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Left Archive: The Economics of Irish Partition, Irish Communist Organisation, 2nd edition, November 1969 June 13, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Irish Communist Organisation, Irish Left Online Document Archive.

To download the above document please click on the following link: ICO ECON PART GO

Perhaps best known as the precursor of the British and Irish Communist Organisation who assumed that name around November 1971, The Irish Communist Organisation already has the following documents in the Archive,
and here. There’s also a critique in the Archive from the Cork Communist Organisation on the development of the ICO.

This is a seminal document in terms of the Irish left. First printed in January 1969, and then reprinted in November of the same year, and produced by the Irish Communist Organisation it outlined in six chapters an analysis of the Irish Partition and the economic effects of it. However, it also went on in chapters dealing with The Northern Ruling Class and The Civil Rights Movement to engage with a range of political aspects of the period it was written in.

It starts with a quote from Stalin on Theory and the Working Class Movement…

…theory, and theory alone, can give the movement confidence, the power of orientation, and an understanding of the inner relation of surrounding events; for it, and it alone, can help practice to realise not only how and in what direction classes are moving at the present time, but also how and in which direction they will move in the near future. None other than Lenin uttered and repeated scores of times the well-known thesis that: ‘Without a revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement’.

This is a long document but a few quotes will give some some sense of the arguments made in it.

It notes that:

Since THE ECONOMICS OF PARTITION was published ten months ago the correctness of its analysis of the Partition situation, and of the current crisis in Ulster, has been put beyond all doubt by the political developments in Ulster. In its main outlines the ICO analysis can no longer be denied by anybody who thinks at all. In the course of the the summer the ‘uneven development of capitalism’ explanation began to turn up even in the staunchest anti-Communist circles – notably in the Trotskyist groups – though of course no mention was made of its Stalinist origins.

It also notes that the structure of the pamphlet is in part drawn from it being a collection of three articles published in ‘The Irish Communist’ and a ‘further three added at the last moment’.

In a piece that asks “What is the Six Counties” [from 1967] it states that: Nationally, it is a part of the Irish nation. Politically, it is part of the British State. Economically – for the past century and more – the dominant industry has been a section of British capitalism (from the end of the 19th century, monopoly capitalism) which jutted into the 6 Counties.

Interestingly, in view of the Preface, in The Economics of Irish Partition Part 1 it ascribes the ‘uneven development’ concept to Peadar O’Donnell.

Peadar O’Donnell’s explanation stands out a mile from this kind of balderdash, and brings us into the world of reality (though O’Donnell, unlike our Desmond [Greaves], has never claimed to be a Marxist). “Partition arises out of the uneven development of capitalism in Ireland: sentiment won’t remove it.”

The “uneven development of capitalism in Ireland” refers to the fact that a modern industrial capitalism developed in the North in the course of the 19th century, while in the South capitalist industry declined. The real history of Ireland has been greatly obscured by religious and racial propaganda and the respective myths developed by the southern middle class and the northern industrialists.

That particular essay concludes with the idea that:

There are two bases on which a strong political movement for “unification” could arise. It could come from a strong political development of the working class in Ireland. Such a development has not occurred for various reasons. The other base would base would be a change in the relations between the dominant forms of capitalism in the North and the South. Either there could be a run-down of capital in the North or a build-up of capital in the South, (or both), bringing the two closer together. What is certain is that a unification movement based on sentiment and not grounded in some class interest would have little influence on the course of events.

In terms of future developments in ICO and BICO there are fewer hints than might be expected. However, in the Appendix on Paisleyism there is the following comment:

In this situation what is needed to serve the anti-imperialist interest is not an inflating of Paisley into a Hitler (which imperialism is doing in its own interest), but a clear exposure of what imperialism is doing. It is trying to take on an appearance which it hopes will be less easily identifiable as imperialism than Carsonism was. We must learn to identify it under its new appearance. Paisleyism is not the main enemy. The main enemy is the forces represented by O’Neill and Wilson. The forces that are now trying to represent themselves as the forces of democracy struggling against Paisley’s “Hitlerism”.

There’s an analysis of this document available here and next week we will examine a critique from the Cork Workers’ Club.

Apologies for the faint text on some pages. This is due to the quality of the original. It’s also worth noting that pages 25-28, the centre spread, are stapled in upside down on the copy this was scanned from. I’ve amended that for ease of reading.

Left Archive: Irish Communist Organisation “Crisis in the Unionist Party”, May 1969 November 29, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Communist Organisation, Irish Left Online Document Archive.


This is an useful document from the Irish Communist Organisation, of which we have this document already in the Archive.

Briefly, the ICO was, as noted here, a precursor to the British and Irish Communist Organisation. Unlike the latter group the ICO can be regarded as more orthodox in its view of partition, at least until the latter part of its existence.

This document, issued in May 1969 at a time of profound crisis in Northern Ireland.

As the document notes in its Introduction ‘The Politics of ‘Non Politics”:

There is little doubt that a vast amount of confusion exists in the working class movement in Ireland and Britain about the basis of the political crisis within the Unionist Party and the relationship of this crisis to the social upheavals of the past few months. It is equally indisputable that, to a large extent, this confusion is the direct result of the political policies of the official civil rights movement and particularly of those supposedly ‘socialist’ organisations who, together with a few small capitalists and professional people, dominate the leadership of it.

The document is particularly negative towards other left wing groupings involved in the Civil Rights Association

Why for example have representatives of the so-called ‘Communist’ Party of Northern Ireland even resigned from the Civil Rights Association in protest over the ‘intrusion’ of other varieties of bourgeois politics – as represented by the Trotskyist and Anarchist tendencies in the Peoples Democracy – into the official civil rights movement, not to mention working class politics? And why has this absolute determination to maintain the ‘non-political’ label of the civil rights movement by the sham ‘communists’ of the CPNI been vigorously applauded by another so-called revolutionary organisation, Sinn Féin (see United Irishman, March 1969). The reason is not hard to find…. during any crisis in capitalist society… the working class has a chance to free itself much more easily from bourgeois influences, taking advantage of favourable conditions to develop itself politically in the class struggle.

In the main essay, ‘The Two Faces of Unionism – the basis of Sectarianism in the North’ the document attempts to deal with ‘old’ and ‘new’ faces of Unionism. It concludes that:

…the basis for change in Unionist Party politics (and Nationalist politics too) lies in these developments; the solid business community, who, for solid business reasons, supported the fascist and sectarian policies of the Unionist Party in the past, have now become ‘democrats’ in the furtherance of the same solid business interests in a changed situation.

And it further argues that:

The crisis in the Unionist Party has arisen because certain parts of the fascist machine, erected carefully over a period of fifty years, are attempting to resist ‘democratisation’. The demagoguery of five decades is not easily neutralised, old habits die hard. But however loudly the Paisleyites may shout, however much short term support they can command, it is quite clear that they do not have the support where it counts – they do not have the support of British imperialism.

There’s more and well worth reading.

There’s also a copy of ICO’s The Economic of Partition cued up for the Archive, a document which provides a link between the ICO and BICO incarnations. Expect that early in the new year.


Also well worth reading is the following from the Cork Communist Organisation which explains in part some of the events that occurred later.

The Irish Left Archive [Remembering 1969]: “The Communist”, Number 23 – Northern Ireland, late 1969, Irish Communist Organisation August 3, 2009

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Communist Organisation, Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Left Online Document Archive (Remembering 1969).



For the month that’s in it this is a useful document from the Irish Communist Organisation. As a precursor to the British and Irish Communist Organisation the ICO is particularly noteworthy to those interested in the Irish left both during and after this period. This issue of the Communist, number 23, is devoted in the main to Northern Ireland.

But reading the issue, which was written in the aftermath of August 1969, it is easy to see the seeds of future developments. For instance from the front page there is considerable criticism directed towards Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and in particular a pamphlet on Ireland entitled “Ireland One Nation”. This the ICO argued:

…[was] already a basic difference. An article in the September issue of the Irish Communist maintains that the uneven development of capitalism in Ireland, which was the economic cause of partition, gave rise to a development towards two nationalities in Ireland. But, perhaps, IRELAND ONE NATION is intended to be only a mere phrase by the CPB and one should not try to find any concrete meaning in it with relation to the national contradiction in Irish society. If that is so it is an irresponsible phrase.

One-third of the population of Ireland showed that it was prepared to go to war to avoid inclusion under a Nationalist government in Dublin. If the CPB has nothing concrete to say about that, it would be better if it didn’t phrasemonger about nationalism.

It continues…

“The people of N. Ireland are now face to face with the British imperialist state”.

The Northern Ireland state has always been an integral part of the U.K. state. Stormont was set up by, and remained subordinate to Westminister. It is a basic Leninist principle that all workers oppressed by the same state, regardless of nationality, should organise themselves in the same Communist Party. The CPB violated this principle at its inception, and when criticised for this refused to account for itself.

For more contemporary concerns, what of:

“It is… absurd for some people in the Civil Rights movement to call for assistance from Westminster against Stormont. How can you recruit the puppet master against the puppet?”

More rrrevolutionary [sic – one imagines] phrasemongering. many of the Civil Rights leaders may be opportunists posing as socialists, but they are not fools. The object of the CRA is not socialism but bourgeois democratic reform. As the ICO showed years before the present crisis erupted, a new economic situation came into being in ireland about 1960 in which partition was no longer economically necessary. that being so the sectarian politics made necessary by Partition was no longer necessary. And that being so the elimination of the most blatant fascist and sectarian manifestations came to be in the bourgeois interest (as it had been the bourgeois interest to develop and maintain these forces in the previous situation).

And what of this for an analysis of the events of August 1969?

The CPB remarks that if the Bogside were attacked “the Dublin Government… might not have intervened but the Republican movement certainly would. The result would have been not only a bloody defeat for the police but quite possibly also a political crisis in the south as mass sympathy shifted from the government to the Republicans” (this is the reason given by the CPB for the intervention of the British Army).

The record of the IRA in Irish politics since the early thirties is a dismal one. It has misled and disillusioned thousands of genuine anti-imperialists. It reduced anti-imperialism to a matter of military technique, often coupled with fascist politics: and even in the matter of military technique it was a negative force. In the early sixties the Republican leadership abandoned even its elitist militarism. In the August crisis in Belfast the IRA contributed nothing, at the critical moment, to the areas subjected to the terror. As predicted by the ICO early this year, the IRA has been rapidly losing its support among the masses in the 6 counties. During the last six weeks it has been clearly seen to be hand in glove with the British Army. The IRA which would “certainly” have intervened to defend the people of the 6 counties is a figment of the CPB imagination (and Chichester Clarks!). The Civil Rights leaders who appealed to the British Army to intervene were in fact taking account of the realities of the situation from a bourgeois democratic viewpoint. They were not nearly as ‘absurd’ as the CPB. (While the IRA made virtually no contribution to the defence of the people in mid-August, it – along with the Peoples Democracy – made a substantial contribution of the strategic barricades in September, so that the fascist attacks could be renewed – as they were within a week of the removal of the strategic barricades.).

Meanwhile there’s an essay entitled Once Again on Intellectual Revolutionism which analyses a pamphlet that in passing takes to task “Brendan Clifford and his group of followers in the ICO” and remarkably, as detailed in “The Communist”…

“The main ‘criticism’ of the ICO is on the peasant question. It appears that the ICO, seeing everything in terms of Ireland, imagine that every peasant has ‘the mentality of the corner shopkeeper’, and is a hardened petty bourgeois. They ‘bring with them their particularised knowledge of the Irish and British countryside and apply it universally’.

And then there is a further essay entitled “Ulster” on the events of July 1969.

It’s quite fascinating, and not merely for the line about…

…on the one hand, B. Devlin has gone behind the barricades and helped to fight the RUC – though, notably, this intervention was post hoc, ie she can be accused of tailism, of following, not leading mass action.

The rhetorical and actual concerns of the ICO, and later BICO, are here albeit in a modified variant due to the time at which this was published. But it also allows us a glimpse of how the events of 1969 were analysed and internalised in the thinking of a specific grouping.

The Irish Left Archive [Remembering 1969] seeks to bring into the public domain documents and publications from 1969 with a left and Republican slant. Already there are a number of documents that have been donated or are on file, but if you have any material you think might be appropriate – and, in particular, Official and Provisional Sinn Féin publications would be welcome – please don’t hesitate to email me at worldbystorm@eircom.net. Can I also take this opportunity to call again for any donations to the Archive – we’re adding trade union material and other materials of interest would include left-wing unionist publications from the last thirty years…

This text and these files are a resource for use freely by anyone who wants to for whatever purpose – that’s the whole point of the Archive (well that and the discussions). But if you do happen to use them we’d really appreciate if you mentioned that you found them at the Irish Left Online Document Archive…

The Left Archive: “On the Resignation of the Cork Branch, from the Irish Communist Organisation”, The Cork Communist Organisation (a split from the ICO) – 1972 October 30, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Cork Communist Organisation, Irish Communist Organisation, Irish Left Online Document Archive.


An oddity this week from the Archive (and another donation to the Archive from Jim Lane – for which we’re very grateful). This binder1.pdf is a 20 page pamphlet issued by the Cork Communist Organisation in 1972. This was a split from the then sort of kind of Maoist Irish Communist Organisation which went on to become the British and Irish Communist Organisation. Within the pages of this document are detailed the upset of the CC Organisation at the Irish Communist Organisation and various policy positions. It’s remarkable really.

Accusations of ‘bourgeois factions’, worries about secessionist tendencies (in the geographic sense of the term), the ‘Two Nations’ Theory and so on abound. Forensic attention is paid to these, and yet, let’s not fool ourselves. The debates here mirrored or even predated debates in other organisations over the course of the conflict as those on the Left sought to understand and grapple with aspects of Nationalism.

Throughout there is a real sense of upset and hurt on the part of the CCO, perhaps even incomprehension, at the development (or is it deviation) of the ICO. On one level it is surprising how seriously all this was taken. Train journeys across Ireland to discuss the esoterica of party policy. Debates in pubs and meeting rooms. Of course, that is to ignore the time at which this was taking place. 1972, the conflict in the North gaining pace. Perhaps a sense that revolutionary change was possible, even if one was in the presumably tiny ICO. Incidentally, it’s a world away from the politics I know and experienced. What about representation? The actual as distinct from notional working class? Getting down and dirty organising in constituencies? Was that part of the exercise or was it purely a talking shop? I would very much like to know, and to know what happened to the CCO. Any information would be appreciated….

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