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Left Archive: The Prison Experience – A Loyalist Perspective, by Marion Green, EPIC research document No.1, 1999. January 30, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Miscellaneous Documents, Miscellaneous Left Publications, Official Sinn Féin, Progressive Unionist Party, Sinn Féin.
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To download the above please click on the following link:LOYALPRISONDOC

This document [and many thanks to the person who donated it] may seem at first sight an unlikely one to be part of the Left Archive, however it provides both an overview of the general conditions and history of the prison system in Northern Ireland for political prisoners – Loyalist and Republican, and also gives an insight into the relationships between both as well as a developing political consciousness on the part of the former.

Produced in 1998 by the EPIC (Ex-Prisoners’ Interpretative Centre) in Belfast it provides in a series of chapters

The Preface notes that EPIC ‘as a community based self-help organisation welcome [new arena’s for addressing differences and representing communities] and will continue to give our support to these latest developments at the political level, we are also conscious of the impact and legacy of violent conflict at community level’.

And…

EPIC has taken responsibility to assist in the reintegration and transformation of ex-prisoners who engaged in the violent conflict. As an integral part of this work EPIC has undertaken intensive research into prison-related issues – whether describing the background to the prison experience itself, or cataloguing the many predicaments, problems and concerns which politically- motivated ex-prisoners encounter upon release.

The Introduction further notes that:

For the past thirty years there have been thousands of Loyalists incarcerated in NI’s prisons and yet very little has been written about the subject. That neglect is all the more noticeable when one considers the number of books and other publications which have appeared dealing with Republican prisoners.

And most importantly given the left orientation of some Loyalist originating political parties:

Just as remarkable has been the crucial impact former prisoners and their associates have made upon the political process – a process once kept remove from working class aspirations and interventions. Within the Loyalist working-class community parties such as the Progressive Unionist Party and the Ulster Democratic Party have done much to help move this entire society away from the politics of intransigence and violence to the politics of accommodation and dialogue, while proving that no surrender of identity or aspiration need be involved in the process.

Inside the document there is a chronological approach, with sections addressing ‘The Early Days: Crumlin Road Jail’ – with interesting anecdotes about how the various paramilitary groupings had to liaise in order to maintain discipline, ‘Internment and Long Kesh’ – and demands for political status where, as is noted, ‘we didn’t get much help from the UUP or the wider unionist population’, ‘Early Prison Protests’, ‘Coping with Life inside’, ‘Fighting Criminalisation’ and so on.

A telling point is made when it is noted that:

Not all the prisoners were interested in politics, some just wanted to get on with their sentences, but a small number of men were interested and they got involved in political debates and discussions, not only with fellow Loyalists but with Official Republicans.

The sense of the prison experience as a crucible for ‘fresh political thinking’, as the document puts it, is strongly reinforced by these observations.

Left Archive: The Counter-Revolution in Ireland, Van der Straeten and Daufouy, Pamphlet, Black and Red Press, 1974 March 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Politics, Miscellaneous Documents, The Left.
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B&R DOC

This is an unusual addition to the Archive, a pamphlet from the anarchist tending Black and Red Press in Detroit.

It is a reprint of an article, written by Serge Van der Straeten and Philippe Daufouy and translated by Rut Nybakken and Lorraine Perlman, which appeared as ‘La Contre-revolution Irlandaise’ in Les Temps Modernes in 1972.

The document starts with a quote from Henry Joy McCracken ‘The rich always betray the poor’. It takes an interesting line on the situation in Ireland, North and South, providing an history and overview that ranges back to the 18th century. It has a fairly sharp tone, consider this footnote on page 11.

The prospect of a socialism built by workers and small farmers seems to have held little attraction for Marx. His hatred for the manure pile, the henhouse, the yokel, would have put him in a good position to analyze the history of the Irish Republic and to accurately evaluate the Irish Left.

For a flavour of the analysis consider the following, taken from pp.38 and 39.

The geographic location of the Catholic ghettos, particularly in Belfast, favoured the military intervention of the Provisionals, who implemented themselves in view of the permanent threat which hung over these districts. The I.R.A. claimed to be a useful weapon of self-defense against the constant terror in which the Catholic population lived. But along with the Protestant paramilitary organizations supported by the Orange Order, the I.R.A.’s attacks are the cause of the veiled civil war and consequently, of the terror.

The forms of popular organization which arose during this nationalist phase of the conflict (popular tribunals, health clinics, ‘national’ and public meetings, workers’ productive co-operatives, etc) which some people want to see as proletarian forms of organization, are only direct consequences of the civil war.

This leads to the following provocative conclusion:

They are no more proletarian than the French ‘popular tribunals’ set up after the Liberation, which set out energetically to liquidate the revolutionary elements and to shave women’s heads in the public square. Due to its military weakness, the I.R.A. is incapable of winning the war against the Protestants and British Army and is reduced to proposing constitutional solutions of compromise. Whether they favor a federalist solution which includes four provincial parliaments, or a centralized solution (a ‘republic of workers and small farmers’), both wings of the I.R.A. offer the worst solution for the Irish proletariat: namely, an alliance with the least progressive classes around a populist economic program. In practice, this solution can only mean fascism, conceived as a military dictatorship with the mobilization of workers into unions.

However, this is merely a diversion in respect of the ultimate proposals that the document makes.

Along the way there are harsh words for a range of familiar formations including, but not limited to, People’s Democracy and the Irish Communist Organisation.

It’s also worth looking at the Black and Red Press itself which was founded in 1968 and in particular Fredy Perlman.

After scanning this it came to our attention that the text is available here on libcom.org. Those of us involved in the Archive believe that posting the full original documents gives a better sense of them as political artifacts positioned within a specific place and time as well as providing a one stop easily accessible repository for these materials.

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