News - January 2001


30th January 2001

I was glad to see an article in Arsenal that attempted
to address the challenges facing Anti-Racist Action
(ARA) since the assassination of anti-fascist
skinheads Dan Shersty and Lin "spit" Newborn by
neo-nazis in 1998.

The article raised some good questions about
resistance to Fascism and ARA's response to the fact
that Dan and Spit paid for that resistance with their
lives. I'm always interested in hearing critiques of
ARA from fellow anti-fascists and anarchists.

However, there are some omissions and errors about
ARA's response to the murders that I wanted to clear
up first.

The newspaper ad that ran in spring 2000 was one of a
number of responses that ARA organized in the wake of
the murders. In August 1998, only a month after the
murders, ARA Las Vegas organized an anti-fascist march
that drew several hundred people from all over the
western United States as well as ARAers from as far as
Toronto. The march, which was held in a neighborhood
where known Las Vegas nazis lived and considered a
stronghold, showed the fascists in Las Vegas that ARA
wasn't going to be intimidated and terrorized by Nazi

In 1999, ARA Las Vegas staged another demonstration on
the Las Vegas Strip to draw attention to the fact that
in spite of eyewitnesses putting another 3 known
fascists at the murder scene with John Butler and
evidence that as many as 40 people were involved in
the murders, the police have arrested only one man.
This response as well as the newspaper ad were
intended not to beg for the cops and courts to solve
Las Vegas' fascist problem. We recognize that
defeating fascism is a political struggle and not a
law enforcement issue. ARA Las Vegas, after an
initial and understandable period of regrouping, has
continued to organize anti-fascist youth in Las Vegas.

However, When we have two of our activists killed in
an execution style double murder we will hold the cops
and courts accountable and insist they do their
fucking jobs for a change. Especially when the city of
Las Vegas, whose economy relies heavily on tourism,
would rather sweep the murders under the rug than
admit that Las Vegas has a big problem with organized
and violent fascists. This still has not happend with at least 3 known
fascists invovled in the murders remaining uncharged.

That stated, let's move on to the rest of the
article's premise.

1. Fascists fight back.

Few understand better than ARA that there's a very
real physical risk in doing effective, street level,
anti-fascist work. While the murders of Dan and Spit
were certainly the most extreme example of Fascist
violence against ARA it was far from the first and
will definitely not be the last.

Many ARAers have been threatened, assaulted (usually
with weapons when outnumbered), had their homes broken
into and even firebombed by fascists.

ARAers are encouraged to take a number of steps to
protect themselves from this threat, from regular
self-defense training to sharing information on how to
stay safer at anti-fascist actions and avoid being
tracked by the Fascists as much as possible. We always
take our safety and security seriously and it's safe
to say that ARA has one of the strongest "security
cultures" of any above-ground activist group.

It is an tremendous credit to anti-fascists involved
with ARA that when push has come to shove and we
suffer injuries or deaths that we don't back down and
disband chapters but rather step up to the challenge
and continue to organize and fight back.

2. Cumulative risks

As the article stated, to date ARA has managed to
avoid long sentences being given to it's activists for
the militant direct actions that ARA is known for.

Largely this is because when an ARAer gets arrested
they have tremendous support from their community and
the ARA network.

ARA has mounted some of most successful high profile
legal defense campaigns for militant direct action in
North America. Notable examples are:

The 1993 defense campaign in Toronto for four
anti-fascists charged with trashing Heritage Front
spokesman's Gary Shippers house (which housed the
Heritage Front's hateline).

The 1994 anti-fascist defense campaign in Minneapolis that
successfully defended an ARAer accused of assault after thumping
an attacking neo-nazi with a flashlight.

The 1998 Ann Arbor defense campaign where over 30
anti-fascists were targeted by the state and charged
with multiple felonies for the successful attack on a
police-protected KKK rally.

As well as the arrests ARA Chicago successfully
defended themselves from last year when they outed
WCOTC organizer Justin Forge in Glenview IL and
successfully attacked a WCOTC rally in Decatur IL.

On a network level, ARA administers an ongoing ARA
general defense fund. The ARA defense fund has
financially assisted ARAers up on charges in Chicago
IL, Toronto ON, Montreal PQ, Louisville KY and Kent,
OH. The ARA defense fund has also contributed money to
the defense funds of anti-fascists in Poland and the
Czech Republic.

I agree that ARA and the anti-fascist / anarchist /
anti-authoritarian movements in general should be more
prepared to deal with state repression. We need to
improve the effectiveness of our legal defense work
and funds as well as prepare for the eventuality that
one day ARA is likely going to have to support ARAers
who are imprisoned for participation in the
anti-fascist and anti-capitalist struggles in which
we're on the font lines.

3. The militarazation risk

While I understand and largely agree with the author's
analysis of underground resistance to fascism I don't
see ARA heading down that path. ARA has always been
about open, militant resistance to fascism at the
street level. That doesn't mean that covert
anti-fascist resistance (Like the 1995 firebombing of
nazi-propagandist and holocaust denier Ernst Zundel's
home/office here in Toronto, or the recent shooting of
a NPD leader in Germany) is less legitimate than our
work but it's not ARA's role to participate in it.

I also disagree with the idea that Red Action is a
purely physical group and "avoids dealing with
political questions". Even a cursory look through their website
( will turn up
numerous political analysis' of Fascism in the UK by
Red Action. However, I will leave responding to your
criticism of Red Action to Red Action themselves.

On a more personal note, I take issue with the
assertion that the fact that anti-fascist groups like
Red Action and ARA have ex-nazis involved with them
"indicates a political weakness".

As a former neo-nazi turned anti-fascist I work with
ARA because it's one of the few organizations that has
a realistic approach to combating fascism on the
street level. That is, ARA has the guts to stand and
physically fight if that's what it takes. However, to
"...question whether people are attracted on the basis
of physical fighting ability rather than political
agreement." is downright insulting to ex-nazis such as
myself who've since joined the ranks of the militant
anti-fascist and anarchist movement.

The fact that I was a working-class recruit into the
radical right only shows the failure of liberalism and
most "revolutionary" leftist groups who, unlike the
fascists, fail to speak to working class youth about
issues effecting them like unemployment, falling wages,
skyrocketing rent and the generally bleak future for
working class youth in today's society.

If anything I would argue that the "admitted flow" of
ex-nazis into militant anti-fascist groups is a sign
that those groups' politics, strategy and tactics are
seen as effective by people who've been on the other

I personally have more faith in people sticking around
anti-fascism for the long haul if they come from a
background where they can understand why some working
class youth see the radical right as a viable
alternative to the status quo rather than middle class
people who are "anti-fascist" for altruistic reasons
or because nazis are "bad".

Anti-Fascism must not be just about physically
stopping the fascists from marching, rallying and
organizing, it must also fight for real issues that
affect working class youth and present an alternative
to the status quo, discredited leftist groups and
Fascist organizations. Locally ARA has close working relationships with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Black
Action Defense Committee
and other organizations that are taking on the poverty, racism
and police brutality in Toronto.

For myself and many others in ARA that alternative is
anarchism. While ARA is a non-sectarian group with a
variety of political tendencies you really don't have
to look to hard to find people in ARA involved with
explicitly anarchist projects, usually those on the
cutting edge of militancy. An excellent example would
be the Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Bloc in
Washington DC last April. Much of the 1000 strong bloc
of anarchists consisted of affinity groups from ARA
chapters. The decentralized and autonomous structure
of the ARA network is another example of strong
anarchist participation in ARA.

Finally, while I think the article is a good starting
point for discussion on anti-fascist strategy I would
like to hear what strategy the author proposes in
order to fight the far-right or what ARA could have
done that would have been a more effective response to
the murder of Dan and Spit.

In anti-fascist and anarchist solidarity,
Mike Donovan, ARA Toronto.

P.O. Box 291, Station B, Toronto, ON, M5T 2T2, Canada
Phone: (416) 631-8835 Email:


1. The 'Fighting Words' article can be found at:

Anti-Fascist Action's response can be found at:

A letter from Las Vegas ARA and the text for the newspaper ad
can be found at:

For more detailed information on the murder of Dan and Spit see:

2. For more information or to donate to the ARA defense
fund see:
or contact ARA Montreal at
or mail AAR/ ARA Montreal, #8, 414 Mount Royal Est,
Montreal, PQ, Canada, H2J 1W1
Checks or money orders should be made out to
"Anti-Racist Action"

To subscribe to ara news email with the following
command in the body of your message: subscribe ara-news

****** The A-Infos News Service ******
News about and of interest to anarchists


21st January 2001

Reproduced from Anti-Fascist Action

An American anarchist magazine called Arsenal has recently published an article which includes a very dishonest attack on Red Action, founder members of AFA and still very much involved at the cutting edge of anti-fascism. Here we reproduce the reply from AFA:-

"It is entirely appropriate for anti-fascists to be considering questions of tactics and strategy, and Issue 2 of Arsenal magazine featured an article entitled ‘Fighting Words’ that deals with this very matter. Well, it claims to, but in fact merely criticises the actions of others without putting forward any alternative. In particular it attacks Red Action, an organisation founded in Britain in 1981 that has played a leading role in the fight against fascism.

Writing on behalf of Anti-Fascist Action in Britain, we will not comment on the criticisms aimed at ARA activists in America, but we feel it is necessary to put the record straight regarding Red Action. The author states “if we need a model that avoids dealing with political questions and focuses on physically attacking nazis, Red Action in England serves that purpose”.

It is clear from reading the article that the author is familiar with much of what Red Action has written and done, and yet she deliberately chooses to misrepresent Red Action. Red Action not only founded AFA, but also has played the key role in developing new anti-fascist strategies for AFA as they are needed. The most recent of these being the development of a political strategy designed to challenge the growth of support for the Far Right in working class communities.

“I have to politically and factually question their claim that they’ve driven the nazis off the streets” she writes. Any basic knowledge of the political situation in Britain would confirm that after pressure from AFA right across Britain (not just England) the BNP withdrew from the streets in 1994. They didn’t break with the old Mosleyite strategy of large scale public events and trying to control the streets just because they felt like it, but because the more ambitious elements in their leadership realised that if they were going to make progress they had to avoid militant anti-fascists.

The “clashes with Red Action” that are referred to show the danger of people writing on matters they are unfamiliar with. The last mention of a clash between Red Action and fascists that we have seen was by Combat 18, writing a few years ago, who claimed the disorganised rabble they attacked at Old Street (east London) was in fact Red Action. The individuals they attacked were absolutely nothing to do with Red Action, or AFA for that matter, and C18 knew that, but they always felt the need to convince their supporters that they could get the better of militant anti-fascists – precisely because they never did!

The next mistake is when the author states that despite their “utter contempt for the traditional Left, Red Action knowingly serves as the ‘shock troops’ for their demos”. If the author knows about Red Action’s contempt for the Left, then she must also know that Red Action has refused, for the last 20 years, to act as a police force for the Left. Red Action’s only contact with the traditional Left has been to encourage the better elements to reassess the last 40 years of failure and reorientate towards the working class.

Then we are told about “the admitted flow of ex-nazis into Red Action (and we should probably assume the reverse is also true)”. It is true that a few RA members had been involved with Far Right groups when they were younger (most notably the late, great Matty Blag of Blaggers ITA fame), but no RA members have left to join the fascists. Because the author is trying to discredit militant anti-fascism this is a crude attempt to smear Red Action; ‘they’re just a bunch of thugs’. She actually says that RA members “are attracted on the basis of physical fighting ability rather than political agreement”. The arrogance and stupidity of this remark speaks for itself, but it does help to clarify that the author has absolutely no understanding of militant anti-fascism.

So what’s it all about? The only reason we have replied to the lies printed in the article is because we believe the future direction of the anti-fascist movement is important. The fact that liberals have to resort to such lies to try and discredit militant anti-fascism does them no favours. The Far Right have gained support in working class communities because of the failure of the Left. While the author believes anti-fascists should orientate towards the Left’s latest project, “the developing anti-capitalist, direct action movement”, AFA and Red Action would argue that the orientation must be directly towards working class communities. This is where the Far Right are to be found. To misrepresent militant anti-fascism as being one-dimensional ‘physical confrontation’ is deliberately dishonest and factually wrong. It is in fact in the political strategies being worked out by militant anti-fascists that a successful antidote to the rise of fascism will be found, not in the travelling circus performing at Seattle, Prague, Nice or wherever.

We would ask your readers to make up their own minds, not by reading the nonsense attributed to Red Action in the ‘Fighting Words’ article, but by looking at what Red Action have to say themselves. Check out the RA website at and see for yourselves.

From Anti-Fascist Action’s point of view, we are proud to be associated with Red Action and acknowledge their contribution not only to militant anti-fascism but working class politics in general."

(The 'Fighting Words' article can be found at: )


17th January 2001

For months there has been simmering tension between factions within the leadership of the BNP. Rumours have abounded of defections and unlikely alliances. Now it has been confirmed that the regional organisers in the West Midlands have left to join the Bloomsbury Forum with the intention of forming a new party, The Freedom Party. Unsurprisingly, the whole affair which began in the summer with allegations of financial impropriety being made by the recently installed deputy leader Sharon Edwards against the BNP leader Nick Griffin, has seriously distracted the BNP from their stated task. This has manifested itself in many noticeable ways. Most notably the effective boycott by the West Midlands of the BNP's Red White and Blue Day festival in the summer, and the deliberate refusal by the members loyal to the Edwards to canvass for Griffin during the by-election campaign in West Bromich. Now that such elements have left it will be interesting to see what numbers, in terms of current members they bring with them. Either way the disruption to the BNP in the region and questions posed against the judgement of Griffin and Lecomber are not inconsiderable. Why such in-fighting should erupt within a short time of the BNP getting its largest vote in the Greater London Assembly elections, is open to speculation. Whatever the reason Griffin and co, do seem to have been surprised by each turn of events. In turn the Edwardes seem to have been equally badly 'advised'.

Up to now, while both sides have deliberately avoided any suggestion that the state might have played a hand, spite and bitterness abound. Griffin for instance accuses his former deputy of being 'none too bright' and her husband Steve of making 'obscene phone calls' and theft, apparently failing to realise, considering their recent vaunted positions in the BNP, how such opinions reflect badly on the integrity of his party and his own judgement. In normal circumstances for anti-fascists such a respite would be welcome, particularly considering the BNP took 80,000 votes almost twice the vote of the London Socialist Alliance in June. Looked at objectively such apparent disarray ought to offer the left a chance to reevaluate strategies and regroup. However considering the entire Left sought to effectively deny the reality of the ballot box in the first place, it is far more likely the opportunity will be grasped, with the enthuasistic encouragement of the ANL/Searchlight no doubt, to further buttress, as one leading militant put it recently, the already "obscene complacency" of the membership.

Below we reproduce Griffins account of recent events:

Subject: projection
Projection - that's the psychological term for when someone accuses someone else of doing something wrong because it's they kind of thing they've done/want to do themselves. On the big historical scale, the way various Zionists always scream about other people having 'Master Race' theories is a classic example.

On the petty scale, we now have an example much closer to home. Most of you will know how Mr & Mrs Edwards of Wombourne (not actually Tipton, as Mr. Edwards falsely claims in order to be able to stand there, but that's another story) spent months last year accusing me and several colleagues of all kinds of dodgy financial dealing and "stealing £7,000 from the BNP." They couldn't, of course, produce any evidence for their claims, because they were all made up in pursuit of their plot with Mike Newland and the Tory Bloomsbury Forum to discredit the party's elected leadership and so provide the 'reason' for instituting rule by committee (their committe, of course).

Plan B was, if that failed, to launch a new party. Well, it failed, so on January 9th Mr & Mrs E sent out a four page circular stating why they've decided to join the Bloomsbury Forum's new Freedom Party. The plump, effete, bow-tie wearing Tory who is to 'lead' this little band is one Jonathan Bowden, formerly 'leader' of the absurdly named and short-lived Revolutionary Conservative Caucus.

So what's this got to do with projection? Well, Mr Edwards and a flunky have been up to some serious bank hanky panky. First, he tried to get the bank where the Black Country BNP account is held to remove his co-signatory Simon Darby from his position on the account, to leave Honest Steve as sole signatory. And now, much more serious, it has just emerged that he and a dupe, Neil Phillips, arranged to have another bank, the one holding the BNP West Midland regional account - containing nearly £3,000 - transfer £2,800 of that BNP money to an account controlled by Phillips. Again, without informing Simon Darby who was co-signatory on the West Midlands account.

Of course, the bank is also to blame for allowing this transfer to be done without the authorisation of both the signatories, but the theft was the work of Neil Phillips, urged on by Honest Steve. Once the situation was pointed out to the bank, it only took a few minutes for them to agree that the money will be back in the West Midlands BNP account by Monday morning. The Manager also said that, as £86 of it has already been spent on something (hope they've have got the receipts), the thieves will have to cough this sum up or face prosecution by the bank's own legal department.

Not a good start for a new party hoping to cultivate an image of financial probity and respect for the law. Coming on top of Decent Steve's official police caution under the anti-stalking laws for making threatening and obscene telephone calls, it suggests the image-makers are going to have their work cut out. For that matter, what do they expect the opposition to make of their choice of the name Freedom Party? As in "...extremist Joerg Haider...Freiheit Partei....Austrian like Hitler...praised Hitler's employment policy and the Waffen SS...blah...blah....smear,smear." Might not bother hardened 'extremists' like us, but Mr. Bowden won't see his Tories for dust once it starts. Which will leave just him, Honest Steve and Madeline None-too-bright, and Mike Newland. I hope they enjoy each other's company. They deserve it.

Nick Griffin


16th January 2001

The following two stories deal with allegations of infiltration of the INLA by a German intelligence officer in the mid-1990's


Ian Cobain (Reproduced from The Times, 8th January)

AN OPERATION mounted by German intelligence officers to deal a crippling blow to Irish terrorism can be disclosed by The Times today.

A German agent who was apparently working closely with the British intelligence service MI5 risked his life to infiltrate the Irish National Liberation Army and lure its then chief of staff, Hugh Torney, to Germany to buy Semtex explosive to make bombs. The chance to cut off the INLA's European arms pipeline and place its leader behind bars was, however, squandered when German police set the terrorist free.

Torney went on to organise a series of bomb and gun attacks in Northern Ireland. Among the victims was a nine-year-old girl who was murdered in a drive-by shooting.

Posing as a left-wing extremist and republican sympathiser, the German agent had watched as Torney and an accomplice, Sean Green, purchased the Semtex. Green went on to take part in a letter-bomb campaign whose victims included the Unionist leaders David Trimble and Jeffrey Donaldson.

Details of the secret operation are revealed in a series of confidential reports prepared by the German domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), the federal prosecutor´s office and Stuttgart police.

They show that the agent joined the INLA in the mid-1990s and eventually became a trusted confidant of its leadership. He is thought to have made contact with leading INLA figures while posing as a member of an extreme left-wing German organisation called Revolutionary Cells.

Apparently working closely with MI5, he helped to set up the sting operation in August 1994, when the IRA was about to announce a ceasefire but the INLA was widely expected to continue waging its terror campaign.

Torney was lured to Germany after the agent offered to find a safe house in a small town near Stuttgart. The agent accompanied Torney, 40, and Green, 30, to Pilsen in the Czech Republic where, the agent reported, they met a man who was to supply the Semtex. A third terrorist then arranged to take the Semtex back to Ireland.

Torney and Green were subsequently surrounded and arrested by heavily armed police at Stuttgart railway station.

BfV officers believed that they had succeeded in striking a serious blow to one of Europe´s most ruthless terrorist organisations.

To the horror of the BfV and the fury of the agent, however, the police decided that they had insufficient evidence against the two terrorists and put them on a train bound for France.

In a confidential report, which has been seen by The Times, the agent complained: "Although the police authorities were handed a leading member of the INLA on a plate, they failed dismally." He explains how the operation was planned after a series of meetings with INLA terrorists at their homes in the border town of Dundalk.

"The aim was to stop the further transportation of weapons and explosives and to find out the transportation routes used," the agent wrote in his report.

"To this purpose leading INLA members were to be enticed, under observation, to a procurement activity in BRD and to be arrested having been seen making purchases in the Czech Republic and storing the goods in Schwäbisch Hall (a small town 40 miles northeast of Stuttgart).

"At the end of July 1994 a talk was held at the house of one of the old bosses of INLA, Peter Stewart. Stewart, another INLA member and I were present at this meeting. It took place in Dundalk.

"Two days later there was a meeting between the chief of staff of INLA, Hugh Torney, the area leader reponsible for Tyrone, Gino Gallagher, and myself. As much Semtex as possible was to be bought in the Czech Republic, also detonators would be needed."

A Stuttgart police report describes how the two men were arrested at the city's railway station on August 10. They were carrying about £10,000 in various currencies which the police accepted in their report, was "money was left over from an explosives procurement activity".

Senior police ruled that there was insufficient evidence to charge Torney or Green despite the apparent willingness of the BfV agent to testify against them. The two men were put on a train bound for Paris. BfV sources say that the local police "couldn't conceal their relief" when the train pulled out of the station.

The agent, whose identity is known to The Times, was forced to adopt a new name and leave Germany after being warned that an INLA terrorist living in Amsterdam had been ordered to kill him.

Torney launched bomb and gun attacks over the next two years before he was killed in an internal INLA feud. Green was jailed for five years in in July 1999 for his part in a letter bomb campaign. He was released six weeks later under the early release programme.


Ian Cobain (Reproduced from the Irish Independent, 8th January)

AN EXTRAORDINARY operation mounted by German intelligence officers against a republican terrorist group has been revealed.

A German agent risked his life to infiltrate the INLA and lure its then chief of staff, Hugh Torney, to Germany to buy Semtex explosive to make bombs. The chance to cut off the INLA's European arms pipeline and place its leader behind bars was, however, squandered when German police set the terrorist free.

Torney went on to organise a series of bomb and gun attacks in Northern Ireland. Among the victims was a girl of nine murdered in a drive-by shooting.

Posing as a leftwing extremist and republican sympathiser, the German agent had watched as Torney and an accomplice, Sean Green, purchased the Semtex. Green went on to take part in a letter bomb campaign whose victims included the unionist leaders David Trimble and Jeffrey Donaldson.

Details of the secret operation are revealed in a series of confidential reports prepared by the German domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz (BfV), the federal prosecutors office and Stuttgart police.

They show that the agent joined the INLA in the mid-1990s and eventually became a trusted confidant of its leadership. He is thought to have made contact with leading INLA figures while posing as a member of an extreme left-wing German organisation called Revolutionary Cells.

Apparently working closely with Britain's MI5, he helped to set up the sting operation in August 1994, when the IRA was about to announce a ceasefire but the INLA was widely expected to continue its terror campaign.


14th January 2001

The position that AFA finds itself in with regards to the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees has improved slightly since the last report was made. We had previously found ourselves at a cross roads regarding greater involvement, due to the efforts to keep us from establishing a position on the committee. This position was clarified at the next meeting (which neither of the AFA contacts were notified about) when lo and behold 5 named personnel ( SWP and SSP ) were included in the agenda for voting in. AFA proposed their candidate and when the elections came about all were voted in as a block in an effort to save time. No kicking, no screaming. Just a diluted representation for AFA since the last meeting.
During Nov we were involved in a picket at a local branch of Sainsbury’s leafleting about the use of the voucher scheme. This was well attended by SWP – although whether the work rate to talking to each other ratio will improve the current refugee situation is debatable - a stall set up 5mins after this was finished was probably the reason for this.
However, 2 days later was a different story.
It had been agreed at the Nov meeting to do some leafleting of one housing estate where refugees were staying using the standard GCTWR leaflet and a STUC one regarding the annual anti-racist demo in Glasgow. AFA suggestions prior to the leafleting that we do leaflets that would embrace both the host community and the refugees was argued against due to limited time and because of the financial restrictions. This theme has recurred during further discussion regarding a xmas party for the refugees. These are the problems that we expected to be placed in our path but, due to our own commitments to other work and the short time involved we were willing to accept this until such time as an Committee meeting is arranged when we can put our points in writing and have a full and open discussion relating to these. On the night of the leafleting unsurprisingly AFA made up approx 60% of those who where willing to do the work. Noticeable by their absence were 4 of the 5 people voted on to the committee at the same time as the AFA member.
Interestingly enough the xmas party that occurred did have an unpleasant episode when one refugee racially abused another only to be violently assaulted by another.
AFA were thanked for their help in this event and were invited to a social occasion which, due to the meeting of other SWP members, may bare some fruit for the IWCA or once and for all discredit the SWP in an area where they have previously stood one of the more established members. 2001 will hopefully answer these questions.


11th January 2001

An important new publication has emerged from the republican movement that is well worth a look for Red Action readers. We have been arguing for some time now that Sinn fein are fast emerging as political contenders in working class areas across the whole country building on the lessons of working class resistance in all its forms in the North. Left Republican Review as well as being a reflection of this process will help to speed it up. Its whole tone is one of critical self-assessment, its aim to provide a platform for serious political debate within the movement. Debate which at this stage of the development of SF is both about the political direction of a movement preparing for power and the political education of a layer of activists seeking to represent working class communities. However the nature of these debates and education is as you would expect far from abstract theorising, articles on republican economics sit beside articles discussing the developing strategy of restorative justice and specific examples such as the Belfast anti-joyriding initiative. In the two editions to date a wide range of issues have been covered including Gerry Kelly on policing in the North, developments in the middle east and the Basque country, Freedom Independence socialism (raising questions about SF structures and approaches to internal debate etc), Equality, Castlerea five, etc etc.
For myself I found the article on the Belfast Joyriding initiative the most valuable. The way it takes you through the two stages of the campaign, first reclaiming the streets with protests, community clean ups and propaganda aimed at provoking local debate with SF promoting the view that joyriding is a social problem due to social factors rather than simply a criminal problem. The second stage brings in the whole question of restorative justice, again with SF putting forward the view that punishment either by the community or the state pushes people further away from the community, increasing alienation and the likelihood of reoffending rather than deterring it.
In short get hold of a copy or take out a subscription.

Left Republican Review
13C Grainne House
BT15 2EH
( LRR costs £2 per issue )


6th January 2001

Reproduced from RM Distribution

Sinn Fein's hotly-tipped candidate to win a parliament seat in Dublin South Central, Aengus O Snodaigh discusses how he got into politics and his vision for the future.

Q: How did you first come into Sinn Fein?

Aengus O Snodaigh: I suppose it's in the blood. My family are native Irish speakers and always were out there campaigning for rights, campaigning against the destruction of Dublin at Frascati, at Wood Quay, a motorway across Sandymount Strand, for Irish language rights, against internment and many more. I first joined Sinn Fein in UCD in 1983. We had a great Sinn Fein Cumann, just coming out of the Hunger Strike. Brilliant people, people who've given years to the struggle since, like Ella O'Dwyer, Liam O Duibhir, Sean Hicks, Micheal McDonncha and many more. It was a hotbed of discussion and ideas.

We took a decision to engage with different political views, to challenge the different politicians who would come to the college, who thought, with censorship that they had a free run. We set about challenging their revisionism of history in this country, we wanted to overcome censorship.

And we had the chance in college to meet and debate with all kinds of leadership figures. Big meetings of 700 or 800, with diverse figures from Garrett Fitzgerald to Arthur Scargill, who led the miners' strike against Thatcher, and prominent republicans. We tried to open up debate in an atmosphere of censorship.

We also got involved in other issues impacting on our life in college and outside, the Contract Cleaners' strike for instance. We realised that we couldn't fight for rights, even the rights of the cleaners, or students themselves, in college alone; we had to get out of college. In 1983 we all got involved helping Christy Burke's by-election campaign in November, and it went on from there. In 1984, I was first elected onto the Dublin Comhairle Limistear Officerboard and began working full-time for An Phoblacht/Republican News in the summer of 1985. I spent 11 years in An Phoblacht and have been on the officerboard nearly every year since 1985.

While much has changed since then, many of the issues we worked on in the 1980s are still with us. Much of the demands we made then are still relevant today and in fact must be delivered to ensure the new Ireland we deserve is delivered.

Q: Many of the papers are tipping you to become another Sinn Fein TD at the next election. What possible difference is that going to make to the people of this area - of the Liberties, of Ballyfermot, Cherry Orchard, Bluebell, Crumlin?

AOS: These areas of Dublin South Central have suffered the worst ravages of inequality. This has been one of the most neglected areas in the state, and the TDs here have failed us. If you look around the Liberties, there is much building work going on, but it is not for the people of the area. Apartments and the planned e-hub around Guinness's is not aimed at bettering the lot of the historical communities of the area.

The long-awaited redevelopment of Cork Street has begun, yet it seems to be no more than a throughfare for a traffic jam. The road will be built and we could well be left with the derelict sites. What is needed are job opportunities aimed at the local people, schools and youth facilities to cater for the present and future needas of the huge youth population in the area. What good is 2% off the top rate of tax? If the kids are still going to the same schools, living in the same overcrowded housing they did 20 years ago? When their parents are still on the housing lists or queuing for hours down the road at James Hospital, Cherry Orchard or at Our Lady's, Crumlin, for an X-ray? What good is all the new-found wealth in this country when there are over 200 children sleeping rough in Dublin, some from this area here?

Ballyfermot, Crumlin, and the South Inner City have been ravaged by the drugs scourge for over 20 years now. The Liberties has the highest concentration of heroin addicts in Europe. This has got to change. Now I am not going to be able to change all this overnight as a representative of the people here. But I'm part of a team, Sinn Fein, which has after 30 years of struggle brought about the possibility of a new dispensation in the country, of respect for human rights, of a commitment to equality, not just for the nationalist people in the North, but for all the people of Ireland.

This area of the South Inner City, well it has its history. Robert Emmet, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and Thomas Russell were looked after by the people of the area while they were on the run. Connolly lived just down the road from here. It was the people of the Liberties who elected Countess Markievicz to the First Dail. Jack Murphy was elected to Leinster House in the 1950s when he stood for the Unemployed Alliance. Now with the Peace Process, the Good Friday Agreement we have the opportunity to put things back on track, and to start to build an Ireland without 'disadvantaged areas' ravaged by inequality. That's our project and the people of this area are a part of that project. Those parties that claimed the republican mantle, who forgot about injustice and inequality in their anxiety to get to the brown envelopes, the gombeen men, they have forgotten what republicanism is about.

After 30 years of struggle, the ending of censorship has allowed people at last to hear Sinn Fein people talking. Sinn Fein offers the hope to begin to make a difference to the lives of the people in these areas you mention.

Q: How can people be confident that you won't get into the suits and the cars and turn out like all the rest?

AOS: After the Civil War, what remained of the radical and revolutionary republican leadership were in exile or locked up. The state was now back in the hands of the conservative element of society, those who sat on the fence during the Tan War, those who opposed republicanism or socialism from the start. The new state was in the hands of the businessmen, the Catholic Church and many of those who took part in the struggle for other reasons other than from a republican ideological standpoint. Rememeber that nearly 80% of the civil servants who ran the British administration in Ireland prior to partition , prior to the setting up of the state, were retained as civil servants, some even being promoted.

To change the status quo, you have to empower the community. And you have to think where our Sinn Fein party is coming from.Our people are coming out of hard won struggle, hard years of repression, of sectarian killing, of internment, Bloody Sunday. Think, it was only 20 years ago that ten men died on hunger strike in the H-Blocks, to beat the British attempt to break the prisoners, and with them the whole Republican struggle. Only two years later, the prisoners organised the greatest prison escape, perhaps ever, in Ireland. And then our party is different too. We're on the streets, where we live, all the time. We're elected to represent, not to substitute for the people. Take Caoighmhin O Caolain - when he was elected councillor in Monaghan, all the time, he went back to the people to ask them what they wanted brought up, how they felt about the issues on the council agenda.

That is democracy. It's about listening to people, empowering people to take charge of their area, of their lives, of their country. Other political party people just come around at election times with little cards saying 'sorry I missed you.'

Q: Is the peace process working?

AOS: Well, I was sceptical, like a lot of people, about the process, where it was leading us, could it deliver for republicans, would we be closer to our goals. Like many republicans the few years prior to the Good Friday Agreement were a time of soul-searching, re-evaluation and a profound analysis of Ireland's past and present. Now, as I look back on what has happened since, especially in the South, I am convinced that it is the way forward. The GFA sets the seeds. We can use it to build our society. Dublin has been forced to bring the Human Rights Convention into law and it has begun to impact on the equality agenda, and hopefully we can use it to end the two-tier society that we have here.

Apart from anything else, it has begun to break down the censorship mentality. That's empowerment. People have to be allowed to hear what is going on and it's not just in relation to the national question that censorship was imposed. Anything radical, revolutionary or often community-based was censored, marginalised or ignored. With the Good Friday Agreement, people can see the British edging their way towards accepting the inevitable change, edging towards the inevitability of a united Ireland. Inch by little inch, it's a battle. You need patience. And unionism and loyalism too are being exposed, the laager mentality, the mentality that doesn't want to move forward. The parallels with South Africa are close. The siege mentality that wanted to keep Apartheid, that wanted to stop change, that used Inkatha to beat down, kill, frighten the people of the ANC.

Divide and rule - it was always the British strategy. It hasn't been any different here. We're just in another stage, and I just think it will help things forward a lot if Sinn Fein people get elected in the South too.

Q: Is it all just a dream? Is there really some hope that things will change?

AOS: It would be a sorry existence if we couldn't hold onto our dreams. But I do see the seeds of change. For starters, I'd like the people Cherry Orchard, Gallanstown, Ballyfermot as well as the Liberties itself to have our own representative. It's nearly half a century since we had that with Jack Murphy, who was elected TD for the Unemployed Alliance back in 1955. But on the main issues, like education, unemployment, health, housing, there is hope.

Housing has to be affordable if we are to preserve these areas. New housing is not there for the local community. But we have got a start with the refurbishment of Bridgefoot Street, Marrowbone Lane and other complexes. There's a major development with the St. Catherine sports centre; the #1 million School Street childcare centre; the community demanding a say in any planned redevelopment of Fatima Mansions; the demolition of St Michael's Estate; the building of the Equine Centre in Cherry Orchard; the upgrading of the canals. It's all the beginnings of change.

The Corporation is having to recognise that disadvantage and inequality in our areas have to be addressed. People won't accept bureaucrats telling us what to do any more. The people themselves have to be a part of decisions that affect our future as much as our past.

Slowly but surely, the seeds are there to address the injustice that our area has suffered down the years, to build a new society which measures up to the dreams of republicans down through the centuries.

I am involved in politics to play my part in effecting that change, and we in Sinn Fein will be doing our level best at the next general election to advance that agenda of justice, democracy and equality for all sections of our society by increasing our strength in Leinster House.


2nd January 2001

This the full text of the IRA statement ( Reproduced from RM Distribution )

The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann extends New Year greetings to all our volunteers, friends and supporters at home and abroad.

We send solidarity to our imprisoned comrades and their families and to the families of our dead volunteers.

As we enter 2001 we reaffirm our commitment to the achievement of our objectives, and the creation of a national democracy through a united, independent and free Ireland.

More than six years have elapsed since our first cessation of all military operations. In the interim we have honoured all commitments given.

The search for a durable peace has presented many challenges for Irish republicans.

For our part we have risen to these challenges and helped to move the peace process forward.

In the course of recent times the leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has taken a number of unprecedented initiatives to enhance all genuine efforts to realise a just and lasting peace.

The British Government has failed to seize the opportunity created by these initiatives.

The leadership of the IRA is committed to a resolution of the issue of arms.

This will not be resolved unless the British Prime Minister takes political responsibility for it.

P O'Neill