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The Left Archive: British and Irish Communist Organisation… The Irish Communist from 1973. August 9, 2007

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Irish Left Online Document Archive.


As half-promised here is a PDF (6mbs large) of the Irish Communist, the theoretical journal of the British and Irish Communist Organisation. Dating from 1973 TIC was a typewritten journal, 36 pages long. My apologies for the somewhat idiosyncratic scanning and the unusual angles. bico-1973.pdf

In any case the journal contains three articles, one on the “Ulster Liberals, the Protestant Working Class and the Struggle against Home Rule”, one on “The Lenin-Trotsky Controversy on the Trade Unions 1920 – 1921” and “The Rights of Nations and the Duties of Communists”. Intriguingly the same names as we see in the Irish Historical Review appear here. The consistency within BICO and its successors – in terms of those involved – is quite striking.

The emphasis on Leninism is also evident. The quote on the front is “Without a revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement”. As interesting in its own way is the list of periodicals, pamphlets and books issued by BICO on the last two pages. An eclectic mix, to be honest. They range from “On the Democratic Validity of the Norther Ireland State” (a bargain at 5p), “The Two Irish Nations: A reply to M. Farrell”, “Is Wales a Nation?” (I’d like to see that one) and then a worrying section entitled ‘by Stalin’ wherein we can feast upon such ideological delights as “Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR”, “On an Article by Engels” and “On Trotsky”.

In a way the dustiness of the enterprise is underscored by this nostalgic – if that is the right term – rummaging through arguably one of the most benighted strains in Marxism and taking it with any seriousness.

But the real meat is in the articles. I think they give a real taste of the mixture of ideological certainty, almost complete identification with Stalinism (in the most specific sense of the term) and special pleading as regards the advanced status of the Unionist working class on the island and I’d be interested in any comments on same.


1. conor mccabe - August 9, 2007

This is fantastic! Thanks wbs.


2. WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2007

But will you thank me after you’ve read it? Hmmm….


3. conor mccabe - August 10, 2007



4. John Callaghan - August 10, 2007

Thanks very much for posting this. Have you any more from this source?


5. splinteredsunrise - August 10, 2007

Oddly enough, I’ve just been rereading Clifford’s Against Ulster Nationalism from 1975, and quite the read it is. It’s fascinating how Brendan managed to shape the house style… certainly Manus uses far more Cliffordisms than he used to.


6. Grendel - August 10, 2007

I had no idea that Mr. Jack Lane was a once screaming Unionist (Pg. 26 saying Dev equals Idi Amin, indeed. What nonsense!).
Another offshoot of the obnoxious B&ICO sect were the Ernest Bevin Society, an “Old Labour” group in Britain with strong Leninist overtones. I think Eamonn O’Kane might have been a member. They published a journal called Labour and Trade Union Review, which has a website here:
They were best known for supporting the Bullock Report advocating Worker’s Control in 1977, and were also pro-EC. They were also very critical of the mainstream Labour party, eg. this attack on the party’s attitude to the monarchy:. http://members.aol.com/BevinSoc/l4br.htm
A Guardian article I found from Raphael Samuel (Dec.2 1985) states they were opposing the miners’ strike at the time. More disturbingly, they were also:
*Sympathetic to some of Enoch Powell’s ideas (Powell said he was a racist, the EBS said he wasn’t),
*Hysterically anti-New Left,
*anti-nuclear disarmament-see http://members.aol.com/BevinSoc/l3defence.htm
*and uncritically pro-Milosevic during the Balkan wars.

I think they support the BB oaf George Galloway nowadays.
Somebody on Indymedia claimed that Brendan Clifford and his organisations had “all the left-wing credentials of the John Birch Society or the Monday Club”. I think he/she was right.


7. John Callaghan - August 11, 2007

Ultra-leftists becoming raving right wingers isnt confined to Ireland.
Have a look at the website Last Super Power run by Albert Langer an ex-member of the CPA (ML) in Australia. Langer left the party as a supporter of the ‘Gang of Four’

These days he supports the Anglo-US war against Iraq.

Even madder – the Irish connection – – have a read of their review of Ken Loach’s ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’ by one of their bespeckled female loonies!



8. WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2007

Sorry, that sort of exhausts my cache of BICO stuff. Still, coming soon from 1976 – CPI-ML!


9. Grendel - August 11, 2007

John, the Last Super Power group seem almost as scary as Clifford’s cult!
Perhaps significantly, the Last Super Power website says they “reject green ideology because it opposes rapid development, fears change and romanticises pre-industrial life.” Both the Bevin Society and the Last Super Power are anti-green. I think the explanation for this might be Leninist/Stalinist ideology.
In Derek Wall’s excellent anthology Green History, he
includes a section on anti-environmental thought. One of the excerpts is from Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s infamous book Soviet Communism. The Webbs praise Stalin for carrying out the “transformation of the environment” through building massive canals, roads, cities, etc. The excerpt is a good example of authoritarian socialist attitudes to nature.
I think when some of these authoritarian socialists embrace capitalism, they carry these anti-nature, pro-technocratic ideas with them.


10. WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2007

Grendal, how strangely similar they are to Spiked and the other remnants of the RCP….


11. Grendel - August 11, 2007

Yes, WBS, you’re quite right. In his WP days, wasn’t Senator Eoghan Harris a green-basher as well?
Actually, some of the WP’s ideas were influenced by B&ICO
as well…


12. Worldbystorm - August 11, 2007

Some members of the WP came from BICO by way of the DSP and other formations…


13. John Callaghan - August 11, 2007

Hello Grendel,

I dont think its their “authoritarian socialism” that leads them to take strange positions as the same views are not reflected in the other ML groups. say RCPB(ML) or CPGB(ML).

CPI(ML) from 1976 – brilliant! Looking forward to that.


14. Grendel - August 11, 2007

Actually, I’m not sure why say, B&ICO would differ from say, the
CPGB on other political issues. I do think, however that Leninism/Stalinism is anti-environmentalist and this is why these groups (B&ICO/EBS,LSP,Spiked and possibly
the WP) are against the green movement.

It’s very odd that for about 20 years,Brendan Clifford and B&ICO campaigned aggressively against
all forms of Irish nationalism (Judging from his writings, Clifford would benefit greatly from an anger mangement course!). This would involve the expenditure of lots of time, money and resources. Then in the 1990s, they all suddenly, en masse embraced the same position they had previously denounced! And there didn’t seem to be any arguments or splits in
the group about it. This is the kind of behaviour one normally gets with say, Lyndon Larouche’s group, or the SWP on a very bad day.


15. Ed Hayes - August 13, 2007

I don’t know if you have any more BICO publications in your archive WBS. Their coverage of the UDA/UVF in the mid 70s is pretty ‘interesting’ mainly because they continually made excuses for them. They were prone to making nasty and snide remarks about their rivals and enemies as well, some of which verged on anti-Catholic sectarianism. Now they are doing much the same thing, except from the opposite side.


16. Grendel - August 14, 2007

Over the last week, I went searching thru the web for info on the British and Irish Communist Organisation, the Irish Political Review, and its members.
These are some of the key people in B&ICO and its descendant groups:

Brendan Clifford ?1926-
Angela Clifford nee Angela Khalil 1942-
Manus O’Riordan ?
Jack Lane 1945-
David Alvey ?
David Morrison ?
Peter Brooke (NOT the Tory Politician) 1948-
Joe Keenan ?1952-
Bill Warren 1935-1978
Pat Walsh 1961-
Alan Carr ?1947-

And here are some links which discuss the organisation :
From Peking to Aubane-an excellent discussion of the B&ICO/IPR group’s development, by Danny McGrain-this article sparked my own interest in the organisation’s history. People unfamiliar with the subject should probably start here.

One of several discussions on this mailing list of B&ICO. Talks about Clifford, Bew and the Worker’s Party. Makes an amusing speculation on the group’s embrace of Irish nationalism.

Brian Trench: Two nations Fallacy From International Socialism 1972 (Attacks the ICO-later B&ICO-positions).

A politics.ie discussion that mentions B&ICO.

An Alliance for Worker’s Liberty article which mentions B&CIO academic Bill Warren- B&ICO is described as a “Stalinist-Kautskyist” sect.

Robert Dorn (Aka DR O’Connor Lysaght) 1973 (claims that the B&ICO “two nations” theory is reactionary, and the true cause of partition is British Imperialism).

For Workers Unity 1974 (Probably the most famous anti-B&ICO pamphlet, censuring the B&ICO/Workers Association’s attempts to sever the union movement along sectarian lines).

The oldest item I could find, (1966), in which Ted Grant of Militant attacks the Irish Communist Group’s Stalinist “stages” theory, postulated by… a pre-B&ICO Brendan Cliffor. Perhaps this “stages theory” was also taken up by the Workers’ Party?

And now I’m going to rest with teabags over my eyes….


17. WorldbyStorm - August 14, 2007

Thanks for that… I’m surprised there is so much in a way.

Ed, if you have any other publications from them that would be very interesting…


18. Grendel - August 15, 2007

Apparently, some people are still using the ideas of the “old”
B&ICO group to oppose Irish nationalism. I once read a book
called “The Communist Manifesto:New Interepretations” edited by Mark Cowling, and published in 1998. In a section on Northern
Ireland, Cowling attacked traditional views of NI, along with Marx and Connolly, and accused support for nationalism of leading to support for PIRA terrorism. Cowling praises B&ICO along Paul Bew and Peter Gibbon,whom he claims give a more accurate view of NI.
They can’t make a quarter-century of unionism disappear….


19. Starkadder - August 17, 2007

While reading through Village’s online edition, I came across
a letter from David Alvey saying his “group” (presumably the
IPR, formerly BICO group) had sent a memorandum to
Brian Lenihan calling for a tribunal to be set up into the Irish
Times and the Mahon Tribunal. Apparently Brendan Clifford
has been giving out about the IT for decades.,
but this seems to be the group’s first foray in real politics
since the Bob McCartney fiasco of the 1980s.
Personally, I think the IPR’s action is despicable, and reminded me
of that time Mary Ellen Synon called for that journalist to be jailed.
Here’s the link:


20. WorldbyStorm - August 17, 2007

Oh dear God, now they’ve got delusions of adequacy… thanks for that Starkadder. I think you’re dead right.


21. Grendel - August 18, 2007

Squealing to the authorities is seen as admirable in this
clique of former Stalinists. I don’t know if Lenihan will
pay any attention to the letter, but an organisation that tries to
obstruct corruption investigations should be opposed by the Left.
In Cork, I’ve read both the IPR and its sister magazine Church &
State, which are carried by the City Library.The last issue had Brendan Clifford denoucing Ivana Bacik and Indymedia posters who criticised him. The current issue has attacks on the IT, Chekov Feeney and the Tribunals. There was nothing by
Clifford,though…maybe the men in white coats finally caught him.


22. WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2007

Do you think the IPR represents the ‘left’ in any meaningful sense Grendal, at this stage? Incidentally, just noticed Clifford’s age. I must grudgingly concede that I admire his ability to maintain a perennial inconsistency… but not his politics. Not even a bit.

What is Cliffords ire with Bacik?


23. chekov - August 18, 2007

“The current issue has attacks on the IT, Chekov Feeney and the Tribunals.”

Is there an August issue? If so, goody, another one for the scrap book. I hope it’s better than the last one, I want some proper denunciatory rhetorical spite. What do they call me?


24. Grendel - August 18, 2007

I only glanced thru the mags both times-I’ve been reading it for the
last two years in the library. However, along with the British Socialist
Standard, I always found it rather boringly written and only read it for shock
value (Haughey a saint! Milosevic a saint! The Rwandans asked for it!
Martin Mansergh is a devil-worshipping West Brit!).
The IPR’s memorandum is online here:

I found their quoting of the infamous Major McDowell letter highly hypocritical, given that they used write such racist BS as this:

“Nationalism is the curse of the labour movement in Ireland…It has been assumed that a national struggle for self-determination is automatically progressive and deserves the support of the working class,and if fact should be carried out by the working class if the nation bourgeoisie are not up to the task.”
“This view persists despite a host of great fighters against British imperialism who will go down in history as the most rabid reactionaries of the 20th century, like General Grivas,
General Amin ,De Valera to name but three contemporary examples” (pg. 26).

The next time Lane posts to Indymedia, let’s post this passage
up for a laugh….


25. WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2007

They call you “The Evil One” Chekov, “The Evil One”, naturally… 😉

Wow, they really have it in for poor Martin Mansergh. I thought that too Grendal, what a bunch of hypocrits. They find one extremely unpleasant example of racist material and then decide ‘that’s it, that informs everything else from here on in…’ And on another issue I find their approach to Anglo-Irish culture a weird mix of populism and elitism simultaneously that treads dangerously close to a sort of small s cultural/religious sectarianism.


26. Grendel - August 21, 2007

The journalist that Starkadder referred to was Susan O’Keeffe.
Mary Ellen Synon called for her to be arrested, presumably
because O’Keeffe’s investigations threatened the Private Property of
Rich White Chrisitans-the American Right’s unforgivable sin.

Oddly, David Alvey used to write for the IT years ago.


27. WorldbyStorm - August 21, 2007

Lovely people.


28. Ed Hayes - August 22, 2007

There was an article worth reading in the July IPR, a letter written by Mick O’Riordan to an American communist in 1939 that does provide some insights into both Irish communist and IRA thinking on the eve of the Second World War. Manus (Mick’s son) was of course in BICO which the CPI hated so family get togethers must have been fun. On the list of BICO members above; don’t forget Peter Cassells, Kate Hoey, and Rosheen Callender.


29. Idris of Dungiven - August 22, 2007

*The* Kate Hoey? As in the Nulabor minister?


30. Ed Hayes - August 22, 2007

Yep, former member of the Workers Asociation for a Democratic settlement in Norn Iron, a BICO front, one of many…also included the current Lord Bew.


31. WorldbyStorm - August 22, 2007

True story. When I left these shores in 1989/90 for London I enquired as to who if any I should get in contact in the UK who would be sympathetic to the WP. Kate Hoey’s name topped the list…


32. Grendel - August 22, 2007

It’s well known that John Lloyd, the former editor of the “New Statesman”,
was a B&ICO member. This probably explains Lloyd’s pro-Unionist
stance on Northern Ireland. He discusses his membership and
why he left in this NS article:


33. Idris of Dungiven - August 23, 2007

The IPR once described Prionsias De Rossa as having spent his life ‘whoring after false gods’. Which I think is actually unfair on P de R, but sums up the likes of Eoghan Harris and John Lloyd to a T.


34. splinteredsunrise - August 23, 2007

Their hatchet jobs on Bew are quite good… and every so often Sean McGouran will stick the boot into Jeff Dudgeon. The LTUR has less in the way of esoteric catfights, but I suppose that’s part of the IPR’s quirky charm.


35. Grendel - August 29, 2007

“As interesting in its own way is the list of periodicals, pamphlets and books issued by BICO on the last two pages. An eclectic mix, to be honest”.
According to the British Library website, Brendan Clifford wrote/edited almost seventy books and pamphlets. The B&ICO published around 62 items. Add the Worker’s Association (10 items) & Bevin Society (9 items) and the group is far ahead of its nearest rival, the
SWP, which published 48 items in the BL. Other leftist organisations I picked for
comparison fare even worse:

RCP: 14 items
Militant: 7 items
Alliance for workers liberty: 8 items
Class War Federation:6 items

Athol Books may be a like a vanity press for Clifford and his followers, but that kind of output is still admirable. Or rather, would be, if the
material wasn’t full of Stalinist/Loyalist/Haughey-ist blether…

(As an aside, I noticed John Sullivan’s article, while amusing, was inaccurate. He claimed that

” The reputation of most Irish “Marxists” has never recovered from Clifford’s revelations, …Clifford’s victory, once quotations were verified, was almost too complete. Other groups had little choice but to adopt neo-Cliffordian positions”.

In fact, I discovered Clifford’s ideas had been seriously challenged at the time,by people like Trench and Lysaght, and some groups such as Militant, arguably adopted “anti-Cliffordian” positions).


36. WorldbyStorm - August 29, 2007

Now that’s telling. Stakhanovite, is that not the term?

Fair point about Sullivan, I think it’s fairly flippant throughout (and I can’t help feeling that there’s just a tinge of Englishism to it) but still quite witty.


37. Idris of Dungiven - August 29, 2007

‘Quantity has a quality all its own’. Well, they are/were Stalinists. . .


38. Anonymous - August 30, 2007

Thanks very much for the scan. It backs up the Indymedia article’s claims about their ideological about-face. It’s fascinating in particular to see Jack Lane attacking Dev, as the latter is now in the IPR’s good books. It’s probably what a commenter on the politics.ie board said (think it was from there): they’re the lunatic fringe that serves to make the rhetoric of Eoghan Harris and suchlike sound reasonable, and taints the causes they espouse by association.

Interesting that Kate Hoey was linked to them, as they have an article attacking her here: http://www.atholbooks.org/review/hoey.php


39. Anonymous - August 30, 2007

Actually, it wasn’t politics.ie, it was Indymedia article.


40. WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2007

Glad to help. I saw the indymedia article which sort of covered the same ground, but as you sort of point out without physical material it can be difficult to easily assess the mindset of an organisation at this remove. Which is why I’d be grateful for any documentation for any group so we can start establishing a left web archive that is easily accessible to those who are interested.


41. Starkadder - August 30, 2007

The August 2007 Irish Political Review (30pgs.) contains:

*12 seperate attacks on the Irish Times.
*2 seperate attacks on both Mansergh and Fintain O’Toole.
*2 seperate claims that the Casement “Black Diaries”
were forged (This is an IPR obession, and it caused some
Indymedia posters to accuse the group of homophobia).
*4 denouncations on the Tribunals, including one
by a Michael Stack, claiming everyone should read
Denis O’Brien’s attack on the Tribunals (pgs.26-7) and a defence of P. Flynn (Pgs 8-9).
*An attack (pg.4) on the American Civil War as “coericion”(perhaps they want to
sell the magazine south of the Mason-Dixon line ;)…
*A claim that Ireland’s PR system is British and should be abolished
* On page 8, they claim “it is hard for liberal journalists like
Chekov Feeney to admit their beacon of liberal values (the IT) is anything but.”
* 3 attacks on RTE
* And finally, during an obituary of John Wilson, an insulting discription of
Irish politicians”that directed their ire against the Soviet Union and
Germany” instead of the British Empire (The BE was bad, but
its sheer stupidity to claim it was worse than Stalin’s Russian or
Hitler’s Germany).

Not a publication I can recommend to any Irish person left
of Justin Barrett or Nora Bennis.


42. Grendel - August 30, 2007

I was wondering: is Jack Lane related to Fintan Lane or
Fintan’s father Jim Lane? Apparently both Jack & Jim were Maoists
in the late 1960s.


43. WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2007

Starkadder, that’s a great inventory of their bile. It’s mighty readable though as a magazine, usually with a dawning horror as one scans through an article that alters from okay to outright … well, supply your own term!

Oh no, Grendel, don’t tell me it’s hereditary.


44. Anony - September 6, 2007

I was wondering about the Lane connection.

There are serious academics who are still very dubious about the Casement diaries and doubtless do not appreciate the “lunatic fringe” being on the case. Ditto with the revisionism controversy.


45. John O'Neill - September 6, 2007

Grendal – I’m not sure if Fintan sees this site but ISN member Fintan Lane is not related to Jack Lane. His father is Jim Lane a former IRSP member who held a leadership position with the IRSP for a while.


46. Grendel - September 6, 2007

P(r)at Muldowney and Jack Lane both had letters in yesterday’s
Irish Examiner attacking Elizabeth Bowen and Churchill.
Maybe someone should write in and spill the beans on Lane’s (“most rabid reactionaries”) Unionist past?


47. Grendel - September 17, 2007

In the introduction to the 1992 edition of “the Economics of
Partition”, amid all the praise about how great Brendan Clifford is, Mr. B. Clifford also gives B&ICO scholars some useful information.
Apparently, at the height of its influence (early 70s) there were about 50 members of B&ICO. The “Economics of Partition” is claimed as an
underground bestseller, having published about 5000 copies by the 1990s.Later in the book, Clifford claims the Cork Workers’ Club
was founded by a man who left B&ICO (and is, of course, savaged
for disagreeing with Clifford’s god-like wisdom). Clifford claims he
is no longer a Marxist (WBS doubted if the IPR still is part of the left-
Clifford claims he doesn’t want to be). Clifford leaves the book’s anti-Catholic and
anti-Irish nationalist views unchanged.

Some other folk who were members or associates of B&ICO:

Carmel Roulston,
Brian Girvin
Gwydion M. Williams-(son of the famous Raymond Williams and a poster to Amazon & Wikipedia- alarmingly, GMW admires both Mao Zedong AND Ayn Rand!!!)

Mick Raftery
Tom Wall
Leo McKinstry-(Now a journalist with the repellent Daily Express)
Stephen MacCarthy
Mark Langhammer ( a British Labour politician)
Paul Cockshott (an associate of Bill Warren)
Boyd Black (Queen’s lecturer)
Peter Wilberg
Dick Pountain (friend of John Lloyd-they were later in a voting reform group together in the early 1990s .Pountain was also associated with the situationist influenced-group “King Mob”.
He is now most famous as the co-author of the
book “Cool Rules”.)


48. Grendel - September 17, 2007

More on BICO and King Mob….

“Al Green. (Not the “Let’s Stay Together” guy!!) S.E.District See. of the TGWU, was formerly a situationist-influenced individual loosely attached to King Mob. Instead of deepening this shambles of a libertarian critique he fell back, like so many others, into the crushing embrace of the alienated representation of the workers’ movement: trade unions and the Labour Party. He is a friend of John Lloyd, the Industrial Editor of the Financial Times, who can boast (but prefers a thousand times not to) of comparable libertarian beginnings….
Both AI Green and John Lloyd have had connections with BICO (the British and Irish Communist Organisation) and the influence of this organisation on Uoyd’s articles comes through, for instance, in his admiration for Ernie Bevin. Space does not permit even the briefest resume of BICO’s ideas, but for the quirkiness verging on the perverse, it takes some beating. In one of their magazines devoted to the Stalin question, they praise Anton Ciliga whilst affirming Stalin’s so-called political realism. No comment – especially not from the FT’s well-healed Industrial Editor.”



49. WorldbyStorm - September 18, 2007

Grendal, which Mick Raftery is that?


50. Grendel - September 18, 2007

I think it’s the same guy who is in the Drug Policy Action Group now.

Dick Pountain was also a computer journalist. He now works for magazine entrepeneur Felix Dennis, who
publishes successful publications such as “The Week”, “Maxim” and “Stuff”.


51. Andy Newman - September 18, 2007

BTW – the description above of Kate Hoey as a “Nulabour minister” is a bit unfair, as in her own eccentric way she has quite a consistent voting record as an oppositioninst.


52. WorldbyStorm - September 18, 2007

Thanks Grendel (apologies for the misspelling earlier – typing too fast). I think that’s a great point as to her eccentricity…


53. Grendel - September 20, 2007

As John O’Neill has noted elsewhere on this blog there was a widespread urban legend in the seventies that the B&ICO were “probably set up by British Intelligence”.
For instance, the anarchist C.J. Stone wrote…

“…..there was the B&ICO (The Britain and Ireland Communist Organisation), which, having an unusual number of members of northern Irish background, used Stalin’s work as a basis for arguing the Two Nations Theory re. Ireland – i.e. north and south Ireland were two distinct nations and should stay that way. They also managed in a similar convoluted way to support Thatcher’s war with Argentina over the Falklands. No matter what the position, they would try and find a “Marxist” way of supporting it. If they weren’t actually conceived by some joker in MI5 then they ought to have been.”


Another persistent rumour is that B&ICO started the claim, in the early seventies, that “there had been a sectarian aspect to the Tan War IRA’s campaign, especially in west Cork” (Danny McGrain, From Peking to Aubane). If true, given that the B&ICO’s descendents are aggressively campaigning against Peter Hart’s argument of a similar claim, this means they are guilty of repugnant hypocrisy.

The British Intelligence story is probably just a rumour. But it’s funny how they were able to get compromising documents on both Elizabeth Bowen and Major McDowell that were once held by British intelligence….


54. WorldbyStorm - September 20, 2007

Hmmm… not conclusive. Still, they make such a song and dance over the Major McDowell docs. There’s something a tad creepily obsessive about them to my mind.


55. Grendel - September 20, 2007

Creepily obsessive…and they fancy themselves as daring radicals, but
they always spout the same ideads “en masse”. They remind me of
Harold Rosenberg’s description of New York intellectuals as “the
herd of independent minds”.
Or you could go with Chekov’s description of the IPR group as “Gombeens against Globalisation”.


56. WorldbyStorm - September 21, 2007

Perhaps it’s the old dynamic of always wanting to sidle up to power. If FG had a predominant position over the past ten or so years who is not to say that they wouldn’t have found some convoluted formula to demonstrate that Enda Kenny was the brightest and the best of his generation of politicians and that FF attacks on him were demonstrative of reactionary Ireland at its worst…

Now that I’d like to read! 😉


57. Ed Hayes - September 21, 2007

Re West Cork, sad man that I am and inspired by the various discussions here have read some of the Irish Communist, Communist Comment and Workers Association stuff in the National Library. During 1970 there was articles saying that the IRA in Belfast was a roman catholic sectarian militia in the 1920s and there definitly was some references to west Cork and the massacre of Protestants.


58. Grendel - October 6, 2007

Re-reading the actual pamphlet, it stuck me as very “authoritarian left” in its eulogising of Stalin and its attacks on Luxemburg, Bukharian and especially Trotsky. There also seems to be a glorification of
State Power and Industrialism-the sort of thing Lewis Mumford
denounced as “the Megamachine”. I was also wondering if the dislike
for Polish nationalism Lane displayed might be linked to it having(like Irish nationalism) a strong Catholic component.
The B&ICO previously expressed admiration for Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. So its leader, the gravedigger from Sliabh Luachra, Brendan Clifford, could be described as “un admirateur des règles mauvaises”.
That was then…now the Aubane Historical Society is putting a lot of
effort into attacking “Anglo-Irish” people like Elizabeth Bowen and
Martin Mansergh. Given that they still hold to some form of two-nation theory, perhaps they consider the Anglo-Irish a threat
to the integrity of a United Ireland, in the same way they once
considered the Catholics in the North to be threatening the Protestants’ right to self determination.


59. Treblebackflip - October 7, 2007

Wheels come full circle in many people’s lives, don’t they?


60. WorldbyStorm - October 8, 2007

Grendal, I’d completely agree with that analysis. It’s all about power and power relationships. We’ve seen how that dynamic fed into others who were close to the BICO line – E. Harris for one. The anti-Anglo-Irish ‘turn’ is bizarre and inexplicable.

Treblebackflip, but the cast list for BICO kept changing…


61. Garibaldy - October 8, 2007

The anti-Anglo-Irish thing it seems to me is to be linked to the polemics which they have been involved in. Part of it is what Grendel says, that people like Elizabeth Bowen sending reports to London in WW2 are seen as threatening the integrity of what has held the Irish nation together (hence too the connection with Des Fennell). That would account too for their hostility to Hubert Butler after his speech from the 1950s they love to quote about Protestant blood or whatever it was.

However I think the increasing stress on this type of thing has also been in response to criticisms of them. Roy Foster was perceived to have insulted them, and the result was two pamphlets aimed directly at him. People like Bowen and Butler are a major part of his variety of Irishness agenda, and in getting at them they can also get at him. So the political analysis and the polemical tendency to target any perceived enemies has run together nicely. I can’t remember the exact cause of the polemic against Mansergh, but in fairness I don’t think it is because he might be perceived to be Anglo-Irish but rather for something specific he did. It is the Anglo-Irish who seek to undermine the Irish nation that are targets, rather than the Anglo-Irish as such.


62. Ed Hayes - October 8, 2007

I think he had a go at them in the Irish News, because of their attacks on Bowen and brought up the fact that Brendan Clifford tried to get a case taken against Queens for giving Mary McAleese a position that Clifford thought David Trimble should have got. Its all in the McAleese bio anyway. That is not something that the Aubanites would like to be reminded of.


63. Garibaldy - October 8, 2007

Cheers for that Ed. That would chime in nicely with the mix of the political and the personal affront.


64. Grendel - October 9, 2007

Monday’s and Tuesday’s Irish Examiner had more letters by
Aubane members (Jack Lane & Conor Lynch) attacking
Mansergh and Bowen.
I hate to praise anything Eoghan Harris wrote, but he is the only
irish newspaper journalist I know to have written of the B&ICO/Aubane connection
(Sunday Independent, February 11 2007). Apparently “The Guardian” also wrote about B&ICO, calling them a “Stalin-worshipping political cult.”
However, “Books Ireland” have been critical of Aubane for some time-they published scathing reviews of the Roy Foster anthology and
in December 2004, Clifford’s books on Casement.


65. Starkadder - October 9, 2007

Brendan Clifford and Jack Lane are launching new books on
26th and 27th of October in Dublin:

Come along, and get ready to start asking them some
awkward questions….


66. Garibaldy - October 10, 2007

Foster mentioned the link, and they felt he made fun of them. Hence the attacks.


67. Starkadder - October 12, 2007

Fintan O’Toole once described the early-90s Sunday Independent
as practising “journalism as punishment”. Given that Clifford
apparently publishes whole books and magazines simply to
get back at opponents like Mansergh and Foster, we could
describe Athol Books as “publishing as punishment”.


68. Grendel - October 12, 2007

One thing about the August editiorial that really angered me
was “Matthew Arnold…described Shelley (a Green pioneer) as a beautiful angel ineffectually beating his wings in a void. That is how angels should be. They should not interfere with practical life. And that is how Shelley remained in England after he was adopted as an icon by the system which he hated.

The Greens have been very successful in Ireland in the way that Shelley was successful in England. After a certain point everyone approved of them, which meant nobody took them in earnest.”

Do the IPR scumbags know anything about Shelley’s influence on
the Chartists, Edward Carpenter, William Morris, Connolly, Larkin,
Orwell, Bertrand Russell, Gandhi, Paul Foot, Derek Wall,etc.? Do they
know his poems were regularly banned or mutilated by reactionary
Shelley’s influence inspired hundreds of men and women to work for a better world. Who have the IPR inspired, apart from Stalinists,Loyalists and corrupt Fianna Failers?

Sorry for the angry tone, but that editorial really p***ed me off.

(There’s actually an excellent book called “Shelley and Revolutionary
Ireland” by Paul O’Brien, which includes details about his relationship
with the Irish Left).


69. Grendel - October 22, 2007

Actually, I think the IPR’s editorial confirms my theory about Leninism
being anti-environmentalist.
Regarding Ed Hayes, both biographies of McAleese (Ray Mac Manais and Justine McCarthy) mention the legal dispute. I think it was against Clifford’s “Belfast Magazine” and it stopped BM publishing for
several years.They seem to still have it in for her: I searched the Athol Books website and found three hostile references to McAleese.


70. Starkadder - October 28, 2007

Did anyone turn up at the Clifford/Lane book launches on Friday
and yesterday?


71. WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2007

Not me… something very interesting coming up in the Left Archive which bears directly on BICO. Watch this space next week…


72. Garibaldy - October 28, 2007

You’re such a tease.

In fairness to them, their research on the sectarianism thing in 1918-23 is very worthwhile. I noticed Harris seemingly shift position just a little on this in his column today.


73. WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2007

Ah, must go and look at that. I don’t have a problem with their research, just the conclusions they drew from it.


74. Grendel - October 28, 2007

Possibly they are using their anti-revisonist message as a
“Trojan Horse” or “entryist” issue to carry their other ideas, such as their dislike of immigration and their hostility to the Anglo-Irish,
into the public arena. For instance, they have developed the
bizarre idea that Germany was the “victim” during the First
World War, and their research on the 1916 Rising seems to
be have this end in mind.
Also,all their Indymedia articles seem to have a strong undertone of
“buy our books and magazines”. That’s probably their main
source of income.


75. WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2007

Hmmm… not sure he moved very far.


76. Garibaldy - October 28, 2007

He moved far enough to acknowledge that there is an alternative explanation for all the incidents he likes to talk about, that are based on archival evidence. I thought that in saying that his opponents are denying there were any sectarian murders in the period there is an implicit admission that on certain issues he is perhaps wrong. Subtle, but significant I thought.


77. WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2007

Yes. I guess that’s a fair point. There was an interesting piece in the Sunday Business Post TV review which I thought got close to the heart of things…


78. Garibaldy - October 28, 2007

Can’t get it online. What was it saying? Sensationalist? Overwrought emotionalism?


79. WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2007

Actually no, was suggesting that the characterisation of the situation of Protestants at that time – and the nature of the struggle as an opportunity for every minor landgrab etc to take place was completely overblown. Also had some interesting thoughts about the sect to which the family belonged. My position on this would be that it is intellectually dishonest to try to pretend that one or even a small number of incidents that might or might not have a sectarian character somehow typify or invalidate the independence project. Actually I think it’s also pretty dishonest for certain people to suggest that people don’t get the idea that all conflicts are bloody and contradictory affairs, including our own history, and it seems to me to be a typical patronising ‘the people can’t be trusted to do/know the right thing’ without our guidance approach… I thought the Irish Times article during the week on this by was it Anne Marie Hourihane was fairly shallow….


80. Garibaldy - October 29, 2007

Thanks for that. Agree such incidents invalidate nothing. Having said that I have no problem acknowledging that there were sectarian elements in the IRA at that time, and later. I think it’s fairly clear that both Aiken and O’Duffy were such.

Alas, again I didn’t see the Irish Times thing. Got yesterday’s but haven’t seen it in ages before that.


81. WorldbyStorm - October 29, 2007

That’s the thing isn’t it? Most Republicans of whatever brand would recognise that there were sectarian elements, but that those elements never had a hegemonic or near hegemonic hold on the struggle. What I find ironic is that the thinking seems to be something along the lines of only a pacifist response was legitimate in 1916 to 1921, in other words denying any agency to the Irish in the context of an opponent (I’m generalising here I know) that had a global reach and that explicitly used force and the threat of force. It’s an innate hypocrisy in their position – particularly when we hear in the Senate some hyperbolic stuff about death penalties, etc…


82. Garibaldy - October 29, 2007

Totally. We also never hear in all the talk about how 1916 had no democratic mandate that for four decades the vast majority of Irish MPs had been Home Rulers, and that this mandate was ignored. The Unionists could claim a democratic mandate of a sort. It seems to me the British couldn’t. So the people who like to apply our standards only do it to those they don’t like. It’s embarassing to see it. And the really sad thing is that they cannot see beyond their own myopic vision, and it will never have dawned on them to consider the context in which people lived and operated.


83. 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 […]


84. Paul Cockshott - November 16, 2007

BICO spawned in 1974 another sect COBI, made up of its Scottish and Welsh members who thought the BICO was too right wing.


85. Starkadder - November 22, 2007

Hello Mr. Cockshott.
Perhaps you could tell us a little more
about COBI sometime? It sounds like a very
interesting organisation.


86. Starkadder - December 4, 2007

A piece of trivia: today I was in the library, researching about an unrelated topic ( Marion and Dolours Price, the hunger strikers)
and I came across an interesting letter in
the Irish Times of August 23 1974.

The letter, from a “P.Murphy”,attacks
the B&ICO and Worker’s Association position on the
UWC strike. P.Murphy claims to be a former member of
B&ICO, and claims a third of B&ICO/WA members have
left the organisation in protest.
Maybe some of these members joined COBI.


87. Brian - February 11, 2008


I once was researching the Irish playwright Patrick
Galvin for an English degree, and I found out that a group
called the “Workers Association
for the Democratic Settlement for the National Conflict in
Ireland” picketed Galvin’s play “We Do It for Love”
in during its London run in 1976.

Members of the WA handed out leaflets outside the theatre, attacking the play’s hostile depiction of the RUC and British Army, and called for the UK government to
ban it.

I later found out the WA was a B&ICO front group.
Jim Kemmy, Manus O’Riordan and John McGregor were members, and I think the UDA member Dave Fogel might have been associated as well.

I had no idea the B&ICO’s members were still active,
or that they had embraced SF and the right-wing of Fianna
Fail. Talk about going from shoneens to gombeens….


88. WorldbyStorm - February 11, 2008

I think BICO members were involved in the Peace Train. Not sure they’re necessarily embraced SF, seems to be more their peculiar interpretation of FF… a very strange crew…


89. Gone Fishing… the Irish Left Archive takes a month off… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - August 4, 2008

[…] not exactly gone, but going soon. After a hectic year – our first post was this – it’s definitely time for a […]


90. Manage Your Anger With 2 Easy Ways Self Improvement - January 18, 2010

[…] The Left Archive: British and Irish Communist Organisation… The … Share and Enjoy: […]


91. Left Archive: Outline policy on Church and State – Democratic Socialist Party, c1981 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - March 7, 2011

[…] as being strongly anti-Republican. In that respect there was some crossover of activities with both BICO and the Socialist Party of Ireland (1970s). Kemmy was elected to the Dáíl in 1982 where he […]


92. ihphone - November 4, 2011

This could be the best blog online!!!


WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2011

You’re only saying that you great big spammer…


93. hotels - December 2, 2011

You’re unquestionably right with this writing!!


94. ka - January 15, 2012

Hi, i want to ask that is there any possibility that you find and make online this:

Marxism and market socialism.
(On Stalin’s “Economic Problems” part two)
Author: British and Irish Communist Organisation.
cover page: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.firstwave/bico.jpg

(sorry for my poor english)


WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2012

Great request. Does anyone have a copy they’d loan to me to scan and post up?


95. And while we’re talking about the Left Archive… | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - August 26, 2013

[…] been on the go since this , or perhaps […]


96. Lee Enfield - February 11, 2017

B&ICO were involved in the Campaign for Labour Representation ( for the Labour Party to organise and accept members in NI). Whatever their politics their London meetings (some of which I attended in the early 80s) were good fun, one member was a excellent jazz saxophonist, and I am told that their secretary also worked as an exotic dancer.


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