Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Ukraine and Palestine : “You don’t mean exactly peace talks. You mean capitulation, surrendering….That kind of conversation between the sword & the neck.”

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A correspondent, Mary Scully, explains an important difference.

Wonder why so many demand Ukraine negotiate surrender when it would be absolutely unthinkable to propose the same to Palestinians, Kashmiris, Rohingya & amoral to pressure them to reach an accommodation with their oppressors over their human, democratic, & national liberation rights? As Ghassan says, he has never seen such talks between a colonialist power & a national liberation movement. Under a different leadership, when Palestinians did sit down & talk with Israel & the US, it ended up with the Oslo Accords legitimizing occupation & expropriation & justifying genocide. It turned the Palestinian leadership against their own people. That’s what Ghassan meant about a ‘conversation between the sword & the neck’.

Lastly, we wonder how those who demand Ukrainians negotiate the terms of their surrender to Russia feel about holding the exact same position as Henry Kissinger? Do they believe that the Dr. Strangelove of international mass murder actually has peace & the best interests of the Ukrainian people in mind? Will they ask him to speak at their lilliputian rallies against that NATO proxy war?

Above all in politics, listen to the voices of resistance & human liberation like Ghassan Kanafani & Maqbool Bhat & shout down the monsters of war like Kissinger.

“You don’t mean exactly peace talks”

A correspondent, writing for the Cedar Lounge Revolution (CLR) Blog, dismisses shallow blather in Ireland and abroad following the publication of a Sabina Coyne-Higgins letter calling for a negotiated end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The CLR author points out that little effort has been made to engage with what was actually said.

In our own conflicts, whose centenaries we have been commemorating, each time the fighting was ended by a ceasefire being called, followed by negotiation. This was so in the 1916 Rising, in the War of Independence, and in our tragic Civil War.

Sabina Coyne-Higgins, Letter published in the Irish Times, July 27 2022

It is unlikely Sabina Coyne-Higgins fully reflected on the examples she listed. The 1916 Easter Rising ended in complete military defeat. An unconditional surrender was followed by widespread repression. The Civil War resulted in a military victory for the Irish capitalists on both sides of a newly partitioned island, followed by social counter-revolution and decades of reaction. Irish society has only recently begun to fully recover. In short, it was 100 years of a “Carnival of Reaction” predicted by the executed 1916 Rising martyr, the Revolutionary Marxist James Connolly.

The CLR correspondent explains :

There were no negotiations worthy of the term following the Rising. There was an unconditional surrender and then imprisonment of many of those involved (with about 3,500 imprisoned) and the execution of some of their leadership (90 sentenced to death, 14 executed).

There was a negotiation after the War of Independence. But the substance of that doesn’t make for a comfortable framing in the context of the argument made in the quoted paragraph above. It was precisely because the Irish fought against the British and achieved if not a parity of arms at a minimum an ability to make British rule, as it had been, impossible. There were terms imposed by the British but the gains in the Treaty were substantial enough to allow for a significant proportion of those fighting and those who they fought for to accept the outcome (but in fairness some didn’t and they continued to fight, though not against the British). But it was also in no small part an imposed peace – with no Republic and the partition of the island. Which is precisely what led to the Civil War over those issues (albeit to differing degrees). Or as a friend noted, “Every great power, ever, gets to impose its will because small countries can’t hope to beat them.” That’s the reality unless those small countries are able to fend off as best they can the greater powers.

The end of the Civil War similarly did not result in a ‘negotiation’. Essentially there was a ceasefire order at which point the conflict, already in decline, petered out. Peace negotiations had started in May organised by the Free State government but they broke down. There was no formal peace. 13,000 Republicans remained in prison at the end of the conflict, and while they were released slowly but surely over the next number of years those who took the Anti-Treaty side suffered significantly in the post-Civil War dispensation – unable to gain work in the Free State, ironically many left for Britain and other points, until Fianna Fáil came to power, near enough a decade later.

All this isn’t irrelevant. It has a specific relation to our history, whatever the larger ramifications, and it has implications as to the understanding of our history and present. Is this a sort of retrofitting of the past to a Good Friday Agreement template which is not particularly applicable with regard to the past events referenced. If so what does that tell us about the framing of the history of this island at this point?

100 years later, we can productively use knowledge of history to look at the results.

Sum it up in very few words?

The Pro-Treaty Side claimed the Treaty was, in the words of Michael Collins, a “stepping stone” to Irish Unity.

Wrong : it was a millstone on the neck of the Irish Working Class.

The good guys lost.

John Meehan August 7 2022

Source, James Connolly, Labour and the Proposed Partition of Ireland, March 14 1914 :

Such a scheme as that agreed to by Redmond and Devlin, the betrayal of the national democracy of industrial Ulster would mean a carnival of reaction both North and South, would set back the wheels of progress, would destroy the oncoming unity of the Irish Labour movement and paralyse all advanced movements whilst it endured.

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