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Rethinking the Republic – Matt Treacy on Newstalk on Sunday 8 pm. August 21, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in History, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, The Left.

In what I believe will be a very interesting programme Matt Treacy, author of Rethinking the Republic is on Newstalk on ‘Talking History’ this Sunday at 8 pm. Definitely well worth a listen for any of us who are interested in that period in our history and its aftermath.


1. irishelectionliterature - August 22, 2011

The Show is up on Newstalks site now. Part 2 at the following Link.


2. Budapestkick - August 22, 2011

The ‘modernisers ultimately wanted to stand down the IRA as a military force’. I’m afraid I have to call shenanigans on that one. There isn’t a single shred of evidence to suggest that the ‘modernisers’ wanted to do this.


3. Budapestkick - August 22, 2011

‘By 1969, the process of de-militarising the IRA would have been pretty far advanced’ It was me hole. By 1969, the IRA had managed to more than double their membership from the post-border campaign low ebb. Not only that, far from being de-militarised, IRA military activity in the the 1968-1969 period (precisely the time when the social agitation that was allegedly replacing military activity was at its height) had actually increased. To say that the IRA’s limited ability to respond to what happened in 1969 was due to a de-militarisation policy is absurd. The fact is that no organisation could have been prepared for the scale of what happened.


4. Jackson Way - August 22, 2011

Your spot on their Budapestkick – from what I’ve read it would seem their inital move to a more Soviet friendly position was actually in order to secure the materials to build a better armed force. Really all that needs to be said about Tracey’s level of analysis is in the first minute of that interview – his take on the Border Campaign – “they had a fairly well worked out plan…” – maybe for Tracey they did, lol.


5. Budapestkick - August 22, 2011

‘Their original sin was to have made that connection with the Soviet Union in the 1960s’ Hmmmmm. I don’t think that’s really a sustainable point. It wasn’tt until the early 70s that the Officials became Stalinist (as in orthodox pro-Moscow communists). What was going on politically in the 60s was far more complicated than Treacy suggests.


6. Jackson Way - August 22, 2011

“What was going on politically in the 60s was far more complicated than Treacy suggests…” – you’ve got to be fairly simple to be a pro-Provo apologist ala Tracey – also did I hear him right saying that Provos only reacted to events with no long term plan – now opportunism is being presented as something worth starving to death for – this interpretation of history just makes me more sorry for those undoubtedly brae men who as volunteers found themselves misused by a Provo leadership whose ideology that does not value anything but gaining position, and has no interest in a real understanding of the past.


Budapestkick - August 22, 2011

Indeed. That interview is very worrying in that it seems to re-inforce a lot of the myths that have grown up around the 1960s IRA that I think are at conflict with the evidence. I can’t judge until I’ve read the book.

As for the points about SF, it’s worth pointing out that the WP interpretation of this period has also caused a lot of distortion as to what actually happened. Hardly surprising given the history of both organisations Treacy’s SF sympathies however are irrelevant as long as he can produce the evidence to support his views. My issue is that they are in conflict with that evidence, especially the 1969 Garda docs and an t-óglach.


Garibaldy - August 22, 2011

I suppose a lot depends on how you read certain statements and actions, including An t-Óglach, where you can emphasise certain elements to make completely different cases as to what people’s intentions actually were. It seems to me fairly clear that different people within the Goulding leadership had somewhat different visions of what they were about. To speak of distortions of what actually happened when we are dealing to a large extent with intentions doesn’t seem to me to always be the most helpful way of looking at things.


7. Garibaldy - August 22, 2011

I wonder if there might be different meanings being given to the word “military” here. Could it be that Treacy means an armed campaign in the north to drive the Brits out, and that there was a viewpoint at the time that an IRA that was designed to act as the cutting edge of political and economic struggle in the south as well as the north, and ultimately to lead a putative revolution, was not a military force in the traditional sense of an army with the aim of driving the Brits into the sea etc?


Budapestkick - August 22, 2011

Well the point of being at the cutting edge of the political and economic struggle both north and south was that they would build support for an armed revolution that would establish a Independent Ireland free from imperialism, political or economic. That wouldn’t have been limited to a military campaign against the Northern Irish state but it certainly would have included it. As for whether this revolution would have required a ‘military force in the traditional sense of an army’, I think the model that Goulding was looking at was something along the lines of the Vietcong, i.e: a large guerilla army with a mass basis of support in society. For example, one IRA volunteer in 1968 described it in these terms:

‘Our idea at the moment in maintaining and in keeping a Republican army . . . is that we believe that this army is going to be the backbone and the nucleus of the future revolutionary movement in Ireland – the physical force revolutionary movement and that that that movement will be able to direct the military operations of the people and that we’ll have a people’s army . . . If we are able to provide the arms and the leadership then we will be able to lead the people to success in a revolution.’

My reading of this is that they’re looking a sort of national liberation war so both a revolution and the military campaign are linked. It’s a long way from Operation Harvest but the military aspect is still clearly central to it.


Garibaldy - August 22, 2011

I appreciate what you’re saying. The end of the bit from my comment that you cut when you quoted it was trying to make the point that people had a fixed understanding of what military meant, and in that respect they may well have a point, as an entirely different type of IRA was envisaged (although we can argue the toss as to what type of IRA that was some other time).


Budapestkick - August 22, 2011

That’s fair enough.


8. Jackson Way - August 22, 2011

Garibaldy – have you read Tracey’s book? – nuance is not a word that springs to mind when doing so – reheated BS is more the feeling.


Garibaldy - August 22, 2011

I have read it, yes. I’d be sceptical about large parts it, but I thought it was interesting.

Also interesting in the interview, was the attempt to explain the differences between the WP and Adams and co – there were no real ideological differences cited.


Budapestkick - August 22, 2011

He certainly seems to downplay the left-right aspect of the 69-70 split. It was far from the only issue but it was still important.


Tumbles - August 23, 2011



9. Tumbles - August 23, 2011

Jackson Way. We shall who is talking bullshit pretty soon 🙂


Tumbles - August 23, 2011

History as you Stalinophiles would say – proves us right. Watch this space 🙂


10. Tumbles - August 23, 2011

Oh and don’t talk about what you do not know. Invaluable life lesson 🙂


11. Tumbles - August 23, 2011

Sue me baby 🙂


12. Mark P - August 23, 2011

A good evening in the pub, I see.


13. Tumbles - August 23, 2011

More than that my friend 😉


14. Tumbles - August 23, 2011

Humble pie on the way 😉


15. EamonnDublin - August 23, 2011

Takin’ pictures of the ban gardai again tumbles? No wonder your happy…..


16. Tumbles - August 25, 2011

Phoenix has story which would appear to indicate that Coughlan was indeed listed as a member of the IWP between 1962 and 1968.

Whether he was or was not is irrelevant other than the fact that he has denied it and used that denial against the book in question. More importantly it changes radically the understanding of what did take place within the RM during that period.


17. Anto Cocky - August 25, 2011

“More importantly it changes radically the understanding of what did take place within the RM during that period…”

There you go again putting 2 + 2 and coming up with 55,000. Phoenix would seem to be part of Provo attempt to rewrite history – all that need to be said is “1973 – the year of victory” “United Ireland by 2016” when what they really meant was easy jobs in parliament and FF rags.


Tumbles - August 25, 2011

It is history ffs!

And history proves that members of the IWP were leading advisors to Goulding.


Mark P - August 25, 2011

What if they were? It’s never been a matter of dispute that people with CPish politics were an influence on Goulding. Whether or not one of them was formally an IWP member may be a matter of dispute between him and the Provisional Sinn Fein employee who produced this book, but why would it change the views of anyone else either way?

I must admit I was expecting something with at least a bit of substance after “Tumbles” embarrassing, seemingly drunken, one liners the other night.


18. Jackson Way - August 25, 2011

Just read that post – the second sentence makes completely no sense in the context of the first?

“Whether he was or was not is irrelevant other than the fact that he has denied it and used that denial against the book in question. More importantly it changes radically the understanding of what did take place within the RM during that period.”

Read the thing in the Phoenix – Coughlan does have a question to answer.


19. Tumbles - August 25, 2011

Badly constructed paragraph.

I meant it is irrelevant in personal terms as to whether AC was a member or not. I don’t think anyone would consider it libellous or a slur on his character that he was a member. Fact is though that he used the denial in attempt to damage the book.

What is important is that the book – and the fact that AC and others’ connection to the Communist movement does change the understanding of what took place. If they were members then their actions have to be regarded as furthering or attempting to further the interests of that organsation.


20. EamonnDublin - August 25, 2011

Wonder who wrote that piece for Phoenix Eoin????


21. WorldbyStorm - August 25, 2011

Can I ask people to discuss the positioning of the RM in the general context without discussing AC personally? As is clear from the history of these things there’s a legal issue which I don’t want the CLR to become prey to.

In the broader issue, I really don’t think that the fact some people in contact or giving advice to the RM were members or not of the IWP, or whatever formations, of whatever strand is that new. P.38 of the Lost Revolution says various figures ‘were seen by some IRA leaders as agents of Desmond Greaves, and hence the…” CPGB.

But more importantly if we consider the NLF approach it seems to me that Goulding never saw that as being subservient to the IWP later CPI, but rather as an array of forces including the Labour Party where the IRA and SF would take the leading role. |

Maybe it’s me but I genuinely don’t see how this is contentious given it was known for years, nor that it indicates either a plot by the CPs to take over SF. Very likely some inside the CPs believed they had strong influence, much like Greece to the SF’s Rome, but they I think didn’t understand the nature of SF either pre or post split – and the most obvious proof of this is that OSF and later WP were strong rivals of the CP and there was little meeting of minds [indeed one could argue that the CP tilted to some degree much more to PSF in the 70s].

Moreover, given the nature of OSF in the 1970 period up to say 73 it’s pretty clear that far from being orthodox Moscow line Marxist it had Trotskyist and other strands in it, indeed Garland fairly clearly didn’t become wedded to Soviet style Marxism until late in the day.

Anyhow, as I say, all this is well worth discussing but again please let’s avoid names.

And I should add one other thing, I don’t think Treacy’s work stands or falls on what’s referenced in the Phoenix; it’s good research above and beyond that.


Garibaldy - August 25, 2011

I think there’s a lot of sense in this comment. We should also take account of the chronology here. I think Treacy himself notes people talking about the need for political agitation during the Border Campaign, and serious attempts were being made to reach out beyond the Movement to other forms of progressive opinion. A watershed here seems to be Goulding’s pushing of the Wolfe Tone Directories in 1963. The people under discussion came in or were being talked to after this process had begun, and it took in people from a wider circle as well.

Just on the Greece to Rome thing. Talking to someone who was in the CP while a founder member of NICRA I got told they regarded themselves at the time as the leading force within it. Talking to someone who was in the Republican Clubs while a founder member of NICRA I got told they regarded themselves as the leading force within it. Take your pick.


22. Ghandi - August 25, 2011

Michael Fitzgerald NEAR FM

Dr. Matt Treacy has written a book, entitled The IRA, 1956-69, Rethinking the Republic and he joins Malachy Steenson of The Workers Party on Northside2Day to discuss the book and this most pivotal period of 20th Irish history!


23. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

Mark P – you have the substance. Certain people were members of the IWP while leading advisors to the IRA CS.

Now if you don’t think that that is significant that is your business.

And perhaps try to rise your level debate above tired old polemics.

Treacy has supplied facts. Ball is in your court ‘comrade’ (Whatever that means 🙂


24. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

BTW, Mark – that certain people were members of the IWP in the late 60s is no longer a matter of dispute.

And if you cannot see the signigance of that then you are a bit dim and not altogether au fait with your own polemic.

But hey, you just keep moving the goalposts and engage in personal attacks. Would not expect anymore from Stalinist apologists.


HAL - August 26, 2011

Ha Ha,this guy Knows his stuff.


Budapestkick - August 26, 2011

Er, no. This guy has already been reduced to accusing anyone who disagrees with his interpretation of being a Stalinist.


EamonnCork - August 26, 2011

Better again he’s been reduced to accusing Trotskyists of being Stalinists. Then again ‘Stalinist’ just seems to the fashionable equivalent of the old ‘commie’ jibe at people on the left. It’s a handy bit of abuse thrown out without any thought of its actual meaning or implications.


Garibaldy - August 26, 2011

I think Hal was being sarcastic.


25. Mark P - August 26, 2011

Oh Good Lord, where to start?

1) You’ve already been asked by our host to immediately stop referring to Coughlan personally here, as that particular issue has been the subject of legal conflicts. It is really obnoxiously rude to disregard that request and it is in no way brave to make anonymous statements on someone else’s website that could land them in front of the courts.

2) You seem to be under the impression that I am an apologist for Stalinism or for the Workers Party. You are so wildly wrong on that, that I am actually more amused than offended.

3) It is already well established that people with roughly the sort of politics espoused by the Irish Democrat, Connolly Association and British and Irish CPs and/or coming from that milieu were close to Goulding. We know who they were and what sort of things they were arguing for, have known it for a long time and it’s outlined in many books. Whether any of those people formally carried an IWP membership card is a matter of supreme irrelevance, except apparently to them, to “Tumbles” and to Treacy.

4) How exactly am I moving goalposts? Are you confusing me with somebody else?


26. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

This is not about whether ‘people with roughly the same politics’ as the CP were ‘close to Goulding.’

This proves actual infiltraton.

I suspect you may read more about this/


Mark P - August 26, 2011

Again, why on earth are you posting things here which could get our hosts in legal difficulties after you’ve been asked to desist?

And again, how am I moving any goalposts?


27. Jackson Way - August 26, 2011

Sweet Jesus on a sanctified bicycle pump.


28. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

Just re-reading the original thread. A CP member said that whether or not Coughlan had been a member was a matter for himself! Well as the CP ought to know better than anyone history tends to reveal the facts. Like small matter of German Communists being handed over to the Gestapo, the Gulags and so on….

Actually seems that unreconstructed stickies are most upset because it proves that

a oulding was a bit of an eijit who didn’t realise who RJ, Coughlan and Greaves were or;

(b) ….. well you decide 😉


29. Jackson Way - August 26, 2011

This has to be a parody, I really hope so.


30. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

You have contributed to both threads on this book without having uttered a single coherent sentence.

Why do you hate the truth??? Why ??


31. Garibaldy - August 26, 2011

I’ve made a number of edits to some comments for obvious reasons.

Again, could people not to refer to individuals in matters that have been before the courts before and potentially could be again. Especially when one could make the case in court that being a member of a party called the Irish Workers’ Party is not the same as being a member of a party called the Communist Party; even if that party emerged from or melted into a party called the Communist Party.

Debate on the history and politics of the Republican Movement in the 1960s is more than welcome here, no matter what argument people want to make. That’s been proven here time and again. Let’s stick to the issues, whatever way you want to interpret them.


32. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

There is no legal issue unless Treacy and others might wish to pursue it.

And don’t try and muddy the waters by making some distinction between the CP and the IWP.

Coughlan didnt in his ‘review’.


Garibaldy - August 26, 2011

I’m not muddying the waters. I am just making the point that there can be fine distinctions and technicalities made in law that wouldn’t be made in normal conversation.


33. WorldbyStorm - August 26, 2011

There seem to be a lot of assumptions on this thread.

Firstly, that there is no danger to the CLR from legal action. Given the track record in this case that’s clearly not correct. Which is why we have asked people to not name names. I’ll ask again but any further infringements and we’ll have to proceed beyond deleting names or potentially libellous comments.

But that doesn’t mean the influence or otherwise of the IWP etc on the RM cannot be discussed. I think it should be because it’s an important matter.

Secondly, that everyone here is a Stalinist. I’m not, I’m not even a Leninist. That’s well known. Neither is Mark P a Stalinist but a member of an organisation which would be vehemently anti-Stalin. Nor by the way would I consider Garibaldy a Stalinist, but instead an old line [or what’s sometimes called ‘orthodox’ Marxist]. But look it’s not really for me to speak for others.

Thirdly, that there’s something new about the idea that the RM in the mid 60s was influenced by communists. All histories of the period note that there was a perception and more that it was. But as Matt Treacy himself noted only a week ago on the radio there was no communist ‘conspiracy’. But even if there was it failed abysmally. Again as the Lost Revolution notes there were good reasons why Goulding would want to establish links with the IWP etc, because of their union cadres which were particularly strong. But at the very same time he was also establishing links with leftists in the Labour Party. Again all this is on the record, it was fairly rapidly an explicit aim of the RM publicly stated. The RM wanted to lead but it also wanted to expand its influence. And part of that was talking to any who would listen or want to be involved. It’s also fair to note that many of those who are the subject of this topic came by way of the Connolly Association which was itself an offshoot of the Republican Congress, leftwing, Republican – what would appear to be a perfect fit for an RM searching around for a new approach and one which dovetailed with the newfound radicalism and had an historical continuity of sorts with the brand of Republicanism Goulding et al wanted to pursue. Worth noting that Hanley/Millar argue on p.37 of Lost Revolution that the Connolly Association ‘generally ploughed its own furrow’ independent of the CPGB, and that the latter ‘was not very enthusiastic about work amongst Irish emigrants’. Fair also to point out that the CPs were anti-partition [well, obviously the NI CP was a bit different in that respect] so again meeting of minds.

By the way I think Goulding was unwise in respect of pushing various figures into the limelight, but from his perspective with an RM that was bowed if not unbroken he might well have thought he had little to lose, that something anything had to be done to get a bit of fire back into the movement.

I think the subsequent history of a CP which became very antagonistic to the ORM indicates the actual dynamic as it played out. It’s also worth looking at the UI’s of the late 60s and even into the early 70s which were far from uncritically pro-Soviet.


34. Frank O'H - August 26, 2011

That Roy Johnson was an ex-member of the communist party (IRISH AND British?) was not a secret when he joined the republican movement. In fact it was openly referred to throughout the 60s. he has never denied it and in fact wrote a book about it. There were also ex-members of Maria Duce and Clann na Poblachta in the republican movement, and members came and went from splinter groups (out of army, back into army etc etc). Does that mean they were infiltrating the IRA or just that the IRA recruited most people who wanted to join! In the 70s ex-peoples democracy people joined the Officials, the provos and the IRSP.
What does all this prove? I don’t know. But this book doesn’t sound like it is saying anything that An Phoblacht didn’t say in 1970.


35. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

Roy Johnston was a member of the IWP at the same time as he was on the IRA Army Council. He’s on the same membership lists as our other chum!

So he was not an ‘ex member.’


36. Jackson Way - August 26, 2011

I’m so scared now I want to go and hide under my bed but I’m frightened their might be a Red under there!


37. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

Why don’t you leave this to the adults 😉


38. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

Besides they were not very scary reds. They were also fond of a bit of red baiting themselves. After all did not the ‘ultra leftists’ start the whole think and ruin their cunning plan for working class unity. Bad ultra leftists. Bad ultra Catholics 😦


39. Karl - August 26, 2011

Mr.Tumbles, I think you were asked before and did not answer ….are you Mr.Matt Treacy ? Just for claritry !


Budapestkick - August 26, 2011

Clearly not. His interpretation differs significantly from Treacy. Also, Treacy is capable of debating without accusing everyone around him of being a Stalinist.


40. EamonnDublin - August 26, 2011

Considering it took treacy 10 years to put together this ‘reds under the bed’ story, it will probably take tumbles the same time to answer that.


41. Eugene Mc Cartan - August 26, 2011

I have been some what reluctant to get involved in the debate due to the fact that it is a field well ploughed for generations now. It has generated much heat and very little light. It is the tone of the debate and some of the contributions smack almost of McCarthyism and the Cold War “Have you been or are you a member?”

This is a similar approach to what we had to endure in the 70’s/80’s when you where denounced as a “provo fellow travelers” if you did not pass the litmus test of the secret organisation inside the trade union movement.

It has always been one of problems with secretive and clandestine conspiritorial organisations: they find it hard to let go of old methods of work.

On this tread and similar over the last while it appears you have declared that you are not not have you ever been this, that and the other and the answer you give determines whether your opinions are worthy of consideration or respect. This approach saves one having to deal with the substance of what is being argued for.
A very Orwellian approach.

The main approach of Tumbles or Matt or whoever is you mount a very spirited defence of someone else’s conspiracy theory. There was no conspiracy by the CPI. Surely one role of whatever political party one belongs is to attempt to influence other forces who share some of the objectives you may have in common as well as the wider society.

It also reflects a limited understanding of the history of the CPI, a party that was shaped by the coming together of a militant working class-based republicanism and class struggle socialism since its first foundation in 1921.

Both republicans and communists contributed a great deal to the building the NICRA; neither could have done it on their own I believe. Experience shows that personal and political friendships and trust is built up or forged during periods of intense struggles. In the Ireland of the 1960s there where indeed many struggles that members of both organisations jointly engaged in.

I don’t think the CPI set out to pull the wool over the eyes of any person or organisations. They were all consenting adults. What is being argued and the thesis being constructed is as old as the hills. Communists only gain influence by infiltration and conspiracy, not by the political understanding or experience they might bring to the table. No they duped poor innocent republicans.

All this ‘exposes’, I think, is that some people have a deep hostility to communist and are deepely imbued with establishment views and value judgements of communist and what we stand for.

Member of the CPI for nearly forthy years and proud of it. Honoured to follow in the footsteps of some great courageous working class fighters.


42. Tumbles - August 26, 2011

Nowhere does the book suggest that being a Communist is anything to be ashamed of.

That is not the point.

The point is that people are clearly moving the goalposts from the initial pitch established by Anthony Coughlan’s review [EDITED which objected to elements of the book] on the basis that a person(s) quoted in the book said that they beleived that he had been a member.

[EDITED. Here it was argued that members of the IWP were leading influences on the republican movement]

Those are the facts. Why they choose to deny them is their own business.

When the book was published and the original thread was posted on the back of Anthony Coughlan’s review, the book was attacked as being based on slander and hysterical conspiracy stories.

It would now appear that the book’s conclusion that there was a conscious attempt – and indeed a sucessful one – to influence the IRA at leadership level by people who were members of the IWP/CPGB/CA is accurate factually and historically.

And that clearly has implications for the historical record. Just as would if it were discovered that members of Fianna Fáil or Opus Dei or MI5 or the Church of Scientology had been in similar positions.

But of course some of the same people who ridiculed the notion that the facts were as we now know to be, have changed tack and claiming ‘ah but sure it doesn’t matter whether they had been or not.’

Obviously it does. Not least of all to the persons concerned.


WorldbyStorm - August 26, 2011

Hold on a second. You’ve been asked time and again to refrain from mentioning the individual named in your comment and yet you continue to do so. As was noted above that’s extremely discourteous to a site which has given you plenty of space to air your views – views which when critiqued by a range of people from various political standpoints you’ve accused of being Stalinist. It’s entirely out of order precisely because you’re using anonymity to hide behind and make statements that could rebound not on you, but on us.

And worst of all it makes an actual political discussion impossible because it puts peoples backs up when they [bar one or two very obvious trolling comments] contribute in good faith.

Entirely out of order.


43. Garibaldy - August 26, 2011

Just on the argument about this having implications for the historical record. The question is what implications on which parts of the historical record, and it’s not clear what claims are being made here. For example, proving something about the IWP does not in and of itself prove anything about the leaders of the Republican Movement.

Here’s a more contemporary example that has some similarities but is not an exact parallel. Denis Donaldson was a leading Provisional close to Gerry Adams, and an advisor to him. Denis Donaldson was a spy who supported the ceasefire and peace process. Gerry Adams supported the ceasefire and peace process. Therefore, applying the same logic, this has implications for our understanding of why Gerry Adams supported the ceasefire and the peace process. I would argue that while it tells is something about what the British may have wanted, it tells us nothing in and of itself about what Adams wanted or intended.

Having said that, it seems that Denis Donaldson was sent to Antrim to discipline and/or intimidate someone who was opposing the Provisional leadership who also turned out to be a British agent. So who knows what we can conclude about that.


44. WorldbyStorm - August 26, 2011

On the broader point it seems to me two things are being elided.

Firstly the news from the Phoenix that things that seemed clearcut may not be quite as clearcut.
That may well be good news for Matt Treacy because it certainly makes the events surrounding the launch and after more favourable to him.

Secondly the idea that Sinn Féin was ‘influenced’ by various individuals who had varying connections throguh the Connolly Association to the CPGB and the IWP.

Problem is that the first doesn’t provide anything that adds something new to the second. Every single person I’d suspect who knows anything about this period will have assumed that there was an IWP or British CP influence on some level or another.

But there’s worse because once one starts to examine the nature of the figures who advised the RM from the outside problems as regards the ‘influence’ narrative emerge. Let’s go back to Hanley/Miller and see what they wrote about Johnston and Coughlan because this is the real meat of the issue [p.38]:

[RJ and AC] had differences in their political approach. Johnston was not a doctrinaire communist thinker. His personal experience had led him to conclude that the Irish communsits were so entracned by Russia that they ignored the Irsih historical tradition. ‘Moscow was Rome to them’… for Johnston it was ‘a matter of attempting to influence the radical tradition in a national context, as distinct from the radical tradition in an alien context’…

And centrally:

By 1964 he was impressed by the example of Cuba, where a broad-based movement, rural as well as urban, had ‘upstaged’ a narrow Moscow-line Communsit party adn carried through a popular revolution. He also departed from orthodoxy by stressing that, in Ireland as in Algeria, ‘resistance to imperial domination was more likely to be rural-based than urban based’.

In other words far from being proxies of the IWP or whatever he was ploughing a very different furrow, rightly or wrongly. And the same with Coughlan:

Coughlan was much closer to Greaves in his thinking. his aim was ‘real’ Irish independence – defending Irish economic sovereignty against Britain and the EEC – rather than any form of socialism, which for him was not on the agenda.

The real problem here with Tumbles analysis is that s/he keeps saying ‘IWP influence’ as if that answers everything when much more important is an analysis of what Johnston thought and likewise what Coughlan and others thought.

Because when we examine what they actually thought – and BH/SM interviewed both and those around them, it becomes apparent far from orthodox ‘communist’ views they had lines quite different to the orthodox lines promoted by the IWP or other traditional Communist parties [no disrespect intended to the latter, simply trying to point out the divergences extant].

These guys took a very different line from traditional ‘communism’ and if anything were proponents of national sovereingty and an approach not dissimilar to that found in Cuba initially, South Africa and so on.

Indeed the last is important because if one looks at the NLF idea it’s very similar to the Congress Alliance of the ANC which incorporated both the ANC, the SACommunist Party and other forces.

This was a for want of a better word ‘liberationist’ approach where the CPs were by no means dominant and instead it was led by leftist but non-communist national movements… of which SF in 1966 would have seemed tailor made to be, and this I suspect is why Goulding felt the same and brought these people in for advice. For the IWP this was an opportunity, no doubt about it. But, I think one has to be cogniscent of the fact that just like the RM wasn’t going to roll over for the IWP and subsume into it, neither was the opposite dynamic going to occur. The IWP might want to be influential, but as the local Moscow franchise they weren’t going to become a part of the RM – and that’s fundamental to their self-perception as a distinct political force with a revolutionary outlook.

But the other point is that it’s impossible to apply a simple ‘communist’ filter onto SF at that time as if that explains all, or even onto those who went onto OSF. Seems to me that – hardly surprisingly – Goulding wanted to bolster support for a more left wing approach, but given that the ultimate trajectory towards more orthodox Marxism didn’t manifest itself arguably until – say – 1974 [Seamus Costello was regarded as belonging to a non-Moscow line Marxism and was there until 74!!!] long long after the departure of Johnson et al it’s hard to believe that Goulding wanted a CP like outcome or wanted the RM to become a de facto CP- and even long after the WP wasn’t a de facto CP [however much some in it might have wanted it to be – otherwise why not simply fold into the CP?] either given that it still retained a broader political culture right up to the 91 split.

In other words those two were heterodox to begin with and Johnston surely didn’t tow any CP party line whether British or Irish. Coughlan always seemed to me to be a nationalist rather than a leftist as his subsequent career seems to bear out.


Budapestkick - August 28, 2011

The point about the subsequent careers of those from ex-CP backgrounds is significant I think. Johnson only briefly re-joined the Irish CP after he left OSF before leaving again. Tony Coughlan basically became a nationalist without any real left-wing aspect to his nationalism. Derry Kelleher went down a political path that can only be described as bizarre. If these men were part of an entryist strategy on the part of the CP then it seems odd that none of them would continue to be active in orthodox communist movements after leaving the Republican movement. There’s also the fact that, besides RJ, none of them held really significant positions in the movement in the first place.


45. Jackson Way - August 26, 2011

What this seems to prove is TLR put a serious dent in the Provo foundation myth re stickies not attempting to defend areas etc and now we get the core ‘thinking’ behind the split – politics and tribal loyalty – Tracey/Tumbles/Seanie Lemass reveals much. Although the stuff about ‘the man we can not name’ is amusing.


46. Tom Redmondl - August 26, 2011

WBS’s last contribution is a very measured response to the widely diverse views and, dare I say ocassional abuse on this issue.
I from 1957, served in the Connolly Assocation, the CPGB, the IWP and then the CPI. ( where I remain today).

I served in a leadership role in all these and knew and know, personally and politicallly, most of the individuals named. I can verify or otherwise most of the allegation, perceptions or accusations thrown around here.

But I am mainly concerned with the interaction of the politics around these events and maybe the lessons that can be drawn from them
Lessons that can help the Left rather than disrupt it further.
To give such an objective ( I hope) overview I intend to submit an article in the September issue of the SociiaIst Voice ( published by the CPI). WBS has generously placed each issue on this blog.


47. Garibaldy - August 28, 2011

People might be interested to see the following mistaken comment at Indymedia.



48. Terry McDermott - August 29, 2011

Seems a bit mean-spirited by Matt Treacy to claim censorship on this site, given the amount of publicity his book has got here. More than on the republican discussion sites as far as I can see. Only politics.ie has carried another debate on the book.


49. Tumbles - November 30, 2011

Most of first run of book sold despite the mad price and paperback dues after Christmas apparently.


50. Tumbles - December 2, 2011

Anyway I knew you would all be pleased 🙂


Budapestkick - December 2, 2011

It sold all 70 copies? Well yes, obviously. Library orders and review copies would easily account for that. The (many) weaknesses of the book will be revealed in reviews.


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