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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The History of the Belfast Anti War Movement
Part 3

This is the final article on the Belfast Anti War Movement (BAWM).
History of the Belfast Anti War Movement: Part 1 and Part 2

Recent anti-war article: From Belfast to the Middle East

Some BAWM and International AWM pictures etc of 2003


Davy Carlin

After our last march (Part 2) through Belfast city centre various aspects of our Movement continued with many various forms of anti war direct actions and mobilisations, as we had still a large and vibrant movement. Then during the summer of that year the continued rise of brutal local attacks on the minority ethnic community were becoming ever more overt, and with that I had went along to an initial meeting called in relation to such matters.

And it was there that I had then decided to concentrate my attentions and was happy to do so as the BAWM was very much in a healthy and vibrant state when I had moved across, and we had built up much respect across the activist world from 2002 to then.

Yet as stated, when I had moved across and had moved to setting up the Anti Racism Network (ARN) that was also to eventually become a movement, only one other SWP member came with me in attempting to establish such an anti racism campaign at the time. The rest of the Belfast SWP remained in the BAWM and other such campaigns.

By now I had decided that I would concentrate my activism on the ARN as I had believed it essential that, while of course showing solidarity on issues abroad, people HERE were also being attacked, beaten, brutalised and eventually murdered because of the colour of their skin and difference of their 'culture.'

Because of that we in Belfast where to become known as the 'Race hate Capital of Europe' and a stand therefore needed to be taken against those who were attacking the minority ethnic communities here.

For me I had always thought it essential that while dealing with such issues and lending such solidarity to far away lands the crux of such stands must nevertheless be where one is. I had found though that such Revolutionary Socialist organisations - and there are a few here - do not visibly stand on such issues locally, or if they do, it is only through polemics. I can say though without fear of contradiction that I was the only one who year in and year out within ALL such local organisations had visibly stood, mobilised or provided defence for the most vulnerable on such matters locally while doing similar on far off issues.

Solely confronting 'far off' Imperialism can be 'sexy.' Confronting it at home is a different matter all together, and I believe because of that, many such organisations actually make excuses or shirk from it.

From my earliest of youth I had been on demos and rallies against matters at home. In recent times I came across a picture of myself in the funeral procession of Bobby Sands in 1981 as a ten year old kid. I had went on the procession against some relatives wishes who feared that I could be caught up if any trouble kicked off. Yet even at that tender age, like so many others, I was well versed in trouble and death. Whatever one thought about such rallies and marches, I have throughout life stood with those who were taking on Imperialism, at times face to face. When a more mature political activist I took also to stating what I had believed to be the shortcomings of anti-imperialist organisations.

I never saw standing on the sidelines as any option other than the easy one. I stood with those (from many political hues) who stood against the brutality of the state while at the same time raising and condemning any such senseless brutality coming from them. I had spoken out against the brutal murder of Andy Kearney by the IRA, a person I had known and sat around tables with in youth.

And so while l may not have agreed with the tactics they espoused (and had written and stated that) I had nevertheless been there and offered solidarity and such, when the sheer brutality of the state rained down on many innocents.

Much of the far left instead gave mere polemics, espoused economism or stayed away from the local and concentrated on the 'far off.' To me that makes such 'Revolutionary Socialist Organisations' mere cardboard cut -outs.

On that point on taking a stand locally, I had raised this issue before. When the once termed Belfast SWP (BSWP) was kicking off in Belfast it was Globalise Resistance (GR) that was launched, then when I had left it was then Global Justice (GJ) that they had tried to set up (but flopped).

Yet in between that time (GR to GJ, and in that period I was involved at the forefront in the Belfast SWP) there where those who had argued for and were at the forefront of pushing and lending solidarity with and to others on such local issues. This from supporting political prisoners from many political hues, or regularly marching, protesting and picketing against police brutality and plastic bullets, through to standing against sectarianism, racism, collusion and state cover-up in murders, protesting for demilitarisation, blockading orange marches through nationalist areas, active interface area solidarity, and much more

And in doing so even in those recent times I have received numerous threats, baton charges, snatch squads come after me, through to witnessing comrades' skulls being cracked open and seeing yet again others being shot by the state, and much more.

And although this at times resulted in extensive surveillance on myself, it was nevertheless, I believed, and believe, even more important to stand up to it on my own doorstep (however more difficult and more intense that is) while of course both lending solidarity and mobilising on similar issues in far off lands.

Yet in the last two years (for the SWP - since I have left) it has all went back to the 'far away Socialism' of far off wars and repression and Globalise this and Global that, and any mobilisation that is to take place was not onto Belfast streets but to mobilise against War and Poverty elsewhere. While this in itself is not wrong the fact is that virtually all such calls now from the SWP in Belfast is for that 'far away' Socialism to address the Global issue or to march on Global issues locally.

Since leaving the SWP, I have noticed that there no longer is any of that core issue of local and Coal face solidarity on such essential issues which was once at the Corner stone of the BSWP.Many they can take what they want out of that.

Within 8 or so weeks of my moving across to establish the ARN, the BAWM had in effect collapsed. I had written various correspondences at this time then to the SWP Political Committee outlining both this and other concerns that had become more overt.

Indeed although I did not 'officially' leave the SWP until the following year I had in effect started the 'real' drift away 18 months before that. While starting to be involved heavily in the ARN I had at that time pushed and argued for the still BAWM to keep going as it had collapsed

Note below - Section of correspondence in relation to the BAWM that I had sent to the SWP Political leadership at the time.

Facts - no one in Belfast was dealing with BAWM, no one in Belfast even knew who was dealing with it apart from one comrade from Derry! So with no-one doing anything, no-one turning up for anything, no one knowing who was dealing with it and nothing being done (and with it in effect therefore having collapsed) I then argued for some one in Belfast to take it on. One comrade was to contact another about this but to no avail..

So a meeting was called for that week and I both phoned people and also phoned one comrade twice to see how it was going and even offering some initial help for that first meeting (to revitalise it). It was from that decision - that began the concrete organisation and momentum that enabled events including the gig to be 'properly' organised.

With that (revitalisation) I know that others are 'now' helping out with various comrades including myself contacting our contacts to inform them of events. This I had done widely within my networks and contacts (as had others) for the 300 plus march in Belfast and again as I and others did for the Tim Collins visit.

And so due to my interventions the BAWM was revitalised briefly, but as already stated in my diary I had decided that I was not going back to then jumping between SWP branches and campaigns to resuscitate them as I had did in the past, as this was just substitutism.

Therefore while the ARN starting mobilising thousands and many different actions as recorded elsewhere (in the first Anti Racism Movement ever seen in the North) - the BAWM in effect again collapsed. This time though I had made up my own mind where I was to concentrate my priorities on - and that was the ARN.

A similar situation had occurred when I had eventually stood down from the ARN steering group (but continued within my local West Belfast ARN branch). I had played a key role in urging ARN activists at the time to go to the MPH rally during the period of my standing down (I was Chair of MPH NI also) and it was I who had also set up the TV, radio and newspapers to travel with the ARN etc to the rally.

Yet when I had stood down from the ARN steering group, (the ARN Movement created was still at this time mobilising and highly respected and followed across the globe) it was though in effect once again to be the end of the at times historic (anti-racism) mobilisations.

Yet (and again as with my concentration on the ARN from the BAWM) similar thousands were in the process of being mobilised, this time through the MPH campaign that was also to become yet another local Movement, again mobilising thousands of Catholic, Protestant and dissenter onto the streets of Belfast.

NOTE - The final part of the History of the Anti Racism Movement Part 3 (Part one and two on the Blanket) will be written shortly with a link to the TV documentary that records the first ever such Anti Racism march and rally through Belfast City centre streets (which had also seen a large West Belfast feeder march from the local working class community).

As a key organiser in the West Belfast Anti War marches, I lead them off down the Falls Road in West Belfast to the city Centre. Previous to that I had also helped lead the Falls and Shankill Road march through West Belfast's streets.

Then the History of the Make Poverty History Movement in the North shall be recorded.

In all of these ventures I was a founding member, spokesperson and chair and was and interviewed and photographed on behalf of those movements for news agencies throughout the world.

In stating this, I wish to underline my bird's eye view of developments which had shown me a number to things. Firstly the undemocratic actions of some in the SWP leadership and the fantasy and formula politics (not based on reality), which had been another key reason for my leaving.

The fact was (in relation to my leaving the BSWP, who where at the forefront of the Anti War Movement) that I was always told of the need for such a far left Vanguard party to bring about such campaigns and Movements. Yet as shown and in real terms nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed in my earliest of activist days (as recorded elsewhere) if I had moved on from one SWP branch to another it would have seen the branch I had left, in most cases simply collapsing after my departure. Similar in the Movements, as soon as I had moved on (leaving the rest of the Vanguard party there at the forefront) such would also collapse or no longer mobilise or find little support, again on my departure. This is not to blow my own trumpet but is intended to underline my belief if their survival was dependant on one person, as campaigns of movements they had little serious substance to them.

It further shows that such a Vanguard is not needed; individuals can and do play a vital role in ensuring such campaigns and Movements happen, or continue to happen.

Indeed to cement this point I can state that since leaving such a Vanguard party, I have as before continued to be at the forefront with other individuals and groups in both mobilising still thousands and winning historic working class victories in more new Movements and campaigns. This while that particular vanguard party having organised absolutely nothing new, by way of campaigns and movements, onto Belfast streets over all that time.

This simply hammers the lie that a far left Vanguard party is needed to create, mobilise and sustain campaigns and Movements. I have shown that it is not needed, and indeed, as many have told me, such a far left Vanguard Party had actually held me back.

And so, Libertarians, Anarchists and concerned individuals, have, do, and will play an essential role in initiating, driving forward and ensuring that such vital campaigns and movements continue.

Therefore a long, long time later after the collapse of the BAWM and when I had moved on from the SWP the then SWP organiser sought to then kick start the BAWM as there was little else on offer for them and they of course would have the BAWM name, as with the ARN which had in those early days created respect.

And so over time the BAWM (SWP in effect then) started holding meetings with key speakers provided by London SWP. They could not mobilise, however, as activists were aware of what was going on in relation to lack of democracy etc.

Indeed the only activists within that year or so to actually mobilise in pickets, rallies etc onto Belfast's streets against war and in solidarity with others was Anti War Ireland (AWI), Socialist Youth and the Peace People.

Then as the BAWM ticked along holding such meetings while other organisations where mobilising onto Belfast's streets, the attacks on Lebanon happened (read link above, 'from Belfast to the Middle East) and with that new anti war mobilisations needed to come to the fore.

Which brings me up to date to the recent mobilisations.

Firstly a protest at the BBC that was in effect a Sinn Fein (SF) and an Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) one. But with that the SWP, although having had not and not been able to mobilise anything, under the BAWM name or any name in years onto Belfast's streets offered to 'support' the protest.

Then the second mobilisation was to be a march and rally. In between that time I had given, despite my disagreement with them, visible support to the BAWM's (5 SWP members) stall. The issue I felt was more important than any disagreement. Yet once again though and towards the end of the mobilisations (and this was the final straw,) I had asked (again) of how activists get involved in the renewed BAWM meetings. To which I was told (by a key BAWM/SWP spokesperson) that the meetings were 'closed meetings and they are only for people we invite.'

And so with that they had sought to close the doors to those who they thought may be a disturbing influence to their undemocratic manoeuvrings and sought instead to embrace those who they believed would offer little words against them.

Indeed now but a front, it now sees the death of the now once termed Belfast Anti War Movement whose name and activism had once went out on TV and radio screens and stations across the globe.

I can understand in the immediacy of the times that things are not done as well as they should be, but when organisations deliberately move to exclude genuine activists for their own sectarian interests then that is another thing all together.

Indeed one cannot effect change within such if excluded from that. And although things can be moved from the outside on occasion, such things also need the dynamic from within.

Therefore genuine activists will find no other alternative but to move on, while of course offering support for anti war calls. For myself I had asked on several occasions to be involved but I had been ignored. Despite that I had still given and offered support. But one can only take so much, then one has to decide how to move things forward where all can have a say within democratic structures

And therefore for me I have moved to become involved in Anti War Ireland (AWI) an open, broad and democratic organisation as was the BAWM of old. Indeed the BAWM was like the once BSWP was, that is, once respected and known Ireland over for its once way of democratically reaching out and organising, to the effect it (Belfast SWP) was recognised as being completely different from any other branch of the SWP at the time.

As for the BAWM, well it is now simply a front for the SWP, and again with the 'influence from afar', have now destroyed it by their actions and desperation to get out of the wilderness after years of not mobilising anything new onto Belfast streets

Yet despite that, the inspirational history of our Movement, the Belfast Anti-War Movement (as with the Anti-Racism Movement as with the Anti-Poverty Movement) is and will continue to be written and recorded.

The Belfast Anti-War Movement was a Movement (from the international interviews I had done and contacts made) that had inspired and was both watched and listened to by many the globe over. Now if people so wish we can begin to look back at it and learn the lessons as we move forward anew against the continual barbarity and brutality of such war.

And so the recent mobilisations I had raised led to the first march and rally take place In Central Belfast in ages. Between the various recent mobilisations in Belfast around 1000 people attended.

The first march and rally witnessed in Belfast in recent times had seen the majority of those who attended come from West Belfast (and someone called it a West Belfast march) under the banners of the IPSC, West Belfast ARN, SF, IRSP etc .

This was an important initiative and building block, with many activists working visibly and otherwise to build it as an initial step - and was supported by most of the left organisations and groups in Belfast.

For myself after having led of the march (as a member of Organise!) with key members of the Belfast branch of the IPSC (and the IPSC banner) I had spoken briefly at the end, after the other two speakers from the IPSC. I had stated within my short speech that all such campaigns, actions and tactics should be supported whatever differences in tactics etc we have.

On that matter looking back a few years ago - although the Dublin (Irish) Anti War Movement by and large was about march after march around Dublin - the BAWM had seen sit downs, lock downs, mass mobilisations, road blocks, walkouts, occupations and much more. It embraced and became embedded within the local Movement as there were many understandings within the Movement.

This is a lesson that such other local Anti War Movements, like the IAWM should learn from and take example from.

Another important point raised in relation to this march and rally came from an online debate I had with an activist who stated, in part.

Why not have an Anti-War movement that will be open to all in Belfast? Davy Carlin and others don't seem to care that only people from West Belfast came. If you restrict yourself to this your campaign will fail. Trocaire ( I was both calling for and working hard to build the Trocaire rally which was to be the next one) is a wing of the Catholic Church. They offer nothing progressive for the people of Lebanon. They call for a "just peace" in middle-east. I wonder what the RC view of "just" is? IPSC do good work. But they also have wrong politics. They make a call for boycott of Israeli Trades Unions. According to them the Israeli Working Class are to blame for Lebanese massacres. Then you have Sinn Fein and IRSP. Both base themselves on Communal Politics.

To which I replied:

the call to mobilise was open to all, those who turned up is but a statement of fact - and for many not surprising, given the history of many in such working class communities who have been and are at the forefront of standing and marching in solidarity with oppressed people the world over.

Indeed the 'once BAWM of old (and it was I who had provided it with the name 'BAWM- similar as I had done with the ARN name -who also were there) originally started of with a similar march with most 'activists coming from West Belfast (in 2002), that is not sectarian but as stated simply a statement of fact - and not surprising.

Indeed it must be said that at that time key and prominent working class Protestant community workers and activists from the Shankill and East Belfast had also marched on that first march - and it was I (individually) who had reached out the hand to seek their involvement at the time

Indeed the Protestant working class have been involved in many 'such initiatives in recent years although not to the extent of those from Nationalist and Republican communities - indeed - much can be read of such if you so wish within the various links given within attached article

As for the other points you make well you obviously have a position - as do many, including myself, but presently I believe that all who want to end the continual slaughter of human life and who are prepared to mobilise, raise awareness, and protest about it, should be supported.

The proletarian revolution, the planning of new a socialist economy in the Middle East or all the disagreements you have with everyone else who are doing something - well, they can of course be discussed in the process of mobilisation and solidarity - if you so choose.

In the meantime highlight the issue, and lend solidarity to those who at least are prepared to do something about it'.

And with that the second rally was being planned and organised by Trocaire.

For oneself I have always advocated standing with those who stand against that what you were also standing against, while arguing and debating with those that might be convinced within that how to seek real change. And so I had worked in the background at this time to attempt to bring about a move from the West Belfast march and the Left, to a march that could begin to bring the representation of the local Movement together onto the streets. This while knowing that the momentum created may see the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) taking an interest (and be moved to also react).

And so this happened, that is, that the ICTU was again moved to calls as the momentum was being worked both visible and otherwise for the Trocaire rally. Indeed it was first called as a StWc march and rally but eventually came under the banner of ICTU. That mattered little, as the goal had been achieved, that was, to getting ICTU to call a rally.

Indeed a Trocaire rally, it nevertheless though had seen the representation of the local movement onto the streets of Belfast not seen in a long time on the issue of such War.

As recorded at the time;

'Several hundred attended the Trocaire Rally in Belfast today with representation across the Movement in attendance and lending support.

Several of the key NGO organisations and their representatives from the MPH - CGAP, Northern Coalition were there. Politicians including Gerry Adams (SF), Carmel Hanna (SDLP) David Ervine (PUP), the Mayor of Belfast etc, had stood shoulder to shoulder with key trade unionists as well as banners and placards ranging from some of the largest trades unions NIPSA to UNISON, through to Reps of the Belfast Trade Union Council.

Party banners from the SDLP through to the Workers party joined activists and supporters of Organise! through to the SP and SWP. Key activists from the IPSC, ARN, the Chinese Welfare Society and Belfast Islamic Centre were joined with banners from Amnesty International through to Trocaire, local key cross community workers and activists joined reps from student bodies and student political groups. The Belfast Anti War Movement and various other solidarity campaigns where joined by church groups and local workers who had come out on their lunch break- this amongst many other various others, individually, and from various other organisations - whom had attended.

So friends now with such 'Collective Representation of the Movement' having now been mobilised against War for the first time in years, lets now get into our Networks, our Colleges our Workplace our unions and get our college friends, family and activists onto the streets on Sat.

Thanks to Trocaire for this essential call and organisation and to the grassroots activists who had also worked in the background to mobilise such Collective support.

The Momentum has now been Created let Belfast voices again go out loud and clear, and again put our feet on to the streets on Sat

See you all there'

Therefore Trocaire and those who worked with them, had delivered that representation not seen in years onto Belfast's streets.

The next March and rally therefore was by the ICTU, (now moved into calls to action). But before that we had seen the occupation in Derry by the Derry Anti War Coalition (DAWC). Again as with Belfast, Derry had also embraced many tactics and did not concentrate solely on march after march, and in doing so like the once BAWM had put its self, to an extent, on the Global Anti-War activist scene. Whether or not one agrees with such tactics it was and is important to show Solidarity to what has become known as the Raytheon 9. For myself I have both sent out calls for solidarity and attended solidarity actions

Report of the DAWC actions:

Yesterday, the 9th August 2006, 9 protesters from the Derry Anti-War Coalition (DAWC) broke into the Derry offices of Raytheon, the world's third largest weapons manufacturer.

They were protesting against the Israeli's use of Raytheon weaponry and software in their attack on Lebanon which has resulted in at least 1000 civilian deaths, a million injured, many more displaced from their homes, and extensive destruction of Lebanese infrastructure. This weaponry, according to the World Policy Institute includes Stinger man-portable air defence missiles, Standard and Maverick Tactical Air-to-Ground missiles, Sparrow and Sidewinder Tactical Air-to-Air missiles, and PAC-2 air to surface missiles.

On occupying the building the protesters barricaded themselves in and threw computers and paper files out of the windows. About 50 police officers surrounded the building and blocked all approaches to it with the result that police operations could not be observed. About twenty to thirty people protested on the main road outside. Police brought in trained police negotiators from Belfast, then at 4 o'clock after 8 hours occupation the police stormed the building and arrested the protesters.

They then came out in force and searched those protesting on the main road claiming that the protesters could be in possession of Raytheon documents. Two refused to be searched stating the reasons to be spurious and were arrested and taken to Strand Road police station Derry. It was clear threat the police did not want to charge them formally. They did however try to change the protesters minds by pretending to take them to Coleraine police station some twenty five miles away. Their bluff called they returned to Strand Road where the charges were dropped after performing the searches under threat of force.

Appearing in court this morning the DAWC protesters, wearing blue Guantanamo style "jump suits" were charged with "Unlawful Assembly" and "Aggravated Burglary".

Speaking from the building, Eamonn McCann said:

"We've decommissioned a number of items of computer equipment in a political protest against Raytheon....

Raytheon is a major supplier of high-tech equipment to Israel and other western forces. We feel that we've been successful in focussing the public's attention on Raytheon's involvement in the events in the Middle East.

The notion that the Derry plant is some benign operation independent of the overall Raytheon Arms Manufacturing is just nonsense'.

With that came the last such mobilisation (the largest) which had seen primarily the trade unions and the left there. For myself a day later I would have to go into hospital and therefore would be out of action for several weeks. Yet I was satisfied that the momentum had once again been created over the last few weeks of mobilisations. And after the speeches were over and as I turned to walk away, across the road sat police jeeps and around the streets stood riot cops in their Black Boilers suits.

On seeing that, I had decided to stay as I was fully aware of the state and their actions against anti War protesters and peace activists in Belfast. Indeed this was the very spot a few years prior that they had baton charged our Anti War Movement outside Belfast City Hall. And so not only where we aware as activists that momentum was being created but the state was also aware to, as their baton trigger police watched on and used their surveillance once again on our Belfast peace rally.

For myself I have moved on from the BAWM and am currently involved in Anti War Ireland and the reasons as to why are given above. I will say though that the prior history of the Belfast Anti-War Movement is a proud one and Anti-War activists will continue to stand firm against such slaughter of innocence.

And for some, while standing against such, we will not shirk from standing against such similar brutality and injustice on our very home soil as well. One cannot be a Revolutionary otherwise.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

25 September 2006

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The Time of My Life
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Strange Logic
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Digging Up the Past
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The History of the Belfast Anti War Movement
Davy Carlin

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 11 & 12
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 13 & 14
Michael Gillespie

Lights Out
Anthony McIntyre

Papal in Glass Houses
Derick Perry

The GFA and Islam
Roy Johnston

Muhammad's Sword
Uri Avnery

We Are Not As Evolved As We Think
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Stone Me
John Kennedy

18 September 2006

Kick the Pope
Anthony McIntyre

When Saying Sorry Isn't Enough
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"The third camp is about real lives": Interview with Hamid Taqvaee
Maryam Namazie

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Sympathy for the Victims
Mick Hall

For The Victims of Britain's Holocaust in Ireland
Brian Halpin

Dreary Eden
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Legalize the Irish
Frank [Name Supplied]

Careful What You Wish For
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The Peace Process — A Children's Fantasy
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John Kennedy

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