The Blanket

In Search Of An Alternative World
The man who can face vilification and disgrace, who can stand up against the popular current, even against his friends and his country when he knows he is right, who can defy those in authority over him, who can take punishment and prison and remain steadfast - that is a man of courage. The fellow whom you taunt as a 'slacker' because he refuses to turn murderer - he needs courage. But do you need much courage just to obey orders, to do as you are told and to fall in line with thousands of others to the tune of general approval and the Star Spangled Banner? - Alexander Berkman

Anthony McIntyre • 21 November, 2002

I went to a meeting of the Irish Anti-War Movement last night. I had not been at one in almost a year. And after that I promised myself I would never go back. Members of the various Trotskyists sects sat there waiting to pounce on each other and they did not have long to wait. That meeting fell apart in disarray while most of us departed the room and headed home. They didn't even notice we were away as they got on with, what for them was the real business of the evening, snarling and howling allegations at each other. Being thankful for small mercies I was grateful that they had no ice picks with which to sort each other out. I suppose sectarian squabbling is the raison d'etre for their sectional existence. In the meantime the world moves on leaving them stuck in Moscow in 1917.

Last night's meeting was different. Only one of those involved in last years charade was in attendance. And freed from the goading of the others he made an excellent contribution. It was heartening also to see Ann Fitzpatrick there. She had chaired last year’s debacle and can only have been demoralised at the complete lack of seriousness on display at a time when an impoverished and vulnerable Afghan population was paying the price set by the Coalition bombers for the crimes of their totalitarian and theocratic leadership. But that hardly mattered to the sects when there were deviationists to be denounced and rounded upon. On the platform with Ann yesterday evening were Feilim O hAdhmail of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Brian Kelly of the Socialist Workers Party.

In many ways it was Ann who summed up a sentiment common to swathes of people involved in non-institutional politics throughout the world today. ‘We know what we are against but we are not sure what we are for. It is still being debated.’ A bit Chomskyan - perhaps even Foucauldian or Derridean but hardly Marxist. Yet, that Marxists and non-Marxists alike are sitting down together trying to prevent or even limit the fate that most likely awaits the civilian population of Iraq and are having that debate was a cause for some satisfaction. Ann spoke of her recent involvement in the huge Florence demonstration and shared with her audience the lesson she took away from that experience - there are non-institutional alternatives and it is important for people to build them here rather than have them exist only as mere memories from an Italian city.

Following her was Feilim. In the past year he has expended much of his energy in campaigning on behalf of the Palestinians. He has visited the occupied territories and carries with him a controlled anger as a result of what he witnessed there. His house for a month was home to four young Palestinians who visited Ireland at the request of the IPSC during the summer. He spoke about the Israeli targeting of Palestinian children, backing up his claims with extensive statistics. He stated that the IPSC would be opposing any US led attempt to attack Iraq. While opposed to the war on principle he stated that his work on behalf of the Palestinians had led him to fear for their future - Sharon would use it as a shield to commit even greater atrocities.

Commenting on the palpable lack of widespread involvement in campaigns of the type we were gathered to construct, Feilim felt the cause for this lay in our own conflict situation here in Ireland. Too many people who would otherwise be involved are not because they are busy in other political activities or standing shoulder to shoulder with their own communities who are under siege or facing some other problem. But I felt that a competing explanation was worthy of consideration. The development of a culture of institutional politics within the heart of what were formerly resistance communities may, in my view, have helped marginalise the alternative non-institutional politics that Ann had referred to and which are the substance and mainstay of oppositional campaigns. Feilim concluded by asking the audience to call on all parties, in particular those who claim to be radical, to demonstrate where they stand on the great issues that plague the world today - with the oppressed or the oppressor.

Brian Kelly has recently been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards for his book on racist related activities in the Southern states of America. Organised and articulate he wasted no time in beginning his deconstruction of the pro-war myths. Drawing on material from informed sources he argued that the evidence showed that Iraq has no capacity to wage an attack of mass destruction on the USA. Amongst those sources quoted were CIA documentation, the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Scott Ridder, the former head of the United Nations Weapons Inspection team. He then went on to ask why, if there was no genuine threat from Iraq, were the US determined to pursue the present course of action? His answer is that American capital is trying to shape a world in which it can dictate what others will do. The intentions to wage this war, he contended, were well entrenched before 9/11.

An interesting feature of the night came when Davy Carlin, the chair, read out a statement from PUP member and former loyalist prisoner Billy Mitchel who offered his support for the stand of the anti-war movement. I held my breath in anticipation of a walk out from some cultic moron on the grounds that loyalists can’t take part in anti-war activity. But they seemed to be elsewhere last night - maybe at 'defend China' rallies - and we were spared the rant.

Davy Carlin who chaired the meeting managed to achieve what few do at these type of events - he did not permit the panel to go on too long and he provided sufficient time for the audience to participate. One drawback, however was that due to the need to keep contributions from the floor brief some of his SWP colleagues were unable to expound at any length even though they were actually making some of the most insightful contributions of the evening. They at least respected the position of the chair. Other socialists, however, persisted in long winded exercises in vacuity. One man, fed up with the monologues, whispered to me 'I'm bored.' I was too.

The best contributions I heard dealt with a rejection of the notion cultivated by Christopher Hitchens that Islamic fundamentalism constituted a theocratic fascism which should be confronted by a progressive Western secularism; and that the Bosnian experience showed us that despotic regimes removed by military intervention rather than popular revolt reduced the chances of the despots being replaced with thoroughly democratic regimes.

A positive meeting, I nevertheless came away feeling it was very much the same old faces; tired people digging deep into their depleting reserves of time in order to achieve something better for others not able to do much themselves. What can a malnourished and ill Iraqi child or his mother do to halt the cluster bombs? I left for home not convinced that we could do much either. This is a city that sees many of its inhabitants jump up and down like clowns to greet Bill Clinton not long after he had destroyed a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory. Andrew King was alone in challenging him. No surprise that out of the Clinton audience he was perhaps the only one to have been with us last night. But to go home and do nothing seemed less ethical than persevering in a bid to register resistance and dissent, and help in some infinitesimal way to keep alive Ann Fitzpatrick's hope for that alternative world.





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It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.
- Arthur Calwell
Index: Current Articles

22 November 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


House of Cards
Michael Dahan


It's Gone - Hip, Hip, Hurrah!
Sean Smyth


In Search of an Alternative World
Anthony McIntyre



Brian Mór


Kilroy Nouveau

Brian Mór


Kilroy Redux

Brian Mór

17 November 2002


The People Who Can't Be Bought
Bernadette McAliskey


Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolutions
Liam O Ruairc


For Stormont & PSNI

Brian Mór


Should Adams Be Meeting With US Warmongers?
Eamonn McCann


Justice Not Revenge
Anthony McIntyre


Arbitrary Imprisonment

Sam Bahour and Michael Dahan


Support The Life Savers and Not The Life Takers
Davy Carlin





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