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Rossport campaign against Shell gas Pipeline shows way forward in community struggle

category ireland / britain | environment | opinion / analysis author Monday October 17, 2005 19:07author by Terry - Guest writer for Workers Solidarity Report this post to the editors

An Irish anarchist looks at the lessons of the campaign

In a small corner of Mayo in Ireland over the Summer a mass campaign of non-violent direct action systematically, and in part spontaneously, shut down a major development being carried out by several multi-national corporations and the state. Since this article was written the five men in jail as a result of these protests have been released pending a court hearing.

Popular Response to Shell's Pipeline Shows Way Forward

Over the Summer in a small corner of Mayo a mass campaign of non-violent direct action systematically, and in part spontaneously, shut down a major development being carried out by several multi-national corporations and the state.

Speeches decrying state subservience to big business were heard at rallies in Ballina, Castlebar and Belmullet.

Links were made with resistors of so-called "miscarriages of justice" (aka frame-ups) with Frank Mc Brearty Jnr speaking at the Ballina rally, and with Paul Hill and Nicky Kelly visiting the Rossport Solidarity Camp.

The campaign had already made significant international links, with relatives of Ken Saro Wiwa having previously visited the area to speak at public meetings, and Erris campaigners having attended Shell AGMs alongside people with similar problems from around the world. During the summer people in Louisiana who live beside a Shell refinery held a solidarity protest with the people in Mayo resisting the construction of a Shell refinery.

The significance of all this can be seen in the scantiness of a tradition of popular struggle which this campaign can draw upon. Most historical references being to events in the 19th century, bar the occasional brief mention of a tax refusal movement in the 60s. Moreover this is in an area where according to one local resident the tallies in his village are usually 99% Fianna Fail. If this campaign is successful, and while its opponents are formidable its participants are steadfast and so it stands a good chance of being so, the people the corporations and state are trying to turn into victims will have no doubt that they can fight and they can win.

The same is true, although less so, of people watching, in the first instance people who face similar problems of incinerators or superdumps or whatever being built next to their homes.

The Grassroots Gathering objectives, the nearest thing the libertarian left in Ireland has to a common platform, reads in part:

Organise for the control of the workplace by those who work there. Call for the control of communities by the people who live there. Argue for a sustainable environmental, economic and social system, agreed by the people of the planet.

For this to be remotely realisable a lot of people need to be empowered with a sense of their collective strength and this empowerment comes about through resisting capitalisms' impositions in our daily lives.

Moreover such practical involvement reveals more profoundly the truth about the nature of parliamentary politics, the Dail and the courts than acres of trees spent on subversive propaganda ever could. Furthermore popular struggle is the process which equips us all with the skills and organisational forms necessary to control workplaces freed of corporations, and to control communities freed of the state. If "anti-globalisation" or "anti-capitalism" means challenging corporate/state power and means building links with people in struggle the world over then this summer its Irish wing was in Erris and is mostly divided into small groups with surnames, rather than small groups with acronyms.

In an article entitled "Class Struggle Versus Summit Protests" Matti from argues that: "The fact is that summit protests are yet more disconnecting of politics from the lives of working class people. They are totally symbolic and for all their radical talk, couldn't even being to build a movement capable of challenging capitalism. Our politics are only relevant if we ground them solidly in our everyday lives and orientate ourselves towards our workmates and neighbours to solve the problems faced by our class."

The problem is in a generally quiescent society this can besomething of a major task, the solidarity model employed in the Shell to Sea campaign, that of solidarity pickets and the solidarity camp, allows libertarian activists everywhere to swing behind a localised popular struggle.

What You Can Do:
Contribute to the Rossport Five Legal Defence Fund: Account Name: The Rossport Five Fund, Bank: Ulster Bank, Main Street, Belmullet, Co Mayo. Sort Code: 98-53-14, Account Number: 23987020 Write to prisoners: Willie Corduff, Philip McGrath, Brendan Philbin, Vincent McGrath and Michael O'Suighin at Cloverhill Prison, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, Ireland.

Participate in local Shell to Sea groups and actions, including picketing, blockading Shell and Statoil garages in your neighbourhood in order to pressurise the fat cats into moving their operations off-shore.

by Terry Clancey

For background and discussion see The anti-SHELL struggle in Ireland

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