Thursday, September 30, 2010

Anglo Cement Lorry Protester Morphing into Hero in an Ireland Seething with Pent-UP Fury

Yesterday was the opening day of the Dáil, our Parliament, once a revolutionary institution set up as an alternative centre of democratic power in Ireland before the British state relinquished political control of Ireland. Nowadays the Dáil is widely derided by the people of Ireland as the soiled and festering bed of parasites, gougers, shoneens, gombeens, and gobshites who run this poor benighted country. So as a result I have'nt heard anything but sympathy for the man who rammed the gates the Dáil building yesterday morning with a cement lorry, covered with slogans protesting about how the debts of Anglo-Irish bank being shouldered by the people of Ireland is grinding this country and its people into a morass of unemployment and sovereign debt that this state will be paying off for generations.

The cost of bailing out Anglo Irish Bank, the lender at the centre of Ireland's financial crisis, could rise to €34bn (£29.1bn) under a worst case scenario, the Irish central bank admitted today. The news came as the country's finance minister warned that the failure of the nationalised bank would "bring down" Ireland, and warned of further austerity measures.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Brian Lenihan said Ireland had no choice but to act. "Any Anglo failure would bring down the sovereign. It is systemically important not because of any intrinsic merit in the bank, I can assure [you] I don't see any. But because of its size relative to the national balance sheet. No country could contemplate the failure of such an institution," he said."The soaring costs of supporting the Irish banking system will cause the government's budget deficit to rise to 32% of gross domestic product this year, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said in his statement on Thursday.The EU limits only permit a deficit to reach 3% of GDP ideally....That estimate places the deepest deficit for any euro-zone country since the launch of the shared currency in 1999. Ireland, like other fiscally weakened countries such as Greece and Portugal and Spain, has been struggling to imposed radical spending cuts and tax increases to close budget gaps without triggering another recession.

What really infuriates people here is that....

i) the bankers and their cronies who brought the country to ruin are still swanning around Ireland and the world apparently completely immune to prosecution..Michael Lynn the lawyer who shafted €40 million off of his clients is sunning himself in the Algarve apparently without seemingly a care in the world. Sean Fitzpatrick the former boss of Anglo would have the courts believe he is on €188 a month when he continues to live a millionaire lifestyle.. (see seanie golfing pic) A lifefestyle he is enjoying courtesy of his wife who seems to have ready access to millions surprise surprise....seen here driving that battered old vehicle ...There is a widespread feeling that these creatures are beneficiaries of a discreet web of protection from the highest levels of gombeenism in this disfunctional (even by capitalist standards) state.

ii) The so called 'small people' who owe money or who protest are pursued with the full force of the state, the Anglo Avenger cement lorry driver is to be charged by the Director of Public Prosecutions with criminal damage, and no doubt fined heavily or even imprisoned. A young man made jobless in the crisis was jailed for failing to pay a €240 euro fine, he was released only when his father drew attention to this on the Joe Duffy liveline programme on RTE radio 1

People here are angry, but they have'nt got a focus to trigger a mass response. the organised trade union movement grew scared at the strength of workers responses to the few days of action organised in the Spring...the Trade Union bosses at SIPTU sold us out and signed a deal with government to stymie public sector resistance. The so called 'Labour Party' lead by ex-stickie Eamon Gilmore is so desperate to get into government they are not leading anything other than token verbal resistance. Quite frankly Sinn Féin seems paralysed and unimaginative and unwilling to mobilise mass protest.

Popular mass protests WILL erupt here, all that is required is the spark to ignite the blue touchpaper leading to the huge powder keg of anger waiting to explode....

European Workers Stir....Resistance is on the Agenda

Derek Kotz in Brussels, in Morning Star, Wednesday 29 September 2010

CLEAR MESSAGE: Protestors walk past a billboard which reads: 'No to austerity' during a demonstration in Brussels on Wednesday

The halls of EU power in Brussels trembled to the footsteps of more than 100,000 workers on Wednesday as they converged from across Europe to reject crippling austerity cuts.

Trade unions and activists representing 24 countries brought the city to a standstill as they snaked their way through the streets with a thunderous march that ended in a rally at the Esplanade du Cinquantenaire park.

As Spanish workers staged a general strike and Greek rail staff walked out over privatisation, the common call in a multitude of languages was for co-ordinated action against the biggest attack on Europe's working class since the 1930s.

A sea of banners proclaimed that workers would not be forced to pay with their jobs and services for a crisis caused by the unmitigated greed of bankers.

Banners and flags from RMT, PCS, NUT, TSSA, CWU, Napo, Unite and Usdaw were prominent among a noisy British contingent.

Brussels police were out in force, barricading the entrance of every bank in the city as well as the European Commission headquarters. But the massive event passed peacefully.

As the day of action - called by trade union umbrella organisation ETUC - took place outside, the EU Commission announced a package of proposals to crack down on hard-pressed member states, threatening them with huge fines if they failed to run their economies "efficiently."

Speaking to the Star from the rally, RMT leader Bob Crow condemned dangerous EU moves to impose centralised caps on public-sector pay and sanctions against member states deemed not to be cutting deep or fast enough.

"Workers across Europe face the same threat to jobs, public services and pensions, and that threat originates from exactly the same source - the centralised banks and the political elite who do their bidding," he explained.

Twinings Usdaw convenor Pete Millward emphasised the importance of public and private sector workers struggling together against the cuts, warning that the British government's plans to cut 600,000 public sector jobs would also mean "700,000 private sector job losses."

And he rubbished government claims that there was no alternative.

Unison youth delegate Gerry Cowell, a musician outreach worker from Colchester, was proud to be on the march alongside other workers and pensioners.

"It is important for us all to unite to oppose cuts wherever and to make our protest locally, nationally and acros Europe," she told the Star.

FBU national officer Dave Green hailed the "fantastic turnout" saying that it showed "the enormous level of resistance to austerity measures that governments will face."

He added: "Economies across Europe have been brought to the verge of collapse by the out-of-control greed of bankers."

Portuguese union UGT international officer Wanda Guimaraes made the point that workers "draw their strength from unity.

"Today's demonstration shows the trade union movement is a huge family that is united against cuts and poverty and against non-inclusive societies."

She stressed that unions had a responsibility to lead the fight to save services and jobs across the continent.

Organised pensioners across the continent also joined the march, with Dot Gibson of the British-based National Pensioners Convention stressing: "It is important for pensioners to link up with the union movement in opposing the cuts and attacks on workers pensions."

She said she was looking forward to a meeting next week with French, Italian and Spanish pensioners' organisations held in Paris to discuss their united response to the cuts.

Cedric Mahu of France's CGT union, which had 10,000 delegates on the march, said he would be on strike again on October 12 in his country's national strike against attempts by the Sarkozy government to take the hatchet to French workers' pensions.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leitrim’s Unrepentant Communist- Jim Gralton

On August 13, 1933 Jim Gralton was forced to board a Trans-Atlantic Liner in Cork which was to set sail for the USA. Jim had been arrested on August 10 at a friend’s house in Gorvagh, County Leitrim and brought to Ballinamore Barracks where he was detained before being brought to Cork for his deportation. He had been living on the run since February of that year following the issuing of a deportation order by the courts who ruled that he had to leave Ireland by March 5. His deportation 77 years ago makes him the only native Irishman to be deported from this state.

He was born in Effernagh close to Carrick on Shannon in County Leitrim on April 17 1886. His education, such as it was, was received in nearby Kiltoghert school. Like most young people at the time, he left school early, aged just 14. After working for a number of employers in the local area, fed up with the harsh treatment he and others suffered at their hands, Jim headed for Dublin where he enlisted in the British army.

His rebellious behaviour was not long coming through and he endured punishment of 84 days on “bread and water” for his refusal to shine the leggings and buttons of one of his officers. He was then posted to India, but refused to go in protest at British policies in Ireland. For his defiance and protest, Jim was jailed for a year and subsequently deserted the army, going to work for a time in the coal mines of Wales and in Liverpool docks.

He then got employment as a ship’s stoker and eventually settled in New York where he became a US citizen in 1909. In the midst of the great wealth in the USA, Jim was appalled at the harsh, slave-like conditions that workers endured, which led him to become a firm believer in supporting the rights of workers and in socialism.

From the time he arrived in the US, Jim was active in supporting and raising much needed funds for both the Irish republican struggle and for fellow workers in New York. He became a member of the US Communist Party and became heavily involved in trade union activity. In the wake of the 1916 Rising, and after studying of the writings of James Connolly, Jim became a founding member of the James Connolly Club in New York.

Almost a decade and a half after arriving in the US, Jim decided to return home to Ireland in June 1921, just a month before the truce in the Tan War commenced on the 11th of July. During the war, the notorious Black and Tans had burnt the local Temperance Hall beside Gowel Church to the ground. On his return, Jim promised local people he would replace it and set about, with his own money and with local support, building a new hall on his father’s land near Effernagh crossroads.

The new hall, named the Pearse-Connolly Hall, was eventually opened on December 31 1921 and became an integral part of the everyday lives of the local community. Amongst its many uses was the holding in classes of a wide range of subjects including Irish, English, music, dancing, civics and agricultural science. This was also a time of many land disputes and the Hall was also used to hold Land Courts to settle many of these disputes. Despite the good work Jim was doing for his community and despite the valuable educational service that was been provided, not everyone was happy.

The Catholic Church in particular were extremely unhappy. They denounced him at every opportunity, at the pulpit during mass and in letters, going as far as to describe him as an extremely dangerous socialist and even an “Anti-Christ”. They accused him of “leading a campaign of Land agitation”, of trying to take the youth of the area away from the Catholic Church and of teaching communism to them in his classes.

The Free State forces also were unhappy with his activities, and on May 24 1922, they raided the Hall in a failed attempt to arrest Jim. The following month, as Civil War loomed, he got out and returned to the US. He did not return to Ireland until 1932 following the death of his brother Charlie who looked after and ran the family farm and following the securing of power in the Twenty-Six Counties by Fianna Fáil. Like many other people at that time, Jim was of the mistaken belief that a Fianna Fáil government would allow for the development of progressive politics in his homeland.

Following his return to Ireland, Jim re-opened the Pearse-Connolly Hall which had been closed for many years while he was in the US. He also involved himself once again in left-wing agitation, joining the Revolutionary Workers’ Group [a forerunner of the Communist Party of Ireland]. As well as the hall being used for dances and other social activities, meetings were also held there highlighting issues such as unemployment and the rights of workers and tenants.

He spoke at many anti-eviction meetings and following the eviction of a worker from his home in Keadue, in Co Roscommon, Jim joined with a local IRA group in re-instating the worker and his family back into their family home. This radicalism and persistent campaigning on such issues was of major concern once again to conservatives in general and to the Catholic Church and Fianna Fáil in particular.

Once again, Jim was denounced as a massive campaign was launched by the clergy against him and the views he represented. Shamefully, many of his former comrades turned their backs on him, as the church demanded that the Hall, which they described as a “den of iniquity” be shut down.

The Hall came under physical attack on many occasions. Shots were fired into it during a dance and an attempt to blow it up with a bomb failed. Finally, on Christmas Eve 1932, the Hall was eventually destroyed when it was burned to the ground.

In February of 1933, at the behest of the Catholic Church, the Fianna Fáil government ordered the deportation of Jim from his homeland by March 5 on the spurious grounds of him being an “undesirable alien”. Instead of complying with the order, Jim went on the run, staying with friends and neighbours in the area. During his time on the run, the Revolutionary Workers’ Group organised a campaign in support of Jim. Public meetings were organised and addressed by Jim himself, and by other prominent republican socialists of the time such as George Gilmore and Peadar O’Donnell. Many of these meetings were attacked and broken up by reactionaries.

Finally on August 10 1933, the Free State caught up with Jim, capturing him at a friend’s house in Gorvagh. He was taken to Ballinamore Barracks where he was detained before being transported to Cork where he was put on board a Trans-Atlantic Liner and deported to the US against his will. He was never again allowed to return to Ireland.

Undeterred, upon his arrival back in the US, Jim once again got involved in trade unionism and left wing politics. Along with Gerald O’Reilly, a close colleague of George Gilmore, Jim set up the Irish Workers’ Group in New York. He became a trade union organiser, encouraging the involvement of women within the unions, and set about promoting, republishing and distributing the works of James Connolly. During the Spanish Civil War, he raised funds for the International Brigades who were going to Spain to fight against fascism and in defence of the Republic.

A committed and unrepentant communist up to his last breath, Jim Gralton died in exile in New York on December 29 1945 and is buried in Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx area of the City.

To conclude fittingly, the final words go to a comrade of Jim’s, Charlie Byrne. Speaking at Jim’s Graveside in the Bronx in 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his death, Charlie said:

“Let all of us who believe in the principles for which Gralton stood, pledge ourselves anew to the continuation of the fight for the complete political, cultural and economic rights of the working classes in all lands, no crying, no weeping over his grave at Woodlawn. There is work to be done, so let us carry on; Gralton would have it that way.”