Sunday 22 May 2005

The Plough Vol 02 No 37

The Plough
Vol. 2- No 37

E-mail newsletter of the
Irish Republican Socialist Party
Sunday May 22nd 2005


2)Going respectable

3)Behind the betrayal

4)Basque Political Prisoner In England

5) Letters

6)What’s On

This edition carries two important articles by Liam O’Ruaric and Philip Ferguson on the evolution of Sinn Fein (Provisional) from a Republican Party to that of a nationalist Party. The articles were first printed in the Weekly Worker the paper of the CPGB in late April and early May 2005. Electoral success may have temporarily blinded genuine republicans to the disastrous path that the Sinn Fein leadership has embarked on. But sooner or later the failure of the Pan nationalist strategy will force a rethink for those still believe in the concept of a socialist republic in Ireland. Its time all of us who adhere to Connolly Socialism started to get together and plot the way forward.


Going respectable

Liam O Ruairc, a comrade from the Irish Republican Socialist Party, looks at Sinn Fein’s evolution under Gerry Adams over the last 20 years.

The transition of Sinn Féin from principled revolutionary organisation to opportunist, reformist, constitutional nationalist party has been the subject of many a commentary. The whole process traces its roots to the 1980s. Before the end of that decade, the party was gradually becoming incorporated into the institutions it was supposed to overthrow, mainly through the pressure of electoral considerations and clientelist expectations.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the IRA’s stance regarding constitutional politics was “quite simple and clear-cut ... outside of a 32-county sovereign independent democracy, the IRA will have no involvement in what is loosely called constitutional politics” (‘IRA attitude on elections’ An Poblachtach/Republican News September 5 1981, p20). However, the movement soon introduced the tactic of contesting elections through Sinn Féin. “Who here really believes that we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if with a ballot paper in this hand, and an Armalite in this hand, we take power in Ireland?” declared Danny Morrison (‘By ballot and bullet’ APRN November 5 1981, p2).

The ‘Armalite and ballot box’ strategy was born. The purpose of contesting elections and giving an increasingly important role to Sinn Féin was not in order to become some respectable constitutional party, but to introduce a new tactic in the anti-imperialist struggle. The reasons advanced for electoral interventions were, first, that it showed that the national struggle was political, not criminal, in nature. It is difficult to label people as criminal when tens of thousands go out to vote for them. It also refuted the British government’s propaganda that the Republicans were a small isolated group receiving no substantial support.

British strategy also demanded the representation of the nationalist community in the north by constitutional nationalist parties like the Social Democratic and Labour Party and, by challenging its electoral monopoly, Sinn Féin was destabilising the government’s plans (This is made very clear in ‘Revolutionary politics’ APRN April 25 1985, p2. See also ‘Ballots and bombs: electoral tactics complement armed struggle’ APRN February 18 1982, p1). SF portrayed itself as being socially radical and representing the interests of working class people, in contrast to the SDLP’s electoral pool of conservative, middle-aged and middle class voters.

Danny Morrison reassured the movement that tactical electoral intervention would not lead to constitutionalism and reformism: “Sinn Féin will be fighting the elections to consolidate republican support and build a revolutionary organisation which will defend the struggle, not a constitutional party to replace it.” The Provisional movement is not “going sticky”, “there is no parliamentary road to a united Ireland or socialism” and election results “cannot either prejudice the future or the primacy of armed struggle” (Peter Arnlis, ‘The war will go on’ APRN September 16 1982, pp6-7).

This was a fundamental point of principle. In 1984, Martin McGuinness stressed that it was “the combination of the Armalite and the ballot box” that would achieve victory, but made clear which was the weightier of the two: “The Irish Republican Army offers the only resolution to the present situation. It is their disciplined, well-directed war against British forces which will eventually bring Britain to withdraw. We know that elections, while important, ... will not achieve a British withdrawal. If Sinn Féin were to win every election it contested, it would still not get an agreement on British withdrawal ... We recognise the value and the limitations of electoral success. We recognise that only disciplined, revolutionary armed struggle by the IRA will end British rule” (‘We will never be slaves again’ APRN June 28 1984, p7).

For his part, Gerry Adams declared that “to think that the British can be ‘talked out’ of Ireland is contemptible” (The politics of revolution: the main speeches and debates from the 1986 Sinn Féin ard-fheis, including the presidential address of Gerry Adams p11) and concluded: “The history of Ireland and of British colonial involvement throughout the world tells us that the British government rarely listens to the force of argument. It understands only the argument of force” (‘There is only one alternative’ APRN February 2 1989, pp8-9). But within a decade Sinn Féin and the IRA had totally abandoned such a stance, and gradually transformed themselves into a constitutional nationalist movement. How did this come about?

The first reason was that the leadership was intent on broadening the base of the movement, and was prepared to pay the price through a dilution of its radical socialist and later republican principles if necessary. It first made clear that the party was not going to be too radical, as this might scare off potential supporters who would be more conservative. When elected president of Sinn Féin in 1983, Gerry Adams declared: “We must be mindful of the dangers of ultra-leftism and remember at all times that, while our struggle has a major social and economic content, the securing of Irish independence is the prerequisite for the advance to a socialist republican society. Therefore ... republicans have a duty to beware of any tendencies which would narrow our demands and our base. This is true not only of forces outside our movement, but also of tendencies within our party” (presidential address APRN November 17 1983, pp8-9).

The next stage was not just avoiding the dangers of being too far on the left - it was about abandoning any pretence of being socialist republican: “The republican struggle should not at this stage of its development style itself ‘socialist republican’. This would imply that there is no place in it for non-socialists” (G Adams The politics of Irish freedom p132). The excuse was that “This inevitably must narrow the potential support base of the republican movement and enable other movements to claim that they are ‘republican’ though they are not socialist: for example, Fianna Fáil or the SDLP” (G Adams Signposts towards independence and socialism Belfast 1988, p13).

Any principled leftwing position, in so far as it would narrow the support base of the movement, had to be rejected. Adams finally admitted in an interview: “I don’t think socialism is on the agenda at all at this stage except for political activists of the left” (Irish Times December 10 1986). The movement’s growth would be weakened if it could not rely on some conservative support.

If Adams understood the dangers of ultra-leftism, he certainly did not understand the dangers of opportunism. The movement’s growth was everything; the principles nothing. And the next target was not socialism, but republicanism itself: “We need to avoid ultra-republican positions” (G Adams Signposts towards independence and socialism Belfast 1988, p16). If the movement’s republicanism was too orthodox, it might not appeal to people who are simply nationalists. Ultimately, Sinn Féin would abandon republicanism all together to maximise the nationalist agenda. Republicanism was gradually diluted into nationalism.

Concerns about widening the base of the movement were closely related with that of widening its electoral support base. If the party wanted to become the majority nationalist party in the north and make considerable electoral progress in the south, it would have to increase its share of the vote, and appeal to people who are neither socialists nor republicans. Adams emphasised that the vote for Sinn Féin from 1982 to 1984 was a “principled republican vote, as opposed to a nationalist or catholic vote ... it is ideologically sound ... We have been stating our case bluntly and dogmatically, we have not been trying to be ‘all things to all men’ and our vote represents the people who came out in support of our position” (‘Steady progress and an injection of reality’ APRN 21 1984, pp2-3).

In a television interview, Adams even went so far as to say that it might be a bad idea to overtake the SDLP electorally, as this might lead to a diminution of social radicalism. But, as the movement gradually transformed itself into a party of votes, it was less and less concerned about what is politically principled. For example, in 1985, SF decided to support women’s right to have abortion - only to reverse that position in 1986. This had less to do with abortion being immoral or wrong than with the opportunistic reason that it would go badly with the southern electorate in general and conservative nationalists in particular, and prevent the party getting more votes.

The objective increasingly became to win the votes of traditional middle class SDLP or Fianna Fáil voters. So a core socialist republican vote became a republican vote and finally a nationalist vote. A very revealing recent example of this was given in a report carried in An Phoblacht of the 2001 Westminster elections in West Tyrone. In the contest between the SDLP and Sinn Féin, there could be no doubt as to how the party represented itself:

“In the past days the enthusiastic reception canvassers have received on doorsteps, including in staunch SDLP strongholds, have confirmed that Doherty’s support has never been so strong … ‘This constituency is overwhelmingly nationalist and it is nothing short of a disgrace that a unionist politician opposed to the peace process was elected last time,’ says Pat Doherty. ‘Now is the time for the nationalist people of West Tyrone to rally around a party and a politician who will lead from the front to strengthen the peace process and effectively represent all the people of this constituency on the issues that matter the most, which include inward investment, transport infrastructure and demilitarisation.’ … Sinn Féin is seen … as the only nationalist party committed to negotiating further concessions on issues like policing and demilitarisation. But beyond the figures and the short-term considerations, the battle in West Tyrone is also a symbol of the direction nationalism is taking and the future of the Six Counties … The rise of Sinn Féin across the Six Counties will further confirm a trend of recent elections: Sinn Féin is the fastest growing party on the island and is becoming the largest nationalist party in the north” (my emphasis - ‘Pat Doherty to win West Tyrone’ APRN June 1 2001, p6).

From once opposing the ‘collaborationist’ and middle class SDLP, Sinn Féin now tries to replace the constitutional nationalist party and appeal to middle class and conservative voters.

Another reason for Sinn Féin’s evolution is that from the second half of the 1980s onward, central to the Provisionals’ strategy was the building of ‘broad fronts’. But the question is, on what political basis is the front built, who qualifies and how broad should it be? According to Adams, “We have to proceed on the basis of the lowest common denominator and at the level of people’s understanding” (G Adams Signposts towards independence and socialism Belfast 1988, p16). This means building fronts on so broad a basis that they can encompass everything from the catholic church to corporate Irish America.
In practice, the Provisionals sought to accommodate and build a ‘pan-nationalist alliance’ with Fianna Fáil, the catholic church - and the SDLP, instead of confronting them, as in the past: “Rather than denouncing the party, republicans should take a constructive approach with the SDLP” (‘Broadening the base’ APRN June 30 1988, p3). This could only but seriously weaken republicanism’s anti-partitionist thrust, as those elements have always been much more hostile to the IRA than to British involvement in Ireland.

When Sinn Féin did succeed in building such alliances, it was not on its own terms. It is not the Dublin government, the SDLP and the Clinton/Bush administration that have come to the republican position, but rather the Provisional movement which has moved to the constitutional nationalist position.

The price of the inclusion of republicans in the pan-nationalist alliance was the exclusion of republicanism. Sinn Féin has allowed those conservative elements to lead the whole nationalist struggle. Constitutional nationalism is the emphasis upon unity by consent, and republicanism has become subsumed within a partitionist nationalist project. The people who have always sold the struggle out are the people Sinn Féin was now relying on. Their aim was to effectively decommission republicanism, and they succeeded. The price of meetings with Clinton or Bush in the White House or of joint initiatives with the leadership of Fianna Fáil were ceasefires, unilateral acts of decommissioning and defeat.

When elected president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams expressed his support for the armed struggle of the IRA: “Armed struggle is a necessary and morally correct form of resistance in the Six Counties against a government whose presence is rejected by the vast majority of Irish people ... There are those who tell us that the British government will not be moved by armed struggle. As has been said before, the history of Ireland and of British colonial involvement throughout the word tells us that they will not be moved by anything else” (presidential address APRN November 17 1983, pp8-9).

But electoralism was soon to take its toll on Sinn Féin’s commitment to support the primacy of armed struggle. In 1985, all Sinn Féin local election candidates had to sign a republican declaration giving unequivocal support to armed struggle. But after the British government introduced legislation making compulsory for anyone standing to reject proscribed organisations or illegal activities, the 1989 Sinn Féin ard fheis authorised councillors to sign up to this ‘anti-violence’ declaration. So, when it comes to a choice between votes and expressing support for the armed struggle of the IRA, the party chose electoralism. Sinn Féin had thus repudiated the Armalite in favour of the ballot box long before it signed up to the Mitchell principles.

In the meantime, SF faced the contradictions of ‘going into the state to overthrow the state’. In 1985, it decided that its elected representatives in the north would take their seats on local councils. An editorial in An Phoblacht promised: “Within the councils of the Six Counties, Sinn Féin elected representatives will challenge the basis of the state itself and that is why they are seen as a threat both by the loyalists and by the so-called ‘constitutional nationalists’” (‘No illusions’ APRN May 2 1985, p1). In theory, the republican objective was to overthrow the northern state. That was what the IRA armed struggle was about. But, while the IRA was bombing and destroying City Hall as a symbol of the state, Sinn Féin councillor were de facto accepting the state and trying to make it work by using it as a source of income, funding community initiatives, investment for social development projects, etc. Rather than providing an alternative structure to the state, as Adams had earlier envisaged in his jail writings, Sinn Féin was now susceptible to cooption by the state.

A few years later, it was evident that Sinn Féin’s attitude towards the state had evolved: “As one Sinn Féin councillor observed, ‘The loyalists and the council officials were genuinely apprehensive of Sinn Féin in the council chamber, but within a short period of time they saw that we were genuine and reasonable” (‘Advancing under attack - Sinn Féin in the council chambers’ APRN March 2 1989, pp8-9). The reason was that, for the purpose of running city councils, there were practically no differences between Sinn Féin and the other constitutionalist parties. Mairtin O Muilleor, a well known Belfast Sinn Féin councillor, admitted that, “When it comes to ‘bins, bodies and bogs’ (the normal issues at council meetings), we are only a few degrees to the left of the SDLP” (‘Broadening the base’ APRN June 30 1988, p3).

Brendan O Brien, the security correspondent for RTE who cannot be suspected of republican or leftwing sympathies, was one of the first who recognised the significance of this process: “In the 1970s, abstentionist republicans would never have considered ‘recognising’ Belfast City Hall. It was the bastion of unionism and of the British state. The republican movement would have none of it. They would insist on abstaining from the state until Britain was forced out through the IRA campaign ... By 1993 Sinn Féin had 10 seats at Belfast City Hall and were looking ahead to a nationalist majority on the council. They were claiming it as their own, despite the union jack flying overhead and all the symbols of unionism and empire inside. This would have far-reaching implications for a movement which regarded itself not just as republican but revolutionary. They were joining the system, not tearing it down” (B O Brien The long war Dublin 1999, pp47-49).

Sinn Féin had de facto accepted the legitimacy of the state years before it signed up to the Belfast agreement. Unionist dominance of Belfast city council ended with the local government elections of 1997. The first Sinn Féin lord mayor of Belfast to be appointed was Alex Maskey for the year 2002-03. Photographs of him sitting with a union jack in his parlour and proudly wearing his mayor necklace would have been unthinkable two decades ago and symbolised how far Sinn Féin had accepted the institutions it was once pledged to overthrow (see B McCaffrey and A Maskey Man and mayor Belfast 2003).

This was also true of the recognition of the legitimacy of the southern parliament. The republican movement traditionally considered itself to be the legitimate government of Ireland, and the IRA the sole legitimate army. When elected as president of Sinn Féin, Adams stated: “On the question of Leinster House, we are an abstentionist party. It is not my intention to advocate a change in this situation.” He promised the delegates that he was not “about to lead you into Leinster House” (presidential address APRN November 17 1983, pp8-9).

The problem is that, once the legitimacy of the Dublin government is recognised, there cannot be two legitimate governments and two legitimate armies; one has to recognise that the official Irish army is the only legitimate army and that an illegal army is therefore illegitimate. The republican objective is to bring down Leinster House, not enter it. However, in 1986, in order to grow electorally in the south, the Provisionals dropped abstentionism and recognised its legitimacy.

Denying that the current leadership “are intent on edging the republican movement on to a constitutional path”, Martin McGuinness then declared: “I can give a commitment on behalf of the leadership that we have absolutely no intention of going to Westminster or Stormont ... Our position is clear and it will never, never, never change. The war against British rule must continue until freedom is achieved ... We will lead you to the republic” (The politics of revolution - the main speeches and debates from the 1986 Sinn Féin ard fheis, including the presidential address of Gerry Adams pp26-27).

Eight years later, the ‘war against British rule’ was over, and five years after that Martin McGuinness was a British minister of education in the Stormont assembly …

Behind the betrayal

Former Sinn Féin member Philip Ferguson recalls and analyses the organisation’s move to the right - and points a finger at the British left

In last week’s Weekly Worker my socialist republican comrade, Liam O Ruairc, outlined major developments in the degeneration of the republican movement (Sinn Féin and the IRA) into constitutional nationalism (April 21). As a former Sinn Féin activist, including being a full-time organiser for several years, I would like to add to the picture by looking at some of the internal developments and disputes, the external context in Ireland and globally and the role of the British left in this degeneration.

I joined Sinn Féin in the middle of 1986 and left Ireland permanently at the start of 1994, although I was out of Ireland for much of the 18 months before my final departure. My period of activity coincided with the beginnings of the rightward shift although, at the time I joined, it appeared that leftwing politics were dominant in both major wings of the movement (party and army). In particular, in the late 1970s and early 1980s it appeared, certainly to me, that the republican movement was in transition from revolutionary nationalism, in the sense Lenin used that term, to revolutionary socialism.
Given that a generation of radicals in oppressed nations had made this transition in the years immediately following the Russian Revolution, it seemed perfectly feasible to me that Irish republicans could also do so.

This view was reinforced by a number of factors. The movement was overwhelmingly working class in social composition, and the Irish bourgeoisie and most of the middle class (especially in the south) were completely hostile to the national liberation struggle. In addition, hundreds of comrades were in prison and studying Marxist texts there. However, the lowering of the horizons of the movement, or at least of its leaders, began to manifest itself not long after I joined.

IRA volunteers: took on the world’s number two imperialist power

It is important to put this in a wider political context, as this leadership was not merely a bunch of ageing yuppies, like the Blairites, but a layer of working class fighters forged in the crucible of a life-and-death struggle in the nationalist ghettoes of the north, especially Belfast, taking on the world’s number two imperialist power. Critiques of them as ‘middle class’ by social workers and teachers belonging to Irish Trotskyist groups which had never summoned up the revolutionary spirit to so much as throw a stone at the occupying imperialist army never much impressed me (and do not today either).

A major problem was simply the objective conditions which the republicans had to confront. They faced not only a powerful imperialist enemy, but also repressive state apparatuses both sides of the border in Ireland. The south, for instance, maintained continual harassment and repression of republicans all the way through the armed conflict of the past generation. It was much easier to belong to any of the small Trotskyist groups than it was to be in Sinn Féin in any part of Ireland.

In the wake of the 1981 hunger strikes and the mass mobilisations around them in Ireland, republicans made advances electorally, thereby showing they were not a small and isolated ‘terrorist’ or ‘bandit’ group, as portrayed by the British and Irish establishments. The ruling classes on both sides of the Irish Sea were determined to roll back these gains and did so using a combination of repression against republicans and their base and carrots for communities prepared to separate themselves from the republican movement. The Dublin government and the Stoop Down Low Party (SDLP) in the six counties, both of which were threatened by the rise of Sinn Féin and the radical instability that might ensue from this, stepped up collaboration with the Brits.

By the late 1980s, the republican movement had been pushed back to its hard-core base. Clearly, neither relying on armed struggle as the major strategy nor combining electoral politics and armed struggle (the ballot box and the Armalite) were sufficient for holding off the renewed offensive of the British state and its lackeys in Ireland. A rethink was necessary, and this did actually take place.
Unfortunately, it took place in very unfavourable international circumstances. There were two elements to this:

1. the collapse of national liberation movements elsewhere, along with the collapse of collectivism associated with the Soviet bloc;

2. the dismal politics of the British left.

While the republican movement had never regarded the Soviet bloc as a model, the collapse of that bloc had the effect of widely discrediting any form of collectivist-oriented politics, including genuine revolutionary socialism. There was certainly no Bolshevik Party leading a healthy revolutionary process in Russia or anywhere else that could inspire the republican movement leadership to move leftwards, as had happened with revolutionary nationalists immediately after 1917.

Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet bloc had helped disorient national liberation movements everywhere. The FSLN, under pressure from Washington and the demise of the Soviet bloc, had shifted rightwards, as had the FMLN in El Salvador, and similar groups elsewhere in central America. The African National Congress-South African Communist Party was moving towards an accommodation with the South African ruling class and its political representatives, in which formal race laws would be abolished, but capitalist social relations maintained and strengthened. The Palestine Liberation Organisation was being given the right to run a few refugee camps in exchange for ending the struggle against the Israeli state.

The ‘success’ with which the ANC and PLO had gone mainstream appealed to much of the republican leadership, including those who had studied Marxism so intensely while in prison and written radical critiques of the history of the movement. I recall chatting after an anti-extradition conference in Dublin around 1990 to a prominent Belfast republican and former hunger-striker, who had been one of the leading figures in the study of Marxism in the H-blocks and was only recently out of prison. I naturally assumed he and I would be on the same wavelength politically, but was shocked when he started saying to me how we had to take the ANC and PLO as our model and how they would succeeded in ‘mainstreaming’ their agenda.

Of course, the idea was not that the republican agenda would be gutted, but that it would be promoted in a way that made it the central political focus that everyone in Ireland had to address. This was, supposedly, what the PLO and ANC had achieved.

One of the problems faced by comrades who studied in prison and became, at least while behind bars, convinced Marxists, was that it was all theoretical. Since these comrades were locked up for 10, 15, 18 years, there was little opportunity to develop their Marxism in the changing, real world. When they got out there was simply a huge chasm between their intellectual Marxism and the more prosaic reality, including the way the leadership was taking the movement rightwards. A few stayed true to the revolutionary theory they had learned in prison and tried to use it to analyse reality, but for most the chasm was too wide and they quickly fell into it, which meant falling into line behind the leadership.

There was also a good deal of conniving and dishonesty from elements of the leadership, who set out fairly consciously to destroy (either outright or through cooption) the radical ideas gestating in the movement and in the H-blocks in particular.

Around the time I joined Sinn Féin I was involved in typesetting and proofing a book by the H-block prisoners. The two comrades who were in charge of political education nationally in the party, and who saw themselves very much as socialists of the Connolly variety, were very excited about this book, Questions of history. Smuggled out of the blocks bit by bit, it was essentially a Marxist analysis and critique of the history of Irish republicanism.

Rose and Jim saw this as being the breakthrough. Because it came from the blocks and the prisoners had immense moral authority, this book would be read by everyone in the movement, most would be convinced by it, a whole study programme would be organised around it and we were on the way to the republic of Connolly. The book was even to be colour-coded, with questions for discussion and so on and would come in several volumes.

Even though it only went up to the 1930s and was not a direct critique of Provo politics, the first volume of Questions of history was not welcomed in the central leadership. Indeed, the book was pretty much suppressed. Only 2,000 copies were allowed to be printed and these were for circulation only within the movement. Effectively it was turned into an internal discussion document that could never be internally discussed. There was a whispering campaign that the book was ‘ultra-left’ and a shitty review was run in An Phoblacht/Republican News, written by a party hack who had previously been in the British Labour Party and Fourth International (Usec). It was never be sold publicly, never used for a serious internal education programme and the second volume was never even published. Apparently there is now a copy of the second volume in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast.

Having effectively suppressed the radical critique of the POWs, the nationalist elements in the leadership began a scare campaign that the national question was in danger of disappearing from Irish public discourse and everything had to be concentrated on defending the idea of national unity.

This came in the context of two counterposed papers about the way forward being presented within Sinn Féin and discussion of these before and at the annual internal conference (SF usually held two national conferences a year: a public ard fheis, based around reports, remits and election of the leadership; and an internal conference based around discussion papers). The head of the party’s political education, who was also a former OC of the prisoners at Portlaoise, wrote a document in which he warned that the movement itself was being politically partitioned, with armed struggle in the north and clientelist advice-centre/social reformist politics in the south. The paper argued explicitly for Connolly-type politics, uniting the political, social and economic aspects of the struggle on a 32-county basis.

The alternative paper was put forward by one of the party’s two general secretaries, Tom Hartley. Hartley, whose politics seemed quite influenced by the nationalist wing of the pro-Moscow Communist Party of Ireland (CPI), argued in favour of a pan-nationalist front. This would be formed by working for unity with Fianna Fail, the SDLP - and even Fine Gael! - to advance an Irish national agenda. This paper was extraordinary, considering Irish history. It basically turned its back on the lesson of every significant struggle and leader since Wolfe Tone, by rejecting a struggle for national liberation based on the people of no property - a concept at the very heart of Irish republicanism - and advocated class collaboration with the very sections of Irish society which had always sold out the struggle and which were clearly working with the Brits to maintain the status quo.

In order to bolster up the pan-nationalist side, a whispering campaign was mounted that the people behind the Connolly paper were hostile to the armed struggle and wanted it called off. It was more or less implied that a vote for that paper was a vote for the end of the armed struggle. Also, various people were removed from the leadership in both the party and the army without any transparency in the process at all. Supporters of the nationalist position would sometimes go so far as to throw a tantrum, shrieking and carrying on, as if voting for the Connolly position was a betrayal of the nationalist population of the north.

Needless to say, the pan-nationalist position triumphed, and the key architects of the Connolly paper pretty much dropped out.

The shift rightwards also took other forms. When Dessie Ellis was extradited to Britain from the south on a stretcher around the fifth or sixth week of his hunger strike, the leadership were very worried about trouble on the streets of Dublin. There was a march that night organised by the anti-extradition campaign, in which I was the party full-timer, and we wanted to take it to a venue where Haughey, who was taoiseach at the time, was speaking and at least ruin his night. Adams rang me in the anti-extradition office to suggest the march be called off, especially as there was an Ireland-England soccer match in Dublin that afternoon and the leadership worried that republicans and English soccer fans might clash in the streets in the evening. I found this extraordinary. One of our comrades had been handed over to the Brits on a stretcher almost blind and we were not supposed to protest in the capital city because of the presence of English soccer fans.
In fact, this was one of the great weaknesses of the Provo leadership. They wanted to avoid creating any trouble in the south, let alone destabilising the southern state.

From the traditional standpoint, however, of militant republicanism and Marxism, it is rather difficult to imagine driving British imperialism out of Ireland and freeing the country without the southern state being destabilised. It is after all, as Liam Mellows noted back in 1922, not a step towards liberation, but a barrier between the Irish people and freedom that has to be removed.

As it was, the party leadership sent members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade to ‘marshal’ the march and ensure nothing untoward took place - although some of the army comrades later expressed regret and shame about their role.

The leadership also engaged in a substantial effort at what might be called ‘reformism by stealth’. Adams and co knew that they could not come out and say they wanted an end to the armed struggle and a peace deal little different from the 1973 Sunningdale agreement. So, instead of nailing their colours to the mast and fighting for their rotten capitulation to imperialism, we had the spectacle of ‘discussion papers’ on pathways to peace and justice (and later, just to peace).

When comrades critical of this would try to criticise these, the standard leadership response would be that these were not up for votes, they were not official policy: they just ideas that some people thought were interesting or useful. Within a couple of years, however, the positions in these documents were being used as the basis for official party statements. Without being voted on - in fact without ever being seriously debated - they became the de facto, and eventually de jure, position of Sinn Féin (and, presumably, of the army as well).

By about 1992, without the new line ever having been formally voted on, reformism was dominant and the road opened to its full flowering in the form of the republican movement embracing the constitutional nationalism which had been the deadly enemy of republicanism throughout its entire 200-year history.

Another, almost surreal, aspect - indeed it reminded me of Animal Farm - was the suppression of the ‘left’ Adams of the late 1970s and early 1980s and the emergence of the ‘moderate statesman’ Adams. For instance, my local cumann decided to hold regular monthly public forums, starting with one on poverty and featuring Dublin speakers and Bernadette McAliskey. For this forum, we wanted some literature and one of our members, who was also a member of the national leadership and worked in the party’s political education department, grabbed a few copies from her office of stuff written about socialism and republicanism by Adams in the late 70s and 80s that the education department had put together as a little pamphlet. She was physically prevented from taking this material out of SF head office to the forum on the basis that what Adams said in these collected pieces was no longer the party view.

Each edition of Adams’ first political book, The politics of Irish freedom, was re-edited several times to remove certain criticisms of the SDLP and Fianna Fáil and any other views of his subsequently deemed to have been ‘ultra-left’. Needless to say, the first version was much more interesting and inspiring than the insipid liberalism he repetitively churns out in book after book these days.

After about 1992, the shift rightwards gathered more and more steam, genuine left-republicans began dropping away over the next few years and, as the party became more respectable, a new layer of members were signed up on the basis of the new line.

The shift also reflected a dramatic truth about the objective importance of class in modern politics. If you became increasingly hostile to class politics, in terms of a revolutionary strategy based on the working class, this does not mean class politics go away. Rejecting the working class as the agent of struggle and social change simply means there is only one place left to go politically - towards the capitalist class. And so off went the republican leadership - towards the Irish bourgeoisie, the British bourgeoisie and the American ruling class. And the returns for betrayal are always lucrative: positions in power, even if only in Stormont, state money, an end to censorship and the opening up of the media, book publishing deals, visits to the White House and enough money from the States to make Sinn Féin the richest party in Ireland. After years of struggle and sacrifice, the temptations are not hard to understand, even if the capitulation is contemptible.

This sell-out by the leadership of the republican movement has been widely condemned by the British left. This is rather surreal, considering that few of them actually supported the republican struggle while it was being waged. And this brings us to the culpability of the British left, especially the major organisations, in terms of the sell-out.

The rise of the Provos was not an isolated event. It was part and parcel of the massive upsurge of workers and students in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was part of the process that produced the events of 1968 and the rebirth of the far left in Europe.

In Britain, it coincided with student occupations, anti-imperialist protests against the Vietnam war and huge industrial struggles against the Wilson government’s In place of strife legislation and the massive strike wave during the Heath government, culminating in the miners’ defeat of Heath in 1974. The British bourgeoisie faced a militant working class at home and a militant national liberation struggle just a few miles of sea away. If the two had come together, the result would have been at the very least a political and social crisis for the British ruling class - something that class was only too aware of.

There were some auspicious signs. In 1971, over 30,000 people took part in the Anti-Internment League’s march for the withdrawal of troops and an end to internment. In the early 1970s an Irish revolutionary like Bernadette Devlin could be given a rousing response by 4,000 Dagenham car workers during an industrial dispute. Bloody Sunday showed people on both sides of the Irish Sea what imperialist rule meant, if there was any doubt. The possibilities for the British left being able to make common cause with the struggle in Ireland and create a social and political crisis in Britain were real.

However, it was a challenge in which the British left totally failed. This was especially true when the British state began to fully clamp down on the struggle in Ireland around the time of Bloody Sunday and, especially, after Sunningdale and then the collapse of the mid-70s ceasefire. The unedifying flight of the British left was also linked to the war being brought to Britain itself. Most of the British left preferred their revolutions in the pages of history books and in fiery speeches they made at Labour Party and trade union conferences. They could support revolutions if they were on the other side of the world and against some other imperialist power, like the US in Vietnam. But a national liberation struggle against the British state that actually thought that if there was going to be fighting and dying some of it should take place on British soil - whoa, that was not in the script for the revolutionary heroes of the Brit left.

They denounced bombings in Britain as if they seriously believed a national liberation struggle against an imperialist power a few miles away, which had incorporated part of the oppressed nation’s territory within its own state, could possibly be won without armed actions, including within the imperialist state (I am not making a blanket defence of IRA bombings in Britain - some of them were stupid: merely establishing the principle about what is entailed in a real flesh-and-blood national liberation struggle).

Essentially the Brit left, in terms of its major organisations (‘official’ Communist Party, SWP, Militant, International Marxist Group) abandoned the Irish national liberation struggle against the British state. As soon as the going got tough, the Brit left got going … as far as possible, away from the Irish struggle. None of those involved in this abandonment therefore have any right to criticise the subsequent abandonment of the same struggle by the republican leaders themselves.

The worst were the ‘official’ CP and Militant, who basically sided with the British state by obstructing any attempts to build a solidarity movement within the British working class and repeating imperialist propaganda about the republican movement. In fact the ‘official’ CP acted in no small part as the actual agent of the British state in terms of TUC policies it pursued within the six counties. The SWP and IMG did their bit more by just simply abandoning any serious prioritising of Irish solidarity work.

I recall living in London at the time of the 1981 hunger strikes. One weekend there would be 250,000 people in Hyde Park protesting about non-existent nuclear wars on the basis of middle class pacifist politics. The British far left would be there in their thousands, selling their papers and promoting their own special brand of militant pacifism. The next week there would be a national march in support of the hunger strikers with a few hundred people - a thousand at most - in attendance and the far left notable mainly for its absence.

Basically, the bulk of the Brit left let the British government kill the hunger strikers without doing a damn thing. Building the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was the soft option and never challenged anything about British people’s attachment to the British nation-state and capitalist ideology. Organising real solidarity around Ireland was hard and not likely to result in immediate large gains in recruitment and paper sales. And it meant challenging trade union politics as a form of bourgeois ideology.

Of course, Marx and Engels had championed Irish freedom and argued that, as long as British workers remained tied to the apron-strings of the British bourgeoisie in Ireland, they would never attain real class consciousness or achieve anything significant in Britain itself. Lenin was devastating about the record of the British left of his day in relation to Ireland. The Bolsheviks ensured that one of the conditions of membership of the Third International was that if a party was in an imperialist country and there was a national liberation struggle going on against your government you had to provide it with material support. Trotsky declared that any British socialist who refused to provide full support for the struggle in Ireland (and India and Egypt) deserved to be branded with infamy, if not with an actual bullet.

Sadly, the great Marxists had sown dragons’ teeth and, in Britain, harvested chickens.

At the end of the day, the republican movement and its struggle capitulated in the context of having been abandoned long beforehand by the bulk of the British left and in the context of the collapse of both the supposedly collectivist Soviet Union and most other national liberation struggles. What is remarkable is not the betrayal of the republican leadership - as pitiful and dishonest as that has been - but the duration of the struggle in Ireland, given the real, material difficulties it faced.

However, the betrayal within Ireland also points up the weakness of a national liberation struggle which does not transcend the political limitations of radical nationalism. It shows that the period in which national liberation struggles could be taken at least to the achievement of independence and some radical social changes by radical nationalist leaderships is over. Only a conscious, revolutionary socialist movement can develop and maintain the politics, strategy and tactics necessary to prosecute a struggle for national liberation with any serious hope of success.

In Ireland, that places a huge burden on the Irish Republican Socialist Party and on other revolutionary republicans and socialists, including former members of the republican movement who left over the Good Friday agreement and leadership betrayal generally.

It seems to me that what is urgently needed are ways to get the dispersed genuine revolutionary forces - not the gas-and-water socialists Connolly denounced - in Ireland talking together and trying to develop a partyist culture among them, based on a Connolly-type politics for the Ireland of the 21st century.






===Press Release: Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.
20 May 2005.
Contact: Marian Price/Martin Mulholland
Phone: 07801 729 412 or e-mail
Double Standards in British ŒJustice’ System.
The IRPWA view today’s decision by a British Court to free UDA/UFF leader William ‘Mo’ Courtney on bail despite being held on a murder charge as displaying Double Standards given the treatment of Republicans by the same court in recent times. This incident is the latest in a long line of events that highlight the disparity in the way that the British Justice system views Loyalist and Republican suspects. Not only has Mr Courtney been released but also his co-accused Ihab Shoukri was released on Bail a number of months earlier. Shoukri’s Brother André also felt the full force of British Judicial leniency when caught with an illegal firearm and ammunition. Shoukri was initially charged with possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life but was eventually given an extremely short sentence for having a gun without a license. If we compare the sentence handed down recently to a Lurgan Loyalist who was caught with information likely to be of use to terrorists who was given a suspended sentence and that of a South Armagh Republican who charged with the same offence was give six years it is not hard to see a pattern emerging. In late 2003 and throughout 2004 a number of Republicans were released from custody when it was decided that there were no charges to answer or when it became obvious that the RUC/PSNI and the British Army framed these men. Most of these men continually applied for high court bail knowing that they had no case to answer yet the courts refused on almost every occasion. A number of men are still being held in Maghaberry goal on much less serious charges than Mr Courtney and the Shoukri’s brothers yet they too are refused bail on every occasion due to RUC intervention and so called Œsecurity assessments’. Although Mo Courtney has a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty it is not lost on the republican community that this right has not been extended to Republicans. It is clear that as loyalists proclaim to defend the same state that the courts administer justice for, then they are treated more leniently than those who do not recognise that same state. The actions of the court and the politically motivated intervention of other agencies of the state in the cases of republicans show that these men are political prisoners and the difference in treatment between Republicans and Loyalists only serves to bear out this fact.
Message Ends.
Ernie Lynch





This event is being organised by TFS with support of the Nexus Institute
(help survivors of sexual abuse and rape in N.Ireland) & members of the local African community. Phone TFS 028 90747473 for more details and ask for
Annie or Hamish.

For the last 30 years British soldiers have raped women and boys from villages in eastern Kenya. When the women in Kenya took the courageous decision to seek justice, little did they know that they would expose the alliance between both the British and Kenyan Governments to suppress the truth and the painful reality that their own government, though elected by Kenyans, takes instructions from London. The Kenyan government failed to conduct its own investigation and ensure that its citizens received both justice and compensation. Instead the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) investigated itself. The Royal Military Police concluded that of the 800 allegations of rape made, “... no more than 30 are credible.” Is this not like asking an accused thief to investigate the robbery? There has been a smear campaign and all the major British newspapers have published reports on the alleged Kenya rapes and have presented the women as gold-diggers. If hypothetically, African soldiers stationed in the south of England had raped white women from a nearby village would the British Government be satisfied with an African government making the investigation? This case is about justice and both the British and Kenyan Governments share joint responsibility for the horrendous crimes that have been committed.

We have been told that due to threats made to them, the women cancelled a demo last March in Nairobi.

The above has been summarised from information passed on to us by the
London-based African Liberation Support Campaign with whom Tools For
Solidarity (TFS) is affiliated. They have direct contacts with the Kenyan

:The Unkindest Cut
A Cartoon History of Ulster in the Twentieth Century
5th May – 28th May 2005, admission free, Linen Hall Library (enter via Fountain St)
This lively exhibition presents historian and librarian John Killen’s selection of 170 of the best of these cartoons. Demonstrating the characteristic dark humour common to all sides in the north, the selection also suggests some interesting, if quirky, scenarios for a better future.

Date: Wed, 4 May 2005 08:18:28 EDT

Hello - this is a mass mail out with the final lineup for my birthday concert. greetings to friends, family, workmates, acquaintances and apologies to those to whom this e.mail is of absolutely no interest or pertinence. all the best, Peggy

Celebration of Peggy Seeger's 70th year! Queen Elizabeth Hall , London, England

Sunday, May 29 - 7 p.m.

Booking from inside UK: 08703-800-400
Booking from outside UK: +44-8703-800-400

Guest Artists: Billy Bragg, Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Calum MacColl, Kitty MacColl, Neill MacColl, Irene Pyper-Scott, Mike Seeger, Pete Seeger and Norma Waterson with instrumentalists James McNally, Roy Dodds, Graham Henderson and probably a few more!

London, UK 0870-382-8000
Email for more information

Saturday 7 May 2005

The Plough Vol 02 No 36

The Plough
Vol. 2- No 36

E-mail newsletter of the
Irish Republican Socialist Party
Saturday May 7th 2005

1) Report from Venezuela
2) Enigma China
3) Letters
a. The disgraceful state of our health service.
4) What’s On

Report from Venezuela

The question is often asked; does Socialism work…… or is there a place for it in today’s world? Many on the right would trumpet the fall of the Soviet Union as the death knell to Socialism/Communism as a working ideology. Some NeoCons go even further and trumpet the end of the USSR as the end of history. As history consists of different ideological, political and economic power struggles, they herald the dominant USA and its socio economic and political system as the only system for the world from now to doomsday.

A startling declaration, for the billions of people suffering devastating poverty and murderous imperialism due to this eternal system. Particularly in Africa Asia and Latin America where the effect have been felt most both today and in the past. Yet it is in Latin America that this “end of history” claim is being shown to be the folly that it is. Countries right across the South American Continent are experiencing an ever growing socialist trend with various land reform, labour and students movements pushing the collective social consciousness’ of the continent further to the left side of the political spectrum. This has resulted in the election of left leaning political leaders, much to the discomfort of the Ultra-Nationalist, Neo Conservative leadership in Washington.

The largest thorn in the side of the US imperialist state is Venezuela and its elected President Hugo Chavez who is using his considerable mandate to reverse the US backed trend of corruption that has blighted the country and to implement sweeping that evenly spread the resources of the oil rich country.

One concrete example of this is the recently nationalized INVEPAL factory complex. INVEPAL is the countries paper making industry that was a privately enterprise until the owners declared the factory bankrupt as an act of economic sabotage by the anti-government owners. Instead of accepting the massive job loss, the workers formally requested the permission to run the factory as a collective in cooperation with the government. The government agreed and the factory now operates successfully in the socialist model of workers control.

Upon visiting the factory however, I discovered that the factory is much more than just a working example of a socialist industrial unit. The factory unit itself produces paper for the books/stationary used in the governments’ education and health missions as well as its official stationary. It also produces other products such as paper bags used by shops and pharmacies and larger bags used for agricultural feeds and cements etc.

One of the democratically elected administration staff had arranged for a tour of the factory for me with one of the workers. The first thing that struck me was how orderly the place looked. I still don’t know why this should have come as a shock to me. I perhaps had a very wrong subconscious misconception of how a factory without bosses would have looked. I can be forgiven for my surprise at the revelations that followed.

Coming out of one of the factory buildings, I noticed three fire engines and an ambulance situated at a depot. I subsequently discovered that these were the property of the factory collective. Not only that, but that the firemen and paramedics had stayed after the workers annex as part of the collective. I was amused to see the old VENEPAL (the name of the factory under private ownership) logo on the sides of the fire engines had been sprayed over with white paint.

A little further and my guide directed me into an extremely large and noisy building that I soon discovered was a gas fuelled electric power station with four huge steam turbines that provide power for the entire factory complex. Again, this was operated by members of the workers collective within.

The factory, as a socialist model, not only works but works more efficiently. Paper production has increased since the workers annex. The workers are contributing to the success of their collective effort with more energy without the exploitation of a private boss. They have realized their potential in collective effort and this has injected a vitality in them that is allowing them to fulfill it. Moreover, they are also working to fulfill the potential of the factory complex as a whole.

The factory complex lies in app.5,600 hectares of what was mostly private, unproductive land. There are also a number of amenities that were once exclusively for the middle management level of the private factory for example a baseball field and small stadium. There is also a swimming pool and a series of chalet housing with a restaurant. Up until a few months ago these amenities along with other structures in the complex had fallen into a state of great disrepair. Using the profits created by the factory, the collective have began an extensive program of refurbishment, opening the complex up to the workers for their use and welfare. The stadium is open for the workers or their children to use for sports as will the pool in a few weeks time. The chalets and other buildings in the complex are receiving refurbishment to the roofs and air-conditioning and are used by workers permanently based here. The restaurant has been refurbished and has been transformed into a canteen for the workers to enjoy a subsidized lunch in cooler surroundings. A shop has been opened offering a wide range of subsidized goods.

Showing admirable imagination and social consciousness, the factory workers have asked the government to provide agricultural experts to come to the site to develop the remaining 5,000+ hectares into productive agricultural land. The government has obliged and sent Venezuelan and Cuban experts to draw up and develop plans to implement irrigation schemes to make the land suitable for crop production, livestock including egg bearing chickens, diary and beef cows, pigs, buffalos. The experts are not planning to do this on their own. They are training people from local towns to take part in their training schemes and to take responsibility of the land in different collectives and make it productive for them. The schemes are aimed at all ages from schoolchildren to adults.

Despite these obvious benefits, the factory complex is also providing more employment than before to the surrounding area. It employs teams of local people to maintain the factory grounds and carry out various repairs to the infrastructure.

The factory complex may be viewed as a microcosm of a socialist society and not only proving that it does work but is also advancing the concept of socialist cooperation throughout Venezuela and other factories are beginning to take inspiration from this shining example. The once private valve making industry for the national petrol company, PDVSA, is in transition towards workers control. As is the countries textile industry which is now known as INVETEX. All of this is being seen by progressives here in Venezuela, not in negative terms, but as the countries industry reawakening.

INVEPAL is proving here in this coastal area of Venezuela that socialism does work, whilst Venezuela as a nation is beginning to embrace the socialist model as the only model that allows all of mankind the ability and space to develop its potential. Moreover, INVEPAL is proving to be at the arrowhead of revolution here in Venezuela whilst Venezuela proves to be at the arrowhead of radical change in Latin America which, if it follows Venezuelas lead, will surely prove to be the catalyst for radical social change in the world.

Tomás Gorman

Northern Venezuela


First- an admission- I have wanted to visit China since I was about 15 years old- which is quite a few years ago. I also have to admit publicly that this ambition was, to a degree, based on a teenage idealism related mainly to the time I was living in. As history, in its often-tenuous way, has long since exposed, it was an idealism based on what I wanted to believe rather than on the reality faced by those living in the situation. At the time I was entranced by what we were hearing of the Chinese people’s struggle led by Mao Tze-Tung, as we in the West referred to him. Even the, somewhat weird, accesses of the Cultural Revolution which we heard about could be justified as attempts by the “paper tigers” of the imperialists to mislead us, or were just another necessary phase in the glorious “peoples revolution”. Indeed, in a second public admission, I still have copies of the little Red Book, and of his Selected Military Writings. It was a romantic, adolescent, optimism based on expectation for an alternative to this insane society, which probably only those who lived during the period can appreciate.

Notwithstanding a growing awareness over the years of the human, and power-affected, imperfections of Mao, allied to the destructive internal personal dynamics within the Chinese Communist Party I still maintained a hope that China offered the possibility of societal change. Despite the growing cynicism which seems to come with age, allied to the sequential collapse of “communism” across the world and the apparent triumphant invulnerability of the neo-liberal models, I continued to be intrigued by the interactions within China. With all its flaws, it still appeared to be an attempt to build and sustain new economic and political structures. This should, hopefully, also allow the growth of the new relationships which should go with them. In as much as our access to information, and our media, would allow I followed each change in policy and leadership with rabid interest.

The student protests of 1985/86 were, to me, a heartening indication of the slow emergence of a new questioning stratum in a society which had previously not been allowed to challenge the rule of the Party. The brutal response to the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in ’89, the continuing repression of those who dared to question, and the Party’s outlawing, and continuing abuse, of Falun Gong adherents some ten years later, did however indicate that, while there were those seeking change, if it was to happen it was going to be a long time in coming. The almost arbitrary use of the death penalty is a prime example of social control by terror. In mid-2004 a senior Chinese legislator suggested that as many as 10,000 criminals are being executed each year.(2) Social and economic management remained totally with the Party and it was exercised across the full mechanisms of the all-powerful state.

This seemed to be particularly true within the policing and justice systems which are a particular interest of mine. China’s Criminal Procedural Law is a prime example. Enacted in 1979, it was given a major overhaul in 1996. Despite this, a U.S. State Department Human Rights report stated it was “less than perfect”, a verdict which was confirmed by China's supreme court president Xiao Yang during a recent visit to America. It is further generally acknowledged that the judiciary is not independent. Lack of due process is a serious problem and government (read Party) pressures make it difficult for Chinese lawyers to represent their clients. Indeed it is alleged that a number of lawyers are themselves detained for representing their clients “ too actively.”

Despite my pessimism however, and the seeming ability of the Chinese Communist Party to “talk the change” but strenuously avoid engaging the process, a number of factors, seemingly unrelated clearly began to impact, very surreptitiously, on China.

On the surface they ranged from the 1980’s agreements by Britain and Portugal to “hand-over” Hong Kong and Macao to China by 1997. This encouraged amendments to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China allowing “ the private sector of the economy to exist and develop within the limits prescribed by law” under which China began to practice its “ one country, two systems” formula.

There was also the signing of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1996 which obliged them to enshrine a Human Rights clause into the Constitution.

Underpinning these however had been the critical return to power of Deng Xiaoping after the chaos of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and his further confrontation and defeat of the “Gang of Four” in 1977. He had consistently argued that it is essential to correctly understand China’s historical stage and suggested that it is now in the primary stage of socialism. He maintained the main task of the party is to engage in economic reform, adopt an open policy and invigorate the economy. As he argued it, at this primary stage of socialism, to accelerate and deepen the economic reform and to build socialism with Chinese characteristics is the main task on which all political, economic and social activities must be focused.

Because 80 per cent of China's population lives in the countryside, it was there that the reform began. It was tried first in the provinces of Sichuan and Anhui, and on the basis of what was promoted as a successful experience in those two places, it was soon introduced throughout the country. Three years later, claiming notable results having been achieved in the countryside, reform began in the cities. Because urban reform was more complicated than rural reform, Deng urged it should be explored boldly but with great care and prudence. On his proposal, four special economic zones were established and 14 coastal cities were opened to the outside world. Despite a series of internal disputes within the CPI the policies designed to generate a “market economy” have generally been sustained since then. Because of this market-oriented reform, it is argued, social fortunes have increased greatly and the living standard of the 1.3 billion people as a whole improved dramatically.

Deng had also proposed that to adapt the political structure to the requirements of economic reform, it too would have to be reformed. He continually stressed the need to expand socialist democracy and strengthen the socialist legal system. The Thirteenth National Congress, convened in October 1987, declared that it was high time to put reform of the political structure on the agenda for the whole Party.

Given the physical abuses by the state forces which still regularly occur in Tiananmen Square - as recently as last year, again to followers of Fulun Gong- it certainly did not appear to me that democracy was expanding, or indeed that the legal system was any more free from the dictates of the Party. There were no obvious infrastructural changes. What, however, was really happening on the ground? It could be that China was in the process of developing an original road toward the building of a new society. Perhaps the “dictatorship of the proletariat” required the short-term negation of some basic human rights in order to, primarily, ensure the provision of human needs and then further encourage additional economic growth.

Perhaps the issue which is being posed is more fundamental to those of us seeking to build a new society. Is it possible to reconcile new social relationships alongside a process of capitalist economic development? In reality do we need the base human drives indulged within the capitalist system in order to guarantee economic growth? Is this the road toward a new society? Can it be found within a system of state control exercised within a one-party structure? If so what are the implications for struggle in our “developed” world? These, and many other questions, pragmatic and theoretical, are being played out in China. They continued to torture myself and others.

One way to see how, indeed if, this new “opening-up”, this new strategy, was affecting, and being reflected in, daily life was to go on that, long desired, personal visit. I could at least talk to people on the ground, explore to some degree both rural and urban conditions and try to sense the atmosphere. Consequently I spent the month of November in China, travelling through Kowloon/Hong Kong and Macau to Beijing, Xi’an, Guangzhou and the countryside around Yangshuo, talking and listening to those living there and trying to assimilate what I was seeing and experiencing.

Change is certainly evident in specific ways in the various places we visited. In the main it relates to the economic conditions, structures and relationships which are unfolding in mainland China. I would suggest that it also applies to a changing perception and behaviour of substantial sections of the population, again mainly, but not only, in the growing urban conurbations within China – even in my short time there I could observe the emergence of a new middle class, and indeed an indigenous, internationally linked, capitalist class. There seems to be little questioning of the existing political structures- but whether this is from a fear, or complacency, or approval, I have little idea. Possibly it is a combination of all three at this stage. There is a consequential impact on the legal system but this seems to apply to business and property law rather than to the overall civil or criminal law.

This is very evident in the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong / Kowloon or Macao According to those we spoke to, political, economic or social change was not openly evident in these cities. There undoubtedly was change- they were perceived as the prime economic zones within their Special Administrative Region status and were now the critical gateways between the West and the mainland. Their shopping areas, entertainment and tourist facilities certainly reflect that role. So also does the increasing influence of their business support networks- the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is the biggest outside of Britain with over one thousand members. The influence of the various Christian churches and sects is also very evident– they have a significant property and business portfolio across these special economic zones- particularly within the hospitality industry- and clearly are a force to be considered. In keeping with the agreements established during the “hand-over” process they are functioning much as usual but are said to be particularly influential within the political opposition groups in the legislature.

Despite the obvious military control by China -the local PLA garrison had its first public military parade a few weeks before we arrived- the right to protest is still clearly apparent as evidenced by the plethora of posters highlighting the physical and legal abuses inflicted on Falun Gong adherents over the past years. This right is still maintained, to a controlled extent it should be said, within the Legislature which maintains an opposition. In July last year an estimated 500,000 people demonstrated in Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy demonstration.

Within mainland China the contradictions are more glaring particularly between the urban and rural situations. This is particularly noticeable in the relationships within, and between villages, and cities within those Special Autonomous Regions which we visited.

There has been some economic movement within most rural settings but it is clearly slow and impacting inequitably. In fact the government now admits that the number of farmers living in poverty is rising despite the high economic growth. (1) We visited villages which were reminiscent of Irish rural communities at the end of the nineteenth century. Families were living in one room, conditions were abysmal in many cases – but almost without exception they had a television in the corner. Clothes were washed in the local river and much of the ploughing seemed to be done by bullock. We walked down small alleyways, with only room for the motorised rickshaws and hand-pushed carts which use them, to then hear the sound of English emerging from a newly built primary school operating to full potential for the children of the village. We visited markets where “hygiene” might just as well be a greeting, and yet babies are receiving intravenous infusions outside an open “surgery”. We were told the village doctors are supported primarily on a fee-for-service basis and by profits from the sales of medications which they understandably promote.

In Yangshou we see a expanding town-land fuelled in many ways by tourism. It has grown immeasurably in recent years and indeed we met returned tourists who tell us it did not exist in its present form some ten years ago. We share time with families who have recently moved there to build a new life for themselves, who are “buying” their homes in small lanes without lighting or drainage. We meet those who are now attempting to build their own small businesses. We stay with young families supporting ageing parents and grandparents across three and four generations. They come from rural stock and consequently receive no support from the state because they were, or are still perceived as, farmers.

As we return to Guangzhou on the overnight bus from Yangshuo we are taken off, at five in the morning and asked to go through passport check. They were, in fact, not interested in we “pinkies” but rather in the native Chinese who were on the bus. There is strict control on movement with China particularly with regard to the Autonomous Regions. Even if it is only to visit a relative living there you have to have a permit. To work there, indeed even to visit many places, requires special permission from the Ministry of Public Security. This is a classic example of the difference between “ political speak” and real change in that, despite many public statements almost four years ago announcing major changes to the country's residence permit system, which mainly limits rural people to freely move into cities and gain permanent residence permits, there has been little real benefit for those wishing to move.

In the major cities, however, the adoption of the “ opening-up” strategy is amazing – and the contradictions blatantly glaring. The road and transport infrastructure throughout most of Beijing, Xi’an and other major cities is of the highest quality and still in the developmental stage. Their underpass network is comprehensive and spotlessly clean. The shopping centres can hold their own against any in the world. The mobile phone shops are amazing in their size and stock variety. They are inundated with young people trying the latest model. There is the proliferate growth of the iniquitous McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken eateries and their new linked coffee houses. There is the new aspiring middle class searching for ideas to start their own business. There is the drive to learn English – even the American variety- manifested through children’s television quiz shows or by people stopping you in the street just to have an opportunity to test their language proficiency. We met many western business people who were over to make links with local businesses or to renew contracts that had proven invaluable to them.

And there are the blatant contradictions - the beggar with one arm who comes up to the window of your eating place and pushes her bleeding stump against the window pleading for help – the women and children sleeping on the streets with their begging bowl in front of them – a minority child performing inside a small barrel while his mother begs - the rows of people sitting on their small stools outside the ultra-modern shopping complexes with their signs out offering their services or looking for work of any sort- the women in the streets at their sewing machines doing repairs if the weather allows- the back-bikers clearing out the rubbish bins looking for anything possibly saleable or recyclable.

We did not get to see any of the newly developing workshop areas – nor have the opportunity to talk to anyone working there - perhaps that is for another day. Nor did we get to speak to anyone from within the legal system although we did meet, and have limited discussions, with officers from the PLA and workers from government work units. It is such a vast country and there is so much happening that any realistic assessment as the basis for projections and learning would have to be longitudinally designed with that as the focus. I certainly believe it is putting many long held theoretical positions to the test of reality. This is particularly the case with respect to positions held by the advocates and critics of Marxist legal theory. Was, for instance, Engels correct when he wrote:-

“Men make their history themselves, only in given surroundings which condition it and on the basis of actual relations already existing, among which the economic relations, however much they may be influenced by the other political and ideological ones, are still ultimately the decisive ones….” ( Letter to H. Starkenberg.25-1-1894)

or when he modified this in emphasising the role of the other factors:-

“The economic situation is the basis but the various elements of the superstructure – political forms of the class struggle and its consequences, constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle etc. – forms of law- and then even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the combatants: political, legal, philosophical theories, religious ideas and their further development into systems of dogma – also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form” (Letter to J. Bloch 21-9-1890)

I would suggest that we are about to learn the answers as the contradictions unfold in China over the next few decades. Based on what I experienced there, admittedly meagre, I am not hopeful of the outcome. At present it would appear that the economic relations will, ultimately, be decisive. The influence of Western culture on the young urban generation is glaringly obvious in the music, fashion, coffee and mobile phone shops. The impact of the market economy and the capitalist relations which underpin it is evident in the extensive new office buildings, the growing number of upmarket cars on the road and the flaunted links of the new comprador class with international finance and industrial capital.

It is the hidden aspect- the corruption, the increase in crime, the sweatshops, state management which prohibits any self-organising or campaigning not controlled by the Party, the use of the law as an instrument of party rule, the increasing power of the international financial institutions with the neo-liberal agenda which is worrying. Add to that the lack of any alternative strategy, self-help organisations or campaigning in any part of the mainland system and it is more than worrying. It is frightening.

Oh – and the really pleasurable side of the visit – to experience a very beautiful country lived in by a wonderful, welcoming people.

1. Unreported Year. 2004: p.2: New Internationalist: Oxford. UK:

2. Unreported Year. 2004: p.3: New Internationalist: Oxford. UK:

Dear Editor,
.I would a suggest that, given the complexity of the situation in China at present, it may not be appropriate for Peter Urban (in private correspondence) to claim that the issues surrounding the sweat shops in China, and there are many, are "absolute proof" that "communist parties are the enemies of working class people": nor indeed for Liam O'Rouric (The Plough Vol 2- 34)to suggest that because there is criticism of the particular position practised by comrades in other countries that this is again "absolute proof" that those who criticise are "enemies of working class people".
We have much to give to, and learn from, each other in our debates, which will, hopefully, often be positively critical. The same is true for the collective and individual actions of each of us and of our comrades throughout the world. I would argue we acknowledge that each of us have different perspectives and beliefs, that none of us is always right, or always wrong, and that we should be prepared to learn from an exploration of those beliefs and indeed accept that they can often be a source of strength. As I see it one critical factor in our relationships, and consequently in our struggle, is that we acknowledge that we are each committed to confronting this insane capitalist society and are working within our respective limitations to build a better one. Absolutism, and personalised / destructive criticism, is a waste of our time and resources and plays into the hands of those who would divide us, seek to undermine our beliefs and prevent us from working together to build a new world system as a matter of increasing urgency.
Jim Mc Corry

A Chara

I was interested to read in The Plough,Vol.2 No.23 a
brief statement by John Murtagh regarding the disgraceful state of our health service. Most of what comrade Murtagh was saying was correct, but he should remember the IRSP is a revolutionary Marxist party and we should not be expecting any sympathy from the capitalist class. He started off supporting, quite rightly so, the action taken by the nursing organisations and finishes up by thanking the enemy class, the bourgeoisie, by stating "the goodwill of individuals and businessmen who have been so sickened
by the state of our health service that they have pledged to provide, fit out and service pre-fabricated cabins at some of our city hospitals". The business community could not care less about the health of working class people, as far as they are concerned "pre-fabricated cabins" are good enough for us. They sound very benevolent but how many of their families are forced to seek health care in what amount to refurbished air raid shelters?. I know it could be argued that it is better than nothing but that is not the argument. Once these social parasites have got working class people holed up in garden sheds seeking medical treatment they will be more than happy because they won't then have to help fund a proper competent health service.

As socialists/communists we should be arguing for the complete nationalisation of the health service funded from general taxation, a mixed though preferably planned economic system based on either Keynesian or, again preferably Marxist economic theory.

The final part of comrade Murtagh’s statement is something I would expect from Harney or any other fraud in the Dail with perhaps a couple of exceptions. The busness class playing at being philanthropists is not, can not, and will not be an answer to the problems faced by the proleteriat in the health service. Politically the statement begins
progressive but follows a path of digression towards reformism and that is at best.

Kevin Morley



Premiere of the documentary film

By Galip Iyitanir

At the Flax Mill, Derrylane, Dungiven Ireland

Saturday, May 21st, 7 pm

Live Music after the film
Special guests

Session afterwards

02877742655 or

Date: Wed, 4 May 2005 08:18:28 EDT

Hello - this is a mass mail out with the final lineup for my birthday concert. greetings to friends, family, workmates, acquaintances and apologies to those to whom this e.mail is of absolutely no interest or pertinence. all the best, Peggy

Celebration of Peggy Seeger's 70th year! Queen Elizabeth Hall , London, England

Sunday, May 29 - 7 p.m.

Booking from inside UK: 08703-800-400
Booking from outside UK: +44-8703-800-400

Guest Artists: Billy Bragg, Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Calum MacColl, Kitty MacColl, Neill MacColl, Irene Pyper-Scott, Mike Seeger, Pete Seeger and Norma Waterson with instrumentalists James McNally, Roy Dodds, Graham Henderson and probably a few more!

London, UK 0870-382-8000
Email for more information

Please feel free to comment on the contents of the Plough. We welcome political comments and criticisms.
If you would prefer to receive the Plough as an attachment please e-mail with heading “add attachment”

Friday 6 May 2005

The Plough Vol 02 No 35

The Plough
Volume 2, Number 35
6 May 2005

E-Mail Newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party

1) Don Quixote
2) Wolfgang
3) Security at Dublin Airport
4) Fifty Campaign Groups Protest World Bank Failures on Controversial
BP Oil Pipeline
5) What's On


By Tomás Gorman, from Venezuela

The queue snaked for several blocks around Congress and the Plaza
Bolivar, which honours Venezuela's 19th-century independence hero
Simon Bolivar. Perplexed, I asked my companero Oscar why so many
people were waiting in the hot afternoon sun. "Ah the government is
giving away one million copies of Don Quixote."

Chavez is a keen reader and must have been inspired by the classic
tale of the poor knight setting off to put the world to right.

"Don't be left without your Quixote!" Chavez said this week. "We are
all going to read Quixote to feed our spirit with this fighter who
came out to get rid of injustice and fix the world."

"To some degree we are followers of Quixote," he added.

It is one of the many examples of Chavez trying to use his position
to both benefit and inspire the Venezuelan People. Incredibly, his
critics accuse him of squandering extraordinary oil revenues on what
they perceive as "stunts" like the book offer and "inefficient"
social programs, and they accuse him of steering the poverty-stricken
country toward what they call a Cuba-style "dictatorship".

Josefina, another companera vehemently denied that Chavez's
objectives were irrational or implausible. "I believe in his vision,
and many of us share the same vision," the 46-year-old community
worker said. To pay what Chavez calls "a social debt" left by past
governments; he has spent millions on social programs that include a
nationwide literacy program, scholarships to help people finish high
school and Cuban doctors to improve health care in slums.

To prove her point, Josefina took me to the Lidice district, situated
next to hers in the vast working class Barrio of Western Caracas, to
see one of the many initiatives that she volunteers in. Getting of
the bus at Lidice, I noticed a small group of women wearing red
Chavista t-shirts all chatting boisterously. Josefina shepherded me
towards the group of women and I was introduced by her as "Tomas, the
Irish comrade here to borrow some revolution". I was greeted warmly
with kisses on the cheek and a slap on the arse.

This was the Lidice women's collective, a close group of fiercely pro
Chavista who were engaged in various initiatives in their community.
Most notable was the "Community Kitchen". Twice a day, every day, the
women got together and cooked lunch and dinner for over 150 of the
districts poorest. The food for the project is provided by the
National Nutrition Ministry and one of the women with a larger house
donated two small rooms to the collective that are used as a
kitchen/larder and a serving hatch. It was moving to see the pride
the women had in their efforts.

Thankfully, Yollimar, a tall attractive woman, spoke some English and
was able to explain to me the work that the women do and what
motivates them. "Before Chavez and the MVR (Movement for the Fifth
Republic) came to power we did not have the ability to do things like
these. We seen the problems we had her in the community but did not
have the means to do anything. Now we have the support of the
government and are confident that we can make good changes."

At the Juan Alberdi School where I volunteer, tangible benefits of
the Revolution are also apparent. The school staff organised a
canteen along with the Nutrition ministry to provide a free and
healthily balanced meal to every pupil and member of staff every
school day. I take advantage of the meals when I can and can vouch
for their quality. Fresh vegetables, rice, beans and a little meat
with fresh fruit for desert is quite a meal juxtaposed with the
veritable crap fed to our children back home.

My English classes have proved quite popular with the children and I
have been asked to volunteer my services to the adult English classes
at night. The school doubles as a primary school during the day and
an adult learning centre at night where adults take advantage of the
Mision Ribas programme. The Mision Ribas Programme is for adults who
wish to continue their education at secondary school level after the
basic literacy and numeracy Mision Robinson programme.

The hunger for knowledge that the people, who deprived of a decent
education for so long, show is staggering. Alberto, an elderly pupil
is short sighted and had the misfortune of breaking his glasses.
Instead of staying at home until he gets a new pair, he decided to
make use of a pair of toy binoculars to read the writing on the
blackboard and TV. An amusing but stirring sight.

The education programmes seem to be the driving force behind the
awakened political and social consciousness of the Venezuelan people,
which has reached levels I have rarely, if ever, encountered before.
I was taken aback by some of the encounters I have had with ordinary
working class people here in Caracas.

One typically hot night, Oscar and me were walking back up the steep
hill of the Mannicomio area and were finding it tough going. We
happened upon one of the typical open fronted off licenses here in
Caracas that serve as an Al Fresco bar for the people who can't
afford a social night out. Instead they enjoy a bottle or two of beer
with their friends on the pavement outside of the off license. I
invited Oscar for a cold beer and a few middle aged men noticed the
white fella struggling with his Spanish and one of them asked me
in perfect English where I was from. When I replied he suddenly took
a greater interest. "Ah Belfast, future not so certain after Macarni
killing". I was dumbfounded whilst the five of us sat and discussed
the recent events in political scene in Ireland for over an hour. I
asked them how they spoke English and knew about Ireland. They told
me that they had taken the Mision Robinson and Ribas programmes and
used the Internet to look at International politics as if it were a
most common and normal thing for any man to do.

I explained this to James, the English gent kind enough to put me up
for my stay, and he said this was quite common. I was greatly
encouraged. In the political dust bowl of Ireland it had been quite
trying for a lefty like me for quite some time and this Oasis of
political activity and working grass roots socialism has boosted my
belief in a better system. I have already begun to borrow some


By Tomás Gorman, from Venezuela

Wolfgang was an extraordinary name for someone in Caracas I thought
but he was one of the most extraordinary people I have met here.

Wolfgang is homeless and wanders through the dangerous streets at
night looking for things that he may be able to sell or eat in the
rubbish that many of the wealthy throw out. My host James introduced
me to him one evening on the way home one evening as his mate.
Wolfgang it turned out was a member of the Venezuelan Communist Party
in his younger days and was commissioned by his party to go to
engineering school in Holland in the eighties. A familiar tale of a
beautiful young woman anchoring his heart in Caracas was told to me
as well as tales of harder times that neither his sweetheart nor home

Wolfgang never asked for any money but my conscience felt compelled
to offer him some cash to buy himself some food or a beer that
evening. He accepted in a dignified manner and thanked me sincerely
for it. He shook my hand and thanked me not only for the money, but
also for making the leap. I enquired what he meant.

"You made a leap forward" he replied. "Brother, you¹re a socialist
like me and you know that all the people of this world belong to a
common brotherhood. We are all the same and should all stand together
and look after on another. Some of the people who live around here
wont even look at me, and when they do its to tell me to leave their
rubbish alone. They wont make a step forward let alone the leap that
you have made in stopping here and talking to me for a little while.
But you and James are good people and you've been taking little leaps
forward all of your life. Keep taking those little leaps forward and
when others see you do it they'll get the confidence to make the
leaps too."

Wolfgang's street philosophy made a big impact on me. So much so that
I gave him my little notebook and pen so that he could write some of
his philosophies down and begin his book and spread his word.

His word should not have to travel far to make an impact. During his
short time in power President Hugo Chavez has allowed the poor in
Venezuela to make huge leaps forward with his social programmes and
redistribution of the countries vast oil revenue. Unfortunately, a
bureaucratic layer of counter revolutionaries and parasites remain
who are hindering the progress of the peoples revolutionary

The state run television channel is in European terms incredibly
radical, with frank analysis on international political affairs and
documentaries on the life of Che Guevara etc. It was this channel
that I first noticed something within the MVR that I didn't like.
Advertisements promoting electoral politicians posing with red berets
in the presence of Chavez made me suspicious of them. There was
something that smacked a little too much of personality cult in all
of this...too much wanting to be seen with Chavez and claiming to be
the really true Chavistas. One of the Mayors of Caracas, Barretto is
someone whom I find a little odious, despite my short stay here.
It appears that Barretto reads the revolutionary process differently
from those whom he claims to represent as a "really true" Chavista.

The Juan Alberdi School was annexed by the people of the community
when middle class teachers in this working class school walked out
during the failed bourgeois strike. The people of Manicomio organised
a committee to run the school with every position democratically
elected. They worked 15-hour days in renovating and running the
school to provide the children and adults of the area with a decent
education. It was a marvellous community effort and perhaps one of
the most advanced components of the Bolivarian struggle. Barretto it
appeared took a dislike to this community self-sufficiency that
threatened the need for the bureaucracy that sustained his employment
and raised position in Venezuelan society. He unilaterally sacked the
democratically elected directorship of the school and imposed his
own people from outside of the schools area with the precondition
that the teachers collective be allowed to remain within the school
and teach the children.

In the last few days he has reneged on this agreement. The teachers
collective have received four days notice that they are to leave the
school. I sat during their meeting and watched them discuss this
betrayal and their response to it in their typically democratic
fashion. It was a passionate meeting with heated debate and sometimes
tears from the majority female teachers. However these tears were not
tears that showed weakness, they only served to portray the deep
anger at all of their hard work in the school and the revolution
being stripped away from them with not as much as a thank you. I
shared their anger.

The move by Barretto is simply to reassert the strength of
bureaucracy in the affairs of the people in their own communities. It
is a step backwards in the movement for revolutionary progress. False
leaders like Barretto exist all over the world and have done so for a
long, long time.

Hugo Chavez would be better advised to listen to the words from the
people on the streets of Caracas, the working class, for they are the
true inheritors and vehicle for revolution. He should listen to the
wise words of Wolfgang and make the leap over this bureaucracy and
distance himself from these artificial idols.

The fight for the School Alberdi is not over however, the greater the
oppression the greater the fight. As I write, the teachers collective
are at the Mayor's office to make their case to him face to face,
whether he likes it or not.

Barretto would also be advised to heed the words of Wolfgang. His
parting shot the other night made me laugh and raise my fist to this
great man.

"Just because you may be bigger than your neighbour, don¹t dare
try and stamp on him. You may stamp him down, and again and again....
but be careful. The next time you bring your foot down he may be
holding up a spear."


By Kevin Morley

Security at Dublin airport is being tightened to ridiculous levels,
following the smuggling into the complex of imitation explosive
devices and replica firearms by the European Aviation Authority.

The stunt, was carried out by the authority, during the week ending
17.4.2005 in a successful attempt to highlight weaknesses in security
at the airport. Since September 11 2001 security at all the worlds
airports has being tightened, except it would appear Dublin where,
even with weaker security, guess what? Nothing has happened.
September 11 2001 was when the World Trading Centre (WTC) the twin
towers, were blown up by two aircraft crashing into them. An eternal
cynic would point the finger of suspicion for this deed at the
security services of the United States. The rationale behind this
cynical theory is that the US needed an excuse to carry out its
foreign policy of expansionism, therefore something so terrible that
no country would question the actions of the US in the pursuit of
this expansionist programme. The title was and is War on Terror the
result genocide in Iraq, with a view to doing the same in other oil
rich countries.

The reward, domination of the Middle Eastern oil fields. It is of no
consequence to United States capitalism how many people are
inconvenienced, globally, so long as they continue to believe that it
is necessary to combat terror. It is the job of world governments
including that of the 26 counties to keep their respective
populations convinced of this necessity. One day the penny might just

On Sunday 17 April 2005 thousands of passengers were forced to queue
up at Dublin Airport. This was due to the belated, and probably
unnecessary, increase in security at the airport. Passengers have
been assured that this queuing was not a once off incident and to
expect more of the same until more staff are trained to deal with the
US created security risk. Many passengers missed their flights and,
as is common practice with benevolent companies like Ryan Air, there
are no refunds. Therefore the unlucky passengers had to buy another
ticket. At the same time as this farce is going on United States
troops are regularly landing at Shannon airport on their way to
committing war crimes in Iraq. These troops are fully armed and
the only security concern at Shannon is to protect these gun totting
soldiers and the aircraft, which are transporting them. So men from
another country can run around Shannon airport, fully armed and
possibly under the influence of illegal substances and this does not
constitute a security threat. At Dublin airport people have to jump
through hoops in order to board their flight under the guise of war
on terror while at Shannon alien armed thugs can wander about fully
armed with the approval, or perhaps compliance would be a better
word, of the 26 county government. In the year 2004 158,000 of these
armed strangers passed through Shannon but, it would appear do not
constitute a security risk. More recently things appear, at least on
the security front, to have calmed down with many people saying how
necessary all the chaos was in order to keep the "terrorist threat".
What they never seem to question is the validity of this so called
terrorist threat which if, and it would appear more and more to be a
big if, what is the root cause of it? Not so many years ago British
Premier, Tony Blair, informed the population of Britain that there
was a serious terrorist threat to the Sellafield Nuclear Power
Plant, which should be closed but for different reasons) in Cumbria.
This frightening announcement came at Christmas time and, many people
were concerned to say the least. As in the case of Dublin airport the
net result was that nothing happened. Perhaps the reason is that the
only terrorist threat comes from the other side of the Atlantic, the
United States. George W. Bush, US President for some strange reason,
once reportedly said capitalism survives by keeping the people in a
state of panic. Well George you are certainly doing that, to many
people anyway. Were we not lied to about the evils of communism?
Where there was nothing evil compared with what we have in the USA.



From: "KHRP"
Corner House
Kurdish Human Rights Project
Baku-Ceyhan Campaign
Friends of the Earth


Fifty Campaign Groups Protest World Bank Failures on Controversial BP
Oil Pipeline

More than 50 human rights and environmental groups from 13 countries
today protested against the failure of the World Bank to rectify
continuing problems with the controversial Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC)
oil pipeline. The groups outlined serious safety, environmental and
human rights concerns with BTC in a detailed Memorandum to the Bank
and other BTC project funders.

The BTC pipeline, which has been controversial since its inception,
is being built by the oil giant BP to take oil from the Caspian Sea
through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean. Most of
its nearly £2 billion cost comes from public sources, including
the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (EBRD).

The World Bank and EBRD's support for BTC places on them duties of
due diligence over the pipeline, duties which non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) argue they have consistently failed to meet. The
Memorandum lists an array of serious problems with the pipeline,
including the possibility of disastrous safety failures and
accidents; pending cases against BP at the European Court of Human
Rights and the European Court of Justice; the withdrawal of a senior
private backer from the project; construction failures; and deepening
political discord in the region, including mass strikes by pipeline
workers and the alleged torture of a local activist.

The Memorandum will deepen pressure on the World Bank to take action
on BTC, following a recent Sunday Times report that BP is locked in a
multi-million pound arbitration case with its contractors over a key
BTC safety coating on the pipeline. According to the report, problems
with the coating "could seriously delay the £1.8 billion project
because it suggests the pipeline will corrode, and is therefore, in
effect, uninsurable."

Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House, one of the signatory groups,
said, "It is quite simple: the World Bank and the EBRD haven't done
the job they were entrusted to do with our public money. We have
repeatedly raised concerns with the World Bank and EBRD - but they
have failed to act. It is critical that the project is subject to an
immediate independent safety audit before oil starts to flow."

Kerim Yildiz of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, said, "We have been
monitoring the impact of the pipeline on the ground and taking
statements from the communities directly affected by it. It is very
clear there are serious and well-documented concerns which the World
Bank and EBRD have yet to address adequately."


Nicholas Hildyard 0777 375 0534 or Anders Lustgarten 0797 316 4363




Saturday, May 21st

Premiere of the documentary film "OLGA BENARIO: A LIFE FOR THE
REVOLUTION" by Galip Iyitanir

At the Flax Mill, Derrylane, Dungiven, Ireland

Saturday, May 21st, 7 pm

Live Music after the film
Special guests

Session afterwards

02877742655 or


Sunday, May 29

Date: Wed, 4 May 2005 08:18:28 EDT

Hello - this is a mass mailout with the final lineup for my birthday

greetings to friends, family, workmates, acquaintances and apologies
to those to whom this e.mail is of absolutely no interest or
pertinence. all the best, Peggy

Celebration of Peggy Seeger's 70th year! Queen Elizabeth Hall ,
London, England

Sunday, May 29 - 7 p.m.

Booking from inside UK: 08703-800-400
Booking from outside UK: +44-8703-800-400

Guest Artists: Billy Bragg, Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Calum
MacColl, Kitty MacColl, Neill MacColl, Irene Pyper-Scott, Mike
Seeger, Pete Seeger and Norma Waterson with instrumentalists James
McNally, Roy Dodds, Graham Henderson and probably a few more!

London, UK 0870-382-8000

Email for more information


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