The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

'8 years in The Belfast SWP - A fraternal parting',
Part 2
of, 'The ARN, - A Movement'

Davy Carlin

This is the final article in relation to the Belfast SWP, as I have now resigned from it. As I had stated previous, the resignation was in large part a fraternal parting and a decision that I had made myself after much thought. Therefore as I spoke at the ARN mass rally on Oct 29th 2004, I did so as an Independent Socialist.

This article accounts for Part 2 of the Anti Racism Network (ARN) as well as detailing in full the links to those accounts of my time within the Belfast SWP over the last eight years.

The ARN part 2 – A firm part of the Labour Movement, the Belfast SWP, Part 2

After the rally on Jan 27th of the year 2004, whose make up made it ‘unprecedented in Northern Irish political history’ (see, the ARN part one, ‘in the beginning’, recorded on the Blanket – May 2004), we as a network sought to continue to expand. We had begun to build associations and support networks North, South, East and West Belfast, as well as in some of the other most affected areas from Dunnganon to North Antrim, with many more supporters and groupings reflected around Northern Irish society.

With that, post Jan 27th many of the groups began to hold local events. In West Belfast for example,

‘The first West Belfast ARN group (Falls Rd) (WARN!) now firmly established held its first local public meeting - social event, in West Belfast. Speakers included Roden Street community Development group, Belfast Travellers Support Group, Representatives from the Filipino community and myself from the ARN, amongst others.
Held on a Saturday afternoon it was attended by over one hundred and fifty persons from the local area and surrounding workplaces, as well as by those who use the community facilities. Almost half those there where from minority ethnic backgrounds. Filipino, Chinese, African, Traveller, Indian, etc. Also persons from various solidarity campaigns where there, Ireland Palestine, Cuban, Columbian, Refugee, etc as well as persons from Argentina, Bolivia and other such areas.
They were joined with local residents, trades unionists and workers from the local Royal Victoria Group of hospitals, and other community workers and trade union activists from around the locality. All in all it was an excellent event and a good diverse turnout. Like Mayday when over 100 persons joined the ARN many again joined the local WARN!’

Also in the West they and we, participated in local marches, organising white line pickets, spoke at local events, did leafleting, postering etc as well as launching a local passport as part of a visual event, this over many months of various activities.

For me this event (First WARN! meeting) was held on the road (Falls Rd) which I was raised as a child (pre school) from the mid seventies through to the early eighties; on seeing the venue of the meeting, this brought back also other memories, the venue was held at the end of a street named - ‘Genoa street’.

Also a few days prior to that the North Belfast ARN met to firmly establish itself with up to 30 local community, trade union and minority ethnic activists meeting in the Indian community centre. Again a grassroots and activist based group from the locality.

In South Belfast (student branch) at Queens University (I had spoken at its initiation) a small but lively rally was called, while in East Belfast activists were organising to build links to establish a branch. Again in South, its main branch did stalls, leafleting etc while in other areas outside of Belfast activists began also to get organised and were active on the ground and vocal within the media. The ARN steering group during the summer months continued to organise events such as the protest at the Belfast International Airport against the detention of asylum seekers,

‘The picket at the Immigration office at Belfast International Airport was well attended by various organisations. It also got good coverage on the evening news. Those in attendance included Amnesty International representatives from various branches, the Refugee Action Group, the Anti Racism Network, Multi Cultural Resource Centre, UNISON, Asylum Practitioners and human rights solicitors, the Chinese Welfare Association, and tools for Solidarity amongst others’.

Also at this time we seen the launch of the first ever ‘Love Music Hate Racism’ gig at the Empire Music Hall in South Belfast hall, where I, as representative from the steering group, had worked with others to bring about. As I spoke at the event I looked out onto the hall and it was,

‘a case of standing room only to the back door. Many attended from the Network, representatives from minority ethnic organisations such as the African cultural and Chinese Welfare association. Human rights activists and human rights organisations from Amnesty International to the Equality commission, attended. As did rank and file trade union representatives from NIPSA to Unison, various grassroots community, women's and gay right campaigners also attended. Grassroots environmental, anti war, anti globalisation, community, solidarity, and campaign activists, where also joined by many people who came along to hear the bands, and to lend solidarity to the cause. So a broad collection of organisations and individuals lending support, with many people joining up to the network. A good night and thanks for all who came to lend support for the fundraiser’.

This time, as stated, although during the summer months, the ARN steering group, completely voluntary with very limited resources – monies raised by supporters, had still been quite busy, and it continued. From a front page headline of the South Belfast News for example seeing the ARN chairperson and a leading UUP man going head to head, through to seeing the 'Nigger' word used by an SDLP councillor (in a certain context) whom quite quickly made a full apology and retraction. This again after the ARN had called for such in the media and on the front pages of the Belfast Telegraph.

In effect since the Jan 27th rally and within the space of six months we had seen the closing of the Belfast BNP branch, the ceasing of organised overt racial attacks in specific areas for a time thus providing breathing space for ethnic minority communities, the mass mobilisation and rally, the local mobilisations or rallies, active support and shelter for those put out of there homes, participation in trade union and local community marches, protests at detaining centres at the Belfast International airport, the empowerment of some working class communities against attacks, moving the support of the trade union movement into action as well as trade union councils and trade unions (workers organisations), the censoring and full withdrawal of racist statements from the UUP to the SDLP, the standing firm and putting our 'head' above the water to stand visual and vocally against paramilitary attacks.

Street protests and agitation, paint outs, white line pickets, public meetings, spray paintings – street art, poster and leaflet campaigns, stalls, the sending out of the police (state) and statutory bodies' big guns to attempt to counter our arguments. The police, paramilitaries, far right organisations, state bodies, at times being put on the back foot, the ceasing of organised racist attacks for specific periods in specific areas. The concentration and public focus directed at the socio and economic conditions - deprivation of working class communities, i.e. the lack of housing, facilities and actively seeking to raise and to campaign on these issues.

The raising of Fortress Europe, real support and defence drawn up for those attacked, anti racism gigs, the expansion of the ARN into associations around Belfast and beyond, bringing the immediate situation to the worlds TV screens, solidarity with other wider issues, creating cross community support and activity, gathering and receiving solidarity from across the globe, at times beginning to push the tide of racism back, etc etc. Therefore the seven person steering group together from almost the onset, of myself, Sara, Leish, Steven, Barbara, Nathalie and Lekan with the activists within the ARN had now, in effect at this stage as was recognised by the media etc, had created a Movement against Racism. We were to later agree to the widening out of the steering group with other activists then also joining us, having been delegated from local branches.

Yet of course we had our critics, mainly the armchair activists, but there were those genuine activists who had raised concerns about the ARN not moving quick enough, or us having not raised various issues hard enough etc, which we acknowledged, learnt from, and moved to address.

Yet while the ARN in its early form, ‘I believe’, was not collectively hard enough on ‘some’ issues (re – in relation to some of its press releases that had been sent out by individuals), other leading individuals though were. I and others on the steering group had spoke and written, at those times, on the loyalist involvement in attacks, police and statutory bodies ineffectiveness, social and economic deprivation, Fortress Europe etc, which when the ARN agreed its direction, were to become regular issues to be addressed. Again though such issues needed to be raised and pushed for at times by persons as so to be ‘implemented collectively’ rather than spoke of individually. For me I say, read what I write (in my writings) or listen to what I say, to get a better understanding of ‘my’ position, from the horse’s mouth.

Below is an example of part of an ‘engagement’ at this time, I had with someone from a ‘differing’ organisation who held an understanding of how to deal with fascists groups. This engagement was on an open website for all to participate.

‘Dear Sean, in recent times on a number of occasions our mobilisations and our actions via various strategies has brought an end for a time to brutal and overt attacks in specific areas. This provided both a breathing space for the minority ethnic community and for the network to build roots. These various strategies where needed in specific situations due in many cases to local conditions that needed to be taken into account, which I cannot go into presently, but will in time.

In doing so, (creating an initial large broad platform) we are processing from that, to creating an activists based grassroots, community and trade union based Network. Which as stated, will mobilise on the streets to confront such organisations if they become visible.

So initially rather than getting solely the left into a room, and all that goes with that, we sought a broad front against the attacks. Differing tactics, Sean, are also needed when the enemy is not visible or slithers in the night.

As for a 'front for recruitment', putting aside that I have stated on numerous occasions even on this site that the issue and the campaigns should be the priority. I would hope, Sean, that you do not believe that I and others who have put their heads above water and into the public domain (and all that to date that has went with it, over the last year or so) to stand against such attacks, do it for any other main priority than to stand firm against these scum that terrorise the most vulnerable.

Sean, the ARN has worked many strategies, that to date has created breathing spaces on several occasions. Breathing spaces for the minority ethnic community but also breathing space for the network to expand and build.

With that now we can muster the support of, as stated, the minority ethnic organisations, human rights groups, grassroots environmental, anti war, anti globalisation, community, solidarity, women’s, community, student, gay and lesbian rights and campaign activists etc along side trade unionists, trades union councils, trade unions, and the trade union movement as a whole, as we had done in the last week.

And so, with that, we potentially have a movement that can mobilise our class against the fascists. We potentially can have a Network that can begin to mobilise workers and working class communities against such organisations if, and when, they become visible.

Of course various tactics are needed in various situations. Yet I have been in rooms in the past with solely the left and have seen the difficulties where ideological purism and sectarianism are rife, therefore the campaign got nowhere. My and others experience in initiating the Anti War Movement in the North and its mass historic mobilisations had taught us lessons that we have took into the initiation of the ARN.

On both occasions it was a broad front of many organisations including that of the trade union movement. And it was and is good to see the trade union movement standing firm both against the war on Iraq and now against the racial attacks.

With that support, the momentum, and the public profile created, the ARN steering group is now actively seeking to build grassroots community and trade union networks based on the mobilisation and activism within and of each.

In recent times we are starting to achieve that, and on top of that we are raising the issues of importance. Therefore we are working that now from a position of strength, with the collective involvement of many of the workers organisations involved, which was brought about by initiating that broad front and creating public momentum, as opposed to what I have experienced before of getting the left in the room and going nowhere fast.

So yes we differ on tactics, Sean, and I welcome your engagement. I hope such can continue in a fraternal way. I will say finally on your last point,

‘you don't talk about fascism, you smash it’
See you on the streets!

On that first part, Sean, we need to organise against it. Fascists don't always take to the street, they sometimes attempt a cloak of respectability, in a suit for example when they knock on your door, and they don't all have bomber jackets, DM boots and skinheads. Sometimes they come in the night, sometimes they embrace many working class sentiments against socio and economic deprivation, thus attempting to provide scapegoats. We also see many other underlying situations and issues at play in the North within communities. So they have many differing tactics, Sean, and we need to counter them via various avenues.

But at the end of the day, and fundamentally, it is the power of the working class and its organisations that can smash them if the become visible. The ARN by initially creating a broad front and public momentum now has the support of many such organisations. To date we have had to deal with those who are not visible but extremely dangerous and to date in many cases we have been successful.

At the end of the day, Sean, we hold tactical differences as how to prepare the ground and mobilise and we both have dealt to date with very different circumstances. Yet I agree that the fascists need smashed when they are visible and, one day if needs be, I will stand with you, firm, as will I believe a network of working class peoples and their organisations, if needed.

In the meantime we each in our differing ways need to crush and dis-able both the visible and more subtle aspects of them from the onset. Our tactics differ but our cause is the same. Solidarity, Comrade. D’

Then at this time, once again attacks started to intensify in their overt brutality, this not only again in South Belfast, but also around other areas of Northern Irish society. So again the steering committee of the Network met to seek once again to attempt to bring an end to such attacks. As we were by and large Belfast based we — as a steering group — sought to attempt to bring an end to the attacks in that specific area. This time as opposed to the last time we had built up some connections in and around the area and with that we had agreed to call an event within the ‘Loyalist’ Village area of South Belfast. We again had got the support from the Irish Congress on Trade Unions (ICTU) as well as all the main Trade Unions for whatever event we where to call to attempt to bring an end to the attacks. Again this was an important initiative by the steering group, but events where to dictate that we could not go ahead with the rally. In hindsight as I had acknowledged after, we should have had a backup initiative but the thing about the ARN is, that we will acknowledge and attempt to learn from mistakes, which I have already found in my short time as an activist that many other organisations are not prepared to do.

While this situation was developing I was invited to go into the Village and speak. When I had arrived at the venue with Leish and Steven from the ARN steering group, I had found the media interest to our arrival to be immense. At the meeting there was some finger pointing towards myself by some who should know better, nevertheless apart from this our presence was welcomed. Yet that night and the next, rioting and roadblocks broke out, and went up, in the Village area to which a Unionist politician had attempted to attribute those events to me, for speaking in the area ‘uninvited’. In fact I was invited, and in fact the rioting etc broke out due to arrests in relation to those very racist attacks. Despite this I was, and am held to blame for those riots by some, simply for speaking out against racist attacks. Nevertheless such rhetoric by that unionist politician, along with saying that ‘Davy is a racist’ which he wanted recorded at a local South Belfast meeting, showed his real priorities.

This situation also showed up for me in real terms what many already knew, as I had stated in Part 1 of my articles on the ARN. That those in a leadership from afar who had argued with me to ‘go into the area’ to ‘sort it out’, where in fact living in never never land. As I had said then, that that would have been absolutely madness (as even the dogs on the streets knew), but it seemed a handbook was argued to be followed, simply because I believe that it was there and should be followed. As I said before, such a specific situation at that specific time needed to work outside of that handbook. As here we had a situation where the ARN had build up a far bigger profile, had the support now of the Trade Union movement, all the main trade unions - minority ethic organisations, all the major human rights organisations etc and I had been ‘invited’ by the community into the area. With that there were two nights of rioting and quite a bit of hostility. Yet back at Xmas it was argued that we ‘uninvited’ go into such a tight knit community and into those that ‘controlled it’, this with the ARN still relatively unknown, this situation would have been hard enough. Yet most comrades (SWP) in Belfast knew that at least we (SWP) needed that support from not only within the area but more especially within the wider ARN, yet that support for good and logical reason was not forthcoming.

This because everyone knew the reality on the ground, and we therefore dealt with that reality in ’real terms’. And in doing so provided for a time a breathing space. Yet speaking to a leading comrade who came from afar at a later date he was still adamant that, despite what every other organisation who knew what was happening on the ground had understood, and thus their logical opposition to such a call. Despite also no support whatsoever from within the area, and despite of what was going on, those behind it, their history, and therefore a knowledge of their probable re - action. I therefore listened with disbelief as he said that we (SWP) as Revolutionary Socialists should have ‘went in’ to ‘sort it out’. Therefore there and then, ‘the nail had in effect been hammered right through’, in relation to my concerns over Democratic Centralism.

This had an impact on me as I knew I could not put myself in such a situation again where I knew that such a decision that I would have to follow (Democratic Centralism) would have been completely counter productive (with severe intensification of attacks) and potentially deadly to the minority ethnic community. This, at this specific time and at this specific place. Therefore I knew when I did not follow that argument and that some had not learnt, I believe, from that specific situation that I could not, and would not put myself in such a situation again. This where a decision was attempted to be taken from afar based not on the reality and knowledge of a specific local area and local activist knowledge from across the left spectrum, but rather on an all embracing handbook of tactics, which was argued to be followed. Of course in 95% of occasions there will of course be similar tactics used, even when one is not ‘invited’ into an area, or when one has limited support. This though ‘must’ be put into the context of, in this case, the total local historical and present situation, thus having a real assessment of the real outcome of any activity taken.

So once again the attacks for the time ceased, and with that it was argued to revitalise the South Belfast branch. Although the South Belfast branch on paper was the largest, it had been for a quite a while inactive. It had done some leafleting, postering and a stall but had not reacted or attempted to react in many cases to local attacks. Therefore an argument was made to revitalise it and an agreement was made to call a local rally. This rally was to coincide with media speculation and a police press statement for ethnic minorities to remain alert over the Sept 11 period (anniversary of attacks in USA) with the rally on Sept 10th. The South Belfast group started to build for the event and was supported from the central ARN, in relation to calling for support for the local rally. Also as the media had been contacting me in relation to the Sep 11th press statement I was able to use that also as a platform to advertise it, which I did via many local newspaper and TV outlets urging local people to attend, this in tandem with Barbara, the spokesperson for South Belfast. So on a miserable day with the rain pouring down over 120 local people showed their solidarity and attended. As Chair for the overall network, with whom the press usually sought interviews, I had asked if local activists could speak to the media and directed the media to local activists, rather then doing the interviews myself. I felt it was and is important for local activists and residents to be at the forefront of local events.

At this time the Belfast SWP met and we were all in agreement that we needed to argue for the ARN to call another mass rally. Although we (the ARN steering group) almost brought around the rally in the Village we agreed we needed another one soon, although had not tied down the fine details. Again I had problems with what some of the points that the Belfast SWP had raised at that meeting but was in agreement that we should press for a rally sooner rather than later. It therefore was not a matter of convincing people as to having a rally as the steering group had already decided that, but it was to press to make it sooner. So with the original members of the steering group and three other ‘delegates’ from other branches we met to hammer out the details. With that, we started to create public momentum and so by the time I had contacted ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions) and had sought and got their support we had an impressive list of endorsements. They ranged from all of the main trade union and minority ethnic organisations through to all the political parties and main human rights organisations, as below,

‘Public endorsement and support already to date has come from, the Chinese Welfare Association, The Belfast Jewish community, The Indian Community centre, the Belfast Islamic centre, the Multi Cultural Resource Centre, The Latin American Support Group, Travellers Movement of Northern Ireland, the Refugee Action Group, Tools for Solidarity, Black Network, Afro Community Support Organisation, Sai Pak Chinese community group

Also from the trade union movement - to date - the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), as well as Unison, T&G, NIPSA and from the Belfast Trades Union Council, from the Fire Brigades Union of Northern Ireland, Trademark, Unison Community and Voluntary branch, the Independent Workers Union.  

Support and endorsement also from the N.Ireland Human rights Commission, the N.Ireland Law Centre, The N.Ireand Children’s Commissioner, The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary action NICVA, the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, Amnesty International Northern Ireland, Age Concern Northern Ireland, International Voluntary Service N. Ireland.

Political parties  to date, DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP SDLP, Alliance, PUP, SWP, WP, SP, CPI, SEA 

More Support from -  STEP,  Duncrun Cultural Initiative, the Fountain Men's Group, L/Derry, the Fountain Youth Club, L/Derry, and the Rasharkin Women’s Group, North Antrim, SCA, Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum, Manor Street Cliftonville Residents and Environmental association, West Belfast Economic Forum, Women into Politics, UNESCO, The Blanket, Intercomm, Wheel works Youth Arts Organisation, IPSC, Organise!, Irish Football Associations Community Relations Office, Fourthwrite, The Independent Workers Union, The centre For Global Education - The One World Centre, the Future Way Programme’

Also during the build up of that month of October we lent support to various campaigns including the battle against deportation of the Somasundram family. We also seen in the public domain the loyalist paramilitary organisation the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) having put a quota as to how many Chinese families could live in the Village area of South Belfast while therefore forcing the Chinese Community who wished to build its new community centre on Donegal Pass, out of the area. With that we saw a leading DUP politician attempting to legitimise and justify the CWA community centre’s, in effect, removal, at the behest of a minority. This type of behaviour in effect directed our slogan for the march of No Excuses! which Flair from WARN! and now of the ARN steering group came up with.

I had also at this time been personally increasingly busier with ‘differing’ interviews and debates. Some of the more interesting ones included being flown to London to take the ‘GMTV sofa’ that went out live to millions around the UK. This interview was requested as part of Black History month. In another I had also my first TV debate with a leading Ulster Unionist politician, The Director of the CWA, and the Belfast Lord Mayor, on ITV. Also at this time I had did my first interview which wanted to account for my time growing up as a black kid in Belfast and also of the founding of the ARN movement, this on NVTV. These amongst others, where as stated, some of the more interesting requests I was receiving at this time.

The build up to the No Excuses rally started to gain momentum. We wanted a march and rally with a hard message against racism but also a rally that celebrated diversity. At this time the Belfast SWP comrades who where on the steering group had raised as to how many we had thought would attend the rally. They were both in agreement of 1000, I had thought though that that was pessimistic and had said if we build it properly we can get 2500 onto the street. In fact 2500 plus on Oct 2004, did at the end of the day rally with us. We had planned to have feeder marches on the day coming from South and West Belfast organised by the local ARN groups. Although the South march was small (around 25 persons) it nevertheless was loud and lively. As it marched down from South it met up with the larger West Belfast feeder parade which was lead by 10 – 15 foot bamboo poles hoisting aloft huge red banners, and followed behind was local community and solidarity banners. We were also linked up with others who had missed the start of the feeder march from West Belfast at entrances at Castle Street. So by the time we got to the central meeting point we where several hundred strong. I had been asked by several lead activists to lead of the march in the triangular formation of the red flags as we had done from the West. That is, myself leading of the march with the first red flag, two more behind that, three behind that and so forth.

It was with a sense of pride that I had lead of the march, the largest such march seen against racism. I had felt similar pride when I had marched holding and leading the Branch 8 NIPSA banner at the unofficial mass walkouts of civil servants, as my comrade Ryan (the lead organiser) took to the mike and the fore with the chants. Again also when I had lead the lead banner during the time of the Anti War Movement when again thousands marched behind it, as we made our way on the outskirts of Belfast to ‘greet’ the USA warmongering President who had arrived onto our small island to host a war summit, during the Iraq war. On each occasion that sense of pride was not only through ‘leading off’ some inspirational and historic movements and moments, but more especially that on each occasion leading activists within each campaign had suggested and indeed asked, if I would do so. I had of course lead of other banners on various diverse campaigns, from carrying a lead banner from ‘Ballymurphy’ entitled Ballymurphy against state collusion. Having been born into Ballymurphy I am considered a ‘Murph’ man, and marching directly behind the banner where many from the Murph including that of Gerry Adams. I had also lead of the lead banner at the Falls and Shankill march which had seen working class people from the Shankill march behind it. Then of course there was an ‘unprecedented’ incident when I was holding an Anti Racism banner and the combined leaderships of Northern Ireland’s loyalism where behind it. That is, David Ervine, as well as Tommy Kirkam, Frankie Gallagher, Frank McGoubrey, Jackie Mc Donald etc. Therefore I have found during eight years an activist that politics on many occasions can not only be inspirational but interesting at times.

And so with that we marched 2500 plus strong up through central Belfast streets on Oct 29th 2004. Speaking from the platform at the end on behalf of the ARN, as Chair of the ARN, I had raised many key issues of concern and the issues at the root cause of the problem such as, the ineffectiveness of the police and statutory bodies, the lack of resources in working class areas suffering socio – economic deprivation, the issue of racism being pushed down from above – No excuses to political representatives attempting to legitimise or justify racism, etc. One of the most visual or non visual aspects of the rally was the complete non attendance of Unionist representatives. Of the larger parties only, Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance were in attendance. A brief report below of the rally I had sent to the ARN network,

‘Dear friends over 2500 people attended the ARN rally against racism and for Diversity on Saturday.
A lively march came down from South Belfast which met up with a larger feeder march that came down from West Belfast. The WARN (West Against Racism Network) was lead by 15 foot flags and streamers with people carrying various banners and Placards. Loud, lively and colourful it then together marched around to the Art College to join up at the main meeting point.
The march itself stretched from Belfast City hall down Royal Avenue and beyond and putting aside the 10 minute delay at the front it took almost an hour for all to come in from the short walk.
Banners from Trade unions - trade union branches and community organisations joined human rights banners and home made, and solidarity banners, amongst others. The atmosphere although fun, loud, lively and colourful was at the same time sending out a strong message against Racism.
Many thanks to the activists who put in the work on the ground to bring this about, a collective team work approach by ARN activists ensured a good day, a positive result, and seeing the largest such Anti Racism rally to date. Therefore not only was a clear message(s) sent out but also many joined the ARN.
Local Networks will be meeting again shortly and pictures and a video shall go up on the site. If persons have any pictures that they wish to go up send them across to All the Best, D’

Yet despite this mass rally attacks continued firstly on the Lower Falls Road in West Belfast, this a few days later. It happened on the very streets where I as a child in the late seventies I had run the gantlet of racist abuse and physical attacks by the Brits and Peelers. Yet the response by the local community to this recent attack was inspiring, as reported below.

Falls road rally
Dear friends, last night saw a magnificent response by the local residents who came out at the corner of Violet Street, Falls Road, against attacks on Filipino Nurses. Three to four hundred people came out in a united stand against the attacks. Within a very short time of the attacks local residents had drawn up their own leaflet and where going to their neighbours homes to distribute them, seeing many of them coming out also and lending a hand. Last night’s turnout and atmosphere of solidarity I, and I presume all who attended, left one feeling inspired. While we gathered against the attacks carried out by a mindless minority, the community though in their hundreds responded as one in an untied stand and voice.
At the rally, when a member of the Filipino community had finished speaking, amongst the loud applause some one shouted out, 'you are very welcome' this to more loud cheers and applause. Another speaker, who is Chair of THE SCA, a fifty plus year resident of the local area, and a WARN supporter and activist, spoke of how the Filipino people were the community, that 'they are our community', he said, 'and deserve our protection as a community'. It was also raised that accommodation has been sought for the victims of the attack as so to be re - housed back into the community. Amongst the hundreds in attendance were also many members of the Filipino community - the West Belfast community.
The Chair finished of by thanking all in attendance and for persons to get involved in the local West Belfast ARN group.
This was a wonderful response which seen a local community and local residents from the onset pro active in dealing with the issue. A clear message was sent out that Racism will not be tolerated in the local area and that the community not only stands shoulder to shoulder with the Filipino people who are part of the community, but the community will also protect and defend them.

There was other attacks reported in the week following this rally including again in Belfast, this time it was North Belfast, to which, as I finalise this article the local North Belfast ARN group are dealing with. With a local rally called in North Belfast, the community like in the West last week are moving quickly on this issue. Update – below is a report I sent out to the network about the North Belfast Rally.

Dear Friends,
After attacks in North Belfast on persons from the minority ethnic community an immediate local response in the form of a picket was called. This later became a rally given the growing local support. So last night we saw up to two hundred persons rallying on a cold night out side the Fortwilliam shops on the Antrim Road. Again this was an inspiring local and immediate community response to these latest attacks which are happening now almost on a daily basis. The ARN now has local associations all around Belfast with groups also outside of Belfast. If persons want to get involved in their local group or indeed establish one then drop us a line at
These attacks, as stated, are increasing not only numerically but also in their viciousness and if they are not nipped in the bud it will be but a matter of time before, once again, someone is killed. Again we urge persons to get actively involved in the ARN or set up groups in your local community as so we collectively can begin to attempt to push back this wave of attacks and racism now happening around Northern Irish society. The ARN work many strategies but as a local commentator said this morning 'he had never seen before such local immediate response anti -racism rallies, after attacks on the minority ethnic community'.
Of course while we need to work to see that such rallies are not needed, we nevertheless know that such events send out a clear message to the bigots that residents within the local community are saying that such attacks will not be tolerated. And more especially at the same time showing both solidarity to the victims of the attacks and to let them know that they are welcome within the community.
Although the bigot’s actions put them on the news, the reality is that there is so much goodwill, support and solidarity that goes unreported that comes from the local communities. The ARN collectively through various avenues of our activity have had, and will have a vital role to play in attempting to push back this tide of racism that is becoming ever more numerical and brutal across Northern Irish society. So join us, get active and stand firm.

Therefore within a space of ten days or so the ARN and our supporters have held a march and rally through Belfast city centre 2500 plus strong. Then responded to the attacks in local communities. The Falls Road seen a magnificent local response of 300 – 400 people pouring onto the streets within a short space of time rallying to show support and solidarity. Then a few days later 200 more people poured out onto the streets again in an immediate local community response, this in North Belfast to again stand against the racist attacks in the local area.

And so the ARN, now a Movement, continues to grow and expand, and as it continues to be the lead active voice against racism, it will continue to mobilise and defend. We are the ARN!

As persons are now aware I have left the Belfast SWP. Below is the definitive links to my time there, and of the collective and personal campaigns I have been involved in and ideas that I have thought about. Firstly though below, let me clear up some of the after effects of my departure.

Since I have left the Belfast SWP there are of course all the accounts of what the SWP comrades had said and are saying about me, also of their past intense manoeuvrings to keep certain people apart or to keep certain persons off platforms etc, now being eagerly accounted by others. Such tittle-tattle I have little time for and more importantly little concern about. Then of course there are also the myths and the whispers of to my leaving and as to my position now. Such is the nature of things. . There are though issues that have been raised that are important and I will deal with a few of them. So briefly, apart from being called recently a Black radical, a Black rebel a Black anarchist, etc, I have also been called a ‘Half Prod’ by some. But I will say that,

NO, NO, NO, I am not going to join Sinn Fein, SDLP, IRSP, WP, SP, Alliance, PUP, CP, Socialist Democracy, WSM, Anarchist organisations, Jehovah’s Witness, the Moonies etc. Hope that makes that one as clear as possible.

Therefore I won’t be privatising hospitals’ or joining the Black Bloc as some had risen!

Secondly I am not a Nationalist, ‘Republican’, Liberal, or indeed a ‘Loyalist Lover’. I am if one needs to define oneself, an Independent Socialist. And will work to, and attempt to, create a network of like minded persons, presently. Hope that clears that up.

Thirdly I read of someone mentioning the issue of ‘political authority’ and another with a bizarre thought as to my problems with Democratic Centralism (DC).On DC as I have said before some form of DC is needed, but my practical experience of it witnessed from many quarters and organisations, at this stage of my activism I believe in, that form is not for me. I had no problems following the line on 99.9% percent of issues and indeed at times when I fundamentally opposed something I nevertheless still ‘followed the line’ when I lost the argument. It has though been my recent experience in tandem with other issues such as feeling suffocated at this time. Also as to how one I believe should loosen one's top collar a tad in relation to rigid organisation as part of a diverse movement (which would make it easier to win others, within such a specific movement – in effect - to adapt without diluting). Of course you need to make collective party decisions to attempt to change the direction of campaigns, movements etc, but it is the way in which it is done I believe is as important, more especially at this time (down your throat politics will not work in this period). Therefore for me my problem is not with DC per say, but with witnessing some of the practical aspects of it, and therefore presently I wish to orientate my activism elsewhere. I believe (as thoughts run through my head) that such problems need not be thought insurmountable, therefore it is not to say in the years ahead that I may not return to a DC socialist organisation. Hope that clears that up.

Finally on Political Authority, I may if I ever find the time shall write an article on this, but for now. For me I hold respect for activists, (who may hold some political differences) but who are genuine on the ground hard grafting activist. This far more so than those who may be closer to my thinking but who almost solely comment and criticise in polemics from the side or from the comfort of their armchairs. Similarly in relation to ‘Political Authority’ and ‘respect’, there are those I see who have been around for decades who are to ‘the lead’ in their political organisation, and because of that ‘hold the tradition’, and with that, they therefore can and have gained experience, respect and authority within their relevant small organisations. This more especially within organisations that have a high turnover of membership, or very small membership. Yet of course such ‘Authority’ is of course won within such organisations – but is that the vital aspect of revolutionary activism? While such Revolutionary parties believe that they are the vanguard, one though cannot ‘lead’ the class without the participation of the class. Therefore without that Respect and Authority of the Class a Revolutionary party will not succeed in its aims of revolution.

Therefore for me, I look around at what is perceived to be the leader of Socialist organisations and indeed other leading figures, and see exactly what they have built around them outside of the confines of a small socialist organisation. It is far easier to win support in a small DC ideologically lead organisation, more especially if one ‘holds the tradition – and sticks to it’, and is seen as the leading figure over decades in relation to writing the most important articles or speaking at the most important meetings, this more especially to newer cadre. This is intensified if one believes that they have that ‘Authority’ to decide what can and cannot be forwarded to wider membership, or if one deals with the publications, the organisers, or in effect deals with the daily running of such an organisation. These had been some vocal problems some had raised in their various organisations over time.

It is though harder however to win and hold that respect within the class, the communities, workplace etc as a similar small socialist organisation or as an openly revolutionary socialist activist, where you actually have to win people of other ideas to your ideas and to support you in the course of local campaigns and struggles. It can be easy at times to get persons to march through the city centre but the real test is can one do similar from their workplace or within their local working class community.

Therefore for me my respect again more especially lay with those Socialist activists who can individually mobilise their class, their local communities, their trade unions, and their votes in large scale. Yet when I look around at some such leading activists of such small socialist organisations and see that while some of them from many differing organisations ‘hold the tradition and Authority’ of their said small socialist organisations after many decades of involvement, some of them though are irrelevant within the wider class, this in a sense that they within their locality or union have not and cannot mobilise support for their position and or campaign. Yet, thankfully I can see many who can. Revolutionary activism and political authority and respect is not confined to those that hold a long standing tradition within a said organisation and all that more ‘access’ that comes with it to help cement that very position. It is I believe more important when such respect and authority is held within the class.

Below are some of the links to my eight years as a member of the Belfast SWP in relation to some of our, and my, recorded activism and thoughts. Having walked into a cold drafty room in central Belfast as a fresh face to politics, I, as stated, had thought how we few (counted on one hand) people almost unknown outside of our own ranks could begin to effect change, as they had talked about at that first meeting. It then took four or so years since I first walked into that room of hard graft and work on the ground, but eventually we were to play leading and essential roles in helping to initiate and create mass united campaigns, rallies and movements onto the streets of Belfast. From the largest Anti Sectarianism rally ever seen during the conflict to the largest Anti War march and rally ever seen in the North, through to one of the largest mass unofficial workers walkouts, to then seeing the largest such Anti Racism march and rally also seen in the North, This putting aside the hundreds of militant youth we had mobilised as part of the Anti Capitalist movement for direct action onto the streets of Belfast, or the array of trade union banners fluttering in the wind from North and Southern Ireland for our stand against the 11-plus as we again marched through the streets of Belfast. On each we were to the fore in mobilising thousands and at times tens of thousands of Catholic and Protestant workers to stand together in unity. Although even a few years ago there was only one other active member who still remains in the Belfast SWP who had sat in that room with me at that time, the Belfast SWP since then had won some of the best activists into its ranks over that time which I to this day hold great respect for.


Davy Carlin, Eight years a Socialist activist – the Belfast SWP – now an Independent Socialist

Recorded on the Blanket (Letters page), May 2002,
(1) ‘Conspiracy Theory’ May 2002

Recorded on the Blanket (the Blanket magazine winter 2002)
(1) ‘The Turkish Hunger strike ‘– (The Irish Hungers Strikes)

Recorded on the Blanket (Letters page), March 2003,
(1) ‘Free Palestine’ March 2003

Recorded on the Blanket (letters page) Feb 2002,
(2) ‘Double standards’ Feb 2002

Recorded on the Blanket (Letters page) Feb 2002,
(1) A US brand of civil Rights, Feb 2002

Recorded on the Blanket, my trade union conference NIPSA, July 2002
(1), ‘Opportunity knocks, or not?’

Recorded on the Blanket, the Interface Sept 2002
(1)’The Interface’ Sept 2002

Recorded on the Blanket, Sept 2002
(1) ‘The meeting’ Sept 2002

Recorded on the Blanket Oct 2002,
(1) ‘The right to live’ Oct 2002

Recorded on the Blanket Oct 2002,
(1) ‘From Belfast to Genoa – now Florence’ Oct 2002. The governments called it the worst riot that Europe had seen in over thirty years, and released a statement saying that the protests had ‘descended into anarchy’. In fact it was an inspirational coming together of our anti capitalist movement.

Recorded on the Blanket Nov 2002
(1) ‘The price of peace is in the pocket’ Nov 2002

Recorded on the Blanket Dec 2002,
(1) ‘My address to the Progressive Unionist Party conference’, Dec 2002

Recorded on the Blanket is the West Belfast series which was began in July 2002 finished Oct 2003. It accounts for my life growing up in West Belfast as a child and also my first contact and experiences with the SWP as well as with other left and socialist organisations. (1 to 5) ‘West Belfast, Childhood and the Wars’, Oct 2003

Recorded on the Blanket - Following the initiation of the termed ‘historic’ Falls and Shankill Road March in Belfast -
(1) West Belfast Fire Fighter Support Group - Dec 1st 2002
(2) The Falls and Shankill March as One - Dec 8th 2002
(3) When the Falls and Shankill Marched as One Jan 2003

Recorded on the Blanket - Following the initiating of the Belfast Anti-War Movement, Derry Anti-War Coalition and the Stop the War Coalition through to its mass mobilisations, street protests, occupations, walkouts and direct actions in Belfast and beyond
(1) Sept 2002, ‘ Not in our Name’
(2) Belfast Socialists, Capitalism and War - Dec 2002
(3) Belfast, Building a Mass Anti War Movement Part 1 - March 2003
(4) Building an Anti War Movement Part 2, Moving to Action - June 2003

Recorded on the Blanket - The end of the year 2003, The Belfast SWP, Following and giving a brief overview of the various campaigns we were involved in that year including standing in elections, - Dec 2003.

Recorded on the Blanket - following the initiation of the Belfast Anti Racism Network through to it mass mobilisations and actions.
(1) ‘The Hall and State of Illusions’, August 2003 – Was where it was proposed that I set up a second meeting – if I could – to do something about the racist attacks. This was in fact the real beginning of the ARN, now A Movement
(2) Anti Racist Network, ‘Statement for Endorsement’ - Oct 2003,
(3) Anti Racism Network ARN, In the Beginning Part 1 - May 2004)
(4) The ARN - ‘A Movement part two’ – as above.

Recorded on the Blanket, the Belfast SWP firm role in and the respect from the Labour Movement in the North
(1) ‘A firm part of the labour movement, the Belfast SWP’, (Part 1)’, July 2004
(2) ‘A firm part of the labour movement, the Belfast SWP, (Part 2)’, as above.

Recorded on the Blanket, the mass unofficial mobilisations of workers and our initiation of the rank and file network which we initiated, that lead such walkouts,
(1) ‘NIPSA, the most important workers strike in Northern Ireland in twenty years’, Sept 2004






Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

15 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Scapegoats & Swastikas
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Death of a Leader
Anthony McIntyre

Ruairi O Bradaigh, RSF Ard-Fheis Address 2004
Ruairi O Bradaigh

Anyone But Kerry
James Davis

Rubber Boa Studies
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

'8 years in The Belfast SWP - A fraternal parting', and Part 2 of 'The ARN, - A Movement'
Davy Carlin

11 November 2004

Palestine Greater than Arafat
Sam Bahour

Gerry Adams: Man of War and Man of Peace?
Anthony McIntyre

From IRA to OCA?
Dr. John Coulter

The Orange Order: Go Forward by Going Back
Rev. Brian Kennaway

Choosing to Ignore the Facts: Not the Fault of the Left
Tara LaFreniere

Onward Christian soldiers
Tyrone Gottlieb



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Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices