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The Left Archive: “Teoiric” the Theoretical Journal of Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party, 1980 January 28, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive.



Seeing as the last Left Archive piece has inspired a lively and – I think – illuminating debate about the legacy and policies of OSF/WP it is probably suitable to have a Workers’ Party piece this week. Fear not, there’s a host of other material out there. If you’re concerned that it’s too WP oriented, well, send other material to our email address. But, for the moment we’ll work with what we’ve got.

So, here, in all its glory is Teoiric, the Theoretical and Discussion Journal of SFWP. It’s an interesting document with a broad array of articles framed within the iconic image of the 1980s, the mushroom cloud.

Inside we see an array of familiar names, from the indefatigable Henry Patterson discussing Loyalism with, shall we say, a slightly BICO esque twist to his thoughts, a fascinating article on Terrorism and the Bourgeoisie which has a very telling introduction. Eamonn Smullen is here to discuss “Intellectuals and the Working Class” and we also have an article about the then contemporary issue of Poland.

The dual article on Honouring Wolfe Tone provides an interesting apologia for why SFWP wasn’t promoting a return to Stormont rule… Read it and judge for yourselves.

In a way it’s a tad predictable but it’s literate, well produced and locks straight into a discourse that would be continued in the Workers’ Party days where an alignment with currently existing Marxism was very much the order of the day. And the design is very much of a piece with Making Sense which was to come later.

Mind you, reading Comment at the front of the journal it’s hard not to see a further resonance with today…

1980 has been a great year for war-mongers. Events in Afghanistan and Iran have been exploited to the full by the enemies of detente….

History shifts forward in repetitive movements, doesn’t it?

If the resolution is a bit low please tell me.


1. Garibaldy - January 28, 2008

Very interesting stuff. Not convinced by all of it, but serious engagement from a left perspective is evident. I also appreciated the stuff imported from elsewhere. I think it also illuminates nicely some of the discussions about terrorism and democracy. I especially enjoyed seeing Conor Cruise and Burke getting kicked. I think before on a BICO debate maybe that people were associating The WP with O’Brien. Hopefully now they will see this was never the case.

I’m not convinced that the argument for a return to local government on the basis of normal electoral practices was the right one, but do see the logic in it, especially when he remember it was supposed to be within the framework of a radically altered culture in NI, especially with a potent and effective bill of rights.

I note too that some of the issues on the other threads were addressed, such as Francie Donnelly talking about sectarian killers from all sides and the actions of the state. Enjoyed the Soviet analysis of terrorism a lot.


2. dilettante - January 28, 2008

I remember “The Irish Industrial Revolution” (ad on page 9). In my recollection it was a good contribution to the economic debate from a left perspective. Something we could do with more of these days.

I have long since lost my hard copy of it, but I seem to recall a good case being made for economic sovereignty, protection of resources from multinationals, etc.

Does anyone know if it’s available on line anywhere?
If not then maybe it’s a candidate for the Left Archive at some stage?


3. WorldbyStorm - January 28, 2008

I would love to get a copy of the IIR. It’s a fascinating document, but as you say not widely read, although attributed a lot of influence… rightly or wrongly…. It’s certainly a candidate for the Left Archive. Another is Patterns of Betrayal which I had a copy of up until the last number of months but seems to have gone awol… that would be very gratefully received.


4. dilettante - January 28, 2008

By the way WBS, while you say Sinn Féin the Workers Party (small “t” in “the”, and gramatically correct), Teoiric says Sinn Féin The Workers Party (capital “T” in “The”). Any insights into the politics behind that?


5. WorldbyStorm - January 28, 2008

Bad typesetting I’d guess…


6. CL - January 29, 2008

My recollection of the IIR is that it condemned the Irish (Catholic) bourgeoisie for its failure to industrialize and welcomed U.S. monopoly capital as it strengthened the Irish working class, praising Whitaker and the effort to attract foreign capital. And all this was argued from a ‘historical materialist scientific socialist’ standpoint. (or maybe one could say that they were premature neolibs?)
Also I seem to remember that Mick O’Riordan attacked it from an anti-imperialist standpoint.


7. Garibaldy - January 29, 2008

The IIR was a strange document, and as I’ve said before a discussion document and not a policy document. Parts of it were bang on, other parts less so. It seems to me that to argue that the Irish bourgeoisie were happy to chug along with earnings from the professional and rural sectors rather than risk investing in industry was correct. As for the argument that international capital might have an OBJECTIVELY progressive role to play in hastening the creation of a stronger industrial proletariat, it makes sense but didn’t necessarily work out that way. And not just in Ireland. Although the argument does remind me of Kruschev’s famous remark that he had worked for (and this will be an inexact quote) Belgian, British Frech and Russian capitalists, and understood capitalism quite well. The Russian proletariat was to a large extent in foreign owned businesses, so there was something of a precedent.

As for O’Riordan, a lot of that was genuine opposition. But some of it was annoyance at being usurped in the eyes of the USSR et al, and possibly a reflection of tensions within his own party, which was coming to the end of a fairly close working relationship with SFWP on some issues and beginning to shift towards trying to ride on the coatails of nationalism instead, especially in the south.

On the punctuation point. In the north, it was Republican Clubs/The Workers’ Party. I also visualised it as having a colon rather than a slash.


8. Pete - January 29, 2008

Copies of the IIR are still available from WP Hill Street – call in for one, ring before hand would be best. Intrest doc but bares many hall marks of the heap of shite that wrote a large part of it.


9. CL - January 29, 2008

IIR seems akin BICO’s Bill Warren’s notion of imperialism as a progressive force. Much like Hitchen’s and the neo-cons on Iraq.


10. Justin - January 29, 2008

The editor of this issue of Teoric was Des O’Hagan. He recently gave a speech on Republicanism and it’s online at http://workerspartyireland.net/id117.html


11. Redking - January 29, 2008

Thanks for the link, Justin-good speech by Dessie on the nature of republicanism and struggle. Relevant to discussions on a lot of recent threads here.


12. WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2008

Yeah, great link. And as Redking notes, very relevant…


13. Justin - January 30, 2008

While we’re on the subject of theoretical journals, Cedar Lounge Revolutionaries might be interested to know that the entire back catalogue of Marxism Today, journal of the Euro wing of the then CPGB, is online at http://www.amielandmelburn.org.uk/collections/mt/index_frame.htm

In introducing the archive, Matin Jacques, former MT editor, modestly asserts that, “it is no exaggeration to say that Marxism Today was easily the most influential political magazine in Britain between 1978 and 1991. Its influence had many aspects. Not least was the element of surprise. People expected a magazine of this title to be leaden, boring and predictable. It most certainly was not.”

Sorry, Martin, but for this reader it most certainly was. Living Marxism, mostly juvenile, always contrarian and eventually libertarian bonkers (aka Spiked), was always more crack than the staid, pre-bliarite MT. Anyway, there it is online in all its glory.


14. John O'Neill - January 30, 2008

The IIR has been referred to by a number of posters here as a “Discussion Document”. I my fair few years in the WP I never recall it being discussed despite a second edition being published. I don’t recall any alternative policy document to the IIR either!


15. WorldbyStorm - January 30, 2008

I saw it in passing, but I had to ask. It was never part of the general currency of the party…although I once heard Pat McCartan make favourable reference to it at a public meeting…


16. CL - January 30, 2008

So what was the WP position on Irish economic development?


17. Garibaldy - January 30, 2008

There were a number of more specific propoals published, about the farming industry, banks etc. But generally, and unsurprisingly, increased state involvement and investment.


18. Joe - January 31, 2008

But WP was also very definitely pro-multinational – certainly in my time in it, late 80s. I recall a very embarrassing incident at an Ard Fheis when some off-message branch proposed a motion that the Party should oppose multi-nationals coming in. It actually was passed on the nod by a sleeping conference before someone spotted it, standing orders had to be suspended, De Rossa got up and opposed it and the sleeping conference unanimously supported him.
Embarrassing not least cos I’d invited an ex-Mili acquaintance along in the hope that he might join. He saw the Party in action in all its glory and didn’t!


19. CL - January 31, 2008

Maybe De Rossa was somewhat prescient. In all the brouhaha about Ireland’s connection to England, and about the importance of the EU, one fact is overlooked: economically Ireland is more connected to the U.S. than to either of the other two. Perhaps its time to develop some formal political links to the U.S?.



20. WorldbyStorm - January 31, 2008

That’s true Joe, do you recall what Ard Fheis it was?

CL… hmmm… I bow to no-one in my affection for the US, but… formal political links? What sort and why?


21. CL - January 31, 2008

Ireland as the 51st state. The partition question solved. No longer any state support for religious schools, the beginning of the end for sectarianism, the benefits of the Bill of Rights-not least the right to privacy and a woman’s control of her own body, These are just immediate thoughts, plus two senators from the united State of Ireland perhaps holding the balance of power in the U.S Senate-the most powerful legislative body in the world. Not to make a vulgar ‘base/superstructure type of argument, but as Ireland is more economically tied to the U.S than to either Britain or the EU why not have the benefits of political ties also? (I make these suggestions partially tongue-in-cheek)
Further question: Did the WP also have a periodical called ‘Eolas’? or was that some other group?


22. Joe - February 1, 2008

CL, I don’t remember any periodical called Eolas.
WBS, I’d say that was the 1988 Ard Fheis give or take a year!


23. John O'Neill - February 1, 2008

Joe I am almost sure that ‘Eolas’ was an “International Affairs Dept” publication edited by Sean O’Cionnaith. It was an annual publication that was sent out around the world but I don’t think it was circulated to the membership bar a few put into the WP Bookshop.


24. CL - February 1, 2008

Thanks John. I thought i did remember it.


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