Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

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Razem: Building a left alternative in Poland – Federico Fuentes interviews Zofia Malisz

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Polish left-wing party Razem (Together) International Office member Zofia Malisz speaks to Green Left’s Federico Fuentes about the party’s history, Polish politics and Razem’s views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The source is an Australian website, Greemn Left Weekly https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/razem-building-left-alternative-poland

Razem supports the European Network for Solidarity With Ukraine https://ukraine-solidarity.eu/

January 10, 2023

razem zofia malisz

Members of Razem at May Day in Warsaw in 2022. The banner reads: ‘Housing! Jobs! Decent Pay!’. Inset: Zofia Malesz. Photo: @RazemWM/Twitter

Could you tell us about Razem’s history and politics?

Razem was formed in 2015 by a group of leftist activists with years of experience in the Polish green and feminist movements, along with members of the Young Socialists.

The impetus for creating a new party was two-fold.

One was the frustration that emerged under the liberal Donald Tusk government (2007‒14). Whenever voices started to demand the government focus on social spending instead of cuts and privatisations, Tusk’s response was to say Poland was still in its transformation stage [towards a market economy] and that now was not the time to build up a welfare state.

See also

Poland sets up ‘terrifying’ pregnancy register after banning abortion

Poland: Caught between Western and Russian imperialism

Frustration grew as neoliberal policies were implemented at breakneck speed to indulge business elites, while people were denied even modest social benefits and public services were being dismantled.

All this occurred as anti-austerity protests were taking place in Greece, something we supported and that inspired Razem.

The other major factor was the protests against the Iraq war and against Poland’s participation in the occupation of Afghanistan. Several activists who went on to build Razem came from these protest movements.

The revelations of alleged illegal US prisons in Poland used to torture al-Qaeda members created huge outrage. Seeing the Polish government bow down to US imperialism unchallenged — and in fact encouraged by the mainstream, including former Solidarność activists — fuelled frustration on the left.

Razem was formed as an expression of this anger and frustration that had built up during the transformation process.

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Transgender Rights – “Scotland is now ahead of the rest of the UK – though still behind Ireland” – Michael Farrell

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Veteran human rights activist Michael Farrell has campaigned in favour of transgender people for many decades. He publicly posted this comment in support of a recent Scottish Parliament Law reform:

Congratulations to the Scottish Parliament for taking a big step to protect transgender rights and resisting a bitter campaign by anti-trans groups to prevent them from making it easier for trans persons to get legal recognition. The new law, passed by 86 votes to 39, means trans people won’t have to get a medical diagnosis and wait for two yeas to register their gender. Scotland is now ahead of the rest of the UK – though still behind Ireland. A good day for a small community of people who have been abused and discriminated against for generations.

Michael Farrell, a founding member of People’s Democracy, was a revolutionary socialist activist in the six counties of Northern Ireland during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

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A Crisis in 21st Century Feminism – Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees – Choice Should be the Guiding Principle

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This interesting post comes from an Irish-American activist, Mary Scully :

There’s a deep crisis in modern feminism around fundamental questions of women’s oppression. Philosophical idealists like Judith Butler have taken over the narrative, gained ideological dominance, & destroyed its relevance for working class women. One of the chief symptoms of this decline is the almost complete lack of solidarity with Muslim women who wear the hijab or niqab whilst at the same time supporting women resisting the forcible imposition of the headscarf.

They get the concept of resistance but that’s not good enough if they refuse to accept the concept of choice, as if Muslim women were just empty-headed Barbie dolls in scarfs.

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For an Ireland Where Trans and Non-binary People are Equal Safe and Valued

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Both states in Ireland – formally independent in the South, controlled by Britain in the North – have a vile creepy history : child abuse, suppression of women’s rights, reactionary religious control of health and education. This “Carnival of Reaction” has deep strong foundations, built following the reactionary partition of Ireland in 1922. In recent decades, especially in the formally independent part of Ireland, popular rebellion has attacked the reactionary carnival – most notably when a constitutional abortion was repealed in a May 2018 referendum.

In days gone by a “Belt of the Crozier” firmly struck by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid was enough to kill Noël Browne’s 1950 Mother and Child Scheme. These days, after a tsunami of child abuse scandals and clerical criminal convictions, far-right causes such as transphobia are, at the popular level, rightly seen as a thin edge of the wedge. They remind us of dark periods we Irish experienced in the recent past.

A media outlet, the Joe Duffy RTÉ Liveline Show, have a mass audience. It is not directly associated with the religious far-right in Ireland. However, it has started to offer an often uncontested platform to government anti-feminist propaganda, targeting the publicly funded National Women’s Council of Ireland.

The broadcaster is not backing down : “I found it deeply disturbing after my 25 years of presenting here to be told that a debate on Liveline was ‘incredibly irresponsible’ in the context of increasing transphobic and homophobic attacks,” the presenter says, referring to a statement from the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, before adding that the censuring was “insulting” to his programme staff and, indeed, his listeners.” (Source Irish Times, June 17 2022).

A coalition Trans Equality Together led by TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland), BeLonG To and LGBT Ireland was launched last week with the aim of creating an Ireland where trans people are equal, safe and valued. Pictured: (L-R) Tiernan Arnup from AMACH! LGBT Galway, Jayson Pope, an LGBTQ+ youth activist and Matt Kennedy, of BelongTo. Picture: Julien Behal (Source Irish Examiner)

A number of human rights organizations have come together opposing the reactionary anti-trans offensive. In very measured language they state :

On 9th, 10th and 13th June, RTÉ Radio 1′s Liveline show discussed matters of gender identity. Trans Equality Together, and our members, share a common concern about these episodes, and we support Dublin Pride’s decision to terminate its media partnership with RTÉ and its consultation with Trans Equality Together about this decision.

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‘Declare it to a doctor, and it’s over’: Ukrainian women face harsh reality of Poland’s abortion laws

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This article from the British Guardian Newspaper can be read here : http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article62437. The reporter, Weronika Strzyżyńska, advises :

Leftwing politicians recently suggested amendments to a recent bill passing through the Polish government on the reception of Ukrainian refugees, which would force prosecutors to issue the necessary documentation within a seven-day period. The proposal was rejected by the Sejm, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament.

Solidarity with refugees includes allowing women to access an abortion, especially when a woman reports she has been raped by members of an invading army. Ukrainian women do not have access to this service in Poland. Pressure must be put on the Warsaw government to change itds restrictive anti-abortion laws. The European Network for Solidarity with Ukraine is raising this issue, in conjunction with the polish political party, Razem. Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_Together https://ukraine-solidarity.eu/

Women turn to aid groups for help, with many unaware their rights to reproductive healthcare have vanished upon crossing the border

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Abortion Rights in the USA Shredded to Bits – Supreme Court Likely to Overturn Historic 1973 Roe V Wade Ruling

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The USA Supreme Court, dominated by far-right Justices such as Donald Trump nominee Amy Coney-Barrett, is likely to overturn the constitutional right to access an abortion. Joan McKiernan, an Irish-American activist, reports from New York.


We Won’t Go Back!

This was one of the slogans shouted by angry protesters gathered in the thousands in cities across the US after the leak of the Supreme Court’s plan to overturn the constitutional right to abortion provided in the Roe v Wade case. We know the Supreme Court as the place to go to fight for rights. But this time the Court is taking away a right – to control our bodies, which is fundamental to the quest for women’s independence. 

Diane Feeley, speaking at a rally in Detroit, explained what we fought for fifty years ago. “Before 1973, the women’s movement called for free abortion on demand, 24-hour childcare available to all, opposition to sterilization abuse and equal pay for equal work. We testified at legislative hearings, brought class-action lawsuits, organized speak outs and tribunals, picketed and marched, built networks of support for those who needed underground abortions, told our stories and reached out to women internationally.” Unfortunately, the middle class dominated feminist movement settled for much less in the Roe decision. This based the right to abortion on the tenuous notion of privacy implied in the 14th Amendment, rooted in the end of slavery and Reconstruction, which prohibits states from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property without due process”.

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Ireland’s National Maternity Hospital – Questions over “murky” new company’s role

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Doctor Peter Boylan – a former master of the National Maternity Hospital – and Róisín Shortall TD – co-leader of the Social Democrats party – are leading voices in a chorus of criticism directed against a proposed new Irish National Maternity Hospital. Their detailed policies on this issue are below. The source is the Irish Examiner newspaper, May 2 and 3 2022 issues. https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/politics/arid-40864076.html

These two relentless campaigners have focussed on “murky” Vatican plans to control women’s healthcare in Ireland. A number of Dáil political parties positioned on the left have aligned themselves with Shortall and Boylan’s critical campaign – Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, Social Democrats, Solidarity-People Before Profit, plus others such as Leas Ceann Comhairle Catherine Connolly. A political firestorm erupted this week, which has frightened the Green Party, a junior partner in the ruling FFFGGG coalition headed by Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin. A government plan to finalise Holy See control of the new Maternity Hospital is currently “paused” for two weeks after Green Party TD’s such as Neasa Hourigan (Dublin Central) responded to growing public opposition.

John Meehan May 5 2022

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Prevent Vatican Control of Ireland’s New National Maternity Hospital

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According to an Irish Times report (May 4 2022) the Dublin government is delaying implementation of a scheme to allow Vatican control over a new National Maternity Hospital in Ireland :

two members of the HSE board, Prof Deirdre Madden and Dr Sarah McLoughlin, dissented from a decision to approve the legal documents.

Green Party TDs Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello were among dozens of party members who wrote to the party’s Ministers to “implore” them to block the proposed moved.

Opposition politicians yesterday called on the Government to delay approval of the move before an Oireachtas debate on the matter.

Anne Conway reports : “The New Maternity Hospital Deal is rotten to the core. The new St Vincent’s Holdings Company that will run the new hospital being associated with The Panama Papers shows the immorality of it all. The economic brutality of the religious who were involved in instigating the new NMH handover is mirrored in their brutality to women and children in their care in industrial schools,Magdalen Laundries etc. Sexual abuse occured so paedophiles were among them. How can the Government proceed with handing over a 1 billion plus state of the art hospital to these people?”

Marie O’Connor’s detailed article (see below) gives readers the facts – a shady business deal is designed to prevent the new National Maternity Hospital being public and secular.

A public demonstration occurs on Saturday May 7 at 2.00pm outside the gates of Leinster House, Kildare Street – notice is below.

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Convicted Criminal Ghislaine Maxwell – Low Media Standards, an Irish Link, and a Prince of England

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A lot of public commentary about the convicted criminal Ghislaine Maxwell, her late boss Jeffrey Epstein, and an alleged client, Britain’s Prince Andrew, suffers from low media standards. An interesting exception is the reporting of a former BBC correspondent John Sweeney.

It is a horrific story. Known credible allegations should be highlighted.

Lazy speculation and lurid gossip should be avoided.

John Sweeney – a Blogger-Journalist who carefully assesses hard evidence

John Sweeney carefully assesses real hard evidence. The author avoids sloppy tabloid-gossip methods. He explains the serious evidence very well. The scandal is far from over in the courts – especially in the case of the British state’s Prince called Andrew.
John Sweeney explains no evidence was presented at the Maxwell trial implicating Bill Clinton in either trafficking or criminal sexual intercourse with underage women. Evidence was presented proving that Clinton, ex US President Donald Trump and other wealthy powerful men accepted freebie flights given by Epstein and Maxwell. Sweeney sarcastically observes at one point that men such as Clinton and Trump enjoyed having sex with 23 year old women – the Epstein/Maxwell gang assisted them.
Sweeney also explores very interesting connections between the criminal behaviour of Ghislaine Maxwell and her late father Robert Maxwell : a corrupt billionaire who died after he fell off his private luxury yacht “Lady Ghislaine” in disputed circumstances.

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Workers’ Solidarity Movement (Ireland) has come to an end

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I developed a lot of political respect for comrades of the WSM, who worked well with political rivals on political campaigns where common objectives were sought.

I think particularly of referendum campaigns opposing various pro-austerity European Union treaties, and referendums on the Irish abortion ban which was finally removed from the state constitution in 2017. Also, many WSM comrades worked in a collaborative way with other revolutionary left activists in trade union activities and the mass boycotts of water charges and the property tax. The political difference which could never be resolved was : participation in state elections. Once the Irish revolutionary Left made a small but significant electoral breakthrough – moving from margins to better connection with mass struggles – the political writing was on the wall for electoral boycott anarchism. In my opinion that trend began – we are still living through it – when Joe Higgins scored an extraordinary by election success in Dublin West in 1996, running as an anti Water Tax candidate, and as a member of the Socialist Party. Higgins lost that contest by a very small margin, but comfortably won a Dáil seat in the following 1997 General Election, unseating then Labour TD and coalition minister Joan Burton.

The political difference which could never be resolved was : participation in state elections.

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