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The Left Archive: “Document on Irish Liberation Submitted to World Congress of Peace Forces” – Moscow 1973 from Official Sinn Féin May 12, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Uncategorized.


So, here from 1973 is a document published by REPSOL for Official Sinn Féin as a submission to the “World Cogress of Peace Forces” in Moscow. Much of it as would be expected. Consider the references to “Ireland [joining] the so-called European Economic Community thus adding to the domination and exploitation of our people by this new modern imperialist bloc.”

The language as regards armed struggle is ambiguous. Note that it argues that “…we have realised that armed struggle on its own, or as an end in itself, is doomed to failure. Armed struggle must always be related to the needs of the people.”

Yet it continues… “The most consistent element in the Irish Republican tradition is armed resistance to British imperialism. It was only out of this armed resistance that our revolutionary vision of the Ireland of tomorrow came”

And as a nod towards Moscow’s sensitivities it argues that “It is essential that all who are involved in the National Struggle for Liberation realise that the national struggle is a people’s struggle – a class struggle”.

The language as regards Britain is much stronger than might be expected, to the point that we read “There is only one issue on which practically everyone in Ireland is agreed. We do not want to be ruled by Britain. This fact must therefore be made clear and emphatic. All should unite on the demand “Britain get out”.

Indeed Tomas Mac Giolla (sans fada’s) is quoted as urging delegates to the Congress to ‘support the short and long term Republican demands which called for the withdrawal of British Troops and an end to all repression in Ireland’.

Which is interesting, but no more so than the following: “Clearly as with the British imposed arrangement of 1920, any solution which advocates the continuation of a Six or Nine County Ulster state, whether it has constitutional links with Britain, or not, must be rejected.”. A dig at PSF who had recently issued Éire Nua? More than likely. But interesting how in order to fend off the Provisionals it was necessary to ramp up the anti-British rhetoric.

It’s a brief document but a telling insight into the direction of a much harder edged ‘Republican’ stance evident in Official Sinn Féin at this point in time.


1. Garibaldy - May 12, 2008

“And as a nod towards Moscow’s sensitivities it argues that “It is essential that all who are involved in the National Struggle for Liberation realise that the national struggle is a people’s struggle – a class struggle”. ”

I think that this was the exact point of the whole political analysis developed since the mid-60s, rather than something said to butter up the hosts, especially after the Bodenstown speech the year before.

The Éire Nua thing flashed into my head too, but I suspect this is aimed primarily at UDI, which is something which gets discussed elsewhere in the document.

The language on Britain can be found later too, but I think that looked at closer, it’s not as naked and as simple as it seems at first (the stuff on the bill of rights for both states, a new secular constitution etc decided by all). Also, the ceasefire and the rejection of terrorism speak louder perhaps than these words. But clearly not an analysis adequate to the reality of unionism, and in need of development.


2. Garibaldy - May 12, 2008

Oh yeah, I meant to say I noted the women’s rights reference. Seems fairly early and progressive to me.


3. WorldbyStorm - May 12, 2008

Ah yeah, I’m not slagging it off. Just thought it was interesting where it was at that point and how it reflected a significantly different rhetoric.


4. Garibaldy - May 12, 2008

It’s a fascinating document, and very glad to see it. And parts of it deserve criticism, and received it from those who wrote it.


5. Jim Monaghan - May 13, 2008

I would think that what happened at the margins of the conference was also important. I was told that Garland was given the special treatment, as an honoured guest. He was taken away from the rest of the delegation from Ireland and introduced to the ANC and others in the Moscow orbit. This in turn distanced him from Costello with whom he had an alliance. It also broke his friendships with some Trotskyist as well.Costello was fairly pragmatic abouth the USSR but had little time for the timid CP oriented Officials( this is how he saw them). The CPs line here was that they were the real workers aprty and the Officials would serve as the subordinate peasants and petit bourgois allies.I have forgotten who was the source of the garland story. Eoin O’Murchu would know the fuill stroy or at least a good deal of it.


6. Garibaldy - May 13, 2008

Regarding the conference and relations within Ireland, seating arrangements were important. The version I heard was that the closer you were to the front, the more important the Soviets saw you as. And that the CPI never forgave the fact that the republican movement was seated ahead of them, and that some of the subsequent hostility sprang from the realisation that the CP were in danger of being replaced.


7. Jim Monaghan - May 13, 2008

The CPI circulated a doc to all the Cps in the world on the errors of the Officials. It leaked as they sent it to an Australian Trotskyist group by mistake.
I think like O’Murchu that they twigged that the Officials were moving away from the National struggle while the CP were staying with Greaves line.
As well they twigged that the Officials saw themseves as THE PARTY” not a subordinate ally of the CP.
Mind you the line that there is only room for one all seeing, all knowing party is alas not confined to pro moscow or pro Peking parties. The left is plagued by Caudillos who see themseleves as the anointed successors of Lenin et la.
I have a vague memory that Mulcahy of Hibernia (not the current one) (now in FF??) was the source for the favoured treatment of Garland.


8. Garibaldy - May 13, 2008

Was it not after 1977 and the Irish Industrial Revolution that that document was sent? There may well have been two though. The cult of the leader is ridiculous and a problem. However, I think it’s fair to say The WP has never developed it, despite De Rossa’s best efforts.


9. Jim Monaghan - May 13, 2008

Probably. In 1973 they were still best friends.Does anyone recall the document an Ard Fheis decided they should not see.A most peculiar thing a National Conference agreeing that it was not to be trusted with a document. A touch of “see no evil, etc.”
Thse peace conferences seemed fairly awful. I remember a report by Noel Browne on one. He sounded like the Peter sellers character in that Ealing movie, all about opera and no horrible pop music.


10. ejh - May 13, 2008

Sounds good to me.


11. Garibaldy - May 13, 2008

Is that a reference to something Costello produced Jim?


12. WorldbyStorm - May 13, 2008

ejh, are you referring to JM’s last line? 🙂


13. Jim Monaghan - May 14, 2008

The Costello doc. was a joint Costello and Garland doc. Yes they had an alliance.I was told that the Moscow jamboree played a part in weaning Garland back to Goulding and co.


14. WorldbyStorm - May 14, 2008

This is really fascinating. Anyone got a copy of it? Or know where same can be found? Interesting that Garland and Costello were allies. When did that start, clearly it ended soon after the Moscow gig.


15. Jim Monaghan - May 14, 2008

It was a Costello/Garland axis.
Garland was close to Gerry Foley of the American SWP. (See recnet diatribe by the Pagan O’Hagan when Garland was in Jail in the North). Garland was a sort of Hamlet figure. Mind you he threw his brother out of the American affiliate.Costello wanted the Ard Comhairle to reflect the then Costello/Garland majority. Garland did not want the old guard McGiolla and co put out to seed. he also was convinced that Costello wanted an adventure. There is a degree of truth to this. The talk was that ashort vigourous campaign could recoup losses to the Provos.
For what it is worth I think that the Moscow thing was part of the weaning process to create distance between Garland and Costello.
Costello was dynamic and open to the Left, though impatient with the waffle etc.
At this stage the Goulding/McGiolla axis was supported by O’Murchu and co. They, O’Murchu and co, were then purged as Garland/Goulding/McGiolla went beyond them.
I have to say that Ithough that McGiolla just floated ontop of things. This is just an impression.
A minor squeezing out was Dick Spicer (now in the Humanist ssociation). Dick and were/still are friends. Dick worked in the print shop.


16. Redking - May 14, 2008

WBS -there’s some stuff in Henry Patterson’s book (Politics of Illusion-written when he was still in the WP) about the Garland/Costello alliance in 1972/3 and the said discussion document (although obviously critical of same).


17. Redking - May 14, 2008

Costello wanting an adventure is putting it mildly Jim, he was setting up alternative structures in preparation for going it alone and had his supporters fairly well organised.

Basically factionalism writ large. Can’t see any Party worth its salt putting up with that. And throw in the fact that he was creating an alternative “army” with wholesale stealing of Official weapons etc.

To be fair to Costello, he probably didn’t realise fully what he was getting into-I mean some of the characters he moved with-he really let the genie out of the bottle-subsequentt murky history of the INLA/IPLO etc kind of proves that.


18. Garibaldy - May 14, 2008

Wasn’t this discussed at a convention before the Ard Fheis under the headings plan a and plan b, with plan b (I think it was) being defeated? Would help explain why an Ard Fheis would vote not to discuss any similar document.


19. WorldbyStorm - May 14, 2008

Cheers Redking, I seem to recall it being a bit thin though in Patterson’s recounting… Still the idea of a tactical short campaign is an interesting one. Any other sources to corroborate that?


20. bill - May 15, 2008

Plan A and B discussion came after Garland/Costello alliance. Don’t think Garland was into having any tactical short campaign though; the alliance was on an ideological basis rather than joint military idea I imagine. Wasn’t everyone running after the Moscow connection in the early 70s? It’s a strange one that Garland the most pro-Trotskyite, at the time, of all the Stick leadership managed to land it, but there you are. Despite all the crap later I’m told Costello’s left politics where not that developed, along Trot/Tankie ideological lines.


21. bill - May 15, 2008

Actually on a and b you maybe right Garibaldy


22. Redking - May 15, 2008

“Still the idea of a tactical short campaign is an interesting one. Any other sources to corroborate that?”

I’ve spoken to people who were involved in geting the IRSP/INLA off the ground in Derry in 1975/6 and what seems clear is that there was an element of the hare-brained about the notion of an intensive campaign. Firstly, the amount of equipment varied greatly from region to region-ironically in Derry where the IRPS were strong due to large defections from both the Provos and the Officials, they had virtually no guns.

Maybe Costello’s idea was to try to take the whole of the Army with him or swing the whole movement behind himself- after 1973 a non-runner.

After1976 there was all sorts of stuff discussed at Brigade staff level-such as a plan to (I kid you not)”liberate” the whole of the west bank of the Foyle-which many of the IRPS even thought was nuts.


23. Pete - May 15, 2008

The Liberation of the ‘west bank’ of the Foyle dates from 1972, always one of Costello’s pet projects


24. WorldbyStorm - May 15, 2008

Amazing idea… although…


25. Jim Monaghan - May 16, 2008

On Redkings message.
When groups split there is usually a dispute about the assets. Most leftwing groups argue about a secong printing press. Gerry Healy won over his opponents because he controlled the company who owned the press. Morning Star persists because of its assets.
The IRSP was attacked by the Officials. The first killed was an IRP from the Whiterock. The Irps beat a retreat to the Diovis flats (then called the Planet of the Irps).
I beleive this put Costello in thrawl to the militarists.The rest is a fairly painful history.
There a paralleles with ETA where all the left splits withered on the ground compared to the militarists.
I suppose being a Trotskyist of sorts I am immune to the worship of the USSR which still persists, the WP were even more enamoured than the CPI.
McGurran was supposed to be the most friendly to Trotskyists.
Costello was a pragmatist. He might have made something out of the H-Block movement.
I was tols his Belfast people ran him ragged with demands for resources he could never deliver.


26. Redking - May 16, 2008

Yes-I know that dynamic exists Jim, but not sure that the disputes of ultra-left microsects like the WRP can really be compared with the dramatic events of 1974-5 in OSF which was a largish party in circumstances of communal conflict in the North. To say that the stakes were much higher is to probably underestimate things.

What happened to young Ferguson was awful and things got worse after that-I mean McMillen and others killed and maimed. I guess its easy even after 30 years to descend into a “whataboutery” about those events-BTW I’m not suggesting you’re doing that….

Costello was a complex and interesting character and wrong on many levels-but nonetheless an important historical figure-maybe a seperate post on him wouldn’t go amiss WBS??


27. WorldbyStorm - May 16, 2008

I’ll do my best. There are others better qualified though than I to write about him.


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