Letter from Galway

In this seemingly never-ending “Decade of Commemorations,” with such highlights as the recent commemoration of partition (!), some things seem to get forgotten (besides truth and common sense)—things close to home and things far away.

Close to home, here in Galway, it won’t be the execution of Commandant Liam Mellows on 8 December 1922 that we’ll be forgetting. In reprisal. Revenge. Plans are already under way. Liam Mellows not forgotten. ¡Presente!

And far away: we won’t be forgetting the bombs that were dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 either. For nearly twenty years now the Galway Alliance Against War has been a thorn in the side of capitalist complacency, reminding us and them that US imperialism is not gone away, reminding any who care to listen that today’s imperialist wars have roots, that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not a military necessity or a way of “saving lives” (the cynicism!) but, among other things, the opening salvo in the Cold War.

100,000+ Japanese were sacrificed to show the victorious Red Army that they needn’t advance from Manchuria and turn their focus on Japan now that they had liberated Berlin. A sign to the world that the world’s policeman had a new club, and wasn’t afraid to use it. Experience gained in the carpet bombing of Dresden and other civilian refuges now put to good use in the fight against communism.

A Japan occupied by a resurgent Soviet Union, with a communist-led national liberation struggle morphing into revolution just across the Sea of Japan, was the red nightmare that US imperialism just didn’t want. Bad enough that communists in France and Italy and Greece and Yugoslavia were champing at the bit. Capitalism was throwing everything it had into dispersing, confusing and destroying the victorious revolutionary working class of Europe and their parties. There had to be an end to it, and a warning to any other working-class or national liberation forces that lives were no object.

As we know from Marx, for the capitalist the god of profit is worthy of any sacrifice. “100% will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300% and there is not a crime at which it will scruple . . . if turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both” (Marx, quoting P. J. Dunning, in Capital, vol. 1).

So, like the veteran anti-fascist fighters of the GDR, the GAAW has kept up the cry against imperialist war for twenty years come September: “Nie wieder Krieg! Nie wieder Faschismus !” [Never again war! Never again fascism]. But, as the PRO of GAAW, Niall Farrell, says, is it really something to commemorate? “It is hardly an anniversary we can boast too much about. While it is recognition of our endurance it is also a stark reminder of how we have failed to end Ireland’s complicity in US imperialist war.” Because Shannon Airport is still a hub of the US war machine: 3 million and counting the number of US troops ferried through Shannon to the latest killing fields (shannonwatch.org).

Children, my own included, have grown into adulthood knowing nothing but continuous US-led imperialist war, with Shannon Airport an integral “part of the US military conveyor-belt of death” (former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter), encouraged and facilitated by successive Irish governments. Irish neutrality in tatters.

Not forgotten: the lives and the lies, from 1922 until today. How about we commemorate this: the working-class struggle to save this planet and everything on it. Except capitalism. A luta continua!

The outgoing chief of staff of the Defence forces, Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, described his “being part of a NATO mission, when he was despatched to Afghanistan to help make the elections in the country free and fair, as one of the highlights of his career.”—So much for Ireland’s neutrality.