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The Irish Left Archive: Workers Weekly, Workers Association, British and Irish Communist Organisation, January 1975 March 30, 2009

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



Here is Workers Weekly, a publication of the Workers Association, also of the British and Irish Communist Organisation. This dates from January 1975. As with the previous example in the Archive it is a four page typewritten production. Pedants will note that there is no consistency with the previous masthead.

This edition is exercised about the then recent Provisional IRA ceasefire and argued that:

“The Provisional IRA is now closer to defeat than at any time since they began the war against the people of Northern Ireland.”

The document is explicit in its political analysis:

Having abandoned violence at least temporarily – the Provos will be forced to attempt to pursued their objectives by political means. But the basic objective of the Provos – Irish unity – is incapable of being pursued by political mans. The realisation of Irish unity would not advance the objective material interests of any significant section of Ulster society. The only case for Irish unity that can be made is a case based on myths and legends and myths and legends will not attract many voters…[the Provisional IRA] possess neither the ability nor the guts to face reality and to participate in realistic politics in Northern Ireland. They have nothing to contribute to the working out of a new constitution for the Government of Northern Ireland as a province of the United Kingdom.

And then in a rather dubious piece of political forecasting it continues:

The working out of such a constitution will be the central issue in Ulster politics in the immediate period ahead and any political group which has nothing to contribute to this debate will quickly become irrelevant. Clearly the Provo’s have no future in Ulster politics.

Elsewhere it critiques, or rather criticises Peoples Democracy. There’s a unique take on internment and then a further critique of the SDLP and a poor piece of political prophecy which argues that:

…for Paddy Devlin [of the SDLP] to talk about two ‘traditions’ being given equal expression in the Northern Ireland state is a logical and political absurdity. They stand in totally mutually contradiction and they are not resolved by some sort of artificial creation which purports to allow the expression of both. In such a situation either one or the other will be expressed, not both.

And finally, turn to Page 4 for an attack on the ITGWU.


1. Mbari - March 30, 2009

Wow. Clearly Clifford’s crystal ball was having an off day. That last quote is especially good: BICO should have recognized that something being absurd does not mean it cannot happen. You’d think Maoist Unionists would recognize that much, at least.


2. WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2009



3. Starkadder - March 30, 2009

“In such a situation either one or the other will be expressed, not both. ”

Ethnic groups with different nation aspirations can’t peacefully
co-exist? That’ll be news to the Canadians.
The WW is almost Carl Schmitt-like, in its claim that violent conflict
is the main engine of politics.

And from the past to the present…what say you about the Irish Political Review’s endorsement of Chairman Ganley and Libertas?

The European Parliament has investigated Ganley for Un-European Activities with a view to morally intimidating the electorate for its own good. But the operation was spoiled by the Czech President on his visit to Ireland, when he treated Ganley as a person with legitimate views on Europe who publicised those views legitimately.

In the European Parliament the Czech President was harassed on behalf of majority opinion in the Parliament by Rudi Dutschke, the famous dissident of the 1968 happening who cannot tolerate dissidence now. Such is the way of the world, especially with regard to student revolutionaries.



4. Garibaldy - March 30, 2009

Although as someone pointed out previously relevant to this, Dutschke died three decades ago. I think it was Daniel Cohen-Bendit (or is that the other way round?)


5. Starkadder - March 30, 2009

Yup, it was Cohen-Bendit. The IPR made a blunder in its editorial.

I wonder what their next front group will be:
“Former-Loyalists-Now-Shinners For Ganley”, anyone? 😉


6. Garibaldy - March 30, 2009

Don’t forget Bertie!


7. Starkadder - March 30, 2009

On a tangent, the Irish Times Digital Archive is online for a limited time,
to celebrate the paper’s 150th anniversary.

Since we’ve been discussing the WP & B&ICO recently,you may find this particular letter, “SDLP Policies” to be of interest:



8. Garibaldy - March 31, 2009

Interesting stuff Starkadder. Not sure garnering compliments – however half-assed – from BICO is ever a good thing.


9. Starkadder - March 31, 2009

As for the Stoop Downs….do you think the SDLP has an future?
Maybe integrating with one of the Southern Parties might give
them a new angle.


10. Garibaldy - March 31, 2009

I think the SDLP does have a future, though whether it will ever get to the top again or not is another thing. We shouldn’t forget that it has three MPs, as well as the Assembly and council seats. Derry is still an SDLP city. And given the growing discontent with the performance of the Executive over things like education, the SDLP might conceivably regain some of the middle class voters it has lost to its rivals. Equally, if in 15 or 20 years’ time, there was a single nationalist party in the north, I wouldn’t be shocked either.


11. Starkadder - March 31, 2009

” Equally, if in 15 or 20 years’ time, there was a single nationalist party in the north, I wouldn’t be shocked either.”

Maybe a SDLP_SF fusion, linked to a Southern party made up of
FF-FG. 😉

Back to the B&ICO…there was another attack on Elizabeth Bowen
in the March IPR,by Jack Lane.JL said she was English, a Spy
(citing Heather Laird as authority for this) and never defended Irish
neutrality. However,this article had some interest
because Lane made clear why he (and presumably the other
ex-B&ICO guys) hate Bowen and Co.

Lane references to the Anglo-Irish as:

“..A useless,nasty,sectarian parasitical socio-political grouping
that ruled the country..
. Lane attacks the AI (he presumably
means the Protestant Ascendancy) for not developing Ireland into a nation, or not “broadening themselves out” to make a nation. He cites Tone,Hyde & Parnell as Irish Nationalists, so he must exempt AIs who support Irish nationalism.

Interesting view-does the fact that Lane believes ruling colonial aristocracies are supposed to “build nations” betray the influence of that other famous B&ICO member, Bill Warren?


12. Garibaldy - March 31, 2009

All things are possible. Then it would be right nationalism versus right unionism versus a small bunch of lefties. La plus ca change…

To cite Tone as an example of the Anglo-Irish shows what a nonsense the category is. What they really mean is Irish members of the Anglican church, far from all of whom belong(ed) in the same social grouping. Tone certainly was not an aristocrat, or gentry or the like. Probably does show Warren’s influence, but I’ve never read his stuff in full.


13. Starkadder - March 31, 2009

By a coincidence, I was reading Kenan Malik’s book on Salman Rushdie inWaterstone’s today, where Rushdie describes himself as “Indian/Pakistani/British” .
Of course Lane probably wouldn’t like the multiple nationed Mr. Rushdie, especially since the IPR developed a crush on the Iranian government.

As examples of the Anglo-Irish, Lane’s article only mentions Bowen and the Trinity grandees who rejected Thomas Davis (certainly the working-class Dublin Protestants like Sean O’Casey’s folk never “ruled Ireland”).

Lane states there are still “two nations on the island of Ireland”. He’s wrong-most of
the Ulster Protestants don’t see themselves as a separate nation, and they don’t fit the Marxist criteria for defining a nation. Also, if “nation-building” involves “Broadening out” from your ethnic
group from the 1700s onward, where does that leave the Catholic Nationalists in the area that was to become “the Wee Six”?

The folk Lane cities as having built the Irish nation, moving “out from their own Grouping” include “Tone, Emmett, Davis, Butt, Parnell, “Pagan” O’Leary,Casement, Childers, Hyde, Yeats, etc.”

Now what all these lads have in common is that they
supported Ireland becoming separate from Britain. Lane lets folk from the Ascendancy off the hook if,like Yeats, they strongly support Ireland’s separation from Britain. The problem here is that this reduces the Irish Nation to simply being
Opposed to British rule, and reduces people either being 100% Irish or 100% English.

“And what about the class question?” wails Herr
Marx. “Mr. Yeats wanted to hang on to all the wealth his
capitalist/imperialist ancestors gave him, and was prepared to
support Eoin O’Duffy to keep them.”

With characteristic arrogance, Lane states at the end his ideas are “sensible and practical to be in these matters”. No mister, they’re clumsy and confusing.


14. Garibaldy - March 31, 2009

Well said.


15. Starkadder - March 31, 2009

The whole“down with Bowen” thing is very weird-imagine éirígí
sending letters and publishing books attacking Somerville and
Ross, for instance.


16. Garibaldy - March 31, 2009

It’s not something I’ve paid a great deal of attention to. But having said that, if she was sending reports back to the UK about events in the south, then it does open questions about national identity etc that complicate some of the more simplistic attempts to reclaim the Irish identity of every writer ever born in Ireland. Whether they considered it a stable or not.


17. Starkadder - March 31, 2009

That’s a fair point. But having read Clair Wills’ “That Neutral Island” I
don’t think Bowen did anything to undermine Irish Neutrality, even
if she did privately resent it.

I’ve never actually read any of Bowen’s novels, only some of the short stories.

What about Clifford’s A.J.P. Taylor-ish views on WWII, which seem to be strongly linked to his attacks on Bowen? I’ve found a summary of them here:



18. Garibaldy - March 31, 2009

One can still be report to a foreign government and not undermine neutrality, no? I would interpret undermining it as meaning removing its credibility but you probably mean endangering it? Either way, I still think it’s possible to act on behalf of a foreign government and still not undermine it. It involves acting as an informant rather than a spy I would say. In the way that concerned loyalists would historically right to the government with their concerns about locals who they suspected were United Irishmen/Fenians/IRA men etc. I’d put what she was doing in that category. A spy involves employment in my eyes when it is reporting to government, as opposed to say spying for one political group on another.

I’ll have to get back to you on the Clifford thing. Don’t have the time now.


19. Starkadder - April 1, 2009

Jack Lane in the 1970s:

“”[Gerry] Fitt is a Catholic Nationalist who has been masquerading as a
socialist for a good many years now…He assured them [NI Catholics]
that if they have nothing to fear because if they procreate
fast enough they will soon be the majority…
This has always been one of the cruder expressions of the Catholic
nationalist attempts to dominate the Protestant Nation. The Protestant
community has successfully resisted all the attempts by Catholic Nationalists
to dominate it for the last 100 years and it has proved itself to be a nation
in its own right. As such the Catholic Nationalists have no right to dominate
it and regard it as a minority in its nation. It is this claim by the Catholic
Nationalists which is the cause of the sectarianism in Northern Ireland.

..Fitt’s views are in keeping with the most degenerate form of national

It’s all the evil Papists’ fault, mister Orangeman.


20. Joe - April 1, 2009

“He’s wrong-most of the Ulster Protestants don’t see themselves as a separate nation, and they don’t fit the Marxist criteria for defining a nation.”

Expand on that for me Starkadder please. What are these Marxist criteria for defining a nation? Or where in Marx’s writings might one find them?

I’d agree that most of the Ulster Protestants don’t see themselves as a separate nation. They see themselves as part of a separate nation – the United Kingdom.


21. Starkadder - April 1, 2009

The Jack Lane quote comes from Communist Comment magazine,
January 16th 1971.

Marx & Engels, IIRC, supported nationalism that were against
the Imperial powers of the time,like Irish and Polish nationalism.

But the criteria the B&ICO used to define a nation were the ones
found in Joseph Stalin’s “Marxism and the National Question”-also
used by non-Stalinist Leninists and Trotskyists.

The Kulak Butcher defined a nation as consisting of:

‘A nation is an historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.’.

The problems with using this statement to support
the “separate nation” argument is that the Ulster Protestants
territory only covers four counties, their economy was heavily
tied to Britain instead of the international market,nor were the
Ulster Protestants clear who they were (they wanted to keep
ALL Ireland in the Union-Partition was a last resort). Their
“psychological make-up” that defined the UPs’ identity against
the the Irish Nationalists kept changing.

On this note, the IPR crowd don’t seem to have given much thought
to how a United Ireland might look in practice-Athol Books has
yet to produce its equivalent of “Éire Nua “.


22. Starkadder - April 1, 2009

I bet the next Irish Political Review will put the boot into poor
Hugh Leonard, because Leonard hated Haughey and the Provos.


23. Starkadder - April 2, 2009

There was this article from the Corkman about the AHS’
edition of the poems of Eoghan Ruadh O’Suilleabhain I found
interesting. I think one of the guys in the picture might be
Brendan Clifford-anybody know?



24. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen Linken - eine Auswahl « Entdinglichung - April 3, 2009

[…] British and Irish Communist Organization (BICO)/Workers Association: Workers’ Weekly, Januar 1975 […]


25. Starkadder - April 8, 2009

I checked the back issues of the Corkman, and no, that picture’s
not connected with the AHS.


26. Starkadder - April 11, 2009

I forget to mention-there was a fairly good review of the AHS’
book on Coolacrease in the current issue of “History Ireland” by
Joost Augusteijn. He basically agreed that the documentary by
RTE was factually inaccurate, but claimed the book had a simplistic
republican view of history and promoted conspiracy theories about


27. Starkadder - April 11, 2009

I’ve found another review of the Coolacrease book from
the Dublin Review of Books:


I liked this bit:

He (Clifford) goes on to suggest that this (BC’s NI activites) was “with a view to negotiating a compromise settlement”. He may be indulging in a little revisionism here himself. Rather than being a harbinger of the Good Friday agreement, the B&ICO campaign at the time was for recognition of two nations on the island, the defeat of the IRA, and for the territorial claim on the North in the Irish Constitution to be deleted. .


28. Starkadder - April 20, 2009

As a contemporary saw them;the entry on the ICO from David Widgery’s “The Left in Britain” (1976) :

Irish Communist Organization: A proletarian Irish Maoist grouping founded by six people in November 1965 centered on Brendan Clifford, an associate of McCreery
(=> Committee to Defeat Revisionism, For Communist Unity).
Published “Irish Communist” and the North London based “The Communist”, with branches in London, (where it is known as the Communist Workers’ Organization), Bangor, Dublin, Belfast and Cork. Strict Stalinists.
In 1969 adopted a Marxist variant of
Bonar Law’s 1912 theory of Ireland as “two nations”, and campaign for the Ulster Protestants’ right of self-determination. Notorious for theoretical nitpicking and polemical virtuosity. Compulsive publishers with special emphasis on reprints from Irish History and exposing the crimes of Leon Trotsky. Expelled a founder member who ceased to support Two Nations theory in 1971, who now publishes the
“theoretical quarterly” “Communist Worker. => Communist Organization in the British Isles.


29. WorldbyStorm - April 20, 2009

Six people. Theoretical nit-picking. Has anything changed? Funny thing is I can’t help but feel they’ve sort of shifted towards the CPI-MLs old ground, not entirely of course, but somewhat while the old CPI-ML people have moderated their views very slightly. Odd that. As time goes on I become more and more – well, sympathetic is the wrong word, perhaps very slightly affectionate to the CPI-ML… in a sort of a way. At least you knew exactly where you stood with them.

Which reminds me Starkadder, on your perigrinations have you come across the September 1969 United Irishman? I have a copy but it’s missing the eight inside pages including the editorial. Which isn’t great for putting up in the Archive in September…


30. Starkadder - April 20, 2009

To my shame, although I’ve gone through some WA stuff, I’ve
never looked at the United Irishman stuff.

There is a really nasty attack on History Ireland magazine
and Joost Augustijn in the
current issue of the IPR-HI is described as “an academic publication
whose bias is revisionist” and Clifford doles out his usual slop about
the Evil Dublin Four Revisionist Conspiracy. He actually stops talking
about the review for a whole page and whinges about the government
not abolishing Articles 2 & 3 for a whole page. (!) Clifford doesn’t mention that Augustijn’s article notes the appointment of the
anti-revisionist Diarmaid Ferriter to UCD.

Of course for Clifford, anyone who doesn’t kiss his Sliabh
Luachra arse is a revisionist 😉 .


31. Garibaldy - April 20, 2009

Sounds like the worst excesses of the editor of HI being turned against him.


32. Vabian - May 6, 2009

Angela Clifford is launching a book on the Arms Trial
in the Teachers’ Club this Friday, and Jack Lane,Brendan Clifford and
Dessie Fennell are also releasing new books
About Bowen and Mansergh and Western Civilization
the next day.



Would anyone be interested in coming? (Even if
Only to ask some Paxman-like “difficult questions” 😉 ).


33. Irish Left Archive: Northern Ireland – For Workers’ Unity: A reply to the Workers’ Association Pamphlet [BICO] “What’s wrong with Ulster Trade Unionism”, Militant, c. « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - December 13, 2010

[…] are some Workers Association leaflets already in the Archive. The analysis in the Militant document provides a fascinating […]


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