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The Left Archive: “On the Resignation of the Cork Branch, from the Irish Communist Organisation”, The Cork Communist Organisation (a split from the ICO) – 1972 October 30, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Cork Communist Organisation, Irish Communist Organisation, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
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An oddity this week from the Archive (and another donation to the Archive from Jim Lane – for which we’re very grateful). This binder1.pdf is a 20 page pamphlet issued by the Cork Communist Organisation in 1972. This was a split from the then sort of kind of Maoist Irish Communist Organisation which went on to become the British and Irish Communist Organisation. Within the pages of this document are detailed the upset of the CC Organisation at the Irish Communist Organisation and various policy positions. It’s remarkable really.

Accusations of ‘bourgeois factions’, worries about secessionist tendencies (in the geographic sense of the term), the ‘Two Nations’ Theory and so on abound. Forensic attention is paid to these, and yet, let’s not fool ourselves. The debates here mirrored or even predated debates in other organisations over the course of the conflict as those on the Left sought to understand and grapple with aspects of Nationalism.

Throughout there is a real sense of upset and hurt on the part of the CCO, perhaps even incomprehension, at the development (or is it deviation) of the ICO. On one level it is surprising how seriously all this was taken. Train journeys across Ireland to discuss the esoterica of party policy. Debates in pubs and meeting rooms. Of course, that is to ignore the time at which this was taking place. 1972, the conflict in the North gaining pace. Perhaps a sense that revolutionary change was possible, even if one was in the presumably tiny ICO. Incidentally, it’s a world away from the politics I know and experienced. What about representation? The actual as distinct from notional working class? Getting down and dirty organising in constituencies? Was that part of the exercise or was it purely a talking shop? I would very much like to know, and to know what happened to the CCO. Any information would be appreciated….

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1. Garibaldy - October 30, 2007

Fascinating, for several reasons. From one viewpoint, the fact that a document published at this time refers unproblematically to the republican movement and the IRA without distinguishing what they mean leads one to wonder how firm their grasp of northern realities was. As WBS says, very little grounding in actual activity, but rather theoretical detail. I wonder what Brian Girvin makes of all this now. Not too much trace of it in his work. I’d also love to know how Saor Éire felt about the two nations thing after the merger talks referred to here.

Finally, is this a different group than the Cork Workers’ Club that republished some of Connolly’s material?

2. Red Squirrel - October 30, 2007

You know, I’ve always find these image of the lined up faces of Marx-Engels-Lenin-pluswhoeveryoulike quite ridiculous. Have people no creativity?

3. Garibaldy - October 30, 2007

Had only seen the IRPs use it before. Although notice how Connolly is not at the same angle as the others. Looks weird. Not only uncreative, but just plain silly to put Connolly in that company.

The WP adopted a new symbol shortly before the DL split. Dove/peace type thing quite similar to that used by the CPB. Not too bad I thought.

4. Martin Cassidy - October 30, 2007

Thanks to whoever contributed this (D’OC?).

Could the contributor give details of the Internationalists bookshop up near Shandon…burned out I believe by fundamentalists?

Any truth in that story?

5. WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2007

Garibaldy, I saw the brief for the WP logo. Very interesting it was too…

I thought that was Limerick Martin, but was a bit before my time so I’m not sure.

Red Squirrel, it’s a real problem. Left iconography seems to often stop at the same old same old solutions.

6. Garibaldy - October 30, 2007

Left iconography does stop at the same old solutions, but has anyone ever seen a more updated, ‘trendy’ attempt and not just thought ‘for fuck’s sake’? Be it the Conservative party’s tree or royal mail becoming consignia, people don’t like change.

7. Fintan Lane - October 30, 2007

Interesting…and bizarre to see this pamphlet surfacing. Anyway, a little bit of background information:

The ‘Cork Communist Organisation’ was made up largely, I believe, of the Saor Eire people (publishers of ‘People’s Voice’ etc.), who had earlier merged with the ICO. Their politics was a mixture of Marxist-Leninism (Maoism in this instance) and republicanism. My father – Jim Lane – was involved.

Anyhow, they eventually abandoned the ICO, partly because of the drift towards a ‘two-nationist’ position. Brian Girvin stayed with the ICO/BICO.

The CCO later morphed into the Cork Workers Club, which survived into the late 1970s as a real group and, afterwards, as a sort of publishing house. The bookshop in Nicholas Church Place remained open until the early 1980s, when it was actually an IRSP bookshop/office. It was a centre for the anti-H-Block campaign during the hunger strikes and was later used by the Release Nicky Kelly Campaign. In its early years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, public meetings were held upstairs at times. I remember once seeing a poster advertising an appearance there by Eamon McCann.

I ‘staffed’ the bookshop for a while in the early 1980s, when it was open only on Saturday and some week nights. There were some regular customers, but, as time moved on, few people slinked in besides the affiliated. Its heyday really was at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s when it was the place to go in Cork to get left-wing and republican literature. It was a genuine backstreet bookshop and when other places opened, such as the bookshop in the Quay Co-op in the early 1980s, it effectively no longer had much of a purpose. It was too far off the beaten track. A strange place, in some ways. Internet shopping would have wiped it out, had it survived that long, because it primarily dealt in political material that mainstream shops wouldn’t sell.

The ‘Internationalist’ bookshop in Shandon (Ballymacthomas to be precise) was set up by some Maoist students and was shortlived, as it was effectively sacked by locals stirred up by anti-communism. I suppose, unlike the group around the CWC in Nicholas Church Place, they didn’t have links with the local community, to any real degree. The CWC people were all working class and at least one member – Jerry Higgins – came from St Nicholas Ch. Place itself.

8. Garibaldy - October 30, 2007

Cheers for the info Fintan. In that case I have some of their stuff. The republication of Ireland on the dissecting table takes on a bit of a new meaning in this context.

9. WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2007

Thanks for that Fintan. It’s a great insight into the CCO. Your point about how the bookshop was a sort of outpost of leftist thinking until later is intriguing.

Re your point about such material surfacing. Could it be that now the means of re-production of leaflets and pamphlets is now widely available, as well as interest in the history of the left?

Are there any Maoists left in Ireland?

10. Mick Brody - October 30, 2007

the internationalists being discussed would be Hardial Bains crowd before it was renamed cpi m-l?

11. WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2007

Yes, I was wondering that…

12. Martin Cassidy - October 30, 2007

Thanks for that Fintan, I lived in Cork for years but never got the details of the CWC.

Never knew the IRSP had a bookshop in Cork….remember the CPI bookshop in Paul St?

For a small city Cork people (were they interested) had a great choice of political reading. The Quay Co-Op had Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin books, Trotskyite magazines which I remember were partly in Hindi.

The Stickies had a bookshop in Fr Matthew hall. When they decided to do the place up in the early 90′s they threw out loads of political pamphlets, books by Marx, Lenin etc in to a skip outside on the footpath. I eye-picked the best of it – got a few strange looks from nearby mass goers!

13. M Cassidy - October 30, 2007

Yeah the Internationalists became the CPI(ML) later on, they always had a group in Cork city, had their own printing press and issued their own leaflets.

I wonder was there anything in the papers at the time about the Godless Communists been driven out of Ballymacthomas?!

14. Fintan Lane - October 30, 2007

I’m sure there are Maoists left in Ireland, but are any of them active? Certainly, there are ‘former Maoists’ out there, but, if they’re still believers, they’re of the lapsed or laissez faire varieties.

There was a surge of interest (relatively short-lived) in Maoism in Ireland in the 1960s and early 1970s, and they can’t all be dead. However, how many would now declare themselves ‘Maoists’? My own father undoubtedly still admires Mao, but it’s many years since I’ve heard him wax lyrical about Maoism. I know friends of his who were once Maoists, but I wouldn’t dream of viewing them as such at this stage. Maoism has pretty much drifted off the radar on this side of the planet.

I guess it’s a bit like asking if there are any Althusserians left in Ireland.

15. M Cassidy - October 30, 2007

Last one on Cork radical bookshops….there is a fantastic bookshop up in Barrack St (Barracka Books) in the south side of the city centre.

Visiting Cork – make sure to pay them a visit.

16. Fintan Lane - October 30, 2007

Martin,

I remember the CPI bookshop off Paul Street well. I picked up 22 volumes of Marx/Engels Collected Works there one time at a fiver a volume. Couldn’t do that now, though I added an extra volume a month or two back, Vol. 41, which I picked up at a bookstall in Berlin. Interestingly, it was stamped inside: ‘Eigentum der Parteihochschule ‘Karl Marx’ beim ZK der SED – Bibliothek. Imagine who used to paw that!

17. Garibaldy - October 30, 2007

I thought the remnants of the CPI ML still did solidarity work for Korea.

On leaflets, books, etc. Partly it’s people selling them off. Partly as WBS says its history. I can think of several people supposedly writing books documenting their political involvement. In many ways, the heat has gone out of the whole thing, and to say I was once a mad Stalinist/Maoist/Trotskyist makes you more interesting, and might even garner some respect.

There is also a thing whereby people who used to be in organisations feel a sense of solidarity, and have a form of stockholm syndrome I guess. You can see it a lot in Belfast, especially in the John Hewitt.

You don’t think, WBS, that the fact a site like this can thrive and not descend into petty arguments is because many of the people who post on it have lost the old drive, or maybe don’t care all that much?
Or as some might see have, have become rightist deviationists? :)

18. M Cassidy - October 30, 2007

Fintan,

You done well, I bought plenty there myself as well, though I mainly remeber it for its sagging floor and swaying bookcases!

Irish Maoists these days – there is an Irish distributor of ‘A World to Win’ – and an Irish Maoist recently spent some time in Nepal and has written some articles on that countries revolution. I havent heard of much else.

Martin

19. Garibaldy - October 30, 2007

£5? Lucky bastards. The last volume was published by Lawrence and Wishart at I think £80 something.

20. WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2007

Garibaldy, re your point about losing drive. Yes and no. I think that when people have been through organisations and out the other side it tends to leave a respect for those organisations (to a greater or lesser degree) and others even rivals. But it also leads something a bit like people who lose religion. It’s not that the religions are necessarily wrong, but they can’t all be right…and the next thought is that all contain elements of the truth. I’m probably as active these days across various community issues and suchlike as I was back in the day. On the other hand I miss the party, and the sense of party. Also here I think people – because we’re broadly leftist all of us – can respect others opinions and backgrounds. Still, the old faultlines are still there…

Re Maoists, and answering my own question, I know Working Class Action in Dublin had at least one Maoist who took great inspiration from the Nepal situation…

21. Grendel - October 30, 2007

If you read the 1992 edition of “the Economics of
Partition”, Brendan Clifford claimed the Cork Workers’ Club
was founded by a man who left B&ICO (Jim Lane?) . This ties in with Fintan Lane’s account.

With regard to radical bookshops in the Munster area,there’s
a fantastic green bookshop in Bantry called Book STEPs, which sells stuff like William Morris, Marx,Schumacher, and other green-left
writers.

I’m afraid Jung Chang and the Dalai Lama scared me off
anything even vaguely Maoist….

22. WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2007

I was wondering when you’d show up ;)

23. Shane - October 30, 2007

There was a different bookshop attacked in Limerick in the early 70s- same group (internationalists) although I think it had local involvement in running of shop. They had shots fired through the windows
http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/the-british-and-irish-communist-organisation-the-irish-historical-review-or-from-here-to-there-and-back-again-part-1/#comment-15393

That was a very interesting round up Fintan, I didn’t know there was that many bookshops in Cork. Noticed a pretty comprehensive entry on your father on wikipedia.

24. Grendel - October 30, 2007

I should go on Mastermind, and pick the history of the
B&ICO/Aubane guys as my specialist subject.

The Quay Co-Op mainly does health food nowadays. Don’t
remember the other Marxist shops in Cork, as I was a
small kid in the 1980s.

25. WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2007

There were great cakes in the Quay Co-Op as recently as four or five years ago.

I think you’d be a contender on the subject of BICO…

26. Garibaldy - October 30, 2007

But could you do spin off questions on Roy Foster and Martin Mansergh?

27. Mark P - October 31, 2007

There are a few individuals in Ireland who would describe themselves as Maoists, but there is no Maoist group (nor are there any groups from the related Hoxhaite or “anti-revisionist” milieus). In the past there were a few, although Irish Maoist groups were always regarded as a bit odd by the larger Maoist formations in Europe.

One factor differentiating them from the main Maoist groups in Europe is that they did not originate as splits from a pro-Moscow CP, which meant that they had none of the trade union base which even a small group like the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) had. Both Irish groups were strongly influenced by the idiosyncrasies of their founders.

In the case of the Internationalists this was, as someone mentioned above, Hardial Bains a wandering Indian academic who founded parties in various countries. The main outpost was in Canada. They were “Maoists” only until 1978, when they sided with Hoxha in the Sino-Albanian split. By that stage they had taken and abandoned the name Irish Communist Movement (Marxist Leninist) and moved on to the name CPI (ML). When Albania collapsed, they switched their allegiance to North Korea but by that stage most of the life had gone out of them. They dissolved formally in 2003, but they had been moribund for quite a while. It’s worth remembering that while they kept switching the socialist motherland of choice that their primary affiliation was with the other Bains parties around the world rather than the ruling parties of China, Albania or North Korea.

The B&ICO was an even stranger group. It’s origins lay in the Irish Workers Group, which split into Trotskyist and Maoist wings. The ICO was, in the late 1960s a Maoist organisation with strong nationalist leanings. By the early 1970s it was known as the B&ICO and its history has been dealt with at length on this site. As it developed its somewhat heterodox Maoism was abandoned in favour of a very eclectic Stalinism.

This actually links back into the original posting and to Fintan Lane’s contribution. After the split with the Maoists, the Trotskyist IWG lost momentum and became primarily based amongst emigrants in London. Some of its members, wanting an organisation actually in Ireland, set up the League for a Workers Republic. The LWR was primarily led by Paddy Healy and included over its lifespan quite a few well known figures, but the important point here is that it split in the early 1970s twice. One split went off to form the League for a Workers Vanguard, linked to Gerry Healy in Britain. The other split set up the Revolutionary Marxist Group… which was connected to Saor Eire.

The RMG was the Irish affiliate of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, the grouping which included the LCR in France and in those days the IMG in Britain and the American SWP. The USFI was riven by a factional dispute between groups which emphasised guerillaism in Latin America along with ideas like a “student vanguard”, and on the other hand groups led by the American SWP which espoused a more traditional Trotskyism. The IMG in Britian was firmly in the first camp and it was the primary influence on the newly formed RMG. The most prominent member of the RMG, Peter Graham, also a Saor Eire leader, was murdered in murky circumstances.

I’m curious about the chronology of a split from Saor Eire joining the ICO. My understanding of Saor Eire is limited, but I do have a USFI internal discussion bulletin from 1973 which criticises the IMG and RMG’s dalliance with Saor Eire and presents SE as being closely linked to the rather odd version of Trotskyism espoused by the USFI majority at that time.

(Sorry about the blizzard of initials)

28. M Cassidy - October 31, 2007

Mark P writes –

“The LWR was primarily led by Paddy Healy and included over its lifespan quite a few well known figures, but the important point here is that it split in the early 1970s twice. One split went off to form the League for a Workers Vanguard, linked to Gerry Healy in Britain. The other split set up the Revolutionary Marxist Group… which was connected to Saor Eire”

Apart from these splits the original group (LWR) must have remained (?) as I remember running in to them at Bodenstown (RSF’s) around 1989? They were distributing a pamphlet defending RSF’s republican abstentionism from a Trotskyist viewpoint and selling a magazine called ‘Workers Republic’.

The weird and wonderful world of Trotskyism!

29. Garibaldy - October 31, 2007

Trotskyism and RSF? The mind boggles.

30. WorldbyStorm - October 31, 2007

I’m not entirely surprised by that as regards RSF. They have a group of younger members who have appeared on P.ie and argued from a psychoanalytical point of view which is sort of weird, but makes sense I guess if you hope to somehow overthrow the dominant cultural narratives. Post-colonial theory, a bit undigested, has also entered the mix. It’s all used to explain what we Marxists would consider ‘false consciousness’ as regards our ‘true’ situation vis the colonial overlord to the east. But they daren’t use the M word so off to the couch they go…

31. Garibaldy - October 31, 2007

I was just wondering what used to be called the rosary bead brigade – which would have been much stronger within RSF in 1989 than today – would have made of it, that’s all. After all, ‘extreme socialism’ was one of the reasons for their split from the republican movement. One part of the parade saying the rosary as Gaeilge while the other talks permanent revolution. A dissonant image.

Interesting posters on P.ie indeed. This post-colonial stuff is probably because some of them studied English at UCD, and think Seamus Deane is at the forefront of anti-imperialism. When in fact it’s the old story of the oppressed Catholic people dressed up in new clothes with misunderstood bad Marxism from the Indian equivalent of the Eurocommunists.

32. Fintan Lane - October 31, 2007

Saor Eire had contacts around Ireland, particularly among those republicans disaffected with the political drift of the Republican Movement. Members went north to ‘help out’ when the ‘troubles broke out at the end of the 1960s. In fact, despite their Maoism, they were probably more connected to the Republican tradition than the orthodox communist tradition.

So, then a second group, which was active around Dublin, emerged in the 1960s. My understanding is that they attempted to join up with Saor Eire, but this linkage never occurred because the Cork-based crew thought that the news boys were Guevarist in outlook and thought the ‘foci theory’ might be worth a go in Ireland. The Cork people, despite their own IRA background, thought the new lot had the balance wrong between militarism and political action. So, a merger never occurred.

The Dublin group, however, was later involved in bank robberies and other actions and it seems they adopted the moniker ‘Saor Eire Action Group’. They were later just known as Saor Eire. I don’t think they lasted more than a few years and I don’t know if they ever actually published anything.

The original Saor Eire in Cork, or the bulk of them, merged with the ICO…and the rest you know.

33. Fintan Lane - October 31, 2007

Sorry, the above is a case of bad cutting and pasting. The following is missing from the beginning:

Mar’s confusion is understandable because there were actually TWO Saor Eires.

The original Saor Eire was formed in Cork in the mid to late 1960s and its core was composed of former IRA members, some of whom (including my father) had left the IRA during the Border Campaign, when the Cork Brigade refused to sanction the continued involvement of Cork volunteers. This group picked up a few more ‘dissidents’ in the early 1960s, were known as the ‘Irish Revolutionary Forces’ and later became Saor Eire.

They initially produced a paper called An Phoblacht which was widely distributed among republicans and was popular among those angry at the political drift of the Republican Movement. Later they published a paper called People’s Voice.

34. Garibaldy - October 31, 2007

Fintan,

I was wondering if you could clarify whether the Cork Saor Éire was critical of the Goulding leadership because it wasn’t left-wing enough, or because it seemed to them to be heading politically in the right direction but to be abandoning militarism. Or both perhaps. An unusual and interesting mix if it was both.

I wonder if anybody has any copies of any of Soar Éire’s publications we could get a look at.

35. Fintan Lane - October 31, 2007

It was critical of the Goulding leadership because:

1. It was taking no (military) action in the north and seemed hostile to a resumption of the ‘national liberation struggle’.

2. Because of the nature of its left-wing politics. People like Roy Johnston were associated with the Pro-Moscow communist movement and this was seen as problematic because of the ‘revisionist’ line being taken in Russia. The Goulding faction weren’t viewed as authentic revolutionaries; they were considered to be reformists dressed in left-wing garb. It was believed that they were leading the republican movement towards constitutionalism.

So, yes, their critique was an unusual mix and unlike that later articulated by the traditionalists Provos. That said, some of those who became Provos were quite sympathetic to the IRF/Saor Eire publications at the time, particularly An Phoblacht. One can only assume that these soon-to-be Provos welcomed any political attack that undermined Goulding and co.

I think Cork Saor Eire was really an admixture of Irish republicanism and the heady international revolutionism of the 1960s. The arrival of the Provos made them irrelevant, as it was clear that those unhappy with the republican leadership were far more willing to follow traditionalist politics than republicanism dipped in Maoism.

An Phoblacht (the Cork one) and People’s Voice are both, I believe, available in the National Library.

36. Fintan Lane - October 31, 2007

Mmm…this thread is dealing with fairly obscure events from a long time ago. It reminds me of the concluding line of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem ‘Epic’, where he hears a whisper from Homer’s ghost:

‘He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.’

Anyway, bearing that in mind and on the assumption that Saor Eire is rarely discussed, I may as well make a final point about the confusion that has reigned for the past three and a half decades.

The conflation of the two Saor Eires (the original Cork one and the partly contemporaneous but later Dublin-based Saor Eire Action Group) occurred from the outset.

Indeed, I believe that the original Saor Eire members, while on friendly terms with the Dublin Saor Eire people, found their activities faintly embarrassing because there was a belief in the wider republican community that both groups were one and the same. Despite some interaction early on, this was never the case. The original Saor Eire seem to have viewed the ‘spectacular’ – for the time – bank robberies of the Dublin people as a form of political adventurism, but were sometimes slagged, in a negative way, by republican friends who disapproved of this Wild West stuff in the south.

Perhaps the merger with the ICO around 1970 happened partly because the remnants of the Saor Eire group in Cork felt their organisation’s name had been irredeemably associated with ‘adventurism’. Certainly, at that stage, the Provo alternative was on the road and a left-wing political alternative to the Goulding leadership was lost.

Incidentally and importantly, the ICO, the CCO etc. weren’t just Maoists, they were admirers of Stalin.

37. Mick Brody - October 31, 2007

LCR would also have attended RSF events and had statements read at ard feisanna. Any chance of some of their material on the left archive?

38. John - October 31, 2007

Re: the hagiographic line-up. Back in the 80s A CPGB friend of mine in Manchester had a fabulous hand-painted mural on the wall above his marital bed of the heads of Lenin and Connolly with a large red flag behind them both and the slogan “A socialist of another country is a fellow patriot” written beneath. Quite what his wife thought of it I never discovered. He subsequently moved to Cork where he’s now active in SF, I believe.

39. Mark P - October 31, 2007

Thanks for the responses Fintan, they were very interesting.

I had heard before of the Saor Eire Action Group, but it hadn’t occurred to me that there were two Saor Eire organisations at the same time. I had just assumed that the group had slightly altered its name or that the SE name was a shorthand for SEAG, or perhaps that one name was for “military” activity and the other for political.

When I saw from the CCO document that a group called Saor Eire (or a faction of it) had merged with the ICO I was a bit surprised as the ICO were Maoist while everything else I knew about Saor Eire pointed towards a peculiar strand of Trotskyism. That said a lot of fringe Irish political groups were less clearly defined in those days. Peoples Democracy contained all kinds of political views while the ICO itself had previously coexisted with Trotskyists in the IWG. It wasn’t beyond the bounds of possibility that a lunatic outfit like the (Dublin version of) Saor Eire could have contained both Maoist and Trotskyist influenced individuals.

Are you sure that there was no formal connection between the IRF/SE in Cork and the SE in Dublin? If there wasn’t one, beyond general friendliness and a one-time hope of getting together, I can certainly see why the Cork SE wouldn’t be too keen on keeping the name.

40. Mick Brody - October 31, 2007

The folowing links are to an essay Liam O’Ruairc wrote about Saor Eire and then the replies between Bob Purdie and O Ruairc.

Little known group: Saor Eire
http://www.phoblacht.net/lor1401051g.html

Bob Purdie on SE
http://www.phoblacht.net/bp1701054g.html

Followup
http://www.phoblacht.net/lor2101052g.html

Purdie replies again
http://www.phoblacht.net/bp2801054g.html

41. WorldbyStorm - October 31, 2007

Fintan, again many thanks for filling in the gaps. You’re right they’re obscure events but they remain perennial issues on the Irish left. Splintered Sunrise has a great piece about PD in the North and how it was a fairly anarchic organisation whatever its formal ideology. Presumably that was true of a lot of formations at that time – and this if truth be told…

Thanks for those links Mick…

42. Mark P - October 31, 2007

Yes, the original League for a Workers Republic remained and even, for a time, prospered. They affiliated themselves to the Lambertist version of the Fourth International, while their splinters ended up with the USFI (in the case of the RMG) or the Healyites (the LMV). In comparison to people hooking up with Gerry Healy or Saor Eire, the League for a Workers Republic were the sane ones!

They included in their ranks at various points quite a few nationally known figures – according to Wikipedia, Paddy Healy, Seamus Healy, Carol Coulter and Alex White.

(I hope this doesn’t appear twice)

43. Fintan Lane - November 1, 2007

Mark,

I’m certain there was no formal connection between the Cork-based IRF/SE and the Dublin-based SE. There were friendly relations but never a merger. In the event, the Dublin bank-robbing outfit outlived the Cork group, which went off in another direction via the ICO.

That said, the Dublin-centred Saor Eire did pick up a few members in Cork, but not political types. The couple of people they picked up were militarists. One – Larry White – was reputedly involved in killing a comrade in Dublin; he was later shot dead off Cathedral Road one night in the mid 1970s by the Official IRA, which is another very interesting story. He had been harassing the sticks in the city. Anyhow, to avoid possible libel issues, I’ll not go into details on who was allegedly responsible for that. It’s a long time ago anyway.

44. Jim Monaghan - November 1, 2007

Interesting if a bit archane.
An article written mainly by Ciaran Crossey with some material from me (also aided my material from Ranor Lysaght) is in Revolutionary History. It deals with the early Irish Trotskyists. It includes people like Matt Merrigan and Thomas O’Flaherty (older brother of Liam) a precourser who was a founder of the CPUSA.
I was in the LWR, left to join the Sticks, left them to join the RMG. I was a sipporter of the American SWP in the debate on Guerrillaism.The RMG later joined PD and tiogether played a major role in the H-Block/Atrmagh movemnent. Most of PD then joined Sinn Fein presumeably thinking the move left was permanent and I think were running out of steam with the problems of maintaining a small group.

45. Ed Hayes - November 1, 2007

A somewhat related thread is currently running on Splintered Sunrise, about PD/YS/LWR etc, but technophobe that I am, I can’t read any of the comments!

46. Ed Hayes - November 1, 2007

On Maoism more generally. I was aware of the CPI-ML in Dublin in the mid 1980s and knew, kind of, that they were opposed to the USSR. However it was quite a shock for me when I met Maoists in London who were both ultra-Stalinist, as in a million Kulaks was not enough, or else nobody died in the Moscow Trials who didn’t deserve it, but who also were bitterly hostile to Moscow. It was a bit confusing for a young Trot who threw around the term ‘Stalinist’ to describe everyone from the CPI, the WP, to Labour Left over to elements in Sinn Fein (little known fact-1987 SF Ard Fheis voted to support Polish government against Solidarity).
But these Maoists, some of whom were Turkish or Kurdish, regarded the ‘new Czars’ of the Soviet Union as enemies of the working class. It was even a bit too much for me at times.
A friend gave me a load of literature, which I later left behind unfortunately, (on the reasonable assumption that copies of ‘Vanguard-paper of the Workers Party of Scotland-Marxist Leninist’ would not be flavour of the month at JFK airport), which went back to the 1970s.
As far as I could make out the line went like this. China was the bees knees; they were at loggerheads with the Soviets. This row had international implications so whoever China backed in Africa or Aisa, Maoists had to support. Whoever Russia backed was in the wrong. So this meant that in Angola, the Maoists supported the South African backed right wing nationalists against the left government. China did some deal with Chile, so that was ok too. Nixon was alright because he had opened up talks with Peking but the USSR was now a threat to peace (in the 1960s the reverse of course, China wanted a war). In the late 1970s several of the Maoist groups held a conference in Portugal to oppose ‘Soviet expansionism’ and got support from all sorts including Tory MPs. It was weird stuff.
But more seriously, Maoism did have a mass base in parts of India and obviously Nepal. I presume, like the Trots, there are 101 varieties of Maoist and that some are more in touch with reality than others. There was a mass Trotskyist party in Sri Lanka once too folks!

47. WorldbyStorm - November 1, 2007

I think one of the most important dynamics on the further left over the past century has been the way in which it developed in opposition to aspects of itself. These were for good, and perhaps not so good reasons plus a whole host of localised environmental aspects. But now… no more USSR, no more PRC in any meaningful ideological sense and most importantly no more Albania (ahem)… the internal conflicts are fairly moot. And in every strand, be it Moscow, Trotskyist and probably Maoist, there have been democratic forces develop. Now, the trick is to link them together…

48. Mark P - November 1, 2007

Ed:

The Maoist hard-on for Pinochet, UNITA and so on was justified by Mao’s Theory of the Three Worlds. This posited that the “first world” consisted of the imperialist USA and the “social-imperialist” USSR, the “second world” consisted of their wealthy ally nationas and the “third world” of the non-aligned and poor nations. This gradually shifted, in line with the foriegn policy interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy in China, to a greater emphasis on the USSR as the main danger facing the world. So they backed pretty much every baby-killing right wing psychopath who was opposed to the Soviets and the Maoist parties around the world by and large fell into line.

Jim Monaghan:

Can you tell us more about the LWR and RMG when you were involved with them?

49. Garibaldy - November 2, 2007

Ed,

Pro-Chinese elements in Afghanistan also helped the Mujihadeen, as part of the Sino-Soviet rivalry. Guess how they ended up. When you remember Chou EnLai made a point of visiting Stalin’s grave not long after the leadership of the USSR began to distance itself from him, not that surprising there were Maoist Stalinists. The Maoist groups you mention in India and Nepal, along with many others from that background, are now to a large extent allied to the former offical communist movement. There’s an extremely interesting post to be written on the Workers’ Party of Belgium for example.

50. Mark P - November 2, 2007

Actualy Garibaldy, I think your last point is a bit misleading.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is affiliated to the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). The RIM is a kind of Maoist international, largely coordinated by the American Revoutionary Communist Party (RCP). The RCP plays that role because it is a legal party in a wealthy country, so despite being relativey insignificant when compared to some of the other affiliates it has the money and capacity to do so.

Now, the RIM isn’t a very tight body and it appears that relationships between the CPN(M) and some of the more purist affiliates are more than a little strained at the moment and I’m sure that the Nepalese Maoists are willing to take help or solidarity where they can find it. But it is still much closer to the remnants of Maoism and “anti-revisionism” politically than it is to the remnants of the pro-Moscow CPs.

The Indian Naxalites aren’t in the RIM, but they are if anything harder line Maoists than the CPN(M). They have been bitterly criticising the CPN(M)’s peace strategy and what the Naxalites see as a new tendency to cosy up to the Indian government (a case could be made that the CPN(M) have little choice but to reach a modus vivendi with the Indian government, but that’s another argument). The Naxalites are extremely hostile to the two mainstream CPs in India, both of which are allied to the “former official communist movement” abroad.

Similarly, the CPN(M)’s main rival on the Nepalese left is the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the second biggest party in parliament. The CPN(UML) are far from radical, but again I believe that they are the primary sister party of the CPs abroad. By the way, there are about a dozen different parties called the Communist Party of Nepal (something or other).

I agree with you though that the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB) is an interesting group and it has clearly evolved away from Maoism to a kind of harder line version of traditional Stalinism. As it has moved that way it has increasingly sought to play a role in making links between groups which were once on different sides of the pro-Soviet / “anti-revisionist” dispute. As I understand it though, they aren’t looking to pull all of the very disparate strands of Stalinism together, but instead are concentrating their efforts on the “harder”, less social democratic end of the pro-Soviet parties and the “softer” less doctrinaire end of “anti-revisionism”.

It is not a very attractive organisation, particularly given its propensity for producing long screeds defending Stalin against all-comers.

51. Martin Cassidy - November 2, 2007

Ludo Martens, the WPB/PTB Gen. Sec has written a book called ‘Another view of Stalin’, published by the Workers Party publishing arm EPO.

I have it in hard copy but it’s also available freely from http://www.plp.org/books/Stalin/book.html

(The above link is not an endorsement of the PLP!)

The WPB also put out a book a few years ago entitled ‘The Collapse of the Soviet Union: Causes and Lessons’ – alos well worth reading.

52. WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2007

Not to put the cat amongst the pigeons, but I find it difficult to distinguish functional from formal when it comes to traditional Stalinism and Maoism. The latter always seems to essentially be the former with an extra person added on to the pantheon of greats.

Martin P, I’m fairly sure that while there are ‘pro-Soviet’ parties and we see them in Britain in particular, that there would be very few who would lapse into the clear traditional and uncritical Stalinist positions of the past… Frankly when I read any defence of Stalin the individual or Stalinism as the guiding ideology of the USSR I tend to give up. But Stalinism seems to me to have been a function of structural elements within the party where the tension between individual and collective leadership and representation and accountability was never resolved clearly essentially because it developed from a time when the party was a semi-covert semi-militaristic organisation. An accident waiting to happen. And what I find intriguing is that in other soi-disant Leninist parties (of Stalinist or other hue) time and again we see similar dynamics emerge where single figures achieve considerable power and prominence. Usually that doesn’t matter because they’re micro-fractions, but it makes me very leery about seeing ‘Stalinism’ as the single catch-all for all that is wrong in the Marxist world. The mote in eyes, etc, etc,

53. Jim Monaghan - November 2, 2007

Paddy Healy (now TUI president or ex) was the leader. It was a split from the Irish Workers Group led by Gery Lawless a 50s campaign republican. Leading members were paddy, Carol Coulter, Basil Millar. They tried to have dealings with the SLL in England (the search for the Holy Grail of pure Trotskyism). The SLL formented a split which led to the League for a Workers vanguard (changed to the Workers League for obvious reasons). I alas went with this split and so missed out on real developments in the Labour Party Socialist Labour alliance. When I got over mt Gerry Healy mnightmare I joined what was then the leftish Sticks.
Meanwhile the LWR split over the North with a more Repuboican minded group woth Peter Graham and Brendan Kelly. Peter was murdered leaving the group to be led by Kelly and Anne Speed. They and Peoples Democracy had a catastrophist view of the Northern struggle (Britain would allow a Fascist/Loyalist takeover). This led to an Armaggedon type analyis (the need to suppoet defence of the ghettoes. There were variuos fronts with the Provos such as Northern Resistence. When I joined them on the basis of agreemnet over the central role of the National struggle I quickl;y disagreed with this. I feklt Britain was not undr such pressure as to allow the Loyalst free rein. Later PD developed a line of mass action versus militarism nd broke with its ultras. Then PD and the RMG merged and played a major role for its size in the H-Block struggle. I think given the times and the age and inexperience of all it was not discreditable.

54. Fintan Lane - November 2, 2007

When I became politically active in Cork in the early 1980s, the CPI (M-L) had a local branch, the numerical strength of which was often grossly overestimated. There were two stalwarts, one of whom later resurfaced when he made an (in)famous call to Joe Duffy about Monica Whatshername and Cullen. The same guy, a pleasant enough sort of fella, disappeared from political activism a long time before the formal collapse of the CPI(M-L).

The thing is, the two CPI (M-L) members in Cork were really intense about their beliefs and, unfortunately, they were ferocious fly-posters! The rest of the left found them very irritating; nobody had a good word to say about them because their bizarre posters gave leftists in general the image of being a collection of lunatics. For instance, I remember walking into the city centre one morning to find the city virtually wallpapered with A3 CPI (M-L) posters, the centrepiece of which was a large picture of Stalin accompanied by the slogan, ‘Hail our glorious leader on the anniversary of his birthday’, or words to that effect. My heart sank, as I was on my way to do leafleting for some left-wing cause or other. I mean, when I say they wallpapered the place, I’m not kidding. It was downright disconcerting.

Their various papers were the most unreadable things I’d ever come across; I could never quite figure out what constituency they were reaching out to. Most leftists and republicans I knew, viewed them as a sort of annoying cult.

Mind you, one or two of their members went on to do useful things – I’m thinking of Tommy Graham, in particular, who’s now editor of History Ireland, which I always enjoy reading. It’s a long way from the ‘Hail this’ ‘Down with the other’ stuff that the M-L’ers used to churn out in the 1980s…and, boy, did they churn it out!

55. Garibaldy - November 2, 2007

Mark,

You make a fair point, though perhaps I didn’t express myself as clearly as I ought. By to a large extent allied with the official communist movement, I meant that instead of the previous hostility there is now an often quite significant element of cooperation, with parties from both traditions regularly participating in international meetings. There do of course remain some who behave in the old way.

As for the WPB, they, as far as I know, have stopped talking about Stalin. Their website has changed to reflect this policy. This is one of the reasons they are an interesting formation. They are in the middle of a shift to reach out to a broader audience but still maintain their principles. Organisationally they are very interesting as well, being extremely efficient. For example, they have an organisation of doctors (one of whom was killed by an air strike in Nicaragua I think it was during the 1980s when working with socialist forces) that provides healthcare for people in Belgium. An interesting party to watch to see how they develop in future.

On WBS’ point about Maoism as opposed to traditional communism. I think there was in the past a lot more difference, especially in the role of the peasantry. No traditional communist party could have produced the regime of Pol Pot, which was the Maoist emphasis on the peasantry taken to ridiculous extremes.

On the term ‘Stalinism’. I have to say that I think it’s essentially meaningless. The historical conditions that produced the decisions made in the USSR regarding say industrialisation or dekulakization will never be produced again, so when we talk about whether Stalin made the right decisions or not, this is for me a question mainly of historical interpretation. By the by, I think to suggest that Stalin was a new tsar rather than a leading figure among a collective leadership is silly. Many of the events that took place during his leadership took place at a local level by people and groups in local leaderships taking their own decisions. There is a clear and vital role for agency in the Marxist interpretation of history, but to blame everything that happened in the USSR on Stalin seems to go too far to me. There were deeper forces at work which is why I think the term Stalinism is meaningless the way it is often applied.

This is why I have some sympathy for the argument that events in the USSR may well have turned out not that different whoever was in the leadership. At the risk of WBS thinking the analysis below that seeks to explain defends Stalin, and switching off halfway through.

Having read a Chinese document from the cultural revolution period, the analysis made a lot more sense than the campaign did. It argued that the defeated elements in a post-revolutionary society do not simply disappear, and the old habits and beliefs do not disappear overnight. There remains a significant number of people attached to the old regime, often in socially, culturally, or economically influential position who can frustrate efforts to build the new society. We can see this in the French Revolution, Russian Revolution, and elsewhere. So in the USSR there was a defeated counter-revolution, unhappy nationalists, the Orthodox church all of which would have liked to annihilate the Bolsheviks. Add to this the peasants who had enriched themselves during the NEP and the 1920s. There were significant and powerful interests working against the regime internally, never mind externally. That they were confronted is no surprise, nor is the fact that given the scale of the threat an extensive repressive apparatus developed.

And here we come to the crux of the point about it mightn’t have mattered all that much who was in power. Trotsky himself seemed to have developed a two-pronged criticism of Stalin. One was that he denied party democracy and stressed the bureaucracy etc. But there was another element to the criticism. That was that Stalin was stealing Trotsky’s ideas – be it the 5 Year Plans, Dekulakization or whatever. Given this part of the analysis, it seems to me likely that a USSR with Trotsky as the leading figure would have confronted oppositional elements just the same. In fact it might have been more confrontational. Let’s not forget he wanted a Soviet invasion of Germany in 1933 and was not averse to the sacrifice of Polish national rights to the interests of the workers’ state. Whether the USSR could have survived an intervention in 1933 or without the coherence of the government that it had is another question we can all agree to disagree on.

I am aware that this is not how others see it. I’ve seen Mark say Stalinism is a set of identifiable political positions. Hence I suppose why he can call the Chinese government Stalinist while it was forging links with all sorts of strange right-wing people. I’d be very interested to hear him outline what he thinks the positions and principles that make one a Stalinist are. WBS seems to have a view that Stalinism represents a particular form of (flawed) organisation. WBS has a fair point I think when he says that the possibility for the dominance of one person to become the undisputed guiding light of an organisation can emerge among a variety of groups.

So I guess I’m posing the question of whether Stalinism is a meaningful term; and whether in the C21st, our positions on the USSR in the 1920s should not move from the urgently political to the historical.

56. Mark P - November 2, 2007

Jim Monaghan:

Thanks for the extra information.

Fintan Lane:

I know what you mean by the unreadabiity of CPI(ML) publications, at least if the stuff still put out by their sister party in Britain, the RPCB(ML) is any indication. Here’s a quote from their report of their last conference: “The thesis of the Party’s 4th Congress was that the work of the past four years has enabled RCPB(ML) to forge the instruments of battle-readiness to be used in the space for change which has opened up in the battle to come out on top politically. The theme of the 4th Congress, adopted at the culmination of the proceedings, was: Only the Working Class Can Save the Day!”

57. Fintan Lane - November 2, 2007

Mark

Yep, that’s the sort of prose they generally deployed…only usually worse. And, of course, exclamation marks abounded; the rule seemed to be, ‘Why use a full stop when you can use an exclamation mark!’

I doubt if anybody, other than the converted, ever read the stuff.

58. Mark P - November 2, 2007

Garibaldy:

I am very reluctant to get into an extended debate on the internet about the nature of Stalinism at the moment. I seem to get involved in one every few months, despite the welcome fact that Stalinism is dying out. I’ll try to respond to a few of your points briefly but I’ll be away for the next few days and so probably won’t respond further.

1) I am aware that the WPB/PTB have recently stopped trumpeting the glories of Stalin at every turn, but as far as I can see they have replaced the trumpeting with an awkward silence rather than a radical reappraisal. I would not want headcases like Ludo Martens and his band of acolytes anywhere near real political influence. Luckily, neither does anyone in Belgium. The PTB has an impressive apparatus for a small party, but it has little popular support and is in a continuing long term decline. Read the link Martin Cassidy provided – it’s enough to make you vomit.

2) Your remarks about Trotsky are at best deeply misleading and at worst actually false. Trotsky did not complain that Stalin was “stealing his ideas” during the period of the Stalin faction’s “left” turn. His criticism of the “left” swing of the Stalin faction was not that they had taken up the call of collectivisation or of major economic plans. It was that their sudden lurch towards these ideas was brutal, adventurist, inefficient and counterproductive.

Trotsky had long advocated collectivisation, for instance. He did not advocate an attempt to collectivise the entire country overnight, in the face of a panicked and hostile peasantry, using overwhelming and brutal force and without even the necessary farming equipment for large scale as opposed to small scale agriculture. He advocated democratic economic planning to achieve quicker development of the country. He did not advocate the barbarism and voluntarism of the 5 year plans.

The unifying factor in the Stalin faction’s lurches to left and right was the interests of the rising bureaucracy. When the needs of the bureaucracy indicated a “right” course, they took a right course. When it indicated a swing to the “left”, they swung to the left. This, the role of the bureaucracy, is at the core of the Trotskyist critique of Stalinism in power.

3) Your remark about Trotsky and Germany in 1933 is a bit off the point, but while I’m here I’ll answer it.

Trotsky and the Left Opposition were overwhelmingly concerned that the fascists could take power in Germany. This would, they foresaw, be a calamity for the working class and for minority groups in a country with the world’s strongest workers movement. The core problem, from a socialist perspective, was that the workers movement was split almost down the middle and the Social Democrats and the Stalinists leaders were too busy fighting each other to unite against the Nazis.

This remember was in Stalin’s “Third Period”, when the Social Democrats, instead of being seen as allies were routinely denounced as “social fascists”. In turn, the Social Democratic leaders called plaintively for the capitalist state to rescue the situation, calling on the very leaders who were soon to put Hitler in power. Trotsky and the Left Opposition advocated a united front against fascism, between the SPD and KPD. And, I think there is little doubt that if his advice had been taken that the Nazis would have found the route to power a great deal harder to navigate.

As one part of this argument, Trotsky was of the view (If I recall correctly, in 1931) that the Red Army should intervene on the side of the German workers if there was to be a life and death struggle between the workers movement and Nazism (ie if civil war broke out). He argued, correctly, that a fascist victory in Germany would mean not just the smashing of the German working class but also inevitably an invasion of the Soviet Union. This at a time when the German Stalinists were declaring “After Hitler, us”.

This part of his argument however was also dependant on the situation inside Russia – on a revolutionary foreign policy, democratic support and stability. Instead Russia was in total chaos internally, due to the savage misrule of the Stalinist dictatorship. It was in no position to intervene militarily and so Trotsky argued against advocating the use of the Red Army.

Trotsky’s writings on fascism, on the united front and on the situation in Germany in the early 1930s repay reading even at this remove, by the way. They are, in my view, some of the greatest Marxist analyses ever written. The failure to oppose the rise of Nazism in an effective way will, by contrast, forever be a black mark against the ideas of Stalinism.

59. Mark P - November 2, 2007

4) Garibaldy says:to blame everything that happened in the USSR on Stalin seems to go too far to me.

This I agree with entirely. Stalin’s personality undoubtedly made the purges and the other atrocities of high Stalinism worse than they might have been, but history cannot be reduced to the greatness or malevolence of individuals. The Stalinist dictatorship was rooted in the rise of a parasitic bureaucracy with interests separate from and opposed to those of the working class.

The conditions which allowed this bureaucracy to strangle the revolution were isolation, the failure of the revolutionary wave in Europe, poverty, civil war and invasion by more than 20 foreign states. Not to mention the numerical weakness of the working class and the low level of development of productive forces in Russia.

This is a key point: It was not possible to “build socialism” in the Soviet Union alone. That was understood by the Bolsheviks, who were first and foremost internationalists. And it is on this question, that of spreading the revolution versus socialism in one country that Stalinism first breaks with Bolshevism.

5) Getting to the meat of your posting and the question of the usefulness of Stalinism as a term today. Stalinism does not mean holding Stalin in high regard. After all plenty of people (like the Webbs, or endless right wingers during the war) admired Stalin without being Stalinists. Stalinism is a political movement, or set of movements, defined centrally by a set of ideas.

The most obvious of these ideas is sympathy and support for the various bureaucratic dictatorships around the world (or, in some cases, a subset of those dictatorships). This reflects the historical origins of the split in the Communist movement between supporters of Stalin’s regime and its opponents. Various Stalinist parties may have various criticisms of these regimes but it is within a context of general support or at least within the context of an argument that no better alternative was possible.

Another key issue is that of socialism in one country. This is intimately linked with support for various dictatorships, of course, but it is a central plank of Stalinism in its own right and it is absolutely counterposed to Marxism. Another is the stages theory of revolution, which includes both rigid theoretical models of historical stages of development and, crucially and practically, an argument that the workers and masses of the neo-colonial world should look to the supposedly progressive wing of the capitalist class for allies. This last policy got mass Stalinist parties massacred from Iran to Indonesia, from Iraq to Latin America but they never seem capable of learning.

This in turn is linked to Popular Front politics in Western countries, which has been a staple of nearly all Stalinist organisations (give or take a handful of odd organisations which prefer the third period) there. This again entails subordinating the workers movement to an alliance with supposedly “progressive” elements of the capitalist class.

There is slightly more to it that than that, but I’ve already gone on for quite long enough. Stalinism is not just the worship of Stalin, it is a political movement. That said, it is a much diminished political movement. I would agree with Garibaldy that our positions on the USSR in the 1920s is no longer as politically urgent. However a quarter of the world’s population still live beneath the boot of Stalinism. Stalinism also indicates a flawed, bureaucratic and scary vision of socialism. Not only do I have a very different understanding of socialist strategy to anyone who accepts Stalinist conceptions, I am fighting for a very different goal than that of anyone who is so lunatic as to consider the Workers Party of Korea or similar groups as their “comrades”.

60. Martin Cassidy - November 2, 2007

Mark P wrote (regarding the WPB) –

“I would not want headcases like Ludo Martens and his band of acolytes anywhere near real political influence. Luckily, neither does anyone in Belgium”

See Mark this is where Trotskyism goes wrong when you substitute your subjective wishes for reality.

Read em and weep –

http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve06/1295wpb.html

61. Mark P - November 2, 2007

Martin, I’m not sure why you think I would weep.

Despite standing across the country, the PTB has received less than 1% of the vote in each Belgian election in recent times. A party with a few councillors, no MPs and a tiny percentage of the vote does not have “real political influence” (and I should know, as I’m in one).

The PTB is an organisation well past its prime. It’s membership has been slowly sinking and its leaders have been floundering about dropping bits of their old “anti-revisionist” ideology. Tell me though, as you seem to be such a fan of these nutjobs, are they still trying to ingratiate themselves with the Congolese warlord, Kabilla?

62. Martin Cassidy - November 3, 2007

Mark P wrote –

“Luckily, neither does anyone in Belgium”

So were you wrong there Mark – is that why you jumped from Belgium to the Congo?!

Mark, I really haven’t the interest (or the time) to refute in point detail your vulgarised, dogmatic assertions against Marxism-Leninism.

Even a bourgeois historian like UCC’s Geoffrey Roberts in his ‘Stalin’s Wars’ is capable of reassessing Stalin, of getting behind the Cold War propaganda and anti-communist lies propagated by imperialism.

http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300112047

63. WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2007

Mark P, I’m not sure I agree with you when you say:

“The most obvious of these ideas is sympathy and support for the various bureaucratic dictatorships around the world (or, in some cases, a subset of those dictatorships). This reflects the historical origins of the split in the Communist movement between supporters of Stalin’s regime and its opponents. Various Stalinist parties may have various criticisms of these regimes but it is within a context of general support or at least within the context of an argument that no better alternative was possible.”

That seems to deny the reality of then existing communism. Or let me put it a different way. If one were struggling to establish communism in a state – say Ireland, or South Africa – what would one go for, the purest option, or the existing, but imperfect option. It’s impossible from this remove to entirely understand or to dismiss the motivations of those involved. Who had access to funds, information, etc, etc. Moscow might have been crap… a fact I’ll readily accept, but it had at least some authority, some – pardon the irony – credibility, some muscle. To ignore that is to ignore the function of realpolitic in politics.

And also it seems to ignore the way in which those dictatorships – which incidentally I loathe, were established. Mostly on foot of the Red Army post 1945. But I see nothing in Soviet Communism during that period that I don’t see in nascent form in most Leninist structures before or since of whatever flavour.

And if one thought that bourgeois society was a rotten construct from the beginning as both Trotskyists and CPs did – well then one might as well accept that the tendency for dictatorship was inbuilt in the mechanisms of Leninism.

As for the rise of a bureaucracy as an important factor. Well yes. But what society doesn’t see that? I genuinely don’t see how the internationalisation of the revolution – frankly something that in the historical circumstances seems to me have been unlikely in the extreme, so much so as to be close to fantasy – would prevent that in any way at all.

Incidentally, Trotskyists haven’t been behind the door in equating social democrats as close to political pariahs. In fairness generally it has been post-CPs that have been more open to dealings with them.

And I say that as someone sympathetic to the tradition.

64. Martin Cassidy - November 3, 2007

Fintan,

I remember the two lads well. Tireless activists! There were a few other ML’s around Cork as well who didn’t have the same public profile, for whatever reason.
I remember the Stalin poster you wrote about…not only did they do the city but all the way out the Western Road as far a Wellington Bridge!

Cant imagine what the American tourists must have thought!

I remember one May Day march them asking one of the Cork Volunteer Pipe Band/Workers Party members if they knew ‘Take it Down from the Mast’ and heckling one of the Labour Party speakers who was speaking from above the awning outside Connolly Hall.
They were lucky they didnt get thrown in to the river as Jimmy Homan had a few of his norrie gang with him that day!

65. Garibaldy - November 3, 2007

Mark,

Thanks for the considered response. On the WPB, I think they got something like 55,000 votes. It might be small in percentage terms, but that’s a lot of people. If the electoral system was like ours, they may well have seats. The party is also unusual in being organised throughout both sections of the Belgian population. And its organisation and influence in the unions and other organisations seem to me to give it more influence than you allow. Can a hard left political organisation that runs a health service of sorts, however small, really be dismissed so lightly? No organisation in Britain or Ireland could even dream of coming close.

My account of Trotsky was based on reading quite a lot of his stuff (including his history of the revolution, and his stuff on France and Spain) when I was younger, as well as Deustcher’s biography, and other bits and pieces. I’m not as ignorant of his stuff as it might seem. I agree some of it was quite sensible. The thing about Germany was not at all off point, but an indication of his willingness to use violence when the time called for it. Faced with the remnants of counter-revolution and the consequences of NEP, I think that willingness to apply violence does have relevance. Let’s remember he was also in favour of the conscription of labour. Not really much sign of perfectly democratic organisation of the economy there. I also think the Germany thing shows what WBS refers to in his post as a tendency not to deal with with reality as it stood.

On socialism in one country. I think the consistent support of the USSR for liberation movements shows that this was a response to a set of concrete historical circumstances, not a central principle for all time, although mistakes were certainly made in alliances formed with some nationalist groups, but not all. Without an international revolution what was the Soviet leadership to do? Return to a bourgeois regime, democratic or, more likely, otherwise? I don’t see support for existing socialist governments today as falling in behind a principle of socialism in one country. Rather it is about resisting imperialism, be it Korea or Cuba or anywhere else. They may well provide the basis for a future resurgence of socialism. Certainly the Cuban practice of providing healthcare etc to other countries, never mind military support in Angola, suggests that internationalism is much more a part of the practice of socialist governments than you allow. I’d also say that no communist party wants a repeat of the previous states of eastern Europe.

I appreciate you outlining what you consider Stalinism to be a great deal. Very interesting. But I can’t agree with it. What you see as a break with Marxism, I would interpret as reacting to changing historical circumstances but with maintaining the aim of building socialism internationally. The bureacratic thing was again I think the product of circumstances. There is, as WBS says, a tendency towards bureaucracy in all modern societies, and there are good reasons why it happened in the USSR in those circumstances. So I guess are differences are about whether things are the product of circumstances or of ideology.

Martin,
The irony of the take it down from the mast thing being that its composer supported The WP. Times change.

66. WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2007

Garibadly, I tend to agree with what you’re saying (perhaps because you seem to agree with what I’m saying!) and your point about ‘differences are about whether things are the product of circumstances or of ideology’. Personally I’m very very wary of theoretical ‘explanatory’ constructs in ideology. Look at how the USSR et al had libraries of researchers beavering away on Marxist-Leninism to no purpose whatsoever. All such stuff tends to be just self-serving boosterism of a party or a fraction. Therefore I hate the Trotskyist/Stalinist debate, – it’s arid and pointless point scoring stuff which has absolutely no purchase on the real world.

If I had been around at the time I’d like to hope I’d have taken a Trotskyist position as regards the USSR. Trotsky strikes me as a serious and profound thinker – although, to be honest no more so than Gramsci, or Gorz or Bahro. And the latter two have the advantage of having lived through a closer time period.

However I wound up in a party which most describe as ‘Stalinist’. That that party existed and exists decades after the death of either of those worthies and has precisely the same internal organisation as the SP (democratic centralism) makes me think that somewhere along the line the terms lost all essential meaning and are simply used as sticks to beat each other with.

67. Garibaldy - November 3, 2007

Well indeed. I’ve never thought Stalinist anything other than a term used to describe a party with effective democratic centralism. That was why I was interested to hear Mark outline what positions or principles he thinks it represents. It’s a live issue for some in a way it isn’t for me. I think that the vast majority of people calling The WP Stalinist were using it purely as a term of abuse rather than any analytical point, especially from the right. .

Gramsci is an interesting case. From my understanding of reading the prison notebooks, he was a Stalinist in the literal sense, when it had some meaning – he clearly took Stalin’s side of the argument as can be seen from his contemptuous references to Trotsky. This makes Gramsci as Eurocommunist avant la lettre hard for me to swallow.

But yeah, a largely pointless exercise and debate at this point in the C21st. Better to concentrate on the here and now.

68. Fintan Lane - November 3, 2007

Martin,

Err…I don’t want to second-guess people, but the following is not the really the full story:

Martin: “Even a bourgeois historian like UCC’s Geoffrey Roberts in his ‘Stalin’s Wars’ is capable of reassessing Stalin, of getting behind the Cold War propaganda and anti-communist lies propagated by imperialism.”

As far as I know, Geoff Roberts, although his politics have changed, is a former leading member of the CPGB. I think he was active in the 1970s. Coincidently, he’s a good friend of the historian Brian Girvin, a former Stalinist and BICO member, who’s mentioned above.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that Geoff is a covert Stalinist; I’m simply pointing out that his analysis is scarcely that of a ‘bourgeois historian’ who dropped in from Dublin 4.

69. WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2007

That’s interesting what you say Garibaldy, because if we do consider that democratic centralism is a feature of Stalinism, then the SP is Stalinist. Now I don’t think it is, nor do I think that SP members are, but the form of party organisation that they follow appears to me to be largely indistinguishable from that in the WP. And that being the case I’m pretty sure bar one or two loons in the WP that no-one was ‘Stalinist’. Indeed the only people I met who were unequivocal apologists for the actual Stalin and actual Stalinist acts were… the CPI-ML. And since they were ‘Maoists’ as well… aggh….

70. Garibaldy - November 3, 2007

The point you make about the SP may well be evidence in itself of the meaninglessness of the term. Although I think I may have heard the SP described as Stalinist by other Trotsky-inspired groups for refusing to allow factions/platforms or whatever else you might want to call them. The SWP is often accused by its enemies of adopting Stalinist procedures on similar grounds.

The point you made earlier about the dominant personality seems to me to be spot on. Although I think that the belief among some groups of the acceptability of platforms makes such splits inevitable. This is why the SSP went the way it did in my opinion, and this is why I think a disciplined party as opposed to a network or whatever is necessary.

What strikes me as of more interest to the left in our situation – and this is something I raised on another blog without response – is the criticism that can be made of many groups around hyperactivity and hyper-expectation. Huge numbers of people get burnt out and depoliticised by this process. The belief that the revolution is very close by or that a revolutionary crisis is imminent encourages it. It means that any deeper understanding of politics or analysis of the long term nature of political struggle never properly develops, and so when no revolution happens, then people drift. This is what I take to have been the fundamental criticism of Lenin’s Left Wing Communism. In my view was the main failing of the anti-capitalist movement of the 1990s, and before them the hippies. Without a disciplined and effective political force, political change does not happen, and the potential of social changes is wasted.

As Ho Chi Minh said, Unity, Unity, Greater Unity. Success, Success, Greater Success.

71. WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2007

I’d completely agree about hyperpoliticisation and hyperactivity. It feeds negativity and cynicism. But here’s the thing. It also is related to electoralism. If political activity is about campaigns that can be good, but it’s not terribly profound and it tends to reduce to small groups of the converted or the sympathetic. Worse it has zero impact – or close to zero impact – on the broader working class or the general electorate. They’re simply disinterested in campaigns of that sort. What they want are results. Seamus Costello wrote in much greater detail about all of these things back in the day and I think he got it right. Or look at the Greens. Note how they have managed to detach themselves with remarkable adeptness from previously seemingly intrinsic campaigns (to their political health and/or identity).

I guess what I’m saying is that in a Liberal Democracy there may be many fronts and each is important in its own way but there is really only one real show in town and that’s the electoral contest and all the hand waving in the world or eschatological rhetoric ain’t going to change that… which is why I suspect we’ve seen the comrades in the SWP both here and in the UK have their own little electoral turn over the past number of years – after all, so what if you get a million people on the streets in a demonstration. That doesn’t prove anything. It’s what you do day to day week to week year to year with that million and how you shape them to actually impinge on the body politic.

Again, not to see the WP as a touchstone, but the clear path of increasing representation maintained party integrity rather than dissolving it – well, up until the split that is.

I know and you would have slightly different views on platforms. But I do take your point that a disciplined political party is better than the alternative, and better again than no party at all.

72. Garibaldy - November 3, 2007

Political power is absolutely where it’s at. Extra-parliamentary campaigning is also essential, but without control of the levers of power, the best it can achieve is a modern equivalent of successful economism – expanded to take in environmental concerns, taxation etc. Be it MNCs buggering off with their subventions or companies unilaterally breaking wage agreements, no government power, no way to force them to behave.

73. WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2007

This is it. MNCs aren’t beyond the reach of government. Companies have to work within frameworks. We’ve got to engage with this big time. And not allow the rush to the centre or centre right by the left stop this.

74. Garibaldy - November 4, 2007

One of the things being shown in Latin America at the minute is definitely how potent the state can be in the struggle against MNCs. And it’s harder for them to overthrow governments they don’t like than it used to be. The death of the state is greatly exaggerated.
Again one of the problems with movements as opposed to parties. I had this discussion maybe 10 years ago with some Cubans about Latin America. Thankfully the pendulum is swinging back towards proper political organisation.

75. WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2007

The Latin American situation is fascinating because there we see a response across the spectrum of the left from Chavez to more ‘reformist’ elements who have decided that democratic states must regulate and oversee the activities of previously often untouchable MNCs. That’s crucial too. Establish legitimate state structures which are validated by democratic votes and which can act in concert with other states in order to prevent inappropriate or sometimes exploitative external entities attempting to operate within them. The Chavez situation in particular is fascinating – if far far from being open to question – if only to see how far a ‘socialised’ approach might be able to go within a generally democratic framework.

76. Garibaldy - November 4, 2007

WBS,

Agree the democratic element to all this is essential. And the cooperative element too. It’s an encouraging sign. There is the potential for real change in the lives of tens of millions. However I think the whole situation is due to a set of circumstances unique to Latin America at this time, and that some people are getting carried away with its significance.

77. Grendel - November 4, 2007

Garibaldy pointed out that the Cork Workers’ Club republished
some of Connolly’s material. Some of the CWC stuff is available
online:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1904/condel/index.htm
1 document

http://irsm.org/history/
5 documents

I remember seeing CWC material being available in Barracka
books recently.
Finally, Fintan, are you and your father definitely not
related to B&ICO/Aubane’s Jack Lane?

78. WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2007

Thanks for the links… Perhaps it’s time to set up a page of links to these sort of resources…

79. Garibaldy - November 4, 2007

Links page might be a good idea. Though I think Marxists.org and places like Marx2Mao have most of the material covered.

80. Fintan Lane - November 4, 2007

“Finally, Fintan, are you and your father definitely not
related to B&ICO/Aubane’s Jack Lane?”

That’s an absolute ‘no!’. Note the exclamation mark.

81. Grendel - November 4, 2007

Okay. Who’d want to be related to a member of Aubane
anyway?

82. Mark P - November 5, 2007

Thanks for the responses Garibaldy and WbS.

I don’t have time to get back into the details at the moment, but I do want to correct a couple of factual errors about the Socialist Party’s structure. It is not identical to that of the Workers Party. For starters there has never been any semi-secret army influencing proceedings from behind the scenes. Secondly, the Socialist Party does allow factions (or platforms or whatever you want to call them). Thirdly, it doesn’t use the slate system of election. Fourthly… well, I could continue but there doesn’t seem to be much point. The term democratic centralism at root simply means unity in action with freedom of discussion. A vast range of different organisational types, structures and cultures fit within those bounds. But that’s another huge discussion for another thread.

83. Garibaldy - November 5, 2007

Mark,

Thanks for that. As I said I was going on criticisms I’d seen of the SP elsewhere. The WP may have used slates in the past, I don’t know but not now. As for influencing of elections by a group at the centre, some of those who have put themselves outside the discipline of the party as I think the phrase goes have (perhaps naturally) offered different viewpoints.

84. WorldbyStorm - November 5, 2007

Mark P, of course you’re right it’s not identical. But there are similarities and they’re close enough to be worth parsing out further at some point.

Whether the OIRA was as influential as you suggest in ideological terms is a very interesting point. I tend to doubt it, or rather I suspect that there was a convergence of interests ideological and otherwise so that it didn’t need to be influential, certainly not by the 1980s.

As regards slates, well its a long time ago, and I genuinely can’t remember. Not sure that’s accurate.

Factions. True. Garibaldy and I disagree on this, but that was a failing to my mind.

Re DC. I just can’t see a seriously distinguishable difference between DC in the WP and DC in the SP. Perhaps I’m too far from it now.

85. Garibaldy - November 5, 2007

WBS,

On factions. Where would The WP have been if say Ó Bradaigh in 1969, Costello in 1974, Harris in 1988, etc had been allowed to have their own organised factions? Now we all know they did, but the open acceptance of them would have crippled any changes or advances made at every turn, with people constantly trying to haul things backward, oppose things, fail to implement party policy etc. A recipe for disaster.

86. Redking - November 5, 2007

On a “secret army” influencing proceedings from behind the scenes-this is simply not the case-as WBS points out there was joint membership at leadsership level of OSF/OIRA, and in fact from the late 60′s there was the belief that the political should take
precedence over the military.

Garibaldy too is absolutley right – the proto-Provos in 1969 and the IRPS in 1974 were on mission to destroy the Party, Costello in particlar had set up alternative political/military structures that ultimately ended up murdering WP members-and before people start jumping on me -I agree also that the WP also shot back – no-one wins in these sort of scenarios.

And on factions, I wonder what would be the SP’s response if faction/platforms organised within the SP with the purpose of thwarting democratically arrived at decisions and generally undermining the SP at every turn-would they not be expelled?

87. Joe - November 5, 2007

What a weird and wonderful thread. From the Cork Communist Organisation to Saor Eires to Trot sects, PD, SP, WP, Maoism, Stalinism, the Belgian CP. 86 posts and counting. Let’s face it lads (we are all lads aren’t we?), we’re just a sad bunch of anoraks.

88. Ed Hayes - November 5, 2007

Redking, wasn’t Costello’s aim to take over the Officials rather than replace them? I suppose your expecting this but I think you’ll find the OIRA shot the IRPs first. If any of that could have really been avoided in a miltary split I don’t know. A democratic centralist structure, and a miltary one seem quite complimentary and neither should really be a model for democratic politics in the 21st century.

89. Garibaldy - November 5, 2007

I picked up the Morning Star today. It seems that last week it published a letter that was pro-Trotsky. Entertaining letter in response, quoting an account from the Moscow Trials of a plot led by Trotsky to kill the senior Party leadership. It quotes the opinion of the American ambassador of the time that the trial met international standards. Must hurt someone who accuses the Morning Star of being frightened to published the truth about the trials to quote the US ambassador in his support.

Obviously hasn’t been reading the discussion here on the need to move past all this.

90. WorldbyStorm - November 5, 2007

In a way Garibaldy I think platforms could function in two ways. Firstly within parties in the sense that a more pluralistic approach could take place. This sort of de facto happens in much larger parties, albeit around personalities more than ideology. In the WP in the old days there weren’t platforms (although perhaps the Harris crew were a sort of proto-platform), but there were clearly different strands. Gerry O Quigley has noted how there were various tendencies slammed together inside the party. Now I actually agree with you as regards legitimising those platforms in a sort of party within a party is difficult and perhaps impossible at least in a small formation. The second way is in a larger entity like the SSP where groups come together to agree an electoral approach. But that could be an umbrella structure.

Perhaps it all depends on the size of the party/parties?

Which brings me to Eds point. I agree completely. Democratic centralist or militarist structures (which are what almost all Leninist parties have) are not a great model in the 21st century, if only because this is how most parties organise whether of left or right (DC that is, without the jargon). Surely we can work out something a bit better…

Incidentally does the writer of the second letter in the MS actually put any credence in the Moscow Trials? Tell me s/he doesn’t….

91. Starkadder - November 5, 2007

I have to say, I used to be scared off Marxism because I thought
it meant Leninism, then Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot etc. Reading about
non-Leninist Marxists like Bernstein and Luxemburg was
very liberating to me.

BTW, Fintan, be very grateful you’re not related to Jack Lane,
because I recently read a disgusting article in the Summer
2007 edition of “Church and State” magazine. Where he
devotes a paragraph to defending the “wonderful” Joseph
Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili as among people “who got their hands
dirty and are only seen for their dirty hands”.

Lane’s callousness is appalling: he is implying we should
ignore the 4 million (minimum estimate) killed by
political repression and at least 6 million killed by
famine on Stalin’s “dirty hands”.

92. WorldbyStorm - November 5, 2007

Yes, non-Leninist Marxism can be very refreshing. Luxemburg in particular.

93. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

Today’s letterwriter in the MS did indeed regard the published account as an accurate reflection of events, saying it was attended by loads of journalists and ambassadors, and quoting the letter from the US ambassador to his government that the trial was held in accordance with international law. Most of the letter is a verbatim report of questioning of Mantsev saying he spoke to Trotsky about the necessity of murdering Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov. The letter writer says he could quote more of the 800 pages of the report, and signs off with “Some day, someone at the Morning Star is going to have the guts to publish the truth. I won’t hold my breath”.

As for Democratic centralism. I’m baffled by the idea that because most parties have this we should search for something else. Most parties have it because it’s the most efficient way of organising for political competition. Why handicap ourselves?

94. Martin Cassidy - November 6, 2007

In the absence of evidence to the contrary the Moscow Trials must be regarded as an accurate account of the activities of counter-revolutionaries within the USSR. The majority of European countries had nascent pro-Nazi forces during the 1930′s – the USSR was no exception.

The spokespersons and hired ‘historians’ of Anglo-American imperialism cannot be relied upon to deal with the history of our movement objectively.

Articles on the Moscow Trials which refute the imperialist lies can be found at –

http://www.chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/

http://www.plp.org/books/Stalin/node86.html#SECTION001000000000000000000

I also recommend Harpal Brar’s ‘Trotskyism or Leninism’ available from http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=books

Lastly a quote from Bukharins confession –

“The point, of course, is not this repentance, or my personal repentance in particular. The Court can pass its verdict without it. The confession of the accused is not essential. The confession of the accused is a medieval principle of jurisprudence. But here we also have the internal demolition of the forces of the counter-revolution. And one must be a Trotsky not to lay down one’s arms.

`I feel it my duty to say here that in the parallelogram of forces which went to make up the counter-revolutionary tactics, Trotsky was the principal motive force. And the most acute methods — terrorism, espionage, the dismemberment of the U.S.S.R. and wrecking — proceeded primarily from this source”.

Martin Cassidy

95. Ed Hayes - November 6, 2007

The moons made out of cheese as well mate.

On democratic centralism. In a relatively harmless group like the SWP people who had disagreements, left the party, had rows with the leadership or were a ‘pain in the arse’ as dissidents were always catogerised, were slandered, made fun of or had factually incorrect stories told about them. Their arguments were usually caricatured. In more serious organisations like the OIRA and the INLA this same process seemed to happen with the added bonus that you might get a hiding, your kneecaps shot off or worse, end up dead. I don’t think either side were any great shakes in the old democracy department.

96. Redking - November 6, 2007

Hey Ed-re #88-I’m not sure that taking over the OIRA was a runner for Costello, he represented a minority current in the Party /OIRA despite his undoubted charisma and organisational skills, so most of his energy after 1972 was spent running around the country organising dissidents who were not the type of people you could have an “agree to disagree” type conversation with when it came to ideological or millitary matters.

I’m not sure that getting into an argumant about who shot who is productive – Hugh Ferguson was killed by the OIRA in a kneecapping gone wrong, which is of course no mitigation, and things spiralled out of hand after that. Easy to see how they could-take the fact that the IRPS had stolen weapons in a tense situation and mix all the previous years disputes and you get an very explosive situation. Stealing guns from and army usually carries the death penalty (especially as those guns were to be used agianst former comrades) harsh but then this was N. Ireland in the 70s.
Re #95-democracy is not a feature of military organsisations where having a disagreement is actually disobeying orders most of the time.

I agree to a great extent about the failings of DC (understandable in the context of the 70s too)-sometimes as a Labour Party member I’ve longed for the control of DC, but that’s probably my own control feakery(!). True too that its probably an outmoded organisational form taken as it was from Leninist vanguardism understandable in the context of an underground movement.

97. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

The way I see it is this. At the end of the day, socialists need political power. That should be their aim. Community development organisations, trade unions, voluntary organisations, single issue campaigns all have their (major) part to play. But without the levers of power, an effective parliamentary majority, a socialist programme cannot be enacted on a consistent basis.

We are further from that goal than at anytime since the early C20th.
The question is, therefore, in a deeply right-wing society how can socialists maximise their impact on public debate and their influence in order to move towards building the necessary political profile. It will take activity, education, agitation, dedication, and most of all a comprehensive long-term strategy aimed at benefiting the most where we are strong, and developing the areas we are weakest.
Put simply, we have to learn how to punch above our weight with maximum effect.

Therefore we need the most efficient means of doing so. Socialism is a dirty word, or worse still irrelevant in the eyes of huge numbers of workers. Class consciousness is vanishing. The need for better organisation among the left has never been greater. If DC is outmoded, and holding back the development of the Left, perhaps people could suggest an alternative that better meets the criteria of the struggle at the present time.

To pre-empt, in order to get to a stage where electoral alliances, broad fronts etc could actually implement change through government, we need stronger parties first.

98. Mark P - November 6, 2007

Ed Hayes has the correct approach to dealing with vile screeds like Martin’s above. There is little point in engaging with people who are first cousins to holocaust deniers. Pass them a tinfoil hat and move on.

99. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

I’d have thought that was a bit harsh Mark. I don’t believe that the Moscow Trials were an accurate reflection of things for a second.

However, there are some legitimate and interesting questions worth historians considering regarding to what extent Trotskyism still existed as an organised force. If we knew the answer to this, we could understand better why things happened the way they did. It would also enable us to better judge Trotsky’s criticisms of the way things were, and the viability of any alternative.

From what I remember of Trotsky’s correspondence (I think in his letters on Spain) he makes reference to being in contact with groups of supporters in the USSR. One response I’ve heard is to say that he was probably making it up to boost the morale of his supporters. But if it is true, it leads to interesting issues about what they were doing, how many there were, etc etc.

I’m not actually looking to get into a massive debate on this, it’s just something I’ve always wondered about. And, more immediately, both cedar lounge and splintered sunrise are coming up with old posts, and I am curious as to whether this would work. So I thought I’d try a post that didn’t matter if it got lost.

100. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

Fixed now. Weird.

101. Grendel - November 6, 2007

Robert Conquest was once asked which was more evil-
the Holocaust or the Soviet Purges. He replied he couldn’t
argue rationally for it, but “in my heart, the Holocaust feels
worse.”

Having said that, it’s quite disturbing to find out that there
are people today who still admire Stalin’s actions.
I’m with Ed on this one.

102. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

I’d have thought the deliberate decision to wipe out an entire people through industrial means stands out there on its own, rationally or otherwise. And that goes whether the comparison is the USSR, America in Vietnam (civilians deaths estimated at anything up to 2 million), the Americans threatening the Chinese and Japanese to reduce their ain to the DPRK during the famine, the Taliban, Mussolini in Ethiopia, or whatever else people want to throw into the debate. Any comparison automatically cheapens the victims of the holocaust. The Nazis have their own place in history that no-once else can match.

Not that that should stop us comparing the discrimination practiced against the Palestenians with pre-war Germany if such a comparison is valid.

103. Mark P - November 6, 2007

It’s not at all harsh, Garibaldy. Anybody who in 2007 makes claims that the Moscow trials were anything other than ludicrous frame ups is so far divorced from reality that they should be treated in much the same way as we treat the perfectly sincere people who believe that the Bilderberg group are lizards or that the government is using television sets to listen in on their thoughts. There is no point in engaging with such people, the best thing to do is briefly register amusement and derision and then move on.

This is a case to be made that if they decorate their posts with excerpts from the “confessions” tortured out of murdered socialists or put up links to sites which deny the reality of the Stalinist purges and mass-murder during the 1930s then they move away from being common or garden tin foil hatters and rather closer to being holocaust deniers.

The large scale murder of Left Oppositionists in the Soviet Union, and the date by which they had been physically eradicated is an interesting historical question, although not one which has any bearing on the accuracy of the allegations made in the Moscow Trials.

I think, for instance, that the cataclysmic nature of Stalin’s purges wasn’t immediately fully grasped even by those who were victims of them and who did much of the early work in exposing them. They knew that political dissidents were being murdered on a large scale. It took time for them to realise that every last dissident was being killed along with vast numbers of people who had never been Stalin’s political opponents. The Trotskyists continued to believe that some elements of the Left Opposition remained, cut off but intact, inside the Soviet Union long after the oppositionists (and in many cases their families, their non-political friends and so on) were in unmarked graves beneath the Siberian ice.

104. Grendel - November 6, 2007

Speaking of Left Oppostionists, I’m sure Solzhenitsyn met a few Trotskyists and anarchists when
he was in the Gulag.Not that he’d agree with their politics.

I remember when I was in primary school and our teacher read
us “Animal Farm”, and he told us Snowball was “a nice man
called Mr. Trotsky.” He also told us Martin Luther King’s
life story. Nice man.

105. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

Mark,

I think I said what |I meant to say better on 102. I don’t think that anything is really comparable to the holocaust or to denying it.

A better comparison might be something like denying My Lai, the extensive use of agent orange as a chemical weapon, collusion, Latin American death squads disappearing people or whatever. There are arguments to be made for the USSR having good as well as bad qualities. Not the case with the Nazis.

106. WorldbyStorm - November 6, 2007

I would have some concerns about anyone who thought the Moscow Trials were anything other than a self-serving and disgusting attack on socialists. Having said that there still seems to me to be some distance between those purges and the holocaust. Many regimes have purged internal political groups, even those close to the regime. It’s hardly unique in history (indeed look at the way in which Hitler purged the Brownshirts -although that was on a smaller scale). That the USSR was a continent wide state perhaps increased the scale.There are other events within Soviet history which seem to fit closer into the holocaust template but not quite make it. I’d tend to think Conquest was right – and yes, I take the point about the USSR having good as well as bad qualities, but it’s worth remembering that can also be said about the US. It’s not all been My Lai’s.

107. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

Indeed. But I reject the attempt to link to Soviet socialism to Nazism and so thought I’d widen the debate out a little.

108. Mark P - November 6, 2007

I didn’t directly call denial of Stalinist mass murder holocaust denial, but instead something distantly related to holocaust denial. And I stand by that.

The purges and other political killings accounted for, at minumum hundreds of thousands of deaths. This is not seriously in dispute anywhere in modern historical scholarship. Even most Stalinist parties don’t deny it nowadays. Even the very parties which vocally denounced anyone who mentioned repression in the Soviet Union as Nazis, “Trotskyist wreckers” or the like, now mostly settle for half hearted hand wringing about mistakes or an uncomfortable silence.

I don’t argue that the Stalinists were “as bad as the Nazis”. I don’t argue that its crimes were the same as those of the Nazis. I am well aware that the USSR had positive features. But I will not take seriously, or treat as in any way legitimate, denial of the reality of the purges and other forms of Stalinist repression.

109. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

I understand your point. But I think we can find related phenomena throughout history that don’t involve the holocaust, so I’d prefer not to mention it.

Agree on the fact that 100,000s (but not the ridiculous jackpot of 100 million deaths due to Stalin that has recently appeared) were killed during the purges. I suspect I’m less inclined to see all of them as directed from the top than you would be. These things develop a dynamic of their own, and there are, if I’ve been correctly informed, quotes from Stalin saying that things were going too far. On the other hand, as I often say, we need to bear in mind what the many and varying political opponents of the leadership of the USSR would have done had they got into power when we discuss these things. Otherwise we won’t properly understand them or learn from them.

Although, as we’ve said before all this has very little to do with Ireland today.

110. Mark P - November 6, 2007

If you prefer to substitue “denial of the Armenian genocide” or “denial of the Ustashe’s mass murders” in your head feel free to do it. It doesn’t change the underlying point.

Anyone who denies the reality of Stalins crimes is at best a tinfoil hat oddball and at worst is downright dangerous. In Ireland in 2007, thankfully, they fall into the first category, which is why I agreed with Ed that the appropriate response was to register derision and then ignore them.

111. Starkadder - November 6, 2007

Garibaldy,
I’d say someone who attempted to deny ANY well documented
historical atrocity (the Armenian massacres, the Soviet Purges
the Nazi holocaust, etc.) for the sake of a political agenda
is not to be trusted.
Jack Lane, for instance, has forfeited any right to criticise
Peter Hart and his fellow “revisionists” in my eyes, because
he says we should ignore Stalin’s “dirty hands”. Lane’s
hero, and his associates like Beria, killed on a scale
the Black and Tans could only dream about.

Of course, if the Black Hundreds had taken over Russia in
1917 instead of the Bolsheviks, it could have been Russia
that carried out an anti-semitic genocide instead.

112. WorldbyStorm - November 6, 2007

In a way the point devolves back to whether we treat Stalinist crimes as intrinsic to the Soviet system on a philosophical level (in other words this was the outcome that was wanted or was part and parcel of the Communist project) – which I presume we don’t, or as instrinsic to the Soviet system on a structural level. I think the latter is close to the truth. But that system or structure was very effectively hijacked by Stalin and it looks to me that there were few enough safeguards in place to prevent that sort of an hijack. It’s possible to argue that a different leader would have led to different outcomes, and I also suspect that after Stalin some sort of covert safeguards were put in place to prevent a repetition. Yet surely it should be a cause of enormous concern to socialists that an effectively psychopathic figure like Stalin could rise through the ranks to state power and perhaps a warning about the dangers of centralisation of power or lack of pluralism in a polity…

113. Garibaldy - November 6, 2007

Starkadder,

Your point is a good one. Do you think the ultra-rightists just disappeared? I imagine not. Which helps explain why things turned out the way they did.

As for Peter Hart, I think that is a criticism of his honesty when handling the sources rather than just on his interpretation. So in that case, Lane remains able to criticise Hart if he says Stalin did such and such and was right to do so. One of the things it’s often hard to criticise Aubane for is its research. Its people do have a fantastic talent for seeking out stuff.

114. Starkadder - November 6, 2007

Garibaldy,
I’d say you’re right-there was a good amount of Tsarist
right-wing elements in Stalinism. Look at the revival of
Russian Nationalism and the Orthodox Church during WWII,
or the use of Anti-Semitism against Trotsky, and during
the Doctor’s Plot.
You’ll probably know of my very low opinion of the Aubane
group. So I will say their history of Ireland in the Revolutionary
Period is well researched, but their grasp of International affairs is
highly questionable. For instance, in his Indymedia article
on the Pearson killings, Muldowney included a gratituous
paragraph atempting to whitewash the Axis collaborator
S.C Bose:
http://web.archive.org/web/20050305012751/http://www.andaman.org/book/app-m/textm.htm

Muldowney is trying to persuade us that Bose wasn’t that
bad because he was against the British-the
facile “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” argument.

115. Garibaldy - November 7, 2007

Well Aubane still has some strange ideas on a range of issues. I saw the Bose thing. I can only reckon that this is a hangover from their days as two-nationists. Which they might well still be. Anyway, as I understand it they reckoned a nation had pretty much carte blanche to defend its integrity, territorial or otherwise. I assume this is the reason for the Bose thing, but who knows.

116. Ed Hayes - November 7, 2007

Wasn’t it Stalin himself who said that one death is a tragedy, a million is just a statistic? Just think of your mother being one of the victims of the purges and then rationalise it. I feel we fall too easy into writing off human life when it suits us and becoming all emotional when it also suits us.

117. Garibaldy - November 7, 2007

I’ve always taken that remark to be a comment on the way that the human brain deals with large-scale tragedy. We can all get upset, for example, at Madeline McCann, but less so when we hear about the thousands and thousands of children dying every day from hunger. Rather than reading it as an expression of callousness.

118. Ed Hayes - November 7, 2007

My general view was that the left should have higher standards. Just because the Americans massacred people at My Lai, or backed Pinochet or nuked Japan doesn’t mean we excuse crimes done in the name of socialism. Aside from moral qualms because what America has done can be used as an example of how terrible imperialism is, but the crimes of Stalinism have in my view, destroyed the left. Anyone who has been active on the left in anything knows that there is a moral relativism about all this and I wonder if there should be?

119. Garibaldy - November 7, 2007

I think the danger of using our moral standards for the past is that we judge people anachronistically, and I worry about that. I think it coulds our ability to understand what happened and learn from it. Hence my point above about what would have happened to them if the Bolsheviks had lost power.

I don’t know if moral relativism is the right term therefore. I believe in judging people by the standards of the time, be it Cromwell at Drogheda, or Trotsky giving orders to shoot retreating troops, or whatever. So locking up the Japenese population of America during WWII was the same as the British, the French, the Germans, the Japanese and the Soviets were doing with suspect elements in their population, and should therefore be seen as normal. Locking people in Guantanamo today isn’t, and should be seen in that light. It seems to me it’s only moral relativism if applied to two contemporary comparable circumstances.

120. Starkadder - November 8, 2007

On the Joe Duffy show, Eoghan Harris (discussing the Pearson
killings controversy) claimed Aubane were a group
” of which Paddy Muldowney is one, like an itinerant travelling circus, are like holocust deniers…”
You got it wrong again,Eoghan. They’re not Holocaust Deniers,
they’re Gulag Minimisers.

Like the Bard, I wish a plague on both their houses.

121. Garibaldy - November 8, 2007

Maybe this makes Mark P Harris’ new guru!

122. Mark P - November 9, 2007

Maybe if I mention the need for a socialist revolution here the good Eoghan will take up the call.

123. WorldbyStorm - November 9, 2007

Nah, Mark P. He’s wedded to his own self-defined social democracy which appears to encompass the spectrum from er… the centre of the centre to the populist right. I fear he will be with the reactionaries, come the day.

And remember, if he offers the SP any assistance at all, just say no!

124. And another thing! Coolacrease and Harris… we should have guessed…it’s not the past, it’s the present. | Irish Election - November 11, 2007

[...] Organisation (and if you are interested in BICO then perhaps you’ll be interested in this and this), even if they’ve ended up in different places (well, not so different seeing as both idolise [...]

125. M Calligan - November 14, 2007

A chairde,

Eoghan Harris was never a communist a Marxist-Leninist or anything even close. He fully supported the Khruschovite slanders against Stalin, originally started by Trotsky and subsequently rehashed by the Cohen’s and Medevev’s.
His ‘trump card’ in an argument is to compare those he opposes to holocaust deniers – this type of ‘argument’ is the last resort of imbeciles.

There is no doubt that Trotsky was a counter revolutionary who persisted in factional activity after the revolution (the trade-unions, Brest-Litovsk etc). He opposed the building of socialism in the SU. As his views were rejected by the party itself he became more and more isolated and ended up doing treasonous deals with foreign imperialism.

There are precedents for Trotsky’s degeneration.

Consider Karl Kautsky, before the first world war, he was the foremost theoretician of Marxism in Europe. Like Trotsky, Kautsky too accused the Bolsheviks (Lenin instead of Stalin this time) of Bonapartism and called for the armed overthrow of Soviet power.

Consider General Vlasov who participated in the defence of Moscow in WWII, and who on been captured by the Germans, switched sides and fought with the Germans against his own country.

I recommend again the links at post #94. The political line initiated by Khruschov led by degrees to Gorbachev’s policies of Perestroika and Glasnost and the eventual collapse of socialism in the USSR.

Today, the communists fighting in Nepal, Turkey, India, Colombia and the Philippines uphold Stalin as the defender of Lenin and Leninism.

The communists in those countries who are engaged in life and death struggle against imperialism have no time for Trotskyite ‘permanent revolution’ which distrusts the peasantry and holds that socialism cannot be built in a single country. Luckily the Cubans weren’t stupid enough to follow Trotskyism in the 1950′s!

In his new biography Fidel Castro (who was closely associated with Khruschov) calls Joseph Stalin a ‘revolutionary’.
In 1954, his close comrade, Che Guevara became convinced while travelling in Guatemala that only Marxist-Leninist led communist parties could overthrow capitalism. He wrote in a letter home: “Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit (Company), convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won’t rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated.”

Slán go foill,

Martin

PS – Mark P is now going to get a Che shirt with the bould Che wearing a tinfoil hat instead of his customary beret!

126. Idris of Dungiven - November 14, 2007

Go away, son of a silly person.

127. WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2007

How is that I find myself in 2007 feeling I have to defend Trotsky (not a saint himself, but even so) from accusations of factionalism? How do I find myself defending Castro (not a saint either, but even so) from outright Stalinism?

What has happened to the world?

128. Garibaldy - November 14, 2007

What about defending trotsky from allegations of Castroism?

129. WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2007

You know, when I think about it, in particular the international angle on the Cuban revolution there’s something in what you’re saying (albeit the other way around).

130. Garibaldy - November 14, 2007

Hmmm. Law of unintended consequences I think that’s called.

131. WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2007

More than likely…

132. Starkadder - November 19, 2007

The Cork City Library keeps some of the Cork Workers’ Club
pamphlets in their Local Studies section, as well as
three issues of the Cork Worker magazine (1971-2).

I read thru the material last week, out of curiosity.
The magazine ran articles on the Irish socialist
William Thompson, attacks on the “reactionary”
Evening Echo,warnings about the ICO and coverage
of the closure of the Black Water Cottons factory in Youghal.

In addition to Higgins & Lane Sr., the magazine
also had Sean Barrett and Mick McGrath as contributors.

133. Starkadder - November 19, 2007

Small error-that should have been Blackwater Cottons in
Youghal.

134. WorldbyStorm - November 19, 2007

What were the warnings about the ICO like?

135. Garibaldy - November 19, 2007

Whatever they were, they were probably justified at some point over the ensuing 35 years of shifting policies :)

136. WorldbyStorm - November 19, 2007

True indeed…!

137. Starkadder - November 19, 2007

Look at the Jerry Higgins article in the PDF, taken from the Magazine- that’s a good example of the CCO’s criticism of ICO.

In the CWC pamphlet “Ireland Upon the Dissecting Table”, they
attack ICO and Official Sinn Fein as being crypto-Unionist.
The former organisation are described as “deranged” and “a law unto itself” *, and the ICO’s admiration for the methods of the
Tory party in Britain is used to argue that they are
completely reactionary.

Basically, it’s the same type of critique people
like Brian Trench and the SP’s “For Workers’ Unity”
pamphlet made.

*As Bruce Hornby sang, “some things’ll never change”.

138. Starkadder - November 21, 2007

If anyone is interested, I have a list of the pamphlets in
the Cork Workers’ Club historical reprint series that I could post up.

139. stephen dorril - November 27, 2007

The material on Soar Eire was fascinating and its appearance something of a strange co-incidence. I am currently writing a book on ‘The Troubles’ and the role of British Intelligence in Ireland. During it I have become increasingly intrigued by Soar Eire. It wasn’t until now that I realised that there was a difference between the Cork and Dublin groups. I wonder if anyone has any comments/information on the following points:

1. Was the Cork group in touch with the proto-Provos, in particular Sean Mac Stiofain? It looks to me (admittedly from some distance away) that he probably was from about 1967.

2. Was it the Cork or the Dublin group which offered arms to the IRA in Derry in August 1969?

3. Mac Stiofrain appears to have been supplying information to the Gardai Special Branch on the Dublin (and Cork?) Soar Eire from about late1969.

4. Jock Haughey appears to have had links to the Dublin Soar Eire – also Cork? British Intelligence had them targeted by summer 1969.

5. The Dublin group had a consignment of stolen Star pistols. Any reference to their use (North or South) in 1969-72?

6. Maoist groups were the particular target of intelligence agencies as they were seen as easy to manipulate.

7. Did the Dublin group have anything to do with blowing up Nelson’s column in Dublin in 1966?

140. Martin Cassidy - November 28, 2007

Your writing a book….and you don’t know the difference between ‘Soar’ and Saor.

“Jock Haughey appears….” – what a laugh!

141. ejh - November 28, 2007

Your writing a book….and you don’t know the difference between ‘Soar’ and Saor.

“Your”?

142. WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2007

Interesting questions, but… I’d suggest they’re largely unknowable…

143. Joe - November 28, 2007

Nelson’s Pillar is the usual term. But who blew it up? There was some oul lad from Crumlin (?) claiming it a couple of years back. A friend of mine from Tipp, his da died about 10 years back. My mate knew that his da had had some involvement with the Republican Movement at some stage. At the funeral, all these old neighbours started coming up to him, shook his hand and said “I just want to shake the hand of the son of the man who blew up Nelson’s Pillar.” Yer man was bowled over and still doesn’t know whether it’s true or not.

144. Garibaldy - November 28, 2007

Wikipedia has some names. There was a guy killed on a building site in Dublin a few years ago who was widely believed to have done it, and got obituaries on that account. I think his name might have been Sean Tracey but can’t remember.

145. WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2007

That’d be a remarkable thing to happen Joe. I wonder is it correct.

146. stephen dorril - November 28, 2007

Apologies for ‘Saor’ – late night writing stupidity. However, that doesn’t alter the points made…

147. soubresauts - November 29, 2007

About Nelson’s Pillar: A few years ago, I decided to try to verify the account given in Emmett Grogan’s amazing autobiography Ringolevio. As Emmett told it, he was in Dublin for a few months in 1966 and got involved with the IRA. One of their operations was blowing up a customs post at the border. When they did Nelson’s Pillar, Emmett was one of the look-out men, on a street corner nearby.

Anyway, I talked to some Sinn Fein people and was put in touch with an old man who, it was suggested, should have known the people who did it. He confirmed that Emmett was involved in those days, but couldn’t say who did what exactly.

Grogan’s account of his Irish sojourn rings true to me, and if only half of his book is true, it has to be the most astonishing autobiography you’ll ever read.

148. Wednesday - November 29, 2007

if only half of his book is true

That much?

149. soubresauts - November 29, 2007

Wednesday, the Wikipedia page on Grogan states: “His 1972 autobiography, Ringolevio (A life played for keeps), is filled with embellishments and large portions of his pre-Digger life appear to be outright fabrications.”

Embellishments yes, but outright fabrications, I wonder.

The famous actor Peter Coyote was very close to Grogan as Digger and hippy leader. His beautifully written memoir “Sleeping Where I Fall” paints a complementary picture of Grogan’s post-IRA life. He wrote:

“The Diggers were fascinated by what life might be like if lived in a consistently improvisational manner, and we dedicated ourselves to awakening others to this possibility… Our ‘life actor’ par excellence was Grogan, whose response to political, social and spiritual ferment was to create a unique and completely appropriate personality.”

By the way, the children’s game Ringolevio, which Grogan played with his friends on the streets of New York, is the same as Relievio, which I and my friends played in our Dublin schoolyard in the 1960s. (What did the Cork people call it?)

150. Simone Burns - November 29, 2007

Interesting questions, but… I’d suggest they’re largely unknowable…

Why woud you suggest that – many of those involved are still with us?

Here’s the answers

1) No – but they did read their publications

2) Both

3) Very possible – is the belief of former members

4) No

5) Yes – in various robberies

5) – who gives a fuck

6) No – was group associted with Joe Chirstle

Please include your email and will elobrate

151. Pete - November 29, 2007

Laim Sutcliffe – Dublin IRA was centrally inolved in blowing up pillar

152. Wednesday - November 29, 2007

soubresauts, it’s been a good 15 years since I’ve read it but at the time it struck me as nearly entirely unbelievable. And I don’t mean just the parts about the IRA.

153. stephen dorril - November 29, 2007

It’s so long since I read Grogan … there seem to be quite a few names being assocaited with Nelson’s Pillar…

stephendorril@rogerdog.demon.co.uk

154. WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2007

simone, it’s cedarlounge@yahoo.ie. And as you know, any communication is treated with respect…

My reason for saying unknowable is that such things belong in the limbo of anecdote etc. It’s not like a government or state structure where stuff is noted down…

155. Garibaldy - November 29, 2007

I admire your faith in the accuracu of government documents :)

156. WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2007

Well that’s a good point, but… I live with what I get…

157. Garibaldy - November 29, 2007

Yeah. Though the tradition of writing things down lasted a long time – and Ed Moloney claims to have minutes from the Provos’ Army Convention in 1997.

We should of course remember that this was not an IRA action, but was in fact done outside the chain of command by people connected to the IRA as well, so much less likely to be any minutes.

158. WorldbyStorm - November 30, 2007

Hmmm… minutes he says…

I often wonder about such things… Imagine if one was caught with them.

159. Garibaldy - November 30, 2007

That was the attitude that emerged among a lot of people during the Troubles in the north. I know it seems incredible, but minutes were certainly being kept into the 70s, and I wouldn’t be in the least surprise if the Provos were still keeping them when Moloney says. Not one of his opponents rejected the idea that minutes would be held. .

160. WorldbyStorm - November 30, 2007

It’s sort of funny. One can imagine three competing Army Councils each assiduously noting down everything… To get them would be something, wouldn’t it?

161. John O'Neill - November 30, 2007

On ‘Sour’ Eire – I believe there is a judge that may be able to enlighten SD on that subject as he was strongly associated with them but I doubt if he will! There are a few SE members around Dublin still. I never realised until recently that there was such a difference between the Cork Saor Eire and Dublin.

162. stephen dorril - November 30, 2007

Thanks Pete for Liam Sutcliffe – I see that he claimed toppling Nelson in a radio interview (see Scotland on Sunday 9.2.03). An IRA member but he seems to have done it off his own bat – if he did it.

There is a full biog of Jim Lane on Wikipedia – is it accurate? Includes this ‘… briefly the intelligence officer for Daithi O Conaill’s command area around Derry/Donegal at the time of the disturbances [August 1969]…’

The Judge?

163. Starkadder - December 15, 2007

On the subject of the radical left in Cork, an afternoon in the library
revealed that there was an active anti-Vietnam war
movement here in the late 1960s. There was the Cork Vietnam
Freedom Association, which was linked to a student organisation,
UCC Students against the War in Vietnam.
The former organisation was led by Jim Blake and
Jack Lane. Both groups led a march in October 1967 against the war.

Jim Blake was in the UCC Branch of the Labour Party and later
joined the I.T.G.W.U. in the seventies. In April 1983 he led a
protest against unemployment called the “People’s March”.
He also protested against the second Gulf War in 2003.

Jack Lane was also involved in the UCC Labour group but
left in 1968. He was later convicted for assaulting
Garda C.B. Griffin in January 1969 (he was fined £50).
During his trial, the police claimed he was involved in several
Young Socialist groups and the Housing Action Committee. Since
Dennis Dennehy of B&ICO was also involved in the
Housing Action movement, I’m pretty sure this is
the same Jack Lane who was in B&ICO and the
Aubane Historical Society.

According to the CCO
document, Jack Lane was in Dublin in
1970, editing Communist Comment.
Perhaps he moved to Dublin before this
period?

164. Starkadder - December 16, 2007

According to the Wikipedia bio, Jim Lane was also
involved in the Cork Vietnamese Freedom Association
in the 1960s.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Lane

165. The Left Archive: “On the IRA Belfast Brigade Area”, Jim Lane, Cork Workers’ Club, 1972 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - April 7, 2008

[...] here from Fintan Lane (and I’ve swiped it from here) is an overview of the Cork Workers’ Club and its [...]

166. fornetti - August 31, 2008

I do not believe this

167. NollaigO - August 31, 2008

“I do not believe this”.

Post 166: Could you give the more intellectually challenged of us a clue ?!

168. brian lyons - August 6, 2009

is this organisation still in existance

169. Vabian - August 6, 2009

I don’t think so. Jim Lane is retired from politics. However,
you can still find the occaisional CWC pamphlet in places like
Connolly Books.

170. Left Archive: Irish Communist Organisation “Crisis in the Unionist Party”, May 1969 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - November 30, 2010

[...] well worth reading is the following from the Cork Communist Organisation which explains in part some of the events that occurred later. LikeBe the first to like this [...]

171. Left Archive: The Economics of Irish Partition, Irish Communist Organisation, 2nd edition, November 1969 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - June 13, 2011

[...] Perhaps best known as the precursor of the British and Irish Communist Organisation who assumed that name around November 1971, The Irish Communist Organisation already has the following documents in the Archive, and here. There’s also a critique in the Archive from the Cork Communist Organisation on the development of the ICO. [...]


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