Dec 232016
 

By Suz Reid.

Several parents attending regular awareness events in Aberdeen, bring their compassionate young children, who have clear ideas on the animal welfare issue of fur farming. When you talk to these children they are naturally aware that killing an animal that has feelings is wrong.

They question everything including; why would you kill an animal for its fur and pay lots of money to wear it on a jacket, bag or hat?

“We allow the children to come as we are peaceful and want people to see even children know fur is wrong, we work together to collect signatures and hand out leaflets informing people of how barbaric skinning an animal alive for fashion is” explains Fiona Melvin (Co-founder of Say No Fur to Aberdeen Fashion).

Good question why are we so disconnected to the feeling of other animals, is it because they don’t speak our language? If you talk to someone who rescues an abused animal they will tell you how the animal responds to set emotion and responses. With kindness, structure and love they become confident and display affection. Which should open questions of why we feel we have the right to cause pain and suffering to other animals just to wear their skin.

“I feel Really strongly about the use of real fur, and we feel so upset to think people are actually buying it even when some know how it’s sourced and there’s plenty of alternatives without harming animals” said Laura Lotus Flower.

What the recent article in the local press – apart from unfounded claims by Escale France – failed to address, was the animal welfare in the fur trade or rather the lack of it. In this instance one shop Escale France named in the Press & Journal, is more than aware of the suffering of animals for the fur items bought in Europe to be displayed in her boutique. Profit margins versus animal suffering; with no information on the animal suffering being mentioned. I aim to address the balance.

Isobel from The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT) states:

“People who buy fur intentionally, have been told by retailers that fur products are ‘responsibly sourced’ and come from ‘humane fur farms’ – in all of our investigations we have never seen any evidence of ethical or humane fur farming, and what’s more we cannot agree that it is ever ethical to take an animal’s life for the purposes of fashion.”

In fur farming there is no day light let into the large barns that the animals are housed, the cages are small, metal surrounds them. They do not see any human kindness, food slop is throw in as they squirm and writhe around often covered in their own faeces…they squeal to each other communication. In a prison waiting for the day they are dragged from that hell, to the pain of its slow death.

What about the trapping method? Days go by without the trap being checked, the animal caught may be endangered. In agony the animal chews at its limbs in desperation to free itself. It might have a litter waiting for feeding. So much suffering…

When you are told they don’t get skinned alive, you are being lied to.

They are close to death but still their hearts beat, they are often still breathing, semi conscious. There is no vet checks to minimise suffering. They can’t move because they have been stunned or particularly gassed.
They have endured, suffered …and then their bodies are dumped useless, dying from the horrendous pain of having their fur taken, crushed in the final blow by mechanical machine.

That is just mink farms. What about foxes, rabbit, raccoon, dog, cat they are all animals that feel? Does it matter? Yes it does. We should care how fur is being produced, because it has come to this. We banned it in the UK so we could stop the cruelty. Yet we allow it to happen elsewhere so we don’t have to care.

Isobel from CAFT comments:

“Animal welfare has never been at the top of the government’s agenda, especially our current government who have tabled such things as repealing the Hunting Act. This is why this is a social struggle, to raise awareness amongst the public about the horrors of the fur trade, encourage the boycott of any shop that sells real animal fur, and ask retailers to adopt fur free policies in their stores.”

People from Aberdeen care, they were not from animal activist group, they found others cared. They came together online, they researched what happens, they emailed other organisations which had the proof of what goes on behind the scenes. They have had open dialogue with three other shops in Aberdeen. Two of those shop owners signed the petition against Escale France. They didn’t agree with selling fur for vanity, currently the signature total for the petition is 1600.

One owner who had old stock on sale, agreed to remove those from her shop, along with making us aware she was a vegan and didn’t agree with the fur trade.

Cruise Fashion removed a Canada Goose jacket from the main shop, however, they are still selling fur and there is UK wide protests against this with CAFT. Inverurie Garden Centre had hundreds of customers up in arms with their fur trim accessories. They claim to have removed these items, though allegation have been made by a customer who visited the shop recently of the items still being available. Several other shops in Aberdeen and the North East continue to stock fur items.

John Robins of Animal Concern issued a warning to people doing their Christmas shopping or looking for bargains in the January sales:

“Do not always assume that fake fur is in fact fake fur. Fur is so cheap and unpopular that sellers will dye it bright colours and sell it as faux fur. You also have people saying it’s “only” rabbit or coney fur.

“The argument against fur is no longer just about killing endangered species, it is about the extreme cruelty involved in the trapping, farming and killing of animals for their skins. On fur farms one method of achieving this is by pushing a metal rod up the animal’s anus and electrocuting them. My advice is not just to avoid all products containing fur but to totally boycott all shops that sell any fur.”

We are not talking fur for survival here, we are talking about the suffering of animals for a fashion item, that you or someone you know is buying.

If you still intend on being ‘in trend’ and want to wear faux fur then check out CAFT website for the check list. http://www.caft.org.uk/ Or follow Animal Concern advice and avoid fur trim altogether http://animalconcern.org/

If you have read this and decide you want to support the campaigns against the fur trade please visit https://www.facebook.com/AntiFurAberdeen/?fref=ts

Or email saynofur@gmail.com for more information.

Photos by courtesy of CAFT.

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Nov 142016
 

escale-france-protestors-by-s-reid-sept-16bBy Suz Reid.

Fur in Aberdeen is not a new thing, yet we became less aware that it was sold, even oblivious to it. Many, including myself, thought a ban on fur in the UK in the 1990s included imports. How very wrong we were.

In the last 5 years shops selling fur has increased dramatically.

Aberdeen has its own supply, quietly located in select elites shops of high end fashion.

Escale France run by Karine Franck is one shop who proudly displays her raccoon, fox, mink and rabbit fur products online and in store. Her designer is the top offender in cruelty fur Jean Paul Gaultier.

The first I saw of Escale France was on Facebook 6 months ago, sharing her new collection of fur items, thousands were up in arms.

 “Fur in our area not in my name,” stated some comments.

I was certainly grieved by this and felt something needed to be done. Did the owner know where her fur had come from? How it was made? I asked her face to face, her response was arrogant and unemotional

“Yes I have seen the videos, I know how they die,” she stated unmoved.

A group of like minded people against the shop developed SAY NO FUR to Escale France Aberdeen UK Branch and discussed showing Karine Franck that we would not tolerate fur in her shop. We asked her to listen to her customers, many had commented on her page, disgusted at her products.

“You have such lovely items, why must you spoil it by adding real fur?” remarked one customer.

 Our first three demonstration were duly noted by Karine and her male friend, who came out to give us his view which was quite frankly sickening:

“ I would skin my cat and wear it,  I’ve eaten dogs killed alive in China, what is the difference?”

Since our fourth awareness event, one of our members acted out a caged animal being electrocuted. It drew a crowd, bringing the debate on fur in fashion to the forefront. Karine Franck responded by putting more fur items on her display, allegedly claiming to a few customers it was faux fur. These claims dismissed on evidence from her online marketing and advertising.

‘Yell.com; Real Fur Retailers and suppliers in Aberdeen – Escale France’

When I contacted her by email she responded:

wearing fur is not morally worse that wearing leather or eating meat”

This I disagree with as the fur she is supplying is from China and Poland – both have little or no welfare standards. Animals are not killed straight away, often stunned before having their fur removed. In the rest of her email she deflected the subject, avoided direct questions and was not willing to continue in any discussion or debate.

Her justification for selling fur in fashion was:

“Some people watch the Peta videos showing the barbarism inflicted on some animals for the fur. Even if these are examples of bad ranches and slaughterhouses contravening codes of conduct, you can find some of them in leather and meat industries, and to compare with them, the fur production is small.”

I guess that makes it okay then! Even if the videos are real, so what…? Since when did we lose our compassion, become so disassociated with what is fashion acceptable?

We banned farming in fur for one main reason, it was deemed cruel to kill an animal just for its fur…and nothing else. When we investigated Aberdeen’s fur trade, I met a lovely lady Amanda who runs two fashion boutiques, one in Brighton and one in Aberdeen.

When she heard of our campaign she invited me to visit her shop. She was shocked that the public in Aberdeen would allow real fur when there are so many wonderful faux alternatives. Many of these faux items where in her store ‘Sirene’ in Union Street.

“It is a cruel method for a fur trim, why would you stock that when you have stunning traceable faux alternatives”

If Sirene boutique can select faux free and still satisfy her customers, why can’t Escale France?

This is just the beginning with all shops and stalls in Aberdeen/shire being added to a list and working with Animal Concern, Respect for Animals, Craft in future campaigns. If you don’t know what it’s all about please visit the above groups, who have investigated it at length, see what the barbaric trade is all about.

For forthcoming events in Aberdeen email us at saynofur@gmail.com.We have been collecting paper petitions and have an online petition. Please sign.

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Nov 102015
 

Ronnie Watt and Alain Verbeek By Charlie Abel.

Ronnie Watt’s National Karate Federation have returned from Berk, France where an international open competition was held on the 25th of October 2015.
The competition was hosted by French instructor Alain Verbeek (6th Dan).
Alain’s club trains in the doctrines of Alain’s late instructor, Taiji Kase (9th Dan). Kase is a widely respected Japanese Karate legend.

Our Aberdeen based NKF team did exceptionally well during the competition returning with 4 international medals against some stiff competition which included 1 Gold and 3 Silver – Nissara Kirk taking the Gold and 2 Bronze, and John McInnes taking a Silver.

There were 150 competitors in all so Ronnie and his squad can hold their heads high.

A special training course was held the day before the competition. Participants in the course enjoyed 6 hours of karate training the day before the competition from 4 different karate masters. Participants travelled from around Europe to reach Berck for this rare opportunity with competitors from Germany, Austria, Scotland, France and many from Brittany.

KarateFranceShihan Ronnie Watt (8th Dan) from Aberdeen focused on speed technique to score points in kumite. Sensei Alain Verbeek  (6th dan) demonstrated Kase-ha sparring tactics, using various knife hand attacks in response to an attacker. Sensei Christian Le Romancer (Brittany) demonstrated bunkai and emphasised the importance of Kime (power, focus).

Sensei Dieter Langer (3rd Dan) from Germany demonstrated the structures behind the kata and the importance of form over strength.

Also present was the wife and daughter of Taiji Kase. They will soon publish a much anticipated book detailing the life and legend that was Taiji Kase. Kase was also a frequent visitor to Aberdeen and a close friend of Ronnie Watt.

Alain Verbeek has studied Karate for over 45 years and in this time Ronnie and Alain have become great friends.

At the end of the festival and competition Alain was surprised to receive a Samurai SHOGUN award for his service to karate and promotion of friendship between Scotland and France. The award was given after the closing ceremony of the competition in front of many guests and VIP’s including Chieko Kase (wife) and Sachiko Kase (daughter), the Mayor of Berk and the ambassador of Japan in France, Yoichi Suzuki.

The Auld Alliance is still strong. The NKF would like to thank the French families that hosted the NKF squad and for showing them such great hospitality.

warshell

After the tournament Ronnie and his NKF squad were invited to the Berck town hall to be treated to a special civic reception hosted by the Mayor of Berck, a senior MP and other VIPs from the area.

Ronnie was presented with a medal by the Mayor of Berk for promoting friendship and culture between France and Scotland through Karate.

Ronnie was also presented with a very special gift, from the people of Inverness, France.

This was an unexploded world war one shell (pictured right), encased in a special hand made box.

It had been fired into the area where the Scottish soldiers had fought, many giving their lives to fight for the freedom of France in the Great War, 1915.

Ronnie said he was “deeply moved” by this special gift.

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Jan 162015
 

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, Duncan Harley shares his thoughts.

paris_008It rained in Paris last week. The average temperature was around 7°C with occasional sunshine.

The RER, Batobus and the Paris Metro ran much as usual. Tourists came and tourists went. The city went to work, and at the end of the day the citizens went home to eat, greet and prepare for work the next day.

Then of course the offices of Charlie Hebdo were assaulted, overnight the profession of satirist became dangerous and the citizens of Paris became frontline troops in a war involving terror.

There are those in the Muslim world who maintain that the attacks in France are a justified response to an assault on Islam. Fortunately those folk are in an extreme minority. Most condemn the assault on liberty.

The Paris murders are just that. Murders carried out by a bunch of criminally obsessive killers intent on self-imposed martyrdom.

In the long game they may have hoped to achieve something beyond notoriety, but in the short game all they have done is made a complete fool of Islam.

Unlike Christianity, Islam has no idols to view. The Prophet cannot be seen even in death. In a way of course, that makes complete sense given the sometimes awful images of a blond Christian Christ on the cross and a Caucasian Jesus in pristine cream robes fishing on the Lake of Galilee.

As for the virgin birth, well that is also a joke. Mary might well have been innocent of having sexual relations with God but, in the big scheme of things, someone impregnated her and anyone who says otherwise, to my mind, is simply a dreamer.

We in the West can write about the above without fear of assassination. At least we think we can.

So what happened in Paris?

The French have always taken care to exploit the folk in their colonies. Algeria features high on the list: used as cannon fodder in the 1939–1945 war, France’s colonial troops were used and abused by the colonial powers. The survivors were then deprived of military pension rights in the wake of Algerian independence. Many blame this old colonial attitude for the outrages of this week.

Moslems in France are second-class citizens. Underdogs deprived of respect, they feel marginalized and forgotten. In reality the French, in common with the citizens of many European countries, disrespect Jews, Eastern Europeans and on occasion even the English.

What happened in Paris is three-fold.

  • Firstly, some disenfranchised dreamers looked inward and imagined that mass murder was a way forward.
  • Some satirists died.
  • A million folk met at the Place de la République.

No matter what your beliefs, the killing of the messenger is a poor political idea. If this is the true face of Islam, then God help us all. If this is an isolated incident borne of hate, then we must address the issues. Otherwise, we should respect our neighbours’ needs and beliefs.

The murder of the journalists and cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo has unleashed a black dog throughout Europe.

Let’s hope that the mongrel can be contained.

© Duncan Harley – All rights reserved.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Jan 162015
 

On 7 January 12 members of French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo were gunned down in their offices.   This was a premediated, cold-blooded assassination by radicalised people claiming somehow to have ‘avenged the Prophet Mohammed’.  Following the massacre of the journalists – and others in France unlucky enough to have crossed the path of the murders, worldwide, pan-religion condemnations were issued and rallies held.  Aberdeen, with its considerable French population, joined in with its own rally, organised by Frog in Aberdeen and especially Julie Tchao.  Suzanne Kelly talks to those who attended.

je_suis_charlie_by_Suzanne_Kelly

There were many families present, many with French origins. Picture credit: Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen’s Castlegate filled up last Sunday with people of all ages and nationalities to stand together in solidarity for those who lost their lives in Paris, their families and friends. Several hundred people rallied, carrying the flag of France, posters, and signs proclaiming ‘I am Charlie/Je Suis Charlie’ – the ‘I am Spartacus’ slogan adopted for those who express solidarity with the magazine and its use of satire and humour to mock the powerful, corrupt and dangerous.

A small shrine was set up with a candle; a book of condolences was readily filled with comments – it is being sent to Paris.

People also wore pencils on their coats as a symbol of the power of the written word and of satire – a representation that ultimately the pen is mightier than the sword or gun.

Organiser Julie Tchao said:-

“I think it is really excellent the turnout we had today, not only from the French community which is good, but also from Scottish and British people who are like us  shocked and horrified by what happened.  It is really great that on this occasion everyone could gather around a good cause and a peaceful event and share our sorrows but also share the fact we say no to terrorism and yes to freedom of speech.   

“I am really touched by the turnout from a small city like Aberdeen.”

Also attending the event was Domenic Bruce; he commented:-

“I think what has happened is very inhumane and a huge distortion of what Islam is as a religion.  I think all we can do is hope that love and light can diffuse the situation and people come together to help the victims’ families – and well the whole world really.”

There were many families present, many with French origins.  Natalie and here family were one such group.  She commented:-

“We decided to come as a family to show our solidarity with what happened in Paris – the atrocities – and to demonstrate that we want to keep our freedoms.”

Her partner Nick added:-

“It’s too easy for the silent majority to stay silent and that’s why we wanted to be here – remembering what happened – not shouting about it – but quietly supporting the people of France, and supporting freedom.”

The historic Castlegate has seen many events over its many hundreds of years as a gathering place, but no one could have imagined it would be used for such an international, interfaith display of unity as it did that Sunday; the dignity on display and the kindness people showed to each other brings hope.

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Mar 282013
 

Last  week marked the 242nd anniversary of the Paris Commune of 1871. The Commune was one of the most important examples in history of people taking control of their own lives and reorganising their society. In the second part of Simon Gall’s two-part analysis of the Commune through the eyes of some important progressive scholars, we examine its destruction by the French government in May 1871, but learn how its legacy lives on and how it has influenced and inspired the generations since.

The Downfall of the Commune

On 21 May, Versailles troops entered Paris and spent seven days massacring “defenceless Men, Women and Children”.

They were “cut to pieces” and “shot down in hundreds by mitrailleuse fire”.

There were random street executions and accounts of people being buried alive after the firing squads had failed to do their jobs properly.

Marx wrote, “Even the atrocities of the bourgeois in June, 1848, vanish before the ineffable infamy of 1871” and continued, “the great problem…(was) how to get rid of the heaps of corpses…after the battle was over. About 30,000 Parisians were shot down by the bestial soldiery, and about 45,000 were arrested, many of whom were afterwards executed, while thousands were transported or exiled.”

Opinions on the Commune

The Communards were endlessly praised by socialist writers the world over for their determination and bravery in attempting to bring about a new society, but many also offered their own analysis of what went wrong. All realised that the cards were stacked against the Commune from the beginning.

Indeed the situation led Peter Kropotkin to write, “The Commune of 1871 could be nothing but a first attempt. Beginning at the close of a great war, hemmed in between two armies ready to join hands and crush the people.” Nevertheless, scholars gave their opinions on the movement.

Peter Kropotkin was both heartened and disheartened by the Commune.

He saw traces of Anarchism in its governance, “By proclaiming the free Commune, the people of Paris proclaimed an essential anarchist principle, which was the breakdown of the State” and recognised its historical importance when he stated that with the movement of the “Commune of Paris a new idea was born”, and that it was “to become the starting point for future revolutions.”

In the months following the fall of the Commune, the luxury of hindsight meant that he was able to ponder calmly what he felt went wrong.

The first problem he noted was, “It neither boldly declared itself socialist nor proceeded to the expropriation of capital nor the organisation of labour. It did not even take stock of the general resources of the city….nor did it break with (in practice) the tradition of the State, of representative government…..they let themselves get carried away by the fetish worship of governments and set one up of their own.”

He felt that the Commune went some way towards realising the vision of a stateless society

He felt that this led to elected representatives falling out of touch with the electorate. He proposed that they had lost the “inspiration which only comes from continual contact with the masses” and had become “paralyzed by their separation from the people” and that “they themselves (had) paralyzed the popular initiative.”

In 1892, he continued his observations on the Commune, noting that the hunger that plagued Paris had been instrumental in the downfall of the revolution, the “Commune perished for lack of combatants. It had taken for the separation of Church and State, but it neglected, alas, until too late, to take measures for providing the people with bread.”

Mikhail Bakunin joyously claimed that, “Revolutionary Socialism (Anarchism) has just attempted its first striking and practical demonstration in the Paris Commune.” He felt that the Commune went some way towards realising the vision of a stateless society. Federated Communes, delegates bound by the imperative mandate, and the concept of instant recall were concepts which Bakunin had been discussing since around 1848.

He continued, “I am a supporter (of the Commune), above all, because of it was a bold, clearly formulated negation of the State.”

Whilst being careful to never lay blame at any Communard door he observed, “The proletariat of the great cities of France, and even of Paris, still cling to many Jacobin (radical bourgeois) prejudices, and to many dictatorial and governmental concepts. The cult of authority – the fatal result of religious education, that historic source of all evils, deprivations, and servitude – has not yet been completely eradicated in them.”

To him, the influence of the Jacobins “was the great misfortune for the Commune” because “they were paralyzed, and they paralyzed the Commune….they lacked the time and even the capacity to overcome and subdue many of their own bourgeois prejudices which were contrary to their newly acquired socialism.”

Karl Marx wrote one of the most comprehensive accounts of the Paris Commune, praising the revolution with the best of words, “Working mens’ Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators’ history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priest will not avail to redeem them.”

launching a resolute offensive against Versailles would have crowned its victory in Paris

He was immensely proud of what the Commune had achieved, despite being unconvinced about it at its inception. When he heard of the plan to overthrow the Government, he called the plan “a folly of despair.”

He changed his tune and began watching in awe as the proletariat of Paris took the reins. The movement had such a profound effect on their thinking that in 1872 he and Friedrich Engels edited the Communist Manifesto stating that, it was, in places out of date and declared “that the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.”

Later, Marx would call the Commune “the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour.” After Marx’s death in 1883, Engels wrote in March 1891, “Look at the Paris Commune.That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” using the Commune to prove their thinking.

In a letter to Dr. Kugelmann, Marx pointed to two mistakes the Communards made.

The first was that “They did not want to start the Civil War”. This point was pondered by Lenin years later. He felt that the Communards should have marched on Versailles because “launching a resolute offensive against Versailles would have crowned its victory in Paris”. He wrote that the hesitation “gave the Versailles Government time to gather dark forces and prepare for the blood-soaked week of May.”

He felt that the Commune aimed to achieve something very important – anti-parliamentarianism

The second mistake in Marx’s eyes was that the Central Committee of the National Guard “surrendered its power too soon, to make way for the Commune.” Presumably Marx thought that the Central Committee should have kept things under tighter control for longer, or perhaps decreed more reforms before resigning.

Lenin too paid tribute to the people of the Commune.

He wrote that the events and their actions were “unprecedented in history. Up to that time power had, as a rule, been in the hands of landowners and capitalists, ie the hands of their trusted agents who made up the so-called government.” He noted its importance as a grassroots movement by stating that “no one consciously prepared it in an organised way.”

He felt that the Commune aimed to achieve something very important – anti-parliamentarianism. It was to be “a working body” that sought to combine the work of the executive and legislative branches of government into one.

This was vital for Lenin as it stopped Parliament from becoming just a talking shop for “the parliamentarians must themselves work, must themselves execute their own laws, must themselves verify their results in actual life, must themselves be directly responsible to their electorate.”

However, he criticised the Commune for not “expropriating the expropriators”. He noted that large organisations, such as the Bank of France had not been targeted. The Communards could have made use of the capital. Also, he wrote that there was “no workers’ party, the working class had not gone through a long school of struggle and was unprepared.”

Despite his criticisms, Lenin diligently noted that “the chief thing which the Commune lacked was time – an opportunity to take stock of the situation and to embark upon the fulfilment of its programme…The Commune had to concentrate primarily on self-defence…it had no time to think seriously of anything else.”

Conclusion

The Commune is held up as proof by both anarchists and socialists of how their ideas and theories work in practice. The anarchists saw it as a negation of the state and the socialists saw it as the functioning Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

It is still the subject of much analysis and discussion in academia and among activists and trade unionists around the world. It has been examined on numerous occasions by the arts.  La Commune Film is one example.

It has inspired and continues to inspire people in search of alternative ways of living.

References and further reading

M Bakunin        The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State

F Engels          Introduction to The Civil War in France

F Engels          Reflection in Introduction

P Kropotkin      The Conquest of Bread

P Kropotkin      The Commune of Paris

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune – Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871 – Marx’s Analysis

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune – Lessons from the Commune

V Lenin             In Memory of the Commune

K Marx               The Civil War in France

K Marx               Letters to Dr.Kugelmann on the Paris Commune

Mar 212013
 

This week marks the 242nd anniversary of the Paris Commune of 1871. The Commune was one of the most important examples in history of people taking control of their own lives and reorganising their society. In the first part of Simon Gall’s two-part examination of the Commune through the eyes of some important progressive scholars, we take a look at how the Commune came about, its short history and its structure.

The experiment ended in May 1871 when it was destroyed by the French government, but its legacy lives on and it continues to inspire. The Commune was the subject matter of the Socialist and Anarchist anthem, “L’Internationale”

The Commune and its importance.

“Working men’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators’ history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priest will not avail to redeem them.” – K MarxThe Civil War in France

“Paris inflicting a mortal blow upon the political traditions of the bourgeois radicalism and giving a real basis to revolutionary socialism (anarchism) against the reactionaries of France and Europe….Paris destroying nationalism and erecting the religion of humanity upon its ruins; Paris proclaiming herself humanitarian and atheist, and replacing divine fictions with the great realities of social life and faith in science.” – M BakuninThe Paris Commune and the Idea of the State

“It was an event unprecedented in history. Up to that time power had, as a rule, been in the hands of landowners and capitalists, ie the hands of their trusted agents who made up the so-called government.” V Lenin – Lenin on the Commune – 3 – In Memory of the Commune

The direct antithesis of the Empire was the Commune.” – K MarxThe Civil War in France

 “The political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour.” – K MarxThe Civil War in France

Overview

In 1871, the citizens of Paris took control of their own destinies and sought to break with the idea of bourgeois government, by seizing Paris and moulding it into something new.

On 18 March, they proclaimed the Commune and began dismantling the old Bonapartist structures of government.

People grew excited at the prospect of being masters of their own lives as the Commune began promulgating revolutionary decrees. However, after only 72 days, the rebellion was ferociously crushed by Government troops in a seven-day massacre.

Tens of thousands lost their lives but the idea lived, and still lives on. The experience of Communards changed political thinking forever and provided a sort of blueprint, or the beginnings of a blueprint, for future revolutions.

Lenin wrote of the Commune,

“The significance of the Commune, furthermore, lies in the fact that it endeavoured to crush, to smash to its very foundations, the bourgeois state apparatus, the bureaucratic, judicial, military and police machine, and to replace it by a self-governing, mass worker’s organisation in which there was no division between legislative and executive power.”  – Lenin on the Commune – 6. Bourgeois Democracy

Who what when where why?

In July 1870, French Emperor Louis Bonaparte (Napoleon III) declares war on Prussia. However, only three months later, he and his General, MacMahon, are captured along with more than 80000 soldiers at the Battle of Sedan. On hearing the news, the workers of Paris storm the Palais Bourbon and force the legislative body to proclaim the fall of the Second Empire.

By evening, the provisional Government of National Defence (GND) is formed, “All Parisians capable of bearing arms had enrolled in the National Guard and were armed” and the Third Republic is proclaimed.

In the next few weeks, Bonaparte’s forces surrender and, by October 31, the GND is ready to begin negotiations with the Prussians, but the Parisian workers rebel. The enemy reaches Paris but is only allowed a small corner of the capital by the Parisians. The Prussians disarm the city’s Mobile Guard but permit the National Guard to keep their weapons.

The revolutionary sections of the National Guard form the Central Committee to coordinate matters inside Paris and the newly-formed government of Adolphe Theirs flees to Versailles in March.

On the 18 March, Theirs sends government troops to disarm Paris but the soldiers refuse to carry out their orders and instead turn their guns on their Generals Claude Martin Lecomte and Jacques Leonard Clement Thomas. Some soldiers join the Commune. Thiers is outraged and the Civil War begins.

The Paris Commune was elected through universal suffrage on the 26 March 1871.

The Structure of the Commune

The Paris Commune

made use of two infallible means. In the first place, it filled all posts – administration, judicial and educational – by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, subject to the right of recall at any time by the same electors. And, in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers.” The maximum wage was set at 6000 francs, providing “an effective barrier to place-hunting and careerism…even apart from the binding mandate to delegates to representative bodies.”

The Commune was to spread across France. It was to be the structure of even the smallest hamlets.

“Rural Communes of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates (with the imperative mandate) in the central town” and was to be a “working body, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time.”

Marx noted that the Municipal Councillors were “naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class.”

Decrees and Actions of the Commune

28 March

The Central Committee of the National Guard dissolves itself after decreeing the abolition of the Police.

30 March

The Commune abolishes conscription and the Army and declares the National Guard, comprising everyone who can bear arms, to be the sole armed force.

The Commune remits all payments of rent for dwelling houses from October 1870 until April 1871, with the amounts already paid to be used as future rent payments.

Foreigners elected to the Commune were confirmed in office. “The flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic”

1 April

Maximum wage set for Commune at 6000 francs (£4)

2 April

The Commune decreed the separation of Church and State. It abolished all state payments for religious purposes (priests’ wages etc) and all property was to become national property.

5th April

In response to the daily shooting of Commune prisoners by Versailles troops it was decreed that NO prisoner of the Commune should be shot.

6th April

La Guillotine was brought into the street by the National Guard and publicly burned “amid great popular rejoicing.”

8th April

Religious symbols, pictures, dogmas and prayers were excluded from schools.

12th April

The Commune decides to destroy Napoleon’s victory column, made from smelted weapons captured from a fallen army, as a symbol of nationalistic chauvinism.

16th April

Review of closed factories with a view to organising worker’s control of those factories in the form of co-operatives. The co-operatives were to federate into one great co-operative union. In the end 43 factories were organised this way.

30th April

Pawnshops were closed as they were “in contradiction with the right of the workers to their instruments of labour and to credit.”

5th May

The Commune orders the razing of the Chapel of Atonement which had been built in expiation of the execution of Louis XVI

9th May

The Versailles army closes in on Paris and captures its first Parisian fort.

10th May

The Treaty of Frankfurt is signed by Bismarck, the Prussian Chancellor, and Thiers the head of the French Government. The conditions were set out mainly by Prussia as they were in the strongest position. The deal was that France would pay Prussia 5bn Francs in indemnities over a shorter period of time than first agreed and Bismarck would continue the occupation of Parisian forts until he “should feel satisfied with the state of things in France”, making him the “supreme arbiter in internal French politics”. In return, Bismarck would release the remaining “100,000 French prisoners of war to help crush revolutionary Paris.”

References and further reading

M Bakunin        The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State

F Engels           Introduction to The Civil War in France

F Engels          Reflection in Introduction

P Kropotkin      The Conquest of Bread

P Kropotkin      The Commune of Paris

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune – Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871 – Marx’s Analysis

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune – Lessons from the Commune

V Lenin             In Memory of the Commune

K Marx               The Civil War in France

K Marx               Letters to Dr.Kugelmann on the Paris Commune

In part 2 of Simon’s brief overview of the Commune, he will detail its destruction, the lessons that writers and political historians have learned from it and how its influence still permeates radical and progressive thinking nearly 250 years later.

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Aug 032012
 

Dave Watt presents the second article of a series of 3 concerning ‘strops and arguments’ in the olympics.

May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic Torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure : – Baron Pierre de Coubertin – founder of the modern Olympics. Athens 1896

After some discussion in which the Germans put in a spirited bid Stockholm in Sweden was awarded the 1912 Olympiad with the unlucky Germans being promised the 1916 Games.

Stockholm introduced a series of firsts to the Olympics with the introduction of a electronic timing, a public address system and female athletes in the swimming and diving competitions with the last innovation causing an  Australian journalist to worry that the sight of women in bathing suits might incite lust amongst the spectators causing them to behave like ‘primitive blacks’.

The Swedish organisers banned boxing on humanitarian grounds but introduced the highly militaristic pentathlon in which the future megalomaniac George S Patton finished a disappointing fifth despite a diet of raw steak, salad and opium.

The usual growls and snarls began at the opening ceremony with the Finns opting out of the Russian team, the Czechs marching separately from their fellow Austro-Hungarian subject races and the Germans tramping around in formation eliciting boos and cries of ‘Prussian Militarism’ from the Swedes.

The usual racism was also on display with the US’s commendably diverse team being the subject of protests at non-white athletes ‘violating the Olympic ethos’ by having too much melanin in their skins.

Owing to World War One (having been unsuccessfully marketed as the ‘War to End Wars’ and the ‘War for Civilisation’ but eventually having to settle for the more prosaic ‘Great War’) the Berlin Olympiad didn’t materialise. The Germans consoled themselves by invading Belgium where, according to Allied propaganda, they bayoneted babies, raped nuns, shot civilians and threw poison gas around willy-nilly by way of endearing themselves to the locals.

Not surprisingly, the 1920 Olympiad, held in war-damaged Antwerp was rather low key and the Germans along with the Austrians, Turks, Bulgarians and Hungarians were all banned for picking the wrong side in the war and the Soviet Union was banned for presumably not having anyone closely related to Queen Victoria running their country.

The first five were also banned from the 1924 games as well (not that the IOC are ones to bear a grudge) but the Soviets were sportingly allowed to eventually compete in 1952 whereupon they wiped the floor with every other country in the medals haul until they returned to the wonderful paradise that is free-market capitalism in 1990.

Having participated in a four year bloodbath the few participants in Antwerp games were pretty matey all round with the US bagging most of the medals and the newly independent Finland coming second with the legendary Paavo Nurmi taking three track golds.

The 1924 Paris Olympiad.  Eh…Eric Liddell not running on a Sunday, Harold Abrahams, Chariots of Fire, men running along beach in vest and pants, blah, blah blah.

While this delightful piece of Anglocentric nostalgia was going on the Finns bagged thirteen gold, thirteen silver and five gold medals which isn’t bad for a country which has roughly the same population as Scotland but is obviously less devoted to Scotch pies and crap lager.

Needless to say, the usual deranged elements in the European press obligingly attributed the Finns success to the ‘wild mongol strain’ of their savage ancestors.

Love and international understanding reasserted itself when a Frenchman severely thrashed an enthusiastic American fan with a cane during the Franco-American rugby match and William DeHart became the first black athlete to win an individual gold amidst the usual grumblings about non-whites participating.

Having pocketed two Olympiads the French decided to outsource the Olympics to Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 1928 which saw the introduction of the five rings Olympic symbol for the first time.

The huge US team garnered most of the medals despite being managed by another megalomaniac in the shape of Douglas McArthur who kept the athletes marooned on board a liner/prison hulk from which they were only allowed ashore to compete.

The re-instated Germans, having presumably promised that they would behave much better in any future wars, performed exceptionally well with eleven gold, nine silver and nineteen bronze medals, coming second in the medals haul.

  Not surprisingly, this led to protests by impoverished and hungry people turning up bearing banners proclaiming ‘Groceries Not Games’.

After ‘some discussion’ the Olympic committee settled on Los Angeles for the 1932 Olympiad which saw the introduction of the first Olympic Village and the first major anti-Olympic protest over the games being held at all. In 1931, with a million unemployed in California and soup kitchens springing up all over the state, a massive press campaign gulled local voters into voting for huge funding for expanding and improving the Olympic facilities.

Not surprisingly, this led to protests by impoverished and hungry people turning up bearing banners proclaiming ‘Groceries Not Games’. One can sympathise with their point of view – I mean, what kind of idiots would spend millions on a pointless sports junket in the midst of a huge recession and massive poverty………..?

Thirty four nations turned up including a rather unpopular entrant in the shape of Japan which was engaged in the conquest of Manchuria at the time and attempted to hijack a a formidable Chinese sprinter resident there to run for their puppet state of Manchukuo.

The sprinter, Liu Changchun refused to run replying that “he would never betray his own nation to serve others like a horse or a cow” which is obviously not the view of the Scottish footballers in Team GB.

Predictably the US won forty-one gold medals but the surprise teams were the Italians who came second in the medals table and the Japanese who dominated the men’s swimming events.

Berlin 1936. When Germany was initially chosen to host the 1936 Olympiad it was a liberal democracy but by 1935, with the games one year off, Germany was a Nazi dictatorship with the racist Nuremberg Laws banning Jews from all aspects of civil life and attacks on their shops homes and persons becoming ever more frequent and ever more violent.

Consequently a great deal of soul-searching went on, particularly in the US, about the morality of sending a multi-racial team to the Berlin Olympics. There were campaigns for a boycott of the games both in the US and Europe while the Germans fudged the implications of their racial laws and hinted that Jewish athletes would be eligible for selection.

  From the Nazis’ point of view Brundage was the ideal choice

However, as they were banned from participating in the qualifying events as they weren’t members of German sporting clubs having been expelled early in Hitler’s reign this wasn’t very likely.

Eventually, the IOC in the US sent Avery Brundage to discuss the situation with Hitler’s ’regime. From the Nazis’ point of view Brundage was the ideal choice as his bigoted and racist views permeated the Olympics (a bit like a polluted stream running through a children’s play park) for nearly forty years.

On arriving in Germany Brundage set out the ground rules early on by proudly announcing that he was a member of several clubs that barred Jews from their membership thus indicating that he wasn’t going to be too hard to deal with.

Despite Hitler’s previous assertion that the Olympics were ‘a plot by Freemasons and Jews’ the Nazi regime was very interested in holding the games and assurances that multi-racial teams would be welcomed and treated equally were forthcoming.

This turned out to be quite genuine and black athletes like Jesse Owens and high jumper David Albritton were accommodated in the Olympic Village whereas they weren’t allowed to live on the campus where they studied at Ohio State University.

The Jewish athletes competing for Germany was more problematical when the world-rated Gretel Bergmann (classified as a full Jew by the Nuremberg laws) was told that her qualifying jumps were not of sufficient quality to allow her into the national team. As she emigrated to the US and won successive trophies there it’s a pretty fair bet that she could have qualified for the rather poor German womens high jump team if she’d jumped while carrying her week’s shopping.

A compromise was reached whereby blonde haired, green-eyed Helene Mayer, rated as only a half-Jew and resident in the US was allowed to compete as an honorary Aryan for the duration of the games where she won a silver medal.

In a little known attempt to “clean up” Berlin (which would surely endear him to the leader writers of a certain present-day local rag) , the German Ministry of the Interior authorized the chief of police to arrest all Romani/Gypsies and keep them in the Berlin-Marzahn concentration camp during the games.

Protests about the games in Britain were more subdued and Harold Abrahams, winner of the 1924 100 metres, undertook a lot of work to persuade fellow Jews in the country not to boycott the Nazi games. Presumably, he spent much of 1945 removing these particular endeavours from his CV.

Anyway, the Berlin Games went ahead with forty-nine nations competing, Germany winning 89 medals, including 33 golds and the whole event was wonderfully filmed by Leni Reifenstahl who was very pleased with her cinematic efforts until she discovered that Hitler was a Nazi in 1983.

Contrary to popular belief about the Berlin Olympics Hitler did not actually snub Jesse Owens. Hitler had greeted all the winning German athletes on the first day with a handshake and some Fuhrerly chit-chat but was told by the Olympic Committee that he either had to personally greet all of the winning athletes or none of them and he chose the latter course.

Consequently we can excuse Adolf from that particular breach of good manners – however, on the down side, there is just that little matter of fifty million war dead.

 

Jan 122012
 

On January 2nd an Aberdeen-based member of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) took part in a new project to re-plant trees in previously devastated areas of Palestine.  Dave Black, along with other members of the Stop the JNF international delegation, joined individuals from a nearby refugee camp, trade union representatives, youth activists, Stop the Wall campaigners and representatives of political parties. The group planted 111 trees, representing the number of years that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has been in existence, playing a key role in Israel’s policy of displacing and dispossessing Palestinians.

The JNF controls land that the organisation openly decrees is solely for the benefit of Jewish people; non-Jewish people are not able to live or work on the land and it can only be sold or rented to Jewish people.
The organisation is a quasi-governmental one, with extremely close ties to the state; it is often referred to as a para-statal organisation.

Despite the JNF’s clearly discriminatory policies, the Israeli state maintains this strong relationship with the organisation.

The trees were planted in Tulkarem district, formerly one of the richest and most important districts of Palestine. In 1948, most of its lands were taken and dozens of villages destroyed. The JNF played a key role in the destruction of some of these villages and the ethnic cleansing of their population.

The land where the trees have been planted, in the city of Tulkarem, was historically part of the agricultural land of the city. However, in 2002 the Israeli military bulldozed the entire stretch of land, supposedly for “security reasons”.  Tulkarem has also been one of the districts most affected byIsrael’s illegal separation wall, which has destroyed some 8.4 square kilometres of olive and other fruit trees, 37.3 km of water networks, 15 km of agricultural roads, as well as irrigated agricultural land in Tulkarem, Qalqiliya and Jenin districts.

Despite poor weather on the day there was a large turnout and the event was welcomed by those involved.  A representative from the Palestinian Farmer’s Union explained the importance of such events that bring different groups together:

“the participation of farmers, youth groups, friends from various organisations and others increases belief in the justice of our cause and the belief that we are not working alone against the Occupation. The land that was so important land to us was uprooted by the Occupation”. 

He also added that the event was timely because of the ongoing attacks by settlers on Palestinian land.

Aberdeen’s ties to the project were already significant as the local branch of SPSC last year raised £650 for the Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project.

Over 5 days the group walked 84 miles along the path of Hadrian’s Wall, raising awareness of the Stop the JNF campaign and also of the separation wall.

The group’s efforts went towards funding the planting event in Tulkarem.  It is hoped that the Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project will build to support the ongoing struggle of Palestinians to rebuild by providing resources for villages to plant trees that are indigenous to Palestine’s natural environment and agricultural life.

The delegation included members of Palestine solidarity and campaign groups in Scotland, England, the United States, France, Austria, as well as a representative of Midlothian Trade Unions Council.  The main activity of the delegation was 5 days of fact-finding and educational visits around Israel and the West Bank, followed by the day of tree planting in Tulkarem.

The group visited Al-Araqib in the Naqab/Negev desert, a Bedouin village which has been destroyed 33 times since July 22nd 2010.  The trees of the village have been destroyed and thus the village’s livelihood and the JNF has been instrumental in displacing the Bedouin people of this area.

Within clear view of the village that remains is the Ambassadors Forest, one of the JNF’s many forests in Israel.  As the delegation spoke with villagers, including the sheikh of the village, a truck drove by on the sandy, desert road.  The truck was on its way to provide water for the new JNF trees; the wrong trees planted at the wrong time, thus requiring much additional water.  The village of Al Araqib has no water supplied to it, but instead villages have to watch trucks drive past on their way to irrigate trees that are steadily taking over their land.

The group also spoke to a staff member of the UK ambassador’s officer in Israel, who was visiting the village in preparation for the visit of the British ambassador and Parliament Under Secretary of State Alistair Burt.

The chance meeting allowed the British members of the delegation to raise the issue of the UK’s complicity with the JNF and Israeli crimes, and specifically Early Day Motion (1677) which was tabled last year and currently has over 50 signatories.

The Early Day Motion outlines the discriminatory nature of the JNF and calls for the revocation of the JNF’s charity status in the UK.  The motion also criticises the Prime Minister’s patronage of the JNF, a situation which was addressed for the first time since the foundation of the JNF when David Cameron stepped down as patron last year.

For the first time since its creation not one of the three main party leaders in the UK are patrons of the organisation.

Later in the week delegates visited refugees in Ramallah (in the West Bank) who had originally lived in the Palestinian village of Imwas.  The refugees told the group the fate of their village in 1967 when it was overrun by Israeli forces set on taking the Latrun Salient, a hillside seen as a key strategic target.

Photos were shown, taken from exactly the same position, that illustrated the dramatic changes to the village and land in the 1960s and 70s.  The first photo showed part of the thriving village, the final one showing what is now known as Canada Park.

Canada Park is one of the many parks and forests that JNF has been responsible for establishing in Israel, or in this case Israel and the West Bank.  Sections of the park, such as where the village of Imwas once stood, are within the Palestinian side of the “Green line”, or armistice line drawn up at the end of the 1967 war.  However, there is no sign of this and almost all visitors to the park remain oblivious, nor is it explained that the walls of the park entrance are built with the bricks of the houses of Imwas.

Delegates visited the park along with Said, a direct descendant of a family which was displaced from Imwas.  Said stood with his own children at the remains of his father’s house, now only the barest of remnants.  The group was also shown the other remaining evidence of the village: unmarked, unprotected memories scattered around the archaeological set-piece of Roman Baths for tourists to enjoy.  The gravestones of villagers stand just a few feet from one of the park’s picnic benches – a stark, chilling image.

Another JNF park, British park, was also visited.  This was of special interest to the UK participants on the delegation.

The park is built over 2 Palestinian villages: Ajjur and Zakariyya. The villages were 2 of the roughly 500 villages where massacres and forced population transfer of Palestinians from their lands in 1948.

This period is known by Palestinians as the Nakba – Arabic for “catastrophe”.

The JNF played a key part in planning the Nakba and then went on to expropriate the land of Palestinian refugees and proceeded to build parks, such as British Park, on the land using funds raised by the JNF around the world.

In 1948 the village of Ajjur was populated by 3000 people. Three of the original houses of Ajjur remain today, including what was previously a clinic and is now a winery serving the new Israeli towns that now intersperse British Park.  Where the market of Ajjur once stood is now inhabited by a play-park and some, presumably, “British” sheep; a favourite picnic spot for those visiting British Park.

On the fifth day of the delegation the group visited Al-Walaja, a town that was established in the West Bank after the original village of Walaja was destroyed; the JNF went on to build the Kennedy memorial on the land.  After years of living in caves near the original town, the new town was established and former residents could return to some form of normality.  Normality, that is, until the development of Israel’s illegal Separation Wall, which is set to once again devastate the village.

The wall is still under construction and already surrounds much of the town, but when complete will completely surround the town.  Residents will be forced to use an access road controlled by the Israeli military if they wish to leave. This wall will cut residents off from much of their agricultural land, and will inevitably lead to displacement away from the town as residents look to find viable employment.

The locations visited by the delegation left those involved in no doubt of the JNF’s deep complicity in crimes against Palestinians, past and present.

Witnessing the situation that faces so many Palestinians inevitably shocked, saddened and deeply moved those involved.

However, none of the delegates failed to be inspired and in awe of the resistance of the Palestinian people who fail to lie down and accept the injustice that has been forced upon them.

Many different forms of resistance were seen, some large and obvious and some more subtle but no less impressive.  The commitment to resistance of those that were encounters served to emphasise the important of the ongoing efforts around the world to show solidarity with Palestinians, such as the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign against Israel.

The Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project is one such way in which people can resist the injustices enforced by the JNF and the Israeli government.

The project will never be able to compete with the financial clout of the JNF and the 240 million trees that this has allowed the organisation to plant in Israel and the West Bank.  However, the project does allow a positive way to act against such crimes, enabling Palestinians to resist ongoing attempts at dispossession.

As Stop the Wall Co-ordinator Jamal Juma pointed out, it is also serves as an ideal way to educate those affected, Palestinians young and old, about the role of the JNF in the dispossession of their homes.  The project also offers great potential for future collaboration between Palestinians and the international community to take part in non-violent resistance against the Israeli government’s attempts to entrench the illegal occupation of the West Bank, dispossess Palestinians within Israel of even more of their lands, and take away the rights, enshrined in international law, of 7 million refugees to return to their homes in Israel.

For more on the Stop the JNF campaign:   www.stopthejnf.org
Join the Palestine campaign in Aberdeen:  Aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk
Visit:
 www.Facebook.com/Spscaberdeen

Oct 212011
 

An event to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the International Brigades who fought in the Spanish Civil War against Fascism and Tyranny in support of Freedom and Democracy, took place in Aberdeen on Friday 14 October 2011 in the ATUC Club, Adelphi, Aberdeen.  Brian Carroll was in attendance and shares the occasion with Voice readers.

The event was well attended and kicked off with a talk by Neil Cooney on the Aberdeen Boys’ contribution to the fight for freedom and democracy in Spain to which 19 of them committed. It was no mean feat in those days to get from Aberdeen to Barcelona, traveling through France to be smuggled into Spain over the Pyrenees; and then to endure the depravity and inhumanity of war for the three long years it took the overwhelming forces of Franco’s men and machines to defeat the Republicans.

The Spanish Civil War raged from 1936-39

Nineteen of Aberdeen’s finest committed to this fight and five made the ultimate sacrifice to the cause, dying on the battlefields of Spain at Gandesa and Ebro.

The nephew and son of two of those who undertook this remarkable journey and adventure attended the celebration, They were Neil Cooney and Ian Dewar, nephew and son of Bob Cooney and Archie Dewar respectively. Neil Cooney gave a talk about the contribution of those from Aberdeen.

Bob Cooney survived the War and returned to Aberdeen to then fight in the Second World War, but Archie gave the ultimate sacrifice and died in action at the Ebro.

There was some poetry, music and a general discussion on the war, the events leading up to it and the policy of non-intervention by Britain and France, a policy which resulted in a Fascist/Franco victory. But the Spanish Civil War did sow the seeds of the beginning of the end for Hitler and Mussolini.

The flag you see in the photos is hanging proudly in the ATUC Social Club. It was the then Spanish Flag of the Republic of Spain, and the bodies of Archie Dewar and Tom Davidson were wrapped in this flag on their deaths. The flag was then sent back to Aberdeen by Bob Cooney.

Aberdeen Women’s Aid Committee sewed on the legend “From the Aberdeen Boys Fighting in Spain”.

An ATUC booklet produced for the war’s 60th anniversary, Remembering the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, was available to those attending the celebration. I requested both Neil Cooney and Ian Dewar to sign my copy, which was a very proud and emotive moment indeed, after hearing of the courage, bravery, commitment and endurance of those who volunteered to fight in Spain.

Footnote:
Bob Cooney was the Political Commissar to the British Battalion of the International Brigade, and he penned the poem ” Hasta La Vista Madrid” no doubt somewhat inspired by the words he wrote when he was requested to leave Spain by Prime Minister Negrin, when the defeat of the Republicans and their Democratically elected Government was inevitable:

“We went to Spain
Because of that great yesterday
We are part of that great tomorrow
Hasta LaVista- Madrid”
(Until we see Madrid again)