Left Archive: Britain and the Irish Crisis – A Communist View of the White Paper, Gordon McLennan, Communist Party of Great Britain, 1973 July 1, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communist Party of Great Britain, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
To download the above please click on the following link: CPGB1973GO
This is an useful document outlining the view of the Communist Party of Great Britain in regard to the White Paper. After noting the ‘sacred duty’ of British Communists to assist in the Irish question it offers an outline history of the conflict and forces on the island that led to Independence, partition and after. It argues that Unionism was ‘an alliance of Landlords and Businessmen’.
The leaflet very clearly aligns with NICRA and notes that:
[trade unions were drawn closer to other groups in NI that were campaigning on similar policies] and came together in 1967 to form the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, making possible the development in recent years of the great mass movement of the people of Northern Ireland which has profoundly affected the political developments in the last six years and which has an even greater role to play in the days that lie ahead.
The document does not go into detail on the split in Republicanism, but it does note that:
In Northern Ireland the actions of elitist groups, especially the bombing of civilian targets, has come under sharp criticism both from the Communist Party of Ireland as well as from the Civil Rights Association. The official wing of the IRA has also condemned these bombings while asserting the right to use arms for defensive purposes.
It is deeply critical of British government policy throughout, and in particular in relation to Bloody Sunday in 1972 and it reasserts its support for the withdrawal of British troops and ‘the ending of all British political, administrative and economic control’ which would ‘enable the people of NI, together with those of the Republic, to take the necessary steps to end the imperialist-imposed partition and establish a united Ireland, free from discrimination and sectarian strife’. However the document argues that:
… the demand for the withdrawal of British troops must be related to the other political demands which, taken together, form the basis for overcoming the present crisis.
BBC: “Where did all the comrades go?” January 16, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in British Politics, Communist Party of Great Britain.
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This BBC Radio 4 programme might interest some here
The British Communist Party was pronounced dead in 1991 as the Soviet Union was collapsing. This is the story of its afterlife and how the Communist Party’s money, its people, its ideas continued to play a critical and sometimes surprising role in British politics.
Twenty years ago, Britain’s answer to Bolshevism, the Communist Party of Great Britain, gave up the ghost and disbanded itself at a special conference in Bloomsbury.
But arguably that was the very moment when the real influence of Britain’s official communists began to be felt in a new and unexpected way.
Freed from carrying the burdensome hammer and sickle and its compromising associations with Stalin’s terror and the economic failure of the Soviet system, these ex-communists went out into the rest of the political world and began to exert real, if subtle, influence.
Max Cotton traces the influence of the ‘modernising’ euro-communists, through the financial legacy of millions of pounds of ‘Moscow Gold’ and through the organisations they have founded and run, and looks for traces of their Marxist roots.
Left Archive: “Ireland” Special, International Affairs Bulletin, Communist Party of Great Britain, May/June 1968 July 9, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communist Party of Great Britain, Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Politics.
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To download the above file please click on the following link: CPGBIRLBULT68
This is an interesting and quite long bulletin. One of a series issued regularly by the Communist Party of Great Britain it sought to engage in some detail with political activity in parts various internationally.
This edition is of obvious interest focusing as it does entirely on Ireland. In eighteen pages it covers the history of Ireland, dates of interest from Modern Ireland, considers the nature of the Republic, examines political parties and trade unions and also analyses Northern Ireland.
There is also a classification of capital which considers the Republic in the following terms:
(A) Infrastructure of state industries: electricity, public roads and rail services, Post Office, turf (equivalent of coal in British economy), sugar, parts of banking, insurance and shipping.
(B) Old established industries connected with former ascendency families, once important but now largely brought up by British monopolies.
(C) British (and to a lesser degree U.S., Canadian, West German and Japanese) monopoly investments. British exceeds all others together many times over. Oil, banking, and insurance milling (Ranks), mining, light engineering (branches of foreign concerns) and increasingly marketing.
(D) Numerous, very small, mostly family firms.
The over view of the political parties notes that:
Fianna Fail… traditionally based on state aid to native industry. Protection through tariffs and state-sector infrastructure…Over past ten years the great penetration of British foreign capital has produced branches of monopoly in which local Irish capital participates. Thus FF now speaks for the larger native capitalists with foreign connections. Large banking and merchange houses who used to give funds to FG now give them to FF.
Fine Gael… a type of superficial radicalism has appeared, designed to appeal to workers an others with just grievances against FF.
Labour… a British-type LP with trade union affiliations… the party has no strong constituency organisation, nor any firm philosophy or politics..
Sinn Féin… Still tied by rigid traditions derived from stands taken in the counter revolutionary years… SF has of late moved sharply left and has adopted a united Irish ‘socialist republic’ as its objective.
Irish Workers’ Party… the outlook of the IWP is increasingly permeating the outlook of Labour Left and the Republican movement.
And it concludes:
There are a number of small splinter groups of a variously leftist orientation. They have little influence, and come and go.
Interestingly in relation to Northern Ireland it argues that:
The main political parties are the Unionist Party, the N.I.L.P., the Communist Party, and the Republican Party (illegal), Gerard Fitt M.P., being elected in effect as a result of an anti-Unionist coalition which is supported by many Protestant voters.
It’s also useful to note some of the key points that it refers to in the historical time line early in the document:
Summer 1967: Labour Party in Dublin proposes to re-insert socialism in its programme. National Council of Labour for all Ireland under discussion.
December 1967: Sinn Fein (Republicans) insert socialism in their programme.
Developing unity of Workers’ Party , Sinn Fein and left Labour on housing agitations.
In relation to SF it notes further: ‘It is strongly against the Common Market, and increasingly reflects the interests of the petit-bourgeoisie and small independent capitalists, but has support from many workers on the grounds that ending partition will greatly increase employment possibilities’.
In essence this was the view from the UK CPGB – and from a point towards the end of the 1960s, and it is telling both how it contextualises activity within a range of groups and their orientation and how critical the view of SF is.
Irish Left Archive: Ireland: A Question for us all: Report of a London District Communist Party (CPGB) Delegation to Belfast, 1983 December 6, 2010Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communist Party of Great Britain, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
To download this document please click on following link… CPGB NI 83
This is a document that describes the outlook of the Communist Party of Great Britain to the issue of Northern Ireland in the early 1980s. As noted in the Foreword, ‘the Report deals with the historical and political background to current developments in Northern Ireland and is informed by the Marxist analysis of the Communist Party of Ireland’.
Coming at a point after the Hunger Strikes the document offers a view of the ‘Roots of the Irish Crisis’ which includes an overview of Partition and after. It’s notable how the analysis of the events of 1968 onwards underplays the convulsions in Republicanism and the IRA, noting only that:
As the state thus went dramatically on the offensive, the response of the minority community inevitably sharpened: ever larger numbers within the nationalist fold took up arms, as the IRA – which had turned from military to political action through most of the 1960s – revitalised the armed struggle in the form of the Provisionals. Rent and rate strikes developed, and Stormont was boycotted by nationalist politicians.
The document argues that:
In Britain, Communists see their task as developing a clear ideological and political break between the working class movement and British imperialism which continues to rule in Northern Ireland with the tacit consent of the British people.
We must fight to remove that consent and to demand a declaration of intent by the British government to withdraw from Northern Ireland, coupled with a broad programme for ending repression and instituting democratic reforms within the six counties that would create, in the shortest possible time, the political, social and economic conditions for the re-unification of Ireland.
There’s an interesting outline of ‘The Political Parties’, which starts, perhaps not unexpectedly, with the CPI. SF are positioned within ‘The Nationalist Camp’. It notes that ‘it would have been valuable to hear what account the Workers Party would have given of themselves. Formerly known as Official Sinn Féin in the Republic and the Republican Clubs in Northern Ireland (changing its name to the present title in 1982), and known as the political wing of the Official IRA, they have – in the words of one leading Irish Communist – undergone a recent ‘transformation from a radical republic [sic] party to a social democratic one [which] … has appeared to be embarrassed by its republican past, and to have been incapable of defining republicanism except as antithetical to socialism’.
In terms of Sinn Féin the document argues that:
…one must recognise, however, that Sinn Féin today reflects two face so republican tradition, not necessarily in easy alliance. One is represented by a simpler nationalism that has found its motive force in the middle class or in rural areas: more committed to the military cause, it has also tended to be hostile to progressive tendencies within the movement. Indeed when PSF (and the PIRA) was formed in 1969-70, it was largely as a reaction against a diminishing commitment to the military struggle in favour of more socialist political activity. That political dimension, the other face of the Republican tradition, has in the last few years begun to reassert itself within Provisional SF as well – a strong indication that it arises out of undeniable material circumstance of life in NI.
This progressive trend, which now gives the appearance of being in the ascendancy within SF and is represented by Gerry Adams and other young members of the party, has its roots in the working class around Beflast and Derry, the two principle industrial centres in the six-counties and represent a legitimate, but still rather nebulous (and certainly non-Marxist) socialist viewpoint which can only gain in coherence and conviction to the degree that Sinn Féin is not isolated from other progressive forces.
There’s considerably more including an analysis of the Unionist camp, though the document notes that ‘the members of the Delegation were keenly interested in talking with representatives of the Unionist tradition in NI. Regrettably, no response to its invitation was forthcoming from either the OUP or the DUP’.
On the other hand it also notes that ‘they were able to meet with a leading member of the Ulster Defence Association, Andy Tyrie’. And it notes that ‘although atypical of Unionism in general, the UDA does give an idea of the contradictions within the Unionist all-class alliance, as it seeks to represent a working class dimension’ though the Report is quick to point out that ‘it also expresses certain distinctive class views of conditions in NI that are not found in the main Unionist parties, in particular an apprehension of capitalist interests which was expressed in terms of a vague and hesitant ‘socialism’. These tendencies, perhaps better understood as a kind of populism, reflect the worsening economic situation for many Protestants in NI…’
It also contains an overview of Repression and an outline of the social costs of the conflict as they impact on different groups. It concludes with a strategy for reunification.
Irish Left Archive: Resistance No. 3, Irish Republican Support Group (Communist Party of Great Britain), 1986 April 26, 2010Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Communist Party of Great Britain, Irish Left Online Document Archive, Uncategorized.
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Here is an intriguing document issued by the Irish Republican Support Group [within ?] the Communist Party of Great Britain.
The Irish Left Archive (Remembering 1969): Communist Party of Great Britain – Northern Ireland: Civil Rights and Political Wrongs, 1969 April 6, 2009Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Communist Party of Great Britain, Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Left Online Document Archive (Remembering 1969).
Here is a pamphlet, written by Desmond Greaves, dating from 1969 which gives the analysis of the Communist Party of Great Britain on the Northern Ireland issue. In this it is close to the Communist Party of Northern Ireland view on these matters (and in many respects the Sinn Féin, or rather what was to become Official Sinn Féin, view) and by extension follows a strongly ‘civil rights’ line. It’s a fairly short document which concludes by quoting from a CPNI manifesto in order to explain the differences between the various strands of Unionism extant at that time:
“Behind the smoke-screen of ‘personalities’ two distinct policies have appeared. On the one hand we have the O’Neillites – the political instrument of the monopolies in N. Ireland; and on the other hand the ‘Right-wingers’ – Craigites and Paisleyites, who reflect the fear within the Unionist ranks of losing privileges and sinecures which are maintained by political-religious sectarianism. BOTH ARE THE ENEMY OF THE WORKING PEOPLE…’
Since its inception the Unionist Party has demonstrated its total opposition to the present demands of the Civil Rights Association. Events of the past few months have shown that both ‘rightists’ and the so-called ‘Moderate’ Unionists are still opposed to these just demands of the common people.
It implicitly calls for British Government intervention and notes that ‘until recently it was pretended that Westminster had no power to intervene. Then it was tardily admitted that the Government of Ireland Act vested supreme authority in the Westminster Parliament’ (As a side note that fiction was convenient from the point of view of London across many decades – wbs). Members who wanted to discuss British responsibility were told however that there was a ‘convention’ that they did not do so; and the absurd position was reached where Mr. Gerard Fitt, the Member for Belfast West, was liable to be ruled out of order every time he asked a question about his own constituency…
… since the struggles in Derry and elsewhere the ‘convention’ has become somewhat battered.
It is fascinating to see how the analysis, positioned within a civil rights discourse, in a sense is one which becomes very clearly one that aligns with a metropolitan (in the sense of London as the centre) view. Note for example the following:
The effect of such an event [...civil war] would be disastrous not only for N.I. but for the British labour movement. In many British cities there are large concentrations of Irish people. In some there are populations of Irish descent who still retain memories of the sectarian excesses of the past; and there are still prejudices left…
…It is not a question of ‘doing good’ to Ireland. It is a vital interest of the British people that the Unionist bastion of reaction in these islands should be brought down. As long as NI sends MPs to Westminster it is in the best interests of the British Labour movement that these should be progressive not reactionary.
And this continues in a vein which seems to attempt to chart a course between outright support for unification or its opposite.
… From a longer term point of view it is in the best interests of the British people that democratic forces on both sides of the Irish Sea exercise power, rather than forces of reaction. The clearing of the ground that would enable the Irish people to go ahead and build up their own prosperity would be in the interests of all the inhabitants of these islands.
Indeed one can argue that this document exposes one of the great contradictions of the civil rights period which is that civil rights per se was not the single unambiguous objective of Nationalism (let alone Republicanism).
The root cause of the troubles in NI is the constitution that has been imposed on the area. It consists of an Act… passed in… 1920. Many of the provisions have been repealed….but the basic principles have never been questioned, although they are an anachronism….it [NI] has no power over trade relations with any other country, not even the Irish Republic [sic]. Least of all has it the power to discuss with the Republic the vital question of reunification of the country…
… What is wanted therefore is a revision of the constitution which would bring it up to date, reimpose the restrictions which have been evaded, but confer additional powers to enable the people to work out their own salvation in their own way.
And in a masterful balancing act it continues;
The British people have no right, and should not wish to have any right to insist that Northern Ireland should remain a part of the United Kingdom. But they have the right to insist that while it does remain a part of the UK it shall be constitutionally compelled to afford the same level of civil liberties as exists in the rest of the UK and that it shall be free to leave the UK.
… If these steps are taken the way will be cleared for further developments leading to the unity of Ireland and the ending of the dispute that has done so much harm in these islands. The defeat of Unionism will clear the way to collaboration in the building of socialism.
The Irish Left Archive [Remembering 1969] seeks to bring into the public domain documents and publications from 1969 with a left and Republican slant. Already there are a number of documents that have been donated or are on file, but if you have any material you think might be appropriate – and, in particular, Official and Provisional Sinn Féin publications would be welcome – please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can I also take this opportunity to call again for any donations to the Archive – we’re adding trade union material and other materials of interest would include left-wing unionist publications from the last thirty years…
This text and these files are a resource for use freely by anyone who wants to for whatever purpose – that’s the whole point of the Archive (well that and the discussions). But if you do happen to use them we’d really appreciate if you mentioned that you found them at the Irish Left Online Document Archive…
Irish Left Archive: Marxism Today, Communist Party of Great Britain, Special Irish Number, June 1973 – Part 2 November 17, 2008Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Communist Party of Great Britain, Communist Party of Ireland, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
As promised last week, here is Part 2 of Marxism Today: Special Irish Number.
Two files, pages 18 – 36 and the full version.
The Left Archive: Marxism Today, Communist Party of Great Britain, Special Irish Number, June 1973 – Part 1 November 10, 2008Posted by leftopenhistoryteam in Communist Party of Great Britain, Communist Party of Ireland, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
Here is a document that should be of some interest.
You can find copies of Marxism Today over the years available here. However they currently run from 1978 onwards. This edition is a bit earlier and significantly different in tone. As ever the point of the Irish Left Archive is to not just give you the text but also a sense of the physical presence of these documents… the materiality of it, as it were.
Anyhow, Marxism Today, venerable journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain and later cheerleader of the Euro-communists devoted this edition to the issue of Ireland. And this it does in a series of interesting articles.
Some of the names will be familiar. This shouldn’t be surprising since they are culled from the Communist Party of Ireland. Here is Michael O’Riordan, writing on “The White Paper on Northern Ireland”. There is Betty Sinclair writing about Trade Unions in Ireland.
Others are less so.
The concerns are those of the further left during this period – and after. The North, The Common Market and so on. And the CRA is prominently featured. Notable is the absence of any British voices.
It’s a nice production with a more than faintly academic aspect to it. Scientific socialism indeed. Hence the journal-like pagination starting at page 161. The Starry Plough on the cover is a nice touch, and one that links it directly to the iconography of the CPI. And for those of us familiar with more orthodox forms of communist organisation the advertising at the back of the journal will bring back memories.
Due to its size I’ve split it into two files, both 5mbs each which I’ll post over the next two weeks. I’ll also post the full file next week.