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Left Archive: The Downing Street Declaration ‘New Unionism and the Communities of Resistance – A Republican Worker Tendency pamphlet, 1994. September 20, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Republican Worker Tendency.


This is a group for which there is relatively little information available. This leaflet issued in the name of the Republican Worker Tendency is dated 26/4/1994. The only mentions of the RWT on the internet is a group which under the Revolutionary Democratic Group left the UK SWP. It later changed its name to the RWT after an internal cleavage and focused on Edinburgh embracing ‘left nationalism’. It appears to have been active in the late 1990s and even more recently (worth mentioning thatthere was also a Republican Workers’ Tendency associated with the Socialist Labour Party in the late 1970s in Ireland). Certainly the overall thesis of the leaflet and the address on the back cover indicates that it is indeed from the Edinburgh formation, and any more information would be very welcome.

The document posits that the Downing Street Declaration is part of a continuing process by the British government to prevent the break-up of the United Kingdom and that part of this is to rebuild the Unionist state. This they regard as having the potential to generate linkages with loyalists, whose only choice in a context where London and Dublin are working together is to ‘go … it alone with a fascist, further slimmed down, ‘ethnically’ exclusive ‘Ulster’ for Protestants only.

It argues that due to the ‘prominent role played by British and Irish C.P. members in the formation of the Officials… the early Provisionals had quite a Right populist programme’. However it also argues that a mid period saw the ‘C.P.’s theory of national liberation [win] a new convert … when SF backed the ‘stalinist’ Polish government against Soildarnosc’. And eventually it argues that ‘since the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the stage of ‘socialism’ has been dropped, even on paper, by all those adhering to ‘popular front’ politics.

It is cynical about the prospect for armed struggle, except when ‘the revolutionary potential of the national question… is linked with social demands’. And… ‘the alternative of retreating solely to the early Provisional strategy of the ‘bomb’ and the bullet’, will most likely lead to the same defeats as before.

It is equally cycnical about the “Brit left”, whether of Labour, or further left, variety. Indeed it has harsh words for those ‘groups [which] offer “unconditional support” for the Republican Movement. The Revolutionary Communist Group and the C.P.G.B. – Marxist-Leninist are the best examples’. And tellingly it continues ‘Their focusing on the Republican leadership rather than the wider republican ‘communities of resistance’ is a product of the marginalisation of the ‘Brit left’.

It also references ‘the counter-revolutionary role of the ‘Brit Left’s Irish supporters’ who it sees as outriders for British Unionism.

‘The role the S.W.M. is playing over Ireland mirrors the S.W.P. role ‘on the mainland’. Here they have become ‘outriders for the trade union leaders and Labour Party, trying to ’round up’ and return to the fold, any workers who are contemplating independent action’.

All this leads the RWT to argue that ‘this [is] an opportunity to unite the working class of all the constituent nations from below. If the working class does not take the lead in the break-up of the U.K. state, others will. The consequences of leaving to nationalists to take the lead in the break-up of bureaucratic multi-nation states can be seen in the ex-U.S.S.R. and ex-Yugoslavia.’

A box at the end notes that the political programme of the RWT is available. If anyone has one and could send a copy to the Archive it would be very much appreciated.


1. ejh - September 20, 2010

As I recall this is the group into which the cartoonist Phil Evans disappeared.


2. Mark P - September 20, 2010

So hang on, this is a split from the Revolutionary Democratic Group? There can’t have been more than a handful of people involved in that case.

In terms of their later history, I suppose the big issue is the Scottish Socialist Party. There was a Republican Communist Network in the SSP from an early stage (and indeed the RCN may well still be involved in the rump SSP), and their politics weren’t a million miles from this sort of stuff. I wonder if the RWT ended up as (or as part of) the RCN?


WorldbyStorm - September 20, 2010

That’s really useful Mark P. Thanks a mill. It’s hard to get a handle on them. As you say it would appear to be a very small group, but I’ve come across the SSP link elsewhere.


ejh - September 20, 2010

How many people do you have to have to have a network? It’s a bit like the four-colour problem.


Mark P - September 20, 2010

The RCN at its peak (ie back when the SSP numbered its members in the thousands) wasn’t entirely tiny. It had perhaps three dozen activists, maybe a few more. So small obviously, but not absolutely tiny by the standards of the far left.

Of course, I’m still not entirely sure that the RWT became (part of) the RCN, but it seems most likely. I was in the SSP briefly and paid some attention to the extra-SSP left.

It’s possible that:

A) The RWT had ceased to exist or at least become near-invisible by a few years after this document, or

B) They had become the RCN or part of the RCN inside the SSP, or

C) They had joined the SSP in some other fashion, dissolving into it or perhaps joining the SRSM, a tiny IRSMish faction of the SSP at the time, or

D) Given the “Communities of Resistance” stuff, they may have become part of the briefly quite successful attempts to set up the IWCA in Scotland. Although that was mostly a Glasgow thing.

My money is on B, but I can’t be any firmer about it except to say that they definitely weren’t visible under the RWT name around 2001/2002 even to people with a more than passing interest in the odder reaches of the left.


WorldbyStorm - September 20, 2010

I found a reference somewhere to a meeting addressed by RWT people which I think was organised by RSF. An odd mix.

They seem too theoretical to have lashed up with IWCA, so I think you’re right about B.


3. Mark P - September 20, 2010

Ok, I’ve done a bit of digging and I’m now reasonably certain that the RWT became part of the RCN inside the SSP.

The RDG/RWT split was essentially a split between the London and Edinburgh branches of the old RDG. During the late 1990s, Republican Communist Network’s were set up in Scotland and England (and possibly Wales), involving the CPGB (Weekly Worker), the RDG and other small groups. The RWT was also involved, as I understand it.

The RCNs outside of Scotland withered in a suitably arcane series of squabbles, while the RCN in Scotland continues on as a faction (platform) of the rump SSP. From what I can gather, the RCN’s politics are fundamentally those of the RWT, which was the dominant part of the RCN Scotland from the beginning (the CPGB and RDG never having had much of a presence North of the border).

The squabbling between and within the different RCN’s seems to have mirrored some of the original disagreements in the RDG split, particularly on the issue of whether to aim for a Scottish Worker’s Republic or a Federal Republic including England etc.

The RCN nowadays seems to be cozying up to the eclectic “Commune” group, formed by ex-AWL members, and possibly also the Permanent Revolution split from Workers Power. Permanent Revolution put out a call for some kind of unity process between these groups the other week. At the same time, the RCN are still inside the little that’s left of the SSP.

Finally, in the original pamphlet, they criticise the RCG (Fight Racism! Fight Imperalism!) and the “CPGB-Leninist”. The latter is not the CPGB (ML) of Harpal Brar and associates, which did not exist at the time. They are talking about the CPGB (PCC), the grouplet which puts out the Weekly Worker. The Leninist was their name of their previous publication.

There you go, trainspottery detail which will surely only be of interest to about twenty people worldwide!


WorldbyStorm - September 20, 2010

Hmmm…not according to our stats 🙂


Mark P - September 20, 2010

Really? Do you get high numbers of readers for the truly obscure end of the Left Archive?

I mean, I’m not at all surprised that stuff about the Officials gets a lot of interest, but is there really a wide audience for the evolution of the Republican Workers Tendency into the Republican Communist Network (Scotland)?

I’m not suggesting, by the way, that stuff like this isn’t worth posting. It’s great.


LeftAtTheCross - September 20, 2010

I suspect there are a few trainspotters amongst us here 🙂

It is interesting stuff, you’re right.


WorldbyStorm - September 20, 2010

Well, it depends on the formation. The CPI (M-L) is particularly popular. Historically tinged material equally so. The odd ones are stuff I’d have thought would evoke a response which don’t. And yes, they can be the smaller groups. But today’s stats are pretty healthy.


Mark - September 22, 2010

You’ll be getting some Slugger hits for this as it is linked in the sidebar.


4. EamonnDublin - September 21, 2010

The left archive is the main reason I check this site. As well as the usual collection , the obscure stuff is great. keep up the variety.


WorldbyStorm - September 21, 2010

Thanks ED, will do, there’s a fair old bit of stuff out there yet to be posted up.


5. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - September 23, 2010

[…] Republican Worker Tendency: The Downing Street Declaration ‘New Unionism and the Communities of Resistance […]


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