The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Do Not Be Afraid to Face the Truth

Mick Hall • 25 December 2004

Over the recent period there has been a fair amount of discussion taking place in the street, on the Internet and in the media about the RTE documentary Joe Cahill: IRA Man, which featured in the RTE Hidden History series. Anthony McIntyre wrote an article for the Blanket entitled, St Joseph Patron Saint of The Peace Process. Another piece appeared in the Sunday Independent written by their correspondent Jim Cusack with the header, Joe Cahill was more Forrest Gump than IRA Terrorist Mastermind (Sunday Independent, December 12th 2004). The basic charge of both journalists as can be seen from the headlines above their articles, and the main topic of discussion among many non-PRM supporters was that the RTE programme was little more than a hagiographical eulogy. The reason for this being that journalists at RTE, and indeed in much of the Irish mainstream media, are simply not prepared to produce any work that casts a critical eye on the Peace Process and its main participants, for fear of upsetting the whole apple cart. Whilst this may indeed be true, those who live in the rest of the UK will be less surprised by the RTE eulogy of Joe Cahill.

The British State has a long tradition of welcoming into its bosom those who had once been its enemies. The criteria they insist upon is twofold: the individual concerned and the organisation they belong(ed) to must no longer be a threat to the British State and its interests, wherever they may be. It matters little if the individual concerned is alive or dead, nor even if they wish to be welcomed by their classes/countries enemies, for they are really not the point of the exercise. The whole purpose is to impress upon current enemies if they bow the knee, a better life full of pomp and glory may well await them, plus of course due to the imperial past of the English State, it loves displaying magnanimity to the natives.

If you look back into history and follow it through right up until the present day, there is a whole raft of radical politicians who have been publicly lauded in their defeat or self-abasement. However, some of the first people to get such treatment were far from radical; Indian Maharajas and the Zulu Kings were some of the first to be walked along this road. Scottish and Irish radicals like Tim Healy and Ramsay MacDonald soon followed and despite their youthful indiscretions, when they represented their class or fellow country men and women to the best of their abilities, once they put such silly nonsense aside they were each placed at the pinnacle of their respective States, Healy as the British nominated first Governor General of the Irish Free State and MacDonald as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. These two were followed by countless others who were also forgiven their youthful indiscretions and rose to the highest office or were provided with a comfortable retirement, once they put all that equality nonsense aside.

And of course one should not forget Michael Collins, who, whilst he physically refused to bend the knee, by accepting the treaty he all but did so, and in the eyes of the British establishment and its tame media turned from number one bogeyman into Statesman almost over night. Indeed on his death, he had Ireland's enemy the arch imperialist Winston Churchill writing an obituary of him that was little more than a hagiographical eulogy, to use Mr McIntyre’s words to describe the RTE Cahill documentary.

However it was not really until the post WW2 period that this process got into full flow, with the rising struggles of a host of anti imperialist forces throughout the British Empire. Men and women who regarded themselves as socialists of one kind or another led the overwhelming majority of the organisations which made up this struggle. They ranged from Pandit Nehru, Jomo Kenyatta, Abdul Nasser, (gamalu cabdu n-nâsir), Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Robert Mugabe, Chin Peng and many others. After what was often a harsh and violent struggle, the British, or those post colonial caretaker governments they had placed into power, were quite happy to allow those who had fought them to take power. There were to be though one or two prior conditions, which were usually agreed upon at lavish conferences at Lancaster House or the likes of Leeds Castle. If their former foes where prepared to join the British Commonwealth or be within its orbit, and forget all that nonsense about socialist land reform etc, then the honey pot was theirs for the taking. Once they agreed, those who had once been hunted like animals through jungles and shanty towns by the British Army and their tame local militias, soon found themselves riding down London's Mail in an open carriage, off to stay with Betty Windsor at Buckingham Palace, with the House-Hold Cavalry firing a salute as Britain's latest satrap passed by.

Of course those who refused to compromise or bend the knee were treated in a different manner. They were hunted down mercilessly, to become non-persons as far as history is concerned. There is no better example of this than the gallant Chin Peng, who spent the whole of WW2 in the jungles of Malaysia, fighting the Japanese invaders alongside the British who awarded him of all people the Order of the British Empire. At the Victory Parade that took place in London at the wars end, he was one of the few senior Asian Soldiers to take part. But when he refused the will of a wisp offer of freedom he and his countrymen and women were offered in reward by the British, he took to the jungle once more, forever to be branded a traitorous, treacherous oriental, when anyone remembers who he was that is. Indeed when he eventually emerged after decades of war and pressure from Malaysia’s neighbour Thailand, few had any idea who the old gentleman was.

To conclude it is worth remembering some of those who have been given the Cahill treatment when their movements are no longer a threat. Nasser, once his successor Sadat had taken the almighty dollar, in death became an Egyptian patriot when portrayed in the British media, whilst in life he was a bloodthirsty Arab and a tool of the Russians. Arthur Scargill, who like Gerry Adams was for some years public enemy number one in the British media, found himself written up as good old Arthur once the members of the NUM were defeated and scattered to the four winds after their noble but unequal struggle against Thatcherism; he was allowed to pontificate on TV shows like BBC Question Time, for without his TU comrades he was powerless. Another is Tony Benn, who when he had a crack at being the deputy leader of the British Labour Party, found himself crucified on a daily basis in the Murdoch gutter press. It was also thought by many that he was poisoned during this leadership campaign by the British security services, to take him out of the contest, which if true shows how much they hated and feared him. Yet now he is old he appears all over the same newspapers, portrayed as everyone's favourite politician. Never mind he is long retired and can be found in a theatre near you in his one-man show.

Finally I leave the two best examples from recent history, Arafat and Mandela. Despite all his faults in the end Arafat refused to sell out his people and deny them the right of return; for this he was vilified and hated in the US and UK, his name blackened by the media lackeys at every turn, until he met a strange and untimely death. Nelson Mandela, for all his attributes, on becoming State President of South Africa agreed one thing which would have enormous negative consequences for his people. He agreed the multi-nationals could continue to enrich themselves in the trough of the SA economy. By doing this he turned from being a terrorist into a Statesman and was regarded as such even by those who had the most blackest of hearts and had spent a political life time opposing his release from jail. He became a man who opportunists from all over the world came to visit -- Pop/Movie Stars, Conservative politicians and multi-national blood suckers lined up to be photographed along side Mr Mandela, in the full knowledge that some of his media enhanced gloss would rub off on their shabby selves and perhaps advance their own grubby careers. Did Mandela protest or refuse these charlatans entrance? No, for he knew like Faust that if you make a pact with the devil it is wise to keep it.

None of the above is designed to belittle the often-pivotal role played by those people who I have named above. For in struggles against powerful vested interests, what people represent is often as, if not more, important than what individuals actually did; I would suggest Joe Cahill is a case to point. This is the reason why the representatives of Capital see the re-writing of the history of the anti imperialist struggles as essential to their interests. Thus it is of vital importance that Irish Republicans claim their own history; those who were participants in the often heroic, but nevertheless bloody struggle in the north of Ireland over the past thirty four years have a responsibility to those who did not survive and future generations to put down their own recollections. As there will be many who have a vestige interest in re-writing history, and be warned they will not always come from the obvious quarter.

So when Republicans question a take on their history, which they believe to be mistaken, as Mr McIntyre, did in his article about Joe Cahill for the Blanket, it should not be seen as spitting on the graves of the dead, but part of the process to offer a version of history beyond that which is acceptable to powerful vested interests. If a voice is heard to whisper, some things are best left unsaid; surely it is time to reply, Republicans were never afraid to face the truth, in all its starkness. If this means one or two halos become scratched in the process, no matter, for as Bobby Sands said, “all have a role to play, no matter how big or small.”




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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

2 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Thing About History
Tom Luby

Do Not Be Afraid to Face the Truth
Mick Hall

Past Time to Deliver an Outcome
Davy Adams

Reclaiming Irish
Dr. John Coulter

Anthony McIntyre

Response to Anti-Semitism
Brian Kelly

23 December 2004

The Spectre of Imprisonment
Marian Price

Bad Santa
Anthony McIntyre

Blunkett's Interment Law Struck Down
Eamonn McCann

Trust Us, It's Not What It Looks Like
Brian Mór

ARN & Street Seen: End of the Year Comments from Davy Carlin
Davy Carlin



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