jump to navigation

Irish Left Archive: Workers Weekly – Workers’ Association Bulletin (British and Irish Communist Organisation), January 1975 November 2, 2009

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

cover WW

WW2

Here’s a curiosity. An edition of Workers Weekly written soon after the announcement by the Provisional IRA that they were ending their then recent 25 day long ceasefire in 1974/75. WW is convinced that:

…for a few weeks the Catholic community in West Belfast have enjoyed a taste of normal life, largely free from the attentions of the British Army (and entirely free from the attentions of the Protestant assassination squads). All that is likely to change now and the Provos are not going to get any thanks for it.

The elision of Nationalist/Republican and Catholic is intriguing.

Then the reader is treated to a ‘Glimpse of Provo “Politics”….

The Irish Times of Jan 15th provided an interesting glimpse of Provo ‘Politics’ when it reproduced an interview given… ([in the] organ of the British Trotskyist International Marxist Group)…

INTERVIEWER: What kind of withdrawal are you talking about?

LOUGHRAN: Withdrawal of the British way of life from this island. This is Ireland. The British way of life has no place on this island. All things British we are talking about – not just the withdrawal of the British Army which is a necessary first step.

That, for what it’s worth is the political programme of the Provo’s (and you thought the flat-earthers were mad?). What would be left if we lost the British way of life? The black taxis and french letters would have to go for a start, and presumably we would not be able to communicate in English anymore. The Provos would be a joke if they weren’t prepared to fight. With politics like these, had the Provos any alternative but to call off the ceasefire.

Even in the context of the paucity of political analysis offered by PIRA at this point in time – it’s hard to know whether taking one statement in one interview as being representative of PIRA or PSF thinking on this matter is entirely credible, and whether what the writer imagines is synonymous with the ‘British way of life’ is indeed what the spokesman had in mind.

Likewise with a piece that argues that Catholic Ireland is but 200 years old. The point is correct, but is such a dynamic markedly different from other societies during the same period where supposedly ancient and immutable structures validating societal outlooks were put in place.

There’s a short piece which lauds Romania along the lines of ‘the fastest growing economy in Eastern Europe’.

And the Officials also get a lash. According to the WA…

Surely they [the Officials] couldn’t mean the struggle against the British Army. They blame the Provos for the rise of sectarianism, and reprisal killings etc, conveniently forgetting that it was their so-called Civil Rights campaign which cause the violence initially. The OIRA, as they admitted themselves were the driving force and guiding light of the Civil Rights Association. They provoked the violence and the Protestant backlash in 1969 and capitalised on it afterards. They underestimated the determination of the old guard of die-hards who would never have let an opportunity like August 1969 slip by. Both Provos and Officials became quite strong military organisations but seeing the Provos were basicallymore honest adn didn’t have to keep on kidding themselves they were non sectarian they proved more durable, now they too are nearing their end.

To blame the Officials (or indeed the IRA, as was at the time) for the spasm of violence in 1969 was an unusual perspective even in 1975. Nor is it clear what they mean by the ‘so-called CR campaign’.

I’ll leave the last word, literally to the WA. At the foot of the final page we read…

It looks as if the milk is not the only think turning soar [sic] this weather.

Comments»

1. Corkonian - November 2, 2009

‘To blame the Officials (or indeed the IRA, as was at the time) for the spasm of violence in 1969 was an unusual perspective even in 1975. Nor is it clear what they mean by the ’so-called CR campaign’.’

This perspective was not unusual. It was the view of a large section of Unionist and British government opinion. Had the Civil Rights movement not began marching in 1968, and thereby encouraging confrontation with the NI government, the events of August 1969 would not have happened. Cathal Goulding and the IRA encouraged this but were completly unprepared for what they unleashed. BICO were honest critics of both IRAs and blazed a trail that it took others, such as the Workers Party many years to follow. They recognised what is self-evidently obvious; why would an Ulster Protestant worker be interested in being ruled by clerical gombeens?

Like

2. Garibaldy - November 2, 2009

Wasn’t getting republicanism away from clerical gombeens the whole point of the Goulding strategy?

Like

3. Corkonian - November 2, 2009

In a word no. The logic of Goulding’s approach was to bring about a fantasy united Ireland. In 1969 he sent his battalions into action and provoked a violent response. The Provo campaign was the logical extension of this; they had the courage of their misguided convictions, Goulding did not. In the long run the best people in his movement helped him see the error of his ways.

Like

4. Garibaldy - November 2, 2009

OK. I think if you are making the argument that Goulding really shared the catholic nationalism of the Provisionals then I think nothing else needs to be said.

Like

5. ejh - November 2, 2009

why would an Ulster Protestant worker be interested in being ruled by clerical gombeens?

This is cobblers, isn’t it? The Ulster Protestants were against Civil Rights marchers because they were against clerica and and small-time crooks in politics?

Like

6. splinteredsunrise - November 2, 2009

The unionists had no real objection to clerical gombeens, as long as they were Protestant gombeens.

Nice to see a little spotlight on the Workers Association, the hatching ground of the Bew-Patterson approach to the north.

Like

7. Corkonian - November 2, 2009

Goulding’s personal opinions, forged in public houses and lounge bars in discussions with the guillible, guileless and/or the ambitious flatterers of the college scene are not the point. His army’s aim was a united Ireland. That only meant one thing to Ulster Protestants and Goulding’s role in provoking them to defend their rights has never been acknowledged by either the sentimental or the cynical upholders of his ‘legacey’. I have no idea which one of those you are Garibaldy, but when these points were raised in the heat of the 1970s Goulding had no response. Luckily for him, some of his cleverer supporters responded by adopting the ideas wholesale and presenting them as their own.

Like

8. Corkonian - November 2, 2009

‘The unionists had no real objection to clerical gombeens, as long as they were Protestant gombeens.’

The unionist clerics did not have the ability to prevent the British state imposing free health care from the cradle to the grave. The Catholic clerics did.

Like

9. Garibaldy - November 2, 2009

Nice to see someone come on and defend the BICO thesis anyway. I prefer, Corkanian, to think of myself as cynical rather than sentimental, but I could be wrong. Any argument that says that all strategies to achieve and visions of a united Ireland meant the same thing is so reductive that it is hardly an argument at all. Many unionists may have been unable to distinguish. I’d hardly though ascribe to others the responsibility for that.

I’m not really sure how the fact that unionists had a progressive measure forced on them despite their reactionary will is indicative of anything about comparisons between Irish nationalism and unionism. It might be inidicative of the difference between the Irish and British states, but then again, London allowed discrimination to flourish for nearly 50 years, and only acted when peaceful protest meant it could no longer ignore the injustices of the unionist state. So hardly a sign of an inherently progressive state either, never mind what it was doing internationally.

Like

10. Ramzi Nohra - November 2, 2009

“Goulding’s role in provoking them to defend their rights”.
Croppies lie down, is the summarised version of your argument as far as I can tell?

Basically the evil catholic population of the north (and their nefarious Southern manipulators) for having the temerity to protest about Civil Rights?
That was a provocative move in your opinon? (happy to be corrected if wron)

Like

11. WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

This perspective was not unusual. It was the view of a large section of Unionist and British government opinion. Had the Civil Rights movement not began marching in 1968, and thereby encouraging confrontation with the NI government, the events of August 1969 would not have happened. Cathal Goulding and the IRA encouraged this but were completly unprepared for what they unleashed. BICO were honest critics of both IRAs and blazed a trail that it took others, such as the Workers Party many years to follow. They recognised what is self-evidently obvious; why would an Ulster Protestant worker be interested in being ruled by clerical gombeens?

I think from any objective stand point, or even a fair few subjective ones, it is an unusual one, then and now (that the British government and Unionism might hold such a view doesn’t add validity or credibility to it). The idea that a population should sit passively in such contexts – as Ramzi Nohra notes – is one that ignores both the propensity to react against an oppression (however great or small) and the specific pressures found in the North during the period.

It’s fairly clear that Goulding and the IRA had something of a restraining effect on the CR, but to describe the marches as the ‘unleashing’ – in such a reductionist fashion – August 1969 is simply wrong. One could, if one wishes to indulge in the blame game, pin it on the loyalist attackers at Burntollet – people who brought violence into political discourse in the North again (if we disregard the paramilitary police force etc). Or we could perhaps pin it on the loyalist bombings of the reservoirs. Or the loyalist murders some years previously. Or should we pin it on the anniversary of independence and how, coincidentally this date was during the same period. Or…

To pin it on an IRA which in the North was pitched more clearly towards the political remains unusual, and a conclusion, I’d note, that few enough contemporary historians would make.

But all that’s pointless. The mid to late 1960s saw the probably inevitable attrition of a Unionist political structure forced by its own ‘democratic’ legitimising rhetoric to concede something, but unable to do so quickly enough to satisfy such demands due to its need to placate its own power base. In a sense everyone was responsible and no-one was responsible.

As for arguing that Goulding ‘sent his battalions into action’ and provoked a violent response, to elide the CR with the IRA, even an IRA which was largely hewing to a political path, is a considerable misrepresentation. It’s clear that in 1968 and 1969 the IRA was not ‘sent into action’ other than in a defensive role or on a political path. Even if the ultimate aim of the IRA was a united Ireland (an entirely valid aim constitutionally), which it clearly was, and even if it still was willing to use physical force, which it clearly was as well at least in a generally defensive mode, at that point the IRA was acting in a manner within the constitutional constraints of NI. And the CRA had a life beyond the IRA, considerably so.

And as Brian Hanley has noted in History Ireland on this very matter… ‘the substantial reforms introduced that winter [1969], which included the disbandment of the B-Specials and the disarming of the RUC, came as a response to the violence of August, not because of the strength of the CR movement’.

This was an expression of a state and society entirely unable to accommodate a minority within itself. To blame that minority, or elements of it for that inability on the part of the state/society to accommodate itself except by armed repression, seems perverse. At best.

Re unionist clerics and their societal power, they were and remained even recently fairly adept at shutting down aspects of a shared public space as their religious prescripts saw fit or indeed the provision of medical services that were available in the UK. Neither were they shy about using their influence and power when and as they saw fit.

To think otherwise is indeed sentimentalism.

Like

12. ejh - November 2, 2009

Fantastic. So the Civil Rights marchers were beaten because they were a threat to the NHS? Keep ’em comin’.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

Hmmm… that’s a good way of putting it.

Like

13. Jimmy Rabbitte - November 2, 2009

Actually a whole range of historians would argue that the civil rights movement helped provoke the Unionist backlash and that some elements in it wanted such a backlash. Paul Bew and Henry Patterson have said as much: Bew believes Burntollet was a turning point and organised to provoke the attack that it did. Patterson says in his ‘Ireland’ book that PD leaders talked about starting a Catholic rising by leading the students into an ambush. Brian Brennan of the WP argued that Burntollet was a Trot disaster that helped turn the civil rights process sectarian in ‘Making Sense’ on the 20th anniversary in 1989. Thomas Hennessey’s ‘The Origins of the Troubles’ accuses republicans of firing the first shots in Belfast in August 1969. BICO just said it a lot earlier.
You might wonder how bombing British army offices was defensive (according to the ‘Lost Revolution’ the IRA did just that in 1967-68), or burning down post offices, or pushing politicians into police lines in Derry, or ask why in Derry in 69, despite intense rioting the RUC did not deploy heavy machine guns, but they did in Belfast? maybe because (again according to the ‘Lost Rev’) the IRA opened fire on them…first!

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

Well, that’s Bew and Patterson… not quite a whole range. So what about others who see the process as vastly more complex and nuanced and one in which there were many participants and events combining?

As for the ‘Trot disaster’ trope. Well given that you’re quoting TLR what of the fact that we know the relationship between many of those in PD and OSF was extremely close then and thereafter for quite some time. Who was on the march and how did they operate and given that they were expressing non violent resistance and consider the imbalance between the forces of the state and those resisting them and I think we can lay that particular jibe to rest.

And what Dr. X said in 14.

Like

14. Dr. X - November 2, 2009

A whole *range* of historians, eh?

Well, they must be right, then.

I don’t have any problem with pointing out that the Provies did not suddenly spring into existence one day in December 1969. What I do have a problem with is any attempt to whitewash the record of the Stormont regime, which demonstrated by its actions that it should never have been set up in the first place. . .

I looked up the use of machine guns in Belfast in 1969:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969_Northern_Ireland_riots#14_August

Wikipaedia should never be taken as an oracle, but the item there fits with what I know of the incidents; an RUC feeling that it and its community were under threat targetting the minority community – and killing not a desperate proto-Provo, but a 9 year old boy (and also an off-duty British soldier if memory serves).

Like

15. Ramzi Nohra - November 2, 2009

yeah not quite a wide range … given that bew, patterson and brennan were all connected to the WP. Dont know about Hennessey, but if he said republicans fired first I would think that his findings run contrary to the Scarman report.

I cant understand how protesting for civil rights is particularly provocative… unless the regime being protested against is so prone to violence that even reasonable requests “provoke” it.

I do however find it hilarious that self-desribed radicals bend over backward to defend the reactionary regime of stormont- a stormont that most unionists would now disown.

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 2, 2009

i should add my last para wasnt a snipe at Jimmy – more at BICO and those elements of WP that became too unquestioningly pro-unionist

Like

16. Garibaldy - November 2, 2009

I think it’s fairly clear that the civil rights movement did provoke the unionist backlash. Which was proof, if it were needed, of the reactionary nature of the Stormont regime and much of unionism given how moderate civil righs demands actually were. It’s also clear that there were some elements of the civil rights movement that did want to provoke a confrontation with the state (although not the Troubles as they emerged). None of which means that NICRA and the civil rights movement was wrong to agitate for basic democratic rights, nor that IRA participation in it was intended to result in the immediate overthrow of the state.

As for the arguments the various turning points that are proposed from 1966 to 1968 to Burntollet. I would simply say that there were 7 months between Burntollet and August 69. More than enough time for London to force through reforms sufficient that these events would be remembered as turning points that achieved reforms rather than steps on the road to 25 years of violence. Blame for the violence lies squarely on the Stormont and London governments.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

Very much agree.

Like

17. Garibaldy - November 2, 2009

As for the long march that resulted in Burntollet, it should be remembered that NICRA opposed it on the grounds that it would be provocative and dangerous. As in fact did the majority of the PDs. Hence the fact that it was only approved after a second meeting when most of the students had gone home, and the mostly Belfast-based radical minority could win the vote.

As for historians, we ought not to forget our old friend Simon Prince. Who has none of the connections of Bew and Patterson.

Even if the IRA fired the first shots in Belfast, it hardly justifies racing around a built-up area in an armoured car firing into homes with a heavy machine gun.

And one last point. It was a loyal orders and not a civil rights march that sparked the August riots of course.

Like

18. Jimmy Rabbitte - November 2, 2009

According to Finbar O’Doherty in the Derry Journal last August, in 1969 republicans had made a decision to attack the Apprentice Boys march come what may.
According to Scarman, ‘the lost revolution’, and Mallie and Bishop’s ‘Prov IRA’ the first shots in Belfast were in Leeson St on August 13 (a policeman was wounded)- the RUC used machine guns on the following night, August 14.

Heres what Brian Brennan said in ‘Making Sense’ Sept-Oct 1989;
‘The PD Belfast to Derry march was a case in point, when Farrell broke rank with NICRA discipline and walked a bunch of students into a loyalist ambush. It was a deliberatly provocative march aimed at confrontation…civil rights was being sabotaged but not by the Unionists. One PD stalwart at the time who was famous as Newry’s only Trotsky look-alike fancied his ability to organise a ‘red guard’ he designed a famous placard which doubled up as a shield and baton. This was the politics of sectarian confrontation. The hardboard shields and batons didn’t do them much good at Burntollet.’

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

Which still evades the issue, and btw how on earth are we to evaluate O’Doherty’s thoughts one way or another given other divergent accounts of what was going on, of the imbalance between state and… well… subjects given that it was under British jurisdiction and the reality that between Burntollet and August 1969 were eight or so months where that state did nothing to address concerns etc…

Come on Jimmy, you can argue all you like, but there’s something more than a bit reactionary about trying to point the finger of blame back on unarmed marchers, youthful unarmed marchers at that, who perhaps should have known better but acted probably more bravely in doing what they did knowing the chances of attack and the reality that something had to shake Stormont out of not merely complacency but actual oppression than I’ve ever had to. I see their flaws, I see the problematic aspects in what they did. But I don’t blame them for August 1969 or the Troubles.

Like

19. Ramzi Nohra - November 2, 2009

hold on there – walking into a loyalist ambush was a provocation?
Presumably you think of Warrenpoint as one of most provocative actions of the Paras.

I will dig out my copy of Bishop & Mallie, but I read it a few times back in the day and the overwhelming force of evidence was of violence coming from the unionist camp.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

Precisely.

Like

20. Jimmy Rabbitte - November 2, 2009

‘Blame for the violence lies squarely on the Stormont and London governments.’
It also lays with those who stirred it up and walked away leaving others to pick up the pieces. Brian Brennan and others pointed this out in 1989. Bew and Patterson are also not afraid to point out how limited some of the discrimination from Stormont was by 1969.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 2, 2009

How limited the discrimination. Lies with those who stirred it up… Man, that too sounds remarkably… well… conservative. The same sort of stuff one hears from the right about union disputes, etc etc.

And Always Keep Ahold of Nurse, For Fear of Finding Something Worse

Where by the way did they walk? Many into activism for years afterwards. Some still at it… etc…etc.

Like

21. Garibaldy - November 2, 2009

The blame for the outbreak of violence does not lie with NICRA. It lies with those who failed to initiate democratic reforms guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens. There were more than enough time to do this. The Labour Party and ICTU was raising the issue from 1963, never mind before that. And at each turn, the Stormont regime frustrated any efforts to end discrimination.

London was far from ignorant of the situation. But chose not to act. The blame for continued injustice lies with those who had the power to end it, but failed to do so.

I think that the idea that discrimination was limited is fairly common place. Only an idiot would draw Nazi comparisons but discrimination was also very real, and unjust.

Like

Ipso-facto - November 3, 2009

Pity you didn’t argue that with Brian Brennan in the Workers Party’s magazine in 1989. Because nobody contradicted his analysis then.

Like

22. Doloras - November 3, 2009

Can I just establish here whether Corkonian / Jimmy Rabbitte (same person?) are actually saying that there was nothing essentially wrong with the pre-1968 Stormont regime, and that we’d all be better off if it was still there? There seems to be a lot of “dog-whistling” going on.

Like

Corkonian - November 3, 2009

The position is not that simple. The abuses of Stormont were no worse than many European states and were open to reform. The demand of the republican movement, in both it’s wings (Goulding’s dishonestly and Brady’s more honestly) was to impose the rule of Dublin over a Protestant nation: end partition, which meant rule by Dublin. This was undemocratic and wrong, just as discrimination against Roman Catholics in Ulster was wrong. This was pointed out on numerous occasions in 1969-72 as nationalist Ireland cheerleaded sectarian war. In 1970 arguring to end Articles 2 and 3 was treachery, today it is regarded as commonsense.

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

Ok – how was Stormont open to reform given that its forces physically attacked demonstrators asking for that reform?

Secondly, you have at numerous times referred to NI as a “protestant nation”. It was at this time around 40% Catholic. How then can it be described as a protestant nation?

At the time of partition I believe two of the six counties had a nationalist majority – slightly undermining the idea that unionists were somehow just representign the democratic will of the people.

I believe that now (although less relevant for our discussions) five out of the six counties have nationalist majorities.

Like

Tim - November 3, 2009

Ramzi,
The issue of discrimination in Northern Ireland was distinct from the country’s constitutional status, although the two became closely related in the minds of both sides.
There is also a huge difference between a Catholic majority and a nationalist one, as not all Catholics are nationalists, even if most are.

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

Hi Tim
Fair enough- I wasnt clear. My understanding was that Fermanagh and Tyrone were majority nationalist at the time that the unionists welcomed them into the warm embrace of partition ie prima facie evidence agains the democratic nature of partition so widely claimed by some.

The 40% may not have all been nationalist (although near all I would have thought) but it helps dispel the idea of protestant cultural and demographic hegemony that is being used by those who claim NI was a “protestant nation”.

I do agree with your first paragraph- though I’m not sure if relates to what i wrote (apologies if I am being stupid).

Like

Garibaldy - November 3, 2009

Tim,

I’m not really sure what you mean when you say that discrimination was distinct from the constitutional question. I think you are saying that one could be challenged without the other. Which I would agree with.

But if you’re saying that the motivation for discrimination was not related to the constitutional question then I would strongly disagree with that.

Like

Tim - November 3, 2009

@Garybaldy
-the first one!

Ramzi
I often wondered what Craig meant by a ‘Protestant Parliament and a Protestant state’.
It’s clear that it was in response to a statement by deValera that Ireland was a “Catholic nation”. It’s also clear that he was not unaware of the demographics, and I assume he meant that the prevailing ideology was Protestant. It also reflects something I said on another post, that the Unionist understanding was that those who weren’t happy with that could just leave.
Didn’t De Valera say something to that effect about Irish people who considered themselves British?

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

Tim
I’m afraid that the most obvious rationale is probably the right one here – catholics were of no account and had no status.
He could have easily said unionist if he wanted to.

He came out with similar form of words a number of times eg “protestant government for a protestant people”

Re: devalera, i know the quote you refer to but cant find a source ie when it was actually said – do you know when/where? No worries if not, I will dig it up. Although I have no time for that arch buffoon Dev.

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

Tim
sorry for this stream of emails…
however it seems that Craig made (at least one) of his protestant parliament etc comments in 1934, whereas the “catholic nation” speech by ass-clown dev didnt happen until st patricks day 1935.

A pre-emptive strike perhaps?

Like

Tim - November 3, 2009

Ramzi
You might be right, there, as I can’t find any refs for it.

Like

23. Jim Monaghan - November 3, 2009

The PD analysis was as far as I know that the Ornage staet was rotten an irrformable. They proved that at Burntollet. All GBrain Brennan proves iis that by the time he wrote his nonsense he was a Unionist apologist plain and simple. Blame the victims. 2 PD members wrot etheir acvount of Burntollet. It is still a good read. If I hav enot given it to someone I will dig it up.
The Brennan stuff is on a par with those who blame the violence of the Civil Rights struggle on the Black Pantera and the SNCC.
Stirring things up is the taslk of lefties everywhere. Perhaps you could blame say the current left for stirring things up during the current debacle down here.
It is the Official analysis and their stages theory. Because things did not work out according to their schema of a democratic North as a stepping stone and thing got out of their controll they balemed everyone. The fact is that the Nationalist Population had had enough and would not wait for the nice Mr O’Neill to make things right.Expolosion of anger liek the Northern struggle cannot be willed into being there has to be sufficient grievances. It is like blaming someone who lights a match and cuased the explosion. There cannot be an explosion if there is no material.
Farrell and co put their heads and bodies on the line in a grand tradition of heroism.The welcome in Derry showed where the truth lay.

Like

Garibaldy - November 3, 2009

Jim,

I haven’t read the Brennan article and it doesn’t appear in the Left Archive. It’s entirely possible that by 1989 he was, like Harris for example, moving towards a position that was close to becoming pro-unionist. However, the fact that similar arguments were made at the time by NICRA and elements that were definitively not pro-unionist ought to give us some pause for thought in labelling this as apologising for the Stormont regime.

And speaking of the dangers of hindsight. It should be remembered that the PD marchers were told that they would get no welcome in Derry. That they did so from those who told them that was overwhelmingly due to Burntollet.

The PD pamphlet you are referring to is available here

http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/pdmarch/egan.htm

Like

Tim - November 3, 2009

It’s very hard to separate the Civil Rights struggle from events elsewhere in the world in the 1960s where violent, anarchic movements were causing problems. The legitimacy of the movement was overshadowed by political concerns. There’s a difference between wanting equal rights and wanting a united Ireland, but the Unionists believed that the latter was the dominating factor, hence their resistance to the movement.

Like

24. Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

not strictly relevant here but the Irish News had a story yesterday about how our friends in Group B were going to start decommissioning in the next few weeks – a follow up to that story they had recently. I have to say there’s some inaccuracies in the piece. The writer says the split happened in ’71

Like

25. Jim Monaghan - November 3, 2009

I think history proved that PD caught the mood of the Nationalist Masses. McCann comment on Middle Class, middle of the road was accurate.It is difficult to show just how heroic the marchers were. It was truly frightening and they marched on. This was no Sunday picnic. Whatever about criticism of Provo or Official military strategy or tactics (of which I would have more than a few) there cannot be any real justified criticism of an unarmed march across the North.Those who attacked were sectarian scum without any redeeming merits.Sorry but I believe in calling a spade a spade not an agricultural implement.
As regard ultraleftism. I remember MacMillan boasting how Republican stewards made sure that when the RUC started batonning in Derry that it would not be just ordinary demonstrators that would be battoned.
There is a myth that the benign Brits and O’Neill were just about to usher in sweetness and light. This revisionism has to be challenged.
The attitude of the Unionists and their followers were exactly the same as those who opposed Civil Rights in the southern USA.
I think the masses in Drerry were going to welcome PD anyway, whatever the attitude of the Official NICRA in the city.
The BICO indded appear forerunners of the Officials. I wonder will the WP rump follow them back into Republicanism of a kind.

Like

26. Garibaldy - November 3, 2009

My own opinion is that the PD march was probably necessary to prevent any backsliding on the reform agenda, which was dependent upon London keeping pressure on Stormont. Which meant keeping the pressure on London. But it’s hard to say definitively I think Jim as to what the mood of the nationalist masses was. The impression you would get from most writing is that the moratorium on marches was something that produced relief generally, that people were ready to wait and see what the reforms that were produced were, although this may be incorrect. Again, I think the fact that even the majority of the PDs were against the march, never mind broad swathes of other opinion, means that it’s not clear to me that the mood was in massively favour of it until it was attacked. I’ve no problem with your characterisation of the most reactionary elements of unionism that attacked the march.

As you’ll be well aware Jim, as far as I’m concerned The WP never abandoned republicanism, although some members clearly did.

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

yeah thats interesting. In some ways TLR has raised my opinion of the WP. Previously I had characterised them as all being of the same mould as Harris… ie knee-jerkingly pro-loyalist due to their (perhaps understandable) dislike of the Provos. However it is clear there was a lot of internal concern when the party seemed like ditching the republican part of its heritage, started collaborating with the RUC etc etc.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2009

That’s much as I see it G. I agree entirely, the WP didn’t, but I believe that some in the 1980s who later left didn’t quite get that the WP was a Republican party. How they worked out the cognitive dissonance between that and going to Bodenstown, as I did with the WP, and the colour parties, etc is beyond me.

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

WbS
If you dont mind me asking, was the WP your first foray into politics? If so why did you join that rather than other organisation?

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2009

It’s very simple. I was to the left of Labour. At the time I joined in the early 1980s SF wasn’t a political force. And I was recruited on the ground where I lived rather than through school or college. It was a natural progression.

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

thanks. I was wondering as you seemed more republican minded that a lot of wp folk i have come across.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2009

My own father was in SF in the 1950s. And then later involved with the CP in the UK. My mothers cousin was a LP candidate in Birmingham during the 1970s and the dial in the family was well to the left. But I think a major aspect of this is that other people joined at the same time and would have taken a different route. The key to me was that the party organised on the ground in communities. It wasn’t locked away, at least at the level of the ordinary member, in ideological debates (in fact reading TLR I’m amazed at how pragmatic it was in the 1980s in terms of the relationship to power). Not that ideology wasn’t important, but activism was more important. And lest that sound like I was some sort of uber activist, no way. I liked canvassing and ‘annual collections’ but hated paper sales.

Like

Ramzi Nohra - November 4, 2009

by “annual collections” I presume you’re not confessing to some yearly group-B style special activities 🙂

Seriously though I did get the idea of pragmatism from TLR. Very well organised and very well thought out tactics – I suppose that goes from recognition of Leinster house onwards- even if one didnt agree with where they ended up.

I just finished TLR this evening actually (I started it late and got distracted). Great piece of work, as many here have said. Will go down as one of the best pieces of literature connected with recent Irish political history.

Like

yourcousin - November 4, 2009

At the time I joined in the early 1980s SF wasn’t a political force

Which raises the interesting “what if” of WBS the shinner 😉

Like

27. Corkonian - November 3, 2009

Paul Bew has stated that he should have stayed in bed rather than go on the march. Well he should have.

Like

28. Wendy James - November 3, 2009
29. Garibaldy - November 3, 2009

Ah Wendy James. Never quite won that oscar by 2000 did she?

Shame that they don’t put the stuff online. I’d be interested to see what that Seán Garland reference is about, as well as the review. If anyone has read it and would like to summarise, please do so.

Like

30. Mark P - November 3, 2009

The review can be summarised as follows:

Hanley and Millar make a few references to the ICO and the BICO. They don’t agree with our current version of our past, so the book is terrible. And anyway they the Sticks were all mental.

Like

31. Garibaldy - November 3, 2009

🙂

And I bet you haven’t even read it Mark!

Like

32. Mark P - November 3, 2009

No I read it, unfortunately.

I was expecting it to be primarily an entertaining if dishonest polemic against the Officials/WP. It turned out to largely be an exercise in nitpicking about the few references the book makes in passing to the ICO and BICO. The polemics against the Sticks were very much secondary and weren’t up to the IPR’s usual standard of entertainment.

Like

33. Garibaldy - November 3, 2009

Shocking all round Mark. Sounds like we’ll be spared a 100page or so pamphlet denouncing the authors a la those handed out to the likes of Hart and Foster.

Don’t suppose you saw the Garland stuff too did you?

Like

34. Mark P - November 3, 2009

Nope.

Like

Garibaldy - November 3, 2009

Thanks Mark

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2009

I have a post written on the review in IPR. It is sadly much as Mark P suggests…

Like

Garibaldy - November 3, 2009

I’ll look forward to it!

Like

35. PEDANTIC PAT - November 3, 2009

At the time of the 1911 census the religious breakdown in Ulster (nine counties) was 56.1% Protestant, 43.9% Catholic. Five of the counties had Catholic majorities. There were 17 Home Rule MPs to 16 Unionist MPs.
Everything worked out well in the end didn’t it?

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2009

Well that’s another point. This ‘Protestant’ nation seems as amorphous as the ‘Catholic’ one…

Like

36. PEDANTIC PAT - November 3, 2009

Further to my above, W.F. Moneypenny’s 1913 pamphlet The Two Irish Nations (an influence on the thinking of Bonar Law) was already talking about this stuff, when Brendan Cliford was only a teenager…I’m joking, but BICO always did seem to have been around a long, long time….
I see Lord Bew is in Libya. Perhaps he will also visit the United States to seek compensation from those who supplied the machine guns which were used to try and kill his Unionist Party colleague John Taylor. Or perhaps not.

Like

37. PEDANTIC PAT - November 3, 2009

‘there was little doubt that discrimination was practiced in Northern Ireland (whether it was widespread as suggested by nationalist propagandists is debatable, to say the least.)’
Pat Walsh, From Civil Rights to National War (Belfast, 1989) pp. 40.

Like

38. Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2009

Check this out for some earlier evidence of reformable stormont:

http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/discrimination/quotes.htm

Like

39. NollaigO - November 3, 2009

The Garland post:

Reading the August 09 Irish Political Review: the editorial on the Orange marches in Ardonye/Crumlin Rd said that Martin óg Meehan is a leader of Republican Sínn Feín in north Belfast. This is not true: he is in fact an activist with in the Republican Network for Unity. Both groups have different ideas and goals. Sean Garland, Belfast .

Again, an online sub is a cheap deal:
https://www.atholbooks-sales.org/

Like

40. Garibaldy - November 4, 2009

Thanks for that Nollaig O. I wasn’t sure if that was about the Dublin Seán Garland or the other one.

Like

41. Jim Monaghan - November 4, 2009

“The impression you would get from most writing is that the moratorium on marches was something that produced relief generally, that people were ready to wait ”
This could be true. But it could also be that the “leadership” wanted to wait. A bit like the ICTU/SIPTU who restrained the anger of the union membership and defused it into talks.
My opinion is that the Nationalist masses esp.the youth were fed up of waiting. Burntollet set the flame, the dynamite was there.
See how similar the Orange mob was to the Redneck racists in the American South.
The tragedy for the Officials was their lack of flexibility and paralysis in the face of events. The Provos had a plan, a fairly simple and direct one. It was war. Blaming PD is in my opinion a nonsense. One thing or another would have caused things to happen. I think groups cannot will things to happen. At most they can steer them. eg look at the contuinual calls morning, noon and night by certain groups for say a general strike. For something to happen the objective circumstances have to exist.
Yes, Bew should have stayed in bed. I remember one Irish Times writer saying I think that he got up late.

Like

42. NollaigO - November 4, 2009

I remember one Irish Times writer saying I think that he got up late.
A few hours late or a few days late, Jim?

Like

43. Joe - November 4, 2009

I think I remember that article. Was it Eugene McEldowney? He wrote some very funny reminiscence-type articles before he retired. This one described how he didn’t go on the Burntollet march cos he got up too late or whatever. But there was fierce excitement in the pub later when word came through about the attack at Burntollet. So much so that the Special Branch man who regularly occupied a seat at the bar, rolled up his newspaper and slipped out quietly for his own safety.

Like

44. Jim Monaghan - November 4, 2009

Yes
Joe
Both of us should get an award for obscure facts
Jim

Like

45. Joe - November 4, 2009

Sign of a good I.O. Jim!

Like

46. Remi Moses - November 6, 2009

Pat Walsh is on Vincent Browne now, confusing an already confusing discussion. He sounds like he is from Yorkshire, not that I mind that. He is trying to give the Connolly pro-German line from the way Aubane now support it, whereas in the 70s it was a sign, BICO claimed that Connolly was completely wrong. Don’t know who the rest of the wankers on the panel are, one being a Poppy head of some description.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 6, 2009

There’s no end of fun to be had – and a fair amount of head-wrecking – in trying to work out how certain positions and their polar opposites can be reconciled over the years within the continuum that is our friends organisations…

Like

47. Starkadder - November 6, 2009

One oddity: I remember glancing at a B&ICO magazine a
few years ago (Comment it was called, late 70s) and there was a piece by a “Paddy O’Gorman”.

I wonder is this the same gentleman who did “Queuing for a
Living?”

Like

48. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - November 6, 2009

[…] * British and Irish Communist Organisation: Workers Weekly, 18. Januar 1975 […]

Like

49. nineteensixtyseven - November 11, 2009

It’s a dysfunctional state and society where the act of marching meets with such violent reaction. For a state to resort to its means of violence is an admission that those who challenge it undermine its authority and legitimacy, and that the state rests ultimately on coercion not consensus. In this case, the simple act of asking for democratic rights was an anathema to the Northern Ireland state and it acted accordingly. That is not a state anyone who thinks of themselves as progressive should be defending.

Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: