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Left Archive: Clár: Anti-Imperialist Festival, Official Sinn Féin, 3rd August 1974. April 4, 2022

Posted by leftarchivist in Uncategorized.
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 To download the above please click on the following link.

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

This is a fascinating document that includes a letter from Tomas Mac Giolla, President of Sinn Féin, the schedule for the Festival:

I welcome all our comrades in struggle to a land which has been steeped in a long and turbulent history of struggle against imperialism.
We hope, through this Festival, to give you a true picture of the factual situation in Ireland. The distorted picture presented by the British propaganda machine is one of a backward people full of hate senseless bombing and murdering each other while the heroic British Arny stands between them to save them from each other.
You now have the opportunity to learn the truth for yourself. In the North of our country you can see Colonialism in its raw state with all its vicious, repressive apparatus of the British Army, UDR (native militia) and RUC (police). You will learn how Britain, throughout our history,deliberately created and fomented the sectarian divisions which today are still helping to keep us in subjection. In the South of our country you will see a classic neo-colonial state. All the outward-symbols of freedom exist -a constitution, a parliament, an army, a flag and an anthem. But there it ends. The real power lies in London.
You will see us as we are. You will learn of our problems and you will gain some knowledge of our methods of struggle. We are deeply in­debted to you for your great help to us in the past. We are aware that without your help in the future we cannot win. This festival is mostly about the Brotherhood of man and the common struggle against imperialist
exploitation. The struggle of the Irish people is the struggle of.the peoples of the world. Our fight is your fight. Your fight is our fight.

The Clár notes a range of events in the Festival, including,

“Analysis of Irish History”, Economic and Cultural Domination of British Imperialism in Ireland”,
“The Political Effects of British Imperialism in Ireland.”, “The role of the Irish Republican Movement:
Its History and Future”, ‘British Terror in Northern Ireland” and “The Struggles of the Irish People is the Struggle of the World”. A range of speakers were involved: Dessie O’Hagan, Malachy McGurran, Eamonn Smullen, Seamus Lynch, Mairin de Burca, Padraigh O Snodaigh. Some of the more cultural events included a play “Ulysses in Nightown”, the showing of an “Irish revolutionary film” and a “Workers Concert” as well as an exhibition. There were also tours of Kilmainham Jail, TCD and Old Dublin.

There’s also a message from Republican Prisoners which includes the following:

Greetings to you, comrades, from behind the barbed wire of Britain’s concentration camp at Long Kesh and Belfast, Armagh, Mountjoy, Portlaoise and English prisons.

We who are deprived of our freedom by British Im­perialism are encouraged by your visit. You will see the naked force of Imperialism in action. Let it not deter you from fightinq it.

Comments»

1. roddy - April 4, 2022

Where did it all go wrong!

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Colm B - April 4, 2022

Indeed.

I think there was a sweet spot that they hit sometime in the mid to early 70s which might have developed in a different direction, but for a series of processes that sent them spinning off towards short term success and long term doom.

1. The feuds with the IRSP and Provos strengthened the military wing’s political influence and distorted the organisation’s approach to the the North, British Imperialism etc. All of the participants carry blame for these awful conflicts but it had a particularly negative effect on the Officials political development.
2. The growing influence of Harris and his faction, channeled through Smullen: He cleverly manipulated the army leadership into adopting positions they probably didn’t fully agree with, by playing on the bitter emnity with the Provos. I’m not making excuses for them, they had a good idea of what a dick he was, but lacking ideological confidence and thinking that they were playing him rather than the other way around, they let him set the ideological pace from the late 70s.
3. The growing stalinistion of the army leadership – this can’t be blamed on Harris though he added his peculiar brand of statism to the mix. I think they were originally just looking for powerful allies for military and political purposes but this turned them, particularly O’Hagan and Garland, towards a fully fledged pro-Soviet position.
4. As grassroots work in the south slowly began to yield electoral reward, as often happens, it took on a momentum of its own, eventually leading to an alternative social dem faction based around councillors and TDs.

You can’t undo history but I guess it might be possible to learn from it😁

Liked by 1 person

2. roddy - April 4, 2022

Thing is there is nothing in McGiolla’s letter that I disagreed with.In fact as a teenager at that time I put up election posters for the Republican clubs and even voted for them. (How a 15/16 year old actually voted and more than once on the same day is a story for another day!)However how a movement can go from correctly calling out British imperialism to taking the view that “there is no such thing as British imperialism” within a handful of years is astounding.

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WorldbyStorm - April 4, 2022

And this as late as 1974. I wonder what year things changed so completely and utterly that the sentiments expressed here would simply not have been found? 1975 – 1977? Certainly by 1980 things had changed massively. Six years later.

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Colm B - April 4, 2022

And so the long degeneration ends up here:

Hopefully, some morning, these eejits will wake up and ask themselves why they were protesting outside Ukraine’s embassy, while they had nothing to say about Russian imperialism murdering and raping thousands.

https://m.facebook.com/WorkersPartyYouth

I guess I can’t really condemn them cos that was me in my 20s, I even enjoyed the Millwall-like in-your-face notereity, and nary a thought for those whose suffering and oppression I defended or denied. I hope when they grow up they become socialists instead of cynics.

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WorldbyStorm - April 4, 2022

But I think at the back of our minds there was a sense that all was almost a pretence, not cosplay because the party was serious on the Irish front, but very much so in ways in other areas. It was difficult in the 1980s not to realise that there were serious problems in the USSR and not just economic even if we’d defend them. I mean my low point was defending the DDRs ‘right’ to keep its citizens in, to the point of saying the state had a right to stop them leaving and by extreme means. That’s a pretty stupid thing to say by any standard and heartless in the extreme. And even as I was making that case I knew deep down it was incorrect. But there was sort of a license to say stuff like that – as you say, the Millwall vibe. Any old shite. Epater les bourgeois as they say.

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roddy - April 4, 2022

Surely you knew in your heart that their line on the North was truly “any old shite”.

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Colm B - April 4, 2022

Yes WBS, because there was a serious element to it, in that we had to engage with the views and concerns of working class communities. I never went around Sallynoggin extolling the virtues of the USSR because I knew damn well the reception I would get. I also remember that many of our working class members and supporters were bemused by the stalinist crap. And, like you, in my own mind I just couldn’t square the extreme dissonance between the principles I espoused and the reality of people’s lives in the so-called Communist countries, which I had visited on a number of occasions as part of WP delegations.

As for the North, Roddy, I think at least the 1980s intake in the south just took what the Party said at face value – that we were against violence and sectarianism, that we wanted workers to unite for socialism etc. And that view did go down well with our working class supporters. What they didn’t know and indeed many members in the south didn’t know, was the total hypocrisy of having an armed wing, of collaborating with the loyalists and British state, of the racketeering etc etc. So that took a much longer time to work out. In my case I had abandoned any trace of stalinism a few years before I left the WP but it took the unfortunate experience of total waste of time that was DL to begin to reassess my views on the North.

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WorldbyStorm - April 4, 2022

It was slightly different for me insofar as I was definitely sceptical of the party line on the north and the antagonism to marches over various injustices in the UK Birmingham rankled with me etc so it happened more quickly for me but also I’d been in and out of Belfast a lot across a good while in the mid to late 80s – nothing to do with the party – and while I thought unionists couldn’t simply be ignored or written out it was clear there was significant military and political repression in the North – but of course in the nature of events, things like Enniskillen etc would happen and even though I was pro UI it wasn’t clear how that could come about and AS seemed like this massive obstacle. The other thing was tha5 given British state repression in Britain under Thatcher it wasn’t difficult to sew the whole thin* together and feel whatever els3 British rule was a problem again even if ther was no clear future there. So yesish roddy. That said it was tricky because who else in the South with any weight was making the running on the left and that was a serious pull factor and also it was an amazing time insofar as unexpectedly the ussr was changing and there was for a while a hope something new might emerge. And while in no way starry eyed about the Soviets that was attractive in 88 and so on. Also I’d long worked out I was probably a Eurocommunist and felt a good bit if identification with the PCI and PCE and indeed parts of the CPGB. Stalinism never struck me as more than power worship and Leninism always seemed flawed so a Marxism that tried to move well beyond that was positive. All of which is to say it was a mix but there was loyalty if not to the party as actuality to the idea of the party as potential and when it became clear it was split I kind of knew what was left wasn’t going to be a welcome home for me and while I disliked much around DL it offered a way out. Little did I know that th3 obsession over the north and SF would be in some ways worse.

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