Jun 24, 2019

How the Irish Became Troubled

by Kristian Williams

The May 23 issue of the London Review of Books contains a lengthy article by Clair Wills, briefly sketching out a different sort of three-way fight during the Troubles in Northern Ireland: "The Catholic community’s reasonable demands for an end to discrimination were met with a violent backlash, orchestrated by Protestant extremists and supported by a sectarian police force [until the] . . . British army brought peace to the streets."

Relatively quickly, one of these parties became definitely aligned with another, creating a more straightforward bipolar conflict: "on one side [were] 'Tories,' the RUC, the army, the military police, Paisley and his supporters, and [the legislature at] Stormont," and "on the other were moderates, socialists, republicans, and . . . 'hooligans'." But then, again, a third force emerged: "the women's peace movement.

Wills' abbreviated history also contains many cautionary points about the tendency of violence to become self-perpetuating with little ultimate gain, the uneasy relationship between ethnic identity and economic inequality, and the inadequacy of "power-sharing" arrangements that "institutionalized rather than transcended sectarianism."  Undoubtedly there are lessons here that might reach beyond the context of the six counties.

The full article by Wills, originally at LRB, can also be found at the website, Portside

Excerpts from the article,
Eamonn McCann’s War and an Irish Town was published some months later. It is an account of how the working-class revolution McCann had hoped to bring about in Derry in 1968 developed, by the early 1970s, into sectarian warfare. Reissued last year, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the October 1968 civil rights march in Derry, it is a study in the messy history of violence. There are no clear beginnings to this story and, as we were reminded by the killing of Lyra McKee on 18 April this year, there is no clear end either...

 Yet looking back from a distance of nearly fifty years what is most striking about War and an Irish Town is the clash between the clarity (and simplifications) of its account of Northern Ireland’s past, and McCann’s confusion over the meaning of the present. He tells a detailed history of the events he has just lived through, including the IRA split in 1970, the growth of republican sentiment among the protesters, the effects of the programme of mass internment in 1971, of Bloody Sunday in January 1972 and the introduction of direct rule from Westminster in March of that year. He acknowledges the part played by ‘old’ republicans, as well as the newer kinds – socialist republicans in the Official IRA, and irreconcilables like Martin McGuinness, who joined the Provisionals. He describes how the British soldiers took on the role of the RUC, until they became indistinguishable from it. (‘The only difference between the army and the RUC was that the army was better at it.’) But the story he tells is also of people caught up in events, rather than orchestrating them. Even as the crisis unfolded ‘outsiders’ kept trying to determine who started it, but for McCann that is the wrong question: ‘The controversies which occupied hours of parliamentary time and acres of newsprint, about which side threw the first stone or whether the soldiers, when the fighting started, had acted impartially – were of little interest to the rioters and potential rioters of the Bogside and the Creggan.’

Jun 13, 2019

Federal Judge Grants Defense Motion and Dismisses Charges Against Members of the Nazi Organization, Rise Above Movement

The following comes from some discussion contributors to Three Way Fight have had after, on June 4th, a federal judge granted a defense motion and dismissed charges against three members of the Nazi organization, Rise Above Movement (RAM). The two count indictment, under the federal Anti-Riot Act, were deemed by the presiding judge to be a “violation of the First Amendment”. After the State made multiple arrests and the charging of RAM members - including the FBI’s seizure and extradition of a RAM leader back to the US from Mexico - what does this dropping of charges mean?
R.A.M. - Photo by Brian Feinzimer
It’s Going Down posts a good article outlining those questions and the cases potential relation to U.S. based revolutionary antifascist movements.
For us, the main impact is that one of the tools the State could potentially use against our movements took a very significant hit, which is always good news. – IGD interview
To be clear, the charges were dismissed by the court - not dropped by the government. The attorneys for the RAM defendants filed motions arguing that the indictments should be dismissed because the federal Anti-Riot Act is unconstitutional. The government opposed those motions and lost. The dismissal is certainly a defeat for the government and a victory for the militant far-right and white nationalists.

The ruling is notable should the government charge anti-fascists and other Leftists under the federal anti-riot statute; the government might re-consider using this statute in the future and stick to usual strategies.
It’s also at least arguable that they were looking to test out the Anti-Riot Act to see how it would hold up. The Anti-Riot Act is incredibly broad and covers a lot of conduct, which eases the evidentiary burden on the prosecution, but it’s also rarely used and relatively untested from a legal standpoint. - IGD interview
In light of the dismissal we should imagine the far-right is celebrating this ruling. 

The outcome makes the point that while the ruling may embolden far rightists in the short term, it weakens one of the legal repression tools that the state can use against the left.  Also, and of specific relation to revolutionary antifascists, the IGD interviews last section calls for "rejecting the reductive logic of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'" and "continu[ing] to articulate how the State vs. fascist drama is a power struggle between two poles that both have incredibly destructive designs for us."

For more background on the RAM case, read the October 17, 2018 article Autonomous Antifascism, State Repression & Arrests By Northern California Anti-Racist Action