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Left Archive: Red Action, Issue No. 68, Summer 1994 November 12, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Red Action (UK).
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To download the above file please click on the following link: REDACTION

Recently Red Action posted much of their archive online, and this can be accessed here. That includes the above document, but since this was already acquired for the Archive and scanned in it seemed appropriate to include at least one example of the output of the formation (and as it happens we’ve been promised some more documents in the future with a specifically Irish orientation).

Red Action appeared in 1981 when members were expelled from the Socialist Workers Party for squadist activities. Consequently in outlook it positioned itself as an self-avowedly forceful response to the threat of fascism and racism as well as cleaving to a strongly working class centred position. In the 1980s it joined the RCP led Red Front (as can be seen in this document from the RCP in the Archive). Interestingly it transitioned into community based politics in the late 1990s and on into the 2000s, and former members were heavily involved in the Independent Working Class Association which went on to win council seats and only relatively recently became inoperative.

This document is of particular interest because while it demonstrates all the political approaches outlined above it furthermore relates to one key aspect of Red Action, that being an strong identification with Irish Republicanism – it is notable that in other documents available on the Red Action site Thomas ‘Ta’ Power of the IRSP, later assassinated by the IPLO, is quoted. The cover story notes that Patrick Hayes, an English born member of a PIRA active service unit, imprisoned for a short bombing campaign in England in the early 1990s, was a former long standing member of Red Action (for more on this see this from the UK Independent which gives a subjective but interesting overview).

As the editorial accompanying Haye’s statement at the Old Bailey on his imprisonment notes:

As an organisation, Red Action has from the outset supported the right of the Irish to bear arms in principle and supported the military campaign as a TACTIC. Where we see a synthesis between republicanism and revolution Trotskyism seeks only contradictions, and so while paying lip service to the principle of self-determination the middle class left has with a few exceptions been an unswerving critic of its implementation.

It continues:

Of course no one in Red Action knew when, or precisely why, Patrick Hayes took the decision to join the IRA, but from his own testimony it is clear that he regards support for the military campaign and taking part in it more a matter of emphasis than some ‘quantum leap’. Pat never made the media inspired ‘graduation from being a weekend radical to becoming an IRA volunteer’. As in the case of Portinari [a Loyalist gunrunner] the explanation is quite simple. He never was a weekend radical. He is, and always was in whatever capacity a revolutionary.

In some respects these quotes also offer an insight into other aspects of Red Action, namely a strongly critical view of other contemporary further left formations, particularly those with a Trotskyist orientation – albeit it itself came from a Trotskyist heritage. It also held a strongly working class position that saw itself as deeply at odds with the middle class both in class and political forms or in its analysis that other further left formations were distorted by that class.

This combative stance is exemplified by a number of articles in the document on Trotskyism, including ‘Trotskyism’ with No Illusions which lambastes both the British Labour Party and ‘the Trotskyite Left [who] without exception line up with the bureaucracy in defence of the status quo, [whereas] we stand with the working class against the bureaucracy’ and within the working class; with the anti-racists against the racists.’. There is also an article which takes as its starting point the then recently published final edition of the SWP’s Tony Cliff’s final volume of his biography of Trotsky which is sub-titled ‘The Real History of the Fourth International’.

The emphasis on Irish Republicanism is evidenced throughout the text with highly critical articles on the Troops Out movement (and which is also in passing highly critical of the RCP) and a page devoted to “Dispatches from a war zone” and which in this instance deals with informers and pro-British agents.

There’s also a piece under the heading ‘Beyond the Pale’ for Red Action in Ireland, complete with PO Box. The accompanying article, ‘Guns, Drugs & The Community’, outlines the history of the development of the drugs issue in working class Dublin and how Concerned Parents Against Drugs (CPAD) became pivotal in ‘the fight against drugs’. The article notes that ‘The Left’s attitude to this genuine instance of working class people taking control of their lives has also been pathetic. From the SWM’s denunciation of CPAD as vigilantes, to the serious serious damage done to the anti-drugs campaign by the Workers’ Party’s allegations of addicts being kept against their will in France, the left in Dublin has been a hindrance to the CPAD. Sinn Féin are the only group on the left who can claim any credibility from the fight against the drug pushers. Contrary to the allegations of SF infiltration of CPAD, the SF activists actually belonged to the working class communities under threat and had every right ton involve themselves in the fight against drugs’.

In the latter there is the following reference: CPAD wants addicts to be sent to treatment centres where they might actually have a chance to get off drugs. CPAD have in the past sent addicts to the Le Patriarche centre in France but a Workers Party created controversy and lack of resources meant this could not be continued’.

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1. Phil - November 12, 2012

In the time when I was editing the culture section of Red Pepper, I only once had a review spiked on political grounds. My reliable magazine reviewer Ted Glenn turned his sights on the recently-magazine-ised Red Action and liked what he saw:

“Red Action were always the thinking person’s bootboys; their newspaper alternated gleeful reports of ‘discussions’ with BNP members with closely-printed analyses of key Marxist concepts. Times change: the bootboy days have gone (‘the physical strategy is by no means absolute’) and Red Action comes out in reader-friendly magazine format. Otherwise the – often unpalatable – recipe is unchanged. RA hate the middle-class left, despise New Labour, support the IRA – and are committed, like few others, to recovering revolutionary Marxism from the long dead-end of Leninism. In the battle of ideas, Red Action is a bit tasty.”

Our editor didn’t like what she saw, and the final copy was subtly different:

“Recently relaunched in reader-friendly magazine format, Red Action is the ‘bi-monthly bulletin of the organisation Red Action’. It’s essential reading for RA’s sympathisers and opponents alike – and for anyone who wants to know what’s really going on on the left. Though its street-fighting days may be over, RA’s commitment to anti-fascism and Irish republicanism is undimmed; the magazine is also a vital resource for anyone who wants to see an independent working class opposition to New Labour, or to recover Marxist theory and practice from the long dead-end of Leninism. If you think those are two separate projects, it’s your loss.”

I never actually joined – they were far too gung-ho about the whole Provo thing – but on Marxism & the need for a working-class party I thought they were very sound indeed. Up the RA!

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WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2012

+1

I’d disagree with them on a few issues (mostly on emphasis tbh), but ‘very sound indeed’ seems to me to be dead on.

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D - November 13, 2012

I haven’t had much a chance to view this article online as yet, but one thing that I’ve never really understood about Pat and Jans decision to go on active service for the PIRA, is that surely politically speaking in as much militarily, that wouldn’t have becoming active within the IRSP/INLA made more sense? I mean, they were more in line with what Red Action were about weren’t they? Just a query really.

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WorldbyStorm - November 13, 2012

I think that’s an interesting question – and talking to people with RA sympathies there was definitely a convergence with IRSP in terms of the latter’s approach – at least in terms of what it stood for, but my assumption is that at that point IRSP/INLA had been effectively pushed back by PIRA, no? [in relation to after the IPLO etc debacle]

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Mark P - November 13, 2012

The whole run of their paper/magazine/bulletin is now online here:

http://www.redactionarchive.org/2012/03/red-action-bulletin-pdf-files.html

Along with a (typically self-aggrandising) piece about the history of their publications here:

http://www.redactionarchive.org/p/history-of-present.html

There is, of course, no attempt to explain the failure of their project, but it’s still interesting and worth reading. On the IRSP/INLA issue, as I understand it they veered towards the IRSM at some points, and published lengthy apologias for them around the time of the IPLO feud, but in the long run found themselves aligned more with PRM.

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WorldbyStorm - November 13, 2012

Hmmm… Isn’t that the link in the body of the text of the above post to the er… Red Action archive?

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D - November 14, 2012

Appreciate your reply WorldbyStorm!

Can definitely see how the INLA/IRSP has been weakened over the years by fallouts and feuding or ideological disagreements between members. And as a result that would inadverntantly play into the hands of the PIRA/SF.

I can’t say with any certainty, but I can see the PIRA/SF not being too fond of having any rivals thriving within their political bases. And would put pressure behind the scenes for other groups to call a ceasefire incase it would interfere somewhat with what SF were upto at the time (and still now I suppose).

Apologies for my post being a bit incoherent, as I’m typing this out on my phone. Not quite the same as on pc!

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WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2012

Ach it’s a pleasure to have someone discuss this topic.

That’s very true what you say. Certainly PIRA was always speedy about consolidating the space around it. And it seems to me that that was a powerful dynamic by 1992 onwards.

One other thing though that’s interesting is that this must be one of the very few instances when members of a further left organisation (certainly an UK based one) went on to membership of the IRA. I’m trying to think of other examples.

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D - November 14, 2012

Yes, its quite a unique interesting case. You’d think that the PIRA would be suspicious of any advance by ‘english people’, for lack of a better description ha, to join the ranks of their active service units.

I do wonder how they (Hayes and Taylor) ended up being compromised and exposed?

Though we do now know that the PIRA’s internal security was hopelessly compromised and they vetted all new volunteers and green booked them. Wouldn’t be hard for a British agent within that department to pass on details to special branch/MI5 etc.

There was a documentary over the summer on TG4 that dealt with informers and the setting up of 3 INLA members in England by Pat Daly. Trying to find it online but not having much look.

According to Toby Hardens ‘Bandit Country’ book. A member of the PIRA did some robberies with Accion Directe. But that’s not really what you ment on a member of the left being involved with a paramiltary group.

Also, quick mention, wasn’t Nic Mullen (convicted of being involved in a PIRA ‘bomb factory’ in 1988) a ‘lefty’.

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WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2012

My sense of it – and not just from the UK Independent article, was that they weren’t very good at concealing their identities during the bombing campaign. Though who can tell? As you say it would seem that the organisation was in security terms on the ropes from – well… tbh from the off in the late 60s/early 70s. Moloney et al write of a trail of disaster with people turned throughout the period of the conflict.

I didn’t see the TG4 doc, but I’ll go looking now.

Yeah, it’s the movement the opposite way, towards PIRA from the further left. Mullen had an interesting career, didn’t he turn up a few years back too?

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Mark P - November 15, 2012

Yes, WbS, that’s exactly the same link! Sorry about that, I somehow managed to miss it.

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WorldbyStorm - November 15, 2012

No worries Mark P, I was just a bit surprised!

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ejh - November 18, 2012

I always found with Red Action, as with the IWCA, that they spent far too much time screaming terms like “middle-class”, “social worker” and “Guardian-reading” at the rest of the left to be particularly attractive. And in fact they resmbled the worst aspects of the far-left groups they reckoned they were nothing like, in their extreme sectarianism and unwillingness to accept that anybody was legitimate save themselves. This tended to drown out anything useful they had to say about, for instance, the importance of real bread-and-butter issues.

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2. D - November 14, 2012

Maybe its a simple matter of the PIRA being the obvious group to be able to join to hit back in the hardest way (militarily speaking) against their enemies.

I did read that around the time of Hugh Torney being chief of staff of the INLA, that they (IRSM) weren’t going to play ball with calling a ceasefire in line with the PIRAs (why would they, being a seperate grouping and all), but could have potentially acted as an alternative for Provisionals diaffected with the ceasefire calling to join and so were threatened into.

I can’t really substansiate that claim, but its not out of the realms of fantasy that they would have been under some sort of pressure to go along with things

I’m surpised the Provisionals didn’t try to wipe out McKevitt and co in 1997!

Sorry this has turned into an irish republicansim post. But it is still quite interesting.

Don’t know that much about Nic Mullen to be honest. Was he a member of the SWP or an anarcho or something running along those lines? Without trying to pigeonhole his politics.

I did know from my time in CW that a member in the north of Ireland had previosuly left CW to join the IRSP there, because despite differences there was enough common ground to do stuff and move things forward as best they could.

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WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2012

That’s interesting re CW to the IRSP. Quite a move though.

I’m not sure re Nicholas Mullen. Though the fact he did a runner to Zimbabwe (where he was IIRC arrested) perhaps says something.

I think that’s true, that had the IRSP had more coherence it would have provided a very welcome berth for those antagonistic to the ceasefires – and I’ll bet the thought struck them. But by then it was all over. Don’t you think it was really too late by 97 for the sort of actions seen in regard to the IPLO (and to a much more limited extent in terms of outcome to the Officials at various stages – if only because the latter were weirdly enough stronger on some level). That would have sunk the peace process perhaps. Though perhaps not.

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D - November 15, 2012

Maybe it is quite a move. But maybe not as big as we might think, if events on the ground are anything to go by sometimes. I personally am not a marxist or anything like that, and identify more with anarchist tendancies. I think if there was a genuine group (ie IRSP) that was actually working class based with real support then I would rule out joining up despite not agreeing with all the ins and outs of their politics.

Ever read the Notes From The Borderland mag? Some interesting things in that one on Irish Rep. Need to get around to getting some of the old back issues.

I wonder why the likes of Anthony McIntyre and Tommy McKearney didn’t join the IRSP?

Can see how the IPLO feud or whatever anyone wants to call it, really weakened the INLA and the following events between the Torney and Gallagher factions then weakened it further, just as all the 2nd ceasefire stuff was going on.

Yeah I doubt it would have sunk the peace process, not even the RIRAs actions managed to do that and they were probably better armed (though not armed with better politics) to carry out a more sustained campaign.

I welcome the IRSPs move to stand in elections and hopefully give the SF lot a bloody nose and show them up for the shower of shit that they are. But still can’t quite understand why they (INLA) chose to decommision (didn’t they have to meet some sort of deadline?). Unless by still holding an arsenal of weapons risked the IRSP abilities to stand in elections? Looking further down the field on that one.

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WorldbyStorm - November 15, 2012

Non statist to statist… Not easy though. But thats very true re a genuine working class organisation and its attractiveness to a broad range of people.

I can’t recall that I have read it…but just reading their website it looks just right for inclusion in the left archive here. If you ever get a back issue relating in part to Ireland it’d be handy to get a scan for the archive.

Re mcIntyre et al, that’s a very good question. I could hazard a guess they weren’t left enough to want to make that journey but I don’t know. I also would guess that starting out again in a smaller organisation, and a substantially smaller one at that, would have little appeal.

IRSP has certainly been showing signs of life in recent times, I’d think you’re right re the last point as regards long term thinking… As well as which the securitisation not just of the North but also Britain has made that option unfeasible.

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D - November 15, 2012

How do you mean non Statist to statist? As in potentially being ‘in power’. Sorry for not quite getting what you mean here.

I’ll certainly get some back issues ordered at some point and would be glad to fire them your way.

Read an interview with Tommy McKearney (somehwere in internet land I think, as opposed to book form) in which he talks about left wing Provos starting something called Congress 86. Think that’s the name at least. Fizzled out in the late 80’s effectively. But don’t think it went down well with mainstream PIRA thinking at the time.

Reading different things in the past about the Adams camp (from Moloneys cracking book to other bits and pieces Mr McIntyres stuff too) they almost seem like a fascist organisation. Very happy to nip any dissent at all in the bud if it didn’t fit into whatever party line was being given out at the time. True to this very day no doubt.

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D - November 15, 2012

Probably a contentious subject, but surely where the left wing are concerned (of which I am a part of) then arming ourselves must at some point be an option if we are to defend ourselves against the rich ruling class, police state etc. That’s why I can’t quite fathom why the INLA chucked away their waterpistols.

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D - November 15, 2012

Apologies after a quick deeper look, the magazine is actually The Lobster that I ment, and not really Notes From The Borderland.

The Lobster definitely has some back issues worth a read.

Any luck with the TG4 doc?

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WorldbyStorm - November 15, 2012

Hold on a second, perhaps I’m entirely misinterpreting your meaning when you write CW… who are you referring to there?

RE fascistic… well… I think the history of Republican socialist formations with adjacent militarist organisations/structures tends towards certain command and control styles. Not sure that means fascism, but militarist discipline with all that entails is problematic in itself. But I suspect had things developed differently it would have been much the same with the IRSP, no? Indeed take away the fractious nature of the latter and one is left with not dissimilar dynamics – dominance by military structure over political… intolerance of dissent, etc, etc.

I’m leaving the TG4 yoke until today to go looking!

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D - November 15, 2012

By CW I mean Class War.

I agree about the possible and probable dominance of the military arm of the party and structure over the political side.

Didn’t the IRSM attempt to readdress the balance in the form of Ta Powers document? I guess a few years before that they had the likes of Dominic McGlinchey running the show and who did seem to crush a lot of dissent through the use of firearms.

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WorldbyStorm - November 15, 2012

Good, that’s what I thought D initially – though for one moment a few comments back I was beginning to think you actually meant the CWI – which is why I asked the question. But that’s kind of my point, wouldn’t Class War be deeply non-statist? Whereas the IRSP would seem to me to cleave to a very traditional sort of Marxist approach, Leninist really.

Ta Power was interesting, no question about it, but it seems to me to be a reworking and updating of of S.Costello’s thinking for the 1980s and by that stage given all the IRSP had been through I don’t know was it possible for them to refashion themselves into something commanding the sort of working class support that was necessary (or another way of looking at it is that SF had got there first).

I recently reread Deadly Divisions and it struck me that a smaller org like IRSP was always going to be at a disadvantage in relation to a broader one like SF which could tilt ideologically a variety of ways (and was broad enough to accommodate say the Marxists from the former PD who joined in the 1980s and much more ‘traditional’ for want of a better word people. (Btw and on a tangent one interesting thing that struck me recently, there’s been some making a lot of noise about Éire Nua and it’s supposed ‘radicalism’ seemingly oblivious to the fact that that was discarded very consciously by the Adams led grouping and has no part to play as an actual ideological influence on SF in the contemporary era).

Re Congress 86, if you look in the Archive you’ll find this which is linked IIRC http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2008/07/07/the-left-archive-from-long-kesh-to-a-socialist-ireland-league-of-communist-republicans-c1988/

BTW, ironically enough – name the one group with long antecedents on the Republican side that has never decommissioned, at least not officially (and if it had under the GFA terms it would have to have announced it did so).

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D - November 15, 2012

Official IRA have never decommisioned. Sorry just had to answer that one quickly.

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Michael Carley - November 16, 2012
WorldbyStorm - November 16, 2012

Ah, but not quite. That was the ORM, Official Republican Movement, which was a splinter from the WP. They did indeed use the OIRA name, but not the same organisation.

http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/official-republican-movement-decommissioning-statement/

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Michael Carley - November 16, 2012

So there’s an Official Official and a Provisional Official?

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3. The Weekly Archive Worker: Spanish Revolution « Entdinglichung - November 15, 2012

[...] * Red Action, Sommer 1994 [...]

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4. Joe - November 15, 2012

“I do wonder how they (Hayes and Taylor) ended up being compromised and exposed?”

My memory of this is that they planted a small bomb in a bin outside Harrods. They were caught on CCTV planting it. The cops couldn’t identify them from the CCTV. So after a while, they decided to publish the CCTV images on the news. And a member of the public identified the two men and told the cops who they were and where they lived. And they were arrested. I distinctly remember seeing the pictures on Sky News – two ment in long coats walking down the street; as one drops something into the bin, the other turns and looks behind them (I assume to check were they being watched/followed).
Anyway, the above is my memory of the official narrative of how they were apprehended – there may of course be a lot more to it.
As to why they joined PIRA as opposed to INLA – well, duh, they may have been thick but they weren’t stupid.

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D - November 15, 2012

There’s always one isn’t there who chimes in.

No need for the ‘duh’ comment Joe.

Besides, isn’t thick just another term for stupid? I always thought it was mate.

So basically anyone who joins the INLA is a grenade short of a pin in your book?

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Mark P - November 15, 2012

“So basically anyone who joins the INLA is a grenade short of a pin in your book?”

Not perhaps in 1974, but certainly by the time of the Harrods bombing, you’d want to have had a chip or two missing from your snackbox l before you considered joining the INLA.

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D - November 15, 2012

Think it was PIRA who did the Harrods bombing in 83 and killed a few Xmas shoppers in the process.

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A - August 11, 2013

I was an activist in AFA at the time and this timeline is correct. The cops put out CCTV footage of the two volunteers and appealed for public help in identifying them.

I was also at PH’s coming home party after GFA prisoner release at an Irish boozer in Islington. Late in the evening the publican put on some rebel music… oblivious to who or what the party was for :)

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WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2013

Ain’t that aways the way?

A genuinely interesting history and thanks for adding o it.

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5. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - November 15, 2012

That was a different bombing to the one that Hayes and Taylor were jailed for in 1994.

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WorldbyStorm - November 15, 2012

Yes.

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6. Tony - November 18, 2012

Hayes was a leading member Anti-Fascist Action at the time. I think he actually could have been London AFA organiser?

Eitherway, for all of his AFA comrades around the country and in London, the first they heard of Hayes involvement with the PIRA was news reports of his arrest.

Left everyone a bit shocked, to say the least, from what I gather.

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7. afaarchive - November 19, 2012

More info on Red Action and Anti-Fascist Action can be viewed on the Anti-Fascist Archive (www.antifascistarchive.com).

There are some posts relating to the two Red Action members who were arrested for Irish republican terrorism, one for the Provisional IRA and one for the INLA.

Jan Taylor was not a member of Red Action.

Please see the following posts:

http://antifascistarchive.com/2012/06/08/the-arrest-of-patrick-hayes/

http://antifascistarchive.com/2012/06/12/guardian-articles-on-red-action-and-anti-fascist-action/

On the latter link see the 1993 Guardian article: INLA Would be Bombers go to Jail.

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8. Left Archive: Red Action, Issue No. 68, Summer 1994 – REPOST « Anti-Fascist Archive - November 19, 2012

[...] The following article is a re-post from Cedar Lounge Revolution [...]

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9. Jaybob - November 23, 2012

[branno is right, not relevant] wbs

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afaarchive - November 23, 2012

^Sounds like unreliable LinkedIn google hit

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Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - November 23, 2012

That’s nobodies business moderator

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WorldbyStorm - November 23, 2012

afaarchive, just to say thanks for that information. Genuinely appreciated.

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afaarchive - November 23, 2012

No problem!

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