Left Archive: Congress ’86, League of Communist Republicans, Issue 5, Winter 1988 June 13, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive.
To download the above please click on the following link. Congress 86 Issue 5 Winter 1988
Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.
Many thanks to the person – they prefer to be called Master McGrath – who donated this and others documents to the Archive. It expands a section which has needed extra materials for quite some time.
The League of Communist Republicans was a group of Republican prisoners in H-Block who split with the Provisional IRA during the 1980s. As noted in the Left Archive:
With the end of abstention by Sinn Féin at the 1986 Ard Fhéis there was a mass resignation of about 100 IRA prisoners in Long Kesh. Of this number a smaller group combined in November 1986 as the League of Communist Republicans. Their position was interesting since they argued that the armed campaign was of limited use at that point in time (and who better to know?) and that Sinn Féin was retreating from the left.
One of those pivotal to the LCR was Tommy McKearney who developed their programme (reproduced, not quite in full due to missing pages, in the last pages of the PDF above):
WE STAND FOR: 1. An independent Sovereign Republic of All Ireland. 2. A Revolutionary Democratic Government, under the control of the Workers and the Small Farmers. 3. Administration of the State to be under the supervision of a National Assembly which practices Direct Participatory Democracy, ie deputies are subject to recall. THE STATE MUST GUARANTEE ITS CITIZENS: • Work at an acceptable wage. • A home suitable to the citizen’s needs. • An education to the highest level compatible with the citizen’s ability. • Full and comprehensive healthcare. • Social Rights including: Divorce Contraception and abortion Separation of Church and State Meaningful equality between the sexes. To allow the Workers’ and Small Farmers’ State exercise control, it is imperative that the commanding heights of the economy, Finance, Trade, Industry, Production and Communication, be brought under the Democratic control of the Revolutionary Democratic Workers’ and Small Farmers’ Republic.
As can be seen this had deliberate resonances with the 1934 Republican Congress. Their slogan ‘A Workers’ and Small Farmers’ State’ was an attempt to remedy what they saw as the original error by Ryan and others at that Congress. And as a further echo of this their journal was named Congress ‘86.
This edition of that journal, dating from winter 1988, numbered 5, offers an excellent insight into their thinking during this period. In eighteen or so pages a considerable number of topics are covered including ‘The Price of Sovereignty’, ‘Direct Democracy’, Emigration, Nicaragua, Woman Against Poverty and a piece entitled ‘Tories out North and South’. The main article on the front page is on extradition, particularly that of Robert Russell. The piece on Direct Democracy extolls that form of political organisation suggesting that ‘we need direct participatory democracy because – Direct Participatory Democracy implements the Manifesto’. There’s a fascinating piece on the aftermath of the Sinn Féin-SDLP negotiations which argues that the ‘rift’ between the two parties ‘may not be unbridgeable’ and suggests that:
A reading of the document released by both parties at the end of the negotiations, shows clearly that on only two issues is there real disagreement. These concern the role of armed struggle and whether Britain is a neutral actor on the Irish scene’. Given the centrality of both of those elements to what would later be termed the Peace Process that appears prescient. In a not dissimilar vein theres a critical analysis of ‘Armed Struggle’, a pamphlet issued by the Communist Party of Ireland (part of the the text of which can be found here in the Archive).
There’s also an exchange in letters between a US based correspondent and a ‘reply from the H-Blocks’ on the nature of Congress ’86. This gives a good overview of the development of Congress ’86 from the early 1980s onwards and notes:
Ideologically, we moved away from the IRA/SF in the early 1980s. But the straw that broke the camel’s back and led us to sever our links was the Ard Fheis of 1986.
And it continues that:
…we believed there was the potential to broaden the struggle into the 26 Counties [on foot of the ‘mass movement’ of the Hunger Strikes campaign and after]… in short to agitate among the unemployed, the low paid and the small farmers. in shot agitate and organise for a Workers and Small Farmers Republic.
Sadly things were not taken in this direction. SF’s stranglehold stifled the growing activity of the people… the political movement drifted along into electoralist Social Democracy. The promotion of class consciousness was contemptuously pushed aside. Left Nationalism with its socialist rhetoric was in the ascendancy.
Interestingly the writer argues…
In principle we had no objection, nor have we now, to taking seats in Leinster House. …
The use of physical force should be regarded as a tactic , not as a principle.
There is considerably more, including analyses as to why in their view the ‘Officials’ and IRSP ‘went wrong’ and criticisms as regards the Marxist characteristic of both.
In sum an important addition to the Archive. A number of questions remain. Did Congress ’86 find a political expression in terms of campaigning or other activities and when did it disband? Any insight into these questions would be very useful.