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Trouble in the WP? June 19, 2020

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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As mentioned on the What You Want To Say Thread….

Statement by the Ard Comhairle of the Workers’ Party on the decision to leave the Party by the Northern Ireland Business Committee and its supporters

Not quite sure what to make of it and exactly the numbers involved.

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1. Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 19, 2020

From the “What you want to say” thread:

Essentially, a small clique in Belfast have been angling to either seize the leadership or federalise the party. While they would have been afraid to move with Sean Garland still alive, they saw their chance with his death.

Their leadership in Belfast has been characterised by monotonic reduction in the party membership, total isolation from the working class, and almost no real activity on the ground. It’s an approach based on extreme political purity and no interest in growth or adaptation to current circumstances.

Internally they are anti-republican, ultra-left Marxist-Leninists who have tried to purge or suppress anyone who strays from a very narrow line and have been contemptuous of every recent policy proposal or campaign put forward by the party (aside from Brexit which they were the primary proponents of).

Externally, they are very vague social democratic unionists with “gas and water” proposals that could come from the Alliance party.

Internationally they have pursued a strategy of siding with the smallest most sect-like party they can find, such as the New Communist Party of Britain or the Austrian Party of Labour. Parties virtually no-one has ever heard of and no-one ever will because they are designed to be political sects.

I recently canvassed in West Belfast with a number of members who were attempting to breathe a bit of life into things. During my canvass in the heart of former WP territory, I met a woman who had been part of the party band who said she hadn’t seen us in 10 years… Subsequently, the comrades I had been canvassing with were threatened with expulsion – presumably for getting off their arse and trying to contact the historic base of the party.

I’d wager that there are some who just want to liquidate the party assets and view any sort of growth as a hindrance to that strategy. The faster things die, the better off they’ll be. If it’s not driven by material interests than it’s perhaps even worse as it’s one of the most impressively poor leadership strategies I’ve ever witnessed.

But democracy does not favour strategies of perpetual shrinking. When they saw that they were going to lose hold of the party due to the increasing youth membership, they decided to turn to sabotage. When that failed, they decided to split.

When I joined the party 5 years ago, I was unaware that such an atavistic group existed in the party. I can’t say I’m sorry to see them go and given their strategy, they can’t last longer than natural attrition dictates.

Ireland is still without a mass socialist party worthy of the working class and this is really where we have to focus our efforts.

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2. tomasoflatharta - June 19, 2020

“Afraid” to move while Seán Garland was alive – interesting!

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Jim Monaghan - June 19, 2020

“While they would have been afraid to move with Sean Garland still alive, they saw their chance with his death.”. Such was his moral authority? I wonder which side the KKE and the PCP will back if any. Which side are the Trotskyite wreakers?.

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FergusD - June 21, 2020

Ultra-left Marxists (really?!) but vague social democrats externally. So vague social democrats then because it doesn’t matter what you are internally if you argue for vague social democratic policies externally. It is just that this group retained the anti-democratic organisational outlook of Stalinism and abandoned Marxism, along with the CPs across the world, a very, very long time ago.

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3. What If They Held A Split And No-one Came? Or Is The Workers Party About To Disappear Up Its Own Orifice? | The Broken Elbow - June 19, 2020

[…] 1. Gavin Mendel-Gleason – June 19, 2020 […]

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4. Enzo - June 19, 2020

I would say that the “trouble” has now left the WP.

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5. S. - June 19, 2020

Who will retain control of the social club on the Lower Falls? And benefit from the revenue generated there? Are there any other similar clubs left in Belfast?

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6. Jack Jameson - June 19, 2020

1) Do we know what the breakaway faction is calling itself?

2) Do we know how many members would be involved?

3) Would this be a majority of the members in the north?

4) Has the new faction issued any statement?

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7. Joe - June 19, 2020

Janey, us armchair internet warriors (i.e. me and anyone else here willing to so self-describe) do love our splits.
AlanMyler on the other thread said both sides had been emailing the membership. Would Alan care to give us a synopsis of the what the “Business Faction” are saying? Ah go on, Alan.
I do love that moniker, the “Business Faction”.

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Colm B - June 19, 2020

I agree that there’s a sort of morbid fascination with splits, its like rubber necking when you see a car crash. However, there is a serious aspect to getting accurate info on a split as it allows you to get a picture of the political positions involved and that in turn might reveal whether it would lead to a positive development of people’s positions on important issues. For example, the recent emergence of RISE from the SP and Ind Left from the SWP/PBP were both, at least partially, based on the lack of internal democracy in those organisations.

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alanmyler - June 19, 2020

I don’t think there’s any question of absence of internal democracy in the mix on this.

There’s a document that the NI Business Committee put online that argues their case. I’ll put the link up here but just to note I’m not a spokesperson for the NIBC and my perspective on this is that both sides have some valid criticisms of each other, but there’s also some exaggeration going on for political effect.

https://www.flipsnack.com/workersparty1/enough-is-enough-may-2020/full-view.html

I’d like to see this resolved without expulsions / split. We’re a small enough party and there’s probably agreement on 97% of questions. If we want to be a mass party we need to be able to get through the likes of these disagreements. That’s not to suggest that I’d consider either side more guilty than the other in this.

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Joe - June 19, 2020

Thanks Alan.

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Colm B - June 19, 2020

Thanks Alan. What’s strangely absent in the document is any clear outline of political differences, it’s almost all proceedural.

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sonofstan - June 19, 2020

Yes. I’m not much the wiser after reading it tbh.

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WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2020

+1 Colm B. Difficult to see any political difference between the contending sides.

Am I wrong or is that the party appears to have had – which is news to me – ‘structures in’ the North (that ‘structures’ line is reiterated) that seem to have been freestanding on some basis? Would that be accurate? I see there’s an Executive Committee of the NI Region which the BC is part of or one and the same. Is this only true of NI or other parts of the island? Is anyone able to outline if that is the case and what the relationship to the rest of the party would be?

Also there’s talk about party statements nullifying secular politics and ‘couched in nationalist rhetoric’. And some quotes from statements that suggested ‘hostility to the Irish language’ and ‘forcing older people out of the party’.

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alanmyler - June 19, 2020

Yes it’s very forensic but I think it hides or buries some if the deeper issues. I honestly don’t know which is the more problematic, the organisational or the political issues, which is a cover for the other. It’s certainly true that de facto the party had regionalized due to the weakness of the party centre before the growth of Dublin in the past few years and the consequent strengthening of the centre which was long overdue. But it also appears to be true that there has been a shift in political emphasis towards a socialist republican line that has crept in. I don’t think the documents from the last Ard Fheis are online anywhere so I can’t point to them but there was a very noticeable emphasis on that regard which was surprising to me. (I didn’t attend the AF as my daughter had a county final that day so I can’t really elaborate on that). If anyone can that might be useful.

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WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2020

That’s very useful Alan – thanks

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Ramzi Nohra - June 19, 2020

Interesting the different references to “Northern Ireland” and “the North” which I suppose reflect the accusations of pro-unionism or pan-nationalist politics by each side

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8. Pangurbán - June 19, 2020

As I understand it the WP has had an influx of new members in Dublin; the north adapted Lenin’s dictum “ better fewer but better “ to mean “ better none but better “ . I think the pro Brexit stance was the last straw for many. For years now the Wp in NI seems to be getting into a competition with Tusc in gb for coming bottom of the poll in elections: ditching the old crew is probably the best option and last chance for WP in Northern Ireland

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WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2020

That’s an interesting take. Certainly the stance on Brexit was intriguing.

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9. Joe - June 19, 2020

Almost a sense of two opposing groups developing and wrestling for control of the party … and then each trying to find (or develop or create) political differences to point at the other.
Looks a bit like most of northern Old Guard (the Business Committee) versus remainder of Old Guard plus Newbies. With the latter seeming to come out on top so far.
But what will it end up as? Two groups, tinyWP and slightlybiggerWP. Two small groups. With maybe more potential for growth in the bigger WP bit, them having the bit of energy and relative youth around Dublin.
Interesting political difference around the good old national question. And the other political difference around which brand of ‘orthodox’ communism should be linked with.

I’ve just re-read the above and I have to say, top-notch political analysis based on very little real info there, Joe.

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WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2020

+1 a chara!

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Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 19, 2020

There was a leadership struggle there is no question. But this struggle revolved around very clear political differences.

The BC faction were not concerned with mass politics. They would refuse to be on any platform that, for instance, also had SF for fear of pollution. They preferred to make the acceptable political conversation as narrow as possible. They opposed LookLeft’s relatively pluralistic approach, preferring that instead all articles carried a narrow editorial line.

They were opposed to the Workers’ Party adopting the solidarity housing initiative and popularising public housing as a model. They were opposed to the party document on the 1990 Act because it was not revolutionary enough. They have also not had any substantial contribution to policy over the years I have been in the party.

They had also somehow convinced themselves that any rise in votes in Catholic areas would mark them out as sectarian and therefore abandoned trying to influence or connect with their traditional base in West Belfast. The connection with areas traditionally associated with the party had reached nearly zero – no canvassing, no advice clinics no campaigns.

And it was not just a lack of energy either. When younger members in Belfast tried to kick-start activity they were roundly rebuked, leading to a total stagnation of the party in Belfast even while socialism was growing in popularity.

Sectism and political isolationism are very real political choices with serious consequences, and they are also not that uncommon among the left. It is hard to balance between capitulation to the pressures to conform to the status quo and going off into an ultra-left hermetically sealed irrelevance. It’s very possible to avoid capitulation by just veering ultra-left, and similarly you can just constantly capitulation and you might get to go into government like the Green party. Both are as bad as each-other because both ultimately recreate the status quo.

It is of course fine to have people who disagree with you in a party, but if a minority decides they aren’t going to be bound by majority decisions to the extent that they even refuse to register with the party, there isn’t much sense in trying to keep them from going their own way. If someone doesn’t want to cooperate, you can’t force them.

The thing we need most in Ireland right now is a mass workers party which is articulating the need for a public economy in a way that appears sensible to your average punter. A way to communicate that socialism is what is really required to do more than paper over the serious problems we have today with rising inequality growing instability and climate catastrophe on the horizon. Building such a thing is a daunting task, but it’s not going to fall out of the sky. It has to be built through hard work, and forcing ourselves out of our comfort zone and attempting to cooperate, convince and co-mingle with the working class to make the political struggle vital. The thing we need doesn’t yet exist and The Workers’ Party can’t do it alone, but it can and should be part of the solution.

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10. pettyburgess - June 19, 2020

I’m old enough to remember a Workers Party supporter posting a video here about the split prone nature of Trotskyism. Last week seems so long ago now…

It is strange that there is so little explanation of the actual political disagreements as opposed to the alleged procedural misdeeds of the other side in the two documents posted. The “Business Committee” document in particular is almost absurdly procedural. But there is enough there, particularly in light of Gavin’s post, to work out that there are two major issues in play:

FIrstly, the WP has cautiously edged back towards some of the symbolism and rhetoric of its Republican past over a period of more than a decade. This has happened at a glacial, almost imperceptible pace, and it’s not clear how much it has changed actual policy, but it has happened. When Garland was alive, he had enough authority for everyone to put up with it but since he died there’s conflict between people who are happy with that evolution and people who preferred the 80s/90s line. Those are the two tendencies but from the outside what the actual detail of the substantive disagreement is not entirely clear from the outside and isn’t.clear in either document.

Secondly, the Business Committee people see the WP’s natural allies abroad as the harder, generally smaller, sects within the international constellation of what used to be Moscow type Stalinist parties. The New Communist Party of Britain, a small group of Brezhnevite geriatrics who split from the CPGB in the 70s in a failed attempt to get the Russian franchise are the example mentioned. The CEC seem to see the WP’s natural allies as the bigger, generally softer, CPs.

This almost certainly, although it’s not clearly stated anywhere, is a reflection quite different conceptions of the kind of party the WP itself should aim to be: “ML” cadre group or something a bit softer with more of a mass orientation.

In that regard it’s worth noting that quite some time ago the WP absorbed a group of people from WSM, SP and independent backgrounds who had come to more or less “Kautskyist” conclusions about the role a working class party should seek to play. Those people are strongly represented in the WP leadership these days. One of them wrote a long and interesting article trying to assimilate much of the history of post war mass Stalinist parties in Western Europe to the Second International tradition a couple of years ago. I can’t find it now and it seems to have disappeared from the Look Left site but it was advertised strongly by the WP at the time.

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pettyburgess - June 19, 2020

“Those are the two tendencies but from the outside what the actual detail of the substantive disagreement is not entirely clear from the outside and isn’t.clear in either document.“

My kingdom for an edit function

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

That’s another really interesting analysis. Thanks PB.

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11. roddy - June 19, 2020

Within the last year,I recall reading a letter in the unionist “newsletter”newspaper from a WP spokesperson .It used unionist terminology which even shocked me and as you all know anything from a WP perspective would have to be inconceivably bad to shock me at this stage.The same letter then appeared in the nationalist “Irish News” newspaper but with the objectionable Unionist terminology missing.Obviouslly this type of mindset was beginning to irk those who had gone along with this type of thing for decades but had now decided things had gone too far.

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12. Dr. Nightdub - June 20, 2020

At last summer’s Féile, there was a talk on “The Story of ’69” in the Cyprus St Club on the Grosvenor Road which I went along to. Can’t remember the speaker’s name, but obviously someone high up in the WP.

Iconography / ambience seemed fairly standard left republican, trad music on the PA, Starry Ploughs on the stage. The talk turned out to be more of A Story of ’69, rather than THE Story of ’69. Some dark mutterings about the split, several references to “the spirit of Marx, Lenin, Connolly and McMillen” but none to the soon-to-be Provos who appeared at St Comgall’s with guns.

In short, a fairly orthodox WP public event. But all a million miles removed from either side in the current schmozzle.

Can’t help wondering how much of the current fall-out is rooted in frustration by various factions of the Belfast WP at being leap-frogged in recent years for their “natural constituency” by the rise of Gerry Carroll / PBP, and whatever internal finger-pointing followed that.

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GearóidGaillimh - June 20, 2020

There are a lot of disillusioned SF voters in west Belfast who will consider voting PBP but will never vote for the WP, so that would explain much of the ‘leap-frogging’. There may be a natural WP contituency there in the sense of people who previously voted WP but that number has declined markedly since the 1970s and 1980s, surely?

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

Always has been. Even in the 80s and early 90s when I was in the WP I’d look at the figures for elections in the North and it struck me it was hardly worth the effort to compete electorally even as a flag flying exercise. Because as you say the party was so loathed by such a significant number in nationalism and republicanism, and then ignored entirely by unionism there just didn’t seem to be a constituency for it. I used to wonder what it would take to change that but short of merger with another group or a complete name change and/or reorientation of the ideological position I don’t know what would do it. In part it’s a basic contradiction of political practice. In a polity where there’s two fairly distinct communal groups, arguing for a commonality that doesn’t exist (or where it does it seems to be addressed by Alliance) across a divided working class and having burned its bridges in nationalism/Republicanism and again being ignored by Unionism there’s no space. A broader problem is how this reality feeds into the party’s approach and not just in the North, because the only spaces for it then become campaigns, unions and so on which are non-electoral. And that then inflects attitudes to political activity and leads to the sort of attachment to marginal groups (who to judge from their own track record aren’t exactly lighting up the map electorally) elsewhere almost as a substitute for the fact that there’s no room for progress on the ground in the society one finds oneself in. Ultimately given not so great results in the South that must almost inevitably also inflect attitudes to electoralism across the island. Then one has an influx in the south of people keen to restart on the electoral path and who perhaps have an identification with a period of party activity that some would be leery of (I well remember in the early 80s being the party club in Dublin and being told darkly of how the Fianna went out of control in the 70s and ‘that mistake wouldn’t be made again’) and that must make for some tensions.

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

And just on that last, I’m fascinated to see the term ‘socialist republican’ coming into the frame. As a republican socialist I’d be interested to see that parsed out.

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sonofstan - June 20, 2020

“In a polity where there’s two fairly distinct communal groups, arguing for a commonality that doesn’t exist”

That’s a bit depressing – do you really think it doesn’t exist? There have been times when it did.

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

Yeah, I know, it is grim but I tend to think so, yes. There have been times but the fact we can tick them off on the fingers of two hands or perhaps even one suggests to me they’re the exception rather than otherwise. And the track record of those who seek unity across the divide has been patchy at best. It’s not that it’s all out hostility all the time, in fact most of the time people get on and get by but it is that it’s a distinct sense of identity In regard to political and socio-cultural matters that functions in the context of a divided polity to stymie any movement forward. Perhaps an NI identity would develop that could supersede it and allow for that commonality but I’m not optimistic. Or perhaps a resolution one way or another but seems unlikely and I figure perhaps allowing the overlaps to continue and maybe develop and perhaps the underlying economics do likewise will slowly allow for arrival at a point where class politics ignites island wide … someday!

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Joe - June 20, 2020

I’d agree that the communal differences are deep seated to say the least. And yes they’ll always be there or certainly for many generations. Two peoples, two distinct ethnic groups, whatever. You know, like say the Irish and the English or the French and the Spanish or whoever.
But I’m a bit disappointed, WBS, with your dissing of the WP’s attempts to build a class-based rather than communal-based party back in the day. Yeah, it was doomed to failure. But the argument was ‘Workers Unite’, ‘Sectarianism kills workers’. Naive, hopeless, doomed to failure as it turned out.
But, Jesus Christ, if we’re socialists or Marxists or whatever, surely that was the way to go. At least the WP tried, they didn’t just cave to communal, nationalist knee-jerk.
Gotta go now but fook yis, up the sticks.

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

I’m certainly not dissing the WP as such. And in theory such an effort is a good idea, though if you believe it is doomed to failure too, as I guess for the most part do I, then perhaps it would make more sense to consider what alternative approaches might take us some, half or all of the way to our chosen destination.

But I do think that one thing that is missing in a lot of this is that WP was uniquely ill placed to attempt any such project. It was all too easily painted as those who were nationalists and republicans as apostates, and by those who were unionist as a Trojan horse towards republicanism, and worse towards Marxism (which even the most left wing variants of Unionism, such as the PUP were intrinsically hostile too, finding their space to be perhaps Labourism of a 1945 sort). Moreover it had all the baggage of coming from a militarist past which brought its own troubles with it in terms of perception and again leaving it exposed to attacks by rivals and so on. Add to that that it was not a single homogenous entity but had fairly distinct strands within it – communists, left social democrats, people who still had an attachment to republicanism albeit a broader definition, then those who had become implacably hostile to that.

Class politics is a big ask at the best of times, we’ve seen how difficult in the south it is to achieve any sort of support (4% or so was the most the WP gained in the 1980s in the ROI). To try to do anywhere like that in the North was simply unfeasible. Undertaking such a project meant – in the basic context of the situation being painted as unionist. This was true of some in the WP, but not all. But it was so easy too do so because of the structural context. There were other rivals like IRSP who could do the republican socialist stuff more convincingly if one wanted to attract nationalist and republican support. Simultaneously imagine for a second you’re a unionist or loyalist. However much you admired the WP for retreating from nationalism and (Irish) republicanism, this was still a group that had been involved in attacking and bombing British soldiers, etc and in living memory. it still reified the civil rights period, at least up to 1972. And was rumoured right up to state level (sure the RUC said so) to have a continuing armed wing. Why would you shift to them and not say to the loyalist left groups?

To me all this is an incredible lack of effort on the part of those involved at the time to think through what being a unionist actually entailed, or indeed being a nationalist too come to think of it.

And it left the party completely exposed and marginalised.

Official Irish Republicanism, 1962 to 1972 by Sean Swan is well worth reading on this subject. It really deconstructs that aspect of the Officials.

I don’t think a politics that is seriously seeking to engage with a society can simply attempt to leap past the society as it is. That seems to me to lead to abstraction.

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sonofstan - June 20, 2020

“I don’t think a politics that is seriously seeking to engage with a society can simply attempt to leap past the society as it is”

I’ve been reading a bit about the CPUSA in its pomp and it does seem as if it was an organsation that managed to unite white and black workers in a way that was inconceivable in almost any other context at the time. Was that ‘leap[ing] past society as is’?

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

But on a mass level? And to an extent that the CPUSAs political project was progressed to a significant degree? I’d never deny that some progress is possible but the CPUSA never presented a political alternative electorally of any significance. But there’s a further question or aspect that weighs on all this. The issue of goals is key – the cpusa of course would champion equality for African Americans and do great work in that respect in the 30s 40s tho be supplanted by the New Left by the 60s but that was both a goal and part of the process ie equality was something tangible to work towards. Of course there were racial divides. But with orange and green and class and I’m not suggesting this is more difficult than race more that it’s a different problem the goal is less clear, unity of the working class yes but also the abiding question of unity in what future context whether a UI or the UK. We’ve seen how that conundrum functioned with the actual CP(s) on the island and in respect of every left party to the extent one could say that the complexion of the SP and SWP to take two examples is inflected by quite radically different responses to this issue.

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

In a way though the comparisons are fascinating. In the US south you have some aspects that are not entirely dissimilar to unionist rule – as well as a sort of competing national identity to US national identity. There’s civil rights movements in both polities though significant dissimilarities between both at least as regards outcomes sought (on the part of some).

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13. tomasoflatharta - June 20, 2020

Are both wings in favour of the DPRK (North Korea) WP which does not treat critics lightly? That’s an issue which requires an open and democratic debate. It is related to Chinese Government monstrous human rights abuses in Hong Kong, and the suppression of the Uyghur Muslim Minority.

Comrades will be very scared about raising awkward issues, when this background exists :

Kim Yo Jong, the supreme leader’s sister, recently called critics of the DPRK WP “human scum little short of wild animals who betrayed their own homeland”. That’s the sort of no-nonsense lecture Seán Garland revelled in.

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alanmyler - June 20, 2020

Poor attempt at trolling. Must try harder.

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tomasoflatharta - June 20, 2020

Here is a definition of trolling “Trolling is defined as creating discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community. Basically, a social media troll is someone who purposely says something controversial in order to get a rise out of other users.” Or a definition of ways to avoid a relevant question. Readers can judge for themselves! https://thesaurus.plus/img/synonyms/201/avoid_answering.png

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14. CL - June 20, 2020
15. roddy - June 20, 2020

There never was a “natural” WP constituency in West Belfast.They failed to get a single councillor elected there since 1977 and they only made it that year because of a perceived “Republicanism” lingering in the depths of the party somewhere.PBP would face the same fate if they even gave a hint of going down the WP road on the RUC,prisoners or troubles history in general Also there was a time among establishment media outlets and commentators where PBP was “the great white hope” that would wrest the area from SF.This was down to “Anybody but SF”(not some Damascus like conversion to socialism).Unfortunately for them SF holds 5 of the 6 assembly seats and an overwhelming majority of the council seats for the area.I nterestingly,PBP attitudes to policing and related issues are never highlighted in the media as they would not conform to the views of the establishment hacks promoting PBP as the “nice” alternative to the nasty shinners . Also interesting that WP got involved with “Feile” a highly successful festival which was started by Gerry Adams.Although the organisers would be overwhelmingly SF,other groups were encouraged to take part.I wonder if the shoe had been on the other foot would SF ever have been allowed within a mile of it!.

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Pangurbán - June 20, 2020

Roddy what are pbp attitudes to policing and other issues? Are they home grown or sent by the franchise owners in GB?

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pettyburgess - June 20, 2020

I realise that their opponents love the idea that PBP is controlled ultimately by the British SWP, but that just isn’t the case. The various sister groups of the British SWP used to march more or less in lockstep with it. That relationship broke down over the last decade and a half. And so the various constituent parts of the IST have been implementing very different and indeed straightforwardly opposed strategies for a long time now and the British SWP has lost the ability to significantly influence their line.

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

I’ve always figured it was more commonality of purpose than outright / open control but that does raise a question can you think of examples where the sister groups might diverge even a bit in an issue and if so what issues?

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pettyburgess - June 20, 2020

The most obvious issue is the most basic one of what kind of party to build. The Brit SWP gave up its brief experiments in broadness 15 yrs ago (Socialist Alliance, Respect) and went back to building “the revolutionary party”. The Irish very much did not. The Greeks are in favour of joint parties/alliances with other revolutionary groups but very hostile to broad parties involving reformists etc. The Germans are enthusiasts for Die Linke and are positioned as constructive critics within that very much reformist party and do not associate themselves with the harder left oppositionalists in it etc etc. These divergences have gone way past the point of being local tactical adaptations of the same underlying strategy. Basically the Brits lost their leadership and coordination role and the others now do what they want, although of course they all still share a lot of theoretical / historical beliefs.

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Pangurbán - June 20, 2020

So how would you explain the rush by the Irish SWP dignitaries to support the British SWPin the comrade delta rape cover up.

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pettyburgess - June 20, 2020

I’d describe it as awful stupidity. But in this context it’s relevance is that it’s the incident that essentially ended the ability of the Brits to exercise leadership over the IST. Even the groups that backed them (and the Irish did not in the end, as a result of a revolt in the lower leadership tiers) could see what a huge mess they made. The big split they suffered also cost them a lot of resources and trying to rebuild absorbed their attention in the years afterwards, limiting both their interest in and capacity to meddle abroad.

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16. irishelectionliterature - June 20, 2020

There was a group in the North that went with DL , indeed stood as New Agenda initially. Did they go back to the WP after the DL merger with Labour or go on to become another group?

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Joe - June 20, 2020

afaik they disbanded in the north after the merger with Labour down here. I guess members went their own individual ways but they didn’t become another group afaik.

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

Yeah, they definitely didn’t go back to the WP.

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17. alanmyler - June 20, 2020

Does Garibaldy still follow the CLR? It would be informative to have his take on the situation I would imagine. Or maybe best not to thrash it out in public? I’m not sure, I think it might be useful, the cleansing effect of shining light onto the issues in the open. Perhaps I’m being naive. It just seems we’re seeing one side of the unfortunate division here and there’s nobody qualified to counter the claims being made by that side.

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

True. It would be useful.

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Colm B - June 20, 2020

I know Gavin and Alan have given their analysis of the split and fair dues to them for being open about what’s happened. It would be good to see documents from both sides, outlining their political positions if such exist.
I’ve no sympathy, politically, with the WP’s politics which I regard as orthodox communist (Stalinist if you prefer) but once groups split the various segments can quickly developed in surprising directions – see the recent three-way split in the Irish SP. So Im always hopeful that eventually a split will lead in a progressive direction for at least part of an organisation. Obviously this is all eye of the beholder stuff, as my progress is someone else’s degeneration. Hopefully we will be able to get a more detailed picture once we see the different political positions outlined clearly.

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tomasoflatharta - June 20, 2020

Good comment

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18. roddy - June 20, 2020

When you are dealing with a political entity whose very existence is in dispute,thinking it can be resolved by “uniting workers ” inside an illegitimate state is hogwash.Reference was made to the US.The existance of the US as an entity was never in question.By the logic of some ,the Palestinian question could be resolved by “uniting ” Palestinian and Israeli workers. Try telling that to the PLO.

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WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2020

And the trajectory of civil rights in the north underscores that. The Republican movement(s) were always conflicted about what and where an end point to that lay – end of stormont, direct rule, power sharing, a UI?

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19. roddy - June 20, 2020

Pangurban,I have never once heard PBP calling for support for the PSNI for example.

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20. tomasoflatharta - June 20, 2020

“The splitters, called the NI Business Committee, are 60/70 year old veterans, part of the Workers Party’s so-called ‘PLC machine’ whose careers with the WP go back to the early 1970’s. The ‘PLC Machine’ is run by a well known activist, with something of a fearsome reputation, by the name of Seamus Harrison.The ‘PLC Machine’ is a fancy way of referring to the Workers Party’s portfolio of bars and businesses, some as far away as San Francisco, that were built up over the years courtesy of scams like building site tax rackets, as well as drink licence permits discretely arranged by the Northern Ireland Office in the days when OIRA was regarded by HMG as an acceptable alternative to the Provos.“. https://thebrokenelbow.com/2020/06/20/whos-who-of-wp-split-emerges-gerry-adams-brother-in-law-on-the-outs/

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Enzo - June 20, 2020

Walter Mitty writing that blog by the looks of it!

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Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 21, 2020

As usual, Ed Moloney has his facts in the blender. Not my words but an accurate factual assessment:

BEGINS

“‘They (Grainger & McDermott) wanted some kind of reform of structures etc and from what I was told this seemed to threaten some who control the more murkier financial operations. So the allegations of neo- unionism etc are mere cover for the protection of interests.’”

Incorrect.

Unfortunately, the Ard Comhairle does not have many “interests” to protect; to my knowledge they are almost all gone or controlled by Harrison.

Grainger and McDermott are and remain very closely aligned with Harrison. They have all left the WP together having collectively refused to register with the Head Office.

The allegations of neo-unionism are a genuine political difference; ordinary members have resigned in dribs and drabs over the last few years over Business Committee statements. On the other hand the Business Committee see the Ard Comhairle as too republican or soft on nationalism and have said so repeatedly.

The bit about McCorry – not McCurry – is also garbled. In fact it was McCorry who questioned Harrison regarding “interests” and opposed Grainger’s and McDermott’s political line.

Together these led to him being shafted – the P45 as it is delicately put – by Harrison earlier in the year, but – and it is a big but – not from the WP itself.

He remains a member of both the WP and the Ard Comhairle. Indeed, his treatment at the hands of Business Committee and their friend galvanised support from the Ard Comhairle for him, as it was felt that the revival in Dublin, modest as it may be, would not have occurred without his support, especially after Garland’s death. I would venture to suggest that respect and support for McCorry within the WP is very high.

So the headline, referring to the WP, that McCorry is on the way out manages to get the situation completely backwards.

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2020

I too found that difficult to follow that account. It seemed to me that almost all the people named, bar the exception you point to, were on the same ‘side’ as it were rather than being at odds with each other.

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21. CL - June 20, 2020

“Nor could many people have foreseen the public expression of nationalist politics in recent Party media statements”
(‘Enough is Enough’ open letter, from ‘Business Section’.)

“This faction has used increasingly undemocratic methods to impose its will, in an effort to shift the Party away from socialist republicanism and working class engagement, and towards sect-like isolationism, and pro-unionist politics.”- (Statement from WP Ard-Comhairle.)

Behind the tedious, bureaucratic in-fighting perhaps there is a more fundamental tension; between assertions that unionism, and imperialism, can be progressive, and the more dominant nationalist tendency that in a colonial and post-colonial situation nationalism can be a progressive force.

So the latest split has an echo of previous splits.

Not that it matters much since the WP quite a while ago adopted a ‘left’ revisionist stance, lost working class support, and finding itself on the ‘wrong side of history’, now is desperately seeking relevance by making overtures to left alternatives.

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22. Dekkard - June 20, 2020

From talking to people it appears to boil down to people 3/4 yrs in the party getting rid of people 40s yrs in the Sticks.

New crowd want to reclaim the ORM position and capitalise on the wave of nationalism/Republicanism that young people are supporting.

Lots of very emotive and divisive invective going back and forth. Fences won’t be mended. Very sad end to some people’s lifes activism

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Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 21, 2020

Interesting theory but the opposite side include people with 40 and 50 years in the sticks, including Michael Donnelly, Mickey McCorry, Seamus McDonagh, Joe Dowds and previously Sean Garland among many others.

The actual demographic tendency is essentially people who want to change it up and see if the Workers’ Party can have relevance to building socialism, and people who would rather the party die than change.

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Colm B - June 21, 2020

Some of the Ard Comhairle critique of the Business Committee is very similar to ORMs reasons for leaving in 1998 and not just the socialist republican Vs unionism theme. The ORM also criticised the Belfast leadership as only interested in protecting their business interests, “WP PLC” etc.

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Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 21, 2020

Indeed that is true Colm B. But the analysis read it as a cynical ploy:

“New crowd want to reclaim the ORM position and capitalise on the wave of nationalism/Republicanism that young people are supporting.”

The reality is that there is a similarity in the line because there were similar experiences.

As per the wave of nationalism – I’m not even slightly nationalist, and anyone who was thought it was more important than socialism would hardly join the WP when they could go to SF or any number of other offers.

However, the national question is now more open than it has been in nearly 100 years.

Brexit has made the border increasingly awkward economically and politically.

Then Covid came along and demonstrated how dangerous having no ability to set reasonable travel restrictions in a pandemic can be.

The elite in England aren’t that pushed anymore about holding on to the North and the demographic is ever shifting towards a majority who would be happy with unification.

All of these things point towards the constitutional question becoming live. This isn’t just a sentiment of young people grasping on to nationalism, it’s a material reality.

There is still a sectarian log-jam in the political system in the north and re-unification could spark serious unrest from loyalists in a period of increasing world-wide instability and economic decline. So it isn’t as though the way forward is not fraught with dangers. It isn’t clear precisely what strategy to take in terms of stages either.

However, the nettle must be grasped, the way forward has to be discussed and suggestions about how we do so have to be something we can talk about.

The BC would not entertain *any* discussion which might provoke entry into the national question. They would literally throw any kind of random procedural grenade in before they’d be willing to talk about it.

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tafkaGW - June 22, 2020

The split doesn’t really interest me much.

But I agree with you Gavin that the question of the border and the the status of the North of Ireland will be unavoidable and likely to be central to a be inextricable from the working out of a chance of a radical change on the island. Which is desperately needed.

And I share you’re distaste for nationalisms outside of a clearly anti-colonial context.

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23. roddy - June 21, 2020

That “left revisionism” that peaked for a period in the 80s(WP,Kemmy etc) was an aberration.I often put the “H block test” down as a marker ie where would a TD have stood on the H block question and I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of those in todays Dail to the left of Labour would have been on the side of Bobby Sands and his comrades.A prime example of revisionism being ditched is Clare Daly(now an MEP ) addressing a bloody sunday rally and referencing Bobby Sands within weeks of ditching the only still revisionist party -the SP.

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CL - June 21, 2020

The ‘left’ revisionist influence on WP ideology of say, just to mention two, Paul Bew and Henry Patterson, cannot, I believe, be denied.

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24. roddy - June 21, 2020

Just scanned “lost revolution” and got a taste of the absolute insanity regarding the north within sections of the WP in late 70s early 80s.Lynch claiming 79 Westminster election would put them in a position of near leadership of those outside the unionist partys.They polled 1%.Brennan claiming places like Bangor were going to be new bastions of support.(Bangor is one place that would easily hold the description “British as Finchley and they would have not even had 1 member there let alone a voter )

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2020

Interesting how many people left at that point and then as the hunger strikes came into focus a year or so later. Those really were defining years.

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Colm B - June 21, 2020

The revisionism was primarily pushed by the Harris/Research Section faction. Paterson, Bew etc. were only intellectual decoration who provided sophisticated Marxist icing for the crude economistic cake baked by Harris/Smullen. In fact the Harris factions growing influence is what made the WP attractive to Bew, Patterson, ex-BICO people etc.
The old republican leadership went along with it because their (understandable, because of the feuds) hatred of the Provos overwhelmed their suspicion of the Harris faction. They also lacked ideological confidence and looked to “intellectuals” to provide detailed ideological lines: Johnson, Coughlan etc in the late 60s, Harris in the late 70s/80s. Of course revisionism also made the party more acceptable in the South, making a milder liberal version attractive to the up and coming WP TDs in the 80s as well.
I think we should distinguish between revisionism and revulsion towards the PIRA’s armed campaign which, in my experience as a WP activist in the 80s, was widespread in working class communities in Dublin at least. The party tapped into this successfully, if cynically, given the existence of Group B etc.
With the benefit of hindsight strongly opposing the PIRAs armed campaign while not drifting into revisionism would have been a very difficult balancing act for any organisation, not to mention one as flawed as the WP. But it’s easy to makes judgements from the distance and safety of today ( and that of course would go for an analysis of SF and the PIRA at that time).

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2020

“I think we should distinguish between revisionism and revulsion towards the PIRA’s armed campaign which, in my experience as a WP activist in the 80s, was widespread in working class communities in Dublin at least. The party tapped into this successfully, if cynically, given the existence of Group B etc.”

Completely agree. And in the late 70s too. It’s difficult I think for people to grasp at this remove but in Kilbarrack for example when I went to National School at the time fo the La Mon bombing our national school teacher at the time, a GAA player from TIpp, FFer, etc, put the newspaper photos of the burned bodies on the notice board in the class. And this was true of many other classes. There were no complaints at all.

And another point that’s crucial to keep in mind is that when asked what party people supported it was almost 100% FF in the class. I suspect it changed a bit post-hunger strikes, but on functional levels, votes etc, it was still pretty lock solid FF. Hardly radical republican. And then the other dynamic is that for many people it was the party policies on more material issues of relevance, housing, work etc that gave it support. The north tended not to come up on doors anywhere near as much as people might think (I’d even argue there was a societal aversion to it, which was not a good thing).Or to put it another way, from this point in time people can strongly overemphasise the North as a day to day issue in the political practice not just of the WP but of the state as a whole when in fact in both instances there were (perceived and actual) much more immediate issues of concern. I see Village is talking about an IT journalist at the moment who was connected with the WP, but I remember as a party member going through the IT in vain for mention of the WP week after week and being delighted when there was reference. Whatever about the efforts to do down the Provos or more vaguely republicanism in general the WP was still very very marginal in that medium. And it was far from the only force hostile to republicanism. FF’s orientation, FG etc, Labour too would all in varying measures have been not dissimilar. In a way the problem with the WP adding to this was the cynicism you rightly point to re its own past and certain groups. But wasn’t the IT as EWI here will attest) not neutral in this, hardly to be expected to be, and always going to be fairly implacably opposed to republicanism, at least the more militant varieties by dint of being middle class, filled to the rafters with FF/FG/LP types etc. I think there’s a simplification on the part of some that absent the WP there would have been a more friendly attitude to say SF or republicanism or whatever in the media. I’m not entirely convinced. Maybe a bit more in RTÉ but not a lot more. And little or none in the IT.

“With the benefit of hindsight strongly opposing the PIRAs armed campaign while not drifting into revisionism would have been a very difficult balancing act for any organisation, not to mention one as flawed as the WP. ”

I think that would have presented the only sensible course for them. But as you say incredibly difficult – for example, how to work on platforms, civil rights issues etc, with PSF members. I think the feuds though coloured things to the degree that was impossible emotionally for many in the party.

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2020

Actually just on that last, you know me, I’d have been very much in the Gregory camp (with criticisms) in the decade before his untimely passing, but his views were shaped sharply by the feuds and he detested the WP, and I know people in the WP who loathed him similarly. Unpicking that is almost impossible.

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Colm B - June 21, 2020

I agree that the reasons for the rise of the WP in urban working class areas of the South was almost totally to do with the party’s local campaigning and broad positions on material issues. Also the hostility to PIRAs armed campaign amongst much of the population dovetailed with the social aversion to talking about the North.
The assiduous attention to bread and butter issues/campaigns allowed the party to carry positions that were definitely not popular, for good or bad reasons, such as the pro-Soviet positions etc. because voters weren’t aware of them or just didn’t care.

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2020

Yes, that last was an intriguing one. Definitely a mixture of both of the reasons you describe – though the party was quite astute in not making too much of it on doorsteps etc. Every year though, regular as clockwork at the Ard Fheis there’d be the mention in the media of the fraternal delegates from far flung states.

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EWI - June 21, 2020

In a way the problem with the WP adding to this was the cynicism you rightly point to re its own past and certain groups. But wasn’t the IT as EWI here will attest) not neutral in this, hardly to be expected to be, and always going to be fairly implacably opposed to republicanism, at least the more militant varieties by dint of being middle class, filled to the rafters with FF/FG/LP types etc.

I think any WP member campaigning on or airing anything in the party’s platform other than the desired anti-Provo and anti-Catholic Church views would not have lasted long at the IT, from everything apparent in that newspaper’s traditional politics – which haven’t fundamentally changed in the past hundred years. Gageby was a wild outlier.

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EWI - June 21, 2020

(and anti-FF, needless to say?)

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25. CL - June 21, 2020

“In fact the Harris factions growing influence is what made the WP attractive to Bew, Patterson, ex-BICO people etc.
The old republican leadership went along with it because their (understandable, because of the feuds) hatred of the Provos overwhelmed their suspicion of the Harris faction. They also lacked ideological confidence and looked to “intellectuals” to provide detailed ideological lines: Johnson, Coughlan etc in the late 60s, Harris in the late 70s/80s.”-Colm B.

The Irish Industrial Revolution seems derived from Bill Warren’s book on imperialism which saw imperialism as a progressive force.
The Johnson, Coughlan influence also raises the question of Marxism in an Irish historical contest.
Ellen Hazelkorn wrote some articles arguing that Marx’s view on Ireland were not really ‘marxist’, that he was influence too much by green republicanism. To counter this position we have Marx’s, and Engels’, extensive writings on Ireland.
An intellectual contortion of Marxism has led the WP into a political cul de sac; hence inevitable tensions leading to the latest split

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Colm B - June 21, 2020

Haven’t heard of Bill Warren’s book, I’d always presumed that Harris lifted most of his revisionist ideas from the BICO. However that would explain his analysis of multinationals as objectively progressive cos they industrialised Ireland, created a new working class etc.

Don’t think Harris had many original ideas but he was good a simplifying them and selling them. Still does, though he now trades in repackaging alt-right rubbish.

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CL - June 21, 2020

“Bill Warren (1935–1978) was a British Communist, originally a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and later a contributor to New Left Review.[1][2] In his last years he was a member of the British and Irish Communist Organisation.[3]
(Wiki)

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Colm B - June 21, 2020

Good old Wikipedia: I see Warren was a BICO ideologue. I’d always presumed that Clifford was their main thinker.

Thanks for that info CL, it confirms my view of Harris as an ideological magpie, picking up stuff here and there and bringing it back to the WP nest.
His and his followers trajectory has similarities to Furedi and the RCP. I’ve said it before on CLR but there’s a great book there on the history of the Harris group from its origin in early 70s until today. Come on Brian Hanley!

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CL - June 21, 2020

Possible title:

‘Revisionist Marxism in Ireland;
How the bourgeoisie misled the working class. and subverted revolution.’

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Colm B - June 21, 2020

Or maybe less ambitiously “Revisionist Stalinism in the Worker’s Party, how a bourgeois chancer
misled the members and subverted revolution”

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EWI - June 21, 2020

His and his followers trajectory has similarities to Furedi and the RCP.

Very many. I see that Johnson is staffing his new commission on racism with one Munira Mirza, an RCP/Spiked! personality who has built her career on being an Asian woman who claims that racial discrimination doesn’t exist. I suppose we are expected to pretend surprise when she eventually concludes that the various non-Anglo groups are the real, (reverse-)racists.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/15/munira-mirza-pms-nonsense-detector-who-has-attacked-racism-claims

In the US I think the nearest Harris analogue is David Horowitz, who is rolling around in the dirt with neofascists these days.

I’ve said it before on CLR but there’s a great book there on the history of the Harris group from its origin in early 70s until today. Come on Brian Hanley!

Someone really needs to commission Brian to have a g go If we’re doing fantasy ‘Get Brian Hanley to do a book’, then my vote is for a study of County Clare in the Irish revolution. Apparently the county is being left out of the Four Courts series in honour of Fitzpatrick’s ‘Life and Irish Politics 1913-21’. A wag might suggest that after forty years, maybe this is a book which itself richly deserves revising, given how much of a foundation-stone it was to a certain tendency.

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sonofstan - June 21, 2020

Not really connected, but this line reminded me of something:
“arguing that Marx’s view on Ireland were not really ‘marxist'”

I got an email from a data analytics firm somewhere offering a “computational model of Marx’s theory of value” – one that would correct the errors in Marx’s own conclusions. 🙂

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26. roddy - June 21, 2020

A lot of stuff to comment on here.WBS ,with regard to the Fianna “going out of control in the 70s”,I remember a very interesting conversation with a former member in the late 70s.I had known him from schooldays and he was a committed Official.To my surprise he turned up at a H block march and told me had been away from anything political for a couple of years.He had joined the Fianna at the start of the troubles and engaged in activity which was mostly of a background nature but if he had been caught would have resulted in jail.This “background ” activity continued until one day out of the blue circa 1977 he was suddenly told he was now in something called “the Irish democratic youth movement”.He said “they couldnt even mention the word “Republican” anymore” and I told —— ——– he could stick the membership card up his arse”.With regard to WP making inroads in the South,it is my belief that any group with similar policies on economic issues could have made inroads had they been in first.IE Matt Merrigans SLP could have easily captured that vote had they organised in time and would certainly not have had to adopt a neo unionist position to do so.Again when the BBC spotlight programme emerged ,one WP councillor said people in Finglas didnt give a damn if OIRA existed as long as political work was being done there

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Colm B - June 21, 2020

I think there was an element of luck there alright but there was a few other factors involved:
The WP had a big tranche of seasoned and disciplined cadre, who had come of age in the tougher mileu of republicanism as opposed to the fractured grouplets that made up the SLP.
At the beginning of the 80s, the class composition of the grassroots of the WP was overwhelmingly working class so it’s members were part of the communities they were working in.
The WP cadres at that level at least we’re disciplined and what we could call “on-message” today, projecting a serious and unified image.
Ironically, in many ways you could say much the same about the rise of SF in the South over the last 20 years or so.

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2020

“At the beginning of the 80s, the class composition of the grassroots of the WP was overwhelmingly working class so it’s members were part of the communities they were working in.”

Very much my experience too. And as you say, that’s true of SF today in a lot of communities.

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27. roddy - June 21, 2020

Also anyone thinking neo unionism has’nt been well and truly ditched should remember that its instigators in BICO have even turned full circle on the national question.

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2020

Isn’t it strange how little that particular fact is referred to. But you’re absolutely correct.

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Colm B - June 21, 2020

WP Ard Comhairle has issued another statement on WP website on the split but still no discussion of the politics involved, it’s all about procedure, bureaucratic wrangling.

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alanmyler - June 21, 2020

Thanks for that Colm. The statement is here:

https://workersparty.ie/business-committee-acting-as-separate-party/

I suppose it’s better than the alternatives that this is thrashed out online rather than in other ways, but it’s still hard to read this stuff.

I’d like to see a proper debate about the politics of this rather than this procedural stuff. The discussion here on that subject, from non and ex members of the party, has been a huge step up on what we’ve seen from either side in this so far.

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Pangurbán - June 21, 2020

When one of the expellees is a QC it’s wise to be proceduraly heavy: it may not give much entertainment to outside spectators though:

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Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 21, 2020

They fact is that they don’t want to have a debate about the politics within the party because they were quite sure they would not get their way.

Which is why they undertook to create a crisis by with-holding information about the membership in the north. This makes any sort of accounting for an AF impossible. How can things be decided if you don’t even know what the membership of the party is? It’s the first and most basic step of democracy.

The management committee asked, then begged, then had a report made by the CEC, then when the report was passed by the overwhelming majority of the CEC, including a majority of the CEC members from NI, they still plainly refused to give the details of the membership.

You can have political discussion out, but only if people are willing to meet you half way and have the discussion in the first place. If all they can do is sabotage the normal functioning of the party when they don’t get their way, you aren’t left with much choice.

I’d be interested to know how else you can deal with a refusal to send any details of the membership to head office (no e-mails, no phones, much less registration forms or funds – nothing).

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2020

Can I ask a question that strikes me reading all this. What are the short, medium and long term goals of the BC group? Is it that the WP would be more akin to those parties you mention above (which I’d also agree are marginal) and effectively retreat from an electoral function? Did they/do they intend to start up a new formation entirely? Did they hope to sway the party as is or at least halt any changes within it? Or run a parallel org alongside the WP? It’s just that given that people north and south support the AC line seemingly to a greater extent than the BC line what was the idea?

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Podge - June 22, 2020

I’ve suspected they want to move in a direction similar to the British Democratic Left that came out of the CPGB, basically a social democratic think-tank.

Plenty of JRF funding for taking that path.

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WorldbyStorm - June 22, 2020

Thanks, that’s an interesting thought.

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alanmyler - June 22, 2020

I’d say, knowing those in the BC, that becoming a social democratic anything is highly highly unlikely to happen!

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Colm B - June 22, 2020

Podge’s comment doesn’t make sense, the Business Comm faction couldn’t be both ultra-tankies as Gavin indicated (links with the crazy New Communist Party in UK etc) and social democrats at the same time.
The problem with polemics during splits is that people often characterise their opponents as representing all the boogeymen of that particular tradition. Also in the heat of a split, people tend to exaggerate differences just to differentiate themselves clearly.
So far, I do perceive a clear, though exaggerated, difference over the national question between the two sides but I get the feeling that a lot of this is about the old guard in the North being just unhappy with business as usual being disturbed by the influx of new members in the South. Oh and Gavin with his new-fangled Kautskian ideas and the like!
Wow, never thought I’d get to write “Kautsky” and “new-fangled” in the same sentence.

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WorldbyStorm - June 22, 2020

It’s funny, I was reading that not so much in terms of the ‘social democrat’ side which seems unlikely (though I see there were complaints about the BC being an ultra-left centre with a sort of social democrat exterior), so much as the think tank idea or ginger group, something I’d heard once or twice in relation to directions the WP could go if it wasn’t able to function on the electoral level.

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Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 22, 2020

As surprising as it is Colm B. These things can be true, and I mentioned it in my initial post.

When I joined the party, I was surprised to see that the manifesto for the north was calling for placid social democratic demands but also called for greater supports for small businesses.

Now I’m not saying there is never a strategic sense in trying to make alliance with petty-bourgeois forces, but it’s a little hard to justify this as uncompromising proletarian communism.

The strange thing about ultra-leftism and meek social democracy is that they aren’t actually as far apart as they look on the spectrum. If things really can’t be changed at all without total revolution, then very meek changes are all you should be expecting. The lack of transformative dimension is what unites them.

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Podge - June 22, 2020

The coming together of Albanian level anti-revisionists and social-democrats is a strange alliance of people alright, but the waning influence of both within the leadership of the party pushed them together.

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28. entdinglichung - June 22, 2020

hope that it will not turn violent … does the “PLC stuff” include ownership of properties?

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Joe - June 22, 2020

I share your hope. Jeebus, it would be sickening if it did turn any way violent.

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E - June 22, 2020

I guess you could call the dissenters the new Group B(ars).. bad joke.. yes hopefully the PPWs wouldn’t be dusted down and used..

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Colm B - June 22, 2020

Thankfully this is unlikely. My understanding is that a lot of the OIRAs weapons were destroyed when the ORM side decommissioned theirs a few years ago and I have seen no recent reports, even in hostile media, about armed activity by WP members or supporters. The reality is that, even if the capacity for such activity existed, whereas in the 80s the British state turned a blind eye to illegal or armed activity by the WP who were seen as a thorn in the side of the Provos, no such tolerance would be forthcoming today.
I hold no candle for either side of this split and my conception of socialism is completely different to theirs but I don’t wish ill on them as people and I hope they go their different ways with nothing more than harsh words.

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WorldbyStorm - June 22, 2020

Surely at this point the number of properties would be counted on the fingers of one hand? Isn’t there a club in Belfast but what else is there? it’s a long time since there was a sense of the WP as flush with money.

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Joe - June 22, 2020

I think there was a reference to ‘clubs’ plural in one of the documents from one side or the other of this split. In some discussion, here or on FB, I read someone saying the clubs don’t belong to the Party but to the club members. Anyway I’ve no idea what property the Workers’ Party has or who has effective control of same. But wouldn’t it be sensible for the WP to have no property – a party of no property for the people of no property?

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29. Jolly Red Giant - June 22, 2020

Is roddy still spouting shite about the Socialist Party?

To make the point once again – the Socialist Party supported the five demands of the hunger strikers – the Socialist Party opposed the use of the hunger strike campaign by republicans for sectarian purposes – despite all the crowing by left republicans, only one trade union on this island supported the five demands, NIPSA, and the union did so on the basis of a motion to its annual conference proposed by members of the Socialist Party and supported by the overwhelming number of conference delegates, Catholic and Protestant.

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tomasoflatharta - June 22, 2020

“In the minds of most workers in Northern Ireland, H-Block has become a sectarian issue. Views are now sharply polarised. This is because of the totally sectarian manner in which it has been raised during the campaign of the National H-Block Committee. Leaders of these bodies have, from start to finish, called only for “the unity of the Nationalist community”. Bernadette McAliskey, having completely discarded her socialist roots, has even stated that the one positive thing that will emerge from the hunger strike is the “unity of the Catholic population against Britain”. https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/hadden/1981/05/hblock.html. The author is Peter Hadden. Enough said.

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Jolly Red Giant - June 22, 2020

And 100% accurate

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30. Paddy Healy - June 22, 2020

I have received the following message just now:
Hello Paddy, you are right the majority of Workers Party members in the North have left the party, or are in the process of doing so. The entire branches in Derry City, South Derry, Tyrone and North Antrim support the business committee and are leaving. The Dublin leadership are reforming branches in Belfast but there are only a handful of people in each including former members who had been expelled.

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Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 22, 2020

I’m not usually one to agree with Roddy, but in this case he’s right. Derry city and Tyrone branches collapsed before I even joined the party 6 years ago. There are no more than a handful in North Antrim. The Branches in Belfast are not “being reformed”, they are pre-existing branches aside from one which is new.

It’s a little surprising to lie so blatantly like this as anyone who lives in Derry must surely know that the WP have no presence.

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31. roddy - June 22, 2020

The South Derry branch (all 5 of them) can be interviewed outside a couple of post offices on pension day if anybody wants an update.

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Joe - June 22, 2020

Roddy! Is that a blatantly ageist comment? I’m disappointed in you.
Also… this talk of former members being welcomed back into the fold. Would you be tempted at all?

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32. roddy - June 22, 2020

I am exempt from the “ageist” allegation as I am over 60 myself and the only “fold” that I am going to enter is the “sheltered housing” type!

Liked by 1 person

33. Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 22, 2020

WBS: “Can I ask a question that strikes me reading all this. What are the short, medium and long term goals of the BC group?”

This is something that had me pretty confused for a long time. They don’t seem to have any medium or long term goals at all. The short term goals are just doing the normal sorts of activities that they are used to.

Now that might be wrong, but if there were goals, they were definitely not made very apparent. Virtually nothing was ever put forward by them – only proposals shot down.

A case in point, when they did put forward Brexit, they didn’t do so with any *strategy* connected to it. There was no discussion of how we would deal with the consequences, or how we would argue the case. There was no idea of “the next step”.

Now, I can understand how those in the UK trade union movement and CPB saw Brexit as a way to put the working class back in the drivers-seat by ditching the onerous constraints imposed by the ordo-liberal EU straight-jacket. A country of 70 million people re-industrialising after the rise of a hard-left Labour government is in fact a real strategy – there is a clear logic here whether you agree with it or not.

However, in Ireland, and particularly the North, one has to see that this immediately opens the national question. If you’re a closet-unionist, it’s a very unusual stance to take.

I warned at a meeting of the AC which I was invited to, that there would be consequences in re-opening the national question should Brexit be successful, and that this was likely to help nationalists such as Sinn Fein. Those who developed into the BC faction had literally no response.

Now let me make plain: there isn’t just one clear answer here. Calling for unitary republic is one. But you could for instance call for Ireland to rejoin the UK. How realistic getting the Irish voting public to go for this, I wouldn’t venture to guess. But at least this would constitute a strategy!

However, the material factor also comes into it. There was a strange alliance here and not all of it is political. Those non-political factors simply can’t be expressed in political terms because they don’t make any sense. Some of the people in the BC knot are more “republican” than anyone in the other faction. They share material interests and make political alliances which suit those.

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34. Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 22, 2020

WBS: “Is it that the WP would be more akin to those parties you mention above (which I’d also agree are marginal) and effectively retreat from an electoral function?”

Possibly, but even this seems too great a change from the status quo. They did a lot of electioneering in the last 5 years – probably too much – and not starting at the beginning in trying to actually be involved in campaigns.

“Did they/do they intend to start up a new formation entirely?”

They had a ready-made body for a split as they’d already began arrogating powers of the CEC to the BC. They have been functioning as a separate party for months, issuing international statements and political statement about the republic with no oversight from the CEC.

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35. Joe - June 22, 2020

Ok. So far we’ve had Albanian level anti-revisionists and social-democrats, Brezhnevite geriatrics, sectism and political isolationism. Also, internally anti-republican, ultra-left Marxist-Leninists but externally, vague social democratic unionists.
I think we can definitely say after all that that they’re a terrible shower of gobaloons altogether. A fright to behold.
I only wish one of the gobaloons (aka apparently a decent majority of the WP membership in the north) would come on here and explain themselves. Ah go on, ye will, ye will, ye will.

Liked by 2 people

36. Paddy Healy - June 23, 2020

I have read the statement of the President of the Workers’ Party, in which he advocates voting for Brexit in the UK referendum. He makes valid criticisms of the ultra-capitalist EU and advocates a yes vote on a left wing basis. I agree with his criticisms but not with his conclusion. Marxists see political developments as a process. If a workers revolt (strikes demonstrations etc) forced a government to hold a referendum on withdrawal from EU, voting yes would be correct. But the UK referendum arose from right-wing pressure within the Conservative party. The leading British advocates of “yes”, favour an even more right wing version of capitalism than exists within the EU. Some established commentators say that Johnson wants to put in place a huge low tax, low regulation paradise for capitalists in the UK. Voting with these advocates is clearly wrong.
Does anybody know what position the Business Committee took on the Brexit Referendum?

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alanmyler - June 23, 2020

I believe pro-Brexit although I’m open to correction on that, I had a lot going on elsewhere at the time and wasn’t paying much attention to it.

Click to access lexit-the-socialist-case-for-voting-leave.pdf

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tafkaGW - June 23, 2020

I’m with you there entirely Paddy.

For the reasons you give.

I also consider the European Parliament to be a site of useful contestation and representation in combination with popular movements. Sometimes more useful that national parliaments.

How will the daylight robbery of the corporation tax from EU citizens by RoI, Netherlands, Luxemburg etc be stopped? Presumably not at the national level.

How might the systematic theft of our data by the US tech giants nominally headquarted in RoI be prevented? Certainly not through the Irish Data Protection Authority. Unless their arm is twisted from a European Parliament level.

National responses to the climate emergency make little sense. And the EU is the only forum where we have a somewhat functioning context for this.

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WorldbyStorm - June 23, 2020

Did that decision re Brexit actually pass by the Ard Fheis?

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Gavin Mendel-Gleason - June 23, 2020

No, it was passed at AC, and it was stated by the now BC members that it was necessary for the comrades in the North. There really wasn’t anyone in the south that was pushing it. The BC also pulled out all the stops trying to make sure that we did not discuss it at subsequent AFs.

That said, it is not the case that there is a homogeneous opinion on the matter in the party. I’m personally quite sympathetic to the argument which was given by the CPB.

For Ireland however it wias a can of worms. Making a firm determination should require thinking strategically about how you are going to deal with the consequences.

How do we deal with economic and political borders in the wake of the decision? How do we deal with the inevitable rise of nationalism which would result and the consequent conflicts of identity in the North?

And as for Irexit – What does sovereignty mean if you aren’t large enough to constitute a significant industrial block? It’s worth remembering that the island of Ireland has a population which is half that of Moscow. When it comes to economies, differences in quantity can quickly become differences in quality.

In my opinion this is one of the most under-theorised problems of socialists today and I haven’t heard very convincing arguments about what Ireland can do strategically given these constraints from any quarters to be honest.

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - June 23, 2020

That point re the rise of nationalism(s) in the North really resonates with me. At one fell swoop it seemed to put a rocket under both unionism and republicanism. Anyhow, we’re in the post-Brexit phase now so it’s water under the bridge (kind of, sort of, kind of not), but even the simple logistical issue of being a party straddling two quite distinct jurisdictions, one in and one out of the EU seems to have been completely ignored (and moreover jurisdictions one of which was in a place where Irexit sentiment was close to nil and one where in the larger jurisdiction Brexit sentiment was in the majority but in the local jurisdiction of NI it was in the minority – arguably even amongst most of unionism).

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Jim Monaghan - June 23, 2020

“And as for Irexit – What does sovereignty mean if you aren’t large enough to constitute a significant industrial block? It’s worth remembering that the island of Ireland has a population which is half that of Moscow. When it comes to economies, differences in quantity can quickly become differences in quality.”. Very true vis a vis Ireland, even united. And to some degree true for the neighbouring country, which while much bigger than Ireland, is now a medium sized country and not an Empire.And not an oppressed country, the idea that the HQ of the City of London is somehow oppressed by German Imperialism is a joke.Britain is part of the problem. Also true for Greece, which was crucified to a far more serious degree than Ireland.
These questions seem to underlie some of the debate in the WPI. The majority of the Irish Left either follow their British confreres or dodge the question. Brexit, Irexit is not an abstract problem, it affects the strategy of a socialist alternative. My opinion is that the exit on offer from the EU is towards increased xenophobia and that the alternative is a continental wide struggle for a continental wide alternative, however utopian that sounds.
Eg nationalising Ryanair, Aer Lingus and preserving jobs is being suggested. How can this be done in the context of this state. The planes woudl be seized by their capitalist owners,outside Ireland and the ones here could only fly internally.
There is no reason why Mendel-Gleason’s remarks cannot be discussed by the entire Left. One major problem is that necessary debates like this are kept inside parties and groups.

Liked by 2 people

Pangurbán - June 23, 2020

Paddy a leading light of the BC : he of the wig drove the pro Brexit position- much to the embarrassment of many southerners, and causing one prominent Dublin member, around since the mid sixties – to resign

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37. tomasoflatharta - June 23, 2020

Thanks for posting the BC/WP pro-Brexit policy statement. Is it accurate to say that the non-BC wing of the WP is anti-Brexit?

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Paddy Healy - June 23, 2020

Are you not misunderstanding,Tomás? Alan Myler has posted the Official Workers’ Party pro-Brexit position above!

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tomasoflatharta - June 23, 2020

Thanks for the clarification Paddy.

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38. Graham Harrington - June 26, 2020

Any word how Ted Tynan and WP in Cork are leaning

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Paddy Healy - June 26, 2020

is he the only WP councillor in the 32-counties?

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Colm B - June 26, 2020

He’s the only WP councillor in the whole world!
Eilis Ryan lost their only other seat, in Dublin, at the last locals. She was elected as and independent but joined WP later.
They haven’t had a cllr. in the North since the 1990s.

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