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Left Archive: Communist Party of Ireland: Outline History – CPOI, 1970s January 20, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communist Party of Ireland, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
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CPOI001COVER

To download the above file please click on the following link: CPOI HISTORY

This history of the Communist Party of Ireland is a large magazine-like document, some 66 pages long. Black and white throughout in a series of essays and a longer Outline History it offers an overview of the development of the Communist Party of Ireland in its various incarnations on the island of ireland.

The essays include ones on Sean Murray, Jim Gralton. It also has an outline of the ‘Onslaught on Castlecomer Miners’ in the 1930s, another on how the ‘Ballyfermot Co-Op Falls Foul of Reaction’ in the 1950s, and ‘Belfast’s October, 1932’. It also has pieces on ‘Unemployed Struggles: 1920s to 1950s’ and the ’Spanish Civil War – 1936-1938’.

One interesting aspect of the text is the way in which the different organisational structures north and south are treated. For example, it is not made entirely clear that the Communist Party recombined into one party in the late 1960s or when the Irish Workers League became the Irish Workers’ Party, although in the text reference is made at one point to a speech by Sean Murray given in Moscow on behalf of Irish communists in 1960 where he says:
I speak on behalf of the Irish Workers League, which functions in the Republic of Ireland, and on behalf of the Communist Party, which functions in Northern Ireland.

The existence of our two Marxist organisations arises from the partition of Ireland into two States.
Guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism, we elect to make joint statements on the important questions which which this great gathering of Communists from all parts of the world is concerned.

The Border Campaign in the late 1950s is treated as follows:

Between 1956 and 1962 there had been the cross-Border raids organised by the I.R.A. int he course of which some I.R.A. mean and R.U.C. constables were killed and wounded, as well as a number of Republicans were captured and got long terms of imprisonment. Both the C.P. in the North and the Irish Workers’ Party expressed disagreement with the forms of struggle used by the I.R.A. stating that they would not bring nearer the aim of a united Ireland, but would in fact harden the support of the Ulster Unionist overlords. The I.R.A. leadership called off the campaign in 1962 and in time it was acknowledged that the 1956-62 campaign had not been helpful in promoting success for the national aim.

There is considerable detail of a variety of events in which Communists on the island participated and at least some sense of the broader socio-economic and political dynamics at work which shaped the parties during this period. In sum a fascinating document.

EMC of the CPOI adds a couple of thoughts on the document and those who produced it.

…on the whole it was the work of Sean Nolan. He was born and reared in Marlborough St., and remembered coming a across a street meeting at which James Connolly was the speaker. He joined the Communist movement in the mid 1920’s and was a central figure in the re-establishment of the CPI in 1934.

He was a pivotal figure in coordinating and keeping in contact with communists scattered around the country as well as those who emigrated to Britain etc. He was also secretary of the Spanish Aid Committee and the Release Frank Ryan Committee. He established the first Connolly House that was attacked and burned down he ran a book club from it disseminating Connolly’s writings, as well as materials about the Soviet Union. He established New Books in Pearse Street, then Parliament Street, then final in the current venue. He was a beautiful, gentle thoughtful comrade. It was a great honour to have worked along side him.

Comments»

1. BB - January 20, 2014

For those interested in the history of communism in Ireland, the following book by Mike Milotte is an excellent read:

Communism in Modern Ireland: The Pursuit of the Workers’ Republic since 1916, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 1984.

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Charley Darling - January 20, 2014

I think you meant to say:

“For those interested in the history of communism in Ireland, the following book by the Trotskyist Mike Milotte is a suitably partisan read:

Communism in Modern Ireland: The Pursuit of the Workers’ Republic since 1916, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 1984.”

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BB - January 20, 2014

I took it for granted that the informed readers of this blog were conscious that Mike Milotte, a renowned journalist, broadcaster and author, was originally politically inspired by Trotsky. But it is interesting to note, however, that Milotte’s book is not driven by polemical intent.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with polemic. It can be helpful in provoking thought and debate, especially when done in a non-disdainful way. But Milotte decided instead to present us with a thoroughly well researched and considered record of communism in Ireland. And he did so in a timely fashion.

Given the effort that goes into generating a Left Archive here, why not put this book into the pot for seasoning or consideration? To smirk at this suggestion, can only be viewed as condescending. Such treatment will inevitably be off-putting to hesitant contributors to the blog. And that is in nobody’s interest.

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Charley Darling - January 21, 2014

So a bunch of Trots think that a Trot account of the CPI is balanced, not driven by polemical intent – what a surprise.

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Starkadder - January 21, 2014

I’m not a Trot- I’m not even a Leninist- and I
through Millotte’s book on the CPI was excellent.

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Michael Carley - January 20, 2014

Seconded. It’s hard to track down these days, I think because people who have it hold on to it. He mentions the attack on the Castlecomer (!) CP in the 1930s, and includes the greatest ever Irish political fact: Gusty Spence’s brother was expelled from the CPNI for Maoism.

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Starkadder - January 20, 2014

“. It’s hard to track down these days, I think because people who have it hold on to it.”
According to Worldcat, most Irish university libraries
have a copy. so assuming you aren’t allergic to anything
written by a Trot it’s well worth a read.

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Michael Carley - January 20, 2014

Fair enough: it’s hard to track down second hand these days, …

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CMK - January 20, 2014

Checked university library today: ‘copy missing’.

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Michael Carley - January 20, 2014

Check the local used book dealers …

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CMK - January 20, 2014

Unfortunately, there are none where I am. Might have to wait until next trip to Dublin….

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Mark P - January 20, 2014

There’s a copy in TCD library.

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WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2014

Prohibitively expensive second hand. I think there’s a copy or two floating around Dublin City libraries.

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CMK - January 21, 2014

STG 73.94 on Amazon!!

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BB - January 21, 2014

The National Library of Ireland catalogue shows “search results of 1 found”.

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Ed - January 21, 2014

I think Mike M. himself mentioned on one CLR thread that he had bought back the copyright at some point years ago, so if anyone fancies running off a new batch. Seriously though, would it make sense for him to pass it onto Lulu or one of the other self-publishing outfits, I’d imagine there would be a few people who’d fork out for a copy?

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Gearóid - January 21, 2014

It’s in NUIG too.

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2. Jim Monaghan - January 20, 2014
John Tynan - January 20, 2014

Mike Milotte’s book is not partisan because… Barry McLoughlin.

wonderful adaptation of the Chewbacca defence there Jim.

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3. Charley Darling - January 20, 2014

Kept quite what? Don’t leave us in suspense….

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Ed - January 20, 2014

Right. The issue is whether or not leaders of the CPI turned a blind eye to the torture and murder of their own members by the NKVD, and you go for the old ‘pretending to take a spelling mistake at face value so you can make a fatuous remark’ approach. Splendid stuff.

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4. EamonnCork - January 20, 2014

I think Milotte’s book is useful and informative, especially given the lack of other books on the subject. As someone who’s neither a Trotskyist or a Communist, I didn’t detect any notable axe grinding.

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Mark P - January 20, 2014

Yes.

It is rather revealing that the Stalinists objecting to Milotte’s book here raise no complaint of substance about it. Instead they just have a generalised whine that he was a Trotskyist, as if that disqualified him from producing an accurate history.

The Milotte book remains the only serious account of CPI history.

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Séamus - January 20, 2014

Matt Treacy will be heartbroken to hear that, I’m sure.

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Ed - January 20, 2014

As he said, the ONLY serious account. Apart from O’Connor’s book, which doesn’t cover the full history, just the 20s to the 40s.

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WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2014

In fairness to MT there was a lot of research went into that book.

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John Tynan - January 21, 2014

Interesting to read such radical stances from noted keyboard warrior Mark P – a man who won’t even use his real name in case it damages his privileged professional career.

what gleaming future awaits the working class that is carved from such bravery.

BTW, Milotte’s treatment of Betty Sinclair is noting short of scandalous – a point that Milotte himself has conceded over the years.

On other words, not even Milotte believes the book to be balanced.

carry on lads, carry on.

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WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2014

But that’s not a great argument JT. MarkP hasn’t set himself up as a leader of the working class as far as I can see and there’s nothing per se wrong in using a pseudonym on the internet. I do, and you appear to as well.

As regards not being balanced, that’s also a fairly poor argument. It’s decades since I read it and I don’t recall the Betty Sinclair aspect of it, but all history is going to be inflected by the individual writing it to some degree or antoher and the point is that one reads it knowing that and taking it into account. No one here has said it’s the last word on the matter. I’m not a Marxist-Leninist myself or a Trotskyist but like others here I found it an interesting and useful work. I don’t recall – and I was a member of the WP at the time – being mightily irritated by it one way or another and I was fairly aware it came from a certain angle. But there was some good solid history in there even if I’d have quibbled with some of the interpretations. Which I would do with pretty much any history I read that sticks with the facts.

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Mark P - January 21, 2014

There are few sights more amusingly stupid than some clown complaining about the use of consistent pseudonyms on the Internet.

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5. Jim Monaghan - January 20, 2014

Perhaps one of you could review the McLoughlin book.One of the victims was a founder of the party, another active in Larkin’s version and the other a brother of a long time activist.

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6. Brian Hanley - January 20, 2014

Emmet O’Connor’s ‘Reds and the Green’ (mentioned above) has the benefit of access to the Moscow archives (as does McLaughlin). A whole range of Irish state and private archives that are relevant to the history of Irish communism are available that weren’t around when Milotte wrote his book.
On a more general point, the trend in the writing of the history of pre-war communist parties has been away from seeing them as controlled on strings by Moscow and more towards their being responsive to local conditions.

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Mark P - January 20, 2014

That “trend” certainly exists in the historiography of the CPGB, and is generally associated with sympathetic historians who want to rescue something from the experience of that party – usually by distinguishing between its good British timid reformism and its bad, alien, Russian Stalinism.

It is however something of a false dichotomy – the CPs were, at least up until the Euro turn in some countries, both utterly subservient to Moscow and responsive to local conditions, creating an ongoing tension.

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7. BK - January 20, 2014

Brian: Genuine question, as I have not read Emmett’s study. What are the substantive points that he is able to make with the benefit of new archival sources that tell a different story than Milotte was able to give us? My own reading of the new literature on the CPUSA is that recent scholarship has complicated the story but that throughout the party’s history there are persistent tensions between subservience to Moscow and trying to ground the party in local conditions. During the Second World War, for example, the party worked hard at enforcing the no-strike pledge that emanated form Moscow, but local party activists–including the best of their shopfloor trade union leaders, did their best to bend policy, to use the threat of breaking with the pledge to bring employers to terms. Much the same is true as regards the race question. The line from Moscow is to push the idea of the ‘black belt’–literally, a separate black notion in the former slave states. On the ground black party activists never seem to have interpreted it legally, using it instead to compel the policy to take racial oppression seriously–by taking up the Scottsboro Boys defence, taking a principled position against racism inside the AFL and the CIO, etc. Milotte makes the point that the CP was able to grow in shipbuilding and engineering the north during the Second World War in part by becoming patriotic supporters of the British war effort. Does O’Connor tell us different?

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8. BK - January 20, 2014

Sorry: black nation, that is…. and interpreted it literally, not legally. And compel the party….

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9. Brian Hanley - January 20, 2014

O’Connor stops at 1941 as far as I remember- his main new material is on the relationship with Jim Larkin in the 20s, and with republicans throughout.

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10. Jim Monaghan - January 21, 2014

Leaders of the CPs and indeed the CPI were not brain dead ( esp. Murray and Carmody) and were responsive to local conditions. But when it came to a clash with Moscow they either bent or were purged. Look at the changes of line across the water over WW1. Pollitt was nearly caught offline.
Nowadays it is even sadder as they still look to Moscow under Putin. So they support uncritically the governments of Ukraine and Syria. And they listen to news from Moscow from the equivalent of CNN. If you think I am mistaken look at the equivalence of Russia’s foreign policy and the line of most CPs. The local Catholic Churchs had/have the same autonomy.
Oh and the small sects obey their masters in a similar manner.

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Starkadder - January 21, 2014

“Look at the changes of line across the water over WW1. Pollitt was nearly caught offline.”

I take it you meant to write “WW2”, when Harry Pollitt
got in trouble for opposing the CPGB’s disgraceful
championing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

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Jim Monaghan - January 21, 2014

Indeed. Oh a funny note here Enjoy
Rolling Your Own

A Guide to Forming Your Own Political Group
http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/critiques/sullivan/roll.html

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Michael Carley - January 21, 2014

Good advice:

Whether you choose option A or B, it is essential that you study the accounts of existing groups in As Soon As This Pub Closes in order to differentiate your own group from what is already on offer.

The RCP in action:

Furedi and Hume didn’t attempt to work out if victory for the United States would help or hinder the progressive cause in the Middle East. Instead, they meticulously went through the positions of their rivals, from the Socialist Workers Party to the left of the Labour Party. None, they established, was actually supporting Saddam Hussein and wishing him the best of luck in his forthcoming battle to the death with British troops. “Victory for Iraq!” became their slogan.

http://www.newstatesman.com/node/143581

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11. Top Cat - January 21, 2014

“they listen to news from Moscow from the equivalent of CNN” – woo, one moronic statement there.

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Bob Smiles - January 21, 2014

What is the actual content of the pamphlet like facts-wise? Tommy McKearney writes for CP paper these days. Party seem sympathetic to republicanism

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12. Dr. X - January 22, 2014

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13. Mike Milotte - September 3, 2015

John Tynan – January 21, 2014 wrote:
“…BTW, Milotte’s treatment of Betty Sinclair is noting short of scandalous – a point that Milotte himself has conceded over the years.”

Someone just brought this to my attention, asking me to provide a reference for my change of mind on my ‘scandalous’ treatment of Betty Sinclair. I don’t know who John Tynan is or where he’s coming from, but I would be very grateful if he could answer these two related questions: what did I say about Betty Sinclair that was scandalous (and presumably, by definition, untrue)? And where and when did I indicate a change of mind? It’s news to me!

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