ‘Moondance’ must be a tip of the hat to Klaus Schulze, and why not?

‘Virgin Pacific’ finishes the EP off in a celebratory mode, a sort of skew ways blend of a w that shifts tone half way through from one form to another.

You’ll find the rest of the EP on YouTube, I’m not going to do all the work on this, but this is one I’d strongly recommend you go out and listen to it in its original format.

You Mean So Much to Me

Moondance [excerpt]

Virgin Pacific

Synthesist (remix of Harald Grosskopf).

March 25th 1911: Workers Killed in Triangle Factory Firetrap are Remembered March 25, 2011

Posted by guestposter in Economy, The Left, US Politics.
31 comments

Many thanks for this very welcome guest post by CL. It commemorates events that took place 100 years ago today.

Throughout the summer of 1909 there was considerable unrest in New York City’s garment industry. Many strikes occurred although the proportion of the workers unionized was low.
On a Friday evening, September 10, Clara Lemlich had just left the picket line at Leiserson’s shirtwaist factory when she was attacked and left bloodied on the sidewalk with several broken ribs. (shirtwaist was a type of blouse) Lemlich was a member of Local 25 of the fledgling International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. Undaunted she continued the struggle, speaking on street corners and on picket lines agitating for a ‘general’ strike’ in the shirtwaist factories to protest slave wages, long hours and oppressive working conditions.

Local 25 convened a meeting for November 22 in the great hall of the Cooper Union with Samuel Gompers, head of the A.F.L. as the main speaker. Thousands of workers attended. Speaker after speaker urged the workers to fight, but also urged caution and deliberation. Then Lemlich pushed her way to the front and demanded to say a few words:

“I have listened to all the speakers. I have no further patience for talk, as I am one of those who feels and suffers from the things pictured. I move that we go on a general strike”.

The hall erupted in cheering and the call for a strike was approved unanimously. Their main demands were for a 52 hour work week, a 20% increase in pay, recognition of the union and a closed shop.

The Womens’ Trade Union League (WTUL), an organization of middle class and affluent, progressive women supported the strike financially and by joining the picket lines.

Strikers were harassed and assaulted by the Tammany-controlled police, arrested and jailed, with some sentenced to hard labour in the work house.

About 70 of the smaller shops settled within two days, agreeing to the workers’ demands.

Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, owners of one of the bigger factories, the Triangle, on floors 8, 9, and 10 of the Asch building on the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place, urged their fellow owners to crush the union.

In December the unions offer to negotiate was rejected. The weather was getting colder and the meager strike fund was exhausted. The strikers settled winning a reduction in hours and some increase in pay. But the Triangle has successfully resisted the demand for a closed shop.

Said the Jewish Daily Forward of the Triangle Company

“with blood this name will be written in the history of the American workers’ movement”.

About 13 months later the Forward’s prophecy would come true.

On Saturday, March 25th 1911, at about 4:45 P.M. the approximately 500 workers at the Triangle were ending their work week and picking up their pay checks when a fire started on the eighth floor. The fire spread rapidly.

Some workers escaped across the roof to an adjoining building. Workers on the 9th floor running away from the flames found that the door was locked. All the doors opened inwards. The one fire escape collapsed as the workers crowded on it. Young women and men jumped to certain death to avoid the flames. Among the horrified onlookers was Frances Perkins who worked for the Consumers’ League, an anti-sweat shop and anti-child labour organization led by Florence Kelly, translator of Engel’s ‘Condition of the English Working Class in 1844′.

It was all over in about half an hour; more than a hundred young women and about two dozen young men were dead. Two of the victims were fourteen years old.

The police who had clubbed the young strikers on the picket line now put their broken, burned bodies in coffins and took them to a makeshift morgue on the 26th street pier to a await identification. Accompanying and comforting the bereaved relatives was a Tammany politician and state assemblyman for the district, Al Smith.

Six of the victims were unclaimed and unknown. They were given a city funeral and in pouring rain hundreds of thousands turned out in a huge display of working class power.

There were mass protests and huge amounts of relief donations. But also considerable scepticism that any real reform would ensue. On April 2 a mass meeting was held at the Metropolitan Opera House. There was talk of solidarity, or reform of the need for good fellowship.

Then Rose Schneiderman, a union organizer spoke:

“I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I were to come here to talk good fellowship.
We have tried you good people of the public-and we have found you wanting…

This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in this city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers.

Every year thousands of us are maimed.

The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred!

There are so many of us for one job, it matters little if one hundred and forty-odd are burned to death.

We have tried you citizens! We are trying you now and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers and brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time workers come out on strike, the strong arm of the law is allowed to press down heavily on us.
Public officials have only words of warning for us…and they have the workhouse just back of their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back when we rise…

I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. And the only way is through a strong working class movement.”

Schneiderman had expressed the anger and identified the guilt. The audience voted to send a committee to Albany, the state capital, to demand change. Francis Perkins was one of the delegation. In Albany she met Al Smith who told her the committee was doomed to failure. Politics he said was how laws got made. It would have to be a commission of the legislature. Robert Wagner, another Tammany politician, would be the commission chairman and Smith vice-chairman.

Silent Charlie Murphy, the Tammany chief, knew that things were changing, saw it was necessary to support working class concerns and so backed Smith and Wagner and reform.

Although the general strike of the waist workers had mixed results the ILGWU, thanks to organizers like Lemlich, had grown from a few hundred to tens of thousands.

In 1910 the socialist candidate for the U.S. Congress from the Lower East Side received 33% of the vote. He would be successful in 1914. The status quo was no longer an option.

The Factory Investigating Commission was set up. Clara Lemlich was one of 10 investigators hired. So was Rose Schneiderman. Francis Perkins was loaned to the F.I.C. from the Consumers League. Before the year 1911 was out 2000 factories had been investigated. By years end 15 new laws were proposed and 8 were enacted on fire safety, factory inspections and working conditions for women and children.

In 1912, the Tammany Twins, Smith and Wagner, pushed through 25 bills completely changing the labour law of the state of New York.

Al Smith would be elected 4 times as governor of New York State and be responsible for much progressive legislation. As U.S. senator the name Robert Wagner would be attached to much pro-worker law.

Lemlich would go on to organize for the Communist Party, and in her old age would organize her nursing home to support Caesar Chavez.

Schneiderman would remain a life-long union activist.

Frances Perkins would go on to become the first female cabinet member in U.S. history serving as Labor Secretary and being responsible for much of the progressive reforms of the FDR administration. But she would suggest that the New Deal grew out of the ashes of the Triangle fire.

She wrote:

” We had in the election of Franklin Roosevelt the beginning of what has come to be called a New Deal for the United States. But it was based really upon the experiences that we had had in New York State and upon the sacrifices of those who, we faithfully remember with affection and respect, died in that terrible fire on March 25, 1911. They did not die in vain and we shall never forget them.”

Two excellent books on the fire are: The Triangle Fire by Leon Stein, 1962, reissued 2010, and Triangle: the fire that changed America, by David von Drehle, 2003

Cornell University has excellent material on the fire.

A number of organizations have come together for the centenary.

The Forward has a remembrance issue.

And recently the 6 unknown victims have been identified.

HBO has done a special.

That the memory of those workers who were killed needlessly a hundred years ago by capitalist greed is very much alive indicates that the Triangle Fire is not merely a tragic event in working class history but also a significant episode in a continuing struggle.

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