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Independent Left: THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION 2011 April 13, 2021

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An article on the Syrian Revolution of 2011 and after posted on Independent Left and written by Colm Breathnach.

The Syrian revolution 2011 was a genuine people’s uprising: one that was crushed by the al-Assad regime; a corrupt neo-liberal clique backed by Russian imperialism; and Iranian clerico-military oligarchy. The intervention of the US and its Saudi and Gulf allies also undermined the revolution and bolstered reactionary fundamentalist forces. Socialists support the Syrian masses in their struggle against all of these oppressive forces.

A different world… April 13, 2021

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Telling to see the flood of complaints about the TV coverage of the death of Prince Philip – which by any measure seemed excessive. Unlikely that that would have been the case say thirty odd years ago – in respect of so many complaints. But wall to wall television coverage of the event, or rather specials on his life, across multiple channels has a curiously authoritarian feel to it.

But what does it say about the situation in Britain today and attitudes to the monarchy? I’ve been watching the Crown and it strikes me a television programme like that would have been dustily received in the 1980s, and even 1990s. Granted it is a fiction eliding and reworking history for the narrative. But it is also remarkably hostile to the institution, if not all of those within it (actually, ironically, Prince Philip comes out of it better than most, though some may not think that much of an achievement).

Perhaps all this means little – a public figure who had withdrawn due to age and ill health some time back. And yet I also wonder is this somewhat like the dynamics in respect of the pro-choice campaigns here. A week or so after the result I was talking to someone who would be close to a socially conservative politician in a constituency where there was a smaller than average, but still substantial, majority in favour of the Thirty-sixth amendment. They simply couldn’t understand how this had happened there.

I’m not for a moment suggesting the two issues are the same, or of the same importance – though a British republic would, I imagine, be the optimum approach for many of us here, but clearly something happened between the 1980s and the 2010s where the attitudes changed considerably more generally in the Republic. Could it be that quietly in Britain the monarchy is beginning to slip off the radar, that attachments to old or long-held beliefs are beginning to fray?

Unionism, but what union? April 13, 2021

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Speaking of the riots, Pat Leahy had a fairly insightful point to make on the IT podcast about the current unrest in Northern Ireland… he said:

The protocol and its operation… is a festering sore for many unionists and loyalists, not just because of its practical effects which have been mitigated by the unilateral extension of the grace period but rather because of what it says about the North’s relationship with the rest of the UK and what it says about the willingness of the British government to accept barriers to trade between the North and the rest of the UK for a price for getting the Brexit that they wanted. My view has always been that the real fear in unionism is not so much perfidy by Dublin or expansionist ambitions by the Republic, living with that in the unionist mindset is part of being a unionist on the island of Ireland, the real fear in Unionism and Loyalism and perhaps we’re seeing some reaction to this deep seated fear, the real fear is betrayal by London. And I think at the heart of some of the Loyalist reaction in recent weeks has been a perception that this has happened with regard to the Protocol. There’s not an awful lot that the government in Dublin can do.

Granted he went on to say that the calls for a unity referendum, ‘though perfectly legitimate of themselves don’t take place in a vacuum’ and all that contributes to instability – but he was clear that the fear is one with regard to London’s actions. I think that’s actually quite perceptive.

Oddly that dovetails in a way with the following, reported in the Guardian, a report on the union by former high level civil servants.

The pandemic has seeded the idea of a prime minister “who speaks for England alone” as relations between the four nations of the UK deteriorate amid “deep-rooted complacency”, a senior former civil servant has warned.

There is widespread ignorance towards the union, meaning ministers can be kept in the dark about major reforms with little consideration for the four nations, Philip Rycroft, the permanent secretary to the Brexit department until 2019, says in a report.

His damning conclusion says the 300-year-old union is in deep peril and even major political ructions such as the close-run 2014 Scottish referendum and the following year’s SNP landslide prompted little soul-searching in Westminster.

The following is most interesting:

Rycroft’s co-author, Prof Michael Kenny, said it was political decision-making, not devolution itself, that caused widening divisions. “It was dismantled by political decisions primarily made by No 10.”

Rycroft said Johnson had a “muscular brand of unionism” that asserted the value of the union rather than demonstrating it, appearing reluctant to share platforms with first ministers.

This seems to me to be a form of unionism espoused by the British government that is almost entirely cosmetic, pitched rhetorically as unionist but in essence something that is remarkably English focused.

What routes are possible forward is difficult to ascertain, at least reading what is said next:

Kenny said the approach was “fundamentally unstrategic” and said trying to stem the tide of nationalism in the devolved territories by incrementally devolving new powers was “no longer sustainable”. He said the “serious risk” to the union required a fundamental overhaul of approach.

But the UK government response proves the broad point perfectly:

A UK government spokesperson said: “The United Kingdom is the most successful political and economic union the world has ever seen … Strengthening the United Kingdom is at the heart of everything we do and we are working alongside the devolved administrations to establish new ways of regular, meaningful and effective cooperation so that we continue to deliver for people right across the United Kingdom.”

Sound and fury signifying… April 13, 2021

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A revealing piece by Sam McBride in the Newsletter from last week noting one conspicuous element of the riots on the Shankill – that is the lack of any political aspect to them. No banners, placards, signs or messages to convey a message, however inchoate. Those rioting are exceedingly young for the most part. Instead, as McBridge notes, not merely is there no sign of any fundamental change as regards the Protocol (and more and more it is clear that the Protocol is the excuse and deeper, or shallower, perceptions of the position of nationalism are the driving force behind those egging these riots on) but:

Regardless of whether that happens, these scenes are damaging for the unionist ideology these people espouse.

This was anarchic; whatever the initial cause, violence had here become an end in itself. There was no political message to be discerned beyond rage.

In Northern Ireland’s centenary year, that is evidence of failure, not success.

A not dissimilar take here from RTÉ’s Vincent Kearney.

ILA Podcast #22: Terry Dunne: Anti-war and Activist Movements, Historical Sociology, and “Peelers and Sheep” April 12, 2021

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Direct download:
Mp3 format (42.55 MB)
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In this episode we talk to Terry Dunne. As an activist, Terry has been involved in anarchist groups, and the anti-war, environmental and social justice movements. Terry has a PhD in sociology and an interest in the historical sociology of social movements. He has written particularly on agrarian social movements, and his work has been published in journals such as Saothar, Critical Historical Studies and Rural History. Terry also writes and hosts the Peelers and Sheep: Rebel Tales from the Land podcast.

We first get an overview of Terry’s own activism, from the anti-war movement, the non-hierarchical environmental and social justice movement, Gluaiseacht, and the broader activist context at that time. We then discuss Terry’s research in the area of agrarian agitation during the Irish revolutionary period, which is explored in Terry’s podcast, Peelers and Sheep, and how that fits with more traditional narratives of Irish history.

Terry’s podcast explores a fascinating history – look up Peelers and Sheep in your podcast app or you’ll find it at peelersandsheep.ie .

Terry mentions the influence of Peoples’ Global Action and their hallmarks – you’ll find their archived website here .

Listeners will find an overview of the Grassroots Gatherings and movements around that period in this article from Laurence Cox: The Grassroots Gatherings Networking a “movement of movements” 

To explore Irish labour history further, two good sources of material are the Irish Labour History Society  and Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour & Class .


If you’re enjoying the podcast, please subscribe. If you use a podcast app, it should come up in most of them if you search for “Irish Left Archive Podcast”, or use one of the links below.

Representing the whole of the nation… April 12, 2021

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What an interesting quote in this piece from the Guardian by Simon Jenkins on the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

As the constitutionalist Vernon Bogdanor has written: “A constitutional monarchy settles beyond argument the crucial question of who is to be the head of state, and places the position of that head beyond political competition. In doing so, it alone can represent the whole nation in an emotionally satisfying way.

That seems to be a statement that raises more questions than it seeks to answer.

All over before it began? April 12, 2021

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The news SF has thrown its 41 TDs and Senators behind the genial Billy Lawlessa former Senator (nominated by FG) and Independent candidate for the Seanad is intriguing. Apparently Hazel Chu was hoping for some of those votes but SF argues that “Lawless has a “track record in working with the diaspora, the undocumented in the US and in relation to presidential voting rights; which are priorities the party share”.” Meanwhile the party continues to support Ian Marshall, unionist and former Ulster Farmers’ Union president on the Agriculture panel.

Chu herself seems resigned to her campaign now having no prospect of victory.

Ms Chu said she’s “grateful” that Sinn Féin gave her consideration but said their decision to back Mr Lawless is “fair” given that she was seen as a Government member.

On her chances of being elected she said “the numbers aren’t there and that’s fine” adding: “As much as I would have loved to win I also knew going into it that winning wasn’t the reason I was going for it.”

She said she knew the Seanad bid was going to be a “no hoper” when she decided to run but she’s still glad she did and she is not withdrawing from the race.

Left Archive: Forum: A Republican Journal, Issue 1, February 2003, The New Republican Forum April 12, 2021

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To download the above please click on the following link.

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

This magazine, from The New Republican Forum was published in 2003.

The last page notes that:

The New Republican Forum is a coalition of political and community activists, founded to challenge the political status quo in Ireland by providing a radical Republican alternative to the mainstream political establishment.

In essence The New Republican Forum was established by a group around former PIRA and RIRA member Michael McKevitt following their leaving or being expelled from the latter organisation after a dispute between prisoners in Portlaoise and the leadership of the organisation.

The New Republican Forum:

· Stands for the reunification of Ireland and opposes all aspects of British interference in Irish affairs.

· Opposes the Belfast Agreement, which subverts the Irish people’s inalienable right to self-determination.

· Stands for the creation of a just society in Ireland, based on principles of equality, social justice and genuine democracy, underpinned by a comprehensive charter of inalienable human rights.

· Supports the promotion and development of Irish culture.

· Opposes the resurgence of imperialism as a political ideology, led by the United States, its allies and client regimes.

· Supports all oppressed peoples struggling for national liberation.

· Opposes any attempt by the Dublin government to aid or assist any Western military alliance.

Our aims are:

· To establish a credible Republican opposition to British rule in Ireland.

· To critically reassess and analyse the history of the Republican struggle in Ireland, and by so doing, chart a course for the future of the Republican movement.

· To establish, support and coordinate the activities of Republican, community-based and other progressive organisations, forging a basis for a new national movement.

· To liase with other progressive forces, nationally and internationally, including anti-capitalist groups, trade unionists and environmental movements, along with national liberation movements worldwide, to further the cause of anti-imperialism.

· To establish a range of independent media outlets providing Irish people with alternative sources of information on political and social issues.

The magazine has an interview with a Community worker on the drugs issue in Dublin. Another examines allegations of corruption in the Garda. The 1972 State Papers only then recently released are considered. The issue of the use of Shannon by US military aircraft is discussed as is Iraq. 

There’s an interesting interview with a representative of Republican prisoners in Portlaoise (these would be RIRA prisoners). 

Q9. What realistic strategic options are open to republicans opposed to British rule in Ireland?

At this time it is important that republicans accept political reality regardless of how unpalatable it may be. It is obvious that there is no support for armed struggle in Ireland at this time. And without popular support any armed campaign against British rule is doomed to failure. We believe it is the moral responsibility of the republican  leadership to terminate any campaign when it becomes obvious that its continuance is futile.

Indeed, following the split with the Provisionals, many of the individuals who reconstituted the IRA agreed that if the campaign showed clear signs of being ground to a halt, it would be terminated rather than continued in an ineffective or irregular manner.

Many republicans also believe that it is immoral to jeopardise the lives of non-combatants and risk the lives and liberty of IRA volunteers as part of a non-existent campaign which has been reduced to an attempted operation every couple of months.

This is even more so when a corrupt and discredited leadership is directing such a campaign. Our acceptance of political reality does not entail any ideological concessions. We continue to remain steadfastly opposed to the Belfast Agreement. However, in an environment where armed struggle is not a viable option it is our duty to resist British rule in Ireland by all other means at our disposal.

At all times republicans must remember that the objective of our struggle is the removal of the British presence in Ireland and not the employment of armed struggle at any cost.

Finally, the Editorial asks ‘Republicanism – a failed ideology?’.

So, if Republicanism remains a potent ideology, why has it been. such a political failure? Why have all Republican military campaignsended in defeat? Why has the Republican movement been repeatedly betrayed by its own leaders? Why has the movement consistently failed to mobilize mass support in the South when such support was, at times, clearly visible? And above all, why has a secular, non-sectarian ideology failed so completely to win support from working class Protestants in the North?

War and Peace in a Docklands Hotel April 11, 2021

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Via East Wall History Group – a fantastic project:

North Wall Quay, the 11th April 1921. It could have been any other day on the Dublin Docks as hundreds of dockers, quay laborer’s, carters and seamen made their way to work. Even the military guard at the front door of the London Northwestern Railway Hotel was becoming a familiar figure. But despite appearances, this was anything but a normal day. At 8.00 am a number of armed men emerged from the throng of workers and approached the Hotel building, an action which signaled the start of the most audacious attack carried out against the British Crown Forces this area had ever witnessed. But the story of the LNWR Hotel did not begin with this gun battle – rather it was just one chapter in a Docklands tale of cross channel tourism, a gateway to the country, a place of luxurious surroundings , with its origins in an abandoned plans plans for a cattle market.

On the centenary of this major ambush during the War of Independence , the East Wall History Group is proud to release this documentary to mark the occasion , which includes details of not only of the attack on the LNWR Hotel but also places the building in its correct context as a major feature in the story of Dublin Port. A feature by film-makers Louis Maxwell and Conor Forkin.

Supported by the Dublin City Council Decade of Commemorations Fund for Communities. #lovedublinhistory

Fortnightly Culture Thread April 11, 2021

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gregtimo proposed in comments recently this idea:

I think you need a weekly culture section !

It’s a great idea but perhaps fortnightly gives us a chance to bring something new?

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