Saturday, 23 July 2011

Support Demands Of Maghaberry Prisoners for their rights and dignity to be respected

Around 30 Republican prisoners continue to engage in a ‘dirty protest’ in Maghaberry prison over the failure of the Northern Ireland Administration and the Prison Officers Association to implement a facilitated agreement reached between all parties last August. This is part of a wider criminalisation policy to punish, brutalize and isolate prisoners which includes regular beatings and strip-searching - which remains the outstanding issue to be resolved. Similarly to the 1980/81 prison struggles, the prisoners are simply asking for their rights and dignity to be respected.

In May, the family of Harry Fitzsimmons including his 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son visited him and were traumatised by what they saw.

In their words: "We were shocked by the state of his face - multiple cuts and bruises, he could not be hugged because his ribs were so sore, his jaw and chin is swollen as is his wrist, but it can't be said if they are broken because he still hasn't had medical attention, no x-rays, no painkillers, nothing. He said they entered his cell and forced him to the ground, kicking and punching him to the face and body, smashing his glasses into his face causing the cuts and bruises. They held his arms behind his back while covering his mouth and nose so that he could not breathe - still kicking and punching him, they trailed him over to the radiator by the hair whilst naked, to bash his face off it. This went on for a full 20 minutes non stop and all through the ordeal screws screamed in his face "dirty bastard, no good scumbag".”

If anyone is in any doubt regarding the callous disregard show by the prison administration towards the prisoners you only need to look at the case of Brendan Lillis. His partner Roisin has made an emotional appeal for support and for him to be released having estimated that he is close to death, weighing only 5.5 stone and having an estimated 10 days to live. Despite being unfit to stand trial Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford has refused to release him or give in to concessions on the wider prisoners’ struggle in Thatcherite style.

In recent years Maghaberry prison has been in the news headlines for all the wrong reasons.  Consistent reports from ‘independent’ watchdogs have highlighted the ongoing neglect and abuse within the prison pointing out that it is not fit for purpose. Prison kills and rates of prison suicide are staggering and are directly related to overcrowding and neglect, which translates into torture.

The North’s prisons are no exception, at home and globally we are witnessing a gradual erosion of prisoners’ rights and conditions which where often achieved by militant demonstrations and riots. The gradual privatisation of prisons, repressive legislation using the pretext of ‘war on terror’ or ‘war on crime’ is about creating a prison industrial complex driven by profit and fear, where prisoners are no better than slaves.
As anarchists we recognise that the criminal justice system’s first priority is to defend the status-quo and the bosses. Prisons are an integral part of the class system and vital to the survival of capitalism and the preservation of wealth and privilege. Prisons can only be abolished as part of the social and political revolution that destroys capitalism and the state.

While the WSM is opposed to state repression we are also opposed to the cul-de-sac of armed republicanism which only serves to further divide the working class in the service of a narrow, militaristic and all too often sectarian nationalism.  We support the prisoners’ demands on a humanitarian basis and call for an end to prison censorship and repression.


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

75th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution

Today, July 19th marks the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution and the international fight against fascism in 1936. Many countries across the world will be remembering today’s date, seventy-five years on since that summer when the workers took to the streets of Spain, in celebration and of course reflection.

Here in Ireland many will salute the sacrifice made by the Irish volunteers, an estimated 240 of them who fought during that period in their role as part of the international brigades.  From the North West alone twenty-four volunteers are said to have left these shores to assist the unfolding revolution in Spain. 

In the coming months, the North West Spanish Civil War Project, which was set up a number of years ago now to remember those who participated in the conflict which lasted from 1936 to 1939, will begin a series of events to mark the occasion.  Details of these events will be added here as dates are confirmed.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Stand Up For Your Class!

Recent figures released by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) on levels of unemployment will no doubt have the North West’s politicians lining up to express their shock and disappointment in the local press.  Little comfort of course for those of us having to scrape by each week on benefits however the elections have long since past and all this is a matter of statistics to those up on the hill.

The DETI’s latest figures clearly shows that Derry remains the North’s unemployment blackspot with an estimated 4,980 people (7.2% of the working age population) out of work across the city. This comes as no great surprise as other towns such as Strabane and Limavady poll equally as bad, double the rate of that in other areas east of the Bann.

But what about the campaign ‘Stand Up For Derry’ surely they have made some inroads by creating jobs?  Unfortunately not! All that has come from this bandwagon has been empty rhetoric.  What else can be expected from a party political lead initiative rolled out time and time again for the media and photo opportunities on the steps of Stormont. 

No doubt a useful tool for the political representatives involved, making it look as if someone is actually speaking up for the growing hordes of the unemployed leading up to elections.   It was never a project to organise the disorganised simply a tool to bash other political opponents at times when political points are needed.

Earlier this month news broke that an estimated 2000 people applied for just 35 vacancies at the new seven-screen Brunswick Cinebowl at Pennyburn Industrial Estate. Similar "phenomenal" stories can be found in the other towns across the North West and with growing austerity measures being rolled out scenes like this are sadly set to continue.  But who will stand up for the growing ranks of the unemployed?

For anarchists the answer is clear.  It’s certainly not the media conscious politician, notoriously renowned for riding several horses at once, but the unemployed standing up for themselves.  Over the last several months unemployed workers and claimants have come together forming independent union branches in both Strabane and Derry. This has to be welcomed as a new beginning for working class militancy but if it is to succeed it will have to remain independent from politicians and those who seek to use it a vehicle to obtain votes next time round.  With a total of 55,850 people now signing on in the North more work needs to be done and that should take place on our streets.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Release Brendan Lillis Now!

Brendan Lillis is a prisoner in Maghaberry jail in the North, he is close to death, weighing only 5.5 stone and having an estimated 10 days to live. His partner has pleaded for support as she watches Brendan slowly die. There is a media blackout and can no longer speak nor move, and is confined to his bed, in a prison cell with no windows.

 Brendan is a former republican prisoner from West Belfast who was released on license in 1992 after serving around 16 years for alleged possession of guns and explosives.  In 2009 the secretary of state revoked his license after appearing on court on a robbery related charge.  This means, Brendan will have to serve out his life sentence for unconnected charges in the 1970s.

 It was reported in the Andersonstown News that he suffers from a  medical condition- debilitating arthritic illness ankylosing spondylitis, which leads to a curvature in the spine and causes the body to produce excess bone mass.

In recent years, many former political prisoners licenses such as Marion Price have been revoked on the word of unelected and unaccountable Secretary of State.  This is an indictment on the entire apparatus of a criminal state and justice system which is designed to criminalise and intimidate all forms of opposition. It is also a sad reflection on the unjust and oppressive prison system which costs lives every year.

Demand the immediate release of Brendan Lillis on humanitarian grounds.

WORDS: Sean Matthews

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sectarian Violence in the North

Following on from this weeks July 12th rioting across the North and report from a WSM member present during the disturbances in Ardoyne, Guardian presenters Hugh Muir and Peter Sale have produced an excellent podcast reviewing the roots of the latest trouble. 

The podcast interviews convicted members of 'dissident republican' organisations and examines the socio/economic and political context of the latest sectarian violence. 

The podcast concludes that the violence remains within the fringes of the working-class, but is dangerous nevertheless.

"For this week's Focus podcast, the Guardian's Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald talks to Hugh Muir about the root of this violence and asks if a new generation of young Irish nationalists are becoming radicalised.
We'll hear from some nationalists who still believe in armed struggle, such as members of the Continuity IRA. We also hear from Kate Carroll, whose policeman husband Stephen was murdered by dissident republicans in 2009."

For more on Anarchism and Sectarianism:

Monday, 11 July 2011

Prison Protests Escalates

Despite a media black-out of a deteriorating situation in Maghaberry prison, a dirty protest has commenced by republican prisoners taking the situation to another level not witnessed in the north since the 1970's.

Last week in Derry City centre, another solidarity protest was held by a number of local women activists from various backgrounds.  The women themselves came together to highlight their opposition to strip searching in Maghaberry prison as well as to draw attention to plight of Marian Price.

Following the protest the women said “We feel strongly that issues so sensitive are being largely ignored. So we would like to call on the public to support the human and oppose this degrading treatment.

“We are a group who feel the politics of this situation are irrelevant and feel it crucial to highlight the important issues.

“We believe the placing of a 57 year old woman into a male prison following the revoking of her license is internment by other means, and the on going strip search routine carried out by a riot squad on those who resist, is brutality justified under the guise of legality especially when there is an alternative.

“On Thursday 14th at 7.30pm in Pilots Row Derry we have organised a public meeting to help broaden support and to inform the public on how bad the situation is. On the panel will be family members and chairing the meeting will be Civil and human rights activist Bernadette McAliskey.”

WSM twitter live during Ardoyne Orange Order July 12th parade

It is this time of year again when the spectre of sectarianism and division comes to the fore in the north of Ireland. It is a time when communities, kerbstones and poles are marked and carved into territory. There are those who will be living in fear and silenced from speaking out while the rest of us are told to turn the other check in the interests of peace and stability. It is unfortunate, if perhaps somewhat inevitable, that the now annual battles around the ‘marching season’ fall along religious lines. The Orange parades are being used to test the supposed 'neutrality' of the northern regime and the PSNI in particular. The losing side in this dangerous game however is likely to be the working class, as the confrontations and the sectarian attacks that occur around the Orange marches drive people further into ‘their own’ communities.

This Tuesday we will once again witness a massive military style security operation by the paramilitary PSNI in the Ardoyne area to facilitate a Loyal Order march which is overwhelmingly rejected by the local residents on this section of the Crumlin Road in North Belfast. Recent years have been marred by police violence and intense rioting by youths in the area. The Parades Commission has ruled that the Ligoniel True Blues could pass the flashpoint near the Crumlin Road with no music, no flying of flags, and no supporters on its return leg in the evening. The commission has also agreed to a protest by one of the local residents groups Crumlin Ardoyne Residents’ Association (CARA).

As anarchists we recognise that sectarianism and bigotry cuts across both sides of the ‘divide’ and that everyone should be free from sectarian intimidation and harassment which is why we support and end to segregation in all aspects of social life. Equally we are opposed to state repression and the various strands of nationalism and unionism which offers more of the same- division and fear. Only a confident and united working class will build a better society for all.

“The reality of the Orange Order is that it is a counter-revolutionary institution set up and maintained to target not just Catholics but also 'disloyal' Protestants. It's formation and spread was encouraged by the British state in the years leading up to the 1798 rebellion precisely in order to drive a wedge between ordinary Catholics and Protestants.”(WSM pamphlet on the Orange Order & sectarianism in Ireland)

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Orange Order Marching to nowhere - Stirring Up Sectarian Hatred

IT IS A great tragedy that once again this July the working class population of Belfast's Lower Ormeau will be mobilising to try and stop the Orange Order from marching down their road. A tragedy because the Order should never get that far, it should be stopped by the working class population of the Upper Ormeau!

Although Orange marches have been opposed since they began, the recent wave of nationalist opposition in Belfast dates from events in February 1992. On the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast five Catholics were murdered in a bookies shop by the UDA. That July, some Orangemen while marching past the site of the gave five-fingered salutes. The Portadown march through the Garvaghy Road had provoked serious confrontations in 1972, 1975 and 1981.

Much noise has come from loyalist quarters about the central involvement of current and ex-Sinn Féin members in the residents' committees that oppose the march. While it is undoubtably true that the confrontations help Sinn Féin push its agenda of 'parity of esteem' and provide a mechanism for highlighting the problems with the RUC, there is also little doubt that the campaigns against the parades are genuinely popular. It is up to the residents to choose who will act as their spokespersons in talks with the Orange Order.
However for anarchists, while we should oppose the Orange Orders parades where ever local people reject them (and our ideal would be for 'Protestant areas' to also oppose them), there are real problems with the way these campaigns are proceeding.

They have been caught up with Sinn Fein's need to put the RUC to the test and have tended to move towards a position of lobbying the British state to ban Orange marches (via the Parades Commission) and use its military to enforce these bans. Thus the Drumcree confrontation of 1998 and the massive show of military force deployed by the British became a shop front for the role of the British state as an 'honest broker' between two troublesome children.

Far from exposing the role of the British state in Ireland and thus why it should withdraw, this appears to demonstrate the importance that it stays to 'keep the peace'. This is the problem with putting Britain's commitment to 'parity of esteem' to the test, it is all too easy a test for the British state to pass!
Anarchists cannot call for state bans on marches in any guise. Bitter experience has shown that when the state is given a weapon to ban reactionary marches it will quite happily use this weapon against progressives ones too. Nowhere should this be clearer than in the six counties, the current round of conflicts saw its origins in the banning and re-routing of Civil Rights marches in 1968.

The central problem however is that the residents' groups are fighting on the sectarian terrain chosen by the Orange Order. With its membership declining and its influence on the state under threat, the Order needs an 'anti-Protestant' opposition to justify its continued existence.

The residents' groups are allowing themselves to be painted into this corner because their opposition is almost completely based around the anti- Catholic nature of the Orange Order. This makes it all too easy for the Orange Order to tell Protestant workers that the opposition is really 'anti-Protestant' in nature. It also leaves unchallenged sectarians within the nationalist areas who are active in or around these groups.
As anarchists we could just wish this issue would go away and so refuse to deal with its complexity. However to do this would also be to make ourselves irrelevant for the two to three months that the 'marching season' dominates the northern political agenda.

In general we should support the attempts to physically prevent the Orange Order marching through residential areas where they are not welcome. We should not involve ourselves in lobbying the British or Irish states, either directly or indirectly (through the Parades Commission), to ban marches. We should not demand that the RUC or British army act to enforce whatever bans may exist.

Politically our role around such campaigns should be to challenge the exclusive focus on the Orange Order as an anti-Catholic body. We should highlight its role as a body that is anti-left, against workers' unity and responsible for testing/ disciplining radical Protestant workers. This would serve two purposes, firstly it would undermine the tendency towards mirror image sectarianism within nationalist areas. More importantly, it would open the door towards 'cross-community' opposition to the Orange parades.

This final point will seem hopelessly utopian to many. However until significant numbers of Protestant workers begin to openly reject the Orange Order it will continue to succeed in its primary objective, as a counter revolutionary body. It is probably the case already that an overwhelming majority of southern Protestants oppose the Orange Order, and even in the six counties many radical and even liberal Protestants are probably quietly opposed to the Order.

Right now however there is no opening for them to express this opposition. In the ideal situation we could hope for a broad organisation 'of all religions and none' committed to physically defending areas against Orange parades. Creating that ideal situation starts now with the struggle to win hearts and minds to anti- sectarian working class politics.


Anarchists articles on Loyalism:

News Of The World – Workers Lose Their Jobs, Murdoch keeps His Profits

Very few progressives will mourn the passing of the ‘News Of  The World’.  When Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, announced that the paper was to cease publication many cheered.  Revelations over the past few days about the extent to which private investigators and some journalists and executives completely disregarded common human decency in their scramble for profits had exposed the tabloid as scurrilous and without shame.

But progressives should be asking ourselves a very important question - who will pay the price of the closure?  Many of the workers – journalists and others - who have lost their jobs at the News Of The World had no hand, act or part in the actions of those who thought it was ok to tap the phone records of murder victims and others in the pursuit of a story.  It is estimated that over 200 people may lose their jobs, many of whom didn’t even work there when the phone tapping scandal was at its height.

But News International’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks – confidant of British prime Minister David Cameron – who was editor of News Of the World at the time of the phone hacking keeps her job.  James Murdoch keeps his position having expressed full confidence in Brooks.  And News International, controlled by Rupert Murdoch, retain the huge profits they have made over the years of the phone hacking.

In the year up to June 2010 turnover at News Group Newspapers Ltd, the Murdoch company that publishes News Of The World and The Sun recorded pre-tax profits of £88m on a turnover of £654m.  So when James Murdoch in his announcement of the closure stated that  “the right thing to do is for every penny of the circulation revenue we receive this weekend to go to organisations - many of whom are long-term friends and partners - that improve life in Britain and are devoted to treating others with dignity” and that “Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers”, this is far from the “strong measures” he claims them to be.  It is nothing other than a manipulative attempt to attempt to salvage some good publicity.

Murdoch’s true ‘charity’ is shown when the cynicism with which the News Of The World staff were told they were losing their jobs and the haste with which they were then told that they will receive the legal minimum 90 day redundancy payment is considered.

But then what else could be expected of such an anti-union, anti-workers’ rights employer!

WORDS: Gregor Kerr WSM