What’s Going On in the Central African Republic ?
December 10, 2013

Once again France is involved in a major military intervention in Africa … this time in the Central African Republic (CAR) ostensibly to prevent growing growing muslim/christian violence amidst talk of genocide. But what exactly is going on in the CAR and will this intervention do any more to enhance stability and economic development than any of France’s numerous interventions in Africa over recent decades?

The CAR is a huge country with a very small population. It is about the size of France and has around 4.5 million inhabitants.

The population is comprised of some 80 different ethnic groups. The religious breakdown seems to be 50% christian, 35% adhering to traditional beliefs, and only about 15% Islam.

It is a former French colony. In fact, the most significant anti-colonial struggle in Africa between the two world wars, the Kongo-Wara rebellion (brutally crushed by the French and covered up) took place in this area.

The country is rich in natural resources: oil, uranium, gold, diamonds, lumber, etc.

CAR ostensibly gained independence in 1958 but the French never really left. They have involved themselves in it’s affairs ever since .. helping install and overthrow despots as it suited them. As far as I can make out they have maintained a permanent military presence. The “father of CAR independence”, Barthélemy Boganda, who was due to become the first prime minister after independence is believed to have been murdered by the French secret service.

So what exactly has happened recently? How is it that people of different religions who have coexisted for centuries have suddenly started killing each other? The answer to these questions is not easy to come by.

What we do know is that in 2003 General François Bozizé seized power in a coup. This was followed by many years of low intensity conflict with a disparate collection of rebel groups in the north. At this stage he was supported by the French who, amongst other things, carried out mirage jet attacks on rebel positions in 2006.

A peace agreement was signed between the government and rebel groups but this fell apart in December 2012 as the rebels (now united under the banner of Seleka) accused the government of breaking promises and immediately began to seize territory. Bozizé appealed for international support but France now stated that it would not assist him. French troops were dispatched however to seize and hold the airport. Several African countries (Chad, Gabon, Cameroon, Angola,South Africa and Republic of Congo) did decide to sent troops to stop the rebels advance on the capital. The South African commitment in particular was significant and some observers viewed this as an attempt to counter French influence in the CAR. By March 24, however, Seleka was able to seize the Capital and install Michel Djotodia as president.

How was it, I wondered, that rebel groups who had not been able to seize power in many years of low intensity conflict were able to sweep to the capital and seize it in a matter of months? Also, I furthered wondered, how was this possible when the rebels apparently represented the Islamic population of CAR which makes up at most 15%. The short answer to this is that Seleka seems to have been substantially stiffened with mercenaries from Chad and Sudan. Who has organised and funded this is an open question. Also, who exactly are these mercenaries?

One interesting thing in the Seleka march to the capital was that one night a substantial group of their fighters (several hundred if not more) came from the direction of the French held airport (where they had no problem with the French)to attack a contingent of South African troops. In the ensuing 19 hour firefight about 14 South Africans were killed. (The South Africans say they killed 500)

Another interesting thing is the the President installed by Seleka, Michel Djotodia, was resolutely pro west. The first thing he did on assuming power was to tear up all the mining and oil contracts the previous government had signed with China. Djotida stated that he would be seeking the help of France and the USA to retrain the CAR Army defeated by Seleka. ““We will rely on the European Union to help us develop this country,” he asserted. “When we have been sick, the European Union was at our bedside. It will not abandon us now.”

Now, while Djotida was tearing up contracts the Selekaa forces were running amuck. Widespread looting, pillaging, rape and murder of Christians commenced. What was this about one wondered? In response Christian communities began to form their own militias to fight the Seleka know as the “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) Unfortunately, they also began to take revenge on ordinary Muslims who had nothing to do with Seleka.

In September 2013, Michel Djotodia announced that Seleka had been dissolved but the militias comprising Seleka did not go along with this. So roaming the country since have been heavily armed bands of men, often speaking no CAR language and answerable to God knows who. On the anti-balaka side as well there are now numerous local militas under no centralised command.

It will be interesting to see who France puts into power to sort all this out. One cannot help but feel, however, that at the end of the day the people of the CAR will continue to be the losers.

And the BRICS countries have not done well while the EU is in the driving seat. China has been stripped of its oil and mineral concessions and South Africa has been given a bloody nose.

There are, by the way, about 100 members of the US Special Forces in the CAR ostensibly seeking Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Sam Lord  10 December 2013

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The Pitfalls of Electoral Politics
November 12, 2013

It seems to me that the Irish left in general has refused to face up to the reality that any and every attempt at social democracy or socialist participation in electoral politics has completely failed to achieve its goals. Much of the blame for this has been put on the characters involved (with some justification), they were not true Scotsmen, so it’s a case of ‘once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more’. But perhaps the problem lies with and stems from this particular form of political engagement?

I read an article yesterday which I found very interesting. While it comes from a perspective I mightn’t necessarily subscribe to, it makes some very good points and is definitely worth a read:

No Vote Counts: Avoiding the Trappings of Democratic Socialism

Here’s a bit of it which I think is particularly applicable to the Irish left as it stands today;

Electoral work is not the same as engaging in a social movement. While electoral campaigns through organizations like the Green Party (the “cool” democratic socialists) may raise issues, it leaves the people mobilized around those issues standing cold when the only form of action offered to them is voting. It is great to raise certain points of agitation during their campaign, but we know that they either will not get elected or, if they do, will not be able to actually enact the kind of sweeping changes they are discussing. This is simply not the way the state functions, no matter how many of them pack the chambers. Instead, that time and money would be better used on actual movement building. All the benefits you get from a liberal electoral campaign you could get in putting the same effort toward a social movement, except at the end you actually have functional on-the-ground organizing that can continue to push reforms with popular power.

This point is lost on the Irish left, there is very little, if any, effort to form some kind of movement. Events are held to discuss the need, or lack thereof, for new traditional political partys and discussions are also had about electoral alliances, but there is no effort to create a mass movement. Time and again squabbles are had over various seats, Paul Murphy’s seat in the EU parliament just the latest example.

If we look at the past we can see how time and time again “successful” participation in electoral politics has resulted in dismal failure – The Labour Party, Workers Party and now Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin’s move to the centre and abandonment of revolutionary politics(even if you didn’t agree with them they have certainly moved towards the centre) is directly attributable to engaging in and tasting some success in electoral politics. As is the large increase of careerists and opportunists within the party. Much of the working class does not vote (and who can blame them? It’s a waste of time) and are politically disengaged, so in search of further support party’s inevitably turn to the voting classes which inevitably results in a move towards the centre.

I’ve wandered off the point a bit, and it is thus, given the repeated failure (and I would say inevitable) of socialist participation in parliamentary democracy in Ireland, why does the Irish left have such an electoral fetish?

Why, instead of trying to build electoral support is there not an attempt to build a socialist movement independent of electoral politics? Why are they setting themselves up to fail? Should the unattached on the left look towards trying to agitate and build some kind of mass movement completely independent of the electoral system, rather than ponder setting up yet another electoral vehicle?

Worth pointing out in case it isn’t obvious; the foundation of my argument is the acceptance that our current electoral system, like all liberal/bourgeoisie systems is unrepresentative of the Irish people, the working class especially. (I’ve been reading a lot of Lenin!)

Saoirse go Deo    11th November 2013

One Last Chance for Enda to Provide Justice for the Women Who Were Shut Away in the Laundries
February 17, 2013

I’ve just read the Justice for Magdalene’s redacted submission to the McAleese committee.  It has been released to balance and correct some impressions conveyed by the McAleese report. None of the hundreds of pages of accounts of individual women was quoted by McAleese. I haven’t read McAleese’s report yet, and plan to give it a try today – although at 1,000 pages it will have to be a fast read.

The Press and some politicians and commentators are using the McAleese Report to say that the laundries were “not like the films.” McAleese interviewed 50 women, the rest of the Committee did not meet any. They had no remit to investigate the treatment of the women in the laundries or to make findings on this. The first thing to remember about the McAleese Report is that the brief was to investigate State links with the laundries, not to explore what went on inside them.   All of the Committee members bar McAleese were civil servant representatives of implicated State Departments. McAleese who has close associations with the Church, resigned his position as Senator and left Ireland without making himself available to the press to answer questions on his report.  

The Justice for Magdalene’s earlier reports show the State’s role, and were in part what forced the Government to act. The State was responsible by reason of its neglect of its duties to inspect and to protect citizens from illegal incarceration and brutality. It also paid capitation money in to the laundry system for some women, provided contracts to it, and directly sent women into the laundries, and returned them if they escaped, without investigating if they were held legally. It has taken 10 years of research and campaigning, and a number of women in the meantime have died waiting, with no redress, some in very poor circumstances. One of the women who spoke out last year has lung cancer, and did not expect to see the report come out. Now she is waiting still for an apology and some redress.

Some of the things that stick in my mind from the many accounts in the JFM report and that very much contradict the Enda Kenny/McAleese version of the laundries –

The laundries were locked jails, with barred windows, with no daylight in some cases, little or no access to out of doors. They were cold and often wet. The work was heavy and dangerous. Many women got burns and other injuries.

The girls and women had inadequate diets – porridge for breakfast and supper, a small lunch with little protein, an egg once a year at Easter, occasional pieces of fruit on “special days.” An account mentions that women rooted in bins for nuns leftovers. They were very thin. People talk about fainting from hunger.

Women were not told when or how they would get out, and many never did get out.

Their names were taken off them and a number or penance name given to them.

They were told they were “there for their sins” although some had no idea why they were there at all. Young children as young as 11 were put in the laundries and a lot of them were young women. They were verbally insulted and abused.

Some women were put there because of ill health – lameness, epilepsy, mental disability.

They were not allowed to speak during the long work hours. They worked six days a week in the laundries: after hours they worked making small goods for sale by the nuns, and cleaning.Women were beaten with belts and hit with heavy bunches of keys for “faulty work” and for “cheek” and in some cases severely beaten for running away or for being found in bed with another woman. They were also punished by having their hair cut “to the bone” and by having to kneel and kiss the floor.   Solitary confinement was a punishment. Women were physically forced to work even when ill.    Enda Kenny however told the Dáil that physical abuse was not an issue.

Some girls and women who were resistant of this abuse and bullying or in other ways “difficult” were sent to mental institutions where they were incarcerated and in some cases died, unreleased.

There was an atmosphere of fear: women cried at night in bed. Women had nervous breakdowns and suffered from depression. Some became severely institutionalised. At least one is still living in an institution / care – would have liked her own room, but never had one. Reported problems of not getting dentures and associated weight loss. This seems to be current ?

They were not ever paid.

The young ones got no education. They had no books, newspapers, or radio and didn’t know what was happening in the outside world.

A horror that sticks in my mind – a account of a woman (likely not the only one) who was born in a laundry institution, grew up in it and who died in it.

Another account mentions a woman who sat at one end of the Church at High Park, while her daughter, elsewhere in the institution, sat at the other, without them ever knowing they were living in the same place.

A woman who got out for a day when she was 45 to meet her grown up child had never before tasted coffee, or handled money. She didn’t know her own age, but was told by her children. She died aged 51. (source: from the JFM FB page)

When the women died, there was no death certificate in many cases, and they were put in a mass grave with no name marker and no priest present, no funeral rites.

The State was very much aware of the laundries, was aware of issue of wages and its obligation to inspect and to safeguard basic rights of citizens. It failed catastrophically in relation to the laundries and in fact colluded in stripping women of their rights.

Women were in some cases sent for petty theft (an apple, stolen in an industrial school, is one example), for staying out late, or being rebellious generally.  Some had had children outside marriage.  Others had disabilities. Some had grown up in institutions. If they ran away, Gardai returned them.

The Secretary of Carlow County Council signed an order to incarcerate a married woman in a laundry and send her baby to a babies home, as the child was believed not to be her husband’s. This was in 1956 (As a side note, I know of a case in the 1990s,  in which Gardai in this area turned away a woman who went for help as she was repeatedly beaten at home: they informed the husband they she had complained).

The issue is not to me about who sent women to the laundries. Enda Kenny, McAleese and the press are busy trying to foist the blame for the laundries onto families. This is a particularly toxic and self serving argument. The State has obligations to citizens and residents irrespective of failures of families.

Abuse is an illustration of that.

Some girls /children who had been abused were locked into the laundries. One woman told of how as a young teenager she went to the Gardai and repeatedly asked them to act against her father who was raping her (her mother had died). They refused on a number occasions, but when they did act it was to incarcerate her in a laundry.

Women ended up in the laundries via state schools and institutions, via the courts, via parish priests and families. Families were under enormous social pressure from current “morals” and social stigma enforced by Church and State, and from poverty.  The Laundries were punitive institutions, part of a gulag of social control, that exerted fear and pressure on all girls and women to modify their behaviour and to comply with a rigid, brutal and hierarchical social norm.

The thinking that the State can avoid its responsibilities and push them off onto onto families, no matter how dysfunctional or disadvantaged, still goes on.

This matter will come up before the Dáil again on Tuesday.  Again, Enda Kenny has the opportunity to apologise, and make redress for the appalling acts of omission and commission by our State in relation to the Laundries.  

There will be a lobby/picket of the Dáil from Tuesday 1 p.m. 19.1.2013  until the debate is over.
Anyone who would like to go along would be welcome.   The women and support campaigners who have brought things to this stage and who have refused to be silenced deserve every support.

POST SCRIPT Justice for Magdalenes and supporters will be gathering at the Dail Tuesday 19th February for a candlelit vigil from 5 p.m. Please come, and bring a candle. 🙂 The debate starts on the Magdalene laundries starts at 6 p.m.

C. Flower  17.2.2013

How Do You Achieve a United Ireland ?
February 14, 2013

The idea of reunification is a fallacy. There never was a united Ireland. There never was a High King of Ireland. Even the various kings of Ireland wouldn’t support the idea of having Brian Boru as High King, as paying tribute to him and recognising him as such would have taken from their own legitimacy, and would have interfered with their own political objectives.Geographically speaking: millions of years ago, Ireland was two separate islands. Down around the current latitude of South Africa, they slowly drifted upwards with the rest of what’s referred to as the British Isles, to avail of the shittiest climate possible. Ireland’s two islands fused together, north and south in the middle of Ireland. Are we finished in our geographical sojourn? Nope.

Culture. I love this one… Hurling is a game of warriors. My father was a warrior as was his. It’s a game that should be played all over the planet. Of course, it’s been pussified somewhat, what with helmets and rules. Before that, it was pussified by developing teams. Aye, I yearn for the days when villages went to war against each other in this warrior’s game. Culturally speaking, who gets to say what hurling is and what would pass as a definitive example of it? Fuctifino. Football on the other hand, is shíte and I don’t particularly care what cultural mafioso gets to impose a definitive description.

But the language… “Beidh.” Tis pronounced “buy” you uncivilised monkeys from the east. Enough with your “beg.” That’s a freudian slip, not an example of either language or culture.

Things get very strange for me when I discuss the idea of nationalism with my fellow anarchists. It becomes complicated beyond reason when I try to explain to anarchists from around the planet the differences between the global understanding of nationalism and the Irish version of it. In Greece, for example, the Golden Dawn is the primary nationalist party and best fits the global understanding of nationalism.

I most certainly do not intend to have the same conversation here!

I had an interesting childhood (as did we all I’m sure). My father’s family was from the west, from around Limerick and Tipperary. My mother was a lass from Belfast. Her mother was from an extremely nationalist family (the Irish version of nationalism). Her father wore a sash. That’s love for you… Anyhow, I spent a considerable amount of time up North. I was there when nationalist families were burnt out of their homes and the British army was brought in to protect them (which they obviously failed to do).  I was there for the formation of the Provisionals.  Many members of my mother’s family ended up in Sweden and elsewhere because of their leanings.  Some of them ended up in Sweden and elsewhere because they were effing sick of either side trying to force them to choose sides. That said, I support wholeheartedly the need for the Provisionals and what they did. But I realise and respect that there are equally valid views on this. To further this thought of mine, I supported the need for the Provisionals because of the need to fight back.  I never gave a toss for politics.  Being ruled by wánkers from Dublin or wánkers from London? It’s the wánkers I hate. I don’t care where they’re at.

There is no political solution to the North. When you unite folks under a political banner you set polarities. Two like poles repel and opposite poles accelerate factions together into a cataclysmic annihilation.

The only solution is community. Or rather the only satisfactory solution is community. Enough of the fúckwiths shouting “think this,” or “think that.” Methinks that most of them have seldom pondered anything beyond their bellybuttons anyway.

__________________
Seán Ryan  February 2013

Discussion on Politicalworld.org : “How Do You Achieve A United Ireland” 

First and Foremost – Expose the Exploitative Heart of Capitalism
January 18, 2013

From my own point of view,  I have noticed a certain trend where left wing activists are been sucked into the capitalist agenda, particularly when engaging with the media, on being requested to provide “a realistic and serious alternative”.  Recent examples of this have been where the ULA reps in the Dail were putting forward alternative budget proposals.

My own personal belief is that first and foremost, the principle objective of any left wing activist is to EXPOSE THE EXPLOITATIVE HEART OF CAPITALISM. No other facet of left wing ideology is more important, indeed if we were to look at the Marxist critique, he wrote volumes, Das Capital etc., on exposing the inherent contradictions of capitalism. Therefore my own personal manifesto would have as its primary and agenda-setting principle, a duty to expose the exploitative and virus-like nature of capitalism. In so doing the work of the left wing activist is to link every hospital bed closure, every cut in social welfare, every rise in unemployment, every hike in interest rates etc to the operations of a capitalist system. I do not believe that it is the duty of the broad left wing to “fix or offer appendages to help fix a broken capitalist system” .

Many would argue that the general public demand alternatives, and perhaps rightly so, but the answer that must come from the left wing is that it is only through the dismantling of the capitalist system that any alternative is possible. There are many options once capitalism has been removed, and dare I say it, it does not necessarily involve the imposition of a socialist or communist system either. What I believe earnestly and what I also believe will occur (and perhaps not too far in the distant future) is that through dialogue that begins in the community will rise a resistance that will be rooted in the community, across every village , town and city throughout the world. Ideally this would lead to a formation of true democracy, a democracy that would (akin to the democratic system of the Athenian city states) rise and be formatted from the bottom up. Solutions then that originate, be it a form of socialism, communism or a mixture of both or whatever, once they are grounded in community participation, have a half decent chance of success.

In that respect I believe that the duty of left wing elected reps in the Dail and elsewhere, is to expose to the general public the failure of the present form of capitalist infested democracy. They must expose to the public, the fact that the true owners of democracy are the wealthy elites, and that if voting under the present form of democracy could achieve anything those same wealthy elites would have long since abolished it. When the left wing are then asked by the mouthpieces of those same wealthy elites, the media, what their alternative is the answer is simple…. “no to capitalism” and thereafter “we will let the people decide”. While it is obvious that people cling to nationalistic fervour, I also believe that a vital cog in ending the capitalist machinery of oppression is to go global, communities throughout the world are under siege from capitalist-imposed austerity. The occupy movement are the pure patriots of the downtrodden, they have shown that it is possible to link communities across the globe in a unified offensive against the global oppressors of the possible kindness and compassion that is a capability within the heart and mind of every human being.The left wing must expose the fact that it is capitalism that drives the other non-desirable capabilities of human beings of greed, lust and fear that manifest themselves in the capitalist trademarks of war, poverty and famine.

A simple example of this lies here, what do these workers   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-the-Vita-Cortex-Workers/212225242192914 and these workers   http://globalsociology.com/2012/01/12/peripheral-subsidies-and-core-fairy-tales/ have in common!    It is the transfer of ideas and resistance across borders that will end capitalism, let’s take our cue from the capitalist oppressors, watch their methods, expose how on a global basis the “independent” think tanks attack welfare, public sector workers and healthcare and lets leave the “fixing of capitalism” to the capitalists!

gfmurphy101  (written 2.2012 on politicalworld.org ) 18.1.2013

The EU Unification Project – Applied Elsewhere….
May 28, 2012

An American asked me “How will/would a Federal Europe help Nation-States and vice-versa so that Europe remains a major geopolitics player and Nation-States prosper ?”
.

If we must discuss what’s being proposed for the unification of Europe, and what it means for Nation States on a Global Geopolitical Basis …..

Let’s discuss Federal Continental Union in a North American context, just to give you a bit of perspective on how it feels to have people insist that a European Federalist state is a desirable goal.

So there you have a natural geographical unit like the Continent Of Europe. The expanding EU is already a bigger economy than the US. The Chinese are within touch distance of taking over as the worlds No 1 economy.

The good old US should do what in those circumstances.

A – accept their soon to be number three status, just suck it up and concentrate on running their own country as properly as possible.

B – proceed to enlarge itself by forming a North American Union, with Canada, Mexico, Guatamala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicuragua, Cost Rica, Panama.

How could this be done, how could so many countries with different languages, cultures and economies be moulded into one Union. Why would they be willing to surrender sovereignty to a Union dominated by the US.

Well first you would need to form a free trade block. NAFTA, fits the bill, non threatening. Start with some large countries, the immediate neighbours. Canada and Mexico.

So far, so good or goodish. They need to grow this sucker, there are so many markets and countries on the continent that would benefit from mutual cooperation. Their poverty could be overcome by offering structural funds, a win win scenario.

The US need a goal of economic and social convergence before they offer these funds. They can’t just throw money at banana Republics, let’s bring them up to the USs level. They’ll have a NA parliament, a council of ministers, each country will have a Veto so they will have their own sovereignty otherwise it would be impossible to sell to their electorates. ( North American Economic Community )

Gradually it absorbs some of the smaller countries into the community, progress is being blocked by the need for unanimous votes on nearly everything, the use of the Veto by insignificant smaller countries is frustrating. Why are they holding things up, don’t they know it’s for the common good. The union must be expanded so we can outmanoeuvre the smaller countries. We need to create an entity with more centralised powers like a NAU.

The US offers them structural funds and grooms their political parties by forming alliances with them in the parliament. The real power lies with the council of ministers, they are ardent supporters of the project, 1st World salaries for them in the NAEC administration when they retire from National politics and their share of NAEC pork will make them good advocates of NAEC policy.

Let’s move to the next step, obviously they need to move to a full union, more qualified majority voting is necessary. Let’s form the NAU, we’ll abandon our individual currencies. We’ll have a NA dollar backed by the strength of the US economy, it’ll be controlled by an Independent NACB. What could go wrong?

There’s a worldwide boom, it’s fantasy economics, the bubble should be deflated. The US is going through a tough patch, they don’t want higher interest rates, they want to export to the peripheral countries who are flying high on cheap credit.

The US is back on it’s feet, the fantasy economics have been proven to be just that. The peripheral are in deep trouble, the US and International Finance has so much to lose if the peripheral can’t pay back the loans. The NACB steps in and shores up the private banks of the periphery so that the US and International Finance are guaranteed their money back.

The periphery are shagged, they’re in a weakened state, time to go in for the kill. You advance them loans at high interest rates, they grudgingly accept as TINA and you have them by the privates. You proceed to use the high interest rates on the loans you advanced and control of the “Independent” NACB to exert pressure to finish full fiscal and political Union on your terms.

Game over, NAU is almost complete, you give the peripherals a bit of equality in the NAU parliament which is only a talking shop. The rules have been set in stone by Treaty, try changing them without the say so of the US. You give the peripherals a bit of a writedown on their debt and lower interest rates after you’ve got what you want.

Job done and dusted, you didn’t even have to give the Hondurans an equal say in the running of the NAU. Of course you never intended to, a 300 million population powerhouse economy vs a 7.6 million population banana republic. Only a fool or a dishonest person would ever pretend that was on the cards.

The best part is you get to look down on them, if only they were as organised and ruthless as you they would never have succumbed to their own chronic shortsightedness.

Never mind, they can send their unemployed youth to fight in your army. Every Empire needs an Army, how else would they rig the game in their own favour.

I know which stage the small countries should cry stop at, the Free Trade in exchange for structural funds stage.

The final stage has not been completed, the best thing we can do is refuse to take that final step. If they want their money back they’ll have to come to an agreed solution, they’re not the only ones with cards at the table.

Shaadi  27 May 2012

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