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The Irish Left Archive: “Times Change” from Democratic Left, Summer/Autumn 1995 March 23, 2009

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The quantity of Democratic Left material in the Archive is fairly limited. However, due to a donation some time ago of a series of “Times Change”, the DL’s political and cultural review (which I have yet to return – so an address would be handy!) which are now scanned in that is set to change.

This Summer/Autumn edition appears at a particularly interesting time not least since the IRA ceasefires had occurred fairly recently. And the approach of Democratic Left to this development is best characterised in an editorial under the heading of “The Art of compromise” which is profoundly negative of the outcome.

Reading it at this remove it is remarkable how pessimistic a view of the capacity of others to change as DL had was intrinsic to their analysis. So we read that:

…what is the Republican Movement prepared to do to move the peace process forward?

Decommission arms? No.
Stop punishment beatings? No.
Release the bodies of the disappeared? No.
Agree to reform of Articles 2 and 3? No.
Agree to the principle of unionist consent? No.

A piece by Arthur Aughey on the response of Unionism to the developments is equally pessimistic in tone. Indeed he argues that:

The frameworks have proposed some half-way house between unionism and nationalism, thereby equating the fact of the Union with the aspiration to Irish unity (without a proper deal on Articles 2 and 3). That is what Dick Spring understands ‘balance’ to mean. For the reasons I have outline, such a balance is unacceptable to unionists and will not achieve widespread acceptability. There needs to be fresh thinking.

Again, an intriguing analysis in the context of what has happened since.

Central concerns of Democratic Left including a leftist internationalism are seen in pieces on Nicaragua and France. An emphasis on social liberalism is articulated in an article on divorce, and it is notable that James Kelman is interviewed in this issue. There is an interesting, and perhaps somewhat unexpected, short appraisal of Roy Foster’s approach to the Famine in an article by Peter Connell which chastises historical revisionism in this context for ‘blurring the Famine’s impact…’. This is in addition to an article on the meaning of Famine commemoration by Proinsias O Drisceoil which makes some contentious assertions.

All told a useful insight into the party at that point in time.

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…

AP JULY 94

Comments»

1. D. J. P. O'Kane - March 23, 2009

Took you long enough, big man. 😉

Looking back on that wee publication now, it’s hard to know what to make of it, or to decide who it was aimed at. It seemed to be DL talking to itself – and not in a way calculated to shed new light on old problems either.

The article you refer to on the early days of the peace process is a good example of something you find across the Irish political spectrum, and outside of politics as well; the Irish tendency to make decisions and assess situations on the basis of an ill-thought out emotional reaction to same.

Which is how, I suppose, you can get a dose of born-again Unionism alongside a (quite correct) denunciation of Roy Foster’s line on the famine. His chapter on that disaster in _Modern Ireland 1600 – 1972 is a real, disingenuous disgrace, for whatever reason (well, there are some reasons I can think of).

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2. Garibaldy - March 23, 2009

I’ll repeat what I said the last time one of these was posted, which is that to me the range of articles reflects the disengagement of DL from on the ground political activism within Ireland. That doesn’t necessarily make them uninteresting of course.

I found the pieces on history and commemoration deeply disappointing and shallow. I’m not as convinced as DJP that this was an accurate reflection of Foster’s arguments. But the most depressing pieces were easily those on the north. Looking at where we are now, relative to the issues raised in the editorials, it makes it clear how unnecessary all the years of nonsense were. It was quite clear that we were headed to roughly where we are now. And a large reason for the delays is made clear in Aughey’s piece. The paranoia of unionism and its reluctance to see its own interests shine through clearly in it. As do the gap between real politics and an academic approach. What a collective fuck up.

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3. Starkadder - March 23, 2009

Just had a quick look at TC-seems interesting.

I remember the Arja Kajermo cartoon-my parents had that book, and
I used to read it as an eight-year-old (not sure it was kids’ material,
but I enjoyed it!). Is AK still drawing?

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4. Paddy Matthews - March 23, 2009

Is AK still drawing?

Yes.

http://www.tuula.se

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5. WorldbyStorm - March 23, 2009

Garibaldy, that’s one of the main reasons I left DL. I thought they were utterly unable to come to terms with the present. That said they had some stuff very right indeed!

~DJP… do you have an address? Email me…

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6. Garibaldy - March 23, 2009

Not sure what stuff they had right 🙂 At least partly on the north, and on student fees in the south I guess.

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7. Starkadder - March 23, 2009

Aughey and Patterson as contributors? A little-and I don’t mean this in
a negative way- “Left Unionist”?

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8. Garibaldy - March 23, 2009

In fairness, Patterson was not seen as a unionist then the way he is now. And nothing wrong with having discussion.

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9. redned - March 25, 2009

Thanks for putting this up. Isn’t it strange that there’s no history of the SFWP/WP/DL? Labour have the Niamh Purseil and Michael Gallagher ones, a good one by John Horgan and memoirs by Barry Desmond, Ruairi Quinn but for the same period there’s not even a memoir by the likes of McGiolla, De Rossa or McCartan. Whatever your opinion of the party’s politics, their story from the seventies and nineties is fascinating yet no-one’s written it, (as far as I know, maybe I’m wrong.) They probably did get it wrong to a certain extent on the North but when you see how the recent killings provoked a return in many quarters to the old trope that those involved are a bunch of insane and evil criminals, it’s easy to forget how few people were making a case for any engagement with republicanism back then.

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10. smiffy - March 25, 2009

redned,

Brian Hanley and Scott Millar’s book ‘Stickies’ (I think) was supposed to be out last year, then this year, then … who knows.

That said, the cover (if this is the cover: http://designedbydavid.co.uk/covers/non-fiction/nf_1_b.jpg) looks pretty good.

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11. Garibaldy - March 25, 2009

That’s a dreadful cover for a worse title. What happened ‘The Lost Revolution’ which was much better? Never mind the fact that unless I’m mistaken not everyone on the front was even a member.

PS Smiffy’s link was broken when I tried it. This might work instead

http://designedbydavid.co.uk/non-fiction

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12. Scott Millar - March 25, 2009

Hi,

I can assure you the title is “Lost Revolution”. The cover is in s similar style to that design but quite different. It is disappointing that this early version has become public.

All the best,

Scott Millar

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13. Joe - March 25, 2009

“The cover is in s similar style to that design but quite different.”

I really do hope it’s quite different. That effort is wojious. Lost revolution is a far better title too. Will the book be out before capitalism inevitably collapses due to its internal contradictions? Or has that happened already?

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14. Garibaldy - March 25, 2009

Hi Scott,

Thanks for the info. Very glad to hear both those things.

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15. Remi Moses - March 25, 2009

‘Never mind the fact that unless I’m mistaken not everyone on the front was even a member.’ Yeah I’m pretty sure George Best wasn’t a Stick.

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16. Remi Moses - March 25, 2009

Nor was Yosser Hughes. He may have been in the Militant though.

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17. WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2009

I presume that the images were used to convey ‘beardy shouty militants of the 1970s’… Most likely a draft or preliminary version. I’m surprised that it was made public. Thanks Scott. Great title…

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18. redned - March 26, 2009

Thanks for letting me know about that book Smiffy. When will it be published? I’m very looking much forward to it but there is no sign of it on Amazon, not even as a pre-order.

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19. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen Linken - eine Auswahl « Entdinglichung - March 26, 2009

[…] * Democratic Left (DL): Time Change, Sommer/Herbst 1995 […]

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20. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2009

redned, I understand FWIW that it will be later this year, probably Autumn or so… I too am looking forward to it!

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21. Eamonn - March 26, 2009

Is it true that the real ghostwriter is Eoin Harris and Messrs Hanley and Miller are only his researchers. Thats what I heard.

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22. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2009

Rubbish – as anyone who knows anything about their project which has interviewed many many people connected with WP and OSF (including Tony Gregory) etc could tell you.

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23. smiffy - March 26, 2009

It is a very plausible theory, though, given the well-known propensity of such a modest and self-effacing character as Harris to put any thoughts of ego or self-aggradisement aside, work on behalf of others and never even think of taking the credit.

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24. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2009

Welll… there is that.

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25. Garibaldy - March 26, 2009

I think that comment was insulting to people who have been taking this task very seriously, and resisted the temptation to produce a slapdash effort in the pursuit of a serious work.

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26. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2009

I agree. Insulting and risible and also very unfair.

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27. Starkadder - March 27, 2009

I’d like to see that book on the SFWP a lot-I’ve been reading up on
them in books like Ken Kelly’s “The Longest War” recently.

What happened to the CPI and the “stages theory”? Did they keep
using it after the CPI & WP drifted apart in the late 70s?

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28. Eamonn - March 27, 2009

sorry to burst your bubble but i was only joking……schucks, I didn’t realise that you were gonna be that upset. Anyhow, everybody knows that Jim Cusack is the real ghostwriter.

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29. Starkadder - March 27, 2009

Well, for a lot of people in Ireland, Harris IS the WP, so hopefully the
book will correct that false notion. After all, some of the WP ending
up founding the Irish Socialist Network-the polar opposite of
where Harris is (and was in the IIR days).

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30. Garibaldy - March 27, 2009

The fact Eamonn that we fell for your prank says a lot about the level of rumours and speculation surrounding both Harris and The WP.

Starkadder,

You don’t see The WP as the opposite of Harris?

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31. Starkadder - March 27, 2009

I was always under the impression that Harris’ faction of the
WP (the Ned Stapledon Cumann?) was more right-wing and
anti-nationalist than the WP as a whole. I’m open to correction on
this….

Are there another other Irish political groups that deserve a detailed
historical treatment and haven’t got one yet? I’d like to read more about
the 60s-70s Saor Eire, for example.

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32. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2009

Eamonn, fair enough. It’s just that as Garibaldy puts it, there’s too many who link EH with WP and also there’s this weird sense that EH is much more – ahem – powerful than he is… And even someone like myself who would be quite critical of the WP (particularly for its approach on the North etc during the 80s) doesn’t want that particular trope to gain currency.

Starkadder, a lot depends on their size doesn’t it? I mean the WP was pretty much sui generis on the Irish and int’l left during the late 1980s in being quite big and getting bigger at a time when the further left was being beaten back elsewhere…

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33. Old SFWP - March 27, 2009

In the 1970s Harris was a major influence. Things seemed to have changed fairly drastically now, to go by Gariblady’s comments on the recent killings in the north and other matters. Your reasoned argument about the role of the state in regard to clamping down on dissidents Garibaldy, is one I agree with. But it simply was not the line of the WP during the late 1970s/early 80s. Then the provos were fascist and shooting wasn’t good enough for them. And any critical thinking about unionism was out the window. Workers Life has many examples, not unlike Times Change above.

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34. Joe - March 27, 2009

The provos weren’t fascist in the 70s/80s but they were a nasty bunch of sectarian murderers. The WP was right to oppose them at every turn. I’d agree that Gari’s reasoned approach now is right but not that this shows that the WP’s argument in the 70s and 80s was wrong.

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35. Garibaldy - March 27, 2009

No critical thinking about unionism? You mustn’t have been reading the same Northern Peoples and press statements that I have where the blame for the poisonous aspects of sectarian politics is put squarely where it belongs, including on the unionist parties. As for the people engaged in violent campaigns in the late 70s and 80s. All of them had fascist tendencies regarding controlling areas and trying to repress dissent etc, and in continuing their campaigns against the wishes of the people. The same anti-democratic tendency that has been on display from the groups behind the recent murders.
And I appreciate the kind comments on the piece on the police, but it is my personal view only.

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36. Old SFWP - March 27, 2009

What about the areas we where had infleunce and where we didn’t let the provos or Irps sell their papers etc, where throwing a stone at a club could get you a nice hiding etc, listen there are no angels here. And no I wasn’t reading the northern people because we didn’t sell it. Have a look at Workers Life, have a look at the one that came after it, with Ken McGennis on the cover. The startling transformation of the 2009 WP into OSF of 1972 continues…

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37. Garibaldy - March 27, 2009

Given that Goulding et al justified the decision to transform a movement into a party by talking about how the Border Campaign had been an anti-democratic exercise decided upon by a small group of people, I had taken as read the idea that similar criticisms could be applied at certain points, and the problems created by the authoritarian tendency in any paramilitary organisation was one of the major reasons for getting rid of it.

Who was the editor of Workers’ Life in the period you are talking about? I don’t know that edition you are talking about. What I do know is that The WP continually worked against not only sectarian violence but also against sectarian politics from every quarter. Any articles that appeared that seemed uncritical of unionism do not change that fact. And for what it’s worth, Magennis has always seemed one of the more progressive unionists to me.

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38. Eamonn - March 27, 2009

Good auld Joe…still trotting out the line about the provos being sectarian. Good to see the old runts of the sticks are still out there and still bitter. Bitterness through lifelong failure.You just made my day.

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39. Starkadder - March 27, 2009

Aren’t the WP prepared to co-operate with PSF on some issues
nowadays, like opposition to the Lisbon Treaty? Maybe both organisations now have a new generation of members who think

“Well, the other crowd are wrong about the North, but that doesn’t
mean we can’t work together on other important issues”.

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40. Garibaldy - March 27, 2009

Cooperation occurs on a number of issues, and not just among younger members. Having said that, each remains critical of the other.

Eamonn,

I’ll bite. Do you think that sectarianism had no role in provo politics and actions? And how are things going with your own political project, which as far as the rest of us can tell involves criticising everyone else but offering no positive comments or proposals.

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41. Eamonn - March 27, 2009

Garibaldy, I’ll reply.

A sectarian state which operated on a level akin to apartheid in certain areas was challenged by those seeking reform. The reformers were beaten and beaten. A section of the discriminated community then moved from being defenders to attackers and a war ensued. Simple enough for you so far. (Another section of the discriminated community began to seek comfort in the Dogma of one man. Marx.)

We then had about 30 years of war. horrible war like all wars are. Terrible killings, terrible acts. But war it was. There has never been a clean war. Were some of the acts by the provos sectarian – yes. Were the provos sectarian – no. Was the ideology of the provos sectarian (fascist a la stick talk) – no. The aims of the provos were republican. The vast majority of acts by the provos were republican. The result was a failure to deliver the republican ideal. We can be critical of individual acts but to label the aims as anything else is sad. So why do sticks still call the provos fascists/sectarian? because the sticks were sad. sad losers. Believers in the one man dogma, criminals, spies, north korean beggars, entryists and collaborators are some of the obvious points about the sticks. Many of them were ( and still are) afraid to identify with their “politics” so was their lack of willingness to take a stand on any issue. These comrades still live in the world of the nod and wink…army man or not?….you’ll never know etc..,. my secret war….
So to sum up for those too slow to keep up, the war was a political war which any sane person can see but some of the methods were dubious to say the least. Now as for the loyalists, whom the sticks adored and shared many a racket with…now theres a sectarian squabble…but that isn’t what Garabaldie or joe wants to talk about because its not part of the agenda that they were taught. the same people that endorsed the kims and the hoxhas of the world as well as the mitchells and tyries of the 6 counties are still crawling out of their holes to rehash the old flannel. Progress is a very slow thing in stickieland. and I have not even mentioned Eoin Harris again.
As for my political projects, they are , as you can imagine, thriving. Its called living and campaigning in the real world …you should try it…don’t be afraid, ordinary working people don’t bite. Fortunately, none of my political projects entail blogging on the internet as I can only imagine that if I reached that stage in my life, a phone call to doctor kavorkian would be preferrable. I post here to add a bit of reality to your sad life garibaldie and to cheer myself up by seeing that time wharp politics still exists. I feel like I am a special needs assistant- giving yet seeking nothing in return.

To the barricades comrade and don’t spare the truth!

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42. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2009

Pretty abusive stuff Eamonn. How come Garibaldy and I can disagree on some pretty fundamental points (even ones you raise) about WP back in the day, and indeed now, without having to put the boot in?

As for your political projects, I’m still intrigued as to what they are… you’re fairly reticent about who precisely you support, if anyone. And perhaps you should be less dismissive of blogging. It’s fairly easy to combine political work off-line with discussion on-line. In fact, if you just think of it as a discussion with new people you can probably see just how useful that could be in terms of sharpening up your political positions. Works for me.

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43. Garibaldy - March 28, 2009

Eamonn,

NI was indeed founded and operated as a sectarian state. And the fundamentals of that sectarian state – gerrymandering and discrimination in jobs and housing – were by and large broken by peaceful protest, and the reactionary nature of the regime being exposed by its response. People think the violence brought down Stormont. It was the withdrawal of the cooperation of a huge percentage of the population through the rent and rate strike that did so, in the context of the aftermath of Bloody Sunday. So so far, we can agree on a lot.

The ideology of republicanism is clear. Unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter to forge an independent, democratic and secular Ireland based on the people of no property. If you think acting as specificially the self-proclaimed representatives of one segment of the Irish people, either by violence or peaceful means, then I would submit that you have no idea what republicanism actually is, and have instead mistaken it for mere nationalism.

As for Marxism, it’s an analytical tool, a way of understanding society and shaping a political response to its nature, and not a dogma. And has only ever been seen as such by The WP. Let others treat it as a theology if they wish. Whether one agrees with The WP’s version of Marxism or not, it can hardly be said that it remained inflexible and unchanging, treating Marx and Engels (so does that make it a two-man dogma by the way?) as wholly writ.

As for WP attitudes to loyalism. Well, we see the usual stories here of The WP never saying a bad thing about unionism etc. Try and read some stuff from the time in question. It gives the lie to what you are saying. Perhaps you can tell us where the murder of WP members by loyalists fits into your scheme? That said, The WP did engage in talking with people from across the political spectrum in NI who might either be able to promote progressive politics or influence people away from sectarian actions, and continues to do so. No shame in that, and that it had a positive effect has been well documented.

Blogging is a way to put ideas across and engage with people one might otherwise not meet. It’s no different than any other form of communication. The fact that you feel the need to insult it and me for doing it says more about you than me. As for the real world, and ordinary people: yes, clearly The WP is made up overwhelmingly of bourgeois dilettantes with no experience of working class life.

The truth is that with this comment you are a revealing yourself to be a self-proclaimed troll. So I don’t think I’ll bother responding to you in future.

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44. Eamonn - March 28, 2009

Garibaldi…my heart bleeds…no more stick gick.
as for your views..do you really need me to tell you why loyalists killed WP members…..because they are murdering scum who also killed drunks, bouncers, kids etc.. and do you know what….all these victims especially the WP had something in common…no politics just victims. yet the sticks stood shoulder to shoulder with these murdering scum…proclaming a united front against republicanism. after all, prior to the brits using the loyalists as paid killers they used the sticks to murder irish people, targetting the progressives in their war against regime change. The sticks stood beside the brits, the hit squads, the knee cappers, the Fitzgerald regime, Maggie thatcher, the hoods and here we are today with several no lifers trying to rewrite history. A failed entity of parasites , spineless to the core, moneygrabbing at the heart and sadly, I feel I need to respond. You win, a web page where kim is god and eoin harris is wrong because he changed his “public” opinion. I can only imagine that in planet stick the lumpen proletariot are awaiting further instructions. Avante comrades…is mise Sean O’Callaghan.

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45. maddog Wilson - March 28, 2009

Eamonn get a life.

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46. WorldbyStorm - March 28, 2009

You see that’s where you’re simply wrong Eamonn. Rackets run by everyone, an INLA that descended into madness, a PIRA that couldn’t rein in militarists and some who by any stretch were sectarians, an OIRA which people who knew better pretended didn’t exist even though it did tilt into criminality and worse and so on and so forth. There’s so much blame to go around the only question is where do we start?

Which is no help at all. Indeed if we want to be callously utilitarian in our analysis it wasn’t the North or the Officials that was the problem, whatever the problems that came with them, but the South where the WP analysis in the 80s elided neatly with that of establishment Ireland and perhaps gave help to certain political and media forces who impeded the move towards a solution.

You want to have it both ways, to say there was a war and in war shit happens and then to berate one group almost at the exclusion of all others, as if they were the utter personification of evil. I’m no fan of many of the events or approaches you list, but they’re equalled or by others (after all, be serious for a second, OIRA was a relatively small player by the mid-80s). And I’d also argue that despite the crimes visited upon many by the groups I mention above there were still people in all of them who were doing their best to hold the line as they saw it. And talking to all those involved as best we can is a good thing and maybe, just maybe might help in the future.

Which leaves you in a position almost identical to that of Harris, et al, and the stirain of condemnation in the WP/DL which I personally particularly dislike.

Oh, and I effin loathe Kim and that regime too.

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47. Garibaldy - March 28, 2009

WBS,

“but the South where the WP analysis in the 80s elided neatly with that of establishment Ireland and perhaps gave help to certain political and media forces who impeded the move towards a solution.”

When exactly do you think in the 1980s we may have had a solution if it wasn’t for the nasty journalists and southern politicians? What you say above sounds good, but I think that on closer analysis, it falls apart completely. The PSF election slogan in 1987 was Peace, Freedom, Justice if I remember correctly. However, this was a year after McGuinness talked about how only the cutting edge would bring about a united Ireland, and the Provo campaign in the late 1980s showed no sign of slowing down. Quite the opposite due to the influx of modern weapons from Libya. That is to say nothing of the loyalists, who were getting reorganised with help from some in the security forces, the INLA, or the IPLO: none of them showed much desire for peace.

Having said that, there were more noises about politics around this time. The unionists were agreeing to hold talks with the SDLP after some time not doing so (in Germany initially IIRC). McMichael produced Common Sense. Adams and Hume were meeting. But the Hume-Adams talks broke down NOT because of any outside pressure from the south, but because John Hume refused to meet the demands of the Provos to be filmed meeting masked members of their Army Council as he felt the whole thing was designed to give them a propaganda boost at his expense. In your desire to find fault with The WP approach, you are missing the big wood for a few sappling trees.

In short, how you can presesnt an analysis where effectively people who were not engaged in terrorist violence in the 1980s are somehow made to seem the bad guys is beyond me. Ordinary working people were being killed in large numbers, often for sectarian reasons. The blame for the continuation of the various campaigns of violence in the 1980s needs to be put squarely where it belongs. On all those engaged in it, be they those colluding with paramilitaries, or the paramilitaries themselves.

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48. Eamonn - March 28, 2009

Garabaldie says “be they those colluding with paramilitaries, or the paramilitaries themselves” – that about sums it up. The brits and the right wingers like fitzgerald had no part in the troubles. This shows just how wrong the stickie theory is. No attempt to tackle the root cause but plenty of mud for slinging.
There is plenty of blame to go around but for apologists like joe and garabaldie to absolve the sticks of any wrongdoing is poor. In Belfast, the sticks were working for the brits in obtaining information on the provos. Collaborators. That is the legacy of OIRA coupled with the 100% criminality.

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49. Eamonn - March 28, 2009

Maddog wilson…you’re totally right. I’m just headin’ out the door now for an afternoon of portar. I may be gone for a while…………….

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50. Garibaldy - March 28, 2009

Apparently Eamonn can’t read properly, failing to note where I mentioned security force collusion, which is what the section he quotes clearly refers to. As for the root cause of the violence. Sectarianism – it caused the creation of NI, dominated the nature of the state and of community relations, allied in a poisonous mix to a dispute over nationality.

As for the rest, beneath response.

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51. WorldbyStorm - March 28, 2009

Eamonn… see what you started? See?

Anyhow, Garibaldy, look back at what I wrote. I noted that the analysis during the 1980s and on into the early 1990s generated in part by the EHs and PDRs of the world, and let’s not forget Smullen and Co., was where it was impossible for PSF to ever go along a similar or even parallel route than the OSF/WP had done before, where any contact with them was anathema, where such mainstream figures as Hume et al were pilloried for their temerity in doing so. Is that all down the WP? Of course not, but I think it would be a brave person who disregarded their influence in certain areas during that time and their ability to shape the discourse.

And the thing is that as you know from the instant PSF started to move towards the political, we can argue about the precise date, but let’s say a little before the hunger strikes was when the first shoots appeared as the Northern group took over, it was almost inevitable that the sort of compromises and dispensation that ultimately appeared was on the table. That’s how it works. That’s why RIRA and CIRA eschew political activity of any seriousness. None of that is to say that WP was wrong to point out wrongness in the 80s, but… given its past (and the residue of that past) it wasn’t in a position to shout too loud and shout so venomously (something that quite reasonably made a lot of people ask what was going on, hypocrisy, lack of insight into its own position, rapid rewriting of history, etc?).

I also think that it’s important, as splintered sunrise notes often, to distinguish between a party’s formal programme and structure, and what actually is its approach to issues was. Sure, the WP right through the 80s was ‘Republican’ in formal terms, in almost precisely the same way as PSF was ‘Republican’ in formal terms, but in WPs approach it often seemed to be anything but aligning with Unionism. And I sat at Ard Fhéis after Ard Fhéis puzzling over motions, and indeed reports from the centre, that simply didn’t make any sense as regards our approach to the then prevailing situation, indeed at best made it appear we agreed with that situation and that the only problem was PIRA and PSF.

And I read with interest and complete agreement your piece on the murders where you noted how volatile all this is and how crucial to avoid playing into certain hands by making the wrong moves – when in the 1980s the party seemed to implicitly and sometimes explicitly support precisely the sort of actions by the state which generated more and more negative effects.

As regards people not being engaged in terrorism not being bad guys, that’s not my point, but it’s important not diminish the agency across the island of a group which couldn’t per definition be seen as anything other than a player.

Finally, my gripe with WP is broadly on its approach to the North, something that I think was rectified somewhat following the DL split. I’d have other somewhat lesser issues re other aspects of its programme but I’d always be the first to say how in terms of a left approach it was vital in the South in terms of defending working class interests during the period.

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52. Garibaldy - March 28, 2009

I agree the Provo move into politics made the end of their violence inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that they realised it. I don’t think Ed Moloney is right to say all this was planned from c.1976. One of the indications of moving away from violence is running down capacity. No sign of that until the early 1990s. As for being in a position to shout too loud, there is an assumption there that the two types of campaign were identical. Certainly they shared aspects, but we should note what weren’t shared: the bombing of town centres, often with callous disregard for civilian life, and the sectarian element. Those are important differences. And my attitude here also applies to the Provos and their offshoots today. McGuinness is entitled to say what he said because he has changed his practices. Same with the UUP despite its history of running a corrupt and undemocratic state.

Obviously I didn’t sit in on those Ard Fheiseanna but I have read a lot of the material from the time, and I don’t think that you could mistake The WP as a unionist party. In terms of concentrating criticism on one particular group, aside from the obvious historical and competitive reasons, we should remember that at the time in question, many of the other groups were much less active. IIRC, I think that one year in the mid-80s, the loyalists were reponsible for something like 5 deaths, while the INLA was tied up in its own problems. And sectarianism – which has lain at the heart of WP analysis – has always been regarded as something that came from throughout the society. I’d have said that the “USP” of The WP in the north in the 80s was anti-sectarianism, and that would have been seen as the main plank of policy by those watching.

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53. maddog Wilson - March 28, 2009

Eamonn
What actual evidence do you have that OIRA informed for the Brits?
There were enough touts inside the provos throughout the troubles. Oc of Southern Command, Oc of internal security and head of SF administration at Stormont, the Brits did’nt need any from elsewhere.
Perchance to dream… have a pint on me.

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54. WorldbyStorm - March 28, 2009

The problem is not that the WP was a Unionist party but that the positions it struck were such that they appeared to parallel Unionism and in some respects support it. And they seemed to diminish genuine complaints about state violence, shoot to kill, wrongful arrests, miscarriages of justice, militarisation etc, etc simply because the other ones made them.

I agree with you that Moloney is over-egging the pudding. And I’d also agree that there was no conscious acceptance or realisation within SF of their situation until quite a few years later. Incidentally, running down capacity doesn’t per se mean moving away from violence. Logic would suggest that to argue from the strongest possible position one would arguably need to run it up or at least maintain it. After all what was decommissioning about? It sure wasn’t about people being worried that someone would leave the safety off on a gun and there might be an accident.

As regards differences of approach, surely, although I’m not sure that was enough. But we still come back to a central problem. OSF WP, for all that it did many things right simply couldn’t deliver the message it did with any degree of conviction, IMHO. Particularly not given its very specific circumstances.

And the interesting thing is that although there is a disdain for De Rossa et al and the DL move, in a way it was an entirely logical shift (even if from my perspective completely wrong) in terms of the general dynamic within WP. Only a pretty much completely reformulated party, whatever the sincerity of those within it, could appear as an honest broker.

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55. Garibaldy - March 28, 2009

Interesting point on the capacity argument. And on the DL thing. Although again, as we’ve noted before, our takes on the reasons for that are different. Me thinking it was mainly motivated by a combination of moving to the right and opportunism at the top.

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56. WorldbyStorm - March 28, 2009

I think there was an element of that absolutely. And depending on who it was there was more or less. But I also think that there was a wish to establish clear water, in other words to stop the pointing fingers. Personally, as you know, I had and have no problem countering those sort of finger pointing attacks. The party could stand (mostly) on its record over the years, whatever about its approach to various matters. But others obviously felt differently. And here’s a mad irony. The finger pointers were comprised of the very ones who had taken on board the more egregious elements of the BICO/EH analysis over the years. Equal opportunity finger pointers we could call them (although I was also amazed at how rapidly DL went from anathema to FG to absolutely crucial partner in government). And I’ll bet had the party vote gone over the 2/3rds and gone for a reformulation or whatever the in-word was without splitting, FG would have probably held their nose and still done the deal if deal there was to be done in the mid-90s.

Although I’ll bet that it wouldn’t just have been a few people leaving DL due to the deal but a lot more entrenched antagonism to coalition.

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57. Garibaldy - March 28, 2009

I think you’re right that a deal would have been done. Do you not think that had the “re-registration” programme gone ahead there would have been a purge of many of the members opposed to the DL faction? I don’t see how that that could not have been the result. Not Mac Giolla given his importance, but certainly most of the revolutionary socialists, especially from the north. I’ve never actually asked, but I doubt that some of them would have wanted to stay anyway. I agree entirely that had they remained, there would have been massive opposition to coalition – hence why they had to be removed via the re-registration scheme.

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58. WorldbyStorm - March 28, 2009

I don’t know. I imagine it would have depended on whether there was a strong internal organisation of those groupings (and I think there were groupings because some people, and I’m thinking of people who later gravitated to the ISN, were left critics of the DL line as well). I suspect though that the leadership would have simply ignored them. And the other thing is that almost 2/3rds voted for the change. That’s a lot of people. The only thing is that if people had stayed it might have been more like, say, The Left Party in Germany, or at least the potential would have been there.

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59. Baku26 - March 28, 2009

At 38 Eamonn derides Joe for alleged bitterness. Perhaps he should read his own post at 41 for a fine example of that genre. For a good example of active collusion with the British forces against Republicans he might like to acquaint himself with the Provo role in the so-called “Incident Centres” in the early 70’s.

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60. Garibaldy - March 28, 2009

I think that it was clear that there would continue to be organised resistance, and that was liable to grow as they accelerated the move to the right. And the DLers knew it. Hard to say though.

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61. Joe - March 30, 2009

Post 38: Bitterness through lifelong failure.
You got me in one Eamonn. But… there’s a turn in every road – I succeeded in getting you ranting in anyway.
Here’s to further successes going forward.
Although I love that line so much. Has the WP come up with a slogan for the forthcoming locals down here Gari? Cos there’s one you just couldn’t pass up:
Vote WP
Bitterness through lifelong failure

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62. Maddog Wilson - March 30, 2009

Joe do you know how many candidates the WP are standing outside of Cork and Waterford there is nothing on their website yet?

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63. Joe - March 30, 2009

Maddog you know as much as me. I think there was something on another thread here a while back about 4 candidates in Dublin. Why not email them?

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64. Maddog Wilson - March 30, 2009

Thanks Joe.

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65. Starkadder - April 11, 2009

I was flicking thru “Sinn Fein and the Politics of Left Republicanism”
today and there was a section on the whole OSF/WP/DL history,so
I might buy it to learn more.

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