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Left Archive: The Communist, Number 88, July 1975 from The British and Irish Communist Organisation in Britain April 19, 2010

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


Many thanks to an anonymous contributor for forwarding this and penning the following:

About the Communist Magazine:

The Linen Hall Library Catalogue states “the Communist” magazine ran from 1967-1986. Some of the magazine’s contributors included Brendan Clifford, (several characteristically inimical pieces on Louis Althusser and Roy Medvedev) Angela Clifford, Jack Lane, Owen Evans (Sep.74, article very hostile to Welsh Nationalism), Nina Stead (pseudonym of Nina Fishman?),Rick Stead, Rosamund Mitchell, Dick Spicer, Davey Young, Niall Cusack,Martin Tyrrell, Mark Cowling, Edmond Riordan, C.K. Maisels (who is listed as a member of the Communist Organisation in the British Isles in G.A. Williams’ book “Proletarian Order”, so he must have left in the B&ICO/COBI split),
M.J. Montgomery (Oct. 1985, one of several “Communist” articles supporting the anti-apartheid movement inSouth Africa) Philip O’Connor,(who later worked on the Aubane Historical Society book “Coolacrease” ) Gwydion Madawc Williams (the son of Raymond Williams) and Peter Brooke (the Irish historian, not the UK Politician).

Brooke was the author of several controversial publications under the Athol Books aegis, including “How Right Are the Racists?” (1978) and the second edition of his “Ulster Presbyterianism : the Historical Perspective, 1610-1970” (1987, Gill and MacMillan, 2nd ed. 1994, Athol Books). He also wrote a chapbook of poetry “Those Two Boys” for Reprisal Press in 1980.

“The Communist” rarely shied away from controversy, and the infamous July 1979 “Special Stalin Centenary Issue” and 1982 editorials defending the Falklands War, seem to have entered UK Left folklore. The Athol Books publication Labour and Trade Union Review, begun in 1987, seems to be “the Communist’s” successor. ]


1. NollaigO - April 19, 2010

Nina Stead was Nina Fishman’s married name, not a pseudonym. She died in late 2009 and the January 2010 IPR contains an obituary written by Brendan Clifford.
The evolution and the influence of BICO has been commented on many times in the CLR, much of it inadequate and/or inaccurate. This is evident in the discussions on the current Sunday Independent Stupid Statement post.
Apart from a brief period in the late 60s they were not a Maoist group. Although their admiration for Stalin was and still is intense, they were not Stalinist in the sense that it is most commonly used – supporters of and propagandists for the politics and social system in the Soviet Union. The Common Market / EU was and still is a case in point. In the 1970s the left was universally anti Common Market and opposed to Britain and Ireland joining. I remember a Mandel speaking tour of England in 1975 supporting the No campaign. [The fact that his co thinkers in Europe were not organising secession campaigns was overlooked] . Alone in supporting the Common Market were BICO (our sean cara , Seán Matgamna’s Workers Fight were abstentionist). Then things began to change: Sinn Féin /The Workers Party became pro EEC. This was key in provoking their rupture with the CPI . Then in the UK, in the 1980s, the Trade Union leadership, under the hammer blows of Thatcherism, began to see in EU social legislation a method of defending social and trade union rights.


Starkadder - April 22, 2010

“Alone in supporting the Common Market were BICO (our sean cara , Seán Matgamna’s Workers Fight were abstentionist).”.

Hmm. The British Library lists a publication called
“Why Communist Organisation in the British Isles says vote for the EEC” from around 1975- perhaps this was a policy COBI retained
from their time as part of B&ICO ?

Pat Walsh of the AHS is promoting two new books about
Ireland’s relationship with Turkey –
” Forgotten Aspects Of Ireland’s Great War On Turkey ”
and ” Remembering Gallipoli, President McAleese’s Great War Crusade ”. Walsh gives an interview to this right-wing Turkish
website here, including some deeply disturbing statements
about the Armenian genocide :


“…However, due to increased western interest in the region, and due to the Palestinian issue, there is probably increased interest in dusting off the Blue Book and using it again to gain influence on how Turkey acts in the world..”

..”Russia and England used Christian Armenians as a kind of fifth-column and really made it impossible for them to continue in their traditional role as loyal and functional citizens…”

..”If we were to compare Turkey’s treatment of the Armenians and the British treatment of Ireland over the centuries (which did involve real campaigns of genocide) the Ottomans would always come out favourably.”

[Strange. I don’t remember the Black and Tans killing at least
600,000 Irish people ].
.And is Walsh aware he is keeping company with the
likes of the Likudnik Bernard Lewis on the Armenian issue?]


2. FergusD - April 19, 2010

I see that the latest editorial of “Labour Political Review” over at Athol Books (http://www.atholbooks.org/magazines/ipr/ipred.php) seesm very complementary to the FF govt! Mind you I take their point that the TUs dropped the ball and that Labour and the unions don’t seem to have a coherent alternative.

Possibly I would have some sympathy with their views on the EU in the past, although I have no knowledge of waht they said.. Certainly I think most of the left’s anti-EU sentiment in the past was confused. I took the Matgamma position during the UK referendum (along with a very small number of others on the far left). “What kind of capitalism do you want?” was the question, to which the answer surely was “Pass” (although there was more to say than that of course).

But still, you never know what this lot (BICO) are going to come out with. Always a surprise but seeming to be more and more Irish nationalist as time goes on?


3. shane - April 19, 2010

Fergus, they are uncritically pro-FF and have had a few prominent FF members launch their books (Conor Lenihan, Eamonn O Cuiv etc). They are defenders of Charles Haughey.

They also strongly opposed the Lisbon Treaty, warning that it spelled the death of the Eurofederalist project. They publish the Irish Foreign Affairs magazine …(seemingly promoted by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance)….here’s their take:…(some of the articles are interesting)

Click to access IFA_1-1.pdf


Skarp-Hedin - April 20, 2010

How can they be both “uncritically pro-FF” and have “also strongly opposed the Lisbon Treaty” which FF strongly and uncritically supported?

Both statements can not be true.


Mark P - April 20, 2010

Well, both statements could be true, as the Athol crew do not prize consistency or indeed coherency.

In fact though, they are very slightly critical of Fianna Fail, within an overwhelmingly positive framework.


4. FergusD - April 19, 2010

Thanks for that, a publication of theirs I didn’t know about. Quite intresting. Actually I think they are right about the EU, it has changed since its Adenauer/DeGaulle/Willy Brandt days and is going down the Thatcherite pro-US route, led by the UK, followed by Sarkozy and Merkel. Thing is, how should the left respond? Nobody realy seems to have a clue.


NollaigO - April 19, 2010

Socialise the EU ?!


FergusD - April 20, 2010

I agree. Sadly nobody really takes EU elections seriously as “EU” elections, they are mostly practice for a national election and a poll on the national govt of the day (certainly here in the UK – the last EU elections in particular). There should be, in my opinion a more open, co-ordinated socialist campaign around the future of the EU. Wishful thinking though as the social democratic parties are so ideologically enfeebled and the “far” left so confused (IMHO) on the EU.


5. Starkadder - April 19, 2010

Does anyone know what year Brendan Clifford was born in?
It doesn’t seem to be listed in any of the Athol Books publications,
or anywhere else.


shane - April 19, 2010

1935, according to wikipedia.


6. shane - April 19, 2010

Fergus, in case you’re interested, here’s the other two (and all thus far) editions of IFA.

Click to access IFA_2-3.pdf

Click to access IFA_3-1.pdf

They also publish the Irish Political Review, the Labour and Trade Union Review, Church and State (old organ of the Campaign to Seperate Church and State…a BICO Front) and Problems of Capitalism & Socialism. They have a fantastic selection on their website of, often very obscure, historical reprints. I don’t how such a tiny group sustains it.


FergusD - April 20, 2010

Thanks for that. I agree, how do they keep up these publications! And they are rather eclectic. Some stuff I find very interesting and some stuff I think, are these people still on the left at all!


Mark P - April 20, 2010

No, they aren’t still on the left at all. They have, rather oddly, developed a certain anti-imperialism after spending political lifetimes devoted to worshipping at imperialism’s altar. That may sometimes give the mistaken impression that they are somehow of the left. Their domestic policies are essentially pro-Fianna Fail however.


7. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - April 20, 2010

[…] * The British and Irish Communist Organisation in Britain (B&ICO): The Communist, Nr. 88, Juli 1975 […]


8. Starkadder - April 20, 2010

Speaking of Clifford’s regular target Paul Bew, the current
issue of the Sinn Fein magazine IRIS has a series of short
interviews with NI politicos, including Bew.

If only for the sake of balance, I would be interested in
hearing about Bew’s side of his relationship with the
B&ICO/WA/CEC grouplets.


9. Baku26 - April 21, 2010

When were SFWP pro-EEC? What is the evidence for this assertion based on their policy statements?


WorldbyStorm - April 24, 2010

Yep, I’m curious about that too. I don’t recall in my WP days any great love for it. Even in DL there was a strong strain of EU critical thinking going on. At least until they hit govt.


10. Starkadder - April 24, 2010

The John Lloyd piece here discussing the nature of the British
media….is it a stretch to see some his ideas echoed in
publications such as Lloyd’s “What the Media are doing
to Our Politics? “


11. Starkadder - August 14, 2010

The Aubane fellows are planning to hold a festival of some kind,
the ” Féile Dúthalla “,from August 27th to August 30th.

Click to access feileduthalla.pdf

Jack Lane,John Minahine, and Brendan Clifford will be launching the new Athol Books publications in Bob’s Upstairs Bar, Percival Street,
Kanturk, Co. Cork, on the 27th and 28th respectively.
Each launch will be followed by a chaired* Q&A session.

*Presumably the “chaired” aspect is to stop Filthy West-Brit Trotskyites asking awkward questions about the Irish Political Review editorials on Declan Ganley and Margaret Hassan.


WorldbyStorm - August 15, 2010

That actually sounds very interesting. Any chance any intrepid CLR readers/contributors will be there on the day?


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