News - August 2001


31st Aug '01

Reproduced from Anti-Fascist Action

The following letter appeared in Weekly Worker, the paper of the CPGB, in reply to a previous attack. (The full text of the original letter, 'Joined Up', can be read in Weekly Worker 395 - )

"If Darrell Goodliffe wants to insult Anti-Fascist Action by accusing them of lacking “joined up” politics (WW Letters, 2/8/01) he needs to come up with a more detailed anti-fascist alternative than saying “we must critically address many issues”.

AFA has been ‘critically addressing’ the issue since 1994 when the BNP change of strategy kicked in, not that many on the Left appear to have taken any notice. Before the BNP ‘ceasefire’ in 1994, ‘No Platform’ meant physically disrupting fascist activities, nowadays the ANL use the same slogan to demand the State “jail all nazis” or ban their activities. The ‘success’ of this strategy can be seen by the recent victories the BNP have had, after threatening legal action, in forcing the BBC and Birmingham council libraries to remove their bans on internet links to the BNP website. The endless call for fascist bans has inevitably led to the ANL themselves being banned in Birmingham, Burnley and Oldham, and two Labour MPs have suggested the ANL bans should be made more permanent. Where now for the ANL?

Tommy Sheridan, MSP, resorts to lies about the BNP vote actually going down, the Socialist Alliance claims their poor showing in the General Election was actually a great success, and still ‘comrade’ Goodliffe writes that AFA “confuse the issue” when as far as I can see they are the only ones with any grip on reality. With the prospect of the BNP winning council seats in May 2002 there needs to be a sense of urgency about the Left. We can study exactly how the Far Right are able to ‘fill the political vacuum’ in working class areas by looking at Europe; and we can also see from the evidence before us that the ANL’s claim that Le Pen and Haider would never have made the breakthrough into the mainstream if anti-fascists in those countries had followed their lead as being complete nonsense. So if the ANL’s anti-fascism isn’t working (and I wait with interest to hear anyone say different), and AFA’s strategy is full of “serious contradictions”, what do you suggest?

And this time round a BNP breakthrough will be far more serious than the Isle of Dogs in 1993. Now we are into the second term of an anti-working class Labour government, the Left is still alien to the majority of working class people, and the fascists (or should I say ‘post-fascists’) are now in government in Italy as well. It’s not as if we are winning!

In Europe there are essentially two types of anti-fascism; liberal protest groups and the more confrontational ‘black block’ type of organisations. Neither of these has made any impact on the working class constituencies where the Far Right have done well. What AFA are trying to do, uniquely, is to develop a new strategy that is actually designed to confront the strengths of Euro-Nationalism. Rather than denounce this radical project as “fruitless activity” Mr Goodliffe would do well to listen and learn.

After all, AFA warned of the divisive nature of multi-culturalism long before the riots in Oldham, Burnley or Bradford, and long before others on the Left began to look at it more critically. Similarly AFA predicted that if the working class communities where asylum seekers were housed were treated with hostility and contempt this would replace class as the dominant factor with race. The recent murder of an asylum seeker in Glasgow makes the popular left-wing slogan ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ look as absurd as it really is.

And finally, if Darrell Goodliffe believes everyone who votes BNP should be dismissed as “plebeians and lumpenised elements” it only goes to show how little he knows.

Angry - you bet."


26th Aug '01

By Danny Morrison

Jim Monaghan is a sound man, a former republican prisoner, who I met in the 1980s after his release from prison and who sat on the Ard Comhairle of Sinn Fein for a time. He and two others were arrested in Colombia last week with false passports, which in itself is a fairly minor offence. However, the Colombian military authorities claimed that the three men had been training FARC (the 16,000-strong, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in "terrorist acts, the handling and manipulation of explosives and the fabrication of non-conventional weapons." A spokesperson claimed that traces of cocaine and numerous types of sophisticated explosives had been found on their clothing.

The British media jumped on the claims and unionist representatives heralded the arrests as evidence of republican deceit with regards to the peace process.By the next morning the BBC was reporting that the authorities had satellite photos of the three men training FARC in the making of barrack busters. Sinn Fein was called to account for the men's presence in South America. The media reported that the investigation could take up to eighteen months and that the men were facing possibly twenty years in prison.

By the next morning there were, eh, no pictures and a lot less talk of traces of explosives or cocaine on the men's clothes. Now, I haven't a clue what Jim and his company were doing in Colombia. I do know, however, to be skeptical and suspicious of news agencies, especially given our own experience of the chasm between the presentation of Irish republicans in the British media and the actual truth.

Jim Monaghan is well-read and is very much into revolutionary politics. But he's not the sort of guy to be interfering in the internal affairs of another country in the way of Tony Blair, for example. Blair supports "Plan Colombia", a $1.3 billion programme organised by the USA, aimed at defeating FARC; a programme that has caused immense suffering to the peasantry. Blair and former US President Bill Clinton, not that long ago, also authorised a bombing campaign in Kosovo and Serbia, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Of course, they killed some of "the enemy" as well and brought Serbia to heel, so that must make it okay. Ulster Unionist MPs supported this bombing campaign whilst simultaneously questioning the commitment of republicans to the use of exclusively peaceful means for achieving their objectives.

So what about FARC. Founded in 1964 it has its roots in decades of peasant revolts against repressive, oligarchic governments in a country where 1.5% of the people own and control 80% of the land that is fit for agricultural development. Hundreds of thousands have died over fifty years in an intermittent civil war that continues to this day.

Displaced peasants who were driven from their farms by large landholders sought out inhospitable areas such as the foothills region of the various Amazonic departments where they established agricultural production. It is in these areas that FARC enjoys most support and from where it launched its guerrilla war.

In the 1980s FARC supported the Patriotic Union (UP), a coalition of left-wing forces that attempted to establish a popular political party. In its first electoral intervention, UP elected 14 Congress members to the Senate and House, eighteen deputies to departmental assemblies and 335 counsellors. In reaction to this the Bogota government unleashed a "dirty war". By 1988, 30% of UP's candidates were assassinated. Trade union leaders were also murdered, popular protest criminalized and the media continues to be controlled by big business.

The extermination of the UP threw FARC back into armed struggle. The peasants, particularly in the wake of agricultural recession, found coca to be the only product that was both profitable and easy to market. Today, 300,000 people are directly dependant on the coca economy. FARC derives its income from imposing a revolutionary tax on rich businessmen. But it, undoubtedly, also derives significant taxes from medium- and large-scale coca producers, which is where I must part company.

FARC is thus in conflict with the US government, millions of whose citizens' lives are being devastated by illegal drugs, mostly trafficked from Colombia. However, FARC claims the main reason it is opposed by the USA is because it is a revolutionary, socialist organisation resisting US imperialism. Washington claims that the guerrillas are major drug traffickers (a claim repudiated by even the US Drug Enforcement Agency in a 1997 report) and that counterinsurgency and counternarcotics operations are one and the same. (Incidentally, this is a separate war from that against the likes of the late drug baron Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel with its corrupt links to government, judiciary and armed forces.)

FARC argues that the way to eradicate the drugs trade is for peasant farmers to be given aid to develop and plant alternative crops, but the government has shown no interest in this offer and instead murders farmers, attacks villages and, advised by US experts, destroys the peasant crops through aerial fumigation of coca and poppy fields which has damaged the health of children and poisoned water supplies, as well as driving an army of unemployed youth into FARC.

Several years ago, as a result of a peace process Colombia's President Andres Pastrana conceded almost 40% of Colombia to FARC. The area is known as the "demilitarised zone". Last month FARC released 300 captured soldiers in an exchange of prisoners but just this week Pastrana signed a controversial new law giving the military sweeping powers of detention and the right to set up martial law in specific places, despite international opposition, the army's abysmal human rights record and its proven links to right-wing death squads.

In the demilitarised zone FARC has built 250km of new highways, twenty bridges, paved streets in the towns so that people can walk free of mud and mire, built water mains and carried out a massive vaccination programme. In the June edition of their magazine, "Resistencia", FARC mentions the volume of international visitors to its demilitarised zone, ranging from "government envoys, ambassadors, parliamentarians, journalists and personalities, etc."

In its "capital", San Vincente, it has held festivals of theatre, dance and music in the central square to which it invites those in solidarity and foreign tourists.

People just like Jim Monaghan and his two friends.

© Danny Morrison


14th August '01

Below is the full text of todays IRA statement:

On Thursday August 8 we confirmed that the IRA leadership has agreed a scheme with the IICD to put arms completely and verifiably beyond use.

Our initiative was a result of lengthy discussions with the IICD over a protracted period.

This was an unprecedented development which involved a very difficult decision by us and problems for our organisation.

While mindful of these concerns our decision was aimed at enhancing the peace process.

'Unacceptable rejection'

We recognise the very broad welcome which the IICD statement received.

However, the outright rejection of the IICD statement by the UUP leadership, compounded by the setting of preconditions, is totally unacceptable.

The subsequent actions of the British Government, including their failure to fulfill their commitments is also totally unacceptable.

The conditions therefore do not exist for progressing our proposition. We are withdrawing our proposal.

The IRA leadership will continue to monitor developments.

Peacekeeping is a collective effort.

P O'Neill


9th August '01

Below is the full text of the IRA statement:

On 8 March 2001 the IRA leadership re-established contact with the IICD, the Independent International Commission on Disarmament.

Since then the IRA representative has met with the IICD eight times.

As a result of these discussions we can confirm that the IRA leadership has agreed a scheme with the IICD, which will put IRA arms completely and verifiably beyond use.

We note the ongoing attempts in some quarters to prevent progress.

They should not be permitted to succeed.

Our representative will continue to meet with the IICD.

The IRA leadership will continue to monitor political developments.


5th August '01

The brouhaha about the Ealing bomb needs to be put in context. First there is the pretence that this is something special; 'spectacular' proof that the real 'Ira are back in business'. And along with this the hype that the bomb was 'the biggest yet', 'the biggest for five years', 'could have been another Omagh' etc, while the articles go on to suggest that these are all reasons to suspect the real Ira has developed a greater capacity to carry the war than was evident before. Some articles went so far as to associate the single bomb with the description 'wave'.

Even the SUN, for once used a 'news item' to lead with on its front page. For the effort of putting a 50kg parcel of home-made explosives in a car, the real Ira got not dissimilar publicity to the actual IRA when it blew up the City of London - twice - within a year. The question is why?

One obvious reason of course, is that the bomb was in London, rather than say Magherafelt. But even taking that into account, given that loyalists, puportedly on ceasefire, have killed twice in matter of weeks, and all the real Ira actually managed, was to blow out a couple of shop fronts, the coverage has been wildly disproportionate.

Reading the editorials does indicate that for the British establishment, or a significant section of it, the proposed re-articulation of the Good Friday Agreement is not good news. Too 'green' by far apprarently. Even talk about an 'impartial civic police force' is just another 'concession to republicans' according to the Daily Telegraph. All such commentary is agreed, that what with the 'rise in terrorism' this single bomb reflected, now would be a particularly injudicious time to have any truck with disbanding the RUC special brach, the removal of spy-posts in South Aramagh, or de-militarisation. In fact what was needed, one paper argued was 'more troops' not less.

In all the politically motivated bombast, the startling disparity between how elusive the bombers appear to be once they cross into the British occupied territory has drawn little attention. It used to be argued before the IRA ceasefire in 1994, by these same papers incidentally, that it was the Irish Gardai who were 'soft on terrorism'.

These days when it is the Gardai who are enjoying the phenomenal and unprecedented success against the 'terrorists' and when it is the British who have apparently gone soft, or soft-headed, there is not even a muted grumble.

On the odd occassion there is need of one, the explanation offered, is that 'the Irish have so succesfully penetrated the real Ira with informers'. This has lead to countless initatives being thwarted, with no less than 56 arrests, including much of the alleged leadership being apprehended we are told. No such success rate for the British though. Quite the reverse. Not even for example the Omagh bombers. Can the British afford no informers of their own? Or are we to believe that because of the ceasefire, RUC/MI5 no longer collaborate with their colleagues south of the border, who have them in bountiful numbers?

Pre-1994 right-wing editorials railed at the complacency of the Gardai. Today there is not a hint of criticism against the British security forces failing so dismally against such a rag-bag outfit. No. 'What we actaully need is more troops'. What in Ealing? That 'more troops' and all that goes with it is precisely what the real Ira wants, is not mentioned. For the obvious but embarassing reason that the Daily Telegraph leader writers, the UDA, the refuseniks in Unionist Party, AND the real Ira share a common objective: the end of the SF sponsored peace process, and the return if possible to normality, even if that means a return to war. For all concerned, the SF inspired peace process, just as former Unionist leader James Molyneaux feared it would, has proved deeply 'destabilising'.

According to the The London Evening Standard: "The central problem for the British and Irish governments is that they cannot convincingly argue that the terrorists are wrong, when violence has already won Sinn Fein rewards beyond anyone's wildest imagining's a decade ago."

This is a fairly accurate reading of a "political situation" it then describes as "desperate."

Which just might explain why a tiny splinter group, without popular support, riddled with informers, and tripped up at every turn in the Irish Republic is apparently able to go about it's business unhindered in Britian.
Desperate times, desperate measures.