Weaver Street, Tuam and Bessborough as ‘non-sites of memory’

In 1992, Mary Kerr was driving along the M2 motorway in Belfast at the point immediately to the east of the former location of an area known as Weaver Street, off the York Road. As the name suggests, Weaver Street had been a residential area largely occupied by mill workers and their families. Kerr later recounted to the Sunday Life newspaper how a fair-haired girl, aged around 11, wearing an old-style dress and without shoes, skipped across the motorway in front of her car. When Kerr looked around to see where she had went, the girl was gone.

One year to the day later, Kerr read an old article which the Irish News had reprinted reporting on girls killed in a bombing in Weaver Street on that day some 70 years previously. Kerr told the Sunday Life, “Instinctively I knew they were connected to what I had seen that night…[11]

Weaver Street had been the scene of a horrific bombing in February 1922, an event that remained unmarked and largely unremarked in 1993 and is still barely known today. Little, if any, of Belfast’s dark heritage from 1919-22 is formally commemorated in the city, either, as if events and the violence of those years were somehow just not remembered. But that absence of commemoration can be revealing in itself.

Here, I’m exploring Weaver Street using an idea taken from studies in eastern Europe, that of a ‘non-site of memory’ (the origin of the term ‘non-site of memory’ is explained further below). This article also looks at the suitability of the concept to provide insights into the scenes of other significant episodes from twentieth century Irish history, such as the Tuam and Bessborough Mother and Baby Homes.

It was a French historian, Pierre Nora, who coined the term ‘site of memory’ in 1970 to describe the likes of monuments to the past or archives of historical documents. Nora was trying to understand the past through studying memories of events and how they are used to create histories and influence the world around them. The phrase ‘site of memory’ is perhaps best explained by the more accurate translation of the French term ‘lieux de mémoire’ as (the more awkward sounding) ‘site of remembering’.[1]

People today are familiar with sites of memory, even if they haven’t heard them described as such. Most modern societies use monuments to commemorate historical events. Some, such as the Whitehall cenotaph in London are, or have become, the setting for annual rituals to display and communicate values to a contemporary audience. These rituals use symbols and imagery that draw upon particular and often partisan readings of history to promote political strategies in the present or future.

Later writers have suggested that the term ‘sites of memory’ should be more restricted in its scope and exclude archives and other spaces where records are brought together. Instead, the likes of Jay Winters have defined sites of memory as “…physical sites where commemorative acts take place…” noting that often, in twentieth century contexts, such sites are associated with wartime violence.[2] Winters goes on to say that sites of memory “…are there as points of reference not only for those who survived traumatic events, but also for those born long after them. The word ‘memory’ becomes a metaphor for the fashioning of narratives about the past when those with direct experience of events die off. Sites of memory inevitably become sites of second-order memory, places where people remember the memories of others, those who survived the events marked there.” Others have noted that ‘sites of memory’ are not necessarily spaces that can be neatly drawn on a map, as Andrzej Szpociński has pointed out some are almost metaphorical ‘places’.[3]

Pierre Nora’s interest was in understanding how memory of the past was shaped, transmitted and used by societies. In the 1980s, his concept was explored and inverted by the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann who also identified ‘non-lieux de mémoire’, or ‘non-sites of memory’ during his work on the landmark 1985 film Shoah which documented the systematic murders of European Jews during the second world war.[4] Lanzmann was referring to places that witnessed past violence but which had been configured to obscure that violence and render them, in effect, invisible to contemporary society. Completely forgotten and often minimised or excluded from historical accounts, these places and the events that took place there are the antithesis of ‘sites of memory’ that have monuments or plaques or host communal commemorative events.

Such non-sites of memory may even be places at which human remains were present and may continue to be present. As Roma Sedenkya describes it, these human remains typically “…have not been neutralized by funerary rites” either through performance of religious ceremonies or completion of administrative or legal proceedings.[5] These non-sites often have particular characteristics, such as having been abandoned, an absence of memorial markers and possible evidence of reactions of fear and shame.

On February 13, 1922, Weaver Street was the scene of an act of violence that Winston Churchill described as the “…worst thing which has happened in Ireland in the last three years”. That day, a man in police uniform directed Catholic children in adjoining streets to go and play as a group in Weaver Street. Two other men then appeared and chatted to other men in police uniforms, before threw a bomb into the middle of the children who were playing 20-30m away.[6] The men then opened fire on people that come out of their houses to try and help the wounded and dying. Six died including four young girls, while more than twenty children were wounded (including a girl named Mary Kerr). Some were left with life changing injuries. An incident in the adjoining Milewater Street, months previously, had also led to a number of children being wounded by gunfire.

Three months after the bombing, in May 1922, any Catholic residents who had remained in the area were forced to flee (around one hundred and forty-eight families). At a coroner’s hearing on the bombing victims, residents identified the role of policemen in the bombing itself and failures to gather evidence or investigate the attack. The Unionist government also issued disinformation to mislead about the nature of the bombing and identity of the victims. Today the street itself no longer exists on the map of Belfast and an event deemed to be the “…worst thing which has happened…” barely features in histories of the period, or as part of the Decade of Centenaries programmes remembering events from 100 years ago.

Map showing location of Weaver Street. The nearby R.I.C. barracks is the building marked in black beside the letters T.B. on York Road.

So, should we regard Weaver Street as a ‘non-site of memory’? Claude Lanzmann and later scholars like Roma Senedyka used the concept of non-sites of memory in an attempt to find language that might describe aspects of the horrific violence inflicted on European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s and the subsequent history of those locations where the violence took place. Since then Pierre Nora’s original concept, ‘sites of memory’, has been used to explore locations as far apart as Georgia and Chile.[7] But can the same be done with ‘non-sites of memory’?

In the case of Weaver Street, some of the basic characteristics are clearly present such as a lack of physical recognition at the site. And this is reinforced by noting that an absence of memorialisation to victims of the period is not universal. Six victims of a massacre at Altnaveigh, near Newry in June 1922, were already commemorated with a memorial by the following summer.[8] An obvious contrast here, reflecting the interests of the post-1921 Unionist government in Belfast, being that the victims at Altanaveigh were Protestants killed by an IRA unit under orders given by Frank Aiken (later a senior figure in the government in Dublin), while those at Weaver Street were Catholic.[9]

After being forced from the area in May 1922, the Catholic residents of Weaver Street and surrounding streets were dispersed over a variety of locations, typically within other districts in Belfast with substantial Catholic populations. Their former houses were then occupied by Protestant families. The Catholic residents mainly fled to areas in north Belfast and in west Belfast. Some families retained memories of the violence but in other cases relatives of the dead had heard little of the events.[10] In the summer of 1932, ten years after the bombing, Belfast’s main unionist newspaper, the Belfast Telegraph, could carry a photograph of Weaver Street decked out in flags at the main annual event celebrating Protestant hegemony. The photograph is positioned in the centre of a single page photographic spread.

This grainy image was printed in the press in May 1922 showing residents fleeing Weaver Street, it appears to be the only such image published.
1932 photograph of Weaver Street with its page context from Belfast Telegraph 9 July 1932 shown below.

Over the course of the decades between 1922 and the 1990s, the area between between York Road and the railway line, including Weaver Street, Shore Street, most of Milewater Street and some of North Derby Street were gradually absorbed into a factory complex and the streets removed from the map of Belfast by the end of the 1960s. Every other street between York Road and the railway line present in the 1890s is still there today. In the background of a photograph showing Shore Street being demolished in the late 1950s someone has painted ‘No Pope Here’ on a wall. Weaver Street survives, in an archaeological sense, below ground beneath the factory complex and the position of Weaver Street itself remains echoed in the alignment of today’s buildings.

Late 1950s photograph showing demolition of Shore Street. Note ‘No Pope Here’ on wall.

Today, it is possible for someone to walk down North Derby Street as far as the large factory building and turn and look along the front elevation of the building. This elevation stands over the former façade of the little red brick houses of Weaver Street. The view is partially obscured by fencing and (until recently) vegetation, and the fencing itself means it is not possible to walk along the former location of Weaver Street. The only publicly accessible space today is the exact spot from which a man threw a grenade into a group of children playing only yards away in 1922.

The only remaining publicly accessible space at Weaver Street: the location where the bomber stood on 13 Feb 1922. The entrance to Weaver Street is now block by the fence and vegetation and the facade of the factory building sits directly on the same alignment as the facade of the houses where the bombing took place.

In terms of assessing the applicability of transposing Lanzmann’s non-lieux de mémoire concept to Ireland, these elements of the Weaver Street story resonates with other characteristics of non-sites of memory that Roma Senedyka identifies, including that “…the victims typically have a collective identity (usually ethnic) distinct from the society currently living in the area, whose self-conception is threatened by the occurrence of the non-site of memory. Such localities are transformed, manipulated, neglected, or contested in some other way (often devastated or littered)…”.[12] This suggests that the approach can help provide a framework in which it may be possible to begin to interrogate the wider questions around how such events were remembered, or forgotten or ignored, and what conclusions we might draw from that.

This concept of non-sites of memory may also be usefully transposed to other locations in Ireland, particularly twentieth century sites such as Tuam and Bessborough.[13] Both were ‘Mother and Baby Homes’ where many of the characteristics of non-sites of memory can be recognised, particularly if Senedyka’s sense of collective identity is defined as including ideas of gender and social class. In both cases, the presence of human remains at the sites, the subsequent treatment, remembering and forgetting of those buried there could be explored and understood in a framework drawing upon the characteristics of non-sites of memory. Assessing the subsequent histories of sites like Tuam and Bessborough through the prism of non-sites of memory may then be a useful narrative tool to explore how contemporary society viewed and understood them. It may also help develop language which former residents and those who have family members who were resident can use to talk about the experience.

Drawing of ghostly figured associated with Weaver Street from article in Sunday Life, Aug 23, 1993.

[1] Nora, Pierre 1974 Mémoire collective in Faire de l’histoire. Le Goff, Jacques and Nora, Pierre (eds). Paris: Gallimard.

[2] Winter, Jay 2010 Sites of Memory in Radstone, S. and Schwarz, B. (eds) Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, pp.312-324. Fordham. Winters also discusses the use of cenotaphs and the longer quote in this paragraph in the same paper (p.313).

[3] Szpociński, Andrzej 2016 Sites of Memory. Teksty Drugie 2016, 1, pp.245-254

[4] See Lanzmann, C. and Gantheret, F. 1986 L’Entretien de Claude Lanzmann, Les non-lieux de mémoire. Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse 33, pp.293–305.

[5] See Sedenyka, R. 2021 Sites of violence and their communities: critical memory studies in the post-human era. International Journal of Heritage, Memory and Conflict 1, pp.1-11.

[6] See https://treasonfelony.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/the-weaver-street-bombing-and-not-dealing-with-the-past/

[7] Marszałek-Kawa, Joanna and Ratke-Majewska, Anna 2016 Anna Sites of Memory in the Public Space of Chile and Georgia: the Transition and Pre-Transition Period. Polish Political Science Yearbook, 45, pp. 99–116.

[8] Northern Whig August 27, 1923

[9] See Knipe, Gregory 2019 The Fourth Northerners. Litter Press.

[10] Karl O’Hanlon, pers. comm. (great nephew of one of the victims, Eliza O’Hanlon); thanks also to nieces of Florence Sheridan and Maggie Sheridan who had been wounded (aged 19 months and 6 years) by a bomb thrown into a group of children playing in Milewater Street, adjoining Weaver Street on 25 September 1921, they recalled their aunt was still able show them the wounds in her old age.

[11] Sunday Life, June 27, 1993.

[12] Sendyka R. 2016 Sites That Haunt: Affects and Non-sites of Memory. East European Politics and Societies, 30(4): p.700.

[13] See Irish Examiner, March 11, 2017.

International reactions to #BloodySunday: Germany and the death of Erwin Beelitz

Der Spiegel front cover, 7 Feb 1972

The events of Bloody Sunday were immediately broadcast around a world that had been getting used to hearing and seeing news footage almost as it happened. For several years well-resourced American media organisations had been showing footage of combat in Vietnam, sometimes live, that was seen globally. Similarly, film clips of mass political protests in America, in support of civil rights and against the US role in south-east Asia, provided a visual toolkit for organizing civil rights protests in Ireland in the late 1960s. Repression, including violent state responses to protest like the Kent State shootings in 1970 gave people references points that linked their experience to political struggles around the world.

On the evening of Bloody Sunday, a young German, Michael Baumann, had watched a television report on events in Derry that day. Like many of the post-war generation in West Berlin, there was a certain level of resentment at the continued occupation by the victorious allies of various sectors of Berlin. This lent itself to empathising with others they perceived to be sharing an experience of military occupation, whether that was in places like Vietnam or, since 1969, Ireland. And, just as the presence of US troops in Germany had created a target for protests over US actions in south-east Asia, the presence of British troops meant that there was a highly visible focus for protests over British actions in Ireland. At the time, watching reporting of Bloody Sunday in Derry on television, Michael Baumann claimed he was so moved by events that he decided that he “…had to do something about it”.

Next day, Monday 31st January, Baumann and a friend, Hans-Peter Knoll, met with Verena Becker, Harald Sommerfeld and Inge Viett who had also concluded that the killings of unarmed civilians by the British Army demanded a response. Becker, Sommerfeld and Viett had been members of Schwarzen Hilfe, a support group for political prisoners, but had recently joined Baumann and Knoll in Bewegung 2 Juni or B2J (the June 2nd Movement).

B2J had been founded the previous year by individuals associated with some of the German groups that had emerged from the student and radical campaigns of the late 1960s. Even the B2J name commemorated the day in 1967 (June 2nd) when unarmed Benno Ohnesorg was shot by a police detective, following vicious police repression of a protest against a visit by the Shah of Iran to Berlin. The events of that day were repeatedly cited by many individuals involved in the radical groups as a pivotal moment in their transition from peaceful and largely conventional protests to more militant actions.

Like many of the German radical groups, B2J were trying to adapt urban guerilla tactics, largely following the outlines sketched by Brazilian Marxist-Leninist Carlos Marighella (in his Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla). They hoped that the example of actions by a small, elite, guerilla group would catalyse support for their aims. Ultimately, this was meant to lead to ‘the people’ seizing power from the conservative, capitalist forces that controlled the state. This marked a departure from the successful, ‘focalist’ model used in the likes of Cuba and Vietnam, where the impetus began in remote rural areas prior to marching on, and seizing, the urban centres. In the metropolitan western states, the focus needed to be on building support in the urban areas rather than rural districts. The Tupamaros in Uruguay and, historically, the urban IRA operations organised by the likes of Michael Collins were seen by Marighella and others as exemplars of the urban guerilla method. Up to 1972, B2J had mainly confined itself to robberies and shootings. A response to Bloody Sunday seemed to provide an opportunity to progress to widen its campaign. This was largely following the template set out by Marighella in his Minimanual.

B2J itself was a loose coalition of anarchists unlike the better known Marxist-Leninist group, the Rotte Armee Fraktion (R.A.F.). The latter is usually rendered in English as Red Army ‘Faction’ although ‘Fraction’ is more accurate and reflects the intention to identify the group as an integral part of wider society (i.e. a ‘fraction’), rather than a discrete entity in its own right as the term ‘faction’ implies.

Famously, the R.A.F. included Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler and Ulrike Meinhof. A name that was often, erroneously, given to the first generation R.A.F. was the ‘Baader-Meinhof’ Group or just ‘B-M’ (mistakenly taking Meinhof to be a leader). The R.A.F. didn’t really have leaders, per se, but the most prominent female figure was Gudrun Ensslin rather than Meinhof. Emerging from those same left wing challenges to the aging conservative establishment in West Germany, the R.A.F. held a particular appeal to young Germans. In a television era, imagery and optics were important and the group’s public personae, consciously or subconsciously, resonated with a sort of revolutionary chic. For instance, a mythical preference for using stolen BMWs (dubbed the Baader-Meinhof Wagen) is believed to have brought the then provincial and largely unheralded BMW brand to prominence. And when Baader was arrested in 1972, he had a bleeding gunshot wound in his thigh, he still managed to keep his Raybans on for the cameras. The high profile female voices within the organisations, like Ensslin and Meinhof, similarly signalled an aspiration towards gender equality that both increased their youth appeal, and, differentiated them from the older male-dominated West German establishment which was also tarnished by the country’s history under the Nazis.

I think you can see influence of the projected media image of the likes of Ensslin and Meinhof in Irish republican depictions of female activists in the early 1970s, much of it resonating with second wave feminism. Presumably this would equally apply to media imagery of women involved in loyalist organisations in the 1970s (check out the new Her Loyal Voice blog which might explore some of the history there). Bob White’s documentary on Cumann na mBan, posted here previously, suggests there is scope for more exploration of the interplay of second wave feminism and interaction between the IRA and Cumann na mBan (keep an eye out for Dieter Reinsich’s work in this area too, eg see here). It also partly explains the fascination with particular images from the conflict in Belfast, like the one of a young woman firing a gun at a street corner.

While there had been widespread student and radical protests in Europe in the late 1960s, only really Germany, Italy and Ireland had also saw the development or renewal of a range of militant groupings. The publisher, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who was connected to both German and Italian radicals, provided some of the thinking and resourcing behind the development of the Italian groups. He was instrumental in setting up the Gruppi di Azione Partigiana (Partisan Action Groups) which was founded around the same time as other left radical groups like Lotta Continua and Gruppo XXII Ottobre (October 22nd Group) in 1969, soon to be followed by the more durable Brigata Rossa or ‘B-R’ (‘Red Brigade’, later ‘Red Brigades’ as it absorbed members of the other groups as they disbanded). Unlike the German groups, there were very few prominent women in the Italian organisations.

In Italy, right wing groups were also active. They carried out occasional bombings and shootings from 1969 onwards to which the left wing radical groups responded in kind. Media coverage meant that left wing protests around the world quickly reached a much wider audience (just as from October 1968 onwards, Irish events also began to feature on television news bulletins). The patterns of militant activity and scale of fatalities in Italy and Germany (and indeed Ireland) were not vastly dissimilar for much of 1969 and 1970. While there were points of contact between the various groups, there was little in the way of formal links. However, all were constantly aware of, and sympathetic to, events in other countries. As late as 1985, the third generation R.A.F. had a unit called ‘Kommando Patsy O’Hara’.

For that reason, Baumann and the others identified with events in Derry on Bloody Sunday. In West Berlin, a peaceful protest by fifteen hundred people on the Tuesday following Bloody Sunday had converged on the British Consulate-General. The protesters had demanded the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland. Trouble flared afterwards and eight windows of the BBC’s Berlin office were broken by stone throwers.

While that was going on the former Schwarzen Hilfe members in B2J, Verena Becker, Inge Viett and Harald Sommerfeld and another inexperienced member, Willi Räther, were scouting for British military targets to attack in the Gatow and Kladow districts along the western outskirts of West Berlin. Figuring most were too well protected, they happened upon a sign for the British Yacht Club on the Havel, just off Kladower Damm which was mainly used by British officers. They reconnoitred the club and decided it would make a suitable target. As it was out of season, it was deserted and so there was little risk of anything more than damage to property.

Up to then, B2J had mainly been involved in a handful of encounters with German police and bank robberies to raise funds. Baumann and Knoll had went to see other leading figures in a Schoneberg apartment including Heinz Brockmann, Ralf Reinders and ‘Ina’ Siepmann to see what could be done. It was agreed that Brockmann would manufacture explosive devices to be used in mobile attacks. Next day Baumann acquired the necessary materials and brought them to an apartment in Sybelstrasse where Brockman manufactured three bombs using fire extinguishers, water pipes, clock parts, gunpowder and fireworks. Baumann made explosives from weed killer and sugar. Meanwhile, Becker and the others reassembled in Eisenbahnstrasse and prepared a letter to leave at the British Yacht Club stating that the attack was in solidarity with the IRA and in revenge for the British Army’s actions in Derry.

The bombs were all set to detonate at 2.15 am on 2nd February.

The inexperienced Becker, Viett, Sommerfeld and Räther were to plant one bomb at the deserted British Yacht Club. They drove to Gatow by car where Viett stayed in the car with the lights on and engine running while Becker, Räther and Sommerfeld climbed the fence. Once inside, Becker kept watch as Sommerfeld and Räther carried the bomb around to the side of the clubhouse facing out onto the Havel. Räther placed the bomb on a chair and set the time for the ignition, delaying it until 2.30 am to allow them more time to get away. Having attached the cables so the bomb was now live, he covered it in a bag while Sommerfeld left the A3 sheet with their statement by a window of the building. Without waiting for the detonation, they headed for home.

The remote British Yacht Club was assumed to be a safe target. The other two bombs, on a public street, brought a much higher risk of passersby becoming casualties. Those two bombs were carried by the more experienced B2J members around Charlottenburg in Berlin. They drove around with the armed bombs looking for targets of opportunity. Brockman spotted a car with British plates in Theodor Heuss Platz, where he planted one of the bombs under it himself. Baumann and Knoll planted the second after finding a similar car.

At quarter past two in the morning, the two Charlotteburg bombs exploded. Even allowing for the slight delay, the Yacht Club bomb didn’t explode. At 8 am the next morning, a boat builder employed at club for twenty years, sixty-six year old Erwin Beelitz, found the bag covering the bomb on his morning inspection of the premises. He took it to his workshop where he put the contraption in a vice to open it up. The bomb exploded, blowing fingers off Beelitz’s right hand and sending fragments into his stomach and thigh. Three students visiting the club later that morning find him bleeding and dying.

Erwin Beelitz (Getty Images)

Shortly afterwards, B2J started officially using the name Bewegung 2 Juni on communications. By May 1973, Sommerfeld had been captured and was tried and sentenced for the Yacht Club bomb (various members were to face the courts by 1974). He received a sentence of four years and nine months for the bombing as the court accepted that the intention had been to damage property only and that it had been intended as a show of solidarity with the IRA.

You can read more about the German radicals in Peters Butz’s 2017 book, 1977: RAF gegen Bundesrepublik, Wolfgang Kraushaur’s 2012 book Verena Becker und der Verfassungsschutz and in contemporary news reports in Irish press and Der Spiegel. Richard Huffman has a blog and podcasts dedicated to the R.A.F. and related groups here.

And you can read an online edition of Marighella’s Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla here.

The omission of Erwin Beelitz from conventional lists of violent conflict deaths is part of a broader issue that is worth exploring further in terms of understanding the wider impact of violence. I’ve another post on it here, with a preliminary look at structural violence.

An earlier version of this post has appeared previously.

Police notice listing Rotte Armee Fraktion members, Heinz Brockman shown on bottom row with Ralf Reinders in the second row.

…for fear of alienating the Unionist vote… #BloodySunday50

When the UK’s current Brexit Minister, Liz Truss, held a series of clandestine meetings in Belfast last week, it seemed clear that the Tories intention is to continue to make the UK’s relationship with the EU fractious. And to play along with misrepresenting views in Belfast as part of a public pretense of opposition to the Protocol. It is probably a mistake to imagine Truss, or Tory party policy, is focused on events in any part of Ireland. On the fiftieth anniversary of the horrors of Bloody Sunday, revisiting some of the political dynamics that drove events reveals absurdly similar issues at play. It also gives part of an answer to ‘why’ Bloody Sunday happened.

The early 1970s was also a pivotal moment in the relationship of London and the European community. Over the course of 1971 and 1972 Edward Heath was trying to push his European Communities Bill through a reluctant House of Commons. The Bill was instrumental in the UK joining the European Economic Community (as the EU was then known). Following the 1970 General Election, Heath had come to power intent on legislating for UK membership of the EEC. With 330 MPs he had a slim majority of 14 and that included the 8 Unionist Party members returned in the north (along with Ian Paisley, Gerry Fitt, Bernadette Devlin and Frank McManus).

Over the summer of 1971, in the lead up to the early stages of the Bill, the press speculated on the extent to which Heath’s reliance on the Unionist votes was a factor in deciding security policy, including in the lead up to the widespread arrest and internment of Catholics in August 1971. At an early stage, in October 1971, most of the Unionist MPs (who were joined in a formal parliamentary grouping with Heath’s Conservatives) voted against the Bill. All of this provides a notable backdrop to the Heath’s perceived need to win Unionists support for his European project for the crucial votes that would happen later in 1971 and early in 1972. Notably, over this period, security policy continued to fall in line with Unionist demands. Political reform was largely ignored (you can see the types of proposals under consideration at the time). And formal scrutiny of recent events was heavily sanitised, such as the Compton report issued in November 1971. During critical events such as the McGurks Bar bombing in December 1971 and Bloody Sunday in January 1972, UK government policy remained favourably aligned on Unionist needs and wants despite significant international opprobrium.

The saddest aspect of this, in many ways, is that the events on Bloody Sunday, Widgery and the long drawn out process of holding the UK government to account were all a sideshow to the main strategic focus of the UK’s government in 1972. Not that anything has changed today (given how swift the Tories are to manipulate unionists in their gamesmanship with the EU).

On 17th February 1972, Heath finally got his European vote over the line with a bare majority of eight (the sum total of the Unionist MPs). His biographer, John Campbell, called it ‘Heath’s finest hour’. Within weeks, there was a shift in security policy as first Stormont was prorogued and then the British government began talks with the IRA that appeared to open up all sorts of political possibilities of British withdrawal to the IRA.

This isn’t to suggest that the guiding factor in Heath’s security policy in the north in 1971 and 1972 was predicated upon needing Unionist support to pass the European Communities Bill. But, whatever it’s significance, it was a factor. And once the need for those Unionist votes was passed, the shift in emphasis in political policy against the Unionists was relatively swift.

The following editorial captures all this under the headline “Heath’s Close Call”, it appeared in the Irish Independent on 18th February 1972.

To Irish people who are used to Dáil cliff hangers coming out in a majority of two or three for the Government, Mr. Heath’s majority of eight in Westminster last night on the crucial E.E.C. Bill will seem small beer. But in a Parliament with over 600 members this vote was proportionately as close as any we have seen in Leinster House in recent times.
Now that Mr. Heath has won his vote, however, it is fair to say that the crisis is over for him on this issue. He can expect a gradual improvement from last night’s lowest ebb. With luck the coal and power crises will be things of the past in a few months’ time; a “handout” budget can be expected in an effort to stimulate the economy and fight unemployment; and Rhodesia has already caused the Westminster Government its fill of embarrassment.
There remains Northern Ireland. Certainly Mr. Heath has personally taken political punishment as a result of his handling of the North. However, last night’s critical vote may now free his hand a bit to make some concessions to the minority viewpoint. Up to this, with this crucial vote pending, Mr. Heath has had to be careful what political initiatives he even hinted at for fear of alienating the Unionist vote for last night’s test. Six of the eight Unionist M.P.s had voted against the principle of the Common Market on October 28th; but last night’s vote had turned into a straight political fight, an issue larger that the E.E.C. question. Three of the six anti-Market Northern Unionists were thus free to support the Government on the basis, presumably, that the E.E.C. with Heath was preferable to Wilson with no E.E.C.
His failure to secure a bloc Unionist vote, however, on an issue which had turned into a vote of confidence in the Government means that Unionist opinion is not solidly behind him. One reason for this could be that some Northern Unionists feel that he is about to “do a deal” with the Northern minority. His hands certainly seem less tied after this vote than before it.

European Union flag

Weaver Street, Tuam and Bessborough as ‘non-sites of memory’

In 1992, Mary Kerr was driving along the M2 motorway in Belfast at the point immediately to the east of the former location of an area known as Weaver Street, off the York Road. As the name suggests, Weaver Street had been a residential area largely occupied by mill workers and their families. Kerr later recounted to the Sunday Life newspaper how a fair-haired girl, aged around 11, wearing an old-style dress and without shoes, skipped across the motorway in front of her car. When Kerr looked around to see where she had went, the girl was gone.

One year to the day later, Kerr read an old article which the Irish News had reprinted reporting on girls killed in a bombing in Weaver Street on that day some 70 years previously. Kerr told the Sunday Life, “Instinctively I knew they were connected to what I had seen that night…[11]

Weaver Street had been the scene of a horrific bombing in February 1922, an event that remained unmarked and largely unremarked in 1993 and is still barely known today. Little, if any, of Belfast’s dark heritage from 1919-22 is formally commemorated in the city, either, as if events and the violence of those years were somehow just not remembered. But that absence of commemoration can be revealing in itself.

Here, I’m exploring Weaver Street using an idea taken from studies in eastern Europe, that of a ‘non-site of memory’ (the origin of the term ‘non-site of memory’ is explained further below). This article also looks at the suitability of the concept to provide insights into the scenes of other significant episodes from twentieth century Irish history, such as the Tuam and Bessborough Mother and Baby Homes.

It was a French historian, Pierre Nora, who coined the term ‘site of memory’ in 1970 to describe the likes of monuments to the past or archives of historical documents. Nora was trying to understand the past through studying memories of events and how they are used to create histories and influence the world around them. The phrase ‘site of memory’ is perhaps best explained by the more accurate translation of the French term ‘lieux de mémoire’ as (the more awkward sounding) ‘site of remembering’.[1]

People today are familiar with sites of memory, even if they haven’t heard them described as such. Most modern societies use monuments to commemorate historical events. Some, such as the Whitehall cenotaph in London are, or have become, the setting for annual rituals to display and communicate values to a contemporary audience. These rituals use symbols and imagery that draw upon particular and often partisan readings of history to promote political strategies in the present or future.

Later writers have suggested that the term ‘sites of memory’ should be more restricted in its scope and exclude archives and other spaces where records are brought together. Instead, the likes of Jay Winters have defined sites of memory as “…physical sites where commemorative acts take place…” noting that often, in twentieth century contexts, such sites are associated with wartime violence.[2] Winters goes on to say that sites of memory “…are there as points of reference not only for those who survived traumatic events, but also for those born long after them. The word ‘memory’ becomes a metaphor for the fashioning of narratives about the past when those with direct experience of events die off. Sites of memory inevitably become sites of second-order memory, places where people remember the memories of others, those who survived the events marked there.” Others have noted that ‘sites of memory’ are not necessarily spaces that can be neatly drawn on a map, as Andrzej Szpociński has pointed out some are almost metaphorical ‘places’.[3]

Pierre Nora’s interest was in understanding how memory of the past was shaped, transmitted and used by societies. In the 1980s, his concept was explored and inverted by the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann who also identified ‘non-lieux de mémoire’, or ‘non-sites of memory’ during his work on the landmark 1985 film Shoah which documented the systematic murders of European Jews during the second world war.[4] Lanzmann was referring to places that witnessed past violence but which had been configured to obscure that violence and render them, in effect, invisible to contemporary society. Completely forgotten and often minimised or excluded from historical accounts, these places and the events that took place there are the antithesis of ‘sites of memory’ that have monuments or plaques or host communal commemorative events.

Such non-sites of memory may even be places at which human remains were present and may continue to be present. As Roma Sedenkya describes it, these human remains typically “…have not been neutralized by funerary rites” either through performance of religious ceremonies or completion of administrative or legal proceedings.[5] These non-sites often have particular characteristics, such as having been abandoned, an absence of memorial markers and possible evidence of reactions of fear and shame.

On February 13, 1922, Weaver Street was the scene of an act of violence that Winston Churchill described as the “…worst thing which has happened in Ireland in the last three years”. That day, a man in police uniform directed Catholic children in adjoining streets to go and play as a group in Weaver Street. Two other men then appeared and chatted to other men in police uniforms, before threw a bomb into the middle of the children who were playing 20-30m away.[6] The men then opened fire on people that come out of their houses to try and help the wounded and dying. Six died including four young girls, while more than twenty children were wounded (including a girl named Mary Kerr). Some were left with life changing injuries. An incident in the adjoining Milewater Street, months previously, had also led to a number of children being wounded by gunfire.

Three months after the bombing, in May 1922, any Catholic residents who had remained in the area were forced to flee (around one hundred and forty-eight families). At a coroner’s hearing on the bombing victims, residents identified the role of policemen in the bombing itself and failures to gather evidence or investigate the attack. The Unionist government also issued disinformation to mislead about the nature of the bombing and identity of the victims. Today the street itself no longer exists on the map of Belfast and an event deemed to be the “…worst thing which has happened…” barely features in histories of the period, or as part of the Decade of Centenaries programmes remembering events from 100 years ago.

Map showing location of Weaver Street. The nearby R.I.C. barracks is the building marked in black beside the letters T.B. on York Road.

So, should we regard Weaver Street as a ‘non-site of memory’? Claude Lanzmann and later scholars like Roma Senedyka used the concept of non-sites of memory in an attempt to find language that might describe aspects of the horrific violence inflicted on European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s and the subsequent history of those locations where the violence took place. Since then Pierre Nora’s original concept, ‘sites of memory’, has been used to explore locations as far apart as Georgia and Chile.[7] But can the same be done with ‘non-sites of memory’?

In the case of Weaver Street, some of the basic characteristics are clearly present such as a lack of physical recognition at the site. And this is reinforced by noting that an absence of memorialisation to victims of the period is not universal. Six victims of a massacre at Altnaveigh, near Newry in June 1922, were already commemorated with a memorial by the following summer.[8] An obvious contrast here, reflecting the interests of the post-1921 Unionist government in Belfast, being that the victims at Altanaveigh were Protestants killed by an IRA unit under orders given by Frank Aiken (later a senior figure in the government in Dublin), while those at Weaver Street were Catholic.[9]

After being forced from the area in May 1922, the Catholic residents of Weaver Street and surrounding streets were dispersed over a variety of locations, typically within other districts in Belfast with substantial Catholic populations. Their former houses were then occupied by Protestant families. The Catholic residents mainly fled to areas in north Belfast and in west Belfast. Some families retained memories of the violence but in other cases relatives of the dead had heard little of the events.[10] In the summer of 1932, ten years after the bombing, Belfast’s main unionist newspaper, the Belfast Telegraph, could carry a photograph of Weaver Street decked out in flags at the main annual event celebrating Protestant hegemony. The photograph is positioned in the centre of a single page photographic spread.

This grainy image was printed in the press in May 1922 showing residents fleeing Weaver Street, it appears to be the only such image published.
1932 photograph of Weaver Street with its page context from Belfast Telegraph 9 July 1932 shown below.

Over the course of the decades between 1922 and the 1990s, the area between between York Road and the railway line, including Weaver Street, Shore Street, most of Milewater Street and some of North Derby Street were gradually absorbed into a factory complex and the streets removed from the map of Belfast by the end of the 1960s. Every other street between York Road and the railway line present in the 1890s is still there today. In the background of a photograph showing Shore Street being demolished in the late 1950s someone has painted ‘No Pope Here’ on a wall. Weaver Street survives, in an archaeological sense, below ground beneath the factory complex and the position of Weaver Street itself remains echoed in the alignment of today’s buildings.

Late 1950s photograph showing demolition of Shore Street. Note ‘No Pope Here’ on wall.

Today, it is possible for someone to walk down North Derby Street as far as the large factory building and turn and look along the front elevation of the building. This elevation stands over the former façade of the little red brick houses of Weaver Street. The view is partially obscured by fencing and (until recently) vegetation, and the fencing itself means it is not possible to walk along the former location of Weaver Street. The only publicly accessible space today is the exact spot from which a man threw a grenade into a group of children playing only yards away in 1922.

The only remaining publicly accessible space at Weaver Street: the location where the bomber stood on 13 Feb 1922. The entrance to Weaver Street is now block by the fence and vegetation and the facade of the factory building sits directly on the same alignment as the facade of the houses where the bombing took place.

In terms of assessing the applicability of transposing Lanzmann’s non-lieux de mémoire concept to Ireland, these elements of the Weaver Street story resonates with other characteristics of non-sites of memory that Roma Senedyka identifies, including that “…the victims typically have a collective identity (usually ethnic) distinct from the society currently living in the area, whose self-conception is threatened by the occurrence of the non-site of memory. Such localities are transformed, manipulated, neglected, or contested in some other way (often devastated or littered)…”.[12] This suggests that the approach can help provide a framework in which it may be possible to begin to interrogate the wider questions around how such events were remembered, or forgotten or ignored, and what conclusions we might draw from that.

This concept of non-sites of memory may also be usefully transposed to other locations in Ireland, particularly twentieth century sites such as Tuam and Bessborough.[13] Both were ‘Mother and Baby Homes’ where many of the characteristics of non-sites of memory can be recognised, particularly if Senedyka’s sense of collective identity is defined as including ideas of gender and social class. In both cases, the presence of human remains at the sites, the subsequent treatment, remembering and forgetting of those buried there could be explored and understood in a framework drawing upon the characteristics of non-sites of memory. Assessing the subsequent histories of sites like Tuam and Bessborough through the prism of non-sites of memory may then be a useful narrative tool to explore how contemporary society viewed and understood them. It may also help develop language which former residents and those who have family members who were resident can use to talk about the experience.

Drawing of ghostly figured associated with Weaver Street from article in Sunday Life, Aug 23, 1993.

[1] Nora, Pierre 1974 Mémoire collective in Faire de l’histoire. Le Goff, Jacques and Nora, Pierre (eds). Paris: Gallimard.

[2] Winter, Jay 2010 Sites of Memory in Radstone, S. and Schwarz, B. (eds) Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, pp.312-324. Fordham. Winters also discusses the use of cenotaphs and the longer quote in this paragraph in the same paper (p.313).

[3] Szpociński, Andrzej 2016 Sites of Memory. Teksty Drugie 2016, 1, pp.245-254

[4] See Lanzmann, C. and Gantheret, F. 1986 L’Entretien de Claude Lanzmann, Les non-lieux de mémoire. Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse 33, pp.293–305.

[5] See Sedenyka, R. 2021 Sites of violence and their communities: critical memory studies in the post-human era. International Journal of Heritage, Memory and Conflict 1, pp.1-11.

[6] See https://treasonfelony.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/the-weaver-street-bombing-and-not-dealing-with-the-past/

[7] Marszałek-Kawa, Joanna and Ratke-Majewska, Anna 2016 Anna Sites of Memory in the Public Space of Chile and Georgia: the Transition and Pre-Transition Period. Polish Political Science Yearbook, 45, pp. 99–116.

[8] Northern Whig August 27, 1923

[9] See Knipe, Gregory 2019 The Fourth Northerners. Litter Press.

[10] Karl O’Hanlon, pers. comm. (great nephew of one of the victims, Eliza O’Hanlon); thanks also to nieces of Florence Sheridan and Maggie Sheridan who had been wounded (aged 19 months and 6 years) by a bomb thrown into a group of children playing in Milewater Street, adjoining Weaver Street on 25 September 1921, they recalled their aunt was still able show them the wounds in her old age.

[11] Sunday Life, June 27, 1993.

[12] Sendyka R. 2016 Sites That Haunt: Affects and Non-sites of Memory. East European Politics and Societies, 30(4): p.700.

[13] See Irish Examiner, March 11, 2017.

“…launched into eternity”: Belfast Newsletter on execution of Henry Joy McCracken

On Tuesday 17th July, Henry Joy McCracken was tried for treason and rebellion and hung in Belfast. Reporting the execution, the Belfast Newsletter states that:

“…at five o’clock the prisoner was brought from the Artillery Barracks to the place of execution. Having been attended in private by a Clergyman, he was only a few minutes from the time he came out, till he was launched into eternity.”

McCracken was tried at the Assembly Rooms (later remodeled as the Belfast Bank in Waring Street). According to Henry Joy’s final letter he had “… been ignominiously condemned to die at five o’clock this afternoon on the testimony of two witnesses who knew me not and have no knowledge of me in any way.” He finished the letter by saying “…In my fight for reform and redress of evils which constitute a crying shame to any nation and its rulers I have pleaded the cause of the Catholics who are more oppressed than we Dissenters, and I am a true Dissenter and shall die in that simple faith in less than an hour from now. What I have considered as my great mission is drawing to a close, but may the sons of freedom continue the struggle for rights above might.”

He was hung in Cornmarket, Belfast at 5 o’clock on 17th July 1798. An hour later his body was taken down and buried, his remains are believed to lie in Clifton Street Cemetery.

You can read the (brief) report below.

HJMcC

Belfast Fenian leader, William Harbinson

In July 1867 Belfast IRB leader William Harbinson was brought up on charges of treason felony. He died in Belfast prison in September 1867 before he was brought to trial. While his name was given to the original republican plot in Milltown and his funeral was attended by over 40,000 people (in defiance of opposition from the Catholic clergy), I suspect relatively few people have heard of him.

Photograph of William Harbinson from 1867. In an attempt to build intelligence on the IRB, the authorities photographed arrested leaders, which was very innovative for the time. The photograph of William Harbinson was first reproduced by Joe Graham in Rushlight.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was founded in 1858 to establish Ireland as an independent democratic republic. In the United States, there was a parallel American organisation, known as the Fenian Brotherhood which tended to give its name (Fenians) to the wider movement. The outbreak of the American Civil War stalled the development of the Fenians. The support given by the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, Orange Order and the wealthy to the confederacy and slave owners energised the IRB in Ireland, inspiring the likes of Frank Roney, from Carrickhill, to be sworn into the IRB by 1862. Roney was to be the first Belfast and Ulster Head Centre. Like Robert Johnston, who was to replace Roney on the Supreme Council of the IRB by the start of the 1870s, Roney met and knew some United Irishmen who had been active in 1798 (Johnston was 99 when he died in 1937).

At local level, the IRB was formed into units of ten volunteers, whose leader was called a ‘centre’. At county or district level (referred to as a ‘Circle’), a ‘Head Centre’ was elected by a convention of the centres.  The organisation was governed by an eleven member Supreme Council, seven electoral divisions (four provinces of Ireland, Scotland, North and South England) each returned a member at a convention at which a divisional committee of five was also elected. While the IRB was a clandestine organisation, its Supreme Council met in Dublin and some records of its meetings survive (see here).

Some modern historians dispute the scale and nature of the IRB in Belfast, but contemporaries like Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and John Devoy were complimentary of the work done in Belfast. The authorities also seemed similarly impressed as, when arrests began, the proportion of suspects detained in Belfast was on a par with other centres of IRB activity like Dublin, Cork and Tipperary.

[You can read more about the IRB in Belfast in an article on Frank Roney published by Kerby Miller and Breandán MacSuibhne in the journal Eire-Ireland last year, or in Catherine Hirsts’ 2002 book ‘Religion, Politics, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Belfast: The Pound and Sandy Row’.]

In Belfast, the IRB had revealed itself in response to Orange Order violence in August 1864. It recruited many soldiers, including William Harbinson, a staff sergeant in the Antrim Rifles who had access to the arsenal of weapons held in the barracks in Belfast. Soldiers also drilled and trained other IRB volunteers in Belfast. This allowed the IRB to prepare for an insurrection. After the American Civil War ended in 1865, it actively recruited veterans and collected weapons, intending they also be available for any uprising in Ireland.

William Harbinson was born in Ballinderry in 1832 (in 1867 his age is mistakenly given in newspaper accounts as 41 or 44). His father, John Harbinson, may be the same one who is recorded living in Portmore in Griffiths Valuation in the 1850s. He was underage when he joined the 39th Foot Regiment in Liverpool, undoubtedly fleeing the famine, in February 1847. Ballinderry lost a sixth of its population during the famine. The Northern Whig had referred to the famine, in the previous month, as ‘the present favourable crisis … for conveying the light of the Gospels to the darkened minds of the Roman Catholic peasantry’. After a slump in the linen industry, as well as potato blight impacting on Antrim in late 1846, January 1847 had saw overt attempts to Catholics to convert to Protestantism in return for famine relief. The rate of fatalities during the famine rapidly increased in 1847 year. Exposure to the famine may have left its mark on Harbinson, as he was discharged from the army as unfit for service, due to ill health, in May 1852, from when he was pensioned until July 1853.

At the time of his marriage to Catherine McClenaghan in St Patrick’s, Donegall Street, in April 1857, he was working as a labourer and living in Wesley Place, while Catherine was living in Inkerman Terrace, both close to what is now Shaftesbury Square. William and Catherine appear to have had one child, a son, William John, who was born in October 1859 but died young (he was baptised in St Malachys, suggesting they were still living close to the Markets). His brother Philip, who also to be prominent in the IRB, moved to North Queen Street.

William returned to the army serving in a local militia regiment, the Antrim Rifles, where he rose to the rank of colour sergeant. In 1864, the Belfast Morning News reported that he was presented by a valuable gold watch and chain by the non-commissioned officers and privates of K Company of the Antrim Rifles, in John Edgars bar in John Street on Thursday 11th August. Oddly, that episode occurred during the bloody riots that began on the evening of the previous Monday, with the Pound, and John Street, at the epi-centre of the violence. That was the same year Harbinson was recruited into the IRB.

By late 1865, the British government closed down The Irish People, the IRB newspaper founded in Dublin in 1863, and arrested staff including Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. A few months later, it suspended Habeas Corpus to legalise the arrest and detention without trial of suspected IRB members and sympathisers (a process that would later be more familiar to people as ‘internment’). In early 1866, it began to utilise those powers to stage a number of arrests in Belfast, beginning with Michael McGonigal on the 19th February, the next day Frank Roney (apparently using the surname O’Neill) was arrested at a pub at the junction of Peter’s Hill and the Old Lodge Road owned by Gordon O’Neill. Others arrested that day included John O’Rorke, a pensioner with a wooden leg who had a barbers shop in Millfield, Patrick Hassan (of the 83th New York Irish Volunteers) and Harbinson.

Roney and Harbinson were imprisoned in Crumlin Road and Mountjoy, although both were eventually regain their freedom due to public pressure for the general release of republican prisoners and letters of support from their family and prominent individuals. Harbinson was released in September and Roney in November.

Harbinson appears to have taken over as Head Centre in Belfast. Roney remained on the Supreme Council, travelling to Paris and London on IRB business. Early in 1867, Harbinson also travelled to London. It was later alleged by an informer, John Massey, that Harbinson represented Ulster at a meeting of the Supreme Council in February 1867 (see The Nation, 7th December 1867).

On Thursday 7th March, Harbinson was arrested at his house in Pinkertons Row, just off North Queen Street. The police had been watching the house the previous night and raided the house immediately once Harbinson’s wife, Catherine, had opened the window shutters at 7 am on the Thursday morning. Harbinson was still in bed and another IRB volunteer, John Murray, was found in the kitchen of the house. Harbinson was held by the police while Murray was taken to Banbridge.

It was alleged in the press (from  Monday 11th March – see likes of The Examiner) that Harbinson had taken over as Belfast Head Centre from Roney. The newspapers claimed there were six Centres in Belfast who had all observed the security protocols meaning that it had been difficult to penetrate the IRB with informers. This bit of information was possibly a cover for John Murray, who had been arrested on 14th February, remanded, then released. Murray was to give evidence against Harbinson and others at a remand hearing in court in mid-July.

After his arrest Harbinson was held under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act in Crumlin Road then sent to Mountjoy. He was returned to Crumlin Road on 24th May, presumably with the intention of bringing charges against him and other IRB leaders that had been arrested in Belfast including the likes of his brother Philip and Francis Rea.

William Harbinson was brought to court for an ‘investigation’ along with Edward Gilmore, Patrick Keith and Richard Lavery on 13th July. By the end of the month, a treason felony charge was brought against Harbinson in front of a Grand Jury which found that he would have to stand trial. The trial was to take place at the Spring Assizes in March 1868. In prison, Harbinson and the other interned IRB suspects were able to have their food brought in to them rather than eat the prison diet. They also were not forced to do prison work and were permitted frequent exercise, association, books and tobacco (this is what would later be classed as political status).

On the night of Monday 9th September, William Harbinson was found dead in his cell in Crumlin Road during the 9 o’clock check by staff. An attempt to hold an inquest the next day was delayed until his brother Philip (who was also imprisoned) and father-in-law, Edward McClenaghan, could attend.

At the inquest, the prison governor’s evidence stated that he always thought Harbinson was of ‘delicate’ appearance, although neither he, Catherine Harbinson nor his lawyer had made any complaint about his health. The inquest heard from prison staff that he had been outside exercising for around four hours that day and returned to his cell at either two o’clock or four o’clock and was last reported at quarter to six as sitting reading on his bed. When found, he was lying undressed on the floor as if he had fallen out of bed, although staff reported that there were no marks on his body. The inquest found he had died of disease of the heart and it was officially recorded as the bursting of aneurism aorta and he had been delicate a considerable time. This may have been the same condition which had led to his discharge from the army in 1852 and may have had its roots in damage done to his health by the famine.

While the Catholic hierarchy had been trying to counteract the rise of the IRB, it found it impossible to limit Harbinson’s funeral. On Sunday 15th September, round 40,000 people are believed to have either watched or taken part in the procession, which began in North Queen Street and carried the remains to Laloo, in Ballinderry. It travelled via Donegall Street, Bridge Street, High Street, Castle Place and the Pound to the Falls Road. The original republican memorial erected in Milltown in 1912 was named the Harbinson Plot in his honour.

Harbinson’s funeral was to be the largest republican event held in Belfast until Bobby Sands funeral in 1981.

You can read more accounts of the funeral and Harbinson on Joe Graham’s Rushlight webpages.

Undoubtedly She Was Ready to Kill: Constance Markiewicz at St Stephen’s Green

An enduring controversy has raged over the role of Constance Markiewicz in the death of DMP Constable Michael Lahiff at St Stephen’s Green on the first day of the Easter Rising in 1916. The controversy is mostly fuelled by a mixture of uncertain eye-witness testimony and confused timelines. Regardless of whether she did fire the shots that killed Lahiff, a new eye-witness account shows (in the writers own words) that ‘undoubtedly she was ready to kill’.

Interestingly, the exact role of other imdividual combatants hasn’t attracted the same fascination as Markiewicz. In some ways, she has become of one focus of a particular anti-republican critique that deems the declaration of an Irish Republic in 1916 an illegitimate, indeed treacherous, act against the benevolent British Empire in the midst of a war in which that Empire was wasting the lives of hundreds of thousands of its subjects.

I was recently given a copy of a (seemingly previously unpublished) letter which includes the eye-witness account of Markiewicz in Stephen’s Green on the first day of the Rising. The author, Captain Charles Calthrop de Burgh Daly was a doctor attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps who happened to be in the University Club on Stephen’s Green to observe republican forces taking over Stephen’s Green on the first day of the Easter Rising.

Dr De Burgh Daly

The letter, dated 13th June 1916, is written on embossed University Club notepaper. Interestingly the opening tone of the letter suggests de Burgh Daly was responding to a query as to whether he saw Markiewicz kill anyone during the Rising, implying Markiewicz’s conduct during the Rising was already the focus of gossip in Dublin. In his letter, de Burgh Daly wrote “I do not, of my own personal knowledge, know that she killed others but undoubtedly she was ready to kill policemen and combatant officers or men.”

The full text of the letter is below:

71 Park Avenue, Sandymount, 13-6-16

My dear Rebba,

To my certain knowledge the following occurred. About noon on Easter Monday 24th April – Countess Markiewicz drove up to Stephens Green in a motor and got out opposite the University Club. She was dressed in a man’s uniform green and brown belt and feathers in her hat. She apparently was in command or second in command of SF in the Green.

About 1 o’clock she leant up against the Eglinton monument and took a deliberate potshot at me in one of the open windows of the University Club. I was sitting in the window, in uniform, the distance was about 50-60 yards. She could not tell I was a doctor but I suspect considered I was a combatant officer as I had ribbons on. She used a Mauser pistol which fits onto its case as a stock and fired from the shoulder.

The waiter of this Club gave evidence at her trial and acknowledged that she had shot at an officer as described above. I do not of my own personal knowledge know that she killed others but undoubtedly she was ready to kill policemen and combatant officers or men.

She released doctors of the RAMC and wounded officers when captured on the Monday night and mixed up kindness and killing in accordance with her convictions on the rebellion and how to conduct it. I bear her no ill-will and hope one of these day she may use her talents for the real benefit of our country. When driven out of Stephen’s Green on Tuesday morning, she with the rebels, seized the College of Surgeons, and it was from there that she and others surrendered at the end of the week.

I did not give evidence against her as I did not actually see her pull the trigger but when the bullet crashed through the window just above my head I saw at once that a woman dressed in mans clothes had fired it and later on with a pair of glasses, I and several others identified her as Countess Markiewicz.

Ulick has just been operated on for appendicitis and is recovering rapidly and feels quite well. Charlie is still in Mullingar. Emily has been in Monaghan and Armagh for the last 3 weeks. She comes home on Friday. With kindest regards to you and yours, yours very sincerely,

C.C. de Burgh Daly

A few details in de Burgh Daly’s letter are significant in light of the apparent gaps in the details of Markiewicz’s actions on the first day of the Rising. First of all, he places Markiewicz on the north side of Stephen’s Green at noon. Coincidentally, this is around the time Constable Lahiff was reportedly shot. It also places Markiewicz just to the east of the Fusilier’s Arch. At least one shot aimed at Lahiff passed through his left arm and into his lungs as he approached the Arch (implying he was shot from the east). As de Burgh Daly himself states, though, he didn’t see her kill anyone.

[Presumably the bullet fired from Markiewicz’s Mauser is still embedded in a wall inside the University Club – if it was recovered and Lahiff’s remains exhumed, a simple ballistic analysis of the two bullets might put this particular controversy to rest.]

So does her attempting to kill an army officer (a doctor indeed) just add further fuel to the fire of the Markiewicz controversy? Do we need any context to this? Who was de Burgh Daly?

Charles de Burgh Daly had been prominent from August 1914 in calling for co-ordinated medical training and support for the war. He also organised and spoke at public recruiting rallies as a member of the Dublin City and County Recruitment Committee since the start of the war, including the main recruitment campaigns of 1915. As part of his recruiting work he took a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps, eventually rising to the rank of Colonel, although only ever based in Ireland. Arguably, de Burgh Daly, as an enthusiastic cheerleader for the war, had played his own part in many violent deaths long before the Rising began.

He was married to Emily French, sister of Percy French, who published popular books on their time living in Manchuria (where de Burgh Daly hd been medical officer to the British embassy) and on her brother’s musical work. She was also involved in the likes of the NSPCC. Before the de Burgh name even crops up at some suffragette events. At the time, in 1916, the de Burgh’s two sons were officers in the British Army. And there is a further tragic dimension to the letter.

Their elder son, Ulick, was an army captain and served with the British forces in Dublin that suppressed the nascent Irish Republic in 1916. Their younger son, Arthur Charles (presumably the Charlie in the letter), left Ireland for France in the summer of 1916 and fought during the Somme. He was killed at Ginchy on the 9th September 1916. Agonisingly, his parents received a telegram from the War Office saying that he had been killed in action on the 4th September 1916. The same day they received a letter from him dated 8th September. They then had a tortorous wait while the War Office tried to establish the truth. He is buried in Delville Wood cemetery. Ulick emigrated to the United States in the 1920s.

After his son’s death, Charles de Burgh Daly is noticeably absent from the names of those promoting British Army recruitment. After the war, a memorial to his son was erected by him in St John’s Church in Sandymount. The organist in St John’s, Cecil MacDowell, served in the Boland’s Mills garrison during the Rising. MacDowell also wrote the melody to the Soldier’s Song. After the war and partition, de Burgh Daly was again prominent in management of hospitals in the Dublin region and was one of the founders of the Hospital Sweepstakes. He was also a lead figure and spokesman for the Royal Irish Automobile Club.

Anyone who wants to retrace Markiewicz’s footsteps today will struggle to locate the Eglinton monument mentioned by de Burgh Daly as the statue to the Earl of Eglington was blown up in August 1958. It was located almost directly opposite the University Club (to west of the gate almost directly opposite 17 Stephen’s Green where the University Club was based).

Eg Plin
The Eglinton monument mentioned in de Burgh Daly’s letter. The University Club wndow are on those on the right hand side of the street lamp in the photo (phot is from the Irish Indepdent on 27 August 1958 after the statue was blown up).

Big go raibh maith agat to Stan Ó Caírbre for the copy of the letter.

The Irish Press editorial, 11/8/1971: #BallymurphyMassacre

This is the editorial from The Irish Press two days after the mass internment of Catholics on 9th August 1971.

THE MESSAGE FROM BELFAST

Either the British Army has assumed the role of the B Specials or the orders given to the soldiers on the ground in the North do not specify their peacekeeping role. After the last two days, no other explanation is possible for their behaviour which has included easy fraternisation with armed loyalists and armed attacks on Catholic areas which have been defending themselves against loyalist attacks. In a day of trying to assess both the political situation and conditions on the ground, this is by far the most frightening aspect of the present conduct of the war that one can see. An inspection of Monday night’s and Tuesday morning’s battlefield which verified the consistent reports of eye-witnesses confirms that the British Army used wildly indiscriminate and heavy gunfire on the inhabitants in the Moyard Estate, after lorry loads of loyalists had been clearly seen spraying automatic fire from the Springmartin Estate overlooking Moyard, which is above Ballymurphy and New Barnsley. The only conclusion that any observer who has actually travelled round Belfast can come to is that the soldiers have either independently decided after the experience of the last 18 months, that the Catholic areas contain the “enemy”, or that their orders do not include the searching and arrest of all those suspected of or actually seen carrying weapons.

The only other judgment that can be made is that it is the intention of Stormont and Westminster to crush the Catholic areas into submission. Certainly the hitherto bitter split of Provisional and “Officials” has been healed so that both sides are now co-operating in the face of this threat.

The fact that the Stormont Cabinet is “stunned” by the violence of the last two days leaves open the consideration that they may have utterly underestimated the degree of alienation and the capacity for resistance in these areas. If it really is their intention to crush the minority, then they can succeed; because the embattled Catholics haven’t got the ammunition available to the Protestants nor do they have the ability to move what they have from one threatened area to another.

Nor can their food supplies hold out indefinitely. But the price of gaining submission will be a phenomenal death toll, economically unbearable damage, total alienation for at least a generation and a complete change in the nature of Anglo-Irish relations. The position of the Irish Government is also a source of great worry to the threatened community. The scant news from yesterday’s Cabinet meeting and the obscurity of Dr. Hillery’s purpose in visiting London, results in speculation varying from a possible breakthrough to the ultimate betrayal in the form of internment of Republicans in the South.

Journalists from Dublin papers are asked in Belfast what Mr. Lynch is going to do to help, and any suggestion about his sending medical aid as in 1969 are greeted with derision. The more hopeful and the more desperate try to believe that he will inform both London and Belfast that the Irish Army does not simply exist to comfort Irish refugees from a part of Ireland.

These are considerations of the most profound nature in Irish politics, but the crisis is now the most profound since at least 1916, if not before. Talks of reconciliation now, or restoring “normality” reveals utter ignorance of the situation; the political situation is being processed at legal and illegal gun points, and reconciliation cannot even begin until there is a political breakthrough.

The situation today is analogus to that when the British tried to introduce Conscription after 1916. They united all shades of Irish opinion against them. Internment is the modern equivalent of Conscription. The Croppies didn’t lie down then and they won’t lie down now.

The Stormont Government has now extended its options, and Westminster’s scope for initiative is now limited to something in the tripartite arena—assuming, and it might be quite an assumption that the straightforward suppression of the Northern minority is not going to be continued.

The solution which must be sought now, must be sought at least as publicly as the solution being processed in the streets of Belfast. Manoeuvres in the underworld of diplomacy, however well intentioned, or however ultimately successful, only give rise in the Northern situation at present to false hopes or false rumours, and these can be as murderous as any of the weaponry now so horribly visible. Stormont, as we know it, must go, Faulkner must be sacked, the internment decision rescinded and talks must be set in motion to end the whole rotten set-up. This is the minimum formula for a beginning to deal with the present crisis.

Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla

This is the text of the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla as circulated by a Brazilian radical, Carlos Marighella, in 1969. It is reputedly based, in part, on his analysis of IRA tactics in 1919-21. Many on the left, in particular, believed that the model applied and promoted with some success by Mao, Guevara and Ho did not translate into many westernised societies. Higher degrees of social and regional integration rendered the idea of building capacity in a rural, remote periphery prior to advancing on the seat of power as obsolete. Instead, Marighella believed that inspiration for successful urban tactics was to be found in the likes of earlier IRA campaigns and the Zionist campaigns in Palestine in the 1940s. Certainly the contemporary German and Italian radical left drew inspiration from Marighella in the early 1970s. Be interesting if someone could find a direct reference to Marighella in an early 1970s Irish context.

Introduction

I would like to make a two-fold dedication of this work; first, to the memories of Edson Souto, Marco Antonio Bras de Carvalho, Melson Jose de Almeida (“Escoteiro”) and so many other heroic fighters and urban guerrillas who fell at the hands of the assassins of the Military Police, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the DOPS, hated instruments of the repressive military dictatorship.

Second, to the brave comrades—men and women—imprisoned in the medieval dungeons of the Brazilian Government and subjected to tortures that even surpass the horrendous crimes carried out by the Nazis. Like those comrades whose memories we revere, as well as those taken prisoner in combat, what we must do is fight.

Each comrade who opposes the military dictatorship and wants to oppose it can do something, however small the task may seem. I urge all who read this minimanual and decide that they cannot remain inactive, to follow its instructions and join the struggle now. I ask this because, under any theory and under any circumstances, the duty of every revolutionary is to make the revolution.

Another important point is not merely to read this minimanual here and now, but to circulate its contents. This circulation will be possible if those who agree with its ideas make mimeographed copies or print it in a booklet, (although in this latter case, armed struggle itself will be necessary.)

Finally, the reason why this minimanual bears my signature is that the ideas expressed or systematized here reflect the personal experiences of a group of people engaged in armed struggle in Brazil, among whom I have the honor to be included. So that certain individuals will have no doubts about what this minimanual says, and can no longer deny the facts or continue to say that the conditions for armed struggle do not exist, it is necessary to assume responsibility for what is said and done. Therefore, anonymity becomes a problem in a work like this. The important fact is that there are patriots prepared to fight like soldiers, and the more there are the better.

The accusation of “violence” or “terrorism” no longer has the negative meaning it used to have. It has aquired new clothing; a new color. It does not divide, it does not discredit; on the contrary, it represents a center of attraction. Today, to be “violent” or a “terrorist” is a quality that ennobles any honorable person, because it is an act worthy of a revolutionary engaged in armed struggle against the shameful military dictatorship and its atrocities.

Carlos Marighella
1969

A DEFINITION OF THE URBAN GUERRILLA

The urban guerrilla is a person who fights the military dictatorship with weapons, using unconventional methods. A revolutionary and an ardent patriot, he is a fighter for his country’s liberation, a friend of the people and of freedom. The area in which the urban guerrilla operates is in the large Brazilian cities. There are also criminals or outlaws who work in the big cities. Many times, actions by criminals are taken to be actions by urban guerrillas.

The urban guerrilla, however, differs radically from the criminal. The criminal benefits personally from his actions, and attacks indiscrimminately without distinguishing between the exploiters and the exploited, which is why there are so many ordinary people among his victims. The urban guerrilla follows a political goal, and only attacks the government, the big businesses and the foreign imperialists.

Another element just as harmful to the guerrillas as the criminal, and also operating in the urban area, is the counterrevolutionary, who creates confusion, robs banks, throws bombs, kidnaps, assassinates, and commits the worst crimes imaginable against urban guerrillas, revolutionary priests, students, and citizens who oppose tyranny and seek liberty.

The urban guerrilla is an implacable enemy of the regime, and systematically inflicts damage on the authorities and on the people who dominate the country and exercise power. The primary task of the urban guerrilla is to distract, to wear down, to demoralize the military regime and its repressive forces, and also to attack and destroy the wealth and property of the foreign managers and the Brazilian upper class.

The urban guerrilla is not afraid to dismantle and destroy the present Brazilian economic, political and social system, for his aim is to aid the rural guerrillas and to help in the creation of a totally new and revolutionary social and political structure, with the armed population in power.

PERSONAL QUALITIES OF THE URBAN GUERRILLA

The urban guerrilla is characterized by his bravery and his decisive nature. He must be a good tactician, and a good marksman. The urban guerrilla must be a person of great cleverness to compensate for the fact that he is not sufficiently strong in weapons, ammunition and equipment.

The career military officers and the government police have modern weapons and transport, and can go about anywhere freely, using the force of their own strength. The urban guerrilla does not have such resources at his disposal, and leads a clandestine existence. The guerrilla may be a convicted person or one who is out on parole, and must then use false documents.

Nevertheless, the urban guerrilla has an advantage over the conventional military or the police. It is that, while the military and the police act on behalf of the enemy, whom the people hate, the urban guerrilla defends a just cause, which is the people’s cause.

The urban guerrilla’s weapons are inferior to the enemy’s, but from the moral point of view, the urban guerrilla has an undeniable superiority. This moral superiority is what sustains the urban guerrilla. Thanks to it, the urban guerrilla can accomplish his principle duty, which is to attack and survive.

The urban guerrilla has to capture or steal weapons from the enemy to be able to fight. Because his weapons are not uniform—since what he has are expropriated or have fallen into his hands in various ways—the urban guerrilla faces the problem of a variety of weapons and a shortage of ammunition. Moreover, he has no place in which to practice shooting and marksmanship. These difficulties have to be overcome, forcing the urban guerrillas to be imaginative and creative—qualities without which it would be impossible for him to carry out his role as a revolutionary.

The urban guerrilla must possess initiative, mobility and flexibility, as well as versatility and a command of any situation. Initiative especially is an indispensible quality. It is not always possible to foresee everything, and the urban guerrilla cannot let himself become confused, or wait for instructions. His duty is to act, to find adequate solutions for each problem he faces, and to retreat. It is better to err acting than to do nothing for fear of making a mistake. Without initiative, there is no urban guerrilla warfare.

Other important qualities in the urban guerrilla are the following: to be a good walker, to be able to stand up against fatigue, hunger, rain or heat. To know how to hide, and how to be vigilant. To conquer the art of dissembling. Never to fear danger. To behave the same by day as by night. Not to act impetuously. To have unlimited patience. To remain calm and cool in the worst of conditions and situations. Never to leave a track or trail. Not to get discouraged.

In the face of the almost insurmountable difficulties in urban guerrilla warfare, sometimes comrades weaken and give up the fight.

The urban guerrilla is not a businessman in an urban company, nor is he an actor in a play. Urban guerrilla warfare, like rural guerrilla warfare, is a pledge which the guerrilla makes to himself. When he can no longer face the difficulties, or if he knows that he lacks the patience to wait, then it is better for him to relinquish his role before he betrays his pledge, for he clearly lacks the basic qualities necessary to be a guerrilla.

HOW THE URBAN GUERRILLA LIVES

The urban guerrilla must know how to live among the people, and he must be careful not to appear strange and different from ordinary city life. He should not wear clothes that are different from those that other people wear. Elaborate and high-fashion clothing for men or women may often be a handicap if the urban guerrilla’s mission takes him into working class neighborhoods, or sections where such dress is uncommon. The same care has to be taken if the urban guerrilla must move from the South of the country to the North, and vice versa.

The urban guerrilla must make his living through his job or his professional activity. If he is known and sought by the police, he must go underground, and sometimes must live hidden. Under such circumstances, the urban guerrilla cannot reveal his activity to anyone, since this information is always and only the responsibility of the revolutionary organization in which he is participating.

The urban guerrilla must have a great ability for observation. He must be well-informed about everything, particularly about the enemy’s movements, and he must be very inquisitive and knowledgable about the area in which he lives, operates, or travels through.

But the fundamental characteristic of the urban guerrilla is that he is a man who fights with weapons; given these circumstances, there is very little likelihood that he will be able to follow his normal profession for long without being identified by the police. The role of expropriation thus looms as clear as high noon. It is impossible for the urban guerrilla to exist and survive without fighting to expropriate.

Thus, the armed struggle of the urban guerrilla points towards two essential objectives:

  1. the physical elimination of the leaders and assistants of the armed forces and of the police;

  2. the expropriation of government resources and the wealth belonging to the rich businessmen, the large landowners and the imperialists, with small expropriations used for the sustenance of the individual guerrillas and large ones for the maintenance of the revolutionary organization itself.

It is clear that the armed struggle of the urban guerrilla also has other objectives. But here we are referring to the two basic objectives, above all expropration. It is necessary for every urban guerrilla to always keep in mind that he can only maintain his existence if he is able to kill the police and those dedicated to repression, and if he is determined—truly determined—to expropriate the wealth of the rich businessmen, landowners and imperialists.

One of the fundamental characteristics of the Brazilian revolution is that, from the beginning, it developed around the expropriation of the wealth of the major business, imperialist and landowning interests, without excluding the largest and most powerful commercial elements engaged in the import-export business. And by expropriating the wealth of the principle enemies of the people, the Brazilian revolution was able to hit them at their vital center, with preferential and systematic attacks on the banking network—that is to say, the most telling blows were levelled at the businessman’s nerve system.

The bank robberies carried out by the Brazilian urban guerrillas hurt big businesses and others, the foreign companies which insure and re-insure the banking capital, the imperialist companies, the federal and state governments—all of them are systematically expropriated as of now.

The fruit of these expropriations has been devoted to the tasks of learning and perfecting urban guerrilla techniques, the purchase, production and transportation of weapons and ammunition for the rural areas, the security precautions of the guerrillas, the daily maintenance of the fighters, those who have been liberated from prison by armed force, those who have been wounded, and those who are being persecuted by the police, and to any kind of problem concerning comrades liberated from jail or assassinated by the police and the military dictatorship.

The tremendous costs of the revolutionary war must fall upon the big businesses, on the imperialists, on the large landowners, and on the government too—both federal and state—since they are all exploiters and oppressors of the people. Men of the government, agents of the dictatorship and of foreign imperialism, especially, must pay with their lives for the crimes they have committed against the Brazilian people.

In Brazil, the number of violent actions carried out by urban guerrillas, including executions, explosions, seizures of weapons, ammunition and explosives, assaults on banks and prisons, etc., is significant enough to leave no room for doubt as to the actual aims of the revolutionaries; all are witnesses to the fact that we are in a full revolutionary war and that this war can be waged only by violent means.

This is the reason why the urban guerrilla uses armed struggle, and why he continues to concentrate his efforts on the physical extermination of the agents of repression, and to dedicate 24 hours a day to expropriations from the people’s exploiters.

TECHNICAL PREPARATION OF THE URBAN GUERRILLA

No one can become an urban guerrilla without paying special attention to technical preparation.

The technical preparation of the urban guerrilla runs from a concern for his physical condition to a knowledge of and apprenticeship in professions and skills of all kinds, particularly manual skills.

The urban guerrilla can have a strong physical constitution only if he trains systematically. He cannot be a good fighter if he has not learned the art of fighting. For that reason, the urban guerrilla must learn and practice the various forms of unarmed fighting, of attack, and of personal defense. Other useful forms of physical preparation are hiking, camping, the practice of survival in the woods, mountain climbing, rowing, swimming, skin diving and training as a frogman, fishing, harpooning, and the hunting of birds and of small and big game.

It is very important to learn how to drive a car, pilot a plane, handle a motor boat and a sailboat, understand mechanics, radio, telephone, electricity and have some knowledge of electronics techniques. It is also important to have a knowledge of topographical information, to be able to determine one’s position by instruments or other available resources, to calculate distances, make maps and plans, draw to scale, make timings, and work with an angle protractor, a compass, etc. A knowledge of chemistry, of color combination and of stamp-making, the mastery of the skills of calligraphy and the copying of letters, and other techniques are part of the technical preparation of the urban guerrilla, who is obliged to falsify documents in order to live within a society that he seeks to destroy. In the area of “makeshift” medicine, the urban guerrilla has the special role of being a doctor or understanding medicine, nursing, pharmacology, drugs, basic surgery and emergency first aid.

The basic question in the technical preparation of the urban guerrilla is, nevertheless, to know how to handle weapons such as the submachine gun, revolver, automatic pistol, FAL, various types of shotguns, carbines, mortars, bazookas, etc.

A knowledge of various types of ammunition and explosives is another aspect to consider. Among the explosives, dynamite must be well understood. The use of incendiary bombs, smoke bombs, and other types is also indispensible prior training. To know how to improvise and repair weapons, prepare Molotov cocktails, grenades, mines, homemade destructive devices, how to blow up bridges, tear up and put out of service railroads and railroad cars, these are necessities in the technical preparation of the urban guerrilla that can never be considered unimportant.

The highest level of preparation for the urban guerrilla is the training camp for technical training. But only the guerrilla who has already passed a preliminary examination can go to this school—that is to say, one who has passed the test of fire in revolutionary action, in actual combat against the enemy.

THE URBAN GUERRILLA’S WEAPONS

The urban guerrilla’s weapons are light arms, easily obtained, usually captured from the enemy, purchased, or made on the spot. Light weapons have the advantage of fast handling and easy transport. In general, light weapons are characterized as being short-barrelled. This includes many automatic weapons. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons considerably increase the firepower of the urban guerrilla. The disadvantage of this type of weapon, for us, is the difficulty in controlling it, resulting in wasted rounds or a wasteful use of ammunition—corrected for only by a good aim and precision firing. Men who are poorly trained convert automatic weapons into an ammunition drain.

Experience has shown that the basic weapon of the urban guerrilla is the light submachine gun. This weapon, in addition to being efficient and easy to shoot in an urban area, has the advantage of being greatly respected by the enemy. The guerrilla must thoroughly know how to handle the submachine gun, now so popular and indispensible to the Brazilian urban guerrillas.

The ideal submachine gun for the urban guerrilla is the INA .45 caliber. Other types of submachine guns of different calibers can also be used—understanding of course, the problem of ammunition. Thus, it is preferable that the manufacturing capabilities of the urban guerrillas be used for the production of one type of submachine gun, so that the ammunition to be used can be standardized. Each firing group of urban guerrillas must have a submachine gun handled by a good marksman. The other members of the group must be armed with .38 revolvers, our standard weapon. The .32 is also useful for those who want to participate. But the .38 is preferable since its impact usually puts the enemy out of action.

Hand grenades and conventional smoke bombs can also be considered light weapons, with defensive power for cover and withdrawal.

Long-barrelled weapons are more difficult for the urban guerrilla to transport, and they attract much attention because of their size. Among the long-barrelled weapons are the FAL, the Mauser guns or rifles, hunting guns such as the Winchester, and others.

Shotguns can be useful if used at close range and point blank. They are useful even for a poor shot, especially at night when precision isn’t much help. A pressure airgun can be useful for training in marksmanship. Bazookas and mortars can also be used in action, but the conditions for using them have to be prepared and the people who use them must be trained.

The urban guerrilla should not attempt to base his actions on the use of heavy weapons, which have major drawbacks in a type of fighting that demands lightweight weapons to insure mobility and speed.

Homemade weapons are often as efficient as the best weapons produced in conventional factories, and even a sawed-off shotgun is a good weapon for the urban guerrilla fighter.

The urban guerrilla’s role as a gunsmith has a basic importance. As a gunsmith, he takes care of the weapons, knows how to repair them, and in many cases can set up a small shop for improvising and producing effective small arms.

Experience in metallurgy and on the mechanical lathe are basic skills the urban guerrilla should incorporate into his manufacturing plans for the construction of homemade weapons. This production, and courses in explosives and sabotage, must be organized. The primary materials for practice in these courses must be obtained ahead of time, to prevent an incomplete apprenticeship—that is to say, so as to leave no room for experimentation.

Molotov cocktails, gasoline, homemade contrivances such as catapaults and mortars for firing explosives, grenades made of pipes and cans, smoke bombs, mines, conventional explosives such as dynamite and potassium chlorate, plastic explosives, gelatine capsules, and ammunition of every kind are indispensible to the success of the urban guerrilla’s mission.

The methods of obtaining the necessary materials and munitions will be to buy them or to take them by force in expropriation actions specially planned and carried out. The urban guerrillas will be careful not to keep explosives and other materials that can cause accidents around for very long, but will always try to use them immediately on their intended targets.

The urban guerrilla’s weapons and his ability to maintain them constitute his firepower. By taking advantage of modern weapons and introducing innovations in his firepower and in the use of certain weapons, the urban guerrilla can improve many of the tactics of urban warfare. An example of this was the innovation made by the Brazilian urban guerrillas when they introduced the use of the submachine gun in their attacks on banks.

When the massive use of uniform submachine guns becomes possible, there will be new changes in urban guerrilla warfare tactics. The firing group that utilizes uniform weapons and corresponding ammunition, with reasonable care for their maintenance, will reach a considerable level of effectiveness.

The urban guerrilla increases his effectiveness as he increases his firepower.

THE SHOT; THE URBAN GUERRILLA’S REASON FOR EXISTENCE

The urban guerrilla’s reason for existence, the basic condition in which he acts and survives, is to shoot. The urban guerrilla must know how to shoot well, because it is required by this type of combat.

In conventional warfare, combat is generally at a distance with long-range weapons. In unconventional warfare, in which urban guerrilla warfare is included, combat is at short range and often very close. To prevent his own death, the urban guerrilla must shoot first, and he cannot err in his shot. He cannot waste his ammunition because he does not possess large amounts, and so he must conserve it. Nor can he replace his ammunition quickly, since he is a part of a small team in which each guerrilla has to be able to look after himself. The urban guerrilla can lose no time, and thus has to be able to shoot at once.

One basic fact, which we want to emphasize completely, and whose importance cannot be overestimated, is that the urban guerrilla must not fire continuously, using up his ammunition. It may be that the enemy is responding to this fire precisely because he is waiting until the guerrilla’s ammunition is all used up. At such a moment, without having the opportunity to replace his ammunition, the guerrilla faces a rain of enemy fire, and can be taken prisoner or killed.

In spite of the value of the surprise factor, which many times makes it unnecessary for the urban guerrilla to use his weapons, he cannot be allowed the luxury of entering combat without knowing how to shoot. And when face-to-face with the enemy, he must always be moving from one position to another, since to stay in one place makes him a fixed target and, as such, very vulnerable.

The urban guerrilla’s life depends on shooting, on his ability to handle his weapons well and to avoid being hit. When we speak of shooting, we speak of accuracy as well. Shooting must be practiced until it becomes a reflex action on the part of the urban guerrilla. To learn how to shoot and have good aim, the urban guerrilla must train himself systematically, utilizing every practice method shooting at targets, even in amusement parks and at home.

Shooting and marksmanship are the urban guerrilla’s water and air. His perfection of the art of shooting may make him a special type of urban guerrilla—that is, a sniper, a category of solitary combatant indispensible in isolated actions. The sniper knows how to shoot at close range and at long range, and his weapons are appropriate for either type of shooting.

THE FIRING GROUP

In order to function, the urban guerrillas must be organized into small groups. A team of no more than four or five is called a firing group. A minimum of two firing groups, separated and insulated from other firing groups, directed and coordinated by one or two persons, this is what makes a firing team.

Within the firing group, there must be complete confidence among the members. The best shot, and the one who knows best how to handle the submachine gun, is the person in charge of operations.

The firing group plans and executes urban guerrilla actions, obtains and stores weapons, and studies and corrects its own tactics.

When there are tasks planned by the strategic command, these tasks take preference. But there is no such thing as a firing group without its own initiative. For this reason, it is essential to avoid any rigidity in the guerrilla organization, in order to permit the greatest possible initiative on the part of the flrlng group. The old-type hierarchy, the style of the traditional revolutionaries, doesn’t exist in our organization. This means that, except for the priority of the objectives set by the strategic command, any firing group can decide to raid a bank, to kidnap or execute an agent of the dictatorship, a figure identified with the reaction, or a foreign spy, and can carry out any type of propaganda or war of nerves against the enemy, without the need to consult with the general command.

No firing group can remain inactive waiting for orders from above. Its obligation is to act. Any single urban guerrilla who wants to establish a firing group and begin action can do so, and thus becomes a part of the organization.

This method of action eliminates the need for knowing who is carrying out which actions, since there is free initiative and the only important point is to greatly increase the volume of urban guerrilla activity in order to wear out the government and force it onto the defensive.

The firing group is the instrument of organized action. Within it, guerrilla operations and tactics are planned, launched and carried through to success. The general command counts on the firing groups to carry out objectives of a strategic nature, and to do so in any part of the country. For its part, the general command helps the firing groups with their difficulties and with carrying out objectives of a strategic nature, and to do so in any part of the country.

The organization is an indestructable network of firing groups, and of coordinations among them, that functions simply and practically within a general command that also participates in attacks—an organization that exists for no other purpose than that of pure and simple revolutionary action.

THE LOGISTICS OF THE URBAN GUERRILLA

Conventional logistics can be expressed with the formula FFEA:

F—food F—fuel E—equipment A—ammunition

Conventional logistics refer to the maintenance problems for an army or a regular armed force, transported in vehicles, with fixed bases and supply lines. Urban guerrillas, on the contrary, are not an army but small armed groups, intentionally fragmented. They have neither vehicles nor rear areas. Their supply lines are precarious and insufficient, and they have no fixed bases except in the rudimentary sense of a weapons factory within a house. While the goal of conventional logistics is to supply the war needs of the “gorillas” who are used to repress rural and urban rebellion, urban guerrilla logistics aim at sustaining operations and tactics which have nothing in common with conventional warfare and are directed against the government and foreign domination of the country.

For the urban guerrilla, who starts from nothing and who has no support at the beginning, logistics are expressed by the formula MMWAE, which is:

M—mechanization M—money W—weapons A—ammunition E—explosives

Revolutionary logistics takes mechanization as one of its bases. Nevertheless, mechanization is inseperable from the driver. The urban guerrilla driver is as important as the urban guerrilla machine gunner. Without either, the machines do not work, and the automobile, as well as the submachine gun becomes a dead thing. An experienced driver is not made in one day, and apprenticeship must begin early. Every good urban guerrilla must be a driver. As to the vehicles, the urban guerrilla must expropriate what he needs. When he already has resources, the urban guerrilla can combine the expropriation of vehicles with his other methods of acquisition.

Money, weapons, ammunition and explosives, and automobiles as well, must be expropriated. The urban guerrilla must rob banks and armories, and seize explosives and ammunition wherever he finds them.

None of these operations is carried out for just one purpose. Even when the raid is to obtain money, the weapons that the guards carry must be taken as well.

Expropriation is the first step in organizing our logistics, which itself assumes an armed and permanently mobile character.

The second step is to reinforce and expand logistics, resorting to ambushes and traps in which the enemy is surprised and his weapons, ammunition, vehicles and other resources are captured.

Once he has weapons, ammunition and explosives, one of the most serious logistics problems facing the urban guerrilla is a hiding place in which to leave the material, and appropriate means of transporting it and assembling it where it is needed. This has to be accomplished even when the enemy is alerted and has the roads blocked.

The knowledge that the urban guerrilla possesses of the terrain, and the devices he uses or is capable of using, such as scouts specially prepared and recruited for this mission, are the basic elements in solving the eternal logistics problems faced by the guerrillas.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE URBAN GUERRILLA’S TACTICS

The tactics of the urban guerrilla have the following characteristics:

  1. It is an aggressive tactic, or, in other words, it has an offensive character. As is well known, defensive action means death for us. Since we are inferior to the enemy in firepower, and have neither his resources nor his power base, we cannot defend ourselves against an offensive or a concentrated attack by the “gorillas”. That is the reason why our urban technique can never be permanent, can never defend a fixed base nor remain in any one spot waiting to repell the circle of repression. 2. It is a tactic of attack and rapid withdrawal, by which we preserve our forces.

  2. It is a tactic that aims at the development of urban guerrilla warfare, whose function will be to wear out, demoralize and distract the enemy forces, permitting the emergence and survival of rural guerrilla warfare, which is destined to play the decisive role in the revolutionary war.

THE INITIAL ADVANTAGES OF THE URBAN GUERRILLA

The dynamics of urban guerrilla warfare lie in the guerrilla’s violent clash with the military and police forces of the dictatorship. In this conflict, the police have superiority. The urban guerrilla has inferior forces. The paradox is that the urban guerrilla is nevertheless the attacker.

The military and police forces, for their part, respond to the conflict by mobilizing and concentrating greatly superior forces in the pursuit and destruction of the urban guerrilla. The guerrilla can only avoid defeat if he depends on the initial advantages he has and knows how to exploit them to the end, to compensate for his weakness and lack of material.

The initial advantages are:

  1. He must take the enemy by surprise. 2. He must know the terrain of the encounter.

  2. He must have greater mobility and speed than the police and other repressive forces. 4. His information service must be better than the enemy’s. 5. He must be in command of the situation, and demonstrate a decisiveness so great that everyone on our side is inspired and never thinks of hesitating, while on the other side the enemy is stunned and incapable of acting.

SURPRISE

To compensate for his general weakness and shortage of weapons compared to the enemy, the urban guerrilla uses surprise. The enemy has no way to combat surprise and becomes confused and is destroyed.

When urban guerrilla warfare broke out in Brazil, experience proved that surprise was essential to the success of any guerrilla operation. The technique of surprise is based upon four essential requirements : 1. We know the situation of the enemy we are going to attack, usually by means of precise information and meticulous observation, while the enemy does not know he is going to be attacked and knows nothing about the attackers.

  1. We know the strength of the enemy we are going to attack, and the enemy knows nothing about our strength.

  2. Attacking by surprise, we save and conserve our forces, while the enemy is unable to do the same, and is left at the mercy of events.

  3. We determine the time and place of the attack, fix its duration and establish its objectives. The enemy remains ignorant of all of this information.

KNOWLEDGE OF THE TERRAIN

The urban guerrilla’s best ally is the terrain, and because this is so he must know it like the palm of his hand. To have the terrain as an ally means to know how to use with intelligence its unevenness, its high and low points, its turns, its irregularities, its fixed and secret passages, its abandoned areas, its thickets, etc., taking maximum advantage of all of this for the success of armed actions, escapes, retreats, covers, and hiding places. Impasses and narrow spots, gorges, streets under repair, police checkpoints, military zones and closed-off streets, the entrances and exits to tunnels and those that the enemy can close off, corners controlled or watched by the police, traffic lights and signals; all this must be thoroughly known and studied in order to avoid fatal errors.

Our problem is to get through and to know where and how to hide, leaving the enemy bewildered in areas he doesn’t know. Being familiar with the avenues, streets, alleys, ins and outs, the corners of the urban centers, its paths and shortcuts, its empty lots, its underground passages, its pipes and sewer systems, the urban guerrilla safely crosses through the irregular and difficult terrain unfamiliar to the police, where the police can be surprised in a fatal ambush or trap at any moment.

Because he knows the terrain, the urban guerrilla can pass through it on foot, on bicycle, in a car, jeep or small truck, and never be trapped. Acting in small groups with only a few people, the guerrillas can rendezvous at a time and place determined beforehand, following up the initial attack with new guerrilla operations, or evading the police cordon and disorienting the enemy with their unexpected audacity.

It is an impossible problem for the police, in the labrynthian terrain of the urban guerrilla, to catch someone they cannot see, to repress someone they cannot catch, and to close in on someone they cannot find.

Our experience is that the ideal guerrilla is one who operates in his own city and thoroughly knows its streets, its neighborhoods, its transit problems, and its other peculiarities. The guerrilla outsider, who comes to a city whose streets are unfamiliar to him, is a weak spot, and if he is assigned certain operations, he can endanger them. To avoid grave mistakes, it is necessary for him to get to know the layout of the streets.

MOBILITY AND SPEED

To insure a mobility and speed that the police cannot match, the urban guerrilla needs the following:

  1. Mechanization 2. Knowledge of the terrain 3. A disruption or suspension of enemy transport and communications

  2. Light weapons

By carefully carrying out operations that last only a few moments, and leaving the site in mechanized vehicles, the urban guerrilla beats a rapid retreat, escaping capture.

The urban guerrilla must know the way in detail, and, in this manner, must go through the schedule ahead of time as a training, to avoid entering alleyways that have no exit, or running into traffic jams, or being stopped by the Transit Department’s traffic signals.

The police pursue the urban guerrilla blindly, without knowing which road he is using for his escape. While the urban guerrilla escapes quickly because he knows the terrain, the police lose the trail and give up the chase.

The urban guerrilla must launch his operations far from the logistical centers of the police. A primary advantage of this method of operation is that it places us at a reasonable distance from the possibility of capture, which facilitates our evasion.

In addition to this necessary precaution, the urban guerrilla must be concerned with the enemy’s communication system. The telephone is the primary target in preventing the enemy from access to information, by knocking out his communications systems.

Even if he knows about the guerrilla operation, the enemy depends on modern transportation for his logistics support, and his vehicles necessarily lose time carrying him through the heavy traffic of the large cities. It is clear that the tangled and treacherous traffic is a disadvantage for the enemy, as it would be for us if we were not ahead of him.

If we want to have a safe margin of security and be certain to leave no tracks for the future, we can adopt the following methods:

  1. Deliberately intercept the police with other vehicles, or by seemingly casual inconveniences and accidents; but in this case the vehicles in question should neither be legal nor have real license numbers

  2. Obstruct the roads with fallen trees, rocks, ditches, false traffic signs, dead ends or detours, or other clever methods

  3. Place homemade mines in the way of the police; use gasoline or throw Molotov cocktails to set their vehicles on fire

  4. Set off a burst of submachine gun fire or weapons such as the FAL aimed at the motor and tires of the cars engaged in the pursuit

With the arrogance typical of the police and the military authorities, the enemy will come to fight us equipped with heavy guns and equipment, and with elaborate maneuvers by men armed to the teeth. The urban guerrilla must respond to this with light weapons that can be easily transported, so he can always escape with maximum speed without ever accepting open fighting. The urban guerrilla has no mission other than to attack and quickly withdraw. We would leave ourselves open to the most crushing defeats if we burdened ourselves with heavy weapons and with the tremendous weight of the ammunition necessary to use them, at the same time losing our precious gift of mobility.

When our enemy fights against us with the cavalry, we are at no disadvantage as long as we are mechanized. The automobile goes faster than the horse. From within the car, we also have the target of the mounted police, knocking him down with submachine gun and revolver fire or with Molotov cocktails and hand grenades.

On the other hand, it is not so difficult for an urban guerrilla on foot to make a target of a policeman on horseback. Moreover, ropes across the street, marbles, and cork stoppers are very efficient methods of making them both fall. The great disadvantage faced by the mounted policeman is that he presents the urban guerrilla with two excellent targets—the horse and its rider.

Apart from being faster than the horseman, the helicopter has no better chance in pursuit. If the horse is too slow compared to the urban guerrilla’s automobile, the helicopter is too fast. Moving at 200 kilometers an hour, it will never succeed in hitting from above a target that is lost among the crowds and street vehicles, nor can the helicopter land in public streets in order to capture someone. At the same time, whenever it flies too low, it will be excessively vulnerable to the fire of the urban guerrillas.

INFORMATION

The chances that the government has for discovering and destroying the urban guerrillas lessens as the power of the dictatorship’s enemies becomes greater and more concentrated among the population.

This concentration of the opponents of the dictatorship plays a very important role in providing information about the actions of the police and government officials, as well as hiding the activities of the guerrillas. The enemy can also be thrown off with false information, which is worse for him because it is a tremendous waste.

By whatever means, the sources of information at the disposal of the urban guerrilla are potentially better than those of the police. The enemy is observed by the people, but he does not know who among the people transmits information to the urban guerrillas. The military and the police are hated by the people for the injustices and violence they have committed, and this facilitates obtaining information which is damaging to the activities of government agents.

Information, which is only a small segment of popular support, represents an extraordinary potential in the hands of the urban guerrilla.

The creation of an intelligence service, with an organized structure, is a basic need for us. The urban guerrilla has to have vital information about the plans and movements of the enemy; where they are, how they move, the resources of their banking network, their means of communication, and the secret activities they carry out. The reliable information passed on to the guerrillas represents a well-aimed blow at the dictatorship. The dictatorship has no way to defend itself in the face of an important leak which facilitates our destructive attacks.

The enemy also wants to know what actions we are planning so he can destroy us or prevent us from acting. In this sense, the danger of betrayal is present, and the enemy encourages betrayal and infiltrates spies into the guerrilla organization. The urban guerrilla’s technique against this enemy tactic is to denounce publicly the spies, traitors, informers and provocateurs. Since our struggle takes place among the people and depends on their sympathy—while the government has a bad reputation because of its brutality, corruption and incompetence—the informers, spies, traitors and the police come to be enemies of the people, without supporters, denounced to the urban guerrillas and, in many cases, properly punished.

For his part, the urban guerrilla must not evade the duty—once he knows who the spy or informer is—of physically wiping him out. This is the proper method, approved by the people, and it minimizes considerably the incidence of infiltration or enemy spying.

For complete success in the battle against spies and informers, it is essential to organize a counter-espionage or counter-intelligence service. Nevertheless, as far as information is concerned, it cannot all be reduced to a matter of knowing the enemy’s moves and avoiding the infiltration of spies. Intelligence information must be broad—it must embrace everything, including the most insignificant material. There is a technique of obtaining information, and the urban guerrilla must master it. Following this technique, intelligence information is obtained naturally, as a part of the life of the people.

The urban guerrilla, living in the midst of the population and moving about among them, must be attentive to all types of conversations and human relations, learning how to disguise his interest with great skill and judgement.

In places where people work, study, and live, it is easy to collect all kinds of information on payments, business, plans of all kinds, points of view, opinions, people’s state of mind, trips, interior layout of buildings, offices and rooms, operations centers, etc.

Observation, investigation, reconnaissance, and exploration of the terrain are also excellent sources of information. The urban guerrilla never goes anywhere absentmindedly and without revolutionary precaution, always on the alert lest something occurs. Eyes and ears open, senses alert, his memory is engraved with everything necessary, now or in the future, to the continued activity of the guerrilla fighter.

Careful reading of the press with particular attention to the mass communication media, the research of accumulated data, the transmission of news and everything of note, a persistence in being informed and in informing others, all this makes up the intricate and immensely complicated question of information which gives the urban guerrilla a decisive advantage.

DECISIVENESS

It is not enough for the urban guerrilla to have in his favor surprise, speed, knowledge of the terrain, and information. He must also demonstrate his command of any situation and a capacity for decisiveness, without which all other advantages will prove to be useless.

It is impossible to carry out any action, however well-planned, if the urban guerrilla turns out to be indecisive, uncertain, irresolute. Even an action successfully begun can end in defeat if command of the situation and the capacity for decision falter in the middle of the execution of the plan. When this command of the situation and a capacity for decision are absent, the void is filled with hesitation and terror. The enemy takes advantage of this failure and is able to liquidate us.

The secret of the success of any operation, simple or complex, easy or difficult, is to rely on determined men. Strictly speaking, there are no simple operations: all must be carried out with the same care taken in the most difficult, beginning with the choice of the human elements—which means relying on leadership and the capacity for decision in every situation.

One can see ahead of time whether an action will be successfull or not by the way its participants act during the preparatory period. Those who fall behind, who fail to make designated contacts, are easily confused, forget things, fail to complete the basic tasks of the work, possibly are indecisive men and can be a danger. It is better not to include them.

Decisiveness means to put into practice the plan that has been devised with determination, with audacity, and with an absolute firmness. It takes only one person who hesitates to lose all.

OBJECTIVES OF THE GUERRILLA’S ACTIONS

With his tactics developed and established, the urban guerrilla trains himself in methods of action leading to attack, and, in Brazil, has the following objectives:

  1. To threaten the triangle within which the Brazilian state and North American domination are maintained, a triangle whose points are Rio, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, and whose base is the axis Rio—San Paulo, where the giant industrial, financial, economic, political, cultural, military, and police complex that holds the decisive power of the country is located.

  2. To weaken the local militia and the security systems of the dictatorship, given the fact that we are attacking and the “gorillas”

defending, which means catching the government in a defensive position with its troops immobilized in the defense of the entire complex of national maintenance, with its ever-present fears of an attack on its strategic nerve centers, and without ever knowing where, how or when the attack will come.

  1. To attack every area with many different armed groups, small in size, each self-contained and operating independently, to disperse the government forces in their pursuit of a thoroughly fragmented organization, instead of offering the dictatorship the opportunity to concentrate its forces in the destruction of one tightly organized system operating throughout the country.

  2. To give proof of its combatitivenes, decision, firmness, determination, and persistence in the attack on the military dictatorship, in order to allow all rebels to follow in our example and to fight with urban guerrilla tactics. Meanwhile, the government with all of its problems, incapable of halting guerrilla actions within the cities, will lose time and suffer endless attrition, and will finally be forced to pull back its repressive forces in order to mount guard over all the banks, industries, armories, military barracks, prisons, public offices, radio and television stations, North American firms, gas storage tanks, oil refineries, ships, airplanes, ports, airports, hospitals, health centers, blood banks, stores, garages, embassies, residences of high-ranking members of the regime such as ministers and generals, police stations, official organizations, etc.

  3. To increase urban guerrilla actions gradually into an endless number of surprise raids, such that the government cannot leave the urban area to pursue guerrillas in the rural interior without running the risk of abandoning the cities and permitting rebellion to increase on the coast as well as the interior of the country.

  4. To force the Army and the police, their commanders and their assistants, to give up the relative comfort and tranquility of their barracks and their usual rest, for a state of fear and growing tension in the expectation of attack, or in a search for trails which vanish without a trace.

  5. To avoid open battle and decisive combat with the government, limiting the struggle to brief, rapid attacks with lightning results.

  6. To insure for the urban guerrilla a maximum freedom of movement and of action, without ever relinquishing the use of armed action, remaining firmly oriented towards helping the formation of rural guerrilla warfare and supporting the construction of a revolutionary army for national liberation.

ON THE TYPES AND NATURE OF MISSIONS FOR THE URBAN GUERRILLA

In order to achieve the objectives previously listed, the urban guerrilla is obliged, in his tactics, to follow missions whose nature is as different or diversified as possible. The urban guerrilla does not arbitrarily choose this or that mission. Some actions are simple; others are complicated. The inexperienced guerrilla must be gradually introduced into actions and operations which run from the simple to the complex. He begins with small missions and tasks until he becomes completely experienced.

Before any action, the urban guerrilla must think of the methods and the personnel at his disposal to carry out the mission. Operations and actions that demand the urban guerrilla’s technical preparation cannot be carried out by someone who lacks the technical skill. With these precautions, the missions which the urban guerrilla can undertake are the following:

  1. assaults

  2. raids and penetrations 3. occupations 4. ambushes 5. street tactics 6. strikes and work stoppages

  3. desertions, diversions, seizures, expropriation of weapons, ammunition and explosives 8. liberation of prisoners 9. executions 10. kidnappings 11. sabotage

  4. terrorism 13. armed propaganda 14. war of nerves

ASSAULTS

Assaults are the armed attacks which we make to expropriate funds, liberate prisoners, capture explosives, submachine guns, and other types of weapons and ammunition. Assaults can take place in broad daylight or at night. Daytime assaults are made when the objective cannot be achieved at any other hour, such as the transport of money by banks, which is not done at night. Night assault is usually the most advantageous for the guerrilla. The ideal is for all assaults to take place at night, when conditions for a surprise attack are most favorable and the darkness facilitates escape and hides the identity of the participants. The urban guerrilla must prepare himself, nevertheless, to act under all conditions, daytime as well as night.

The must vulnerable targets for assaults are the following:

  1. credit establishments

  2. commercial and industrial enterprises, including plants for the manufacture of weapons and explosives

  3. military establishments

  4. commissaries and police stations

  5. jails

  6. government property 7. mass communications media 8. North American firms and properties

  7. government vehicles, including military and police vehicles, trucks, armored vehicles, money carriers, trains, ships, and airplanes.

The assaults on businesses use the same tactics, because in every case the buildings represent a fixed target. Assaults on buildings are planned as guerrilla operations, varied according to whether they are against banks, a commercial enterprise, industries, military bases, commissaries, prisons, radio stations, warehouses for foreign firms, etc.

The assault on vehicles—money-carriers, armored vehicles, trains, ships, airplanes—are of another nature, since they are moving targets. The nature of the operation varies according to the situation and the circumstances—that is, whether the vehicle is stationary or moving. Armored cars, including military vehicles, are not immune to mines. Roadblocks, traps, ruses, interception by other vehicles, Molotov cocktails, shooting with heavy weapons, are efficient methods of assaulting vehicles. Heavy vehicles, grounded airplaces and anchored ships can be seized and their crews and guards overcome. Airplanes in flight can be hijacked by guerrilla action or by one person. Ships and trains in motion can be assaulted or captured by guerrilla operations in order to obtain weapons and ammunition or to prevent troop movements.

THE BANK ASSAULT AS POPULAR MISSION

The most popular mission is the bank assault. In Brazil, the urban guerrillas have begun a type of organized assault on the banks as a guerrilla operation. Today, this type of assault is widely used, and has served as a sort of preliminary test for the urban guerrilla in his training in the tactics of urban guerrilla warfare.

Important innovations in the tactics of assaulting banks have developed, guaranteeing escape, the withdrawal of money, and the anonymity of those involved. Among these innovations, we cite the shooting of tires of cars to prevent pursuit, locking people in the bank bathroom, making them sit on the floor, immobilizing the bank guards and taking their weapons, forcing someone to open the safe or the strong box, and using disguises.

Attempts to install bank alarms, to use guards or electronic detection devices prove fruitless when the assault is political and is carried out according to urban guerrilla warfare techniques. This guerrilla method uses new techniques to meet the enemy’s tactical changes, has access to firepower that is growing every day, becomes increasingly more experienced and more confident, and uses a larger number of guerrillas every time; all to guarantee the success of operations planned down to the last detail.

The bank assault is a typical expropriation. But, as is true with any kind of armed expropriatory action, the guerrilla is handicapped by a two-fold competition:

  1. competition from the outlaw 2. competition from the right-wing counter-revolutionary

This competition produces confusion, which is reflected in the people’s uncertainty. It is up to the urban guerrilla to prevent this from happening, and to accomplish this he must use two methods:

  1. He must avoid the outlaw’s technique, which is one of unnecessary violence and the expropriation of goods and possessions belonging to the people

  2. He must use the assault for propaganda purposes at the very moment it is taking place, and later distribute material, leaflets—every possible means of explaining the objectives and the principles of the urban guerrillas, as expropriator of the government and the ruling elite.

RAIDS AND PENETRATIONS

Raids and penetrations are rapid attacks on establishments located in neighborhoods, or even in the center of the city, such as small military units, commissaries, hospitals, to cause trouble, seize weapons, punish and terrorize the enemy, take reprisals, or to rescue wounded prisoners or those hospitalized under police guard. Raids and penetrations are also made on garages and depots to destroy vehicles and damage installations, especially if they are North American firms and property. When they take place on certain stretches of highway or in certain distant neighborhoods, these raids can serve to force the enemy to move great numbers of troops, a totally useless effort since when they get there they will find nobody to fight. When they are carried out on certain houses, offices, archives or public offices, their purpose is to capture or search for secret papers and documents with which to denounce deals, compromises and the corruption of men in government, their dirty deals and criminal transactions. Raids and penetrations are most effective if they are carried out at night.

OCCUPATIONS

Occupations are a type of attack carried out when the urban guerrilla stations himself in specific establishments and locations, for a temporary action against the enemy or for some propaganda purpose. The occupation of factories and schools during strikes, or at other times, is a method of protest or of distracting the enemy’s attention. The occupation of radio stations is for propaganda purposes.

Occupation is a highly effective model for action but, in order to prevent losses and material damage to our forces, it is always a good idea to plan on the possibility of a forced withdrawal. It must always be meticulously planned, and carried out at the opportune moment. Occupations always have a time limit, and the swifter they are completed, the better.

AMBUSH

Ambushes are attacks, typified by surprise, when the enemy is trapped on the road or when he makes a police net surrounding a house or estate. A false alarm can bring the enemy to the spot, where he falls into a trap.

The principle object of the ambush is to capture enemy weapons and to punish him with death. Ambushes to halt passenger trains are for propaganda purposes, and, when they are troop trains, the object is to annihilate the enemy and seize his weapons. The urban guerrilla sniper is the kind of fighter specially suited for ambush, because he can hide easily in the irregularities of the terrain, on the roofs and the tops of buildings and apartments under construction. From windows and dark places, he can take careful aim at his chosen target.

Ambush has devestating effects on the enemy, leaving him unnerved, insecure and fearful.

STREET TACTICS

Street tactics are used to fight the enemy in the streets, utilizing the participation of the population against him.

In 1968, the Brazilian students used excellent street tactics against police troops, such as marching down streets against traffic and using slingshots and marbles against mounted police. Other street tactics consist of constructing barricades; pulling up paving blocks and hurling them at the police; throwing bottles, bricks, paperweights and other projectiles at the police from the top of office and apartment buildings; using buildings and other structures for escape, for hiding and for supporting surprise attacks. It is equally necessary to know how to respond to enemy tactics. When the police troops come wearing helmets to protect them against flying objects, we have to divide ourselves into two teams—one to attack the enemy from the front, the other to attack him in the rear—withdrawing one as the other goes into action to prevent the first from being struck by projectiles hurled by the second. By the same token, it is important to know how to respond to the police net. When the police designate certain of their men to go into the crowd and arrest a demonstrator, a larger group of urban guerrillas must surround the police group, disarming and beating them and at the same time allowing the prisoner to escape. This urban guerrilla operation is called “the net within a net”.

When the police net is formed at a school building, a factory, a place where demonstrators gather, or some other point, the urban guerrilla must not give up or allow himself to be taken by surprise. To make his net effective, the enemy is obliged to transport his troops in vehicles and special cars to occupy strategic points in the streets, in order to invade the building or chosen locale. The urban guerrilla, for his part, must never clear a building or an area and meet in it without first knowing its exits, the way to break an encirclement, the strategic points that the police must occupy, and the roads that inevitably lead into the net, and he must hold other strategic points from which to strike at the enemy. The roads followed by police vehicles must be mined at key points along the way and at forced roadblocks. When the mines explode, the vehicles will be knocked into the air. The police will be caught in the trap and will suffer losses and be victims of an ambush. The net must be broken by escape routes which are unknown to the police. The rigorous planning of a withdrawal is the best way to frustrate any encircling effort on the part of the enemy. When there is no possibility of an escape plan, the urban guerrilla must not hold meetings, gatherings or do anything, since to do so will prevent him from breaking through the net which the enemy will surely try to throw around him.

Street tactics have revealed a new type of urban guerrilla who participates in mass protests. This is the type we designate as the “urban guerrilla demonstrator”, who joins the crowds and participates in marches with specific and definate aims in mind. The urban guerrilla demonstrator must initiate the “net within the net”, ransacking government vehicles, official cars and police vehicles before turning them over or setting fire to them, to see if any of them have money or weapons.

Snipers are very good for mass demonstrations, and along with the urban guerrilla demonstrator can play a valuable role. Hidden at strategic points, the snipers have complete success using shotguns or submachine guns, which can easily cause losses among the enemy.

STRIKES AND WORK INTERRUPTIONS

The strike is a model of action employed by the urban guerrilla in work centers and schools to damage the enemy by stopping work and study activities. Because it is one of the weapons most feared by the exploiters and oppressors, the enemy uses tremendous firepower and incredible violence against it. The strikers are taken to prison, suffer beatings, and many of them wind up killed.

The urban guerrilla must prepare the strike in such a way as to leave no track or clue that can identify the leaders of such an action. A strike is successful when it is organized by a small group, if it is carefully prepared in secret using the most clandestine methods. Weapons, ammunition, Molotov cocktails, homemade weapons of destruction and attack, all of these must be supplied beforehand in order to meet the enemy. So that the action can do the greatest possible amount of damage, it is a good idea to study and put into effect a sabotage plan. Strikes and study interruptions, although they are of brief duration, cause severe damage to the enemy. It is enough for them to crop up at different locations and in differing sections of the same area, disrupting daily life, occuring endlessly, one after the other, in true guerrilla fashion.

In strikes or in simple work interruptions, the urban guerrilla has recourse to the occupation or penetration of the site, or he can simply make a raid. In that case, his objective is to take captives, to capture prisoners, or to capture enemy agents and propose an exchange for arrested strikers.

In certain cases, strikes and brief work interruptions can offer an excellent opportunity for preparing ambushes or traps, whose aim is the physical destruction of the police. The basic fact is that the enemy suffers losses as well as material and moral damage, and is weakened by the action.

DESERTIONS, DIVERSIONS, SEIZURES, EXPROPRIATION OF AMMUNITION AND EXPLOSIVES

Desertion and the diversion of weapons are actions carried out in military bases, ships, military hospitals, etc. The urban guerrilla soldier or officer must desert at the most opportune moment with modern weapons and ammunition, to hand them over to the guerrillas. One of the most opportune moments is when the urban guerrilla soldier is called upon to pursue his guerrilla comrades outside the military base. Instead of following the orders of the “gorillas”, the military urban guerrilla must join the ranks of the revolutionaries by handing over the weapons and ammunition he carries, or the military vehicle he operates. The advantage of this method is that the rebels receive weapons and ammunition from the army, navy, air force, military police, civilian guard or the police without any great work, since it reaches their hands by government transportation.

Other opportunities may occur in the barracks, and the military urban guerrilla must always be alert to this. In case of carelessness on the part of commanders or in other favorable conditions—such as bureaucratic attitudes or the relaxation of discipline on the part of lieutenants or other internal personnel—the military urban guerrilla must no longer wait but must try to inform the guerrillas and desert with as large a supply of weapons as possible.

When there is no possibility of deserting with weapons and ammunition, the military urban guerrilla must engage in sabotage, starting fires and explosions in munitions dumps. This technique of deserting with weapons and of raiding and sabotaging the military centers is the best way of wearing out and demoralizing the enemy and leaving them confused. The urban guerrilla’s purpose in disarming an individual enemy is to capture his weapons. These weapons are usually in the hands of sentinels or others whose task is guard duty. The capture of weapons may be accomplished by violent means or by cleverness and tricks or traps. When the enemy is disarmed, he must be searched for weapons other than those already taken from him. If we are careless, he can use the weapons that were not seized to shoot the urban guerrilla. The seizure of weapons is an efficient method of aquiring submachine guns, the urban guerrilla’s most important weapon. When we carry out small operations or actions to seize weapons and ammunition, the materiel captured may be for personal use or for armaments and supplies for the firing teams.

The necessity to provide firepower for the urban guerrillas is so great that, in order to take off from the zero point, we often have to purchase one weapon, divert or capture a single gun. The basic point is to begin, and to begin with a spirit of decisiveness and boldness. The possession of a single submachine gun multiplies our forces. In a bank assault, we must be careful to seize the weapons of the bank guard. The rest of the weapons will be found with the treasurer, the bank tellers or the manager, and must also be seized. Quite often, we succeed in capturing weapons in police stations, as a result of raids. The capture of weapons, ammunition and explosives is the urban guerrilla’s goal in assaulting commercial businesses, industries and quarries.

LIBERATION OF PRISONERS

The liberation of prisoners is an armed action designed to free jailed urban guerrillas. In daily struggle against the enemy, the urban guerrilla is subject to arrest, and can be sentenced to unlimited years in jail.

This does not mean that the battle ends here. For the guerrilla, his experience is deepened by prison, and struggle continues even in the dungeons where he is held. The imprisoned guerrilla views the prisons of the enemy as a terrain which he must dominate and understand in order to free himself by a guerrilla operation. There is no jail, either on an island, in a city penitentiary, or on a farm, that is impregnable to the slyness, cleverness and firepower of the rebels. The urban guerrilla who is free views the jails of the enemy as the inevitable site of guerrilla actions designed to liberate his ideological comrades from prison. It is this combination of the urban guerrilla in freedom and the urban guerrilla in jail that results in the armed operations we refer to as “liberation of prisoners”.

The guerrilla operations that can be used in liberating prisoners are the following;

  1. riots in penal establishments, in correctional colonies or camps, or on transport or prison ships; 2. assaults on urban or rural prisons, detention centers, prison camps, or any other permanent or temporary place where prisoners are held; 3. assaults on prisoner transport trains or convoys;

  2. raids and penetrations of prisons; 5. ambushing of guards who move prisoners.

EXECUTIONS

Execution is the killing of a foreign spy, of an agent of the dictatorship, of a police torturer, of a dictatorial personality in the government involved in crimes and persecutions against patriots, of a stool pigeon, informer, police agent or police provocateur. Those who go to the police of their own free will to make denunciations and accusations, who supply information and who finger people, must be executed when they are caught by the urban guerrillas.

Execution is a secret action, in which the least possible number of urban guerrillas are involved. In many cases, the execution can be carried out by a single sniper, patient, alone and unknown, and operating in absolute secrecy and in cold blood.

KIDNAPPING

Kidnapping is capturing and holding in a secret place a spy, political personality or a notorious and dangerous enemy of the revolutionary movement. Kidnapping is used to exchange or liberate imprisoned revolutionaries or to force the suspension of torture in jail by the military dictatorship.

The kidnapping of personalities who are well-known artists, sports figures or who are outstanding in some other field, but who have evidenced no political interest, can be a useful form of propaganda for the guerrillas, provided it occurs under special circumstances, and is handled so the public understands and sympathizes with it. The kidnappings of foreigners or visitors constitutes a form of protest against the penetration and domination of imperialism in our country.

SABOTAGE

Sabotage is a highly destructive type of attack using very few persons—and sometimes requiring only one—to accomplish the desired result. When the urban guerrilla uses sabotage, the first step is isolated sabotage. Then comes the step of dispersed and general sabotage, carried out by the population. Well-executed sabotage demands study, planning and careful action. A characteristic form of sabotage is explosion, using dynamite, fire or the placing of mines. A little sand, a trickle of any kind of combustible, a poor lubrication job, a screw removed, a short circuit, inserted pieces of wood or iron, can cause irreparable damage. The objective of sabotage is to hurt, to damage, to make useless and to destroy vital enemy points such as the following:

  1. the economy of the country 2. agricultural or industrial production 3. transport and communication systems 4. military and police systems and their establishments and depots

  2. the repressive military-police system

  3. the firms and properties of exploiters in the country

The urban guerrilla should endanger the economy of the country, particularly its economic and financial aspects, such as its domestic and foreign banking network, its exchange and credit systems, its tax collection system, etc.

Public offices, centers of government and government depots are easy targets for sabotage. Nor will it be easy to prevent the sabotage of agricultural and industrial production by the urban guerrilla, with his thorough knowledge of the local situation. Factory workers acting as urban guerrillas are excellent industrial saboteurs, since they, better than anyone, understand the industry, the factory, the machinery or the part most likely to destroy an entire operation, doing much more damage than a poorly-informed layman could do.

With respect to the enemy’s transport and communications systems, beginning with railway traffic, it is necessary to attack them systematically with sabotage. The only caution is against causing death and injury to passengers, especially regular commuters on suburban and long-distance trains. Attacks on freight trains, rolling or stationary stock, stoppage of military transports and communciations systems, these are the major objectives in this area. Sleepers can be damaged and pulled up, as can rails. A tunnel blocked by a barrier of explosives, or an obstruction caused by a derailed car, causes enormous harm.

The derailment of a train carrying fuel is of major damage to the enemy. So is dynamiting a railroad bridge. In a system where the size and weight of the rolling equipment is enormous, it takes months for workers to repair or rebuild the destruction and damage. As for highways, they can be obstructed with trees, stationary vehicles, ditches, dislocation of barriers by dynamite, and bridges destroyed by explosions. Ships can be damaged at anchor in seaports or riverports, or in the shipyards. Aircraft can be destroyed or damaged on the ground. Telephone and telegraph lines can be systematically damaged, their towers blown up, and their lines made useless. Transport and communications must be sabotaged immediately because the revolutionary movement has already begun in Brazil, and it is essential to impede the enemy’s movement of troops and munitions.

Oil lines, fuel plants, depots for bombs and ammunition arsenals, military camps and bases must become targets for sabotage operations, while vehicles, army trucks and other military or police vehicles must be destroyed wherever they are found. The military and police repression centers and their specialized organs must also claim the attention of the guerrilla saboteur. Foreign firms and properties in the country, for their part, must become such frequent targets of sabotage that the volume of actions directed against them surpasses the total of all other actions against enemy vital points.

TERRORISM

Terrorism is an action, usually involving the placement of an explosive or firebomb of great destructive power, which is capable of effecting irreparable loss against the enemy. Terrorism requires that the urban guerrilla should have adequate theoretical and practical knowledge of how to make explosives.

The terrorist act, apart from the apparent ease with which it can be carried out, is no different from other guerrilla acts and actions whose success depends on planning and determination. It is an action which the urban guerrilla must execute with the greatest calmness and determination. Although terrorism generally involves an explosion, there are cases in which it may be carried out through executions or the systematic burning of installations, properties, plantations, etc. It is essential to point out the importance of fires and the construction of incendiary devices such as gasoline bombs in the technique of guerrilla terrorism. Another thing is the importance of the material the urban guerrilla can persuade the people to expropriate in the moments of hunger and scarcity brought about by the greed of the big commercial interests. Terrorism is a weapon the revolutionary can never relinquish.

ARMED PROPAGANDA

The coordination of urban guerrilla activities, including each armed action, is the primary way of making armed propaganda. These actions, carried out with specific objectives and aims in mind, inevitably become propaganda material for the mass communication system. Bank robberies, ambushes, desertions and the diverting of weapons, the rescue of prisoners, executions, kidnappings, sabotage, terrorism and the war of nerves are all cases in point.

Airplanes diverted in flight by guerrillla action, ships and trains assaulted and seized by armed guerrillas, can also be carried out solely for propaganda effect. But the urban guerrilla must never fail to install a clandestine press, and must be able to turn out mimeographed copies using alcohol or electric plates and other duplicating apparatus, expropriating what he cannot buy in order to produce small clandestine newspapers, pamphlets, flyers and stamps for propaganda and agitation against the dictatorship.

The urban guerrilla engaged in clandestine printing facilitates enormously the incorporation of large numbers of people into the struggle, by opening a permanent work front for those willing to carry on propaganda, even when to do so means to act alone and risk their lives.

With the existence of clandestine propaganda and agitational material, the inventive spirit of the urban guerrilla expands and creates catapaults, artifacts, mortars and other instruments with which to distribute the anti-government propaganda at a distance. Tape recordings, the occupation of radio stations, the use of loudspeakers, graffiti on walls and other inaccessible places are other forms of propaganda. A consistent propaganda by letters sent to specific addresses, explaining the meaning of the urban guerrilla’s armed actions, produces considerable results and is one method of influencing certain segments of the population.

Even this influence—exercised in the heart of the people by every possible propaganda device, revolving around the activity of the urban guerrilla—does not indicate that our forces have everyone’s support. It is enough to win the support of a portion of the population, and this can be done by popularizing the motto, “Let he who does not wish to do anything for the guerrillas do nothing against them.”

THE WAR OF NERVES

The war of nerves or psychological warfare is an aggressive technique, based on the direct or indirect use of mass media and rumors in order to demoralize the government. In psychological warfare, the government is always at a disadvantage because it imposes censorship on the media and winds up in a defensive position by not allowing anything against it to filter through. At this point, it becomes desperate, is involved in greater contradictions and loss of prestige, and loses time and energy in an exhausting effort at control which is liable to be broken at any moment.

The objective of the war of nerves is to mislead, spreading lies among the authorities in which everyone can participate, thus creating an atmosphere of nervousness, discredit, insecurity, uncertainty and concern on the part of the government. The best methods used by urban guerrillas in the war of nerves are the following: 1. Using the telephone and the mail to announce false clues to the police and government, including information on the planting of bombs and any other act of terrorism in public offices and other places—kidnapping and assassination plans. etc.—to force the authorities to wear themselves out by following up on the false information fed to them; 2. Letting false plans fall into the hands of the police to divert their attention; 3. Planting rumors to make the government uneasy;

  1. Exploiting by every means possible the corruption, the mistakes and the failures of the government and its representatives, forcing them into demoralizing explanations and justifications in the very communication media they wish to maintain under censorship; 5. Presenting denunciations to foreign embassies, the United Nations, the papal nunciature, and the international commissions defending human rights or freedom of the press, exposing each concrete violation and each use of violence by the military dictatorship and making it known that the revolutionary war will continue with serious danger for the enemies of the population.

HOW TO CARRY OUT THE ACTION

The urban guerrilla who correctly carries through his apprenticeship and training must give the greatest possible importance to his method of carrying out actions, for in this he cannot commit the slightest error. Any carelessness in learning tactics and their use invites certain disaster, as experience teaches us every day. Common criminals commit errors frequently because of their tactics, and this is one of the reasons why the urban guerrillas must be so insistently preoccupied with following revolutionary tactics, and not the tactics of bandits. And not only for that reason. There is no urban guerrilla worthy of the name who ignores the revolutionary method of action and fails to practice it rigorously in the planning and execution of his activities.

“The giant is known by his toe.” The same can be said of the urban guerrilla, who is known from afar by his correct tactics and his absolute fidelity to principle.

The revolutionary method of carrying out actions is strongly and forcefully based on the knowledge and use of the following elements;

  1. investigation and intelligence gathering 2. observation and vigilance 3. reconnaissance, or exploration of the terrain

  2. study and timing of routes 5. mapping 6. mechanization 7. careful selection of personnel 8. selection of firepower

  3. study and practice in success 10. success 11. use of cover 12. retreat 13. dispersal

  4. the liberation or transfer of prisoners 15. the elimination of evidence l6. the rescue of wounded

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON TACTICS

When there is no information, the point of departure for planning the action must be investigation, observation and vigilance. This method produces good results. In any event, even when there is information, it is essential to make observations to see that information is not at odds with observation or vice versa. Reconnaissance or exploration of the terrain and the study and timing of routes are so important that to omit them is to make a stab in the dark.

Mechanization, in general, is an underestimated factor in the tactics of conducting an action. Frequently, mechanization is left to the end, on the eve of the action, before anything is done about it. This is a mistake. Mechanization must be seriously considered. It must be undertaken with considerable foresight and with careful planning, based on careful and precise information. The care, conservation, maintenance and camouflaging of stolen vehicles are very important details of mechanization. When transportation fails, the primary action fails, with serious material and morale problems for the urban guerrillas. The selection of personnel requires great care in order to avoid the inclusion of indecisive or wavering persons who present the danger of contaminating others, a danger that must be avoided.

The withdrawal is equally or more important than the operation itself, to the point that it must be rigorously planned, including the possibility of defeat. One must avoid rescue or transfer of prisoners with children present, or anything to attract the attention of people passing through the area. The best thing is to make the rescue appear as natural as possible, winding through different routes or narrow streets that scarcely permit passage on foot, in order to avoid an encounter hetween two cars. The elimination of tracks is obligatory and demands the greatest caution—also in removing fingerprints and any other sign that could give the enemy information. Lack of care in the elimination of evidence is a factor that increases nervousness in our ranks, which the enemy often exploits.

RESCUE OF THE WOUNDED

The problem of the wounded in urban guerrilla warfare merits special attention. During guerrilla operations in the urban area, it may happen that some comrade is wounded by the police. When a guerrilla in the firing group has a knowledge of first aid, he can do something for the wounded comrade on the spot. Under no circumstances should the wounded guerrilla be abandoned at the site of the battle or left in the enemy’s hands. One of the precautions we must take is to set up first-aid courses for men and women, courses in which guerrillas can learn the rudiments of emergency medicine. The urban guerrilla who is a doctor, nurse, med student, pharmacist or who simply has had first aid training is a necessity in modern guerrilla struggle. A small manual of first aid for urban guerrillas, printed on mimeographed sheets, can also be produced by anyone who has enough knowledge.

In planning and carrying out an armed action, the urban guerrilla cannot forget the organization of medical support. This must be accomplished by means of a mobile or motorized clinic. You can also set up a mobile first aid station. Another solution is to utilize the skills of a medical comrade, who waits with his bag of equipment in a designated house to which the wounded are brought. The ideal would be to have our own well-equipped clinic, but this is very expensive unless we expropriate all of our materials.

When all else fails, it is often necessary to resort to legal clinics, using armed force if necessary to force a doctor to treat our wounded. In the eventuality that we fall back upon blood banks to purchase blood or plasma, we must not use legal addresses and certainly no addresses where the wounded can really be found, since they are under our care and protection. Nor should we supply the addresses of those involved in the guerrilla organization to the hospitals and health care clinics where we may take them. Such caution is indispensable to covering our tracks. The houses in which the wounded stay cannot be known to anyone but the small group of comrades responsible for their care and transport. Sheets, bloody clothing, medicine and any other indications of treatment of comrades wounded in combat must be completely eliminated from any place they visit to receive treatment.

GUERRILLA SECURITY

The urban guerrilla lives in constant danger of the possibility of being discovered or denounced. The primary security problem is to make certain that we are well-hidden and well-guarded, and that there are secure methods to keep the police from locating us. The worst enemy of the urban guerrilla, and the major danger that we run into, is infiltration into our organization by a spy or informer. The spy trapped within the organization will be punished with death. The same goes for those who desert and inform to the police. A well-laid security means there are no spies or agents infiltrated into our midst, and the enemy can receive no information about us even through indirect means. The fundamental way to insure this is to be strict and cautious in recruiting. Nor is it permissible for everyone to know everything and everyone. This rule is a fundamental ABC of urban guerrilla security. The enemy wants to annihilate us and fights relentlessly to find us and destroy us, so our greatest weapon lies in hiding from him and attacking by surprise.

The danger to the urban guerrilla is that he may reveal himself through carelessness or allow himself to be discovered through a lack of vigilance. It is impermissible for the urban guerrilla to give out his own or any other clandestine address to the police, or to talk too much. Notations in the margins of newspapers, lost documents, calling cards, letters or notes, all these are evidence that the police never underestimate. Address and telephone books must be destroyed, and one must not write or hold any documents. It is necessary to avoid keeping archives of legal or illegal names, biographical information, maps or plans. Contact numbers should not be written down, but simply committed to memory. The urban guerrilla who violates these rules must be warned by the first one who notes this infraction and, if he repeats it, we must avoid working with him in the future. The urban guerrilla’s need to move about constantly with the police nearby—given the fact that the police net surrounds the city—forces him to adopt various security precautions depending upon the enemy’s movements. For this reason, it is necessary to maintain a daily information service about what the enemy appears to be doing, where the police net is operating and what points are being watched. The daily reading of the police news in the newspapers is a fountain of information in these cases. The most important lesson for guerrilla security is never, under any circumstances, to permit the slightest laxity in the maintenance of security measures and precautions within the organization.

Guerrilla security must also be maintained in the case of an arrest. The arrested guerrilla must reveal nothing to the police that will jeopardize the organization. he must say nothing that will lead, as a consequence, to the arrest of other comrades, the discovery of addresses or hiding places, or the loss of weapons and ammunition.

THE SEVEN SINS OF THE URBAN GUERRILLA

Even when the urban guerrilla applies proper tactics and abides by its security rules, he can still be vulnerable to errors. There is no perfect urban guerrilla. The most he can do is make every effort to diminish the margin of error, since he cannot be perfect. One of the means we should use to diminish the possibility of error is to know thoroughly the seven deadly sins of the urban guerrilla and try to avoid them.

The first sin of the guerrilla is inexperience. The urban guerrilla, blinded by this sin, thinks the enemy is stupid, underestimates the enemy’s intelligence, thinks everything is easy and, as a result, leaves evidence that can lead to disaster. Because of his inexperience, the urban guerrilla may also overestimate the forces of the enemy, believing them to be stronger than they really are. Allowing himself to be fooled by this presumption, the urban guerrilla becomes intimidated and remains insecure and indecisive, paralyzed and lacking in audacity. The second sin of the urban guerrilla is to boast about the actions he has undertaken and to broadcast them to the four winds. The third sin of the urban guerrilla is vanity. The guerrilla who suffers from this sin tries to solve the problems of the revolution by actions in the city, but without bothering about the beginnings and survival of other guerrillas in other areas. Blinded by success, he winds up organizing an action that he considers decisive and that puts into play the entire resources of the organization. Since we cannot afford to break the guerrilla struggle in the cities while rural guerrilla warfare has not yet erupted, we always run the risk of allowing the enemy to attack us with decisive blows. The fourth sin of the urban guerrilla is to exaggerate his strength and to undertake actions for which he, as yet, lacks sufficient forces and the required infrastructure.

The fifth sin of the urban guerrilla is rash action. The guerrilla who commits this sin loses patience, suffers an attack of nerves, does not wait for anything, and impetuously throws himself into action, suffering untold defeats.

The sixth sin of the urban guerrilla is to attack the enemy when they are most angry. The seventh sin of the urban guerrilla is to fail to plan things, and to act spontaneously.

POPULAR SUPPORT

One of the permanent concerns of the urban guerrilla is his identification with popular causes to win public support. Where government actions become inept and corrupt, the urban guerrilla should not hesitate to step in and show that he opposes the government, and thus gain popular sympathy. The present government, for example, imposes heavy financial burdens and excessively high taxes on the people. It is up to the urban guerrilla to attack the dictatorship’s tax collection system and to obstruct its financial activities, throwing all the weight of armed action against it.

The urban guerrilla fights not only to upset the tax collection system—the weapon of armed action must also be directed against those government agencies that raise prices and those who direct them as well as against the wealthiest of the national and foreign profiteers and the important property owners. In short, against all those who accumulate huge fortunes out of the high cost of living, the wages of hunger, excessive prices and high rents. Foreign industries, such as refrigeration and other North American plants that monopolize the market and the manufacture of general food supplies, must be systematically attacked by the urban guerrillas. The rebellion of the urban guerrilla and his persistance in intervening in political questions is the best way of insuring popular support for the cause which we defend. We repeat and insist on repeating—it is the way of insuring popular support. As soon as a reasonable portion of the population begins to take seriously the actions of the urban guerrilla, his success is guaranteed.

The government has no alternative except to intensify its repression. The police networks, house searches, the arrest of suspects and innocent persons, and the closing off of streets make life in the city unbearable. The military dictatorship embarks on massive political persecution. Political assassinations and police terror become routine.

In spite of all this, the police systematically fail. The armed forces, the navy and the air force are mobilized to undertake routine police functions, but even so they can find no way to halt guerrilla operations or to wipe out the revolutionary organization, with its fragmented groups that move around and operate throughout the country.

The people refuse to collaborate with the government, and the general sentiment is that this government is unjust, incapable of solving problems, and that it resorts simply to the physical liquidation of its opponents. The political situation in the country is transformed into a military situation in which the “gorillas” appear more and more to be the ones responsible for violence, while the lives of the people grow worse.

When they see the military and the dictatorship on the brink of the abyss, and fearing the consequences of a civil war which is already well underway, the pacifiers (always to be found within the ruling elite) and the opportunists (partisans of nonviolent struggle) join hands and circulate rumors behind the scenes begging the hangmen for elections, “re-democratization”, constitutional reforms, and other tripe designed to fool the people and make them stop the rebellion.

But, watching the guerrillas, the people now understand that it is a farce to vote in any elections which have as their sole objective guaranteeing the survival of the dictatorship and covering up its crimes. Attacking wholeheartedly this election farce and the so-called “political solution”, which is so appealing to the opportunists, the urban guerrillas must become even more aggressive and active, resorting without pause to sabotage, terrorism, expropriations, assaults, kidnappings, executions, etc. This action answers any attempt to fool the people with the opening of Congress and the reorganization of political parties—parties of the government and of the positions which the government allows—when all the time parliament and the so-called “parties” only function thanks to the permission of the military dictatorship, in a true spectacle of puppets or dogs on a leash.

The role of the urban guerrilla, in order to win the support of the population, is to continue fighting, keeping in mind the interests of the people and heightening the disastrous situation within which the government must act. These are the conditions, harmful to the dictatorship, which permit the guerrillas to open rural warfare in the middle of an uncontrollable urban rebellion.

The urban guerrilla is engaged in revolutionary action for the people, and with them seeks the participation of the people in the struggle against the dictatorship and the liberation of the country. Beginning with the city and the support of the people, the rural guerrilla war develops rapidly, establishing its infrastructure carefully while the urban area continues the rebellion.

The ‘outrage’ propaganda should be dropped: from Belfast pogroms to the Hooded Men and Miami Showband

The ‘Outrage’ propaganda should be dropped in the Twenty-Six Counties. It can have no effect but to make certain of our people see red which will never do us any good.”

So wrote Ernest Blythe in August 1922, but looking for coverage this week of the British government’s effective admission of liability over the Miami Showband murders and the court sanctioning the PSNI’s failure to investigate the torture of the Hooded Men, you’d be forgiven for seeing it as perpetuating a long term policy. And these are only the headline stories as a series of legal actions and investigations continually inch their way through interminable legal processes practically every week.

Arguably, you might suggest people may have a certain fatigue when it comes to conflict-related stories from the north. But that would appear to be nonsense given the air-time, political hot air and column inches given to criticism of Gerry Adams making a charity video in the very same week.

Blythe himself was seeking to suppress a collective study of events in Belfast from 1920 to 1922 which, even at the time, were considered to have been hidden from the public eye. The study, Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom 1920-1922‘ by G.B. Kenna is a book very much shrouded in mystery.

Written and printed in 1922, thousands of copies were printed for distribution but only eighteen ended up in circulation. The rest were apparently pulped to prevent the book reaching the shops. It is, of course, well known that the author wasn’t actually ‘G.B. Kenna’ but the name of the publisher, the ‘O’Connell Publishing Company, Dublin’ similarly appears to be fictitious. So, what was going on?

Cover of the original edition of Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom 1920-1922

The book began in the work of the Publicity Committee of the Provisional Government in 1922 (as the early Free State government was known). Michael Collins had sent Cork man Patrick O’Driscoll to Belfast in mid-February 1922 to gather statements on the intense violence that had been happening in the city. Northern IRA units had been sending a stream of intelligence reports to Dublin with accounts of the violence since 1920. It had always been assumed by Collins, IRA GHQ and others, that these accounts exaggerated not just the extent of the violence, but Craig and the Unionists’ role in inciting it, and the behaviour of the B Specials and others that had led Belfast Catholics to label it as a ‘pogrom’ (the use of the term ‘pogrom’ is discussed further below). It appears to have been first introduced for events in Belfast in 1911.

Given the disputes over the Anglo-Irish Treaty he signed in December 1921, at the very least, Collins now needed the northern IRA units to not openly oppose the treaty. O’Driscoll being sent was likely part of the same trust-building exercise by pro-treaty supporters in Dublin that had included a promise of arms and ammunition to the northern IRA units if they backed the treaty. Highly regarded by Collins, O’Driscoll (later a Dáil reporter) was to explore the truth of the ‘pogrom’ claims.

The statements and information O’Driscoll collected began to be appear in Provisional Government bulletins during March 1922. Collins likely sought to use the revelations as leverage during his own negotiations with the northern Unionist leader Sir James Craig (these negotiations led to the Craig-Collins Pacts). O’Driscoll also advised Collins that the Catholic bishops and community leaders were demanding that someone publish a detailed exposé to counteract the propaganda the unionist press had been printing since 1920. This included funerals of Catholics being wrongly reported as IRA victims, attacks on Catholics being wrongly ascribed to the IRA and photographs of damaged ‘Protestant’ homes that had actually been owned by ‘Catholics’. [You can read more about a typical example, Weaver Street, here.]

Collins asked the Catholic Bishop of Down and Conor, Joseph MacRory, to release Father John Hassan, the administrator in St Mary’s, Chapel Lane in the centre of Belfast, to work on gathering suitable material for a book. Hassan had previously been the parish priest in St Joseph’s in Sailortown and was familiar with, and well known in, the districts which had seen the most violence. He had also been recording the details of events since 1920. Hassan set out to gather information to address the black propaganda issues (sometimes at the expenses of completeness in his statistics).


Fr John Hassan (courtesy of his great grand nephew, Niall Hassan)

Hassan, however, told O’Driscoll that he personally didn’t feel up to the task of writing a book on the subject and it was agreed with Collins that it be entrusted to a member of the Publicity Committee, Alfred O’Rahilly, who would be supplied with the necessary information by Hassan. O’Rahilly, a noted mathematician and theologian, was the Registrar of University College Cork and had been the constitutional advisor to the treaty delegation in 1921. He had helped draft a constitution for the new Irish Free State earlier in 1922 and was very much a Catholic intellectual, having initially trained as a Jesuit. O’Driscoll said that O’Rahilly was going to write “…one of the most powerful indictments of Orangeism ever published” (see J. Anthony Gaughan’s biography of O’Rahilly).

Special Branch photo of Alfred O’Rahilly who it labels as Director of SF Propaganda

After the Provisional Government’s North East Advisory Committee met on 11th April 1922 to review events, O’Rahilly met with Collins on the 20th and agreed to write the book. In early May he sent an outline to Kevin O’Higgins’ secretary (Patrick McGilligan) but O’Rahilly was then busy with university business until June. As Kieron Glennon has pointed out (in From Pogrom to Civil War), the dire reports from the north at the 11th April meeting and O’Driscoll’s eye witness accounts surely alarmed Collins and Richard Mulcahy over their capacity to retain the confidence of northern IRA units. Mulcahy had been Chief of Staff of the IRA and was now Chief of Staff of the new Free State’s ‘National Army’. They then agreed to an abortive, disorganised and ultimately futile northern offensive by the IRA in mid-May 1922. That offensive eroded most of the northern IRA’s remaining resources and capacity to no obvious purpose (other than perhaps diverting their attention from events further south).

In early June, O’Driscoll wrote to O’Rahilly to advise him that all the necessary material was now available. He also told O’Rahilly that Fr Hassan was starting to get uneasy as he hadn’t yet heard from O’Rahilly. By now, though, the outbreak of hostilities between pro- and anti-treaty supporters had taken centre stage in the south. The Provisional Government set-up a new North East Policy Committee without Collins but including the likes of Ernest Blythe, a republican with a northern Protestant background. Hassan continued to work on collecting information for the book. O’Rahilly’s public standing, though, meant that he was caught up in attempts to broker peace between pro- and anti-treaty supporters in Cork and he seems to have been unable to commit to completing his part of the work at the time. According to Gaughan it was then decided that, as an interim report, Hassan would publish the information he had gathered to date as a book. This was to be funded by Collins and O’Rahilly would follow it with his own devastating polemic in due course.

So Hassan pulled together the material he had gathered to date. He appears to have finished up at the start of August as the book contains details of sentences handed out in court in Belfast on the same date that he wrote the foreword, 1st August 1922. The foreword explicitly set out the motivation behind writing the book: “…to place before the public a brief review of the disorders that have made the name of Belfast notorious… A well-financed Press propaganda… has already succeeded in convincing vast numbers of people, especially in England, that the victims were the persecutors… What the Catholics of Belfast would desire most of all…is an impartial tribunal set up by Government to investigate the whole tragic business… considering the magnitude of these outrages…?

But by the 1st August 1922 Michael Collins had only three weeks left to live.

The timing seems to be quite significant. On 2nd August Collins and the northern IRA units had agreed to cease offensive operations in the north and were instead to adopt a policy of passive resistance and non-recognition of the Northern Ireland government. The 3rd August issue of the Irish Bulletin from the Publicity Committee included a summary of some of the information gathered by Hassan. The next day the Freeman’s Journal called it a “…an admirable antidote to the lying propaganda which has been flooding this country for many months past.

However, Ernest Blythe made very different proposals to the North East Policy Committee a few days later on 9th August. Instead, Blythe suggested that they should push the IRA and northern Catholics to recognise the authority of the Northern Ireland government and actively support it. However Blythe’s rationale was that the current policy (non-conciliation) was supported by the (anti-treaty) IRA and so the Provisional Government should reverse its position on the north as a way of “…attacking them [the IRA] all along the line.” Furthermore, Blythe wrote, “The ‘Outrage’ propaganda should be dropped in the Twenty-Six Counties. It can have no effect but to make certain of our people see red which will never do us any good.” Blythe effectively proposed sacrificing the book, details of the Belfast pogrom and revealing the truth of what had happened in Belfast since 1920 for tactical reasons during the civil war. Perhaps to test the public reaction, Blythe’s proposals were clearly leaked to some newspapers, such as the Donegal News, which reported them on 12th August as ‘rumours circulating in Dublin’. The leaks claimed they were actually proposals that had been agreed between a northern bishop and a leading British cabinet minister (this may have been mischievous as Blythe, at least, knew that Bishop MacRory had recently met Lloyd George in London). On 19th August the Provisional Government endorsed Blythe’s proposals.

Ernest Blythe

Presuming Hassan had immediately given his manuscript to the printers, it seems unlikely that it had been composited, printed and bound before either the 19th August when Blythe had the Provisional Government agree to drop it or Collins’ death on 22nd August (Collins was apparently to meet with Alfred O’Rahilly the night after he was killed). As such, it seems likely that the book was literally in the printers when Collins died. Since Collins hadn’t yet challenged other members of the Provisional Government over endorsement of Blythe’s proposals, or had a chance to argue they should be dropped, Blythe’s policy stood and that was the end of Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom 1920-1922. For now.

Hassan’s own obituary in the Irish Independent (5/1/1939) confirms the story but adds a different spin to the reason why the book was censored, “By order of the Provisional Government an edition, running into many thousand copies, was printed for distribution on a world-wide scale, but before the time of publication things in the North took a better turn, and it was decided not to proceed further with it.” Hassan being from Banagher in Derry, he had a lengthy obituary in the Derry Journal (6/1/1939) which also confirms that “…when printed, the publication had been withdrawn…” although the Derry Journal implied that had happened earlier in 1922, during the Craig-Collins talks (which is clearly incorrect based on the content of the book). In a 1970 article in the Irish Examiner (9/9/1970), historian Andrew Boyd was closer to the truth in suggesting that the Provisional Government thought publication of the book “…was more likely to incite war than promote peace.

While Boyd’s phrasing suggests slightly more altruistic motives, failure to publish the book may have had much more longer term repercussions. Many of the issues raised throughout the book, and much of Hassan’s language, finds dark echoes in the violence in Belfast in 1935 and again from 1969 onwards. Given that between January 1919 and June 1922, around 20% of all War of Independence fatalities occurred in Belfast, the almost absolute absence of meaningful histories of the period in Belfast, until ‘Facts and Figures’ was eventually made widely available in 1997, is still astonishing. A moment, which could have possibly seen some sort of coming to terms with the immediate past in 1922, was entirely missed. Failing to quickly unpack the legacy of 1920-1922 may also have been crucial to creating the type of long-term dynamics around ‘dealing with the past’ that we still see today. While the Provisional Government effectively censored reporting on the violence in Belfast after 19th August 1922, the likes of Belfast Newsletter and Northern Whig could continue, unchallenged, to dismiss accounts of the violence as shameless propaganda.

A final key point, here, is in the use of the term ‘pogrom’ in the books title. In recent decades, historians like Robert Lynch and Alan Parkinson have been at pains to dismiss the use of the term. However, contemporary commentators who had witnessed the violence in Belfast in 1920-1922, had absolutely no qualms about using it and had been applying it to Belfast since 1911.

Ironically, the current accepted definition of ‘pogrom’, used by the likes of Werner Bergmann and David Engels, is “…a unilateral, non-governmental form of collective violence initiated by the majority population against a largely defenseless ethnic group”. That collective violence generally manifests as riots and is directed at the minority group collectively rather than targeting specific individuals. There is also an the implication that officials have connived at it, but not directly organised it. This is exactly how Hassan uses the term, but not Lynch or Parkinson [Lynch claims, for it to be a pogrom, victims should be mostly women and children, Parkinson that it should be state organised. Neither interpretation is consistent with current accepted definitions of a ‘pogrom’]. Kieron Glennon, though, thought it appropriate and used the term in the title of his From Pogrom to Civil War.

Today, pretty much no-one will want the term ‘pogrom’ used. But as pointed out earlier, the real moment for coming to terms with all this likely passed with the original suppression of ‘Facts and Figures’ in 1922. Yet Hassan himself makes the most important point of all in his own dedication at the start of the book. Proportionally, very few people took an active part in the pogrom, and of those many were likely caught up in it rather than instrumental in making it happen. Hassan makes that point explicitly at the start of the book, dedicating it to that vast majority who took no hand or part in it: “The many Ulster Protestants, who have always lived in peace and friendliness with their Catholic neighbours, this little book dealing with the acts of their misguided co-religionists, is affectionately dedicated.

Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom 1920-1922 by G.B. Kenna, in its original cover, is available again now via Amazon.

Kieron Glennon’s From Pogrom to Civil War is published by Mercier Press. The details of Ernest Blythe’s proposals to the North East Policy Committee are included in his papers in UCD (IEUCDAP24) and quoted at length by Glennon.

J. Anthony Gaughan’s biography of O’Rahilly, Alfred O’Rahilly is published by Kingdom Books.

The appropriateness of the term ‘pogrom’ is discussed by Robert Lynch (in his 2008 paper in the Journal of British Studies, “The People’s Protectors? The Irish Republican Army and the “Belfast Pogrom,” 1920-1922”) and Alan Parkinson in The Unholy War (published by Four Courts).

For a discussion of Werner Bergmann’s definition of a pogrom see Heitmeyer and Hagan’s survey paper in International Handbook of Violence Research, Volume 1. David Engels views are reviewed in Dekel-Chen, Gaunt, Meir and Bartal’s Anti-Jewish Violence. Rethinking the Pogrom in East European History.

The first use of ‘pogrom’ for violence in Belfast appears in 1911 and became well established by 1912.

Thanks to Martin Molloy and Niall Hassan for the photograph of Fr Hassan. Father John Hassan was born in Coolnamon, near Feeney in Derry in 1875 and went to school first at Fincairn, then Ballinascreen, then St. Columbs in 1892. In 1894 he went to Maynooth and then Rome the following year where he was ordained in St John Laterans by Cardinal Respighi on 9th June 1900. He was fluent in Italian, French and German as well as Irish and English. He returned to the Down and Conor diocese in Ireland, serving in parishes in Ballycastle, Castlewellan, Downpatrick and Kilkeel before he was transferred to Belfast, firstly to St Josephs in Sailortown in1910. He moved to St Mary’s, Chapel Lane in 1916 where he was involved in the events described above, staying there until 1929 when he moved as parish priest to Ballymoney were he died in 1939 (from Derry Journal, 6/1/1939). 

%d bloggers like this: