The prospect of police forcibly putting people on to aeroplanes and transporting them in handcuffs out of the country might seem alien to the concept of the friendly, welcoming and "Cead Mile Failte" image portrayed in Bord Failte literature. Yet this is exactly what is now happening.
Who, we might wonder, are these people who are being turfed out of the country? It's certainly not going to be Charles Haughey or any of his mates being sent off to bring back information about their offshore accounts. Nor is it going to be property speculators or land re-zoners being told to sod off and stop ripping off working class people. In fact the people who are being thrown out of the country are people who have fled authoritarian regimes, people who have been forced to leave their families and friends because of extreme poverty, the prospect of arrest for their political or religious beliefs, the threat of torture or even death.
A government made up of Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats - two of the parties whose economic policies have forced tens of thousands of Irish people to leave the country in search of work - are throwing out people who, similarly, are victims of a crazy system which puts profits before people. How, we might ask, has this come to pass?
Batten down the hatches!
What essentially is happening is that - through a combination of a Supreme Court ruling from last November and the EU's "Dublin Convention" signed last September - the guardians of the "Celtic Tiger" are battening down the hatches.
The "Dublin Convention" states that applications for asylum must be made in the first EU country in which an asylum seeker arrives. Given that practically no-one can come to Ireland without passing through another European country, the 'Dublin Convention' gives the Irish authorities a practical 'carte blanche' for refusing access to the state.
Some might argue that people are only being deported to another EU country and that their application for asylum will be dealt with in that country. However it is well known that many EU countries are refusing asylum applications and returning people to their countries of origin - where many of them face arrest, torture or even death. In fact in England a number of years ago a refugee woman - Joy Gardner - was handled so brutally by immigration police that they killed her before they had a chance to dump her on a plane.
John O'Donoghue - Fianna Fail's 'Zero Tolerance' Minister for Justice - is already on record as saying that up to 90% of current applications for asylum are likely to be refused. Given that the vast majority of cases have not actually been heard, it is clear that O'Donoghue's concept of 'Justice' is akin to the 'give them a fair trial and then hang them' of old (except that he doesn't even want to be bothered with the hassle of the supposedly "fair" trial). He and his officials have already made up their minds that large numbers of applications are "bogus", echoing his party colleague Ivor Callely of Dublin North Central who has called for "rogue asylum seekers" to be "kicked out" of Ireland and - obviously using the same future-reading skills as the Minister - has declared that while 70% of current applications for asylum are yet to be heard "..a considerable proportion are found to be not deserving of asylum."
The WSM rejects the concept of immigration control. We further reject the idea that distinctions should be drawn between 'genuine' (i.e. political) refugees and economic refugees. None of us in Ireland need to be reminded of what it is like to be an economic refugee.
Few groups or individuals on the left in Ireland understand that the situation of Travellers was until recently the most explicit form of racism in this country. Because Travellers are white, people have difficulty recognising discrimination against them as racism. Travellers are subjected to the most extreme forms of social exclusion and segregation which can only be described as apartheid.
They are refused service in pubs, cafes, many shops, launderettes, hairdressers, discos, hotels, cinemas and even some doctors refuse to serve them.
At school many Traveller children are taught in totally segregated classes which cater for Traveller children of all ages in the one class. Officially this is done to provide them with a service that respects their nomadic culture. In reality nothing could be further from the truth, which is that it is done in order to discriminate against them more efficiently.
Racism is a particular form of domination, exploitation and exclusion. Racism against Travellers and Gypsies is rooted in an ideology of sedentarist superiority. This is the belief that the settled person's way of life is the modern norm and that nomadism is a throwback to less civilised times.
Nomadic people also pose a threat to the values of property ownership and the accumulation of possessions. Racism involves power domination by one group over the other. Because Travellers are such a small minority of the population (0.5% approx) they are totally at the mercy of the settled population. The effects of this racism and exclusion can be graphically seen in the health statistics of the Traveller population.
Traveller infants have three times the infant mortality rate of the settled population. Traveller women have a life expectancy that is fifteen years less than their settled counterparts and Traveller men's life expectancy is ten years less than settled men's. They don't fare any better educationally. Only a handful of Traveller children, have made it through second level education and there are still only a tiny number of Travellers nationwide who have completed a third level course.
About 80% of the adult population are illiterate and still only about 70% of the primary school age children get to school. Some schools still refuse to take them. These are the statistics of racism... a group of the population whose health and educational standards are at least 50 years behind that of the rest of the population. But the official response to these kinds of statistics is to blame this scandalous situation on Travellers themselves and on their preferred nomadic lifestyle.
Racism against Gypsies and Travellers goes back to the time they started migrating from India around the 11th century. It reached its height with the extermination of a quarter of a million Gypsies and Travellers by the Nazis. In Ireland the racism against Travellers is so deep and so all pervasive that few people even recognise it for what it is. In the fight against this racism Travellers themselves and their organisations need to be centrally involved.
They must set the agenda, deciding on what issues and how they want to fight. They need the active support of the left, and especially of the trade union movement because they have very little muscle on their own. There have been attempts over the past thirty years at Traveller self-organisation but these organisations were quickly smashed by the state.
In 1963 the Gardai planted explosives on Gratton Puxon, the organiser of the Irish Traveller Community which was becoming a force to be reckoned with. Nearly twenty years later they planted stolen jewellery on Nan Joyce, a leading member of the Traveller-only organisation Minceir Miscli. Nan ran against a racist candidate in Tallaght in the General Election of 1982 and got twice the number of votes as he did. For left wing activists concerned about racism there is plenty of it to fight in relation to Travellers.
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Organising to resist deportations is one of the key tasks facing all anti-racists An effective campaign will be one which can ensure that the political climate is such that the government will be afraid to throw people out because of the adverse public reaction this would get. This climate cannot be brought about overnight. Huge amounts of work are needed to counter the racist nonsense which working class people are subjected to by the media and by politicians.
We must work to win over majority opinion. This will of necessity involve taking on and defeating the racist arguments about "spongers" etc. and pointing out that working class people have much more in common with refugees and asylum seekers than we have with the likes of Tony O'Reilly, Michael Smurfit, Michael Lowry, Larry Goodman, Charlie Haughey and the rest of the real spongers and parasites.
Links and tactics
Links must be built with workers in the airports and the ferryports to try to ensure their refusal to co-operate with deportations. We must also look to building strong links with groups of asylum seekers such as the Association of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Ireland and to being prepared to take direct action protest activities to prevent people being thrown out of the country.
We must be prepared to learn from the tactics employed by anti-deportation campaigns throughout Europe, in particular the Sans Papiers movement in France who - through church occupations by people threatened with deportation and other such direct action tactics - raised the issue in a huge way and built a broad and somewhat successful campaign.
It is a huge challenge. As anarchists, members of the WSM have been involved in building the Anti Racism Campaign (Dublin) and Immigrant Solidarity (Cork). We call on all anti-racists to get involved in these campaigns and to held build the fight against racism, against deportations and for a multicultural Ireland - an Ireland where everyone is welcome regardless of culture or skin colour and where working class people stand together against poverty and exploitation.
"What do we mean by respect for humanity? We mean the recognition of human right and human dignity in every man, of whatever race [or] colour"
Mikhail Bakunin, 1867
Anarchists hold that until all are free then no one is free. We also oppose the existence of all government and thus all borders. Socialism for us is not just about who profits from our work but also opposition to all forms of oppression that set one human above another. As such its hardly surprising that anarchists oppose racism and were frequently to be found at the heart of anti-racist struggles
Historically Bakunin was the mid-wife of anarchism. He had started political life as a Slav nationalist opposing Russian imperialism but by the mid-1860s came to recognise that all states were unjust and so with others laid the foundations of the anarchist movement. Many socialists of that period had not given much consideration to workers outside of Europe or worse, defended imperialism as civilising 'primitive' peoples or societies. Marx for instance saw the German and British occupations of Eastern Europe and India respectively as playing a progressive role.
By the turn of the century anarchist ideas had spread rapidly outside the European working class and had become popular among the workers of Asia (in particular Korea, China and Japan) and Latin America. In Eastern Europe anarchism became popular amongst Jewish communities and as people from these communities fled poverty and pogroms they brought anarchist ideas into the USA and Britain. In the US the anarchist influenced IWW was the first union to jointly organise 'white' workers, Black workers and Chinese immigrants. In Cuba anarchists organised unions and fought against the Spanish occupation and the late US intervention
By the early years of this century anarchism was already a multi-cultural movement that had spread throughout the global working class. The waves of repression against anarchists alongside the poverty of the communities many of them came from meant that in many countries the movement included immigrants from all over the world.
In areas where the anarchist movement was strong this opposition
to racism and imperialism was translated into action. In 1909
Barcelona anarchists played a major role in initiating a general
strike against military conscription for the war in Morocco. In 1912
anarchists played a significant role in the Mexican revolution with
indigenous movements like the Zapatistas taking up the anarchist
demand for 'Land and Liberty' and hundreds of IWW members joining the
Mexican anarchists in liberating a large section of Northern Mexico.
During the Russian Revolution the anarchist influenced Makhnovist
Army liberated much of the Eastern Ukraine. This area was rife with
anti-Semitism, even Red Army units were responsible for as many as
500 deaths in Pogroms in 1919 alone! The Makhnovists provided arms
for Jewish communities, allowed Jews to form separate units in their
army if they so wished and declared
"Your revolutionary duty is to stifle all nationalist persecution by dealing ruthlessly with the instigators of anti-Semitic pogroms [racist attacks]..."
As fascism arose in the 1920's and '30's anarchists were frequently to be found at the heart of the anti-fascist movements. In 1920 in Italy, for instance, when the anti-fascist alliance Arditi del Popolo emerged to physically fight the fascists, anarchists were often its local organisers. Korean anarchists fought the Japanese invasion of Korea and for a while liberated a large segment of the north of the country. Even after the fascists came to power anarchists went underground, attempting to assassinate Hitler and Mussolini on several occasions.
The growth of Leninism and fascism meant the destruction of the pre-war anarchist movement in most countries. In France where it retained some strength it opposed the French war against Vietnam and later reacted to the start of the Algerian war of independence (against France) with the headline "North-Africa : one single people fighting against killer imperialism". The French Anarchist Federation's continued opposition to the racist French governments war in Algeria were to see its meetings attacked (on one occasion with guns and grenades), its paper banned several times and in March of 1961 the office of its paper and the Paris bookshop bombed, the huge explosion demolishing the building.
With the re-birth of anarchism after 1968 anarchists once more became involved at the heart of anti-racist movements throughout the western world. In recent years anarchists have also organised movements in opposition to the 1991 'Gulf War' and in solidarity with the indigenous rebellion of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. Significantly after the collapse of Leninism in 1989 the first anarchist movements appeared in Africa, Turkey and the Lebanon and the movement throughout Latin America is growing rapidly.
The contribution Irish anarchists have made to building the anti-racist movements here is part of an international movement and tradition stretching back over 100 years. We recognise no states and hence no border or immigration controls. But we recognise that as long as capitalism exists it will create borders, it will create racism and it will create refugees of both those whom it considers 'uneconomic' and those it considers a political threat. We would urge fellow anti-racists to take the next step and join the anarchist movement.
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As you're already an anti-racist you may be interested to know what we mean by anarchism and why we believe that racism is only one battle to be fought. As long as we have capitalism we shall have racism.
Anarchists are against all forms of racism because anarchists wish to create a free and equal society based on grassroots democracy and true equality. We wish to destroy the laws and prejudices they've invented to chain us, divide us, conquer us. They divide us with their propaganda - witness the front page of the Irish Independent saying how the refugees coming into Ireland were costing the exchequer millions. They take people's hopes away by changing nothing. Divide and rule is the tactic they use
We are not going to change society if we are fighting amongst ourselves. Ireland has a trickle of refugees entering our land and the politicians, aided and abetted by the press, are trying to whip up indignation about the costs incurred. As anarchists we try and view their strategy as part of the bigger picture.
The Bigger Picture
Economically Ireland is in an economic boom. Yet alongside this boom, which is making rich people a lot richer, we have desperate poverty. Whole communities have been abandoned decades ago by the state and they are now trying to deal with the problems that come from that. With that abandonment and poverty come the problems of drug addiction and alcoholism. People don't see an alternative to this capitalist system. The trickle down theory is a misnomer, it should be renamed the Hoover up theory. Irish people are working longer and harder now, paying more tax and seeing no benefit for this. The wealth flows from us to the already extremely wealthy. The ruling class are running this country for their own interests. Racism is just another weapon they have in their arsenal to splinter us.
Racism is a means of organising and justifying the oppression of large masses of people. Ask any Traveller in Ireland how long this country has been racist. The answer would be since it's birth as a nation. So it hasn't been surprising that when a few refugees successfully managed to get onto this island that they've ended up being treated with racism. While Hitler murdered millions of Jews in Europe our government turned away the few German Jews who managed to make it to Ireland on the grounds that there presence here "might lead to a rise in anti-semitism."!!
Fighting the various outbreaks of racism and poverty is very necessary but we are fighting the symptoms we need to also challenge the heart of the disease. We are continually tinkering with the engine of the car without attacking the driver of this system. Anarchism is about the majority of us seizing the power back from the exploiters. We are in campaigns but our ideal, our goal, is to build confidence in our class so that we will be in a position to take on the bosses and the rulers. Only by placing revolutionary ideas to the fore and by backing that up with activity will we ever be position to take the power back. Imagine a society based on freedom not tyranny, equality not exploitation, and the right to live on a basis of need not greed, to live where you want to not where you're told to. We all know that there has to be a better way to live rather than the nightmare of today. There has to be a better way for humanity to exit this millennium then under the yoke of Capitalism. Now imagine yourself working to make the dream of a new world a reality. Now stop imagining.
"Liberty for all, and a natural respect for that liberty: such are the essential conditions of international solidarity"