Belfast launch for The Lost Revolution

lost-revolution

Last night, I did something that in years past I would have thought twice about, maybe three times, then thought better of. I went into an enclosed space with a lot of Sticks.

The occasion for this was the Belfast launch for The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar. Many readers will already be beating their way through their copies, and having nearly finished the book, I can well recommend it. I’ll get back to the book and the questions it raises at greater length, but just a few comments on the launch itself.

A good wee crowd in Queens Bookshop for it, and many copies being shifted. A lot of familiar faces, some of whom I couldn’t put names to, some that I hadn’t seen in years and who were looking noticeably greyer. It was the sort of event where you nod at someone in passing and then you think “Jesus! That was X! I wondered what had happened to him!” What was encouraging to me was the diversity – lots of people were either members or former members of the WP, but there were people there with backgrounds in just about all the republican groups, some of which would have clashed violently with the Officials in years gone by. And a rather hale Brian Feeney, who used to be one of the WP’s most rambunctious critics, caught my eye.

There was an element, then, of an old-timers’ reunion, but it wasn’t all like that. There were quite a few people there below pensionable age, and even some young folks. I’m not sure whether they were students, or people interested in what their parents used to do, but it did at least mean it wasn’t an entirely “the socialists will be seventy” affair.

Richard English gave the introduction, ably plugging the book. He remarked, and this would be a bit of a running theme, that the Official Republicans had been poorly served by history, not only by their factional opponents but also by their friends and supporters, and how important it was to give an account of them that recorded the facts and did so in an unpartisan way. He also flagged up the heavy use of interviews to capture the flavour of the period, and read out some pithy quotations to emphasise that even amongst all the grimness of the story, there was a lot of grit and even humour to be found.

Richard also talked about how, although the Officials hadn’t achieved what they set out to achieve, their interventions in Irish politics were important nonetheless. And he returned to something that was a little predictable from his own discussions of republicanism, that the departures of the Officials – the renunciation of armed struggle and the engagement with unionism specifically – were ahead of their time, and others had since followed in that path. I don’t entirely buy that, because it decontextualises the development of two very different processes. But it’s not irrelevant in that it’s also the WP’s understanding of its own history, as in Mac Giolla’s famous quote that “we were right too early; Adams is right too late; and Ó Brádaigh will never be right.”

Brian Hanley then took the stage, looking very much like the academic he now is. Brian spoke generally on the importance of telling this story, and about the work that had gone into the book. He especially talked about all those interviews, and paid tribute to the people who had welcomed him and Scott into their homes and relived often painful memories, on the basis that this was a story that needed to be told. He also spoke about his initial scepticism that this was a book that could be written, and the challenge of doing so since he and Scott had disagreed on just about everything. But he was proud of their achievement, and I think rightly so.

Finally, Scott Millar, who I didn’t know at all, spoke, and gave a very interesting little talk revolving around a number of themes. Firstly, he talked about how, as a young man in Dublin, the influence of the Workers Party had been pervasive, and he had canvassed for Proinsias de Rossa. (Perhaps, he quipped, not something that would be universally popular with his audience.) The WP had in its time played a very significant role in Irish politics, and on many issues been ahead of its time, but hadn’t got its due in historical writing, much of which, where Official Republicanism was concerned, was just mired in polemic either for or against.

Scott also remarked on the decision to be up front about the party’s unorthodox methods of fundraising. To be fair, I don’t see how a historical treatment of the Workers Party, unless it was an in-house hagiography, could avoid mention the various enterprises that Group B was involved in. Yet, as Scott pointed out, whatever you thought of Fenian and Bolshevik methods of fundraising, as employed by the Officials, it was remarkable that this was the first history of an Irish political movement to give such prominence to the money question. Left republicans had made waves forty years ago by attacking Taca, the then fundraising arm of Fianna Fáil; had accounts of FF paid more attention to the money men, the Irish taxpayer might not now be having to bail out the successors of Taca.

Finally, Scott mentioned something I’ve noticed about the book myself and heard said, that it’s a narrative history but light on the analysis. As per Scott, it was a deliberate decision not to build a big analytical structure, but rather to let events speak for themselves and allow readers to draw their own conclusions. I can see that, in that it’s a work for the general reader, whereas Seán Swan’s Official Irish Republicanism 1962-1972 is a book for the specialist; I can also see that the authors of a polemical work might not have got the extraordinary access that provides such a huge part of the book’s material. But Scott also remarked, and it was nice to hear this, that left republicanism was not the property of a single party or organisation, and he emphasised the broad spectrum of people for whom the thought of Wolfe Tone was still relevant. A polemical work, one which sought to either claim the Official tradition as the sole repository of true republicanism or simply to dismiss it as an alien Stalinist aberration in Irish politics (and we’ve seen writings along these lines) wouldn’t serve much purpose to those who want to gain a rounded understanding, the better to inform ourselves for the future.

So, that was well worth going to. WorldbyStorm has already written up on the Dublin launch, and some more thoughts on the book itself will be forthcoming presently.

53 Comments

  1. moofaeTAE said,

    September 20, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    A factual account is indeed overdue. Haven’t got my copy yet, but most my comrades reading it say they are enjoying it and recommend it. I’ve read S Swan’s work, which was excellent, but more focused on political questions not exclusively related to the sticks than the sticks themselves.

  2. WorldbyStorm said,

    September 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Key point you make there about left Republicanism not being the property of a single party or movement. V much agree. Great account of the meeting, sounds like it was good craic. Ta for the mention.

  3. Neil said,

    September 20, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Waiting for pay day to get my copy from Amazon (despite my left unionist politics 😉 )

    Anyone know if there will be a launch in London?

  4. ejh said,

    September 20, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I think there’s something about the Workers Party which is difficult to understand for the outsider (well, this outsider anyway) and which might usefully be explained: why were they – for a group which wasn’t actually a Communist Party, and whose membership wasn’t from a CP-related tradition – as attracted as they apparently were to Stalinist* models? I’m particularly, though not exclusively, thinking of the fact that during the period when the party as formed, there was a strong move in Western European socialist circles away from those political and economic models, even among most CPs (the French and the Spanish and Portuguese notwithstanding) and even more clearly among the left in general. So what happened in Ireland to make things different?

    [* for want of a better word]

  5. September 20, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Could it be that for armed guerilla movement to be moving towards Marxist ideas in the 70’s and 80’s, “Stalinist” modes of operation (i.e. continuing the conspiratorial, commandist and monolithic traditions of militarism within the framework of Marxist discourse) were only to be expected?

  6. Garibaldy said,

    September 20, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    EJH,

    That is a very good question. And not a simple answer. I’ll provide my response although I’m sure there will be people who disagree with it (and the version I give will be different in some respects to that contained in the book). It’ll probably be fairly incoherent though because there are several strands. The book as I understand it is arguing (with some justification) that the Movement was more heterodox than is often realised up until the mid-70s when there were a number of processes that led to a more rigid ideology being adopted, both as people left to join other formations, and as the leadership began to seek to develop a more coherent politics.

    The first I guess is that the political (re)formation of the Republican Movement began taking place in the middle-1960s. So the examples that people were looking at were in Irish history (especially the anti-sectarian and egalitarian politics of the United Irishmen and the New Departure of the Land War, where republicans tied political to social agitation as well as Connolly) and also the anti-colonial struggles elsewhere more than say 1968. The US civil rights movement was an importance influence too. The role played by the USSR in supporting the anti-colonial of struggles, and the role of Communists in them and in the US, did not go unnoticed.

    A number of people who were involved in the politicisation of the Movement and then formulation of The WP also had experience of Communist Party politics, often in Britain. This includes people like Roy Johnston, Desi O’Hagan, and Eamonn Smullen. There were also links with people in Ireland who were connected to Communism, partly because these people had personal, family and political links to Republicans going back decades. Ireland also had a very weak Trotskyist tradition, much weaker than the Communist one (which was itself weak).

    People looking at history saw that the vanguard party was the model that had achieved success, both in Russia and since. So it was natural that they were attracted to it as they sought to develop different forms of political action to the traditional ones of the Republican Movement. There is I feel a connected issue here. And that is power. As people with some experience of the realities of military power, they saw that it was the Soviet model and people connected to the Soviets that seemed to succeeding, not only in the eastern bloc but also the anti-colonial struggles. It seems to me that the chances of people coming from their background and their generation and being attracted to other forms were reduced by these factors. And when you go looking for support, going to a powerful force that was challenging capitalism was a natural step.

    If you like, the hard-nosed, realistic option was both the vanguard model and links with the Soviet bloc. And the whole point of the rethink of the 1960s was to connect with workers by addressing the concerns that mattered to them, to connect to real issues, and get away from the quasi-theological approach to politics that had caused the Movement to be so isolated from the people (and that keeps RSF in that state now). Other forms of socialism appeared to many of the leadership to have similar faults I would say – they were seen as impractical. As not serious. The Soviet Union certainly was, as was the vanguard party. The experience of the civil rights struggle would have fed this attitude. The admiration for some of Stalin was partly a result of this belief in the need to be serious revolutionaries.

    I think the social nature of the Movement has to be taken into account as well. There was a relatively small proportion of people from the types of background – students and the like – attracted to some other types of leftism (although many involved in student politics went on to become important members (TDs, full time officials) and a lot of them went on to be attracted to Eurocommunism, the DLs and now social democracy. Involvement in trade union struggle and the like among the working members of the Party I suspect also conditioned them towards models adopted by Communists elsewhere.

    I also think the other thing to keep in mind is just how much The WP was focused on Ireland. The ins and outs of the struggle for control of the USSR in the 1920s were, and are, of much less importance in The WP than they are to some other groups. WBS has a good story about what he was told the relevance of Trotsky v Stalin to WP activity in his area he’ll hopefully contribute. Throw in the fact that many of the groups The WP would consider ultra-left supported the violence in the north, and you have an added reason. I suspect that for many ordinary members that was enough to reject them rather than anything else.

    There is also the nature of Irish, especially southern, society. Its economic, intellectual and political underdevelopment. The rapid modernisation offered by the Soviet model, and its ability to transform society (the power of the church etc) was certainly attractive to the likes of Smullen and many others in the Party.

    There’s probably more, but I’ll leave it there. I will say though that some of the leadership in Belfast, Dublin, and Derry did have links to people who were Trotskyists in the early 1970s, and that in Derry it seems that that was a factor in the IRSP being dominant in the split there (although I suspect the experience of Bloody Sunday was the main thing). But with the splits breeding a desire for unity, there was undoubtedly a desire to exorcise some elements seen as dangerous or likely to retard the success of the transformation from Movement to Party. So in short, I don’t think it’s a surprise in Irish conditions and the history of the Movement that The WP turned out the way it did.

  7. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    There aren’t many examples of guerrilla groups becoming Trotskyists. ETA-V is the only one that immediately comes to mind.

    The issue of the WP and Stalinism is a fairly complicated one, and it’s something I’ll come back to later. The military background is one factor; you might also consider that Eurocommunism never really reached the CPI in a serious way. There was also the attraction of Cuba and Vietnam for republicans, who a generation earlier might have had some sympathy with armed Zionist fighting the British. All this and more comes into play.

    • Neil said,

      September 20, 2009 at 11:10 pm

      “who a generation earlier might have had some sympathy with armed Zionist fighting the British”

      More EOKA perhaps?
      I’ve read somewhere there was extensive contacts between EOKA and IRA guerilla’s in British prisons in the 50’s, even a joint break at one prison. Only the Irish lads got away! (Although to be fair they probably had more contacts on the outside)

  8. Garibaldy said,

    September 20, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    I think there was support for the Zionists at the time. There were contacts in gaol in England, especially with Mac Stiofáin, who was heavily influenced by them. Goulding met Klaus Fuchs. As Swan notes, some see the future direction of the split in these contacts.

    BTW SS, that quote about being right is from Goulding not MacGiolla.

  9. Garibaldy said,

    September 20, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Contacts with EOKA I mean in comment number 8.

  10. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 20, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Now I come to think of it, wasn’t that quote in Henry’s book? Can’t put my hand to my old copy of The Politics Of Illusion.

    I remember hearing from old-time republicans about some interest in the kibbutz movement during the 1960s rethinking, and there certainly was interest in the Irgun about the time they were fighting the Brits. That earlier interest though would have been very much to do with the Brits being on the other side, and forms an interesting contrast with the antisemitism that was still very widespread in Ireland at the time. Never underestimate the Irish republican’s ability to have every issue revolve around Ireland.

  11. Garibaldy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Spot on SS. It’s all really about Ireland. There’s a lot of truth in Liam Kennedy’s MOPE argument. Can’t remember if that quote is in Patterson’s book. Although I wonder if it’s in another Henry’s book, the McDonald/Holland INLA book. IIRC Goulding says something in it about winding the campaign down too soon. I might be mixing that up with the other quote though. Is it in Richard English’s book maybe? Might of course be in more than one.

  12. yourcousin said,

    September 21, 2009 at 1:01 am

    it was the Soviet model and people connected to the Soviets that seemed to succeeding, not only in the eastern bloc…

    Please explain further as I’m at a loss for what political theory/model was at work there other than marching in behind a tank and shooting those who oppose you?

  13. Garibaldy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Well obviously that wasn’t how they saw the USSR. They were more interested in its immense productive capacity, its support for progressive causes elsewhere in the world, and what they saw as a society being run in the interests of workers, and that opposed the depradations of capitalism. While seeking to avoid nuclear war.

  14. yourcousin said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:59 am

    Garibaldy,
    But that’s how it was full stop. From East Berlin ’53, Hungary ’56 and beyond. Killing workers to save the working class is no more progressive than the Provos plan to save the Irish Protestant by killing vast numbers of them. Smullen is the perfect example of this as he was proud of joining the Communist party after ’56. Killing people in order to liberate them, what a system.

  15. ejh said,

    September 21, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Yes, but that’s not how it seemed to many people at the time, whether we like it or not. If we’re studying history and asking why people acted as they did, then we need to ask how (and why) things appeared to them, not how they appeared to other people, or how they appear to us.

    Useful information above and I’m interested in the suggestion that a heavily working-class movement was much more likely to be attracted to the USSR than one dominated by students and intellectuals. I think this is true, though in some ways it’s not a comfortable conclusion. I should say that I was perhaps less interested in why people were attracted to Stalinism rather than Trotskyism and more interested in why, if they were going to be quite so attracted to the USSR, they didn’t go the whole hog and join (individually or en bloc) the CP. If, that is, they weren’t going to be attracted to left critiques of the USSR, or overtly parliamentary roads to socialism.

    (It’s not just another country to me but, as regards the Seventies anyway, a little before my time, so in a lot of ways I find it difficult to get inside the atmosphere and thinking of the age.)

  16. Garibaldy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 9:30 am

    EJH,

    There were a number of reasons why they wouldn’t join the CP en masse. The Republican Congress of the 1930s was a lesson in Goulding’s mind in particular. Then, a lot of the left had walked out of the IRA and formed a separate organisation that rapidly withered. Goulding was determined to convert the Movement rather than leave it.
    The plan was also to build alliances with other left organisations, and for some time there was quite close cooperation with the CP, especially in NICRA. However, competition both at home and abroad became a factor, and there were also some within the CP who were more sympathetic to the Provisionals.
    I think the book would argue that the intention was not always to become so close to the USSR. Again, I would say that the primary identification was as a party responding to Irish conditions, albeit with internationalism a central component of identity and activity.

  17. Phil said,

    September 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I think having a party called Democratic Left which didn’t originate as an official CP has confused a lot of us outside Ireland. (It still confuses me, frankly – what did the CPI do at the time of the Great Renaming?)

  18. Garibaldy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    The CPI was basically unaffected as far as I know.

  19. yourcousin said,

    September 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    ejh,
    Certainly on one level I understand what you’re saying, but just as I don’t need to buy into the rantings of the right about Obama being a socialist I don’t have to buy into this idea of the USSR being universally seen (on the left at least)as a progressive nirvana and the truth only being revealed after the collapse. Now the WP can hold such a view but I don’t think I’m out of line in pointing out contradictions apparent at the time, even to them. Especially if they’re saying how it was motivated by true belief rather than a left wing version of, “he’s a bastard, but at least he’s our bastard”. I also think the context of that quote (military success) in an Eastern European context would directly imply support of the Soviet actions in E.B., Budapest and Czechoslovakia.

    Also as Garibaldy has pointed out the WP is not history, it still exists and Garibaldy is an active member (fairplay to him). So it’s not just a history lesson being revisited. But I get the point of incessantly baiting a thread. Sorry.

  20. ejh said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    I don’t have to buy into this idea of the USSR being universally seen (on the left at least) as a progressive nirvana and the truth only being revealed after the collapse

    I’m not sure that view has been expressed above, has it?

  21. Garibaldy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    YC,

    I think the decision to seek links with the USSR had both practical and ideological aspects; I don’t think anyone was under any illusion that the USSR and eastern bloc was a paradise, but there was a feeling that it was an important progressive force at the time that was a serious threat to the existence of capitalism. The capitalists certainly saw it as such. No-one in The WP wants to recreate the eastern bloc in Ireland.

  22. yourcousin said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I would say that it’s a simplification but not not that far off of the mark in terms of our topic. The view of the USSR as a progressive force in the face of actions that were anything but (and beyond the pale in my opinion) only to say “we didn’t know”, such as Smullen’s reaction to levels of corruption (TLR 548) in Romania or possibly even worse to say, “we did know but just didn’t care” being that all of those things were there to see prior to the collapse of the USSR.

  23. Garibaldy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    YC,

    The feeling was that the good outweighed the bad. Although aspects of the bad I am sure were a shock. Romania was one country with which there were very few links as far as I know. Again I think this goes back to the self-image of practicality, and a sense of the realities of power.

  24. Phil said,

    September 21, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    #18 – In case that was unclear, by ‘the Great Renaming’ I meant the period in which the CPGB, the SED and the PCI all adopted the name of Democratic Left. (Although further goog^Wresearch suggests it may just have been those three, so maybe it wasn’t all that great.)

  25. ejh said,

    September 21, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I don’t think anybody believes that most of the left, in Ireland or anywhere else in Western Europe in the Seventies, thought of the USSR as “a progressive nirvana” and was only disillusioned once the Wall came down. I’d be surprised if any reasonable observer though that such a view extended beyond a minority, though of course the size of that minority can be discussed. Moreover until quite late in the day a lot of people felt that it had quite a lot to be said for it in terms of economic and social achievements, while considering its political deficiencies rather outweighed this – I think this would have been a common view on the Labour left in the UK, for instance.

    I think people were wrong to think this, but I do think that in either sense (that of thinking the good outweighed the bad, or that the economic good was considerable even though outweighed by the bad) it was a minority view. And I also think that the gap in economic achievement between Western and East Europe became a lot more visible in the last few years of the USSR, with the West recovering from the crises of the Seventies and entering a long period of economic expansion, while the Soviet Union went into economic collapse. To that extent I don’t think that we should assume that what we know now was fully visible to other people then. (Other things, of course, were very visible indeed.)

  26. yourcousin said,

    September 21, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    ejh,
    Well here we would be referring to the WP not nessecarily the “left” in general. On this I think that at least the leadership took a view of uncritical support towards the USSR. Indeed noting that the WP still supports North Korea and supports the “territorial integrity” of Serbia (ie their claim on Kosovo). I also think one of the long term effects of the USSR is a democratic deficiency in not only Russia, but also in former Eastern bloc countries where corruption amongst the political classes is still rampant and the levels of organized crime, coupled with crippling free market/”free election” policies from the West have destroyed in the short to mid term any real chance of building a civic style society IMHO. But that is a side tangent. I also don’t think it’s coincidence that the WP collapsed (fairly) neatly in conjunction with the USSR which also speak to it’s independence from that entity, at least ideologically. Though full well acknowledging that other factors were present.

    No-one in The WP wants to recreate the eastern bloc in Ireland

    Garibaldy,
    I would agree but the WP was more than happy to be complicit in the suffering of the Eastern bloc in order to build their own party in Ireland. Whether it was a complicity of convience or ideology is a moot point, for me at least, though we knew that before we started.

  27. Garibaldy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    YC,

    Like you say, we both know where we’re coming from on this one 🙂

    It’s not coincidence that the DL split happened after the collapse of the USSR, although the coincidence of that with the 1991 local election results in the south is of major significance too, as well as the other stuff.

  28. ejh said,

    September 21, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Well here we would be referring to the WP not nessecarily the “left” in general.

    For sure, but that’s not what you appeared to say in #19 above!

    Re: Kosovo, the WP wouldn’t be alone on the world in recognising Serbia’s claim – as far as I’m aware, for instance, such is the position of the government of Spain. (The point being not that this is right or wrong, but it’s not necessarily, in principle, anything to do with Stalinism.)

  29. Doloras said,

    September 21, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    “The Workers Party ain’t got soul” – Roddy Doyle, The Commitments

  30. Garibaldy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks for that Doloras. Never noticed that when I read it. Doyle is clearly a counter-revolutionary of the highest order.

  31. sonofstan said,

    September 22, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    “The Workers Party ain’t got soul” – Roddy Doyle, The Commitments

    In a narrow sense, that was true: extrapolating from an unscientific sample group – People I Knew Back Then – the Millies/ Labour Youth lot were usually very self consciously soul boys ->B-Boys, much given to proclaiming the superiority of Black music, whereas the Sticks were devoted to ‘complaint rock’ in all its forms.

  32. Jimmy Rabbitte said,

    September 22, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Roddy was in the Socialist Labour Party for a while in the late 70s.
    I seem to remember some Mods in Militant.

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      September 22, 2009 at 8:31 pm

      That was in Dublin, I hope. This gives me the chance to roll out a terrible old gag:

      Q. Why are there no Mods in Belfast?
      A. Would you walk around Belfast with a target on your back?

      The SWM had a bit of a Northern Soul subculture, and a lot of people who were into Anglo-American folk. Irish music was generally not popular (though Kieran Allen was a big fan of Van Morrison and the Saw Doctors) and rebel songs a complete no-no. Joining in a drunken rendition of ‘God Save Ireland’ or such would instantly mark you as a national deviationist.

  33. September 22, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    was there ever anything like a support organization in the United States for the sticks? Did they ever look to organize in the US or either in the left or among the Irish community?

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      September 22, 2009 at 8:27 pm

      There’s some stuff in the book about the Irish Republican Clubs that they organised in the US in the 1970s, but they went into decline after a while. Basically, the people who were more interested in Ireland tended to go with the Provos, and the people who were more socialist inclined tended to become more generally socialist.

      I have somewhere some material that Gerry Foley wrote at the time, and I must look that out. IIRC Gerry had high hopes for the Officials that got blunted as they became more Muscovite. His personal assessments of Garland and McGurran were very positive though.

  34. Northside Socialist said,

    September 22, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    All this talk of the WP and no mention of Eoghan Harris?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eoghan_Harris
    “Harris has held posts at various parties throughout his career. He was the chief Marxist ideologue of the Workers Party and its predecessor, Official Sinn Féin; ”

    From my hazy recollection of WP in Dublin’s northside, they never mentioned their admiration for Stalinist regimes during elections/in public, but stuck to bread and butter working class issues. They had a good line in criticism of Irish ruling elite at the time and gathered votes accordingly (which is funny as some WP types have now joined Irish elite IMHO).

  35. Garibaldy said,

    September 22, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Doesn’t Henry McDonald’s book talk about musical sub-culture? He was into punk. I think that there was a mod or two in that neck of the woods.

    • Dr. X said,

      September 23, 2009 at 9:39 am

      A friend of mine in Beal Feirste was a punk. . . .when I asked him if it was true about the subculture bridging the divide, he said ‘Belfast was too scary in those days, so we had to go to Bangor to hang out’.

    • September 27, 2009 at 2:12 am

      Yeah, you’re right. It was in Colours that he discusses the counter-cultures and their role in bringing groups of people together from across the divide.

  36. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 22, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    In the Markets? Mind you, there used to be a lot of goths in Newtownards, so anything’s possible.

  37. Garibaldy said,

    September 22, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    I’ve been struggling to remember various conversations in the pub. Definitely a rockabilly or two, which I may have misremembered as mods.

  38. yourcousin said,

    September 23, 2009 at 2:24 am

    ejh,
    As I said, it was a simplification and perhaps I even misspoke. It’s not the first time I put my foot in my mouth and it won’t be the last.

    I would agree that not recognizing Kosovo’s independence does not make one a Stalinist, but to me recognizing a Serbian claim on Kosovo after they attempted to ethnically cleanse the whole province is less than progressive. To do so citing international law given that Serbia is one of the only states to charged genocide related crimes (as a state) just points out how under developed international law is.

    • andy newman said,

      September 25, 2009 at 12:26 pm

      Just to clarify

      Would ou say that ethnic cleansing has ceased since the Kosovan fascists have taken over with their NATO protectors?

  39. Jose said,

    September 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    The Irish Republican Clubs in the USA lasted well into the 80’s, at least in the SF Bay Area, where they tended to be centered around pubs in Berkeley, San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

    • James said,

      September 23, 2009 at 10:46 pm

      Yes, the Poet and Patriot pub in Santa Cruz, CA still has the feel of a Republican Club to some extent, although the landlord Chris Matthews died a year or so ago. Still pictures of Marx, Che, etc on the walls and a huge Connolly mural on the outside wall. The pub is the hang-out of choice for the local labor movement these days.

      Matthews, the landlord, was the author of the play “A Flag to Fly” about the San Patricios in the Mexican-American War. He was a really nice man.

  40. Brian Hanley said,

    September 24, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Splintered, thank you for the above comments. Interested to see what you make of the book.
    On the Irish Republican Clubs in the US (and Canada), there are many interesting stories there, which deserve a fuller treatment than we could give in the context of the book.
    When the split happened a section of the old Clan na Gael stayed with Goulding. You then also had people who had been involved in support for NICRA in the US, some of them young Irish emigrants or Irish Americans involved in the New Left. Add some 1930s Irish emigrants who had been in the Republican Congress and the CPUSA, and some 1950s emigrants who were more mainstream republican (Marie Bradshaw, daughter of a Fianna Fail mayor of Limerick for example) and this eclectic mixture went into the founding of the IRC in 1971. Liam Kelly, of Saor Uladh fame came on board, with a significant number of Tyrone emigres, and New York bus and subway drivers (the Connie Green Club).
    They were never as big as NORAID, but for a while they made an impact. When Liam McMillen was there in 1972 he addressed the SWP’s Militant Labor Forums, and there were people sympathetic to almost every brand of American leftism (and none) in the IRCs until 1974-75, when things became more narrow (not unrelated to events in Ireland). They had good contacts with the United Farm Workers, the American Indian Movement and the PLO in New York.
    As someone mentioned they lasted well into the 80s on the west coast, and in name elsewhere.

    • NollaigO said,

      September 27, 2009 at 10:32 am

      An important contact of the Officials in US during the late 60s, early 70s was Brian Heron, James Connolly’s grandson. Brian toured Ireland in the spring of 1970 and I remember meeting him in Cork in the house of a leading Official. Brian’s politics were very eclectic: obviously from a CP background but also influenced by American New Left ideas and Castroism. One of the recommendations, that he made in Cork, was that the Republican Movement should hold military drilling in the “projects”, an idea taken from the Black Panthers. He was very skilled in political argument and had strong presence. I heard that he fell out with the Official shortly afterwards but I don’t know the issues. I don’t know if Brian is still involved in politics. I presume that James Connolly Heron mentioned in the references section of TLR is a son or close relative.
      Another keen US supporter of the Officials at that time was Lennie Glasier(?) who was from a Trotyskist background. Lennie was approached by the controversial Gery Lawless in early 1970 and was asked to make enquiries with the leadership about him rejoining the movement! Lennie reported back that they were “reluctant to get involved with him”.
      Surely not?

  41. Brian Hanley said,

    September 24, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I should also mention that one of the big rows they had in 1974-75 was when the young leftists wanted the Clubs to take pro-choice and gay rights positions and the older Irish born members objected. Dublin counselled compromise- they wanted money and other ‘things’ from the states.
    There was an office in Woodside in Queens for years and regular social events in Irish pubs, so they retained links to the Irish-American mileau, not just the American left.

    • September 25, 2009 at 4:53 am

      thanks for the information Brian. I wonder if there is a Republican Clubs archive floating around out there from that period. A full treatment would be most welcome.

  42. Brian Hanley said,

    September 25, 2009 at 7:12 am

    There is a couple of collections of material, some of it donated by Sean Prendiville (a former activist from San Francisco) in the Archives of Irish America, Taminent library at New York University.

  43. johng said,

    September 25, 2009 at 10:34 am

    been looking for the book in London without success. Any suggestions? (yet to try bookmarks).

    • NollaigO said,

      September 27, 2009 at 9:41 am

      Houseman’s, Caledonian Road (King’s Cross end) ?

      The Four Provinces, 244 Greys Inn Road.
      [00 44 20 7833 3022; Opening times: Wednesdays to Saturdays, 11.00 am to 5.30 pm] would usually be worth contacting but I believe they are closing this Autumn.


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